We are story-making people. We love reading stories—and we love hearing the personal stories of others. We need stories, or narratives, to make sense of our world. And those stories shape our lives.
What is the story you have been told about the gospel? About God? About the Christian life? About Jesus? About the cross? About yourself? About heaven?
Your answers to these questions will form a story that will determine how your life will go. The answers reveal your ability to trust, to love, to hope—and even your capacity for joy. Any story worth giving the power to shape our lives must pass a simple test: is it beautiful, good, and true? If it is, then it is a magnificent story—and that is where transformation takes place.
From James Bryan Smith, author of the bestselling book Good and Beautiful God, comes this spiritual formation resource meant to help both individuals and groups understand the Magnificent Story of Christ in their lives. Soon to be followed by The Magnificent Journey: Living Deep in the Kingdom (Fall 2018) and The Magnificent Mission: Called and Sent by the Storyteller (Fall 2019), the field-tested material within includes spiritual practices at the end of each chapter.
Uncover the true story of beauty, goodness, and truth that will satisfy the ultimate longings of your heart.
- Story can help us envision God as beautiful, good and true in ways that proposition cannot fully show.
I have read five previous books by James Bryan Smith so I was initially not going to pick this up assuming that there was not much here that I had not absorbed previously. But I found it on sale for audiobook when I was out of audiobooks and I realized that one of my reading goals for the year is to read more about beauty and three months into the year I have not read anything about beauty.
James Bryan Smith is a professor focusing on spiritual formation and is in the line of Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Immediately after finishing this I picked up a review copy of a new biography of Dallas Willard (Becoming Dallas Willard which I am loving.)
Smith’s focus in his earlier Good and Beautiful trilogy was to help refocus our attention on God, the God who loves us, wants good for us, and forgives us. He does that in part by identifying ‘false narratives’ about God that we absorb, God as magician or angry God or judgmental God.
The slightly different focus of The Magnificent Story is to think about story as more important than analysis. Much, but not all, of the book is focused on scripture as story about God. This isn’t a book on hermeneutics, but a book on how to understand the power of story to impact the way we understand God.
So much of the way we are formed as people is by the vision of what life and God and flourishing is supposed to be. Smith suggests that if our stories are not focused on the Beauty and Goodness of God and life, then we are missing the truth of the story.
The critiques of the book are predictable. One of the reviews on Amazon and the review from The Gospel Coalition is that this is a too positive and happy approach. God is angry in scripture and life is hard. A presentation that does not take into account God’s righteous anger does not present the whole of who God is. There is some point to that. But I alway think back to someone I read (I don’t remember who) suggesting that while love is a fundamental characteristic of God (God is Love) as is Righteousness and Holiness, anger is never presented as a characteristic of God but as a response to injustice. We can’t say God is Anger in the same way we say God is Love. We can say God is Righteous, but that is about his Goodness and capacity for Truth, not his anger.
There really was not anything new to me in The Magnificent Story. I have previously read enough of Smith and Foster and others in the spiritual formation school to know what was going to be in here. But part of the point of the book is that knowing God is good and loving and beautiful and true is not the same as living as if God were good and loving and beautiful and true. We need to surround ourselves by stories of God that support the truthfulness and beauty of God as a means to help us continue to absorb that reality.
- Get ready to go deep!
As I began The Magnificent Story, the discussion of “the three transcendentals” of beauty, goodness and truth made me think that this book would be a pleasant and uplifting look at our glorious God. Which it certainly was. But what I didn’t expect was the depth of theology that I would encounter. Chapter three is a beautiful explanation of the Trinity, successfully described to us non-theologians in a way that would make many pastors envious. Smith continues, in his easy-to-read style, to take us deeper into discussions of things like Christmas, Good Friday, Holy Saturday… and other elements of the magnificent story of God and how He has chosen to interact with humanity. I highly recommend this to anyone who has a desire to be drawn closer to the Triune God, but particularly to those who are afraid of God for any reason or who feel like they don’t know enough about God. This is a presentation of a gospel of beauty, goodness and truth – a story you don’t want to miss.
- Powerful theology that connects to real-life
James Bryan Smith tells the full Gospel with such grace. His masterful storytelling brings his solid theology to life. It's clear he has endeavored to live the Gospel. His passion for Christ is evident on every page.