Out of the several dozen new books which I read in the course of a year, there are always two or three which make me sit back and reconsider everything that I have learned before. Thus far this year the only book that has done this for me has been Dr. Gregory Neal's incredible volume: "Grace Upon Grace."
I bought it on the suggestion of a friend, and I quickly found why she loved it so. Dr. Neal's simple, straightforward approach to complex theology is a breath of fresh air. He is largely unconcerned with trying to impress his readers with a vast vocabulary of difficult words, but rather focuses on explaining the field of Sacramental Theology in ways which make the subject come alive for the average Christian reader. Rare is the book which can do this, and Grace Upon Grace does it better than most.
For the simple beauty of the written word, Dr. Neal's book should be commended. For an excellent, theologically and Biblically sound study on the nature of Baptism, Communion, and the other Means of Grace, this book cannot be beat. If you're a Methodist, you MUST read this book. If you're any kind of catholic Christian, this book will help you greatly. Even if you're from the non-Sacramental tradition, you'll learn a LOT about why you think the way you do from reading this book.
Dr. Neal's book covers the narrow branch of Christian studies known as Sacramental Theology from a protestant/catholic perspective. Any Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, or Presbyterian will really love this book, and if you're a preacher in any of these denominations this book is a must-buy. Baptists and other non-sacramental Christians, however, will probably be challeneged by this book. Buy it only if you are ready and willing to have your preconceptions blown and your mind changed. I'm an American Baptist preacher and I'm still dealing with the BIG changes in thinking that Dr. Neal has challenged me to make. I'm not sure I agree with everything he has written, but I was amazed at how MUCH I found I simply could not refute.
Most theologians can't write a reasonable sentence to save their life, but Dr. Neal is a wonderful exception to this unfortnate truth. On the readability scale "Grace Upon Grace" ranks very high -- it is one of the best-written theological texts I've ever read, and should be fully understandable to the average Christian. In his preface Dr. Neal tells us that he wrote this book pretty much for the common man and woman; and he succeeded. He writes a great deal like he preaches, which is obvious when one listens to his audio sermons website. His stories, biblical interpretations, and theological discussions will all "preach," and in this way this book is useful to active preachers who are looking for new ways of communicating the concepts of Grace and the ordinances.
However, be warned: this book is not "lite devotional reading." If you're looking for simple ideas or concepts, look elsewhere. If you don't mind having your mind expanded, buy "Grace Upon Grace."