There’s a lot of chatter out there about “grace.” Lots of people are talking about it and even more are debating over it and parsing it out. But Steve Brown’s adage holds firm and true that grace is not a doctrine to be expounded, but a hug to experienced. Grace is real and visceral and, oftentimes, vulgar. It’s dangerous and unnerving. Showing unilateral love to the undeserving isn’t always an easy or beautiful thing. But that’s exactly what God does.
In Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us, by Preston Sprinkle, you will be greeted with a fresh, genuine, and candid discussion on grace, or charis, as it is in the Hebrew. For as much talk as there is about grace and the gospel, there’s a seemingly gaping hole waiting to filled in the discussion of grace in the Old Testament. And, as Preston Sprinkle so wonderfully explains, grace is everywhere in Scripture, especially the Old Testament. It’s on every page and weaved throughout every story.
“The Old Testament is one thick, adventurous narrative of God’s reckless love toward unlovable people.”
Most often, when the terms “sermon” and “Old Testament” are brought up, many church-goers shrink at the notion because it means lots of history and names and other “stuff,” but not much practicality, not much “on-the-ground” truth. However, Preston breaks down all those preconceived (and misconceived) notions about what to expect when diving into books like Genesis, Judges, Ruth, and Joshua, and stirs the reader and student of the Word to realize in nearly eureka!-like fashion that grace can be seen in every part of Scripture, especially in the Old Testament. Indeed, as Preston says, “Grace is the spine that holds the whole thing together.”
Charis is a good and easy read. I couldn’t put this book down. And I know that sounds cliché when attempting to review a book you’ve just finished, but I found myself not wanting to close my e-reader and continue finding out all the varying avenues through which grace is displayed through the wrecks, and wretches, and mess-ups of Scripture. I applaud Preston’s honesty and candidness with grace, which he defines as “God’s stubborn delight in stubborn people.” He’s open and clear with whom God works and hunts down. And despite this frankness and straightforwardness, sincerity isn’t lost.
Make no mistake, though, there were definitely portions of Preston’s book that seemed somewhat abrasive and coarse — but I don’t think unnecessarily so. What makes Charis unique is the author’s insistence on de-deifying some of the Old Testament heroes that we so often loft and hold up as people worthy of emulation. Preston humanizes every character in Scripture, which makes you realize that these “heroes” were just like you and me: they were desperate sinners in dire need of divine grace. This brings an authentic and palpable perspective to many of the Old Testament Sunday School lessons you probably remember from the good ‘ole days. This book won’t be for everyone — Preston makes that clear from the get go. Some of the passages might be shocking and distasteful to some. However, I feel as though this realness enhances one’s understanding of Scripture, giving the reader a deeper, more vivid view of God’s scandalous grace.
Notes & References:
Preston Sprinkle, Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2014).