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Sweeney’s Booknotes—Jonathan Edwards: Spiritual Writings

Jonathan Edwards, Spiritual Writings, ed. Kyle C. Strobel, Adriaan C. Neele, and Kenneth P. Minkema, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 2019).

Edwards_Spiritual WritingsAt long last, Paulist Press has published Edwards in its series of The Classics of Western Spirituality—a world famous list pushing 130 volumes that, until now, included nothing by the sage of Northampton.

Expertly edited by three leading scholars of Edwards’ work, this anthology has selections from Edwards’ best-known spiritual writings and a few long-hidden treasures published here for the first time. Here’s a look at the table of contents:

 

Prelude: Locating Jonathan Edwards’s Spirituality (Neele)

Introduction (Strobel)

 

Part One: The General Contours of Edwards’s Spirituality

Introduction to Part One

“Diary”

“Resolutions”

“Personal Narrative” (1740)

Excerpt from A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (1737)

The Spiritual Enjoyments and Comforts Believers Have through Christ (1738)

 

Part Two: Affections

Introduction to Part Two

Excerpt from A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746)

Spiritual Appetites Need No Bounds (1729)

The Saints Often Miss Sweet Communion with Christ (1737)

Excerpt from The Portion of the Righteous (1735)

“Apostrophe to Sarah Pierpont”

“The Narrative of Sarah Pierpont Edwards”

 

Part Three: Beauty

Introduction to Part Three

“Miscellanies” no. a, “Of Holiness”

Excerpts from “Types” Notebook

The Sweet Harmony of Christ (1735)

Fragment: Application on Love to Christ (1723)

Letter to Lady Mary Pepperrell (1751)

Excerpt from Charity and Its Fruits (1738)

 

Part Four: Means of Grace

Introduction to Part Four

The Duty of Self-Examination (1722-23)

God’s Wisdom in His Stated Method of Bestowing Grace (1729)

“Miscellanies” no. 539, “Means of Grace”

Striving After Perfection (1735)

A Native American Profession of Faith

Letter to Deborah Hatheway (1741)

 

Part Five: The Internal and External Work of Grace

Introduction to Part Five

A Spiritual Understanding of Divine Things Denied to the Unregenerate (1723)

“Directions for Judging of Persons’ Experiences”

True Grace Is Divine (1738)

Excerpt from “Treatise on Grace” (1739-42)

Excerpt from “Miscellanies” no. 790, “Signs of Godliness” (c. 1740)

Excerpt from Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit Are Inferior to Graces of the Spirit (1748)

Excerpts from True and False Christians (On the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins) (1737-38)

 

The items published here for the first time include the sermons titled The Spiritual Enjoyments and Comforts Believers Have through Christ, The Saints Often Miss Sweet Communion with Christ, and True Grace Is Divine. Also, The Portion of the Righteous, another sermon, is published here in a version much improved over its nineteenth-century ancestor.

This is now essential reading for all serious Edwards scholars, suggested reading for those interested in Christian spirituality, and, when released in paperback, it will make a fine textbook for classes on Edwards and/or Protestant spiritual history. Highly recommended.

Marsden, Crisp, and Strobel Chat about Retrieving Edwards

You may have seen our recent review of Crisp’s and Strobel’s new introduction to Jonathan Edwards’ thought here.

The book’s publisher, Eerdmans, has produced a video with scholars George Marsden, Oliver Crisp, and Kyle Strobel discussing how Christians can retrieve Edwards’ thought.

We at the Edwards Center commend this video to you. Doug Sweeney says about the video: “A profound, informative, and delightful conversation about Edwards between three of our leading Edwards scholars. We recommend it highly to one and all.”

We’re glad to welcome Oliver Crisp to the Jonathan Edwards Center on March 15, at 11AM in Hinkson Hall. If you’re interested in learning more about his visit, you may find out more here.

Watch the video.

Sweeney’s Booknotes—Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to His Thought

Oliver D. Crisp and Kyle C. Strobel, Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to His Thought (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018).

Jonathan Edwards_Crisp&StrobelThis fine introduction to a selection of timely topics in Edwards’ philosophical theology represents the work of Crisp and Strobel well. Each of these systematic thinkers has engaged Edwards extensively in several well-known writings—Oliver Crisp most famously in Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation, which we reviewed here; Kyle Strobel most famously in Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation, which we reviewed here.

Their new, co-written book recapitulates the leading themes treated in their earlier works, engages them in relation to contemporary concerns, and offers guidance for theologians of retrieval who want to “become Edwardsean,” as they say in the book’s final chapter, improving upon Edwards in Edwards’ own critical spirit, carrying classical Calvinism into the future.

Here is the book’s table of contents:

Introduction

  1. Intellectual Context
  2. God of Beauty and Glory
  3. God and Idealism
  4. God and Creation
  5. The Atonement
  6. Salvation as Participation
  7. Becoming Beautiful
  8. Becoming Edwardsean

This volume takes its place among several recent introductions to Edwards’ life and thought. McClymond and McDermott’s The Theology of Jonathan Edwards remains the most comprehensive introduction to Edwards’ thought. Finn and Kimble’s Reader’s Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards treats Edwards for evangelicals. Stout, Minkema, and Neele’s Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia is, of course, the most encyclopedic treatment of Edwards’ work, and includes the most diverse array of scholarly contributors. But Crisp and Strobel’s book will find a ready, eager audience among constructive theologians in what McDermott calls the “British school” of Edwards scholarship (http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/jonathan-edwards-and-gods-inner-life-a-response-to-kyle-strobel).

Anglo-American, analytic, and constructive Reformed Protestants who wish to retain a classical doctrine of God and creation, retrieving concepts and arguments from the mainstream Christian tradition in the service of churchly theological work in the present, will find no better models for their work than Crisp and Strobel.

Sweeney’s Booknotes: A Reinterpretation?

Kyle Strobe: Jonathan Edwards's Theology: A ReinterpretationKyle C. Strobel, Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation, T & T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

Kyle Strobel is quickly becoming one of the most prolific scholars working on Edwards’ thought today. And this revised version of Strobel’s Aberdeen dissertation is his most important work on Edwards to date.

Strobel’s overarching argument is that Edwards worked primarily as a Reformed theologian whose doctrine of God and of the Trinity funded a “theocentric vision of reality,” which, in turn, became the primary force in Edwards’ thought (p. 2). Strobel supports this contention using four key points: “First, Edwards’s theology begins with God, in his eternal life as Trinity, as the ontological principle which grounds his systematic task. Second, Edwards begins ‘from eternity’ and then ‘descends’ to address God’s work in time, or, in other words, God’s economic movement to create and sustain. Third, this work in time is the work of redemption, directing the ‘revolutions in the world’ and guiding it toward resurrection, judgement and consummation. Fourth and finally, Edwards’s theology is a theology of redemptive history, grounded in and formed by the God who is redeeming, or more specifically, the God who redeems in, through and as Christ” (4).

In three main sections, Strobel treats Edwards’ doctrine of the Trinity (section one), Edwards’ view of God’s purpose in the creation of the world (section two), and Edwards’ Trinitarian doctrine of redemption (section three). Along the way, he seeks “to trace the ‘metanarrative’ of Edwards’s theology” (p. 12), a storyline that shaped nearly everything he wrote.

On its surface, Strobel’s argument appears rather commonplace, largely unexceptional to those who know Edwards. But as Strobel makes clear, he has offered it in contradiction to Sang Lee and others (especially McClymond and McDermott) who follow Lee’s view of Edwards’ philosophical theology. Strobel thinks these scholars misconstrue Edwards’ thought by portraying it, not in terms of Trinitarian dogma, but of late modern philosophy. Strobel thinks his synthesis accounts for Edwards better, offering a more comprehensive and coherent view of Edwards’ grand vision of God and the world (p. 232).

I agree that Strobel’s Edwards is more accurate than Lee’s. There is little new here. Strobel rehearses sources and themes treated well by many others. He exaggerates the extent to which his argument is novel. He exaggerates his differences with McClymond, McDermott, and others–seeming to relish his confession that, “in this volume I ‘go after’ almost everyone!” (p. xi). Still, he does provide a fine way of making sense of Edwards’ thought in systematic terms. I cannot think of another text that handles Edwards better in relation to dogmatic debates about the nature of God.