Book Review – The God-Centered Life by Josh Moody

March 6, 2009

The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today. By Josh Moody. Vancover, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2007. Available from Westminster Books for $12.71.

There are many saints of the past who need to be reawakened for our churches today. There is much we can glean from in the lives of those who have gone before us. Many of them still speak directly to the issues we are facing today. John Moody, now Senior Pastor of College Church, Wheaton, IL, has provided a helpful volume sharing insights from Jonathan Edwards that address the issues we face today.

Moody, a precise thinker and academic with a pastor’s heart, is an expert in Edwards. He completed his PhD at Cambridge University on Edwards and continues to argue that the great American theologian and pastor speaks to us today. That is the intention in this book. He writes,

Because he preached the historic Christian gospel, and because that gospel is still true today, Edwards’ message, like that of any genuine Christian preacher, is relevant throughout the ages. But Edwards’ contribution is particularly timely today because his great sparring partners, the Enlightenment and the secularist modernism it bequeathed, have defined the recent progression of our culture. Whereas Edwards’ was responding to the Enlightenment at the beginning, our culture has reacted to the Enlightenment modernism at the end. If Edwards formed an effective and biblical response to the Enlightenment, we have lots to learn from him (p. 21).

Moody addresses a number of issues where we can learn from Edwards. These include revival, analyzing new Christian movements not only by what they teach but by their fruit, the human-centeredness of modernism, leadership must be biblically intelligent, the reality that human leaders fail, and family life and ministry. Edwards informs us on all of these issues. For instance, on revival, Moody draws from Edwards the following conclusion,

Revival is not random, not manipulative, not tied to a particular system or certain ecclesiastical machine. It is God’s initiative, his action, his intervention, his applying salvation to the church and the world. Much of the contemporary criticism of revival is well founded. Revivalism can be manipulative and shallow, its techniques unthinkingly aping modernistic attitudes of industrialism and individualism and woefully inadequate to anticipate changing culture in which we live. Revivals can also be excuses for delay, inaction and remaining passive in the face of the challenges the church is called to address. All these and other criticisms targeted towards revivals are at least to some degree cogent. Edwards would have agreed: for him, true revival was less mechanical and more magisterial, less passive and more powerful and Christ-like”(p. 48).

Perhaps the strongest part of the book is the last chapter, “The Edwards Message.” Here Moody summarizes what we can learn from Edwards but especially does a wonderful job at highlighting what an Edwards influenced individual, church, and evangelistic mission would look like. Moody is not content to leave this in the theoretical but places it in very practical terms of how one can learn from Jonathan Edwards.

If I had any one complaint it would be a desire to see more of Edwards actually speaking in the book. Moody knows Edwards well and communicates for him, but it would be excellent to see more direct interaction with Edwards writing on these particular subjects than was reflected in this book. But, this is a minor criticism as it does not overly detract from the helpfulness of this book.

Moody has done the church a service. While the growing body of secondary literature on Edwards is intense and not all of it ultimately helpful, this book is a valuable not only for pastors to learn how to have their ministry be more God-centered but also for individual Christians who seek to have their lives be more God-centered. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to any believe who wants to grow in their walk with God and especially to pastors who want to understand how the supremacy of God makes a difference in their ministry.


Understanding Edwards can be Difficult…

August 27, 2007

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Sam Storms is no slouch when it comes to Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was the subject of both his Master’s thesis and his PhD dissertation. Yet, even he recognizes that Edwards’ can sometimes be difficult to understand. And, one of his most important works, Religious Affections, can be sometimes one of the most difficult. I recall when my father and I were in seminary our Hermeneutics professor had a contest with students to see who could read more of the Bible (from Genesis all the way through); he or the students. My father beat him near the end of the semester. The prize was a copy of Religious Affections. Needless to say, after reading it he concluded he did not understand any of it and thought perhaps there was little good in reading Edwards if it were so difficult.

 

I have shared those thoughts. Edwards is indeed difficult! But what we have now is something we did not have before. We now have Sam Storms’ Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections. This book (available here) is a wonderful help in understanding this difficult but incredibly important book. I purchased a copy with my 25% discount card for being at the Andrew Fuller the Reader conference from the LifeWay Campus Store at SBTS (guess you should have all been at the conference)! Having skimmed it I have found that it is an incredibly helpful volume that will aide my own understanding of Edwards’.

 

In it, he offers paraphrases of Edwards’ writings interposed with his own thoughts.  Storms is a master of exegeting Edwards and making him clearer for us. The book is worth its price for the second part where Storms offers personal applications of Edwards’ work. Storms writes with a pastor’s heart and with a superb historian’s skill. I recommend highly this volume for anyone who wants to better understand Edwards’ especially on this most important topic of the Religious Affections.