From the JEC Blog

Andrew Fuller Conference | September 21-22, 2018

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The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany at Heidelberg University will co-host a conference on Biblical Interpretation and Early Transatlantic Evangelicalism.

The speakers include the conference hosts: the Director of the JE Center Germany, Jan Stievermann, and the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center, Michael Haykin. Joining them is a team of world-class scholars in the field (including notable Edwards scholars): Douglas Sweeney, Ken Minkema, Isabel Rivers, Bruce Hindmarsh, Crawford Gribben, Adriaan Neele, and Robert Brown.

The objective of the conference aims to bring the historiography of early transatlantic evangelicalism together with the history of biblical interpretation. The goal is to understand the exegesis of various eighteenth-century exegetes in their intellectual, cultural, and religious contexts.

To learn more about the conference speakers, schedule, and to register, visit the conference website.

Conference Website >

Sweeney’s Booknotes: A Theology of Joy

Matthew V. Everhard, A Theology of Joy: Jonathan Edwards and Eternal Happiness in the Holy Trinity (n.p.: JESociety Press, 2018).

everhard_theology_of_joyThis new release from Dr. Robert Boss’s JESociety (http://www.jesociety.org/) is a revised version of Everhard’s Doctor of Ministry project at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

The Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida, the author is no stranger to the study of Jonathan Edwards. Less than two years ago, he and Boss produced a volume of helpful essays on Edwards with the JESociety Press. Everhard also shepherds edwardsstudies.com. He likes to emphasize the usefulness of Edwards to Christians.

The current volume tells the story of its author’s quest for joy in everyday life and pastoral ministry, which was completed with a little bit of help from John Piper and the writings of Edwards and others (especially Augustine and Calvin). It also sets forth an Edwardsean theology of joy. In Everhard’s words, “this book does not attempt to mine new territory or to discover new theological motifs that have never been discussed more competently in other places. As limited as the topic of joy is, this short book does not attempt to be theologically novel or particularly original. On the contrary, this book will merely attempt to summarize a few of the major themes related to joy that can be found in the writings of the Puritan, Jonathan Edwards” (p. 9).

A Theology of Joy includes ten main chapters, an introduction and a conclusion. After doing some of his own Edwards-style exegesis, the author gathers fruit from some of Edwards’ best-known writings, most importantly—though certainly only—Religious Affectionsand his series on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (based on Matthew 25), published as True and False Christians by Ken Minkema, Adriaan Neele, and Bryan McCarthy in a series of Edwards’ sermons on the Matthean parables. Then Everhard applies Edwards on joy to pastoral ministry.

“Perhaps the most important things that Edwards has taught me in my research on his theology of joy,” Rev. Everhard concludes, “can be reduced to two simple truths. First, I must guard jealously the joy that I have as a pastor and as a redeemed sinner in the Lord Jesus Christ. Although there are many threats and counterfeits, there truly is no joy that can replace that which I have in God’s Trinitarian work of redemption. Secondly, as a pastor, I must prepare my people for death by relentlessly showing them the temporality of this world (as beautiful as it is) and causing them to set their gaze forward, on the eternal joys that are to come in eternity in the ‘joy of thy lord’ (Matthew 25:21)” (p. 203).

More power to Boss, Everhard and several other pastors reviewed here in the past few years making Edwards more accessible and useful in the churches.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Children Before God

John McNeill, Children before God: Biblical Themes in the Works of John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2017).

ChildrenBeforeGod_McNeillThough he serves now as the Superintendent Methodist Minister in Aberdeen, McNeill devoted more than three years to full-time children’s work in Scotland’s Shetland Islands, where he encountered what he describes as “the ripple effects” of Calvinist fundamentalism on children (p. 2). As the author tells this story, Sam Doherty and others with Child Evangelism Fellowship had persuaded many families of “a wooden, literalist, absolutist, substantialist and essentialist reading of the customary Calvinist rhetoric of total depravity, collapsing it into one whereby original sin has corrupted human nature both to the maximal extent and intent of its reach so that the heart is understood to be utterly depraved, ‘black’ in an unqualified sense” (p. 6). And according to McNeill, this left all-too-many children feeling worthless, utterly sinful, and in need of a complete divine makeover experience, in which God provided everything and they contributed nothing.

By the time he made it to Cambridge for his doctoral research, McNeill decided to reflect upon this problem theologically. Using imagery from Scripture and a short list of writings by John Calvin, Thomas Boston, and Jonathan Edwards, especially, he attempted to develop a more nurturing approach to early childhood development and growth in Christian grace.

He concluded that while Calvin himself was often misconstrued by his “fundamentalist” heirs, even sympathetic readings of his thought include the notion that children are born morally vicious, hopelessly disfigured by the ravages of sin. Edwards, on the other hand, provided a way forward. Although just as Calvinistic as most other Reformed Christians, his aesthetics, in particular, featured a “sliding-scale” of being, goodness, beauty, and integrity on which even those at the bottom have a certain amount of value (p. 153). Fallen sinners are depraved on Edwards’ sliding-scale of beauty, but their lives apart from grace are not as “black” as they can be. They are characterized, rather, by 50 shades of grey (my phrase, not McNeill’s).

McNeill’s conclusion leaves the reader with the clearest view of his struggle against Calvinist “fundamentalism” applied to the lives of children. It will remind many readers of Horace Bushnell’s approach to the issues, published in 1847 against the conversionistic Calvinism of Edwards’ own heirs—an irony worth noting in a book that uses Edwards to correct such Calvinism. “The development of children,” according to our author, “is achieved by maintaining the delicate fabric of human life and should not be disrupted any more than necessary. The divine purpose for children occurs within this life sequence, not simply in a moment when a child ‘knows’ it, but rather when it lives within it. If life is an extensity or a sequence, then the ‘gate’ for the intensity of the divine presence is in the sequence not in the instantaneous. Grace is the condition by which the child grows and moves forward, rather than something that kick-starts it instantaneously. The child experiences this grace; indeed to grow is to experience this. The goal is a security in the grace of God that the child will not be knocked off no matter the difficulty. Grace is thus intertwined with the child in who they are in a way that does not inhibit them but is conducive to their development and growth to a mature form of human flourishing” (p. 178).

I think McNeill has been unfair to Child Evangelism Fellowship, and that Edwards is not the answer to what bothers him the most. But everyone who loves and cares for children will appreciate his efforts to help them sense their worth, beauty, and potential in the providence of God.

Announcing the Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary and Call for Papers

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Chris Chun, Director JEC Gateway

Chris Chun,
Director JEC Gateway

Another Jonathan Edwards Center has opened in the United States as of March 2018. The Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary is directed by Chris Chun, and will be a source of Edwards related-studies and scholarly production for the West Coast. Along with having a web-presence through Gateway Seminary (https://www.gs.edu/academics/jonathan-edwards-center/), The Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary will host lectures, conferences, and an annual graduate student paper competition.

CALL FOR PAPERS

A call for papers has released for JEC Gateway’s inaugural conference. These papers will be delivered in parallel sessions of the conference. An abstract submission is due by May 28, 2018. If you wish to submit an abstract, you may do so by emailing jec@gs.edu.

The inaugural conference for JEC Gateway will be from January 15, 2019 at 6PM to January 16, 2019 at 8PM.

INAUGURAL CONERENCE

REGENERATION, REVIVAL, AND CREATION: RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE AND THE PURPOSES OF GOD IN THE THOUGHT OF JONATHAN EDWARDS | January 15, 2019 at 6PM to January 16, 2019 at 8PM

Plenary Speakers

Douglas Sweeney is distinguished professor of church history and the history of Christian thought and director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Michael Haykin is professor of church history and biblical spirituality and director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Oliver Crisp is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.