Bryan Loritts. Saving the Saved: How Jesus Saved Us from Try-Harder Christianity into Performance-Free Love. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016. See here to buy the book.
Bryan Loritts pastors the Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, California.
This book does talk about embracing and living in light of God’s performance-free love: that God loves you freely, and you do not have to perform well morally or spiritually to earn God’s love.
At the same time, the book does argue that, if you are not performing at a certain level morally or spiritually, then that is a sign that you have not truly embraced God’s performance-free love. According to Loritts, if you are unforgiving, if you are ungenerous, if you lack sorrow for sin, etc., then that may indicate that you have failed to embrace God’s performance-free love. What does that imply exactly? That a person is actually unsaved and is going to hell? Lorritts never says this explicitly, but he does refer to last judgment passages of Scripture in his discussions.
I have long had a problem with that kind of mentality. It looks to me like legalism disguised as “performance-free love.” Even if that is what the Bible teaches, I have a problem with it. And making one’s spiritual maturity a matter of salvation only adds to the pressure, for, in that case, if a person falls below a certain standard, then he or she is going to hell. My impression is that Loritts is trying to take away that kind of pressure, but what he says may add to it, instead.
Still, I somewhat agree that the criteria that Loritts discusses can provide a decent spiritual barometer, a way for people to take their own spiritual temperature. Speaking about the Sermon on the Mount, Loritts states that, if we find ourselves worrying, then that may indicate an attachment to this world more than to God. That can actually influence a person to stop and to take a personal inventory, and hopefully to pursue constructive change.
And yet, even here, can people truly control how they feel? Loritts speaks against performance and relying on law, yet his unstated assumption often seems to be that, if he can provide people with a rationale to feel, think, and behave righteously, then they will feel, think, and behave righteously. That is relying on law. Loritts says a lot of good things about, say, why we should forgive, and he tells inspiring, tear-jerking stories about love and faith. But he should recognize that the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak.
I have to give the book credit where credit is due, though. Loritts is honest about his own spiritual and moral struggles. There are instances in which Loritts looks for a grace-friendly message in frightening and troubling Bible passages. Loritts actually tries to address the sort of objections that I am making, about whether what he is advocating is truly performance-free Christianity.
And Loritts is emphatic that people need new-covenant, transformed hearts to be righteous. He should have gone into more detail, however, about how people can get or cultivate such hearts—-how they can abide in Jesus, since that is what Loritts believes is the solution. Suppose that you think you are a Christian, and you do not see the spiritual fruit that Loritts says you are supposed to have. What do you do next? Try harder? The title of the book says that’s a no-no!
I am still giving this book four stars, though, because it does have good stories, about Loritts and people he has known.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers. My review is honest!