Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why God Matters: Book Review

A few weeks ago I was sent a review copy of the book Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life (ISBN: 0982256531) authored by Karina Lumbert Fabian & Deacon Steven Lumbert and published by Tribute Books. The “little” book (114 pages) surprised me quite a bit. Let’s take a quick overview of the book, look at my normal reading habits, and then see how they ended up meshing.

The purpose of Why God Matters is to bridge the gap between faith and day-to-day life by sharing real-life examples taken from the two authors’ experiences and relating them to deeper spiritual concepts. The book is written in a devotional format with fourteen chapters each following a template of recounting a personal experience and then a “Life Lesson”, a Bible passage and a paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church all relating to the spiritual lesson derived from the experience.

I say the book is a devotional format because of each chapter is either five or six pages long and the pages are written in large type, often contain a single Bible verse or passage from the Catechism, or a few paragraphs’ carryover from the previous page. In other words; each chapter reads very, very quickly. As with other books of this format there’s a real temptation to just sit down and read the whole thing cover to cover in a couple hours; which is exactly what I did my first time through. Here’s why:

In general, I don’t care for devotional books. Maybe I’m too shallow but when I read them I tend to come away thinking “Ok, so what?” I tend to read for knowledge and I value a book by what I learn from it. My favorite books are heavy-weight apologetics titles like Peter Kreeft’s Handbook of Catholic Apologetics, for example. I like to chew through a few pages at a time of theologically dense reason, theory, and logic (well, dense for my untrained mind anyway). I like turning pages and feeling like I’m moving along.

Over the last year or so (as posts on this blog will show) I’ve begun to realize that this search for knowledge isn’t the primary calling of a Christian. Sure it’s a calling but not the primary one. Knowing about God can never be a replacement for knowing God. This is where books like Why God Matters hit their stride.

Each chapter is designed to quickly give the reader a relatable experience and then link that experience to how we can find God in it. Why God Matters does a great job of guiding the reader’s thoughts out of the book and into the reader’s own life and experiences. I never asked “Ok, so what?” while reading this book because I was subtly guided to translate what I had read into experiences in my own life. After each chapter there was a tangible call to stop and think; not about what I had read but how what I had read applies to me and my relationship with God. I am now going through the book a second time one chapter at a time and really considering how the lesson can help me know God more and am enjoying the slower, more contemplative pace quite a lot!

In the end, to give this book justice (and to get your money’s worth out of it) it’s best enjoyed in single-chapter doses with time afterward dedicated to really contemplating your relationship with God within the context of the chapter’s “Life Lesson”. This is a book that requires contemplation; if you’re unable to spend quality time doing that or prefer plowing through pages of information this book may not be particularly impactful. That said, I found this book more helpful than other devotional style titles in that Why God Matters guided me along the path of looking inward where other books I’ve read simply left me to do that on my own. I’m not sure that I learned much about God from this book; but I am sure that I know God more because of it.

More information about Why God Matters can be found on the book's website.


Tribute Books said...

Dan, what an absolutely fabulous review. All I can say is: thank you! You "got" it - exactly what the book is meant to convey.

I appreciate your saying that you usually gravitate toward more depth and complexity in your religious reading, but that you still got so much out of 'Why God Matters.' That means a lot.

Thank you,
Tribute Books

Karina Fabian said...

Dan, Nicole said it before I could, so let me just thank you for sharing this book with your readers. I especially appreciated that you took the time to share how you think people can get the most out of the book and why.

Karina Fabian