Jonathan Edwards and Deification deeply dives into Edwards’s theology to discover what he taught about theosis and whether that can be reconciled with the Reformed tradition.
It must be stated from the outset that this is a dense book on a topic that is itself highly complex. Theosis, the doctrine that humans may be undergoing a kind of transformation into the divine, has many streams of thought within Christianity, but is also among the more easily misunderstood and hotly debated (when it comes up) doctrines therein.
Salladin does an admirable job of outlining the way Edwards himself thought and wrote about theosis–sometimes without making it clear he was doing so. A careful analysis of many of Edwards’s works yields a fairly consistent picture that Edwards did hold to a kind of theosis while merging it with Reformed belief. This is a kind of shocking juxtaposition, given the belief of total depravity within Reformed circles. It is difficult to square that with the notion that humans might be becoming divine, in some fashion. Salladin is careful in drawing out the distinctions Edwards himself made, and supplements that with his own analysis of what theosis could mean within that tradition.
I must admit one piece of skepticism about this project, which is my own belief that people like Jonathan Edwards don’t deserve the attention they get. Jonathan Edwards was an enslaver. While no one is perfect, I tend to believe we need to find better heroes and theological interlocutors than people who enslaved others. Unfortunately, due to Edwards’s immense influence on American religion, even outside of Reformed circles, some study of his work at times is, if not necessary, then understandable.
Jonathan Edwards and Deification is a fascinating read on a niche topic. If you are part of a niche that is adjacent to the topic (eg. interested in theosis and Protestantism, for example), it’s a must-read. If not, it may be too esoteric to consider.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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