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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 15/100: If Grace is True by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland

If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person - Philip Gulley, James Mulholland

This is a beautiful book about how two pastors came to believe that no one will be condemned to hell.

This book was recommended to me after I mentioned Rob Bell's Love Wins on my blog. The theology here is pretty similar, although I feel Rob Bell's book is more an appeal to the emotions, while this one makes a more intellectual argument. That doesn't make it dry or academic, though. The authors interweave their theological reasoning with stories from their own lives and their pastoring experiences. This is fitting in a book that places one's experience with the divine on an equal level to Biblical revelation, and it includes especially intelligent critiques of "atonement theology" and the "in-errancy of the Bible" while remaining sensitive to the many believers who get behind these ideas.

On Atonement Theology:


“Why must sins be paid for? If God is forgiving, why is any payment necessary?” and “Suggesting God required Jesus to pay the debt is really confusing. Is a God who only forgives after an innocent man is tortured and killed a God worthy of praise?”

On the In-errancy of the Bible:

“I freely admit that my belief is contrary to certain Scriptures. Then I cite other Scriptures that have often been ignored . . . . Some ask, 'If the Bible says two different things, how do we know which is true?'

I ask them, 'What has been your experience with God?'

I am amazed at how often people who've been members of churches since they were children can't answer that question. For some, it may be because they've not been sensitive to God's presence in their lives. For others, I suspect it's because they've never been told their experiences with God can be trusted.”


The authors ease into some of their most "controversial" ideas, such as that one does not have to be a Christian to attain salvation, near the end of the book. Like all that came before it, their arguments are smart, sensitive, and, I believe, in keeping with the true nature of God. This is a book likely to make a lot of people angry or dismissive. They were "preaching to the choir" in me, but it was affirming to come across thoughtful religious leaders who believe much as I do, but who can articulate it much better. This is a great book for anyone who has the inkling that there is nothing "un-Christian" about believing God doesn't send anyone to eternal damnation, or that membership in the exclusive club of Christianity isn't necessary to know God, before or after death.