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Sweeney’s Booknotes—Before Jonathan Edwards: Sources of New England Theology

Adriaan C. Neele, Before Jonathan Edwards: Sources of New England Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).

BeforeJonathanEdwardsThe title of this book is a riff on the title of a book that Oliver Crisp and I published with the same press seven years ago, After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology. Its author, Adriaan Neele, is a long-time friend and colleague, one whose labors for the Edwards Center at Yale gave birth to the Edwards Center here (and the rest of the Edwards Centers outside New Haven).

Neele’s premise is a good one: we cannot understand the historical significance of the “courses” of Edwardsean theology after Edwards—at least not sufficiently—without understanding their “sources” in the “trajectories” of Reformed scholastic thought. Neele’s work, then, examines these Calvinist “trajectories,” their roots in older forms of scholastic theology, and their bearing on the work of the sage of Northampton.

Inasmuch as Edwards never wrote a comprehensive synthesis, Neele notes further, reading him “is like listening to an unfinished symphony.” But by reading him together “with the complete ‘symphonies’ of post-Reformation systematic theology . . . one may hear a more extended composition of European continental thought resonating in Edwards’ work” (pp. viii-ix).

The Edwards who emerges from this study of his forebears in Reformed Orthodoxy is, not surprisingly, more traditional and theological than the one usually featured by American historians. He is also more invested in early modern European intellectual endeavors—especially those performed in ecclesiastical Latin—in relation to which Edwards shows both strong continuities and largely underappreciated discontinuities.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

Preface

Introduction: Early New England and the Early Modern Era

Chapter 1: Jonathan Edwards and the Protestant Scholastics

Chapter 2: Sources of Christian Homiletics

Chapter 3: Sources of Biblical Exegesis: An Ecumenical Enterprise

Chapter 4: Sources for the Formulation of Doctrine: Continuity and Discontinuity?

Chapter 5: Sources of History as Theology

Conclusion and Prospects

And here is my endorsement on the book’s back cover:

“Neele’s encyclopedic treatment of one of the most important sources of Jonathan Edwards’ New England Theology is must reading for specialists in early modern Protestant thought. Building upon his earlier work on the Dutchman Peter van Mastricht, Neele has laid out and summarized the Latinate Reformed bibliography in Edwards’ world, demonstrated continuities and discontinuities between Edwards and the work of his Reformed antecedents, and thus underscored Edwards’ place in early modern Western Christian intellectual history. This will be an essential handbook for scholars like me for years to come.”

This book is not so much a demonstration of which sources we know that Edwards used and how he used them (though Neele offers some discussion of individual texts—by van Mastricht, William Perkins, Matthew Poole, and others—and their roles in Edwards’ work) as a portrait of its subject among the leading practitioners of Reformed scholasticism, a portrait that situates Edwards in a world more European, classical, and biblical-theological than the one taken for granted by most of his interpreters.

Neele’s prose will prove difficult for some readers to follow, but the gains are worth the effort. Highly recommended.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Petrus van Mastricht’s Theoretical-Practical Theology, Volume 1: Prolegomena

Petrus van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology, Volume 1: Prolegomena, trans. Todd M. Rester, ed. Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018)

MastrichtAt long last, the first volume of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society’s English edition of Mastricht is available for purchase. Translated by Todd Rester of Queen’s University Belfast (Northern Ireland), edited by Joel Beeke of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Michigan), it offers a great introduction to Reformed orthodoxy and makes available in English Jonathan Edwards’ favorite book. In addition to two prefaces–one by Rester, one by Beeke–its front matter features an introduction to Mastricht’s life and work by our friend Adriaan Neele and an English translation of the funeral oration preached for Mastricht by his university colleague Henricus Pontanus (1706, reprinted in some Latin editions of Mastricht’s magnum opus).

Only two sections of Mastricht’s work have appeared in English before: A Treatise on Regeneration, which was published here and here, and The Best Method of Preaching, released in 2013 as the first fruit of the Rester edition of Mastricht’s TPT and included in the current volume as well.

Mastricht (1630-1706) is widely acclaimed as one of the best theologians in the Calvinist tradition, and his Theoretico-Practica Theologia (1699) is his best work. A seventeenth-century Dutchman in the school of Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676) at Utrecht University, he presented Reformed theology with academic precision as well as pastoral sensitivity and practical application. For a book-length introduction in English to Mastricht, see this monograph by Neele.

As Edwards wrote to his student and colleague, the Rev. Joseph Bellamy, in 1747, Francis Turretin (1623-1687, a Genevan Calvinist) is excellent “on polemical divinity; on the Five Points [of Dordtian Calvinism], and all other controversial points; and is much larger in these than Mastricht; and is better for one that desires only to be thoroughly versed in controversies. But take Van Mastricht for divinity in general, doctrine, practice, and controversy; or as an universal system of divinity; and it is much better than Turretin, or any other book in the world, excepting the Bible, in my opinion” (Letters and Personal Writings, WJE Online Vol. 16). High praise indeed.

If you enjoy scholastic theology and want a better feel for Edwards’ intellectual world, read this work and stay tuned for its 6 remaining volumes.

Andrew Fuller Conference | September 21-22, 2018

Andrew-Fuller-Conference-2018

 

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany at Heidelberg University will co-host a conference on Biblical Interpretation and Early Transatlantic Evangelicalism.

The speakers include the conference hosts: the Director of the JE Center Germany, Jan Stievermann, and the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center, Michael Haykin. Joining them is a team of world-class scholars in the field (including notable Edwards scholars): Douglas Sweeney, Ken Minkema, Isabel Rivers, Bruce Hindmarsh, Crawford Gribben, Adriaan Neele, and Robert Brown.

The objective of the conference aims to bring the historiography of early transatlantic evangelicalism together with the history of biblical interpretation. The goal is to understand the exegesis of various eighteenth-century exegetes in their intellectual, cultural, and religious contexts.

To learn more about the conference speakers, schedule, and to register, visit the conference website.

Conference Website >

Sweeney’s Booknotes: The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia

Harry S. Stout, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Adriaan C. Neele, eds., The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017).

EncyclopediaThe long-awaited Edwards Encyclopedia is here. With nearly 400 entries by 169 scholars, as well as a “Foreword” by George Marsden, it is a culmination of many years of labor in New Haven as well as the spread of Edwards studies during the past generation through a wide array of scholarly institutions around the world.

I and several of my students have contributed to this volume. In the interest of fair play, I will keep my comments brief.

This landmark volume features well-known scholars writing on topics about which they have already published books: Robert Brown on “Biblical Languages (Hebrew and Greek),” Ronald Story on “Charity,” Rhys Bezzant on “Ecclesiology,” Ava Chamberlain on “Elizabeth Tuttle Edwards (b. 1645),” Jan Stievermann on “German Pietism,” Thomas Kidd on “Great Awakening,” Sang Hyun Lee on “Habit,” Oliver Crisp on “Idealism,” Seng-Kong Tan on “Incarnation,” Gerald McDermott on “Islam,” Donald Whitney on “Piety,” Ray Yeo on “Regeneration,” Stephen Stein on “Scripture (Exegetical Sources),” David Kling on “Second Great Awakening,” Terrence Erdt on “Sense of the Heart,” Amy Plantinga Pauw on “Trinity,” and Stephen R. C. Nichols on “Typology,” for example.

Perhaps more importantly, it also features lesser-known, up-and-coming scholars treating topics on which they have learned a great deal: Allan Hedberg on “Aging,” Ryan Hoselton on “William Ames,” Joseph Tyrpak on “David Brainerd,” Reita Yazawa on “Covenant,” David Komline on “Sereno Edwards Dwight (1786-1850),” David Barshinger on “Hermeneutics,” Roy Mellor on “An Humble Inquiry (1749),” Craig Biehl on “Merit of Christ,” Daniel Cooley on “Edwards Amasa Park (1808-1900),” Jon Hinkson on “Providence,” Ryan Griffith on “Spiritual Gifts”—this list could go on and on.

Several contributors wrote many different entries–most importantly Ken Minkema, Associate Editor of the volume and Executive Editor of the Edwards Center at Yale.

As the editors have written in the volume’s “Introduction,” the Encyclopedia “fills an essential gap” in reference works about Edwards and his world. It corrects “certain stubborn errors or myths about Edwards’s life and those of his family and acquaintance[s].” It also provides “succinct synopses of topics large and small, well known and little known in Edwards’s life, as well as easily referenced sketches of the people and events of his times, any or all of which can be followed up in more depth by consulting the suggested readings at the end of each entry” (p. x).

Stout, Minkema, and Neele hope to publish an expanded, online version of this work, which will include new entries on subjects identified by readers as important to the study of Edwards’ life, times, and legacies in the future. So our thanks should go today both to those who have made this letterpress book possible and those who will engage and improve it in days ahead.