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Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale extends reach to Poland, South Africa, Australia

MinkemaThe Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University is establishing partnerships with institutions in Poland, South Africa, and Australia, reflecting a growing global interest in the 18th century American theologian best known for his sermon “Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God.”

A Jonathan Edwards Center will be inaugurated on May 29 at the Evangelical School of Theology in Wroclaw, Poland.  Following that, in January 2010, a center is scheduled to open at the University of the Free State, Faculty of Theology, in Bloemfontein, South Africa; and, in June 2010 a third center will be established at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia. Meanwhile, negotiations are under way for establishing additional centers in other countries. 

In each location, the new centers will serve as regional research, education and publication hubs for the study of Edwards, Protestantism and evangelical history and will also encourage development of linkages with the international academic community.  Support for the three centers comes from the hosting institutions themselves, including in some cases financial backing from the local community. Affiliate centers and the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale will cooperate via faculty and student exchanges, student advising, research assistance, workshops, conferences, online and onsite courses, and other means.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), pastor, revivalist, Christian philosopher, missionary, and president of Princeton University, is widely regarded as North America’s greatest theologian. Nearly every high school literature student in the U.S. knows Edwards as the author of  “Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God,” but Edwards is also the subject of intense scholarly interest because of his significance as an historical figure and the profound legacy he left on America’s religious, political and intellectual landscapes.

Kenneth Minkema, executive director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale and assistant adjunct professor of American religious history at Yale Divinity School, observed, “The establishment of Jonathan Edwards Centers at these three locations is a significant expansion of Edwards scholarship and will serve widely both academia and the church.”

In recent years, a rapidly growing interest in Edwards as theologian has brought the man and his writings onto the world stage, pressing beyond the popular and more parochial image of Edwards primarily as American preacher and American historic figure.

Minkema points to what he says is the universality of the Edwards message, and his role in inspiring overseas missions, as primary reasons for Edwards’s growing popularity outside the United States.

“Edwards seems to be able to speak to a number of different audiences,” he observed.  “His awakening sermons, along with his observations on the awakenings of the 18th century, speak to revival-oriented communities and leaders. His aesthetics and his ethics speak to more liberal constituencies. The rigor and depth of his philosophy engage scholars and practitioners alike on a continuing, and indeed growing, basis.”

According to Minkema, Edwards’s writings have now been translated into more than a dozen languages, bringing his scholarship to readers in places like China, Hungary, and Brazil.

Minkema also believes the work of the Jonathan Edwards Center, which has made the complete writings of Edwards freely available on its web site, has helped fuel the global interest in Edwards “at an unprecedented rate.”

More than 25,000 persons visit the Jonathan Edwards Center’s web site monthly, according to Adriaan Neele, the Center’s associate editor.  Outside the United States and United Kingdom, he said, most visitors come from the Philippines, Australia, Poland, Korea, South Africa and Brazil.  The web site boasts more than 2,000 registered users.

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online is a digital learning environment for research, education and publication, that presents all of Edwards’s writings, along with helpful editorial materials that allow the reader to examine Edwards's thought in powerful, useful ways. The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online 2.0 is accessible through the Center’s web site at: www.edwards.yale.edu.

The mission of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale, based at Yale Divinity School, is to support inquiry into the life, writings, and legacy of Edwards by providing resources that encourage critical appraisal of the historical importance and contemporary relevance of Edwards.

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