20/10/2013

What's so Amazing about Grace? (by Philip Yancey)

I've been reading books by Philip Yancey for over a decade, now. I find him one of the most powerful modern American Christian writers, who uses anecdotes and his experiences as a journalist to present the message of Jesus and to encourage and inspire Christians all around the world.

His best-known book is probably 'What's so Amazing about Grace?' which I first read in 2005, and liked very much indeed.  When I have read other books on the topic of grace, I have always mentally compared them (usually negatively) with this classic by Yancey.  And, in the absence of any new books by this author, I thought that it was more than time for a re-read, eight years later.

I've been reading two or three chapters per day for the past couple of weeks, and have enjoyed it very much. The message is one that bears repeating: God offers us grace. There is nothing, as Yancey puts it, which we can do that will make God love us more, and nothing we can do that will make him love us less.  God regards us with far more love and compassion than even the best of parents regard their children.  And so we should be offering grace freely to those around us.

Unfortunately what Philip Yancey has perceived in his travels, and particularly in the ultra-fundamentalist racist church where he grew up, is what he calls 'un-grace'.  He sees it continue at the time of writing; not that racism was accepted any more, but there were undoubtedly people who were prejudiced against the poor, the ragged, the divorced, the gay... the list goes on, and is little different today, or so it seems from the US Christian media.  Grace is not something that Christians are renowned for.

Perhaps there was a bit too much about ungrace, rather too many anecdotes from around the world for my tastes. They were interesting, to be sure, and I had not remembered most of them - but by the time I was about three-quarters of the way through the book I did start to wonder if there would be anything else about grace. I had totally got the point that much of the church around the world shows ungrace and that something needs to change. But I didn't find much that showed a positive way forward.

However that's really my only real problem with the book, and there was nothing in particular that struck me as unnecessary. I'm not up in politics so I did skim a few examples of ungrace but they would no doubt be of great interest to those who understand or follow this topic.

The writing is great, the style extremely readable, and the message very clear.

All in all, I would recommend this book highly.  It has remained continually in print on both sides of the Atlantic, and can be found now in Kindle form as well as paperback. For those wanting to read it in home groups or with friends, there are also study guides available.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 20th October 2013

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