Book Review 28: “The Essential Jonathan Edwards” by Owen Strachan & Douglas A. Sweeney

***DISCLAIMER: I RECEIVED THIS BOOK FOR FREE FROM MOODY PUBLISHERS TO REVIEW***

Owen Strachan & Douglas A. Sweeney wrote a long, informational and theologically sound book titledĀ The Essential Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to the Life and Teaching of America’s Greatest Theologian. This book represents the fifth book that I have reviewed for Moody Publishers. The authors pray this book inspires the reader to “live zealously for Christ” (p. 11). John Piper writes the foreword to this book (pp. 17-19). Piper prays the book draws “more people into the sway of Edwards’s (sic) God-entranced worldview” (p. 19). It is obvious all three individuals have high hopes for how the book will impact the reader.

The authors separate the book into five parts. Part one mainly looks at Edwards’ life from birth to death (pp. 23-114). The last four parts draw much from Edwards’ sermons. Part two focuses on Edwards’ sermons that discussed the beauty of God, creation, Jesus Christ, the church and the trinitarian afterlife (pp. 115-194). Part three focuses on the theme of the “Good Life” shown in Edwards’ sermons (pp. 195-280). Part four focuses on both Edwards’ definition of true Christianity and his refutation of nominal Christianity (pp. 281-350). Part five, without a doubt the most jolting and eye-opening part of the book, focuses on Edwards’ doctrine of heaven and hell (pp. 351-428). The book in itself concludes with works cited, recommended resources and acknowledgements (pp. 429-439).

As a literary work, the book is nearly exemplary. The authors do an excellent job succinctly telling Edwards’ life story in part one. In the book’s last four parts, the authors begin each chapter by clearly explaining the chapter goal as they analyze Edwards’ sermons in light of the chapter topic being discussed. Finally, they draw much from primary sources (i.e., Edwards’ own work) early and often in their analysis. What prevents this book from being an exemplary literary work is its handful of grammar errors in the book (p. 88, p. 261, p. 361 to name a few). Despite the grammar shortcomings, one need not ignore the book’s simplicity that makes it easy to read.

As a theological work, the book is one worth recommending. While I do not quite agree with the authors insertion of (seemingly) their own ideas in part three (specifically their belief that God has called us to happiness in addition to their promoting of “the good life”, a theme that, on its face, has a “here and now” focus rather than an “eternal” focus), their frequently citing Edwards’ works in their analysis shows how Edwards, theologically, was sound. This manifests itself the most in part five, a section that analyzes Edwards’ theology on heaven and hell. His theology on hell is so illustrative and accurate that it makes born-again believers (like myself) take serious inventory of one’s life. Sadly, this kind of preaching is scarce in modern evangelical churches.

CONCLUSION

As mentioned, this book represents the fifth book that I have reviewed for Moody Publishers. It is far and away the best book from Moody Publishers that I have read. It is a simple and theologically rich book to read. Furthermore, it has driven me to want to read more of Edwards’ work. Despite its noted shortcomings, the book is a must-read for the Christian.

GRADE: 4.25 out of 5

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