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Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Review: Philip Yancey's Vanishing Grace

Vanishing Grace is an ambitious book. Yancey admits before beginning to read, this book was intended to be four books, but he decided to mesh them in one. With so many ideas the book can get lost. What type of grace is he speaking about? And to who? Is it grace toward non-Christians? Grace toward evangelicals? A strong beginning and a strong ending keep the book together despite a difficult to read middle part of the book.

Summary: Why does the world, particularly America in this case, have a negative response to Christians? This is one of many questions that Yancey proposes. From there flows a variety of thoughts and beliefs on what has caused the riff and dramatic changes in perception the public has about people who identify with the faith. Yancey showcases what view points and approaches have contributed to this view, and he also wants to provide examples of evangelicals to make us think differently about people who identify with Christianity. Particularly, if they classify themselves as evangelicals.

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Grace can be hard concept to process. For an idea so acted out by Christ, humans struggle with the idea. With Christians feeling like there isn't much grace to them as well, it's caused a lot of building tensions stirring a feeling of "us against them" mentality. I can't say that Yancey's book doesn't continue to reassure Christians with that mindset of having that mindset though. He tackles many types of feelings and scenarios that by the end of the this book I was confused of what I thought about it.

Is this book for evangelicals? For some of the book he takes how politics have destroyed much the idea of what evangelicals are doing, and that there are a lot who classify with that ideology who are doing good. I agree with this. The book turns into something different from sharing grace with the world to sharing it toward evangelicals.

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The book then slips back again into why people might perceive evangelicals as negative, which makes more sense with the original direction of the book. In the act of trying to justify that evangelicals are doing a lot of good, it seems like other people of other beliefs are being thrown off on. Yancey clarifies in a footnote this isn't what he intends, he acknowledges that atheists can contribute to showing grace, but it's so jumbled and uses so many quotes from so many sources it's hard to know why then he keeps using things that undermine other belief systems contributing to bettering the world, or lives around them. I mentioned this to my husband, and he said you probably don't hear about as many atheists, or even other beliefs working in a soup kitchen because they don't advertise like a Christian would. Not that it's bad a Christian would, it makes sense as we are working for Christ, but why would you clarify your beliefs in a soup kitchen otherwise?

I think Yancey is very honest in how he thinks and feels about his faith, but he uses so many quotes and examples in this book that it's difficult to know what the point is he is ultimately trying to make. While I highly admire and find it commendable those are who are working to help those in atrocities and heinous crimes in other countries and this one, like trafficking, persecution, hunger, and homelessness, I wouldn't want anyone to feel what they are doing is less worthy in their environment  at the workplace and at home by paying their employees well, providing equal pay and advancement, listening to their children, being attentive to their spouses, or even just holding a door for a stranger in public. Sometimes the smallest thing is where grace is shown and change begins. Treating people gracefully humane is just that in many scenarios. I acknowledge I can do more though, and I want to.

This book is a very deep read and not a light one. You won't be zooming through it to get to the end. There are moments where Yancey shows his brilliance in this book, and if you're a fan of Yancey then you will enjoy. He is very outside aware and self aware, and I think this leads to many thoughts that will read as if you're in his head. This will sometimes lead his own passions and personal lifestyle choices to spill out a bit heavier than needed for this book. The insight of the book is appreciated and thoughtful, but a bit difficult to divulge.

This book was provided by Book Look Bloggers in exchange for a review.

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