Ray S. Yeo, Renewing Spiritual Perception with Jonathan Edwards: Contemporary Philosophy and the Theological Psychology of Transforming Grace, Transcending Boundaries in Philosophy and Theology (London: Routledge, 2016).
This revised version of Yeo’s King’s College London thesis makes a fine contribution to our understanding of spiritual and emotional perception. Yeo, who now teaches at Prairie College in Alberta, mines Edwards on the affections and spiritual understanding, puts him in dialogue with the contemporary philosophical theologian, Robert C. Roberts (among others who have worked in the philosophy of emotions and related sub-disciplines, most importantly Nicholas Wolterstorff and William P. Alson), and develops a revision of Edwards’ thinking on these issues that is suited for the twenty-first century. Or as Yeo summarizes his agenda for the volume: “The eventual aspiration of the book is to articulate a contemporary theological psychology of spiritual perception that could help us better understand the philosophical, psychological and theological nature of transforming grace” (p. 2). His is the first full-length book to aspire to such a goal.
Yeo examines three features of Edwards’ thought on these issues: his doctrine of the infusion of grace in the regenerate; his theology of Scripture and its spiritual understanding; and his long-cherished concept of spiritual delight. Yeo assesses these features in relation to late modern conceptualizations of perception, especially through the emotions, updating Edwards’ doctrine with the help of Roberts and others in the service of his own, constructive theory of perception.
In the end, Yeo makes five revisions to Edwards’ thought: the first to Edwards’ view of converting/sanctifying grace (chapter two); the second to his notion of the infusion of grace (chapter three); the third to Edwards’ notion of the content of the Bible (chapters four and five); the fourth to his concept of spiritual delight (chapter six); and the fifth to Edwards’ view of “the nature of the underlying psychological disposition or capacity for spiritual perception and delight,” which Yeo develops into a “wisdom-like disposition . . . formed by one’s understanding of Scripture,” a virtue he calls “Christocentric wisdom” (chapter seven, but quotation taken from p. 206, in chapter eight).
Yeo’s book will not help readers of this blog gain a better understanding of Edwards’ thought, which it sometimes misconstrues in the service of Yeo’s project (as when it asserts that Edwards failed to distinguish between converting and sanctifying grace [chapter two], or taught a direct and unmediated union between divinity and humanity in the redeemed [chapter three]). But it will help them gain an appreciation for the ways in which Edwards might be used as a resource for writers on spiritual perception and emotion. It is a fascinating example of what John Webster, Oliver Crisp and many others are now calling the “theology of retrieval.”
Highly recommended for constructive, analytic, and systematic theologians and philosophers.