Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Gospel of Grace and Redemption

In my Religious tradition, we recently rediscovered grace (cut us a little slack...we're a few years behind other groups on a few things). The result has been interesting. One segment of "us" dug in their heels because the shift was just too different from what they had always known and retained a doctrine/praxis/motivation-by-exclusion religion (that may sound overly harsh, but it's a generalization). The overriding thought seems to be that I have to work really hard and do everything just right. This life and this world are terrible, but one day I'll go to Heaven and "Won't it be wonderful there?"
Another segement did a pendulum swing to focusing on grace, almost as an end unto itself. The rightly asserted that grace covers doctrine, morality, and misunderstanding. But the major point seems to be that I can quit worrying because my personal salvation is sure and I, myself will be going to Heaven when I die. I just have to ride out this life and then "won't it be wonderful there?"
While these positions are overgeneralizations and no one would actually describe themselves that way, they are both catagories that I can honestly say I fit into at different times in my life. But each of them miss the point entirely. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about both Grace and Redemption. The "new" understanding of grace (which is actually quite old) is more accurate, but it simply doesn't go far enough. Grace is not and was never intended to be an end unto itself. Grace covers and clenses you so that you might be redeemed. It takes care of your "stuff" so that you can quit focusing on yourself and begin focusing on God and other people exclusively. Redemption carries with it the idea of being changed or exchanged for something that is useful or of value. When you are focused on yourself, even on your own salvation, you are of no use or value to anyone else. When you can quit focusing on yourself, you then become useful, not only to God, but to the world. You can be "good news" to them in the same self-sacrificing way that Jesus was. In a corporate sense, the church could become "of value" to the world instead of something it is coming to resent (imagine what that would do for evangelism). Grace frees you to become a part of God's vision/mission/dream for this world...that it would be "on earth as it is in Heaven." In his book "The Radical Reformission", Mark Driscoll says "...neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. But both are intended to permit us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that unnecessarily separate the people God has found from those he is still seeking."
Grace alone is only "good news" for me. Grace and Redemption are the Gospel.


Anonymous said...

Adam- you are very on point with your observations. My sense is the that those in "progressive" churches of christ (whatever that means)....have merely replicated the grace theology of typical Southern Evangelical Christianity. Fire Insurance, Mental Assent, whatever one might call it. This version of grace is the dominant ethos I see in most Christian groups today.....(Spiritual formation, Discipelship and growing in Grace being an elective). I believe that is why so many are re-discovering some of the nuggets in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox thought and practice. It gives some ways of "practicing in" the grace that the triune God has initiated and with whom we dynamically relate to......keep up your writing . Enjoyed your snippet on Allelon a few weeks ago.

Ken Haynes
Account Executive
Birmingham, AL

Unknown said...

We must be brothers seperated at birth. We think too close to the same.

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xfevv said...

Great post. I sometimes wonder myself if the "grace doctrine" has become a way for us as Christians to feel good about our short commings. Don't get me wrong. I am daily thank God that he is gracious and merciful. I have so many faults and shortcoimmings and yet He still chooses to use some one like myself to further His Kingdom. I am amazed. Yet I also don't want the fact that God is gracious to be an excuse for me to continue living with my faults and shortcommings. Sometimes I think that is what happenes when we hear the grace message. We forget that God is a jelous God. That He wants us to be either hot or cold. At times I wonder if we have lost the "fear (Awesome Respect)" of God which is the beginning of wisdom. Any way that is my 2 cents. Feel free to check out my blog

By the way Mark Driscoll is definatly one of my favorites. If you have not done so yet check out his church web site

There are some great sermons on there.

God bless

Sid said...

I find it amazing anyone can be sure enough that they've got it right. The one extreme thinks they have to get everything right. The other extreme thinks they're covered and that's all they need to know. You have this thing against extremes and decide that there's a happy medium right in the middle. You think you're right.

What if eveyone is just as right as everyone else? How can we say that what we believe is right for us is right for anyone else? If this is true, you can believe what you want, I can believe what I want. You can believe there's a right ang a wrong, I can believe a giant Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal will eat me upon death. If it works for you, if you're happy, great.

Only trouble I see with that thinking is when people of different beliefs try interacting.

Or something.

And I realize it's your job to tell others what they should believe. I just don't think it's right that everyone needs a leader telling them what to do, what to believe.

Blah, I've probably contradicted myself multiple times in this post. Whatever.

-- Sid

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the Church of Christ has rediscovered grace. I was raised in the church, my father a minister - yep, a PK. After reaching adulthood, I was finally able to realize how stifling and unchristianlike so many of the teachings were I grew up hearing and learning. There was no concept of unconditional love, and although the words didn't say so, you definitely got the feeling that you had to earn your salvation, and since no one can do that, you constantly felt unworthy. Took me many years to deal with some of the "unspoken" emotional lessons learned in the Church of Christ. For many years I did not worship with a congregation. I maintained my relationship with God on a very personal level. About four years ago I found a Methodist congregation and started worshipping with them each week. I have learned more true lessons about grace and it has freed me to do more spiritual work, both internally and externally.

I wish you well with your writing. Keep up the good work and be mindful of how some teachings are RECEIVED by youth. Ask them questions - let them teach you what they're learning!