"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment,so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Eph. 4:29, NASB)
2“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20, NASB95)
In any theological debate - whether face-to-face, in writing (journals or books) or even on Facebook, the debaters can easily slide into "the ways of the world" in their approach. This last week, I read or heard two different attacks against free grace in general and, included in the attacks, each criticized the Free Grace Alliance. Such attacks are nothing new. And, like most attacks, the attackers did not "fight fair". Both attacks made incorrect statements about free grace theology, both employed emotional arguments to make their position sound stronger, both used weak logic in some of their arguments.
What they said isn't important here, we address that elsewhere. What I do want to address is, how do we fight the fight? We will face theological challenges, some significant, some less so. But no matter how serious the issue, I hope this principle rises to the top:
Practice grace when talking about grace (or any other topic, for that matter).
I know when I am attacked my initial response is to fight back. The trick is learning to respond differently; to "give grace to those who hear." I'm not saying harsh words are never necessary, but usually I jump to such words far too quickly. How can we "give grace" and "heap burning coals on their head?
- Know your opponents viewpoint. Too often I am too busy defending my view without understanding the other's view. I get irritated when they misrepresent me; it is no longer a "fair fight" if I misrepresent them. If you are really brave, summarize to the other person what you understand their view to be. You might be surprised by their response!
- Avoid pejorative terms. In the Lordship / Free Grace debates, those we call "lordship" often refer to our position as "no Lordship" or "cheap grace". Some labeled the position of Zane Hodge's, et al, as "the crossless gospel". Such terms do not promote discussion; they denigrate both the position and the person who holds it. Granted, the position may be untenable, but we still need to avoid pejoratives!
- Avoid bad logic! I've had people say, "If you hold the FGA position, then you believe x, y, z". They then knock down x, y, and z. The problem with their conclusion? I don't believe x, y, or z! For example, "If you hold the FGA position, then you believe you can do anything you want"! That's only partially true - I do believe I can do anything I want without fear of hell, but I do not believe I can do anything I want with no consequences, perhaps including severe discipline from God (Heb. 12). Be careful to avoid bad logic when debating someone else's view.
I hope those outside the FGA, will see us differently. I want us to be known as people who believe in free grace (whether or not the person agrees with that view) and practice grace when addressing people and issues. I've heard far too many people shy away from the Free Grace Movement because they perceive too much in-fighting. Let's not be legalistic about grace; let's practice what we preach. We do need to take a stand on certain issues; we need to takes such stands graciously.
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a wordas is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."
"Just make sure it's your ideas that offend and not you, that your beliefs cause the dispute and not your behavior." (Gregory Koukl, "Tactics"). *
Walking with you in grace,
Roger Fankhauser, D.Min.
* I highly recommend this book to challenge our thinking about how we address those with whom we disagree, Christian and non-Christian alike. Greg Koukl, Tactics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).