Buzzard, Justin. The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense Out of Life. (Moody, 2013), 177 pp.
In The Big Story, author Justin Buzzard gives his readers an overview of redemptive history following the outline of God, Creation, Rebellion, Rescue, and Home. But TBS is more than just an introduction to the storyline of Scripture. It is a defense of the Christian story as the best story, the biggest story, the story that explains and includes all others. The story that you and I, whether we realize it or not, are already a part of. TBS is a call to live our lives in light of this grand narrative, all for the glory of its Author. As Buzzard says, "God is not a character in your story. You are a character in his story" (p. 43). "We each have a big role," he says, a "part to play in shaping this Big Story."
The unique thing about TBS is the way it manages to combine several different (though related) genres. It manages simultaneously to be a short introduction to the Christian faith (like John Stott's Basic Christianity or Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris), an entry-level overview of biblical theology (similar to What Does God Want of Us Anyway? by Mark Dever or The God Who Is There by D. A. Carson), a popular-level apologetic for the christian faith (think Mere Christianity), as well as an entry into the ever-growing category of "gospel-centered" literature (The Explicit Gospel, Gospel, What Is the Gospel?, etc.). While it doesn't manage to take a place near the top of any of these various genres, TBS distinguishes itself by accomplishing more in one volume than any single one of these many better books could on its own.
Now, about the aforementioned apologetic aspect of TBS, an aspect that hasn't gotten much attention. Buzzard's overall aim in the book is very reminiscent of Francis Schaeffer's apologetic strategy. Though Schaeffer is never explicitly referenced, his (most likely indirect) influence is evident throughout. Like Schaeffer, Buzzard offers a worldview-level critique of unbelieving thought by contrasting the inability of unbelieving worldviews to account for the nature of reality (pp. 64-65, 70) with the superior explanatory power of the biblical meta-narrative (p. 70). This Schaefferian approach is one of the book's greatest strengths.
Another refreshing thing about TBS is how gloriously clear it makes the gospel. Unfortunately, the central message of the Christian faith is often assumed, downplayed, or even denied (whether implicitly or explicitly) in much nominally Christian literature. Not so here. After reading many supposedly Christian books, an unbeliever could be excused for believing that Christianity is merely a plan for moral reformation. But Buzzard understands the gospel. He understands the subtlety of idolatry (pp. 34, 116, 139), the necessity of conversion (p. 120), the public nature of the Christian life (p. 158), and the radical nature of saving faith (p. 159), and he makes sure that his readers do as well.
The only real criticism I have is that the tone is a bit too light and jocular. I could have done without the corny jokes and cute illustrations (e. g. pp. 47-48). To be fair though, this is really a matter of personal preference, and, though it wasn't quite to my taste, it might be more to another reader's liking.
Despite its minor shortcomings, I would not hesitate to hand a copy of TBS to a new Christian or an interested unbeliever. Recommended.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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