Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heaven On Earth

Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards's Vision of Living in Between on Amazon

Heaven on Earth coverWhat a visually light, bright book, and how easy and pleasant it is to read! Author Stephen Nichols is well aware "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is the Jonathan Edwards sermon most people know about, even if they don't know the content; scarily dour, strict, sober, and somber tends to be the image of Puritans in colonial America most people imagine. Nichols completely shatters those imaginings with Edwards' "contagious vision" of a life centered in Jesus Christ fully lived, completely savored, both feet solidly planted on the ground of planet earth. "[Edwards] knew well how to live in between, to live now in all of the realities of heaven and the life to come." (page 84) How some ever, colonial American sermons were very very very (very...) long indeed, sometimes preached in two separate sessions, morning and afternoon, so that's not simply stereotype.

Professor Nichols brings pastor, theologian, (revivalist, evangelist, missionary), and philosopher Jonathan Edwards' historical and geographical setting vividly to life. The place references are a delight, especially given that I've lived in Massachusetts, traveled the Mass Pike from Boston to Stockbridge, enjoyed the Housatonic River and loved its name, yet it still surprised me to learn that when Edwards went west to the frontier only 50 miles from his famous pastorate in Northampton, Stockbridge was that frontier town! I researched and discovered Housatonic probably means "beyond the mountain." Because YouTube videos tend to come and go at a close to ephemeral rate, I won't link to it, but Charles Ives' tone poem, Three Places in New England No. 3 is "The Housatonic at Stockbridge."

"Heaven is a world of love" extracts Nichols' and Edwards' main thesis to easy shorthand. Our primary citizenship is in heaven, basking, being, and laboring in the presence of the Triune God, yet just as Roman citizens during Paul/Saul of Tarsus' earthly journey brought Roman religion, privileges, fashions, and culture to wherever they resided, God in the Spirit calls and enables us to bring heavenly sensibilities of love, justice, compassion, and service wherever we find ourselves. Heaven on Earth speaks more of milk-and-honey happiness than of ecstatic joy; I love the word "happified" on page 96, though Nichols is extremely mistaken when he says it's "a word that only Edwards could invent," since an undergrad classmate and I both frequently used to refer to being happified. Do I recommend this book? Absolutely! Check out some of Stephen J Nichols' other writings, also.

my amazon review: visioning and creating heaven on earth

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