Monday, 15 June 2015

For my sins, I'm reading Vanishing Grace

Philip Yancey has been a somewhat liberal, evangelical and influential voice in Christendom, writing about 'difficult' things. He likes to quote bits and use examples from Brennan Manning and various similar others who have been through destructive personal experiences and suffer addictions, even while retaining a high profile as authors and thought leaders.

It makes me want to ask whether our sin and failure is part of God's plan for us.

There's a line of theology that suggests Adam's fall was intended by God all along, in order that He might send Jesus to redeem humanity. Could this cycle of sin & failure, grace and restoration be something God actually wants for us - as this book strongly hints at - or are we actually called to live righteously and walk without sinning before God, as the letters from Peter among other parts of the bible suggest fairly unambiguously?

And that then leads to the obvious question of whether, If God intends for us to fail and need forgiveness, that is actually sin at all, since it's following the will of God?


p.s. It's not a book I'd say that I'm enjoying - full of beating up the reader over the failings of the North American Evangelical church to be generous and show grace or compassion. It's being a useful read, but not something for pleasure.

It has made me re-see Bicester Community Church, and how we were planted out as a community of grace through a gentle and gracious leader, and how that graciousness has been encouraged and protected over the years. There's a root of the same grace in Oxfordshire Community Churches too, that has fed the grace and helped it grow. A generous nature I appreciate all the more now.


  1. Phil Yancey is "somewhat liberal"? That surprised me a bit. But I guess "liberal" and "conservative" are largely about perspective. :)

    I wonder which book you're reading? It surprises me that Yancey would hint at sin being part of God's plan. It's something I've heard before, but it would surprise me to hear it from him. Of course, I haven't read whatever book it is you're reading (I've only read "What's So Amazing About Grace?").

    It's a strange line of thought to me, this idea that God somehow willed all of this for the sake of the incarnation. Seems counterintuitive to the God we see described throughout scripture and presents a God who is instead almost toying with us.

    But then that idea isn't that far from the idea that God allows pain and failure and is able to use it for good (even if the pain and failure itself isn't good).

  2. I used the phrase 'somewhat liberal' meaning I'd see him as an orthodox Christian at the liberal end of orthodox theology, rather than as some who have a theology based in something quite outside biblical truth, that barely has any basis in Christian thinking at all.

    This book is the follow up to WSAAG, and was wrtten out of failing to see grace at work so often in evangelicals in North America. I'm half way through and there's genuinely good stuff in there that's making me consider my approach in areas where I differ with people. It's also helped explain why I've felt so battered by those who I would have expected to be natural supports, rather than to be those who actually wear me down more than the people with 'bad theology'.

    There was a hymn sung at the licensing of a friend a couple of years back, where the main thrust of the song was that we had to have the fall so Jesus could come - he considered it sound and conventional theology, though Eddie is Anglo-Catholic. ;)


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