Book Review: A Godward Heart

A Godward Heart: Treasuring The God Who Loves You, by John Piper

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Press in exchange for an honest review.]

You can learn a lot about an author by reading a book [1], especially a book that reads like 50 fairly short blog entries that are loosely connected dealing with God’s love. For one, you can tell that the author is a mild Calvinist who likes to misrepresent the Arminian worldview, that he has a serious beef with C.S. Lewis (who is criticized in two of his essays, one dealing with Lewis’ view of hell and the other dealing with his troubled relationship with his father), that he is a southerner with a strong sense of social justice (making a good argument for abolition from Philemon [2]), and with fairly moderate positions on social engagement (he shows himself friendly to voting and using twitter, both subjects of essays). He also has concerns that pop up over and over again, like covetousness and the justification of God’s ways to mankind, as well as the worth of a chivalrous and traditional view of gender. One also sees the author as both a bit of a pedant (he is a seminarian for good reason, and this book contains scraps of his parental lessons to his daughter as well as scraps of sermon messages).

In reading this book, one is struck by the fact that the author appears to be a well educated person who nonetheless believes himself to be a bit more deep than he is. Basically, this book amounts to about 50 blog entries of a few hundred words in length, much of that time taken up in well-chosen biblical passages, along with a few clever observations but not a great deal of depth. While the author believes that a great deal of insight can be gained from paragraphs instead of pages, this book has too few of both (it comes in at just over 200 pages for his 50 short essays). His reflections are often striking and interesting, but one just wishes there was more depth to them. This book would have been much more excellent as a collection of 20 or 25 of the really insightful pieces expanded in length to really allow for some in-depth analysis, but as it is, it is a book that I could write myself with my own reflections, and it would probably garner the same kind of reply from readers. The difference is that as the author of a few very well-regarded books on matters of faith, the table scraps of such a busy and thoughtful man are well-respected while the table scraps of less well-known of authors are likely to be less regarded, even if the quality would be roughly comparable.

Although there are some definite flaws in the book (it is a bit shallow, focused on an emotional faith with a great deal of criticism for rational thought, which is surprising for an educator), this is not the kind of book that is meant to provide proof, but it is more a motley collection of thoughtful observations on a wide variety of matters that come within the author’s life, be it topical matters like how to best approach Muslims or dealing with social issues in general or whether it is the author’s belief that God spoke to him personally that opens this book in a bit of an uncomfortable way (thankfully, the opening essay is one of the weaker ones, so it sets the bar low for those who are not familiar with the author’s work, making the rest of the book seem even more stellar in comparison). Fortunately, even though this book is very scattered in its approach, what it has to say is generally good, and certainly thought provoking. If one is to compare books to meals, this book would be like trying to fill oneself up on samples of various dishes, enjoying some nibbles more than others, and ending up wanting more. Since this author has published more than twenty books so far, wanting more is not a bad place to be.

[1] http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/author-spotlight.php?authorid=74956

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/the-implications-of-philemon-on-the-process-of-cultural-change/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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