Excellent Introduction To Edwards Life, Times, and Theology
Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig
The past three years have been a lot of fun for me as I’ve decided to saturate myself in the writings by, and on great Christians of history. Last year I picked C.S. Lewis, the year before that – Francis Schaeffer. This year I’m embarking upon the adventure of learning from and about Jonathan Edwards. He is considered by many Americans to be our greatest theologian and perhaps one of the top five theologians in history.
This book is a part of series of books entitled “For Armchair Theologians.” There are other books in this series on Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley and several topics like Heretics, The Reformation, and Liberation Theology. I was so impressed with this book introduction to Edwards that I plan on reading all of the books in this series.
Byrd’s introduction consists of seven chapters and 174 pages before the final sections composed of notes, a helpful bibliography for further reading, and an excellent index. The chapters focus on seven areas: (1) Edwards youth – especially emphasizing his spiritual and scientific curiosity; (2) His experiences and accounts of revival in New England; (3) His ministry and eventual ousting from his church in Northampton; (4) An explanation and commentary on his theological masterpiece: “Freedom of the Will”; (5) An explanation and commentary on his work “Original Sin”; (6) An explanation and commentary on the two works: “The End For Which God Created the World” as well as his “The Nature of True Virtue”; (7) The book concludes with Edwards legacy and how he has impacted evangelicals since his time in at least three powerful ways: (a) “In their revival practice they hailed Edward’s legendary accomplishments and his scientific analysis of the effects of revival success; (b) In their personal piety they found in Edwards a model for humility and entire devotion to God; (c) And in the Life of David Brainerd, evangelicals embraced a narrative description of Edward’s theology that fit perfectly with their zeal for missions.
I enjoyed this book immensely. It has motivated me to read more biographies on Edwards, more works on his theology, but mostly it has inspired me to read the Works of Edwards and let him speak for himself. Byrd has written a concise, thorough, warm, insightful, and readable introduction that packs a punch with wit, style, and grace. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a starting point for anyone who is intimidated by beginning a study of the great works of America’s greatest Theologian.