The Federal Theology and the History of Redemption in Jonathan Edwards’s Biblical Exegesis -- By: Gilsun Ryu

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 61:4 (Dec 2018)
Article: The Federal Theology and the History of Redemption in Jonathan Edwards’s Biblical Exegesis
Author: Gilsun Ryu


The Federal Theology and the History
of Redemption in Jonathan Edwards’s
Biblical Exegesis

Gilsun Ryu*

* Gilsun Ryu is a doctoral candidate at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL 60015. He may be contacted at zgryu@tiu.edu.

Abstract: This article examines the relationship between Jonathan Edwards’s federal theology and his biblical exegesis. While there is substantial discussion of Edwards’s view of the covenant, no one has addressed the interrelationship of the federal theology and exegetical perspective in Edwards. Edwards developed his federal theology from his biblical exegesis focusing on the theme of history of redemption. Edwards’s federal schema stands with the central soteriological topics in his theology. He believes the promises in the covenant of redemption were revealed to God’s people in the covenant of grace and accomplished by Christ’s fulfillment of the covenant of works. Moreover, the full effect of Christ’s work of redemption will be wholly revealed through the entire history of redemption which culminates at the end of the world. This implies that Edwards’s exegetical view of federal theology concentrates on the historical aspects in which he emphasizes redemptive history.

Key words: Jonathan Edwards, the federal theology, biblical exegesis, the history of redemption, the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, the covenant of grace

I. INTRODUCTION

Perry Miller contended that while Edwards abandoned “the whole covenant scheme,” his predecessors (the first generation of New Englanders) were advocates of the federal theology, which is far different from Calvin’s theology.1 In Miller’s view, the federal theology is an “adroit and highly legalistic formulation.”2 Since then, Miller’s work has served as a milestone in Edwards and New England theological studies among many scholars.3

After Miller, Peter DeJong, Joseph Haroutunian, Sydney Mead, Sydney Ahlstrom, and William McLoughin claimed that the federal theology is a departure from typical Edwardian theology and Edwards’s view of covenant.4 Moreover, Miller’s theological path has been criticized by some scholars. For example, Carl W. Bogue demonstrated that covenant theology is not at odds with Edwards’s views.5 More recently, McClymond and McDermotte traced the dev...

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