Category Archives: Event

Edwards scholar speaking in Heidelberg

Mark Valeri will be lecturing at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, February 7 at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies. The title of the lecture is, “Free Conscience, Conversion, and Social Realities in Eighteenth-Century America.”

Valeri is the Reverend Priscilla Wood Neaves Distinguished Professor of Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. He also works at the Danforth C. Center on Religion and Politics. He specializes in religion and social thought, especially economics, in early America. He’s done extensive research on the thought, context, and legacy of Jonathan Edwards, and he edited vol. 17, Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733 of the Works of Jonathan Edwards.

His award-winning book Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America analyzes social transformations in the American views of the economy from the early 1600s to the 1740s. Valeri charts a change in Protestant thinking, from when Puritans argued personal profit should be subordinate to the common welfare to when they increasingly celebrated commerce as an unqualified good.

The talk is a part of the Winter Baden-Württemberg Seminar and is open and free to the public.

Notre Dame colloquium

The Jonathan Edwards Center Germany will be participating in a colloquium at Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind., on Oct. 1. Prof. Jan Stievermann, director of the center, will be speaking with Prof. Mark Noll, of Notre Dame, and Douglas Sweeney, of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, on “Jonathan Edwards, Cotton Mather and the Bible.”

All three men have books coming out this fall. Noel’s work, In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in Public Life, 1492-1783, is coming out with Oxford. Sweeney’s latestEdwards the Exegete: Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment, is also being published by Oxford. Stievermann’s book, Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity: Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana, is coming out with Mohr Siebeck.

Stievermann, Noll and Sweeney will discuss their forthcoming books and the some common questions and issues relating to the Bible in Puritan New England. The event is sponsored by the Notre Dame history department and is open to the public. It will be held at 217 DeBartolo, Thursday, Oct. 1, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Write about Jonathan Edwards, win $500

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity has announced the annual graduate student paper competition. The winner receives $500 and publication in Jonathan Edwards Studies.

The paper must focus on Edwards, his contexts, or his legacies. It must be original work, written in English by a full or part-time graduate student, and not pledged for publication elsewhere. The deadline is May 15.

Papers should be submitted to Prof. Douglas A Sweeney at

Talk: Edwards as mentor

Rhys Bezzant, the director of the Jonathan Edwards Center Australia and a professor of Christian Thought at Ridley Melbourne Mission & Ministry College, will lecture on Jonathan Edward at the Evangelische Hochschule TABOR in Marburg on Wednesday, June 18. The title of the talk is, Jonathan Edwards ale Mentor: Geistlicher Dienst zwischen Theologie, Spiritualität und Gemeinde.

Bezzant has written extensively on Edwards, focusing specifically on Edward’s ecclesiology. His recent book, Jonathan Edwards and the Church, tracks the development of Edwards’ commitment to the church. Bezzant argues that though Edwards emphasized individual spiritual awakenings and the religious affections of the heart, he didn’t dismiss the importance of the corporate body of believers, nor did he treat the institution as a secondary matter.

“Edwards’s ecclesiology must be viewed as an essential coordinating principle in his response to the vicissitudes of revival,” Bezzant writes. “Edwards’s doctrine of the church and its place in God’s economy were not mere an amorphous shadow cast by the bright fires of spiritual ardor, or a knee-jerk reaction to the pressures of revival, but rather was itself a compass by which he was enabled to navigate the currents and reefs of the revivals waters. It is not impossible for an evangelist to be an ecclessiologist at the same time.”

In his focus on Edwards as a mentor, Bezzant seeks to show that Edwards’ reputation of pastoral ineptitude is not the whole story.

“At one level his personality might have worked against congregational cooperation, creating pastoral tensions,” Bezzant writes. “At another level, however, his character, spiritual discernment, and openness to sharing his life and to new models of communication, were transformative, and created a significant legacy through those whom he mentored.”

Bezzant has himself spent not a little time developing leadership within churches, and says that he thinks Edwards can actually serve as a model for this work.

The talk is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 18, at the Evangelische Hochschule, Dürerstraße 43 in Marburg. All are invited to attend.
— Daniel Silliman

Talk: Edwards and Idealism

Prof. Sebastian Rehnman, of the philosophy department of Norway’s University of Stavanger, will be speaking on Jonathan Edwards and Idealism in Heidelberg on Oct. 29, at 8 p.m.

Rehnman has previously written on Edward’s philosophy, including questions of the Divine Attributes, “the task of making explicit what is implicit in the notion of God acquired from or supposed by arguments for the existence of God,” and an Edwardsian theodicy. This is part of an ongoing project he is working on, a monograph titled Edwards on God. He has also written extensively on the Puritan John Owen, and on a range of Reformed thinkers, including Francis Turretin, Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga.

The talk will be held at then Seminarraum des Ökumenischen Instituts, in Heidelberg, at Plankengasse 3. All are welcome to attend.


The Jonathan Edwards Center Germany was successfully inaugurated last week with an excellent talk by Prof. Thuesen and a day-long symposium on new directions in Jonathan Edwards studies.

We here at JEC Germany are especially interested in and excited by the connections that were made. Scholars from the U.S. and Germany, but also the U.K., Belgium, the Czech Republic, and elsewhere came to the Heidelberg Center for American Studies last week, shared, and connected. There were multiple conversations over the two days of the conference about how different projects can come together. How there are possibilities for mutual aid and cooperation, and how available resources and information can be shared.

More photos of the conference can be seen here.

The first James W.C. Pennington Award: Albert J. Raboteau

Albert J. Raboteau, recipient of the first James W.C. Pennington Award.

“I have been moved,” Albert J. Raboteau writes in an essay in A Fire in the Bones,  “by the pervasive faith of black Christians that God was acting in their own history.”

Studying that faith and that history has been Prof. Raboteau’s life work. The Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion at Princeton University, he is the author of the seminal book on Christianity among American slaves, Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South. He has further explored the African-American history of faith in Canaan Land  and African American Religion: Interpretive Essays in History and Culture.

He reflected powerfully on his own relationship to that faith in  A Sorrowful Joy, where Raboteau speaks of his own spiritual journey, and A Fire in the Bones, which opens with a beautiful essay on how faith and history intertwine.

 “History is based on an act of faith, the faith that events are susceptible of meanings,” he writes. “I, as a historian and a believer, cannot but hope that our history is touched by the providence of God.”

Students at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies have had the special opportunity to explore that history with Raboteau this semester in a compact seminar on African-American religion.  Raboteau will also speak of this history in a free public event next week, focusing on the topic of “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement as Precedent for Religion in U.S. Politics.”

The lecture is open to the public: June 14, at 6:15 p.m., in the Atrium of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais, Hauptstraße 120. Reception to follow.

Raboteau comes to the HCA as the first recipient of the James W.C. Pennington Award. The award strengthens the ties that bind  the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg to the United States and the international academic community. It was created in 2011 by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies and the Faculty of Theology, honoring the life of James W.C. Pennington. An African-American churchman, abolitionist and pacifist, Pennington received an honorary doctorate from the Ruperto Carola in 1849, the first black man to receive a degree of higher learning in Europe.

Pennington, who wrote what may be the first history of African Americans, The Origin and History of the Colored People, as well as his own autobiographical slave narrative, The Fugitive Blacksmith, holds a special place in the history of the University of Heidelberg, connecting the university to American and specifically African-American history. This award thus pays tribute to Pennington’s work.

The James W.C. Pennington Award is funded by the Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation, and is given to scholars who have done distinguished work on the African-American experience in the Atlantic world. The award fosters further research on topics important to Pennington.

The university and the HCA are honored to give the first award to Raboteau, who carries on the history and tradition of Pennington.

Pennington, writing his own history in 1849, the same year he was given an honorary doctorate in Heidelberg, noted exactly the kind of faith in history that has so inspired Raboteau:

“The limits of this work compel me to pass over many interesting incidents which occurred,” Pennington wrote. “I must confine myself only to those which will show the striking providence of God.”

— Daniel Silliman


We at the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany are proud to announce the official inauguration of the center will be held on July 11, 2012.

There will be a number of presentations and a panel discussion, with a keynote address by Peter J. Thuesen, Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, author of the acclaimed Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine, and editor of the final volume of The Works of Jonathan Edwards.

Thuesen will speak on Edward’s reading and intellectual formation, using Edward’s studies as a window into the 18th century history of ideas.

Thuesen has written extensively on the development of Edward’s thinking. In The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, he examined the wide range of Edwards’ reading, and looked at the “competing influences” on his thought. Edwards’ thinking was not only shaped by traditional Puritan sources, Theusen argued, but also by a wide array of Enlightenment thinkers, such as John Locke, the Cambridge Platonists, and even the deists and Arminians that Edwards so fiercely opposed.

Thuesen explored this subject in more depth in Vol. 26 of Edward’s collected works, where he wrote a 113-page critical introduction to the first-ever publication of the Puritan preacher’s personal record of books of interest, and the notebook where he kept track of books he loaned to family, friends, and fellow clergy. In looking at these records, Thuesen traced Edwards’ reading agenda, shedding light on the “mental universe” Edwards’ inhabited.

At the Heidelberg Center for American Studies on July 11, Thuesen will turn his attention to the light Edwards’ studies shed on thinking in the trans-Atlantic world of the 18th century.

For more information or details about attending the inauguration, e-mail Daniel Silliman at


— Daniel Silliman