John A. Grigg, The Lives of David Brainerd: The Making of an American Evangelical Icon, Religion in America Series (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
We all know something of the legend of David Brainerd, but few of us know much about the man. This new book by John Grigg is better than anything before it on the life and work of Brainerd, and on the real history of his legendary influence on evangelicalism and modern missions.
It begins with two complaints: “First, Brainerd’s life is often irrevocably bifurcated between events that precede [his] expulsion [from Yale College] and those that follow it, and second, he is understood only within the context either of the Great Awakening or of Indian missions. Because of this, the bulk of his life, the first twenty years or so, is erased, effectively cutting Brainerd loose from the culture in which he grew up. Any sense of continuity, of heritage, disappears and Brainerd becomes a fragmented abstraction, an example of discrete aspects of colonial America.”
Grigg succeeds at situating Brainerd back in his own culture, reintegrating our view of his person and work. For anyone interested in understanding Brainerd and his world, the lives of Brainerd by Edwards and Wesley, or the uses to which those lives have been put by modern evangelicals, this book is a must read.
–Composed by Douglas Sweeney, Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School