Without a doubt, Yancey is one of the most talented writers in Christian circles today. He is interesting, readable, thought provoking, and often chooses topics of real interest. This volume is typical Yancey.
In the early chapters I thought I might be on to a good read that I could recommend to others. Yancey told some marvelous stories, pointed clearly to ways in which we Christians often live in “ungrace,” encouraged us to think through the issue of grace and make proper adjustments — much of this was good.
But Yancey has a fundamental flaw that runs throughout all of his writings — he doesn’t always draw his thoughts and principles from Scripture. His sources are more likely to be great saints from the past (occasionally from the present), his own reasoning, and experience. He surely quotes C.S. Lewis as often as the Apostle Paul or Jesus. And while Lewis and others may offer helpful insights, their words are not authoritative. This serious flaw of not basing his concepts squarely upon the Scriptures eventually leads Yancey astray. Yancey does not know the difference between:
- Tolerance and arrogance, between grace and license (a study of I Cor 5 would be helpful to him).
- Between boldness and harshness. By Yancey’s definitions John the Baptist and Elijah would be men of “ungrace”, but God did not seem to think so.
- Ministering to sinners and condoning sinful lifestyles. Certainly Jesus loved and spent time with prostitutes, but he did so to call them to repentance, not to accept their way of living. Yancey’s method of dealing with a homosexual, who is also a church leader, may seem like grace to him, it may seem like what Jesus might do, but it is clearly out of sync with the teachings and examples of Scripture.
On the other hand I agree with many of Yancey’s concepts. Along with some of his ideas about grace I also believe he is on target concerning the political focus of the church. “I wonder about the enormous energy being devoted these days to restoring morality to the United States. Are we concentrating more on the kingdom of this world than on the kingdom that is not of this world? The public image of the evangelical church today is practically defined by an emphasis on two issues that Jesus did not even mention” (p236).
Yancey’s book is worth reading, but only by those who have learned to filter all concepts through the grid of Scripture.