Jonathan Edwards and Justification

With my recent move and my upcoming semester of teaching (which is all very new), I feel like all my posts have been updates about something I’ve published. Sorry about that, hopefully things will be more manageable soon. Until then, I would like to highlight a new book out on Edwards: Jonathan Edwards and Justification ed. Josh Moody (Crossway, 2012). In short, this book is a defense of the claim that Edwards held to a position on justification that can be regarded as Protestant and Reformed. If you are not familiar with the secondary literature on Edwards, this might seem pointless. If Edwards was anything he was Reformed right? Not necessarily so. On justification specifically, Edwards scholars have long questioned Edwards stance, even claiming that it is a key ecumenical bridge with Roman Catholicism.

To start the book, Josh Moody lays out the debated issues and defends Edwards’s Reformed heritage. Next, I lay out what I believe to be the crux of Edwards’s position. I argue that his position is often misunderstood because his doctrinal ordering is not followed carefully. Edwards grounds justification in participation and union, ordering soteriology around Christ and the Spirit. Ultimately, this has to do with Edwards’s account of theosis, but in general, it has more to do with his theocentric approach to doctrine. Every doctrine finds its orbit around Christ and in the Holy Spirit. Third, my friend Rhys Bezzant addresses Edwards’s broad social vision and its implication for his preaching on justification. Fourth, Samuel Logan analyses perhaps the biggest stumbling block in Edwards’s account of justification – evangelical obedience. My hope is that his chapter and mine really serve as two sides of the same argument. Once you follow the dogmatic moves in the first part of Edwards’s discourse on justification, his second part (dealing with evangelical obedience) can fall into place appropriately. Last, Doug Sweeney mines other material across Edwards’s corpus, published and not, to round out the picture of justification we present in this book.  Continue reading

Guest Post: Early Career Academic Publishing

Our friend Myk Habets, of Carey Graduate School, Auckland, New Zealand, has been gracious enough to provide us with a guest post on early career academic publishing. If anyone does not know Myk, you should know that he is incredibly prolific. I personally found this post to be really helpful and insightful, and would love to know your thoughts.

Why Publish?

In the current environment it is often said that an academic’s motto for survival is “publish or perish.” And there is truth in the claim. Full-time tertiary level educators are expected to hold higher degrees (the PhD preferably) and continue to contribute meaningfully to their respective academic disciplines with original research, published for critical interaction and dissemination. Theological educators, and by ‘theological’ I mean the broad list of disciplines associated with the modern seminary, also have theological reasons for publishing, amongst which we may include: witness, public reasoning (a form of apologetics), discipleship, the guarding of sound doctrine, sanctification, and the advancement of pursuing God with all our minds. Each generation seeks to stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded them in order to leave the next generation with a greater legacy of Christian convictions, tools for Bible reading, and resources for the advancement of Christian knowledge. In short, taking rational trouble over the content of the Bible is an act which issues out of worship, is worship, and leads to worship. There are other reasons to publish; of course, not least of which includes the excitement and immediacy which recently published work gives to the lecturer entering their respective classes at the forefront of current Christian thinking. Academics publish and Christian academics publish with a purpose. This may be taken as a given. Continue reading

Charity and Its Fruits: Why it Matters

As you may know from Kent’s interview posted here, my new book Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love (Crossway, 2012) has now been released. Charity and Its Fruits was a sermon series through 1 Cor 13, and is, therefore, a theological exposition on love. So, why does it matter? First, I think it is important to see Edwards put his incredible mind to work on 1 Cor 13. As much as this passage is thrown about at weddings, few have really sat with how difficult a passage it is. Therefore, secondly, let me explain why I think it matters through two key theological moves Edwards makes.

The first key theological move Edwards makes is his exposition of the “nature” of God. God’s nature, as we know from 2 Pet 1:4, is communicable, and therefore God’s nature is not the same thing as God’s essence. Furthermore, God is love, therefore love, in some way, is God’s nature. Edwards runs this through his trinitarian theology to grasp the reality that God’s own life is a life of loving consent and union. It is God knowing himself and loving himself fully as perfect beauty and holiness. Therefore, God becomes the archetype by which our own journey of love is etched.

The second key move is to pick up on Paul’s comment that whereas faith and hope fade away, love never will. Love is eternal. Love is the only currency in heaven, as it were. The vision of God known in heaven, therefore, serves to orient our lives now. Just as the vision of God will create a perfect loving society, so should the sight of faith create a society of love here. These two lines come together since God is the God of love and the telos of our histories. As we journey towards heaven we journey towards God. Love, therefore, is proleptically provided to us from heaven. It is not of this world. Love, therefore, actually is the Holy Spirit given in regeneration. It is only as we know God that we can love him and love our neighbors as ourselves. Continue reading

Kyle’s Book Hits Shelves

I opened an unexpected package from Crossway today and was thrilled to see Kyle’s new book, an updated edition of Jonathan Edwards’ Charity and Its Fruit. My lakeside reading list is now set for next week, and I will post a short review of Kyle’s book sometime after returning.

Read the ringing endorsement of Timothy George: “This new edition of Charity and Its Fruits is a most welcomed addition to the growing library of books by and about the great Jonathan Edwards. For those who mistakenly think that Protestant theologians overemphasize faith at the expense of love, these classic sermons by Edwards will be an antidote to a stereotype. But even more important, this deep mining of 1 Corinthians 13 is a pathway into spiritual theology that will draw every believer closer to Christ.”

Christian Nursing as Vulnerable Compassion

I was invited this spring to give the address at the pinning ceremony for the graduates of our nursing program at Huntington University. I chose to speak on the vocation of Christian nursing as “vulnerable compassion in the name of Christ.” I am posting the address in full and would enjoy some feedback and discussion.

Nurses are present with us in many of those times that are most important, memorable, and vulnerable. When our children are born, nurses are often close at hand. When we or someone we love becomes ill, nurses are present throughout our diagnosis and treatment. And when our lives draw to a close, they do so many times in the close proximity of a nurse.

However, to say that nurses are present says nothing of the nature of their presence. Is it possible that one’s presence could be just as beneficial as harmful? We know this is true. And we also know that the proficiency or skill of one’s performance of tasks does not fully describe the shape and character of their presence. We know the truth of this even if we are unsure how to describe it. We are aware intuitively that the presence of one human being with another transcends the fact that we happen to share the same physical space. The nature and character of one human being’s presence with another is within our perception but beyond our naming: one evokes unease, another comfort; one evokes manipulation, another, compassion; one catalyzes despair, and another hope.

The potential of a nurse to evoke such different emotional, psychological, and physical states might illustrate the sacredness of human relationship. There is no word for the experience of holding one’s child in the moments after their birth or overhearing an argument at the table next to us. This is no less true for naming the unique character of a nurse’s presence and the affect it has upon those who share it.  This is certainly a glorious mystery. Continue reading

Summer Reading List

Students normally ask me what I will be reading over the summer, and I usually answer with something like, “This and that.” My goals are most often overly optimistic so I thought to sit down and figure it out.

Summer always starts with total immersion in great fiction. This year I am reading whatever I can get my hands on by John Updike. In the Beauty of the Lillies was amazing, and I now reading a collection of short stories, The Afterlife.

I am presently blogging through Tom Bergler’s book The Juvenilization of American Christianity. You can follow those posts on this site over the next month or so. Our division at Huntington (Bible, Religion, Philosophy, Ministry, and Missions) holds a colloquium in August when we give brief presentations on our current research and discuss a book we had read over the summer. This year we are reading and discussing Christian Smith’s latest, The Bible Made Impossible.

Next week I’m off to short conference on faith and learning put on by the CCCU. They sent me a copy of Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning which was great because I was planning to order it anyway. The book looks intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how they use it at the conference.

A few I am excited to read. Katherine Doob Sakenfeld has written  beautiful little study on divine faithfulness. Faithfulness in Action looks to be great! I am also marinating in Barth’s IV.4 at the moment. His account of the Christian life there is simply stunning.

Then several books fall within the category of “I hope I get to them.” We’ll see, the summer always passes faster than I am prepared. Here’s the list of books I hope time allows me to read: Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift; G.R. Evans, The Roots of the Reformation: Tradition, Emergence, and Rupture; Matthew Boulton, Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation and the Future of Protestant Theology; Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.

What’s on your summer reading list – by necessity or by choice?