Author: Jerry Bridges
The reading and listening challenge for the C.S. Lewis Fellows Program for the month of June revolved around grace. Specifically, what is grace, where does it come from, how do we live by it, and how do we live in it daily. Most of the grace related reading was from Jerry Bridge’s book, Transforming Grace. Because we were reading so many chapters, and because I am such a bookworm, I just read the entire thing.
The concept of grace is simple. God gifts us that which we have not earned and which we inherently do not deserve. The way He does this is through salvation and then through living in us – through sending His Holy Spirit to indwell us and enable us to walk in the light of His love. Grace can and should be sought in earnest prayer, in continual Bible reading, in acknowledging and submitting to God’s holiness, and through the ministry of a Christian community. The trick, of course, is accepting that God doesn’t just do the big lift – saving us – and we pull our load the rest of the way. The trick is that God does the entire lift and continues to bestow us with just the right amount of grace that we need, day by day and hour by hour. While the living embodiment of this is nuanced and complicated, the idea itself is straight-forward.
The problem here is that Transforming Grace is more of a devotional than a focused theological text. It’s Biblically sound and it gets us in that worshipful mood, that jaw-dropping amazement at who God is and what He does. But Bridges rambles and he makes the simple unnecessarily complicated by over explaining it and going off on tangents. The theme gets scattered, convoluted, and sometimes a bit tiresome.
The study guide, at the very end of the Kindle edition, does a better job of separating out the central points and inspiring the reader to think about them more, to answer hard questions. I can see how this would be fantastic in a group session, taken out of the world of theory and one man’s overly specific examples to make us think and apply the concept.
And then there is the one aspect that really disquieted me: the way the author continually returns to and justifies his second marriage. It seems more like the workings of a guilty conscious begging for justification than anything helpful to the reader. And, if not that, then it is simply a red herring. The author’s first wife died. Within a year of her death, he married again to a female friend who became more after the first wife’s passing. It’s certainly questionable, and the author returns to this again and again. Showing how this was God’s grace in his life, something not only ok but sanctified. It’s hard to say, not having all the details in the situation and not being in a suitable place too judge . . . but this is certainly a disconcerting aside that takes us away from worshipping God and makes us wonder what the author’s motive is for repeatedly sharing this windfall of good luck. And, from a purely human prospective, as a woman, I do hope that if I died my husband would, you know, wait a few days before dating all those single family “friends.” Just saying….
Not to say that Transforming Grace is a bad book. Indeed, it inspires us to look deeply at something we take for granted, something that in its simple beauty encompasses every area of our life and afterlife, something that didn’t just happen once but continues to happen, day after day. This book functions as a great devotional, and despite Bridges’ rambling, it’s hard not to come away with an awe and love for God. I’m open to reading other books by Bridges to at least start building a devotional foundation and help me to think about the big tenants of Christianity. It’s not a perfect book, but it is a good starting place, and it does encourage positive fruits of the spirit.
– Frances Carden
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