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A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Library of Religious Biography) Paperback – September 5, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Library of Religious Biography
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (September 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802802206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802802200
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The author of the magisterial Jonathan Edwards (2003) has written an entirely new book for Eerdmans’ Library of Religious Biography. It’s a work of grace, lit by affection for the great clergyman and understanding of his place and time: prerevolutionary New England, considering itself more British than colonial, still an ecclesiastical regime, in which a parson held as much or more authority than any secular officeholder. A scion of ministers, Edwards was upper crust, yet he became the chief apologist of the Great Awakening, which challenged local pastors and encouraged democracy among church members. Astonishingly busy and productive, he had 11 children, wrote voluminously, directed missions to the Indians, and faithfully attended church conventicles. A rigorous Calvinist and a keen student of nature, he believed in a personal God whose love required reciprocal love from the believer, not least because of the glorious gift of Creation. Marsen calls him “a towering figure . . . of the first American revolution, the spiritual revolution of the awakening.” Reading his lovely précis of Edwards is believing that assessment. --Ray Olson

From AudioFile

Marsden's biography of Jonathan Edwards (most famous for the sermon "Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God") is not intended as an abridgment of his lengthier JONATHAN EDWARDS: A LIFE. Instead, it's meant to provide insight into Edwards's life and influence to a wider audience. Marsden places particular emphasis on the profound cultural and social shifts that were occurring during Edwards's life and how those shifts influenced his development as a man, scholar, and clergyman. Grover Gardner narrates with a crisp, businesslike attitude, which only works part of the time. He moves along swiftly, the prose buoying him up with clever anecdotes of Edwards's life. But at times Gardner sounds like he's simply reading the text, rather than narrating, a choice that sometimes makes Marsden's insightful, sensitive biography sound like a brittle history textbook. A.A. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 18 customer reviews
Most will say, rightly, that you cannot go wrong with either one; both are excellent and both are well worth reading.
Tim Challies
In addition, this book can serve as an excellent refresher and short reference volume for those who are involved in scholarly pursuits.
Brandon Cozart
Jonathan Edwards was one of the most engaging and influencial spiritual and intellectual leaders of the 18th Century.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Cozart on January 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Five years after publishing his definitive biography on Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, George Marsden is back with a shorter volume on Edwards's life, aptly titled A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards. However, this is not simply an abridgment of the larger work. Rather, Marsden has constructed a new narrative in hopes of making the study of Edwards attractive to "church study groups and to students in college courses in American history or American religious history" (x). The result is a wonderful, engaging introduction to the life and work of Jonathan Edwards.

The majority of the new material in this volume is found through the juxtaposition of Edwards's life with the life of Benjamin Franklin, in which Franklin serves as a sort of contemporary foil to Edwards. He forsook the religion of his Puritan forebears, viewed the pursuit and accumulation of wealth as the primary goal of human life, and was thoroughly entrenched in Enlightenment science and thought. Edwards, on the other hand, fervently defended the old religion, saw the glorification of God as man's highest and chief end, and was also abreast and interested in the new thinking and ideologies that were making their way to the American colonies. Unlike Franklin, however, Edwards does not elevate the Enlightenment emphasis on human reason to preeminent status. Instead, he uses reason and scientific method to confirm what God teaches through Scripture and in nature.

With the details and minutiae of Edwards's life and thought left to his larger work, Marsden here sweeps through the grand drama of his subject's life, painting Edwards as a man who tirelessly held on to the old Puritan religion he inherited, despite new ideas and trends in religion coming over from Britain and the European continent.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By agentx216 on October 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
This was an okay read. Marsden does a good job of getting the setting down for Edwards which I think can be the biggest pitfall when presenting a not in full biography as Marsden did in his full biography of Jonathan Edwards. So there I am pleased with the book. However, the biggest problem I have with this book is that I don't feel like I ever met Edwards or really saw him stand out as he should have. There's a lot of pulling in other big names to provide context to the world Edwards was a part of, but I felt that Edwards was getting lost in the world. It seemed more of an account of the period rather than the man. I know Edwards is a big name in the Puritain world (almost post-Puritain) but this book hardly made me want to pick up any sermon or book other than the scientific look of God's performance of miracles in Edward's New England area, "A Faithful Narrative Of The Surprising Work Of God". If I didn't know that Edwards was an important figure and went solely on this book, I don't think I'd be impressed to read anything about him. Again, good establishment of the setting of the era so it will help when you read Edwards work. Final Grade - C-
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joel S. Frady on November 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
This work by eminent scholar George Marsden is not an abridged version of his larger biography of Edwards but is a new work intended to provide access to Edwards' story for everyone. Marsden does a masterful job of showing how Edwards' life flowed into the larger story of America. The often forgotten truth that this nation was founded not only in the midst of Revolution but also Revivalism helps us see how America can be simultaneously so religious and materialistic. The final chapter of the book, where Marsden uncovers the significance of Edwards today, is well worth the price of the whole book. Marsden's premise that Edwards is the Jefferson of America's religious awakening and Whitefield its Washington is compelling. Edwards' impact on our culture continues today in the movement of Reformed evangelicalism characterized by humble God-centeredness and intellectual rigor. 5 Stars without a doubt.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tim Challies TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ask those who love biography and ask those who admire Jonathan Edwards and you will find the jury split on which biography best tells the life of Edwards. Some will vote for Iain Murray's Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography while others will opt for George Marsden's Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Most will say, rightly, that you cannot go wrong with either one; both are excellent and both are well worth reading.

Several years after the publication of his full-length, award winning book, Marsden has written A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards. He explains the book's existence in this way: "Prior to being asked to write that major biography, I had already told my friends at Eerdmans that some day I would write a life of Edwards for them. So with the cooperation of both publishers, I agreed that after I wrote the more definitive biography for Yale, I would write something shorter for Eerdmans. The happy outcome is that, having already published a much longer, closely documented work, this book could be kept brief without any scholarly apparatus." Thus this book, written for a wider audience, comes unencumbered by footnotes, citations and references. It is not an abridgment of the previous work but is "a fresh retelling in which I have tried to include just what is most essential and most engaging." Throughout, Marsden compares Edwards with none other than Benjamin Franklin. And, indeed, their lives do run in near parallel for some time. Though there are obvious differences between the two, there are also remarkable similarities.

I suppose it may be polite to offer a "spoiler alert" here, but I'm assuming most people know that Edwards is going to die at the end of the biography. That is, after all, the way most biographies end.
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