Sunday, June 29, 2008

Review of John Gerstner--Jonathan Edwards: Evangelist

Author: John Gerstner

Pages: 192 pgs

Publisher: Soli Deo Gloria

Price: 8.95

Genre: Theology/Evangelism/Puritan

Quick Summary:

One of the primary critiques of Puritanism and folks like Jonathan Edwards is a lack of evangelism and evangelistic appeal in their sermons. Is it possible that the greatest Calvinistic theologian may also be one of the most evangelistic preachers? In this work John Gerstner attempts to systematize the evangelistic methods of Jonathan Edwards.

The first four chapters are Gerstner’s attempt to justify, as well as reconcile, the diverse views of Edwards. The major part of the book is comprised with the exploration of Edwards’ doctrine of seeking. After fully developing Edwards’ view of seeking Gerstner address other issues such as “faith alone”, “backsliding”, “regeneration”, and “preservation of the saints”.

What I Liked

If the reader desires a more full understanding of the Puritan (and Edwardsean) doctrine of seeking then this is an excellent resource. It is often difficult to grasp the relation between sovereign election and calling sinners to repentance. This book will give the reader a better (although still not complete) understanding of such doctrines. As it says on the back cover this is an excellent resource for those “desiring a theology of the greatest of all the Puritan divines”. Gerstner does an adequate job of systematizing Edwards’ doctrine of “steps to salvation”.

It is also helpful that Gerstner brings in many quotes from Edwards, and does so in a manner that is still quite readable. It is an enjoyable read but also not a light read.

What I Disliked

At times Gerstner interacts with the Edwards’ views. It is my opinion that the book would have been helped along with more interaction from Gerstner. The subjects are often so deep and seemingly contradictory that the reader would be helped by thoughtful interaction—as well as Scriptural defenses of Edwards’ belief. This is, perhaps, due to the pointed focus of Gerstner and such a book was not his intent. Nonetheless, it would have been more beneficial to hear more from our collaborator.

Gerstner also uses the sermon more than the written text of Edwards. Edwards was a man of orderly thought. Every sermon was thought out, but perhaps not as thorough as the theological writings of Edwards. It would have been helpful to see the development of Edwards’ theology. Footnotes and a bibliography are also not included in this work and would have been quite helpful.

Should You Buy It?

The student of Edwards (and Puritan theology) does not want to miss this work. It systematizes the thought of Edwards in a quite helpful way. It also gives help to the student in formulating his own views of the “steps to salvation”. This is also a very difficult read. It may not be the most beneficial to the unlearned. Chances are that if you are reading this review you have some exposure to Edwards, if so then I would recommend this book. If you are reading this review and looking for an introductory to Edwards then look elsewhere; perhaps Iain Murray’s A New Biography on Edwards or George Marsden’s classic biography.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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