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 ones 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. Philip F. Gura is William S. Newman Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he holds appointments in English, American Studies, and Religious Studies. Jonathan Edwards was America's most influential evangelical, whose revivals of the 1730s became those against which all subsequent ones have been judged.
The accomplishment of Philip F. 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's brilliance but also respectfully explains the enduring appeal of his theology: in a world of profound uncertainty, it held out hope of an authentic conversionquickening of the indwelling spirit of God in one's heart and the consequent certitude of godly behavior and everlasting grace.
Tracing Jonathan Edwards's life from his birth in 1703 to his untimely death in 1758, Gura magnificently reasserts Edwards's rightful claim as the father of America's evangelical tradition. "Gura's study further broadens our view of the man, insightfully placing him in the context of the Connecticut River valley's powerful and learned network of Calvinist ministers."Daniel Sullivan, The Weekly Standard "Philip F. Gura superbly explains Edwards' belief and how they relate to New England Colonial theology."Houston Chronicle
"Gura offers a sharply honed biography of Edwards, sculpted down with a supreme discipline befitting its evangelical subject and yet fleshy enough to offer a full sense of Edwards and his times."Leigh E. Schmidt, Bookforum
"Gura's capacity to thumbnail the world of the Connecticut River valley, the Yale 'apostacie' of 1722. the ecstasies of the awakened. The 'bad books' debacle, and the village politics of Stockbridge is a running delight."Allen Guelzo, Books & Culture
"Gura does a fine job of sketching the problems Edwards faced 'on the ground' in the pre-Revolutionary War eraa period that is, for most people, unfamiliar beyond a handful of images involving Pocahontas, Thanksgiving, and witchcraft trials."Scott McLemee, Newsday
"Superbly explains Edwards' beliefs and how they relate to New England colonial theology."Bob Trimble, The Dallas Morning News
"Gura's study further broadens our view of the man, insightfully placing him in the context of the Connecticut River valley's powerful and learned network of Calvinist ministers. He also helpfully explains the conflicts between strictly orthodox Calvinists like Edwards, and more lenient Arminian thinkers around Boston. But more than anything else, Gura seeks to explain how the minister's conception of revival and conversion has made him such an iconic figure in American culture."Daniel Sullivan, The Weekly Standard
"For readers skeptical of the resurgence of Protestant evangelism in parts of this country, there is much to be learned from Philip Gura's new biography, which argues that in order to understand the new Great Awakening, we must first study the old one."Thomas Meaney, Policy Review
"An insightful overview of Edwards' life and contributions to American society. This biography identifies just what factors made Edwards such a prominent evangelist, and how modern Christian evangelistic movements developed directly from Edwards' work. This is a comparatively concise biography, compared to other works on Edwardsand one of the most readable that I've come across. Despite its brevity, Gura captures the essence of Edwards, while at the same time providing a detailed overview of his entire life from his birth in 1703 until his death in 1758. Comprehensive in nature, Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical not only details Edwards' successes, but also some of his shortcomings. Gura also examines the impact that Edwards had on the cultural landscape of America, his missionary work directed toward the indigenous Indian populations, and the impact of his tenure as president of Princeton University. This book provides insight not only into the life of an extraordinary man, but also into a period of American history when religious fervor and spirituality was at its zenith. Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical is a superb biography of one of America's leading religious philosophers. Gura's narrative style is brisk and passionate. This text is suited for both general audiences and academics."Simone Bonim, History in Review
"Capturing the essence and the impact of a long dead, noted, but controversial man of God is a daunting task. In his astute biography, Jonathan Edwards, distinguished author and professor Phillip P. Gura has succeeded brilliantly . . . Tracing Edwards' life from his birth in 1703 to his untimely death in 1758, Gura reasserts this theological firebrand's rightful designation as the father of America's evangelical tradition. He also portrays Edwards as an individual whose conceptions of man and the universe continue to challenge and enlighten 250 years after his death."Susan Farrington, The Sanford Herald
"[Gura] set out to produce a biography of Edwards' intellectual life, and he has made it a fine one."Brian J. Buchanan, The Tennessean
Guras relatively slim and accessible biography surveys the main events of Edwardss life in ten chapters comprising 238 pages of impeccably researched text . . . The strength of Philip Guras biography lies in its perceptive summary of Edwards though in its overarching unity and complexity. Students and scholars of American religious life will appreciate Guras ability to make Edwardss theology accessible as they encounter a persuasive assessment of the reasons for Edwardss enduring influences in American life.”Timothy D. Hall, The Historian
"Philip F. Gura has written a wonderfully compact but greatly insightful biography. Jonathan Edwards: American's Evangelical promises to be a standard and enduring introduction to America's most influential evangelical theologian for students at all levels. It is scholarly and accessible, learned and engaging. This volume, a model for biographers, addresses issues of interest to those in the fields of American history, religion, and culture."Stephen J. Stein, Chancellor's Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University
"A well informed and lucid portrait that touches on every major aspect of Edwards's life while making a case for his influence on the nineteenth century."David D. Hall, Harvard Divinity School
"Philip F. Gura has written a brilliant, concise, authoritative account of the life and mind of Jonathan Edwards that is so well written I found it impossible to put down. Jonathan Edwards: American's Evangelical is a great story about a greatand greatly misunderstoodman."Robert D. Richardson, author of Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind and Emerson: The Mind on Fire
"A splendid achievement, at once scholarly and accessible. Philip F. Gura has given us an Edwards for the twenty-first centuryan Edwards who made personal experience the cornerstone of religious life and who speaks to our own era of re-ignited spirituality as 'American's evangelical.'"Michael T. Gilmore, Paul Prosswimmer Professor of American Literature, Brandeis University
"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 triedhe lost control over the religious awakenings he had started and at his death few showed interest in reading his extensive and dense theological writingshis 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."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"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, Virginia, Library Journal
"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 re-creates Edwards's life and times, taking us from his birth and early studies at Yale College 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 gracethis 'new, simple' presentation of the Gospelthat 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 . . . 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."Kirkus Reviews
Jonathan Edwards is America's most seminal evangelical, the man who in 1734 touched off the "Little Awakening," the American revival against which all subsequent revivals were judged, and then became a chief apologist of the "Great Awakening" that swept the colonies. No one before or since has so rigorously described the origin and progress of a revival and the results by which one ascertains its success, means, and measurements--still very much used today. Philip F. Gura's Jonathan Edwards not only captures the rich intellectual landscape of America's most formidable evangelical but also firmly places Edwards within the tumult and terror of his times. In succinctly retelling Edwards's life, Gura's brilliant book restores the man's influence to its rightful place at the center of America's evangelical tradition.