graciousness

Fight Fair!

 FromthePresidentFight Fair!

"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?
  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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. President, FGA
* 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).

 

Rob Bell and the Deadly Trend in the Free Grace Movement

Br Dr. Fred Lybrand

Let's have a discussion.


So, Rob Bell writes a book called "Love Wins" and it is basically all about heaven and hell with a final conclusion that Love wins out; God's love will ultimately persuade everyone to embrace Him and His heaven.  It sounds like universalism, but Bell and others are also denying it.  You can call it what you want, but if everyone gets in, then salvation is clearly 'universal' (hence the name).


Of course this is unabashedly anti-scriptural (nice interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vg-qgmJ7nzA ), but what is behind his conclusion?  Cynically we could speak in terms of fame and fortune as motivating Bell to depart from the historic / biblical Christian faith.  I, however, think there is a far more simple way to think about it theologically.  Bell has just imposed a hierarchy on the attributes of God.  The net result is that Bell has taken grace (he says love, but a loving God must be gracious) to the extreme.


Face it---if God is gracious wouldn't He save everyone (that's the idea)?  If you are gracious to save one, you are even more gracious to save two.  If you are loving enough to save one, you are even more loving to save two. The more the merrier...why not just save all?  Rob Bell is simply running one piece of the puzzle to the extreme.  This is the kind of logic behind Paul's accusers in Romans 3:8, that grace was un-boundried.




In Back to Faith (http://www.backtofaith.com) I have an appendix dealing with Antinominism.  Basically, I point out that the real antinomians are the universalists.  Rob Bell is the end result that Lordshippers and Legalists think our theology leads a person to conclude.


Though I have fought against the legitimacy of that accusation, I'm starting to waver a little.  It may be that some of us are flirting with the same deadly trend we see in Rob Bell.  I believe some of us are starting to create a hierarchy within the attributes of God to our own demise.  If this is new to you, then indulge the thought for a moment.  God has a nature (complex of attributes) which includes such things as love, holiness, justice, mercy, omnipotence, etc.  These attributes essentially describe God and the way in which He functions as best we can discern from the revelation through His Word.  When we understand God's attributes as perfectly balanced within His person we are fine, but if we begin to elevate one attribute above another, we reshape the very nature of God.  Consider how different each of these 'gods' would be:


1.  A god who is more justice than mercy
2.  A god who is more love than justice
3.  A god who is more forgiveness than truth


Each one would be different from the other.  The other attributes aren't excluded, but they are subservient.  In a similar way, if we make any person of the Trinity 'more' and another member 'less'---then the doctrine of the Trinity collapses.


So, what of us in the Free Grace Movement?  What is our danger?


Simply put, many of us have been overly concerned about Reformed Theology, especially as it shows up in the various renditions of DORT.  The theory is that if you buy one part of the '5 Points' you must buy them all.  Of course, it is the Calvinists who try to insist upon this...and some of us just follow along.  Mostly it is a definitional problem and an allegiance to a theology over Scripture.  Personally, I am clearly a 'moderate Calvinist' (labels being what they are), but I am also Free Grace to the core.


Here's the deadly trend--- we have folks in our Shire who are saying that the Doctrine of Election cannot be true because "What love is that?  How could a loving God who can elect whomever He wishes elect some to hell?  What love is this?"  I believe that there are many assumptions in this argument that don't match the record or Calvinism; however, the BIG ISSUE is that the love of God is being elevated above His sovereignty (at least).  Indeed, I have friends who try to argue that sovereignty isn't much of an issue because it isn't mentioned the Bible (counter arguments: see the word *Trinity*).  Of course, even the definition of love is warped a bit in the argument as well (a different post should address this).


In any case dear friends, please consider that what is happening is an elevation of one attribute above the others in the very nature of God.  God's nature is complete and balanced unto itself.  This is why the Cross makes such sense given the character of God.  Justice and love are perfectly balanced in the death of Christ for us.


Rob Bell has elevated one attribute above the rest, and so he is off to sup with universalism.


However, are we much different?  Are we elevating one attribute of God above the others?  It doesn't take much math to see how this trend leads us astray.  Are our accusers on to something?  Are we forcing categories on God to make our own theology work?  I find comfort in mystery, not knowing how it all works.  I find fear in tampering with the Word of God.


God help us.


Grace and peace,


Dr. Fred R. Lybrand


P.S.  Please tell me what you think...let's have a discussion.

Being Right…While Being All Wrong

There is a right way to approach an issue, as well as a wrong way.  Particularly as theologians and those who espouse “Free Grace” theology, we must ever be mindful to keep the grace in the message of Free Grace.

Case in point:  I had lunch with a friend on Monday.  She is a very nice young lady whose background was from a liturgical, Protestant denomination.  She had a particular theological issue that she wanted to work through that, at least in my opinion, is not a pillar of evangelical Christian theology.  The issue was baptism, and very similar to the brouhaha caused by the disagreement between Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Ligon Duncan in August 2007. (read all about it in posts here [great place to start] and here; click through their links for the details)

This came to the forefront because this young woman had a great angst about the issue.  This angst was not theological or doctrinal.  We talked our way through the theological issues pretty well, and discussed the finer points of credobaptism and why a person would be baptized after trusting Christ alone for eternal life.  We were on the same page there.  The issue, rather, was primarily personal.  This very kind young woman had run into a young man who very stridently told her that her view was wrong, and that she was in sin and being ignorant to think that her baptism as an infant was worth anything.  This had wounded her deeply and bound the issue of her acceptance of believer’s baptism up with a personal conflict with the young man who had scolded her so harshly.

How unlike the Apostle Paul that kind of interaction was!

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. ” (Romans 14:13, NAS)

This interaction clearly and unambiguously put a stumbling block in this young woman’s way, and caused her to hold back on following Christ in baptism. 

I post this interaction as a reminder to all of us in the Free Grace Alliance to be gracious to one another.  Debate and discuss issues of doctrine with fellow believers; be zealous and stand firm for the truth.  That said, in all of your interactions be careful that your attitude and your approach do not become a stumbling block to someone accepting the truth of the free offer of eternal life in Christ!

What about you?  Have you ever had someone argue with you in a way that turned you away from their cause, even though you might have admitted that there was merit to it?  Have you maybe been the ungracious one who needed to go back and ask for forgiveness?

A Halloween Reminder…Be Gracious!

Halloween can be a time of the year when evangelical Christians really disagree with one another, and passionately so.  Some believe that Christians sin by participating in and Halloween-themed activities, while others believe that not participating in Halloween would be unthinkable for Jesus and therefore should be unthinkable for Christians.
Let’s please remember the covenant that we all hold to as members of the Free Grace Alliance:

In agreement with these affirmations, we covenant to work together graciously and enthusiastically to advance this Gospel of Grace, and to communicate with a positive and gracious tone toward all others, both inside and outside the Free Grace Alliance.

Whichever position you espouse, remember that it is not a central position to the truly amazing offer of eternal life through faith alone in Christ alone that God has brought us.  Keep secondary issues secondary this Halloween, and whether you are discussing the issue with a fellow member of FGA or with a believer in Christ who is not part of our group make sure to communicate in a positive and gracious tone.