Crossway, 2014, 158 pp., $19.99
Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield and C.S. Lewis is John Piper’s sixth volume in The Swans Are Not Silent Series. The reference is to Augustine’s successor who, in AD 426, declared “The swan is silent,” overwhelmed by his sense of inadequacy and fear that Augustine’s voice would be lost in time. However, in the ensuing 1,600 years, those who’ve sought to savor that which is beautiful have hardly been silent.
Here, Piper celebrates and encourages poetic effort—not that everyone is expected to write poetry (though some might and others do)—but that every Christ follower is to exert poetic effort in their individual callings. His premise is that when one works to say beautifully, it is a way of seeing beauty and ultimately worshiping the God of beauty and truth.
Composed of three sections, Piper opens with a synopsis of the life and poetry of Pastor George Herbert, who died in 1633 just short of his 40th birthday. His work is known to us today because a friend has his journal of poetry published posthumously.
Many revere George Whitefield for his dramatic and effective preaching, but Piper gracefully touches on the fact that he quite humanly had his shortcomings, also true of Lewis, whose imaginative writing is cherished by children of all ages. I was surprised the section on Lewis was so short—volumes have been written about him—although the fact that so much has been written about Lewis that the need here was to remind readers that Lewis’ work always pointed to the beauty of Christ.
For any preacher who’s seeking inspiration from those who’ve kept the quality of beauty central to their work, or who is in need of a reminder that those who’ve contributed classic works to the testimony of God’s glory and rejoiced at His salvation, this volume is not to be missed.