The Essential Jonathan Edwards Review

Book Review: 

Owen Strachan serves as an associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the director for the Center on Public Theology at MBTS. Douglas A. Sweeney serves as the chair of church history and history of Christian thought department and director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Recently, they published an important introduction to North America’s most famous theologian, Jonathan Edwards.

The Essential Jonathan Edwards originated out of a burden to introduce a new generation of thinkers to Jonathan Edwards. New Calvinism and the Young, Restless, and Reformed movements were born from a contemporary revival in Calvinism and the doctrines of grace. One of the main leaders of this new movement was John Piper, former pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church and founder of desiringGod.org. John Piper captured the minds of a new generation through his teaching on Christian Hedonism and the idea of being satisfied in God. While many Christians were struck by this seemingly novel approach to communion with God, John Piper self-confessedly was drawing from the thoughts and ideas of Jonathan Edwards. As second-generation thinkers in this revival of Jonathan Edwards, Strachan and Sweeney seek to guide young thinkers through the lofty peaks of the works of Jonathan Edwards.

Like preparing for a great expedition, one must approach the works of Edwards with a guide and resources to achieve a fruitful result. These two theologians help readers access Edwards’s works through categorizing his life and thoughts into five main sections. These entry-level introductions will give the reader a working knowledge of the landscape of Edwards’s works for personal study. After spending part 1 revisiting the life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards, the authors divide his works into four themes: Beauty, the Good Life, True Christianity, and Heaven and Hell. Within these sub-divisions, the authors work meticulously to provide on-ramps into the works of Edwards. Many times, they introduce an important theme within Edwards’s theology, link the theme to a quotation from his works, and provide many relevant opportunities to explore these ideas and concepts within the primary sources. When studied with a set of Edwards’s full works, the reader can comfortably survey and enter into the depths of Edwards’s theology at many points. Others will enjoy reading this survey of Edwards to appreciate this titanic figure in Evangelicalism and Western Christianity.

It is important to know that this work is a compilation of a previous set of works “The Essential Edwards Collection.” This new form houses the five previous works from this collection along with new edits and insights. Owners of the previous works will be disappointed if they are unaware of the relationship between this volume and the previous collection.

This book provides readers with an accessible introduction to the works of Jonathan Edwards. Every pastor, theologian, and theologically-minded Christian should consider purchasing a copy of this work to learn about America’s most famous theologian.