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Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards's "Religious Affections" Paperback – June 27, 2007
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About the Author
Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was previously a visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and blogs regularly at SamStorms.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
I am currently reading Religious Affections for the third time and actually purchased Storms' book because I was hoping for a more sermonic distillation of Edwards. That is not what Storms has written. But I still finished his book with profit and expect to use it in the future. The great strength of Storms' "interpretation" of Edwards is its brevity - 152 pages vs. over 350 in the Yale edition! The first time I read Religious Affections it took me four or five months to get all the way through. Storms' book can easily be read in several sittings.
The downside is that the cumulative weight of Edwards' argument is somewhat lost with the editing. For example, Storms summarizes much of Edwards' actual exposition of biblical passages and just includes the verses in brackets, whereas Edwards actually quotes the verses. I find these parts some of the richest portions of Edwards' original. I like reading Edwards himself because I value the effect his more lengthy explanation and argumentation has on my heart.
But there is a second benefit to Storms' book - and this is really the reason I want to commend it. The last third of Storms' book (p. 153-213) contains Edwards' Personal Narrative, with Storms' commentary interspersed throughout. The Personal Narrative is Edwards' own recounting of his conversion experience and early spiritual growth. It is simply breathtaking! And Storms' commentary on it is exceptionally edifying. I read all of this on a Saturday evening and it really helped sensitize my soul to the Lord and prepare my heart for worship the next day.
So, if are stirred up by those occasional quotes from Edwards that you hear from your pastor, and you want to read him for yourself but don't think you can tackle 350+ pages of unedited Puritan prose, get Storms! Even if you don't read all of the Religious Affections section (though I hope you will!), you will benefit so much from reading the Personal Narrative section.
Instead, Storms provides the modern reader with a modern reading of "Religious Affections." To this day, no one has done a better job of developing a biblical psychology of human longings than Jonathan Edwards. Storms work has the potential to introduce a new generation of readers to the relational-spiritual longings, thirsts, desires, and affections implanted into the soul by God.
Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Spiritual Friends, and Soul Physicians.
review by Tony Reinke (The Shepherd's Scrapbook blog)
Published in 1746, Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections remains the great masterpiece on biblical discernment. Edwards exposes the inner workings of the soul, using Scripture to make concrete the contrast between the fleeting affections of a hard hypocritical heart and the enduring affections of a softened and converted heart. The precise dissection of the soul in Religious Affections is one of the enduring characteristics of Edwards intellectual brilliance and a precision warranted from such delicate matters. Contemporary readers (like this one) will find Edwards' intellectual precision troublesome.
In his new release, Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards' `Religious Affections' (Crossway: 2007), Sam Storms has written an excellent guide through Edwards' rich arguments. Storms is noted for his study of Edwards and has worked through the Religious Affections at least 10 times (p. 12).
But Storms is not enthralled with the genius of Edwards. He begins the book with clear, foundational biblical exposition and carries biblical proof throughout the entire work. Genuine discernment of the true work of God finds its basis in God's Word, not Edwards. Storms' careful biblical development deserves applause.
From here Storms builds a historical backdrop to Religious Affections and then defines affections, finally concluding that affections are the "warm and fervid inclinations that reveal the fundamental orientation of the human heart" (p. 44). Storms follows the design of Edwards in explaining the 12 signs that don't necessarily authenticate the work of God in the soul and the 12 signs that do authenticate the genuine work of God in the soul. Genuine God-given affections are lit by the flame of God Himself, an enduring flame that displays itself in genuine love and admiration of God as He exists in His spectacular beauty. True religious affections will reveal themselves by causing us to hate sin and pursue Christ-likeness, driving our appetite for more of God and to pursue the sweetness in the Person and Work of Christ.
Edwards' personal testimony of these religious affections comprise the final 80 pages.
Religious Affections is always relevant but especially in our day when "Christianity" is often defined by outward affiliations, church strategies, and cultural relevance. Edwards' reminder to our era is that genuine Christianity is defined by soul transformation. Christianity is not defined pragmatically by what it offers. More important than marketing Christianity as a list of exclusive benefits, Edwards understands that a true work of God begins with a sweet enjoyment of God in His unspotted glory and supreme majesty.
"We must, therefore, be careful that our primary joy is in God, as he is in and of himself, and not in our experience of God. That we have been made recipients of his grace and are enabled to behold his beauty is a marvelous thing indeed. But it is secondary and consequential to a recognition of God's inherent excellency. What brings you greatest and most immediate delight: your experience of a revelation of Christ, or Christ revealed?" (p. 92)
Discerning the genuine work of God is essential for every generation of Christians, and Edwards' timeless truth has been made easier. But don't misunderstand. If reading Religious Affections is climbing the face of Mount Everest, reading Sam Storms' interpretation is climbing the rock wall at REI. There is a harness, air conditioning, engineered footholds and an attendant holding the rope, but you'll still sweat.
Storms' timing is excellent. Our generation needs Edwards to help us ground our discernment between the facade of inauthentic Christian profession and the genuine work of God in the soul.
"I doubt if there is a more pressing and urgent issue for the church today than determining `what are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards.' Or to put it in other words, what is the nature of true spirituality and those features in the human soul that are acceptable in the sight of God?" (p. 37)
I think he's right.
Title: Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards' `Religious Affections'
Author: Sam Storms
Reading level: 3.5/5.0 > moderately difficult
Dust jacket: none
Topical index: yes
Scriptural index: yes
Text: perfect type
ISBNs: 9781581349320, 1581349327
[review published on The Shepherd's Scrapbook blog]
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