Sweeney’s Booknotes: Fullness Received and Returned

Seng-Kong Tan, Fullness Received and Returned: Trinity and Participation in Jonathan Edwards (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014) 

9781451469325hThis excellent new book on Edwards’ Trinitarian doctrine is now the place to begin for systematic theologians interested in making sense of Edwards’ doctrines of God, the Trinity, Christology, and participation in the nature of God (2 Peter 1:4).

It began as a dissertation written under the supervision of George Hunsinger at Princeton Theological Seminary. Revised for publication in the Emerging Scholars series underwritten by Fortress Press, it has launched Tan into a most important conversation about the significance of Edwards’ doctrine of God and God’s relation to humanity and the world.

The book has seven main chapters on the doctrines it address, as well as seven appendices on related, technical issues in the history of theology (from the “Doctrine of Appropriations as Modified by the Reformed-Puritan Tradition” to “Divine Energeia in the Eastern and Western Traditions”). The chapters themselves offer well-researched and exceptionally reliable portrayals of Edwards’ doctrine and its place in the history of Christian dogmatics. The appendices are too short to do justice to the complicated issues they address. (They tend to misconstrue scholastic Lutheran doctrine, in particular.)

When read in tandem with Steven M. Studebaker and Robert W. Caldwell III, The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards: Text, Context, and Application (Ashgate, 2012), which provides much more careful textual work on the topic, Tan’s book will furnish theologians and intellectual historians a solid understanding of the doctrines it examines.

Tan now teaches at Singapore’s Biblical Graduate School of Theology. One hopes that he remains an active member of the international community of Edwards scholars.