Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Review on Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God

Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney

This book is one of five in The Essential Edwards Collection published by Moody, which also includes topical books dealing with Edwards' thoughts and writings on beauty, heaven and hell, the good life, and true Christianity. At the time of writing Strachan and Sweeney were doctoral student and professor, respectively, at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I received this book as a free gift while attending the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, KY .

I have not read or examined the other books in this series but this one is biographical in nature and takes the reader through Edwards' life from beginning to end. Each of the eight chapters tackles a season of life, includes a sampling of his writings pertinent to that time, and then exhorts the reader to apply Edwards' life and ideas. Obviously, the sections of his earlier life contain less of his personal writings, and the later ones contain more.

Before reading this book, I had begun (and almost finished!) George Marsden's work, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, and this gave me a framework to begin with, so that reading this smaller, condensed work was more like a refresher and summary, making it easier to recall the patterns and lessons.

I suspect that many people were introduced to Edwards in high school literature classes as a sample of Puritan life, and therefore have a one-sided perspective. But as this title suggests, Edwards was not a self-rightoues man who scowled at sinners unconditionally condemning them to hell but was a man who sought to know and live under God with all of his heart, mind, and strength.

As a disciple of Jesus Christ and a student of the Bible, life application is essential. This feature of the book was most helpful to me. The authors do well at translating Edwards' life and ideas into exhortations for today, showing that a life lived 300 years ago, in full devotion to Christ, is relevant for today because each of us, no matter how gifted or talented can learn from this how how to be humble under the sovereign hand of God.

This quote summarizes the book well: "Through dogged study of the Bible and regular meditation upon its realities, Edwards entered into the great battle for souls on the side of the Lord. He knew great trial in his life, and he struggled with sin all of his days, but he never stopped seeking the reward set before the saints of God. Edwards's life is a living example to all the children of God in the current day, to put aside the things that hinder our faith and distract our focus." (144)

I can easily recommend this book to anyone wanting a balanced view of this important pastor / theological and an introduction to his writings. There is abundant material on his life and writings available today. Happy reading!