Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Visual Theology, by Tim Challies and Josh Byers
The Book (from Goodreads)
We live in a visual culture. Today, people increasingly rely upon visuals to help them understand new and difficult concepts. The rise and stunning popularity of the Internet infographic has given us a new way in which to convey data, concepts and ideas.
But the visual portrayal of truth is not a novel idea. Indeed, God himself used visuals to teach truth to his people. The tabernacle of the Old Testament was a visual representation of man’s distance from God and God’s condescension to his people. Each part of the tabernacle was meant to display something of man’s treason against God and God’s kind response. Likewise, the sacraments of the New Testament are visual representations of man’s sin and God’s response. Even the cross was both reality and a visual demonstration.
As teachers and lovers of sound theology, Challies and Byers have a deep desire to convey the concepts and principles of systematic theology in a fresh, beautiful and informative way. In this book, they have made the deepest truths of the Bible accessible in a way that can be seen and understood by a visual generation.
While I expected a lot more infographics than the book actually had (it was comprised of ten chapters, with two or three infographics per chapter) the ones that were included really did enhance the book. When I'm reading nonfiction or theology, a graphic or two never goes amiss, and it made for a refreshing break from reading now and then to study over the charts and graphs accompanying the chapter. I thought the book was primarily going to be infographics, and I wish it could have been, but it hit its mark in being a simple, basic overview of God's work in the world and in our lives. For teens, people want to increase their biblical knowledge, or people who are overwhelmed by long books, Visual Theology would be a fantastic jump start into meatier works.
Infographics I especially liked were:
-the "I am" graphic, about our identity in Christ.
-the books of the Bible graphic, which looked like a scientific elements chart with little boxes for each book, the date it was written, and the author.
-the time lines of God's dramatic redemption plan throughout Scripture.
-the flowchart of how to put off sin.
-and the word cloud of character aspects we are to cultivate in our relationships with one another.
The colors were beautiful, and those particular graphics would make for edifying artwork to put up in the home to study and ponder over. (Interestingly enough, you can buy these infographics as posters on the book website).
As far as the text portion of the book, most of it was a basic summary of things I was familiar with. I never got too excited about the text in general because it didn't present familiar information in a fresh way, but there were some chapters I particularly enjoyed:
-our identity in Christ (ch 2): the reminders of God's willing adoption of me, my security and freedom from sin in him, and the deep, tender love of God the Father in identifying us as his children. This chapter was a comforting reminder that I often need to preach to my soul.
-our relationship with God (ch 3): Challies laid out how God talks to us through Scripture, exploring different facts about the Bible and benefits of reading Scripture, and contrasted it with the way we talk to God in prayer. It was a fascinating explanation of how an intimate relationship with God is fostered by mutual communication.
-doctrine (ch 5): knowing doctrine leads to love, humility, obedience, worship, unity, and healthy growth. Good doctrine leads to visible fruits in your life. Excellent, excellent reminders.
-and the chapter about putting on Christ (ch 7): In areas where we face specific and deep temptation, we replace vice with virtue. In areas where we aren't as prone to sin, we still generally pursue godly character. We value all of God's commands, whether we feel weak in those areas or not.
I was glad I had a chance to read Visual Theology. I would have preferred more infographics, but it's a book that offers a great reminder of basic biblical concepts, and would make a fantastic gift book for fellow believers. Check out more information at www.visualtheology.church
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.