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Sweeney’s Booknotes: Jonathan Edwards and God’s Grand Design

Sean Michael Lucas, God’s Grand Design: The Theological Vision of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011).

Sean Lucas is a friend. He acknowledges me in this book, for which I wrote a glowing endorsement. Lest this booknote seem an exercise in bibliographical favoritism, I’ll keep it short and sweet.

This is a book written for Christians, both to inform them of the major themes of Edwards’s theology and to encourage faith and piety.

There have been many attempts to identify the core of Edwards’s thought—its modernity, its rationalism, its focus on experience, its doctrine of saving faith, to name a few of the leading candidates. But Lucas contends that none of these things was quite the most important. It is “striking,” he says, “that Edwards spent the greatest amount of his time thinking about the Christian life, both for himself and then for his parishioners” (p. 12). This “major preoccupation” yielded a comprehensive “theology and history of the Christian life, beginning in eternity past with the mutual delight that God had in himself and extending . . . into the future in which heaven would be a ‘world of love’” (p. 13). This vision of the Christian life proved most important to Edwards, which is why Lucas has selected it as the subject of his book.

The book has two main parts. In part one, Lucas limns Edwards’s view of redemptive history, describing his view of creation, fall, salvation, and heavenly consummation. In part two, he recounts what Edwards said of the application of redemption in the daily lives of Christians, discussing divine light, affections, virtue, the church, and growth in grace. He offers a helpful bibliography and concludes with an appendix using Edwards’s early life as a model for the spiritual formation of clergy.

All in all, this is a fine book. I recommend it highly, especially to Christian ministry leaders.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS