A great deal has recently been written about Jonathan Edwards. Most of it, however, does not make central Edwards's own intention to speak truth about God and the human situation; his systematic theological intention is regarded merely as an historical phenomenon. In this book, Robert Jenson provides a different sort of interpretation, asking not only, "Why was Edwards great?" but also, "Was Edwards right?" As a student of the ideas of Newton and Locke, Jenson argues, Edwards was very much a figure of the Enlightenment; but unlike most other Americans, he was also a discerning critic of it, and was able to use Enlightenment thought in his theology without yielding to its mechanistic and individualistic tendencies. Alone among Christian thinkers of the Enlightenment, Edwards conceived an authentically Christian piety and a creative theology not in spite of Newton and Locke but by virtue of them. Jenson sees Edwards's understanding as a radical corrective to what commitment to the Enlightenment brought about in American life, religious and otherwise. Perhaps, Jenson proposes, recovery of Edwards's vision might make the mutual determination of American culture and American Christianity more fruitful than it has yet been.
"A book of value not only to historians and theologians, but also to any reader interested in the relevance of religious thought to the analysis of culture....Intelligent and impassioned....Should be widely read and vigorously discussed. Edwards would have loved it."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"Jenson has deeply mined the available Edwards material, bringing a clarity of exposition to that author's views on personal freedom, sin, the relation of personhood to community, the purpose of history, and the notion of God....This engaging book should be read and enjoyed by commentators on contemporary American culture as well as Edwards enthusiasts."--William and Mary Quarterly
"Jenson uncovers a remarkable convergence between Edwards' theological approach and context and his own....Jenson's insights into Edwards' thought in itself and its possibilities as an alternative vision for the American church and society make the book well worth pondering by all dissatisfied heirs of the Enlightenment, whether Edwardsian or not."--First Things
"In this luminous work of scholarship Robert Jenson helps us recognize Jonathan Edwards not only as our contemporary but as an intellectual force drawing us into a deeper conversation."--Robert John Neuhaus, Rockford Institute Center on Religion and Society
"Jenson's work is always theologically incisive. This study of Jonathan Edwards is not an exception. It is a penetrating analysis of the radical monotheism espoused by the premier theologian in America's history, and it calls into question many of the platitudes in our public talk about the nation, the self, and God."--Robert Scharlemann, University of Virginia