Interview with Dr. Rhys Bezzant

Today EdwardsStudies.com has the opportunity to talk with Dr. Rhys Bezzant, the Dean of Missional Leadership and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia. He is also the author of Jonathan Edwards and the Church published by Oxford University Press (2013).

Dr. Bezzant, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. That’s quite a title you have over there at Ridley: “Dean of Missional Leadership.” Tell us about what you are up to at the College these days. What courses are you teaching?

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Don’t be too impressed! Outside of regular classes, I have pastoral responsibility for a cohort of students who want to serve in a variety of ministry settings within Australia, often on the front line of outreach: campus workers, Bible translators, youth pastors, children’s workers, church planters … I get the title to try to capture something of the breadth of the task! Apart from that, I teach Church History, Christian Worship, and some theology classes.

Any future Edwards scholars being reared under your tutelage there, I would imagine?

I talk a lot about Edwards in Australia, because not many other people do! Our teaching of church history has more often than not been oriented towards Britain, but new global impulses mean the church in Australia increasingly understands itself in relation to the US and Asia. I often say my goal is to make Edwards a household name, but only if the Lord Jesus is better known! It can be a tough gig getting students to think about further research in church history, because our churches need evangelists and pastors so desperately.

Give us a good lead as to what we might learn about JE in your book “Jonathan Edwards and the Church.” 

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What I tried to do in that book is work through all the stages of Edwards’s ministry, and show what he taught about the church at any moment. So it is a chronological analysis of his ecclesiology. Basically, he is a great Protestant, who sees the center of the church as the ministry of Word and sacraments, but adds to that definition the ways in which the church is central to the development of God’s purposes in the world. His ecclesiology is dynamic and responsive, not just institutional or clerical. God’s promises have to be held together with God’s presence and purposes. The church is like a tree, deeply rooted in theology but also responsive to its environment.

If I’m not mistaken, you have another book coming out about Edwards as a mentor. This sounds pretty cool. Are you working with the “log college” educational concept for ministers in this book, or do you mean something else by the term “mentoring”?

Yep, presently I am working on a book about Edwards’s ministry of mentoring. I think he was a better pastor than is sometimes imagined, and his mentoring was exceptionally effective. Mentoring is such a synthetic skill-set, drawing on Scriptural themes, historical examples, cultural norms and pastoral insights, so this topic gives me ample scope to understand features in Edwards’s pastoral labours often overlooked.

Any applications from your studies on mentoring that you think can be applied to educational leadership in our context today, in the modern world?

It takes much longer than it used to shape a future minister. There is so much to unlearn first. And the costs of serving in a church are much more significant than they once were. Mentoring helps in the process of growing in character, skills, and confidence. Seminary professors aren’t always the best people to do the mentoring, but at least we should start there. Intentional face to face experiences in education are more and more prized in a high-tech world.

Tell us a little bit about the Jonathan Edwards Center in Australia. What goes on over there?

Our job is to promote the texts and teachings of Edwards, and the history of evangelicalism more generally. We hold occasional conferences, public lectures, and Masters units for the professional development of clergy. Ridley holds the biggest collection of Edwardseana in Australia.

Are you in pretty frequent communication with the other JE Centers around the world? Let’s see there’s Yale, the one at TEDs, one in South Africa too…

Yep, the network based around the mother ship at the Yale Divinity School has been fantastic for me, when there are so few local Edwards scholars. Ridley hosted an Edwards Congress last year with representatives from every continent, built on the fellowship of the JE Centers worldwide.

Well, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by at EdwardsStudies.com. Before you go, are there any book or conference recommendations that you would like to pass along to our readers?

Why not take up the invitation this summer and do a one week reading course on Edwards at Yale?

 

 

 

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Don Whitney – Finding God in Solitude: The Personal Piety of Jonathan Edwards and Its Influence on His Pastoral Ministry

Editor’s Note: Recently, EdwardsStudies.com had the opportunity to speak to Don Whitney about his most academic work, Finding God in Solitude: The Personal Piety of Jonathan Edwards and Its Influence on His Pastoral Ministry (Peter Lang, 2014). While professor Whitney is known mostly for his interest in the spiritual disciplines and his successful popular level works, this book is a complete and thorough academic treatment on Jonathan Edwards.

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I caught up with Don Whitney, professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently by phone call. Dr. Whitney happened to be house hunting at the time, so thankfully, he graciously took my call between padlocks and for sale signs. Our chat was warm and inviting, just like the tone of his many helpful books. Among other things, I learned that Dr. Whitney has an enthusiastic admiration for quality ink pens, and has even written birthday letters on nice stationary to most of his church’s congregants in an elegant handwriting which he relearned as an adult.

What I did not know about Professor Whitney until somewhat recently is that he is a second-to-none Jonathan Edwards scholar. My first introduction to his writing came through his extraordinarily helpful book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. I am sure that others who know him also encountered his writings the same way. Indeed, Whitney spent the better part of a few years combing through Jonathan Edwards writings, especially his personal writings in Volume 16 of the Yale Works.

My first clue that that Whitney had a fascination with Jonathan Edwards was when I heard his talk on the Northampton Divine at the Desiring God conference several years back. But I did not know he had studied Edwards formally. As we chatted on the phone, I could hear the tenor in his voice change when he described the experience of holding Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God in his own hands when he studied at the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale.

Whitney’s interest in JE began in earnest several years earlier when he was teaching a course on the lives of three great Christians. In that course, Whitney asked his students to read a biography of Edwards, Spurgeon, and Lloyd-Jones as well as a taste of their own writings. And, as is the course for many of us, his fascination with the New England Puritan kicked into another gear.

He was hooked on Edwards.

Finding God in Solitude as you might guess, stays in Whitney’s primary traffic lane: that is to say, it does not depart far from his special interest in the spiritual disciplines. In this work, Whitney looks at the overall piety of Jonathan Edwards. By the way, when using the word “piety,” we should not think of religious show or artifice in any way. Sometimes the adjective “pious” has a bit of a negative overtone. On the contrary, we are talking about the very sincere desire of one’s heart to be given over in obedience and sanctification to the Lord. Truly, Edwards modeled this desire for personal holiness, as the book catalogs.

Edwards, of course, is well known for his devotional life: his prayers in the woods, his singing along to God by horseback, his Blank Bible, his Miscellanies, and voluminous notes on Scripture. All of that work was forged in the quiet of the study alone with God, largely uninterrupted by the distractions of the world (especially those we face in the modern world). But even among Colonial Puritans, Edwards’s desire for solitude alone with God was remarkable. Whitney sees in all of this a great example that modern believers can imitate in some limited ways, although we ought not to expect to have Edwards’s mental powers.

It is true that Jonathan Edwards’s desire for solitude got him into trouble, as all who have read a biography of the Puritan well know (the “Bad Book Case” and the Lord’s Supper controversy come to mind). Edwards’s preference for company with God alone probably prevented him from being a more sociable pastor in many ways. At the same time, as Whitney argues in his book, that same desire for the Lord’s presence also resulted in some of the most important and profound theological treatises, books, and personal jottings that Colonial America would ever produce.

The book itself is a doctoral dissertation made somewhat more readable. Since it is an academic publication, this is likely to be one of Whitney’s lesser read books. That’s probably a shame. Not only that, but the price-tag at nearly $80 will be a hindrance to some. But for others who want a full-length treatment of how Edwards’s personal spiritual life effected him as a pastor of the Northampton Church, the book may very well be worth the cost.

I also asked Whitney if any of his more academic study on Jonathan Edwards would seep through into his popular writings. He assured me that it would, if only to a less intense degree than is given in this academic treatise. As a matter of fact, his newest work, Family Worship, quotes Edwards and length, and provided a new venue for Whitney to allow Edwards to continue to speak through the written press. Although not technically about Jonathan Edwards, Family Worship will have a tinge of Edwards’s scent throughout.

When I asked Whitney what originally attracted him to Jonathan Edwards, the SBTS professor said it was his rare and attractive combination of “life and doctrine; heart and mind.” It would be hard to disagree with that sentiment. True enough, that same emphasis which can be found in Jonathan Edwards also comes through in Don Whitney’s works. Surely it is a great thing when passion for the Lord of Glory and deep and reflective theology come together.

 

 

 

Author Interview: Dr. Toby Easley “Jonathan Edwards: Beyond the Manuscripts”

EdwardsStudies.com is pleased to be talking today with Dr. Toby Easley. Toby has a doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has been researching Edwards for years, including time spent during his doctoral research in the Beinecke Library at Yale where he examined the manuscripts of the Northampton Puritan.

Dr. Easley, where did you get started studying Jonathan Edwards?

I was introduced to Edwards through preaching and teaching as a child and youth. I also read Edwards’s “Sinners” sermon in my high school American Literature class. My teacher actually ridiculed his Calvinistic viewpoints, and due to my theological background at church, I saw through his negative view of Edwards. Later, during my undergraduate studies, a friend gave me an eighteenth-century copy of Original Sin. My interest in Edwards was kindled again, but it was in 2005 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that I began to immerse myself in his sermons and notebooks. In 2007, I presented a paper at the ETS Regional meeting titled “Jonathan Edwards: Extemporaneous or Manuscript Preacher?”

Tell us what it is like sifting through Edwards’s works in the Beinecke Library?

The experience for me was extremely enlightening. Looking at pictures online or in books does not do justice to viewing the actual sermons in the Beinecke Library. One important element of my research of Edwards’s sermons focuses on uncovering stereotypes and on the developmental stages of his sermons throughout his life. Therefore, I needed to observe his sermons in the various manuscripts and outline forms throughout the eras of his life.

How did this research inform your writing of your new book?

Along with all of the vast secondary source materials I read throughout the writing process, the ability to view the primary source materials in their eighteenth-century handwritten form cannot be underestimated. I do not believe I could have come to solid conclusions on many of my assertions had hands-on observations not been possible. Unfortunately for Edwards’s enthusiasts today, Edwards did not have a secretary who wrote his sermons as he delivered them. However, with men such as Spurgeon in the nineteenth-century, we have his personal sermon notes along with written notes of his actual delivery. This variance makes our interpretation of Edwards’s communication practices and actual delivery much more complicated over the course of his life.

So tell us about “Jonathan Edwards: Beyond the Manuscripts.” Give us an overview of this project and what you hope readers will learn here.

My desire is to take readers through the life of an eighteenth-century scholar and explain that a journey exists in one’s own preparation and speaking style. I also endeavor to draw the reader into Edwards’s age of spiritual awakening and, at the same time, reveal important twenty-first-century applications of his communication and developmental stages.

I also address questions people often ask. Was Jonathan Edwards striving to maintain a precision, while becoming more extemporaneous? Furthermore, do the manuscripts prove that he was a monotone, stoic, lifeless preacher, with insufficient ability to adapt and transition to diverse audiences and settings? I invite the readers not only to see the development of the man that many historians regard as “America’s greatest theologian and philosopher,” but also to discover if he ever moved beyond the manuscripts in preparation and delivery?

Were there any “Aha” moments for you during the writing of this project?

Yes, when I began to realize that Edwards was not just a great composer of sermons, he was also to a great extent involved in examining others’ rhetorical methods and developing his own communication strategies. I was also astonished by the numerous communication settings that he participated in and his ability to adapt in an effective manner. We observe that late in his life, he simultaneously pastored both an English and Mohican congregation at Stockbridge, and was finally willing to take on the position as President at the College of New Jersey.

Is this going to be available in both paperback and ebook format?

The book will be available in hardback, paperback, and ebook.  

Do you have any other major projects in the works for the future?

Yes, I am presently working on my next book on the Transatlantic exchange between Jonathan Edwards and John Erskine and the American and Scottish awakenings.

Any other Edwards-related recommendations or shout-outs for our readers?

Yes, I recently read a book written by:

Yeager, Jonathan M. 2011. Enlightened Evangelicalism: The Life and Thought of John Erskine. New York, New York, Oxford University Press.

Articles:

Crawford, Michael J. Spring. 1991. “New England and the Scottish Religious Revivals of 1742.” American Presbyterians 69, no. 1: 23-32.

 

Interview with Dr. Ken Minkema on the Forthcoming JE Encyclopedia

If you look at the back of almost any serious work on Jonathan Edwards, there is good chance that there is an endorsement given by Dr. Ken Minkema. Not only has Dr. Minkema written voluminously on Edwards himself, (including editing Vol. 14 of Edwards Works, Sermons and Discourses 1723-1729) but he also has a great knack for inspiring other Edwards scholars along the way. Dr. Minkema is executive director of the Jonathan Edwards Center and assistant adjunct professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School. He edits the Yale University journal and Works of Jonathan Edwards and has written or edited a number of books and articles on Edwards and other Puritans. Today, EdwardsStudies.com speaks with him about the forthcoming JE Encyclopedia project.

ES: Dr. Minkema, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to EdwardsStudies.com today. And if I may, let me also thank you on behalf of all of our readers for the many and varied ways that you and Dr. Neele (as well as your other colleagues) have expanded our field. Much respect to you both.

So tell us about the new Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia project you have going on now. This sounds big.

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KM: This has been a project that has been several years in envisioning and in the making. The new reference tools on Edwards that have come out in the last decade or more––Lesser’s Reading Edwards, a revised edition of Johnson’s Printed Writings, and most recently McClymond & McDermott’s Theology of Edwards, among other things––convinced the staff at the Jonathan Edwards Center (JEC) that it is time for an encyclopedia on Edwards to round things out. It is to serve as a 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.

ES: Who is bringing this to publication?

KM: It is being published by Eerdmans Publishing in Grand Rapids. They have been very receptive of the idea, and have been very patient as they wait for the finished product.  I think they know that these sorts of projects can take much more time than originally (perhaps overly optimistically) thought.

ES: Do you have any idea when this project will be available for readers to purchase?

KM: Well, a couple of years ago would have been nice, but we are hoping to submit the manuscript by summer 2016.

ES: Will it also be available online at the Yale Center’s site, or will it be print only?

KM: The goal is to have it in print first, followed by an online version, perhaps available by subscription or pay-per-view. That has to be worked out with Eerdmans yet. One advantage of going online with it is that we can revise and add to it.

ES: Give us an idea of how many contributors you have writing for you, as well as some of their backgrounds.

KM: We have over a hundred contributors from many walks of life, from many countries: scholars, teachers, pastors, students, retirees, bus drivers, doctors, janitors, IT personnel, you name it; there are lot of Edwards enthusiasts out there, and the response from them has been remarkable. We are very appreciative of the interest they have shown. This is very much a collaborative effort, and reflects the wonderful fellowship around Edwards. What we did was to include an online environment on our website (edwards.yale.edu) where contributors can sign up, submit their essays, receive revisions, and make final submissions. It’s a variation of community sourcing that has worked really well for us.

ES: What are some of the subjects and entries that will be covered. I know there are many, but give us just a flavor.

KM: I’ll give you the entries under “A”: Adoption (doctrine of), Aesthetics, Affections, Agency, Aging, Allegory, America, Ames (William), Angels, Anti-Catholicism, Antichrist, Antinomianism, Apocalypse, Apostasy, Appetite, Ark of the Covenant, Armageddon, Arminianism, Art, Assembly of Divines, Assurance, Atheism, Atoms, Atonement, and Awakening.

ES: It sounds like a huge editing project for someone! Who gets that pleasure to sort through all the contributions?

KM: That would be and my colleague Adriaan Neele, under the supervision of the general editor, Harry Stout. As you say, it’s huge, perhaps larger than we could have known, but it has been worth it.

ES: What do you hope this project will achieve? In other words, what impact do you hope this project will have?

KM: We would like it to serve as a quick reference tool, but also to deepen knowledge of and engagement with Edwards’s life. There are a lot of supposed “facts” that circulate that are actually inaccurate or are wrongly applied to Edwards, to members of his family, or to people he knew.

ES: Before we let you go, do you have any other recommendations or new projects that our readers could get excited about?

KM: Another community sourcing project we have is our Global Sermon Editing Project, which provides volunteers (after some training) to edit sermons by Edwards from transcripts provided by the JEC. We are always looking for new folks, so we encourage them to go to the website and sign up. Through this initiative, volunteer editors can produce (and get attribution for) an edition of a sermon by Edwards that has in all likelihood has not been read since the eighteenth century. We are also sponsoring a new monograph series, “New Directions in Jonathan Edwards Studies,” published by Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht. This series gives young scholars in particular an opportunity to get innovative work on Edwards and related topics into print. Finally, Dr. Neele and I teach a course each June at Yale Divinity School focused on a particular theme in Edwards. This year is “Edwards and the Bible.” The course is open to the public (summerstudy.yale.edu), and we would love to have folks join the conversation.

 

Owen Strachan on the Legacy of Jonathan Edwards

In this short video, Owen Strachan talks about the series of five short introductions to the life and influence of Jonathan Edwards that he and his adviser Douglas Sweeney wrote together in 2010. These introductory booklets (about 160 pages each, compact layout) can be purchased together or separately.

If you have not yet checked out this series, the series titles consist of very short introductions to Edwards’s thought on: beauty, the love of God, the good life, true Christianity, and Heaven and Hell. 

Interview: Oliver Crisp on “Jonathan Edwards Among the Theologians”

Today, EdwardsStudies.com had the opportunity to chat with Oliver Crisp, one of the most productive Edwards Scholars on the global scene today. Not only has Dr. Crisp had several significant works about Jonathan Edwards published to great reception in recent years, but his new work, Edwards Among the Theologians is also being received with accolades as well. 
First question: What the heck happened to the beard? A couple years ago you were rocking the manly mug, now you look like a freshman again. What gives? 
 
The beard comes and goes. A friend said to me recently, “Well, you can always grow it back!” I guess that’s true. Watch this space …
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When I read your book Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation last year, I didn’t notice the accent. But when I listened to a talk you gave recently, I could tell you weren’t from Brooklyn. Give us two-cents worth of your back story. 
 
I was born and raised in London, England. Went to Art School in London. Then went to study Divinity (Theology) in Scotland. Taught high school for a bit, got a ThM in Divinity also from Scotland. Became a trainee minister for three years. Wrote a PhD at King’s College, London. Then taught at the University of St Andrews for a couple of years before doing a Postdoc at the University of Notre Dame. After that we relocated to the West of England, where I taught at the University of Bristol. We had a year at the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton. Then, after a brief stint back in Bristol, we moved out to California to teach at Fuller Seminary, which is where I am now. I’m also about to start teaching a bit for the new Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology at the University of St Andrews.
 
How did you get hooked on Edwards? 
 
Two sources: the first was John Piper’s Desiring God. The second was a pastor friend of mine who gave me a biography of Edwards to read as I went up to University as an undergraduate. It left me fascinated. As a consequence, I decided to read Edwards on the Will as an undergraduate. Then things really got out of hand and I ended up writing a PhD dissertation on him. The rest you know.
 
So what’s the deal: is Edwards a panentheist or a full-blown pantheist? Has the needle moved on your position?
 
No, I haven’t changed my view. I think Edwards is committed to panentheism (all-in-god-ism). I argued that in my book Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation (OUP, 2012), and others have said something similar. But I now think that there are tendencies within Edwards’s thought that press him in the direction of pantheism (all is god). He would never have embraced that, of course. But there are things he does say that seem to lead to that conclusion–and this was the conclusion that Charles Hodge came to in the nineteenth century as well. So I guess I think that there is more than one Edwards, depending on how you weight certain claims that he makes in his works.
 
What is the new ground you are covering in Jonathan Edwards Among the Theologians. Any new or fresh insights since your previous works came out? 
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You’ve just named one: the pantheism question. That is a pretty big change for me. Another: my views on his doctrine of the Trinity changed since my previous book. I read Kyle Strobel’s book on Jonathan Edwards and it made me rethink my own position. Although I don’t end up agreeing with Kyle, I think his interpretation makes a lot of sense and was the means by which I came to see something about Edwards’s account of the Trinity that I hadn’t seen before. I now think that Edwards presents a truly novel model of the Trinity–a very rare thing indeed.
In addition to these, the chapter on Edwards’s preaching is something I’ve not put in a monograph before. Also, putting Edwards in “dialogue” with other classical Christian thinkers enabled me to show how his views are often not quite what you’d expect. For instance, he turns out to have a much less straightforwardly orthodox account of creation than Arminius–not a conclusion some people will be expecting!
 
What are some of the primary sources you are digging through in Edwards Among the Theologians? 
 
The major works of Edwards such as Freedom of the Will; God’s End in Creation; and Original Sin. Also, his Discourse on the Trinity, and his notebooks, as well as some of his sermons.
 
Your last chapter is on the orthodoxy of Edwards. Give us a hint as to where you land on that. 
 
I think that, from a certain point of view, Edwards’s views press at the very boundaries of what most Christians will consider theologically orthodox. In the final chapter, I go into that in some detail, arguing (in keeping with Charle Hodge) that Edwards’s views press him beyond panentheism towards pantheism. Those who have read Edwards’s sermons and some of his more devotional works may be a bit shocked to read this, but it is nothing more than drawing out issues that are latent in his work. Edwards was a strikingly original thinker. Sometimes his originality gets him into trouble.
 
What are you working on right now? Any new projects? 
 
I’m finishing up an Introduction to Jonathan Edwards co-written with Kyle Strobel. This should be going to Eerdmans for publication in the next couple of years. I’m also currently writing a book on the atonement for Baker Academic, entitled Substitution and Atonement.
 
Shout outs or recommendations? 
 
Read Edwards. His works are available online via the Yale Jonathan Edwards site. Read his God’s End in Creation, and his Religious Affections. Then read some of the harder material. As to secondary sources: read Kyle Strobel’s book; read Douglas Sweeney’s recent work Edwards the Exegete, which is terrific; and, as a good work of reference, Michael McClymond and Gerald McDermott’s The Theology of Jonathan Edwards is a significant contribution. Finally, read George Marsden’s biography of Edwards. You won’t regret it.

Interview with Kyle Strobel

EdwardsStudies.com is pleased to be talking today with Kyle Strobel, noted Jonathan Edwards scholar, author of some great books on the Northampton Puritan, and also the son of the award winning writer, Lee Strobel. Kyle, I just gave copies of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith to an inquirer this very morning. What’s your dad up to these days? 

Well, pretty much the same as usual – working on books and preaching. He is currently on faculty at Houston Baptist University teaching evangelism courses and is a teaching pastor at Woodlands church. These days he is enjoying being a grandfather quite a lot, so that takes up a good deal of his time!

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I’m sure everyone asks, but what was it like growing up with a pretty well known speaker/writer as your father?

It is hard to summarize really. Mostly positive. It is a bit unusual when everyone seems to know your father and have an opinion about him. It is also unusual when people make all sorts of assumptions about you based on what they know about your father. But overall it was just normal for me.

How did you get started studying Jonathan Edwards? 

When I went to the University of Aberdeen to work on my PhD in systematic theology I didn’t know what my dissertation topic would be. My supervisor mentioned Edwards because he knew I was particularly interested in the interplay between theology and spirituality. So I started reading Edwards seriously for the next six months, making my way through several of his major works, and at that point I was hooked!

You mention the Reformed tradition in your works and lectures from time to time. Did you grow up Reformed or was that something that you discovered later in life? Do you consider yourself part of the broader Reformed tradition today?

This is something that has come up later in life for me. I grew up somewhat antagonistic to Reformed theology, but like most people, I really didn’t know what that meant. I was confronted with a reductionistic and superficial version of it, and so I critiqued it for being reductionistic and superficial! I consider myself Reformed, but I do so in a very broad sense. I am not confessionally Reformed – although I love the confessions of the Reformed tradition. I am Reformed in a more methodological way. The task of Christian theology is to think well about God and the content of theology in light of God. I take that impulse to be at the heart of Reformed theology.

If you don’t mind my asking, where are you worshiping on the Lord’s Day? 

I am on the teaching team at Redeemer Church in La Mirada, CA. I preach there monthly.

Let’s start with your much harder book, Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation. Tell us, in layman’s terms, what you are trying to accomplish here. 

Basically, my Reinterpretation book is an attempt to provide a way to read Edwards. In other words, this book provides a hermeneutical key to reading Edwards well. If we are going to read Edwards well, as I argue, we have to read him as he wanted to be read. We have to take seriously his Reformed impulses and we have to understand the inner-logic of his thought. This leads us to an overall orientation and direction in which to read Edwards well. As I argue there, we have to read him from the top-down – and therefore from his doctrine of the Trinity through his doctrine of creation in light of his understanding of the consummation of all things. This allows us to triangulate doctrine in light of who God is, what creation is, and where God is leading creation. I test my analysis by looking at spiritual knowledge, regeneration, and religious affection, showing how my distinct reading can speak into these three topics.

Why is a “reinterpretation” necessary?

With only a handful of exceptions, I don’t think Edwards is often read theologically. Because of Perry Miller’s emphasis, I think, we often read Edwards as a radical philosopher who appended a generic Reformed theology onto an already established philosophical framework. I think this is misguided. But the problem is that Miller, and those following in his wake, have done a better job of casting a vision for how to read Edwards. Scholars have responded to Miller and his line, but they never really did much to establish an alternative reading (and way of reading). My work is an attempt to fill in that gap. This is why, for better or worse, I spend a lot of time in the footnotes outlining how my view relates to or (more often) undermines other views in the secondary literature.

When I was reading it, I thought to myself, “Man! This guy really likes the word ‘qua!’” Aside from your obvious enthusiasm for the Latin term, what else do you think this work contributes to the advancement of Edwards studies overall? 

Qua” is a great term! Next to giving a methodology for reading Edwards, I think the most important contribution would be my analysis of Edwards’s doctrine of God. I argue that Edwards changed his view of the Trinity and no one seemed to notice. I argue for a distinct view of how Edwards’s argument works in his “Discourse on the Trinity.” I argue that Edwards’s view of God is “religious affection in pure act” (what I call, in the book, “Personal Beatific-Delight”). In light of these features of Edwards’s doctrine, I seek to show how his emphases guide his theology.

Your book Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards is much more accessible for lay readers. Who did you have in mind when you wrote it? 

I had two main audiences in mind with that book. I was aiming it at lay people, but I was particularly interested in folks who appreciate Reformed theology (or who call themselves “Calvinists”) and those who are interested in spiritual formation. For the first group, I wanted to show them what a distinctively Reformed view of spiritual formation could look like. No one has ever really outlined Edwards’s understanding of spiritual formation before, and so I wanted to offer that to folks. But I also wanted to show people interested in spiritual formation that a distinctively evangelical reading, albeit a Reformed version, would develop into a specific kind of spirituality. I wanted to show the laity (and pastors) that our theological views are not divorced from our understanding of the practical realities of the Christian life.

In the appendix, you mention The Jonathan Edwards Project. Tell us a bit about that. How is progress going? 

Things are going well. Along with my edited version of Edwards’s Charity and Its Fruits, I am co-editing a volume of Edwards’s spiritual writings for the Classics of Western Spirituality series. I am still editing academic works on Edwards, and Oliver Crisp and I are nearly finished with our introduction to Edwards’s Christian thought. This volume with Oliver is the next major addition to my project, because we believe this could be the go-to introduction to Edwards’s thought. I am writing three chapters outlining Edwards’s theology while Oliver writes three chapters outlining Edwards’s philosophy. The book is due at the end of the Summer with Eerdmans.

Are you going to continue studying Edwards, or are you going to open some new channels of study in the future? 

I will slow down my research on Edwards a bit but I’ll never put it aside completely. I am a systematic theologian, so my interests are not primarily historical but doctrinal (not that I want to divide those two). Whenever I want to think about a doctrine I start with Edwards, and so that is where you see a lot of my work on Edwards come out. For instance, I have an article coming out with Harvard Theological Review called “Jonathan Edwards’s Reformed Doctrine of Theosis,” because I wanted to think through that topic more. I also have finished a chapter for a book on Edwards’s understanding of theologically anthropology, because that is a topic captivating me at the moment.

Any shout-outs or book recommendations for Edwards fans? 

I am particularly excited about the essays in a new edited volume I did called The Ecumenical Edwards: Jonathan Edwards and the Theologians. What I like about this volume is that it includes Protestants of all kinds as well as Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians writing on Edwards in relation to another theologian (or school of thought). It ended up becoming a fascinating volume. My good friend Rhys Bezzant has a volume out on Edwards and the church that everyone should read, and, of course, Oliver Crisp has a new book out on Edwards (I assume Oliver always has a new book out!). There is a lot of good work being done on Edwards right now, so it is an exciting time for the guild. I am in the middle of reading Doug Sweeney’s new book Edwards the Exegete and it is great. Everyone interested in Edwards will need to read it.

Kyle, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us at EdwardsStudies.com today!