Christine Hoover. From good to grace : letting go of the goodness gospel. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2015. 224 pp. $11.76.
Christine Hoover has a very helpful grasp of the difference between a life lived trying to be good for God and a life lived under the grace of God. In her new book, From Good to Grace, Hoover strives to free her readers from the never-ending struggle to make one’s self good enough to earn some sort of favor from God. From real-life examples of her own strengths and struggles as a wife, mother, and author, Hoover seeks to free people to live under the loving grace of God.
To understand the concept that Hoover tries to bring about in her book, readers will need to be real with their own attitudes toward pleasing God. Do you attempt to please God through your good actions, through right behavior, or through accomplishment? If so, Hoover would argue that you are living under something she calls the “goodness gospel.” Lives lived under the goodness gospel are full of struggle, fear, shame, disappointment, and simply never feeling good enough. People who are entrapped by the goodness gospel cannot rest in the grace of Christ, have a tough time understanding that they have been loved by God simply because of God’s choice, and will constantly feel that they are missing what they need to really have God be happy with them. Followers of the goodness gospel also cannot trust God’s grace for the lives of others, assuming that they should hold others to a standard that none of us really live up to. As Hoover writes, “When we live according to the goodness gospel, we don’t trust God to do the work of sanctification in our hearts and we also don’t trust him to do the work of sanctification in the hearts of other people (59).”
The strength of this book is in the grace that Hoover pours over every page. Believers who have been battered by a constant barrage of legalistic living will find much peace in this book. Those of us who have struggled to live up to the standard of what we think super-Christians ought to be will be challenged to learn to rest in God’s mercy and grace. In the long run, if we will take Hoover’s words seriously, we will find that God’s grace is more beautiful and more freeing than we ever might have imagined.
The weaknesses in this work are in the lack of biblical exposition and the potential for imbalance. Hoover’s work is not at all intended to be a scholar’s-only book on grace, so I completely understand her very readable and catchy style. However, I would have liked to see her handle more texts that make the points that she was making so well. I also would have liked to see her say a bit more to balance the grace of the book in the face of willfully sinful choices. It is one thing to know that I am loved by God and need not live up to a Mount Everest of perfection. At the same time, I think the book could have done with a bit more by way of reminding us that God does call us to repent of sin and strive to honor him, even as we live under that very sweet grace that Hoover is sharing so freely.
As a pastor, I would especially recommend this book to a person struggling in having confidence that they are truly loved by God. A person who has something in their past that they struggle to get over or who simply has a tendency to beat themselves up over the fact that they are not always wildly successful in their Christian growth might find a lot of peace and mercy in this work.
Although this book is clearly written by a female author for a female audience, I also believe that pastors would do well to give this book a read. It is very easy and quick to work through. It has, I believe, a tone of grace and real-world Christian living that I think needs to find its way into more sermons and Bible studies.
I received a free copy of this work from Baker Books as part of a book reviewer’s program. Baker Books has not influenced this review in any way, but has simply asked for an honest review of the book.