Wednesday, January 31, 2007

JE: Hypertextualist

Here's a nice post from Jordan Ballor at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, MI about our present project.

We couldn't have put it better ourselves.

Check it out.

continue reading

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Deep Discounts on WJE Volumes

I think that I have found the best prices on the web for Yale Works of Jonathan Edwards print volumes. Amazon Canada is selling books at nearly 40% off...this is close to the author discount!

Click here to check it out.

(Thanks to Bill Henard for the tip.)

continue reading

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Yale Edwards by Alan Heimert

The 1985/1986 Winter edition of Early American Literature contains a fascinating article by the late Alan Heimert of Harvard University. Heimert wrote when only seven volumes of the Yale edition were available. That is, seven volumes from 1957 to 1985. The rate of publication was lamentably slow and paralleled the disinterest of both Yale and Princeton in their (in)famous son and President respectively.

Heimert doesn't mince his words. He describes the situation as "a major scandal in American scholarship." Of course, the early volumes had great merit, they "unquestionably helped to inspire the efflorescence of Edwards scholarship in the 1960s and early 1970s, scholarship that has in turn informed the subsequent volumes ..." What is really striking is what was not available even in the late 1980s! No "Miscellanies", no collections of sermons, no "Blank Bible" and no notebooks on controversies. It is astonishing that these vital texts have only become widely available in the last decade.

Moreover, Heimert notes that "even biographical information on Edwards was comparatively scanty in 1957." Now we have the definitive volume by George Marsden (what a wonderful text for introducing Edwards and for guiding college students!) and numerous other biographical works.

Heimert's review of the first few volumes in the Yale Edition is worth reading to underline for a younger generation of scholars the vast strides that were taken in the 1990s. Much remains to be done and doubtless the next generation will offer up numerous revisions of previous studies of Edwards - both his ideas and his historical significance. But what a joy to work on Edwards in 2007 with 25 volumes of the Works in print and the online archive taking accessibility and searchability to a level hardly conceivable in 1986, let alone 1957!

continue reading

Christ and Hell

Stephen Holmes makes some fairly stimulating / provocative arguments in God of Grace, God of Glory: An Account of the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh:2000). In chapter six - 'God's self-glorification in the damnation of sinners' - Holmes maintains that the trinitarian structure of Edwards' theology comes apart in the discussion of damnation and hell.

In his discussion of the absence of God in hell Holmes writes (218): 'What hell is not, however, and the texts will be searched in vain for any counter-evidence, is the presence of the Trinitarian God. God's close relationship with His creation, is Trinitarian - most obviously in the divine self-giving to the world, which is the sending of Son and Spirit. In redemption, it is the closeness of the saints' relationship to Christ, and the presence of the indwelling Spirit which demonstrate the closeness of God. Here, in hell, it appears that a different God is present.'

Holmes returns to the point later in the chapter (234 et seq). Holmes argues that 'On the basis of the gospel story we simply cannot accept that God glorifies Himself in two equal and opposite ways, in the display of his justice and the display of his grace' (239).

There are two problems with this chapter as a study of Edwards. First, there is relatively little discussion of Edwards' theology. There is some background and a considerable amount of interaction with contemporary theology / philosophy but at the end I just didn't think that I heard that much from Edwards. Is he really so incoherent that he argues about hell apart from
his trinitarian presuppositions? Really?

An additional problem is the scope of the literature examined. Holmes states (215-216) that he is only looking at five sermons. In fact, there are numerous sermons that either deal with or touch on this very point. It is hard to conceive of Edwards arguing otherwise when so much of the biblical material is concerned with the judgment that is given over to the Son. I am thinkng of Psalm 2, John's gospel, and the Book of Revelation.

Volume 22 of the Works (not published at the time when Holmes was writing) contains a really startling (and I think fairly frightening) example of the Trinity and damnation. The Sermon is called Christ the Spiritual Sun in Works, 22, 48-63.

The sermon begins with an exposition of Malachi 4:1-2 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves in the stall.

Edwards deals with the diverse states of men and the coming of the 'Sun of righteousness' - 'We may observe the different consequences of this day's coming and the Sun's rising with respect to the righteous and the wicked.' (51)

It is worth noting who is coming - it is the one anointed with the Spirit of the Lord; 'the Christ.' (51) - 'and his beams shall be like fire to the wicked. It will be a scorching sun to them. ... So firing and scorching to the wicked will be the light of the sun, when it comes to rise, that when it comes to fill the world with its light, it will as it were turn the world into an oven to them.' (52)

So Edwards gets to the doctrine of the sermon: 'That same spiritual Sun, whose beams are most comfortable and beneficial to believers, will burn and destroy unbelievers.' (52).

Edwards then addresses the question of divine glory - (52-53) - 'Christ is as it were the Sun of the spiritual [world] on the account of the glory of his person. He is the brightness of God's glory.'

Skipping to Edwards' fourth point, and I'll quote at length here, we read (58-62 is the key section):

(60) 'The future appearance of Christ in his glory at the day of judgement, that will be most pleasant and joyful to the saints, will be dreadful and amazing to those that have rejected Christ. At the day of judgement, the Sun of righteousness shall appear in its greatest glory; Christ shall then come in the glory of his Father, and all the holy angels with him ... But this appearance, that will be so pleasant to believers, will fill the souls of unbelievers with amazement. The first sight of it will strike them with terror. ... Every ray of that glory that Christ shall then appear in will be like a stream of scorching fire, and will pierce their hearts with a keener torment than a stream of fierce lightening. They shall see Christ appearing in his majesty, and it will be a dreadful majesty to them, that will fill 'em with horrors and set them a-trembling and gnashing their teeth, at the same time that it fills the hearts of the saints with rejoicing and their mouths with singing.'

There are a couple of points to note. First, it is the divine self-glorification (here expressed as the exaltation of the Son - the Majesty of the Christ) which is the first perception of judgement that the 'wicked' experience. The glory blesses the saints and causes distress in the lost. Edwards says of Christ's glory 'the ungodly will hate the sight of it' (61).

Edwards takes the argument further. Holmes argues that the God who is present in hell is a 'different God' to the Trinitarian God of salvation (& grace). But Edwards says:

(61). 'And lastly, Christ's power, that shall be exercised in saving one, shall be exercised in tormenting and destroying the other. That Sun of God that is the Savior of believers, their best friend, their spiritual husband, will be the enemy of finally impenitent sinners. He will rule over believers with a golden sceptre of grace and love, making them willing in the day of his power; but he will rule over unbelievers in wrath and with a rod of iron, dashing them in pieces as a potter's vessel [Ps. 2:9].

Edwards argues that the agent of divine judgement is the exalted Son. The Father has given him authority to not only judge but also punish the nations - and he does this and all things (JE says this elsewhere, and it is implied in the title 'Christ') in the power of the Holy Spirit. Of course whether we like this doctrine or not is another question - but the texts show that JE taught a thoroughly Trinitarian account of both salvation and judgement. It is, in Edwards' view, the merciful Christ, who pours out the wrath of the Lamb. He is present at the last judgement and he actively punishes the impenitent in hell.

[I have mentioned this before but I will say it again - I am happy to post responses from any author whom I interact with in this blog. I write in the spirit of Prof Lee's plea for a 'more vigorous discussion of the theological and doctrinal issues in Edwards’ thought.’ Lee in Princeton Companion, xi.]

continue reading

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Harold Simonson Jonathan Edwards Theologian of the Heart

Harold Simonson's much neglected volume, Jonathan Edwards: Theologian of the Heart, is a fascinating account of some of the key themes in JE. In the opening lines of the Introduction Simonson draws a line of comparison between JE and Kierkegaard - particularly with reference to Fear and Trembling. Often such comparisons are ahistorical and anachronistic but Simonson balances his concerns with a deft analysis. The connection is not epistemology (HS acknowledges the vast differences) but urgency. Like SK, 'this same profound urgency possessed the mind of Jonathan Edwards.' (11)

Reflecting on Edwards' Personal Narrative and JE's reliance on I Timothy 1:17 HS notes that '[t]hrough the years he orchestrated these words into a magnificent corpus of writing which sustained the theme of God's glory and the sense of it in the human heart. Edwards experience this effulgence to a greater extent than Kierkegaard did; nevertheless, there was in both writers a religious passion that dominated their lives and a sense of the heart that infused their words, to the extent that today's reader finds himself strangely compelled to return again and again to their writing.' (11)

HS's work is an extended reflection on the 'sense of the heart' - because 'it informs Edwards' whole theology.' (12)

In the opening two chapters HS looks at religious experience in Edwards' experience and in New England. In particular, the author examines some of Edwards key works defending the revival. In chapters 3 & 4 he moves on to 'importance consequences of religious experience.' These chapters are more speculative and look at 'imagination (vision) and language' in Edwards. The final two chapters look at JE as a preacher and writer and the way he formed people to receive this new sense.

What I particularly like about this book is the beauty of the author's prose. HS was an English Professor and he is master of his craft. I'll just offer some selections to illustrate this aspect:

(On the early diary etc) 'An intensity permeates the record, as if from an early age Edwards knew that the truly fundamental business of life concerned religion. Solid as this conviction was, he also realized that such a pilgrimage includes profound experiences of dread and even terror. (18)

(On Edwards' conversion) '... Edwards' conversion was not an instantaneous happening but rather a succession of deepening disturbances that relentlessly quickened in him both the sense of his natural weakness, even wretchedness, and the sense of divine grace.' (21)

'Few persons in American intellectual history rooted their written word more profoundly in private experience.' (22)

(after a great discussion of Locke and James) 'Edwards was a Christian thinker, and the adjective makes all the difference. He wrote from within the full sense of the heart. His faith was like a grand cathedral. Standing outside, one sees no glory, nor can possibly imagine any; standing within, every ray of light reveals a harmony of unspeakable splendours. The metaphor, belonging to Hawthorne in The Marble Faun (ch. 33) captures the essence of Edwards' epistemology. Where he stood determined what he saw and knew.' (32)

This is brilliant - in his exposition of Sinners - 'To miss the contemporaneity of this sermon corroborates Berdyaev's verdict that smugness today may indeed have an eschatological character and "may be man's final destiny."' (136)

On Edwards' Treatise on Grace - 'Few things that Edwards wrote surpass it in intellectual and rhetorical brilliance. Pulsating through it, moreover, is a certain religious enthusiasm that owes its presence to Edwards' own religious imagination and vision.' (142)

One final quotation, from the last paragraph of the book:

'Edwards' theology records his own spiritual journeyings from darkness to light. Although his writings demonstrate intellectual discipline, finely honed logic, and reasoned argument of the highest order, their central theme concerns religious knowledge as held not in the head but in the heart. Edwards believed that only through the sense of the heart was man able to know the depths and the heights, and only in this way was he able to go beyond the tragedy implicit in human limitation. That Edwards seldom made his writings overtly autobiographical does not hide the great wellspring of heart and mind that impelled his work. As if corroborating the Calvinist irony, Edwards plunged into those dark waters and discovered his sunlit apotheosis. What this means theologically is that by virtue of the believer's union with Christ he has come to possess all things.' (156)

continue reading

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sneak Preview (big stuff!)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A good Reformed Coffee Mug

If you want a change from your JE mug how about this?

Of course, the JE mug is much better value.

continue reading

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Works of JE online

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online is now available for use in a Public Beta phase. After thousands of hours of use, loads of email feedback from our initial Closed Beta team, and a great deal of internal QA testing, we are ready to make the Works of Jonathan Edwards Online available to the general public.

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online is a world-class digital learning environment which will make Jonathan Edwards' entire manuscript corpus available for the first time in history. It is an XML-based, fully-searchable, thematically, scripturally, and chronologically tagged interface in which anyone can explore the entirety of Edwards' written thoughts.

Professor Ed Ayers, Dean of the College and the Graduate School at the University of Virginia writes that "this is wonderful in every way, especially with all the alternative ways of're not only making Edwards available in a profoundly new way, but you're also establishing a new standard for digital archives."

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online presently contains all of the Miscellanies (Edwards' private theological notebooks) and some two hundred sermons, many of which have never been published. We are presently preparing the contents of numerous additional volumes for the official launch of our "Essentials" package in 2007.

Check it out! Explore the Works of Jonathan Edwards Online today.

continue reading

Friday, January 05, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

Our list of FAQs can be found here and below.

If you have any other burning questions please let us know!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are Edwards' manuscripts?

The great majority of his extant manuscripts are in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University (General Manuscripts 151). These manuscripts were donated to Yale in 1901 by Edwards descendants. Since that time, other Edwards manuscripts that have come to light have been purchased, for example, the "Farewell Sermon." A smaller but nonetheless significant collection, consisting mostly of Edwards' early writings and family letters, is at Andover Newton Theological Seminary's Franklin Trask Library. A small number of manuscripts, mostly letters, are scattered in repositories throughout the United States and Great Britain.

I'm thinking of doing some research on Edwards - how significant is the manuscript collection at Yale?

Tryon Edwards, a descendant of Jonathan, wrote that:

"Perhaps no person ever lived who so habitually and carefully committed histhoughts, on almost every subject, to writing, as the elder PresidentEdwards. His ordinary studies were pursued pen in hand, and with his notebooks before him; and he not only often stopped in his daily rides bythe wayside, but frequently rose even at midnight to commit to paper any important thought that had occurred to him. As the result of this habit, his manuscripts are probably more thoroughly the record of the intellectual life of their author than those of any otherindividual who has a name in either the theological or literary world. The manuscripts are also very numerous. The seventeenth century was an age ofvoluminous authorship. The works of Bishop Hall amount to ten volumes octavo; Lightfoot's, to thirteen; Jeremy Taylor's, to fifteen; Dr.Goodwin's, to twenty; Owen's to twenty-eight; while Baxter's would extend tosome sixty volumes, or from thirty to forty thousand closely printed octavopages. The manuscripts of Edwards, if all published, would be more voluminous than the works of any of these writers, if possibly the last be excepted. And these manuscripts have been carefully preserved and kept together ..." (WJE vol. 8, p. 125)

Why is Jonathan Edwards considered America's greatest theologian and philosopher?

For a good explanation of this, see the JEC website at: the heading"The first and greatest homegrown American philosopher"

If I come to Yale to consult Edwards' manuscripts, will I be able to read them?

To gain access to the manuscripts, you have to present a valid picture ID and provide a research topic. More to the point, however, is that once readers have been admitted, the challenge of deciphering Edwards' manuscripts confronts. Very few people can sit down and read his manuscripts without prior experience or training.

Is help available?

The staff of the Edwards Center is ready and willing to assist readers. If you plan a visit to Yale, we invite you contact us and we will be happy to help focus your research and read difficult passages.

Why are Jonathan Edwards' writings not all published yet, if he lived in the early 18th century? What's taking so long, Yale?

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, many of Edwards's original manuscripts were not made available to the public until 1901, when Yale acquired them from the Edwards family (they were held in their private collections until then). Secondly, for most of 20th century American history, there was some sense of antagonism towards religion, especially towards Puritanism. And, because Edwards seemed to be the representative par excellence of American Puritanism in many people's minds, it was not very popular to have any association with, or interest in, Edwards. It wasn't until the 1980s with the rise of the Religious Right and the Moral Majority that Christianity came "back into vogue," and with it a renewed interest in Edwards. The third reason has to do with funding. From 1959-86, there was no funding available, so during that period only seven volumes (out of 26) of Edwards' works were produced. In the 1980s, substantial and generous grants from organizations such as the Pew Charitable Trust, the Luce Foundation, and the Lilly Endowment, among others, supported a spurt of publishing activity. So, from 1989-2006, Volumes 8-25 were produced. The final reason has to do with Edwards' prolificacy. He wrote about 100,000 pages in his lifetime, which is an extraordinarily monumental task to transcribe and publish.

When will the complete works be published?

So far, we have published 25 of the 26 volumes in print format. The final printed volume is due to be released in the Spring of 2007. As for the online content, Jonathan Edwards produced about 100,000 hand-written pages in his lifetime. So far, we have ¼ of that (25,000pages) available online. We are planning on releasing another 25,000 pages once every two years until 2012 (i.e. the next major upload will be 2008, then 2010, and finally 2012) until the work is all complete. (This timetable is subject to change.)

How is the Jonathan Edwards Center funded?

The Jonathan Edwards Center is entirely funded by individual and foundation donations. We are very grateful to Yale for providing our office space and network support. However, our operating expenses are covered entirely by money given by external donors.

What are the differences between the online and print editions of JE's works?

The print editions only cover 26 volumes (which is quite a substantial improvement on, for example, the previously-published two-volume Banner of Truth edition), and contain what we ascertain to be the most important documents. However, the online edition is the onlyexhaustive Jonathan Edwards resource on the planet. By the time we are done, every last thing that Edwards has ever written will be online.

How is our Yale University Press (YUP) edition different from previously published editions?

The first published edition of Jonathan Edwards' works was known as the "Worcester Edition," published in the mid-19th century. That was eight volumes long, and only consisted of the works that were available to the public at the time. Later, Banner of Truth (BoT) Publications basically reprinted the Worcester Edition, but condensed it into two volumes by making it double column and reducing the size of the print. The YUP edition is by far the most comprehensive to date (consisting of 26 volumes, and twice that much online), including many writings never before accessible by the public. In addition, many of the mistakes and deliberate revisions of the Worcester and BoT editions were corrected and revised.

SUGGEST AN FAQ!Is there a question about Jonathan Edwards that you think would be appropriate for this FAQ page? Send us an email and let us know. If we like it, we'll add it to the list.

continue reading

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Introduction to Cambridge Companion to JE

The full text of Stephen Stein's introduction is available in PDF. Stein writes:

'This Companion seeks to open for you the reader the life and times of Edwards, his religious and professional achievements, and the full range of his reputation in diverse fields. This book includes work by three generations of distinguished scholars whose ground-breaking research has opened new insights on Edwards’s background, life, accomplishments, and legacy. The chapters that follow are organized into three parts dealing with Edwards’s life and context, his roles and achievements, and his legacy and reputation, respectively. The parts are not exclusive of one another. On the contrary, the three are mutually reinforcing of the ways in which the study of one or another particular aspect of Edwards leads inexorably into other dimensions of his experience. There is no chapter in this book that does not cast distinctive light on his life circumstances. Yet biography qua biography is the specific assignment of only one of the contributors. The other chapters are biographically complementary and expansive. That is also true with respect to the place of Edwards in American history. All of the chapters that follow provide perspective on the professional roles he played during his lifetime and on the subsequent ways that later Americans and persons outside America have viewed him and his accomplishments. However, no single viewpoint or critical perspective on Edwards controls these chapters. The range of judgments expressed by the contributors includes admiration as well as criticism, objective evaluation as well as subjective engagement, scholarly detachment as well as personal opinion. Frankly, it is impossible to read about Edwards and to engage the scholarship that he has elicited without coming to some conflicting judgments regarding him and his place in American history.'

continue reading