Adriaan Neele reveals Edwards’s relationship with New England Theology, Puritanism, the Dutch ‘Nadere Reformatie’, German Pietism, spirituality of the Middle Ages, and High and Late Orthodoxy in his new book Before Jonathan Edwards. Soures of New England Theology.
In Before Jonathan Edwards, Adriaan Neele seeks to balance the recent academic attention to the developments of intellectual history after Jonathan Edwards. Neele presents the first comprehensive study of Edwards’s use of Reformed orthodox and Protestant scholastic primary sources in the context of the challenges of orthodoxy in his day. Despite the breadth of Edwards scholarship, his use of primary sources has been little analyzed. Yet, as Neele proves, Edwards’s thinking on the importance of these primary sources has significant implications not only for the status of the New England theology of pre-Revolutionary America but also for our understanding of Edwards today.
This volume locates Edwards’s ideas in the context of the theological and philosophical currents of his day, as well as in the pre-modern exchange of books and information during the colonial period. The pre-Revolutionary status of theology and philosophy in the wake of the Enlightenment had many of the same problems we see in our theological education today with respect to the use and appropriation of classical theology in a 21st-century context. Ideas about the necessity of classical primary sources of Christianity in sustaining our theological education are once again becoming important, and Edwards offers many relevant insights. Edwards was not unique in his deployment of these primary sources; many New England pastors, including Cotton Mather (1663-1728), preached and wrote about the necessity of orthodox theology. Edwards’s distinction came in his thinking about the issues set forth in these sources at a transitional moment in the history of Christian thought.