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Archive for May, 2013

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Jonathan Edwards and the life of Godliness

Kyle Strobel, Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2013).

kyle-strobel_formed-for-the-glory-of-GodThis is a popular devotional book by an up-and-coming Edwards scholar. It offers important lessons in authentic spirituality from the life and work of Edwards.

The book has two parts. In Part One, Strobel offers “a broad overview of the journey of faith” with help from Edwards’ writings. “Here, we look at how our path is oriented to heaven, how it is an ascent in God’s glory and how it is the way of affection” (16). Or as Strobel puts this later, in the conclusion to Part One,

We started by focusing on heaven as a world of love, a place where love reigns because the God of love reigns there. This functions as a horizon point for us, because it helps to orient the Christian life. Heaven is the place we are striving toward, and therefore knowing the destination helps orient us in our pilgrimage. Second, we looked at salvation as grasping both beauty and glory, and ascending to the Father in the Son. Jesus becomes human so that we can participate in the divine life. The life of faith, therefore, is a life of   grasping the beauty and glory of God and becoming beautiful and glorious creatures of God. Third, we addressed religious affection, which is the way of the heart. God calls his people to love him with their whole hearts and follow him as faithful children. This love is seeing the beauty and glory of God in Christ by the illumination of the Spirit (66).

In Part Two, the author examines various tools for use on the journey. “Specifically,” he says, “I highlight spiritual disciplines, what Edwards called means of grace, and then the interconnection of knowledge of God and ourselves” (16). In chapters on “Spiritual Disciplines as Means of Grace,” “Knowledge of God and Knowledge of Self,” “Meditation and Contemplation,” and “Jonathan Edwards’s Spiritual Practices,” Strobel offers advice on how to grow in godliness by reappropriating practices such as meditation, contemplation, Sabbath observance, fasting, conferencing, soliloquy, silence and solitude, and prayer, as exemplified by Edwards.

It is important, Strobel avers, to read both parts of the book together, observing its overall “flow.” Stroble refuses to speak of practices, he says, “until we have a firm grasp of the big picture of the Christian life. If we started with practices, as so many have, we will ultimately lose sight of their role in leading us to Christ. Inevitably, I fear, a focus on disciplines digresses quickly to self-help. Edwards offers a different way” (16), a much more theological way than most popular books provide.

This primer on Christian godliness presents no new research. Nor is it aimed at academics. It is short, easy to read, and comes warmly recommended for believers seeking a closer walk with God.