Time to spend some quality time with Jonathan Edwards – any suggestions?

Every year I get to lead a Th.M. seminar focusing on key figures in historical theology. This year, it’s Jonathan Edwards. (So far I’ve done seminars on Augustine, Luther, and the Greek Fathers. I love my job.)

So, as I get ready for the seminar this summer, it’s time for me to brush off old favorites and explore new resources. I’m just about to dig into Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word by Douglas A. Sweeney and The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics by Kelly Kapic and Randall Gleason, which I’m thinking about using as a resource for orienting students to the broader Puritan context of Edwards’ theology. In the next few days, I’ll also be reading through Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life again, since that will be the key biography for the course.

I have several other books on my reading list and I’m looking forward to digging more deeply into Edwards than I have in the past. But, I’m also open to suggestions. So, I have two questions. What are your favorite books about Edwards? And, what are your favorite works written by Edwards?

For extra credit, if there are any journal articles or book chapters that you think do a particularly fine job of addressing some aspect of Edwards’ life and/or theology, please feel free to pass those along as well.


About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on January 27, 2011, in Historical Theology, Th.M. Program and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I’ll cast my vote for the following books about Edwards:

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

    Gerald R. McDermott, ed., Understanding Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to America’s Theologian (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

    Stephen J. Stein, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

    As far as books by Edwards I like the following for obvious reasons:

    Jonathan Edwards, Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith (ed. Sang Hyun Lee; The Works of Jonathan Edwards 21; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003).

    You’re probably aware of this but some of your readers might not know that The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University has all of his works online.

    • Thanks for the great suggestions. (Sorry that your comment was delayed by an over-zealous spam filter.) I really like the Cambridge Companion series and we use them in most of my historical theology classes. I haven’t looked too closely into the one on Edwards, but I’ll definitely do that. Jason Goroncy also suggested Jenson’s book, so I’ll have to check that one out again (it’s been a while). And, McDermott is definitely on the list.

      And, I’ll probably end up posting a link of good, online resources for studying Edwards, so if you run across anything in addition to the Edwards Center, feel free to pass those links along as well.

  2. I reviewed Sweeney’s book last year – brilliant!

    He did however, alert me to his sinful tendencies! 😉

    What about looking at his Sinners in the hands of an angry God sermon and then delving into the so called response of those listening and how the story has morphed over the years?

    • That’s a great idea. I’m sure that would lead to a very interesting discussion.

      By the way, if you happen to be a Facebook user, Mark and I are currently in the middle of an interesting discussion regarding Edwards view of slavery and how that should impact the way that we read and understand his ministry and theology. So, if we’re not “friends” already, feel free to friend me so you can follow the discussion. (If you don’t want to, the short version is that Mark is wrong and I am right.)

  3. Aside from the obvious (i.e. Religious Affections, Sinners in the hands of an angry God, A Divine and Supernatural Light, A Faithful Narrative) I would say that The Spider Letter and Images of Divine Things are both short and fun; Of Being and The Freedom of the Will are great for those thinking philosophically; The Nature of True Virtue is just good in general. These can all be found (some heavily abridged) in the Jonathan Edwards Reader put out by Yale. While I haven’t read Edwards in some time each of these works made enough of an impact on me that I (mostly) remember their content 10 years out… even without an annotated bibliography!

    • I know that deep down you really love compiling annotated bibliographies. They’re your favorite assignments. You deeply appreciate them. You’d like to do more of them. (This is actually a test to see if the Jedi mind trick works over the internet.)

      Thanks for the suggestions. Good thoughts.

  4. Hi Marc,

    I think what most of the scholarship on Edwards misses (including that published under my name…) is just how focused he was on Scripture. For the first half of his life, everything he does is directed towards the production of sermons; this falls off a bit when he gets to Stockbridge, with his published writings taking centre-stage, but the interpretation of Scripture remains a central focus in the notes on the Apocalypse, the Blank Bible, the planned Harmony, &c.

    The Notes on the Apocalypse reveal just how ‘medieval’ a thinker he still was. The Dissertation Concerning the End… is a great student text, focused on big questions and teaching careful argument. Original Sin is interesting because the argument is flawed. The sermon on Justification by Faith is astonishing: a piece of logic so intricate that most seminary professors today would not be able to follow it, preached to a local congregation and sparking a revival.

    Lee’s Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards has guided a lot of the recent interpretation, even if I think it is just wrong (see my essay in Helm and Crisp, Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian for my reasons, and a rejoinder from McClymond in the forthcoming festschrift for Sang Hyun Lee). The Jenson book is stunningly good – perhaps taxing for students, though? Marsden is a must.

    • Steve, thanks for some great comments! Very helpful. I’ll definitely add these to the list of good possibilities. And, apparently I need to consider moving Jenson’s book into the “must read” category.

      Do have any good suggestions for people who have done a good job looking at Edwards’ use of the Bible? I can definitely see where an interest in his philosophical theology could easily obscure his biblical theology. I appreciate the caution about making sure we address both adequately.

  5. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

  6. What are the dates of the seminar?

  7. While it may not be what you are looking for in a class setting, its hard not to love Charity and It’s Fruits. It is so personally convicting and such a great look into the preaching of Edwards.

    • Good thought. We’ll definitely be looking at several of Edwards sermons since they’re such an important expression of who he was and what he thought. So, this is a good suggestion.

  8. Dispositional Soteriology: Jonathan Edwards on Justification by Faith Alone – George Hunsinger. WTJ 66 (2004)

    Interesting textual argument that Edwards view of justification does not actually fit into the Reformed orthodox expression, upon close examination. Mixing of works and faith (though that was not Edwards intent, and, according to Hunsinger, if you look at Edwards view through a “soft lens” you get a more Reformed Edwards.

    In the same journal, 20 years earlier, Sam Logan argues that the opposite is the case (cf. WTJ 46 (1984)).

  9. In the Cambridge Companion to Edwards, the chapters comprising part I (Life and context) are all strong and helpful. Marsden does the first chapter so there is total overlap with the material from the biography. The other chapters lay a good basis for situating Edwards in his time, especially Hall’s chapter (“The New England Background.”)

    Still making my way through the rest of it…anxious to read Stephen Daniels’ chapter, he was one of my phil profs in college [phenomenal lecturer, engaging personality – very un-phil. prof of him!]

  10. Also, for an overview of his philosophical thought:

    (note: I am taking seriously the promise of extra credit for these resources!:-)

  11. ‘Honouring the Spirit’: Analysis and Evaluation of Jonathan Edwards’ Pneumatological Doctrine of the Incarnation
    W. ROSS HASTINGS* IJST 7/3 (2005)

    Edwards an Apollonarian? Maybe, suggests Hastings.

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