From the JEC Blog

Call for Papers: JEC Japan

The Jonathan Edwards Center Japan (JEC Japan) invites scholars and students to submit paper proposals to be presented at the International Conference on the campus of International Christian University, Tokyo, to be held on March 26-27, 2016.

The theme of the Conference will be “The Transcultural Impact of Jonathan Edwards,” though a broad range of topics not limited to the overall theme are welcome. The abstract should be around 200 words and sent with a short C.V. to JEC Japan by November 30, 2015. A 40-minute slot will be assigned to each presenter at the Conference.

A selection of Conference papers will be included for publication in a special edition of the Journal Humanities: Christianity and Culture.

Participants are expected to arrive by 6:00 pm. of March 25th for registration and reception. 15 twin rooms in the on-campus accommodation facility are reserved for those coming from overseas, free of charge, for 3 nights from March 25th to 27th.

There will be a registration fee of 5,000 JPY to be paid at registration. Meals at the University Cafeteria will cost 500 JPY for breakfast, 1,000 for lunch, and 2,000 for dinner.

At present, the keynote speakers include Harry Stout, Adrian Neele, Doug Sweeney, Gerald McDermott, and Michael McClymond. Participants will attend from Korea, Singapore, Pakistan, Netherland, Poland, and within Japan.

For proposal submission and further information, please contact jecjapan@icu.ac.jp.

Anri Morimoto
Director, Jonathan Edwards Center Japan

Sweeney’s Booknotes: God-Haunted World: The Elemental Theology of Jonathan Edwards

Robert L. Boss, God-Haunted World: The Elemental Theology of Jonathan Edwards (privately printed, 2015)

51MvT-N6FtLDespite the frightening connotations of its eye-catching but nonetheless misleading title, this self-published monograph repays careful attention with a primer on what others have described as Edwards’ quest to reenchant the natural world in the age of the Enlightenment.

Its author started the project as a doctoral dissertation under the guidance of Robert Caldwell at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (in Ft. Worth, Texas). In its current, published form, it appears on sturdy paper in an easy-to-read format, with insightful, summative side bars and 142 well-placed illustrations.

As Boss describes the book, it “is a visual exploration of the nexus between Scripture and Nature” in Edwards’ private manuscripts (p. 1). “In his personal notebooks and throughout his preaching and writing, Edwards unveils a God-haunted world,” the author explains, “in which we are surrounded by signs, symbols, and emblems that serve as windows to spiritual reality” (p. 3).

He focuses most closely on Edwards’ “Images of Divine Things,” a notebook on divine types found throughout the natural world. He categorizes this manuscript as an early modern emblem book that follows in the train of those by Bishop Joseph Hall, Ralph Austen, John Bunyan, Benjamin Keach, and the young Cotton Mather—all of whom read the physical world as a poetic composition symbolizing the truth and beauty of God, an effort in what Boss calls reinscripturation.

Why reinscripturation instead of the usual reenchantment? Because, Boss contends, Edwards labored “to recover the spiritual and distinctly biblical dimension of creation,” an effort often slighted in rehearsals of reenchantment. In fact, as Boss makes his case, Edwards’ reinscripturation of the natural world around him “is key to understanding the distinctively biblical and emblematic worldview evident within his emblem book ‘Images of Divine Things’” (p. 12). It is a key, in other words, to Edwards’ natural typology.

Boss is right about this. I recommend his book to everyone who is interested in typology and/or Edwards’ radically theocentric vision of the cosmos.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Ecumenical Edwards: Jonathan Edwards and the Theologians

Kyle C. Strobel, ed., The Ecumenical Edwards: Jonathan Edwards and the Theologians (Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2015)

ecumenical edwardsTwenty years ago, the number of “constructive theologians” working seriously with Edwards could have been counted on one hand. (The term “constructive theologians” is often associated with the work of liberal Protestant thinkers seeking to “deconstruct” traditional understandings of God and the world and then “retrieve” from the ruins scattered fragments that can be used to “reconstruct” more “liberating” models of theology. Today, however, many evangelical and Catholic thinkers wear this label proudly, employing it as a synonym for innovative, contextual, or systematic theology—often without a word about the deconstructive aspect of its modern genealogy.)

In the twenty-first century, though, constructive theologians have offered the bulk of the most important work on Edwards’ thought, transforming the terrain of Edwards studies rather conspicuously.

The Ecumenical Edwards is a symbol of this change. It also represents well, in its chapters, their footnotes, and the appended bibliography (pp. 235-49), the most important dogmaticians interacting with Edwards—a diverse group of writers including senior and junior scholars, aficionados and novices, Protestants, Roman Catholics, and even Eastern Orthodox.

As stated in the “Introduction” by editor Kyle Strobel of Biola University, “the goal of the following chapters is to initiate an ecumenically significant conversation. These essays should serve both Edwards scholars and theologians new to Edwards as way to constructively engage his theology for contemporary theological analysis” (p. 5).

Toward that end, Strobel has framed the book in two different sections, both of which are aimed at inspiring theologians to engage Edwards’ thought. Part One, “Comparison and Assessment” (pp. 9-129), places Edwards in conversation with a wide range of others (many of whom he never read), from the Byzantine mystic, St. Nicholas Cabasilas, to Western theologians such as St. Anselm, Martin Luther, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Part Two, “Constructive Engagement for Current Conversations” (pp. 131-233), does much the same thing, though its chapters comparing Edwards to St. Thomas, Cardinal Newman, Karl Barth, and several others orient themselves a little more explicitly to contemporary issues in dogmatics.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

Introduction, Kyle Strobel

Part I: Comparison and Assessment

  1. Seeking Salvation: Jonathan Edwards and Nicholas Cabasilas on Life in Christ, Alexis Torrance
  2. Anselm and Edwards on God, Oliver D. Crisp
  3. New Science of Sacrifice, Peter J. Leithart
  4. Jonathan Edwards: “Discourse on the Trinity,” Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, Cap.
  5. Edwards and Luther on Free/Bound Willing, Robert W. Jenson
  6. The Beauty of Christ: Edwards and Balthasar on Theological Aesthetics, Kyle Strobel
  7. The Sophiology of Jonathan Edwards, David J. Dunn

Part II: Constructive Engagement for Current Conversations

  1. Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Aquinas on Original Sin, Matthew Levering
  2. Jonathan Edwards, John Henry Newman, and Karl Barth: Is a Typological View of Reality Legitimate?, Gerald R. McDermott
  3. Jonathan Edwards and Alasdair MacIntyre: Interdependence, Community, and Contemporary Virtue Ethics, Elizabeth Agnew Cochran
  4. The Erotic Side of Divine Participation: Jonathan Edwards, Gregory of Nyssa, and Origen of Alexandria on Song of Songs 1:1-4, Brandon G. Withrow
  5. The Surprising Third Article Theology of Jonathan Edwards, Myk Habets
  6. Jonathan Edwards and Wolfhart Pannenberg toward Trinitarian Prayer, Kent Eilers

All in all, these essays mark an exciting and productive new theological trend. Edwards is joining the ranks of the doctors of the church—and not merely among Protestants. May Strobel’s tribe increase.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Jonathan Edwards for the Church

M. Schweitzer, ed., Jonathan Edwards for the Church: The Ministry and the Means of Grace (Welwyn Garden City, UK: Evangelical, 2015)

The Jonathan Edwards Center has invited Dane Ortland, senior vice president for Bible publishing at Crossway, to write this note for the Jonathan Edwards Center.

JONATHAN_EDWARDS_CHURCH_1024x1024The explosion of academic study of Jonathan Edwards over the past two generations has not been equaled by an appreciation of Edwards in the church. To be sure, evangelical pastors (John Piper, Sam Storms, and Josh Moody come to mind) have sought to commend Edwards to a general Christian population. But Piper and others have tended to latch onto a few key insights of Edwards’ and left many themes in Edwards untouched in their public ministries. The need to keep bringing Edwards’ contributions out of the classroom and into the pulpit and pew was the impulse behind the 2014 conference in Durham, England, “Jonathan Edwards for the Church,” focusing on what faithful pastoral ministry looks like. Those papers have become this book. A second “Edwards for the Church” conference in Durham is planned for 2016 around the theme of the glory of God.

While Piper and Storms minister within Baptist contexts (Moody, though baptistic, serves a more broadly evangelical church), the contributors to this volume tend to work out of a more explicitly Reformed context (note the appeals to the Westminster standards, e.g., [pp. 95, 105], or the assumed framework of teaching and ruling elders [p. 19]). This provides a complementary focus to the Baptist admirers of Edwards.

Some of the contributors are established Edwards scholars (McDermott, Sweeney). Others are younger American pastors (Batzig, Payne, Waddington). One striking aspect, unsurprising in that the conference took place in England, is the number of contributors living and serving in the UK (Bräutigam, Macleod, Mellor, Murray, Nichols, Schweitzer). What ties the contributors together is that they all (including scholars McDermott and Sweeney) are vitally involved in local church leadership. Together, the contributors believe Jonathan Edwards has something to say to pastors and churches today.

The key strength of the book flows from its genesis and purpose: the book is aimed to strengthen pastors and their churches. The papers accordingly display a warm accessibility; pastors unfamiliar with Edwards will not be frustrated at trying to follow the papers. The volume also has a general evenness of tone, which is commendable given the multiplicity and diversity of contributors.

The specific focus of the book is to help pastors see the ordinariness of faithful gospel ministry. Various contributors reflected on the means of grace—Word, sacrament, and prayer—as worthy of being cherished and exercised in their inherently non-flashy but God-given power to strengthen everyday believers. In an age of microphones, personal charisma, celebrity preachers, podcasts, and Twitter followings, this ris surely a word in season. Yet the possibility of and prayers for the extraordinary should never be lost in remembering the ordinary—which is surely reflective of Edwards’ own convictions, and which we find in William Macleod’s sermon on Psalm 85:6 that concludes this book.

Though I will not rehearse the terrain covered in each chapter, a few are worth noting. John Murray’s chapter on Edwards’ influence on the British church over the past three centuries was difficult to put down, with one fascinating historical anecdote after another. Nick Batzig’s commendation on Edwards’ treatment of Song of Solomon is particularly useful in light of the neglect of this book. Doug Sweeney commends Edwards’ hermeneutic through a rich reminder of the crucial need to read and understand Scripture as regenerate men and women under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

A mildly frustrating aspect of the book is the clarity of its layout. The Contents pages (pp. 7–8) tell us that the book is broken into two sections—“The Means of Grace” and “The Means of Grace.” This confusing redundancy is carried over into the actual section beginnings of the book (pp. 27, 161). It was not until reading through the Introduction that I came to conclude that the first section intends to be “The Ministry,” which would fit the subtitle. It also would have been clearer to list the editor (William Schweitzer) on the cover instead of only on the title page, and to list him as the author of the Acknowledgments and Introduction (if indeed he is; neither the Contents nor these components themselves list an author). Such matters are trivial from one perspective, not affecting the rich content of the book, but they are also a bit irritating. An index of some kind would also aid the reader in seeing where certain topics or authors are broached.

For a bridging of Jonathan Edwards into the pastoral ministry from a distinctly Reformed perspective that holds high the ordinary means of grace, this book will prove useful to pastors who give it a thoughtful read.

Dane Ortlund
Crossway Publishing