-- John Piper, Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1998. 266 pages.
“God created the world to exhibit the fullness of His glory in the God-centered joy of His people.” Thus Piper summarizes Jonathan Edwards’ central insight. In other words, we might rephrase the old catechism answer, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” to read, “…to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” God’s glory and our joy, according to this book, are inseparably entwined.
In the first part of the book, Piper introduces us to Edwards, not with tedious biographical details, but with insights into Edwards’ thought and character, illustrated by his life. In an impressive tribute to him, Piper explains how Edwards’ “God-entranced” vision has changed his own life and ministry. In gratitude, Piper wrote this book to share that vision with modern Christians. In this part, Piper includes fifteen implications of Edwards’ thought. Each one would make a good subject for a week of meditation and prayer. This book is not meant for skimming! The thoughts and the study behind them are profound and merit serious interaction on our parts.
The second part of the book consists of one of Edwards’ own works that someone described as “unsurpassed in theological grandeur.” In what does God’s glory consist? Why does God have a passion for His own glory? Is He selfish to seek it? If God was perfectly satisfied in Himself, why did He make man? These and other questions are discussed, using a breathtaking expanse of scriptural evidence.
Edwards’ work also has two parts: in the first part he considers the purpose of God in creating the world from a philosophical viewpoint, hoping that by first considering the subject in this way, he might forestall some objections to God’s revelation. This part is admittedly not easy reading, and Piper suggests that some readers might want to skip directly to the second part. But Edwards gives answers to objections that are well worth digging into, and the writing, though somewhat difficult, is not obtuse.
In the second part of Edwards’ book, he presents the scriptural view of God’s purpose in creation. Quoting many texts, he demonstrates that God made Himself the “ultimate end of creation.” When He acts for Himself, it is the same as acting for His own glory. Throughout this part, he examines Scripture on related issues, showing that the purpose of Christ’s ministry, of redemption, of God’s moral government, and of His natural works is His glory. He discusses the relationship between God’s glory and His praise, between His glory and His Name. As an apparent contradiction, Edwards presents other Scriptures which indicate that God’s purpose in creation was to do good to His creatures out of love for them. With masterful insight, Edwards brings together God’s glory and our good as one and the same purpose. “The glory of God is the emanation of His fullness,” he says. It “includes the creatures’ esteem and love and enjoyment of God’s fullness;” God’s purpose for us involves our “knowing, loving, and rejoicing” in Him. As Edwards says, “It will take an eternity of increasing joy to experience all the fullness of God.” Since God’s fullness is infinite, our delight will never end.
--reviewed by Linda Neeley
Published in Vol.2, No.2 of