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Jonathan Edwards

4.33  ·  Rating Details ·  1,205 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) is a towering figure in American history. A controversial theologian and the author of the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, he ignited the momentous Great Awakening of the eighteenth century.

In this definitive and long-awaited biography, Jonathan Edwards emerges as both a great American and a brilliant Christian. George Marsd
Paperback, 640 pages
Published July 11th 2004 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jacob Aitken

There is almost a glut of material on Jonathan Edwards. That can be both good and bad. It is good that men are wrestling with Edwards's life and thought. A study of Edwards can renew intellectual life within the church. Furthermore, Edwards is being fairly studied by scholars outside the conservative world. This, too, is good. But there is always the question when a new Edwards book comes out: is there anything left to say? George Marsden thinks so. And Marsden takes his point of departure from
Julia Forrester
May 05, 2012 Julia Forrester rated it it was amazing
Shelves: slowly-reading
“Timothy Edwards, following Puritan precedents, emphasized three principal steps toward true conversion. First was ‘conviction’ or ‘an awakening sense of a person’s sad estate with reference to eternity.’…

…An ‘awakening’ was no guarantee of salvation….Normally, following the first enthusiasm of their awakening, they would experience a backsliding into sin that would lead them to realize the terribleness of their sins and that God would be entirely just in condemning them to hell. Sometimes thi
Aug 28, 2012 Andy rated it really liked it
It's a shame that most peoples' knowledge of Edwards begins and ends with "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." To be sure, that is part of his story, and an important one, but there is so much more. This is a truly excellent biography that brings to life a colonial (yuck!) Puritan (bleh!) pastor (eww!) theologian (huh?) and paints a picture that is charitable and fair without being hagiographic or boring (not in the least!) One cannot read this book and not be impressed by the immense theolog ...more
Sep 13, 2009 David rated it really liked it
Marsden is an incredible historian. There is sustained focus given to Edwards’ historical and social setting, without neglecting his complex and well-formed theology which shaped and drove him. I particularly appreciated Marsden’s attention to the controversies surrounding the Northampton revivals set within the larger context of revival in America and in Great Britain. There is much pastoral wisdom to be gleaned from these events.
Oct 27, 2015 James rated it it was amazing
It's probably the greatest biography that I have ever read. I actually cried when I read the final chapter. Jonathan Edwards was a wonderful pastor, and his legacy is amazing. I highly recommend this for Christians, pastors, and students of theology. Frankly, I think anyone with a mild interest in history would also enjoy this.
Jan 05, 2014 Calvin rated it really liked it
Shelves: auto-biography
A truly great biography: workmanlike, seemingly unbiased, and informative to a huge degree certainly for me who knew little of Edwards' life; yet so readable for a book of over 500 pages.
Peter Mead
Jul 26, 2014 Peter Mead rated it it was amazing
Mammoth? Maybe. Magisterial? Absolutely. Marsden’s 505 pages plus notes on the life of Edwards is an absolute joy to read. He neither falls into the culturally critical Edwards bashing of years gone by, nor into the presentations of Edwards as if he fit every theological mold of his tradition. He certainly avoids the bizarre agenda of separating Edwards’ genius from his vibrant faith.

The Edwards offered in Marsden’s work is the Edwards of history, a man profoundly gripped by the glory of the tri
Daniel Glover
Jun 08, 2014 Daniel Glover rated it it was amazing
Edwards is chiefly known for his revival sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, remembered for its terrifying imagery of the wrath of God and his power and willingness to destroy sinners, who now only remain because of God's own good pleasure. But there is so much more to (one of) America's greatest theologian. Marsden paints a picture of Edwards that is so hard not to love that one finds him/herself wanting to stand up against his opponents or with Edwards in his struggles themselves. Fo ...more
Elaine Dowling
Jul 31, 2009 Elaine Dowling rated it it was amazing
This book is not an easy read. It is a good read, just not an easy one. If that seems to be splitting hairs, well, that is probably appropriate for the subject matter. It is also not a short book. It is 30 chapters long, and I found that a chapter or two at a time was really all I wanted. I read it on my Kindle, but according to Amazon the hardback is 640 pages. One of the nice things about reading it on my Kindle was that I could download for (either $.99 a volume or $1.99 a volume, I've forgot ...more
Mike E.
Mar 11, 2016 Mike E. rated it really liked it
Marsden does a great job of taking you back to Colonial America and the life of the greatest pastor-theologian to rise on our soil. Edwards has profoundly influenced my life. Yale University has spent decades and lots of money publishing his works. Can you imagine any leading university, in a few hundred years, publishing the works of any contemporary American theologian/pastor? This says a lot about the quality of Edwards and the lack of scholarship from the Christian community today. Here's a ...more
Feb 13, 2013 Hilary rated it it was amazing
(From my class reading log...)

I can only begin by saying something that hardly needs to be said: George Marsden is simply brilliant. One of his greatest strengths, I think, is the way he clearly and forthrightly explains the perspective from which he is writing. This gives him the opportunity to establish rapport with readers and disarm suspicions about his intent, as well as acknowledging that even the best efforts at “objectivity” in history can never be complete. It also gives him a chance to
Richie Valdes
Dec 05, 2013 Richie Valdes rated it it was amazing
I think this so one of the best biographies I've ever read, especially of a man known as much for his writing as his life. Marsden does a terrific job of being an historian and a biographer. He paints Edwards as a man of his history and culture and contrasts that with why he preached and wrote against some of the things he did. The historical picture of 18th century pre-Revolutionary New England was painted tediously and beautifully. I think my favorite part of the book was how Marsden closed th ...more
Sep 16, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From this book,I learned more than I could have imagined - about life in 18th century pre-revolution America, about Princeton University and Yale University, about Vice President Aaron Burr, infinitely more about Jonathan Edwards (one of the greatest theologians in the history of America), and much more about my faith in God and the impact of Calvinism upon my life.

The most amazing thing about the life of Jonathan Edwards was how he always kept an eternal perspective on life, even though he went
Dec 03, 2010 David rated it really liked it
This is a brilliant biography. Marsden does an excellent job in offering a balanced perspective on Edwards. If people have heard of Edwards at all, most think of him as merely a long-dead hell-fire-and-brimstone preacher due to Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Having studied a bit more church history, I knew him as one of the most important American theologians and philosophers in history. Reading this biography has given me a deeper appreciation for Edwards. Though I am not a Calvinist, as ...more
Kevin Bell
Apr 14, 2008 Kevin Bell rated it it was amazing
This book opened my eyes. I had never given much credit or credence to the brand of christianity that Edwards represented, but that's because I had never had it explained sympathetically. If you are willing to take a look at the assumptions that Edwards made; that there is an infinite distance between God's goodness and our sinfulness; that man's sinfulness is inherently hateful to God; and that only through Jesus' intervention at Calvary and our acceptance of him wholeheartedly do we stand a ch ...more
Feb 16, 2013 Andrew rated it it was amazing
A soaring and thorough biography of the greatest American theologian that walks the line between well-meaning hagiographies on one side, and chronologically snobbish critiques on the other side. Marsden was careful to not allow his sympathies toward Edwards to evaporate any critical and honest evaluations of weaknesses and mistakes.
I really enjoyed reading this massive tome, though it is a difficult read not for the faint of heart. I labored for many months to make my way through it, but I feel
Oct 26, 2010 Will rated it it was amazing
I love a good biography, but good biographies are hard to find. Great ones seem to an endangered species. This book is endangered indeed. Marsden does so much well, a reader is hard pressed to find any kind of fault with this work. All too often biographers seem to teeter on the cusp of worship as they fawn over their biographical subjects and truncate the evidence in an attempt to remove all vestiges of humanity. But Marsden is too good a writer and historian to make such mistakes. What you get ...more
Feb 07, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing
To many people who have heard of Edwards he is that religious nut who was always talking about hellfire and brimstone. To those in the modern puritanical church he is the scholar extraordinaire!
Edwards actually talked very little about hellfire, and loved to preach about the Grace of God, and His unfailing love for His children. He was a top notch scientist of his day, the finest theologian America has ever produced, and a man of extraordinary compassion for the Native Americans. His most famou
Chuck O'Connor
Jan 30, 2011 Chuck O'Connor rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: April Kilduff
Recommended to Chuck by: N/A
Historical biography that reads like epic fiction where modern assumptions towards reality are explained within their antecedent assumptions. The tension between pre and post enlightenment thought concerning the nature of God, the essence of morality and what is real are framed in a human way. I approached this book thinking Edwards a villain but have come away from it not certain of that. He was a brilliant man who sought after lasting truth while disciplining himself to a rigorous piety. His q ...more
Aug 06, 2009 Coyle rated it it was amazing
Though a bit slow at the start, Marsden manages the unlikely when he makes Jonathan Edwards readable. The biography is engaging and interesting, with little fluff. This belongs on the shelf next to the Silverman bio of Cotton Mather (The Life and Times of Cotton Mather) and the Hall bio of Increase Mather (The Last American Puritan The Life of Increase Mather, 1639-1723).
Forrest Martin
Jun 13, 2015 Forrest Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking to read the most comprehensive and excellent Edwards biography, read this book. If, like me, you're looking to just get a taste for Edwards, don't start here. That was my mistake.
While reading this book, I couldn't help getting extremely bored reading all the minutia of a man's life that I didn't yet esteem or admire especially. I'm sure for a person who regards Edwards highly as a theologian would be like a kid in a candy shop reading the nitty-gritty accounts of his life.
Paul Marshall
Jul 25, 2011 Paul Marshall rated it it was amazing
Marsden is a brilliant thinker, and an eminent Edwards scholar. One will do better if one loves history and is fascinated by the Puritans. It is not an easy book to get all the way through, but as one scholar put it, "Real men read the long version!" There is an abbreviated version by Marsden for the faint of heart or short of time.

It is fascinating to watch Edwards develop from a doubter who resented God's sovereignty to someone who loved God and His design and saw and loved the beauty of creat
Ben Fredrick
Oct 05, 2013 Ben Fredrick rated it really liked it
I have a much greater respect for Jonathan Edwards having read this book. While I've read some of Edwards' own works ("Sinners in the hands..." and Religious Affections) this book by Marsden did a marvelous job of pinning Edwards within the 18th century culture, politics, and religious climate while demonstrating Edwards' longstanding contribution to American religious life.

I don't subscribe to Edwards' viewpoints on a number of items, and I remember starting to read this book with skepticism.
Sep 04, 2009 Seth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian, history
Marsden places Edwards's theology in the context of the American history that Edwards both shaped and lived. Controversy brewed almost wherever Edwards went. I am made to believe that such lives, lived so consistently out of such deeply-held theology, cannot help but cause people to wrestle with their own beliefs, often rooted in the intellectual trends of the era.
One critic of Edwards called him "the white whale of American religious history." His whole life was a sermon that would not erase it
Oliver Pierce
May 21, 2014 Oliver Pierce rated it it was amazing
This is a monster of a book but totally worth a read. It's not only of interest if you wanting to begin getting into Jonathan Edwards; it also gives you a detailed picture of the religious landscape of early America and transformation that was going on that set the foundations for the state of American Christianity today. The book is an engaging read, many times I found myself unable to put the book down. A perfect blend of historical narrative and theology, this is book is a must read for those ...more
Oct 05, 2012 Vaughn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a substantial, academic and quite thorough text. If you're looking for something a bit less academic, yet every bit as good, I recommend the following (in order or preference):

1. Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought by Douglas A. Sweeney
2. God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World) by John Piper and Jonathan Edward
3. The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards
Jul 13, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing
I have long wanted to read an actual biography of Jonathan Edwards, one of the great pastors and theologians in the history of America. This portrait of Edwards certainly didn't disappoint, as it gave a very readable, astute, and personal accounting of his life and ministry. I was inspired reading this biography at many points to strive by the grace of God to be a better student of Scripture, to pray for genuine spiritual revival in our nation, and to leave a godly legacy for my children. I high ...more
Brian Moon
Sep 05, 2013 Brian Moon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Wonderful look at his life and his thought that attempts to understand how those intersected with each other and the cultural influences of the day. Does a great job analyzing Edwards's thinking from a modern perspective w/o dismissing it as hopelessly dated.

It also offers a fair look at the man. Murray's bio felt too glowing, and this confirmed that. The result is that Edwards actually comes away more impressive for being human and still accomplishing what he did.
Adam Paul
Jun 02, 2013 Adam Paul rated it it was amazing
This is a massive book to read well and it would be a massive undertaking to review it well.

It was well worth the read, though, given the fact that you get to live with Edwards and come to understand the man and the thinker and the theologian and the pastor in his historical context. For a man that stands as a giant over much of Calvinistic Christianity today, this is a fitting and worthy biography.
Richard Bartholomew
Masterful account, taking Edwards' thought seriously and putting him in historical context, poised between the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Useful to know that "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is not a hell-fire sermon about sinners being pummelled by God: the idea was that sinners are about to fall into hell, but God, although angry, holds them in his hands.
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“Having once thought that most of his parishioners shared the life-changing encounter with blazing beauty, it was all the harder for him to see them day after day preoccupied with petty jealousies, avarice, and lusts, and to endure their sullen expressions and bored irreverence as they went through the forms of weekly worship.” 0 likes
“Edwards followed what he believed the proper procedure whenever contemplating a move: he agreed to convene an ad hoc council of clergy that would meet in May to advise him what to do.26” 0 likes
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