Life Is ______., by Judah Smith
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
For those readers familiar with the previous volume from the author, Jesus Is _____. , a lot of this book falls under familiar territory. This is not to say that familiar is bad. A reviewer like myself is of two minds in reading a book like this. For one, there is a lot of this book I find encouraging and valuable, even if much of its material rests in areas that are a struggle for me in my personal life. On the other hand, there are areas of this book that are deeply troublesome as well, and it is hard to give full credit and appreciation of a book that fails in the ways it does. In the end, one is left to decide whether to judge on justice or mercy, or some combination of the two, and in light of the interest this book takes in the relationship between justice and mercy, I will slightly go on the side of mercy here.
In terms of its contents, the author several times makes it clear what he fills in the blanks of the title: Life is to be loved and to love. Life is to trust God in every moment. Life is to be at peace with God and yourself. Life is to enjoy God. It will not be argued by anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis that these are areas I struggle with. Nor is the author mistaken in these points. In fairness, he does not dodge the question of difficult or serious matters in life that one has to deal with, like poverty or bad health or a background that includes rape. To be sure, the author does not stack the deck in his favor when he asks readers to trust that God will make everything alright in this lifetime, despite our own expectations and the troubles and storms we may find ourselves in, and even if it is difficult to do so, the biblical evidence is definitely in his favor in those contentions.
That said, although this book is a warm and friendly one, full of amusing personal anecdotes, including spanx and an adorable coining of a word in hanitizer for hand sanitizer, there are areas where this book falls short that are worthy of commentary as well. On the minor side are the facts that the author seems to revel in the lack of intellectual sophistication. This is not to say that someone cannot speak well about the Bible without being an intellectual, only that some people seem all to glad to brag about not being one. As one might imagine, this is a bit of a personal sensitivity of mine. More seriously still, the author takes a dim view of the covenantal aspects of Gods way, including the law, because he views it as an attempt to earn salvation rather than being a demonstration of love. While the author is gracious, and wise, in pointing out that people may not immediately show the fruits of godliness upon repentance and conversion, the proper expectation is for such fruits to show themselves in time. All too often easy believism and antinomianism are the fruit of those who reject the covenantal framework of the relationship between God and man.