Materials:

Copies of Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God by Jonathan Edwards, pens, pencils, paper, a white board and markers or a chalkboard. If available, speakers and internet access for audio of the sermon.

Objectives (based on the North Carolina Standard Course of Study):

  • Students will use language persuasively in addressing a particular issue by:
    • finding and interpreting information effectively.
    • recognizing propaganda as a purposeful technique
    • supporting the argument with specific reasons.
  • Students will use argumentation for:
    • establishing and defending a point of view
    • developing a sense of completion.
    • demonstrating comprehension of main idea and supporting details.
    • summarizing key events and/or points from text.
    • making connections between works, self and related topics.
    • analyzing and evaluating the effects of author's craft and style
    • demonstrating comprehension of main idea and supporting details.
    • summarizing key events and/or points from text.
    • making connections between works, self and related topics.
    • analyzing and evaluating the effects of author's craft and style.

Procedures:

1. Ask students what they know about sermons. What is the purpose of a sermon? Where are they heard most often? Explain that sermons are a form of argumentation, intended to teach conduct or duty.
2. Provide context for Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God by introducing students to Jonathan Edwards and the time period in which he lived. The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University offers a Biography of Jonathan Edwards

Some key points are:

  • Edwards was born in Connecticut in 1703.
  • His parents were both evangelical Puritans and raised him to study the Bible as well as classic literature.
  • He became pastor of the most influential church in Boston in 1726, succeeding his grandfather.
  • He married Sarah Pierpont in 1727. They had ten children together.
  • Edwards was known as a “theologian of the heart,” emphasizing the importance of beauty. These ideas later influenced the Transcendentalists.
  • Edwards was a major figure in the First Great Awakening.
  • Edwards delivered Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God on July 8, 1741. Though its message is often seen as harsh today, it was very popular in it’s time and Edwards was often invited to read it to various congregations.
  • Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God emphasized the omnipotence of God and the importance of living a Christian life. In the sermon, Edwards uses vivid metaphors to illustrate God’s wrath. Though frightening, these images were also very popular during this time period.
3. Discuss the structure and delivery of a Puritan sermon, as compiled by Chris Tornio of Washington State University. Compare the structure to the format of other writings students have encountered. Discuss the purpose of this structure.
4. Read Sinners In the Hands of An Angry God aloud or ask for student volunteers. If equipped, you could also go to Sermon Audio.com for Audio of Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God
5. Discuss the key messages in the sermon. What are students’ initial reactions?
6. Using the notes from Step 3, dissect the structure of the sermon. What is the Doctrine? What are the Reasons? What is the Application? Students could perform this activity in groups, or this could be done as a whole class.
7. As a class, brainstorm issues that are of particular concern to students. These could range from school rules to current events. Write student responses on a white board, chalk board or overhead projector.
8. Choose one topic that seems to be particularly important to the class. Outline a possible sermon addressing that topic, using the structure discussed in steps 3 and 5.
9. Divide students into groups and ask them to create their own one to two page sermons about an issue that concerns them, using the structure and delivery of a Puritan sermon.
10. Ask students to deliver the sermon to the class.

Evaluation:

Monitor students for comprehension and understanding while discussing the purposes of sermons and the structure of Puritan sermons. The final sermon delivered to the class can be graded for adherence to the given guidelines and participation.

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