Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical: An Anerican Portrait

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An important new biography of America's founding religious father.

Jonathan Edwards was America's most influential evangelical, whose revivals of the 1730s became those against which all subsequent ones have been judged.

The marvelous accomplishment of Philip Gura's Jonathan Edwards is to place the rich intellectual landscape of America's most formidable evangelical within the upheaval of his times. Gura not only captures Edwards’ brilliance ...

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Overview

An important new biography of America's founding religious father.

Jonathan Edwards was America's most influential evangelical, whose revivals of the 1730s became those against which all subsequent ones have been judged.

The marvelous accomplishment of Philip Gura's Jonathan Edwards is to place the rich intellectual landscape of America's most formidable evangelical within the upheaval of his times. Gura not only captures Edwards’ brilliance but respectfully explains the enduring appeal of his theology: in a world of profound uncertainty, it held out hope of an authentic conversion---the quickening of the indwelling spirit of God in one’s heart and the consequent certitude of Godly behavior and everlasting grace.

Tracing Jonathan Edwards’ life from his birth in 1703 to his untimely death in 1758, Gura magnificently reasserts Edwards rightful claim as the father of America's evangelical tradition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Famous for his scathing revival sermon, "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God," Edwards secured a reputation as America's leading fire-and-brimstone evangelist of the 18th century. Yet as Gura points out in this elegant and compact little study, Edwards's central themes were the religious affections and the role of the emotions in personal religious experience. Rather than writing another detailed biography of Edwards in the manner of George Marsden's magnum opus, Gura traces the development of these themes through the key periods of the luminary's life as evangelist, Princeton president and missionary to the Indians. Gura observes that although Edwards appeared to fail at every task he tried-he lost control over the religious awakenings he had started and at his death few showed interest in reading his extensive and dense theological writings-his reputation revived in the 19th century as an advocate of the purifying flame of personal religious experience. Thus, 100 years after his death, and into the 20th century, the writings that reflect Edwards's own focus on religious experience have been The Life of David Brainerd, The Religious Affections and A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God because they demonstrate the ways that emotions issue in the practice of the Christian faith. Gura's brilliant cultural history of Edwards and his times splendidly reveals a side of the evangelist that has often been overlooked. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Jonathan Edwards has been called America's most famous theologian. He was also a controversial pastor, revivalist, writer, and thinker whose work remains relevant today. In this biography, Gura (American & religious studies, Univ. of North Carolina) emphasizes the events that shaped Edwards's thinking. The revivals and conflicts within his church in Northampton, MA, caused some to see him as a failure. For Edwards, however, they became the cornerstone of his legacy and of his leading work, Religious Affections, which examines the experience and demonstration of true religion. Gura puts into perspective not only problems in today's churches but also personal religious experiences while also illustrating Edwards's cogent thinking in a transatlantic discourse that addressed free will, election, and the sovereignty of God. Edwards responded specifically to the arguments of his opponents in his Inquiry (also known as Freedom of the Will) that immediately redefined an international debate. This book is shorter and more direct than other Edwards biographies. Recommended for large libraries.-George Westerlund, Palmyra, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gauntlet-throwing biography of the 18th-century minister and theologian who's in the pantheon of great American intellectuals, along with Thomas Jefferson, W.E.B. DuBois, and the James brothers. Gura (American/Religious Studies/Univ. of North Carolina; A Glimpse of Sion's Glory, 1983, etc.) re-creates Edwards's life and times, taking us from his birth and early studies at Yale College (not much is known about the intervening years) through his career as revivalist and theologian, and to his final post as Princeton's third president. The third through fifth chapters form the heart of the book, where Gura argues that what animated Edwards's preaching was an articulation of grace never before laid out in colonial America (though he notes that Edwards's grandfather, the controversial and influential minister Samuel Stoddard, hinted at this in his own theology). It's this grace-this "new, simple" presentation of the Gospel-that drew so many to convert after hearing Edwards, and it's this grace that explains the biographer's subtitle: In Gura's reading, Edwards's grace-filled preaching was the beginning of the great tradition of American evangelicalism. This assertion is sure to spark debate among scholars: the claim that Edwards was an evangelical is no mere semantic move, but a challenge to the theological categories that many historians have long made conventional in the history of American Protestantism. Gura's study, too, will invite inevitable comparison with George Marsden's biography of Edwards, which won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in 2004. Marsden is, no doubt, the standard-bearer, and even Gura acknowledges that Marsden's is "the definitive life," saying that his own study isnot exactly a biography but a "consideration of Edwards," a "selective" meditation on certain themes in the life. Gura will win readers, too, though, with a work that's much the shorter, and a forceful argument that's clear, accessible and arresting. Controversial, and a quick, enjoyable read. Gura will grab at least some of the audience of armchair-history-lovers that professional historians always claim they want to reach.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809030316
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Pages: 304

Meet the Author

Philip F. Gura is Professor of English and Adjunct Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of The Wisdom of Words: Language, Theology, and Literature in the American Renaissance and A Glimpse of Sion's Glory: Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620-1660, and editor, with Joel Myerson, of Critical Essays on American Transcendentalism.
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