Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 155:618 (Apr 98) p. 376
By the Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary
Lin M. Williams, Editor
What’s So Amazing about Grace? By Philip Yancey. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997. 292 pp. $19.99.
By many estimates, Yancey is the premiere evangelical author of the 1990s and What’s So Amazing about Grace? may be his most personal and arguably his best work yet. Behind a profusion of stories, illustrations, and quotations he weaves his personal pilgrimage to the center of the Christian message, the meaning of grace. As he focuses first on human experience and then leads his readers deeper into a theology of God and of life, this is a book designed for Christians but with appeal for nonbelievers as well.
Yancey’s work opens and closes with a despairing prostitute’s response to an invitation to visit church: “Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse” (p. 11). The book is essentially a reflection on why the kinds of people drawn to Jesus in the Gospels often sense today a strong aversion to God’s people. Do Christians reflect the same grace as the Savior’s in a world characterized by cruelty and unforgiveness? Yancey submits that too often Christians, to use Mark Twain’s phrase, are “good in the worst sense of the word” (p. 31).
In the first part, “How Sweet the Sound,” Yancey vividly portrays what grace embedded in human life looks like. Noting that the original meaning of the term reflects joy and gladness, he concludes, “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more [and] nothing we can do to make God love us less” (p. 70). Against the tendency to do something to be accepted, he argues that “grace is not about finishing last or first; it is about not counting” (p. 61)
The second section, “Breaking the Cycle of Ungrace,” contrasts a world of only vengeance with the healing hope that the “unnatural act” of forgiveness brings. Yancey is not naive regarding the difficulties of grace. “Forgiveness offers a way out. It does not settle all the questions of blame and fairness—often it pointedly evades those questions—but does allow the relationship to start over, to begin anew” (p. 98). Then in chapter 9, “Getting Even,” he considers the societal and national implications of forgiveness, arguing that in spite of complexities nations that pursue forgiveness at least avoid the horrifying consequences of the alternative, namely, unforgiveness.
Part three, “Scent of Scandal,” treats the uneasiness that every reader feels through the first chapters. Hearing a Jewish woman in hot debate with Muslim antagonists, who then acknowledges the n...
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