Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey (Book Review)

Only Part of the Story of Grace

If you’ve already read ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace’, you will have already experienced a good taste of what this book is like. It is filled with stories about Phil’s life experiences with other people, and stories and observations about the Christian church today.

There are many interesting, shocking, and sad commentaries given on the state of Christianity. There is a lot of good food for thought.

What I like about this book is that it really digs into an on-the-ground investigation as to how Christians are failing at showing grace (as the book’s title would suggest). He looks at how to actually put skin on the idea of grace instead of just being a Christian buzzword that we can define and talk about all day but never really practise. That’s great for people like me who tend to love abstract ideas but get scared of getting off my butt and out of my comfort zone.

While it’s fine, and even good to write a book looking at the nitty-gritties of grace in the everyday, I wish Phil would stop and lay out a biblical explanation of what grace actually is and what it isn’t. There are a lot of books digging deep into what grace is, so it’s fine that this book tackles the topic from a different, and important angle. Perhaps I just didn’t read it carefully enough, but I’m left wondering if Yancey’s view of grace is that we show grace by never telling anyone they are wrong. It’s a tough issue because the way we often go about trying to ‘fix’ people with Jesus can cause a lot of harm. Jesus hung out with a lot of outcasts and offended people with his associations. However, he also had a lot of hard things to say to people, albeit usually to the religious. Thankfully God can use all of our feeble, imperfect attempts to point people to Jesus. There is no one way to share the Gospel. It takes patience. Love. Humility. Courage. A sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

To my understanding, what people need to hear is basically “God loves you, He’s holy and you’re not. You’re in trouble. The good news is that Jesus died for you. Trust him and you get his righteous record on your account.” What I feel is lacking in Yancey’s view of grace is the bad news that makes the good news so good. I’m sure there are reasons for the weight of his focus, as he’s seen a lot of abuses of angry and most ungracious Christians. I wonder if perhaps in response he is falling off of the other side of the horse.

Is grace about loving and accepting people for who they are? Yes. Is that all? No. It’s more.

All in all, it’s an interesting book, and I’d recommend reading at least one of his books about grace. There is much to be learned and appreciated in these books, but I’d be hesitant to use them as a go-to resource for how to show grace. I view this book more as a challenging observation/report on Christians and grace rather than a manual about how to do grace well. As with any book, let scripture be your final authority and weigh everything said through a biblical lens. If you do that with this book, I think you can come away from this book blessed.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book courtesy of Booklook Bloggers.

3/5 Paper Movement Stars

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey (Book Review)

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