The Good and Beautiful God | James Bryan Smith

Dallas Willard’s blurb on the front cover caught my attention: “The best practice I have seen in Christian spiritual formation.” A quick scan of the introduction showed me that Smith was heir to many of the same influences that I am: Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and Rich Mullins. Now that I’ve read the book, I agree with Willard. This is simply the best book on spiritual formation I’ve read in ages.

The Good and Beautiful God is the first in a trilogy dubbed “The Apprentice Series.” This first book deals with the false narratives about God that rule our lives. Smith knows that there is no magic formula or secret practice that will make us godly: The Spirit of Jesus does that in us. By replacing false narratives with the stories of Jesus (this book), engaging in spiritual disciplines (The Good and Beautiful Life), and participating in Christian community (The Good and Beautiful Community), we provide room for the Holy Spirit to do his work.

Many of the false narratives rang true for me. Smith challenges the idea that God judges us by bringing catastrophe into our lives when we sin. He dismantles the idea that we have to earn God’s favour. He rethinks the age-old view that we’re “just sinners, saved by grace.” Then he replaces those false narratives with Jesus-truth.

The most influential part of the book for me was his attitude toward rest. Smith reminds us, in the midst of our fast-past lives, that “Hurry is not part of a well-lived life” (183). He advocates the spiritual practice of creating margin. Just like white space surrounds the text on a page, breathing room should surround the events in our life.

While this is not a how-to book, Smith does get practical. At the end of each chapter he offers a few extra pages with a spiritual exercise—everything from sleep to solitude to lectio divina.

If you want a deeper relationship with God and you’re tired of consuming the fluff that floods the Christian best seller lists, give James Bryan Smith a read.

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