A Belated Christmas Offering to You All: New Volume in Mercersburg Theology Study Series Appears

Bill Evans head shot

Earlier this week I received a copy of Vol. 4 of the Mercersburg Theology Study Series entitled The Incarnate Word: Selected Writings on Christology (Wipf and Stock, 2014).   I’ve been editing this volume for the last two years or so, and it’s gratifying to have it finally see the light of day.  We were, of course, hoping to have this book available for Christmas 2014, and the 2014 imprint date suggests that we almost made it!

The Incarnate Word

Special thanks are due to indefatigable series editor Brad Littlejohn, and to my friend Oliver Crisp of Fuller Theological Seminary who wrote a splendid Foreword to the volume. The publisher’s description of the volume reads as follows:

The Incarnate Word contains a selection of the key writings on the doctrines of Christology produced by the theologians of Mercersburg Seminary during the middle of the nineteenth century. Despite the seminary’s small stature and marginal position within American religious life, these texts represent some of the most profound wrestlings with the doctrine of the person of Christ that appeared in antebellum America, engaging the latest in German theological scholarship as well as the riches of the Christian tradition. As such, they command more than mere historical interest, providing rich conversation partners for contemporary debates in Reformed Christology, and anticipating the insights of such key twentieth-century theologians as T. F. Torrance. The present critical edition carefully preserves the original texts, while providing extensive introductions, annotations, and bibliography to orient the modern reader and facilitate further scholarship.

Some excerpts from the book are available here.

Happily, some people seem like it. My friend Douglas A. Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, writes:

John Williamson Nevin is one of the most important theologians in all of American history but sadly he is neglected by nearly all but fervent acolytes. The writings in this volume stand at the center of his oeuvre, and deserve a wide hearing from historians of religion, and especially theologians, who still have much to learn from this Christocentric, evangelical-Catholic intellectual (and his colleagues Schaff and Gans, also represented here). The essays in your hand have been judiciously selected, well introduced, and helpfully annotated. They offer to a new generation of scholars and church folks a treasure trove of thinking on the incarnation of God.

Eugene TeSelle, Professor emeritus of Theology and Church History at Vanderbilt Divinity School, says:

The Mercersburg theologians, seeking a church that would be at once Catholic, evangelical, and reformed, remain relevant today for their recovery of biblical, patristic, and Reformation themes, unified by then new currents in German thought. These essays on Christology, ably edited by William Evans, give us insight into the heart of their theology. Evans has already made a mark in the scholarly world by tracing an unfortunate bifurcation in the Calvinist tradition between forensic and participatory language about the Christian’s union with Christ. His introductions and notes show clearly and articulately how the Mercersburg theologians linked the doctrines of incarnation, cross, resurrection, spirit and church, without overemphasis on one or another of them that so often skews theological reflection.

Finally, Paul T. Nimmo, Professor of Divinity at King’s College, University of Aberdeen, writes:

Rejecting the traditions of Princeton and New England, the Mercersburg theologians set forth a vibrant and mystical understanding of the living Savior which resourced and permeated their high ecclesiological and sacramental convictions, challenging the Reformed sensibilities of their days and continuing to inspire theologians today. The resultant collection will be of interest to church historians and doctrinal theologians, both those with particular interests in the Reformed tradition and those with wider concerns for the ecumenical conversation. Lucidly introduced, scrupulously edited, and beautifully presented, this text is a delightful addition to the library.

Note also that a special edition of the journal Theology Today devoted to the Mercersburg Theology and including papers from a 2013 American Academy of Religion national meeting session on the topic has just appeared. I have an essay in it, and I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming post.