The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven J. Lawson (Reformation Trust, 2012).
One of the great encouragements in the Christian life is the reading of biography. There’s something about seeing God’s fingerprint on the life of a faithful believer that gives us the sense of the sovereignty and providence of the Lord. Many Christians, however, are discouraged away from biography due to the sheer magnitude of most written works. So many of the greatest lives result in the thickest volumes, and rightly so, since no one life could be summed up in 1,000 pages, let alone 100.
But Dr. Steven Lawson does a masterful job at capturing the nuance of various qualities possessed by faithful Christian leaders through history in his A Long Line of Godly Men series. This volume on Jonathan Edwards, the second in a growing series, zeroes in on Edwards’ endeavoring for Christlikeness. In a word, this volume is about sanctification.
Lawson highlights the life of Edwards in a 21-page biographical sketch, spending the remaining chapters focused on the specific spiritual disciplines of his life, namely his “Resolutions”. Lawson is careful to cite the cultural prominence of writing Resolutions, even giving Benjamin Franklin and George Washington as examples. But Lawson distinguishes Edwards’ efforts differently, noting two key distinctives: “the ‘Resolutions’ represented Edwards’ ‘firm determination’ to keep spiritual priorities continually before him… to serve as ‘guidelines for self-examination’ by which Edwards could keep his finger on the pulse of his spiritual life.’ (31-32) Each of Lawson’s chapters deal thematically with the various categories of Edwards’ seventy resolutions.
In the end, Lawson does more than showcase the noble efforts of America’s greatest theologian. He ties it back to the everyday Christian life. Lawson argues that “our lofty theology, centered on God Himself, must be translated into daily Christian living in practical ways.” (154) While many writers wax eloquent on the various methods of spiritual disciplines from an abstract standpoint, Lawson brings the reader back to the life of a man known for his resolve and teaches his methods to a modern audience. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)
While all of the A Long Line of Godly Men profiles are enriching, Lawson’s volume on Jonathan Edwards stands out as a practical guide to living the Christian life and seeking God’s glory above all else.
Title: The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards
Author: Steven J. Lawson
Publisher: Reformation Trust Publishing (April 11, 2011)