Strobel’s Reinterpretation of Jonathan Edwards’s Theology

When I asked Kyle Strobel a couple years ago about his basic thesis in his Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation, here’s how he responded:

Every Edwards scholar wants to argue, in some way, that JE’s theology is governed by his trinitarian thought. The two key questions then are: What is Edwards’s trinitarian thought, and how does that inform his theological decision making. I argue that interpreters have failed to truly understand Edwards’s doctrine of the trinity, and because of that, there has been a failure to recognize how it governs his theology.

I argue for a top down reading of JE’s thought, such that you start with his doctrine of God, then move to look at his End for Which God Created the World and put that in parallel with his understanding of Heaven – and ultimately the beatific vision. These three categories, Trinity, Creation, and Heaven make up my heuristic key. You start with God, the fountain from which all else flows, and then you move to creation and its teleological orientation to God. I then apply this interpretive reading to spiritual knowledge, regeneration, and religious affection.

If you want to see how my model works itself out (at least a small segment of it) take a look at the new book coming out at the end of this month on Jonathan Edwards and Justification by Faith. I try to argue there that Edwards’s specific emphasis on the persons of the triune God orients his soteriology, and if you miss that, you end up missing his point.

Since the release of this new work (his doctoral thesis), I have come to appreciate the rigorous thoughtfulness and apologetic concern of Strobel, who has since written an Edwardsean vision of spiritual formation, a chapter on Edwards’s doctrine of Justification, and edited a new edition of Edwards’s sermon series, Charity and Its Fruits. I look forward to many more contributions by Strobel.


Edwards’s Doctrine of Redemption

Edwards’s doctrine of redemption answers the problem raised in his account of the fall. In the fall, humankind lost not only an innocent standing before God, but also the Holy Spirit of God that had been infused into them as a holy supernatural principle of life. For fallen humanity to be redeemed, it needs to be declared righteous–that is, to secure a righteousness that includes both remission of sin as well as a positive righteousness imputed–and needs to have holiness (the Holy Spirit) infused as a new principle. For Edwards, Christ’s life, from incarnation to resurrection, is the culminating work of God to address this lack in sinful humanity. What Edwards posits is a Trinitarian movement to redeem based on the idea of ‘purchase.’

From “By Word and Spirit: Jonathan Edwards on Redemption, Justification, and Regeneration” by Kyle Strobel in Jonathan Edwards and Justification


Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation

Grasping Edwards’s true vocation as a theologian enables us to see that Edwards’s thought is, ultimately, theologically oriented. Along these lines, I suggest that the Jonathan Edwards of history is the Jonathan Edwards found in his corpus — a Reformed theologian, pastor, apologist and missionary who interpreted all reality through the lens of the gospel and, ultimately, God’s own life, what Edwards depicted as ‘the supreme harmony of all.’

 Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation, Kyle Strobel

Formed for the Glory of God

Formed for the Glory of GodLast year I read Kyle Strobel’s Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards. It is by far one of the best books on spiritual formation I have read to date. He does a commendable job mapping out the journey toward heaven, with Edwards as our guide. It is well worth (re-)reading.

[As a side note, I find part of Rick Warren’s endorsement of the book rather comical: “I once took an entire year to read through his complete body of work.” While I know what he means to say, “complete body of work” is a misnomer. Edwards’s entire corpus is still not 100% transcribed and available for the general public to read. So, Warren either read the two volume works of Edwards or his twenty-six volume works–not Edwards’s “complete body of work.”]

‘Read Jonathan Edwards!’

In 1977, when I was still working as a schoolmaster in Somerset, England, I travelled up to London to consult Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones with regard to entering the ministry. In the course of our conversation at his home in Ealing, I asked him if he would give me some advice on the matter of reading. Without any hesitation he replied, ‘Read Jonathan Edwards!’ I had, in fact, already acquired a copy of the two-volume Banner of Truth edition of Edwards’ Works and had begun to read them; but Dr Lloyd-Jones’ advice spurred me on to read Edwards more, and I began to read his sermons and treatises with greater vigour. Thus began my interest in and love for the great American preacher-philosopher-theologian–an interest and a love that have lasted more than thirty years.

— John Carrick, From the preface of The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards and the Pursuit of Reality

In Edwards’s case it is the man who pursues, and he pursues not only Christ but an ultimate reality through Christ.

Edwards insists that the nature of reality for us humans is not that of a place but rather that of an orientation, a relationship, or in his idiom, that of being’s perception of and consent to Being. His entire effort as a preacher was thus to enlarge the scope of individual awareness. ~ Wilson Kimnach, Jonathan Edwards’s Pursuit of Reality (in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience, 115-116).