In the first book of his Apprentice series, The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith reveals and challenges us to work through the false narratives that misconstrue our vision of God. Once these false narratives of God have been swept away, we can examine the false narratives that we hold about ourselves. This is where The Good and Beautiful life picks up.
Using the Sermon on the Mount as a framework, James Bryan Smith looks at the various underlying factors in our predilection to sin.
Take anger, for an example. Smith describes anger as the natural result of two factors: fear and unmet expectations. These two factors are reinforced by the false narratives we hold about ourselves such as “I am alone,” and “I must be in control all of the time” (73). If we want to get rid of our anger issues, we need to start by replacing the false narratives that feed our anger. Band-aids will not do when we need surgery.
Following each chapter, Smith suggests a “Soul Training” exercise to help with the topic at hand. For anger, he recommends observing the Sabbath. It seems unrelated at first, but if you follow his argument, nothing forces us to let go of our need to control the world like Sabbath practice.
This book is a simple yet wise. It’s easy and enjoyable to read, wholly lacking in the self-help drivel that passes for spiritual reading and formation today.
—James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009).