A great deal of the Bible comes to us in the form of stories, and even the parts filled with propositions have their background in the story of God’s action in history. I believe this is central to the way we should read and apply scripture, and thus I am delighted to have the opportunity to review the book Learning God’s Story of Grace by Elizabeth Reynolds Turnage.
But first, disclosures. Elizabeth took both Greek and Hebrew from me, and the publisher provided me with a free review copy of the book. I want to thank both author and publisher for this opportunity.
Including front and back matter, this book is just 128 pages. It’s spiral bound, which is helpful in a book which is likely to be used as a workbook. It is divided into seven lessons plus an epilogue. Each lesson (except for one) is divided into activities for five days. I might have preferred a few more notes on working as a group, which is clearly the place to use this material. Nonetheless, readers should have no problem either leading or participating in a small group using this study.
The approach begins with engaging a passage of scripture (you can find the details on page 14), and ends with living and then praying the story, thus making it part of your life. From my own experience with small groups, this latter part will be the most challenging as people often shy away from directly moving to action and prayer from what they learn in scripture. Combining both living and praying drives the student to truly make the scripture story part of his or her own life.
The first lesson uses Psalm 78. I must admit that using that Psalm gives any work on Bible study bonus points. Following that Elizabeth takes on the creation story, but not in the way you might expect. She bypasses all the debates we may have about technical details and brings the story right into our lives. This theme runs through the rest of the book, tying creation with the new creation. I’m reading two manuscripts on creation for my own company, both to be released next year, and each of those authors emphasizes that for a doctrine of creation to be truly Christian it must be Christ-centered, and join creation and new creation.
At the same time as she leads students through an approach to Bible study, Elizabeth also leads them through the overarching story of scripture, the story that contains all the rest of our stories.
I believe that any Bible student, Sunday School class, or small group would benefit from this study. Much of it is extremely simple in its intellectual content, and rightly so, but at the same time it is very challenging as a spiritual discipline. It is so easy to become very educated on complex details of theology without making it part of one’s own life. This book provides an antidote to that problem.
I enthusiastically recommend this little book to those who want to let God’s Word change their lives.