Ron’s #4: Word Pictures by Brian Godawa (208 pages)

A subtitle can say much about a book: “Knowing God through Story and Imagination.” Word Pictures is written by the screenwriter of the movie, To End All Wars. Mark gave me the recommendation for the movie, and I really enjoyed it. I then heard Godawa on a recent edition of the Stand to Reason podcast, and I was eager to hear more about how a Hollywood writer and director explores the theme of story and the Gospel.

This book was a fun look at how art is used in the Bible to communicate eternal truths. Godawa addresses the difference between word versus image, and how since the Reformation the leaning is toward word and logic over image and beauty, a fact that he finds incongruent with the Bible. He plea is for readers to embrace the idea that God cares about art and aesthetics, and not just giving doctrine. Story and image, he says, are both important to God. While I enjoyed the book, I’m not sure I agree entirely with the premise. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). I do think that beauty is important, but I get nervous when I see the conclusions that people make, such as having someone up front painting as the sermon is given, as though it is a spirit medium channeling some new, colorful revelation. That becomes too carnival-like, like those guys in every European city who want to sketch my caricature.

The two strongest chapters in the book, and ones worth revisiting, are “Literal versus Literary” and “Subversion.” The first addresses some who are too focused on literal interpretation even when it is not intended to be read as such. This “literalism” produces a weaker view of the Bible (here is where Dispensationalists go wrong). The second chapter is how to subvert culture to address Biblical concepts, much like how Paul reinterpreted his milieu to address Mars Hill in Acts 17. Both chapters offer the clearest points of Godwin’s treatise.

The weakest area of the book deals with image itself. He chose to use different fonts for each chapter, along with silly, clip art throughout. These images—both in font and picture—detract from the word and cheapens it. This unfortunately proves the exact opposite point that he set out to illustrate in the beginning.

If you are interested in this topic, start out by renting To End All Wars to see how word and image can work quite effectively together.

About Ron 173 Articles
I teach English and government in Okinawa, Japan. I love reading theology and fiction, and helps keep me accountable. Reading with three kids under 5 is a bit of a challenge, but I keep trying to find ways to read more. My favorites writers are C. S. Lewis, Flannery O’ Connor, and Raymond Carver.

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