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You: An Introduction (Book Review)

You: An Introduction is by Aussie theologian Michael Jensen. It’s like Nooma in a book.

The idea is that, in our hyperlinked, high-octane world, there are new tensions in the questions we have about human identity. Michael seeks to sketch out the Bible’s perspective on these modern dilemmas.

You is, as its subtitle says, just an introduction. Its fifteen chapters are extremely short, lively and pithy. The style and content of You reflects its blog background with a buzz of pop culture anecdotes and straight-talk language. Michael writes with clarity and wit. His handling of the Bible is wonderfully pragmatic. In a real sense, You is not about Scripture but about Scripture shaping life. While You brings the Bible to bear on its immediate questions, it often ends up asking more questions, giving the book a denseness that made it hard for me to read more than a few chapters in a sitting (although that could have been due to reading during long car trips!). Reaching the final chapters, we find that the entire book is a question of sorts, pointing the reader to consider Jesus, the true human, in whom the real you might be found.

The question about You is its readership. The book proceeds under two assumptions: that the reader is indeed considering or even questioning their own identity, and that the reader is willing to consider what the Bible has to say about their identity. I wonder how many readers You will actually engage on this level. I take the view, contra Nicky Gumbel, that people do not have God-shaped holes in their hearts; they have full hearts, full lives and full identities (I’m getting at Romans 1-3). I take it, then, that You is inappropriate as a broad-brush evangelistic gift.

Might You serve a purpose broader than this readership? Let me make some suggestions. You is for churched people and nominal Christians who, for whatever reason, do not have a Christianity that shapes their living. For those who may meet with other Christians less than weekly, for those who may be submerged in our culture, for those who may not know how to bring their faith to bear on the world around them, You provides two things: a probe with which they can question their own identity from a Christian basis, and a compelling model of how robust Christians construct their outlook. And it is in this sense, as a model of Christian thought, that You is also for non-Christian spectators who are interested in how Christians approach life, as well as Christians seeking to sharpen their own faith.

The worth of You, then, does not necessarily hang on its ability to directly engage its reader. You stands on its own as a very practical kind of handbook of Christian thinking. It is the kind of contribution to the marketplace of ideas that Christians have probably made too infrequently in the last few generations. It will be great if You changes its readers but greater still if it leads Christians to a more robust faith and more rigorous interaction with our world.

Categories: Written by Arthur

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Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

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