I was excited to be asked to review this volume on Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). It is from the series Christian Biographies for Young Readers. Edwards is someone I know little about, yet I realise he has left quite a legacy for the church.
The book is designed for ages 7-12, but I suspect the younger half of this range would be stumped by much of the vocabulary. I would not want quotations from Edwards himself to be altered, but the rest of the book needs to feel more contemporary. I read it to my 8-year-old and found I had to keep explaining words. I also longed for the book to compensate for my lack of understanding of the American colonial context.
It is generously illustrated with maps, photographs and paintings. Reminiscent of a prize-giving book, the presentation is beautiful. However, I am not convinced that making a book appear aged helps to either bring history alive or appeal to the intended audience!
These cosmetic weaknesses I can work around, in order to introduce my family to one of church history’s most influential theologians. I’m sure it is an accurate, well-researched chronological account of his life, work, family, etc.
Further benefits are encountering Edward’s contemporaries (such as George Whitefield), and tantalisingly brief references to Edwards’ key events, sermons and written works. However, that is what I find frustrating (and, in fairness, it is not unique to this book).
I long for my children to grow in their knowledge and love of God and the salvation he offers us in Jesus. So, instead of a book dominated by details of children, jobs, houses, etc., I was left wishing that a much greater proportion had been devoted to Edwards’ contribution to our appreciation of God through his Word.
The ministry of discerning and teaching biblical truth defined Edwards’ life (frequently with young people), so it’s a great shame not to see that mirrored in this volume. That, after all, is what will truly motivate our children to a life equally given in sacrificial devotion to the living word: the Lord Jesus Christ himself.