Friday, November 15, 2013

My thoughts on Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid

This is a book that is hard to read.  At least it was for me.  And, I am not saying “hard to read” in the manner of, “I just don't understand what she is saying!”  No, I understood perfectly throughout.  Mrs. Duguid is a brilliant writer.  She conveys her points beautifully and clearly and leaves no worldly obstacles to overcome in understanding what she is saying.  Her writing is fun and fluid and filled with humor, heaviness, and heart.    

But it is hard to read.  The content she covers is shocking.  She leads the reader through some territory that is uncharted for many readers, Christian or non.  She does so with a boldness and ease that can be quite disorienting to the reader.  Frankly, at times, the subject she covers and the manner in which she does so is downright offensive.  There were times I argued out loud with this book.  And I am so happy, and eternally blessed, that the objections I offered arose from my flesh and not the Spirit who is in me.  

“Perhaps our greatest problem (as Christians) is not the reality of our sin, but our unbiblical expectations of what Christian growth should look like.” 
 
This “perhaps” finds itself to be shown to be a resounding “most definitely” throughout Extravagant Grace.  Why did God choose to sanctify believers progressively?  If His only goal in sanctification is for us to sin less, why doesn't He remove all temptations, struggles, sinful desires, etc...to ensure our sinless Christian life?  If I am His and He is sovereign and His sole desire is for me to stop sinning, then why do I still sin at all?  
Duguid answers these questions with a theology of sanctification that is wholly biblical and  historically orthodox yet, for some odd reason, is relatively an alien and offensive concept to so many believers today.

Duguid seamlessly weaves the theology of John Newton on sanctification with Scripture and her experience to produce a work that, for so many of us, is shocking and new.  Salvation is by grace alone, apart from works.  Anyone who holds to the ultimate sufficiency and authority of Scripture has to affirm this truth.  God's work of salvation is an act of His goodness, His kindness, His merit.  He earned it and He gives it.  But how does that apply our life as Christians?  Is grace the door into salvation and then works and obedience and our merit the means unto greater holiness?  Is salvation all of grace or only part of grace?  

Never have I seen a work that dealt with this issue so explicitly, powerfully, and practically.  Duguid's life examples as, first, a sinner and, also, a counselor are helpful in a myriad of ways.  To see the implications of the fact that salvation, from beginning to end, is a work of God for which He alone is to be praised displayed so clearly and practically was immensely encouraging, challenging, hope-filled and awe-inspiring.  This book led me to the throne of grace, to worship my Savior in a mighty way throwing myself on the truth that I rely on Him completely for every good gift, including my faith and my sanctification.

Duguid's purpose in this book seems to be quite simple.  She sets out to take a big, pointy, sharpened, Spirit-saturated, Gospel-exalting grace stick and then proceeds to spend 200+ pages poking and stabbing the reader in every self-righteous, self-condemning, grace-hating recess of his/her sinful flesh.  Reading Duguid's work was one of the most painful/joyful, shocking/comforting reads I have ever endured/enjoyed.  
This book is a hard read, not because of big words but because of a big God.  It is a hard read, not because of overwhelming expectations of the reader but because of overwhelming expectations of the Savior. This book is a hard read, not because of what it tells the reader to do but because of what it reminds the reader that the Savior has done. This book is a hard read and it is, oh, so good!

"It is a radical and almost frightening thought to see that God is actually as much at work in our worst moments of sin and defeat as he is in our best moments of shining obedience."


 I received this book for review purposes from the publisher through Netgalley.com