Understanding Jonathan Edwards

Paul Harvey

A little preview of a book currently available but with a publication date of 2009. The Jonathan Edwards scholar Gerald R. McDermott has put together a nice compilation of essays, aimed at a fairly general readership: Understanding Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to America's Theologian. The book features leading scholars with essays such as "Jonathan Edwards's Life and Career: Society and Self," by Kenneth Minkema, "Edwards and Revival" by Harry Stout, "Edwards and the Bible" by Douglas Sweeney, and "Edwards and the World Religions" by McDermott. Each essay is paired with an "alternative viewpoints" piece commenting, dissenting from, or supplementing the lead essays. The result is, as advertised, a user friendly introduction that will interest even those (like me) who tend to be resistant to or bored by theological texts.

The introduction to the volume summarizes some of the paradoxes that make Edwards as a man a fascinating subject, his standing as a thinker having long-since been established:

". . . Edwards thought of himself as a British subject loyal to the Empre but was at the same time sensitive to his colony's grievances. He was ambivalent towards Indians (hating their religion but loving many of those he knew personally), a philosopher who picked and choise from the world's best thinkers, and a religious thinker whose theology sowed the seeds of the very democracy he feared. He defended slavery but opposed the slave trade and offered Janus-faced positions on gender."