Rating: 4/5 stars
I recently finished Brian Zahnd's Beauty Will Save the World (Kindle edition). The book's subtitle, rediscovering the allure and mystery of Christianity, is accurate—it was indeed a re-telling of the gospel with fervor.
Zahnd writes with clarity and you can feel his enthusiasm in every exclamation point. He alludes to history and scrupulously unpacks the overarching narrative of Scripture.
He opens the book with an appeal that beauty also belongs to Christianity. We are inclined to defend the Christian faith's truth and goodness when everything about Jesus is also beautiful. Zahnd points readers to a different kind of aesthetic that is the beauty of Christ's cruciform.
"The cruciform is the aesthetic of our gospel. It is the form that gives Christianity its unique beauty. It is what distinguishes Christianity from the dominant script of a superpower. But the beauty of the cruciform is a beauty communicated in a mystery."
"In the Incarnation Jesus makes beautiful all that it means to be human."
This beauty is easy to miss because our world is steeped in violence and what Zahnd calls an "axis of power." But with the arrival of Christ, the Caesars of this world have been flipped on their heads.
"...the cross is not truth in the power to kill, but in the choice to love. Ultimate truth is not power enforced through violence, but love expressed through forgiveness."
Zahnd re-tells God's plan unfolding from the very beginning up until the kingdom of God's already/not yet tension. He points to the future but speaks of it as a present reality. In viewing the course of history through this "presently futuristic" lens, we gain greater understanding of our individual relationship with Christ and how it doesn't stop there. It's not just about me and my salvation but how that relates to the coming of God's kingdom here on earth. It may seem chronologically confusing but we are called to be (prophetic) witnesses to a world that is yet to come but is already being experienced here and now.
Check out these quotes on the prophetic role of the church:
"We are not a prophetic people acting like a band of psychics making predictions about the future events that belong to this age; we are a prophetic people when we bear prophetic witness to the age to come by living it here and now."
"What does the redemptive future of restored humanity look like? We need to ask this question, because once we obtain some idea of what the future for a world redeemed by Christ looks like, we have gained our course of action."
"In a world devoid of imagination and dominated by the way it's always been, we are to be a prophetic witness to otherness and holy imagination. We reject the pretentious claims of the principalities and powers that the way the world is presently arranged is the way it has to be. The principalities and powers committed to the status quo say that poverty is inevitable, that war is unavoidable, and the exploitation of the weak by the strong is inescapable. But we refuse to acquiesce to all of that. Why? Because we have heard the song of the prophets. We have seen the vision that John saw. We have believed the gospel the apostles proclaimed. We have confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord. We have an imagination inspired by the Holy Spirit, and we believe in the world to come." (emphases mine)Powerful and sensible.
The last two chapters are my favorites. As I was going through the Sermon on the Mount study over at the She Reads Truth website, I also happened to be reading Zahnd's reflections on the Beatitudes. Here are the Beatitudes in BZV (Brian Zahnd Version) :)
"Blessed are those who are poor at being spiritual,
For the kingdom of heaven is well-suited for ordinary people.
Blessed are the depressed who mourn and grieve,
For they create space to encounter comfort from another.
Blessed are the gentle and trusting, who are not grasping and clutching,
For God will personally guarantee their share when heaven comes to earth.
Blessed are those who ache for the world to be made right,
For them the government of God is a dream come true.
Blessed are those who give mercy,
For they will get it back when they need it most.
Blessed are those who have a clean window in their soul,
For they will perceive God when and where others don’t.
Blessed are the bridge-builders in a war-torn world,
For they are God’s children working in the family business.
Blessed are those who are mocked and misunderstood for the right reasons,
For the kingdom of heaven comes to earth amidst such persecution."
BZV also appears on Brian Zahnd's website/blog.
Beauty Will Save the World covers all the bases (it really does!) and lingers long after you finish reading it. It is a must-read.
What are you currently reading? Let me know in the comments below :)