Beyond The Pale

Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Beyond The Pale - Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Hype-Grace?: A Response to Michael Brown

Brown

In a recent article gaining a lot of traction on Charisma News, Dr. Michael Brown has taken issue with, as he would say, “hyper-grace”.

As I read the article I am struck by how his arguments attack a theology I don’t think actually exists (for the most part) in the “grace camp”.

Dr. Brown’s issue seems to rest with the assumption that those promoting “hyper- grace” ignore scripture demonstrating God’s displeasure with acts of sin which we still fall into.  Even more specifically he states,

“One of the foundational doctrines of the hyper-grace message is that God does not see the sins of his children”

Let me start putting things in perspective.

Why Grace?

The renewed emphasis on Grace in the Body of Christ is in part a reaction to the “Reformed” view in Christianity which has been dominant in evangelicalism.  Simply put,  it’s the idea that God cannot tolerate sin; and as mankind is full of sin, he can’t tolerate us either.  Because of his love for us though he sends his son Jesus to cleanse us of our sin through his sacrifice and our subsequent faith in him.  The theology goes “that God no longer sees us, but Christ, so now he can fellowship with us again.”  Christ appeases and absorbs the Father’s anger.

However the relationship of Good Cop (Jesus) calming down Bad Cop (The Father) doesn’t reflect the image of God Jesus came to reveal to us.

Grace comes in and says “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” Gal 3:26.  God loves you and there is nothing you can do, including sin, that can separate you from Him.

So we can sin …right? 

Dr. Brown’s concern is not new.  As Paul the Apostle preached the Good News of Grace he was instantly confronted by those who were perplexed by it’s notions.  Does God not care about sin anymore?

Or even more confusing, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound…Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Rom 5:21,6:1  Meaning, “should we keep sinning on purpose so God’s grace can come?”  Paul of course responded, “No, Heaven forbid!”

But if we are even asking the question, “With Grace am I still allowed to sin?” we are not fully understanding Grace because you are asking the wrong question?  By God’s grace through Christ you are no longer a “sinner” but his child.  You are not a hired hand who can be dismissed for poor performance but a family member with your own seat at the Lord’s Table.  It’s not about what you can get away with, it’s about who you are!

cog-in-the-machine4-300x242

God is NOT a cog in the machine!

In both views explained above though there is a danger of erroneously making God just a “cog” in the sin elimination process.

What do you mean by that Steve?

Well, if “Hyper-Grace” folk did truly believe that God “doesn’t see sin”  in us anymore (as Dr. Brown contends) he wouldn’t be a very good father.  I think the key difference is he no longer sees us as sinners!  Our identity is in him, and through him.

If God now just “refuses” to see when we are not acting whole (holy) in keeping with our new identity, then he is no longer our Father but a “cog” or component in the redemption process.

Likewise, the idea that God can only love us if he is seeing Jesus and not us can give the impression that God is neutralized by the presence of sin.  Listening to some of my “reformed” brothers you’d think sin is to God what kryptonite is to Superman.  Jesus then becomes the lead box that allows God to be in the same room with us.  As Paul would say, “God Forbid”. (I’m not suggesting this is Dr, Brown’s position)

Both these views challenge God’s role as a perfect Father who is transforming his children from “glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18) and reduce him to being just another component in the sin elimination process.  Even more worrisome, it makes consciousness to sin the primary way in which we relate to God.

Our relationship with God must center on life with him beyond behavior modification.  Too many Christians even view “time spent with God” as just a time to ask for forgiveness.  As a father myself I want to hear about my son’s day from his lips rather than, “Oops, I messed up again.”

sneeches

Which camp are you in?

Grace Camp

I am a proponent of the Good News of Grace.  Dr. Brown may even identify me (if he knew me) as messenger of “Hyper-Grace” but I am very careful not to draw hard and fast lines between us.  I don’t want to be in the “grace camp” and see Dr. Brown outside the “grace camp”.  One reading his article can’t come away from it without seeing he also loves  God’s grace and wants to see it flourish in the Body of Christ.  I am in his camp and he is in mine.  We are in the Father’s camp and this side of eternity we wrestle through these issues together because they are so important to us.  But we are one in Christ!

Conclusion

My thought is that articles like Dr. Brown’s are evidence that Grace is being preached correctly.  If we are not being questioned about the possibility of grace being abused…it probably wasn’t grace to begin with.  Paul the Apostle, who we can all agree had the commission to preach the Good News to the Gentiles, was constantly having to defend and explain grace to those who thought it could be used as an excuse for taking liberties.  Using the template of the New Testament, if we are not having to defend and explain grace on a regular basis, we are probably adding a dose of “law” in to make it more palatable to the religious community.

Using Dr. Brown’s vernacular, I would suggest that Paul was a messenger of this “Hyper- Grace” he calls into question.

Come to think of it, can you even have “Hyper” grace?  Can one go beyond Grace?  It makes me wonder then if there is “Hyper Love”  that goes beyond  just love.

Or is  “love” and “grace” sufficient… with God providing the only prefix that is needed!

 

 

Category: Grace of God
  • andrew says:

    I think it would be healthy for Christians to stop seeing themselves as Sinners. I always thought that point was overemphasized even when i was a believer, but now that am I an unbeliever….. it is striking how much the sin mentality of the average Christian stands out. Looking back, I see how much time Christianity spends talking about it, worrying about it, and obsessing about it in others.

    Now that I am out, I see 98% of sin worry as completely contrived. So many believers define a major portion of their identity on their position as a sinner. Yet, when I stepped out of that thinking, I found I pretty much never “sin”. Odd to state your personal narrative according to something that takes up such a small sliver of your actions. On the other hand, most of my day is spent doing happy things, and spreading happiness to others. How much better a world where we see ourselves that way.

    Admittedly, it is the more fundamental Christian who takes on the mindset, “Have you ever lied? Then you are a LIAR!” But I have found that even the lighter, more happy versions of Christianity, often carry an anchor of “sin mentality”. They will talk about the Joy of Jesus in one sentence, and then bemoan how often they let God down in the next.

    I completely agree that people need to move past a life of focusing on behavior modification, but I think trying to do that within the context of religion is tricky indeed.

    February 23, 2013 at 10:41 pm
  • Holly says:

    Thanks for explaining more about Grace. More and more I am seeing how important it is to embrace grace to really be free. As I was reading this, I was thinking wow.. we should really be beyond this foundational aspect in our walks, but I really think when you focus on Jesus and understand the parables, etc.. it is clear to see the love and grace he put forward and how the pharisees who thought they were so holy failed so badly. I find nothing more hurtful and rejecting as a judgmental christian (not saying this about Mr. Brown, just brothers and sister’s I’ve known).

    It’s so funny because those of us who love Jesus all fall short.. we are all the same, we do fail from time to time but there are those that pick up the stones and there are those that forgive. Obviously the ones that forgive are the ones that make you want to be the best you can. The ones that pick up the stones only cause more hurt. I am so thankful that I a forgiven daughter of the Most High!

    February 23, 2013 at 11:48 pm
  • Steve says:

    Andy: Yes, As a father yourself you know how good it feels when your kids are truly sorry for something wrong they have done, but you wouldn’t want that type of exchange to be the most time involved element of your relationship

    Holly: Thanks for your comment! Yes, it is over the top amazing to be called a daughter or son of the Most High!

    February 24, 2013 at 6:27 am
  • Paul Ellis says:

    Steve,
    I love your take on the “grace camp.” You are right. It is a bad idea to draw lines between Us and Them since we are all one in Christ. I have unthinkingly referred to the grace camp in the past. Never again. Labels diminish us.

    February 25, 2013 at 1:53 pm
  • Dr. Michael L Brown says:

    Steve,

    I just spotted a link to your site here and wanted to thank you for your desire to be irenic and recognize our greater unity in Jesus. I too speak as a brother to brothers! We have our differences, and hopefully we can sharpen each other in the Lord. Grace to you!

    February 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm
  • Steve says:

    Thanks Paul! Appreciate your thoughts on that…

    February 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm
  • Steve says:

    Dr. Brown,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s not often I get input from the subject of the post :) I do appreciate your kindness in a potentially divisive issue and although we probably disagree on some issues here and there, what unites us in Christ far outweighs that. It’s a privilege to co-labor with you…Steve

    February 26, 2013 at 7:29 pm
  • Chikirin says:

    “But if we are even asking the question, “With Grace am I still allowed to sin?” we are not fully understanding Grace because you are asking the wrong question? By God’s grace through Christ you are no longer a “sinner” but his child. You are not a hired hand who can be dismissed for poor performance but a family member with your own seat at the Lord’s Table. It’s not about what you can get away with, it’s about who you are!”

    With respect, that doesn’t really answer the question.

    March 13, 2013 at 4:31 am
    • Steve says:

      Chikirin,

      I appreciate the comment but my response is that if someone is asking that question they are not “getting it”. It’s as if the boss’ son is starting his first day at work. The Chief of Staff is showing him his new office and all the wonderful privileges he will enjoy in addition to incredible authority and discretion he will have to expand his Father’s business. So then the son turns to the Chief of Staff and responds, “That cool, so what happens to me if I start abusing the employees…do I still get to be a son?”

      I mean, what do you do with that? How do you respond? Is it even a question to be asked? I suppose the answer is “yes” however there may be other issues to deal with first

      March 13, 2013 at 6:42 am
  • Jim says:

    Hey Steve,
    Great article. I have been a financial supporter of Dr Brown for a while now
    and, he certainly puts the cat amust the pigeons.

    Do I agree with everything he says? no, and certainly not in this case of ‘Hyper grace’ I think as Paul was teaching and preaching, this comes down to the difference between law and grace, old and new, before and now. John 1:17 draws a distinction between the law and (truth) grace. As you rightly point out grace is all about our positon in Christ. That position means God sees us in a completly different perspective. I think if we focus on how God sees us, in other words how much he loves us, the more would will love him. The less likely we are to sin against him. I don’t commit adultry because the law tells me its wrong. I don’t commit adulty because I love my wife.
    Gace is a demonstration of God’s love towards us. That very love once received and understood teaches us not to sin. Titus 2:11-14
    God bless you Steve.

    March 15, 2013 at 10:47 pm
    • Steve says:

      Thanks Jim! Thanks for sharing your heart…

      Cheers, Steve

      March 16, 2013 at 5:23 am
  • Brian Midmore says:

    The debate in many ways mirrors the differences between Luther and Calvin. Luther emphasised the discontinuity between the covenants whereas Calvin stressed their continuity. It is not surprising therefore that a reaction against reformed teaching should generate a theological system similar to Lutheranism, with all its strengths and weaknesses. There is nothing new under the sun.

    January 15, 2014 at 4:36 pm
  • 2trakmind says:

    Great post! Two things stood out to me in this.

    First: “I am very careful not to draw hard and fast lines between us. I don’t want to be in the “grace camp” and see Dr. Brown outside the “grace camp”.

    Labels can be used for good and bad. “Hyper-grace,” and the “grace camp” are used for both, depending on what “side” you’re on…and that’s a problem…for both “camps.” I think it’s OK to call things what they are, as long as it’s not used in a derogatory manner, but all too often these terms are used either to puff ourselves up, or tear others down. Neither of which are honoring to anyone; others, the one uttering it, or Christ.

    I think we are in the midst of one of the most important reformations in Christianity. Regardless of how we view the Bible, whether as basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth, infallible, inspired, flawed over centuries of human/religious influence, or entirely made up by men, whatever; for far too long, it has been used by Christians as a sword, to cut other people down. If we truly believe what the Bible says, it’s time to beat the Bible into a plowshare, and truly seek its divine Inspiration (Christ), as our true guide for life. Doing so will break down the arrogance and division that is so prevalent in the conversation, today, and open up a dialog that allows people to challenge long held beliefs, sift out the chaff, and leave behind what is pure and true.

    Second: “But if we are even asking the question, “With Grace am I still allowed to sin?” we are not fully understanding Grace because you are asking the wrong question?”

    I have had this very thought, many times. If I have truly received the grace of Christ; why would I even ask such a question? The affect of Christ living in me, making me new, and giving me a new heart, is that I don’t desire to sin any longer. If my new heart has no desire to sin; why would I entertain such a question? The fact that the question crosses my mind is an indication to me that I have yet to realize my new identity.

    February 20, 2014 at 12:20 am
  • Brian Midmore UK says:

    I agree that hypergrace is essentially a reaction against reformed theology. The problem with much of reformed teaching is that it implies that I am horribly sinful but I am protected from Gods wrath by the righteousness of Christ which is the basis for God’s acceptance of me. Now what happens when I sin? I have now become unacceptable to God. Therefore we need to avoid sin to stay acceptable to God (now I don’t think this is the best reformed theology!). Thus confession becomes a way back into a place of grace. But if we think covenantally we know that we are in God’s family on the basis of faith in the Messiah Jesus. Family members are not ejected if they misbehave but they are disciplined. Confession and conviction should be seen as part of this discipline. God does not see me as sinful or sinless but he sees me as I am a full covenant member in the family of God on the basis of faith in a faithful Messiah. I am justified by faith. I am in God’s family by the Spirit and I am disciplined by the same Spirit. The focus is not sin or sinlessness but membership in God’s holy community.

    February 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm
  • Steve Hackman says:

    Thanks 2trakmind and Brian for your comments. Brian, I agree the confession part is a stumbling block for some and some “grace” teachers have got a little to vocal about NOT confessing. But Daniel Silva in his new book does a good job addressing the issue. We confess our sin but not as a means to obtain “right standing” again but to keep our hearts soft and sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

    February 21, 2014 at 6:48 am
  • Patrick OToole says:

    “As a father myself I want to hear about my son’s day from his lips rather than, “Oops, I messed up again.”

    Steve, your…. what shall I call them… word pictures? always bring a tear to my eye and help me really understand my relationship with God in a practical way.

    Thanks.

    February 21, 2014 at 9:48 am
    • Steve says:

      Thanks Patrick, that is very kind!

      February 21, 2014 at 11:40 am
  • Brian Midmore UK says:

    On the theme that hyper grace is a reaction against reformed theology. Prov 26.4 says ‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly lest you be like him. The danger is of making the errors of reformed theology the starting point for hypergrace theology. Reformed theology is very perfectionist. When it reads the word ‘righteous’ it sees an absolute abstracted and Platonic righteousness which can only be achieved by having Christ’s absolute righteousness. Has not hypergrace a version of this when it says ‘all sins past present and future are forgiven,’ (Now the problem with this idea is that it might allow Christians to sin with impunity, It does not directly encourage them nor necessarily does it mean that the teachers of this idea are encouraging sin). I believe that our acceptability to God is not based on our having absolute righteousness. We are acceptable to God because the Messiah is acceptable. He was raised for our justification. I believe we can have all the benefits of hypergrace without its controversial ideas. ‘Righteous’ must be understood covenantly. Of course in your understanding of how confession works you have not taken into account ‘and God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins’ and ‘forgive us our trespasses’.

    February 21, 2014 at 4:08 pm
    • Steve says:

      Thanks Brian, I tend to not deal with grace as a theology per se as some of my “Hyper-grace” friends do. For example the phrase you suggest “all sins past, present, and future are forgiven” is not something I am likely to use. That term, while I don’t completely disagree with it, fails to convey the relationship aspect between God and his children. In fact it has the affect of reducing God once again to being a “cog in the machine” of my repentance and behavior modification program. I prefer to say I am God’s child and I am forgiven. Nothing, including my sin will ever change that…and then on occasion I feel a need to ask forgiveness for some bad action on my part. My ‘confession” flows from relationship, never from prescription.

      February 22, 2014 at 5:36 am
  • Brian Midmore UK says:

    Paul Ellis, who has contributed to this site, would say ‘Forgiveness is a done deal’ i.e God never forgives actively in the new covenant. I would suggest that this idea is at the heart of the hypergrace movement and it gives rise to controversial ideas that Dr Brown is opposed to. If God does not actively forgive then we have a problem with 1 John 1.9. This is explained away. But we also have trouble with Matt 6.12 which is part of the Lords Prayer. This is dealt with saying that half of what Jesus said (we are never told which half) was meant for the Jews only. It is these tendencies that Dr Brown is opposed to. Now what you are describing as the basis for your confession is indeed a covenantal relationship based on Gods love (against such there is no law). This I contend is not hypergrace and it is a position that Dr Brown would agree with. I agree entirely that so much theology is mechanistic and therefore squeezes out God’s love. I accept that hypergrace has the goal of finding that secure place within God’s love but it uses its own cogs to get there. Hypergrace has answered reformed theology according to its folly.

    February 22, 2014 at 3:52 pm
  • Brian Midmore UK says:

    Forgive a second post but I was thinking about the metaphor of the cog and I was reminded of the mechanical devise called an orrery which described the motions of the planets. I then made the connexion with the three Magi who used the stars to find the Messiah. God uses cogs and mechanisms and mathematical formulae to lead people to him. In this way we might indeed find a place of God’s love and security in the Messiah using theological mechanisms. If we were utterly condemned by the sermon on the mount hearing that it did not apply to Christians may be the means by which we entered into the love of God more fully. But in the same way that the Magi’s finding Jesus by astrology does not endorse astrology people being helped by the cogs of hypergrace does not endorse these cogs. It reveals we are dealing with a gracious God. The problem then comes when these hypergrace cogs are challenged, the response is: ‘These are the ideas that helped me come into a place of grace and escape condemnation and if these ideas are refuted then the foundation for my security is taken away’ and ‘those opposed to hypergrace are also opposed to the goal of hypergrace which is the security of God’s love’. Nonetheless false teaching like astrology is false no matter how helpful to some it might be. For a mature relationship with God we must burn our astrological maps and dismantle our orreries.

    February 22, 2014 at 4:38 pm
  • Ivan A. Rogers says:

    HYPER-GRACE
    Grace is not only Hyper but it is Super hyper – Romans 5:20-21 reads – “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Greek word used for “abounded” in context of grace abounding is hyperperisseuō, there are two root words that are used for this word, the first word is Hyper, which is originally where we got the word hyper from. Not only that, the second part of the word expresses abounding or hyper is perisseuō which by definition means – to hyper/abound beyond measure, to hyper/abound exceedingly, to overflow and enjoy abundantly ~ Simon Wilson

    July 5, 2014 at 3:19 am

Leave a Reply