Mailbox Review: Unveiling Grace (3.5/5)

I received a copy of Lynn Wilder’s Unveiling Grace gratis from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. Here are my thoughts on the book.

Lynn Wilder’s Unveiling Grace is a mother’s memoir of success and influence inside the Mormon church and Christ’s calling of her family out of it. Wilder, a one-time professor at Lynn Wilder The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon ChurchBrigham Young University, and her husband spent more than thirty years inside Mormonism, having and raising children, converting their relatives, and working inside of super-secretive Mormon temples. Working their way toward holiness and eventual Godhood, the Wilders were relatively comfortable with their lives and were convinced that Joseph Smith was a true prophet…until their son, thousands of miles away on a Mormon mission, called home to say that Jesus now had too great a claim on his life for him to continue believing and following the Mormon church. The story leading up to and following that pivotal moment is an eye-opening look into the everyday culture of the largest pseudo-religion in the country, and an encouraging account of how Jesus Christ saved one family from it a member at a time.

Vastly informative about Mormon life and culture, Unveiling Grace has the distinction of being a great deal more than a handbook for debunking Mormonism—those typical texts with lists of doctrinal weakness cross-listed against effective techniques for shutting their mouths before you shut your door. It is the personal and personable account of what real Mormons think, feel, and do—the hopes that motivate them, the lies they are told, and the experiences that finally lead them to question their way of life. This is the type of work that fuels real evangelism, rather than the argumentative pugilism of mere apologetics.

Unfortunately, the book’s strength (its personal and personable tone) is also a significant weakness. The book reads like a memoir, but more than that it reads like the memoir of an Evangelical wife and mother, with a very feminine perception, idiom, and tone. These elements, though not faulty in their own right, make the work less engaging to female readers of different temperaments and to male readers general, unintentionally narrowing its ideal audience. Nevertheless, the appendices comparing basic Christian beliefs to those of Mormonism, and defining commonly used theological terms as Mormons understand and use them were add significant value to the book. All in all, though, the book is a rare and important look at the inner workings of a secretive group through the eyes of people with extensive access, and a message of hope to those praying and laboring for the salvation of their Mormon neighbors.

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Mailbox Review: Humble Orthodoxy (3.5/5)

I received a copy of Joshua Harris’  Humble Orthodoxy gratis from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. Here are my thoughts on the book.

Joshua Harris holding the truth high without putting people down mutlnomah waterbrookThere is presently a palpable feeling among many in the Church that we must choose between humility and orthodoxy. On the one hand, doctrinal knowledge does tend to puff up, especially within the more theologically rigorous traditions of Christianity; the more right we believe ourselves to be, the more unbearable we can become—especially in an age of online discourse where a degree of anonymity makes arrogance even easier. On the other hand, we live in an age of serious cultural sin in which many liberal voices (even some within the Church) defend unrighteous lifestyles by couching them in language of justice and “equality,” and we are rightly aware of our biblical duty to stand up and speak up for the Lord’s truth. Josh Harris reminds us that we don’t have to choose, and offers some helpful and incredibly timely encouragement toward a “humble orthodoxy.”

In an expansion of the popular final chapter of a previous book, Dug Down Deep, Harris deals with the pastoral problem of ungracious theology, correctly identifying roots both in sinful self-aggrandizing tendencies as well as righteous zeal for God’s law. At the heart of the gospel, he argues, the two are easily reconciled. We can be humble in the manner in which we defend and present orthodox dogma without sacrificing the integrity of God’s word. As Harris aptly observes, “Instead of looking down on the unorthodox, how can we NOT want to humbly lead them toward the same life-giving truth that has changed our lives?”

This little book not only preaches humility but also practices it, being just 81 pages long (9 of which are study guide and probably not Harris’ own work), and smaller than a piece of toast. In fact, that is my greatest complaint about the book: Continue reading