Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God
Dane C. Ortlund
Review by Colton Guffey
In Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, Dane C. Ortlund reflects on how Jonathan Edwards understood the Christian life in hopes that the reader may grow more aware of the beauty of God.
The author structures the book to focus on different aspects of the Christian life, including new birth, love, joy, gentleness, Scripture, prayer, pilgrimage, obedience, Satan, the soul, and heaven. Ortlund reflects on how each of these subjects blossoms out of the center of Edwards’ theology: being made alive to the beauty of God. The author ends the book with a chapter of four criticisms of Edwards’ theology. Referencing Hebrews 13:7, the author urges his readers to imitate Edwards but not to replicate.
This book is full of insight into the theology of Jonathan Edwards while also having a devotional quality to it.
Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World
Review by RuthAnne Irvin
Augustine famously said that the human heart is restless until it rests in God. In his new book, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, Michael Horton suggests the same for Christians today. Horton takes readers through a balanced, biblical view of ambition, the new radical Christianity, contentment, and ultimately loving God and neighbor more than self.
Horton argues that Christians need to return to a love and appreciation of “ordinary life,” because that is where real ministry occurs for the average person.
Horton writes, “We’ve forgotten that God showers his extraordinary gifts through ordinary means of grace, loves us through ordinary fellow image bearers, and sends us out into the world to love and serve others in ordinary callings.”
The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade
Review by Ivan Mesa
This summer marked the centennial of World War I (1914-1918), often forgotten and little understood. Philip Jenkins retells the story afresh in The Great and Holy War, arguing that we cannot understand the war apart from understanding its religious and spiritual aspects.
“The war took place in a world in which religious faith was still the norm,” the Baylor history professor writes. “Religion is essential to understanding the war, to understanding why people went to war, what they hoped to achieve through war, and why they stayed at war.”
Jenkins highlights several examples of the prevailing religious rhetoric, such as the national “messianic” visions in Germany and Russia, and the crusade-like calls-to-arms in America. Jenkins also argues that the war set in motion a more activist radicalization of Islam.
George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father
Thomas S. Kidd
Review by S. Craig Sanders
International celebrity, relentless gospel preaching, innovative communication strategies, and interdenominational appeal — that’s the portrait Baylor professor Thomas S. Kidd paints in a new biography of the father of modern evangelicalism, George Whitefield.
In George Whitefield: America’s Founding Father, Kidd presents a full-orbed view of the “grand itinerant” on the 300th anniversary of his birth. Kidd helps restore appreciation for the largely forgotten figure whose efforts in the Great Awakening shaped the evangelical movement and the founding of America.
Whitefield, who rocketed to fame in his early 20s, preached the gospel of the new birth across colonial America and Britain to crowds in the tens of thousands. His tireless travels unified a transatlantic evangelical identity marked by Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley.
For Whitefield, “the gospel was important enough to use the new means of the marketplace to deliver it effectively,” Kidd writes. He examines the close relationship Whitefield enjoyed with Benjamin Franklin, who capitalized on Whitfield’s fame by publishing his sermons and journals for a massive audience.
What may surprise many is that Kidd likens Whitefield to someone who “becomes an international media sensation and then spends the rest of his or her career coping with the memory of that season of celebrity.” Yet “the greatest evangelical preacher the world has ever seen,” Kidd writes, persisted preaching the new birth — “the center of Whitefield’s gospel ministry and the defining cause of his life.”
Kidd carefully explores the lifelong and rocky relationship between Whitefield and Wesley, Whitefield’s odd marriage, and the troubling role Whitefield played in introducing slavery to the colony of Georgia. Despite its relative brevity, the biography is a riveting narrative that delivers a comprehensive view of America’s spiritual founding father.