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Useless Beauty

Ecclesiastes through the Lens of Contemporary Film

by Robert K. Johnston

Imprint: Wipf and Stock

208 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 x 0.42 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781610978293
  • Published: December 2011

$25.00 / £19.00 / AU$34.00


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"A wise old adage of faith states, 'Read the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other.' The slogan is an invitation to notice the complex engagement of faith and culture. In Useless Beauty, Johnston takes up the interface of faith and culture with specificity and immediacy. His discussion permits an instructive dialogue, whereby we read Ecclesiastes differently, and we read contemporary film with fresh eyes of faith. Neither the text nor the films can be easily dismissed as 'absurd.' Both are thickened, and we are driven deeper in our self-discernment by the process. Johnston's alertness and urbaneness constitute a model for faith that is not simplistic and a model for culture that is not thin or transparent." --Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary "Johnston reads Ecclesiastes with a rich, postmodern hermeneutic--not the more common simplistic, linear, moralistic, or formulaic approach that threatens to drown Bible readers in the shallows. His reading has great value for people seeking new ways to find meaning in Scripture. Personally, it helped me weave my life experience with my viewing of film and my reading of the Bible, and it left me feeling alive and energized." --Brian McLaren, pastor ( and author ( "Johnston weaves the wisdom of Ecclesiastes into contemporary narrative films and vice versa, merging theology and film into a smart and insightful dialogue to enhance understanding of both." --William D. Romanowski, Calvin College; author of Eyes Wide Open "Some of the most helpful contemporary interpretation of Scripture comes from those who look at the text with eyes other than those of the biblical scholar. Johnston's interpretation of Ecclesiastes through the lens of film is an excellent example. The text comes to life in the interaction he creates with the narratives of major contemporary movies. They in turn are better understood by the careful theological interpretation Johnston gives them through the lens of Ecclesiastes. The possibilities for preaching and teaching are obvious." --Patrick O. Miller, Princeton Theological Seminary "This book is a well-informed and sensitive example of how, in our uncertain and contradictory times, to engage film and Scripture without denying the integrity of either. It is highly recommended." --Rikk E. Watts, Regent College

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