God's grace is at the heart of the relationship God offers us. He offers this grace on His terms – that we surrender all Christ-less exercises, rituals, etc., that attempt to persuade us that in some way our efforts make us spiritually sufficient apart from Him. “Sadly, within Christ-less religion, which predominates in Christendom today, grace is only a word.” We must rid ourselves of the performance based way of relating to God, Greg writes.
Greg is strong on grace. I get that and I appreciate that. I have been taught all my life that my relationship to God, through Christ, is all by grace.
Greg is strong in opposing anyone teaching that God will love them more if they behave a certain way. I get that too.
But I am uncomfortable with some of what is presented in this book. He talks so much about Christ-less religion, as if that is what most of Christianity is today. I just don't think that is true.
I am a bit uncomfortable with his conclusions from some of Jesus' parables. He seems to think he has insight into the true meaning of some of the parables – something Christians have missed for two thousand years. That kind of thinking is usually a red flag with me.
For example, he goes to the “parable of the talents.” He interprets the “talents,” or “bags of gold” as a newer translation has it, as grace. “The third servant buried grace like a dead corpse. It's an insult to God's vibrant grace to hide it, bury it, hoard it!” The other two were commended by Jesus because they were willing to spend the grace He had so freely given them.
And with the “widow's mite,” Mark 12:38-44, Greg says, “Jesus was denouncing institutions that bankrupt and further impoverish those whom they ostensibly serve.” Watching the widow was a field trip Jesus provided His disciples. “Jesus gives the widow as an example of a religious victim – and in so doing he is providing clear, unambiguous teaching that no human being should ever feel obligated to give everything they have to a church or ministry.”
Sometimes Greg is just unclear as to what he believes. He calls John 3:16 one of the most misunderstood and most abused scriptures in the Bible. God will, “in his own time and his own way, express his love and make his love known to the whole world.” At times he almost sounds like a universalist, writing of God's “all inclusive love.”.
Towards the end he writes, “We are invited to receive God's grace and accept, without stipulation or reservation what Jesus has done for us.” Just “what Jesus has done for us” is unclear. He rejects penal substitution, the concept that “Jesus took our place, receiving the penalty we would otherwise receive from the father.” He calls it “One of the most sinister teachings of all...” He writes that accepting this teaching “casts doubts on the degree of God's love and grace.” But nowhere does Greg then tell us what Jesus did do on the cross.
Perhaps what disturbs me the most is what Greg left out of his book. There is nothing from Paul's writings, like running the race, or resisting the devil, or anything about the many admonitions Paul has for living the Christian life.
I feel too uncomfortable about the book to recommend it.
Greg Albrecht is president of Plain Truth Ministries, editor-in-chief of Plain Truth magazine and teacher at Christianity Without the Religion (www.ptm.org).
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher (or a representative of the publisher) for the purpose of this review.