In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado

Max Lucado is an excellent writer, using simple prose, masterful word pictures, and an uncanny ability to engage the emotions of his readers. Lucado claims this to be his most theological book to date. If more theologians wrote like this, more people would read theology. Unfortunately they would be little the wiser for it. That is not to say that the author does not handle some biblical truth in a useful way. He writes much that is worth reading, for instance, on his main subject of grace. But when a Church of Christ pastor (official doctrine of his church: baptismal regeneration and the believer can lose his salvation) writes as if he believes in eternal security and only vaguely mentions baptism (pp.114-115) the reader has to wonder what Lucado really believes on these important doctrinal issues. I think Lucado needs to sharpen his pencil a bit. If he believes the Church of Christ doctrines, why not defend them boldly? If he does not, why not renounce them just as boldly and leave that denomination? But that is not Max’s style. As chapter 16 tells us, truth is out, unity is in. In Christian love we are to ignore our differences in theology and accept one another — even if we have to mistranslate, misinterpret and misapply Scripture to do so (e.g. Mark 9:37 pp. 164-5; Isa 49:15,16 pp. 173-174; Rom. 8:31-39 pp. 171-180). And of course, along the way is the usual smattering of psychology (p.21, 137).

Bottom line: you really can’t help liking Max Lucado, who writes with infectious enthusiasm, and abundant humor. But when it comes to theology he seems in over his head. His gospel message is unclear (and hits its low point with the declaration that Jeffery Dahmer became a Christian simply because he said he did – see p. 36). The author is not careful with his exegesis of Scripture, using a bad translation as well as taking many passages out of context. He has a low view of theology and those who consider it important, and refuses to come clean on his own views – possibly because they would divide (the unpardonable sin of evangelicalism). Like many books of this genre, there is much here to encourage and perhaps draw some towards Christ. But the flaws mentioned above would keep me from recommending this volume to all but the most discerning reader. Too bad, for the targeted audience for In the Grip of Grace is the unbeliever and/or new Christian, who would be greatly enlightened by about two-thirds of this volume. Of course, it is the other third of the book that concerns me.