I picked up Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God by Tim Challies and Josh Byers because I was intrigued by a bit of its marketing material, which may be found on the back of the book: “Visual Theology presents the concepts and the principles of systematic theology in a fresh, beautiful, and transformative way. Using graphic displays and text that go hand in hand, this unique resource helps you connect the truth of the Bible to life application.” I anticipate a book full of helpful infographics that I might be able to use in teaching theology at different depths. What I received was a great disappointment.
There are twenty-seven “infographics” (we’ll use that term loosely here), five of which should be considered parts of a whole (about the drama of Scripture), three that are simply word-pictures that don’t really provide any info (imagine a phrase with color), many (most) that are not very clear and are likely more unhelpful due to the way in which they are composed, and only three that I would estimate to be helpful in some way. They all follow the same style and theme: use of specific colors, sequential circles and gradients, dashed lines and dot anchors, most of which serve no real function (e.g., lines go to nowhere or have unclear connections, words are in bubbles but with no obvious reason why they would be so organized, etc.). Most of these (and a few more) may be found at visualtheology.church, but a Google image search (“visual theology” or anything similar) will bring up even more useful infographics and demonstrate that there is nothing unique about this book.
The bulk of the book is text, which reads like easy-to-read Baptist tracts strewn together. I imagine anyone who went to enough Sunday school classes in such a church would have been able to write this book. The theology is akin to that of the often quoted Grudem (he wrote the Foreword), Piper, and Sproul, strewn with contradictions. This is not to say that theirs is nothing helpful, but to demonstrate the root of this surface level theology (the authors explicitly state that they intentionally go into no depth). There should be no need to discuss further the theology of the book (that would be a book of its own) given that it has already failed to live up to its stated purpose.
There really is nothing new (or unique) about this book, and the infographics are significantly wanting. I have no doubt the authors love Jesus, but this project simply does not live up to the hype. I imagine there will be better infographics to come once the authors develop their medium, perhaps later included at the site mentioned. I pray blessings on them in that regard.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”