A new study of Jonathan Edwards puts Edwards’ biblical exegesis in its proper place.
Douglas A. Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought and Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, offers a welcome contribution to Edwards studies with Edwards the Exegete: Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment.
Years of research are apparent in this work, representing the fruit of Sweeney’s determination to understand Edwards through Edwards’ most cherished intellectual and spiritual exercise: biblical exegesis. Setting Edwards in his early eighteenth-century context, Sweeney reminds readers that “Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) lived in a world strangely different from our own, a world imbued, often enchanted, by the contents of the Bible.” Sweeney doesn’t merely discuss Edwards’ view of Scripture but deals directly with his exegesis—his sources, methods, and conclusions. Sweeney then connects these insights to ongoing discussions concerning other areas of Edwards’ ministry and thought, such as his understanding of christology (in chapter 5) and justification (in chapter 10).
Jan Stievermann, Professor of the History of Christianity in North America at Heidelberg University and the Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany, had this to say about the book:
“Much has been written about Edwards’ life and times, his theology, and philosophy. But so far we did not have a comprehensive study of what Edwards himself would have regarded as the foundation of everything else: his biblical exegesis. Drawing widely from the Edwards corpus, Sweeney offers us a highly learned and nuanced but also very readable account of Edwards’ multifaceted engagement with Scripture in the context of the early Enlightenment.”
Demonstrating the pervasive role of biblical interpretation in Edwards’ corpus and life, Sweeney’s work leaves scholars no excuse for marginalizing Edwards’s exegesis in treatments of his metaphysics, theology, and ministry.
— Ryan Hoselton
Douglas Sweeney reviews Rick Kennedy’s new religious biography of Cotton Mather at Christianity Today. A taste:
“Historians often picture Mather as the last of the Puritans, a backward-looking Calvinist who chafed at modern life. In Kennedy’s telling, however, Mather emerges as a forward-looking man of formidable learning, a warm-hearted herald of pure and undefiled religion, and a major catalyst of Britain’s ‘biblical enlightenment.'”
Kennedy’s book is titled, The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather. It is published by Eerdman.
Prof. Jan Stievermann, director of the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany, is going to be co-teaching a seminar with an eminent Jonathan Edwards scholar, Prof. Douglas A. Sweeney, of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The class will be called The New England Tradition in American Reformed Theology. It will take place over four intensive days at the Ökumenisches Institut at Heidelberg University, May 29 and 30, and June 6 and 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The course description:
This compact seminar offers an outstanding opportunity for all students interested in the history of Reformed theology more generally and the specific development of Protestantism in the New World. Our focus will be on New England Calvinism, one of the most interesting and powerful traditions to emerge in early America, which also had a lasting influence on both liberal and evangelical Protestantism in the U.S. today. While providing a broad survey of the New England tradition between c. 1650 and 1850, the course will also allow students to discuss in depth the writings of key theologians with our distinguished guest scholar, Prof. Douglas A. Sweeney.
Over the course of this seminar we will cover the development of the New England tradition from Puritanism and early evangelicalism (represented most prominently by Edwards), to the major divisions of the early nineteenth century between popular revivalism (Charles Finney), Edwardsean Calvinism, and liberal Protestantism (Horace Bushnell). In following these historical developments we will look at the central theological debates within this tradition that concerned, among other things, the doctrines of predestination and original sin, the role of human agency in redemption, the nature of conversion, and the significance of affections in religion.
To register, e-mail Stievermann at firstname.lastname@example.org.