To both paraphrase, and wreck, Henry Higgins, many in the American church today “ought to be taken out and hung for the cold-blooded murder of grace.”
I come from a theological perspective some have labeled the Free Grace Movement. I am happy with that label, because what’s not to like? No, I don’t endorse everything the Free Grace Movement stands for, but I’m sure the feeling is mutual. That’s where charity comes in.
I also feel certain affinities toward what is called Sovereign Grace, a euphemism for Calvinism, though my theological disagreements there are more pronounced.
As a guy who’s known for a grace-oriented theology, I am routinely greeted with enthusiastic statements such as, “My pastor preaches grace too!” Or, “We have a new song about grace.” Or, “I’m glad God is gracious, because I’m such a wreck.” The people I meet in my travels are generally eager to show that their church/ministry/book/etc. proclaims grace too.
The simple fact of the matter is that the church has unceremoniously murdered grace. We have committed this crime by misuse, dilution, and the death of a thousand cuts.
The great Bible teacher and founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, Lewis Sperry Chafer, began his book on grace by saying, “The precise and discriminate meaning of the word grace ought to be crystal clear to every child of God.”
Now, there’s an “ought” I can get behind.
The problem is that we are not crystal clear. We barely reach the “murky” threshold. The church is to blame. The church at large has murdered grace, thereby relegating the people of God to the terminally stunted Phariseeism which Jesus verbally crucified.
Once again, the motive for this crime is less obvious than it might at first appear. Let’s dispatch a few obvious motives, and then get down to brass knuckles.
Obvious Reasons For Confusion About Grace
We can rattle off quite a few obvious reasons for the death of grace in the church today. We have already whined about a general theological illiteracy in the land, which easily applies to the rigorous doctrine we call grace. We have also lamented the thug ironically called ultra-tolerance, and the way it has bullied itself into churches and seminaries today. Unless we’re virtue-signaling our acceptance of every moral deviancy that has a name, we’re accused of being anti-grace.
Perhaps a deeper etching on Grace’s tombstone says something as simple as They Never Understood the Cross. And it’s true. By neglecting theology, we have starved God’s children of the meat of Calvary: propitiation, expiation, regeneration, redemption, vicarious substitution, and all the doctrines stained crimson by Jesus’ blood.
The heart of Scripture is Christ. The heart of Christ is grace. The heart of Grace is the Cross.
Without Christ’s Cross, there is no grace, not in reality, and not conceptually either. There is no such thing as a Christless grace, yet this is certainly abroad in the land. But even worse, there is no such thing as a Crossless grace, and this is pandemic.
Every time we say that God accepts you just as you are, we think we are talking about grace, when in reality we are jabbing a knife in grace’s back unless we connect that acceptance to the Old Rugged Cross.
Every time we tell an immoral person that God forgives them, we only set them up for an even deeper guilt later on, unless we explain exactly how and where that forgiveness was procured. We need a forgiveness that means something — one that the devil can’t undermine — and such a forgiveness requires ideational linkages to the Cross….
[This ends an excerpt from the book Stunted]
This post and podcast are based on a chapter in my forthcoming book called STUNTED: Eleven Disturbing Trends in the Church Today. My agent is still shopping the book to publishers.
If you would like me to let you know when this book comes out, please fill out the form below. Thanks.