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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 acclaimed for his magisterial large study of Edwards—has now written a new, shorter biography of this many-sided, remarkable man. A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards is not an abridgment of Marsden’s earlier award-winning study but is instead a completely new narrative based on his extensive research. The result is a concise, fresh retelling of the Edwards story, rich in scholarship yet compelling and readable for a much wider audience, including students.
Known best for his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards is often viewed as a proponent of fire, brimstone, and the wrath of God. As Marsden shows, however, the focus of Edwards’s preaching was not God’s wrath but rather his overwhelming and all-encompassing love. Marsden also rescues Edwards from the high realms of intellectual history, revealing him more comprehensively through the lens of his everyday life and interactions. Further, Marsden shows how Edwards provides a window on the fascinating and often dangerous world of the American colonies in the decades before the American Revolution.
Marsden here gives us an Edwards who illumines both American history and Christian theology, an Edwards that will appeal to readers with little or no training in either field. This short life will contribute significantly to the widespread and growing interest in Jonathan Edwards.
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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.
—Daniel Walker Howe, Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus, Oxford University
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.
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.
—Tim Keller, founding pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York
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.
—Gerald McDermott, Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion, Roanoke College