From the JEC Blog

Archive for September, 2014

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God

Dane C. Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, Theologians on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014)

Jonathan Edwards on the Christian LifeOK, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve had a spate of books on Edwards intended to edify believers in the past several years. But give this new volume a chance. Dane C. Ortlund is an excellent theologian from Wheaton College. He has written on Edwards before. He knows Edwards’ thought well. Plus, he focuses here on what he calls “the organizing theme” of Edwards’ approach to Christian living: beauty. I love it. “To become a Christian is to become alive to beauty,” Ortlund claims. “This is the contribution to Christianity that Jonathan Edwards makes and no one has made better” (p. 23).

In thirteen chapters, Ortlund walks his readers through the major elements of Edwards’ understanding of faithful practice, from conversion to joy and gentleness, Bible reading to prayer, good works to pining for heaven, showing that all of these are inspired in the hearts of true Christians by the beauty of the divine in the Godhead and the world.

Ortlund is a friend, as are the editors of the series in which this book takes its place (Stephen Nichols and Justin Taylor). We consulted on its contents, so I’d better keep things short in the name of fair play.

I’ll conclude with my endorsement, printed on the book itself:  “The supreme value of reading Edwards is that we are ushered into a universe brimming with beauty,” writes Ortlund (p. 15). I couldn’t agree more. And one would be hard-pressed to find a more engaging introduction to this universe for the church. Even the final chapter, on ways in which we should not follow Edwards (pp, 177-92), offers crucial Christian wisdom. Ortlund’s criticisms of Edwards hit the mark—and deserve consideration by Edwards’s growing number of fans. I plan to use them with my seminary students in years to come. Please peruse this beautiful book. It’s good for the soul.

Highly recommended for those who want an explicitly Christian reading of Edwards aimed at spiritual edification.