Barshinger’s work earned him a Ph.D. in Theological Studies/Church History from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In this book, the published version of his dissertation, he examines the way the eighteenth-century New England divine Jonathan Edwards read and used the book of Psalms in his ministry. Barshinger explains that he chose Psalms because of the book’s prominence throughout Christian history and because Edwards himself used it “extensively and substantively in his writings and ministry” (p. 6). According to Barshinger, “Edwards gave the Psalms a prominent place in his Bible Study. Not only did he grapple with the Psalter itself, but he also frequently turned to the Psalms to shed light on the other books of the Bible, employing the analogy of Scripture—interpreting Scripture with Scripture—as a key method of interpretation” (p. 8).
Barshinger’s interest is not merely to understand Edwards’s exegetical method, as important as that is, but to discern how “his commitment to Scripture colored his life and thought” (p. 26). He writes, “My thesis is that in a world experiencing major epistemological shifts and liturgical challenges, Jonathan Edwards appropriated the book of Psalms as a divinely inspired anchor to proclaim the gospel and rehearse the redemptive-historical work of the triune God” (ibid.). In other words, “as the new ‘enlightened’ learning changed the way people thought about the Bible, nature, and history, and as new concerns rose about the liturgical practices of the church in an era that increasingly questioned clerical authority and traditional forms of ecclesiastical order, Edwards faced these challenges head on, using the Psalms as one key tool for keeping the church focused on what he believed constituted the core convictions of the Christian faith: The triune God’s work of redemption to reconcile depraved humanity to himself for the sake of his glory” (ibid.).
The book is arranged topically. After an introduction that explains the scope and method of the project, as well as defending the thesis, Barshinger places Edwards in his cultural and theological context in “The Psalter in Edwards’ World.” Successive chapters treat the standard systematic categories of God and Scripture, Humanity and Sin, Christ, Spirit and Gospel, Christian Piety, and Church and Eternity. In the conclusion, after summarizing his work and laying out the need for further study, Barshinger writes, “As he engaged the Psalms, Edwards did not get lost in the minute details that might have distracted him from the overarching thrust of the Scriptures, but rather, by keeping the redemptive-historical vision in mind, he was able to discover spiritual and theological insights of the Christian faith in a world changing due to Enlightenment challenges to the Bible and Christianity” (p. 375). Barshinger hopes that “Edwards’ legacy with respect to the Psalms today could inspire more interpreters to think theologically about the Psalms” (ibid.). This book provides an example of the method and the approach interpreters today should consider.
The book is comprehensively and competently researched and carefully and clearly written. Further, Barshinger captures well the role of Scripture in Edwards’s theology and its function in his pastoral ministry. This work is a masterful example of excellence in evangelical scholarship. It addresses a lacuna in Edwardsean studies, the role of Scripture in Edwards’s thought. Scholars of Edwards are indebted to Barshinger. Students of theology and church history can learn much from this work about this icon of American religious history. Pastors and other ministers will find Edwards’s insights beneficial and his methodology worth considering. Although this is not technically a commentary on the Psalter, biblical scholars too will be aided by Edwards’s exegetical and expositional handling of the Psalms. This book is highly recommended.
About the Contributors
Prior to teaching at DTS, Dr. Kreider served as Director of Christian Education and then as Senior Pastor in Cedar Hill, TX. His research and writing interests include Jonathan Edwards, theological method, theology and popular culture, and our eschatological hope. Dr. Kreider believes that grace really is amazing; it is a thought that will change the world. He is married to his best friend, Janice, and they have two grown children, a son-in-law, and one granddaughter, Marlo Grace. He and Janice enjoy live music, good stories, bold coffee, and their five rescue dogs—two pugs, a chihuahua, a terrier named Chloe, and a black lab, Carlile.