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Book Review: The Magnificent Story – Uncovering a Gospel of Beauty, Goodness & Truth
Tom Benson

I’ve been searching for books that are useful in facilitating small group discussions and came across James Bryan Smith’s book “The Magnificent Story – Uncovering a Gospel of Beauty, Goodness & Truth.”  This book was published in 2017 and is the first of three volumes.  The 2nd scheduled for the Fall of 2018 is called “The Magnificent Journey: Living Deep in the Kingdom and the 3rd scheduled for the Fall of 2019 called “The Magnificent Mission:  Called and Sent by the Storyteller.”  James has also authored the three volume Apprentice Series “The Good and Beautiful God; Life; Community.”

The back cover of “The Magnificent Story” asks “What story have you been told about the gospel?  About Jesus? About the Christian Life?  About yourself?  Your answers to these questions will form a story that will determine how your life will go.  The answers reveal your ability to trust, to love, to hope – and even your capacity for joy.  Uncover the true story of beauty, goodness, and truth that will satisfy the ultimate longings of your heart.”

I knew I found a book I could share with others when I came across this passage from page 75: 

TRUE NARRATIVE

“The true narrative says, ‘We are made in God’s image, with original goodness, which cannot be marred by sin.  But we are also made in God’s likeness, which we distort every time we choose to sin’… The Bible says of humans, ‘God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good’ (Genesis 1:31).  This was said right after the last act of creation.  The first thing we learn about humans is that we are good—very good.  Instead of starting with original sin, we ought to start with our original goodness.”

For me, this frames my own creation as I was formed in the womb.  Smith goes on to say (pg. 76) referencing Genesis 1:26, “This means that we are—in our essence—beautiful, good, and true.  That original image cannot be distorted or marred or vandalized by our sin.“  This gives me hope that there is a pathway to becoming my true-self, the original essence that God intended.  That Spiritual Formation can be the pathway to my original essence as I become more aware of my false-self and open to God’s transforming love and return to my original essence of “beautiful, good and true.” 

There are several aspects that I like about the construction of this book including frequent questions listed on the side of the text related to the content, a “Soul Training Exercise” at the end of each chapter and a “Study Guide” at the end of the book for each Chapter.  The Study Guide provides a format for small groups which includes the following headings: Gathering, Exploring, Engaging, Reflecting and Closing.  There are 9 chapters so this book could run 9 consecutive weeks and will be my Fall Growth Series offering.