Thoughts on the Way Home

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Essential Edwards Collection

I finished reading the Essential Edwards Collection, and I promised to write a review so here is my best shot. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, "No man is more relevant to the present condition of Christianity than Jonathan Edwards." That statement coupled with an exhortation from a brother to begin working through Edwards caused me to want to get this set. I found much to be encouraged by.

The set covers a broad range of reoccurring emphases from Edwards. One volume is dedicated to Edwards' thought in the following areas: beauty, Heaven and Hell, "the good life," and true Christianity. Also included is a popular level biography of his life. The authors intersperse extensive quotes from the works of Edwards with their own commentary. They did a wonderful job of mining these quotes. A reader basically cannot turn a page without running into a massive block quote from the works of Edwards. And that was my main hope in obtaining this set. I wanted someone to give me a broad stroke overview of Edwards' thought without having to read 26 volumes!

I was especially exhorted by Heaven and Hell and Beauty to go deeper in my thinking in these areas. Edwards' extensive meditation on these subjects seems to have had a very practical impact on his life. I didn't agree with all of his conclusions, but these volumes made me want to go deeper in my own thinking.

I was also tremendously encouraged that the authors dedicated a whole volume to Edwards's thoughts on true Christianity. That is no small thing! Widespread confusion exists concerning the nature of Biblical Christianity, and from reading this volume I am convinced Edwards could go a long way in helping recover these truths.

The volume that gave me the most trouble was The Good Life. My copy looks like WWIII hit with highlighting and questions in the margins! But that actually may be more my fault than the writers. I have a fairly significant problem with Piper's emphasis on Christian Hedonism, and I went into this volume looking for the authors to defend Piper through Edwards. While flipping back through this volume I concluded that in many ways it contains some of the richest quotes.

I really appreciated this set. I do not know of another resource that gives such a broad range of Edwards' thought in accessible form. For me, that alone was worth the read. Aside from this I think the greatest benefit derived from the set is the way the authors force their readers to deal with issues. They constantly apply Edwards to everyday life. This keeps a reader from simply leaving Edwards' thought in the realm of theory. So even when disagreeing, a reader is challenged to think through what an appropriate application would be. For me, that is extremely valuable.

For the next couple of days I will be posting some of the quotes that encouraged me. I hope it will be a blessing to you.