Monday, July 15, 2013

"Jonathan Edwards and Justification" Book Review

Jonathan Edwards and Justification is disappointing to me. 

I have got to be honest: I had high hopes for this book and was severely let down. It isn't that the essays are bad. It isn't that the book is boring. It isn't even that the book is really bad.

The book just is. It contains five essays looking at various aspects of Jonathan Edward's view of justification. Of those five essays two of them are excellent. The rest are just ok--nothing exciting, nothing memorable. That, to me, is a tragedy concerning the stellar topic this book covers. Jonathan Edwards' view of justification is both beautiful and intriguing. It is a shame that an already short book is marred by three mediocre essays.

That said, let me highlight the two best essays: Kyle Strobel's essay "By Word and Spirit: Jonathan Edwards on Redemption, Justification, and Regeneration" and Samuel T. Logan Jr.'s essay, "Justification and Evangelical Obedience" are marvelous.

First, let's talk about Strobel's essay. Strobel highlights the personal nature of justification. There are so many good quotes here but I want to just point out a few:

"By focusing on the economic activity of the persons of the triune God, that is, by orienting redemption around the purchase of the Spirit by Christ from the Father, Edwards emphasizes God's self-giving rather than the idea that God only gives certain benefits." (P. 47)

"Christ's role as mediator and federal head involves not only his obedience, but also his justification. Christ does not procure a treasure and then hand it out to those with faith: Christ and the Spirit are the treasure." (P.54)

"Instead of a gratuitously gracious declaration that constitutes a reality which is not (making righteous the unrighteous), God qua judge simply declares what is true: believers are righteous through the legal union they have with Christ. As we see below, Edwards does not undermine God's constituting speech act, or its gratuitously gracious nature, but simply moves its doctrinal location. Theologically,, Christ is the center around which all soteriological loci find their orbit. The Spirit as we turn to now, applies this work by uniting to Christ, illuminating Christ to the elect, and infusing them with divine love, grace, and holiness." (P. 59)

What I love about Strobel's essay is how he paints Edwards' view of justification in such personal, beautiful terms. The essay is excellent.

Second, the essay by Samuel T. Logan is excellent as he breaks down Edwards' view of obedience and salvation. Again, I feel like giving you a few quotes from the chapter is sufficient grounding for you grasping why this chapter is excellent.

"By framing the issue as he does, Edwards asserts a vitally important principle: the nature of the operations by God's Spirit and the signs of the operations of God's Spirit are directly related. To put it in the terms of the question with which we began this discussion, what causes a person to be a Christian and what signs identify a Christian are inextricably related." (P. 109)

"To anticipate where Edwards is going...neither right thoughts alone (orthodox theology) nor right experiences alone (religious passion) make me a Christian." (P. 110)

"...'The saints affections begin with God'...And that is the key to the 'begin with' language above. The fundamental reason why I--and you--should exercise faith in Jesus Christ is because he deserves it!" (P. 119)

"Being in Christ also gives the believer a relish for the beauty of God, a relish that has always described the attitude of the three persons of the Trinity toward one another." (P. 120)

As you can see, there is some great content in both essays. Unfortunately, they don't justify the price of the book. That said, if you are a fan of Jonathan Edwards' this work may be of some value to you if you can find it for a discounted price. There are so many excellent works on Edwards' theology, however, I feel like this work is superfluous. Disappointing indeed. 

*Thanks to Crossway Publishing for providing me with a free review copy of this work in exchange for a fair review.*