Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Theology of Jonathan Edwards

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Theology of Jonathan Edwards

Article excerpt

The Theology of Jonathan Edwards. By Michael J. McClymond and Gerald R. McDermott. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, xvi + 757 pp., $65.00.

The last half century has been called a renaissance period for the study of "America's theologian," Jonathan Edwards. One contributing factor has been the production of a critical edition of Edwards's works by Yale University Press, which includes twenty-six printed volumes published from 1957-2008 and an additional forty-seven digital volumes available on the Jonathan Edwards Center website (http://edwards.yale.edu). Until recently, it was virtually impossible for anyone to provide a systematic treatment of Edwards's theology that takes into account not only his published treatises, but also his more than 1,200 extant sermon manuscripts and voluminous "Miscellanies" notebooks and notes on the Bible. With the completion of the printed volumes and most of the material for the digital volumes, Michael J. McClymond and Gerald R. McDermott seek to deliver this systematic treatment in their tome, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards.

McClymond and McDermott are no newcomers to Edwards studies-both have written a number of articles and books on Edwards. McClymond, Associate Professor of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, authored Encounters with God: An Approach to the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford University Press, 1998), which received the 1999 Brewer Prize from the American Society of Church History. McDermott, Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion at Roanoke College, has written One Holy and Happy Society: The Public Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Penn State Press, 1992) and Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods: Christian Theology, Enlightenment Religion, and Non-Christian Faith (Oxford University Press, 2000), and edited a collection of essays titled Understanding Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to America's Theologian (Oxford University Press, 2008). With their background in the broader Edwards field, McClymond and McDermott bring knowledge of a vast secondary literature and years of reflection to bear on their treatment of Edwards's theology.

In their volume, McClymond and McDermott seek not only to provide a synthesis of Edwards's theology, but to highlight Edwards as a uniquely qualified figure in church history for bringing unity to the diverse branches of Christianity-and even incorporating those outside the Christian fold into the body. They set the stage by comparing Edwards's theology to a symphony with five instrumental sections, each section corresponding to a theological thrust in his overarching program. In their view, the first two sections, trinitarian communication and creaturely participation, "carry the tune" throughout Edwards's theological symphony (p. 7). The other three sections are "necessitarian dispositionalism," "theocentric voluntarism," and "harmonious constitutionalism"-the Augustinian, Calvinistic, and Thomistic aspects of his theology, respectively (pp. 5-7). Edwards's theology can be rightly understood only if we hear all sections playing together and harmonizing as a whole, which is why previous depictions of his theology have gone awry when they have emphasized one major element while drowning out others. Edwards's theological program subsists in such complexity because he employed a "developmental" theological method that established links between seemingly unrelated topics and absorbed insights into ever-expanding categories (p. 9). These methods resulted in "an unusual combination of traditionality and originality," which is why both theological conservatives and theological liberals have found Edwards attractive (p. 12). In the structure of their book, McClymond and McDermott seek to take seriously Edwards's intention to organize his theology using the history of redemption in a work that he did not live to write. They divide their book into three parts that explore Edwards's historical context, his methods and theology, and the trajectories and legacies of Edwards's thought. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.