Book Reviews -- By: Matthew S. DeMoss

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 172:688 (Oct 2015)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Matthew S. DeMoss

Book Reviews

By The Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary

Matthew S. DeMoss


Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? By Philip Yancey. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. 297 pp. $22.99.

In this book Yancey, editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine, seeks to answer the question “Why do Christians stir up hostile feelings [among those outside the church]—and what, if anything, should we do about it?” (p. 15). Vanishing Grace speaks about the need for Christians to be dispensers of grace in a world thirsting and searching for it. Yet those outside the church view Christians negatively. He cites a Barna survey that found that “only 16 percent of young ‘outsiders’ had a favorable impression of Christianity, and just 3 percent had a good impression of evangelicals” (ibid.).

The book is broken into four parts, or, as the author explains, “four short books, all related and bound inside the same cover” (p. 11). In part 1, “A World Athirst,” Yancey explains that nonbelievers have a view of Christians as bearers of bad news, not good news. Their perception is that Christians seem to have little grace for outsiders. He asserts that while all people long for meaning and Christians have the ultimate answer within the gospel, the way the gospel message sometimes comes across to non-Christians is arrogant and argumentative. He writes, “The core problem with Christians communicating faith is that we do not always do so in love. That is an indispensable starting point to presenting faith in a grace-full way” (p. 33).

In part 2, “Grace Dispensers,” Yancey uses three models of how Christians can better reach a culture that seems to be running from Christianity—pilgrims, activists, and artists. A pilgrim is a fellow traveler on the spiritual journey, not a professional guide (p. 95). An activist expresses faith by deeds (p. 89). An artist has the ability to speak most authentically to the human condition through a variety of creative avenues (ibid.). Yancey uses these three groups as examples of how Christians can live in a way that nonbelievers will be inclined to respect and hear the gospel. He quotes an unnamed friend as saying: “The uncommitted will listen to them far sooner than to an evangelist or apologist” (ibid).

In part 3, “Is It Really Good News?” Yancey encourages evangelicals to put the gospel message into practice. He cites examples of people who brought change into the world by living out the gospel message. Yancey argues that living the faith makes the story of the gospel concrete. He writes, “...

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