Think is Piper’s latest book, and deals with how our minds, and the act of thinking, assist humans in the process of knowing and glorifying God. The first three chapters of the book are probably my favorite because they are more autobiographical, and one of the quotes from Jonathan Edwards still blows my mind. Piper does a rather well-rounded job of both explaining how our minds work in process of knowing God, and in defending proper thinking against relativism and anti-intellectualism. I love how Piper talks about knowing God because he perfectly balances deep thinking (intellect) with deep feeling (emotion). The last third of the book (when Piper defends thinking against anti-intellectualism), while thorough and amazingly exegetical, nevertheless get a little dry from a reading perspective.
Verdict: Good, thorough, mind-expanding read.
Four of Five Cups of Black Coffee.
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 happens that this was in fact a new book, just as the cover had subtly suggested, so I bought it. Side note: I actually went into my local Christian bookstore (which shall for the time being remain nameless) to look for a biography on Charles Spurgeon. And while I found biographies about Chuck Norris, Sarah Palin, and even Ladainian Tomlinson – none of whom happen to be Baptist (the denomination of the aforementioned bookstore) – I failed to find even one biography about the great Baptist preacher. Sad, I know. But Edwards – whom was also not a Baptist (but honestly who cares) – was a worthwhile substitute for the time being.
In 2003, Marsden wrote what I believe is THE definitive biography on Jonathan Edwards, entitled Jonathan Edwards: A Life. In A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards he took the information from that longer treatment, shortened it, added some new research, and wrote in a style that reads more like a short novel. As far as I can tell (since I am no Edwards expert), this is a wonderful introduction into the life of a man whom was at the helm of the First Great Awakening and who probably is America’s greatest theologian.
The last third of the book, which goes into some of the trouble that Edwards faced as a pastor in the latter parts of his life, was especially encouraging to me. Edwards faced hardship at the end of his pastorate at Northampton, suffering at the hands of his people. Pastoring is simply not easy, and Edwards knew this firsthand. It’s nice to know that one of the greatest men in the history of Christendom dealt with crazy church people too. The other facet of this book that I really appreciate is the comparison that Marsden makes between Edwards and his contemporary, Benjamin Franklin. Both men had similar Puritanical upbringings, but each responded in very different ways to the changing American climate. Franklin embraced the ideals of the Enlightenment and lived long enough to see the American Revolution. Edwards on the other hand, held fast to his reformed upbringing, fighting to critique unbiblical Enlightenment ideas, and died before the American Revolution began. In the twenty-first century, where it’s very en vogue to critique modern Enlightenment-influenced church forms, Edwards is a sure guide to lead us back to the Bible. He can do this not because he saw beyond modernism to postmodernistic ideas, but rather because he is in many ways pre-modern and wisely ignored many of modernism’s pitfalls altogether. As Marsden says in the end of his book, “Maybe the best way to sum up Edwards’s character is to say that he had God-centered integrity. Having integrity suggests not only honesty, firmness of principle, and soundness of will, but also that the various elements of one’s life and thought are integrated…I can simply testify to the remarkable consistency of his life and thought” (141).
I stopped by the bookstore yesterday to take a break from studying and picked up these bad boys. I’m nearly finished with the Edwards book and will post a review soon. Great so far though.
The Essential Edwards Collection is a five volume set of extremely, concise books that introduce readers to the basics of Edward’s thought. The volumes cover a variety of subjects including: Edwards himself (a lover of God), beauty, heaven and hell, the good life, and true Christianity. On Heaven and Hell rolls in at only 147 pages including the bibliography. As I said, it’s extremely concise.
In my opinion, this book’s greatest strength is also probably its greatest weakness. And that strength (or weakness depending on your opinion) is its brevity. Strachan and Sweeney do a superb job of making Edwards, who lived some 250 years ago and spoke in an English dialect different from our own, extremely digestible for nearly anyone. So, that’s a strength. However, while reading, I often found myself longing for more of Edwards’ words and less of Strachan and Sweeney’s words about Edwards. This is not to say that Strachan and Sweeney are not superb writers themselves, but rather that a person reads a book entitled Jonathan Edwards On Heaven and Hell to hear Edwards speak, not Strachan and Sweeney speak. And that’s a weakness. So too much brevity is my one complaint, and perhaps it’s not a legitimate complaint because I’m willing to bet that Strachan and Sweeney wrote with the very brevity that I am denigrating on purpose.
So at the end of the day, I liked this book, but I wanted more. And that was my complete opinion until I discovered this sweet endnote at the end of book:
“For the premier collection of Edwards’s own writing, see The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1-26, Yale University Press. Access these works in their entirety free of charge at http://edwards.yale.edu” (145).
Since all of Edward’s writings are available for free online, I guess I’ll loosen up on my complaint about the brevity of The Essential Edwards Collection.
How can I even begin to describe such a great book? If you’re a preacher you should read this book! The Supremacy of God in Preaching is one of the most helpful little books I’ve found about the privilege of expounding God’s Word.
I love this book for a few different reasons: 1) I agree with everything John Piper says in these pages, 2) this is a brief but digestible word to preachers, and 3) Piper’s approach to a book about preaching is unique.
I Agree with Everything John Piper says in The Supremacy of God in Preaching
I’ve read quite a few books on preaching, and I enjoy and glean insights from many of them, but there are usually one or two statements in all of them that really hack me off. This anger usually arises from the author unnecessarily attacking preaching styles that are unlike his own. Piper rises above these unnecessary attacks and simply tells it how it is. Everything in this book is helpful. It’s not that Piper offers no critique of certain preaching, but he does so in a winsome tone and with ample evidence to support his point. I love the encouragement that I find in The Supremacy of God in Preaching.
This is a Brief but Digestible Word to Preachers
Applying The Supremacy of God in Preaching will probably take a lifetime, but understanding it and reading it is easy. I was able to sit down and read (and underline the heck out of) this book in just a few hours. I honestly believe this book will benefit anyone who preaches the Word of God. And…it’s short enough that it can be read again and again. I love its usability!
Piper’s Approach to a Book About Preaching is Unique
Oftentimes books about ministry seem to all arise from the same think-tank. Books about small groups all say the same thing, books about parenting repeat again and again the same principles, and many times books about preaching just copy the preaching book that was published two years prior. No doubt – there is a kind of comfort in hearing that everyone agrees, but there’s also a sort of boredom that comes with book after book saying the same thing. I’m sure John Piper could have written a good book that was similar to many other books on preaching, but instead he infused his own unique approach to the subject. Specifically, much of this book is focused on the art of preaching as seen through the eyes Jonathan Edwards. Anyone who knows Piper well, knows that Edwards has been a huge influence on his life and ministry, so it should come as no surprise that Piper’s book on preaching is influenced by Edwards. Piper’s exposition of Edward’s method is refreshing and unique. He does say things that other preachers say, but says them differently. It’s a pleasant change from the status quo.
I love this book and hope to reread it multiple times! If you preach the Word of God, I think it will probably help you too.