John Piper and Justin Taylor have edited a new biography of Jonathan Edwards, A God Entranced Vision of All Things. Nine other writers contributed chapters, ranging in topic from why Jonathan Edwards was fired from his pastorate, to whether we should trust the theology of a slave owner.
Part One of the book covers the biographical material of Edwards’ life. John Piper does a beautiful job, as always, of discussing why we need Edwards. In his eminently quotable style, Piper says, “We can scarcely begin to feel today how God-ignoring we have become, because it is the very air we breathe.” Stephen Nichols provides an interesting survey of the times in which Edwards lived--a historical background. Noel Piper writes about Sarah Edwards in chapter three. I recently finished reading Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards by Elisabeth D. Dodds, to which the Pipers write the foreword, and from which material was heavily referenced.
The second section of the book digs deeper into Edwards’ thinking and ministry. J.I. Packer discusses the nature of spiritual revival. Donald Whitney provides insight into Edwards’ practice of spiritual disciplines. But for me, the chapters that provided the most new and interesting information were those on the events surrounding Edwards’ dismissal from the pastorate in Northampton, and the examination of Edwards’ position on the slave trade and the practice of slaveholding. This latter topic was completely new to me in relation to Jonathan Edwards, and something that may prove interesting to research further.
It was in the exposition of Edwards’ major theological works in Part Three that I had the most difficulty, particularly in the discussions of original sin and the freedom of the will. This had nothing to do with the material itself and everything to do with my own intellectual shortcomings. The material on religious affections, however, was clear and helpful. This book will prove appealing and edifying to readers at various levels of interest and understanding, not just as historical biography, but also as exhortation to a deeper level of thought and spiritual commitment. – Pam Glass, Christian Book Previews.com
“Useful men are some of the greatest blessings of a people. To have many such is more for a people’s happiness than almost anything, unless it be God’s own gracious, spiritual presence amongst them; they are precious gifts of heaven.”
Certainly one of the most useful men in evangelical history was the man who preached those words, pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards. Commemorating his 300th birthday, general editors John Piper and Justin Taylor chose ten essays that highlight different aspects of Edwards’s life and legacy and show how his teachings are just as relevant today as they were three centuries ago.
Even within the church, many people know little more about Edwards than what is printed in American history textbooks—most often, excerpts from his best-known sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” They unjustly envision Edwards preaching only fire and brimstone to frightened listeners. But he knew and preached God’s heaven as much as Satan’s hell. He was a humble and joyful servant, striving to glorify God in his personal life and public ministry.
This book’s contributors investigate the character and teachings of the man who preached from a deep concern for the unsaved and a passionate desire for God. Studying the life and works of this dynamic Great Awakening figure will rouse slumbering Christians, prompting them to view the world through Edwards’s God-centered lens.