Snapshots of Thomas Jefferson and Jonathan Edwards
Jack R. Van Ens is president and CEO of Creative Growth Associates—Making History Come Alive. Using drama, he instructs, delights and edifies educational, business and religious non-profit groups. Van Ens earned these post-college degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary: Master of Divinity (1972); Master of Theology in Colonial History (1974); and, a Doctorate in Communications (1984).
James Parton, a nineteenth-century biographer of Jefferson, described him as someone who “could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a case, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin.” This description of Jefferson’s capabilities is even more stunning because Parton was focusing on a young Jefferson who had not written The Declaration of Independence. What kindled fires within Jefferson’s soul so that his interests glowed with fierce intensity was his passionate search for the truth. Jefferson knew how, while what is unknown is humanity’s greatest challenge to discover, uncertainly is the heart’s greatest fear.
The third president of the United States (1801-1809), Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743. As a student and young legislator, Jefferson read widely in Greek classics, Shakespeare, and the Bible. He founded the University of Virginia and also donated his almost 7,000 volume library to the United States government. He was a person of immense talents and multiple interests, not the least being religion and its place in American society. Not only was Jefferson a statesman, but a scientist, architect, farmer, educator, inventor, geographer, lover of the arts, and a searcher after truth.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Jefferson and His Times by Dumas Malone. 6 vols. Little/Brown, 1948-1982
Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation by Merrill D. Peterson. Oxford University Press, 1970.
Thomas Jefferson by R.B. Bernstein. Oxford University Press 2003.
Van Ens Portrays Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), the Puritan theologian who has been called the greatest
mind produced in America, also inspired a series of religious revivals. He spearheaded the “Great Awakening” of the 1730s and 1740s in the colonies that proved pivotal for revolutionary fervor against King George III a generation later. Edwards was no mean-spirited Elmer Gantry figure, as many assume after reading his fiery sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He and his works flowed as the fountainhead of a movement from which streamed a new nation, shaped by the contours of Calvinist revivalism. Edwards’s story is of great success and great tragedy as he was banished to Indian Territory after leading the most influential church in the colonies outside Boston at Northampton, Massachusetts for over two decades.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Jonathan Edwards by Philip F. Gura. Hill and Wang, NY. 2005
Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden. Yale University Press. 2003
A Jonathan Edwards Reader by John E Smith, Harry S. Stout and Kenneth P. Minkema editors. Yale University Press. 1995
Topics: Thomas Jefferson
Program Snapshots Featuring Thomas Jefferson
Each program is hand-tailored to your group's needs and interests. Usually, a program featuring dramatic vignettes of Jefferson's fife (1743-1826) that highlight a compelling theme runs one hour with Jefferson dramatically portrayed. Then Jefferson answers questions and fields comments, culminating in Jack R. Van Ens shedding his wig as he shares his enthusiasm for Jefferson.
Get to Dramatically Know Thomas Jefferson
James Parton, a nineteenth-century Jefferson biographer, described him as someone who "could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a case, break a horse, dance a minuet and play the violin." This description of Jefferson's capabilities is even more stunning because Parton was focusing on a young Jefferson who had not yet written The Declaration of Independence. Not only was Jefferson a statesman, but a scientist, architect, farmer, educator, inventor, geographer, lover of the arts, and a searcher after truth.
An Epitaph Revealing Freedom's Guiding Light
Leaving little to chance, Jefferson pinpointed his legacy in an epitaph he wrote chiseled
on his gravestone. He warned his ancestors to neither add nor subtract a word from it.
Jefferson neither mentioned his presidency nor the Louisiana Purchase on his tombstone.
Why not? The answer is the key unlocking democracy's freedom.
The Terror of Power, Politics and Religion
Power corrupts, believed Jefferson. Absolute religious power corrupts absolutely. Most
orthodox Christians condemned him as a heretic, a terrorist who would allow the French
Revolution to leap the Atlantic Ocean, and a wicked scoundrel who would dilute our
We Can Be Fearful or Free but Not Both
Though thousands of miles away from Philadelphia during the 1787 Constitutional Convention, as Minister to France Jefferson still shaped the Constitution. It was as if he were in Philadelphia with Madison and the Framers of our Republic, even though he lived in Paris. Learn what Jeffersonian fingerprints are on the Constitution.
A Genius Wrapped in a Bundle of Contradictions
Jefferson's life runs like a zigzag line. He's unpredictable, hard to figure out. He
advocated liberty while he owned slaves. He championed limited government with the
states having major power and yet acted like a king in acquiring the Louisiana Purchase.
He claimed to loathe politics but dedicated his life to statesmanship. He vowed never to
marry but slave Sally Herrings never left his life.
What fascinated Jefferson about the West, including the Great American Desert? For a
short time Colorado Territory was called "Jefferson Territory." Why? What motivated
Jefferson to secure the Louisiana Purchase and commission Lewis and Clark on their
momentous trek into the wilderness, especially when Jefferson never traveled more than
50 miles west of his birthplace?
A Good Read on Jefferson's 6,000+ Children
Jefferson went into serious debt, ringing up gargantuan bills for his literary children.
They cost him plenty through his entire life. Besides his six children with his wife
Martha, Jefferson loved books. He prized them as his children. He loved, caressed and
cared for these "children" in his devotion to reading.
Topics: Jonathan Edwards
Program Snapshots Featuring Jonathan Edwards Each program is hand-tailored to your group's needs and interests. Usually, a program featuring dramatic vignettes of Edwards's life that highlight a compelling theme runs one hour with Edwards dramatically portrayed. Then Edwards answers your questions and fields comments, culminating in Jack R. Van Ens shedding his wig as he shares his enthusiasm for Edwards.
Who Is Jonathan Edwards?
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), the Puritan preacher called the greatest mind produced in America, was also the most inspirational theologian of religious revivals. Edwards spearheaded the Great Awakening of the 1730's and 1740's in the colonies. Edwards's story is of great success and great tragedy as he was banished to Indian Territory after leading the most influential church in the colonies at Northampton, MA for over two decades.
Find a Faith that Carries Us over the Long Haul
What is faith? Some equate faith with belief, what we mentally are certain of about God.
Others point to warm, cozy feelings as the center of their faith. Edwards taught that faith
is daring to go into an uncertain future, fortified by active convictions.
The American Dream Is a Mysterious Machine
Historians rank Jonathan Edwards equal to Benjamin Franklin in influencing values that
make our nation great. Everybody knows lovable Ben, but few remember Jonathan
Edwards. Ben could be sassy; Edwards was serious. Franklin offered Yankee success;
Edwards searched after divine significance.
Edwards and Einstein: Two Peas in the Same Scientific Pod
Jonathan Edwards was Albert Einstein before Einstein was. Are these confusing,
enigmatic words? Uncover their truth as Edwards's and Einstein's pursued a shared
dream, bigger than life, which they never reached.
Edwards got fired from his prestigious church. This setback fired up his creativity so that
he became America's St. Augustine. Edwards turned obstacles into opportunities.
Christianity and Science Need Not Conflict
Jonathan Edwards exuded an insatiable curiosity about life, not just religion. He wrote
about spiders and his Savior, Jesus Christ, with wit and wisdom.