Category Archives: Jonathan Edwards

Redeeming Edwards’s Doctrine of Hell: An “Edwardsean” Account

This month an article I wrote defending the traditional doctrine of hell was published in Themelios 42.2. In this article I argue that despite being subject to a serious philosophical objection, an Edwardsean doctrine of hell is defensible. In order to defend this version of the doctrine of hell I suggest we start by thinking about Edwards’s doctrine of heaven.

Here’s a bit of the article:

Among recent trends in evangelicalism, one of the most prominent has been the resurgence of interest (especially within the “young, restless, and reformed” segment of the church) in all things Jonathan Edwards. One sees this in the vast quantity of recent books, blogs, and conferences dedicated to Edwards’s life and thought. These works have done much to lift him up as a pastoral, homiletical, and theological example to be emulated. The result is that certain Edwardsean themes and theological views have begun to exert greater influence upon evangelicalism, for instance: the importance of revival, preaching in order to change religious affections, the New Testament use of the Old, and even Trinitarian theology. One can certainly appreciate the positive influence that Edwards the exemplar has had upon the contemporary evangelical church. However, one aspect of Edwards’s theology that we may want to question the value of following his example is his account of the doctrine of hell.

Many Americans are familiar with Edwards’s account of hell through his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in which he depicts one of the most horrific, ghoulish, and even terrorizing portrayals ever presented. In particular, his depiction of hell in this sermon is cited by many as evidence why we ought to abandon the traditional account. It has been said that Edwards’s doctrine is morally intolerable and that we should abandon it. Those who are interested in defending the traditional account and more specifically Edwards’s account have reasons for mining his works in order to find resources within it to defend not only his account but the traditional doctrine of hell as well. This essay aims to accomplish those two tasks.

You can read the rest (for free) here: Themelios

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Jonathan Edwards on the Atonement (Review)

It is well known that some of Edward’s followers, sometimes known as the New Divinity, advocated for a view of atonement known as the “governmental theory” or according to Oliver Crisp, penal non-substitution.  This view (in its orthodox form) was first proposed by Hugo Grotius. He suggested that Christ acted as a penal example, demonstrating God’s aversion to sin and paying respect to God’s law. One Edwardsean, Amasa Park picked up this governmental theory and ran full speed with it, even outlining the theory in nine propositions.

Even though its commonly accepted that the New Divinity saw themselves as developing jonathanedwardsontheatonement__76739-1490203753-315-315their governmental theory in light of Edwards’s doctrine, academic debates rage as to whether Edwards’s followers were actually following Edwards’s trajectory in this area or whether they significantly departed from his thought.  For example, B.B. Warfield argued that the Edwardseans forsook Edwards’s teachings. John Gerstner argued that they though they followed Edwards but had no justification in saying so. Finally, and more recently, Oliver Crisp has argued that Edwards knew and approved of these Edwardsean ideas. Brandon Crawford, author of Jonathan Edwards on the Atonement, enters into this debate by offering an in depth account of Edwards’s theory of atonement. His hope is that by focusing on Edwards we will be in a better position to evaluate how his legacy was received.

In order to carry out his aims Crawford begins by setting the historical context of Edwards’s doctrine of atonement. He does this by surveying early and medieval accounts (ch. 1), Reformation and Puritan accounts (ch. 2), and alternative perspectives in the Reformation and Puritan eras (ch. 3). A few questions arose in my mind as I read this section. Did he try to survey too many perspectives? Probably. What makes “alternative perspectives” to be “alternative?” I’m not sure. I also had a few critiques of these sections. One major one is that I think he reads penal substitution too heavily into his early sources. Yes, PSA is there in some form, but not in the full blown sense Crawford wants it to be. I think his overemphasis on the presence of PSA is an important move for Crawford. He needs PSA to be the standard atonement theory in order to say that in downplaying or ignoring PSA the Edwardseans were being unfaithful to orthodoxy.

After three chapters of historical context Crawford finally gets to the heart of the matter: Edwards’s doctrine of atonement. He begins with a chapter addressing Edwards’s theology of God’s glory. Although it is an accurate overview of the topic he hardly engages with any scholarship on the topic, he also doesn’t do a great job of connecting the topic of this chapter to the main topic of the book: atonement. The connection is there but it is not very explicit. The next two chapters present Edwards’s account of salvation history and his definition of sin (ch.5) and the Penal Substitutionary nature of Edwards’s doctrine (Ch. 6). This latter chapter was the most interesting. Here he shows that Edwards conceived of atonement mainly as 1) Penal Substitution and 2) Penal Example. Crawford says, “Edwards believed that Christ’s death also served as a penal example, publicly vindicating God’s honor and law, which God also required before sin’s penalty could be fully satisfied.” (119) Crawford concludes:

Edwards’s doctrine of atonement, then, included two prominent concepts: Christ as penal substitute and Christ as penal example. As the two concepts are placed side by side it becomes apparent that these ideas were not contradictory in Edwards’s mind, but complementary.

Crawford follows up on this chapter with a chapter addressing other themes in Edwards’s doctrine of atonement. However, chapter 6 sticks out as the most significant, at least in my mind, for addressing the debate about Edwards’s legacy.

Crawford’s conclusion about Edwards’s legacy is that Edwards was classically Reformed and that his followers deviated from Edwards’s reformed orthodoxy. According to Crawford, Edwards bears some responsibility for this, as he “may not have sufficiently guarded against the separation of the substitution and governmental components of his system… Yet Edwards does not bear all of the responsibility. He is not responsible for how his words may have been misunderstood by his successors after they took possessions of his manuscripts.” (140). This is a fair and even-keeled conclusion, which I think is argued for persuasively in chapter 6. However, I think it could have been argued for in a journal article rather than in a whole book.

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.

The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) is widely acknowledged to be one of America’s most important theologians and considered a fountainhead of American evangelicalism. He not only played an important role in his own time but also influenced the generations that followed in profound ways.

Many thanks to the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University and Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. for this landmark volume.

Features include:

  • More than four hundred entries
  • Wide-ranging perspective on Edwards
  • Succinct synopses of topics large and small from his life, thought, and work
  • Summaries of Edwards’s ideas as well as descriptions of the people and events of his times are all easy to find
  • Suggestions for further reading point to ways to explore topics in greater depth.

Comprehensive and reliable, with contributions from the premier Edwards scholars in the world, this encyclopedia will be the standard reference work on one of the most extraordinary figures in American history.

Eerdmans, 700 pages, hardcover, ISBN-13: 978-0802869524

Pre-order now from Amazon.com at guaranteed price discount of $45.77 $60.00

HT: JESociety

Revival – Some Lessons from “Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition”

A few days ago I finished a book that was sent to me by Reformation Heritage Press titled Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition. I reviewed it yesterday (you can read the review here), but I wanted to share some thoughts – some lessons – I gleaned from the book about revival.

  1. Remembering Revival is Important: Many of the stories about revival told in this book start with churches looking back at earlier times of revival and longing for the Lord to pour out his Spirit once again. Also, another feature of revival, (it seems) is that people really kept track of what the Lord was doing. That way they could look back and remember the Lord’s work.
  2. Revival Cuts Across Denominations and Traditions: One of the most encouraging thing that I saw throughout this book was how different churches and denominations were willing to set aside their differences and agendas in order to advance God’s kingdom. Whether it’s the Dutch Reformed working together with Presbyterians in New York or Scottish Presbyterians like Erskine working together with the Congregationalist Edwards and Baptists like Ryland and Fuller drawing inspiration from them, or even Irish Presbyterians and Baptists. So many groups were willing to work together for the sake of God’s glory. Hear the words of Andrew Fuller: “O, brethren, let us pray much for an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon our ministers and churches, and not upon only those of our own connection and denomination, but upon ‘al that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” But revival doesn’t just bring unity…
  3. Revivals Draw Extreme Opposition: New lights vs. Old Lights, Coetus vs. Coferentie are just two examples of how revivals brought about and further entrenched division. Revial often draws opposition not only from those outside of the church, but also from those we tend to think are closest to us.
  4. Jonathan Edwards Might Be the Most Important Person in Early Modern Revivals: That is probably not something he would like to hear but its true, but you can’t talk about revival without talking about Jonathan Edwards and his writings. His work not only influenced his own Congregationalist churches, but it affected the Dutch Reformed churches of new York, Baptist churches in England, Presbyterian churches in Scotland, and of course Presbyterian churches here in the US. One chapter even goes as far as to argue that Edwards was really a Presbyterian and that the American Presbyterian denominations cannot be understood apart from him.
  5. Only God Saves but we are Still Called to do Work: Only God can do the work of bringing people to saving faith, yet among the revival stories in this book there is a deep sense of the church’s responsibility to prayer and more importantly to preach. This might seem quite obvious, but as we see in Andrew Fuller’s reforming work, this was not always a given.

Those are just a few lessons. I’m sure there is much more to be said. But if you want to read about and be encouraged about revival for yourself I recommend you pick up Pentecostal Outpourings.

I’m a Father!

On March 9th at 3:22pm my beautiful baby daughter was born! Her mom – my wife – started getting contractions during the YoungLife club that she serves at. But she didn’t really know what it was, just that it hurt and that she didn’t feel well. When she got home, she told me that she thought the baby was going to come soon. Of course I doubted it. I thought she was having false contractions, so I told her to relax and go to bed. Well, she knew better. She said we should pack our bags, and reluctantly I did. I didn’t even pack anything to sleep in because I figured they would send us back home due to a false alarm. (I mean common, you have to give me credit, my wife was due April 4th!) Shiloh1

We tried to go to sleep, well she tried, and I actually did sleep. And then at 3 am she woke me up saying she thinks this is it. We both shower, because you want to be fresh for labor! And she was right, when we got to the hospital they said she was in fact in labor. A few hours, and no pain med or epidural, later my wife gave birth to our baby girl!

Shiloh2

Today she is one week old, but already I’m feeling changed. I never thought I could love someone the way I love my daughter. She is so precious to me and makes my heart melt. I’ve heard people say there is nothing like the love of a parent, but I never really understood that. Now, a week later, I think I’m starting to get it. To think – I love my daughter so much, and God the Father loves the Son even more, and was willing to give him up for our sake! Having a child of my own makes me appreciate the gospel that much more.

Shiloh3
We are starting our baby on the right track by teaching her her ABC’s… of Church History! Today she learned about Augustine, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards, Sex, and the Trinity (New Paper)

Teens getting pregnant, bundling, and boys chasing around girls making fun of their periods – no its not your local jr. high – its Puritan Pastor Jonathan Edwards’s church. If you want to know what “youth” ministry was like in Jonathan Edwards day take a look at my latest journal article:  Bad Books and the Glorious Trinity: Jonathan Edwards on the Sexual Holiness of the Church


You can now read it for free over at the McMaster Divnity College’s Journal of Theology and Ministry website. Print copies of the article will be available through Wpif & Stock Publishers soon.

 

 

Calls for Contributions to the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia

See below:

We are pleased to inform you that the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia project is progressing well. Over the last 18 months we have edited hundreds of entries, which will be returned in the coming months to the contributor for review. However, there are still a number of entries to be written for which we invite you or your colleagues and students to submit a contribution. 

To volunteer, please make your topic selection of the list of available entries (http://edwards.yale.edu/publication/encyclopedia). If an entry is listed and you have send your contribution it might have been overlooked–please resend at your earliest convenience. Please make your selected entry known to edwards@yale.edu before October 30, 2015. Contributors’ entries are due December 15, 2015 as we are planning to publish the encyclopedia in 2016. 

Many thanks for your participation and best wishes

Adriaan & Ken
If you are interested in contributing to this project make sure to act quickly!