Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Josh Moody 'The God-Centred Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today' (IVP)

If you've ever tried reading Edwards you'll know that it is hard work; delightful, inspiring, awesome, mind-expanding, pulse-lifting and so on, but still hard work. So you then wonder not only how to synthesise this giant among theologians, whose breadth of vision is simply flabbergasting, but also how to introduce his thoughts to your brothers and sisters at church. Realistically, few will read 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God', let alone Religious Affections or any of the other, longer works. Here is the solution!

[If you're not sure Edwards deserves even the next minute of your life as you scan this blog, look here (on the happiness of the righteous in eternity) and here (on how Christians possess all things even now) for two of the great highlights of this amazing gift of God to his church. Then read on!]

JM is uniquely qualified to write this book, having a PhD on Edwards from Cambridge, and now serving as a Pastor in New Haven. He offers us what is a very clear, and certainly seems (with my very limited reading of Edwards) a fair summary of the main streams of his thoughts and foci. Sure, there are other books in this area: Marsden's Life is a total delight, but long enough to put off many readers, and Murray is not at all bad, though slightly dated and tending to peddle his favourite themes.

So, JM's book is short enough to read easily, and thus to lend out or give away. But the subject-matter is massive, is exactly what it should be if one writes of Edwards. Great!

JM sees eight areas where Edwards' insights are particularly useful today, dedicating a chapter to each, as follows:
  • Revival is biblical.
  • True experience of God is heart experience.
  • Analysing new Christian movements.
  • Attacking humanism - God at the centre.
  • Consistency to God's Word is vital.
  • Leadership must be biblically intelligent.
  • Human leaders fail.
  • Family life & effective ministry can be reconciled.
Here we are learning both from the man and from his insights. JM has written a book for today - as we are attacked by the same cultural shift Edwards faced. C.S. Lewis reminds us to read two old books for each new one, so as to avoid prevalent modern errors. This book certainly helps in that regard (we are such a self-centred generation) calling us to hold God at the centre, fighting whatever personal and communal battles that might entail. The title is apposite, and challenging.

The weakness of such a book are obvious before one reads a single page: summarising someone whose thoughts were so wide and deep, whose impact so profound, into about 150 pages is essentially impossible. JM leaves you wanting more in many places, and leaves those familiar with other Edwards biogs happy to skim-read a few pages. But I can live with this, since I want any reader of a book like this to be left with things to chase up - and that's why I'm currently reading it with a friend in Christian ministry: I'm hoping he'll want more, and turn to Edwards!

But even if this doesn't inspire its reader to look at Edwards, it is a great vehicle to get his thoughts out there. You can't read everything, and might think Edwarsd missable. You're (probably) wrong - but at least read this anyway! Great for personal study, 1:1, Elderships, PCCs or whatever.

[Next stop Marsden and/or Edwards in his own words: Freedom of the Will, Original Sin, Religious Affections or just get into his sermons online here.]

Sure, it'd be better if we all read the whole of Edwards. But since very few of us will, it'd be brilliant if as many people as possible read this challenging summary of some of what Edwards might have said to today's church, what he certainly would have said to today's Christians.

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