Genre: Christian Living
Publication Date: 2006, reprint August 2012
Reviewed by Josh Olds
QUICK HIT – James’s storytelling combines with devotional, inspirational, and poetic writings to craft an insightful work on the greatest story ever told.
You’ve probably noticed that I’m a fan of stories—whether real or fictional. And you may have even grasped that I perceive the Church as living out the story of God. Is it any wonder, then, that I find myself with a particular affinity for a book that includes quotes like these:
“I think that what makes us unique isn’t so much our height or shape or fingerprints or eye color but our histories, our stories. Day by day our lives are woven into a giant narrative, and every moment we become more and more the story of who we are. We are our stories.” (p. 80)
“When Christianity becomes something other than entering into and living out the story of God, it becomes something other than Christianity. God’s story isn’t over; it’s still being told today. Each one of us has the potential to become both a chapter of history and his story.” (p. 84)
In his marvelous book Story, Steven James takes readers on an engaging journey from creation to consummation. James builds upon scenes and themes from Scripture to create a compendium of thirty sections that’s part devotional, part drama, part poetry, and completely insightful and compelling.
With its thirty sections, Story would be a great book to read as a month-long devotional—assuming you can pull yourself away from James’s engaging prose. I can’t say that I agree with the nuances of all of James’s theology, but as he approaches the text from the perspective of a storyteller, I’ll allow some creative license. For instance, James writes that “The Bible doesn’t say anything about God creating the darkness” (p. 19), yet God says, “I form the light and create darkness” (Isa. 45:7). He portrays God as being in darkness (does this mean darkness is coeternal with God?) and says God needed someone to love (did he not have companionship within the Trinity?), thus God created man. Small things, especially since James does not approach the text as a theologian, but they can be meaningful.
But you read through these theological implications, you’ll discover the treasure that James has to offer. From the beginning to the end, James brings a storyteller’s perspective to the Scriptures, expanding upon the narrative at points, commenting incisively on it in others. The switch from narrative to devotional to poetry is sometimes jarring, but after a while you get the flow of the text and understand the type of Story James is trying to tell. Only one other criticism here—and it is really a criticism of his book Flirting with the Forbidden—is that James reuses an entire chapter word-for-word from that book. Story—originally published in 2006 and being rereleased now—predates Flirting with Forbidden, so the issue is really with that book, yet it seems awkward to see not just themes but an entire chapter reused in a different book.
For those used to James’s thrillers, Story shows a whole other side to the storyteller. While he can craft incredibly intricate thrillers, he is just at home penning these insightful and inspirational works. Fans of Story and fans of Steven James will want to pick this one up.
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