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.
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!
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.”
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!
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!