This book supplied for review through BookSneeze®
This book drew my attention because grace lies at the heart of the gospel, and the gospel is something I’m passionate about. In this book, Andy Stanley walks us through the Bible—with a notable focus on the Old Testament—pointing out the grace of God at every turn.
This book is designed to introduce the post-Christian unchurched to the grace of God, with an especial focus on providing an apologetic against Atheism as well as against traditionalist Christianity. Grace is treated as a characteristic of God generally rather than in its more typical frame as central to God’s work at the cross.
First, Stanley’s handling of grace in the Old Testament passages is helpful. It is not the expected focus on the preparation for the Christ, but is rather an exposition of the character of the God who would choose to send a Christ. Starting at creation, he works through key events to show God’s gracious hand at work.
Second, Stanley refuses to water down grace. Grace is presented as it is; unnerving, vulnerable, scandalous.
Third, Stanley is a skilled communicator. His style is succinct and down-to-earth. His writing is simple; accessible.
Fourth, Stanley gives many courageous and helpful insights on God’s gracious work among humankind.
First, the theology is generally B-grade. The theological issues range from merely imprecise or careless to the deeply concerning. For instance, in his presentation of the gospel, he admits that Christ died for “sin,” but then never uses the term sin to describe people, opting instead to describe those who can be saved as either “good” or “not-so-good.” And in a book on grace, of all places.
Second, Stanley plays foolish games with nineteenth-century liberal, naturalistic critical approaches to Scripture. For instance, while he pointedly admits that God intended to supernaturally overthrow Jericho, he calls the theory that the reverberation from the shout caused the walls to fall “interesting” and concludes “we don’t know.” Or with the story of Jonah, he tells the reader who rejects the historicity of the account to “think of this as a myth with a message.” While Stanley may have the best of motives in this, this is a betrayal of the faith he is called to guard.
Third, Stanley’s handling of God’s word is problematic. The majority of the Scripture he addresses is narrative, and his approach is to tell the stories largely in his own words. The problem is that there are perhaps hundreds of conjectures mixed in with the biblical stories. This dilutes the Scriptural authority at best, and abuses it at worst.
Fourth, Stanley makes a tragic logical error in his final chapters that I feel cheapens the precious theme he is concluding. Stanley uses James’ exhortation to the Jerusalem Council, “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God,” to connect grace-filled ministry with the pragmatic, seeker-sensitive church movement. He argues extensively that church should not be for church people, but for the unchurched. While he is free to argue what I believe to be a mistaken view, to do so using the momentum of teaching on grace is, in my opinion, disingenuous.
While this book offers many helpful insights on the God of grace, and on his gospel, it seems to be mired in the trendy world of man-centred mega ministry where Jesus is Joe Cool and Scripture is used in spite of the theology throughout. For those with a solid grounding in the faith once delivered, this book can be a fresh look at grace from a new angle. But the unchurched or younger believer may find it counterproductive in the process of understanding the Christian doctrine of the gospel of grace.
Grace to you.