“Religion declares that we are separated from God, that we are ‘outsiders.’ Grace tells us the opposite; we are already in unless we want to be out.”
If the book does one thing, it assures anyone worried about getting into heaven after they die that they don’t have anything to worry about and that they should just focus on following Jesus here and now. The entire book is saturated in grace talk and Burke’s journey of understanding exactly what this grace looks like and how it fits into his theological understandings. While I’m not much of a Theo-buff, I know a lot of the things that he is saying flies in the face of what I grew up understanding all through my church upbringing and Christian university experience. This isn’t a bad thing. I think it takes books like Spencer’s to challenge what we take for granted in our theology and our lifestyles. So I won’t critique his theology, I’ll leave it up to the theologians to do that. Either way, I love his heart. I love that he is trying to take his understandings of love and make it work with the scriptures that he loves. I love that he can say universalism, and question it and tip his toes into it, because when it comes to loving people, which you can tell he’s doing, it is an option that makes sense. You can really see how his love for people clashes with the institutionalized church and the clash is necessary.
I would however make a few changes of the book if I had a say in the process. For the most part I feel like his message is good and his heart is good but he draws it out way too long. I think everything he had to say probably could have been written in one solid chapter (maybe two). The book may have been more beneficial to write his original plan of “stand-alone heresies” that he believes as each chapter. Another issue still as I believe (which I think Bob Hyatt pointed out a bit ago) is the use of the word heretic. While a lot of though as obviously gone into it, because it’s in the title, red flags go up when I think of trying to be a heretic. He says that everyone should be a heretic, but in my understanding of heresy, that would mean that no one is a heretic. I agree though that Jesus definitely was a heretic, heck I spent half my life in the Pentecostal church being accused of heresy whenever I challenged them and I never would have changed a thing. I think it is exactly because I challenged what was thought as normal I am where I am today, but I wouldn’t encourage people to challenge what is normal just because it is normal. I think society and religion has gone a long way and some things that are normal are where they should be. Instead, I would encourage people to challenge what doesn’t look like Jesus, and if it means going against the status quo, then do so, if it means the opposite, then so be it. So I understand Burke is resisting a long history of religion and probably experiences where heresy was the only option, I would be careful of being so quick to the word heretic because being a heretic can also be just as harmful in other circumstances.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is trying to understand eternity and grace and how the two work together. Spencer does a great job of trying to reconcile a loving God with religions understanding of hell and punishment. It is definitely a book that needs to go on a reading list for this subject because he is very honest and shares his journey not just what he thinks you will agree with him on the right answers.