NORMAN PERCY GRUBB
One gray day in a dismal Michigan February, 1995, I found a battered paperback on a used bookstore shelf. The cover image is still imprinted on my retinae: a blazing sun rising from a golden-blue sea, and in blue letters,
in Daily Living
What a title! I read avidly yet without comprehension since it was such a departure from my evangelical pop theology, but I reread and reread until the binding fell apart, because I discerned a level of Christian experience that I knew nothing about - that this generation knows nothing about.
I had always assumed that conservative evangelicals were the closest thing to the apostolic church because we tried harder than anyone to be New Testament purists. But the author of God Unlimited polished the doctrine of the apostle Paul until the wall between the 20th century and the 1st was as clear as glass, and I perceived that my religion was as far away from "the faith once delivered to all the saints" as Babylon is from Jerusalem.
Some defeated, hurting, disillusioned saints have described Norman Grubb's writings as a healing balm. Their effect on me was more like dynamite. God Unlimited left my theological playground a smoldering ruins and set me off on a long, labyrinthine journey - one that I would gladly take again.
Norman was the son of an Irish Anglican clergyman, WWI soldier, missionary, Bible translator, author, conference speaker, avalanchine letter-writer and Pauline theologian with a wife named Pauline.
As young missionaries Norman and Pauline took Galatians 2:20 as their life verse: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
At the age of 40 he underwent a crisis of faith. While reading William James Varieties of Religious Experience doubt hit him like a thunderbolt: What if spiritual experience is purely subjective and unreal? What if there is no God? He took a hiatus from the WEC secretaryship and spent a year back in England, reading books. He found solid ground again, not in Christian apologetics but in the rational mysticism of William Law, and through Law he discovered Jacob Boehme. In his memoir Once Caught, No Escape he writes, From Boehme I got my answer, and to this day know no writer to match him...Christ incarnated, crucified, risen and glorified is central to him; but he gathered together into one all the twisted strands of the meaning of life as no one else has. He is the last word to me. How I revelled in him and Law. I get more from a sentence or two of Boehme, amidst much I can't understand, than from whole books of others.
(It was through Grubb that I discovered Boehme and started hoarding the materials that became this website.)
A brilliant writer and chaotic, scattershot, rapid-fire speaker, he professed to hate pulpit preaching (“Public speaking is my private hell,” he said), but his popularity as an author and status as WEC secretary and the son-in-law and biographer of famed missionary C.T. Studd made him a much-demanded conference speaker. He moved for a time among the evangelical jet set, hobnobbed with superstar preachers and even shook hands with presidents. It must have been tempting to remain on that path.
But in 1965, after 40+ years of evangelism, he received a new commission from above and retired from his post as WEC secretary. I was now free to pour myself into my main absorption - the sharing with my fellow believers of Paul’s (and my!) revelation of that mystery once hidden “but now made manifest to his saints.” (Col. 1:26) That revelation is of a total present “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) He is the perfection in us, and we in Him are His human manifesters.
He devoted his last three decades to the message that he called union life, and thereby found what it means to count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8
Union life, meaning our union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:4; Col. 3:3; John 12:24-26), is what seminary eggheads call a "Christocentric" theology, and is at variance with mainstream evangelical theology, which teaches that we are saved by making a decision, sanctified by self-discipline, perfected in love by wearing WWJD bracelets, etc. This is what the eggheads call "anthropocentric" (man-centered) theology. Norman called it "self-fussing". "Stop self-fussing, get Christ-fussing," he often said.
Against the official religion of our age Norman Grubb led an insurrection.
Folks are desperately hungry because they have been fed on the milk of the Gospel, but not on the meat of the deeper aspects of truth. They have a faith, but not an intelligent faith which has given them a foundation of understanding which cannot be shaken. Long ago I took to delving in the mystics, not finding what I wanted in modern devotional literature, with few exceptions. I drank deeply, particularly from that master of all of them, Jacob Boehme; then I had to go through years of sorting it all out and confirming it with Scripture... I am deeply convinced, although it sounds awful to say so, that even our deeper life teachers are not really giving the clear foundations, and as a consequence they put many hearers into bondage, because of their emphasis to exhort the believer to get on with his consecration, prayer life, witnessing, etc. (really an exhortation to a Romans 7 life!) rather than unveiling to him a Christ who is all, and will surely mould those who recognize Him in their allness in them, into the pattern of life He intends to live in them.
Why can few pastors accept this truth in its reality? Because it exchanges pastoral management of the flock for direct management by the Chief Shepherd.
The reaction from the professional clergy and their auxiliaries was predictably hostile.
In 1980 Cornerstone Magazine labelled him a pantheist.
His 1986 appearance on Robert Schuller's "Hour of Power" was perceived as his final break from respectable evangelical religion. Heresy hunters have a rabbinical preoccupation with purity - purity of association, that is. Associating with a preacher as non-kosher as Schuller rendered NPG forevermore "Unclean!"
He also drew fire for his brief contact with what is now called the Word-Faith movement, but that was back in the movement's age of innocence, before the Trinity Broadcasting Network unfurled the skull and crossbones and took to the high seas.
In the end, even ministries he had labored with for decades closed the doors on him. The Christian Literature Crusade started inserting disclaimer leaflets in his books. The venues got smaller until banishment from official circles was nearly complete.
Consignment to obscurity did not end the mission. He continued his teaching ministry in living rooms, club houses and book stores until he was 95. He lived to be 98.
Norman Grubb was no armchair theologian. His theology is biography. His books are not travel brochures; they are road maps, made for those willing to take forbidden paths and who "rather choose to endure the wounds of those darts, which envy casteth at novelty, than to go on safely and sleepily in the easy ways of ancient mistakings."
Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. Hebrews 13:12-14
by DeeDee Winter - Bio, books, audio & video, testimonies & remembrances
by Linda Bunting - sister site of normangrubb.com - bookstore, hundreds of letters, articles & essays
blog by Fred Pruitt
blog by Ole Henrik
Large collection of NPG books, essays, extracts, and other great writers too
SEEING GOD ONLY by Nancy Gilmore - a smorgasbord of Union literature, audio & vids and (especially!) some late 1970's e-texts of the excellent but now defunct Union Life Mag