Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book Review: Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (Illustrated Christian Biographies for Young Readers)Spiders. Native Americans. Wars. Illnesses. Adventure and danger abounded in early colonial America. In the midst of it all, God was still faithfully building His Church, calling people of every tribe, tongue, and nation to Himself. Jonathan Edwards is one man whom God used to encourage others to read and study His Word "at a time when many people were seriously questioning long-accepted ideas about the world, life, and God" (pg. 5). What types of questions were people asking in the 1700s? How did God use Edwards during this time? Why is Edwards's life relevant to us today? These are some of the questions that Simonetta Carr raises and answers in her latest addition to the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, Jonathan Edwards.

The "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" is one of our family's best-loved church history series for children.  As I've written before, Ms. Carr is a very gifted author and one of my personal  favorite authors due, in large part, to her commitment to "...go beyond the simple story of someone's life by teaching young readers the historical and theological relevance of each character" (from the Copyright Page). Simonetta's writing has a purpose and depth which exceeds that found in much of written material for children today. This is why I am, once again, excited that she has added another title to this fantastic series!

In her latest title, Jonathan Edwards, Ms. Carr introduces us to an intelligent man whom God used to proclaim His glory. During Edwards' early years, he sought to apply his father's preaching and make sure that his religion was more than mere words. As a result, he prayed five times a day and prayed and read the Bible with his friends. However, he became discouraged and quit trying for a season. (pg. 8). In time, God opened up His living and active Word to Edwards, enabling him to see God more accurately and to realize that "...God's decisions are all perfect and that it is a great privilege to know Him" (pg. 15). "He felt the Holy Spirit was filling his soul with a new sense of God's glory, wisdom, and justice" (pg. 15). This became a sort of turning point for Edwards; as he began to see God's glory, beauty, and greatness in everything around him, leading him to sing and rejoice.

Edwards had always been captivated by God's creation, and now, in light of God's greatness, he found it all the more entertaining and glorious (pg. 16). He had the unique ability to employ simile and metaphor, connecting God's work in creation with aspects of God's character and Biblical truth (pg. 12). God used this ability especially as Edwards sought to make God's character known to those he taught in his churches and, even more so, as he began to share the Gospel with the Native Americans using "images from nature that were familiar to them" (pg. 41). His message was consistently: "According to the Bible, God is in control of everything, and everything happens for His glory--and that's good news because He is also perfectly loving, and His glory means our happiness" (pg. 48). This message was in direct contrast to many (deists) in that day who thought that God was a distant God who set the world in motion and allowed it to carry on according to fixed laws rather than God holding all things together as the Bible teaches (Colossians 1:16-17). Today, people still debate these ideas, making Edwards's thoughts relevant to contemporary audiences. Resting in God's sovereign control over all things enabled Edwards to face rejection by his church, the loss of friends and family to illness, uncertainties during times of war, and much more. You can read all about these things and more in Simonetta Carr's lovely new book, Jonathan Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards is well-researched, informative, and interesting, much like the other books in the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series.  Ms. Carr continues to include a map and timeline to aid the reader's understanding. Likewise, Matt Abraxas serves to draw the reader into the story through his detailed artwork, while Ms. Carr includes captivating photos to accompany her writing. Reformation Heritage Books has provided some sample pages which allow one to see the variety of images used to engage the reader.

The "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series has a reputation for being high quality, hardcover books with thick pages and sewn bindings, making them sturdy, collectible titles that will hold up well to many years of enjoyment, and Jonathan Edwards continues this pattern.

Simonetta Carr's Illustrated Christian Biographies (Complete Set, 8 volumes)I highly recommend Jonathan Edwards and trust that many will be encouraged as they seek to behold and proclaim God's glory. I pray  that readers will also grow in their understanding of the importance and value of studying the saints who have gone before us as a result of this delightful title!!

You can find out more about Simonetta Carr's "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" here, including activity pages for several existing titles (Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin) and a study guide for John Owen.

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews, Reformation Heritage Books, and Simonetta Carr for providing me with a complimentary copy of Jonathan Edwards in exchange for my honest opinion!

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