Book Review: Fall to Grace

A Brief Review of Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society. Jay Bakker.
Hardback: FaithWords, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon – Hardback ] [Amazon- Kindle ]
 

Reviewed by Bryan Berghoef for the Englewood Review of Books

Fall to Grace by Jay Bakker is a book about the most basic of Christian doctrines:  grace.  But don’t let that fool you.  Jay allows the idea that God accepts us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done, to push us to places some of us have been unwilling to go.  Using his own story, as well as the writings of the Apostle Paul, Bakker takes us on a new and ancient journey through the implications of grace.  Grace is not yesterday’s news.  It matters today.  Deeply.

His is not the typical story of faith.  Here was a kid supposedly steeped in this doctrine of grace from birth, with famous parents of a flourishing Christian television ministry (Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker).  Yet somehow the message never got through.  After his parents were unceremoniously humiliated over one failing after the other, he was ready to walk away from God.

Walk away he did – and who could blame him?

Yet when drugs and alcohol stopped giving relief, through the help of friends, he gave God another chance.  And when he reread the gospels and heard them, not through a schmaltzy, over-hyped made-for-TV message, but through the prism of his own pain and tears – it finally rang true.

Exploring the nature of grace

In this book, Bakker explores the true nature of grace – what did it mean when Paul was writing about it so passionately to the Galatians?  What might it mean today?  He weaves a very readable tale, taking us into Paul’s ancient world and into our own, allowing the implications of grace to unfold.  Why was Paul so vehement about grace?  How could he seemingly turn on those who followed his own Jewish tradition?  Had Paul quickly vacated his ancient faith for a new one?  Or was he now seeing the heart of his tradition in a new way in the life and work of Jesus?   Paul saw how rules, even the wonderful Torah that God had given his people as a gift, could be used as a wedge to drive people from God.

Bakker notes that the church today is not all that different, and that such attitudes drive people away from the church and away from God.  “I began to recognize how these old rules get updated to frighten and intimidate each generation anew, how they continue to drive many of us to feel we’ve failed completely and turn away from the church and even God,” he writes. The irony is that the loudest champions of grace often reserve it only for those who already, in some way shape or form, measure up.  Paul was adamant – no one measures up, hence our need for grace.

With humility and, ahem, grace, Bakker challenges us to look again at this ancient doctrine.  Taking his cue from the apostle, he isn’t willing to flinch in the face of typical limitations of grace, including the hot-button issue of homosexuality.  He spends two well-written chapters on the topic, analyzing the issue biblically, contextually and culturally.  Reflections on grace caused Bakker to consider how the church by and large had acted gracelessly, even hatefully, toward the gay community.  “If grace was real then there was no excuse for acting that way toward any of God’s children,” he writes.  Even if you disagree, his thoughts have to be taken into account.

Is grace really so great? Jay Bakker would say yes.

———
Bryan Berghoef is a pastor, writer and pub theologian, whose writings can be followed at pubtheologian.wordpress.com.

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 8th, 2011 at 5:13 pm and is filed under*Brief Reviews*VOLUME 4. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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