Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: START! The Bible for New Believers

Start!: The Bible for New Believers is a new "almost-study-Bible" from Thomas Nelson in the NKJV. Greg Laurie is the General Editor and seeing that no other name is attached to the Bible and Laurie holds the copyright, it seems safe to assume that he wrote all or most of the notes. The Bible is designed to give basic information to lay a spiritual and doctrinal foundation for new believers. The NKJV is not the first translation that comes to mind when thinking of new believers; however, it does give  a literal translation in modern (if at times complex) English.

The aesthetics of the Bible (this is the paperback version) are striking and iconic. The sleek modern design resonates on a level that suits the younger generations while not being outlandish or tacky. The dimensions of the paperback are a little under 8.5" x 5.5", which is a fairly nice carrying size and an in-between size for a Bible.

The Bible's features include introductions to each book with concise summaries and thematic introductions and three unique features: Grow, Know, Live and Learn Notes. The writing is always clear, concise and fluid. Simple, but gently confrontational prose coupled with an mentoring tone and style make the notes strikingly well crafted to their purpose. The notes work well as to inform and exhort the young believer into a deeper walk away from this world and further into Jesus Christ.

Laurie manages to dodge many hot-button or controversial topics such as election or spiritual gifts, and I
 feel the absence of guidance in these areas may be well conceived. This is not a theological help. It does not lay out all the sides of each viewpoint objectively and report on theological positions. Nor does it favor an individual view and press it on the reader. Instead it remains silent allowing the Bible student to read and find answers for himself, going to other, more equipped sources and hopefully to wise Christian council outside of books.

The notes included in this edition seem simple, but are hardly lightweight. Laurie introduces strong challenges to both the individual disciple and the church as a whole and does so with a grace that seems to flow through the project.

KNOW (Rev. 4:8)

God is holy. If anything comes out plainly in the Scriptures, it is this fact. And because God is holy, He hates sin. Have we lost sight of this? Have we traded reverence for relevance? A lot of churches want to grow numerically and will do whatever seems necessary to attract more people, so it becomes all about cultural connection and social relevance. Now, I am all for connecting with our culture and for being relevant. But do I have to stop being reverent? The early church had enormous reverence for God; they called it "fearing God" (Col 3:22; see also Acts 2:43; 13:26). This fear doesn't mean cowering because you are afraid He will smack you (though we often deserve it). In the Bible, fear means a wholesome dread of displeasing Him. The Lord is so good and so holy! Let's desire to live in such a way that we bring honor to His holy name. For more about the Attributes of God, see p. 1325.

Included in the edition are two articles which precede the text: a plan of salvation and "Secrets to Spiritual Success." The Plan of Salvation included is wisely put before Genesis, but is hardly the most compelling piece of prose in the work- and it should be. The following "Secrets of Spiritual Success" is much better, but the principles and practices described are hardly secrets. Another essay titled "Essentials" follows the text and is a brief doctrinal summation of the gospel, and may actually work better as an evangelistic tool than the initial plan of salvation. While no concordance is here a small topical index is available and this is not a designed to be a study Bible, but a reading Bible with minimal aids for encouragement and guidance. The Bible has numerous strengths and would be a suitable accessory for the new believer or the old who's looking for concise material to aid in bringing biblical doctrine to an audience of fresh believers or the unconverted.   

Thanks to Thomas Nelson who provided this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review. I have given an honest review.


  1. Glad you're back.

    Concerning the object of your excellent review: I find the idea an excellent one. Unfortunately, the choice of translation spoils the whole product.

  2. I took a brief hiatus for the holiday and to re-balance my life a little.

    I agree that the NKJV seems strange to pick here, until you realize that Thomas Nelson, the publisher, owns the copyright to this translation. It's cheaper and easier for them to publish these editions in the NKJV, so most study Bibles etc. from Thomas Nelson will be in the NKJV.

  3. I remember a time when a new believer was handed the KJV - so NKJV doesn't seem as unreasonable to me. At least the English is modern.

  4. Sherry,I'd argue with that.

    I feel that the NKJV is just but a derivative job. A badly executed one. Some words has been changed, but the grammar is still as opaque as the KJV's, but having lost the elegance and literary elegance of the original KJV.