An Absolute Sort of Certainty: The Holy Spirit and the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards. By Stephen Nichols. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003. 202 pp. Paper. $14.99.
While this book is about certainty that God’s Word is true, not about one’s personal regeneration, Nichols does spend two chapters (chapters 4–5, pp. 77-153) talking about what Edwards believed about assurance of eternal life.
Unfortunately, Nichols tells us what Edwards believed as often as he shows us from his writings. At times he contradicts the views of other scholars about the views of Edwards. It would have been nice if there were more direct quotes in those places. That being said, this is still a very helpful book on the theology of one of America’s greatest early theologians.
Nichols suggests that Edwards taught that assurance can and should be more than probability (pp. 102-04). Yet he also shows where Edwards taught that one must look at his works to see if he is a true or false professor (pp. 116-21). This seems to contradict the suggestion about certainty being possible. Note this statement by Nichols: “[Edwards] argues that the more one obeys the demands of the gospel [!], and the longer one lives a life of obedience, the greater one’s sense of assurance will be” (pp. 117-18). If this is true, then one would never be sure until death, for one can always grow in his life of obedience and future defection is always possible as well.
I recommend this book for anyone interested in Jonathan Edwards or in the Reformed view of assurance.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society