A Biblical Response to Hyper-Grace

Some time ago I read “Jesus + Nothing=Everything.” I found it very troubling, even in the midst of all the good phrases, Bible verses and theological words. My conclusion was that it was antinomian in direction with the practical effect that justification by grace through faith became the whole of the Christian life and left little room for the drama of sanctification. In line with the wider Reformed theology family, much emphasis was put on the imputation of Christ’s obedience to the Christian with the result that the Christian was not only forgiven but whose responsibility for obedience was fulfilled by Christ. This is what the theologian John Murray called “definitive sanctification.”

I wrote a review of it on Amazon expressing my concern and felt the wrath of the Reformed!!

The bottom line is that Tullian Tchividjian’s view of sanctification came too close to antinomianism. The subsequent Liberate conferences left me in no doubt. The bottom line is that we do not obey the law of God as the law of God. To do so is seeking a moral improvement that ends in self-righteousness. The main spring of Christian living is gratitude for the mercy of God. This alone can lead to the life that pleases God. The way this works out in relationships is that the only way to truly help people change is to treat them with mercy, even in the midst of their evil ways. This will be to them an incitement to gratitude that will change their lives.

Is there truth here? Yes. Is this all the truth? No. It leaves little room for Godly repentance and sorrow and that obedience which arises from the exertion of the will to obey the Law of God. This by definition is works righteousness. Duty is the Devil’s playground (my phrasing). Since Christ fulfilled the Law in our place, we are looked upon as if the Law of God has been fulfilled. We can no longer appeal to the Law as a reason, the reason, for doing the will of God. As one can imagine, this can take very dangerous turns, as it has historically done.

This is one of the reasons why some theologians have taken another look at the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to see if it really squares with the Bible’s teaching. Certainly all Evangelicals believe that the passive suffering of Christ has been imputed to us that leads to forgiveness of sin. But no all Evangelicals assert that the life of Christ’s obedience has been imputed to us in a manner that leaves us free from our own active obedience, at least in terms of a life pleasing to God.

This kind of teaching is also making large inroads into the charismatic community, something Dr. Michael Brown has addressed time and again.

Here are a couple of messages with reference to the Liberate type teaching. The message are more textual than theological, so many questions are left unaddressed. But the number of texts marshaled to reject the Liberation type teaching is helpful and convincing that we have a problem here.

This teaching appears to be at a Sunday School-like class at John MacArthur’s church by Wayne De Viller. Here and here. I would differ from some of the points made but in the whole believe it addresses some of the concerns I have.

Dr. Fundamentalis – the Respect of HL Mencken for J Gresham Machen

Here is HL Mencken’s obituary of J Gresham Machen, the founder of my seminary, Westminster Theological. Mencken was an arch-cynic whose caustic columns for the Baltimore Sun influenced opinion leaders probably more than any other journalist during his time. He is perhaps best known for his scathing screeds against the Fundamentalists at the Scopes Trial in TN, the so-called “Monkey Trials.” The only Fundamentalist for which he seemed to have regard was Machen, whom be dubbed Dr. Fundamentalis.

One cannot read Machen’s book, Christianity and Liberalism, enough times. It’s accessible, relevant and enduring.

The Inability to Hold the Poor Accountable for Dysfunctional Behavior – a Solution?

“The problem for liberals, of course, is their inability to hold the poor accountable for dysfunctional behavior.” Bernie Goldberg

Liberals can’t answer well the question, how much is enough? This is also an issue for the church in its international mission. Part of the problem – the way relief and compassion ministries are set up to assist is to create institutions, which then can help institutionalize poverty. They become part of the economic structure which in the aggregate are depended upon for income or what income could buy. Think Haiti, whose national economy is dependent upon NGOs and there is no intent of changing the way things are. This is one of the reasons why I no longer give to Haiti relief ministries.

I have been exploring compassionate giving through organizations that give money directly to the poor with no institution building.There are groups, such as givedirectly.org which scope out poor regions internationally and identify the impoverished, funneling them sufficient funds to radically change their lives – what they do with those funds is their business. They can invest in their own education, start a business, etc., or a multiple of these things at the same time. They do not have to do what an institution tells them to do. People, though impoverished, know how to do what is best for them. They do not need to be treated like children.

Statistically they can prove that people in large will be better off and more resources go directly to the poor because there is no institution to support. Overhead is almost none existent. They have offered to any relief organization to go head to head statistically on the results of their work. No takers. They particularly wanted to spar with heifer.org, which has been critical of Give Directly, a very popular relief organization which buys a heifer for the poor that can be a life changer. Heifer would not go on the record with them.

Do yourself a favor and the poor too and listen to this NPR Planet Money program. You will be surprised. Maybe as way of helping IS really hurting, as the book title goes.

I would like to see some version of this in the church, but I doubt it will happen, since the church wants to give in such a way that produces community and in the Name of Christ. To give in such a manner as makes it easy for the recipient to walk away from the donor Christian community seems to go against the fuller work that the church wants to do. But maybe the example of Christ himself would help us here. He merely healed, he merely fed, he merely raised the dead – without second layer institution building that itself was attached to the things he did. The Book of Acts seems to be showing the church doing somewhat similar things. They, like Jesus, go about doing good. Let the chips fall how they will.