From the JEC Blog

Archive for July, 2012

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Recognizing Andrew Fuller

Chris Chun, The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in the Theology of Andrew Fuller, Studies in the History of Christian Traditions (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) is finally getting the recognition he deserves among historians of Christianity. Thanks largely to the tireless labors of Michael A. G. Haykin, his Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary, and Haykin’s work in organizing a modern, critical edition of The Works of Andrew Fuller (to be published by Walter de Gruyter), Fuller’s life, thought, and legacies are attracting new attention from a host of scholars in England and America.

This revival of Fuller studies is overdue, to say the least. Fuller was arguably the most important English Baptist thinker prior to Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), on whom he had a major influence. A leading Particular Baptist and associate of William Carey (1761-1834), Fuller helped to found Carey’s Baptist Missionary Society, playing a greater role than anyone else promoting the modern missions movement in England theologically.

The latest and most critically weighty work to come of this renaissance, Chun’s book began as a doctoral thesis written with Stephen Holmes at St. Andrews (2008). Chun’s project is to “trace the extent of Fuller’s theological indebtedness to Edwards” (p. 1), which–as many of us have known but Chun has laid out in impressive detail—was vast.

Chapters one and two examine the ways that Freedom of the Will (1754) lent a metaphysical frame to Fuller’s evangelical Calvinism. According to Fuller, Edwards’ work on the Freedom of the Will had gone “further toward settling the main points in controversy between the Calvinists and Arminians, than any thing [sic] that has been wrote” (p. 11). Thus he used it to steer a course between what he viewed as the twin dangers of hyper-Calvinism (still popular with fellow Particular Baptists) and Arminianism in England.

Chapter three looks at Edwards’ Humble Attempt (1747) and the way that its optimistic eschatology shaped Fuller’s view of history, inspired the English “Prayer Call of 1784” through Fuller, and helped to spur the rise of the modern English missionary movement.

Chapters four and five assess the role that Edwards’ Religious Affections (1746) and “sense of the heart,” found in Affections and throughout Edwards’ corpus, played in Fuller’s life and theology, especially as he combated Sandemanianism in Scotland.

Chapters six and seven treat Edwards and the New England theologians on the atonement and justification, showing that Fuller was indebted to New England on these matters but usually stayed closer to Edwards himself than to the New Divinity.

Chun demonstrates that Fuller drank deeply at Edwards’ well, dipped his ladel into the buckets of the New Divinity men, and that the liquid he imbibed had an enormous effect on British evangelical thought and mission. His book suffers a bit from the sins of most doctoral dissertations (hastily-written sentences, typographical errors), but will prove to be a major boon to students of Fuller and Edwards.

Highly recommended.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Jonathan Edwards and Justification

Josh Moody, ed., Jonathan Edwards and Justification (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

Caveat emptor. I contributed one of only five chapters to this volume and am biased in its favor.

As I note in my own chapter, Edwards’ doctrine of justification has attracted more attention since Vatican II and the trend toward a “new perspective on Paul” than ever before in the history of Edwards scholarship. During the two hundred years from Edwards’ death (1758) to the election of Pope John XXIII (1958), only five scholars devoted much attention to this doctrine. Only two of these examined it with critical acumen. Since the early 1960s, though, a host of people have studied it, engaging in what has become one of the most important interpretive conversations in the field.

As Josh Moody clarifies in the volume’s introduction, this book is aimed not only at laying out Edwards’ doctrine of justification, but at assessing the current state of the conversation on its nature and historical significance, particularly with respect to the hotly contested question whether its shape is more catholic than it is uniquely protestant.

Moody establishes an explicitly Christian tone for the volume, setting up the essays that follow with a summary of Edwards’ doctrine of justification itself, a comparison of the doctrine with older, classically protestant views, and an argument that Edwards was traditionally protestant, despite contemporary claims to the contrary.

The rest of the book’s contributors are in basic agreement with Moody regarding Edwards’ protestantism. Kyle Strobel assesses the place of Edwards’ justification doctrine in relation to his general view of redemption. He is interested in the relationships between Edwards’ doctrines of redemption, imputation, and spiritual regeneration. His main argument is that Edwards’ doctrine of justification and theology of redemption stem ultimately from his doctrine of God, especially from his doctrine of the economic Trinity. Relatedly, “Edwards’s development of soteriological loci occurs under his analysis of the person and work of Christ and the nature and gift of the Spirit” (p. 45).

Rhys Bezzant details the relationship between Edwards’ justification doctrine and his social vision for the neighborhoods he served. He shows that Edwards thought salvation was intended to effect a transformation of life and thought. “The gospel that Edwards preached,” he says, “was designed both to revive and to reform” (p. 73).

Sam Logan offers an essay on Edwards’ view of the relation between the justification of sinners and evangelical obedience. Edwards eschewed works righteousness, as Logan makes clear, but insisted that salvation makes a difference in daily life. “Being in Christ produces evangelical obedience because, as Edwards and many others have taught, the law of God is nothing more or less than the objectification of the very nature of God. . . . when one is in Christ, one lives out who he is, and that is evangelical obedience” (p. 125).

My own essay fills out our understanding of Edwards’ doctrine by examining its expression in his exegetical writings. I show that the most controversial parts of his justification doctrine make the best sense in light of his pastoral and biblical priorities.

This book is aimed mainly at Christians, but is also the best handbook now available on Edwards’ view of the nature of justification before God.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Edwardsian Scholarship After Jonathan Edwards

Oliver D. Crisp and Douglas A. Sweeney, eds., After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Sorry for the shameless plug of my own new book. But in an effort to keep you informed of all new books on Jonathan Edwards, I need to note this one as well.

After Jonathan Edwards was conceived by Oliver Crisp. It offers state-of-the-art chapters by a bevy of first-rate scholars on the wide array of ways in which Edwardsian theology was appropriated after the death of Edwards. The usual topics and suspects are here, but so are some new and surprising themes, such as French and German views of Edwards (discussed by Mike McClymond) and Edwards’ legacies in Asia (by Anri Morimoto).

This is the volume about which we held a symposium back in January, featuring Anri Morimoto, David Kling, and Ken Minkema, with comments from Ava Chamberlain, Oliver and me. Click here for the recording:

The contents of the volume:

Introduction (Oliver D. Crisp and Douglas A. Sweeney)

New Light in the New World

  1. Jonathan Edwards, The New Divinity, and Cosmopolitan Calvinism (Mark Valeri)
  2. Jonathan Edwards on Education and his Educational Legacy (Kenneth P. Minkema)
  3. After Edwards: Original Sin and Freedom of the Will (Allen Guelzo)
  4. We Can If We Will: Regeneration and Benevolence (James P. Byrd)
  5. The Moral Government of God: Jonathan Edwards and Joseph Bellamy on the Atonement (Oliver D. Crisp)
  6. A Different Kind of Calvinism?: Edwardsianism Compared with Older Forms of Reformed Thought (Paul Helm)

Carrying the Torch

  1. Samuel Hopkins and Hopkinsianism (Peter Jauhiainen)
  2. Nathanael Emmons and the Decline of Edwardsian Theology (Gerald R. McDermott)
  3. Edwards in the Second Great Awakening: The New Divinity Contributions of Edward Dorr Griffin and Asahel Nettleton (David W. Kling)
  4. Taylorites and Tylerites (Douglas A. Sweeney)
  5. Edwards Amasa Park: The Last Edwardsian (Charles Phillips)

 Edwardsian Light Refracted

  1. The New England Theology in New England Congregationalism (Charles Hambrick-Stowe)
  2. Jonathan Edwards, Edwardsian Theologies, and the Presbyterians (Mark Noll)
  3. Great Admirers of the Transatlantic Divinity: Some Chapters in the Story of Baptist Edwardsianism (Michael A. G. Haykin)
  4. “A German Professor Dropping into the American Forests”: British, French, and German Views of Jonathan Edwards, 1758-1957 (Michael J. McClymond)
  5. An Edwardsian Lost and Found: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in Asia (Anri Morimoto)
  6. Before the Young, Restless, and Reformed: Edwards’s Appeal to Post World War II Evangelicals (D. G. Hart )

Postscript (Douglas A. Sweeney and Oliver D. Crisp)

The striking cover image of Edwards (meant to evoke the thought of Edwards’ spirit haunting the studies of far-flung theologians since his death) was sketched by Oliver Crisp himself, my much more talented co-conspirator.

We dedicated the volume “to Wilson Kimnach and Ken Minkema, facilitators of scholarship on Edwards and his legacies than which none greater have been conceived.” Fellow Edwards scholars know just what we mean.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Native Christianity and the Indian Great Awakening

Linford D. Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

This rich new monograph began as Fisher’s dissertation at Harvard. (Fisher now teaches at Brown.) It treats engagement with and appropriation of Protestant Christianity by Indians in Connecticut, Rhode Island, western Massachusetts, and Long Island during the long eighteenth century (between the time of King Philip’s War [1675-1676] and the Indian Removal Act [1830]). In keeping with the currents of the new Indian history, Fisher demonstrates that his subjects proved to be much more than victims of colonial persecution. They used Christianity to improve their way of life and protect their land from the English. During the era of New England’s Great Awakening, especially, they asserted themselves as Christians, often founding their own churches, taking control of their own schools, and raising up their own Native Christian leaders.

Previous scholars have suggested that King Philip’s War decimated not only much of New England but also its missions to the Indians, and thus that Native participation in New England’s Great Awakening should be viewed as a total conversion from their earlier ways of life. But as Fisher ably documents, “participation of many southern New England Natives in the Awakening during the 1740s was a continuation of, not a break with, prior religious engagement and strategies of creative cultural and religious adaption and survival. . . . The ‘Indian Great Awakening’ . . . was a logical but not inevitable result of three prior decades of renewed attempts of the English to evangelize their Native neighbors and the Indians’ increasing attempts to procure education, literacy, and acceptance into the larger Euroamerican colonial society” (p. 67).

My only major disappointment with this book is its treatment of Edwards, which is brief and all-too-sketchy given the sources now available. Edwards scholars will want to supplement their reading of Fisher’s book with some of the studies mentioned in our note on David Silverman’s Red Brethren (noting that Fisher disagrees with Silverman’s take on the significance of the Brothertown migration, pp. 181-87):

But on the larger picture of Native Christianity in New England and Long Island during the long eighteenth century, The Indian Great Awakening is clearly now the place to begin. I recommend it most highly to the readers of this blog for the ways in which it fills out our understanding of the context in which Edwards and his colleagues engaged their region’s native inhabitants.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS