Opening Nancy Guthrie’s Even Better than Eden is like peering through a keyhole and catching a glimpse of a rich and profound reality. After just a few pages, it’s clear a glance won’t be enough. I was compelled to open the door and have a good, absorbing look around (I’m sure you’ll feel the same!). As we sit down, settle in, and make our way through the chapters, it becomes more and more apparent that while this is the story of the Bible, it is also our story.
Guthrie takes us to the heart of the big picture of the Bible, anchoring us in the midst of God’s mind-blowing and powerful narrative of the relationship between Himself and mankind. That’s the surprise, I think—that we belong in this story. And as we understand the deep riches and intricate coherence of the Bible as a whole, our perspective on God and what He is doing in and through our lives is blown wide open. There’s a whole lot more going on than we might realise if we don’t have a handle on this big picture.
Each chapter takes the reader on a journey through the Bible story, tracing a theme that is played out all the way from Eden through to a place that is ‘even better than Eden’—the New Creation. Themes such as wilderness, the bridegroom, offspring, and even clothing are expounded and explained through a clear, thorough biblical theology. Guthrie has a teaching gift that means she is wonderfully able to explain deep truths in accessible ways, and this book is one of her best. She explores the text with profound depth and insight, which enables her to apply the Word to our lives. Each chapter causes us to examine our hearts, while also helping us to look forward to the glorious future we have in Christ.
In my experience of ministry, a misunderstanding of what God is doing now and through to eternity is often the reason for discontentment and disappointment. Without putting God’s promises in the context of His eternal timeline, they can easily be mishandled and create wrong expectations in us. I love the way that Guthrie clearly, and in ordinary language, helps us to marvel at God—to love what He is doing now and on into eternity. And rather than feel like we are merely an afterthought, we see that our place in this narrative is secure. This can and should lead us to have joyful contentment and hope.
While there are numerous Bible overviews to be read or listened to, I enjoyed that each chapter took one theme rather than trying to tie them altogether.
I loved the way that the bridegroom theme, for example, was taken from the heights of hope in Eden to the depths of a sinful, adulterous people and then surged through to amazing, outrageous grace in Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4). Guthrie unpacks how this New Testament example offers a better ‘well encounter’ than the previous one between Jacob and Rachel. The Sabbath chapter challenged me in new ways, as I realised the place of ‘Sabbath rest’ throughout the Bible story. By the end of that chapter, I’d run out of objections to it having a place in my own life!
As a believer, having a good grasp of the Bible’s story gives me confidence to live in wholehearted obedience to our faithful, promise-keeping God, and it also equips me for talking with those who are not yet believers. As I understand how the world around me fits into God’s perspective and plan, I am more able to understand and challenge someone else’s worldview. Seeing the post-Eden despair of a broken world and fractured relationships is understood rightly when we know that real hope and fulfilment are found only in Christ.
As a church, we need to have a better understanding of the big story of the Bible, and this book is a valuable resource in helping that understanding to grow. I also love that it’s written by a woman. I hope many will pick it up, read it, and be made to think and develop in their biblical thinking. But I would urge men to grab this book as well—enjoy the depth and riches of the biblical story and allow Guthrie’s accessible, heartfelt, and applicable writing to examine your heart and challenge you to love your place in the wonderful, big Bible story.