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Jonathan Edwards in 2005

As many of you know, 2003 marked the 300th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Edwards. During the course of that year, countless books and articles were published focusing on a variety of aspects of his life and writings and ministry (see The Theology of Jonathan Edwards on my website, www.SamStorms.com, for a brief summary of many of these books).

The year 2004 saw only a handful of significant contributions to Edwardsean studies. Included among those would be Michael McMullen’s The Glory and Honor of God: Volume 2 of the Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 387 pp.; William Danaher, The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 324 pp.; A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 287 pp. (to which I contributed a chapter on Edwards on freedom of the will); and Chris Morgan, Jonathan Edwards & Hell (Christian Focus Publications, 2004), 171 pp. But surely the most important release in 2004 was the twenty-third volume in the Yale edition of the works of Edwards, The “Miscellanies,” edited by Douglas A. Sweeney (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 764 pp. (Miscellanies 1153 through 1360 are included).

This past year saw the release of six important works that I want to make known to those of you who are interested in Edwards. Needless to say, there were countless articles and several dissertations produced during the year, but below is a brief summary of the six books that I believe made the most important contribution to Edwardsean studies. I haven’t had the opportunity to read all of them, so don’t consider this in any sense a review. I’ve read a few of them and selected portions from the others.

(1) Clearly one volume stands head and shoulders above all others and provides us with what I believe is now the best introduction to Edwards’ theology. It is The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, edited by Sang Hyun Lee (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 331 pp. As the Introduction notes, “Edwards was most fundamentally a theologian. For this reason, the essays in this volume focus on his major theological ideas” (xi). The list of contributors reads like a who’s who of Edwardsean scholarship: Sang Lee, Ken Minkema, Richard Niebuhr, Amy Plantinga Pauw, Robert Jenson, Robert Brown, John E. Smith, Allen Guelzo, Doug Sweeney, John Wilson, Stephen Stein, Wilson Kimnach, Gerald McDermott, Harry Stout, and Mark Noll, just to mention a few.

Some of the topics covered include: the Trinity, Christology, the Bible, Religious Affections, Freedom of the Will, Grace and Justification, Christian Virtue and Morality, the Church, Typology, History, Eschatology, his Sermons, and Missions. One might have hoped for chapters on Original Sin, Revival, and Theological Aesthetics, but aside from this it’s hard to find fault with the volume. There are also chapters on Edwards’ theological life (Ken Minkema), intellectual background (Peter Thuesen), relationship to the Puritans (Harry Stout), and “Edwards’ Theology after Edwards” (Mark Noll).

If someone is unfamiliar with Edwards and wants to get up to speed on his primary theological contributions as well as the state of contemporary scholarship, this is the place to begin.

(2) I suppose many have wondered if anyone would be brave enough to write a biography on Edwards in the wake of George Marsden’s magisterial volume that was released in 2003 by Yale University Press. Yes, someone was! Philip F. Gura, the William S. Newman Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has written Jonathan Edwards: America’s Evangelical (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005), 284 pp.

I plan on reviewing this book later this year, but my first and somewhat cursory reading of it was rewarding. For those who are intimidated by the length and depth of Marsden’s volume (615 pages), this is the place to begin to get a good portrayal of Edwards’ life, particularly his role as a pastor. My initial sense is that this easy-to-read biographical study will follow only Marsden in terms of accuracy and insight into the life and mind of Edwards.

(3) Oliver D. Crisp has written Jonathan Edwards and the Metaphysics of Sin (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005), 146 pp. This looks really good (and deep!), but I’ve only read small selections from it. One warning: it is outrageously expensive ($90 in hardback) for a book of only 146 pp. But for lovers of Edwards, it is worth the price.

Crisp states that his purpose is to assess “Edwards’ theological contribution on the concept of sin, or hamartiology, an area of his work that he thought through with considerable care,” from the perspective of philosophical theology. This volume, notes Crisp, “is an analysis of the central structures of the metaphysics of sin in Edwards’ philosophical theology: (a) the doctrine of the divine decrees, (b) the problem of accounting for the first (human) sin, (c) the question of the authorship of sin, (d) the problem of the imputation of sin and (e) the question of original guilt” (2). This is actually the first book-length treatment of these issues since my own Tragedy in Eden: Original Sin in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards was published in 1985.

(4) Josh Moody, Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven, CT, has written Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Knowing the Presence of God (Lanham: University Press of America, 2005), 203 pp. I haven’t yet dipped into it, but it looks especially good. There are glowing endorsements from Harry Stout, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Doug Sweeney, and David Cook (of Wheaton). The focus of the book appears to be Edwards’ epistemology. Perhaps at a future time I’ll be able to provide a more extensive analysis.

(5) Of all the many conferences and seminars held in 2003 to celebrate Edwards’ birth, the one that brought together the most impressive array of Edwardsean scholars took place at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., on October 3-4. Our fifth book contains thirteen of the many papers delivered at that conference. The title is, Jonathan Edwards at 300: Essays on the Tercentenary of His Birth, edited by Harry S. Stout, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Caleb J. D. Maskell (Lanham: University Press of America, 2005), 175 pp. Many of those who contributed to the Princeton volume noted above also have chapters in this book. The chapters are divided under the sub-headings: Theology of History, Scripture, Culture, Society, Race, and Biography.

(6) Finally, the book that I will read next is Michael A. G. Haykin’s Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival: The Lasting Influence of the Holy Spirit in the Heart of Man (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2005), 227 pp. Haykin is Principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary, Toronto, Ontario, and has written extensively on Edwards in the past. This volume is probably the first “book-length study of Edwards as a theologian of revival” (that is Haykins’ description, xiv). Haykin appears to examine all of the relevant Edwardsean treatises on revival, as well as several important sermons.

I suspect there are other works on Edwards in 2005 that I’ve overlooked. If you know of them, I would be extremely grateful if you could send me the relevant information.

May 2006 be a wonderful year of learning, from and with Edwards, more about our great and glorious God!