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Notable books

Notable Books | Four books that apply Christian principles reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "Do the math," Nov. 7, 2009

Word Pictures

Screenwriter Brian Godawa began his Christian walk like many evangelicals, suspicious of the imagination. He became, he said, a "'mind-oriented Christian.' I tended to reduce other Christians to their doctrinal commitments." In this thoughtful book, Godawa explains the problem with a proposition-heavy faith and traces its roots to the Enlightenment. He also shows how the Bible uses both propositions and rich imagery, metaphor, narrative, and poetry-in other words, the language of the imagination-to convey truth. He concludes with the good news that something lies beyond "the outer limits of our engagement with Christian faith through reason alone. . . . God is bigger than rationality, bigger than imagination, and he is Lord of both."

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

If your life were a screenplay, would it be a story worth telling? In this new book by Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, he writes about confronting this question as he began work on the screenplay of that earlier book: He knows that a story has "a purpose in every scene, in every line of dialogue," but what about a life? Miller discusses story elements in fiction and life-"A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it"-and describes the changes his new understanding made in his life. He concludes, "We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn't mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It's a good calling, then, to speak a better story."

Counterfeit Gods

The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

One of the major themes in Keller's preaching is the power of idols in the human heart. This book addresses the heart as an "idol-factory" in which we take good things-such as family, work, love, politics, and financial security-and make them ultimate. Keller shows how easy it is to turn those things into idols, build our lives around them, and suffer when they fail us-as they will. Since none of us is immune to idolatry of some kind, Keller's wisdom and biblical understanding, served up in clear, engaging writing, can help both Christians and non-Christians to identify the idols in our own hearts and replace empty promises with hope in Christ.

Understanding English Bible Translation

Ryken, one of the editors of the ESV Literary Study Bible, offers a clear, well-reasoned, passionate defense of an "essentially literal approach" to Bible translating. His overview of English Bible translation history shows how the essentially literal approach dominated translation principles from Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the King James Version until the mid-20th century, when dynamic equivalency gained converts. Ryken shows the choices translators make and how those choices-in the case of dynamic equivalency-rob the text of the mystery, theological fullness, and literary beauty and rhythm found in the original. He also argues that readers lose confidence in the text when they can read wildly different variations of a verse.

Spotlight

I love The Jesus Storybook Bible. It's a wonderful book both for children and adults, who will discover through its 44 stories the arc of the biblical narrative-how the Old Testament stories connect with the New, and how the hero of the whole Bible is Jesus. Its spritely text is rhythmic and wonderful for read-alouds. The joyful illustrations are simple and dramatic. So what could be better than The Jesus Storybook Bible? The new Deluxe Version (Zonderkidz, 2009), which comes packaged in a cardboard slipcase along with three CDs of British actor David Suchet reading the stories. He is a perfect storyteller, with a deep voice that invites you to curl up in a chair and listen-with a cup of hot tea or cocoa.

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