God is a Gift – Doug Reed (Book Review)

For the last twenty-seven years, Doug Reed has been the pastor of the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Spring, Arkansas.   If you get a chance, visit the congregation’s website and see the beauty of the chapel’s structure and surrounding.  In addition to being a pastor, Reed has also been the editor of Thorncrown Press for the last 20 years

Reed’s new book, God is a Gift, is all about God’s desire to share with us the gracious gift of intimacy and relationship.   Theologically speaking, Reed affirms the notion that that God’s core nature is that of love.  As such, love needs a beloved.  It needs to give itself away.  So, then, God’s created the world and all that is in it – including every human being – out of the abundance of love.  God also redeems the world by grace for the same reason – love.

One issue I raise with the book is the notion that God NEEDS creation in order to have a beloved.  Reed writes, “Some say God has no needs; He is complete in and of Himself and could be perfectly happy if He were alone. From a certain perspective, this is true. However, if God is love, He does have one need: Love needs to give itself away. Love needs a beloved.”

The Doctrine of the Trinity affirms that God is both love and without need, because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally bound together in loving relationship.  God is complete.  In eternity past, before the world and humanity was created, God was complete and perfectly happy because God is Trinity.

That said, love did conceive and bring the world and all that is in it into being out of a passion to extend and share love.  I would disagree that God NEEDS to create in order that God have a BELOVED.  Rather that it is out of the abundance of Divine love that we are created.

Reed also spends a fair amount of time calling Christians to “change what we think about God.”  As a part of a growing movement of “grace” writers and preachers, Reed wants us to see God’s love as central to his character, thereby responding with thankful faith and trust.  This is contrary to what is the view of many, that God is merely a disciplinary judge.  This view, according to Reed and others, calls forth a response that is obedient for reasons of fear and guilt.

To this point, I am in full agreement with the author.  Throughout his book, Reed employs thoughtful scholarship as he reviews many passages of scripture, reinterpreting many stories from the perspective of God’s relational and loving character.  To that end, I believe that Reed’s book will provide a step towards freedom for many Christians who have been trapped in religious legalism.  He will also provide fodder for many great sermons and studies about the wonderful nature of God’s amazing grace.

That said, the author only provides a step in the right direction.  There are some aspects of the book with which I have major reservations.  First, the author seems to miss out on the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity.  As such, his vision of the wonders of God’s gracious love are still limited and somewhat transactional.

A second weakness, in my opinion, is Reed’s adherence to the doctrine of  penal substitutionary atonement.  While he admits that “no one viewpoint or image can fully convey the meaning of the cross of Christ,” he still suggests that the “most common understanding of the atonement” is “penal substitution.”  The problem is that penal substitution ultimately sees salvation as a transaction.  This makes God the legalist that Reed suggests God is not throughout the rest of his book.  Despite all the talk about God being gracious, loving, and kind – the core of God’s character is, according to the “penal substitution” view, that of a righteous judge whose holiness has been insulted and must be appeased.

Disclaimer: This book review was written after receiving a complimentary copy of the book from the “Speakeasy” blogging network. I was not required to write a positive review, but only to express my own honest opinions. This information is being disclosed in accordance with regulations from the Federal Trade Commission.


by: Doug A. Reed
publisher: Thorncrown Press,
published: 2012-01-12
ASIN: 0984643141
EAN: 9780984643141            sales rank: 2386421             price: $9.70 (new),
$9.94 (used)
            Doug Reed uses important insights from scripture, the historical context of Jesus’s day, and personal experience to prove God’s fervent passion to give Himself to us. When we understand God’s purpose, we begin to see His presence in places we thought He was absent. We come to know God not as one who occasionally visits but as one who abides, always giving His gift, even when we suffer defeat, weakness, and loss.
God is a Gift is invaluable for overcoming fear and finding a life filled with God’s presence. It reveals how grace revolutionizes our relationship with the Lord. Topics include understanding the New Covenant, living in the gift of righteousness, abundant life, worship, and intimacy with God.


Leave a Reply