Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Critique of Father Stephen's "The Slow Work of Grace"

Recently, one of my friends applauded a blogpost titled, "The Slow Work of Grace" by "Father Stephen."

I would argue that Stephen's post is not commendable, however, for a number of reasons:

  • Though the main subject of Stephen's blogpost is a corrective understanding of "grace," within the post, Stephen never offers a definition of grace.
  • I would assert that the definition of grace against which Stephen argues-- a "legal concept," which is instantaneous-- is not a definition held by *any* published theologian, and I would challenge anyone agreeing with Stephen to produce a work wherein grace is defined according to these terms. 
  • Furthermore, Stephen confuses the concepts of "grace" and "salvation."

Now the Protestant tradition, building on Augustine's understanding of Paul's doctrine of grace, has commonly defined grace as God's "unmerited favor" toward sinners. As David Powlison has pointed out, rather than "unmerited favor," grace is better understood as God's "contramerited favor," i.e., instead of simply denoting God's unearned lovingkindness, "grace" actually signifies God's lovingkindness toward those who have, through our sins, earned the exact opposite of His favorable disposition. However it is stated, this understanding of "grace" makes grace a disposition within God: as Martin Luther also explains, "grace actually denotes God's kindness or favor which He has toward us..."

"Grace" should not be confused with "salvation," for we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). God's contramerited favor is the basis upon which He saves us through the instrumentality of faith.

Grace, thus properly understood, is no more a "life-long process" (as Stephen seeks to argue) than it is 'instantaneous.' Both of these terms are utterly irrelevant when speaking of grace, for grace is a disposition within the eternal God.

Confusion about grace leads to a multitude of errors. As seen in Stephen's blogpost, such confusion tends to depersonalize grace. Instead of being about God, glorifying God's lovingkindness to undeserving us, grace becomes about something that happens to us. Then, taking verses like Philippians 2:12 and James 1:4 out of context (the verses cited by Stephen), grace starts to look like something that we do. And so, through confusion about how grace is to be defined, the emphasis of grace is taken off of God and put onto Man. Furthermore, once grace is depersonalized, it can become treated as an impersonal force. Unchallenged, this confusion can lead to a system where men-- dressed in ostentatious clothing never imagined by simple Galilean fishermen, and insisting on being called "Father" in direct contradiction of Jesus' teaching (Matt 23:9)-- claim the right to parcel out grace through religious rituals.

Grace, properly understood should focus us on God, and should specifically lead us to consider Jesus, who-- as the ultimate expression of God's contamerited favor-- died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Rom 4:25).



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