Thursday, March 25, 2010

Discovering God in Stories from the Bible

This is one of those book reviews wherein I want to simply say, "Amazing. Go read it." Imagine how much time I would save us all by saying so? I would have expressed my opinion and you would have known my thoughts exactly (or as close as you could possibly come to knowing them.)

Discovering God in Stories from the Bible was thought-provocative in the best sense. Written by Philip Graham Ryken, who is the Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, he doesn't mince words. I don't mean in the Doug Wilson sense. Or even Swindoll. Ryken has a style very much his own and I have to say that I really appreciated it.

The book 'had me from hello' in essence, with Ryken's remarks in the Preface, which I simply must quote because it tells you what to expect in the rest of the book:

I long to know God more intimately. At least, sometimes I do. The rest of the time I am too busy for God, oblivious to the greatness of His glory. But deep down, my heart's desire is to know and love the God who has always known and loved me.

The way to know God better is to study Him. The way to study Him is to learn what the Bible teaches about Him, for all God's attributes are revealed in God's Word. Though difficult, the contemplation of God is the most rewarding of all endeavors. In the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

"There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity . . . Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continuing, investigation of the great subject of the Deity."

You want to talk about pride taking a plunge? You want to talk about the intellect being enlarged? (Don't read this post...) Read the book!

Chapter by Chapter, Ryken challenges his reader to pull as much meat out of the Bible passages and stories that they read as possible. For example, let's start with Chapter 1 which is entitled "To God Be the Glory: The Story of Moses on God's Mountain." You probably have read the story of when Moses goes up to Mountain to commune with God. Moses asks to see God and is informed that the glory of God is too much for humanity to handle. Instead, God has Moses get into a cleft of a rock and covers the opening. God reveals only His back to Moses and that glimpse alone causes Moses to be transformed. Why? Because the glory of God will do that to you! You cannot read His word in earnest and not walk away changed, or with a challenge to change. Ryken proceeds to provide a mini-study on the glory of God in the first chapter, defining it (as best as is humanely possible), referencing other theologians, cross-referencing with other scripture and explaining the Hebrew and Greek translation of words when appropriate.

Does that sound too heady for you? Well, it's not. Not really at all! This book is extremely straight forward and written in such a manner that anyone can understand it. You do not have to have a seminary degree. It's "simple" theology that any Christian, at any age, or any season in life can grasp hold of. I appreciate it though because he assumes the best of his readers and doesn't try to dumb things down or offer pop culture references to make his points. It reads like an interesting sermon. I thought it was a particularly nice companion to Chuck Swindoll's Great Lives series which I've been reading through here recently. Ryken doesn't explicitly go about offering practical application to the Bible verses, although he does that. His main point is to teach about the attributes of God. Coincidentally, these are attributes we should be working on in ourselves. So it is practical. But not in the same way that Swindoll approaches things.

I really loved Discovering God in Stories from the Bible. I think books, such as this one by Ryken, are much needed in day and age where The Dude Abides is trying to rule the day. We don't need a dude. We need a Savior. And we need books like Discovering God in Stories from the Bible to help accurately point us to Him.

Thanks, P&R Publishing, for helping to make such a resource available to us. You have my gratitude!


Melissa said...

Going on my Amazon wish list now!

Leslie said...

Great review! I heard Ryken speak at a conference in Atlanta a couple of years ago and was struck by his very forthright way of getting to the heart of the matter. I am putting this on my TBR list! Thanks!

Ronnica said...

As always, you know how to add books to my TBR list!

Janet said...

This sounds excellent. Thanks for the review.

I have a book by Leland Ryken, a literary guide to the Bible. I'm wondering if they're related.

Warren Allan Johnson said...

Thanks for your review of this book. It sounds very good.

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