"The Essential Jonathan Edwards", by Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney (book review)

"The Essential Jonathan Edwards", by Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney, was a considerably worthwhile read!  It is as thick mentally as it is physically (448 pages).  Therefore, much is covered in this book that requires a considerable amount of thought, but you will be blessed in doing so.

Basically, the book is laid out in such a way that the authors focus on a general category in each chapter. Their discussion is built around an analysis of Edwards’ sermons and/or essays.  Helpfully, the authors brilliantly reflect at the end of each chapter on how Jonathan Edwards’ position or circumstance (as discussed in the chapter) could influence our lives today. This, quite honestly, was probably my most favorite aspect of the book.   They did not neglect to discuss how we might think about particular topics today.  

Interestingly, I suppose there are three different ways someone could read through this book.

First, and most obvious, is reading it cover to cover in the order presented. This is obviously a heavy undertaking, but certainly proves helpful.  However, with so much information, much could be forgotten by the time the reader reaches the last pages.

A second approach could be reading just the numerous excerpts from Jonathan Edwards’ sermons and essays alone, without reading Strachan’s and Sweeney’s conclusions, discussions, or commentaries.  The reader could undertake sifting through Edwards’ challenging wording, and grow as a result.

A third reading approach could be to skip all of Edwards’ excerpts, and read just the authors’ commentaries.  They did such a fine job clarifying Edwards’ meanings, as 1700’s language is considerably different from modern English.  Therefore, without even reading his own words , one could still learn from Edwards through those who have taken great care in studying his life and teaching.

One chapter that piqued my interest pertained to Edwards’ view of the trinity. While his approach appeared problematic to me on a few levels, I gave this singular chapter more consideration than the others, as I sought out Edwards’ previous writings on the trinity, as well as writings of those who dissent with his view.  This highlights another positive aspect of this book.  The authors did a fine job citing each sermon and essay so you – the reader – could search out their full contexts yourself.

If you are a Jonathan Edwards aficionado, then this book would probably be a good purchase for you.  I don't consider it a “must-have” book for everyone, but I think anyone who reads it will be challenged, encouraged, and blessed by it. That said, I give this title five stars

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review.

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