“For many of us, there is a disconnect between the Bible we know we should treasure and the book we struggle to read. On the one hand, we know the Bible is a lamp to our feet, honey on our lips, the sword of the Spirit, and given to equip us for every good work. But sometimes the Bible feels more like a bizarre collection of ancient texts filled with obscure laws, irrelevant genealogies and incomprehensible prophecies with a few nuggets of wisdom, timeless stories and comforting promises mixed in” (Route 66, 7)
Been there, done that? Most Christians today (at least, in my context) would likely say, ‘Yes.’ What is the reason for this? Part of it is surely spiritual—we aren’t as mature as we should be and the flesh fights against any desire to “take up and read” God’s word. But another part of is also an understanding of the Bible itself. Numerous studies have shown that biblical illiteracy seems to rise with every generation. That means we aren’t just struggling to read the Bible, we’re also forgetting how to read the Bible.
This is where Route 66 can help. The book’s subtitle explains how it will help: “A crash course in navigating life with the Bible.” The author, Krish Kandiah, wants to help Christians get the picture of the Bible. Like a road map, showing the major highways and byways of the biblical landscape, Route 66, gives readers an orientation to the Bible that does more than just instruct; it is designed to get them on the road. In fact, this is where many of the analogies and illustrations come from in the book—driving. Thus, Route 66 is not so much about the famous highway, but the sixty-six books that make up the Christian Scriptures. And more than just reading, the author wants to you to know how to read in such a way that your life is changed.
This overview comes by organizing the biblical books into eight sections, according to their literary genre: narrative, law, the psalms, wisdom writings, the prophets, the gospels, the epistles, and revelation. Each of these groups has five days worth of short devotionals that help explain how to read that kind of biblical literature. For example, the section on narrative explains the effect those stories are supposed to have on us, how we should move from the there and then to the here and now, that we should keep one eye on the text and other on Christ as we read, how to discover why God put to the story in the Bible, and why we should read narrative to build up a long-term appetite for the Bible.
There are many positive things I could say about this book. Though, Kandiah has set for himself a huge task in surveying the Bible, he succeeds pretty well. He seems to be hit all of the essential elements of interpretation and application, even offering a nuanced explanation of applying the Old Testament law (in three pages!). Not only is the content good, but the reading exercises designed for people to put into practice about what they’re reading have well-chosen passages and good study questions.
Even the way the book is written is good—Kandiah is an engaging, clear writer. However, this might be good or bad. What, for me, is probably one of the book’s greatest strengths could be a negative for others. I am a big Anglophile and the author is clearly a citizen of the realm. That means some of his illustrations and wit are thoroughly British. I found this to be no problem (more than that, I enjoyed it!), but some others may find it less accessible. That being said, context makes even the oddest new vocabulary word understandable.
Any outright negative might be the reading program the author advocates at the end: reading the whole Bible in eight weeks. Granted, he does all he can to make it seem attainable. Kandiah is clear that we should read the Bible in more than one way. There is a kind of ‘overview reading’ that should be done—just reading the Bible like any other book, getting the storyline and the lay of the land as to its theology. Beyond that, there is a more meditative, study-type reading that allows us to drill down deep. Obviously, he is expecting the first approach for the eight week schedule. He also wants people to look at the length of the Bible compared to other books—not much bigger than a hardcover bestseller. But even with the short, introductory helps it may be a big task for those who aren’t strong readers. If nothing else, there will be a mind-set that needs to be broken about whether or not it could be done.
To sum up, this book should undoubtedly have a wide audience. It is designed to be used by individuals or small groups, and could easily be integrated into an eight-week sermon series so an entire church could go through it together (get free resources to go with the book). I think Route 66 will be a help for those who want to do what they knew they should do: read and be changed by God’s Word.
*Note: I received this book for review from the publisher. However, this didn’t affect the content of the review.