After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology

By Oliver D. Crisp; Douglas A. Sweeney | Go to book overview

Introduction

Oliver D. Crisp and Douglas A. Sweeney

IN THE COURSE of a spirited and polemical defense of the New England Theology, its last great defender, Edwards Amasa Park, then Abbot Professor of Theology at Andover Theological Seminary, “begged leave” to explain the term “New England Theology” in these words:

It signifies the formal creed which a majority of the most eminent theo-
logians in New England have explicitly or implicitly sanctioned, during
and since the time of [Jonathan] Edwards [Senior]. It denotes the spirit
and genius of the system openly avowed or logically involved in their
writings. It includes not the peculiarities in which Edwards differed,
as he is known to have differed, from the larger part of his most emi-
nent followers, nor the peculiarities in which any one of his followers
differed, as some of them did, from the larger part of the others; but
it comprehends the principles, with their logical sequences, which the
greater number of our most celebrated divines have approved expressly
or by implication.1

The New England Theology was a theological school of thought characterized by a number of ideas, a shared set of intellectual concerns, similar approaches to a range of central theological questions, and a common core of doctrine that is understood to be representative of this movement, even though not every individual theologian allied to this school would own every aspect of this conceptual deposit.2 In other words, the New England Theology connotes a particular theological tradition. Its advocates looked to Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) as fons et origo, the aboriginal intellect from which it sprang. But later developers of the New England Theology were, in some respects, as important as its founder for the ways in which they took and shaped particular ideas they found among Edwards’s literary remains, before passing them on to their intellectual progeny.3

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