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Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical

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Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical
By Philip F. Gura. (Hill & Wang - A Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 2005. Pg. xv, 284. Illustrations.) ISBN: 0-8090-3031-4.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - March 1, 2005

Jonathan Edwards was an early American legend who was born in 1703. A Puritan Minister, Edwards was considered to have been one of the most influential and leading intellectuals of pre-revolutionary America. Edwards was an American born and trained theologian. He attended Yale University, graduating at the age of seventeen. Edwards rise within the religious organization was meteoric. By 1729, Edwards was the chief pastor of his own congregation. He was 26.

The sermons that Edwards delivered gave rise to a religious revival that swept through New England. This revival is now known as the Great Awakening, and it was to shape the religious underpinnings of the burgeoning nation. Edwards also wrote several ground breaking books, including Freedom of Will. First published in 1754, this book examined the Calvinist concept of predestination from a psychological viewpoint.

In Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical, Philip F. Gura offers an insightful overview of Edwards' life and contributions to American society. This biography identifies just what factors made Edwards such a prominent evangelist, and how modern Christian evangelistic movements developed directly from Edwards' work. This is a comparatively concise biography, compared to other works on Edwards - and one of the most readable that I've come across. Despite its brevity, Gura captures the essence of Edwards, while at the same time providing a detailed overview of his entire life from his birth in 1703 until his death in 1758.

Comprehensive in nature, Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical not only details Edwards' successes, but also some of his shortcomings. Gura also examines the impact that Edwards had on the cultural landscape of America, his missionary work directed toward the indigenous Indian populations, and the impact of his tenure as president of Princeton University. This book provides insight not only into the life of an extraordinary man, but also into a period of American history when religious fervor and spirituality was at its zenith.

Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical is a superb biography of one of America's leading religious philosophers. Gura's narrative style is brisk and passionate. This text is suited for both general audiences and for academics. The text includes a selection of illustrations and detailed endnotes. The only item that I feel that this book lacks is a bibliography. However, those seeking direction toward additional reading material on Edwards, will find a wealth of titles listed within the endnotes.

Related Reviews:

The Puritan Oligarchy: The Founding of American Civilization, By Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker.
The Puritan Oligarchy describes the origins, formation and eventual failure of the Puritan bible state in Massachusetts.

The American Family in the Colonial Period, by Arthur W. Calhoun.
A sociological study of colonial American family life and how Old World attitudes and family dynamics and traditions were adapted to meet the conditions encountered in the New World.

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