From the JEC Blog

Sweeney’s Booknotes—New England Dogmatics

New England Dogmatics: A Systematic Collection of Questions and Answers in Divinity by Maltby Gelston (1766-1865), ed. Robert L. Boss, Joshua R. Farris, and S. Mark Hamilton (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2019).

New England DogmaticsThis is a goldmine for students of the New Divinity (the theological movement that stemmed from Edwards’ life and work).

It contains three lists of questions in dogmatic theology used with ministerial hopefuls and other students in New England: two lists by Jonathan Edwards and one by Jonathan Edwards, Jr., all of which are also available in the online edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards.

The book’s main contribution is that it also offers the answersto the questions of Edwards, Jr., as penned by Maltby Gelston in a notebook that has long lain unpublished in the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale.

After graduating from Yale College in 1791, Gelston lived for three years in the home of Edwards, Jr., then a pastor in New Haven, for more ministerial training. Edwards ran the young Gelston through his theological paces with the help of an impressive list of 313 questions in theology, which, taken together, open a window onto the values of the Edwardsean tradition in New England. Gelston would go on to serve for more than 45 years as the pastor of the Congregational church in Sherman, Connecticut.

The book’s editors are all up-and-coming Edwards scholars: Robert Boss is the founder and Executive Director of JESociety.org; Joshua Farris is a professor at Houston Baptist University; and Mark Hamilton is a recently-minted Ph.D. from the Free University of Amsterdam (who has already published both on Edwards and the Edwardseans). Their introduction to the volume includes a biographical sketch of Maltby Gelston’s life and work and an analysis of his answers on the doctrine of the atonement. It uses Edwards’/Gelston’s answers to contribute to the ongoing debate about the nature and significance of the Edwardseans’ so-called Calvinistic moral government theory of the atonement (pp. 1-49).

Several scholars have written about the pastoral mentorships that characterized the Edwardsean tradition in the years during and after the Great Awakening. Here is the summary offered by Yale’s Kenneth P. Minkema in a “Foreword” written for this volume:

It was common practice for a student, having finished his baccalaureate work, to supplement or extend his training and experience, either before going on for a master’s degree, or while pursuing it. This period was called “rusticating.” The student would identify an established pastor who ran a school of the prophets [i.e. a mentorship program] with whom he wanted to live for a time–usually a year or so–during which he would be part of the minister’s family, try his hand at preaching, visitation, and other pastoral duties, and witness the domestic, social, and professional life of an ordained leader in all its aspects. He would also, under his mentor’s direction, engage in further study (p. ix).

Nary a single modern scholar has ever written about Gelston, so here is what I wrote for the book’s back cover:

Maltby Gelston is one of the most important New Divinity scholars about whom most have never heard–primarily because of his book of questions and answers in divinity written for Jonathan Edwards, Jr., his pastoral mentor. This material, published here for the very first time, opens a whole new window onto the world of the Edwardseans, reminding us of a time and place quite different from our own, where the details of Christian doctrine were matters of life and death or, in the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe, “all was profoundly real and vital,–a foundation on which actual life was based with intensest earnestness.”

Everyone who wants to know more about the New Divinity schools of the prophets and their theological fruits will want to read this groundbreaking volume.

Sweeney’s Booknotes—A New Divinity: Transatlantic Reformed Evangelical Debates during the Long Eighteenth Century

Mark Jones and Michael A. G. Haykin (eds.), A New Divinity: Transatlantic Reformed Evangelical Debates during the Long Eighteenth Century (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2018).

New DivinitySince Doug Sweeney is a contributor to the volume under review, this booknote is written by Joey Cochran, assistant director of the Jonathan Edwards Center and doctoral student of Doug Sweeney’s. 

Editors Mark Jones and Michael Haykin have assembled a crack squad of theologically minded historians to trace the stories of significant ecclesiological and theological debates during the “Long” 18th Century. Though these discussions lend themselves broadly to Calvinistic traditions in Britain and New England, these debates represent both confessional and non-confessional backgrounds. The editors wish for this study to be an aid for today’s churchmen and scholars to assess how to best navigate our day’s ecclesiological and theological disputes.

Since the nature of the Jonathan Edwards Center blog pivots on the figure of Edwards, this booknote will primarily address the fifth chapter contribution from Daniel W. Cooley and Douglas A. Sweeney. A fundamental premise of the authors in this chapter is that Edwards Sr. modeled a methodology of theological reflection open to adaptation. His theological heirs apparent (literally in this case) adopted the practice of adaptation and included it in their theological toolkit.

New Divinity theology had the hallmark of distinguishing natural ability and moral inability, along with asserting a doctrine of immediate repentance. Edwards Sr.’s understanding of imputation of Adam’s sin followed an Augustino-Federal theology of original sin. However, the New Divinity theologians that followed him shifted to a view where guilt is derived from personal sin alone.

This then becomes the avenue by which the penal substitutionary view of atonement might be eclipsed by the moral government view. The chapter authors indicate that Edwards Jr. pioneered this view of the atonement sometime in the 1780s as a viable polemic against the trending universalism of his day. (See Michael McClymond’s stout two-volume study, The Devil’s Redemption, for more on the history and interpretation of universalism.)

Edwards Jr. viewed the payment of the debt for sin as metaphorical. Rather than emphasizing substitution, “the atonement is about restoring God’s divine rule” in which his moral government set by his moral law is upheld (120). He proposed that God’s general justice—where his moral goodness is upheld by God conducting himself in a manner in which he seeks his own glory and provides for the universe’s good—is in mind with the moral government view of atonement. General justice necessitates vindicating God’s true virtue. Thus, Edwards Jr. retrieves both of Edwards Sr.’s two dissertations, a post-humous publication impossible apart from the help of none other than Edwards Jr., in order to facilitate a moral government view of the atonement (cf. Yeager, Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture).

The chapter authors make clear that Edwards Jr. does not forsake substitution altogether in his moral government view. This view of substitution protected against universalism by clarifying that the payment to God was not for each individual sinner. Rather, it is Christ’s sufferings that are substituted for the punishment justly due to humanity, which clears the way for individual conversion. In other words, the locus of substitution is relocated from ontology to mission. Though Edwards Sr. spoke in more conservative Reformed-scholastic terms that indeed merged Anselmic and Grotian themes, father and son agreed that atonement ought to restore God’s honor and express God’s character.

Akin to how the humanists of the later 15th and early 16th century might best be understood as purveyors of a methodology, one might argue that Edwards’ ability to adapt, in the 18th century’s new era of science and enlightenment, served as an exemplar for his theological heirs and in itself may have been one of the most powerful influences of “America’s Theologian.”

I heartily recommend the rest of the chapter contributions in this fine collection. This work is an asset for scholars and churchmen concerned about developments and disputations of doctrine in the long 18th century. Perusing the book’s table of contents provides a depiction of the broad landscape that this compendium offers:

Editors Introduction | Mark Jones / Michael A. G. Haykin

1 The Antinomian-Neonomian Controversy in Nonconforming England (c. 1690) | Mark Jones / D. Patrick Ramsey

2 The Marrow Controversy | William VanDoodewaard

3 “A catholic spirit”: George Whitefield’s Dispute with the Erskines in Scotland | Ian Hugh Clary

4 The Doctrine of Free Choice | HyunKwan Kim

5 The Edwardseans and the Atonement | Daniel W. Cooley / Douglas A. Sweeney

6 The “Modern Question”: Hyper-Calvinism | Paul Helm

7 Eschatology: Spes Meliorum Temporum | Mark A. Herzer

8 The Particular Baptist Battle Over Sandemanianism | Nathan A. Finn

9 Andrew Fuller and the Fading of the Trinitarian Imagination | Michael A. G. Haykin

10 Church Authority and Subscription in the Synod of Philadelphia (1721-1741) | Scott Sealy

11 The Legacy of John Witherspoon and the Founding of Princeton Theological Seminary: Samuel Stanhope Smith, Ashbel Green, and the Contested Meaning of Enlightened Education | Paul Kjoss Helseth

12 Is Revival from God? The Great Awakening Debate Between Two Moderates | Robert Smart

Yale University hosts “Yale and the International Jonathan Edwards” Conference

On Oct. 2-4, 2019, Yale University will host the “Yale and the International Jonathan Edwards” conference.

This conference brings together the directors of the international Edwards Center affiliates from around the world, along with prominent scholars and religious leaders, to assess the state of Edwards Studies and discern areas for future work.

The “Yale and the International Jonathan Edwards” conference is free and open to the public, but please register in advance.

REGISTER NOW >

Questions about the conference? Email edwards@yale.edu.

Visit the conference website for the most up-to-date schedule along with list of panelists. Below is the tentative schedule.

Yale and the International Jonathan Edwards Conference Schedule

October 2

5:00 p.m: Greetings by Dean Gregory Sterling and Prof. Harry Stout

Opening Keynote

  • George M. Marsden, University of Notre Dame  (Emeritus)

6:00: Reception

October 3

8:00 a.m.: Continental Breakfast

8:30: Session I: United States and Canada

  • Douglas Sweeney, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, JEC-Midwest USA
  • Chris Chun, Gateway Seminary, Los Angeles, JEC-USA West
  • Oliver Crisp, Fuller Seminary, JEC-USA West
  • Kyle Strobel, Biola University, JEC-USA West
  • Ava Chamberlain, Wright State University

10:30: Break

11:00: Session II: Africa

  • Adriaan C. Neele, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
  • Victor Emma-Adamah, Cambridge University, JEC-Africa

12:30: Lunch

1:30: Session III: Asia & Australia

  • Rhys Bezzant, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia, JEC-Australia
  • Peter Jung, Independent Scholar, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Anri Morimoto, International Christian University, Japan, JEC-Japan

3:00: Session V: Eastern Europe

  • Joel Burnell, Evangelical School of Theology, Wroclaw, Poland, JEC-Poland
  • Michael Choinski, Jagiellonian University, JEC-Poland
  • Tibor Fabiny, Károli Gáspár University, Budapest, Hungary, JEC-Hungary
  • Gerald McDermott, Beeson Divinity School

4:30: Plenary Address

  • Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame (Emeritus)

Dinner on your own

October 4

8:00 a.m.: Continental Breakfast

8:30: Session VI: South America

  • Heber De Campos, Mackenzie University, São Paulo, Brazil, JEC-Brazil
  • Franklin Ferreira, Mackenzie University, São Paulo, Brazil, JEC-Brazil

9:30: Break

10:00 Session VII: Western Europe & the United Kingdom

  • Andreas Beck, Evangelical Theological Faculty, Leuven, Belgium, JEC-Benelux
  • Philip Fisk, Evangelical Theological Faculty, Leuven, Belgium, JEC-Benelux
  • Daniel Hill, University of Liverpool, JEC-UK
  • Crawford Gribben, Queen’s University, Belfast, JEC-UK
  • Michael McClenahan, Union Theological College, Northern Ireland
  • Jan Stievermann, University of Heidelberg, Germany, JEC-Germany
  • Willem Van Vlastuin, Free University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, JEC-Benelux

12:30: Lunch

Free time (explore New Haven’s museums, art galleries, and other sites, including special exhibit of Edwards manuscripts at Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library)

4:00: Session VIII: Closing Keynote (TBD)

  • Rev. Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Cal.

5:00: Closing Reception (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 121 Wall St.)

Sweeney’s Booknotes—Before Jonathan Edwards: Sources of New England Theology

Adriaan C. Neele, Before Jonathan Edwards: Sources of New England Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).

BeforeJonathanEdwardsThe title of this book is a riff on the title of a book that Oliver Crisp and I published with the same press seven years ago, After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology. Its author, Adriaan Neele, is a long-time friend and colleague, one whose labors for the Edwards Center at Yale gave birth to the Edwards Center here (and the rest of the Edwards Centers outside New Haven).

Neele’s premise is a good one: we cannot understand the historical significance of the “courses” of Edwardsean theology after Edwards—at least not sufficiently—without understanding their “sources” in the “trajectories” of Reformed scholastic thought. Neele’s work, then, examines these Calvinist “trajectories,” their roots in older forms of scholastic theology, and their bearing on the work of the sage of Northampton.

Inasmuch as Edwards never wrote a comprehensive synthesis, Neele notes further, reading him “is like listening to an unfinished symphony.” But by reading him together “with the complete ‘symphonies’ of post-Reformation systematic theology . . . one may hear a more extended composition of European continental thought resonating in Edwards’ work” (pp. viii-ix).

The Edwards who emerges from this study of his forebears in Reformed Orthodoxy is, not surprisingly, more traditional and theological than the one usually featured by American historians. He is also more invested in early modern European intellectual endeavors—especially those performed in ecclesiastical Latin—in relation to which Edwards shows both strong continuities and largely underappreciated discontinuities.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

Preface

Introduction: Early New England and the Early Modern Era

Chapter 1: Jonathan Edwards and the Protestant Scholastics

Chapter 2: Sources of Christian Homiletics

Chapter 3: Sources of Biblical Exegesis: An Ecumenical Enterprise

Chapter 4: Sources for the Formulation of Doctrine: Continuity and Discontinuity?

Chapter 5: Sources of History as Theology

Conclusion and Prospects

And here is my endorsement on the book’s back cover:

“Neele’s encyclopedic treatment of one of the most important sources of Jonathan Edwards’ New England Theology is must reading for specialists in early modern Protestant thought. Building upon his earlier work on the Dutchman Peter van Mastricht, Neele has laid out and summarized the Latinate Reformed bibliography in Edwards’ world, demonstrated continuities and discontinuities between Edwards and the work of his Reformed antecedents, and thus underscored Edwards’ place in early modern Western Christian intellectual history. This will be an essential handbook for scholars like me for years to come.”

This book is not so much a demonstration of which sources we know that Edwards used and how he used them (though Neele offers some discussion of individual texts—by van Mastricht, William Perkins, Matthew Poole, and others—and their roles in Edwards’ work) as a portrait of its subject among the leading practitioners of Reformed scholasticism, a portrait that situates Edwards in a world more European, classical, and biblical-theological than the one taken for granted by most of his interpreters.

Neele’s prose will prove difficult for some readers to follow, but the gains are worth the effort. Highly recommended.