My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stanley's book is structured Biblically, that is, he starts with Genesis and works through Acts. Well, technically, he ends with his own church in Atlanta, but more on that in a bit. Most of the focus of the book is on the grace of God in the Old Testament (the first eight chapters deal with Old Testament events and characters, while the last five deal with the New Testament and the church since then). The main point of the book is that the grace of God is freely given, with absolutely no requirements being placed on us. Forgiveness is unconditional and is not tied to our obedience. Stanley notes that it is this characteristic which makes Christianity unique amongst world religions, and which is ultimately the heart of the Christian Gospel. As Stanley says, grace is the idea that "eternal life isn't a reward for good people, it's God's gift to forgiven people." (163).
-Stylistically, Stanley is a clear writer, with decent prose and a solid grasp of the Bible. His writing flows well and forms a quick read, without much slipping through the cracks.
-The book itself is formatted well, with lots of breaks and white space, and key sentences in bold print.
-Stanley does a good job working through some difficult texts, especially in the Old Testament. He is especially deft at encouraging reflection about the sheer goodness of grace.
-The book is short, but still full and thought-provoking (unlike some of Stanley's other works...).
-At times, Stanley gives too much of a gloss to difficult passages. While this can be a useful way to avoid problems, it can also lead to ignoring important Biblical truths.
-Stanley, despite his decent prose overall, at times can be thoughtless in how he phrases things, to the point of wandering on the edge of dangerous theology. The best example of this is how he ends the book, a line which I found especially disappointing, given the overall strength of the book doctrinally up until then:
In God's story, you are the focus of a celebration. Not what you've done. You.After 200 pages of emphasizing how it is not about us, Stanley ends on a stinker like that. We are most certainly not the point of the story, God is.
-Stanley spends more time than he should defending his own church as a pillar of grace in Atlanta (not in any way that can be accused of pride, he's fairly humble about it). Of course grace does apply to the modern world and to churches today, but it's a bit... off... to structure your book in the format: Chapter 1: Bible story; Chapter 2: Bible story; Chapter 3: Bible story;... Chapter 13: Bible story and my church. Not maybe technically wrong, but perhaps best left to others to do.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this book either to new Christians or to Christians who have recently begun to think about grace. However, I'd also recommend that this be merely a starting point, and that after reading this, you move on to books that delve a bit deeper into the doctrines of grace. Which I won't mention here, since this is a review for a publisher and I suspect that the good folks over at Thomas Nelson would not appreciate me plugging books from the competition.
Speaking of which,
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