We don't usually review Biblical commentaries given the many Christian magazines and websites that already do that. But this book on Paul's letter to the Philippians sets next to the interpretations stunning visual images from paintings along with poetry, prayers, and worship-related materials. The idea is to encourage a richer reading experience and a deep devotional approach to the Bible. It is lamentable that Protestants have a history of ignoring the arts, particularly in comparison to how Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians have embraced them. Seeing art used here to amplify a text, we realize what an abundant spiritual resource we have in paintings from around the world.
Hats off to Elizabeth Steele Halstead, who is resource development specialist for visual arts at the Calvin Institute of Christian worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the outset, she notes that there are visual motifs which appear regularly such as a tree, cross, circle, light, path, dying and rising, and meal. We were thrilled to see in this paperback paintings by some of our favorite artists: Gustav Klimt, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and others. These artistic creations do encourage us to slow down and to let the passages simmer in the minds and hearts.
Other editors are Paul Detterman, executive director of Presbyterians for Renewal, a church musician, and an ordained minister; Joyce Borger, worship and music editor of Faith Alive Christian Resources and editor of the quarterly journal Reformed Worship; and John D. Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship who teachers worship, theology, congregational studies, and music at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary. Hopefully their experiment will encourage others to meld stirring paintings with biblical commentary to add a sensuous dimension to the proceedings.