Overemphasis: Grace


Can there be an overemphasis of grace? Of love? Of prophecy? Of faith?
In my previous post I wrote about my personal experience with “faith” teachings.

Another example of excess that I’ve seen over the years relates to “grace”.

Most recently I’ve seen some professing Christians with the attitude that grace over-rules everything else. They say we are saved by grace – and effectively THAT becomes the only thing that matters. Nothing else is needed, and therefore once gained, by grace, salvation can never be lost – even if a person turns their back on God.

That idea tends to be supported by appealing to one partial bible verse, but it is completely refuted by countless other parts of scripture, a reality that highlights not only the importance of addressing scripture according to context, but the importance of a broad biblical understanding as opposed to a knowledge of parts of the bible.

The people I saw promoting that view of grace and salvation were recommending articles on a website propagating a theology known as “Free Grace”. But they are not the only ones to overemphasise grace.
Previously I have seen other “grace” dominated theologies being promoted.

Calvinists have their “Irresistible Grace” through which they insist that God saves those who He has personally elected for salvation. It is a kind of grace that effectively forces people to believe, over-ruling the totally depraved nature that Calvinism insists prevents anyone from turning to God through personal choice.

Arminians answer the Calvinist belief with the idea of “Prevenient Grace” – which suggests that hearing the gospel can empower people to choose (despite a depraved nature), of their own free will, whether to believe or not.

I think an important thing to note is that the terms “Free Grace”, “Irresistible Grace” and “Prevenient Grace” can be found nowhere in scripture and they each describe different types of “grace” that have different and contradictory, outcomes.

Grace has an important role in the gospel message and without God’s grace salvation would be impossible, but it is NOT the ONLY thing at work and God’s grace does not nullify His character or His word, or the standards He requires of His creation

Some theological views not only claim that God’s grace makes “works” unnecessary for salvation, they also portray works as being counterproductive, being tantamount to attempting to earn what is given freely with no strings attached.

Other theologies speak of justification by faith alone (sola fide), with a similar insistence on the counterproductivity of works, but James in scripture not only tells us differently, but actually the complete opposite, (“a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone“).

Clearly, the fact that salvation is provided through the grace of God by faith, does not nullify the  requirement of fulfilling God-given conditions to receive and maintain our salvation.

As with my experience of WoF teaching, any teaching that focuses primarily, and exclusively, on grace (or faith), will inevitably detour into error.

Grace is not the be all and end all of salvation – it is more like the starting point. God through His grace has made the way to salvation possible and accessible through faith. Both grace and faith are each important, but they are only PART of the whole gospel reality.
Neither should be given prominence in isolation, and neither should be defined or practiced in ways contrary to the revelation of scripture – the WHOLE of scripture.

4 thoughts on “Overemphasis: Grace

  1. I started to share… or think about sharing… a somewhat recent encounter with a friend in one of your yet more recent topics — about favored teachings or about faith (an overemphasis). It goes better here, when the aspect of or take on faith being emphasized is grace (and, said angle on grace, that which has to do with not losing salvation). People can be practically tortured, or feeling tortuous confusion or anguish, over this notion… whichever way they look at it. A couple who are friends of mine came through town. We had dinner.

    We talked about a number of things; we talked some about the fact that my dad had died — and “how” my mom was doing. That, how she* is, can have various meanings. They don’t know her at all, having never met or spoken with her. So one has to choose what to say (unless, of course, one is sort of not conscious of the theoretical implications of the questions and responses and just speaks on assumption of what is being asked or, even more diminutive, reflexively gives what the “polite” pre-set words are to be in simple cued response).

    * Through the query, they can be wanting more to know if she’s standing on her own feet… or more about how she’s affecting me. Depends on the asker.

    It was a little surprising to hear that the husband’s POV to what I replied was focused on conceptual salvation. “Maybe she thinks salvation is based on works.” (This could be funny, particularly if one believes the OSAS “doctrine” of historical Christianity… and if, in conjunction with that footing, nothing matters except the getting to heaven, or something like that. He doesn’t know her. Then again, people can be quite irrational no matter what way they undertake perceptions of being a person who has anything to do with God. Maybe she did think she was “being good” in the matter of the first example I gave of her current behavior — though it was bad.)

    We talked a little bit about our personal or family histories. He, again, got onto the topic of works v faith. He said he had heard someone say faith is like a tiny work. If I recall correctly, he had mentioned “Calvinism” in this regard. I said I had heard almost the opposite — that you’re either chosen or you’re not. I immediately backed away from the idea, though, in terms of any dedicated commitment to such a camp, or either of those two camps. (As far as “opposites” by the way, I don’t think we can come up with real opposites.)

    Other than this basic area of belief, he has had a repeated pet ”sell” in this visit and the previous one a few years ago. He wants people to each have someone (and for him not his spouse or, possibly, rather, in addition to his spouse) to confess to and talk about the details of their lives. (This seems comparable to the Catholic confessional. I haven’t asked a lot of questions; I’m not sure if he means this as two-way or as one confessing and spilling to the other and the other confessing and divulging to someone else.) So, he’s both vigilantly not about works and very pro this particular work. (And he seems troubled, like there’s some sin he struggles with; that part made me think of what I’ve heard about AA, except I don’t think he has a drug or alcohol issue.) I believe it’s important to repent of sins and mistakes, but not always to someone else or especially to the same someone else (although a spouse is certainly a likely candidate). If one wrongs a brother, say, one ought confess and apologize to that brother. One should always seek the author and finisher of our faith and fess up and reflect there.

  2. nothing matters except the getting to heaven, or something like that

    Hi Marleen,
    I suspect most of the controversies about salvation and how it is obtained are actually based on a faulty understanding of what “salvation” is.
    To most it seems to be about getting a ticket to heaven when we die, and avoiding hell.
    Following on from that is a desire to make the means of salvation as palatable as possible prior to death.

    It seems to be all about making this life and the next easy and comfortable.

  3. I think you’re right, but I think there are two rough categories of reason(s). One is what you said just now; the other is maybe more sinister — and would come from the motivations of some people as they want followers. These can intersect, of course (and I won’t try to get in more detail).

  4. Yes there is an intersection.
    It’s much easier to gain followers with a more palatable message.
    That is probably why the “prosperity gospel” has succeeded (as one example).

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