Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: Reader's Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards

A Reader's Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards. Edited by Nathan Finn and Jeremy Kimble. 2017. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: To read Jonathan Edwards is to see God. Not because Jonathan Edwards looked like God but because he looked at God--steadily, accurately, insistently. And then he wrote down what he saw.

Most people find the idea of reading Jonathan Edwards to be intimidating. It doesn't have to be. The aim of this book is to help ease readers into the works of Jonathan Edwards.

This reader's guide to the major works of Jonathan Edwards features contributions from Dane C. Ortlund, Nathan A. Finn, Jeremy M. Kimble, Michael McClenahan, Gerald R. McDermott, Rhys Bezzant, Joe Rigney, Robert W. Caldwell III, Sean Michael Lucas, Paul Helm, and John Piper.

The first chapter, "How To Read Jonathan Edwards" goes beyond the how to the why. (That is while the rest of the book explores how to read Jonathan Edwards, the first chapter goes beyond that to show why you should read Jonathan Edwards.)

Reading Jonathan Edwards doesn’t send you out into some foreign and bizarre spiritual experience. You come home. Your humanity is restored. (Ortlund, 25)
You must be born again to read and profit spiritually from Jonathan Edwards. You must understand that he was a pastor first. You should have a general knowledge of his doctrinal framework. And you should be aware of his historical context. Beyond these things, here is the key to reading Jonathan Edwards: read him. Open up one of his books and read one sentence, then another, then another. Just read him. (Ortlund, 37)

Several chapters focus on individual works by Jonathan Edwards. Other chapters group Edwards' writings together thematically. One of my favorite chapters was on Original Sin.

The appendix is written by John Piper and details Piper's reading journey with Jonathan Edwards.

I appreciated this book. I loved how the book can help orient readers. Context, context, context. As McClenahan states so well, "theology is not written in a vacuum" and, in my opinion, it shouldn't be read in one either. This book is packed with information about Jonathan Edwards, the times in which he lived, the influences and arguments of the day, and summaries of his major works. I loved how each chapter concludes by showing that Edwards is still relevant today.
Jonathan Edwards experienced spiritual ups and downs—just like we do. He struggled with doubts and spiritual frustrations—just like we do. He had disagreements with his loved ones and sometimes regretted vocational decisions—just like we do. And he grew in his faith and was able to look back and see God’s grace in all these experiences—just like we do (or will!). (Finn, 59)
 © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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