Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dwelling with Philippians: Book Notice.

I just received a copy of Dwelling with Philippians: A Conversation with Scripture through Image and Word. (Eerdmans, 2010). It is a combination of commentary, spiritual formation guide and coffee table book.

The focus of the book is to draw the reader into Paul's letter to the Philippians and to help them think about each section. The epistle is broken into sixteen sections each of which begins with the text of Philippians (NRSV). This is then followed by a meditative section that seeks to draw meaning from the text and the reader into the text. Next there is a series of questions that the reader can ask and contemplate as they give consideration to what Paul had to say to the Philippians. This section is concluded with a variety of images and words. From paintings to sculptures and Bible verses to poems the reader is treated to an experience that seeks to wed the cerebral themes of the text with the beauty of the world.

Here is what the introduction has to say about the book.

The goal of this book is to help us "let the word of Christ dwell in us richly" (cf Col. 3:16) and to allow the text of Philippians to form our imaginations so that we see the world in a deeper, more life-giving way. Dwelling with Scripture trains our capacity for perception, which helps us see more deeply into the truth about God and ourselves. It prompts fresh insight into sin and grace and forms us for a faithful, hospitable, and just way of life. To this end, think of each artwork in this volume as a question ("How does this artwork help us to understanding some aspect of what Paul is communicating?") rather than as a definitive assertion ("This, surely, is what Paul was getting at").
This book is not a substitute for traditional Bible commentaries or study guides. Historical, theological, and literary analyses of the text are each indispensable. But we are convinced that a book like this can be an instructive supplement to these kinds of studies by harnessing the considerable power of artworks to help readers grasp Philippians' gospel message.

As a biblical scholar I am encouraged to see that someone is combining a commentary with spiritual formation. There are few that I am aware of that do this. Quite often the Bible is included in spiritual formation through an appeal to a couple of verses with little thought to the context or author's intent. This approach will help to encourage readers to consider using good Bible study as part of their personal formation.

On a personal note, I am not much for worship-related arts. But overall I find it to be well done here. Not every image will appeal to every reader, but there is enough variety that I think many will find some that causes them pause.

1 comment:

  1. The Calvin Institute is doing such great work these days. Thanks for sharing this...this is an indication that Biblical studies and spiritual formation can be integrated, with fruitful results. Glad to see it!