Book Reviews

Book Review: “Edwards on the Christian Life” by Dane C. Ortlund

edwards-ortlundJonathan Edwards is perhaps the most famous of all American theologians. Edwards on the Christian Life draws from his enormous body of work to provide insight into Christian life.

The book is organized around chapters which each focus on one aspect of the Christian life, according to Edwards. Chapters include Joy, Beauty, Heaven, Satan, and more. Each of these is oriented around showing how the chapter’s title relates to Edwards’ view of the Christian life. The chapter on beauty provides a feel for the rest of the book, as Ortlund argues that Edwards’ view of God as beauty/beautiful impacts most of the rest of his theology. The chapter on heaven was particularly excellent. On heaven, Edwards’ vision of the beauty that believers would experience and the way they would interact is brought forth by Ortlund in breathtaking fashion. It is rare to find myself filled with emotion while reading a theology book, but Ortlund’s work in this chapter had me just overcome with awe at the beauty of how Edwards described it.

Other chapters were quite helpful as well, such as the chapters on pilgrimage, obedience, and Satan, set all in a row, which outlined the Christian life, sanctification, and spiritual warfare and temptation respectively. The insights to be drawn from this book on Christian living ought not be understated. Ortlund did a great job bringing forward many of these insights.

Ortlund admirably steers clear of the primary pitfall of some books in the series–getting so caught up in discussing the theology of the person being examined that the book loses focus on “the Christian Life.” This is not to say any of the books in the series are bad–indeed, I have read many and enjoyed them all–but it is good to have the focus on the topic at hand. Each aspect of Edwards’ theology that is examined here is brought to bear on the Christian life in meaningful ways.

The one criticism I have is, ironically, of the criticisms offered. The final chapter (apart from the conclusion) offers four criticisms of Edwards’ theology, such as an overly introspective view. Although I think Ortlund’s criticisms of Edwards are on point, they could have been better dealt with in individual chapters. It’s a minor criticism for a phenomenal book.

Edwards on the Christian Life is yet another excellent entry in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series. Ortlund introduces readers to a fantastic range of Edwards’ thought, all while remaining focused on how that thought applies to the Christian life. Indeed, it made me want to read more of Edwards myself. I recommend it highly.

The Good

+Amazing chapter on heaven
+Practical examples of Christian living
+Focused and concise
+Excellent format

The Bad

-Criticisms could have been better placed


Dan C. Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher. I was not required to give any specific feedback whatsoever.


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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


11 thoughts on “Book Review: “Edwards on the Christian Life” by Dane C. Ortlund

  1. I’m sorry, I just can’t believe a man who believed that God creates us incapable of choosing him and then tortures us eternally for failing to do so has anything whatsoever to teach us about God’s love. If your God hates the majority of mankind then you worship a demon, however cleverly you present your theology.

    Posted by Giles | February 17, 2016, 7:34 AM
    • I think this is an interesting statement, and one that raises all kinds of questions. Does your statement mean that, broadly speaking, you do not think that conservative Calvinists and yourself worship the same God? If so, doesn’t that entail that you hold Calvinists as not Christians? I’m asking these because I’m genuinely curious. I see phrases that imply different theological strands worship a “different God” or “a demon” not infrequently, and I wonder what the full intended implications of such statements are.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 21, 2016, 1:48 PM
      • Thanks for the question. I don’t want to say that we worship different Gods. I have great respect for Calvinists. I think I have to say something like this. If Calvinism is right then I must have missed some crucial piece of the jigsaw that explains why monergism + eternal torment doesn’t make God a monster. That we worship the same God but one of us understands him wrong.
        So I would row back from my demon comment and say perhaps that Edward’s God appears to me a demon and that I would be worshipping a demon if I worshipped him.
        But if someone, Calvinist or otherwise, says that because God is all powerful he can define good and evil however he likes, then they say infinite might makes right and commit themselves to worshipping an omnipotent demon should one exist.
        As for who is a Christian, Calvinists are certainly Christians, generally much better ones than I am. I have no doubt that Edward’s was, like Augustine, whose theology was somewhat similar. If I implied otherwise I crossed a line. Such debates should be conducted in charity.

        Posted by Giles | February 22, 2016, 9:35 AM
      • Thank you for the clarification. I guess I’m just unsure of how the distinction you’re making makes a difference so far as my original question is concerned. It seems you’re saying that at least some strands of Calvinism (let’s call it Edwardsian Calvinism because it’s fun making up theology words) are, in fact, committed to worshiping an omnipotent demon. I don’t really see how that statement comports with the next, in which you say that “Calvinists are certainly Christians” because assuming you’re referring to the same [Edwardsian] Calvinists, you just stated that they are committed to demon worship. In your view, are demon worship and Christian faith compatible?

        I’m not saying this because I’m trying to be argumentative. I am genuinely curious because I see claims like this not infrequently. I am not an Edwardsian Calvinist or any kind of Calvinist, but I wonder about the possibility of fellowship here. Were I an Edwardsian Calvinist, I don’t think I would be mistaken to at least think that you’re saying I’m worshiping a demon and therefore am not a Christian. Is that what you are saying? I don’t want to misunderstand.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 22, 2016, 10:54 PM
      • Thanks for making me think harder. My second comment was intended to row back from the demon remark.
        Both Calvinists and Arminians worship the God and father of Jesus Christ, who inspired the scriptures etc. If they differ about his character it doesn’t follow they worship different Gods. Any more than if I and my sister differ about whether our father is a good man it follows we have different fathers.
        If the Calvinist consciously thought of God as evil then he would condemn himself for worshipping God. But of course he doesn’t. He merely attributes to God certain things that make God appear evil to the Arminian.
        It’s like our immigration disagreement. Each thinks the other’s policy is immoral but since each of us knows the other is at least trying to be moral it doesn’t require either of us to condemn the other.

        Posted by Giles | February 23, 2016, 8:20 AM
  2. I’ll have to check this out; I’ve long known he developed a theology of beauty, but, like most folks, I generally only know him for “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Especially as a self-proclaimed Presbyterian, I should know more about this man!

    Posted by Michael Poteet | February 17, 2016, 9:41 AM
    • That’s the thing for me. I believe Edwards was a brilliant and subtle theologian, but having read “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” and knowing that he believed all of these sinners were damned because God thought it would glorify him first to bind them in sin and then to refuse them them any opportunity to be free, I can’t bring myself to read anything else he wrote. My loss perhaps.
      You may guess I am not a monergist!

      Posted by Giles | February 17, 2016, 11:41 AM
  3. Thank you for this review J.W. I might be picking this book up during an upcoming conference…

    Posted by SLIMJIM | February 17, 2016, 1:55 PM

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