Friends professor looks to God’s ‘Magnificent Story’ for new book

James Bryan Smith
James Bryan Smith Courtesy Photo

James Bryan Smith was studying the ideas of beauty, goodness and truth in England when his publisher suggested he write a book on the subject.

Smith hesitated, but his wife pointed out that while few people would read his dissertation, a book could help many.

That was the inception of “The Magnificent Story: Uncovering a Gospel of Beauty, Goodness & Truth,” a book published in August by the Wichita professor.

“They’re called transcendental because they transcend us, they’re bigger than us,” Smith said. “We love them, we need them even if we have no idea how they function in our lives.”

Smith teaches theology at Friends University, directs the university’s Apprentice Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation and is pastor-in-residence at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.

He’s also a nationally known author: His “Good and Beautiful” trilogy has sold more than 160,000 copies of all the books in the series. The series continues to be some of Intervarsity Press’ best selling books month to month, and several of the books have high rankings among the Bible Study & Reference category on the Amazon Best Sellers Rankings.

His new book is meant to be used “in the context of the community” and contains spiritual practices and questions in each chapter. Chapel Hill already has 10 small groups working through the book, and the church’s pastor is also preaching sermons based on Smith’s previous trilogy.

This book also will launch a trilogy. The next two books are expected in the fall of 2018 and 2019.

Smith hopes people will read the book and leave with a greater understanding of how important beauty, goodness and truth are in their lives. Too often people have an incomplete understanding of the Gospel, Smith said, leaving out “parts of the story.”

“The thesis of this book is that there is a magnificent story, which is the most important thing happening on this earth,” Smith writes in the first chapter. “It is our only hope as individuals, communities, countries, and a species.”

Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @KathsBurgess