From the JEC Blog

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God

Dane C. Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, Theologians on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014)

Jonathan Edwards on the Christian LifeOK, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve had a spate of books on Edwards intended to edify believers in the past several years. But give this new volume a chance. Dane C. Ortlund is an excellent theologian from Wheaton College. He has written on Edwards before. He knows Edwards’ thought well. Plus, he focuses here on what he calls “the organizing theme” of Edwards’ approach to Christian living: beauty. I love it. “To become a Christian is to become alive to beauty,” Ortlund claims. “This is the contribution to Christianity that Jonathan Edwards makes and no one has made better” (p. 23).

In thirteen chapters, Ortlund walks his readers through the major elements of Edwards’ understanding of faithful practice, from conversion to joy and gentleness, Bible reading to prayer, good works to pining for heaven, showing that all of these are inspired in the hearts of true Christians by the beauty of the divine in the Godhead and the world.

Ortlund is a friend, as are the editors of the series in which this book takes its place (Stephen Nichols and Justin Taylor). We consulted on its contents, so I’d better keep things short in the name of fair play.

I’ll conclude with my endorsement, printed on the book itself:  “The supreme value of reading Edwards is that we are ushered into a universe brimming with beauty,” writes Ortlund (p. 15). I couldn’t agree more. And one would be hard-pressed to find a more engaging introduction to this universe for the church. Even the final chapter, on ways in which we should not follow Edwards (pp, 177-92), offers crucial Christian wisdom. Ortlund’s criticisms of Edwards hit the mark—and deserve consideration by Edwards’s growing number of fans. I plan to use them with my seminary students in years to come. Please peruse this beautiful book. It’s good for the soul.

Highly recommended for those who want an explicitly Christian reading of Edwards aimed at spiritual edification.

JEC-TEDS Sponsors Grad Student Paper Competition

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity ( is pleased to announce the inauguration of an annual paper competition for graduate students. Papers must focus on Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), his contexts, or his legacies, and must be written mainly in English. They may be submitted, however, by graduate students from anywhere, working in any major academic discipline. Each year’s winner will receive a cash prize of $500 (U.S.) and guaranteed publication in Jonathan Edwards Studies. Submissions are due by May 15 of each year. The winners will be announced by August 1.

Further details may be found below, or in the downloadable flyer link. Please share this announcement with your colleagues. Queries and submissions should be directed to Professor Douglas A. Sweeney (

Happy writing, and good luck!





  • All full- and part-time graduate students from anywhere in the world are eligible to participate.
  • Papers must focus on Jonathan Edwards, his contexts, or his legacies.
  • Papers must be original, and not pledged elsewhere.



  • Papers should be of superior, publishable quality, and should follow the Author Guidelines published in Jonathan Edwards Studies, available at:
  • Papers must be written in English.
  • Papers must be readable in Microsoft Word.
  • Papers must be received no later than May 15.



  • Cash prize of $500 (U.S.)
  • Guaranteed publication in Jonathan Edwards Studies.
  • The winner will be announced on August 1.


Papers will be assessed by a committee led by Professor Douglas A. Sweeney, Director, Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS, and including the other global Jonathan Edwards Center directors.

Please direct queries and submissions to Doug Sweeney (

Dissertation Note: “‘A Soul Inflamed with High Exercises of Divine Love’: Affections and Passions in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards.”

Martin, Ryan Jared. “’A Soul Inflamed with High Exercises of Divine Love’: Affections and Passions in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards.” PhD diss., Central Baptist Theological Seminary, 2013. 

This dissertation is concerned with alleged confusion in the secondary literature regarding Edwards’s concept of religious affections and how it relates to the modern day concept of emotions. Martin writes, “The goal of this dissertation has been to describe Edwards’s affective psychology, and to find its points of contact and discordance with modern emotions” (297). Both scholars and ministry leaders have suggested that when Edwards encouraged Christians to have high affections he meant Christians ought to be emotional. In his view, John Piper has contributed perhaps more than any other person to the perpetuation of this conflation of affections and emotions.

Martin argues that this understanding is confusing and unhelpful for accurately interpreting Jonathan Edwards. Martin writes, “By replacing affections with emotions (often done to make Edwards more intelligible and contemporary), interpreters have left readers with a distorted Edwards. Edwards did not conceive of affections as corporeal feelings at all, but as strong movements of the will” (300). Edwards distinguished between the lower, animal passions which are rooted in bodily appetites and the affections which can be gracious or natural. Affections refer to a person’s inclinations and aversions. A person with holy affections will possess supernatural, godly inclinations and aversions. A person with natural affections will possess sinful inclinations and aversions.

Few if any have written more than article length treatments on this subject; however, as Martin shows there has been no shortage of authors sharing their opinions regarding Edwards and the affections. He argues against scholars such as Perry Miller, Conrad Cherry, D. G. Hart, and K. Scott Oliphant who believe that Edwards invented a new psychology that was deeply rooted in John Locke. Even though Edwards appreciated Locke, Martin contends that Edwards’s distinction between affections and passions can be found as early as Augustine. In other words, Edwards was not as novel nor as dependant upon Locke as some have suggested. Martin also disagrees with scholars such as Miller, Jeremiah Day, Henry Tappan, Joseph Haroutunian, and more recently James Blight and Paul Helm when they equate affections with emotions.  Martin also notes that he is not alone in his position, and he finds agreement with regard to Edwards on the affections in the work of Gordon Clark, Robert Jensen, Mark Noll, John Smith,  John Hannah, Michael Haykin, Sean Michael Lucas, Michael McClymond, and Gerald McDermott.

Chapter one introduces the study and describes the ways in which scholars and evangelicals have understood or misunderstood Edwards on the affections. Chapter two highlights some ways in which the concept of affections has been used in church history in the writings of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, the Reformers, Descartes, Pascal, and the Puritans. Chapter three discusses the concept of affections in the early writings of Jonathan Edwards. Martin surveys Edwards’s notebooks, sermons, and revival writings. Chapter four discusses Edwards’s understanding of the affections in context with his debate with Charles Chauncy during the Great Awakening. Chapter five discusses Edwards’s later thought in The Life of David Brainerd, Freedom of the Will, Original Sin, and Two Dissertations. Chapter six offers conclusions regarding the study explaining the significance of affections for understanding Jonathan Edwards and that affections should not be equated with emotions.

This dissertation is well executed and will be of interest primarily to specialists who need to understand Edwards on the affections, emotions, and faculty psychology.  This dissertation represents the first book length treatment of a vital topic in Edwards studies and an opportunity to secure a clearer and fuller understanding among Edwards specialists on Edwards and the affections.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Biblia Americana: America’s First Bible Commentary (Vol. 3)

Cotton Mather, Biblia Americana: America’s First Bible Commentary, a Synoptic Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Volume 3: Joshua – 2 Chronicles, ed. Kenneth P. Minkema (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013)

Ken Minkema’s volume of Cotton Mather’s magnum opus has finally made it off the press.

For those who have not yet heard, this is the second volume published–though the third in the series–of what will be a ten-volume edition of Mather’s largest work. Drafted over the course of 35 years (1693-1728) on 4,583 sheets (double-columned, folio), eventually bound in six volumes, Mather’s “Biblia Americana” proved too large, until now, to attract a publisher. Nonetheless, it represents the oldest commentary on all of the Protestant canon in America.

Reiner Smolinski, who teaches American literature at Georgia State University, has given much of his life to poring over this hidden treasure at the Massachusetts Historical Society.  He leads a team of scholar-editors in Germany and the U.S. committed to realizing Mather’s dream of publishing this summa. Volume one, on the book of Genesis, was published in 2010. Now volume three, on Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, transports us even further into Mather’s erudition, showing that biblical higher criticism began in North America long before the well-known inroads made by modern German scholars.

Though this is not a book on Edwards, it is part of the most important scholarly project on early American biblical study ever produced. Appearing as it does at a time of renewed historical interest in the Bible in America, this edition will spark new insights into American religious, cultural, and intellectual history. It has become essential reading for anyone interested in Edwards’ place in American exegesis.

Every first-rate scholarly library should own this set.