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A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards

(Library of Religious Biography)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  672 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Jonathan Edwards is one of the most extraordinary figures in American history. Arguably the most brilliant theologian ever born on American soil, Edwards (1703–1758) was also a pastor, a renowned preacher, a missionary to the Native Americans, a biographer, a college president, a philosopher, a loving husband, and the father of eleven children.

George M. Marsden -- widely a
Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 5th 2008 by Eerdmans (first published 2008)
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Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
I've listened to the whole unabridged audio book of this twice now. It's a very good "read" in the sense that it goes fairly quickly, only hitting the highlights of Edwards' overall life. Marsden does an interesting thing throughout in that he keeps making comparisons between the life of Ben Franklin and Edwards, both of whom were about the same age and whose lives took drastically different trajectories. Since both Franklin and Edwards shaped America with their respective lives and work, Marsde ...more
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've read Marsden's excellent full-length work and was thinking that this was just going to be a condensed version. I was pleasantly surprised that it is, and it isn't. Marsden basically asks the question "why is Jonathan Edwards important to America and to Christians" and proceeds to answer why. He has an excellent grasp of both history and theology, Puritanism and Calvinism. One of the most interesting things in this book is his comparison and contrast of Benjamin Franklin and Edwards, two inf ...more
Apr 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
To echo the praise of Tim Keller, this book is a masterpiece. The author has mastered his subject: you'll learn not only about Jonathan's life, but also the cultural and historical background necessary to appreciate and critique the man. It's not a hagiography, but does what all the best biographies do -- you see the whole man, warts and all. I appreciated that this towering Reformed figure (perhaps America's greatest theologian) also had flaws -- for example, his ill-timed revolution in changin ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this. Written by an expert who has also written the definitive (aka long!) work on Edwards. This book highlights interesting comparisons to Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield--these three men were among the most famous in Pre-Revolutionary America--and also explains how the spiritual revolution of the Great Awakening drastically impacted our nation's founding and lead to the political revolution (salvation not through church establishment but to each individual; revivals were outsid ...more
Jay Perkins
A few years ago I worked through Marsden's definitive biography of Edwards and enjoyed every bit of it. This "Short Life" is a perfect summary of Edward's life and should not be overlooked if one has read the larger bio. Brief, concise, and incredibly easy to read, Marsden adds some additional touches that keep the reader further engaged. I especially liked when Marsden paralleled and contrasted Edwards with his contemporary Benjamin Franklin and the Revolutionary generation. His summary at the ...more
Ben Chapman
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, 2016
I thoroughly enjoyed this short look at the life of Jonathan Edwards. I now, Lord willing, will be spending many years to come learning and knowing more of this great man of God. Highly recommend.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I recently read an article by Marilynne Robinson in the NY Review of Books in which she (fairly successfully) continued her program of trying to rehabilitate the reputations of John Calvin and his successors. Among others she mentioned Jonathan Edwards, calling him "still the greatest American philosopher," and saying that nobody remembers anything about him except his (uncharacteristic) sermon describing our souls as spiders hanging by a thread over the pit of hell. I think she had me in mind. ...more
Shane Williamson
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ben Adkison
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George M. Marsden is exactly what it sounds like: a short biography on the life of Jonathan Edwards. I was initially attracted to this book because of its cover. What I mean is that the cover looked, well, "cool" for lack of a better term. It had a modern, minimalistic style, which led me to believe that it was most likely a newer book. Not that an older biography on Edwards would have been a bad thing, but I'm typically intrigued by new books. And it so happe ...more
Ryan Hawkins
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, biography
(I listened to this on audiobook.)

Marsden clearly has a gift at detailing the life of someone. I’ll be honest: I have not read/listened to many biographies in my life. But this was probably the first one where I was impressed with how it was delivered and organized. It was clear, compelling, concise, and sufficient.

He did a great job not only covering the details of Edwards’ life, but also explaining well the context of 18th century colonial America. I learned just as much about that setting as
Ty Lukasiewicz
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
I listen to this as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. A great biography of Edwards and also an enjoying way to learn more history.
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
A nice foray into the life and thought of Edwards.
Chungsoo Lee
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
A shorter version of Marsden's "Jonathan Edwards: A Life" with added texts regarding Benjamin Franklin as the contemporary and the comparison. Both were sons of a pastor with strict puritan upbringing; but one became the famous (though reluctant at first) political revolutionary and the other, according to Marsden, the important and lesser known religious revolutionary. Jonathan Edwards became a religious revolutionary (in 1740's and 50's in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he pastored a congre ...more
Matt Galyon | readsandcoffee
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful introduction to the life of Jonathan Edwards. Would recommend Marsden’s longer Edwards biography or Iain Murray’s work on Edwards as a companion to this.
Jun 06, 2020 rated it liked it
A look at the highlights of Edwards's life and ministry, interestingly contrasted with Benjamin Franklin for context. I enjoyed it. ...more
Robert D. Cornwall
Jonathan Edwards is best known, perhaps, for his somewhat frightening sermon -- Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God -- but this is only part of his legacy. Considered by scholars of American religion one of America's most influential theologians and philosophers, he helped form an evolving Puritanism during the middle part of the 18th century. Though he died prior to the Revolution he was a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin and George Whitfield. While a fully loyal British citizen, he was one o ...more
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: seminary
A wonderful, concise biography of the life of possibly one of the most influential theologians to come from the North American continent. A the title indicates, this is a short biography and at only 176 pages, the work doesn't feel like it has cheated the reader on any details that one may want to know regarding the life of Jonathan Edwards. The author does mention in the preface that, while this is a stand alone work, he does have a longer, more definitive work simply titled "Jonathan Edwards: ...more
Feb 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a great book for anyone who wants on overview of the life of Jonathan Edwards, and he interacted with and how his beliefs compared to his contemporaries, such as; George Whitfield, Benjamin Franklin, and the Wesley brothers.

It is also a revealing look at the formation of American Evangelicalism and the way that God has moved in revealing his word to us.

Get your copy here:
A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Library of Religious Biography Series) [Kindle Edition]

A Short Life of Jonathan Ed
Mar 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Overall this was a helpful guide for getting a brief glimpse into the character and context of Jonathan Edwards. Obviously, if one wants a deeper look into Edwards and his world then one should go to Marsden's highly-acclaimed longer biography of the man. The biggest drawback to this book is that its brevity and intended approachability limit the very things that are likely to draw readers into Edwards--his mind and theology. Marsden here can only say that Edwards' writing and broader thinking i ...more
John Brackbill
A great listen on audio book. Frankly, I think just hearing any book read by Grover Gardner is a plus for the book before even considering the content! (Can you tell I like listening to him read audio books?)

This is a short biography compared to Marsden's other lengthy treatment (of which I have not read). By Marsden's own statement this is not an abridgment of it though.

He opens the book by comparing and contrasting Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Edwards in a very helpful way. This comparison
Patrick S.
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am giving this five stars in part because I'm so excited it exists. I knew that Marsden wrote quite a long life of Jonathan Edwards, and it is apparently really good, and I wanted to read it. But also I didn't want to read it because it is so long, and it is very hard to justify spending time with hundreds of pages that are not related to my dissertation. But then I had to write a lecture on the Great Awakening, and I find that Marsden also wrote a SHORT life of Edwards! 142 pages! Hooray!
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a scholarly and thoughtful presentation of a person who is arguably America's greatest theologian. In very simple terms, Marsden shows how Edwards arrived at his conclusions and, of course, how the history of an early nation provided a backdrop for it.
I was at first anxious that this would be a condensed version of his longer more scholarly work, but it is both more readable and adds considerable thought provoking material. For those who have never read Edwards' great treatise, Freedom o
Andy Gainor
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Refreshing. Short and sweet. The book is a short summary of his life that does not leave out anything you want to hear.

It has become one of my hobbies to read or listen to historical non-fictions or biographies and immerse myself in the debates and struggles that living in the 21st century, I am completely ignorant of. I enjoy particularly hearing of how Christians lived and responded to the struggles of their day. In this short biography, I was blessed to wrestle alongside Edwards with the iss
Scott Guillory
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love this short biography of Edwards and believe it or not, it's quite different from his full bio on the great theologian. I particularly liked the way he compared and contrasted Edwards with another well known figure of that era, Benjamin Franklin. ...more
Apr 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Piqued my interested in learning more about Edwards
Bo White
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing

Best brief biography I have ever read....Marsden does more in this book than lesser writers have done in volumes
James Marroquin
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
An engaging story of this crucial theologian, his world, and legacy.
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, audio
A great, brief, and very readable biography about a great and godly man, one of America's spiritual forefathers. ...more
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A great birds-eye view of the life of Jonathan Edwards. Very readable and charitably objective. I enjoyed his comparison between Ben Franklin and Edwards.
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George M. Marsden is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. He has written extensively on the interaction between Christianity and the American culture and has published numerous books, including Jonathan Edwards: A Life, which won the prestigious Bancroft Prize given for the best work of history. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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“Why would a perfect being, such as God, need to create any less perfect beings? The answer, said Edwards, is that God is perfectly loving and so wishes to share that love with creatures capable of love. Edwards's starting point was that a loving God stands at the heart of the universe. So for Edwards the universe is most essentially personal; it is the creative expression of a person. Edwards's emphasis on personality at the center of reality presents a sharp contrast to most modern views. Since the Enlightenment many modern thinkers have built their theories on the premise that the universe is essentially impersonal, controlled by natural laws. Edwards challenged that view with a vital alternative: that at the core of reality is a loving God, and that love is the dynamic behind the creation of the universe and everything in it. Starting with a sense of God's love at the center of reality then shapes the way we think of true virtue. At the core of reality is the beauty of the love of God pouring forth, so that the highest good is to return that love to God.” 0 likes
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