Book Review – A Treatise on Jonathan Edwards: Continuous Creation and Christology, by S. Mark Hamilton

S. Mark Hamilton has written a very exceptional and handy new volume on the metaphysics of Jonathan Edwards, especially as regards his somewhat unusual ideas of continuous creation and idealism, and their respective relationship to Christology.

Entitled, “A Treatise on Jonathan Edwards: Continuous Creation and Christology,” this work is published by the emerging new leader in Edwards publication projects, JESociety Press. Before we get to a review of the book itself, we should take a moment to note what a good thing this is for Edwards scholarship in general.

Having a press that is devoted to Edwards alone is a marvelous thing. This means that it can be small, nimble, and tightly focused on projects that advance our specialized field. JESociety Press plans to remain concentrated on publishing new projects by both respected scholars and emerging new writers alike for the tailored audience that eagerly anticipates them. While bigger publishers like Crossway do gobble up manuscripts on Edwards from time to time, they are not always as willing to give more technical treatises like the one being considered in this review the availability they deserve.

Moreover, JESociety Press, with this volume as a first foray, is also introducing a new line of monographs entitled “A Series of Treatises on Jonathan Edwards.” This new lineup promises to give readership “lively, assessable and in-depth treatments of Edwards-specific subject matter.” Each of these new volumes is also promised to be concise (Continuous Creation is only around 100 pages), which I believe will make these books all the more valuable. Hamilton

S. Mark Hamilton’s own learned contribution to Edwards scholarship on continuous creation (pictured: right) comes with high recommendations from Gerald McDermott, Douglas Sweeney, Sam Storms, and Oliver Crisp (his doctoral adviser), so my hopes were high for this volume. Thankfully it did not disappoint me in any way. Actually, even the very Forward by Crisp had me intrigued; here the esteemed professor at Fuller Seminary admits that his student will be challenging some of his own ideas within. Drama!

Crisp also admits that the concepts contained herein by his student are heavy and rank among some of the great thoughts that can be entertained by the human mind. As I delved in to the introduction, I considered myself duly warned.

In the beginning of the work, Hamilton introduces the reader to the concept of Edwards’ idea of continuous creation; that is, that God is constantly re-creating the universe at every instant, which is akin to His sustaining the universe (Colossians 1:15-17). Rather than creating just once, and then letting the universe spin (so the enlightenment machinists), Edwards has an idea that God is always and constantly recreating everything that is. But this idea, if accepted, comes with some tangential “baggage” that likewise must be toted to keep the concept coherent. Thus, in order to make this view hold together (note: Hamilton is not arguing a defense of continuous creation; he is only trying to help readers understand Edwards more clearly) he will have to dig into related areas that this notion of continuous creation may affect.

On page 11, Hamilton gives the outline for the book. First, he will deal with the fact that Edwards held to some form of immaterialism. That is to say, the universe is actually a product of God’s uncreated mind, and all else that “is,” consists of either created minds with the power to perceive, or else the mental impressions that God places upon those minds. As I understand it, Edwards’ believes that the universe is somewhat like the movie the Matrix, with reality somehow impressed into the minds of God’s intelligent creatures, all the while they perceive that they are actually “there.” This chair that I am sitting on as I write is not really here. My created mind perceives it to be there; but there is no “stuff” below me. All that exists in Edwards’ metaphysical world is the Uncreated Mind of God impressing ideas into our created minds.

But this is all not so simple. What do we make of time itself? Does it progress? Is it eternally present to God? Does it lapse moment by moment? Does the past still “exist” once it is gone, or is it destroyed? All of these questions, Hamilton tries to explain in his second chapter on time, a view which he calls “stage theory.” In the third chapter, Hamilton deals with occasionalism which is the idea that God is the sole causal factor in all that transpires in the universe. Hamilton does not think that Edwards believes God needs to recreate the lesser created minds instant by instant, but he does argue that the percepts given by God to those minds are in a constant state of being “updated” through God’s direct agency. And while all of these things are interesting enough on their own, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, is in the Christology of Jonathan Edwards.

Here we see the subtitle of the work coming into full effect, “Continuous Creation and Christology.” True enough, if the doctrine of the Incarnation suggests that the Son of God took on humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, this opens up quite a few other questions about Edwards’ metaphysics: What of Jesus’ physical body? Does it possess physicality (material) outside of its “idea,” or does it too exist as an impression from the Uncreated Mind (God) to the created minds of men? And even more startling, we must ask, what about the mind of Jesus of Nazareth itself; is it created or uncreated? Does the human mind of Jesus of Nazareth need be constantly recreated? If Jesus is to be truly incarnate as a human being, he must exist in his humanity in the same way as all human creations do, right? And yet this is made quite a bit more complex still by the fact that the Son is also eternal and timeless; begotten by the Father. The reader is challenged to work through these complex questions alongside Hamilton as he considers each one in turn.

When Hamilton is working through Edwards’ first hand materials, he is primarily doing work in his Miscellanies and his book Original Sin. It is in the latter that we see his doctrine of continuous creation explained most fully, and in the former that Edwards talks about such ideas as idealism and occasionalism freely. There are moments when Hamilton, in order to explain what Edwards likely thought, is somewhat forced to make conjectures and leaps to fill in that gaps that are not fully explained by Edwards himself in his extant writings. Of course, he rigorously works through the relevant literature, and especially interacts with Crisp in the footnotes.

Since the book is short, the reader moves through these questions a bit fast. Perhaps too fast at times, although Hamilton tries to give the reader enough illustrations and examples to keep his or her mind focused on the topic at hand. Several times, just when my focus was about to “tap out” from mental perplexity, Hamilton would give just the right illustration that helped me to jump back on board and cling on a bit longer. Readers will find themselves preserved from mental fatigue by helpful handholds such as the recurring “cupcake” illustration (p. 32-33), a Monet painting reference (page 38), an illustration of an actor watching himself on film (p. 40), a memorable old-school slide projector (p. 56) and so on.  The constant use of these illustrations gives the reader the assurance of “Okay, I’m still with you!”

Without giving too many spoilers, Hamilton holds that Edwards does have a coherent view of continuous creation that sustains challenges from other problematic issues related to Christology. Edwards’ view of immaterialism is that the universe consists of minds and ideas only. He holds that the ideas must be constantly recreated, but not the minds. This prevents him from having to admit that the created mind of Jesus of Nazareth (as distinct from the uncreated mind of the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity) need be remade continually. This makes Edwards, in Hamilton’s view an “immaterial realist.” Thus, Hamilton concludes the following propositions can be discerned in Edwards’ metaphysics:

  • The humanity of Jesus is a real substance, composed of an immaterial mind and a body composed entirely of ideas presented to Him by the Spirit
  • The mind of Jesus persists through time by enduring moment-to-moment whereas the body of Jesus, like all other perceptible objects, is continuously created and re-presented ex nihilo to the mind of Jesus (p. 92-93).

The book does get embroiled in quite a bit of jargon. Each chapter introduces new terms to the reader that must be considered before one or the other is finally preferred by the author. Is time discreet or dense? We must become familiar with fusion theory and fission theory. Neophytes will struggle to keep up with terms like idealism, occasionalism, substances, minds, immaterialism etc. Readers may do well to keep the new Edwards Encyclopedia close at hand. Thus, the constant introduction of new terms may give some uninitated readers the sense of playing “catch up” throughout the book. On the other hand, the brevity, clarity, and illustrations of the book make it an attainable read for all who are interested to go further into Edwards’ somewhat idiosyncratic thoughts on metaphysics.

 

 

The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2017)

Here it is!

Finally the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia, edited by Harry S. Stout, is available for purchase in the hardback edition. This volume contains over 400 entries on topics about and related to the Northampton Puritan. This work represents the learning of over 175 world class Edwards scholars. Topics include the historical persons related to his life, the times and context in which he lived, his interlocutors, his primary written sources, as well as dozens of theological and philosophical concepts necessary to understanding JE’s works. Contributors to this volume include Kenneth Minkema, Joel Beeke, Rhys Bezzant, Adriaan Neele, Oliver Crisp, Sean Michael Lucas, Jefferey Waddington, Jonathan S. Marko, and many others. The forward was written by George M. Marsden.

This volume will likely join just a handful of other works related to Edwards that are considered absolutely indispensable for future scholars to reckon with.

Forthwith, a full video review of this beautiful and scholarly work.

Edwards Encyclopedia Preview

Forthwith, the world’s first look at the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (pre-order this volume here), edited by Harry S. Stout, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Adriaan C. Neele (Eerdmans, 2017). The edition shown in the video below is not the final version, but is rather an advanced, uncorrected proof provided by the good folks at Eerdmans Publishing. The hardback edition will be released in November of this year, and will weigh in at well over 700 pages. It will likely be the definitive one volume reference work on Jonathan Edwards for decades to come. Contributing authors include: Robert L. Boss, Jonathan S. Marko, Oliver Crisp, Joel Beeke, Sean Michael Lucas, Thomas S. Kidd, Rhys S. Bezzant, Jeffery C. Waddington and many more.

 

Interview with Robert Caldwell: Author of “Theologies of the American Revivalists”

Today, Edwards Studies speaks with Dr. Robert Caldwell III, Associate Professor of Church History at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and author of the new work Theologies of the American Revivalists: From Whitefield to Finney (IVP, 2017). 

 

ES: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you fall in love with historical theology?

I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, raised in Buffalo, New York, went to school in the Chicago area (Northwestern University for undergrad, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for my M.Div. and Ph.D.). I came to faith in Christ in high school, met my wife in Cru at Northwestern (currently married 21 wonderful years), and we have two daughters (13 and 11). I enjoy the guitar and running.

I have always loved history and the mind. Being a science buff in high school, I was drawn to the history and philosophy of science in college. When I got to seminary, I discovered Jonathan Edwards who lighted my mind and fired my soul. From there I developed a deep appreciation for how the great thinkers of the Christian faith have pursued loving the Lord with their minds: Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Edwards. Keeping company with these folks through their writings has made me a better Christian, husband, father, and churchman.

ES: Where do you teach, and what do you focus on in your research studies? 

I am an Associate Professor of Church History at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I’ve taught for thirteen years. My research has specialized in Jonathan Edwards, the First and Second Great Awakenings and the history of theology in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

ES: Give us an overview of your project – what will readers expect to discover here? 5164

Theologies of the American Revivalists explores the ways American revivalists from the First and Second Great Awakenings (1740-1840) thought, preached, and wrote about what I call “revival theology,” that combination of Protestant soteriology, conversion expectations, and preaching practices associated with revival. Unlike today, there was a great deal of theological writing done on this subject during that time. The book identifies and charts the historical theological developments of the various different schools of revival theology of the period, with specific attention given to the major controversies and writers.

ES: Of course our readers here will be most interested in Jonathan Edwards. How does he figure into your work? 

Edwards plays a prominent and unique role throughout the book. In the first chapter I examine Edwards’s views of revival amidst the standard Calvinist revivalists of the First Great Awakening—Gilbert Tennent, Samuel Davies, and Jonathan Dickinson—a group of folks I call the “moderate evangelical” revivalists. Edwards’s views and practices were consistent with those of the moderates.

At the same time, however, Edwards advances two ideas in his own unique way—the “voluntarist accent” in his theology (sinners have a natural ability to trust Christ; we are complicit in Adam’s original transgression) and his “disinterested spirituality” (the idea that we love God for who he is, not for any good we get from God in salvation). These ideas were later taken up and modified by his disciples who formed them into a deeply revivalist school of Calvinism known as the New Divinity. I examine this side of Edwards’s revival theology separately in half of the second chapter, and spend several other chapters exploring the legacy of the Edwardsean New Divinity tradition through the Second Great Awakening.

In short, Edwards is, simultaneously, a First Great Awakening moderate revivalist and the fountainhead of a uniquely American school of Calvinism.

ES: Are there other less-appreciated revivalists of interest that perhaps most readers will not already know about? 

Yes, there were many I came across in writing the book; I’ll briefly mention three, each from different perspectives. Jonathan Dickinson (1688-1747) was known abroad as one of the two “great Jonathans” in the colonies during the First Great Awakening (the other, of course, being Jonathan Edwards). Dickinson was the elder statesmen of New Jersey Presbyterianism who played a significant role the founding of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). He was a great promoter of the Awakening, and wrote numerous works defending moderate evangelical revival theology including A Display of God’s Special Grace and The True Scripture Doctrine Concerning Some Important Points of Christian Faith. His writings are distinguished for their precision, their balance between the head and the heart, and for their spiritual insight.

Andrew Croswell (1709-1785) was a radical revivalist of the James Davenport type who actually published a host of sermons and smaller treatises defending views which were then considered radical, but would today would be considered commonplace by many evangelicals. These views include the positions that assurance is the essence of saving faith, that conversions should be experienced quickly, that grace is absolutely free, that the preaching of the moral law and the experience of preconversion “terrors” are not necessary prior to trusting Christ. For most of his ministry, Croswell was criticized, marginalized and charged with antinomianism and “enthusiasm.” His ideas would become increasingly widespread in a later history of evangelicalism.

Edward Dorr Griffin (1770-1837) was a booming Boston preacher from the Second Great Awakening who represented the Edwardsean or New Divinity theological tradition at its zenith. Griffin had a long and distinguished ministry. After a decade of pastorates he was called to be professor of pulpit eloquence at Andover Seminary. Later he was the first pastor of Boston’s historic Park Street Church, and throughout the 1820s and 30s he served as president of Williams College. His published sermons are noteworthy for their powerful rhetoric, their vivid imagery, and their strong dose of Edwardsean theology.

ES: What are some of your conclusions about the importance of revivalism? What are some of its lasting results that we still feel today? 

While revivals may be thought of as phenomena of the past, they are still an important part of the evangelical church today:

  • They form a fundamental part of evangelical identity and our historical memory. Many of us would love to see revival happen in our churches, even though we may differ theologically or practically as to what that would look like.
  • The most authentic revivals occur in the context of a ministry that is deeply informed by biblical theology and spirituality. While we can’t schedule a revival (i.e. we can’t produce one by our own efforts; God is not on our timeline), pastors who know the Word and who know how to apply it to real lives can increase the chances that a revival may occur by being faithful to their calling of preaching, teaching, and shepherding souls.
  • Revivals can happen again. We don’t need to wait for a certain set of social, cultural or political conditions to be manifested in our society before one happens. All we need are Christians and pastors who are faithful in prayer and sound in the proclamation of the Word.

The phenomenon of revivals over the last several centuries has resulted in a number of features of that are still with us today in the evangelical church:

  • Evangelicals tend to identify with a strong, powerful leaders who preach the gospel with passion and clarity—men like Whitefield, Moody, and/or Graham. This is still with us today; just notice how many evangelical subgroups are built not so much around the ministry of the Word but upon the foundation of a personality, either an evangelist, a pastor, a blogger, or a conference speaker. Depending upon who the person is, this can either be a good thing or a bad thing.
  • How we expect conversions to occur has been deeply shaped by revivals of the past and the theologies behind them. Many evangelicals expect that conversion is preceded by a period of spiritual distress when an individual comes to the awareness of personal sin and God’s wrath. There is a rich theology of this in
    America’s revival traditions, one that has developed and changed throughout the generations. I explore this theological development and the practical effects of it in the book.
  • How we call people to faith has also been influenced by American revivals. For instance, the Billy Graham altar call is still with us. The theological foundations to this practice were developed in the period I treat in the book, but there were other ways evangelicals called people to faith which I explore as well.

ES: What is your own theological/ecclesiastical tradition and how do you think it colors your perspective on the revivals?

I am a Southern Baptist who deeply appreciates Augustine’s trinitarianism, the reformed tradition on soteriology, and Edwards’s spiritual theology. My experience in Cru as an undergraduate and education at TEDS has given me a great appreciation for the broader evangelical tradition. My training as a historian has encouraged me to be sensitive about allowing my theology to color my historical writing. I try to be as objective as possible and thus attempt to treat Edwards, Finney, Bellamy, and Bangs in a way that I would hope they each would find to be judicious and accurate.

Having said that, I am sure that my own views affect my historical judgment for none of us is 100% objective. There are many ways this may have affected the book, though I will only mention one. My affinity for Edwards’s spiritual theology probably surfaces in the amount of space I devote to the Edwardsean theological tradition in the book. As I reflect on this, this probably has to do with fact I appreciate Edwards’s spiritual theology which the Edwardseans faithfully represented long after Edwards’s death (even though the Edwardseans modified other aspects of Edwards’s views which I find to be problematic).

ES: Any book recommendations for our readers? 

How about a few primary sources from several American revivalists? For those interested in the topic of American revival theology here are a few writings to whet your appetite from across the theological spectrum. Most of these texts you can find for free in Google Books.

Archibald Alexander. Thoughts on Religious Experience. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board, 1841.

Albert Barnes. The Way of Salvation. 7th ed. New York: Leavitt, Lord and Co., 1836.

Joseph Bellamy. Theron, Paulinus, and Aspasio; Or, Letters and Dialogues upon the Nature of Love to God, Faith in Christ, Assurance of a Title to Eternal Life. In The Works of Joseph Bellamy, D.D. Vol. 2, 161-267. Boston: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, 1853.

Jonathan Dickinson. A Display of God’s Special Grace. In Sermons and Tracts, Separately Published at Boston, Philadelphia, etc., 379-446. Edinburgh: M. Gray, 1793.

Jonathan Edwards, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversions of Hundreds of Souls in Northampton. In Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 4, The Great Awakening, edited by C. C. Goen, 144-211. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972.

 

 

The Miscellanies Project: Call for Submissions

Big news from JESociety.org is being released this week – a large scale project on the Miscellanies by our good friend Dr. Rob Boss is on the horizon. If you are not already aware, Dr. Boss has been on the cutting edge of Edwards studies in the new millenium, both visually with his stunning graphic videos, as well as his excellent writing and editing ministry. miscellanies

According to the JESociety:

There is a history of efforts to map the relationships among Edwards’ notebooks and sermons. Wilson Kimnach provides a wonderful diagram of dependencies in volume 10 of the WJE. “The Miscellanies Project” of the JESociety is a contribution to this effort. This project will enable scholars to conduct deep, comparative visual analyses of JE’s Miscellanies a–1360 as a whole.

The unique contribution of “The Miscellanies Project” will be a wide range of theological, visual analyses which serve as maps to JE’s thought in his Miscellanies. These analyses reveal never before seen patterns and clusters and their exact locations in volumes 13, 18, 20, and 23 in WJE.

JE scholars are now being invited to contribute essays and articles to The Miscellanies Reader which will be the print publication of the project. In this way, the project which will doubtlessly feature some of Dr. Boss’s incredible video-graphics will be amplified by a Reader’s edition that will help draw connections between the themes latent in Edwards’ thought.

In the near future, the JESociety will set a timeline for author submissions and contributions, publish a list of available and taken topics, and prepare relevant data maps to assist research and writing. Obviously this is more than another book project; it is a full scale multi-media attempt to visually and exegetically comprehend Edwards’ main ideas in the Miscellanies.

This project will be very cool in that Douglas A. Sweeney, author of a number of important works on Edwards as well as the Director of JECTEDS, will be writing the Forward to The Miscellanies Reader. Sweeney will also be providing other assistance and guidance on this project. Adding Sweeney to the project is like adding an additional designated hitter to an already exciting lineup.  If you are not already aware, JESociety has already put out several thrilling concept books including an amplified version of Boss’s dissertation on the typology of Edwards in his br51hh4b2ehal-_sx384_bo1204203200_eak-out book God-Haunted World; as well as a Collection of Essays contributed by a new generation of up and coming Edwards scholars; and also Boss’s second book Bright Shadows of Divine Things on the devotional works of Edwards. In talking to Boss this week, I am excited about a few other projects that may be coming in the future too. But perhaps I can share some of those at a later time.

Taken together, I think we can see that the creativity that is present here in the JESociety will make its own Press one of the most exciting and innovative book publishers working specifically on Jonathan Edwards today. Future years and forthcoming publications appear to verify the potential first seen in God-Haunted World. 

What follows is the official call for contributions to qualified writers:

***

Call for Submissions

The Miscellanies Project is now inviting contributors. Participants in this project must have at minimum a master’s degree in history, theology, philosophy, religious studies, literature, or related fields, or be able to demonstrate their qualifications to contribute to the project.

Stage One: Topic Selection – Deadline August 1, 2017

The first stage in The Miscellanies Project will be identifying topics of interest.

  • Participants should peruse the Miscellanies Index and select one or more (preferably three) of Edwards entries.
  • Take note of important keywords in the title and body text of the entries (but not in the footnotes).
  • We want to achieve broad coverage of the notebooks, therefore we ask that you vary your selections.
  • Complete the submission form at the bottom of this page.
  • Multiple form submissions are not necessary—please include multiple Miscellanies numbers and multiple keywords in their respective fields. We will sort out the connections. Also, do not worry about selecting all keywords in the Miscellanies. Our process will augment your selections and we will arrive at a comprehensive network map of your topics. The main point now is to identify and reserve your areas of interest.

Stage Two: Article Submission – Deadline June 1, 2018

After the first stage is complete,

  • We will analyze all of the information and create custom visualizations for each contributor.
  • These visualizations will serve as detailed maps of the weave of Edwards’ thought, as well as invaluable aids to writing on your selected topic(s).
  • Articles for The Miscellanies Reader should range between 1,000 and 3,000 words.

Stage Three: Publication – estimated December, 2018

 

Here’s the official link to submit article ideas for the Miscellanies Reader project. 

Philip Doddridge’s The Family Expositor: Jonathan Edwards’ Favorite Study Tool

This week I received an incredible gift from a long lost friend. Quite unexpectedly, I found a parcel box in my church office with my name on the address label. Opening the box, I immediately smelled the glorious and distinguished smell of old paper and leather. I opened the brown corrugated cardboard, and found Volume Six of Philip Doddridge’s The Family Expositor carefully tucked inside.

I scanned the first few pages to examine this obvious treasure and found the date inscription – MDCCLXII. I had to rehearse my Roman numerals a few times just to make sure I was reading it correctly. Yes, the date was 1762. This would make this volume 255 years old, and just barely outside the parameters of Edwards’ own lifetime. (He died in 1758).

What makes this volume so significant to Jonathan Edwards scholars is that Doddridge’s Family Expositor, is one of the works consulted most by Edwards. We know this because of Edwards’ Blank Bible, his masterpiece of personal exegetical notes housed in a one-of-a-kind KJV Bible, with blank pages sewn into the book block for extensive note-taking. (See my article on the “Blank Bible” here). Edwards consults Doddridge more than any other author besides Matthew Poole. Interestingly, however, he engages Doddridge in more detail in the Blank Bible, even though Poole is cited more often.

The following background information is found in the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 24, edited by Stephen J. Stein:

Philip Doddridge, the third synoptic commentator whose work Edwards knew well, was Edwards’ virtual contemporary. Like Henry, Doddridge was a Nonconformist divine. Educated in Dissenting academies, by 1722 he had begun preaching; a year later he began ministering to a congregation at Kibworth, England. By late 1729, after several other appointments, he relocated to Northampton, where he led an academy and served a Dissenting congregation. In his ministry Doddridge attempted to forge a broad coalition, reaching out to Calvinists, evangelicals, and even Anglicans. He worked on behalf of the cause of education, charity schools, and foreign missions. He was a prolific writer of hymns. But it was primarily through The Family Expositor: Or, A Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament, a six-volume commentary on the New Testament published between 1739 and 1756, and described as a didactic commentary, that Edwards engaged Doddridge’s exegetical ideas. The sixth and final volume of the commentary appeared posthumously. Doddridge’s other published works ranged across the full spectrum of ministerial activities and occasions. (WJE 24:64).

Stein continues:

Edwards cited the Family Expositor extensively in the “Blank Bible.” The number of references to Doddridge is second only to those to Poole. But his engagement with Doddridge is more explicit in content than his use of Poole. Most of the 303 references to Doddridge—all but six of which occur in the context of the New Testament—are substantive notes or entries rather than simple references (WJE 24:64).

There is much good news for those who are interested in some of the items mentioned above. First of all, there are a number of reprints of The Family Expositor available today. Unfortunately, I have not seen any of these reprints myself, and cannot comment on the value of these prints. In my experience, some reprints are much better than others! Personally, I think this set by Liam Walsh has some promise although I have not handled them myself.

Secondly, the Blank Bible of Edwards is available as Volume 24 of the Works. Thankfully, scholars can read as Edwards interacts with Scripture as well as Doddridge, Poole, and other divines. However, it is very pricey. To say the least! One could wish that Yale would print this in paperback as they have done Volumes 1-4, but alas, an Edwards scholar must have deep pockets or be content to read online.

Finally, if you are in the mood to create your own Blank Bible, Crossway just recently released their own Edwards-inspired ESV with blank pages between ever page of Scripture. See my written review of this Bible here, and my video review here.

Here is my video review of this Doddridge’s Family Expositor:

“A New and Great Business and a Dark Cloud”: Reflecting on the Death of Jonathan Edwards. By John T. Lowe.

On March 22, 1758, Jonathan Edwards took his final breaths. A little over a month prior, he was installed as President of the College of New Jersey (what is now Princeton).[1] His son-in-law, Aaron Burr, had died, leaving the position vacant. Reluctant take this “new and great business,” Edwards did so with wise counsel. There, in the town of Princeton, smallpox had been rampant in the surrounding areas. Always wanting to do what was best for his family, Edwards decided he and his family should receive inoculation—the new and risky way of combating the smallpox epidemic.[2] On February 23, William Shippen, a well-known physician from Philadelphia, agreed to adminiGravesster the inoculation and oversee their recovery. After a few days everything seemed to be fine. Esther and her children had begun recovering, but Edwards had contracted smallpox inside of his mouth and throat.[3] After weeks of a fever and starvation from being unable to swallow, Edwards knew his time had come to an end. His daughter Lucy who was caring for him recorded his last words:

Dear Lucy, it seems to me to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you; therefore give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God. And as to my children, you are now likely to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father, who will never fail you.[4]

There, in his short time, at Princeton, Edwards died in the afternoon on March 22, 1758.[5] As he expired, Shippen wrote his wife Sarah assuring her of his peaceful death. He wrote:

And never did any mortal man more fully and clearly evidence the sincerity of all his professions, by one continued, universal, calm, cheerful resignation, and patient submission to the divine will, through every stage of his disease, than he; no so much as one discontented expression, nor the least appearance of murmuring through the whole. And never did any person expire with more perfect freedom from pain;–not so much as distorted hair—but in the most proper sense of the words, he really fell asleep.[6]

Sarah, still on the frontier in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, received the news of her husband’s passing and shone herself equally pious and resolved. To their daughter Esther, Sarah wrote,

What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. Oh that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be.[7]

While these words would have comforted her in the midst of losing her husband and father within the span of months, Esther never saw the letter. Sixteen days after Edwards died, Esther had been suffering from a fever unrelated to smallpox and also died. If that had not already been enough heart ache to the Edwards family, Sarah had traveled to get her grandchildren only to die from dysentery on October 2 in Philadelphia.[8] The Edwards family had been broken.

Marsden reminds us, Edwards had “spent his whole life preparing to die.”[9] Despite his many imperfections, he aspired to know God and for others to know the same “beauties” and “excellencies” that he discovered. Even in his final moments, Edwards was instructing to “submit cheerfully to the will of God” and to “seek a Father who will never fail.” What began as an “inward sweet sense” of new birth did not end with his death, but instead had bloomed full force. Shippen observing Edwards’ passing stated, “Death had certainly lost its sting.”[10]

FOOTNOTES

[1] Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 491.

[2] Ibid., 493.

[3] Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 493.

[4] Quoted in Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 494. The original manuscript is William Shippen to Sarah Edwards, March 22, 1758 held at Andover Newton Theological Seminary, transcribed by George Claghorn.

[5] Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 494.

[6] Quoted in Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 494. The original manuscript is William Shippen to Sarah Edwards, March 22, 1758 held at Andover Newton Theological Seminary, transcribed by George Claghorn.

[7] Sereno E. Dwight, Life of President Edwards. In The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol.1, ed. Edwards Hickman, xi-ccxxxiv, 1834. Reprint, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), clxxix.

[8] Whitney, Finding God in Solitude, 73.

[9] Ibid., 490.

[10] Quoted in Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 494. The original manuscript is William Shippen to Sarah Edwards, Ma.rch 22, 1758 held at Andover Newton Theological Seminary, transcribed by George Claghorn.

Author Interview: Brandon Crawford – Jonathan Edwards on the Atonement

EdwardsStudies is talking today with Brandon Crawford, the author of the new book Jonathan Edwards on the Atonement: Understanding the Legacy of America’s Greatest Theologian published by Wipf and Stock. Brandon, tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I am 33 years old, and I serve as a pastor in Marshall, Michigan. I hold an M.Div. and a Th.M. in Reformation and Post-Reformation Theology. My wife, Melanie, and I will celebrate our 11-year anniversary this June, and we have two children—Daniel and Sarah. I love reading, writing, stargazing, visiting sites of historical importance, and spending time with my family.Brandon Crawford

So, how did you get started studying Jonathan Edwards? 

I tell the full story in the preface of my book. In short, my interest in Jonathan Edwards was ignited during my freshmen year of college after reading John Piper’s book, Desiring God. While I wasn’t sure I liked the term “Christian Hedonism,” the overall message of Piper’s book really resonated with me. On the back cover there was an endorsement from J. I. Packer that said, “Jonathan Edwards, whose ghost walks through most of Piper’s pages, would be delighted with his disciple.” If Piper was getting his inspiration from Jonathan Edwards, I knew I needed to study Edwards too. I began with a couple biographies of Edwards, and then turned to his own writings. I began with his famous treatise, The End for which God Created the World, and went on from there. That was about 15 years ago. I have been a disciple of Edwards ever since.

Where are you doing ministry right now? 

I was ordained in August of 2010, and was installed as the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Marshall, Michigan, immediately thereafter. I have been at Grace ever since.

So give us the overall picture of your book. 

Jonathan Edwards had no true intellectual successors, but he did leave behind a group of admirers now known as the “Edwardeans” or “New Divinity” men. Without exception, these New Divinity men rejected the penal substitutionary view of Christ’s atonement in favor of a view that sees Christ’s death merely as a penal example. So the perennial question is, “To what extent did Jonathan Edwards influence the New Divinity toward this view?”One reason for the continuing debate on this question is the paucity of secondary literature examining Edwards’s doctrine of atonement on its own terms. This is where my book comes in. My aim was to provide a thorough presentation of Edwards’s doctrine of atonement as revealed in his collected works, with the goal of (1) filling that lacuna in our understanding of Edwards’s doctrinal perspective; (2) generating interest in this subject from other authors; (3) settling the question of Edwards’s influence on the New Divinity; and (3) stirring greater interest in the doctrine of atonement in general.The first three chapters of the book offer a brief history of the doctrine of atonement from the Apostolic Fathers to the Age of Enlightenment. The remaining four chapters explore Edwards’s own doctrinal perspective. A concluding chapter offers a few summary thoughts.

Do you think you turned over any stones that haven’t already been turned over by other scholars? 

Thanks to the good work of the scholars at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, most of Jonathan Edwards’s extant writings have been digitized, posted online, and made accessible with a searchable database. This allowed me to scan the massive Edwards corpus for statements on the atonement in a way that has never been possible before. As a result, I was able to offer a more complete survey of Edwards’s doctrine of atonement than anyone before me. I trust that the greater level of information has also led to a greater level of insight.

What drew you to the theme of atonement? 

The gospel is the heart of the Christian faith, and the atonement is the heart of the gospel. No doctrine is more worthy of our reflection, affection, and careful application than this one.

Okay, so what, if anything, does Jonathan Edwards contribute that is unique to our understanding of the biblical doctrine of the Atonement among Reformed theologians? 

Unique to Jonathan Edwards is the way he brings together the concepts of penal substitution and penal example into a single, coherent system. Very briefly, he taught that Adam’s sin involved a twofold offense: he violated God’s law, and he dishonored God himself. As a result, Christ’s atonement necessarily involved a twofold work: he bore sin’s penalty in the sinner’s place, and he publicly vindicated God’s honor through his life and death. The symmetry of his doctrine of atonement is quite stunning. Most Reformed writers tend to emphasize the former at the expense of the latter.

What biblical texts or primary sources does Edwards draw upon in his construct of the Atonement? 

Edwards relies on two sources in constructing his doctrine of atonement: Reason and Revelation. His sermons on Psalm 40:6-8, Isaiah 53, Luke 22:44, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:25-27, Hebrews 9:12-14, and Revelation 5:12, along with his works History of the Work of Redemption and Justification by Faith Alone, all contain rich material on Christ’s atonement.

What original sources of his (sermons, treatises etc.) did you primarily consult in his massive corpus? 

The sermons and treatises mentioned previously were very helpful. Additionally, I found quite a bit of information on the atonement in his Miscellanies, Controversies Notebook, Notes on Scripture, and other sermons.

Finally, do you have any books on JE to recommend to our readers? 

I would recommend my book, of course! But beyond that, readers looking for a good devotional biography on Edwards should consult Iain Murray’s classic work Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography. Those interested in a substantive critical biography should read George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Those who want to start reading the works of Edwards himself should begin with his sermons. They are generally easy to understand, and they are very helpful. Many of them are available online through The Jonathan Edwards Center. After spending some time in his sermons, interested readers could move on to his more taxing works like The End for Which God Created the World and Religious Affections.

 

Free Book Giveaway! Volume One “Freedom of the Will” ($125 value).

This month EdwardsStudies.com is giving away Volume One of the Works of Jonathan Edwards, a $125 value. All you have to do is tweet a link to any article on this webpage (EdwardsStudies.com) to your followers on Twitter to enter. Be sure to tag us here at @EdwardsStudies so we know you are interested! Winners will be chose on March 1st, 2017. Watch this video for more info…

Spring 2017: Updates from Ken Minkema

EdwardsStudies.com has a few updates for our readers in the ever-advancing world of Jonathan Edwards-related research and study. Here you go!

1. Study Edwards this Summer at Yale. 

First, the Edwards summer course at Yale has now been announced. It will be entitled, “Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Free Will and Conversion.” The dates will be June 12-16; from 9:00 – 11:30am. The speakers will be Paul Helm, Ken Minkema, and Adrian Neele. Paul Helm is the special guest instructor; King’s College, London, Emeritus, a renowned expert on Reformed theology and Jonathan Edwards.

To get you excited about Paul Helm as the featured speaker, here is a list of his publications.

yale_harkness_tower

Per Ken Minkema, what follows is the course description:

Jonathan Edwards’ relationship with the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century is traditionally viewed as conflicted, condemning many of its aspects and viewing them as antithetical to Christianity. Yet, he embraced many Enlightenment figures and ideas. As part of the ongoing general reassessment of the Enlightenment that stresses the religious nature of the movement, this course, through primary readings by Edwards and contemporary writers and through interpretive literature, will look at Edwards’ thought on a key Enlightenment topic: the nature of the human self, particularly the nature of the will. We will look at how Edwards’ context, the specific challenges he faced, shaped the solutions at which he arrived. Along the way we will consider the debate over whether Edwards, in his formulation of the will, departed from or stayed within Reformed orthodox strictures.

Check out summerstudy.yale.edu for more info.
2. The JE Encyclopedia is Headed to Print! 

Secondly, per Ken Minkema, “The final draft of the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia was submitted to Eerdmans at the end of last year and is currently in production. Preliminary estimates say our newborn will weigh in at 700 pages.” This is excellent news, as well as a very healthy birth-girth! Our opinion is that this will instantly become a classic in the field of Jonathan Edwards studies, and will likely be THE must have work about Edwards for the year 2017. As soon as it becomes available, EdwardsStudies.com will get our hands on a copy to do a full video and written review.

For more information on the Edwards encyclopedia, see our archived interview with Ken Minkema last April. In that interview, Minkema described the JE Encyclopedia as the definitive “go-to source for quick information on a given idea, writing, person, place, or event in Edwards’s life, along with a few sources with which a reader can follow up to further explore.”

3. New V&R Books.

Reminding our readers that the JEC (Jonathan Edwards Study Center at Yale University) has a special deal with Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht in Germany to bring to press a series of new directions in Edwards’ studies. Here is a quick glance at what has already come to print. According to Minkema, the following describes what’s next on the printing press with the JEC/V&R partnership…

The next installment in the “New Directions in Jonathan Edwards Studies” from Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht is Charles Phillips’ Edwards Amasa Park: The Last Edwardsean. Charlie is the National Program Officer with the Maclellan Foundation of Chattanooga, Tenn. An excerpt from his description of the book reads: “Park drew creatively on the intellectual resources at hand to re-cast his inherited orthodox Calvinism in the new conditions of the nineteenth century. The New Rhetoric and common-sense epistemology from the Scottish Enlightenment, methodological principles from the German mediating theologians, the fresh affective sensibilities of his audience as dictated by the bracing stream of Romanticism from England —all were used by Park to create a broadly relevant orthodox synthesis in the innovative spirit of Jonathan Edwards and his theological successors.”

4. Northampton Church Records

Next, our readers might be interested to know that the Northampton Church Records have been scanned and are on line via the “New England’s Hidden Histories” project at the Congregational Library, Boston. Readers can go to congregationallibrary.org and follow the links. Minkema told me that this is the church’s first book, started by Eleazar Mather in 1654, and contains entries by Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards, and John Hooker.

5. Forthcoming Works

Finally, Ken Minkema along with Kyle Strobel, and Adriaan Neele are together working on an Edwards volume for the Classics of Western Spirituality series (published by Paulist Press). This series already contains other works by timeless writers such as Julian of Norwich,  Saint John of the Cross, John and Charles Wesley and many others. The series generally focuses on the great writers in the genres of prayer, piety, and mysticism. This new volume on Edwards will contain some classic texts illustrating Edwards’ piety as well as some “previously unpublished documents.” Can’t wait to see what those might be!