Scandalous Grace: A Book for Tired Christians Seeking Rest. By Preston Sprinkle. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2021. 188 pp. Paper, $17.99.
The title of this book catches the attention of those who promote the grace of God. Sprinkle desires to show how great the grace of God is. He starts off by discussing Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered and cannibalized numerous young men. In prison, Dahmer said he had become a Christian, but many people felt that his sins were too great and that a person like him could never be saved. Sprinkle disagrees and says that God’s grace extends to any sin whatsoever (pp. 18-19). In fact, all of us need God’s grace.
This book is different from most that discuss the grace of the Lord because it focuses on Old Testament stories. Sprinkle says the OT is full of grace and cannot be understood apart from it (p. 23). He points out that the heroes in the OT were men and women who were sinners who rested on that grace. Abraham was a liar, Jacob a cheat, Moses a murderer, and Samson was a “vengeful porn star.” Esther broke more commandments than she kept and did not even mention the name of God (p. 24).
Sprinkle relates stories from his own personal experiences that show we are no different. He tells of young, conservative, religious Evangelicals who have confided in him that they are homosexual or addicted to pornography. Those we think are living holy lives are often involved in various sins (p. 117). Kids who come from Christian homes, were homeschooled, and involved in AWANA are often hurting, involved in sexual perversions, but put on a Christian face.
The author says that we need to start with the proposition that God wants to have a relationship with undeserving sinners. God delights in that prospect (p. 42). He called Abraham from Ur when he was a pagan idolater. The Jewish and Christian faiths started with such a man. Abraham’s life was filled with doubt and deceit (p. 49). When a person comes to faith in Christ today, he too must depend on the same grace. Christian living is based upon it as well (p. 53).
Judah, the man from whom Christ would descend, was also what we would call a vile sinner. He had sex with a prostitute, who was actually his daughter-in-law. From this union came an illegitimate son named Perez. He was used to bring in the Savior of the world.
The nation of Israel itself began with a people in need of God’s grace. At Sinai, they immediately became idolaters and committed spiritual adultery. But God still dwelt in their midst in the form of a tabernacle (p. 72). The family tree of Christ would also include a pagan prostitute named Rahab (p. 78).
Sprinkle points out that David, a man after God’s own heart, was also a notorious sinner. Some would treat him as many today view Dahmer and his conversion. David would not be welcomed in many churches because he too was a murderer. Christians today often shun repentant believers, such as addicts and people who have messy marital histories (p. 88).
But we are all like Gomer, a prostitute and the unfaithful wife of the prophet Hosea. The Lord looks at all of us and says that He does not care what we have done. He accepts us as we are. He loves us because of who He is and what Christ has done for us (pp. 103-104).
The author also speaks of the grace of God shown in the New Testament. Christ’s humiliation when He became a man shows that He came to redeem broken humanity. When the Lord picked His closest disciples, He picked “thugs” (p. 143). Peter denied the Lord; James and John had anger problems; Simon the Zealot was like the suicide bombers of today since he was a terrorist; and Matthew was a traitor to his people. Mary Magdalene, the first person to have the privilege of seeing the risen Lord, had previously been completely controlled by demonic forces.
Sprinkle rightly points out that the death of Christ paid for all the sins of the world. When the believer sins, Christ’s death extends to those sins as well. He believes that a believer cannot lose his salvation due to the grace of God (p. 165).
This is a book that the layman will enjoy reading. It is easy to follow, since the author uses many human-interest stories. It is also a book that reminds us that the OT is full of grace as well. It is unfortunate, however, that Sprinkle pulls back on the magnitude of God’s grace. He says that if a professed Christian does not show evidence of his conversion by his works, there is room to doubt whether he is a believer (p. 18). Good works are “inevitable.” He says that it is impossible that a genuine follower of Christ will not “render obedience to Christ” (pp. 178-80). Most disappointing of all, for this reviewer, is that Sprinkle rejects “free grace” teaching because it is “too weak.” It falls short of grace (p. 176).
Sprinkle does not give a clear gospel. He seems to imply that if a person recognizes he is a sinner in need of God’s grace in Christ, he will receive it. Certainly, he would reject the idea that we can have assurance of salvation, even though he believes the “true” believer has it. The value of this book is that it reminds us that the OT worthies were men and women with feet of clay. It tells us that those we consider the worst of sinners are able to be eternally saved. It shows, as well, that we are all in the same condition. Unfortunately, the author dims the beauty of that grace by pointing to good works in our lives to see if we have really experienced it or not. It is inevitable that we will question whether we are worthy recipients of that marvelous grace.