We live in age that adores knowledge. We rightly celebrate intelligence and the transformative light it offers to the ignorant. But 'facts' or 'truth' have become controversial and elusive; 'news' we once trusted as objective fact has become polarising and dangerously deceptive amidst the spectre of 'fake news'.
Moreover, while knowledge is theoretically more available than ever, humanity seems increasingly less inclined to use it well. Mastery of science has led to life-saving innovation, and unprecedented destruction. The internet has transformed communication, but instant access to our neighbours seemingly hasn't generated heightened benevolence, rather increased suspicion, division and abuse.
We think it's knowledge we want, but what we really miss is wisdom. Praise God then for Timothy Keller, whose latest book The Way of Wisdom (£12.99, Hodder & Stoughton) offers, quite literally, proverbial light for our dark times. In the book Keller and his wife Kathy take the reader through a year of devotions on the Bible's Book of Proverbs, not unlike a previous treatment on the Psalms.
Keller devotees will appreciate the return of the style he's become known for: a culturally widely-read and sophisticated perspective, that doesn't patronise or bamboozle the reader. He is neither furious firebrand preacher nor feel-good motivational speaker; more the calm, kind professor who offers both refreshing insight and provocative challenge.
That said, this is somewhat Keller abridged, given its shorter, 'thought for the day'-style devotional scale. That also makes it an accessible and focused read; and those who want more depth in the same voice can seek out Keller's other, longer works.
A central theme of Proverbs is that 'you've never really thought enough about anything', Keller suggests. It offers not 'simple steps to a happy life' but a sharp challenge that is poetic in style (vivid and engaging), puzzling in its form (demanding attention and reflection) and pedagogical in its goal (shaping the people of God with wisdom).
Proverbs accepts that life is complex and that clear answers to our troubles do not always exist. There won't be writing in the sky about who we should marry, what job we should take or how to handle a conflict. In a fallen world especially, it requires immense wisdom to weigh up human choices according to specific situations. When wisdom flourishes however, it can bring hope and healing while foolishness offers only toil and destruction.
This devotional is not just a deposit of 'good advice' however, but is rooted in Proverbs' famous declaration that 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom'(Proverbs 9:10), and that human beings ultimately need God for true guidance and salvation.
The year devotional begins helpfully by asking 'What is wisdom?', before seeing how that wisdom takes shape, addressing diverse issues such as the human heart; health and suffering, friendship and conflict, marriage, sex and family life, money, power and justice to name just a few.
Proverbs can be an unusual and thus challenging book to just pick up and read. Keller's year-long template offers a thoughtful way of approach. In traditional devotional format, each day includes reflection on the relevant passage as well as a suggested prayer.
With the gift-giving season of Christmas approaching, and the world ever-yearning for insight in an age of foolishness, The Way of Wisdom is a timely, valuable and hopeful resource.
You can purchase The Way of Wisdom (£12.99, Hodder & Stoughton) here.
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