Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review of Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self, and Society, by Jay Bakker

Try as I might, I could not find an appropriate place to segue two outstanding quotes into this review. So, I'll open by simply listing them:
“We are punished by our sins, not for them”. pg. 1

“…what’s more important than believing in life after death is believing is life before death”. pg. 157

One of the most refreshing and striking points I’ve noticed with Jay Bakker’s book, “Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self, and Society” is that he doesn’t avoid or shy away from the fact that there are issues, conflicts, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the bible, while maintaining the fact that the bible is still extremely important and valuable. Not only is this something I personally wholeheartedly agree with, it is also an honest and respectful position.

We are told this is a book about Grace; Revolutionary Grace!
But sort of on a side note, I am left wondering how revolutionary Jay Bakker’s grace really is.
In the introduction, he defines Grace as follows:
“Grace is so poorly understood that it’s worth defining right up front. Grace literally means ‘unmerited favor’. It is the idea that we receive salvation as a gift from God through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Not as something we’ve earned”. pg. xi
Fair enough! I’ve no problem with this definition. I know many Christians who would happily cite this, or very similar definitions of Grace, yet only upon the acceptance of Christ. (And isn’t that in itself a criteria? Wouldn’t this become a required check mark?)

A little ways on he speaks of Robert Wright’s book, “The Evolution of God” mentioning that “…there’s a clear evolution in our descriptions of God – a trajectory that points inexorably from judgment and punishment in the distant past through time towards forgiveness and all-encompassing love… That’s right: Our understanding of God (though not God Himself) changes over time.” pg. 72 (another book that I’ve read and enjoyed), suggesting – I should think – that understandings must be subject to growth and change. Can the above definition of grace be capable of evolving and growth?

Although nowhere does Jay Bakker say that this definition of Grace is solely dependent upon acceptance of Christ, or even suggest it, it is a question of curiosity that remains and concerns me. (I would very much like to directly ask Jay Bakker this question should the opportunity present itself. And if you’re reading this review Jay, please feel free to contact or email me!)

I wonder this because one minor theme that seems to follow throughout this book is why believers and non-believers alike, stay away (or are driven away) from church. Although the question is not directly asked, it is glazed over and assumed that church needs and/or deserves to be saved through some sort of revolutionary revival. As I understand unconditional Grace, should we truly grasp and live it out, there would cease to be a need or dependency on church (… and church is not necessity for community, btw).


I’ve read, re-read, and then re-read again the jacket and sleeve of this book, looking for some sort of hint or indication as to this book’s real topic matter and I have found disappointingly nothing of the sort. The book is toted and sold as exploring the topic of Grace; Revolutionary Grace!; but ultimately it is about acceptance of homosexuality.

Now, please, my gentle reader, don’t misunderstand me. I have no problem with homosexuals. Like Jay Bakker, I do not consider it a sin. Nor do I believe they should be discriminated against or ostracized from their churches or religion of their choice, or in society in general. I do not have issues with people championing this cause nor do I have issues with reading books that champion their cause. However, I do like to be free to make this choice, which this book did not have to grace of permit me.

I cannot help but wonder if Jay Bakker just didn’t quite purge the Evangelical habit of bait-and-switch out of his methodology. His topic matter is clearly gay Christian rights but I’ve yet to hear this stated in any sort of synopsis, summary, or even made mention of the book’s jacket cover. Although I personally embrace and share his concept and interpretation of how open and free Grace is, I don’t believe this is really the direction the book is moving in, and I can’t help but feel duped; lied to even, which left a very bad taste in my mouth.

And finally, like all my book reviews, I like asking the question, who is this book’s target audience?

Well, for the Conservative mainstream Christian, I’m sure they will dismiss this book out-of-hand.

For the more liberal Christians I’m sure they’d find the reading interesting, but not without trepidation and hesitancy.

It will most definitely appeal to the more extreme liberal Christians – the ‘fringe-dwellers’ – but unfortunately, I’m not convinced this group has the power or authority to instigate the necessary changes.

To the non-Christian yet spiritually-minded, I am convinced they’d find a healthy amount of common ground, but there’s a reason why non-Christian-spiritually-minded- people are non-Christian… and I fear Jay Bakker is still – consciously or not – attempting to draw in converts and disciples (admittedly of a very different nature). He is still ultimately proselyting, and whether intentional or not, this will only serve to further divide the church.

Is Jay Bakker right about the absolute unconditional nature of Grace? Yes.

Is this a message that can change the world, break down racial, political, and religious barriers, and even heal and offer salus to this world? Yes, most definitely!

However, it is with a heavy heart that I regretfully say, I feel this is a book without an audience. I hope I am wrong. (God knows, it wouldn’t be the first time).

Is Jay Bakker’s “Fall to Grace” worth the read? I would recommend that it is

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