After picking up John Kleinig’s Grace upon Grace: Spirituality for Today (CPH, 2008) shortly after it was published, my sabbatical has finally afforded me the time to read it. Kleinig is Australian, recently retired as a professor at the Lutheran seminary in Adelaide. I’ve had the privilege of taking two intensive classes with him; one in 1998 on 1-2 Chronicles (the focus of his doctoral thesis, published as The Lord’s Song), and one just this past September on Exodus. I’ve also heard him speak at three conferences, one several years ago at the Paul Gerhardt symposium at St. Catherine’s seminary (near Niagara Falls) and twice at Doxology “Spotlight on Ministry” conferences. I will travel far and put everything else on hold to hear him, because Kleinig points to the grace of Jesus Christ in everything he says and does.

A Hebrew scholar, Kleinig is no narrow specialist. He has drunk deeply from the wells of Lutheran orthodoxy, hymnody and liturgy, and switches between discussing the grammar of a passage and how it applies to prayer, liturgy, spirituality, and daily life with astonishing facility, obviously developed over a lifetime of devotion to the Lord JESUS and His Word. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him, seize it.

 


Grace upon Grace is the rare work that is beneficial whether one is brand new to the Christian faith or holds advanced degrees in theology. By no means a short book (287 pages), it nevertheless has only five tightly defined chapters: The Mystery of Christ; The Mystery of Meditation; The Mystery of Prayer; The Hidden Battle; and Hidden Holiness. These are all elaborations on the vital introduction entitled Receptive Spirituality. Kleinig’s genius is in the unrelenting focus on the Gospel in everything. Meditation, prayer, spiritual warfare, holiness – all are accomplished not by your effort but by Christ’s gift.

I asked Dr. Kleinig to sign my copy when I heard him teach in Nebraska last month (on what was really an extended discussion of the fourth chapter, “The Hidden Battle”), and his inscription is an apt summary of the book and the character of this Doctor of the Church: “Dear Christopher, God the Father give you grace upon grace through His dear Son, so that by His Spirit you may abound in joy and in the work of the Lord. John W Kleinig.”

Buy the book, and don’t wait as long as I did to read it.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)