COLUMNS

Volume 39 - Issue 2

Engaging with Edwards: Essays on America’s Theologian

By Brian J. Tabb

Abstract

The past decades have seen a reawakening of academic and devotional interest in Edwards on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2003, the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth, Yale University founded the Jonathan Edwards Center and George Marsden published a celebrated biography of Edwards.

Many scholars consider Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) to be “the most acute early American philosopher and the most brilliant of all American theologians,” who was also a loyal British citizen.1 The past decades have seen a reawakening of academic and devotional interest in Edwards on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2003, the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth, Yale University founded the Jonathan Edwards Center and George Marsden published a celebrated biography of Edwards.2 More recently, Yale launched the massive 73-volume The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online and an online journal devoted to Edwards studies, and countless PhD dissertations, books, and essays have been written about Edwards, including Themelios articles by Robert Caldwell and Jonathan Gibson.3 John Piper and others have introduced many pastors, students, and lay Christians to Edwards.4

This issue of Themelios features three articles exploring different facets of Edwards’s theology and practice. Ralph Cunnington examines Edwards’s doctrine of the Trinity, with particular attention to his understanding of the Spirit. Gerald McDermott surveys recent studies on Edwards’s doctrine of God, particularly Kyle Strobel’s Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation.5 Finally, Jeremy Kimble explores the doctrinal foundations of Edwards’s controversial practice of church discipline. These three essays demonstrate the importance and profit of engaging with the Puritan writer often called “America’s theologian.”6


[1] George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 1, 9.

[2] Ibid.; see also idem, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).

[3] Jonathan Gibson, “Jonathan Edwards: A Missionary?,” Them 36, no. 3 (2011): 380–402; Robert Caldwell, “The Ministerial Ideal in the Ordination Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: Four Theological Portraits,” Them 38, no. 3 (2013): 390–401.

[4] John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998); John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds., A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004). See most recently Dane C. Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), reviewed in this issue in the “History and Historical Theology” section.

[5] Kyle C. Strobel, Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation (T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology; London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

[6] Cf. Robert W. Jenson, America’s Theologian: A Recommendation of Jonathan Edwards (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Brian J. Tabb

Brian Tabb is academic dean and associate professor of biblical studies at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church, and general
editor of Themelios.

Other Articles in this Issue

The book of Ecclesiastes diagnoses humanity’s tendency to link the value of human life with permanent accomplishment in our work...

In the current fascination of younger evangelicals with the ethos of both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, John Henry Newman (1801–1890) has become something of a ‘poster child’...

A great deal of research has been done on the life and theology of Jonathan Edwards...

This article surveys the state of Edwards studies today, focusing particularly on its philosophical theologians who have zeroed in on Edwards’s doctrine of God...

This article critically examines Jonathan Edwards’s doctrine of the Trinity with a particular focus upon his understanding of the person of the Holy Spirit...