A native of the Netherlands, the Rev. Dr. Edwin Chr. van Driel earned his B.Div., M.Div., and M.Phil. in philosophy from Utrecht University. In 2000 he came to the United States for further graduate work in theology, and received an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University, as well as a diploma in Anglican studies from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Van Driel taught for two years at Fordham University before receiving a call to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2009. In 2013 he was appointed to the Directors' Bicentennial Chair of Theology at PTS.
Van Driel's main theological interests are in Christology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. His first book, Incarnation Anyway (OUP, 2008) deals with the divine motivation for the incarnation: is it contingent upon sin, or does God have deeper motives to become human? Van Driel suggests the latter, arguing that in friendship and love God wants to come as close to creation as God can – by coming among us as a human being. Van Driel continues to write essays expounding the latter, supralapsarian take on Christology. In addition, he is engaged in two other research projects, both of which have generated a number of book essays and journal articles. One project offers a theological reading of contemporary Pauline exegesis. His thesis is that the difference between traditional Protestant Pauline exegesis and contemporary readings of Paul (New Perspective on Paul, Apocalyptic reading) is a difference in the assumed narrative substructure of the apostle’s texts, which in turn leads to different readings of Pauline notions like “divine righteousness” and “justification by faith.” The other project deals with what he considers the sore spot of Protestant theology: the doctrines of church and ordination. Van Driel is deeply concerned with the recurring conflicts and schisms in the mainline churches, and tries to develop an ecclesiology that radically departs from our deeply engrained voluntarism and re-thinks the church as constituted by divine covenant, and that simultaneously offers a new starting point for our missional task in a post-Christendom world.
Van Driel is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and served on the church’s committee that produced the denomination’s new hymnal, Glory to God. He was the primary writer of the committee’s “Theological Vision Statement” and “A Statement on Language,” and currently serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Book of Common Worship. Van Driel is also involved with the PC(USA)’s 1001 New Worshipping Communities and serves as an advisor to the Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He is married to Kimberly Miller van Driel, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and they have two children.
In the spring of 2017 the Rev. Dr. Edwin Chr. van Driel led a World Mission Initiative trip to the Netherlands as part of his Church Amidst Secularization class. “Dutch society has become highly secularized, with a quarter of the population espousing atheism and only a small percentage participating in church life,” Edwin notes. “The purpose of the trip was to learn how Christian communities function in this environment—and how they relate to their neighbors.”
According to the 2016 “God in the Netherlands” report, only 25 percent of the population counts itself as a member of the Christian church, and only 14 percent believes in a personal God. The overwhelming majority—82 percent—never or hardly ever visits a church. Atheism is on the rise—up from 14 percent in 2006 to 24 percent today, and the percentage of those claiming to be “spiritual but not religious” is down from 40 percent to 30 percent. “This trend has been happening for a long time,” says Edwin. “Pastors we encountered talked about ‘the children and grandchildren of the lost son.’”
The trip participants held as a premise the assumption that, when it comes to these issues, the church in Western Europe is only a generation or two ahead of the where we now find the church in the U.S. All indicators suggest that in another 25-30 years this country will face a similar situation. “So we asked the questions, ‘What can we already learn from the Dutch church?’ and ‘What would they say to us as we prepare for a post-Christian society?’”
“On the trip, it was exciting to see how, in the midst of this environment, the church has embraced notions of missional redevelopment and church planting.” In Amsterdam, the group visited four new church plants, representing the “embryonic” stage (six months old) to virtually financially independent “adulthood” (12 years old), as well as a Taizé ministry for young adults, a monastic community “smack dab in the middle of the Red Light District,” and evening services in two of the city’s oldest church buildings (built in the 14th and 16th centuries) that focused on offering a place of prayer and peace for those to whom church life has become foreign.
In Rotterdam, Edwin took the group to visit the Pilgrim Fathers Church—a 15th-century congregation from whose church building the Speedwell (companion to the Mayflower) left for the New World. Today, the Church is nationally known for its missionally redeveloped ministry. One of its pastors is ordained mostly for witness to the congregation’s Muslim neighbors, and another leads a new intercultural church plant in an economically deprived neighborhood. A visit to the small farming community of Jorwert, where the early 12th-century church building has become the base for a new monastic movement led by the local pastor, rounded out the group’s experience of Christian communities in the Netherlands—Edwin’s home country!
Incarnation Anyway: Arguments for Supralapsarian Christology (Oxford University Press, 2008)
“For God’s Own Sake: Eccentric Existence and the Theological Education Debate,” in The Theological Anthropology of David Kelsey: Responses to Eccentric Existence (co-author; Eerdmans, 2016)
“Outside the (United) Church Is No Salvation,” in Liturgical-Missional: Perspectives on a Reformed Ecclesiology (Pickwick, 2016)
“‘To know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified’: Supralapsarian Christology and a Theology of the Cross,” in The Wisdom and Foolishness of God: First Corinthians 1-2 in Theological Exploration (Fortress, 2015)
“Online Theological Education: Three Undertheorized Issues Edwin Chr. van Driel,” Theological Education 50/1 (2015)
“’Sir, we wish to see Jesus’: Christ in a Pluralistic Age,” The Presbyterian Outlook 197/5 (March 2015)
“A Theology of Seminary Worship.” Worship 91 (May 2017) 251-267
“The End of Denominationalism.” The Presbyterian Outlook 199/3 (February 2017), 22-24.
“‘Too lowly to reach God without a Mediator’: John Calvin’s Supralapsarian Eschatological Narrative.” Modern Theology 33/2 (2017) 275-292.