From the JEC Blog

Archive for November, 2010

Sweeney’s Booknotes: A Tribute to Sang Hyun Lee


Don Schweitzer, Jonathan Edwards as Contemporary: Essays in Honor of Sang Hyun Lee (New York: Peter Lang, 2010).

This book is a marvelous tribute to the life of Sang Hyun Lee, the Kyung-Chik Han Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary (since 1980). Over the course of a long career, Lee has produced important scholarship in Asian-American theology and the thought of Jonathan Edwards. It is the latter kind of scholarship that is honored in this volume. And inasmuch as Lee has written mainly on Edwards’ understanding of God and God’s relationship to the world that He created, the contributors to this Festschrift also major on these themes. Several chapters feature Edwards’ view of God and of the Trinity. Several others discuss his vision of God at work in the world. My own chapter offers new research on his doctrine of justification. Others treat his preaching and his presidency of Princeton. Many extend important debates within the field of Edwards studies, all of which are shaped by Lee’s important monograph, The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Princeton University Press, 1988): Did Edwards affirm divine simplicity? Did he maintain an Augustinian understanding of the Trinity, or employ a social model more in tune with modern times? Did he teach panentheism? To what extent was he an occasionalist? All of these questions and more receive profound, detailed analysis.

A bibliography of Lee’s scholarly work on Jonathan Edwards is appended to the Festschrift. Here is a list of the main chapters and contributors:

“Edwards’ Occasionalism,” by Stephen H. Daniel

“The Medieval and Scholastic Dimensions of Edwards’ Philosophy of Nature,” by Avihu Zakai

“The End for Which God Created Jonathan Edwards,” by Anri Morimoto

“Jonathan Edwards’ Understanding of Divine Infinity,” by Don Schweitzer

“Hearing the Symphony: A Critique of Some Critics of Sang Lee’s and Amy Pauw’s Accounts of Jonathan Edwards’ View of God,” by Michael J. McClymond

“The Human Self and the Divine Trinity,” by Paul Helm

“Jonathan Edwards’ Panentheism,” by Oliver Crisp

“Trinitarian Action in the Incarnation,” by Seng-Kong Tan

“Jonathan Edwards and Justification: The Rest of the Story,” by Douglas A. Sweeney

“Jonathan Edwards’ Ecclesiology,” by Amy Plantinga Pauw

“Revelation as Divine Communication through Reason, Scripture and Tradition,” by Gerald R. McDermott

“Frightful Inspiration, Sweet Elevation: The Application of Homiletics by Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Mayhew, and Their Successors of the Late Eighteenth Century,” by Wilson H. Kimnach

“Jonathan Edwards and Princeton,” by Stephen D. Crocco

“Jonathan Edwards Studies during the Career of Sang Hyun Lee,” by Kenneth P. Minkema and Harry S. Stout

“How I Stole from Jonathan Edwards,” by Robert W. Jenson

This book is highly recommended. Graduate students will use it to acclimate themselves to Lee’s scholarship and its influence today. Specialists will use it to track the most recent developments in debates regarding Edwards’ doctrine of God and its entailments.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS

Marsden on Edwards and Beauty

George Marsden is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus at University of Notre Dame and he gave the first lecture in the “Jonathan Edwards and the Church” series (cosponsored with the Henry Center for Theological Understanding). In his lecture, he set the stage with a picture of Benjamin Franklin’s modernity as it was deeply shaped by emerging enlightenment and modern trends. Against this backdrop, his contemporary Jonathan Edwards posed a sharp contrast, the last of the Puritan theologians responding in his own way to a changing world, which Marsden fleshed out as a Edwards’s brilliant ‘theology of active beauty.’ Colin Smith, the pastor of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church, probed in response to Dr. Marsden’s lecture how pastors can help people move from the religion of Franklin to the faith of Edwards. The exchange between these two men was very stimulating to all in attendance.


A free audio and video of this lecture will be available soon.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Cooper on Modern Revivalism

William H. Cooper, Jr., The Great Revivalists in American Religion, 1740-1944: The Careers and Theology of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2010).

This book will appeal most to conservative Protestants with a negative view of modern revivalism and modern American culture generally. Cooper’s introductory question gives his argument away: “How did the revival under Jonathan Edwards become the empty activity we see today?” (p. 2). Those who have read even a few of the many books on modern revivals (most of which Cooper ignores), or the jeremiads preached against the decline of evangelicalism, needn’t read Cooper further.

You have heard his story before. In short, the eighteenth century revivals were robust theologically and socially significant. Subsequent revivals have been neither of these things. “Jonathan Edwards did not live to see the next outpouring of the Holy Spirit and it probably was well that he didn’t. For Edwards’ Calvinism did not survive well in the tremendous changes of American culture. . . . whatever modern revivalism was, it certainly wasn’t the revivalism of Jonathan Edwards” (p. 53). Or as Cooper puts this later: “Ultimately then, the history of American revivalism is the story of the decline and death of an American religious institution with little lasting effects. Above all else, it is a lesson of what happens when one replaces God with oneself, His means with our methods, His truth with our culture. Revivalism had moved from an amazing act of God to a reasonable work of man to big business and finally an empty shell of showmanship. What had begun as an amazing work of God had ended as an unsatisfying effort of man. And we are all losers for that” (p. 167).

Although powerful rhetorically and brimming with moral lessons evangelicals should learn, this book runs rough shod over two centuries of evangelical history and the lives of many well-meaning and devout religious people. It fails to explain why Finney, Moody, Sunday, McPherson, and so many others led revivals as they did, or why so many around the world have followed their lead and adopted their faith. Modern revivalism produced few lasting effects? Really?

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS

The Jonathan Edwards Award

Supporters of the Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS will be interested in the recent initiative from the Analytic Theology Project. As their website indicates, this project “is a multinational four-year endeavor that funds initiatives aimed at encouraging fruitful scholarly conversation among analytic philosophers and theologians.”

Students of Jonathan Edwards will therefore be excited to know about the Jonathan Edwards Award.

From their website: Eligible scholars should submit an application detailing the topic they intend to write on, the product they intend to produce, and a list of popular outlets through which the product might be disseminated. It is anticipated that the typical product will be a written essay suitable for publication in a popular website or print periodical. Such essays must be at least 750 words in length and must be published in a popular, non-academic publication with a circulation of at least 12,000. Publications can be religious in orientation (e.g., Christianity Today, First Things, Christian Century) or secular (e.g., Harper’s, Times Literary Supplement, The National Review). Selected online publications will also be considered (e.g. Slate.com). Other modes of dissemination will be considered as well.

Stipend amounts are $3,000, half of which is provided upon the award being conferred. The second half is provided upon receipt of evidence that the essay has been accepted for publication in a suitable venue. Ten such awards will be offered each year for three years.

For more information on this exciting opportunity, please visit here.

If you are not familiar with the concept of “analytic theology,” see the Introduction to Oliver Crisp and Michael Rea, eds., Analytic Theology: New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology (Oxford University Press, 2009), available online here.