Facets of Faith: Michael Card encourages informed imagination _lowres

SInger, songwriter and author Michael Card speaks during a retreat on the Gospel of John, base on his Biblical Imagination series of books on the Gospels. The retreat was in August outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Michael Card, best known as the man who wrote the song “El Shaddai,” stayed busy through the years doing what he loves: teaching.

He does this through CDs, books, concerts and in-person retreats.

At a recent retreat he led in the Eureka Springs, Arkansas, area, Card used his latest work “John: the Gospel of Wisdom,” as the subject.

The book is the fourth in the Biblical Imagination Series and the last of the Gospels. It is published by InterVarsity Press and available from many booksellers.

The idea for the series takes root in a class he took at Western Kentucky University with his longtime mentor, professor Bill Lane.

It starts with the class considering chapter 7 of John.

In verse 37 of this long passage, we are told that it was the “last and greatest day” of a feast when Jesus yells to the crowd, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

Card led retreatants through the same process he went through as a student.

“What feast?”

He then directs us, just as his teacher did years ago, back to verse 2, which says it was the feast of Tabernacles, known as Succoth or Booths.

The next question, just as with his professor, is, “What happens on the last day of the feast of Tabernacles?”

Again, the students don’t know.

Card tells of the ritual that the priest performed on the final day of Tabernacles. The crowd would follow the priest to the pool of Siloam. The priest would draw a pitcher of water, and then lead the procession back to the Temple. The priest would then quote Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw from the wells of salvation.”

This was the moment before Jesus yells his offer of slaking thirst.

In both the preface of his book and in the retreat, Card tells this story to encourage people to first, learn the background of Scripture, and then to use it to experience the story when studying the Bible.

“We must engage the Scripture at the level of informed imagination,” Card quotes his friend.

In the latest book of the series, Card introduces the reader to John and gives some clues on how to listen to John’s words, such as paying attention to the details that only an eyewitness could have given: distances, time of day and who was there.

Card summarizes some major themes of the Gospel, pointing out that unlike the other Gospel writers, John pulled heavily from Old Testament themes from the Wisdom writings (such as Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) not just the Law and the Prophets.

Card then goes chapter by chapter, telling the reader information that helps him or her to put life to the stories.

While not simplistic, the books are very accessible and a great place to start BIble study. They would be an enjoyable help to individuals or groups.

The books and CDs are available through many sources, however, IVP offers it as an eight-piece set at ivpress.com/.