I often tell people I love to read Jonathan Edwards. That’s true, however, reading Edwards and understanding Edwards are sometime two polar opposites. I have on my shelf two behemoths which are a compendium of Edwards’ writings. The contents of both are sometimes hard to understand and sometimes the clearest language on a particular topic. What Crossway has done in the Theologians on the Christian Life Series is to bring the sometimes lofty ideas of theologians and place them into the laps of the rest of us. This holds true even for Edwards on the Christian Life.
I first came to Edwards via the advice of John Piper. It was upon receiving a volume from Desiring God on Edwards that I began to see the immense value of owning and reading this figure hailed as one of the greatest in the history of the Church. God’s Passion for His Glory opened up to me a new view of the world and God centered on beauty and God’s glory. That volume still sits on my shelf and get’s plenty of handling. This new volume on Edwards written in a nontechnical manner, is sure to be a frequented volume for me, especially in regards to the reading of Edwards collected works.
Many will remember that Jonathan Edwards preached a famous sermon in which the congregants hugged the pillars of the church in a very real fear of the floors opening up and Hell swallowing them whole. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was a marked turning point in the preaching of Edwards and the life of Christians everywhere but should we remember Edwards solely based on this sermon? I think not!
There is so much more to Edwards than a fire and brimstone Puritan who had nothing to do with enjoyment and everything to do with sober and straight-faced living. He preached and wrote about the beauty of God and overwhelming majesty of His glory. He spoke of thing beyond the theologians notebooks and touched a new world to their very depths. He along with names like John Wesley and George Whitefield, sparked a revival among the colonies that would bring the Spirit of God to bear on the people of the Americas.
This volume is well-balanced, being both a positive assessment of his writings and thought, and a critical appraisal of where Edwards went further than the text of Scripture. It’s not that Edwards thought he was above Scripture, far from it, but he prescribed things, an in-depth self-appraisal, which was taken a little further than the idea should have gone. These and other areas are brought forth by Ortlund in a way which represents an accurate and charitable reading of Edwards.
Overall this volume is extremely helpful. It brings us the mind of a man whose time and language was vastly different from ours. Ortlund brings Edwards writings and sermons to a people who have long needed a fresh breath of Edwards. He puts his theology on the bottom shelf for the rest of us to follow. I’m grateful for Crossway for allowing this series to take shape as it has and I am looking forward to seeing more of these volumes cross my desk. Bravo Crossway!