Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids?: How Moralism Suffocates Grace, by Samuel c. Williamson
[Note: This book was provided for free by Author Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
About 85 years ago, my great-great uncle Willis David Mathias finished his doctoral dissertation for his Th.D from Princeton Theological Seminary which dealt with the ineffectiveness of Sunday School education. As a high school student exploring dusty and long-forgotten dissertations in the library of my local public university, by chance I came upon that dissertation, was intrigued by it, and was starting to use it for an AP/IB Psychology assignment when I found out that it had been written by a relative. This book, a slim volume (under 100 pages) deals with the subject in a less statistical way than my relative’s analysis, but comes to the same basic conclusion in addressing the ineffectiveness of the ways that we teach the Gospel to youth.
The title of the book, though, is a bit of a misnomer, and it is the subtitle of the book, “How Moralism Suffocates Grace,” that reveals the essential point of this book. Although this is not a long book, and it could easily have been much longer, it is very skilled in presenting its main point. That point is that legalism, as exhibited by the pious but mistaken Pharisees, is alive and well in contemporary Christianity. Managing to strike a balance between the ascetic and libertine forms of gnosticism that dominate our contemporary religious climate, Williamson speaks provocatively about the way in which how-to guides and their popularity (to say nothing of the appeal of cheap grace ) discourage children from the faith because they fail to present the essential nature of God’s grace to us through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ both to convict all mankind of our sin (because our behavior cannot hope to meet the noble and lofty standards of God’s laws, which reflect His perfect character) and to free mankind from the burden of sin so that we may be righteous through the outgoing love and concern springing from redeemed hearts and minds filled with His Spirit.
This is the book’s essential point, and over and over again the author makes this point in a variety of ways that are thought-provoking. One of the more thought provoking ways this book deals with the subject of grace is to give an analysis of the book of Esther that would appear to spring from someone with a close personal knowledge of abuse and its repercussions. I speak from experience here; this book is full of intuitive and thoughtful interpretations of God’s word as well as pointed commentary about the way that people assume the young know about the Gospel of the Kingdom and so fail to properly instruct the young (and would-be believers) in that grace. Likewise, the book refuses to malign moral standards or moral behavior, even while reminding us that we are all fallible and in the absence of external restraint and in the failure of our internal willpower, we are all subject to committing the grossest and most heinous of sins. Likewise, no matter how good we are, we can never earn love or respect or salvation or any of the other deep longings of our heart. This is a point of vital importance, and one that Williamson manages to make often and thoughtfully. Hopefully this book will find a large and appreciate audience.
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