The NIV Life Journey Bible (2012) combines the popular NIV translation with thoughts, reflections, and notes from Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Interspersed throughout the Bible are hundreds of short, half-page insights, over 30 character profiles, and 20 longer essays focused on emotional health, spiritual insight, and Christian growth. These thoughtful insights are cataloged at the back of the Bible in addition to recommended places to look in the Bible regarding various issues such as addiction, bitterness, or pride.
The NIV Life Journey Bible is one amongst a growing niche market for Bibles. On the positive side, Cloud and Townsend are respected for their insights into our emotional and relational lives. Many Christians have benefited from their combined wisdom. The short essays in this book will also benefit their readers. I particularly liked the character profiles, in part because we are all living in the midst of a story. Understanding how the stories of other people played out I believe helps us to grow in wisdom.
There were drawbacks too. First, I admit a struggle when pictures of the note-writers are featured on the dust jacket of a Bible. By its nature, the Bible differs from other books. It remains a book by God and about God. It is not a book by Cloud or Townsend, even if they did write some useful notes. In a related fashion, one of the dangers of niche Bibles like this, or even more carefully constructed study Bibles, is for people to equate the notes with Scripture. Cloud and Townsend would no doubt agree that their notes do not carry the same weight as scripture, but I wonder if for some people, keeping those things separate is difficult. As an example, I am always curious how people present the biblical character of Noah. The authors note, "While Noah is the character in the story who earned God's approval..." (page 9). I wonder how many struggling people will read this and wonder what they need to do to "earn God's approval." Isn't that the opposite of the gospel? We are made righteous by God, the only righteous one.
Overall, this is a good Bible, when the appropriate cautions are kept in mind. Cloud and Townsend are wise teachers and we should seek to learn from them.
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