Thinking Out Loud

September 23, 2014

Book Series Review: Biblical Imagination by Michael Card

Michael Card - Biblical Imagination Series - IVP

After reading Mark: The Gospel of Passion, I really trust that a generation or two down the road, when people have moved on past Michael Card’s music, this set of four commentaries on the gospels by the veteran Christian musician will still be read and enjoyed.

Full disclosure: I obviously haven’t read the entire series of four books, but I believe Mark to be representative of all four of the Biblical Imagination series, published over the course of four years by IVP (InterVarsity Press).

The format is somewhat reminiscent of the Daily Study Bible series by William Barclay. In the case of Mark, there are sixteen chapters and most have at least three subsections, while a few have at least double that. So reading devotionally each subsection a la Barclay, this would give you 63 days of reading, excluding four introductory sections.

But reading an entire chapter at once is most rewarding.  While Card acknowledges one place where the chapter division is rather awkward, he does manage to find beauty in the way Mark arranges his stories from the life of Christ. In chapter five he notes three people are held captive, “one by demons, one by disease and one by death.” In chapter ten, four questions that are put to him by various individuals or groups. And there are some recurring themes, such as the imagery of bread.

Some of this is standard commentary fare, but then this is where the “imagination” part of the series title kicks in and where the heart of Michael Card, the artist, is most evident. For a sample of this, click to this excerpt from the story of The Transfiguration, which I posted yesterday at C201.

The other option is to read the books — and keep them on your bookshelf — as commentaries. It’s in the fulfillment of that objective that I find the enduring quality of his writing.

With each of the four books in the series, completed by this spring’s release of John, there is a companion CD available. Two weeks ago here we looked at the CD which corresponds to the book of Mark. (The books are shown in the graphic above in the order in which they were released between 2011 and 2014.)

I was struck by the readability and practicality of Michael Card’s approach. He goes deep in many places, but it doesn’t frustrate or intimidate the reader, and in the case of Mark, like Mark himself, he moves quickly from scene to scene.

Do I have any complaints? Only that having the one book and CD is causing me to covet the rest of the series!

 


 

Books and CDs were provided to me by the Canadian distributor for InterVarsity Press (IVP) who know where they can send the remaining titles if they so choose!

Michael Card - CD series based on the Gospels

Postscript: Note that the books and CDs each have distinct titles:

John: A Misunderstood Messiah
John: The Gospel of Wisdom
Luke: A World Turned Upside Down
Luke: The Gospel of Amazement
Mark: The Beginning of the Gospel
Mark: The Gospel of Passion
Matthew: The Gospel of Identity
Matthew: The Penultimate Question

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September 11, 2014

Veteran Christian Artists Offer Scripture Music Collections

“Wait a minute;” I can hear someone saying, “Isn’t all Christian music supposed to be based on scripture?”

Well, as true as that should be, even today’s vertical worship music is rather subjective in its composition and most CCM simply offers a Christian perspective on life, love and living and even that is often veiled. The two projects we look at today are remarkably different.

Michael Card - CD series based on the Gospels

Michael Card‘s collection of four CDs based on the gospels reflects an entirely different genre lyrically. Released between February, 2011 and July, 2014, the four albums aren’t exactly the old “Scripture in Song” material, either; but rather offer something refreshingly unique. The series is called Biblical Imagination and each has a book which corresponds to it, suggesting that the songs come out of the depth of study necessary to complete the books. Both books and music are distributed by InterVarsity Press (IVP), so if your local Christian music outlet only deals with Provident, or Capitol, or EMI, they might not have access.

For those old enough to remember Michael’s song Known by the Scars, the style is really unchanged. (Card is also the author of Amy Grant’s El Shaddai.)

The album I was given as a sample, Mark: The Beginning of the Gospel includes a very classical performance by Fisk University Jubilee Singers before settling down into more familiar Michael Card territory. Scripture references are provided, though here the texts are used more as springboards for more poetic considerations and impressions from the life and teachings of Christ.

I’ll be reviewing the accompanying book here at a later date, but honestly speaking, owning one of the CDs only makes me want to own the entire set.  If my remarks here don’t accurately convey the nature of this recording, it’s only because the beauty and depth is rather hard to describe.


Brian Doerksen and The Shiyr PoetsThe Shiyr Poets (pronounced ‘sheer’) on the other hand takes a more word-for-word approach, but with a conversion to modern English from the Hebrew and with the addition of recurring choruses as keeping with the structure of modern music. In many ways, bringing these texts into our century captures the heart and anguish of the Psalmist in ways we might miss with a cursory reading of the text.

The band is the latest project from worship leader Brian Doerksen composer of Refiner’s Fire, Come Now Is The Time to Worship, You Shine, and Faithful One. The sound is consistent with past Doerksen albums, a gentle, more intimate sound. (Foreshadowing this project was the song Fortress 144 from a few years back; a song Brian said was written especially to be a song that men could embrace in a corporate worship setting.)

On Songs for the Journey, Volume One the goal is to begin working sequentially through the book of Psalms, hence this album covers the first ten, with two bonus tracks. Yes, this is an ambitious project! The group used crowd-funding to partially underwrite the launch of the first project and probably would need to do that again to create successive volumes, as this has not been produced for a major label.

You can listen to an audio sample from Psalm 3, at the band’s website by clicking here, or watch a video from a Christian television program here and here. The physical album is only available in Canada, but you can download it digitally anywhere from iTunes

Again, there’s a lot going on in the Psalms that we miss, and this project accurately captures both the tension and the wonder.

 

 

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