Should I Use the New NIV Life Application Study Bible for Family Bible Reading?

My days of studying the Bible with piles of commentaries are a distant memory along with the seminary degree tucked away in the closet announcing my Master of Divinity. While I still read and pray with the Bible daily, often using the NRSV version at Bible Gateway for my book projects and personal studies and praying with the scripture readings in the Divine Hours compiled by Phyllis Tickle, I’m in a new season where my kids are growing up and they have lots and lots and lots of questions about God and the Bible.

Many of those questions revolve around whether God can bring dinosaurs back to life, but occasionally they either learn something in Sunday School or, in the case of our preschooler, come to me with some incomplete facts he has cobbled together from the Wednesday chapel service at his preschool. We have discussed the days of creation, how Jesus performed miracles, how Jesus died, and what it means that he rose from the dead.

Also… those resurrected dinosaurs.

The questions are not getting any easier, and so when Bible Gateway offered a chance to review the newly revised NIV Life Application Study Bible Third Edition,  I wanted to consider it from the perspective of a parent who is leading kids in a discussion of the Bible. Not every translation or study Bible is the same, with each offering their own advantages, drawbacks, and quirks.

The NIV is fine with me for study and reading, although I tend to lean toward the New Living Translation for reading longer passages with my kids. Nevertheless, they seem to be tracking with it just fine at this point.

I won’t compare this Life Application edition to other Bibles such as the NIV Study Bible. My main concern is whether this particular study Bible stands on its own as useful in adding to an understanding of the scripture, considering interpretive options, and addressing the kinds of foundational questions that are routine in the discipleship of children.

Here a few thoughts to consider:

Evaluating the Bible Itself

I received the imitation leather NIV, Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition, Leathersoft, Brown, Red Letter Edition to review.

The Bible opens up well and generally stays open on its own. It has a nice cover and gold edged pages that immediately caught my kids’ attention. It looks like a special book, which may not be a big deal in the long run, but they were interested in checking it out just based on the design.

The Days of Creation Bible Study Notes

I couldn’t resist starting with the first chapters of Genesis since I’ve been discussing the days of creation with my kids. I am especially concerned that they understand the different perspectives on translating the Hebrew word “yom” as either a day or a period of time. Would the notes address this? How many views would be addressed?

I know former Christians who left the faith over this very issue after growing up in a church that insisted on six 24-hour days. I still remember my seminary professor, a respected Hebrew scholar involved in both the NIV and NLT translations, pounding the podium over this. There is nothing in the text that demands a 24-hour day according to him.

Thankfully, the study notes in Genesis dig right into the two views and doesn’t demand one view over the other, a welcome win right off the bat.

I was also encouraged to see maps, character summaries, such as Cain and Noah, and significant notes explaining unfamiliar and meaning-laden phrases throughout the text. While there is still plenty of life application here, it also digs into the background, word translations, and related scripture verses.

Overall, if someone knew nothing about the Bible’s background, this study Bible has more than enough information to get by while still not getting lost in the weeds with theology or historical information. The theology behind some of the notes would be expected to be on the more conservative end of the spectrum, but most of the notes struck me as helpful rather than dogmatic or restricting.

Reading the Psalms with This Study Bible

The Psalms have been a significant source of spiritual direction and wisdom for me, providing a backbone of sorts for my prayers, supporting me when I have lacked the words I need. The notes throughout the Psalms are extremely practical, adding related scripture references and explaining the meaning of the verses.

While it lacks insight into the poetic form of the Psalms, the life application focus comes through, and certain concepts come through with greater clarity if you consider the notes. For instance, Psalm 14 offers an explanation of how the word “fool” is used in the Psalms, giving readers a better understanding of what the Psalm is about.

I also really liked the additional call out box under Psalm 14, addressing the themes of troubles and complaints that arise throughout the Psalms. Simply knowing that these are common themes can be helpful in both study and application.

The Final Judgment

It would be easy to pick a passage (or ten) where I may quibble with the notes or interpretive options provided, but for what this Bible is and what it offers, I think it gives readers a lot of value with the maps, cross references, application ideas, and background information. If I’m reading the Bible with my kids, this won’t answer their every question, but it will give us enough details to bring them up to speed on the major points of the story.

In addition, if you’re new to Bible study and application, it can help to have some notes guide you through ways to think about scripture. For the more experienced student of the Bible these application notes may come across as spoon feeding and perhaps restating the obvious. However, from the perspective of teaching my kids about the Bible, it can help to use those prompts to get them thinking about what the passage may mean to them. It’s not just a story we learn about, like American history. It’s revealing God’s presence among us.

The list price for this study Bible is a hefty $75, but if you check out the deals on Amazon.com, you’ll find that that price slashed by more than $20. So you can support your local bookstore or you can bargain hunt online, but regardless, someone who is relatively new to the Bible or who is studying with kids will find this a useful Bible to have on the shelf.

Preview the NIV Life Application Study Bible

Shop on Amazon for the NIV Life Application Study Bible

 

I was provided a free Bible to review courtesy of Bible Gateway.

 

This One Thing Hasn’t Changed Since I Published Coffeehouse Theology in 2008

Coffeehouse-angled

In preparation for the release of my first book in 2008, I decided that it was time to check out this new fangled internet site called “Facebook.” I didn’t really want to join, but the publishing magazines I’d been reading said, “Authors have to join Facebook and then everyone will buy all of the books and you’ll be an amazeballs bestseller overnight!!!”

So now I’m on Facebook for better or worse. I didn’t become an overnight amazeballs bestseller. In fact, very few authors became bestsellers thanks to Facebook. However, I at least managed to follow through on publishing that book, which remains my best-selling and most popular book with readers and reviewers.

I started the book with this simple question: How do Christians determine what they believe?

It wasn’t all that easy to answer.

After reading a good deal of scripture, philosophy, and theology, I wrote a readable little book called Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life that remains popular with college students and Sunday School classes.

Beginning with the relationship of cultural context and theology, Coffeehouse Theology roots the study of scripture in the church’s mission to advance God’s Kingdom. Far from dividing the church, theology unites the church in a dynamic dialogue about the presence of God, his revelation in scripture, and the wisdom of the historic and global churches.

We all want to read the Bible faithfully and responsibly, taking into account the ways its original context collides our contemporary context today and the traditions we’ve inherited. Coffeehouse Theology can help you do that—at least Scot McKnight said so in the Forward, so take it up with him if you disagree (and yes, I just named-dropped but it was terrifying to ask him to write the Forward as a new author, so there).

I was terrified that Coffeehouse Theology would immediately become a relic of its time and that readers who picked it up in, say, six or seven years would struggle to relate. I worried that I was writing a book that fit purely into the moment, a fad that I would never mention in the years to come.

I’ll admit, there’s a chapter or two that feel a little dated when I peek at them lately, but overall, I’m still really proud of this book. The central ideas still resonate with me:

  • If we aren’t aware of our context or the original context of the Bible, we will be at their mercy.
  • Theology should bring us together in order to learn and grow rather than to engage in battles over who is “right.” (This was the “coffeehouse” part of the book.)
  • Good theology should lead us to action and deeper spiritual formation.
  • We overlook the wisdom of the global and historic churches to our detriment.

 

Of course this book may not be your cup of tea. I admit, for as many readers who have enjoyed its accessibility, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a theology book that deals with lots of ideas. If you’re new to theology, it will be a stretch. If you’re a veteran of theology, it will leave you wanting more.

However, for many of us who want to be aware of how we shape our beliefs without reading a mountain of books with tiny fonts and enormous words, Coffeehouse Theology is a good first step that I’m still proud to have written. For all that has changed (and failed!) since I entered Christian publishing, it’s nice to know that my first book wasn’t a complete waste of time!

 

Best yet, Coffeehouse Theology is $2.99 on Kindle for the first time ever this week.

Download it on Amazon now!

 

Can you help spread the word?

Here’s a sample tweet for the Twitters:

Download Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life by @edcyzewski for $2.99 http://ow.ly/GTlZb

 

And while we’re at it…

My second-most-popular book A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth, is on sale this week as well for $.99 on Kindle.

Download A Christian Survival Guide here.

 

Do you have another theology book that has been meaningful or accessible for you? If I had to list a favorite contemporary theology book, I think it would be Renewing the Center by Stanley Grenz.