Thursday, June 08, 2006

Marcus Honeysett 'Finding Joy' (IVP)

Having just read this book, here are just three observations, one positive and two negative, in lieu of a review...

Finding Joy: A Radical Rediscovery of Grace
Part 1 addresses the issue 'If someone has no Christian joy, are they living in grace?'
Part 2 the related issue 'If we have received grace, but show little joy, is this because we fail to prioritize our lives by the biblical concerns that bring joy?' (pp. 76, 135).

Positive: We need to be challenged to live by grace
MH has discerned an important issue: the Bible speaks of great joy in the Christian life, and often we neither experience it, nor observe others doing so. He is writing to push us on this, and rightly so. We too naturally live by works and forget the gospel of grace. This, then, is a vital subject entirely deserving a 150-page IVP-readable treatment.

There are other positives. MH notes our individualism, and the corresponding lack of communal efforts towards growth. This is another right critique of many modern Evangelical churches and Christians... MH rightly sets the bar high in many ways - and we need to hear them.

But with the discernment of such an important issue, and together with many great insights, there are two major problems with the book

Negative: Lutheran on the Law
First, MH incorporates a huge amount of the Lutheran view of Law & Gospel into this work - in a way that is totally unnecessary. You needn't be a convinced Lutheran on the Law to live by grace under the New Covenant - and if MH thinks you do then he has not understood the Reformed position very well! This theme is so strong in the book that I'm not even sure I can recommend it on to people - which is a shame given that a book could have been written challenging us on living by grace without incorporating such a divisive (and surely not 'primary' issue - and I'm deliberately ignoring all the nuancing [not sure if that is a real word or not] I need to put here, purely for the sake of brevity) subject so strongly. Why not have written this book so the whole Evangelical church could enjoy and be challenged by it? It seems illogical both theologically (you needn't be Lutheran on Law to live by grace) and pastorally (why alienate a load of possible readers who need to hear your main message?) to include this theme so strongly.

Negative: poorly nuanced on works/grace nexus
Secondly, MH is so keen to push towards the 'grace' end that he fails to nuance important issues, such as the role of works in the Christian life. He is right to say that we are not saved by them, but does so in such a way as to imply their unimportance. While we are not saved by our works, they are one of the ways that we know we are Christians. I know that teaching can die the death of a thousand qualifications - and particularly teaching such as this, where we are many of us so far from hearing
and doing it. But since MH cannot be unaware of the issues, why not work very hard to be clear and fully accurate without losing the rhetorical force?

These two issues really are a shame, since this is a book addressing an issue that I need to work at and be challenged on. A book without these two flaws would have been much more helpful to me personally, and would have been a book I could have passed on to others with great joy. As it is, they seem pretty big flaws!


Blogger thebluefish said...

Your first negative strikes me as an advantage... the 2nd... we'll you can't write about everything in one book. Better to go grace heavy and provoke the reader to think about their 'works' i'd think... reading it drove me back into Galatians and Philippians which helps work out the issues.

7:38 pm, February 25, 2008  

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