For the most part, pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA writes books on leadership and practical theology (e.g., exposing the evils of greed, hate, lust, envy…). If you’ve heard him preach there is no question he is a gifted communicator. He speaks often about the grace of God and finally, at the challenge of a publisher, has written a book called The Grace of God. The following is a review of his book for the booksneeze program.
The book is divided into two halves, the first of which is devoted to the story of grace in the Old Testament. Chapter by chapter, Andy takes an Old Testament figure or encounter and unwinds the threads of grace that are woven throughout. From Adam and Eve to Jonah, the reader discovers that “grace is more story than doctrine” (xiii). Such a statement can land a pastor in hot water, especially with the strong push for Gospel-centeredness today. But Andy doesn’t waver in his approach. He travels the span of the story of Israel and show that God’s grace is, in fact, the story of God’s people. The Old Testament portion is filled with rich one-liners, for which Andy is famous, that seer into one’s mind and cause a moment of pause to ponder their implications. For those who criticize Andy because he doesn’t spend enough time in the Scriptures, this book reveals how gifted an expositor Andy is, and not just an expositor, but a teacher who draws a straight line from head to heart to hands. In other words, one won’t wonder how to apply what Andy is communicating.
The second half of the book, after a brief selah in the middle, is devoted to the New Testament story of grace–which is really the continuation of the story of grace from the Old. The focus is on Jesus, his life, encounters, teachings and stories (parables). “The story of Jesus,” writes Andy, “is the story of God drawing near to those who had been pulled away by sin and were subsequently pushed away by the self-righteous” (134). What the reader will understand more clearly than ever before is that grace is “extravagantly unfair” (187). The very point of grace is that it is unfair. Mathematically it makes no sense. Andy concludes the book with a section that challenges local churches, though I do wish he had clarified between the church as an institution and the church as the people of God. The point remains, however, that “the church is most appealing when grace is most apparent” (193).
As an individual, as the Body of Christ, whether a pastor or a painter, this book cannot help but bring its reader into a posture of humility and gratitude for the extravagantly unfair gift that is the grace of God.
Sounds like a pretty good book. One thing I have noticed a lot lately when authors and speakers talk about grace is that it is introduced as some “thing” God does. I’m not sure if Stanley takes this road or not but I believe if we want to speak of grace in a way that builds other up we must define it as scripture does. Jesus Christ is grace personified, Old T and New T. All of God’s work toward bringing His creation back into line with His purpose is done by grace which is always in Christ.
When we speak of grace as if it is just some idea or doctrine that is intangible we share a gospel that is seperate from the person of Christ who is the gospel. Maybe I’m splitting hairs and being cynical for no good reason. But then again, maybe the centrality of Christ in all of our teaching is really waning and someone needs to shout about it from the rooftops.