A preacher who provoked hearts and challenged listeners, Jonathan Edwards has a legacy that transcends generation. Few recognize just how far Edwards influence extends having in his line descendants who profoundly influenced politics, religion, and business in the United States. Edwards legacy is one that at times brings forth theological contention and contemplation but it is a legacy that results oftentimes in discussion, sometimes in dissension, and nearly always in development. It makes reading Jonathan Edwards a notable endeavor, but not always an easy one.
With a host of scholars, Nathan Finn and Jeremy Kimble have put together just the book meant to help readers navigate the most notable and lengthy of Jonathan Edwards. Seeking to help readers understand the background of Edwards’ writings, the book consists of ten chapters, each written by a different scholar, covering an overview of Edwards to specific writings such as Freedom of the Will and Religious Affections, all the while dissecting his theology so that his writings can be better understood. This is not a book that addresses everything available from Edwards, nor does it even address all of his writings. It is a book focusing on understanding Edwards and his writings more by simply looking at the main writings, and in defining that as the primary goal, the authors have done it and done it very well.
To be forthright, often times when I see writings about other’s writings, I haven’t quite figured out the point. Most of the time it is simply restating what the author had already published, and so it makes more sense to go straight to the source rather than add another layer that might make it misunderstood. With that experience, the expectation with reading this particular book was about the same. Therefore, I must be the first to confess, I was wrong. The authors do not merely restate Edwards, but rather they cite him only to give example and clarity to their points being made. Instead, they have fixated on three points:
Historical Context: There is an explanation about the circumstances taking place at the time. Like understanding the historical context when we read Scripture, the historical context here helps to give understanding and reasoning to the topics that Edwards addressed and why he did so in the manner that he did.
Christian Context: More than just historical background, the authors frequently address what is taking place in the context of Christianity. Bringing forth figures, functions, and facts so that readers understand even more about the points that Edwards makes in his writings.
Personal Context: Finally, each offers up insights into who Edwards was as a man so that readers can once again better see his reasoning, theology, and thinking that lead the conclusions and comments he made.
As a result of this, the authors aren’t merely telling people what Edwards wrote, but they explain why he wrote what he did.
The result is a book that adds value to the writings of Jonathan Edwards because it allows readers to grip the reality in which Edwards lived. Such a recognition makes reading Edwards more clear and more personal. As a result, unlike most books of this style, I would recommend it because it provides opportunity to dissect not only Edwards and his theology, but also our own as it compels us to think more deeply about what we believe and why.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, this review was not influenced by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of the book.