Conversion. Revival. Biblical authority. A warm-hearted faith touching all areas of personal and social life. Billy Graham believes in these things. So did Billy Sunday, D. L. Moody, and Charles Finney. And so do countless others today who would place themselves in the Protestant family tree most often termed "evangelical."

If you had to put someone at the very root of this tree, who would it be?

For my money, one of the two top contenders for the title "Evangelical Patriarch" is Jonathan Edwards. (The other is John Wesley.)

Edwards's preaching—aimed at breaking down and converting a group of Yankees who saw religion as more or less a do-it-yourself project—helped spark the first flames of the Great Awakening, the "mother" of all revivals on this side of the Atlantic.

The Bible was his constant guide as he reworked the grand theological tradition of Puritanism for an Enlightened age and as he taught a religion not just of doctrines but also of whole-hearted love for God.

He expected and encouraged a thorough moral reformation in every person truly converted as a result of the revivals of his day, and his teachings inspired a reformation in American education and society.

But his strongest claim to the title "father of evangelicalism" comes from the transatlantic influence of a single book, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God.

Mark Noll tells the story compellingly in a forthcoming book on the emergence of evangelicalism during the eighteenth century to be published by InterVarsity Press.

In November of 1734, Edwards, concerned by what he saw as a spreading tendency among Connecticut River Valley Christians to rely on their own abilities in seeking salvation from God, preached a two-sermon series on "Justification ...

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