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Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Review: "Chaos and Grace"

TITLE: Chaos and Grace: Discovering the Liberating Work of the Holy Spirit
AUTHOR: Mark Galli
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011, (203 pages).

When Mark Galli writes, he makes me ponder. Most importantly, he has the ability to rummage through my comfort zones and to rake up any leaves of comfort and complacency. This book is no different. In "Chaos and Grace," Galli points his guns at our human tendency to want to control our lives. When men tries to control their lives or the lives of other people, they will be tempted to even try to control God. The result is emotional chaos and spiritual pandemonium. Until one learns to submit to the Holy Spirit prompting us to relinquish control to God, we will learn to see grace and to live in freedom to God.

Galli argues rightly that Christianity is more than a religion, more than inspiration, more than programming, and more than a 'religion of comfort and encouragement' (17).  He writes:

"But this God seems addicted to risk rather than religion, to freedom rather than control, to love rather than law." (33)
Going through the Old Testament and New Testament, Galli breezes through the beginning of the Bible with an insightful look at the intentional way God injects chaos in his creative act of revealing his goodness. He points out the deteriorating level of human control addiction from Adam/Eve to Shinarian's Tower of Babel; from Abraham's trying to control his future and yet unable to control his offsprings. In the New Testament, Galli describes how sin is essentially a refusal to trust God. He says:

"Sin is fundamentally a desire for order where God does not want order and to control that which God does not want us to control." (75)
The second part of his book goes into specific applications with regards to how we can learn to relinquish control from ourselves, to release control to God. This is true freedom, where the Holy Spirit will be free to act, and human beings free to obey.  Galli provides at least eight ways to do just that.

  1. We need to move away from the 'horizontal' focus on the needs of people, to the 'vertical' focus of what Christ has done, is doing, and will be doing.
  2. We need to move from our self-centered versions of justice, reasoning, and controlling to the Holy Spirit's act of grace.
  3. We need to move from wilful optimism of our human wisdom to a sharp hope on the Resurrection of Jesus.
  4. We are not called to be 'Christian marketers' but we are to be 'witnesses for Christ.'
  5. We need to get away from enslaving ourselves with trying to manage our spiritual lives, to letting God manage us.
  6. We need to move away from a fear-driven control that tries to hide our human shame, TO an obedience that is laced with 'risk-filled' commands.
  7. We need to move away from the seductions of power to live simply on the simple promise of God.
  8. We need to snap out of worldly imagination of utopia to a godly embrace of church.
My Comments

Galli shines in his critique of the controlling disposition of many church people. With his keen understanding on contemporary church life, and deep awareness of the prevailing American context of comfort, security, and control, Galli tries hard to wake the Church up. He does a brilliant job to remind readers not to be too one-dimensional in their Christian living and thinking. Living a Christian life cannot be limited only to the human emotions of good feeling, great preaching, or professional programming. He is spot on about the nature of human addiction to control. Using powerful stories from the Bible, he argues convincingly that God often use 'chaos' to rough us up, in order to bring us back to God. In fact, while many believes that mercy, peace, and blessings continue to be seen as evidence of God's grace, Galli is wise to point us about the other dimension. Chaos can also be seen as a grace of God. This particular insight is certainly worth the price of the book. The Grace of God is present even when Chaos Reign or Grace Shines.

Ratings: 4 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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