We receive more books for review than there is space for in the Journal, and so the Council of the Society have agreed to publish some reviews on the website:
Being Protestant in Reformation Britain. By Alec Ryrie. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 (pbk 2015). Pp. xiv + 498. £45.99 (pbk £24.99). ISBN 978-0-19956-572-6 (pbk ISBN 978-0-19873-665-3). Illustrated.
In recent years, historians have attempted to recover the thoughts and experiences of “ordinary people” in order to find insights into the past that go beyond the “official” records left by institutions and those who were apparently responsible for running them. The author of this work has sought to discover what it meant for people, beyond those who were ordained or who left behind them substantial theological treatises, to follow their calling as Protestant Christians in the period between 1530 and 1640. He is aware of the difficulty involved: only a certain section of the literate population – namely, those who have left journals behind for posterity – can be considered. Nevertheless, a large amount of information has been amassed, catalogued, evaluated according to a logical, analytical framework and presented in a lucid, sensitive and witty account which seeks to answer two primary questions: “what did early modern Protestants do in order to live out their religion; and what meaning did they find in those actions?”
The book has five sections. “The Protestant Emotions” looks at the importance of the “affections” for early modern Protestants. The emotions were not to be restricted and disciplined, but cultivated as a place where God can make himself known to the believer. Indeed, the emotions “help godliness”, something thought to be the discovery of later centuries but shown here to have existed from the earliest Protestant developments in England, and disabusing us of the notion that Protestantism appealed initially only to the mind. The second section, “The Protestant at Prayer”, is by far the longest in the book, demonstrating not only that early Protestants prayed, but that they also thought, spoke and wrote at length about prayer. Prayer was primarily “struggle”, and the sense of being secure in one’s salvation was what killed faith. Thus those who worried about their predestined state were more likely to find themselves among the Elect. What Protestants read and what they wrote about is the subject of the third section, “The Protestant and the Word”, where Protestantism is clearly identified as a religion requiring literacy, thought and contemplation, but Professor Ryrie demonstrates effectively that for the early moderns, there was clearly no dichotomy between this and their experience of Christian discipleship. The study then turns, in “The Protestant in Company”, to how they worshipped, both in church, where prayer was public, the sacraments observed and the sermon – as Calvin would have approved – preached and heard, and then to devotion in the household. The final section, “The Protestant Life”, looks at how early Protestants found “meaning” in, and to, life, looking at repentance and, most crucially, “nurturing crisis” and “aspiring to martyrdom”, while then turning to consider the stages of life, namely “childhood”, “conversion”, “the passage of time”, “vocation”, “marking the years”, “the deathbed”. The book ends with a short, conclusion summarising the findings of the preceding discussion. Eighteen carefully selected illustrations of monuments, title pages of books, drawings and diagrams are included. Perhaps the most intriguing are those which show the necessity for discomfort in prayer, especially in adopting an upright posture while kneeling, without allowing for any external support. Protestants, like their Roman Catholic counterparts, could feel the devotional need to feel uncomfortable or at least discomfited.
The analysis of the primary material is fascinating and leads to quite significant conclusions. The stress on learning will not come as a surprise, given Reformed Christianity’s emphasis on faith as doctrina; true Christians would know their catechism. Thus Protestantism was a religion of debate and discussion, which is why its popularity first emerged in the Universities (pp. 390, 436). Piety could savour too much of Romanism, which is why “heroic piety” was to be avoided and worldly duties attended to: to neglect the world of work under the auspices of prayer was no more than “idleness in pious clothes” (p. 146). While early Protestants could aspire to “joy”, they placed greater importance on striving, yearning, even self-observation (p. 80). Luther’s theologia crucis is discerned behind this, and Leif Dixon’s conclusion is quoted with approval that Reformed Protestantism was “‘built for the pyrotechnics of revolution, not for the long, slow slog’. Once the crises of the mid-century were past, ‘there were no trials of faith left’. And so it was necessary to invent them” (p. 419). The author’s claim that more Lutheran than Reformed thinking lay behind at least some of this piety will come as no surprise. But more significantly, when viewed from the perspective of English historiography, the author’s contention that the practice of devotion, piety and lived experience was common to Protestants of every hue – be they “Puritan” or “conformist” – is demonstrated effectively to have been the case.
It is difficult to see how this book could be more comprehensive, or for that matter more insightful. It is based on meticulous research and written lucidly and sympathetically. Yet it cannot be avoided that the worldview of early modern Protestants is far-removed from contemporary understanding – even among those who profess faith. Wisely, then, the author advises that the reader suspends disbelief and enters fully into the plausibility structure in which the early Protestants lived, moved and had their being. Only by acknowledging what the early moderns truly believed can their practice and their piety be truly understood.
This magisterial work contributes much to the historiography of Protestant England by drawing attention away from what happened in the Royal Court and in Parliament to what happened in the hearts and homes of those able to record it. It makes for fascinating reading.
Our Holy Ground: The Welsh Christian Experience. By John I. Morgans and Peter C. Noble. Talybont: Y Lolfa, 2016. Pp. 223. £9.99. ISBN 978-1-78461-280-1. Illustrated.
This book recounts a journey of discovery undertaken by its two authors, a personal pilgrimage to unearth and record Welsh Christian history. The resulting survey, offered in words and in photographs, confirms a claim made by many historians of Welsh religion, namely that Welsh history, since the Roman occupation of Britain, is also Christian history, though that connection is coming – if it has not already come – to an end. The book comments on what is to be learnt from Wales’s religious heritage and what can be done in the present – acknowledged to be a period when aspects of Welsh Christian witness appear to be in terminal decline – in order to build for the future. The authors are concerned not so much with the past and Wales’s Christian heritage as with the continuation of Christian witness and observance into the coming years. In some ways the past is easily recorded; it is more difficult to see how this will help maintain Christian presence in Wales into the future. But the authors, both of whom occupied leadership roles in the United Reformed Church in Wales, deserve our thanks for seeking to address the situation.
The text, provided by John Morgans, offers a lucid and well-paced account that seeks to provide a comprehensive overview. The important names (Hywel Dda, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Owain Glyndŵr, William Wroth, Walter Cradock, Griffith Jones, Daniel Rowland, Howel Harris, Williams Pantycelyn, Evan Roberts, etc.) and significant events (establishing the first Independent Church at Llanfaches in 1639, the Evangelical Revival, industrialisation, the 1904 Revival, the secularisation of society and decline of religious observance during the twentieth century, etc.) are all mentioned. Needless to say, such a survey is not able to acknowledge all the subtleties of events and individual contributions, but perhaps more noteworthy is its ability to contain so much. Dr Morgans is clearly burdened by the thought that Wales has its own Christian story to tell, with heroes and their heroic deeds associated also with landmarks and the landscape.
The text is supported by well over one hundred photographs, mostly taken by Peter Noble. They range from the standing stones of a distant past, to significant parish churches and Nonconformist chapels, to images of important people (not simply those of the mainstream), landscapes and evocative images of an industrial past which, like the Nonconformist one, has all but disappeared. The photographs generally relate to matters discussed in the text, though there are a couple (such as that of Llain y Delyn, Tumble, Carmarthenshire) which are not discussed further and this could be confusing to a reader not already au fait with Welsh religious history. Nevertheless, in general these photographs complement the text and indeed go beyond the text, offering evocative images for the reader to ponder.
Both author and photographer hold Llanfair, the Uniting Church on the Penrhys Estate, perched high on the mountain between the two Rhondda valleys in a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, in high affection, and this is clear in the text. Its history, ecumenical foundation, and straightforward story of survival offers in microcosm both the flow of the national story unfolded in this book and what the two authors consider to be the way forward for Christian witness in Wales.
Much of this history has been forgotten, or more importantly, has not been passed on to current generations. One reason for writing the book is to address this and to try to present Wales’s Christian past to contemporary Welsh people who have not been grounded in a common understanding of what might be termed a Christian inheritance. But that would be to tell only part of the story. For the authors are keen to express Wales’s Christian history as a living tradition, one which can continue to speak today. The past, they conclude, reveals many different ways of being church which should encourage experimentation for future patterns which will differ from those of today. But what emerges needs to be in communion with today’s church, and to acknowledge that it inherits Wales’s Christian heritage. The authors’ insistence that passing on the gospel to future generations requires the churches to work together might well be correct, though there is, sadly, little evidence to suggest that this will happen.
This is a solid account of Wales’s Christian history and a passionate call to the current churches to ensure that it is passed on to future generations. Only time will tell if such a call will be heeded.
Descendancy: Irish Protestant Histories since 1795. By David Fitzpatrick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. x + 271. £69.99 (pbk £20.99). ISBN 978-1-107-08093-5 (pbk ISBN 978-1-107-44029-6).
This attractively produced book, with satirical and contemporary cover illustrations and intriguing title, combines and updates a number of previously published and unpublished studies on “Orangeism” (Part I) and the Ulster Covenant and Non-Covenanters (Part II) by David Fitzpatrick, who is Professor of Modern History at the University of Dublin (Trinity College). In this overall context, there is an interesting account and analysis of the “relationship” between the literary figures of W. B. Yeats and Louis MacNeice, as well as Methodism, with the Orange Order. For those with a particular interest in this topic, which extends beyond the narrow confines of Ireland, there is presented a clear, well researched, insightful and occasionally provocative analysis. Professor Fitzpatrick is extremely successful in addressing issues that are not only historical but have resonances today. This research is on-going and one awaits with interest further outputs arising from his research.
Part III of this volume addresses a theme of more general interest to church historians. Entitled “Exodus?”, the author seeks to address specifically two themes: “Protestant depopulation and the Irish revolution” and “The spectre of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in revolutionary Ireland”. However, for those with a specific interest in the varied fortunes of differing “Non-Catholic” Christian traditions post the establishment of the Irish Free State and subsequent Republic of Ireland, the analysis is far less insightful. Partly this disappointment may owe its origins to the clear and valid perspective of the author who would not seek to be more than an accomplished researcher of Irish social, economic and political history and not church history. As a consequence, a number of issues arise. The term “descendancy” is defined by the author as “the states of mind engendered by shared awareness of the declining power and influence of a past ascendancy that was in many respects imaginary. ‘Descendancy’ also connotes descent from a common stock, conferring entitlements that seemed perpetually under threat” (p. 6). In the Irish context, “ascendency” normally refers to those of the Anglican tradition, namely the Church of Ireland. In that context, his comments are well made. But other Protestant or rather Dissenting traditions, namely Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian, Society of Friends and Unitarian, all had inter and intra denominational experiences perhaps different from those in the Anglican tradition during the period of his analysis but are largely unreported.
There is a useful and challenging analysis of the reported trends from Census returns of spatial differences in post-Independence experiences of Protestant (by implication including Dissenter) congregations around the country. This analysis is well-argued with tabular data, as well as denominational returns from the Methodist Church in Ireland. In seeking to understand the reasons for decline in Congregational affiliation in Dublin, I have found consistent errors, for example in the 1901 and 1911 Census reports at local level in reporting by census collectors. Lack of familiarity with small, non-Catholic denominations leads to regular under-counting and misallocation.
However, there are methodological concerns regarding the drawing of national conclusions from the experiences of one denomination (Methodism) and one small sample from within that denomination. The author is aware of the inferential challenges such an approach implies. “If we assume that the southern Protestants in general conformed with the Methodist model … the uniquely detailed Methodist record offers only a rough guide to the broader Protestant experience, it would be surprising if the components of population flow for Episcopalians differed radically from those for their Protestant neighbours” (p. 180). Further denominational or cross-denominational research can only validate or otherwise that assumption. The problem of typicality or representativeness, indeed validity, arises most strongly in the final chapter entitled, “The spectre of ethnic cleansing in revolutionary Ireland” (pp. 181-240). This is a significant piece of research “by inspecting an inconspicuous Irish community now widely forgotten: the Methodists of West Cork” (p.181). While this is an original and interesting study of one remote area and one denomination in West Cork, surely nothing can be inferred from this research nationally.
As the author acknowledges, this extremely interesting book brings together the results of his research to date on a wide range of diverse topics. It is perhaps somewhat ambitious to label it as a study of “Descendancy: Irish Protestant Histories since 1795”. However, there is no doubt that it is a valuable contribution to providing some interesting insights that challenge accepted views on the situation of Protestants and to a lesser extent Dissenters in post-independent Ireland. But there are many gaps in church history still to be filled and that task remains a challenge for others.
PETER C. HUMPHREYS
APPROACHES TO JONATHAN EDWARDS
Jonathan Edwards and the Church. By Rhys Bezzant. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xii + 314. £44.49. ISBN 978-0-19989-030-9.
Edwards the Exegete: Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment. By Douglas A. Sweeney. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016 (pbk 2018). Pp. xii + 391. £47.99 (pbk £21.99). ISBN 978-0-19979-322-8 (pbk ISBN 978-0-19068-749-6).
Of the making of books on the New England theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) there seems little end in sight. Hardly a year goes by it seems without the publication of at least one new monograph covering some aspect of his life or thought. Part of the reason for this outpouring of work, of course, is the completion of the Yale edition of Edwards’s works in 2008, the twenty-six volumes of which have brought almost everything Edwards wrote within easy reach of historians and historical theologians alike. What we have here are two studies which claim to deal with areas of Edwards’s thought never really examined at length before. Both works measure up to that claim, and are stimulating in their own ways.
Bezzant’s work examines Edwards’s understanding of the church. To say that this is a theme never before examined is, of course, slightly misleading since some of the areas that Bezzant touches upon – the 1750 Communion controversy, Edwards’s attitude towards itinerancy and his eschatological view of ultimate prospects of the church – have all been treated at length by others. But this is certainly the first systematic treatment of the theme, the first that analyses the full range of Edwards’s writings on ecclesiology and the first that traces the development of his thought in the area.
So what difference does Bezzant’s more holistic approach make? Bezzant argues that Edwards’s views on the doctrine of the church were not a mere sideshow to the weightier and more speculative aspects of his theology, but “a compass by which he was enabled to navigate the currents and reefs of the revivals’ waters” (p. 3). Two preliminary chapters set Edwards within first his New England Puritan and then his Enlightenment context. This second chapter argues that despite his engagement with some of the more radical theological voices of the time, Edwards developed a robust trinitiarianism that informed his evolving view of the church. His sense of the Trinity as “dynamic and ordered”, was echoed in his “dynamic yet ordered” view of the “life of the church in the world” (p. 66). The bulk of the book consists of two lengthy chapters in which Bezzant works chronologically through Edwards’s writings tracing out his ecclesiological views as they developed. Some of this is not entirely unfamiliar – discussion of some of Edwards’s main works on revival and his posthumously published History of the Work of Redemption (1774) are readily available. Edwards viewed the church as the context in which the evidences of genuine piety, what he called the religious affections, were expressed. The congregation at Northampton, Massachusetts had been a battleground between those who wanted a broader conception of membership: Edwards’s grandfather Solomon Stoddard’s ministry had been marked by a more open attitude to admission to the Lord’s Supper, while others like Edwards looked for signs of faith before admission to Communion. Edwards’s more restrictive attitude towards the church put him on a collision course with his congregation – a battle he was eventually to lose. It has been a fault-line in evangelical views of the church ever since.
This gradual polarization between minister and congregation is dealt with through a discussion of Edwards’s later writings, those penned after 1747. Perhaps of greatest interest and originality is Bezzant’s final chapter in which he attempts to recreate the ecclesiological life which Edwards inhabited and encouraged. As important as theological ideas are, Bezzant argues, “what we do phenomenologically week by week” (p. 213) is often more revealing. Bezzant proceeds to examine Edwards’s attitude towards praise, the exercise of church discipline and polity, or church government.
Edwards developed an ambitious, all-encompassing view of the church that saw the local congregation as the means through which individuals experienced the grace of God. Lifting his gaze from the particular to the general, as Edwards did, Bezzant argues that Edwards also held a view of the church as deeply embedded within “the order of creation”, that was also simultaneously a “down payment on the transformation of this world in the new creation” (p. 257). Those familiar with the contemporary theology of N. T. (“Tom”) Wright will find plenty of echoes in Jonathan Edwards.
Douglas Sweeney’s work is perhaps more innovative, at least in terms of his subject matter. Amid all the books published on Edwards, it is surprising, and no doubt indicative of the preoccupations of many Edwards scholars, that no-one has examined Edwards’s view of the Bible, or the hermeneutical tools he brought to its study. In Sweeney’s hands, Edwards emerges as a traditional biblicist who relied on early modern, approaches to the Bible. “The Word”, he writes, “exerted a centripetal force at the centre of his world, as the sun of his solar system, not as the sole source of energy and light at his disposal but as the one that helped him understand the rest in the right way” (p. 26). Edwards might have kept abreast of much of the new enlightened learning that was pouring from presses on both sides of the Atlantic by the mid-eighteenth century, but he refracted it all through a biblical prism. Edwards had no qualms in maintaining the absolute divinity of the Bible; his favourite description of it was “an Emanation of [God’s] Glory” (p. 28). There were many contemporaries determined to interpret the Bible much like any other work of literature. Edwards read them, but thought them wrong about the nature of the Bible. Scripture he argued, like Calvin before him, was self-authenticating, but this did not stop him arguing that the saints also “sense the presence and glory of God within His Word” (p. 30). Reason and revelation went hand in hand.
The bulk of this book is made up of Sweeney’s detailed examination of Edwards’s four main approaches to the Bible. His canonical approach treated the Bible as a whole, accepting the canon as received. Unlike Luther, Edwards did not think that Scripture contained any epistles of straw. For Edwards, the Bible was one book, the Old and New Testaments containing one message; much of his grappling with scripture was concerned to harmonize both parts. In the second place his approach was thoroughly Christological – the Old Testament witnessed to Christ in types and shadows, the New Testament saw everything revealed in the plain light of day. A redemptive-historical dynamic, which saw the whole panorama of human salvation being progressively worked out in Scripture remained at the forefront of Edwards’s approach to the Bible. He was a big picture theologian. And then finally, he approached the whole of Scripture pedagogically, drawing out applications and lessons for the present day, sometimes hewing closely the historical context, at other times treating that more cavalierly.
Each of these themes is abundantly illustrated, with Sweeney presenting chapter length accounts of Edwards’s treatment of the Old Testament “priest” Melchizedek, the Song of Songs and the book of Revelation. While aware of some of the insights of eighteenth-century biblical criticism, Edwards stuck closely to an older interpretative school. His influences were predominantly Puritan and only occasionally drawn from the world of Enlightenment scholarship. It was this that put him on the very edge of the Enlightenment – at least in this area. In Sweeney’s hands the Edwards that emerges has a very different feel to some of the pictures to which we have become used. Despite being “a literary artist, metaphysical theologian, moral prophet, college teacher, nature lover, and civic leader”, Sweeney writes, Edwards “was primarily a minister of the Word” (p. 218).
One of the most notable features of both books is their present-mindedness. While both have been published by an academic press, the extent to which they claim overtly to be providing resources for the present-day evangelical church is a little surprising. Bezzant, for example, pays tribute to Edwards for helping him to develop his own understanding of the church, and in providing him with resources for use in his own intra-church disputes and discussions. The book even has a slightly proselytizing tone – Bezzant hopes that his readers will gain a fresh view of “the theological significance of the church in God’s world” (p. ix). While the present reviewer did indeed find this to be the case, some readers on the British side of the Atlantic might find this approach a little unexpected in a publication by a major academic press.
DAVID CERI JONES
FURTHER APROACHES TO JONATHAN EDWARDS
Approaching Jonathan Edwards: The Evolution of a Persona. By Carol Ball. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015 (pbk 2017). Pp. 212. £72.99 (pbk £34.99). ISBN 978-1-47244-702-9 (pbk ISBN 978-1-13805-306-9).
The Ecumenical Edwards: Jonathan Edwards and the Theologians. Edited by Kyle C. Strobel. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015 (pbk. 2017). Pp. xi + 257. £77.99 (pbk £34.99). ISBN 978-1-40946-110-4 (pbk ISBN 978-1-13805-345-8).
Jonathan Edwards’s Bible: The Relationship of the Old and New Testaments. By Stephen R. C. Nichols. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013. Pp. xvii + 229. £21.00. ISBN 978-1-61097-767-8.
Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture. By Jonathan M. Yeager. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. xix + 234. £62.00. ISBN 978-0-19024-806-2.
Hardly a year goes by it seems without the publication of a host of new titles on the eighteenth-century New England theologian and revivalist Jonathan Edwards, and this review catches up with a few of the most recent titles.
Carol Ball’s Approaching Jonathan Edwards takes an unusual and innovative approach as it tries to get to the real, and somewhat elusive, Jonathan Edwards. She argues that Edwards was “deliberately involved in fashioning his life”, in order to present himself as a scholar of “international eminence comparable with that of Locke and Newton” (p. 1). The central thread of Edwards’s persona, Ball argues, was that he was a man born for conflict and strife (p. 2), and that by means of continual involvement in an array of debates and theological battles he built just such a reputation. At the heart of his persona was a lifelong grappling with the idea of the sovereignty of God, and critically his own submission to such absolute authority, personally and experientially in the revivals in which he participated. His understanding, Ball contends, gave Edwards “a line in the sand from which he could never retreat” (p. 36). His persona was subsequently shaped further by a number of factors – each of which Ball treats in turn. These included external factors, things that threatened the New England Puritan establishment, chief among which were Deism and Arminianism, and internal factors, as he sought to safeguard the revivals from excess and chaos, and of course fight for his future in the pastorate at Northampton, Massachusetts, in controversy over the “Halfway Covenant” – a battle he lost in 1750. This final conflict, Ball argues, revealed the “development of his fully defined persona” (p. 119). Rejected by his local congregation, he turned to publication to advance his global reputation, finding that it was only by losing his “public quasi-apostolic position” that he gained the “liberty to capitalise more fully on his literary ambitions” (p. 178). Subsequent chapters include an examination of how and why Edwards wrote, with Ball arguing that for Edwards “writing was a part of pastoring” (p. 121), and therefore a “key agent” in the expression of his public persona. Some readers will find that the theoretical overshadows this study – something, of course, not uncommon in books that began life as doctoral theses. Whether the idea of self-fashioning allows Ball to get any closer to the real Edwards, though, remains a moot point.
The Ecumenical Edwards is a very different book, and will perhaps be of more limited interest. A collection of essays, this volume attempts to assess Edwards’s abilities and reputation as a major theological thinker. It does so by bringing together a team of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant theologians who each place Edwards in conversation with a particular theological thinker over a specific issue. Included, among others, are essays which juxtapose Edwards with Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Newman, Balthasar, Barth and Pannenberg, on issues as diverse as original sin, the Trinity, free will and life in Christ. Many of these chapters are necessarily specialised, and some beyond the reach of the non-specialist reader. But there is much here to demonstrate that Edwards was a thinker of some originality, whose thought stands the test of engagement with some of the major thinkers in the Christian tradition.
Edwards’s attitude and approach to Scripture is a subject that has come in for closer scrutiny in recent times. Stephen R. C. Nichols’s, Jonathan Edwards’s Bible, which began life as a doctoral thesis, examines Edwards’s theology of the Bible, most especially how he harmonised the Old and New Testaments. Nichols argues that Edwards used three interpretative tools to harmonise both testaments, and the first three chapters deal with each in turn. The first chapter looks at Edwards’s understanding of biblical prophecy, focussing in the main on Edwards’s attempts to prove the veracity of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ, especially in response to the Deist challenge to the unity of the Bible. The next chapter looks at the concept of typology, and argues that this was a tool which allowed Edwards to link the Old and New Testaments together “in a limited and explicit relationship of temporal Christological prefiguring and fulfilment” (p. 106). In every part of Scripture Edwards found Christ. The third chapter argues that Edwards developed a redemptive-historical approach to the Scriptures, an approach that had its roots in Puritan covenantal theology. The book’s final chapter presents a case study of Edwards’s approach in practice. Nichols examines Edwards’s view on the salvation of the Old Testament saints, and argues that his determination to defend the unity of Scripture led him to “grant to the Old Testament saints a content of faith normally associated in his tradition only with the New Testament church” (p. 187). Edwards’s approach to Scripture was, of course, “pre-critical”, but perhaps his greatest claim to originality was in his contention that it was only those who had been granted the “new sense” directly by the Holy Spirit who could understand the real meaning of the Bible and its message. It was a deeply evangelical approach to the biblical text.
The final of the four books under consideration here is, despite its title, only indirectly about Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Yeager’s, Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture is more a contribution to the history of the book than to Edwards studies per se. While there is discussion here on the reception of Edwards’s chief publications, the focus, reflected in the three central chapters of the book is on Edwards’s most significant contemporary American printer, bookseller, and editor. Yeager argues that these individuals “shaped the public perceptions of [Edwards] in the way that they packaged and marketed his publications” (p. xi). An opening introductory chapter gives some context on the mid-eighteenth century colonial book trade and the health of American print culture by this point, as well as sketching in the reception history of some of Edwards’s chief works. A discussion of Edwards’s main Boston printer, Samuel Kneeland, shows how printers who did not necessarily sympathise with the “Great Awakening” had a vested interest in keeping its fires regularly stoked with new material hot off their presses. A similar function was fulfilled by Daniel Henchman, one of the most important sellers of Edwards’s books, who by tapping into the complex trans-Atlantic evangelical networks could market surprisingly large print runs of Edwards’s key publications. Every author, no matter how prominent, needs a skilled and honest editor, and Edwards was no exception. There was a range of people that filled this role, not least the English Dissenters Isaac Watts and John Guyse who edited and abridged Edwards’s A Faithful Narrative for a British audience in 1737. A further chapter deals with the editors who popularised Edwards in the final decades of the eighteenth century, those who enlisted him in the cause of the defence and spread of evangelical Calvinism. While Yeager’s work, therefore, tells us surprisingly little about Edwards himself, it tells us much about how a trans-Atlantic community of printers, booksellers, editors “shaped the image of Edwards for ‘eighteenth-century readers’, managing and facilitating his ‘favourable reception as a revivalist and theologian’” (p. 143). Such figures were as important to the success of the early evangelical movement as preachers and theologians of the calibre of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards.
All four books demonstrate that Jonathan Edwards remains the topic of some innovative publications. That some of these publications reveal somewhat inventive approaches to their subject suggests that the literature on the New England theologian has perhaps reached saturation point. But maybe what it shows is that Edwards continues to inspire new generations of scholars, not least doctoral students, to devote their historical and theological gifts to understanding and interpreting him – a figure who surely deserves a place alongside some of the greatest minds in the Western church.
DAVID CERI JONES
Calvinism: a very short introduction. John Balserak. Oxford: OUP, 2016. Pp. 140. £7.99. ISBN 978-0-19875371-1
This book is exactly what it says on the cover. It introduces some of the central ideas and themes of Calvinism, written by an acknowledged scholar in the field. It is certainly accessible to intelligent readers who are not scholars.
The Church: Presbyterian Perspectives. Donald K. McKim. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books 2017. Pp. 95. £13. ISBN 978-1-53260053-1
Donald McKim, a Minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and a teacher of theology, has published widely on Reformed ecclesiology and theology in a style with is both accessible and mainstream way, which is not easily found in current UK writings. This book provides a good introduction to central themes of Reformed ecclesiology, useful for all who wish to learn more about this topic.
In our own words. Michael N Jagessar (ed). London: United Reformed Church, 2016. Pp. 107. No price. No ISBN
This is a collection of primary source material, which will be valuable to anyone researching the ministry of black and minority ethnic people in the United Reformed Church.
The 2017 anniversary of something that might or might not have happened in Wittenberg 500 years earlier produced a flurry of publications, which space prohibits reviewing in full, but which are mentioned here to whet the appetite of readers whose interests include both theology and history.
The Cambridge Companion to Reformed Theology. Edited by Paul T Nimmo and David A S Fergusson. Cambridge: CUP, 2016. Pp. 345. £19.99. ISBN 978-1107690547
This book is clearly for the undergraduate level reader. It contains 19 essays by a variety of scholars, most from the UK and North America, with the remainder from various universities around the world. There are six essays on various central theological topics, introducing them from a Reformed perspective. These are followed by five essays each introducing a central figure in Reformed Theology. Finally there are eight essays on various theological contexts. This is a solid and straightforward book, which offers a good foundation for students beginning academic study in this area.
The reformation of the Decalogue. Jonathan Willis. Cambridge: CUP, 2017. Pp. 388. £90. ISBN 978-1108416603
As the price indicates, this either going to be a library volume, or one for very serious scholars. It is a serious work of scholarship, which will be of interest to scholars of the early modern period, and those of the interpretation and use of the Old Testament in English church life.
The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, 1600-1800. Edited by Ulrich L. Lehner, Richard A. Muller, and A.G. Roeber. Oxford: OUP, 2016. Pp. 668. £112.50. ISBN 978-0199937943
The first part of the book consists of series of essays on Catholic theologies, Reformed theologies, and Lutheran theologies. The second part consists of more general theological topics. The authors are all highly regarded scholars, and this book will be of interest to all studying the theology from the aftermath of the Reformation and its subsequent development. However, the price means that this is likely to only be purchased by libraries and the most dedicated enthusiasts.
The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations. Edited by Ulinka Rublack. Oxford: OUP, 2017. Pp. 848. £95. ISBN 978-0199646920
What is distinctive about this volume is how comprehensive it is. It covers the Reformation in a global context, not just a European one, and it covers topics from many different angles to those usually encountered, two of the more unusual chapters being on Sexual Difference and The Natural And The Supernatural. There are 37 essays, all be serious and well respected scholars from around the globe. Its sheer breadth means that this is a very valuable volume for any serious student of the Reformation, however the price tag means most volumes will be found only in libraries.
Reformation Divided. Eamon Duffy. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. Pp. 256. £30. ISBN 978-1472934369
This is a fine volume by Duffy, perhaps one of his best, and certainly a match for The Stripping of the Altars. Not every writer can take the reader into the world of the characters he is writing about and make them come alive as Duffy does here. His research is clearly detailed, even painstaking, and is offered for the reader to judge for themselves. The main of this volume is clearly to expound religion in England after Henry VIII, which it does very helpfully. The introduction reveals that these essays are a collection of journal articles, however I suspect very few will have found the rather obscure places where they first appeared. It should also be noted they hang together rather better than such an admission of their origin suggests. The chapter on Quakers was both unexpected and welcome, though I suspect that the late Geoffrey Nuttall would not have agreed with every word. Duffy has been admirably impartial, and quotes from a wide variety of sources, for instance The Reformed Pastor in English Puritanism rightly uses much more than Baxter. I greatly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to readers of this journal.