The Director of the Henry Center, Doug Sweeney, a friend and mentor, has authored an important text entitled Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word (InterVarsity, July 2009). The book covers the life and Word-centered ministry of the colonial pastor-theologian, a subject area in which Sweeney has already produced numerous important works, including Volume Twenty-Three of the prestigious Yale Works of Edwards series.
The text’s 200 pages stretch over seven chapters that each address an aspect of Edwards’s biblically based ministry. The writing style is characteristically Sweeney: clear, thick, vivid, and doxological. Readers of all kinds–pastors, laypeople, Edwards devotees, and even the uninitiated–will benefit greatly from Sweeney’s comprehensive grasp of the Edwardsean corpus and his ability to distill that knowledge for readers.
This is historical theology for the church. The book succeeds in repositioning Edwards as, first and foremost, a minister of the Word. Sweeney calls for an Edwardsean conception of the pastorate–that is, a rich pulpit ministry centered on the Bible that cannot help but fill ordinary Christian living with the glory and grandeur of the gospel.
This is an important book, one that promises to transform modern conceptions of the pastorate. The text will also permanently affect one’s understanding of both Jonathan Edwards and the Christian life. Aside from George Marsden’s momentous Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale, 2003), Sweeney’s text is my favorite Edwards book. In fact, I would actually rank this as the superior abridged treatment of Edwards over Marsden’s recent A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Eerdmans, 2008), a fine book in its own right.
I love Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word. I encourage anyone who cares about theology, the church, and church history to buy it. It is the product of a distinguished scholar who loves God’s church and has devoted his own theological ministry to it. Here’s hoping that many will purchase this text, and that a whole generation will embrace the Edwardsean model of the ministry, seeking not to be Edwards, but to be like him in his love for the Word and his concern for the spiritual transformation of his people.
Readers can purchase Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word from InterVarsity Press or Amazon. Justin Taylor recently posted about the text. In addition, a diverse and distinguished group of commentators has praised the text. Selections below:
A “masterful analysis”–Harry Stout, Yale
“Admirable” and “authoritative”–George Marsden, Notre Dame
“Nourishing and tasty”–Gerald McDermott, Roanoke College
A “blessing to pastors, preachers, and spiritual leaders”–Kenneth Minkema, Yale
A “vibrant portrayal”–Sam Storms, Brideway Church
“Accessible and accurate”–Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church