Saving The Saved: How Jesus Saves Us From Try-Harder Christianity Into Performance-Free Love, by Brian Lorrits
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This is a book that without reading is easy to condemn too harshly. Upon beginning to read this book I found a lot to dislike about it. Its continual harping on the meritocracy and its advocacy of performance-free love had about it all the hallmarks of someone who had remembered that we are saved by grace and not by works but had forgotten that we are justified through our works done through faith and not by dead faith or mere verbal profession of belief. Although the book ended up being far better than I initially expected it to be, there were still some fundamental problems that I had with the book and that require some discussion. For one, the author spends a great deal of time railing against those who have a performance ethic of Christians, but in reality fails to note that the Pharisees and their modern equivalents were not in fact good people. They certainly pretended to be, but they were not virtuous. At best they were continent, and often they were intensely hypocritical . Once we realize that fact, we can be a lot less bothered by whatever meritocratic ways we find in our world, because we are all broken and in need of mercy and grace, and none of us can achieve salvation on our own efforts, and so anyone who presents that they have it all under control in our world is attempting to deceive us and themselves, and perhaps others as well, and is deserving of pity rather than contempt.
The contents of this book are divided into three parts. After introducing with a call to arms against a supposed meritocracy of works-based morality, the first part of the book looks at what goodness isn’t–reflecting on soul songs and the longing for the good life, pointing out the universal need for grace, reminding the reader that man-made goodness doesn’t cut it, criticizing the human tendency for pride, and looking at the transformation that results from independence as we reflect on our higher and lower natures, in five chapters. The second part of the book looks at authentic goodness by changing the focus from performing to abiding, reminding us that our failure is never final, and pointing our attention to the resurrection and its implications for us in three chapters. The third and final part of the book looks at how we practice performance-free love in our own lives by setting a difficult and painful example of forgiveness towards others, practice generosity, practice peace over worry, practice graciousness in marriage, and see genuine love as being a way of being saved from ourselves and our own bent towards inhumanity towards others in the book’s last five chapters, before a thoughtful acknowledgments section that provides some context on where the author was when he was writing this book.
This book has a lot to offer, once one reads enough of it to see what the author is really getting at, but at its core it suffers from a major tone problem. A great deal of the misunderstanding that this book can prompt at a reader looking at the book before reading it at some length is due to the mismatch between the author’s words and his approach. The title of the book is Saving the Saved, but those who are “saved” are not, in fact, saved, because they believe in a false gospel of earning salvation through righteousness. If this book is being written for people who believe in this false gospel, the work is entirely too harsh and lacking in compassion to do more than anger those who would accuse the author of falling prey to some sort of antinomianism. If the book is being written to those who think themselves above the sort of performance-driven moralism of our contemporary age, then it would gratify their own ungodly pride and arrogance, which is a far worse sin than being an anxiety-prone performance-based believer. Either way, the author comes up short, as this is a book long on a certain sort of truth and all too short on love and charity, for all that the book talks about those subjects at considerable length. This is a book that has good theory to teach, despite its sometimes muddled approach, but it is a missed opportunity in providing the sort of model that would encourage readers to put graciousness into practice.
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