Book Review: Beautifully Distinct (Edited By Trillia Newbell)

The culture around us is continuously bombarding us with one message after another. Many of these messages are plain lies. How are Christians to think, listen and speak as we engage with these cultural lies? In this refreshing book, edited by Trillia Newbell, women authors from across the globe come together to encourage and challenge us to be salt and light to the world around us. These authors show us that it is possible for Christians to think well, listen well, speak well and be beautifully distinct.

The book is divided into three simple sections, totaling 11 chapters. Part 1 deals with thinking critically about movies, food, sex and work. Part 2 discusses literature, hospitality, immigrants and race, while Part 3 discusses social media, beauty and the power of our stories. Each of these chapters show us the lies propagated by our culture and refutes them with the truth of God’s Word. What I found refreshing was how the authors handled each of these sensitive issues. They display grace in the way they talk about them and wisdom in the answers they provide.

I enjoyed many chapters in the book, one of which was Kelly Needham’s, “When food becomes a false gospel.” While Kelly encourages us to look after our bodies properly, she discourages us to put all our hopes in food, thus making it our functional savior. When food is our functional god, it becomes a false gospel which proposes “Christ-less solutions to sin-based problems.” She further writes, “Overeating, irritability, and cravings are sin problems to which Jesus alone is the solution.”  She suggests three ways to approach food to the glory of God: 1) eat in faith, 2) eat to share the gospel and 3) eat to enjoy God.

I also enjoyed Karen Swallow Prior’s insightful chapter on “The value of literature.”  Karen has long been a proponent of reading broadly and even reading just for pleasure. She says that we Christians often read books on theology but fail to explore other genres. She writes, “But the theologian Kevin Vanhoozer says that imagination, trained and developed by reading literature, is a ‘vital ingredient’ in the believer’s sanctification.” Just like an athlete training for a marathon must train in many ways to maximize performance, we as Christian readers need to read books in various categories to enhance vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking skills. Each of these can in turn enhance our understanding of God’s Word and other books on theology. I think she makes an excellent case on the value of reading widely and it is something that I need to consider seriously too.

I was also challenged by Jen Wilkin’s chapter on beauty (even though it’s a chapter written specifically for women). She discusses the lies that our culture speaks about how we should perceive our bodies: lies about “ownership”, “purpose” and “alterations”. She counters each of these lies with the truth of Scripture. The Bible says that our bodies belong to God (not us); they are created to do good works which serve God and they are purposefully designed by a perfect God. As such, we don’t have to believe the lies of culture. Instead, we need to speak up against these lies. There will be a day when we will have perfect bodies, but in the meantime, we can cultivate self-forgetfulness, by fixing our eyes on Jesus whose beauty will never fade.

There are many other challenging chapters in the book, especially the ones on race and social media. There is much to learn from the insights of these ‘beautifully distinct’ women. I was left encouraged and challenged. I agree with Trillia Newbell’s introductory note, “Every chapter is insightful, Biblical and practical.”  I would recommend this book, not just to women, but also to all men.  5/5 stars.

*I received a complimentary review copy from the Good Book Company, but was not required to write a positive review.*

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