In the spirit of the Dead Pastors allow me to offer up this review of the 5 book series called Essential Edwards. In 18th century New England, Jonathan Edwards was a pastor and theologian who has been called one of the most brilliant theologians of American history. Unfortunately for Edwards, or perhaps for us, he is best known for his sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” This work has painted Edwards as a callous and angry man, which is far from the truth.
In the first volume, Lover of God, the authors tell Edwards’ story with his full and passionate perspective on God, his love for his elect, and the work of Jesus Christ. Throughout his life, Edwards followed his fervant work of preserving and spreading the gospel of Jesus as he boldly took stands against false teaching and unjust church politics that even cost him his position.
With an eye for the beauty of the natural world, Edwards saw God’s handiwork in the created order and the beauty of Christ in God’s natural provision. In On Beauty, the authors share passages from Edwards’ sermons that spoke of this rich heritage that points us to the rich grace and mercy of God in Christ.
A perspective that could be read as a direct critique of modern liberal views of the afterlife, Edwards laid out a robust theology of our eternal destiny in passages included in On Heaven and Hell. He taught about not only the reality and fear we should have of hell, but the limitless hope we have in Christ and our dwelling place in heaven. Not only are these future realities, thought Edwards, but each say much about how we live our lives on earth in the meantime.
It is in this light we can live a life at ease from trying to please a holy God on our own. In On the Good Life, the authors share passages that express what Edwards thought and lived in terms of the hope we have and the rest we can experience in the assurance of our salvation through Christ. It is obvious that a man who lost many children and died himself as a result of a compromised vaccine did not have an easy life. Yet even so he was able to live a life free of guilt, shame, and fear.
Passages that challenge the nominal Christianity of Edwards’ day seem quite rich and relevent to our current expressions of our faith. In On True Christianity the highlighted passages challenge those who would call themselves Christian, but demonstrate lack of fruit to take their faith seriously. Edwards knew that faith was no game to play or status to secure, but a real and present hope of reconciliation with God, an event that could never leave a person the same.
What is excellent about this series of short works is that it brings the words of Jonathan Edwards, often intimidating because of his language and the depth of his intellect, and makes them accessible to anyone hoping to learn and be inspired by this amazing man of God. Read these if you are new to Edwards or if just to get a topical perspective on his theology and philosophy.