Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review of the Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith

The Good and Beautiful Life
by James Bryan Smith
ISBN 9780830835324
IVP: Formatio Series
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have been slowly reviewing the Apprentice Series by James Bryan Smith of the Aprentis Institute and Friends College in conjunction with Intervarsity Press. This is the second book in the series. I was able to read this book in the Audiobook format, which I found extremely helpful and well-done.

The Apprentice Series has three parts to the series. The first book in the series is about God, and our beliefs and ideas about who he is and what kind of relationship he wants with us. The second book in the series which we are reviewing here, in the Good and Beautiful Life. The final book in the series is The Good and Beautiful Community. These books, although I did not read it anywhere, loosely correspond to Reuben Job's  three simple questions, which I believe stem from Wesley: "Who am I? Who is God? Who are we together?"

This book, following the model of books such as Cost of Discipleship and the Divine Conspiracy, uses the Sermon on the Mount as a blueprint for the life of discipleship. Each chapter in The Good and Beautiful Life teaches on a different part of the Sermon on the Mount. At the end of each chapter their is a "soul training" section designed to allow the readers of the book to be able to try on a practice of spiritual discipline for a short period of time to reinforce the living of the truth they have just come to understand.

Particularly meaningful for me was the chapter on living the day devotionally, the chapter on anger, and the chapter on living without judgment. I thought it was profoundly insightful that the author paired the goal of living without anger with the practice of the Sabbath. Sometimes just slowing down can make us a lot less angry. Also, I liked how the author paired judgment with practicing a day without gossip. The soul practice of living the day devotionally borrowed from Madame Guyon, which I thought was just wonderful in both its presentation and its explanation.

The book has a study guide. This is good because it is best if one uses this book in community, with either the resources provided by the Aprentis Institute or the study questions in the book. I can't wait to find a group in my church willing to go through this process.

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