Afternoon everyone! It’s nice to finally be back and sharing some original content. Between two weeks of having a cold and my jam packed work schedule it’s been hard to get any blogging done. It’s been one of those months where you get the odd “concerned” Christian writing to you from church, you know the ones. Still, I’m feeling great again and have just finished up a week’s worth of holiday (my first holiday all year!) Badly needed too. So Sunday school was back in action today, with me taking the class through chapter 1 of Joshua, verse by verse style. Reading Joshua is what I’ve been doing recently so bringing them along for the study was ideal.
Anyway here’s hoping you’ve had a wonderful Sunday so far, and below I’m adding something I wrote during my sickly down time (I think it was during that time), since even if I’m not studying I’m still sharing Christ with friends and the like. So I got into a conversation with a friend of mine about sin and Christian living, the classic question being: can’t we as believers just do whatever we like if the price of our misdeeds is already paid for at the cross. So defining terms as I try to do happened quickly, and this brought us both into a discussion on Hyper Grace, or the “free believers” movement. Enjoy everybody and God bless.
Don’t believe the hype! (A brief overview of hyper grace).
Hyper grace people are drawn to verses, lone verses. People mockingly call this practice “verse theology,” where a person takes a single verse (sometimes totally out of context) and makes it a slogan or lone article of the faith, Calvinists famously do this with perhaps two dozen verses. These will be the go to verses in times of trouble.
They fall on a need for experience a lot, insisting that the groups who find fault against their theological conclusions must be grumpy legalists, rule fanatics eager to bind them up in service to the law again.
Obviously I’m drawn to my experience too. God’s presence can be immediately experienced if we sincerely want to invite Him. Scripture teaches draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Still that feeling of nearness and fellowship doesn’t tell me much about His character/desires for us in detail. It can be reassuring to me, showing me He’s loving, kind and wants what’s best for us, but that doesn’t mean I know many incredible things like how He’s chosen to act in history. The history books tell us that.
The major difficulty is that the hyper gracer often doesn’t want what the history books teach, they don’t want a community or shared witness of what God’s done. Instead they end their journey into faith at a person’s private confession of faith.
Considering how many gracers reject the Christian community it’s rich that this author in particular (The Misunderstood God) writes so much about relationship. In the back of his book they’ve advertised “so you want to stop going to church?”, as well as the author writing about others being “anti relationship.” These ideas won’t share a bed together. To belong to a church simply is to be in relationship, our communities are a type of Christ, our marriages too are a type of Christ’s relationship to the church. Desiring an end to church and to harp on about the benefits of exiting our Christian community is anti relationship at one of the most harmful levels.
An unchurched person might reply what about the money culture and the sex abuse scandals and the bullying that goes on in the church, and a common rebuttal in Christianese is to say those things aren’t part of the church (not the invisible church of true believers), they’re abuses of our trust within the church by largely unregenerate persons. Personally I feel that’s an awesome reply. The Bible is replete with references to wolves who occupy our church buildings and hide themselves amidst the loving people in our community. Just so long as we keep in mind that the point of a church building is so that the body of Christ can gather together to adore our God, abuses of that intended purpose can’t be held against the church as a whole or the beliefs expressed by her.
So they have a low view of the Bible and of gathering to worship. I believe the Bible is correct not in a way that says the Jews literally hatch eggs or spin spiders webs, but rather that the Bible’s authors (both human & divine) have rightly explained the things they’ve expressed.
If the Bible calls someone a snake (a common expression for being dishonest) then I believe the Bible has accurately captured that person’s character at that time. The hyper grace camp don’t believe that though. They fall back onto the “many interpretations” argument. They’ll say “how do you know that your reading of scripture is the correct one?” As you can imagine I’ve got a few ways to reply to this.
In the same way that the hyper grace camp have a habit of overemphasising their preferred verses at the expense of the wider text, they have a similar tenancy to box Jesus up and repackage Him as a huggable preschool teacher character.
The writer of The Misunderstood God (Darin Hufford) gives an illustration of himself and his daughter. In this example he’s god, his daughter is you. Darin explained how after church his daughter was super excited to see him, running through the crowds of people in search of her “daddy” (he writes daddy a lot). So, according to the author, his daughter is so eager to see him and be with him that she inadvertently wets herself.
Seeing this from afar he rushed to her aid, sweeping her up into his arms and shielding her from even the possibility of the crowd’s condemnatory gaze. Darin protected her from shame and embarrassment, whispering encouraging things to her as he spirited her away to the car. Sin is like wetting yourself, he writes. Explaining further that God will never expose your shame like that.
Now for the quote of the day, I don’t wazz myself, sir. I’m not a baby and that wasn’t an “oops moment.” When I sin I very consciously sin, probably more consciously than when a non-Christian sins.
Lots of non-Christians could say what the heck, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be doing (insert sin here), and for many kinds of sin they’d be right. Paul said he was alive UNTIL he heard the law, and after hearing the law’s condemnation sin revived in him and he died. Now Paul didn’t die literally, but he was saying something terrible happened regarding his relationship to God and salvation because he came face to face with the stone cold facts of the law.
So returning to my earlier point, Christian believers, at least Christians with a proper understanding of what God expects from them, are far more culpable for a sin life (be it big or small) than anybody outside of the Christian faith. Thank God for Jesus because a learned Christian needs Him more than most.
So again we’re not talking about oops moments or childish accidents, at best, to partly save Darin’s example, I could say we have warring members in our body and the good we want to do we often don’t do, and the horrible things we hate ourselves for doing we sometimes do.
God’s not indifferent or patronising to us when we’re sinning. In a similar way, at least according to people attracted to Hyper grace, Jesus never flipped the temple tables or called anybody a whitened tomb (and he certainly didn’t tell a grieving man “let the dead bury their dead.”) The hyper grace camp are reading their Bible as if the book of Revelation isn’t included, because if it is included, then Jesus would rebuke us for much of what we do. He responds in strong terms to our backsliding. Or to borrow a phrase He “has some things against us.”
I have a phrase which I’ll sometimes say to people, and it’s kind of in jest (because I know the depths of my sin problem), but when I’m wrestling with sin and winning, when I’m particularly strong, somebody will ask how I’m doing, and I’ll reply with a wink and a smile “Livin’ in holiness, two weeks now. 😉 ” Now I don’t say that because I’m keeping track of my minor sins, rather I know I’m “living in holiness” because I’ve been avoiding my hot button sins, my sins of choice you might say.
For example, I’m not really given to envy, only God knows why that’s not one of my failings, that’s not a hot button sin in my book. So at a time like the above ^^^ I wouldn’t be sensitive to my envy, if it pops up at all. Still, almost immediately after I playfully boast that I’m living in holiness I become conscious of how I’m behaving, sure I’m avoiding the big bad sins which I feel particularly ashamed of, but what about the others?
I remember within a minute of saying to a friend that I’m “living in holiness” I caught myself sinning! So what on earth was going on? I really am striving for holiness, for Christian authenticity, and yet there’s this horrible thing in me (in us all) that rears its ugly head, cutting down our walk. And in my case causing this terrible (albeit short lived) feeling like I’m back at square one. This leads into the next point.
SALVATION & JUSTIFICATION.
Most often the beliefs of the hyper gracer to do with salvation are a combination of perseverance and universalism. Perseverance as a belief goes hand in glove with their zero condemnation, guilt free lifestyle. I mean to write zero condemnation from God, not from their own camp, they’re often very condemnatory around people who don’t share their “sin boldly” perspective. Sinning boldly and unashamedly is a kind of proof of their salvation. Perseverance of the saints is sometimes a doctrine related to God’s power, His ability to keep us from falling beyond rescue and although I find many of the proof texts for this unconvincing, it is a belief held by many sincere Christians.
The hyper gracers are very serious when it comes to scripture like there’s no condemnation for those who’re in Christ Jesus, and not so involved in scripture which teaches if we say we have no sin the truth is not in us, or other scripture which encourage believers to confess their sins to each other, God being faithful to forgive us (present tense). Actually in many cases it seems that the hyper grace camps believe they have no sin and are incapable of sinning, this happening based upon the cross of Christ and a sincere confession of faith. Once again their benchmark for judging who qualifies for such sinful indulgences is whosoever confesses and believes. There is a theory of salvation but not necessarily of outward sanctification.
In class my students have to listen to me explain “walk vs. talk”, both are necessary in terms of defining Christians. It’s not an original idea but a reworking of the old faith vs. works debate. Class have to learn about talking the talk, the “Christian credentials,” or doctrine as we grown-ups would say. One God, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace and not works attained by faith, and if certain people approach you, people who don’t hold these views, they may be perfectly nice people, but they’re not holding to the views of the historic church. Rather they may not be sure what their view is, or maybe they’re holding to some novel view which they feel is more ancient than it in fact is.
In addition to talk my kids need to learn how to walk right, being slow to anger, quick to forgive, having cleverness to them (as clever as teenagers can be). They need to know what work looks like. Everyone remembers that famous passage in James I’m sure, about telling a person to go in peace, be warm and filled, but that’s got no strong meaning if we don’t really help the person (while having the means to help the person). My class seen an example of this only two or three weeks ago when I challenged a bum (a lying bum at that) to attend church with me. I told the bloke you’re gonna have to work for your money, and work he did. “Blackmail!” the kids boomed, I pointed out this was more like bribery.
Adult members of the church didn’t like what I’d done too, but while they were off at their social club I was sitting on the steps of church teaching this guy about Christ’s love for him. We had a similar disagreement over the church homeless shelter last year, since at the event I made the wild move of talking about God during the evening’s soup chow down. You can imagine how offended some of these people were, dining at the church’s table at the expense of my money and time and having to hear about the God who brought us all there (scandalous!)
Nevertheless, after we’d sat through an extra long service I was just as good as my word, treating him to food, drink and even a little money. I write “even a little money” because that’s really what has power over people, many churchgoers know it. What does the hyper grace person say to a homeless man whose mouth is a factory of poorly constructed lies and whose hands are yet stained with the blood of our Lord? Here’s the incredible answer, they say nothing. We’re all going to heaven one way or another, so in their universalism they let loose any motion of sharing Christ with the lost. Now it’s not true for everybody in these camps and like all of us online I’m only meaning to address a certain (large) section of the movement.
This might be the most tragic part of the hyper grace movement, not because the unevangelised are doomed to an eternity of torture in hell (I don’t believe that), but rather it’s tragic because making a move for Christ, being born again, brings joy and advantages which we have in this life, they’re experiences and rewards for right here in the now. The hyper gracer sees this as an end game situation, so why bother to share a parable or advice of Jesus when He’s already booked all of us on the big bus to heaven.
Scripture teaches about fruits of the Spirit, gifts given to God’s people so we’re able to live out the kind of life He’s planned for us. They’re life enriching, game changing, that’s why I share Jesus around my friends, family & casual acquaintances. It’s not about right-wing or left-wing, gay or straight, and in the big shocker it’s not even about religion, it’s about relationship, knowing God personally (another promise of His found in Christ). How classical Christians and the hyper grace camp differ is sometimes large, and to the radical wing of the grace camp gifts of the Spirit can sound strange and alien to their religion, but no difference amounts to being insurmountable when both groups (at their best) are so indebted and captured by Christ.
― T. C. M