I am so thankful for Dane Ortlund’s new book, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God. As George Marsden notes in his foreword, “Books such as Edwards on the Christian Life are especially welcome as part of the current Edwards revival precisely because Edwards is so many-sided and complex. The essence of his theology needs to be distilled from his many writings and to be presented in practical terms for Christians today. Dane Ortlund does just that. Reading Edwards’s own works can inspire Christians today, but often it is best to start with a more accessible introduction, such as the present one.”
In Ortlund’s introduction he provides an outstanding overview of where he is going:
Our strategy will be to ask twelve questions about the Christian life and provide, from Edwards, corresponding answers. These will form the chapters of this book, with a final thirteenth chapter diagnosing four weaknesses in Edwards’s view of the Christian life. Twelve chapters identify what we can learn from Edwards; one chapter identifies what he could learn from us. In brief the twelve questions and answers are:
1. What is the overarching, integrating theme to Edwards’s theology of the Christian life?
2. How is this heart-sense of beauty ignited? How does it all get started? What must happen for anyone to first glimpse the beauty of God?
3. Having begun, what then is the essence of the Christian life? What does seeing God’s beauty create in us? What’s the heart and soul of Christian living?
4. How does love fuel the Christian life? What’s the non-negotiable of all non-negotiable that will keep us loving? What does divine beauty give to us?
5. And what uniquely marks such love and joy? What is the aroma of the Christian life? What does Edwards diagnose about the Christian life that is most important for recovery today?
6. Where do I go to get this love, joy, and gentleness? How can I find it? What, concretely, sustains this kind of life, through all our ups and downs?
7. But as I go to the Bible, what do I do with it as I read? How do I own it, make it mine, turn it into this joy-fueled love?
8. What then is the overall flavor of the Christian life? What is the aura, the feel, of following Christ in a world of moral chaos and pain?
9. As new birth, Bible, prayer, and all the rest go in, what comes out? What is the fruit of the Christian life?
10. Who is the great enemy of Christian living? Who wishes above all to prevent loving, joyful, gentle lives?
11. What is the great concern of the Christian life? Toward what, supremely, should our efforts be directed as we walk with God?
12. Finally, what does all this funnel into? When will we be permanently and fully and unfailingly alive to beauty? What, above all else, is the great hope of the Christian life?
He closes with four criticisms—which alone (in my opinion) is worth the price of the book.
You can watch a video interview with Ortlund above, and/or listen to this podcast conversation he had with Tony Reinke.
Here are some commendations:
“In his theological concern for the beautiful and the beauty of God, Jonathan Edwards stands at the end of a long theological tradition that reaches back to Augustine and beyond, even to the Scriptures themselves. In the last two centuries, however, this area of theological inquiry seems to have dropped off the radar for Christian theologians and practitioners, which may explain why students of Edwards’s corpus of writings have not tackled the subject. Ortlund’s study nicely fills this lacuna, for he rightly shows, from a multitude of angles, that beauty is the fulcrum of Edwards’s thinking. A joy to read and to ponder!”
—Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Jonathan Edwards is widely known as a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher. Serious students, like Dane Ortlund, have long known he was much more. In this book Ortlund puts his careful research to good purpose as he demonstrates convincingly that the center of Edwards’s concern was always and supremely beauty—in God, from God, and for God. Grateful readers will find this book highly informative on Edwards and deeply encouraging for the Christian life today.”
—Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
“No one has taught me more about the dynamics of Christian living than has Jonathan Edwards. And no one has more clearly articulated the role of beauty in Edwards’s understanding of the Christian life than has Dane Ortlund. If you’re unfamiliar with Edwards, or if you wonder how beauty could possibly have any lasting effect in your growth as a Christian, this book is for you.”
—Sam Storms, Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
“What a delight to see a book on Edwards’s conception of the Christian life. And how beautiful it is that it depicts the Christian life as ordered by and to the beauty of God. This book will help strengthen the fertilization of today’s churches by Edwards’s vision of God’s triune beauty.”
—Gerald R. McDermott, Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion, Roanoke College; co-author, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards
“‘The supreme value of reading Edwards is that we are ushered into a universe brimming with beauty,’ writes Ortlund. I couldn’t agree more. And one would be hard-pressed to find a more engaging introduction to this universe for the church. Even the final chapter, on ways in which we should not follow Edwards, offers crucial Christian wisdom. Ortlund’s criticisms of Edwards hit the mark—and deserve consideration by Edwards’s growing number of fans. I plan to use them with my seminary students in years to come. Please peruse this beautiful book. It’s good for the soul.”
—Douglas A. Sweeney, Professor of Church History, Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“Edwards is profound, and this book breaks down the complexity into manageable portions around the theme of beauty, thus engaging readers in a fresh vision of the importance of Edwards’s theology to contemporary living.”
—Josh Moody, Senior Pastor, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois; author, Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent
This book is the latest entry in Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series, which I edit with Stephen Nichols.
Here are the other books published in the series so far:
Stephen J. Nichols, Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World
Fred Sanders, Wesley on the Christian Life: The Heart Renewed in Love
And here are the volumes forthcoming:
Carl Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom (February)
Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (May)
Sam Storms, Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit (June)
John Bolt, Bavinck on the Christian Life (August)
Michael A.G. Haykin and Matthew Barrett, Owen on the Christian Life (September)
Gerald Bray, Augustine on the Christian Life (October)
Jason Meyer, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life
Michael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life
Derek Thomas, Bunyan on the Christian Life