Robert W. Jenson (1930-2017): Heidelberg Alumnus & Edwards Scholar

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Edwards scholar and Lutheran theologian Robert W. Jenson passed away on September 5, 2017 at 87 years of age.

Jenson received his Dr. Theol. in 1960 from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, the current home of the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany. He wrote his dissertation on Karl Barth’s doctrine of election under the supervision of Heidelberg Professor Peter Brunner (1900-1981), and he later studied with Barth in Basel.

Holding posts at Oxford University, Lutheran Seminary, St. Olaf College, and Princeton University, Jenson published several books and articles on systematic theology, the Trinity, biblical commentaries, and more.

Among his many publications was an influential monograph on Jonathan Edwards, America’s Theologian: A Recommendation of Jonathan Edwards (1988). Edwards studies was undergoing a renaissance at the time, due largely to the publication of his works in the Yale edition and the revival of interest among scholars in the fields of history, American Studies, and English.

Jenson however was one of the first to boldly ask whether Edwards was right and if his theology still holds value for today.

The title betrays his thesis: Jenson recommends Edwards as “America’s theologian,” and despite his flaws, American theologians and pastors today should take his theology seriously. He writes, “Edwards’ theology meets precisely the problems and opportunities of specifically American Christianity and the nation molded thereby” (3).

Many have taken Jenson’s recommendation seriously, and the strength of Edwards studies today owes a great deal to his legacy. From Heidelberg: ruhe in Frieden.