Monday, June 30, 2014

Charis, Greek for Grace

Charis, by Preston Sprinkle
Publisher: David C Cook
Publication date: July 1, 2014
Category: Christian nonfiction
Source: I received this e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Back in December (2013), I found myself brave enough to get my first tattoo (yes, I've added on since then). I think it was mostly because I'd finally found something I believed in so much I would declare it on my person for eternity. Of course, I wrote about it - it was my first post of 2014, called Words as Symbols. (Check it out! There's a picture and a much more thorough explanation.) For a quick synopsis, the word I spoke about and tattooed is eucharisteo, which is Greek for thanksgiving. But the focus for this review is the root word of eucharisteo, which is charis (see it hiding there in the middle of eucharisteo?). Charis is Greek for grace, which happens to be the title and topic of today's book in review.

So now it should be obvious why this title caught my eye. I've spent a year and a half reading and rereading, thinking, and then tattooing this topic, so when a book centered on a piece of it pops up, it's a must try. This book being Christian nonfiction, the grace in question is God's grace. A grace that has no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It is best defined in the forward, where writer Tullian Tchividjian quotes Paul Zahl's definition of grace:

"Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is 'unconditional love.' It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing.… Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called 'gifts' (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold...Grace is one-way love."

Author Preston Sprinkle teaches Old Testament classes in a college setting and what he noticed was that our current generations of Bible readers have been trained to read the Old Testament morally, looking to the many people and events as ways we should live. When you think of men like Moses and Abraham, you think of freeing a nation of slaves and a man of obedience...not a murderer and pagan. And that's Sprinkle's point of this particular book on grace. Moses and Abraham were not wonderful guys by any means, but God uses His grace to work wonders through the most vile of people. These stories of grandeur are not focused on moral people's moral acts, but on God and His grace alone as the center stage.

Sprinkle speaks quite frankly, often using the Message translation of the Bible, which makes scandalous topics sound even more so. I appreciate frank talk in a book like this (as opposed to sugar coating it), but at points I wasn't sure if it was for shock value as well.  It didn't bother me at all, just something I noticed.

It was a different take on the topic of grace for me. Usually the topic is discussed as far as what grace means and how it can work in your life and the lives of others, which Sprinkle does in Charis as well. However, taking those time old stories and showing them through the lens of grace adds a whole new level of understanding for someone who has heard the same stories her whole life.


  1. For me the same old stories are so ingrained that I shy away from a new moralistic way of looking at them. I am comfortable in my little boat, as it bobs up and down, and am hesitant to pull into a port I'm not familiar with.

    Great review BTW.
    I think I told you once, back when you got your tat, that I was going to get AARP tattooed on my butt. I haven't yet. Sound of chickens squawking in the background.

    1. Haha! My husband long talked of getting a tattoo before I did, and he hasn't been in a big hurry since, so I've been telling chicken jokes: Why did the chicken cross the road? I don't know, why? Well it sure wasn't to get a tattoo!

      My husband was only amused the first time I told that one ;)

      And it is hard to see things in a new light when they've been ingrained a certain way for so long. The author here seemed to say to not look at the stories morally at all, but simply as very imperfect people who accomplish what they do simply because God's grace is that good.