Making sense of the current grace debate

hyper-grace-gospel-kindle_vsmI just finished reading “The Hyper Grace Gospel: A Response to Michael Brown and Those Opposed the the Modern Grace Message” by Paul Ellis. The title says it all. Dr. Ellis’ book came out this April in response to Dr. Michael Brown’s book that came out in January, “Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message.”

Previously, I mentioned another book by D.R. Silva titled, “Hyper-Grace: the Dangerous Doctrine of a Happy God” here

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a grace revolution going on in our midst as leaders have been taking a fresh look at just how amazing God’s grace really is. Of course, as we’ve seen in church history, often the first reaction to a fresh perspective about our life in Christ is to reject it. This modern grace movement is no different.

But instead of just hearing things second-hand and writing off something unfamiliar to our theological ears, we should be “good Bereans” and see if these things are so, as we see in Acts 17:11 (bold-text added)…

“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

Unfortunately, many often apply “being a good Berean”, not by being fair-minded, but by trying to use Scripture to disprove something they already disagree with. This is operating in the opposite spirit.

For me personally, being from the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream of the body of Christ, this new grace movement been quite controversial. There have been high-profile Charismatic leaders that I greatly respect, like Michael Brown, Mike Bickle, among others, that have been very vocal about criticizing this message. Some, like Dr. Brown, have attempted to demean it by labeling it with the derogatory term, “Hyper-Grace.”

So, if you walk in the same circles as I do, you’ve probably heard the same from several leaders, telling us to stay away from this “new doctrine.” Some have even gone so far as to condemned it as a doctrine from hell and have demonized its proponents. I will say here, this extreme is a baseless knee-jerk reaction.

HyperGrace_BrownDr. Brown is not one of those people demonizing it, and I believe his treatment of this subject was intended to be fair and honorable, although I don’t think he fully understands it (which is why books like “Hyper Grace Gospel” are needed).  And I believe it’s even healthy for leaders to be able to disagree and remain respectful and honor those they may even vehemently disagree with while we wrestle with these weighty matters. We’re all much beloved brothers and sisters in Christ at the end of the day.

Hopefully, we will all end up growing in our understanding of the depths God’s scandalous grace. And I believe all sides understand that no one has perfect knowledge and so it’s wisdom to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19)

And I don’t think it’s helpful to us, if we’re going to advance with the Kingdom, to avoid new teachings that may provoke us and upset our current deeply-held assumptions.

For this reason, I have spent a lot of time over the last few years researching this for myself. Not only have I found these accusations to be unfounded, but I have had quite the opposite experience. I have written about this many times on this blog.

Actually, this is not a “new doctrine” at all, but a very ancient one–the good news that’s actually GOOD news! Proclaiming the freedom from empty religion that Christ paid for (Gal.5:1; Col.2:20-23). A message that I personally feel untangles the confusing mixture of grace and law that we have assumed was grace and has caused so much needless guilt and condemnation.

So I suggest you research this yourself, pray about it with an open heart and make up your own mind about it. I would also suggest reading both books mentioned above.

I have found Paul Ellis’ book well written and easy to follow. The book is written in three parts. The first is an overview of the so-called “Hyper-Grace” gospel; the second part covers 12 commons myths about this movement; and the third part is a chapter-by-chapter rebuttal of Dr.Brown’s book. For this reason, I personally believe this to be the definitive book on the current grace debate so far.

And if you’re interested in an comment exchange between Paul Ellis and Michael Brown on Ellis’ blog that took place about a year before both books came out, you can go here

I will close with some humor from Paul Ellis. This video was from his post on May 4th It’s hilarious. You really need to see all six clips. In this one (Hyper Grace – Episode 3) you’ll see listed the 12 myths about the modern grace movement that he exposes in his book.

May the Grace be with you!

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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10 Responses to Making sense of the current grace debate

  1. Thanks for this, Mel. I will definitely give both a read. Sounds like an interesting discussion.

  2. Michael says:

    I appreciate your approach to readers to investigate for themselves. I disagree with Ellis and detect real fallacies in the position. Yet I agree with your words: “We’re all much beloved brothers and sisters in Christ at the end of the day.” You’ve consistently advocated this, even with the “Strange Fire” debacle. And that’s Christ-like.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Mike. Much appreciated. There are things I disagree with on both sides. And that’s okay. We’re all learning, including me. 🙂

      The interesting thing is, if you actually read both books (not just the blogs, which never give enough theological content), you find that they agree with each other on most of the issues! It’s just a different perspective or a misperception. And Ellis is really not giving us anything different than what people like Watchman Nee gave us 80 years ago. It’s an old message with a fresh look. The 12 myths are probably the most important part of the book because they clarify the common misconceptions that people have had about this teaching.

      One thing for sure, this grace movement should make us re-examine what we mean by grace and the good news. I hear a lot of my friends talk about “only grace” but then totally contradict it by other things they say are required. I think this is where people like Paul Ellis can really help us.

    • Michael says:

      Learn we must. The least we can do for ourselves and a commitment to contending for a sound doctrine is investigate. I’m glad you wrote this because it spurs me to do some digging.

    • Mel Wild says:

      🙂 Happy digging.

  3. There are so many areas where God is challenging what I’ve *known* to be true all my life…and showing me that I definitely need to be transformed by having my mind renewed! Grace was one such area. As you know, He used a guitar as an object lesson to teach me about grace.

    So many variables go into our perception of things – everything from family of origin, the culture in which we grew up, and life experiences to our view of God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. God showed me that because of these (and many other factors), my thinking will never match exactly that of another.

    This realization makes it easier to lay off criticism – and instead ask questions in order to better understand others. Hmm. And thereby extend grace to those with whom I disagree! 😉

    Thanks for a great article. I’ll have to look into this a bit. We sure can complicate things, can’t we??

    \o/

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen. Great insights here. We do have a knack for complicating the simple! And you are bringing up a point here that opens up a whole new can of worms! This should probably be a whole article on its own, but I will summarize here…

      Here’s the problem. No one has absolutely correct interpretation of all Scripture. And it’s naive and the height of arrogance to think we’ve arrived and have the 100% correct view that doesn’t need improvement. The Bible is inerrant, but our understanding of it definitely isn’t! I think it’s safe to say that this is a given.

      But even if we admit the obvious, it creates a challenge for us. Especially, when talking to non-believers and those antagonistic to the Bible. You see, we have trouble grasping new things because Christian leaders tend to focus on teaching their followers WHAT to think instead of HOW to think. This is a critical mistake. Learning how to think like Jesus is the very essence of discipleship (Eph.4:15), not learning what we should think about Jesus! There’s a big difference. So, instead of thinking for ourselves,and knowing why we think it, we read commentaries, books, go find out what the opinions are of the people we follow to form our own opinion about the matter. So, no one grows outside their current dogma. It creates a very subtle “I have arrived” mentality. We close our hearts to advancement, mainly out of fear. And we’ve totally been oblivious to the fact that it’s the Holy Spirit who teaches us what to think, not man (1 John 2:27). Human Teachers are important but they can only enlighten or confirm what we know in our spirit.

      So, because of this, the Kingdom understanding doesn’t advance like it should, but stays stuck at whatever level these “doctrine police” are at. This is the very source of conflict between a former move of God and the current move of God. And because we don’t know how to think, we are threatened by people who think differently (including unbelievers). So, we dismiss and even demonize in order to scare people away from what we’ve chosen not to believe. It’s very sad when you think about it.

      Hope that made sense! 🙂 This is very important distinction and I should probably expound on it another time. Blessings.

    • ” Learning how to think like Jesus is the very essence of discipleship (Eph.4:15), not learning what we should think about Jesus! There’s a big difference.” – I agree with this 100%…especially since we’ve been given the mind of Christ!

      Too often arguments develop between believers over which ‘guru’s” point of view is correct.

      I look forward to your post on the matter. It’s a discussion we all need to have.

      I wrote on this topic last October. It was a huge breakthrough for me concerning who’s right and who’s wrong concerning all this stuff. (You can find it here: http://lessonsbyheart.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/standardized-christianity/)

      Being willing to change my mind about what I believe has been key, I think, in the changes God is working in me. That’s a hard-won victory for Him, for I can be a VERY opinionated know-it-all!

      What I’ve realized is that if Jesus was the ‘prototokis’ (which I take to mean the prototype of what a person, fully surrendered to God could look like), then there’s something terribly wrong with my beliefs, for I do not resemble this Prototype very much.

      He meant for our lives to be a conduit for His love…to do what He did *and even greater things than these.* When I see what He designed me to do versus what I actually do…:( How sad.

      Thankfully, He is faithful to complete the work He began through Christ Jesus our Lord!! I’m not dead yet…that means there’s still hope. 🙂

      \o/

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen, Good stuff! I will look at the post you mentioned. Blessings.

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