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Book Review — Ryan J. Martin, Understanding Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards: “The High Exercises of Divine Love.”

Ryan J. Martin, Understanding Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards: “The High Exercises of Divine Love.” T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (New York: T&T Clark, 2019). xi + 281 pp. $122 (USD)

In this book, originally written as his doctoral dissertation, Ryan Martin aims to correct what he sees as common misinterpretations of Edwards’s thought on the affections.

The first chapter offers a veritable encyclopedia of sources from authors who have either equated Edwards’s term “affections” with the modern term “emotions,” or have claimed that Edwards owed his affective psychology to John Locke. Martin argues that both interpretations are incorrect: Edwards’s affective psychology came from the Christian tradition alone.

Chapters two and three trace the development of Christian thinking on the affections through patristic, medieval, Reformation, and Reformed/Puritan sources. Martin concludes that “most contemporary understandings of emotions have little in common with the portrait of affections and passions” found in the Christian tradition (p.88). While emotions are generally defined as feelings in the body, Christianity has defined “affections” and “passions” as movements of the soul, specifically of the will, directed “toward or away from rational or spiritual good and evil” (p.88).

Chapters four through seven survey the works of Jonathan Edwards in chronological order. Martin reveals that Edwards’s understanding of affections and passions remained consistent throughout his life, and were in harmony with the historic Christian tradition. This leads him to conclude that any interpretation of Edwards which attempts to equate “affections” with “emotions,” or to trace Edwards’s affective psychology to Locke, are misguided. As he writes, “Edwards explicitly rejected the idea that affections are intrinsically corporeal . . . cautioned against making much of the bodily effects of the affections” and carefully distinguished between affections and passions (p.230).

The final chapter, “Toward a Theology of Affections,” is an attempt at theological retrieval. Martin writes, “Human beings, and especially Christians, are not better off having forgotten these distinctions [i.e. the distinctions between affections, passions, and emotions] . . . Edwards’s thought calls believers to return to spiritual affections as the cornerstone of Christian piety . . . Edwards’s thought also calls for a return to ethics and morality, and for those systems to consider the distinction between higher and lower desire . . . Christians today would do well to model such courage and clarity of thought” (p.237-38).

Martin’s work would have been more compelling had he spent additional time tracing the origin, development, and current usage of the term “emotions.” Even so, he makes a strong case that affections and passions as understood by the historic church, and especially Jonathan Edwards, are categorically distinct from the modern concept of emotions, and that Edwards’s use of the terms traces back through the Christian tradition rather than through Locke.

Martin’s work will be particularly valuable to two groups of people: Edwards scholars and Edwardsean pastors. Armed with Martin’s research, scholars will want to exercise caution before interpreting Edwards’s affective psychology through the grid of modern psychological categories. Similarly, Edwardsean pastors will want to exercise caution before citing the theologian to justify their contemporary ministry practices. It may be that some of those practices, designed as they are to stir the “emotions,” might just be what Edwards was warning against.

Joel Weaver Called to Trinity URC

PRTS alumnus, Joel Weaver, recently accepted a call as minister of the Word and sacraments to Trinity URC in Visalia, California. Joel will continue to serve alongside Rev. Adrian Dieleman. Join us in thanking God for this blessed opportunity for Joel and his family to be used of the Lord to minister to the Trinity URC congregation.

Global Jonathan Edwards Congress 2020

The Jonathan Edwards Center Benelux, headquartered at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit (ETF), Leuven, Belgium, in cooperation with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, affiliated with the Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University, will host the next Jonathan Edwards Congress from August 24 – 28, 2020, with the theme “Rationality and Spirituality: Retrieving Jonathan Edwards for understanding religion and spirituality in human experience today.”

The Global Jonathan Edwards 2020 Congress seeks to create academic space for a multidisciplinary discussion that retrieves and leverages the robust nature of Edwards’s insights into a religious experience that is both rational and spiritual for the benefit of the humanities, church, and society.

The congress will be hosted by the Jonathan Edwards Center Benelux, from August 24 – 28, 2020, in the Leuven Center of Christian Studies, part of the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven. The address is: Sint-Jansbergsesteenweg 97, 3001 Leuven, Belgium.

For registration information, or to submit a paper proposal, please view the invitation here, or visit the Global Jonathan Edwards Congress website.

Laughing at the Days to Come


In “Laughing at the Days to Come” (a title taken from Proverbs), Tessa Thompson shares a poignant story of her own physical suffering and her journey to not only understand God’s hand at work in it, but to face the future with sanctified submission and sweet joy. In this video, she explains why she chose to write this book, and how she came to learn how to exercise sanctified laughter in relation to the difficult days to come. This is a very well-written profound book of experiential depth, and by the Spirit’s grace, will prove to be very helpful to anyone undergoing afflictions.

Now on sale at Reformation Heritage Books:

Puritan Research Center — 2020 Spring Colloquia

The Puritan Research Center at PRTS supports and encourages thoughtful discussions that deal with facets of Puritanism and Continental (Post) Reformation thought, including historic trajectories and early modern context, from a variety of perspectives. Doctoral students, faculty, and other researchers will present their findings of original research in a colloquium.

Click on the following link to view the Spring schedule: PRC Spring 2020 Colloquia.

New Online Academic Journal: Studies in Puritanism & Piety

News Release

CONTACT:  The Editors |



A new online ACADEMIC journal: Studies in Puritanism & Piety – a Transatlantic collaborative academic project

Global scholarship in Puritanism has turned the page with the launch of a new online academic journal Studies in Puritanism & Piety—a result of a collaboration between Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (USA), Queen’s University Belfast (UK), Theological University Apeldoorn (Netherlands), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Hersteld Hervormde Seminarium, The Netherlands.

The new publication is interdisciplinary and professionally refereed by an international editorial board, Sang Hyuck Ahn, Hapdong Theological Seminary (South Korea), Andreas J. Beck, Evangelical Theological Faculty Leuven (Belgium), Francis J. Bremer, University of Pennsylvania (USA), John Coffey, University of Leicester (United Kingdom), Lee Gatiss, The Church Society, Cambridge (United Kingdom), Johanna Harris, Exeter University (United Kingdom), Michael Haykin, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (USA), Paul C. H. Lim, Vanderbilt University (USA), Anthony Milton, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, Kenneth P. Minkema, Yale University, Jonathan Edwards Center (USA), Greg Salazar, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (USA), Alison Searle, University of Leeds (United Kingdom), and Willem van Vlastuin, Free University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The editors Joel R. Beeke, Crawford Gribben, Adriaan C. Neele, Herman J. Selderhuis, and Jan van de Kamp welcome submissions from graduate students, young scholars, clergy, seminarians, and other enthusiasts in Puritanism.

In the inaugural issue, released November 2019, the editors of the journal said, “This inaugural issue of Studies in Puritanism and Piety is the product of a vision to create a forum for research and reflection on the Puritans in the post-Reformation world, making Puritan scholarship accessible to readers and providing opportunities for scholars to present their research.” This is the first modern professional periodical of its kind, devoted to the background, influences, lives, times, thought, and legacy of one of the most significant movements in history.

The journal, to be published in the spring and fall, will enhance research, education, and publication relating to Puritanism. The journal will consider submissions in four categories: articles (6,000-11,000 words), features (up to 2000 words), historical documents (primary source materials, up to 30 pages), and book reviews (350-1000 words). Submissions will be sent for review to scholars and authors who are specialists in the field of Puritanism or generalists in their disciplines. If a manuscript is accepted for publication, the editorial staff will then edit it to conform to SPP house style.

The inaugural issue features articles on Lay Leadership and the Foundations of American Congregationalism (Francis J. Bremer), The Process of Sanctification: A Bourdieusian Approach to the Declension of Power in New England Puritan Clergy (W. Scott Jackson), Jonathan Edwards Reads John Owen (Kenneth P. Minkema), “Oft Have I Seen Thee Look with Mercy’s Face”: A Brief Biography of John Cotton (Nathan Tarr), Fresh Directions in Rutherford Studies (Matthew Vogan), Puritan Preaching and Pathos: Some Uses from ‘Puritan Rhetoric’ (Maarten J. Kater), and Bunyan on the Christian Mind: Good Company and the Formation of Intellectual Virtue in The Pilgrim’s Progress (Will Tarnasky).

Opportunity to Double Your Donation

Have you considered making a donation to PRTS this year? Thanks to a generous donor, a gift of any amount donated between now and December 31st will be doubled, up to $300,000. Please prayerfully consider making a year-end donation to PRTS and thereby helping us receive the full amount offered as matching funds. You can donate online or explore more ways to donate.

PRTS Biblical Tour of Greece & Turkey – September/October 2020

Dear friends,

On behalf of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, I want to warmly invite you to travel with us on a stunning tour of Greece, Turkey, and the islands of the Mediterranean, uniquely designed just for our group.

Our ambitious plan includes visiting biblical sites in Thessaloniki, Philippi, Athens, Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, Pergamum, Patmos, Corinth, and many other places. I almost need say no more! This is an incredible opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Apostles (especially Paul and John) and the early church.

In each place Pastor David Woollin and I will deliver informative short talks and, on occasion, longer lectures to enrich the experience. As previous participants will testify, the facilities you encounter will be of the highest quality. I encourage you to confirm with just a $1,500 deposit as soon as you are able, as we only have around forty spaces available. Do not miss out!

For more information, view the online brochure or visit the Witte Travel website for pricing information. Be sure to use this online booking code when making your reservation: 092820BEEK


Joel R. Beeke

P.S. Upon registering for this trip, Puritan Reformed Seminary will send you a free copy of my book on Revelation. It will be helpful to read at least the section on the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2 and 3) prior to the trip, as that will assist you in our travels to these respective cities.

2020 Puritan Reformed Conference – 42 Days Left to Save Big!

42 Days Left to Save Big!

What better Christmas gift could you give this year to a friend or loved one than to register them for next year’s The Grace of Law conference, hosted by Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Register for the 2020 Puritan Reformed Conference by December 31 and save $35 on your ticket price.

You won’t want to miss The Grace of Law conference, August 27-29. Visit us online at to learn more about our registration options.

Speakers include:

  • Paul Washer
  • Michael Reeves
  • Michael Barrett
  • Joel Beeke
  • Jerry Bilkes
  • David Murray
  • Clarence Simmons
  • Daniel Timmer
  • Josef Urban
  • Bill VanDoodewaard

About the Puritan Reformed Conference

The Puritan Reformed Conference aims to cultivate a Christian worldview that is biblical, doctrinal, experiential, and practical. 2020 marks the 12th year of the conference and each year it has been hosted at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sponsored by the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, the conference draws attendees from far and wide. Past speakers have included the seminary’s faculty, as well as men such as Ligon Duncan, Michael Haykin, Carl Trueman, Conrad Mbewe, Derek Thomas, Geoff Thomas, and a host of others.

Why Attend?

The Puritan Reformed Conference is a wonderful venue to hear Reformed, preaching; preaching that makes much of the grace of God in the gospel. It is also a great opportunity for dear friends to get reacquainted and to make new friends along the way. Lastly, the conference is a destination for wonderful, godly, Christian books for all ages, all at deeply discounted prices.

Register Now!


Through the generosity of a gracious donor any size gift given to PRTS before December 31 will be doubled to the seminary, up to $300,000 USD. Please consider supporting biblical, Reformed, and experiential theological training with your donation today.

LEARN MORE about ways to donate or DONATE ONLINE.