Seeing beauty and saying beautifully
158 pages, £7.99
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.