A “Dordtian Philosophe”: Jonathan Edwards, Calvin, and Reformed Orthodoxy

in Church History and Religious Culture
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The relationship of the thought of Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) to that of John Calvin and Reformed tradition has been frequently assumed and asserted but seldom detailed. Edwards, the “last American Puritan,” influential theologian of revival, and “Dordtian Philosophe,” worked within a generally Calvinist framework of divine sovereignty but also, within the context of the Enlightenment, experimented with that framework, pushing categories such as love, beauty, and personal affections to the epicenter of Christian life. His innovative conservatism is seen first in his espousal of idealism, as enunciated in aesthetics, the relationality of being, and occasionalism; secondly, in experientialism, involving a “new sense of the heart,” delineation of the signs of grace, typology, and prophecy; and thirdly, through historicism, including millennialism, anti-Catholicism, and an emphasis on revivals, integral to his view of the Work of Redemption through guiding concepts of the “happy fall,” cessationism, and covenantalism.

A “Dordtian Philosophe”: Jonathan Edwards, Calvin, and Reformed Orthodoxy

in Church History and Religious Culture



  • 5

    Sydney Ahlstrom‘Theology in America: A Historical Survey,’ in The Shaping of American Religioned. James W. Smith and A. Leland Jamison (Princeton 1961) pp. 245–246.

  • 6

    See Douglas A. Sweeney‘Edwards and His Mantle: The Historiography of the New England Theology,’ New England Quarterly 71 (1998) 97–119.

  • 7

    See for example William Breitenbach‘The Consistent Calvinism of the New Divinity Movement,’ William and Mary Quarterly 41 (1984) 241–264; Joseph A. Conforti Jonathan Edwards Religious Tradition and American Culture (Chapel Hill 1995); Allen C. Guelzo Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Theological Debate (Middletown Conn. 1989); Mark A. Noll America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (New York 2002); Douglas A. Sweeney Nathaniel William Taylor New Haven Theology and the Legacy of Jonathan Edwards (New York 2003).

  • 10

    Oliver Crisp‘Jonathan Edwards on the Divine Nature,’ Journal of Reformed Theology 3 (2009) 175–201.

  • 15

    Michael J. Colacurcio‘The Example of Edwards: Idealist Imagination and the Metaphysics of Sovereignty,’ in Puritan Influences in American Literatureed. Emory Elliott (Urbana 1979) p. 94.

  • 22

    See for example Stephen J. Stein‘The Quest for the Spiritual Sense: The Biblical Hermeneutics of Jonathan Edwards,’ Harvard Theological Review 70 (1977) 99–113.

  • 23

    William K.B. Stoever‘The Godly Will’s Discerning: Shepard, Edwards, and the Identification of True Godliness,’ in Jonathan Edwards’s Writingsed. Stein (see above n. 11) pp. 85–99; John E. Smith ‘The Perennial Jonathan Edwards’ in Edwards in Our Time: Jonathan Edwards and the Shaping of American Religion ed. Sang Hyun Lee and Allen C. Guelzo (Grand Rapids 1999) pp. 1–11.

  • 26

    Diana Butler‘God’s Visible Glory: The Beauty of Nature in the Thought of John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards,’ Westminster Theological Journal 52 (1990) 13–26.

  • 29

    John F. Wilson‘History, Redemption, and the Millennium,’ in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experienceed. Nathan O. Hatch and Harry S. Stout (New York 1988) pp. 131–141.


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