Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Communion with God and the Means of Grace in the Spirituality of Jonathan Edwards
by Deeter, Justin Baine, Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2020, 278; 27958290
Abstract (Summary)

Jonathan Edwards marks a pivotal transition in the history of Christian spirituality. During an era of rapid change, Edwards sought to preserve his Puritan tradition, but through his creative defense, reshaped that heritage in the forge of disruptive revival. In the history of Christian piety, Jonathan Edwards denotes the death of Puritan spirituality and the birth of evangelical spirituality.

Chapter one introduces Edwards in his changing context and orients him in the setting of social and religious upheaval. After an evaluation of recent developments in the field of Edwardsean studies, the thesis is presented and a summary of the argument.

Chapter two explores the heritage of Puritanism and its bearing on Edwards’ spirituality. After an examination of the historiography of Puritanism, this chapter demonstrates how Edwards employed elements from a mystical and contemplative branch of Puritans by invoking themes of evangelical humiliation, transformative contemplation, and ravishment by divine beauty.

Chapter three overviews recent debates over Edwards’ doctrine of God and suggests that Edwards stayed consistent with the Augustinian psychological model while further developing the role of the Holy Spirit, who binds the soul of the saint to the community of God and enables the saints’ communion and participation in the divine. Within this framework, the means of grace function as sovereignly prescribed conduits to distribute grace from God through this union.

Chapter four examines the key means of grace Edwards often promoted, and how they functioned within his theological paradigm. The means of grace observed include Word, prayer, meditation, contemplation, conferencing, fasting, sabbath, and the sacraments. Through participation in these spiritual habits, God produces godly affections that elevated the soul to communion with God.

Chapter five demonstrates how Edwards cultivated models to exemplify his vision for the Christian life, not only through his own example, but through two publicized proxies for Edwardsean spirituality: the missionary David Brainerd and Edwards’ wife, Sarah Edwards.

Chapter six evaluates the legacy of Edwardsean spirituality, particularly as adopted and adapted by the New Divinity schoolmen. Three trajectories of Edwardsean theology had unintended influence on future generations: (1) Edwards teaching on original sin and the will, (2) Edwards ambiguity on the atonement, and (3) Edwards ethics and teaching on true virtue.

Chapter seven concludes the argument of this dissertation while noting important contributions made to the field of Edwardsean studies because of this research and proposing possibilities for future research. Finally, Edwards relevance for contemporary evangelicalism is considered.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Finn, Nathan
Commitee: Beck, Peter, Strobel, Kyle
School: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Department: Department of Graduate Studies
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 81/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Theology, Religious history
Keywords: Edwards, Jonathan , Means of grace, New Divinity, Puritanism, Spiritual practices, Spirituality
Publication Number: 27958290
ISBN: 9798641902784
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