In A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, John Piper shows forth again his love and expertise in all things Jonathan Edwards. Published by Crossway and with the help of Justin Taylor, the two edited this volume of essays written by an all-star lineup of expert ‘Edwardseans’. In it, they set out to show that Edward’s held a worldview that needs to be recovered today, especially by the American church. He understood Christ as not only the creator of all things, sustaining it by his rule, but also as the purpose of it all. Edward’s understood every aspect of life to be pointing to Christ’s rule and he saw his Lord under every rock and behind every door of society. These are the lenses that Edward’s wore and that Piper and Taylor want their readers to join them in looking through.
The work is a series of essays that lays out for students the life, thought, and three major works of Jonathan Edwards. The authors utilize both primary and secondary sources to address these topics that support the main thesis. Speaking of the whole of creation, Piper quotes Edwards directly who points out his vision “that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God, and God is the beginning, middle and end in this affair.” Readers are brought through a concise study of Edwards’ understanding of revival, the nature of the local church, and the Christian religion in general. These studies reveal Christ’s primacy in Edward’s theology, philosophy, and orthopraxy. The contributors then take advantage of Edward’s academic, ecclesiastical and familial life to show how his vision was manifested practically. Studying the story of Edward’s wife, his influence is seen through her impactful words to their daughter following his death, “A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands upon our mouths! The Lord has done it. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be.”
Parts one and two of the collection are potentially the most convincing and attention grabbing. Primary sources from Edward’s own hand and that of his contemporaries clearly expose how Edwards viewed all of life as finding its purpose in Christ. A man’s true colors shine forth from what he does in secret and how his family thinks of him. Donald Whitney’ work on Edward’s use of the private spiritual disciplines shows how Edward’s made use of the time given to him by Christ for Christ. Seeing how Edward’s family spoke of his character and how they reflected his vision in their own lives further evidenced this truth.
The third part of the book is perhaps the only place where the editors’ purpose becomes somewhat lost. As helpful as the essays were in summarizing three paramount works of the great pastor-theologian, they nonetheless fall short in pointing back to the books purpose. Perhaps it would have been more helpful to show how these works pointed towards Edward’s vision of all things rather than pursuing an in-depth overview of the works. Most of all however, an essay devoted to Edwards as a slave owner reminds the reader of Edward’s humanity and his inability to truly apply his vision of Christ to all things. This should encourage readers to be thankful for the vision of Jonathan Edwards and to observe their own lives to see how they might be lacking in seeing Christ as preeminent in all things.
One other critique that I might add is that, while the book is packed full of encouraging words from both Edward’s himself and those who follow his lead, there is lacking a sense of direction in how this God-entranced vision of all things can play out in our own lives. Perhaps the editors wanted readers to think through this on their own, but it would have still been helpful nonetheless.
- John Piper and Justin Taylor. A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of
Jonathan Edwards. 23. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004.
2. Ibid. 75