Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God March 11, 2013

A new vlog for ya!

So, if you can’t watch it, this is about how ACE students study Jonathan Edwards‘ (the preacher, not the gold medal-winning triple jumper) classic sermon, SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD.

As literature, and as a historical curiosity, I don’t mind the study of this sermon all that much. I mean, it seems strange to prioritise it over Austen or Dickens, but I really enjoy the use of language, as you can probably tell from my reading.

But for ACE, this is not a historical curiosity. It is studied uncritically. In fact, it is praised to the rooftops, introduced with this:

Now read part of that wonderful sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which was greatly used of God during the Great Awakening.

This seems like indoctrination to me.

For those unable to watch the video, here are the words in question (this isn’t everything that’s in the PACE, let alone the whole sermon – just a few of my favourite parts):

The Bow of God’s Wrath is bent, and the Arrow made ready on the String, and Justice bends the  Arrow at your Heart, and strains the Bow, and it is nothing but the meer Pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any Promise or Obligation at all, that keeps the Arrow one Moment from being made drunk with your Blood.

The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his Wrath towards you burns like Fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the Fire; he is of purer Eyes than to bear to have you in his Sight; you are ten thousand Times so abominable in his Eyes as the most hateful venomous Serpent is in ours.

O Sinner! Consider the fearful Danger you are in: ‘Tis a great Furnace of Wrath, a wide and bottomless Pit, full of the Fire of Wrath, that you are held over in the Hand of that God, whose Wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the Damned in Hell: You hang by a slender Thread, with the Flames of divine Wrath flashing about it, and ready every Moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no Interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the Flames of Wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one Moment.

It’s followed by a bunch of short answer questions (“To what does he compare God’s wrath?” “What keeps God from destroying sinners?” “What keeps sinners from falling into Hell this moment?”). None of them give the student any opportunity to evaluate or express any opinion on the subject.

Then there’s a great bit of text:


One might think that a wonderful preacher like Jonathan Edwards would always be loved and revered by his congregation, but that was not so. Like some today, they rebelled at having their sins pointed out so often, and in 1750 he was dismissed by his church.

Well I’m shocked. Shocked, I tells ya.

It’s possible Ofsted inspectors have no idea this kind of thing is going on. It’s not in every PACE, so it’s possible they just don’t see it when they inspect the schools. You’d have to know what you’re looking for to find it.

Or it’s possible that they just don’t want to rock the boat, because there’s no way of criticising something like this without directly attacking someone’s religious beliefs. And that’s a taboo.

I’m hardly the first to say this, but it’s a ridiculous taboo. If this were Scientology, people would have no hesitation in condemning it for the barbarism that it is. But because the people who run ACE can call themselves Christians  – members of a religion with a respectable position in society – they’re allowed to teach it to children as fact.

The truth is, Christianity is a label given to a vast range of beliefs, not all of them respectable. A great many Christians would condemn this. And even if they wouldn’t, the quality of an idea isn’t measured by how old it is.

Ofsted inspectors need to be made aware of this stuff. And they need to start handing out inspection reports that declare this curriculum inadequate.

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