The number three is a common element in the Christian faith: the Holy Trinity, the three crosses at Calvary and, of course, the three days of the Easter story. So perhaps it is appropriate that this Easter season, we take a look at three new Christian books—one a study in tradition, one a challenge to seek the truth and the last a search for love.

Verily, Verily: The KJV—400 Years of Influence and Beauty examines possibly the most traditional part of the American church—the venerable King James Bible. Written by Jon M. Sweeney, Verily, Verily begins with a fascinating history of the translation, revealing how it was motivated by politics as much as by faith, begun in large part to establish King James I’s authority over the English state and church. And far from the “infallible” status attached to it in 19th-century America, Sweeney shares how the KJV was revised and corrected several times during the first 200 years of its existence, partly due to typos but also due to errors in translation and changing word meanings. (Sweeney includes a helpful glossary of obscure words that have challenged understanding of the translation even from the early days.) Sweeney’s work is not a criticism, but rather a loving homage, acknowledging both the translation’s flaws (some unintentionally humorous) and its soaring beauty, as both poetry and inspiration. Written with an easy, readable style, Verily, Verily is an enjoyable journey through a glorious tradition.

Even tradition can be a trap, if one does not examine it. In his first book, Velvet Elvis, pastor Rob Bell challenged conventional evangelical approaches to Christianity, pointing out how traditional attitudes often get in the way of truly following Christ. He returns to that theme in Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, tackling assumptions and interpretations that are more a product of culture than of the words and actions of Jesus.

Bell combines probing, Socratic questions with an examination of what Scripture really says about Heaven, Hell, the soul, judgment, righteousness, mercy and love. Do our traditional views reflect the reality of what Jesus taught? Or was Christ saying and doing something far deeper than simply providing a free pass into an eternal country club?

Gently written, yet fundamentally provocative, Bell’s book seeks to break free from a cookie-cutter faith into a more intimate understanding of who Christ is and what He offers to the world. More than anything, Love Wins is a refreshing and liberating call to connect with a God who truly is love—love without limits.

The search for God’s love is also at the heart of Naomi Zacharias’ haunting memoir of discovery and faith, The Scent of Water: Discovering What Remains. Her deeply personal account moves back and forth from a time of personal loss, interwoven with stories from her ministry with at-risk women and children around the world. In language that is both beautiful and brutally honest, Zacharias exposes the harsh reality and almost unspeakable pain that runs through the dark corners of the world: prostitution, sex slavery, physical abuse, corrupt courts and cultural extremes that treat women as property and children as expendable. Yet even as she reveals these horrors, and struggles with her own inner revulsion, Zacharias shares moments of great hope, sprung from the compassion of a real and loving God—a compassion that she finds she needs as much as the victims she works to help.

Her words tear at the heart and illuminate the soul, and challenge Christians everywhere to look past the surface things that repel us, to see the souls underneath— souls loved by God as equally as our own, souls who need to be reminded not of their flaws but rather of their beauty. In a world where “ministry” most often seems to mean throwing words at others, Zacharias demonstrates the power of listening, loving and working without judgment or expectation—the true compassion of Christ.

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