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Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards's "Religious Affections" [Paperback]

By Sam Storms (Author)
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Item description for Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards's "Religious Affections" by Sam Storms...

Jonathan Edwards's treatise Religious Affections is widely considered the most important and accurate analysis of religious experience ever written. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned readers sit down with Religious Affections, only to give up in frustration over Edwards's lofty style and complex argumentation. For this reason Sam Storms, one of evangelicalism's experts on Edwards, has attempted to bridge the gap between how Edwards said what he did in the eighteenth century and how he might say it today. In Signs of the Spirit he articulates the substance of Edwards's arguments in a more understandable way. The point is not to "dumb down" Jonathan Edwards but to make his work accessible to a wider audience. This volume will serve those both in and outside the academic realm as valuable preparation for, or as a companion guide to, a reading of Edwards's Religious Affections.

Publishers Description

Jonathan Edwards's treatise Religious Affections is widely considered the most important and accurate analysis of religious experience ever written.

Unfortunately, many well-intentioned readers sit down with Religious Affections, only to give up in frustration over Edwards's lofty style and complex argumentation.

For this reason Sam Storms, one of evangelicalism's experts on Edwards, has attempted to bridge the gap between how Edwards said what he did in the eighteenth century and how he might say it today. In Signs of the Spirit he articulates the substance of Edwards's arguments in a more understandable way. The point is not to "dumb down" Jonathan Edwards but to make his work accessible to a wider audience.

This volume serves those both in and outside the academic realm as valuable preparation for, or as a companion guide to, a reading of Edwards's Religious Affections.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Crossway Books
Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.46" Width: 5.52" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.63 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2007
ISBN  1581349327  
ISBN13  9781581349320  

Availability  0 units.

More About Sam Storms

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Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was previously a visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and blogs regularly at

Justin Taylor (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher at Crossway. He has edited and contributed to several books including A God-Entranced Vision of All Things and Reclaiming the Center, and he blogs at Between Two Worlds--hosted by the Gospel Coalition.

Randy Alcorn (MA, Multnomah University) is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries and a New York Times best-selling author of over fifty books. His books have sold over nine million copies and been translated into nearly seventy languages. Alcorn resides in Gresham, Oregon, with his wife, Nanci. They have two married daughters and five grandsons.

G. K. Beale (PhD, University of Cambridge) is professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. In recent years he has served as president and member of the executive committee of the Evangelical Theological Society. He has written several books and articles on biblical studies.

D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is a cofounder of the Gospel Coalition and has written or edited nearly 120 books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago.

Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks ( Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.

Wayne Grudem (PhD, University of Cambridge; DD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, having previously taught for 20 years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Grudem earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard University, as well as an MDiv from Westminster Seminary. He is the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, a cofounder and past president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, the general editor of the ESV Study Bible, and has published over 20 books, including Systematic Theology, Evangelical Feminism, Politics--According to the Bible, and Business for the Glory of God.

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, where he has served since 1969. He is known around the world for his verse-by-verse expository preaching and his pulpit ministry via his daily radio program, Grace to You. He has also written or edited nearly four hundred books and study guides. MacArthur serves as the president of the Master's College and Seminary. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children.

C. J. Mahaney is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He has written, edited and contributed to numerous books, including Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology; Don't Waste Your Sports; and Sex, Romance and the Glory of God. C. J. and his wife, Carolyn, are the parents of three married daughters and one son, and the happy grandparents to twelve grandchildren.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the ninth president of Southern Seminary and as the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology. Considered a leader among American evangelicals by Time and Christianity Today magazines, Dr. Mohler hosts a daily radio program for the Salem Radio Network and also writes a popular daily commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues. Both can be accessed at

David Powlison (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a teacher, a counselor, and the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. He is also the senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling and the author of Seeing with New Eyes, The Biblical Counseling Movement, and Speaking Truth in Love.

Thomas R. Schreiner (MDiv and ThM, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary; PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean of the school of theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Bruce A. Ware (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, and has authored God's Lesser Glory, God's Greater Glory, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thabiti M. Anyabwile (MS, North Carolina State University) serves as a pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC, and is the author of numerous books. He serves as a council member of the Gospel Coalition, is a lead writer for 9Marks Ministries, and regularly blogs at The Front Porch and Pure Church. He and his wife, Kristie, have three children.

Jon Bloom (BA, Bethel University) is the cofounder and president of, where he contributes regularly. He is also the author of several books. Bloom and his wife, Pam, live in Minneapolis with their five children.

Sinclair B. Ferguson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of systematic theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and the former senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of several books, the most recent being By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Sinclair and his wife, Dorothy, have four grown children.

Scott J. Hafemann is currently the Mary F. Rockefeller Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He also taught for nine years at Wheaton College. He has written numerous books and articles.

James M. Hamilton Jr. (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church. He is the author of God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment and the Revelation volume in the Preaching the Word commentary series.

David Mathis serves as the executive editor at, a pastor at Cities Church, and an adjunct professor at Bethlehem College & Seminary. His articles regularly appear at David and his wife, Megan, have three children.

William D. Mounce (PhD, Aberdeen University) is president of He is a noted Greek scholar, author of the best-selling textbook Basics of Biblical Greek, and served as the New Testament Chair of the ESV translation team.

Stephen J. Nichols (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries. He is an editor of the Theologians on the Christian Life series and also hosts the weekly podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. is the pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of several books, including the Preaching the Word commentary on Isaiah, as well as a contributor to the ESV Study Bible. He and his wife, Jani, have four children.

TOM STELLER, Pastor for Leadership Development, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Dean, Bethlehem College and Seminary

Mark Talbot (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is associate professor of philosophy at Wheaton College. He specializes in philosophical psychology and philosophical theology and has written numerous articles and reviews.

Sam Storms currently resides in Wheaton, in the state of Illinois.

Sam Storms has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Beginner's Guide To... (Regal Books)
  2. Gospel Coalition Booklets
  3. Re: Lit Books
  4. Theologians on the Christian Life

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Reviews - What do customers think about Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards's "Religious Affections"?

Honest scholarly attempt, does justice to Edwards  Jul 22, 2008
Sam Storms has provided us with a true gift: an honest scholarly attempt and interpretation of Jonathan Edwards' classic work "Religious Affections". For me, Religious Affections seemed too much to chew. Here, Storms, with great humility and care to maintain the original intent and depth of "Affections", provides an honest and useful interpretation of the original work in modern colloquial English. I am confident I still have much to gain by reading Edwards' work, just as I am confident that Storms' faithful work here has helped whet my appetite for it.
Finally - something by Edwards that I can understand!  Feb 8, 2008
"Signs of The Spirit - an interepretation of Jonathan Edwards' Religous Affections" by Sam Storms is basically a paraphrase of Jonathan Edwards' "Religous Affections." A very good one.

Counting this book - this will be the third time in a year that I've read this work by Edwards in one version or another. I'm not sure why I keep being drawn back to this particular work. This time around is primarily because I am becoming a big fan of Sam Storms and this is his latest book - but there is still something about it that is incredibly realistic when approaching the sincerity of one's faith. Like Edwards I struggle with my own sincerity and genuiness - constantly fighting against personal hypocracy and self-centeredness. When I measure my faith and personal walk with God by using this stuff - I see how far off from Him I am - and am greatly humbled by it. This is necessary for a true understanding of how sin needs to be dealt with - through Christ.

A lot of people aren't in favor of paraphrasing Edwards' works into modern day language - but I for one am all for it. Sam Storm does a great job of breaking this book down so that I could completely understand it. Before reading this book - I could only understand about 50% of the origonal.

Edwards lays out about 12 "signs" that a person can use to determine the sincerity of his own faith - and I think it is important to differentiate between one's OWN vice someone else's. I just don't think its a productive thing to do to go around trying to judge the sincerity of a brother's faith. I also don't think that is the intent of Edwards either. There are also some signs Edwards lists that MAY be fruits of a sincere faith but not necessarily. Its a very powerful book to read and without the hard edge of Shepard's "Parable of The Ten Virgins."

Storms also includes all of Edwards' "Personal Narrative" in the second section of the book. This part of Edwards' writings were left in their original with Storms commenting extensively on them. Its a great addition to the work because when you read Edwards' narrative you really get the sense that he applied the principals in the "Religous Affections" to his own life.

One thing missing from the book is the constant and continuous references to Thomas Shepard's "Parable of The Ten Virgins" which you will see in the original text outright. I'm not sure why Storms left this out - probably because it wasn't necessary to the point - but I think it really is a great idea to read that book to see how it incredibly influenced Edwards.

I really enjoyed this book - and hope that folks like Storms will step up to the plate and put some more writings of Edwards and others like him into a modern day readable format for average joe's like me.
Important Subject from an Interesting Man and Time.   Jan 17, 2008
This was an excellent book. As you know, it is an interpretation of Jonathan Edward's book "Religious Affections" - written around 1750. It is deals with what Christian Conversion is and how we can know that others and ourselves have been genuinely converted. The author Sam Storms is good to give the historical and theological context of this book. In so doing, he greatly increases the significance and meaning to what Jonathan Edward's wrote. Without this background, this book would have lost much of its meaning.

I note 5 background events: 1) Jonathan Edwards was in the middle of 2 or 3 large Revivals or Awakenings in America, there were differing views on their genuineness and what was really happening, 2) religion by the established church at the time was often cold and purely intellectual, 3) Jonathan Edward's had an argument with his parents concerning the nature of conversion that lasted 18 months, 4) there was a particular preacher that vehemently opposed Jonathan Edward's teachings on conversion, and 5) he left his church because he wanted to question the genuineness of his parishioners before they partook of communion.

Jonathan Edwards made 2 lists of Signs - one being a list of Indefinite Signs and the one a list of Definite Signs. The Indefinite list was a list of signs that could be true of both believers and non-believers. The Indefinite Signs were real; but since they could be true of non-believers as well, they could not be used to show that a person was truly converted. Below is my summary of the 2 lists. I made this list to help me summarize what Jonathan Edwards was saying and hopefully I can actually use this in a Sunday school class. My summary could certainly be improved upon.

1. 12 Indefinite Signs of Conversion
a. Intensity of Heart not a sign of Affections
b. Physical Activity not a sign of Affections
c. Much Talk not a sign of Affections
d. The way you came to have Affections not a sign of Affections
e. Scriptural Text comes to mind not a sign of Affections
f. Displays of Love not a sign of Affections
g. Much Activity not a sign of Affections
h. Order of experiences not a sign of Affections
i. Fervency of Worship not a sign of Affections
j. Vocal Praise of God not a sign of Affections
k. Profound Assurance not a sign of Affections
l. Attractiveness of Life Style not a sign of Affections

2. 12 Definite Signs of Conversion
a. Spirit-Led Affections
b. God-Focused Affections
c. God's-Holiness Affections
d. Spirit-Enlightened Affections
e. Spirit-Assured Affections
f. Godly-Brokenhearted Affections
g. Spirit-Transformed Affections
h. Christ-Like Affections
i. God-Sensitive Affections
j. God-Balanced Affections
k. God-Craving Affections
l. Godly-Fruit-Bearing Affections

The author has about 40 pages showing how Edward's described his own conversion. Jonathan Edwards was truly a unique individual. The book concludes with a chronological history of Edward's life. It is very interesting.

While I find this book to be very good, I am not sure that everyone who buys it will actually read it. The subject matter - while excellent is very focused and some people will not be able to finish it. While I was reading this book, I kept wondering, where can I ever use this material? I want to be able share this in a SS lesson. That is why I summarized the 2 lists (see above). I want to be able to summarize what I read so that I can share with others at church.

Fair interpretation of Edwards along with helpful guided tour of his "Personal Narrative"   Nov 18, 2007
After realizing that (despite his oft and repeated recommendations that people read Edwards for themselves) most people simply would not persevere through Edwards' cumbersome and hefty treatise on the Religious Affections, Sam Storms decided to give a distilled version (my words, not his) of Edwards for modern readers. He has retained Edwards' basic outline and much of Edwards' actual wording. But he has trimmed away what seemed to him superfluous to Edwards' main argument.

I am currently reading Religious Affections for the third time and actually purchased Storms' book because I was hoping for a more sermonic distillation of Edwards. That is not what Storms has written. But I still finished his book with profit and expect to use it in the future. The great strength of Storms' "interpretation" of Edwards is its brevity - 152 pages vs. over 350 in the Yale edition! The first time I read Religious Affections it took me four or five months to get all the way through. Storms' book can easily be read in several sittings.

The downside is that the cumulative weight of Edwards' argument is somewhat lost with the editing. For example, Storms summarizes much of Edwards' actual exposition of biblical passages and just includes the verses in brackets, whereas Edwards actually quotes the verses. I find these parts some of the richest portions of Edwards' original. I like reading Edwards himself because I value the effect his more lengthy explanation and argumentation has on my heart.

But there is a second benefit to Storms' book - and this is really the reason I want to commend it. The last third of Storms' book (p. 153-213) contains Edwards' Personal Narrative, with Storms' commentary interspersed throughout. The Personal Narrative is Edwards' own recounting of his conversion experience and early spiritual growth. It is simply breathtaking! And Storms' commentary on it is exceptionally edifying. I read all of this on a Saturday evening and it really helped sensitize my soul to the Lord and prepare my heart for worship the next day.

So, if are stirred up by those occasional quotes from Edwards that you hear from your pastor, and you want to read him for yourself but don't think you can tackle 350+ pages of unedited Puritan prose, get Storms! Even if you don't read all of the Religious Affections section (though I hope you will!), you will benefit so much from reading the Personal Narrative section.
True Christianity is more than walking an aisle  Nov 7, 2007
In a day in which many professing believers assume their conversion is genuine because they walked an aisle and signed a card, Signs of the
Spirit serves as a helpful guide in discerning true spiritual life from forgery and Christian nominalism.

During a time of revival and awakening, when it seemed as though everybody was demonstrating signs of spiritual fervor and life, Jonathan Edwards penned "the most important and accurate analysis of religious experience ever written" (p. 21). Edwards sought to determine what the true nature of spiritual life is and how to tell when it was merely outward. "Forged in the fires of revival in eighteenth century New England", Edwards discernment into the essence of true spirituality addresses a serious modern need. Storms doubts if there is "a more pressing and urgent issue for the church today" (p. 37).

I am nearly done reading Signs of the Spirit, a book which provides an interpretation of two of Jonathan Edwards writings, Religious Affections, as well as Personal Narrative.

What, according to Jonathan Edwards is the essence of true spirituality? Nothing less than religious affections. Storms begins his analysis of Edwards by citing 1 Peter 1:8, "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory". This verse serves as a theme for the entire book, in which Edwards maintains a strict balance, avoiding emotionalism on the other hand and rationalism on the other.

"And of what does true spirituality consist? Peter identifies two things: love for Jesus and joy in Jesus. Though his readers did not see Christ with the physical eye, their spiritual vision was one of unashamed and extravagant affection for the Son of God. Though their outward suffering was grievous and painful, their inner joy was a pleasure of such depth that no trial could diminish it" (p. 39-40).

This seems to be the mark of a genuine believer. Not one who walks an aisle and professes to be a Christian, but one whose true and deepening joy in God is forged through the pains of life, and yet cannot be suppressed. The genius of Edwards is that he rules out the stoic and rationalist as much as he does the prosperity seeker. We will address this in later posts, but for now it will suffice to say that Jonathan Edwards was just as intolerant of people who denounced revival for fear of its excess as he was on those unwisely commended it all as genuine, without exercising discernment.

Although his opponents were offended at "fanatical excess in the behavior of those who participated in revival", and argued that it was an "enlightened mind, and not raised affections, ought to be the guide" (p. 31) of true spirituality, Edwards maintained that "true religion, in great part, consist in holy affections" (p. 33) not merely mental assent. But, as Storms also mentions, Edwards also avoided thoughtless emotionalism, and his "exaltation of the affections was never at the expense of reason" (p. 31).

When speaking about 1 Peter 1:8: "From Peter's incredible utterance, we may draw the conclusion that true spirituality or true religion consists in great measure in holy affections. Or again, 'when religion appeared in them most in its genuine excellency and native beauty, and was found to praise, and honor, and glory, [Peter] singles out the religious affections of love and joy, that were then in exercise in them. These are the exercises of religion he takes notice of, wherein their religion did thus appear true and pure and in its proper glory" (p. 40-41).

I would highly recommend this book, and invite you to return for future reviews.
* This review taken from the Resurgence Blog (see my profile).

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