By / Dec 27

The debate over the ethics of abortion long predated the infamous Roe v. Wade decision and will continue well after the life-saving Dobbs decision in June 2022. Many throughout ethical and philosophical circles have put forth various arguments for abortion and a woman’s right to choose. Christopher Kaczor recently released an updated version of his thorough and helpful book, The Ethics of Abortion, engaging these arguments from a philosophical perspective that is focused on the equal value of the baby, the mother, and the father.

Kaczor unpacks the loaded language used in these debates and does this alongside a forceful critique of most of the major arguments for abortion. He even addresses potential questions about emerging technologies like the use of artificial wombs in the future.

This book is full of trenchant insight into ethics in a post-Roe world. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand and respond to the debates over the morality of abortion and its intersection with social ethics.

By / Dec 27

Set against the backdrop of the Ukraine revolution against Russia in 2013-2014, I Will Die in a Foreign Land, by Kalani Pickhart, is historical fiction that provides a window into the past, present, and future battle over Ukraine’s freedom. The novel braids together the stories of four individuals caught up in the violent protests that culminated in a deadly confrontation at Independence Square in Kyiv and ultimately led to the Russian annexation of Crimea. It is a haunting portrait of a people who have been fighting a long time for the right to rule themselves and their land. 

Although the politics at play in the 2014 “Maidan Revolution” are complex and nuanced, the novel exposes the human cost of the centuries-old Russian-Ukrainian conflict. It is a must read for those seeking a richer understanding of the present war with Russia. I was left with a deeper appreciation for the strength and endurance of the Ukrainian people.

By / Dec 27

What happened to the apostles after the book of Acts? In his book After Acts, Bryan Litfin brings readers along as he conducts a comprehensive investigation into answering this question. He provides background for these biblical characters and presents historical evidence that points to different theories surrounding what came next for them. Throughout the book Litfin consistently amplifies the reality that they surrendered everything for the sake of the gospel. While history is unclear, Litfin reinforces the reality that we can be certain these individuals spent their lives on mission so that people would hear the good news. 

In a way, this book is not solely a historical resource, but also a call upon its readers to ask themselves: how am I spending my life for the kingdom of God? After Acts will leave you encouraged by the boldness, faith, and love for the Lord on display in the apostles’ lives.

By / Sep 12

My personal study of the Scriptures has been enriched by wondering, “What was that really like?” This question feels particularly relevant to the stories of those who came face-to-face with the God-man, Jesus Christ, and lived to tell about it in the Gospels. Author Rebecca McLaughlin gives full treatment to this sort of curiosity in her book Jesus Through the Eyes of Women: How the First Female Disciples Help Us Know and Love the Lord (The Gospel Coalition, 2022)

Before we get into her masterful debunking of certain myths and stereotypes, let me deflate one on the author’s behalf: though women are in the title, this book is not just for women, and it is not even really about women. This is a book about the person of Christ, and it is for all those who want to know and follow him more. The fresh perspective it offers us is an aide to that lifelong endeavor. 

The book is also for those who are questioning—or even deeply skeptical—about Jesus and about the Bible that tells of his improbable life, death, and resurrection. McLaughlin has spent plenty of time considering the cynic’s vantage point, with books that include Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion in 2020 and The Secular Creed: Engaging 5 Contemporary Claims in 2021. She effortlessly brings them along in this project as well.

Birthed out of McLaughlin’s own inquisitiveness, Jesus Through the Eyes of Women was written at “breakneck speed” in late 2021, said Ivan Mesa, TGC’s editorial director. It reads easily, too, as if penned in nearly one sitting. Though there is plenty to underline in a print edition, the author’s British accent makes the just over 4-hour audiobook a delightful option as well.

A winsome apologist with a Ph.D. in renaissance literature and a degree in theology, McLaughlin brings an academic’s understanding of history, context, and biblical commentary to bear on the core question of this book: How did the women named in the Bible describe their interactions with a Christ who was as countercultural then as he is today? And what would we have missed had these women not told others, ‘I have seen the Lord’? (John 20:18)

“To look at Jesus through the eyes of women may seem at first like an innately modern project,” McLaughlin admits in the book’s conclusion. But “what we see through their eyes is not an alternative Jesus, but rather the authentic Jesus, who welcomes both men and women as his disciples, and who is best seen from below.”

Though she leads into the subject with mention of the Gnostic Gospel of Mary (a text from the early church period rejected as heretical), acknowledging why it would resonate with some who view the Bible as dismissive of women—don’t worry. McLaughlin’s thesis is that the first-century Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John already reflect the eyewitness testimony of women who met Jesus and that “the Jesus we see through their eyes is more beautiful, more historically accurate, and more valuing of women than anything the Gospel of Mary can offer.”  

McLaughlin’s even-handed approach would make the book a viable suggestion even for a secular book club, and questions written by TGC’s Joanna Kimbrel at the end of each chapter make such discussions even easier. Have a few academics or self-declared feminists in the group? All the better. These are the types of readers McLaughlin seems eager to bring along, graciously refuting some of the false claims they may have heard about Christianity—that it is, at best, dismissive of the female experience and, at worst, harmful to women—while introducing them to the one who “valued women of all kinds—especially those vilified by others.”

But those who would avoid the book for fear it is tainted by feminist underpinnings would do well to pick it up, too. McLaughlin is faithful to the biblical text and to history while being keenly aware of our current cultural moment. Rather, this book lands in the good company of Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly and Paul E. Miller’s J-Curve through its meditation on Christ’s momentum toward the lowly and its call that we respond.

After building inroads for a variety of readers, McLaughlin gets into the nitty-gritty details of how women’s accounts added to the picture we see the Gospels paint of Jesus. Which stories in these books were likely included only because women witnessed and relayed them? It turns out, plenty. “If we cut the things that only women witnessed, we’d lose our first glimpse of Jesus as he took on human flesh and our first glimpse of his resurrected body,” McLaughlin writes. “The four Gospels preserve the eyewitness testimony of women.” 

The book delves into what these women witnessed by dividing the stories into six broad categories, from discipleship and nourishment, to healing and forgiveness. 

Zooming in 

Asking what Jesus looked like through their eyes helps us relate in fresh ways to familiar female characters like his mother, Mary. Just as the prophecy that new life is being birthed inside her seems unfathomable when it first arrives, the Christian can also wonder just how the promised newness of life in Christ is really at work in him or her. “Through Mary’s eyes, we see the life-upending blessing of receiving Jesus,” McLaughlin summarizes.

The book introduces us to lesser-known women of the Bible, too, like Joanna, the wife of Herod’s household manager and a likely source of inside information from the halls of power (Luke 9:1-3; 9:9). In his Gospel account, Luke would have named Joanna and other women who were with Jesus “in order to flag them as eyewitness sources” for some of the stories he includes, McLaughlin writes. McLaughlin also revisits biblical women we think we know, from Mary Magdalene to Lazarus’ sisters. 

Perhaps my favorite of these is the author’s take on the well-known story of Mary and Martha. When Jesus tells Martha, who is “distracted with much serving,” that her sister Mary “has chosen the good portion” by sitting at his feet, McLaughlin doesn’t see it as an indictment of the domestic anxieties that can plague women (how often have you heard a woman confess to “being a Martha”?). Rather, his words are a “validation of female discipleship,” of Mary’s and Martha’s access to Jesus as thinkers and students, not just servers. 

Through the eyes of these sisters, “we see [Jesus] as the one who welcomes women and defends their right to learn from him. We also see him as the one who gives us so much more than we could ever give to him.” 

It’s paradigm-shifting, then, to consider that this Martha is the one to whom Jesus later speaks some of his “most world-transforming” words: “I am the resurrection and the life.” McLaughlin points out that almost all of Jesus’ ‘I am’ statements are spoken to groups, but the two that are spoken to individuals are spoken to women. 

Besides John, women are largely the consistent witnesses of Jesus’ excruciating death, burial, and resurrection as well. In a chapter on life, McLaughlin focuses on these women’s accounts to winsomely argue for, not against, biblical soundness at several points, anticipating opposing views. She even quotes a resurrection skeptic and politely refutes his claims. 

She reminds us that, in that culture, the only reason to say that women witnessed all this is that they really did. 

Bringing Christ into focus

In her chapters on healing and forgiveness, McLaughlin acknowledges the messier stories, too. Jesus’ interaction with the bleeding woman, in particular, “shows he doesn’t shy away from femaleness.” This is often in sharp contrast to the responses of those around him. When this woman reaches for his cloak, “Jesus does not recoil.”

As he is with these women, he is also with us. “Jesus is no more put off by our inevitable uncleanness than a mother who has just given birth would be put off from holding her blood-smeared newborn. Before long, Jesus would bleed for this woman.”

Her chapter on the theme of forgiveness brings into focus Jesus’ infamous interactions with women of ill repute. These stories show a Jesus who “welcomed prostitutes: not like the other men of his day, and of ours, but like a loving brother, searching for his sister in the slums to bring her home.” Why does he welcome them? Not because of permissiveness, McLaughlin writes, but because of their repentance. 

Through the eyes of the sinful woman who crashes Simon the Pharisee’s dinner party (Luke 7:36-49), at last we see Jesus as “the one who defends” the woman wetting his feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. Rather than tearing this woman down along with his host, Jesus lifts her up “as a shining, tear-stained paragon of love to humble the self-righteous Pharisee.”

All this goes to show that those who throw themselves at Christ’s feet are the ones who will enter his kingdom. In this way, Jesus Through the Eyes of Women bridges the growing gap between how cultures—both the New Testament’s and our own—treat women who equally bear God’s image, and how the Jesus of the Bible did. We would do well to ingest, imitate, and marvel at the latter.

By / Sep 1

Life in the digital age for those who enjoy its fruit is easier in some ways, and more convenient than it’s ever been. Nearly everything we can imagine—information, goods and services, and social connection—can be delivered to us almost instantly with the click of a button. But the digital age, and the ease and convenience that it affords us, are shaping us into spiritually barren people who are more inclined toward “discontentment, fragility, and foolishness.” It is conforming us into its own digital image. 

How are we to resist being conformed to the image of another? In his book, Analog Christian: Cultivating Contentment, Resilience, and Wisdom in the Digital Age, Jay Kim seeks to address this very question. Kim serves as the lead pastor at WestGate Church in Silicon Valley, and he’s the author of Analog Church, a book that “explore[s] the ways the digital age and its values affect the life of the church.” That Kim and his church are situated in Silicon Valley, the capital city of the digital age, makes him a respected voice uniquely capable of providing aid for Christians seeking to live faithfully in the digital age.

For those who “care about our spiritual lives and [our] walk with Jesus,” Analog Christian is “a resource and guide to help us become aware of changes we need to make.” Moreover, it is one that helps us become aware of the changes the digital age is enacting upon us and an instruction manual for how we can resist those changes. In this book, Kim offers readers a glimpse into what it might look like for the people of God to be dosed with the Spirit’s “very specific antidotes we most desperately need for the undoing we’re experiencing in the digital age.”

Cultivating good fruit

The act of gardening may not be the imagery you expect to encounter when opening a book about life in our digital society, but Analog Christian is, at its root, precisely a book about gardening; about cultivating the soil of our spiritual lives so that we can bear the fruit that is now native to us who are indwelled by the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). It is this fruit in all its variety that the Spirit seeks to produce in us, yet it is this fruit that the digital age is actively choking out of us. 

In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul uses the analogy of fruit-bearing to describe what a life lived “by” and “in step with the Spirit” looks like (v. 25), undoubtedly mimicking the language that Jesus himself uses in John 15 to describe what happens when we abide in him. For “where the Spirit is,” wrote Willian Tyndale, “there it is always summer,” for there “there are always good fruits, that is to say, good works.” But, if we are honest, our spiritual lives often feel more like a barren wasteland than they do the “always summer” reality that Tyndale describes. So in this cultural moment, when we are so enamored by the digital ecosystem we inhabit, Kim calls his readers to pick up our gardening tools and go to work cultivating the ground where the Spirit has made his home—the human heart.

Like gardening, the work required to cultivate our hearts is a slow process. “It will not happen overnight,” Kim reminds us. It involves softening the ground, weeding away what doesn’t belong, and enduring the conditions of life that we encounter over days, weeks, and years. And it requires a prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, who will take our efforts and, by his grace, produce the fruit in us that the Scriptures say is his. Only then will we bear fruit. Only then can we “thrive” in the digital age, “like trees planted by streams of water” (Psa. 1:3).

What we are up against

“The fruit of the Spirit does not require neat, clean environments to grow,” Kim says. “It is in fact dirt, the humble and messy stuff of life, where fruit comes alive.” And while our digital age promises to create neat and clean environments, building neat and clean facades out of our Instagram feeds and Facebook pages, what’s being swept under the rug or simply ignored at our own peril is that the bulk of today’s technologies are producing a society devoid of virtue and individual lives devoid of flourishing. Our digital masters are dehumanizing us, forming us into digital shells of ourselves. But it’s precisely here, Kim argues, in the “messy stuff of life,” where the Spirit can do his work of fruit-bearing and reform us into the image of the icon of humanity, Jesus Christ. 

But the pathway to Christlikeness is not a byway around the slow, hard difficulties and inconveniences of life, which the digital age promises to remove. And it’s certainly not to forsake the journey altogether and take up residence in the digital ether where the process of fruit-bearing is traded away for the “easy everywhere” that Andy Crouch describes in his book, The Tech-Wise Family. No, Christlikeness is a hard-won, Spirit-wrought process of walking with God into “the humble and messy stuff of life,” getting dirt under our fingernails and, by his grace, bearing the fruit of love in a culture of despair, the fruit of patience in an environment conditioned for impatience, and the fruit of gentleness in an age of outrage.

At a time when we are “immersed in unreality,” Kim is arguing for—pleading for—Christians to “go analog,” to pursue “the true spiritual life not [by] escap[ing] from reality but [by] an absolute commitment to it.” As Dan Kimball writes in the foreword to the book, Analog Christian “is not an anti-technology rant or anti-digital world rant.” It is “a thoughtful, biblical look at how technology forms us spiritually—both the good and the bad.” So, you will not find an explicit admonition to run for the nondigital hills. What you will find, again, is “a resource and guide to help [you] become aware of changes [you] may need to make.” Analog Christian is a counterargument against the subliminal polemic of our day that is pulling us deeper into the digital facade and its attending barrenness.

Do you find yourself increasingly inclined toward discontentment, fragility, or even foolishness? Has the digital age produced in you poisonous “fruits” like despair, contempt, hostility, or reckless indulgence? These are not signs of life; they are signs that this digital age is enacting its will upon us, deforming us into the bits and bytes of its own digital image. Begin again the “lifelong journey of watering” and “tilling the soil” of your heart, keeping in step with the Spirit, and abiding in Christ the vine, apart from whom we can bear none of the Spirit’s fruit. Let Jay Kim in Analog Christian be a shepherding voice that leads you back to the Chief Shepherd of your soul. 

By / Nov 10

One of the anthems our culture sings louder and more often than any other is “you do you.” If you think about the meaning of that popular phrase, you can quickly start to identify some of its cousin expressions like “you only live once,” and “be the best version of you.” These are not harmless expressions; indeed, they reveal problematic thinking, bad theology, and — according to writer Alan Noble — faulty anthropology. They come from one of the fundamental lies of our modern age: the lie that we own ourselves. 

Noble, an English professor at Oklahoma Baptist University and author of Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age, argues that much of our cultural turmoil stems from our belief that we belong to ourselves alone and are responsible for every aspect of our existence. Noble addresses this lie of self-created identity and meaning in life in his newest book, You Are Not Your Own. The first half of You Are Not Your Own diagnoses and explains the problem with self-belonging, while the second half considers how to fight this lie. And Noble shows that while our culture is obsessed with who we are, what is most important is to whom we belong.

Modern society and self-belonging

Noble, who admits that he borrows heavily on the ideas of others, references poetry, novels, philosophy, and pop culture to illustrate his point. The most important idea he uses to examine the problems of modern culture is the first question and answer from Heidelberg Catechism: 

Q: What is your only comfort in life and death? 
A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. 

This simple statement of our creatureliness provides an immense comfort. We are not responsible for defining ourselves. Rather, as finite and created beings, we are able to rest in the fact that we do not have to construct and sustain our value and and existence. 

Modern society, however, has tried to convince us that each individual is responsible for his own existence. Our faulty anthropology comes with a cost: “the responsibility to justify our existence, to create an identity, to discover meaning, to choose values, and to belong” (35). Noble collectively calls these “The Responsibilities of Self-Belonging. And even though they are obligations only to ourselves, they are burdens we weren’t meant to carry. As burdens we were meant to — and can’t — carry, they end up crushing us. What we think should be freeing, the ability to define ourselves in any way that we choose, actually ends up as a longing in our souls and searching in our activity that is futile. 

Society perpetuates our belief in self-belonging. We’re told to find our true selves, and then we have to express it. Noble explains how society tries to give us meaning and values through art, community, and rituals. Society promises fulfillment if you accept that you are your own, work to discover and express yourself, and use the methods of society to improve your life (69). But because meaning and values are not universal, “there can be no substantial common good for us to work toward, politically or socially” (56). 

Our efforts to define our identity and improve ourselves lead to endless competition rather than peace and fulfillment. People competing against each other are on a spectrum of affirmation and resignation, vacillating between self-confidence and despair. The demands of self-belonging have led us to self-medicate: “Contemporary people are obsessed with means for coping with life. We don’t self-medicate because our lives are wonderful, but because we need comfort to continue living” (121). Our efforts to be autonomous and self-sufficient are a way we sinfully deny the hand of God in our lives.

Realizing to Whom we belong

But Noble reminds us that there is good news! We are not responsible for creating our identity and defining meaning and values. We don’t have to live in an endless cycle of striving for and failing at self-improvement. We are not our own. Despite what the world says, who we are is not the most important thing. Instead, Noble tells readers that “Whom we belong to makes all the difference in the world” (117). Belonging to God and “knowing and abiding by His limits enables us to live as we were created to live, as the humans He designed us to be” (118). Believers must remember that their identity and meaning are not self-created; they are found in Christ. Only in Christ do we find belonging without harm; only in Christ do we find perfect acceptance and love. 

I read You Are Not Your Own during a difficult season. As my family went from crisis to crisis, the first two lines of Andrew Peterson’s song “Is He Worthy?” were on repeat in my head: “Do you feel the world is broken? (We do) Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do).” As sickness, grief, and pain shook my family and church family, what a comfort Noble offered me. How can I live in a broken world? What counsel can I offer those around me in their suffering? What hope do I have in life and death? That I am not my own. 

By / Oct 7

What is your immediate reaction when you see something that is broken? When I see something broken, I want to fix it — whether it’s a household object, a relationship, or a community. I want to jump in and start solving the problem. It’s like that broken thing was just waiting for me to come in and save the day. 

But what if the “broken” thing I see isn’t actually broken? Or what if I’m not the one to fix it? 

These are the kinds of questions that Jeff Palmer forces us to ask ourselves in his book So You Want to Dig a Well in Africa?: What You and Your Church Need to Know About Mercy-oriented Missions Palmer has served in international missions and development work for more than 30 years. During that time, he has used his background in agriculture to help people in over 60 countries with things like food security, clean water and improved health. His book, though, is not really about digging wells, and it’s not really about Africa. Rather, it’s about how Christians (and the Church) approach mercy-oriented missions.

The world is full of needy people

The world has always been full of needy people, and it always will be until the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1). In this digital age in particular, we feel the weight of the neediness of the world more than ever before.

We see Facebook ads telling us that every child deserves a pair of shoes, so we give. We hear stories of families in need around the world, and we give. And the more we are exposed to a world in need, the more resources we pour into overseas projects.

The average church member has more opportunities now to experience cross-cultural missions and see others’ needs first hand. We see lifestyles that are so different from anything that we’ve experienced in the West, and we think that those different communities must be broken and in need of repair.

But what if before we tried to fix the brokenness and heal the neediness, we first looked at our own brokenness? What if we first recognized our own neediness and complete dependence on God? What if people living in different circumstances than us really aren’t any more broken than we are? 

Locals aren’t depending on you

Is it possible that we’re not as necessary as we think we are?

There are a lot of people in the world who have been living in need for generations. You may be able to be a part of their solution, but as one local believer addressing a group of outsiders said, “They are not waking up every morning and mentioning your name” (31).

Throughout the book, Palmer reminds readers of both the dignity (and brokenness) of those in need and the brokenness (and dignity) of those who have much. Both “sides” have something to give and something to receive. 

Solutions that heal

When we do discover needs in the world that we are positioned to address, we must be careful to address them in ways that actually bring healing and not more hurt. Through stories, examples, and prodding questions, Palmer teaches readers to evaluate the difference between actually helping a community and just trying to make a community look more like ours — something we’re more comfortable with. 

When serving communities in need, missions teams must prioritize the dignity of their neighbor and the sustainability of the solution. As Palmer points out in the book, Jesus gave those in need the dignity to express what they were seeking. Consider, for example, when Jesus asked a blind man what he wanted Jesus to do for him (Matthew 20:32). Palmer calls on believers to serve as Jesus did, allowing compassion to move us to action that honors our neighbor more than ourselves.

There are many ways that we can do this, and Palmer spends the majority of the book helping readers decipher myth from truth when it comes to serving those in need with dignity and then looks practically at what successful mercy-oriented missions programs look like.

While there is no one right answer for every need in every community, Palmer says that involving the community in the quest for long-term solutions to long-term problems is crucial. He describes outsiders as catalysts and local people as the ones who discover their problems, prioritize them, design their solutions, and implement their plans.

Palmer walks readers through a journey of considering (and hopefully understanding) how solutions that begin and end with the local people are both dignifying and sustainable after outsiders leave.

Why we help

If I’m broken and needy myself, if locals need to be the ones to create and carry out sustainable solutions, and if they’re not depending on me, then how come Palmer’s book didn’t talk me out of engaging in mercy-oriented missions?

Palmer concludes the book by reminding readers that helping communities in need gives us access to those who have never heard the gospel, empowers local churches to be on mission with God, and leads to international gospel proclamation. But we have to ask ourselves hard questions to make sure that these things are true of our mercy-oriented missions and that the people we are trying to help really want and need our help.

Mercy-oriented missions are for the good of people and the glory of God. So we pray for discernment, asking God to lead us and open our eyes and ears to the opportunities to meet needs and make his name known.

Whether a pursuit of mercy-oriented missions is intimidating to you or makes you feel good about yourself (or something in between), Palmer’s book invites you to consider weighty questions about the how and why behind your missions engagement. May our mercy-oriented missions always be for the glory of God.

By / Sep 8

“You probably don’t have another book like this in your library” (9).

These are the words that open Patrick Schreiner’s new book, The Visual Word: Illustrated Outlines of the New Testament Books. And I suspect he’s right. The Visual Word stands alone in its uniqueness and, in many ways, its utility. The book is an achievement that gives modern-day Bible readers an aid, as Jen Wilkin writes, “in having not just ears to hear the Word in context, but also eyes to see.”

Schreiner, a professor of New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of several books including The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross and The Ascension of Christ, teamed up with Anthony Benedetto, an accomplished and award-winning illustrator and designer, to produce this gripping resource.

If you are a Bible reader looking for a jolt to help energize and inform the way you apprehend the New Testament, take a look at this creative and beautiful accompaniment to the Scripture.

“What is this book?”

“For most of you this is not a typical book on the Bible” (10). 

Indeed, not only is this not a typical book on the Bible, it is not a typical book at all. While many works of contemporary theology are packaged in a sort of narrative format, tracing a logical route through the entire arc of their argument, The Visual Word is packaged not as narrative but as a collection of illustrated outlines covering each book of the New Testament. Thus, instead of being read straight through (though you can certainly do that), the book is meant to serve as a resource that sits next to one’s open Bible, illuminating the context of the Scriptures, enabling the reader to better comprehend and remember God’s Word.

Schreiner’s own experience as a seminary professor has been that many of his students have responded positively to the method that he and Benedetto employ in this book. When developing and using visual aids, he “could see things clicking in the students’ minds as they followed the author’s train of thought” with the help of his drawings (10). 

Fast-forward to today, and The Visual Word stands alone as a resource, a study tool, and a vivid and new way to interact with the final 27 books in the canon of Scripture. 

Who is this book for?

Who is The Visual Word for? In a word, everyone. 

In the introductory pages, Schreiner instructs his readers on the best ways to utilize this resource, from “church members and attenders” to “pastors” to “Sunday School teachers, lay Bible instructors, parents, and professors” to “students.” There are specific instructions and uses outlined for each group, but the common thread that ties each directive together is this: The Visual Word is for you. 

Regardless of where you find yourself, whether a young student or an experienced pastor, there is something within the pages of this book that will be of great benefit. Students, for instance, may find it useful to treat The Visual Word like a textbook (11), while many pastors may discover it’s helpful in their sermon preparation. Whatever the case, it is clear that anyone’s shelf this book occupies will be aesthetically enriched (it is a beautiful book, but more on that later). But more importantly, anyone’s Bible study accompanied by Schreiner’s and Benedetto’s labor in these illustrated outlines will be spiritually enriched.

Employing beauty and beholding beauty

One of the central themes of The Visual Word, though it goes largely unstated, is the idea and importance of beauty — the beauty plastered on each page of the book and the beauty of the Scriptures themselves. In a day of weakened attention spans and biblical illiteracy, “we need resources that help readers better understand Scripture,” yes, “but also that help readers love Scripture,” as Brett McCracken writes. And there is simply nothing more potent to awaken love than beauty. 

The icons and images illustrated by Benedetto do a masterful job of employing beauty for the sake of helping readers excavate and behold the beauty embedded in the Bible. As Schreiner writes early on, “Each book of the Bible contains a story. An argument. Like a symphony or a play, the Bible was not put together haphazardly but carefully designed to communicate something” (10). And that something, as Mike Reeves argues in Delighting in the Trinity, is “the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God” (9), and, I might add, the sacred text he has given to make himself known to us. 

One of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s most famous lines was his declaration that “beauty will save the world.” As Christians, we can go even further than Dostoevsky by saying that Beauty, himself, created the world, sustains the world, and will one day return to his world and make it right. And it takes an encounter with God’s beauty in Christ for us to come awake to this reality. 

To that end, Schreiner and Benedetto have pulled back the curtain of Scripture just a bit further — and done so beautifully — so that their readers can discover the beauty of God’s Word and encounter the beauty of God himself. 

By / Jun 11

One of the lessons many of us learned, albeit painfully, during the pandemic is that we weren’t created to live life in isolation. In other words: we need community. In his latest book, David Brooks says the key to living a fulfilling life is found in leaving behind a self-centered, individualistic life and pouring ourselves into a life committed to family, faith, a vocation, and community. Brooks’ book is beautifully written and will spur the Christian reader on to pray about how the Lord would lead toward a more satisfying life focused on his glory and our neighbors’ good. 

By / Jun 11

This is a parenting book grounded in the gospel and authored by a couple that has a great deal of experience when it comes to parenting. Jimmy and Kristin Scroggins are the right people to address this crucial topic, and they do so exceptionally well. This book takes difficult topics, explores them biblically, outlines how to talk about the issues with children, and offers helpful principles throughout. The book is concrete, thoughtful, and will be a mainstay in churches and homes for many years to come.