An Infinite Fountain of Light: Jonathan Edwards for the Twenty-First Century, By George M. Marsden

An Infinite Fountain of Light

Jonathan Edwards for the Twenty-First Century

by George M. Marsden

An Infinite Fountain of Light
hardcover
  • Length: 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: June 27, 2023
  • Item Code: A0662
  • ISBN: 978-1-5140-0662-7

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Christians need to pause once in a while to get their bearings. For perspective on our own times and how we got here, it helps to listen to wise guides from other eras. In An Infinite Fountain of Light, the renowned American historian George Marsden illuminates the landscape with wisdom from one such mentor: Jonathan Edwards.

Drawing on his deep expertise on Edwards and American culture, Marsden explains where Edwards stood within his historical context and sets forth key points of his complex thought. By also considering Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield, two of Edwards's most influential contemporaries, Marsden unpacks the competing cultural and religious impulses that have shaped our times. In contrast, Edwards offered us an exhilarating view of the centrality of God's beauty and love. Christians' love for God, he taught, can be the guiding love of our lives, opening us to transformative joy and orienting all our lesser loves.

"There is an infinite fullness of all possible good in God, a fullness of every perfection, of all excellency and beauty, and of infinite happiness," wrote Edwards. "This infinite fountain of light should, diffusing its excellent fullness, pour forth light all around."

With Marsden's guidance, readers will discover how Edwards's insights can renew our own vision of the divine, of creation, and of ourselves.

"It's hard to beat George Marsden as a guide to Jonathan Edwards—and this gem of a book will be treasured by thousands who know or will discover exactly what I mean. It sparkles brightly with profound Christian wisdom from the past interpreted for modern-day readers with clarity and a large helping of simple—though also deeply learned—Christian common sense."

Douglas A. Sweeney, dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University

"In this brief but wonderfully written appreciation of Jonathan Edwards by prize-winning scholar George Marsden, readers encounter an Edwards meant for twenty-first-century believers. In place of emphasizing Edwards's celebrated but difficult philosophical treatises like Freedom of the Will or The Nature of True Virtue, Marsden offers an insightful overview of Edwards's classic A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, celebrated by William James as America's first religious psychology. In Marsden's hands, readers learn to understand Edwards's signs of saving faith in terms as relevant to today as they were in the eighteenth century. In the process, they see a new meaning of the Enlightenment grounded less in 'laws' of nature than in a system of personal interrelationships governed by a caring, sovereign God."

Harry Stout, Jonathan Edwards Professor Emeritus of American Religious History, Yale University

"A remarkable book that renders Jonathan Edwards highly accessible to twenty-first-century evangelicals. Marsden wonderfully brings together a lifetime of reflection on American religious history and decades of work on Edwards to reveal the ways Edwards's powerful theological vision and penetrating spiritual theology can practically contribute to the renewal of the church today. An Infinite Fountain of Light is an outstanding example of how history and biography inspire, convey a sense of wisdom, and positively inform our present."

Robert W. Caldwell III, professor of church history at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

"In a culture still in thrall to the ideals of Benjamin Franklin, George Marsden calls American evangelicals back to Jonathan Edwards's coruscating vision of divine beauty."

Amy Plantinga Pauw, Louisville Presbyterian Seminary

"I am delighted to recommend An Infinite Fountain of Light. This book is an engaging and practical consideration of what Jonathan Edwards has to say to the twenty-first century. With characteristic insight, clarity, and Christian wisdom, George Marsden guides readers through the thought of one of Christianity's most brilliant and challenging theologians."

Thomas S. Kidd, research professor of church history at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

"At a time when evangelicals—and Christians generally—seem unsure of themselves, George Marsden offers us Jonathan Edwards as a fixed star in the firmament and encourages us to navigate our twenty-first-century voyage with sextants set on Northampton. Here Marsden distills the essence of his earlier Bancroft award–winning biography of Edwards and reflects on issues such as worldview, discernment, rightly ordered love, and a faithful yet winsome approach to Christian social engagement. What Marsden brings to light is just what Edwards did, namely everything. Nothing looks quite the same when it is viewed in the light of God's reality. This culminating work by an outstanding historian of American religion deserves a wide readership."

Michael McClymond, professor of modern Christianity at Saint Louis University

"Jonathan Edwards is the greatest theologian in American history, and George Marsden is the greatest historian of American Christianity writing today. In this lyrical book, Marsden does the hard work of retrieval for us all, finding insights in Edwards's work that can guide believers in the twenty-first century. An Infinite Fountain of Light is a gift to the whole church from one of its most thoughtful members."

Timothy Larsen, McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College
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Read an Excerpt

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

1. A Person of His Time for Our Time
2. The Culture That Franklin Built
3. The Dynamic Beauty of God
4. Edwards and the Churches That Whitefield Built
5. But How Do We Tell? The Signs of Rightly Ordered Loves

Appendix: "A Divine and Supernatural Light" (1733): A Sermon by Jonathan Edwards
General Index
Scripture Index

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George M. Marsden (PhD, Yale University) is professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. His many books include Fundamentalism and American Culture, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, and Jonathan Edwards: A Life.