In a recent very brief review of several books in the Christian Standard, by LeRoy Lawson makes this comment about Jack Cottrell’s book Set Free!:
Preachers need what Cottrell teaches, but as my recent term as an interim pastor reminded me, while most church members can’t articulate the doctrine of grace to the satisfaction of a professional, they can and do live a by-grace-set-free life and will tell you of the joy of their salvation.
While there is no point in engaging in a battle of anecdotes in an attempt to prove what “most church members” think, I must say that this comment goes against the grain of most of my experience. Many church people are very caught up in the “always trying, never sure” mentality when it comes to their relationship with God. In campus ministry, it has very often been students with a significant church background who harbored nagging doubts about their status before God. And on further review, it often turns out to be a matter of not understanding God’s grace that leads to these doubts.
It’s not just that people “can’t articulate the doctrine of grace to the satisfaction of a professional.” That whole statement is a bit of a red herring. The fact is, many church people simply do not have even a generally correct idea of God’s grace.
One key reason grace is not understood by many church members is because those who teach at many churches do not understand it either. It is amazing how very misunderstood the Christian faith is, not just by church members, but by church leaders. This is where a book like Set Free! can be helpful.
But the situation will never be improved as long as we deceive ourselves with this “don’t need that fancy book-learnin’ because we ‘just live it’” attitude. In order to experience joy in salvation, one needs to know on what basis one enjoys that salvation. If that joy has no basis in knowledge, just how significant is it? This folksy glorification of ignorance is unfortunate.