From the JEC Blog

Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Unified Operations of the Human Soul

Jeffrey C. Waddington, The Unified Operations of the Human Soul: Jonathan Edwards’s Theological Anthropology and Apologetic (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2015)

RESOURCE_TemplateThis is the published version of Waddington’s dissertation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. An
Orthodox Presbyterian minister near Philly, Waddington also serves as Secretary of the Reformed Forum, an organization that has done good work on Edwards over the years. His book concerns itself with Edwards’ theological anth
ropology and its bearing on Edwards’ work in the field of apologetics.

Waddington’s thesis is that the late John Gerstner (1914-1996) was wrong to classify Edwards as a “classical” apologist. Gerstner should have seen that Edwards’ doctrine of humanity was too Augustinian, indeed Calvinistic, to yield a “classical” defense of Christian faith.

Gerstner spoke at times about three kinds of apologists in early church history, distinguished from one another by their views of the relation between philosophy and theology. “There is the rejection of any interaction,” Waddington explains, “arguably exemplified in Tertullian. Then there is Augustine’s perspective in which philosophy serves as the handmaid of theology providing conceptual tools. Finally there is the view of Thomas Aquinas in which philosophy has its own legitimacy apart from its role as handmaiden to theology. In fact, philosophy provides the foundation upon which theology is built” (pp. 23-24). This last, Thomistic view is the so-called “classical” view.

In Waddington’s estimation, “classical” apologists are too rationalistic, too dependent on a “hierarchical faculty psychology,” too soft on the noetic consequences of the fall, and too Catholic on the relationship between nature and grace to include the likes of Edwards. The author stops short of calling Edwards a “presuppositionalist,” for eighteenth-century scholars never wore that modern label, designed as it was by Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) and his followers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster Seminary, and related institutions—but he clearly thinks that Edwards would have chosen this label over “classical” if pressed.

“Edwards was not a presuppositionalist apologist born out of season,” Waddington admits in a paragraph that gives the reader a sense of his overall argument and delivery. “However, there are areas of overlap that seem to have escaped the notice of John Gerstner. It is this writer’s view that major advances have occurred in the field of apologetics since the time of Edwards. One such advance is the self-conscious nature of the discipline. It is not as if apologists from the different schools do things absolutely differently. That is surely not the case. But we are better off being sensitive to epistemological issues and how the Scriptures bear on these. Edwards may have used some classical arguments in his apologetic endeavors, but he lacks the zeal for the classical method that Gerstner himself evidenced. What’s more, Edwards does in fact show some leanings in a presuppositional direction. But that is not surprising. Inasmuch as he was a Reformed theologian he would manifest such things” (p. 227).

In his effort to create distance between Edwards and less Calvinistic “classical” apologists, Waddington paints a rather unflattering portrait of Aquinas and his ilk on philosophy and theology, reason and revelation, and, indeed, nature and grace–one in which very few late-modern Thomists would see themselves. (In a section on the history of the donum superadditum, he claims that the goal of human fellowship with God is “an optional extra” for them, and that for Edwards, by contrast, “there is no sense that fallen man can function adequately” without the gift of the Spirit [p. 75–both claims are false.]) But in the main, this is a helpful look at Christian anthropology, Christian apologetics, and Edwards’ place within them.

I highly recommend this book for Reformed Protestants and others interested in Reformed apologetics.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725-1775

John Howard Smith, The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725-1775 (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015)

9781611477146_bigThis important new history of the eighteenth-century revivals offers what Smith calls “a secular interpretation” of the phenomena (p. x). Or as this history teacher at Texas A&M University-Commerce claims throughout the book, this is a reinterpretation of the first Great Awakening and its role in charging American national culture with a lively current of fractious, supernaturalistic, and even mystical piety—a current that helped to catalyze the War of Independence and then characterized much of the new nation’s Christianity.

Smith contends that previous books on the eighteenth-century revivals take for granted an all-too-narrow Anglo-Protestant frame of reference. However, in Smith’s retelling, both African and Native religions contribute to their outcomes, as do a longer and more diverse cast of characters (German, Dutch, and female characters, especially).

Smith features Jonathan Edwards most clearly in chapter four, “‘A Glorious Work of God’s Infinite Power’: Jonathan Edwards and Revivalism in New England, 1734-1741.” But Edwards appears in other places in the narrative as well, looking rather more conflicted over the work of radical New Lights than traditional interpreters have made him out to be. In spite of Edwards’ “reputation for being a moderate,” says Smith, he “nevertheless endorsed some of the more radical expressions of evangelicalism. Recent reexaminations of his own written works paint a slightly different picture of him—one that does not exactly conform to the consistently even-tempered New Light found in the pages of most accounts of the Awakening” (p. 152).

Smith sensationalizes evangelical faith and fervor frequently, majoring in the most exotic tales told by Old Light opponents of the Awakening. He notes “a subsequent rash of suicides” in the wake of Joseph Hawley’s death in 1735, though we have no actual evidence of any more suicides in Edwards’ neck of the woods during that devastating year (p. 99: suicidal thoughts, yes, and one earlier attempt; suicidal deaths, no). He features Old Light claims regarding New Light eroticism, claiming that “many New Side and New Light ministers” were accused of “having fornicated with enamored female adherents and even to have fathered bastard children” (p. 163: a few accusations, yes; many accusations, no). He asserts matter-of-factly that “women in the Old Testament are little more than servants and instruments of Satan—irrational, undeserving of honor or respect, and responsible for the Fall” (p. 167: where to begin?). And he refers to the era’s evangelical Calvinism as a form of “fundamentalism” (pp. 57, 265, 296, and elsewhere: a twentieth-century label from a very different world). Maneuvers like this may attract undergraduates, but they leave such students misinformed about the past.

Though not as accurate or helpful theologically as Noll or Kidd, Smith does incorporate a broader array of contextual material than anyone. His book is not as new as he says (as attested by his excellent use of the best recent scholarship on eighteenth-century America). But it is the most comprehensive single-volume interpretation of the first Great Awakening to date.

Ron Story on Jonathan Edwards and Climate Change

Dr. Ronald Story of the University of Massachusetts Amherst (emeritus) is becoming a leading light in the field of Edwards studies. In the past few years alone, he has published two books on what he calls the “other” Edwards, the Edwards of love, social justice, and concern for those in need. (See our booknotes on these volumes: Jonathan Edwards and the Gospel of Love and The Other Jonathan Edwards). Now, Story is using Edwards, along with Pope Francis I, to promote creation care in our twenty-first century world. Here is a recent lecture Story gave in Amherst on the subject–rather timely in the wake of the climate summit held in Paris.

Filmed at the Amherst Historical Society on September 25, 2015. Video and editing by George Naughton. Click here for the manuscript.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700

Kevin Killeen, Helen Smith, and Rachel Willie, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

9780199686971This massive volume (roughly 800 pages in length) is a goldmine for those of us studying the history of the Bible, or exegesis, in Edwards’ early-modern world.

It never mentions Edwards himself. Nor does it pay much attention to people living in New England. Nevertheless, it offers a wealth of information on the British sources of Edwards’ work with Scripture.

It contains 40 chapters organized in 6 parts, written by many of the leading scholars working in the field. (See the table of contents below.) Most of the authors seem to agree with the assertion of their editors: “the Bible was the most important book in early modern England,” indeed it was “the pivot of thought and learning, to which knowledge of all sorts might be directed, and which contained inexhaustible conceptual and intellectual, as well as spiritual, riches” (p. 1).

“The animating purpose of this book,” continue the editors, “is to trace the knotty practical and intellectual concerns of Bible translation and scholarship, the forms and contexts in which the Bible was seen, heard, and read, its varied uses in political thought and action, and its shaping presence in the literature of the English Renaissance” (p. 2). The contributors succeed in tracing these histories superbly.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

List of Illustrations
Note to the Reader

“Introduction: All other bookes … are but Notes upon this’: The Early Modern Bible,” Kevin Killeen and Helen Smith

Part I: Translations
Part One Introduction

  1. “A day after doomsday’: Cranmer and the Bible Translations of the 1530s,” Susan Wabuda
  2. “Genevan Legacies: The Making of the English Geneva Bible,” Femke Molekamp
  3. “‘A comely gate to so rich and glorious a citie’: The Paratextual Architecture of the Rheims New Testament and the King James Bible,” Katrin Ettenhuber
  4. “The King James Bible and Biblical Images of Desolation,” Karen L. Edwards
  5. “The Roman Inkhorn: Religious Resistance to Latinism in Early Modern England,” Jamie H. Ferguson
  6. “Retranslating the Bible in the English Revolution,” Nigel Smith

Part II: Scholarship
Part Two Introduction

  1. “The Septuagint and the Transformation of Biblical Scholarship in England, from the King James Bible (1611) to the London Polyglot (1657),” Nicholas Hardy
  2. “The Apocrypha in Early Modern England,” Ariel Hessayon
  3. “Isaiah 63 and the Literal Senses of Scripture,” Debora Shuger
  4. “The ‘sundrie waies of Wisdom’: Richard Hooker on the Authority of Scripture and Reason,” Torrance Kirby
  5. “‘The doors shall fly open’: Chronology and Biblical Interpretation in England, c. 1630-c. 1730,” Scott Mandelbrote
  6. “Early Modern geographia sacra in the Context of Early Modern Scholarship,” Zur Shalev
  7. “Milton’s Corrupt Bible,” Neil Forsyth
  8. “The Commodification of Scripture, 1640-1660: Politics, Ecclesiology and the Cultures of Print,” Crawford Gribben
  9. “Self-Defeating Scholarship? Antiscripturism and Anglican Apologetics from Hooker to the Latitudinarians,” Nicholas McDowell

Part III: Spreading the Word
Part Three Introduction

  1. “The Church of England and the English Bible, 1559-1640,” Lori Anne Ferrell
  2. “‘Hearing’ and ‘Reading’: Disseminating Bible Knowledge and Fostering Bible Understanding in Early Modern England,” Ian Green
  3. “‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God’: Dissonance and Psalmody,” Rachel Willie
  4. “Ornament and Repetition: Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern English Preaching,” Mary Morrissey
  5. “Preaching, Reading and Publishing the Word in Protestant Scotland,” Alasdair Raffe
  6. “The Bible in Early Modern Gaelic Ireland: Tradition, Collaboration and Alienation,” Marc Caball
  7. “‘Wilt thou not read me, Atheist?’: The Bible and Conversion,” Helen Smith

Part IV: The Political Bible
Part Four Introduction

  1. “Mover and Author: King James VI and I and the Political Use of the Bible,” Jane Rickard
  2. “‘A king like other nations’: Political Theory and the Hebrew Republic in the Early Modern Age,” Kim Ian Parker
  3. “Digging, Levelling and Ranting: The Bible and the Civil War Sects,” Andrew Bradstock
  4. “A Year in the Life of King Saul: 1643,” Anne Lake Prescott
  5. “‘That glory may dwell in our land’: The Bible, Britannia, and the Glorious Revolution,” Emma Major

Part V: The Bible and Literature
Part Five Introduction

  1. “The King James Bible in its Cultural Moment,” Helen Wilcox
  2. “The Noblest Composition in the Universe or Fit for the Flames? The Literary Style of the King James Bible,” Hannibal Hamlin
  3. “Epic, Meditation, or Sacred History? Women and Biblical Verse Paraphrase in Seventeenth-Century England,” Sarah Ross
  4. “Scripture and Tragedy in the Reformation,” Russ Leo
  5. “‘This verse marks that’: George Herbert’s The Temple and Scripture in Context,” Alison Knight
  6. “‘Blessed Joseph! I would thou hadst more fellows’: John Bunyan’s Joseph,” Nancy Rosenfeld
  7. “Paradise Lost, the Bible, and Biblical Epic,” Barbara K. Lewalski

Part VI: Reception Histories
Part Six Introduction

  1. “Donne’s Biblical Encounters,” Emma Rhatigan
  2. “Domestic Decoration and the Bible in the Early Modern Home,” Andrew Morrall
  3. “‘My exquisite copies for action’: John Saltmarsh and the Machiavellian Bible,” Kevin Killeen
  4. “Unbelief and the Bible,” Roger Pooley
  5. “Inwardness and English Bible Translations,” Erica Longfellow
  6. “Early Modern Davids: From Sin to Critique,” Yvonne Sherwood

Notes on Contributors

Highly recommended to anyone interested in the Bible in the early-modern world.