Subscribe now


Seeing Beauty & Saying Beautifully

By John Piper
February 2015 | Review by Andrew Wheeler
  • Publisher: IVP
  • ISBN: 978-1-78359-110-7
  • Pages: 168
  • Price: 7.99

Book Review

Seeing beauty and saying beautifully
John Piper
158 pages, £7.99
ISBN: 978-1783591107
Star rating : 3

The subtitle of this book is ‘The power of poetic effort: George Herbert, George Whitefield and C. S. Lewis’. The book’s central argument is that ‘poetic effort’, or the effort to say beautifully, is itself a way of seeing more of the beauty one is trying to express.

This argument is illustrated with reference to the three Christians named, all of whom made great effort to express the beauty of the things of God and salvation in Jesus Christ. This makes the introduction crucial, since it is here the central argument is made.

The three following chapters look at the case studies in turn and in light of the introduction’s proposal.

In the introduction, Piper confesses that his biggest fear is of contradicting 1 Corinthians 1:17 and 2:1. He proceeds to argue cogently that he is not, not least because the Bible itself contains much poetry and other beautiful and striking use of language.

The three case studies are well chosen in that they are diverse. All three chapters are moving in places. It is good to see some well deserved, evangelical attention paid to George Herbert.

On Whitefield, Piper’s main point is that he was a dramatic and riveting preacher because he felt the reality of what he preached. No doubt that is true, but Piper also seems to feel that this is enough to discount the view of some that he was overly theatrical (his acting skill being ‘prominent in his youth before his conversion’, p.92). Ultimately, judgement is not ours, but surely there might be truth in both statements.

The chapter on Lewis is an excellent and stimulating overview of how the Oxford don ticked.

Overall, this is a well argued, well illustrated and enjoyable book. One drawback, however, was the amount of repetition, the worst example being the conclusion, which is a mere summary and entirely superfluous.

The book is suited to preachers, but all Christian readers would benefit since we are all commanded to be ready to speak of the Saviour.

Andrew Wheeler





Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Christian and Technology
John V. Fesko

Even the most hardened Luddite will find himself using a satnav, mobile phone, or email on occasion. But John Fesko urges us not to reach for the latest gadget without thinking carefully about how it might shape our minds, relationships,…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Christ Victorious: Selected Writings of Hugh Martin
Hugh Martin

Hugh Martin (1822–1885) was one of those 19th century Scottish theologians whose published works have stood the test of time. With good reason, for his works are consistently sound, reverent, edifying, and challenging to mind and heart. This is a…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
God’s design for women in an age of gender confusion
Sharon James

Is our belief in male headship culturally outdated, and should we see alternative ideas of marriage as ‘progress’? Is it possible to be born into the wrong body, and is sexual freedom good for women? Does Scripture show us a…

Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Owen Strachan

These three punchy books address pressing issues: what the Bible teaches about lust (on desire), about homosexuality (on Biblical sexuality) and about transgenderism (on identity). The trilogy approach keeps each book short and focused while dovetailing effectively. Each book has…