Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards

Steven M. Studebaker and Robert W. Caldwell III, The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards: Text, Context, and Application (Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2012).

This book is dedicated to me (along with Marquette’s Pat Carey). I have also written an endorsement that is printed on its cover. I have a blatant conflict of interest here, so I’d better keep this short.

In my opinion, this is now the place to begin for people interested in the Trinitarian nature of Edwards’ thought and its importance to the history of theology. There is a surge of interest today in Edwards’ doctrine of the Trinity, part of the larger surge of Trinitarian thinking in theology since the mid-twentieth century. Amy Plantinga Pauw’s book, The Supreme Harmony of All: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards (2002), is the best known work on the topic. But several other books and articles (by Studebaker, Paul Helm, Bill Danaher, McClymond and McDermott, among others) have engaged this theme insightfully in the past ten years alone. Edwards’ Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith (2003), edited well for Yale by Princeton’s Sang Hyun Lee, has enabled much of this scholarship. But not until now has anyone published such a comprehensive treatment of Edwards’ writings on the Trinity—in his treatises, his sermons, and his “Miscellanies” notebooks—in relation to their own historical contexts.

Part One, “Texts and Doctrine,” reprints Edwards’ most sustained interpretations of the doctrine, the Discourse on the Trinity and the Treatise on Grace, using these and other writings to present Edwards’ Trinitarian views systematically. Part Two, “Historical Context,” lays out Edwards’ views in relation to the Christian tradition generally and his eighteenth-century world. Part Three, “Pastoral Application,” explains what difference this doctrine made as Edwards preached and wrote of the Christian life, the doctrine of creation, and eternal life in heaven.

I recommend this volume highly. It covers difficult terrain, to be sure, but does so with a facility and clarity that makes it easy for most readers to follow—and always with a view to the significance of its contents for theology and practice.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS

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