Wednesday, 24 January 2007

From the Princeton cemetery





26 Comments:

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

So, after Edwards, the quality of theologian at Princeton went downhill for sometime, huh? Sorry, but I've never been a fan of the Hodge-Warfield strand of evangelicalism--the so-called "Old Princeton Theology." I like new Princeton better.

michael jensen said...

Couldn't disagree with you more there m w-w!

BBW in particular was a theologian of quite breathtaking scope and surprising intellectual flexibility, now much underrated.

Exiled Preacher said...

I agree with you, MJ.

I wonder sometimes if BBW's detractors have actually read his stuff.

Thanks to Ben for the piccys. The 'Old Princeton' men may be dead, but they still speak.

Jim Gordon said...

Jonathan Edwards is simply in a different league from the later Princeton theologians, at least as far as originality, theological vision, intellectual precision and unassuageable passion for God are concerned. He is, as Jenson's book claims, America's Theologian - no article, definite or indefinite, there is no rival - he is singularly primary - at least in my wee opinion.

kim fabricius said...

I'm with Michael W-W and Jim G. You could say "wee" agree! Edwards has got to be on anyone's Top 10 list of all-time greats. And though he is six feet under, JE amply demonstrates Faulkner's "The past is not dead. It is not even past."

Ben Myers said...

Yes, of course Edwards is in a different league from the rest. But I myself don't bear any ill-will towards the old Hodge-Warfield tradition -- naturally I think this tradition was fundamentally wrong (both in its methods and in its conclusions), but I've still learned a lot from reading Hodge and Warfield. And so I still enjoyed visiting their graves!

Exiled Preacher said...

No doubt Edwards towers over the other four Old Princetonians. But the fashionable denegration of Hodge, Warfiled etc. is a bit unfair.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

The sad thing about Edwards is, here in the States, that he is almost always known only for his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." When I was a teen in public school, we studied it as a great example of rhetoric. It IS great rhetoric, but it has given the majority of Americans the false impression of Edwards as a hellfire-and-brimstone fundamentalist.
Virtually nothing is widely known about Edwards broad philosophical erudition, nor his work in virtue ethics, on the importance of the affections, nor that he was, basically, a theologian who concentrated on God's love. He also paved the way for the later Social Gospel.

MJ is right that I have read only BBW's work on Scripture--with which I disagree strongly--and need to read what else he wrote. However, I have read Charles Hodge's systematics and am convinced that it put 19th and 20th C evangelicalism on the wrong road--it is a scholastic form of Reformed theology--and written in a very boring manner, too.

T.B. Vick said...

Well, I think Edwards is one of the greatest thinkers of all time -and definitely the greatest American thinker in U.S. history.
Great pics!!

michael jensen said...

Yes, I am not a fan of that famous sermon either...

But Edwards was still more of a Calvinist and a biblicist than not, surely?

BBW also wrote on the arts and culture: he was a essayist and polemicist. He also had one of the more impressive beards of theology.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

"He also had one of the more impressive beards in theology." Oh, well, then--I guess B.B. Warfield must have other redeeming features I hadn't noticed.

And, of course Edwards was a Calvinist--but not a scholastic. Edwards is my kind of evangelical Calvinist--THE theologian of the Great Awakening.

kim fabricius said...

. . . the Great Awakening - followed by the Big Sleep?

Exiled Preacher said...

An example of Warfield's theological creativity can be seen
here . Paul Helm draws upon BBW's The Emotional Life of our Lord as he revisits the question of divine impassibility.

kim fabricius said...

Oh - and to add to Michael W-W's nice summary of his theological strengths, Edwards also (unlike many Calvinists) has a quite beautiful doctrine of creation.

michael jensen said...

'unlike many Calvinists'? careful kf, your prejudices are showing!

kim fabricius said...

Hi Michael J.

I certainly don't mean to dis Calvinists as such, and I couldn't quantify the matter, so I'll take back the "many". (By the way, I like to think that I'm a Calvinist!) But don't you think it's fair to say that Calvinist theology, because of its emphasis on Adam as the "fall guy", has struggled when it comes to expressing a robust doctrine of creation, where, for example, what Bonhoeffer called the "natural" is given its due, and where words like goodness, beauty and joy are generously deployed? Theologians like Edwards and Barth show that it need not be so.

michael jensen said...

Well, no... The magnificent Dutch Calvinists are a case in point. And the much-maligned Puritans, from whom Edwards was descended, too! And Calvin himself! (Actually, I wonder if their attention to the Sabbath was a help for them here?) Then there's John Piper, too... (a huge fan of Edwards of course)

Sorry 'bout the sharp sounding tone, there: I should have added, 'I resemble that remark!'

Perhaps the point of departure is eschatology: post-mill Calvinists have been better at the whole Creation thing; the pre-mill lot (are they really still Calvinists?)think it is all gonna be burnt up anyways...

kim fabricius said...

Thanks, Michael J.

Of course I know - and totally agree - about Calvin, but confess to being a bit thin on the Dutch Calvinists. As for the Puritans . . . okay - though did they always live what they knew? Your last point is particularly helpful.

Maybe I've been in South Wales too long. The Congries here have an often deservedly bad reputation about which R.S. Thomas was excoriating. There's an old joke about how they used to take the swing out of the budgie's cage on Sunday! As for the Presbies - I was once involved in writing a liturgy for the joint ordination of URC and PCW elders. I used the word "joy" somewhere in the service - and was told it had no business being there!

Exiled Preacher said...

So, Kim, your problem is with South Walian Calvinists. Thanks for clearing that up!

michael jensen said...

Hopefull not with New South Walian Calvinists, of which I am one!

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

This argument shows how very broad the Reformed tradition is so that sweeping statements usually need to be qualified. For the non-joyous, non-environmental Calvinists (of which I have met many), I think the problem may not just be an overemphasis on the Fall (to the exclusion of Creation goodness) or defective eschatology, though both may be problems. I think a third factor--which is broader than Calvinists and may include the entire Augustinian influence--is the tendency to see Creation as merely the "stage" for the drama of redemption and not part of the drama itself. I think Moltmann (certainly part of the German Reformed tradition, even with other influences) rightly complains about this in
God in Creation.

David Shedden said...

Folks, post-mill Calvinism more or less died with Warfield, and, I'm not sure how much Old Princeton really emphasised eschatology at all. Hodge et al were too busy writing books, journals and political articles to worry about the future. If anything, they lived and worked as if the future was imminent, because for them the church was the future, it was the kingdom.

What is for sure is that Old Princeton, along with the various strands of New American theology in the late 19thC, detested pre-mill thought. There is some irony that Warfield's most enduring legacy (his doctrine of scripture) finds its most popular expression among pre-mill thinkers.

As for Edwards, why does everyone want a piece of his theology? One of the Niebuhrs apparently loved Edwards apart from his doctrine of election. That strikes me a bit like saying you love Marx apart from all his stuff on economic class struggle.

Interesting: the two most popular posts in the last month or so are on sexuality and Calvinism. Hmm...

michael jensen said...

Is Calvinism sexy then?

Ben Myers said...

Thanks, David, for your excellent comment. And thanks for such a nice conversation in Princeton -- it was great meeting you.

Michael, you ask: "Is Calvinism sexy?" I've got two words for you: John Updike!

michael jensen said...

hmm, yes: Roger's Version; Couples; A Month of Sundays...

kim fabricius said...

And how about Marilynne Robinson's Gilead? Nothing overt, mind, but old Presbyterian minister marries babe . . . And when the Reverend John Ames agonises about whether or not to make his move - "my crisis" - he turns to - the Song of Songs! "Grace has a grand laughter in it," he observes.
Of course John Ames is a Barthian!

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