Michael Card, Luke, and Biblical Imagination

July 15, 2011

I grew up listening to Christian music. One of the most incredible songwriters I have ever heard was Michael Card. His albums that developed out of his reading of the Old Testament were some of the most incredible songs every written in my opinion.

He has turned that gift for song writing into a gift for writing. With IVPress, he is developing a series of books called The Biblical Imagination Series. Each book in the series will explore the bridge between the heart and mind, what Card calls the imagination. Imagination is “the means by which the Spirit begins to undo what was disintegrated by the Fall. When we allow our imaginations to be recaptured by the Holy Spirit, the facts we know in our heads come to life in our hearts.”

If we are to take our place alongside the disciples as people who understand the deep things of God that have been entrusted to his church, his children must learn what it means to read, to perceive, and to understand the Bible with their imagination.

Card takes his cue from his mentor at Western Kentucky University, William Lane. William Lane was professor of Religious Studies at Western Kentucky University for fifteen years, during the period of Card’s studies. Lane also taught at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Seattle Pacific University. He earned degrees from Gordon Divinity School, Westminster Theological Seminary and Harvard University.

Card notes that what Lane taught his students to do was to understand how he (Lane) read scripture. “We must learn to read the Bible at the level of the informed imagination,” Lane told Card.

Card’s desire through this series is to show others how he (Card) reads Scripture, what he has come to “understand about engaging with the Scriptures at the level of the informed imagination.” He does not attempt to present a system or an outline, but through the book he simply wishes to repeat what his mentor did.

The first book in the series, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, has just been released. Card calls Luke the “Gospel of Amazement.” From start to finish, the book of Luke is filled with amazement. Throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, those who met him were astonished by their encounter, from the shepherds at the nativity to the disciples at the empty tomb.

Michael Card introduces the reader to Luke the historian and imagines his life as a Gentile, a doctor and a slave. Card explores Luke’s compelling account of this dynamic rabbi who astounded his hearers with parables and paradoxes. He asks questions such as:

1. What might Luke have experienced as he interviewed eyewitnesses of Jesus?
2. What leads Luke to focus on the marginalized and the unlikely?
3. Why does Luke include certain details that the other Gospel writers omit?

The book offers an exploration of Luke chapter by chapter. Each chapter in the book is part commentary, part devotional, and part summary. The reader gets to see the gospel through the eyes of someone who is asking questions, pondering what might have been happening, and what all of it means to us today.

The book would be great as a devotional, that is how I used it. It would also be good as small group exploration of Luke. This would also be good for the preacher who is preaching from Luke, for Card gets the reader of out the dissecting mentality of our normal biblical exegesis and into a cultural and real-world experience. He makes the gospel come alive with application and meaning.

The book retails for $18, and is available online and at various retailers. In addition, Card has written an album with music based on the gospel of Luke called Luke: A World Turned Upside Down.

I would recommend you pick up a copy and explore the gospel of amazement.

Note: this book was provided for review by IVP.

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.