Thursday, November 11, 2010

"The Grace of God" Andy Stanley -- Enjoyable, but I would add some caveats for the seeker of God

It's Book Sneeze Time Again! This time I'm reviewing 'The Grace of God" by Andy Stanley.

It's hard not to write a compelling book on grace, because the grace of God is such an infinitely beautiful, life-changing, and gratitude-inspiring subject in itself. Andy Stanley's look at grace is both well-written and engaging. He shows us God's grace through recounting the lives of many of the men and women in the Bible. All were changed forever when God extended grace to them. He chose Bible characters with various backgrounds, and their backgrounds correspond to the different backgrounds and types of emotional baggage that men and women of today might experience. Thus, we readers find ourselves relating to one or more characters and, thus, can grasp that God extends grace to us today -- no matter who we have been and what we have done.

Retelling Bible stories as if you were telling a story to a friend, rather than quoting them from scriptures, is in vogue in the preaching world right now, and Andy employs this method in recounting the lives of the Biblical men and women. One advantage is that this allows those of us who have read and heard these stories over and over again to read the stories with a fresh perspective. It also allows Stanley to make some speculations about what the characters might have been thinking or feeling. Plus, it gives him room to add historical background that enhances or fleshes out our understanding of the events. I do think that adds some impact to "The Grace of God". I enjoyed the author's re-tellings and learned some things about Biblical history, which I plan to research further.

However, I think the reader should be aware that Stanley is telling the stories from his point of view and is interjecting some of his own suppositions. These suppositions make some good food for thought, but can't be taken in the same light as scripture. A reader would do well to read the same stories he cites straight from the Bible and draw his or her own conclusions. Even someone who has heard these stories from childhood would do well to follow along in scripture, just as the Bereans turned to the scriptures to check to see if what Paul said was true. If the reader accepts that Stanley is retelling the stories in his own words and is making some well-educated guesses about the motivations of the persons in the stories, he or she will find much to ponder. I suggest reading the book once through first, just to be moved by the stories of God's grace and, then, going back to study for accuracy.

Also, there is a point at which Stanley includes a prayer for people who have not yet connected with God's grace in order to become Christians. Since there isn't an example of a conversion by such a prayer in the Bible or of a conversion that wasn't nurtured by a teacher of the gospel and/or by the church, this section falls sadly short of helping someone with so momentous a thing as salvation. It also leaves out the message of how God's grace so lovingly and so beautifully reaches down to us in the waters of baptism, which is something about which I'd have like to have seen Stanley include a few paragraphs.

If read with discrimination, Stanley's book makes a great addition to a library of books about grace.

I was given a copy of this book by the Book Sneeze program. My views are my own.


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