Reflections on History and Theology

Tag: Jonathan Edwards

“Jonathan Edwards and Scripture” Book Notice

Jonathan Edwards and Scripture Book CoverOver the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of working with Doug Sweeney in putting together a new multicontributor volume on Edwards and the Bible, and I’m pleased to say that the book is now available. The volume is titled Jonathan Edwards and Scripture: Biblical Exegesis in British North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), and it includes contributions from a number of Edwards scholars who have helped further the conversation on this important topic.

The book builds on the work that Sweeney, especially, has done over many years in the form of lectures, articles, and books, culminating in his Edwards the Exegete: Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 2015)—see my review of it here. It also furthers some of my research on Edwards, particularly in my book Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms (Oxford University Press, 2014).

To give you a taste of this new volume, here’s an excerpt from my introduction to the book:

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New Release: The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia

Jonathan Edwards EncyclopediaThis month Eerdmans is releasing a landmark volume in Edwards studies: The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia. This book is edited by the Jonathan Edwards Center luminaries Harry S. Stout, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Adriaan C. Neele, and it makes a substantial contribution to the field by helping those interested in Edwards to get acquainted with various aspects of his life, thought, and context.

It was a privilege for me to be able to contribute three essays to this work, all related to Edwards’s biblical interpretation: “Hermeneutics,” “Inspiration,” and “Scripture.” These form a very small piece of a much larger volume that deserves the attention of Edwards experts and students.

Here’s what other scholars are saying about the volume:

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Grammatical-Historical Exegesis in Historical Perspective

In his book Edwards the Exegete (see my review here), Doug Sweeney gives the following brief but illuminating description of the shift that took place with the rise of “grammatical-historical exegesis,” which holds sway in liberal-theological and many evangelical circles today:

As a host of theologians have bemoaned in recent years, Christians lost something crucial in the triumph of grammatical-historical exegesis and its rather new conception of the literal sense of Scripture. They lost their old conviction that the Bible hangs together by the power of the Spirit. Thus they lost their old facility for interpreting the scope and larger meanings of the canon. . . . Ancient history, not the knowledge and love of God has now become the holy grail of exegesis.[1]

In contrast, Sweeney suggests that Edwards, who was interpreting Scripture “on the edge of the Enlightenment,” can offer something that responds to this shift: “a learned and creative model of biblical exposition that is critical and edifying, historical and spiritual.”[2] Edwards is certainly not the only exegete to offer something. One could look to several biblical interpreters in church history and find examples of exegesis aimed at both the knowledge and the love of God. Edwards, however, is a particularly interesting example because he lived during a transition into more critical methods of reading the Bible, and yet while he found the new learning fascinating, he still read Scripture in ways that resonated with exegesis for centuries preceding him.

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Jonathan Edwards as Faithful Proclaimer of God’s Word

CredoMarch2016-1Credo Magazine has released its March 2016 issue, titled Preach the Word: Preachers Who Changed the World. This issue discusses the preaching of Saint Augustine, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and it also features my article, “Jonathan Edwards: A Faithful Proclaimer of God’s Word.” Here’s a brief excerpt:

Dangling like a spider over tongues of fire. Standing before floodgates holding back furious waters. Targeted with an arrow waiting to be drunk with your blood. These images of the sinner’s condition have both captivated and horrified listeners and readers ever since Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) preached his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in the hot summer of 1741. Those who heard him give this sermon in Enfield, Connecticut, on July 8 of that year became so terrified that they screamed out in the middle of it, “Oh, I am going to Hell,” and “What shall I do to be Sav[e]d?” Their shrieking forced Edwards to stop preaching so he and the other pastors present could minister to the congregation.

While perhaps the most dramatic response to one of his sermons that Edwards ever encountered, this event was just one in a long preaching ministry stretching from 1720 to 1758. Edwards would eventually be remembered more for his contributions to theology, yet his preaching played an important role in promoting revival in his congregation and throughout New England.

Read the whole thing here.

Sweeney’s “Edwards the Exegete” and “the Real Jonathan Edwards”

Edwards the ExegeteDouglas Sweeney - Edwards the Exegete represents a crowning achievement of a dozen years of studying Jonathan Edwards. Doug Sweeney, who was my doctoral advisor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and who runs a helpful blog on Edwards, has done Edwards scholars and followers a tremendous service in this volume, pulling back the curtain on a foundational aspect of Edwards’ life and thought that has generally been ignored. As Sweeney puts it succinctly, “We fail to comprehend Edwards’ life, thought, and ministry when viewing them apart from his biblical exegesis” (ix).

This monograph offers readers the first synthesis of Edwards’ exegesis across his entire corpus. Other volumes have explored aspects of Edwards’ corpus—particularly Stephen Stein’s fine introductions to Edwards’ biblical manuscripts printed in Yale University Press’s Works of Jonathan Edwards—or examined Edwards’ approach to particular parts of the canon. But Sweeney offers a truly groundbreaking study in analyzing the whole, based on a remarkable mastery of the primary and secondary literature on Edwards and his world, visible in the length and detail of the book’s notes.

As indicated by the volume title, Edwards the Exegete: Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 2015; source: publisher), Sweeney aims to present Edwards in his broader exegetical and cultural context without outright commending or denigrating Edwards as a biblical exegete. He admits, “I am not an Edwardsean,” and he instead seeks to approach the topic “as a historian, . . . transport[ing] thoughtful readers into Edwards’ biblical world, helping them understand and sympathize with Edwards’ exegesis, from the inside out, before resuming critical distance and evaluating his work from a late-modern perspective” (ix). He accomplishes this goal well.

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Peace on Earth: Reflections from Jonathan Edwards

Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
~ Luke 2:14

In a sermon on this text, Jonathan Edwards reflected on how Christ brings peace on earth. As the following excerpts from his sermon (available in this volume) show, Edwards celebrated the incarnation of God in Jesus and the peaceful effects of his coming to earth, which brought peace between man and God, peace within man, and peace between men:[1]


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Edwardseana Book of the Year Awards

JEC@TEDS LogoThe Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School just released their first issue of Edwardseana. In their inaugural issue they gave Book of the Year awards for two volumes: Rhys Bezzant’s Jonathan Edwards and the Church (Oxford University Press, 2013), and my book, Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2014).

The issue includes interviews with both me and Dr. Bezzant—who serves as Dean of Missional Leadership and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College and as Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center Australia—as well as reviews of both books. In addition, it spotlights Ryan Hoselton, the winner of the best graduate student paper on Edwards, which will be published in the Jonathan Edwards Studies journal. Check out Edwardseana as well for other noteworthy publications on Edwards from the last year and for happenings with the Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS.

I’m honored to receive this award and to share the stage with such a fine scholar like Professor Bezzant. Many thanks to the Edwards Center for this recognition and for all the work they are doing to promote resources on Edwards for the academy and the church.

John Bunyan (and Jonathan Edwards) on a True Work of Grace

John_BunyanWhen thinking of The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the best-selling books of all time, you might not immediately think of this allegory as a work of theology. Some scholars, like Gordon Campbell, even suggest that “The Pilgrim’s Progress is a religious work rather than a theological work.”[1] To make this bifurcation, however, mistakenly suggests that the Christian life is somehow separate and distinct from the Christian mind. In fact, while John Bunyan (1628–1688) focused this renowned work on the journey of the Christian, he weaved his theology—sometimes subtly—throughout the narrative.

One way that theology shines through the story is in the conversation that the characters have with each other. The importance of Christian discourse to the volume even leads Michael Mullett to note that “the book is a dialogue at least as much as it is a travelogue.”[2] To give a taste of how Bunyan incorporates his theology into the story’s conversations, we’ll explore a section from The Pilgrim’s Progress on discerning a true “work of grace.”

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Kyle Strobel’s Reimagining of Jonathan Edwards’ Theology

Kyle Strobel - JE's Theology - A ReinterpretationWhat model of the Trinity did Jonathan Edwards employ in his theology? How did Edwards’ Trinitarianism shape the rest of his theological program? How did Edwards’ emphases on the end for which God created the world, religious affections, and the remanation of God’s glory cohere in this New England divine’s creative mind?

Kyle Strobel, Assistant Professor at Biola University, explores these questions—and many related lines of inquiry—in his work Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation, vol. 19 in T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology, ed. John Webster, Ian A. McFarland, and Ivor Davidson (London: T&T Clark, 2013; source: publisher). In Strobel’s volume, readers will find an erudite treatment of Edwards’ theology that explores and reframes the details of his thought in the light of his Trinitarian and redemptive emphases.

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Jonathan Edwards as Mentor

Jonathan_EdwardsWhen we think about Jonathan Edwards as a pastor, we tend to conjure up a fairly negative picture: a lackluster preacher and bookworm who preferred spending as much as thirteen hours per day in his study over mingling with his congregants—a group of people who ultimately ousted him from his pastoral post in Northampton.

Rhys Bezzant does us the favor of offering a corrective to Edwards’ reputation as a pastor in his article “‘Singly, Particularly, Closely’: Edwards as Mentor” [Jonathan Edwards Studies 4, no. 2 (2014): 228–246]. He contends that “Edwards was actually a very skilled mentor and expert trainer of leaders for the church” (229). And he offers incisive recommendations for the church to learn from Edwards’ mentoring style today.

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Jonathan Edwards for Young Readers

Simonetta Carr - Jonathan EdwardsI firmly believe that church history has much to teach us as Christians today. I also believe that it has much to teach our children. But building that bridge from the unfamiliar, distant past presents challenges even to my college students, not to mention young boys and girls.

That’s why I appreciate what Simonetta Carr is doing through her Christian Biographies for Young Readers series. In these attractively illustrated volumes, Carr introduces children to important figures from Christian history—including Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, John Calvin, John Knox, Lady Jane Grey, and John Owen. In her latest installment, she treats Jonathan Edwards for young readers (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014; source: publisher).

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Take a Trip with Jonathan Edwards

Michael Haykin - Travel with JEThose interested in learning about Jonathan Edwards have plenty of excellent options from which to choose: George Marsden’s scholarly standard, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale University Press, 2003); Marsden’s popular-level A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Eerdmans, 2008); Douglas Sweeney’s ministry-oriented Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Life (IVP Academic, 2009); and many others.

Those looking for an introduction to Edwards should not overlook Michael Haykin and Ron Baines’ Travel with Jonathan Edwards: A God-Centered Life, An Enduring Legacy (Day One, 2013; source: publisher). The authors offer a solid, concise, and highly readable presentation of Edwards that touches on the major developments in his life. But this volume provides a unique view of Edwards and his world through the lens of the camera. Every page opening features colorful pictures of people, places, churches, gravestones, and other historical elements that help the reader imagine Edwards in his context.

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Gerald McDermott’s Review of “Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms”

JEC@TEDS LogoProfessor Gerald McDermott, a leading Edwards scholar and co-author with Michael McClymond of the monumental The Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2011), has posted a gracious guest review of my book, Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms, at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School website.

Check it out at this link:

“Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms” Now Available

Jonathan Edwards and the PsalmsIt’s a pleasure to announce that my book, Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2014), is now available from major online retailers. I’m grateful to the many people who have helped bring this book to publication.

To give you a sense of what I discuss in the book, here’s a brief description from the jacket cover:

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Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms Book Cover Released

Jonathan Edwards and the PsalmsI’m pleased to see that Amazon has recently posted the cover for my book, Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture, which is being published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It is currently slated for an October 3, 2014 release date.

Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms is the first book to explore Edwards’ treatment of a full book of the Bible. In the volume I examine Edwards’ engagement with the Psalms in the context of the history of interpreting, preaching, and worshipping with the Psalter. Edwards was a devoted student of the Bible, and in this book I hope to further the conversation about Edwards as a biblical interpreter—an area that deserves much more attention.

In my volume, I explore Edwards’ engagement with the Psalms throughout his corpus, including understudied manuscripts such as his “Blank Bible,” “Notes on Scripture,” and dozens of unpublished sermons. In his reading of the Psalms, Edwards treated various theological themes, including God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, revelation, humanity, sin, the gospel, Christian piety, the church corporate, and the eternal dwellings of all people. I argue that Edwards connected all of these themes through a redemptive-historical framework that guided his engagement with the Psalms.

Check out the OUP page for more details about Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms.