Note: This is in prep for upcoming changes to my longer Doctrinal Statement and may be revised.
– I had a professor in one of my two Hermeneutics classes and the Gospel of John who was in the Grace Theological Society, Dr. John Hart.
– I grew up under a Lordship Theology -trained pastor. Dr. Gerhard T. deBock, but experienced a nice contrast with the Church of God with my grandmother during my younger childhood years, which my childhood church didn’t really know much about.
– I also visited many other Christian fellowships across the North and Midwest, which I wrote about in my Crossroads series.
– My primary understanding of both comes from studying under their avid evangelists and in life and conversation, not merely through literature nor as a third-hand follower.
– Tenants of “Grace” Proper (not extra teachings spread by fans & followers of Grace Theology who tend to use it as a license to sin) is mainly theoretical: In theory, sin does not remove salvation, which is by faith, not by perfect obedience to works. They define “repentance” as “changing one’s mind at a core, worldview level”. Their main point is essentially that we can’t lose our salvation.
– Tenants of “Lordship” Proper (not the extra teachings spread by the fans & followers who tend to tone it down when it seems too extreme) is mainly behavioral: In practice, ongoing, conscious sin in a Believer’s life with no concern whatsoever is an indication that that Believer might not have become a Christian, but still can. They define “repentance” as both mental and emotional and teach “radical repentance”, missing the point that over-defining emotions makes a kind of volitional repentance (emotional theatrics) and that the decision to believe Jesus usually catches us by surprise to such a point that we have no control over how “radical” our repentance is. Lordship usually teaches that salvation can be lost, but more as a concession, redirecting conversation to the likelihood that a Christian who appears to “lose salvation” probably was not a real Christian to begin with.
– Both groups feel that they want to agree at some level. Both question whether they are only debating semantics. Both eventually agree that it is about more than semantics, but lifestyle and quality of happiness in Christ.
– The two seem to be offspring of Calvinism and Arminianism, and are post- Millard J. Erickson, which is why I prefer his book, Christian Theology.
– Both of them have powerful truths that don’t necessarily need to conflict.
– Grace, though it often leads to it among followers, does not want lawlessness and strongly objects to “Grace as a license to sin”.
– Lordship, though it often leads to it among followers, does not want legalism and strongly objects to “Works-based salvation”.
– The general problem, in my conclusion, is over-analysis.
– It is interesting that their primary circuits are in Bible Church communities (likely to believe that Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a second work, but happens at Christian conversion.) Presence in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles (Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second work, post Christian conversion, usually through laying on of hands) rarely reflects the original tenants of either Grace of Lordship and behaves more like the extra ideas added by fans and followers.
– I believe that these both result from a combination of genuine love for Jesus in a believer who has not received the second work of baptism. It seems like the man who tries to manufacture an android female companion until he falls in love with a real woman.
– In their over-analysis, both of them miss the point that humans instinctively use the term “repent” correctly, even with no theological, Biblical, Christian, or any kind of religious background at all. We know what it means. It’s emotional. It is both cooperative and involuntary. It is a “come to Jesus moment” about whatever truth is on the table. It is that moment that hits us where we say, “What have I done!” And, above all, it is beyond any definition except to say that repentance is repentance. Such emotional-poetic forms of explanation usually seem uncomfortable when trying to over-analyze. Still, this mistake of over-analysis is well-intended and not malicious, at least from the the Grace and Lordship Proper theologians themselves.
– The basic solution to Grace v Lordship is the paradigm that Jesus is Bridegroom, King, and Judge. The Bible refers to these three paradigms to describe Jesus quite often. He can judge us because he is our friend. That’s what a king involves. He is not a Lord only. He is not a grace-giver only. He is our king, which means both friend and judge, and he has the authority to help and save.
– The best-kept secret among both Grace and Lordship is the benefit of works. God’s commands make perfect sense, though not always to us in our situations. God’s law liberates us (Ps 119:32). His command is love and life. By making wise and moral choices, quality of life will be better. Thus, the bigger question is not whether we can or cannot sin and be Christian, but the Christian question is whether we can sin and remain happy. Both Grace and Lordship Proper teachers seem to agree to this, but rarely say so since their main focus seems to be on detailed analysis. Again, by over-analyzing, they miss another point: The Bible is not an analytical-academic work, it is poetic, whether in prose or in content.
– The essential problem with both Grace and Lordship is that they are over-analytical rather than poetic. And, most of the problems in the Church do not come from Proper Grace or Lordship teachings, but from followers and fans of each who, not being as heavily trained in developing Biblical and Systematic-Bible Theology just don’t understand what the academic authors are really trying to get at. I, however, understand them perfectly and I love them all in both groups. I just pray they can find that second work of poetry and Spirit so that their good message might finally come across.
Can Christians continue in ongoing sin? (Just look at Sunday Morning.)
– Of course they can. To say otherwise would indite everyone who attends Sunday Morning…
– Living off of Christian donations, but not in a commune or as guests on the mission field. (We have come to accept a local resident of what the Shepherd of Hermes called ‘Christ mongers’.)
– The scandal of disunity during the most segregated and unbiblically territorial hour of the week.
– So many theological disagreements that would be solved if we merely applied Matt 18:15ff and James 1:19 to our denominational differences.
– Essentially, Christian divisiveness and concern about “retaining local congregation membership” wouldn’t exist if pastors didn’t live off of donations—a practice neither demonstrated nor encouraged in the New Testament. Paul’s teaching of “payment” was not for a leader, but for deacons (Operations Employees).
– The sad part is that we care so little about Christian fellowship, except for our small group of friends, that we gladly tolerate the widespread mutual spite in the Church and walls that inhibit more fellowship. We easily say, “It’s not perfect, but it is where we are.” But, with all the stronger friendships we could share in Christ, the current Sunday Morning system is not merely imperfect, it is a travesty that needs to be ended as soon as possible.
– Back to the “necessary evil” argument about the problems with the Constantine-initiated clerical and non-profit structures we mandate today, they may be evil but they are anything but necessary.
– So much sin is tolerated in the Church. Even with all the vomit spilled on Rob Bell (rather than Don Carson’s benevolent and charitable ‘communicative’ approach to potentially errant doctrine), Christian “professionals” (a Biblical oxymoron, given that Jesus and Paul had a trade) would rather that someone submit to and agree with Rob Bell as a pastor, rather than be a Christian who disagreed with Rob Bell and followed Biblical teaching, but without “submitting” to a paid, State-licensed clergy. It is clear where the “professionalism” culture in the Church has misguided our priorities. If the organic and undocumented Christian life had more priority than State-licensed “church” membership, perhaps there wouldn’t be so much widespread immorality in the Church universal.
– The only reason I advocate a delay in the inevitable transition away from Sunday Morning is to avoid even more of the same broken fellowship that is no less than intolerable. I don’t advocate leaving Sunday Morning quickly, but no one, under any circumstances, should advocate staying aboard when the time comes to abandon the sinking ship.
– Grace v Lordship and similar controversies, arguably, might not exist were it not for the divisive and misguided priorities of the Constantine-implemented territorial clerical system.
Can Christians live without Sunday Morning?
– Of course they can. They did before Constantine.
– Without the crutch, Christians need to learn to walk on their own.
– They must read the Bible seriously and daily.
– They must take initiative to maintain meaningful Christian fellowship, without a nanny to make sure it happens on autopilot.
– They must take personal responsibility for failures, confess their sins and faults to each other, and keep a close connection with Jesus.
– When the strong Christian life becomes the responsibility of the individual Christian, not the responsibility of paid clergy, then Christians will not struggle so much to know the difference between Grace, Works, Faith, and Jesus Christ as our King.