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A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Library of Religious Biography) Paperback – September 5, 2008
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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
"A slim but solid biography of Edwards. . . Marsden's work provides an accessible and informed account for scholars and laypeople alike."
"A work of grace, lit by affection for the great clergyman and understanding of his place and time. . . A lovely précis of Edwards. "
"Lucid and wise, brief but broadly informative, this book introduces present-day Americans to the greatest of early American Christian thinkers and to the colonial society in which he lived."
"A masterpiece. Distilled in this little volume is not only Marsden's own massive knowledge of the man Jonathan Edwards but also a generation of scholarship that has sought to understand the religious roots of contemporary U.S. society. A must-read especially for pastors and preachers who want to be both faithful to classic Christianity and yet engaged with culture."
"Marsden is easily the most distinguished historian of Edwards in the world today. . . With a clear and engaging writing style, he makes America's most brilliant colonial intellectual come alive as no other scholar has done."
"George Marsden is our premier historian of 'America's theologian.' In this wonderfully accessible introduction to Jonathan Edwards's life and thought, Marsden not only shows why Edwards was the architect of the first American revolution (the Great Awakening) but also provides fresh insight into his God-intoxicated vision of reality."
"In this fresh, crisp retelling of the story of Jonathan Edwards, George Marsden offers a masterful synthesis of biographical data. Easy to read and never dull, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards should enjoy a long life on the shelves of personal, congregational, and academic libraries."
“Theologically sensitive, historically insightful, and engagingly written. Highly recommended.”
Westminster Theological Journal
“An engaging and accessible little book that deserves wide readership. . . . An excellent introduction to the man who is arguably the most important and creative theologian and Christian philosopher America has ever produced.”
Religious Studies Review
“Marsden’s slim volume should stand as a model for other eminent historians who would like to make their scholarship available to a popular audience.”
Reviews in Religion & Theology
“Accessible and encouraging to read. . . . Highly recommended.”
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If you're looking for information on Edwards' life, Marden's A Shorty Life of Jonathan Edwards is a good place to start. If you have had some interactions with Edwards and want to eat the same manna he did though, you may want to look elsewhere. You're not likely to be edified. Perhaps I was spoiled by Arnold Dallimore's treatment of Whitefield which not only familiarized me with the man but helped me love the God he preached so well. This was my first biography I've read of Edwards, but I think I'll look to Ian Murray's Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography next.
I particularly like the way the author compares the lives of Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin. It is an interesting account of men born in similar circumstances and education but who go on to live very different lives... one becoming one of the best known Christians of his day and the other choosing the modern teaching coming from Europe.
I downloaded it on my Kindle but purchased the paperback edition as a gift for a family member (who is a true theologian). I'd recommend reading Marriage to a Difficult Man to get a further account of the importance of his wife and children to his life.
Marsden's writing style is easy and flowing and so wonderful for just getting immersed into the story. Highly recommended.