What is fresh about the anthology by Sang Hung Lee is its documentation of the cultural aftershocks that the Sinners sermon had had on American society. Indeed, so controversial was the sermon at the time of its first delivery that 18th and 19th century scholars evaded the topic of Edwards’ theological inheritance and its rather unwilling descendants. But the commentaries by Sang Hyun Lee fills this void in scholarship satisfactorily. It is not hyperbole to claim that we all owe Sang Hyun Lee for not only performing apt editing on the Edwardian oeuvre, but also adding valuable commentary that complements the core texts. Coverage is given to Edwards’ thought on a wide range of subjects, including the nature of God, God’s love, and human faith.
The book by Jon Meacham titled American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation has more drawbacks than merits. Rather than being a niche scholarship meant for students and professors, this book is addressed to a popular audience. While this increases its reach, in the same token it decreases its rigor and depth. Author Jon Meacham agrees as much when he states in his acknowledgements that “it is not a work of historical or theological scholarship … it is an essay that covers a great deal of territory quickly and briefly” (pp. 389-90). Though this is a big drawback it is covered up by impressive touch ups and blurbs by the publisher. The provision of a Bibliographical list at the end of the book is no compensation for its overall misguidance. Sweeping generalizations and overtly political censorship are demerits attached to the book. Rather than illuminating and advancing this important field of religion and politics, it obscures and retards it. Of the past twenty years of careful, intelligent scholarship on the subject, he seems wholly unfamiliar. Therefore, what purports to be a balanced, careful, and accurate study, is in fact a superficial, ideologically biased, and historically inaccurate account. The work and influence of the most important Christian theologian of the 18th century, Jonathan Edwards, is only briefly dealt with. For example the Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God sermon is mostly criticized for its vehement message with no attention paid to its literary and historical significance.
Wilson H. Kimnach, Caleb J.D. Maskell, and Kenneth P. Minkema, editors. Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”: A Casebook. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010. 204 pages.
Turley, Stephen Richard. “Awakened to the Holy: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Ritualized Context.” Christianity and Literature 57.4 (2008): 507+.
Sang Hyun Lee (Editor), The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 21. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. xii + 566 pp.
Jon Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. New York: Random House, 2006. 416 pp.