Those interested in learning about Jonathan Edwards have plenty of excellent options from which to choose: George Marsden’s scholarly standard, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale University Press, 2003); Marsden’s popular-level A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Eerdmans, 2008); Douglas Sweeney’s ministry-oriented Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Life (IVP Academic, 2009); and many others.
Those looking for an introduction to Edwards should not overlook Michael Haykin and Ron Baines’ Travel with Jonathan Edwards: A God-Centered Life, An Enduring Legacy (Day One, 2013; source: publisher). The authors offer a solid, concise, and highly readable presentation of Edwards that touches on the major developments in his life. But this volume provides a unique view of Edwards and his world through the lens of the camera. Every page opening features colorful pictures of people, places, churches, gravestones, and other historical elements that help the reader imagine Edwards in his context.
As the title implies, this book especially helps those traveling to New England to visit sites associated with Edwards and his times. With this volume, the traveler can easily locate historical points of interest using maps of places like East Windsor, Connecticut; New Haven, Connecticut; Northampton, Massachusetts; and Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The authors also provide travelers’ information on local historical societies, churches, and gravesites. In short, the book offers in one place the key information for visiting the most important places associated with Jonathan Edwards.
Several other features supplement the book, including call-outs throughout the volume briefly tackling historical topics that play into Edwards’ story, such as Puritanism, marriage, New England meeting houses, and the home economics of Jonathan’s wife, Sarah. A timeline offers a one-page glimpse of Edwards’ life, and Haykin and Baines also reprint Edwards’ famed seventy resolutions at the end of the book.
Those looking for a critical or technical treatment of Edwards should look elsewhere. There are no footnotes, and the authors do not intend to weigh into the scholarly conversation with this volume. Instead, Haykin and Baines offer an edifying read aimed primarily at Christians wanting to think well about Edwards and how he might inspire us today to live a God-centered life. Readers have much to gain from such a perspective.
One concern: I wondered if, even in an uplifting volume like this one, the authors should have acknowledged how the Edwards’ slaves made it possible for Sarah to manage her home so well and thus, in turn, for Jonathan to engage in many of his intellectual endeavors. This allows us not only to gain historical perspective on their lives and world, but also to learn both positively and, in this case, negatively from Edwards’ example.
That said, Haykin and Baines have written a volume that will benefit readers seeking to make good on church history for their own time. Their conclusion sounds a worthy challenge to evangelical Christians today: “Modern-day evangelicalism, shaped more by pragmatism than the glory and beauty of the triune God, urgently needs to reflect on the theological perspective found in this body of writings [i.e., Edwards’ corpus of treatises, sermons, notes, and letters]” (119).
All in all, this book offers valuable perspective on Edwards and his day through its solid treatment of Edwards and its unique features and images. If you can’t get to New England, this book will help you gain a visual glimpse of Edwards’ world. But if you can travel to the American Northeast, consider taking a trip with Jonathan Edwards, and take Travel with Jonathan Edwards along as your guide. I’ll certainly use it next time I’m in New England.
*Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.