Reviewed by Steve Hackman
What is “Hyper-Grace” and why would anyone think it could be a bad thing? In any debate, whether it be cultural, philosophical, or theological, transforming a pejorative label into a positive identity or a “badge of honor” has to figure somewhere in the argument’s final verdict. D. R. Silva manages to pull this off in his new book Hyper-Grace: The Dangerous Doctrine of a Happy God.
Like his debut book, It’s All About Jesus, Silva offers a passionate defense of the grace of God in the life of the believer. Needless to say Hyper-Grace is no dry theological tome; this is “grace” with raw street cred.
Although it’s not mentioned in the title, Silva’s Hyper-Grace is partly a response to, Dr. Michael Brown’s recent release Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message. Yes, “Hyper-Grace” is the theme de jour.
Silva addresses a number of accusations often leveled at preachers and writers in the “grace-camp”. That they: encourage an environment to sin, shun any form of confession, and believe God is never angry. Essentially though the root of the argument against the modern grace movement is that grace preachers fail to take sin seriously enough.
The message is not that God doesn’t find a problem with sin, it’s that he found such a HUGE problem with sin that he sent his Son to destroy it, and remove it from our lives forever. (Loc. 510)
This theme underpins Silva’s book. It is actually those opposed to “grace” who fail to take sin seriously. They believe sin is a small enough debt that after Jesus makes the initial deposit, we are quite capable of assuming the payments.
Ask yourself how well that has ever worked out for you?
Silva continues by saying that opposition to grace is used by leaders to keep people in line,
Though many love to throw the word “grace” around, the idea of God’s kindness is still a huge problem for those who need him to be angry in order to coerce their congregations into better moral performance, and scare those on the outside of the church into becoming members as quickly as possible. Sure, it’s nice when you live up to his standards, but as soon as you don’t, He’s an entirely different person who goes on a rampage; somehow this is called “unconditional love” when it isn’t anything close.” (Loc. 519)
Performance is a powerful tool used by leaders and Silva’s Hyper-Grace is not afraid to take them on for manipulating their congregations. He suggests there is an ulterior motive to their resistance to the modern message of grace;
If your business consists of putting a carrot on a stick and having people pay you for the opportunity of chasing it, then it’s no good for your business when a group of people comes along and starts giving away carrots for free. (Loc. 514)
Because a response to Dr. Michael Brown’s book challenging “hyper-grace” is not conveyed in the title, someone seeking to learn about this “Dangerous Doctrine of a Happy God” may be confused not realizing they had just walked into a full-on debate. This is certainly an “in-house grace-camp” discussion and the author assumes a certain level of familiarity with the arguments that the reader may or may not have.
Fortunately Silva is deft at bringing the readers up to speed and as the book progresses it becomes less a critique of Brown’s book and more a wonderful unveiling of the Grace of God that we have been freely given.
Dr. Brown’s brand of “Hyper-Grace” is to be feared; Silva’s is to be celebrated. Let the reader decide which “Hyper-Grace” is the more attractive.