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Sweeney’s Booknotes: Jonathan Edwards: A Life Well Lived

Allan G. Hedberg. Jonathan Edwards: A Life Well Lived. Bloomington, IN: Westbow Press, 2016.

Edwards A Life Well LivedThis is an edifying book by a clinical psychologist in Fresno, California, erstwhile faculty member at a number of different Christian universities, former president of the California Psychological Association, and long-time friend of this Center. It offers an introduction to Edwards for the uninitiated and an assessment of Edwards’ life based on the principles of a Christian mental health counselor. Each of its chapters ends with encouragement to apply the book’s insights to the daily lives of its readers.

As Hedberg confesses in an appendix on his vantage point, “this volume . . . was written as a summary treatise of [Edwards’] life through my perspective as a psychologist. Accordingly, I exercised a degree of freedom when I reviewed and interpreted his experiences, lifestyle, and behavior patterns. . . . When writing this book, I did so in the hopes of inviting other social scientists and psychologists to become acquainted with Edwards and vicariously interact with him in this manner” (310-11).

The most interesting parts of the book are indeed those in which Hedberg exercises professional freedom. The world does not need yet another introduction to Edwards as much as it needs learned analysis of Edwards by psychologists and other social scientists. As I have noted in my fly-leaf endorsement of the book: “I have been wishing aloud for years that professional psychologists would take a look at Edwards, helping us think about his life—and what can be learned about it today—from a mental health perspective. Dr. Hedberg has done just that. Of course Edwards is now in heaven, so conjectures about his psyche ought to be made with great care. Still, cautious, humble hypothesis about his inner life and the lessons it affords for people seeking better health can lead to useful conversations that bring healing to the soul. Whether or not you feel like Edwards (who was an ordinary man with extraordinary gifts for sensing the work of the Spirit of God), I pray that God will use this book to make you whole.”

Hedberg is a friend whom I assisted on this project. In the interest of equity, I’ll keep from saying much more. The table of contents of the book will give you a feel for its shape and the concerns of its author. This book is one of a kind, most helpful to those who want to consider Edwards as an example of an evangelical life well lived.

CONTENTS

Endorsements
In Appreciation
The Edwards Challenge

PART I: THE MAN, HIS WORLD, AND HIS TIMES

The Man and His Roles, Values, and Times: An Executive Summary
A Brief Biography and Portrait Commentary of Jonathan Edwards
Timeline of the Life of Jonathan Edwards
A Good Name is Better than a Fine Ornament

PART II: THE MAN AND HIS SURROUNDINGS

The Hometown
The Tree House Years
The Yale Roots Run Deep
Many Factors Shape a Life
A Man of Learning, Wisdom, and Influence

PART III: THE MAN AND HIS HISTORICAL ROOTS

The Unfolding of United States History (1690-1787)
The History of the Church
Colleagues in Ministry with Jonathan Edwards

PART IV: THE MAN AND HIS PURSUIT OF GODLY LIVING

The Seventy Resolutions and Other Personal Writings
The Pursuit of Godly Living
Spiritual Honing System
The Faith Languages of the Believer
Strategic Thinking about Moral Departure
Confronting Evil
Living for the Trumpet Sound of God

PART V: THE MAN AND HIS PURSUIT FOR STRESS-FREE LIVING

Stress Management Strategies
Daily Time Management
The Value of Temper Control
Desire to Be a Peacemaker
Compassion, Not Revenge

PART VI: THE MAN AND HIS PURSUIT OF HEALTHY LIVING

The Health Care System of Edwards’ Day
The Demons of Addiction
The Challenges of Aging
The Pursuit of Happiness
Dealing with Procrastination
Acts of Charity

PART VII: THE MAN AND HIS COMMITMENT TO A GODLY HOME

A Large and Traditional Family
Honoring Parents and Family
The Provider in the Home
Parenting Styles and Strategies
Money Matters in the Home
Slavery in the Home
The Edwards Legacy

PART VIII: THE MAN AND HIS PURSUIT FOR NEW BELIEVERS

The Most Famous Sermon of All
An Authentic Faith
The Disciplines of Godly Living
Intentional Self-Examination
Advice to New Believers

PART IX: THE MAN AND HIS PASTOR’S HEART

The Man and the Pulpit
The Pastor’s Final Words to His Congregation
When God Has Other Plans
The Final Four Key Decisions
Life in the Rear View Mirror

APPENDIX

The Ten Most Highly Regarded Writings of Edwards
The Author’s Perspective as a Clinical Psychologist
Publications of the Author and the Artist