Book Review:: Fall to Grace by Jay Bakker

I don’t care that he is divorced, tattooed, pierced, or the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. In fact, all these things make Jay Bakker more interesting to me.  It was with this fascination that I began reading Bakker’s new book, Fall to Grace.

In the book, Bakker writes in a conversational tone, even using explictives to get his point across.  If an occasional swear word was the only thing wrong with this book…  Following the writings of the Apostle Paul, Bakker makes a good argument for grace—one I’ve read before in many other [better] books (like Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace?).  But, hey, the crowd likely to read Bakker’s book probably wouldn’t read those other books, right?

The problem is that Jay Bakker goes too far.  Instead of just being a book about God’s grace for everyone, Bakker seems to be toting a pro-gay agenda.  Calling himself a “gay-affirming pastor,” Bakker criticizes John Piper for speaking out against the ordination of homosexuals and Rick Warren for opposing gay marriage in California.  To show off his pro-gay colors, Bakker brags about attending a drag queen show put on by RuPaul, performing a gay marriage, and tries [unsuccessfully] to use Scripture to prove that homosexuality is not a sin.

I just wanted to scream, “Enough already!”  All sorts of people need grace, not just gays, but Bakker hardly bats an eyelash at the mentally ill or the homeless or addicts or sexually corrupt.  Sure, they get a mention here and there, but largely Bakker is intent on making sure his readers understand that he loves, accepts, and marries gay couples.

Not only did I disagree with Bakker’s approach, I found his writing to be a rambling rant with Scripture thrown in here and there.  The words didn’t flow elegantly.  In fact, it was an effort to get through the book because I felt like Bakker was slamming me with the same message over and over.

While I really wanted to like Fall to Grace and I wanted to tell you that this is a great book, I can’t.  Redundancy and a hidden agenda don’t make for good reading.

Amy’s Score: 1

*Thanks to FaithWords & NetGalley for my review copy of this book!*

0 thoughts on “Book Review:: Fall to Grace by Jay Bakker

  1. I received the book last night and I am on page 75 and I am loving the book. Of course, I have not finished, so we will see how it plays out. But, I have hit spots that you mentioned. Maybe some of it resonates with me since I was at the music festival where he got slammed. I was in St. Louis with the screaming and I am currently serving in an ELCA church that is struggling “with the vote”.

    Donna, I am not sure if you read the book or not, that might help me but your comment screaming (all caps) with the words of find grace and then repent —- made me laugh.Thanks (honestly), I neede4d that.

  2. @Jeff Hey, I sent you a message on FACEBOOK. I think it would be awesome if you wrote a review for BSW if you like the book. I’m totally into people who have other points of view. Honestly, I did like the first bit, but then it got to be too much for me.

    @ Donna (Mom) I know CAPS are easier for you to read, but it *does* constitute “screaming” on the Internet. 🙂

  3. Donna, if I knew you and knew that you liked/used caps, I would not have mentioned it. I thought you were purposely screaming at Jay. And by the way, Hello Amy’s mom, you have a great daughter.

    Amy, let me finish the book and see where I stand.

  4. Okay, so I was in St. Louis at the YS convention when he spoke. In many ways that NYWC became the beginning of the end for me in regards to trusting YS and their speaks (Ted Haggard anyone?). I thought little of Jay after that rant and it seems little has changed. I was appalled that so many people stood and applauded his behavior that night. I believe he is a wandering soul. He was hurt. I get it. He needs to move past it all. People get hurt every day. I don’t know. I just get a little ill that people give him the time of day. I guess that is harsh. I pray that God will lead him to healing and truth.

  5. Jasper,

    I would say that God has led him to healing and truth.

    Jasper, part of the book and part of Grace is the fact that we all have fallen short. The law condemns us. Thus, God/Grace bring us to Him.

    I am sorry that you are appalled by brothers and sisters in Christ who cheer on a fellow brother in Christ. I thought that we were here to love and encourage one another and not to slam each other. However, I know that it occurs and that is why there are many outside of the church who stay outside of the church.

  6. I have no problem with grace. I love it. I know God gives it. In my opinion, (and you obviously don’t agree but I am passionate about it) cheering him on that night was endorsing an very ungodly attitude. The things he said and the attitude he portrayed was inappropriate for the crowd and not God honoring. The “points” he made could have been made without the vulgarity and endless rambling. It stands in my mind as one of the worst large session moments in YS history. Not much is going to change my mind about that.

    There is a point that we have to take a stand against sin. I am not trying to harm a brother. I am saying that the things he says, his methods and what seem to be his beliefs are not reflective of a regenerated nature. I am willing to give people the benefit of the doubt but a person’s words and actions speak volumes. As a “leader” the Bible says he (and us) will be judged more harshly for the things we say and do. Grace is available but as Paul says in Romans, “Shall we sin so that grace may abound? Absolutely not!”

    Am I being slammed because I felt that the things he said and did that evening (and what I hear him STILL saying) are not speaking in a redemptive, biblical way? I care about him and the platform he has as a result of his lineage. I pray that as a church we will not encourage ungodly attitudes but reproach and pray for those who are falling short. Grace is not a free card to say and do as we please. I am not hating. I am just saying that with the platform he has been given, he may be doing more harm than good. I pray that God will lead him to His Truth.

  7. Actually, I forgot to mention this, but I was also at that YS Convention in St. Louis (man, if we had all known each other then, we could have had lunch!). I wasn’t at the Q&A with Jay Bakker, but I did see him speak at the general session. I felt so bad for Jay when he started crying in front of thousands of people. I mean, at the time, I thought that was BOLD.

    Honestly, after a while, my friend and I walked out of the session and found a bunch of other people walking around. Pretty much everyone said the same thing–it was too much. I bought Jay’s first book at the convention, never read it, but still liked the guy, which is why I read FALL TO GRACE.

    I think Jay is missing the point that God isn’t just a big lovey Guy up in Heaven, but He is deeply offended by sin. It concerns me that Jay Bakker says that sin is bad because it messes up our lives, but he really doesn’t seem to address the fact that it is offensive to God. It’s like, “Jesus came. No more law. Let’s have a big party! Woot!” That is an oversimplified response obviously. Without the law, there can’t be grace. He just uses verse after verse from Paul and then belittles James.

  8. I would think (do not know for sure) that Jay would lean more towards Luther philosophy Amy on Grace/Law then how you place it. He would say that we are 100% saint and 100% sinner at the same time. He does lean heavily on Paul but I think that there are many reasons why he does and why maybe we as individuals/churches should do that. Am now looking forward to reading more of the book.

  9. I’m sorry that it seems like I am shouting because I sometimes write in CAPS. I have macular degeneration and sometimes caps are easier for me to read. Amy is awesome. Thank you for telling her that.

  10. I haven’t read the book…I guess I could but seeing as it doesn’t really fall into a category I would read. BTW, Amy, what’s it about anyway? 🙂 If its wholly about his pro-gay adgenda, it wouldn’t be a book I could relate to. I think you are right that there are so many more issues in the church these days than just that. There are so many more people that make up the church and those who feel on the outskirts of the “traditional” families. I don’t know what to say about gay marriage etc either – there are so many traditional marriages and families who are struuggling and talling apart that it is hard to make a case for it or against it :-(. Prayer, study, prayer and more prayer to gain God’s wisdom and insight into these issues. Awesome insights, Amy.

  11. @Jeff Yes, I think he’s very influenced by Luther.

    @Jasper I agree with you about the whole YS Convention thing. I was thinking, “Man, this guy needs to sit down with a counselor or a trusted friend to air this out, not take a national platform.”

    @Shari The book was about grace and how grace is for everyone, but it seemed that Jay Bakker *really* focused on how we need to be nice to gay people and accept their behavior. He used the Bible to try to argue that homosexuality is not a sin. I agree that it’s not the worst of sins and it’s equal in that all sin separates us from God. However, I don’t think it’s appropriate for Christian ministers to marry homosexuals (in fact, I prefer the title “gay union” over “gay marriage”). Then again, Jay Bakker is a “gay-affirming pastor.” The thing I didn’t want to do with this review was make it a debate about homosexuality. The content of the book almost begs for the debate though.

  12. I have finished the book.

    shari, i do not think that the book is a pro-gay agenda. i believe that it truly is a book about grace. granted there are examples of it and there are many stories that tie into “homosexuality”; especially in the end.

    i think that jay would agree that there are many other “more important” issues that the church should be dealing with. he mentions this by the fact that there are only 6 scriptures in the whole bible that deal with this and some of them are “questionable”. he also points out that we who say are jesus-followers could be intrigued by the fact that jesusnever spoke on the subject.

    overall, i think that jay did a very good job on describing jay and yes, he did address the gay-agenda but it is due to the fact that unfortunately it is a hot button issue in many arenas.

    also, in disagreeing with amy, i think that he did a good job on explaining the differences between paul and james and gave great insight on james and following through with compassion and the reason why we should “do works”.

  13. Here’s my problem with the James thing. While I did think Jay did a good job explaining the differences between James, Peter, and Paul, I don’t like how Jay kept mentioning that James was “Jesus’ brother.” OK, we get it. He was Jesus’ brother and he was flawed. The general belief is that James did NOT follow Jesus in his life, so I don’t know if being Jesus’ brother makes him a superstar. I think Jay completely misinterpreted that “works” section of the book of James.

    That’s what bothered me most about this book–Jay Bakker’s interpretation of Scripture. I don’t mind if someone’s beliefs make me a little uncomfortable (like Rob Bell at times), but I was wondering if some of Bakker’s remarks were really false prophecy.

    Interestingly enough, Jay Bakker seems to ignore the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, and that he did not come to abolish the law.

  14. if the conservative theological view of ‘sin’ existed, i would agree. but seeing that jay is friend, we can’t always ‘judge a book by our first impression’. give him a chance or grace.oh, and if you hate his book dont buy mine.

  15. Amy,

    The following comment of yours is a little troubling for me:

    Interestingly enough, Jay Bakker seems to ignore the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, and that he did not come to abolish the law.

    chapter 13 is all abou this. he shares about love and grace and and how Jesus came to fulfill them and in my opinion does a fantastic job on showing that “with Jesus:, it is so much more —- goes deeper.

    this comes after he does a great job in chapter 11 on the fruits of the spirit. maybe you were taken back by his heading (keeping up with jameses). but, i loved how he shared that because of grace, we can be more empowered to do good then the law required (pg. 128).

    in the same chapter, he shares that gace is not a sin freely card. he shares about freedom to go either way and that when you are reckless with this freedom, you will hurt yourself (131). then he even goes deeper with thinking through “consequences” and if you do this, you will see no sin is worth ii (pg. 133). he then returns to the fruit by saying that if you stick with grace, the fruit will come (pg. 134).

    my favotire part of his james story and “works” comes as he closes out the chapter on page 135 with these great words: we don’t demonstrate our righteousness by feeding the homeless and hungry person, we celebrate our freedom by doing so. we do it because we care – genuinely and deeply – for the well being of others (pg. 135).

    jay may have given one of the best faith/works/fruits connections out there.

    amy, we definitely read tis book differently.

  16. I’d like to point out, in defense of the amount of time Jay spends on the issue of gays and lesbians, that it is proportionate to the amount of focus evangelicals have placed on the issue – especially since the era in which Jay was raised.
    I’d also like to suggest that if we could somehow get away from the “moralistic” gospel that seems to be so prevalent, and focus more on the idea that it is only God’s grace which saves us, that perhaps we would begin to see real transformation in our lives and in our communities. I’m fascinated with the fact that, when presented with the doctrine of salvation through grace, we’re often tempted to say “Yes, but…”

  17. Thanks for your comment, Jonas!

    I’ve been thinking about this book more than I’d like, and really, I am offended that Bakker says that homosexuality is NOT a sin. It’s like he’s giving us this grace message and then–BAM! Then he marries a gay couple. That stuff really turned me off and it was hard to find anything redeemable in his message because I felt he had this secret agenda.

  18. Amy – that last comment was somewhat offensive to me. How does Bakker’s belief offend you? I’d encourage you to read your comment from the point of view of someone who may be gay or struggling with it. I don’t care about your view on whether homosexuality is or is not a sin. However, sensitivity and tact go a long way.

  19. @ A Reader Bakker’s belief offends me because he’s telling his readers that homosexuality is NOT a sin and then takes it a step further by marrying a gay couple (and criticizing a couple of pastors who don’t agree with him). I’m offended because I feel like he’s telling people something that isn’t true and leading them astray, which is a BIG deal. And I’m offended because he writes a book on grace throwing in references here and there until he dedicates a couple chapters on the subject–as if readers who don’t agree with him don’t understand “grace.”

    Anyone who’s gay or struggling would probably take exception with the fact that I do think the practice of homosexual acts are sin. Of course, there are a lot of other things I think are sin. If Bakker said it’s perfectly acceptable to live with someone before marriage or to have casual sex before marriage, I think that’s wrong, too. So I’d probably make a lot of people angry, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have friends who aren’t gay or living together or having sex. They all think I’m weird for waiting until I’m married to have sex. I don’t go around yelling, “You sinner!” ( they have enough ammo to throw the “sinner” title right back in my face).

  20. Amy,

    This has been interesting to read. I think that it is obvious that Jay “marries” them because he does not believe that it is a sin (as you mentioned). He did not always feel this way as mentioned in the book.

    There seems to be two things that you really disagree with from the review and comments. Those two things are the following: Jay’s view on James (works) and his view on homosexuality (not a sin). Jay (in my opinion) does a thorough explanation on both of these using scripture to back up how he came to each of these understandings.

    Since, you disagree with both of them, I would like to see where/how you interpret them differently. especially when you are “offended” by his view and belief he is wrong on scripture.

  21. Very well stated. Our local newspaper ran article this past weekend promoting his book and my heart broke as I read his quotes. While I admire him for seeming to have a genuine love for people, I hurt for his misunderstanding of the Holy word. Thanks for your review.

  22. I am reading it right now and am not picking up on any hidden agenda. He touches on how the church has treated the gay community, but I didn’t see him belabor his point. He moved on to talk about the application of grace to all of life and relationship.

  23. I was also at the YS conference in St. Louis and listening to Jay changed my whole perspective on the job of the church. When he talked about the youth minister that was more concerned with smoking than showing him love I was convinced that some churches were focusing on the wrong things. This definitely changed my husband and my ministry afterwards to love kids and tell them of God’s love more than try to mold them into a “Christian” under the man-made laws of our church. I read Son of a Preacher Man after YS and it was great. Yes he was angry and obviously working through things, but I think being hurt by church people is a common enough thing in America that his book was relevant to both people who go to church and people who don’t.

    I am almost done with Fall to Grace and I love it. It is very insightful and clearly explains grace and how it can be misused in the church. I loved his Grace Plus principle- so true that as Christians we sometimes think that we are saved through grace plus works, when actually we do works because we are saved by grace and moved to help others.

    @Amy your comment: And I’m offended because he writes a book on grace throwing in references here and there until he dedicates a couple chapters on the subject–as if readers who don’t agree with him don’t understand “grace.” I think Jay writes so much describing grace because the majority of Christians don’t understand it. In many other countries Christians are persecuted, which is horrible. But in America we persecute others horribly. The political and personal agendas against gays are a big example of how we as Christians hurt the very ones we are called to help. If our churches really understood grace there would not be such a huge number of people who have been hurt by the church, turned away by the church, etc.

    Fall to Grace is revolutionary because it is simple. The same point is belabored over and over again because we have a hard time believing that grace can forgive us of anything we’ve done. Sometimes we still haven’t forgiven ourselves, much else the others around us that we judge. But God is really that big and that mighty and that awesome! Jay’s really written something wonderful here for those who feel or have been told they are too sinful for God’s love. The first thing people have to feel is God’s grace and love, not the sting of a Christian’s judgement.

    1. @aliasheea Thank you for your civilized, non-inflammatory comment. I really like how you presented your point. I am really glad that you this book and Jay Bakker have had such a positive impact in your life and your ministry. Seriously, thank you! 🙂

  24. My take on the book is that he has tried to find a way to use Grace as a weapon. For me that was the main issue I had with what he presented.

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