Faith is Non-meritorious

faithkids.jpegThis is why I think God chose faith: he selected the one human response in which our merit, skills, perfections, efforts, character, or works are entirely excluded. Think about it this way.

Every act of faith has three components:

  1. The subject of faith: the person who does the believing
  2. The act of believing or trusting.
  3. The object of faith: the truth/thing/person which is believed or trusted.

Unless you are trusting yourself, the subject of faith always believes in an object of faith external to itself.

The quality of faith depends on the object. If the object of your faith is strong, your faith is strong. So if you put your faith in a rickety chair, even if you are sincere, your faith might be invalidated as soon as the chair breaks. But if you put your faith in a strong chair, even if you are hesitant, the faith is valid. The OBJECT of faith determines the ultimate quality of that faith.

trustjesus.jpegFor us Christians, the object of faith is JESUS. He shed his blood for us. He rose again for us. He is our only hope for time and eternity. Our connection with God is based entirely on his merits. Salvation is based on the meritorious work–the identity, life, death, and resurrection–of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That places every ounce of merit in Christ alone. That’s why I say over and over again that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone… echoing exactly the message of the Reformers.

Under this scenario, does the subject of faith (the person who believes) have any merit? Nope. No goodness. No obedience. No performance. Nothing to commend us to God whatsoever. In fact, a very undeserving person might believe in Jesus, and obtain salvation equally with a very deserving person. Our merits or demerits are out of the picture. The merits of the subject of faith are excluded (Eph 2:8: “NOT OF YOURSELVES”, a genitive of source, meaning “you are not the source of your salvation).

burden.jpegDoes the act of faith have any merit? Or, to ask the question another way, is faith a work? Nope, though there is one exception. Faith IS a work when we place our trust in ourselves. When both the subject and the object of faith are the same person, then the act of faith becomes an act of one’s own effort, based on one’s own merit.

But, when we place our faith in someone other than ourselves, faith because an un-work. It is an implicit rejection of one’s own works in favor of the works of another.

Add to this the fact that even a child can believe and you see that the act of faith is not a work, it is not rewardable by God. Maybe I’ll talk more about this in a future post… not sure yet.

Consider the range of options open to God when he planned salvation. In how many ways can a person respond to Jesus? Obedience. Sacrifice. Surrendur. Love. A long list. All of them are good and important, and ultimately part of the Christian’s walk. But all of them are by their nature meritorious. This would have the uncomfortable consequence of actually putting God in our debt. God would OWE us something because we merited it.

But Scripture clearly knocks this option down:

“4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:” Romans 4:4-6, NKJV.

God is never in our debt. That’s why he chose the one possible human response (faith) in which the merit resides OUTSIDE the doer of it. In every other conceivable response to Jesus (obedience, love, etc.), the merit resides within the doer. But faith is different. Faith is in a class by itself. In faith, the merit lies in the object, and the object isn’t me, myself, or I. It’s Jesus. That’s why the only possible response to Jesus, the only one which accords him his rightful place as Savior, the only one which identifies him properly as Lord, and the only one which ensures that all glory go to him and him alone, is faith. Faith alone in Christ alone.

“16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” Romans 4:16, NKJV.

Faith is non-meritorious. Get it?

crosses3.jpeg

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21 thoughts on “Faith is Non-meritorious

  1. wow, this is good stuff!

    i’m not sure where those 3 ‘components’ of faith are derived from but your comment about the quality of faith depends on the object, i have a hard time with that. the way i see it, the ‘outcome’ of faith is irrelevant is it not? the quality of the effect or the outcome certainly is dependent on what faith is put ‘into’… but the faith itself? the ideal we are to strive for is a childlike faith….that belief, that hope, regardless of outcome or effect is what we honor…or do i have this all wrong? is it similar to love……we honor more, the love that doesn’t depend on outcome, unconditional. as we get assaulted by life as we ‘mature’, we gain experience, are jaded, are hurt….we look to a childs love as about the closest thing to unconditional love we can point to (not counting pets!). maybe i’m just hung up on the adjective ‘quality’ of faith.

    faith being meritorious……or not. neither side of the argument seems satisfying. yes i agree that to consider the ‘act’ of faith as having merit, seems against the grain but so does considering this act as of no worth. certainly we have a part to play in this faith-thing. we say we have faith or that someone else does not have faith…..it is something ‘done’, an act…..a real important act!

    bill i’m glad you brought up the last bible passage…this and in galatians 3, faith is put on it’s rightful pedestal…..relying on works or ‘blood’ i.e. of the lineage of abraham, is more than coincidental to the veering away of the general ‘church’ of today and of the two milleniums since. i cringe when i hear gushing from christians about someone who is jewish or of the nation of israel, current version. in this romans passage and especially the galatians passage (indicating what ‘israel’ really is meant by god, the abrahamic promises, including ‘the land’)

    [NOTE: Maxgrace.com took the liberty of shortening this quote, to maintain the relevant portion of Scripture: Galatians 3:11-28]
    26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

    So why do many Christians still hold to there being any merit in being blood descendents of Abraham? Christ was the only inheritor and that includes the land….which in other passages is also indicated to be symbolic or of a non-literal meaning. Christ……..was not the great ‘unequalizer’ (I read that somewhere…lol), faith and Christ are the massively great equalizer….the old bondage of gender, race, social status is forever broken, how can we go ‘back’ to say these things have ‘merit’ when that negates that all important concept of faith?

  2. Rick…

    First: you say, “that belief, that hope, regardless of outcome or effect is what we honor…or do i have this all wrong?” When i say that the quality of faith depends on its object, I mean this: that faith in the Tooth Fairy is invalid because the tooth fairy, or Santa, or the IDOLS of the ancient world are either non-realities or useless, or demonic or false. In any case, no matter how sincere the ACT of faith may be, since its OBJECT is invalid, the faith is invalid. Faith depends on its object, or it is an invalid faith, biblically speaking.

    Second: the categories of faith being non-meritorious and volitional are not new to theology. You can find them in theological works like Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology and others. The concept of faith being binary is mine, but it accords with all that I have read/studied over the years.

    Third: When I said many posts ago that Jesus was the great Unequalizer I was referring to heavenly rewards. Of course Gal 3:28 says that “IN CHRIST” (our positional status at the moment of salvation) we are all equal.

    Fourth: I know of NO Christians who attribute any moral or spiritual “merit” to the bloodline of the Jews as you suggest. Many, however, do attribute to the physical descendants of Abraham a host of biblical promises that have yet to be fulfilled… and an expectation that those promise will be fulfilled literally. Along with that many Christians find in Scripture many blessings for those who bless the Jews. That probably accounts for why many Christians support Israel. I’m not sure where you were headed with your comment, but I hope this answers your position.

    Fifth: thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.

    Bill

  3. Uncle Bill

    I am very happy you wrote this. I have gone to two Calvinist schools and have heard again and again that faith must be a gift to the elect, that free will can’t be true unless you believe in salvation by works, etc. Eventually I just stopped thinking about it, honestly. I’m just not a very good arguer. I felt like I knew that faith wasn’t the same as other works, but couldn’t explain why I thought so.

    Unless I am reading into this, I think this post solves that problem for me. If the power of faith relies in the object, then everything about grace can still be true. That is very restful, for my brain. I wish I could go back to Trinity and talk to some people about it. Oh well. Anyway, thanks.

    Amy

    ps. Can you talk some more about where you got the three parts from? Just common sense, or bible passages? I would be interested. 🙂

  4. Hi Amy,
    Yes, this understanding of faith really does preserve grace. And it fits with the Scriptures (most importantly).

    When strong Calvinists assert that faith is a gift, they usually point to Eph 2:8,9. Even good Calvinists recognize that the gift of God in that verse is not faith, but the whole salvation package. And no, there are plenty of people who believe that salvation is all grace even though they don’t buy into the five points of Calvinism.

    In a future post, I’ll talk about faith being universal. Even a child can believe. Everybody has faith in SOMETHING. The problem is that until that something is Christ, it’s the wrong something. They have faith in a non-meritorious object, and therefore their faith is invalid, biblically speaking.

    These ideas about faith are distilled from lots of reading in theology, the Bible, and lots of discussions with very smart people like you.

    Love ya… love your blog.
    UB

  5. bill, i guess i can’t get my head around the concept of ‘quality’ of faith. it sounds like you are making it symbiotic…a feedback from the object to the subject to the object etc. don’t we honor faith when we see it? regardless of outcome (since we don’t always know the outcome yet). it may be in a chair that breaks, it may be in another person (who may or may not end up being completely faithful), it may be in the validity of something we don’t find out the truth of until we die.

    i’ve known many christians who attribute merit to a jewish bloodline. they are ‘special’ to them, they are ‘god’s chosen people’ (which i would think has some value or merit, to them), they are in line to receive promises from god. they are treated very very differently. it seems to me that in the new covenant, the identity, the true identity, of ‘israel’ is christ and those who have faith in him, and that to hold onto another definition of israel by blood is to take away from the primacy of faith and would be similar to going back to claiming the efficacy of an old testament concept such as blood sacrifice, or ‘keeping the sabbath’. to not understand the spiritual ‘fulfillments’, that christ taught is to blend the old and new covenants together, and isn’t the old covenant completely done away with? doesn’t it all begin anew with christ? isn’t a faith in any of the old covenant concepts/promises (without taking into account the ‘fulfilled’ understands that christ explained, of their true meanings)…isn’t that faith of a ‘bad’ quality? (bad, for lack of a better word)

  6. Rick…
    Many very godly Christians believe in the coming literal fulfillment of many of God’s promises to the Jews regarding land, kingdom, etc. I do not want to write them off as denying the work of Christ.
    Bill

  7. bill, i understand that they do believe that…..but does that make it right? how does one mesh the galatians explanation of true israel (and some hebrews passages re the spiritual understanding of ‘the land’) with identifying a recipient of promise based on blood relation? in hebrews 11 we see a key to understanding the difference between a literal understanding and a spiritual one, to wit, that abraham et al were not looking for a literal country, the ‘land’, but a heavenly one. it is intimated that abraham understood the promises were not literal. the galatians passages seem clear that the promises to abraham were not based in any way whatsoever on blood lineage, but on a faith lineage, thru faith in christ. in light of these passages, where is there any basis to stand upon the idea that ‘the jews’ have an inheritance of literal land? i realize that this concept of a literal land is a very popular idea, especially in the evangelical church and there is an emotional basis for helping jews vis a vis the holocaust, but a biblical basis i don’t see at all. i do see the refusal/avoidance/reluctance/misinterpretation of holding onto literal, tangible, earthly fulfillments as related to a problem encountered by christ during his ministry…….most of his followers were expecting a literal kingdom, they did/could/would not see that his message was a much more pervasive and inclusive one of spirit.

    there may also be an element of underlying fear at work too, related to ‘those who are for israel are for god and those who oppose oppose god’ and ‘the apple of god’s eye’….i may not be quoting exactly but in essence. so if we hold to the value of blood lineage, then of course we better not, not, value blood, or we incur god’s wrath.

  8. but all of them are by their nature meritorious.

    This is only true if they come from something other than faith, but that is exactly what I have been trying to say…

    If you have faith you will have “Obedience. Sacrifice. Surrender. Love.” as an inseparable byproduct of that faith; if you don’t have those things, you don’t have faith.

    If what I am saying here is true, then obedience is not meritorious either; it becomes synonymous with faith.

  9. Steve, we have now come full circle in our discussions.

    You say that faith is synonymous with obedience (I totally disagree).

    If what you say is true, then why don’t you say that…

    We are saved by obedience? Is that what you believe? Salvation by obedience. If faith is synonymous w/obedience, then what else can I conclude? Or are you speaking in hyperbole? If so, I think it’s a messy one.

    I don’t get your position. Help me. Please.

  10. I don’t get your position

    My apologies, I am not trying to be problematic…

    Read it the other way around. I also said that obedience is not meritorious, it is simply the observable component of faith.

    I am not saying obedience (working your way into God’s favor) is what faith is; I am saying faith (simply trusting that Jesus is trustworthy) is not separable from obedience. (I probably shouldn’t have used the word synonymous, but rather perhaps coterminous or concomittant; it is not that they mean/are the same thing, but rather that there would be no conceivable difference in them to an outside observer… as if we had two perfectly identical circles that were perfectly positioned one atop the other, those two circles would be indistinguishable from one circle.)

    This all boils down to a different conversation that we have briefly touched on, and I would love to hear more about. The state of the American Church and its understanding of grace – faith/works. I believe that the American Church uses grace to mask a life of flagrant apathy and disobedience, and that this is ultimately evidence of a lack of faith. It seems that you see the American Church as heavily emphasizing works? I don’t see that and I am wondering what you are looking at to draw your conclusions.

    It is because I see the church leaving the gospel of grace (God wants to offer us free gifts but we won’t take what he is offering because the act of recieving would be ‘works’) that I so heavily emphasize the nature of faith (trust), and the inseparable aspects of it (obedience).

  11. Another great topic Bill, loved the cell-phone movies! It’s all fun & games ’till you’re that guy!

    Bill, as far as faith concerned. Could you please describe or define the differences between the Hellenistic & Hebraic approaches concerning this concept? Then could describe how a “student” would learn this concept from these two groups? Too, could you elaborate upon which of these two approaches the Reformation would have most resembled? Lastly, if you have time, could you describe how you, & your church, teach faith? Does it resemble a Hellenistic or Hebraic approach & why?
    Thanks.

  12. Ummm… Sean…. that’s a little more homework than I have time for. You make me smile, because your previous post almost sounds like an essay assignment from a grad school syllabus.

    Please, remember that this blog is for ME to state MY opinions, to challenge thinking, to communicate my heart and my passion, and then to offer some general interactions with you and many others.

    I understand that many Christians come at this thing from different angles. You may disagree strongly with me… and that is why you have your own (very excellent) blog.

    Yes, I should stand by my words, and I do. But the amount of time it requires to answer the kinds of issues you raise is more than I’m willing to devote. Feel free to state the difference between the Hebraic & Hellenistic views of faith… or to show why perhaps faith IS meritorious, or is NOT binary, or is NOT trust… or any other permutation you desire. If you think it’s important for my readers to see, make your statement.

    I only ask, as I have in the past, that we keep posts SHORT and reasonable and respectful… (as you have done).

    Just please understand that sometimes a guy doesn’t have time to personally engage every debate. I have my views. God uses me. He has for many, many years. You have yours. I have no doubt God uses you. I hope you can learn a little from me, and visa versa.

    Bill

  13. Steve,
    I’m glad you’re pulling back from your statement that faith & obedience are synonyms… an unsustainable position.

    I do NOT see the American church preaching “grace”. I see the preaching of legalism and works. In addition, the vast majority of people who first hear the message of grace, at least when I teach it, are amazed. It’s like a breath of fresh air to them. They say (and many have been in churches ALL THEIR LIVES) that they have never heard anything like it before. And GRACE, rightly understood, and rightly implemented, teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live with clear thinking, increasing capacity for divine blessing, and a strong spiritual life for Jesus.

    Ask 100 American Christians to talk about grace, and you will get all kinds of fuzziness that crosses the line into leniency, niceness, etc. No full-orbed theology of grace. That’s my passion. That’s what changes lives!!!! (A.k.a. Mercy in Rom 12:2). You will not find a biblical injunction to obey God that does not arise out of a solid footing in grace. Absent that footing, our pastoral injunctions are tantamount to legalism.

    Can I get an amen?
    Bill

  14. Amen.

    My questions are…a good topic for a grad paper.

    Here’s a summary of my question:
    In the Hebraic method of teaching a student would live life with a Rabbi (Twelve disciples, Sail & Gamamiel, Barnabas & Saul, Paul & Timothy, etc.) & life was the classroom; The Hebraic form of teaching subjects, such as faith, would come from, & be found in, the context of life, & would be applicable for life. The Hebraic form teaching is concerned with concrete existence, obedience, life-oriented wisdom, and the interrelationship of all nature under God. Not that formal classrooms were not used; however, this was not the focal point of learning. The way they did this, indeed the way Jesus did taught, was: Act your way into a new way of thinking. The Chinese church is a good example of this; they literally live life together & learn by doing.

    The Hellenistic approach is a more cerebral one. Its origins are found in Plato & Aristotle; its concern is with concepts, ideas, the nature of being, types, definitions, & forms. The assumption in the Hellenistic approach is that if people get the right ideas they will change their behavior; it can be summarized as: Think your way into a new way of acting. A good example of this can be found in our western approach to religious training. A student is removed from “real life” & put in a school of learning where he/she will learn “truth;” & where “real life” is experienced as summer vacation. You can get a pastoral studies degree without having ever pastored one person.

    Reformation: Hellenistic
    Modern West: Hellenistic
    Jesus & other NT writers: Hebraic

    Bill, have you read any N.T. Wright yet?

  15. How we approach & transfer our “faith” is very important in the perspective we take to it. I hope this all makes sense to the current faith dialogue.

    Forgive my spelling mistakes. I’m still learning English. (Sail=Saul) (Insert “of” in appropriate location)

  16. I do NOT see the American church preaching “grace”. I see the preaching of legalism and works.

    I would love to hear specifics…

    I grew up going to probably a dozen or more different churches and youth groups in the Redding area. My understanding of the gospel that I gained from those churches (everything from AOG to non-denominational to Methodist to Roman Catholic to Baptist and others) was that God wanted me to go to heaven when I died, and if I would believe that He sent Jesus to die on a cross then I could go there. I can recall on countless occasions preachers and teachers in Churches and on the radio emphasizing the fact that we could continue to live exactly the same life that we now live and still go to heaven.

    It is this twisted understanding of the gospel that I see as the major emphasis of the majority of American Christian culture. It is this that I see as an overemphasis on grace. In fact I have never once heard a sermon (ever!) that could ever possibly be construed as teaching that we work our way into God’s favor. Quite the opposite, I find people go out of their way to point out that we can give God no say in our lives whatsoever (not trusting in who He is) and He will still take us to heaven. (Of course they never explain how someone who hates godliness will find the being in the presence of the source of godliness somehow a pleasant experience…)

  17. Sean,
    Thank you for making affirmative statements to which I can respond; it sure beats getting peppered with questions! 🙂

    I do not agree with your analysis of the difference between Hebraic/Hellenistic modes of instruction and learning. I am familiar with this analysis. It is nothing new. I have heard it all my life. And I reject it. And I’m in very good company. It is too simplistic, it does not comport with historical realities, and it creates a radical disjunction where the Bible does not. You’re making an either/or out of a both/and.

    Let me explain my reasoning, and then I will give back a little, teeny bit of ground to you in one limited area–which I hope will clear things up for you.

    1. You have dramatically overstated and overgeneralized the case. A couple of examples: You say “Reformation: Hellenistic.” Oh really? Have you ever read “Table Talks”? i suggest you take a trip to your local library and find it. Table Talks is a volume among the complete works of Martin Luther. Luther live in community, in a monastery. He did ministry as a team (ever heard of Melanchthon?). He dined and fellowshipped with his disciples. And many of them took notes during dinner producing a fascinating collection called Table Talks. In other words, this chief of the Reformers incarnated a highly un-Hellenistic mode of instruction to the point of being positively Hebraic under your terminology. In fact, the whole Reformation model of ministry was team-based, incarnational ministry, done in the midst of life. Even the successors to the reformers did the same. Every early American university, all of them Christian (Harvard, Yale, etc), engaged in cohort-type discipleship. It wasn’t lecture and tests; it was life lived with professors and ministry done together. Rigorous academics coupled with rigorous praxis. In other words, the very people you call Hellenistic (the Reformers & their heirs) turn out to be highly Hebraic under your terminology. Your assertions simply do not line up with the factual history.

    But wait, there’s more.

    2. What you call “Hebraic” didn’t happen that way either. Prime example: on the day of Pentecost, over 3,000 people came to Christ (literally “souls” but that will just stir up more debate). Shortly thereafter, add another 5,000 (Ac 2:41; 4:4). In other words, the Jerusalem church faced an EXPLOSION OF GROWTH… from 120 people to over 8,000 (men plus women and children) in a matter of weeks.

    Tell me they had the leadership to do you Hebraic mode of discipleship. They did not. Yes, they went from house to house. Yes, they used groupings of some sort. Yes, they did the “Hebraic” mode. But they simply could not disciple a MEGACHURCH of over 10,000-15,000 people (adding in women & children) that way.

    What I’m saying is that the Hebraic megachurch in Jerusalem used what you would defame as a “Hellenistic” model… also known as….

    3. The Synagogue. That central core of Hebraism, the Synagogue, provided the model structure for the church. In fact, Christians continued to meet in synagogues until they were kicked out. So, we must ask, which model was employed in the Synagogue, for Jesus affirmed that model by preaching in one (to strangers with whom he did NOT “do life”) and the apostles continued in that mode. The structure of the synagogue turns out to resemble–call this irony if you will–the very Hellenistic mode which you denigrate. Sean, as I read you, I hear Hebraic/good; Hellenistic/bad. Why? A fully staffed, urban Synagogue (it was scaled down in smaller towns) had a President, board of elders, and teaching leader called the Rabbi. They started with a song time (worship) and moved into a Scripture reading which formed the basis of the SERMON. I know what you’re thinking–you’re thinking, “Bill, that’s not all they did.” You’re right, of course. They did the small groups stuff too, the community life. But what I’m trying to show you is that they employed BOTH the cererbral, didactic (what you call Hellenistic) mode of discipleship AND the relational, incarnational mode too. Both/and. Conjunction, not disjunction.

    4. If Christianity is going to compete in today’s marketplace of ideas, we need the Christian brainiacs like C.S. Lewis, himself a professor at Oxford, Hellenistic if ever that label applies (which I don’t think it ever does, see below). We need the scholars. We need to be able to answer Derrida and Foucalt on their own terms. And we do not create them without rigorous academics… which leads me to one more point before I give you back a little ground.

    5. I don’t know if these names mean anything to you: Norman Geisler (professor, author, and apologist) told me that he thought Stuart Hackett to be “the smartest man in America.” That’s an extremely good resume. Dr. Stuart Hackett was my professor at Trinity Seminary. He taught apologetics, philosophy, comparative religion, etc. Stuart Hackett argued strenuously AGAINST the point you are making, Sean. There are NOT two modes of thinking, Hebraic/circular, Hellenistic/linear. There are not two modes of learning. Hackett argued that this was a false dichotomy that didn’t align with history, with church history, with theology, with pedagogy, or with epistemology. Not either/or (Hellenistic/bad, Hebraic/good)… but both/and. And the interesting thing is that both the Jews and the Greeks (in their socratic academies) practiced BOTH modes. Both were used in both societies. It is an old idea that gets rehashed every generation, and made more extreme, and used to denigrate rigorous academic instruction. The concrete will not stand without the abstract.

    I contend that the church, in our attempts to make things concrete, has so robbed our people of the abstract that we have NULLIFIED THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS.

    6. Here’s where I give you back some ground and concede that a little of what you say is true: In all ages of the people of God, whether you look at the “school of the prophets run by Elijah and later Elisha” or Luther or Calvin or Jonathan Edwards, what you will find is the INCARNATIONAL MODE OF INSTRUCTION being used with FUTURE CHURCH LEADERS. Not the people with day jobs so much. But those who quit their day jobs to devote their lives to the gospel. People with day jobs went to Synagogue on Saturday (later sunday, the Lord’s day), and a small group or two. But people without day jobs (“lay people”) did internships with their teachers. Very few people have the luxury of quitting their day jobs and being a full time student. I do not buy into your teminology, but conceptually I would say that “seminary instruction” was historically Hebraic, while the discipleship of the thousands of believers was essentially Hellenistic with Hebraic undertones.

    That’s my view. I hope it came across as compassionate and loving. But it’s what I believe. And what I think stands the test of history. Both/and. Conjunction.

  18. Steve,

    Thank you for clarifying where you’re coming from. This sheds a lot of light on why we disagree so much. Because my experience, coming from Chicago, was EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of yours. It was all legalism all the time.

    The exception was LIBERAL THEOLOGY… which distorted GRACE into an “all roads lead to God” kind of religion. Steve, you are fighting the wrong enemy. It isn’t grace that you oppose; it’s theological liberalism. Theological liberalism teaches LENIENCY, not grace (I posted on that a while ago, Grace Isn’t Leniency).

    If Grace means God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense, leading to the life of Christ lived through the believer… then liberalism removes “Christ’s Expense” and “the life of Christ.”

    Godliness is not the imitation of Christ. Godliness is Christ still living, but now thru me. And the only reason he can be in me is because he atoned for me first at Calvary, rendering me qualified/worthy of his presence. And the only way I obtain his presence is by receiving him through faith. And the only way he lives thru me day by day is thru daily choices called faith. All of that is grace.

    None of that is taught under liberal theologies. It is legalism because it casts me back on my own power instead of the Spirit/Christ within.

    Hope that helps.
    Bill

  19. Well said Dr. I agree and appreciate your take on what I said. I generalized in several areas, but you filled in the gaps in the appropriate areas. Thanks.

  20. It isn’t grace that you oppose; it’s theological liberalism.

    I wouldn’t say that I oppose grace at all…

    It is the false understanding of grace that I was taught my entire life (largely in theologically conservative churches, I really haven’t ever been truly involved in a theologically liberal church…)

    This understanding of mine comes from Willard. He calls the conservative gospel, the ‘gospel of sin management’ that essentially atones for sin (removes guilt; and so allows us entry into some future bliss), but has no other effect whatsoever. He then discusses the liberal gospels of social ethics, which are robbed of much of their theological significance.

    He then spends the rest of “Divine Conspiracy’ outlining the gospel according to Jesus. That God’s Kingdom is available here and now, and we can enter into it by simply trusting in Jesus and His agenda.

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