‘Reflections on Grace’: A Review

Thomas A. Langford, Reflections on Grace (ed. Philip A. Rolnick, Jonathan R. Wilson; Eugene: Cascade Books, 2007. xi + 113 pages. ISBN: 978 1 55635 058 0. Review copy courtesy of Wipf and Stock.

‘God present is grace’. So begins this collection of brief, but rich, reflections on the most precious of realities – the inexhaustible grace of God. In under 100 pages, Langford shares with us his reflections – penned during the last years of his life and published posthumously – of what he has learnt over a lifetime of learning about grace as gift, as truth, and as the converse of disgrace. Ever interpreted christologically, and never divorced from its enfleshment in the realities of creation and in the nurturing and interpretation within the community of God’s people, Langford gently – graciously – invites us to catch glimpses of nothing less than the Triune God, and to believe that this God not only speaks in ‘the tongue of our time’ (p. 22), but that he holds nothing of himself back as he throws himself into the most despicable and hopeless of human situations in order to bring transformation. This is grace’s self-giving and cruciform ‘edge’; it is ‘as real as the conditions in which life must be lived’ (p. 29).

Grace, Langford argues, is not only God’s ‘way of being’, but – precisely because it is such – it establishes our way of being, and makes possible ‘the integrity of the faithful responder’ (p. 105). Rejection of this grace, therefore, issues in the malformation of life. This United Methodist minister reminds us that our attempts to live as though God were absent atrophies human possibility and being.

While not convincing at every point (he over-presses, at times, a strained disjunction between God’s love and his law, for example), this is a beautifully-written book and deserves to be read slowly. It would be a great book to work through in a small group.

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