In a couple hours from now, I will make one last brave attempt at the perfect stocking-stuffers and holiday gifts. I am lucky enough to spend this Christmas with family and loved ones and look forward to the holiday dinner, singing Christmas carols and too much egg nog (in honor of Mary though, I will drink Virgin egg nog). I love watching the wonder and joy in kid’s faces as they awake Christmas morning and rush to open presents. But, ’tis the season to remember God’s coming near in the person of Jesus Christ. The greatest Christmas of all was when God gave himself to us.
In God is a Gift: Learning to Live as Grace, author and pastor Doug Reed explores the story of God’s gift. He looks at the purpose of humanity’s creation (to be in relationship with God), the break in our relationship (sin, humanities choosing to live independently from God), the way Jesus opened up a new way of relating to God through his death and resurrection and the ways we still sometimes fail to live by grace. These reflections follow the arc of the biblical story and are theologically rich. Along the way, Reed also shares the story of his early life in ministry (early successes and a ‘wilderness time’ )and the story of his church, Thorncrown Chapel (follow the link, it’s beautiful).
While I generally enjoyed this book and loved the trajectory and focus on God’s grace, I found I disagreed with some of Reed’s details. For example, I appreciate his description of Eden as perfect but incomplete, because God wants more for us (or he wants us to experience more of him). I also like the focus on Christ and what his death accomplished. However this book fails to articulate a full orbed Trintarian theology. For example, God did not create humanity to be with them, as though there was something lacking in God. He created us for his good pleasure but was not relationally needy (God exists as Trinity and is a relationally whole being). Likewise, Reed’s articulation of the atonement seems to be a version of penal substitution which makes Jesus the good-guy-God which comes to restore all things whereas his Dad, while good, is a bit of a hard ass. Jesus death was the Triune God’s work. I have no doubt that Reed believes this, I just wished he said it clearer
Likewise, he draws a strong distinction between Old Testament and New, making the Covenant’s of a different order (OT=Law, NT= Grace). While there is some truth to this and Christ’s contribution is unique as the one true Son of God, I have too much appreciation of the Old Testament (not to mention too much New Perspectives in my brain) to not think he over emphasizes the distinction. The God of the Old Testament is gracious and compassionate. The God of the New Testament also requires obedience (just ask Annanias and Saphira).
So while I liked the emphasis on grace in this book, I found I had to demur at too many points to give this book a solid recommendation. Not that it necessarily bad, I think Reed is a thoughtful and gifted pastor with some great things to say. I just wanted more from this book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.