Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life

Neal, G.S. (2015). Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life. 2nd Edition. Bloomington, IN: Westbow Press.

Adult / NonFiction / Religion / Philosophy

I gave this book 5 out of 5 Stars

And now for something completely different but perfect food for thought not just for the Lenten season, but year round.

In Grace Upon Grace, the Reverend Dr. Gregory Neal begins by explaining the difference between various faith communities about how God's grace is received. Neal explains that those faith communities which follow sacramental theology believe that grace is received via instruments of grace and those which follow ordinance theology believe grace is received not by any means other than directly from God.  Neal primary discusses the sacramental theology belief, viewing God as always being the primary actor on a Christian's life; however, he often presents and illustrates his points by contrast to the ordinance theology, so readers get a broad understanding of the theologies.  As the book progresses, through a series of questions at the end of each chapter, readers are encouraged to reflect upon not only how they receive grace, but to define how grace looks within one's own life.  Though he is clear to show that he believes the sacramental theology, he doesn't condemn believers of any faith community and reminds us that "God's grace is bigger than our differences." Neal takes readers on a reflective journey that is expertly written and well-researched with footnotes and an extensive bibliography for consideration.

Almost immediately after starting Grace Upon Grace, I realized that I hadn't ever fully explored the definition of grace. As a Christian, I accept and am thankful to God for His grace, but until Dr. Neal posed the question to readers of how they receive grace -- and I was stumped to answer -- I hadn't thought through the particulars. Dr. Neal, in keeping with sacramental theology, teaches that grace cannot be earned or made or produced by humans.  Further, he states that "what grace does for us and within us depends entirely upon where we are in our faith development."  Neal uses analogies and metaphors that illustrate his points, making it easier for the lay person to understand the concepts -- and there are concepts that had my mind spinning.  Thankfully, theological terms are defined and the summary questions at the end of each chapter really help readers focus and reinforce meanings. I would recommend this book to anyone who ponders the wonder of God's grace and who can be open minded enough to see different perspectives of how grace is realized.

This book was reviewed for Readers' Favorite, which provided me an eBook copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 

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