The following is a review of PROOF found in the May 2014 issue Towers Magazine, the campus newspaper for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
A couple of years ago, violinist Joshua Bell showed up at a metro station in Washington, D.C., took out his violin and started to play. The casually dressed violinist played as hundreds of people walked by, unfazed by the music. What the passersby didn’t realize is that Bell is an internationally acclaimed violinist who fills concert halls around the world. Put him in a subway station, though, and people are slow to recognize what they hear.
Reading PROOF: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones is a similar experience.
At first glance, the reader may assume the purpose of the book is to explore God’s grace from multiple angles. That much is true, as “The purpose of PROOF is to be an alarm clock that awakens you from the delusion that your destiny depends on you and frees you to discover the intoxicating joy of God’s wild and free grace,” they write.
What takes longer to realize, though, is that the authors are attempting much more. The book’s title, PROOF, is an acronym — planned grace, resurrecting grace, outrageous grace, overcoming grace and forever grace — “that summarizes five key facets of God’s amazing grace.”
But the authors also propose their acronym to replace another well-known, five-point, acronym commonly identified with a certain Genevan reformer.
While the authors “agree wholeheartedly” with the teachings of Dort, they “find the title ‘Calvinist’ distasteful and …would prefer to lose the TULIP completely.” Thus, part of the purpose of PROOF is to point readers away from a focus on Calvinism as a system and “toward the gospel of God’s grace.”
To that end, Montgomery and Jones dedicate a chapter to each point of their acronym, driving home the truth that “God saves us single-handedly,” from the “planned grace” of eternity past to the “forever grace” that preserves to the end. Understanding this should cause readers “to stagger at the sheer strength of God’s love.”
Each chapter begins with an illustration. For example, the chapter “Resurrecting Grace” begins with an explanation of the recent fascination with zombies, which provides an apt analogy for unregenerate humanity. Both zombies and those dead in sin “have neither the capacity nor the desire to trade their death for life.” Montgomery and Jones then walk through the beginning of Ephesians 2, tracing the drama of conversion as God makes dead sinners alive in Christ —granting resurrecting grace.
The chapter ends with Scripture verses, song lyrics and a summary of the chapter’s contents as material for meditation. The chapter also features excursuses on topics like the city of Ephesus and the doctrine of human nature. These bonuses are typical of each chapter.
PROOF is anecdotal and accessible to most readers, with a number of theological asides throughout the book, appendices that address different theological issues and pages of endnotes to appeal to the more theologically minded reader. Most evangelical Christians likely feel well-versed with the notion of God’s grace, but there is always a need to re-assess where notions of legalism have taken root. PROOF will help provide such an assessment, and with a wide enough readership, could do much more.