Top critical review
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An Interesting Perspective, But Be Careful
on 13 July 2009
It must be considered, for a fair analysis of this book, that Gene Edwards, when he is on form, is remarkable to read. His potential is very great and could be helpful to preachers and believers, especially since so much of preaching involves representing difficult truths in ways simple enough to understand.
Now to consider the good points first. The Opening Section (Part One) of this book - of which there are four - was absolutely terrific. You have my personal recommendation that Part One is a must read for every believer. So stunning is the description that it really is very difficult to put down. Plus, this first part is biblically based. Of course, it is not perfect, but it does provide a reasonable commentary on the Genesis account. Adam and Eve's love affair is beautiful and Edwards does succeed in trying to put across a little of how God might feel concerning his Bride.
Part Two is also good, but the book noticeably starts to decrease in power from here on. Nevertheless, there are here also some interesting perspectives.
Parts Three and Four were a let down for me in quite a big way. The first negative is that this is only a novel. It is not the Bible, neither is it 100% in line with what the Bible teaches. There were certain problems I had with parts of it. For example, perhaps the largest problem is the crucifixion account. I am yet to read a biblical novel which emphasises that Jesus Christ appeased the full wrath of God for sinners, thus making forgiveness a certainty for those for whom Christ died. This is known as propitiation (I do not mean to assume you definitely do not know this, but this doctrine has been almost entirely lost in the modern preaching of the gospel and yet it is the heart of the biblical gospel). Edwards paints a picture of the crucifixion which, although well told, I had never previously heard of and had neither read in my Bible. Edwards seems to believe that rather than Christ bearing the sins of "many", he suggests that every person who has ever lived was put into the bosom of Christ (by angels, I might add) whilst on the Cross. With regards to the angels carrying the people into the Son of God, this seemed nonsense to me, since it was God who placed the sin of many upon Jesus - not angels. Edwards also establishes that Lucifer was put into the bosom of Christ. This I do have a problem with, because it seems clear to me that Edwards so wants to get across the point that the old creation died in Christ, that he emphasises even Lucifer having died in Christ. On the other hand, the Bible teaches that Lucifer has no redemption whatsoever. This is very important. I do not believe Edwards has done this to deceive people on purpose, but his book needs to be read in the light that some of his teachings have no warrant from Sripture and are at points touching the heretical. This led me to believe that Edwards could be a universalist. This is the belief that every man and woman who has ever lived will be saved and this can go further, as it did with Origen (a very early theologian), that even demons were redeemed in Christ and therefore will also be saved. This is how the account comes across, anyhow; I do not know for sure that this is the view he holds.
I will not judge the character of Edwards - but I will warn you about his unbiblical ideas concerning the Cross and Redemption. The Cross is so central to the Christian faith and yet without a true understanding of what really happened, I believe Edwards has done what so many of us do when we preach the Cross: we appeal directly to the emotion and rather than exalting an awesome Lord and Christ, we make man the centre of attention. We should stop this because it is a form of humanism. The Cross is about the Glory of Jesus Christ in the face of His Father, as he himself says constantly through-out John's gospel. I was waiting for the climax - our dear Father condemning our precious Christ as "he became sin" in our place and therefore "crushing Him" (2 Cor. 5.21; Gal. 3.13; Isa. 53.10). Yet, I did not see this as I read Edwards' account. It's absolutely central to the Cross and the gospel. If a preacher or Christian writer misses this point, then I am convinced that he has lost the whole point of why God sent Jesus Christ into the world. Unfortunately, more theologians and Christians today are either denying propitiation or they are simply ignorant of it.
Overall, I believe 3 stars is a fair rating. Although well written, the biblical truths concerning the Cross are right at the centre of our gospel and I do not think that this book does a good job of representing what went on on the Cross of Christ. I would not recommend giving this book to an unbeliever - I think that would be inappropriate. This book, it seems very clear to me, was fashioned for believers.
I would further recommend "100 Days in the Secret Place" as further reading by Edwards, concerning the deeper Christian life and intimacy with God. He has been influenced by Guyon and Fenelon and I like these writers. May you be blessed by their works, but be careful as you read them. Yes you can learn a great deal about prayer, holiness and love for Christ - but there is that possibility of falling into some serious error also, especially if you are new in the faith.
If you are a new believer, go for something far more doctrinal - you need doctrine. The Shorter Catechism is still excellent and it is short (but the answer to Question 95 I may have to object to). If you have an Ipod, Wayne Grudem is available for podcast download. He has gone through his entire Systematic Theology book - a real blessing to the church of Christ, especially if you do not have much time for reading. Load your Ipod and enjoy!