Posted On September 13, 2021

Jonathan Edwards (book review)

by | Sep 13, 2021 | Theology

From the Back Cover

Jonathan Edwards lived at a time when many people were seriously questioning long-accepted ideas about the world, life, and God, and his answers to these questions have left a mark on the way we think today. While he is often remembered as the preacher of a scary sermon about a spider dangling over a fire, he remains significant as one of the greatest thinkers America has produced.

Simonetta Carr traces the events of Edwards’s life from a young student interested in science to husband and father, pastor, leader of the Great Awakening, missionary, writer, and college president.

Colorful illustrations, interesting facts, and a compelling story combine to introduce young readers to this important theologian and life in colonial America.

Carr, Simonetta. Jonathan Edwards (Christian Biographies for Young Readers). Hardcover. Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 64pp. $9. Purchase at RHB website.

Summary

I have read at least one biography of Jonathan Edwards and listened to the audiobook of another, so I have to admit, I wasn’t quite as excited about this little biography as I ought to have been. But Simonetta Carr has a way of telling people’s stories that captivate your interest. It is particularly neat how the story of Jonathan Edwards is told against the backdrop of the French and Indian War. Often, when I read about another saint, I forget that there was a context in which they lived that helps define their life. The fear of battles waging was a factor that this 18th-century pastor had to deal with. It is also interesting to read about someone who lived and died prior to the Declaration of Independence in 1776 because so much of society was different from our experience now.

It was a joy to hear of Edwards’ interactions with the great evangelist, George Whitefield. In particular, I found it interesting to read about their disagreements. Disagreements that were likely important to each of them but didn’t keep them from working together. He crossed paths with Aaron Burr and David Brainerd, too. I’ll let you buy the book to read about those interactions.

Regardless of his faults, Edwards was one of the most accomplished men of all time. Going to college at the ripe age of 13 and eventually being the President of Princeton University makes for an inspiring story. His self-discipline and love for the Lord is a model even for today. He went to Yale and oversaw Princeton when those institutions were the centerpieces of higher learning, rather than the bastions of irrationality and liberalism that they are today. Amazingly, Yale still keeps his writings on their website and has a Jonathan Edwards college with a mascot of a spider. It seems instead of canceling him for his beliefs, they still enjoy profiting from his great reputation, even mocking the truth he preached right on their website.

We are JE Spiders and proud of it! If you’re up on your 18th century literature, you might guess that our mascot derives from our namesakes most famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. The most riveting line of which goes a little something like this: The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked… Inspiring huh? So there you have it. Spiders. (Emphasis mine)1   

This is a 64-page book written for “young readers.” It’s not a textbook and can be enjoyed by children up to adults. It’s easy to read in one sitting but has depth and extra content which can be used for further contemplation or home-school such as a timeline and a “did you know” section with interesting facts about some of the historical details found in the biography. I imaging the author would be happy to think that this short volume led someone to further research about Jonathan Edwards.

The illustrations and photos are excellent and make some of the ideas and events from history more tangible, especially for kids. Each illustration has a helpful caption.

Review

As usual, Carr does an excellent job condensing a long life into 64 pages of interesting facts, inspiring anecdotes, and a healthy dose of theology taught throughout. The illustrations and photos will piqué your interest, but I particularly recommend the “Letter from Edwards to His Daughter Marty on pages 61-62 as worth double the price of the book.

Recommended without reservation for everyone age 7 and up, especially at only $9 as of August 2021 at the RHB website.

Biographical Sketch of Author and Illustrator

Simonetta Carr – Author (from Amazon)

Award-winning author Simonetta Carr was born in Italy and has lived and worked in different cultures. She worked first as an elementary school teacher and then as a home-schooling mother for many years. Besides writing books, she has contributed to newspapers and magazines around the world and has translated the works of several authors from English into Italian and vice versa. Presently, she lives in San Diego with her husband Thomas and the youngest of her eight children. She is a member and Sunday School teacher at Christ United Reformed Church.

Matt Abraxas – Illustrator (from Amazon)

Matt Abraxas has traveled from California to France, studying different approaches to art. He enjoys creating and teaching art and currently exhibits his work at the SmithKlein Gallery in Boulder, Colorado. Matt lives with his wife, Rebecca, and two sons, Zorba and Rainer, in Lafayette, Colorado.

Series Description (From the Reformation Heritage Books website)

This series introduces children to important people in the Christian tradition. Parents and school teachers alike will welcome the excellent educational value it provides for students, while the quality of the publication and the artwork make each volume a keepsake for generations to come. Furthermore, the books in the series go beyond the simple story of someone’s life by teaching young readers the historical and theological relevance of each character.


1 https://je.yalecollege.yale.edu/about-us/history/je-symbolism


See all posts about Simonetta Carr’s books.

Julia Gonzaga (book review)
Jonathan Edwards (book review)
John Newton (book review)
John Calvin (book review)

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