Who is God? Whether they admit or not, whether they understand it or not, many think of God as a Divine Butler or a Cosmic Therapist—someone who is there is serve us and comfort us. This is the popular notion of God outside the Church. Sadly, it’s even the notion of some inside the Church. But Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones want to show you how the real God of the Bible is so much better than any god of our imaginative misunderstanding. In their new book, PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace, they want to show that the real God is a God of power, glory, and grace. It’s this last word that becomes the emphasis of the book. Montgomery and Jones want their book to “be an alarm clock that awakens you from the delusion that life depends on you and frees you to discover the intoxicating joy of God’s wild and free grace” (16). The title PROOF serve as an important acronym as well as a metaphor.
Anyone familiar with theology will be able to see where the bulk of the book is headed. Teaching about God’s grace is outlined along the lines of the historic doctrines of grace. But anyone familiar with the acronym TULIP knows that it came about as a response to five points of dispute to the standard doctrine of the church. The result is labels that often sound reactionary. Here, Montgomery and Jones fully embrace the doctrines found in TULIP but want to show their hopeful, pastoral, gracious emphasis. Thus, the use of a new acronym—PROOF. The point they want to convey is the beauty and power of a God who saves sinners by his work alone (21). When we understand that, we will have confidence to live and serve by grace (22) and to worship by grace (23). The main chapters unpack God’s—
- Planned Grace. The L of the original TULIP, the authors explain how God the Father has (eternally) planned to show his grace to his elect people through the sacrifice of his Son. The emphasis here is that God was intentional rather than abstract in his planning of salvation. Jesus died for a specific people.
- Resurrecting Grace. Because we are born sinful, dead to the things of God, children of wrath by default (or, totally depraved), sinners need the grace of God to give them life and faith. Thus, God’s grace is seen in his willingness to exercise his the power to give spiritual life to the dead that they may believe the message of the Gospel.
- Outrageous Grace. Why is grace outrageous? God chooses whom to save apart from anything good that they do. For me, this is the only phrase that seems a little too “modern,” for lack of a better term. The other key words—planned, resurrecting, overcoming, forever—have a kind of timeless quality that you can picture on the lips of previous generations. That being said, as with the other points, they nail the explanation of the doctrine. So, we’ll see if it grows on me.
- Overcoming Grace. Traditoinally known as “irresistible grace,” the emphasis is on the fact that God’s sovereign grace must overcome the sinful heart. The point is not that we are being saved against our will but that, by grace, he makes us willing to repent and believe the gospel.
- Forever Grace. What God began, he will finish. God the Spirit applies the saving work of Christ in such a way that those chosen by the Father will not be lost to sin. The grace that brings us into Christ will also preserve us in Christ, empowering us to persevere in our faith.
In addition to the main text, there are five—count them, five—appendixes. Rather than junk drawers to provide loosely-related, previously written material, these are helpful expansions to the central content. They answer question related to the doctrines of grace as well as provide biblical texts (“proof” text, even) that allow intrepid readers to continue their study of God’s grace.
Though an overall well-written book, there were a few minor problems. The worst is the nature of the text boxes that highlight definitions or quotes that provide helpful additions to the book. The problem is not with their content but their placement. They are too intrusive to the main text, making the it harder than it should be to follow the flow of the chapters. That being the weakest part of the book should tell you about the strengths of it on the whole.
This would be a great book to hand out to people at church, especially high school and college students who are often beginning to think critically about their faith. Montgomery and Jones use helpful illustrations to make the material accessible. More than that, they write as pastors, making the material connect to world were Christians live. I also appreciated the inclusion of songs and catechism material to help further connect the doctrine to our doxology. This is no ivory tower theology. This is theology that will work in the nitty-gritty of life. Buy this book and you won’t be disappointed.
*Note: I received this book from a publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.