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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"PROOF" (Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones)

TITLE: PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace
AUTHOR: Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014, (224 pages).

We live in a world where performance and results matter. Work hard and we get rewarded. Work not and we get nothing. The formula is: "We are What We Work For." Christians try to buck this attitude by taking the side of Amazing Grace. The general declaration is there but the understanding differs by miles. Some Christians see God as a "divine butler" who gives us what we summon Him for. Others see God as a "cosmic therapist" that we can invoke whenever we have a need. Grace for these two perspectives is some kind of a self-driven initiative. Go to God when we have a request or a need. It all depends on what we ask for, kind of what we "work" for. This is not grace because Grace is not initiated by man but by God alone. We don't need to be constantly seeking God's approval. He has already pre-approved us. That is grace. The purpose of this book is to help us wake up to this pre-approved initiative from God. We don't deserve it. Neither can we earn it. We can only receive it and respond to it.

Authors Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones have teamed up to provide five "proofs" of what grace is all about. Using PROOF as the acronym for this idea, we learn that grace is:
  1. Planned Grace
  2. Resurrecting Grace
  3. Outrageous Grace
  4. Overcoming Grace
  5. Forever Grace.
In "Planned Grace," readers are introduced to the truth that grace is completely dependent on God, independent of our works. We need to wake up to this fact that grace is wildly and completely free. It cannot be earned. Neither can it be something we deserve. It can only be freely accepted. The authors have personally seen the truths of such grace in the lives of people they encounter. The starting point is God. The initiative is God's. The whole plan is also God's. Secondly, "Resurrecting Grace" contrasts with the zombie-like lifestyles among many people, who simply go through the motions in life without much aim or direction. Grace is about turning ourselves from spiritually dead to spiritually alive. Thirdly, "Outrageous Grace" is for all persons, not just for the good guys. The fact that God died for all people regardless of their amount of evil or good done is itself an outrageous act. It is scandalous to let an innocent man die for the sake of people who most deserved to die. It is solely and purely God's prerogative. Fourthly, "Overcoming Grace" is about the freedom of people to change from sinfulness toward holiness. Theologians have traditionally called it "irresistible grace" which can be easily misunderstood as people not having the freedom to resist. The authors instead use "overcoming grace" to express the power over sin that comes as a result of our willingness and irresistibly long for God. This overcoming is also evident through many instances of moving away from "deadly contagion" to "new creation" people. The goal of it is union with Christ. The authors provide three "clear examples" of such beautiful grace; the life of Aurelius Augustine; William Wilberforce; and Sojourn Community Church. Finally, "Forever Grace" is about God eternally sustaining us in His grace. Sometimes, it can be seen as "Perseverance of the Saints."

Written in a clear and readable fashion, this book can be initially mistaken as a modern rendition of Calvinism, popularly referred to as the TULIP, denoting the five points of Calvinism.

  • Total Depravity
  • Universal Sovereignty
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints  

That is also partially correct. The authors want to help move people away from erecting Calvinism as their religion but more toward the gospel of grace. PROOF is the authors' suggestion for a new look at the gospel from the eyes of grace. At the same time, they affirmed the traditional calls for sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, and sola Christo. One does not need to be either a Calvinist, an Arminian, or any combination of them. What is needed is a fresh look at what the Scriptures have to say about the gospel and grace. Granted that many of the creeds and Church traditions all arise from Scripture, each generation will need to understand grace from within their contexts. This is not to say that the Scriptures change. It is simply because we change. The battles are different for different generations. The people have different focuses. One thing remain. Grace is a much needed word that needed greater exposition and clarity. Otherwise, we do ourselves a disfavour by working for our own salvation or struggle unnecessarily to earn something when that something is already a gift.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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