Monday 1 June 2015

Book Review: "Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms"

David P. Barsinger, “Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture”, Oxford: OUP, 2014.

If you are interested in preaching or the theology of Jonathan Edwards, methods in biblical exegesis or the Psalms, then this book will interest you. It is well researched and well written. The author arranges his material around seven key topics in relation to “Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms”. These are “The Psalter in Edwards’ World”; “God and Scripture”; “Humanity and Sin”; “Christ”; “Spirit and Gospel”; “Christian Piety” and “Church and Eternity”. Each of these chapters are full of Bible citations which make this compendium devotional as well as theological and redemptive-historical.

The introduction is the opening chapter and this reminds us of the importance of an inclusive Psalmody position for public worship. How many evangelical congregations sing metrical psalms in every service? Why are they not sung? This impoverishes the church on a number of levels and while Edwards’ also sang hymns in his congregation, the Psalter had a prominent place in worship. Edwards had several key emphases in his preaching and one of them was a redemptive-historical vision of Scripture (p 21, 25-28). This is the sub-theme of this book but it does not focus exclusively on a redemptive-historical approach to the Psalms.

This book has great merit in being a future reference point to exegesis and insights into portions of the Psalms and how they should be rightly understood. The Scripture index at the back can be used for further research by readers. Edwards materials are primarily extracts from sermons, he was a working minister first and foremost. Gleanings from his approach to Psalm portions with a rich Christological, Trinitarian and redemptive-historical flow would be enriching to inform the preacher in his sermon preparation.

For example Chapter 2 “God and Scripture” begins by citing one of Edwards’ favourite verses from the Psalms, 115:1 “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”. David P. Basinger not only gives helpful clues to Edwards’ thought on the glory of God but also three theologians for whom he was indebted; Edwards appreciated the writings of Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole and John Trapp (p 80). Perhaps the reading of Jonathan Edwards works along with these three other authors could greatly enrich the contemporary church’s preaching, ministry and piety. Barsinger’s contribution may not be a best-seller but it is a worthy and valuable contribution for the Christian church.

May 2015

No comments: