of "Grace" to Cover Sin?
pioneer preachers who blazed the trails in truth that we have come to regard as the Restoration Movement were able to do so only as they wrestled with sectarian doctrines and creeds and returned to the old paths of Bible truth. Much of the religious error of early America with which Barton W. Stone, Walter Scott, James OKelley; the Campbells, Ben Franklin and other noble preachers contended was that known as Calvinism.
So far as the churches of Christ are concerned, the fundamental teaching of truth during the Restoration Movement was so effective (cf: The Scheme of Redemption, by Robert Milligan) that it eradicated practically every vestige of Calvinism among Christians. From the early 1800's until our generation, classic Calvinism (TULIP) has been recognized as the error it is and has not been a source of internal strife (must less a cause of division) within local congregations. However, history will record that it has become the task of our generation to combat these errors again.
Renewed emphasis by some brethren on certain aspects of Calvinism (Neo-Calvinism) has made it necessary to get back to basics on the Bible doctrines of the nature and grace of God, nature of man and his ability, faith, works, gospel, law, doctrine, the nature of Christ, imputed righteousness, justification, and sanctification among some of the weightier subjects. Too many brethren seem to be sitting at the feet of Evangelical scholars instead of at the feet of the inspired writers, drinking from the polluted wells of Augustine, Calvin and Luther than from the pure streams of truth. Terminology previously familiar among sectarians is rampant today, resulting in the charges of Pharisaism, legalism, perfectionism, too much doctrine and not enough gospel, too much about the church and not enough about Christ, too much law and not enough love against those who do no worse than preach sound doctrine (2 Timothy 3).
It is for our generation to fight old battles again, to root out sectarian error, to revisit the Bible basics. It must be our lot to reclaim a love for scriptural preaching, to turn the hearts of our young people to
I. The Universal Need of Grace - Let us never tire of preaching it (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Romans 1, 2, 3:9-18 - Gentile or Jew (thus, all mankind) unable to save self through demands of law. Result: Romans 3:23.
B. Jewish misconception - no need of grace
C. Abraham introduced to show grace - Galatians 3:7-14 (prior to giving of Law)
- Law-keeping perfection - Galatians 3:1-5
Lineage - Galatians 4:21-31
D. Man is righteous through forgiveness - not through perfection in law keeping - 1 John 1:7; Romans 6:1-7.
- Gospel of grace is a remedial system, based on blood of Christ - Ephesians 2:11-22; Hebrews 9:13-14, healing the sinner - Isaiah 53.
Gospel of grace is a system of redemption, freeing men from bondage - Romans 6:17-18, 22; Ephesians 2:11-13
Gospel of grace is a system of atonement, satisfying the divine wrath of God against sin - Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 10:3-7 (note: atonement, mercy seat - Hebrews 9:11-12)
Gospel of grace is a system of reconciliation, returning men to Gods favor - 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 Hebrews 7:19 (draw nigh to God)
Gospel of grace is a system of imputed righteousness - Genesis 15:6 (Romans 4:1-8; Galatians 3:8; James 2:23), based on forgiveness - Romans 4:7.
Gospel of grace is a perfected system, taking its fulness from the fulness of Christ - Colossians 1:12-20; 2:3-10;1 Peter 2:9-10; 2 Peter 1:3-4.
II. What is the difference between Calvinism and New Testament Christianity that they are antithetical to each other? The New Testament is predicated on the premise that God has addressed man as a free-will, moral creature of God whose nature has not changed since Creation. Man (though a sinner by choice) has the ability to understand the word of God and respond in faith to Gods grace. Faithful obedience is blessed by saving grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and righteousness is given to man as a result. Calvinism rejects mans ability to believe and obey since it avows man is born in total depravity; man is totally passive, God must do everything in salvation; sinners cannot read and understand the Bible without supernatural help from the Holy Spirit; grace saves, doctrine sanctifies; election is unconditional; justification is by faith alone (with faith being a gift by God to the elect only; the saved cannot be lost. The two systems of religion cannot be reconciled.
A. Note: Calvinism is a modern, popularized Augustinianism.
B. The Reformation set in motion by Martin Luther
- Augustine (354-430 A.D.), born in North Africa.
Joined Manichaean sect and learned tenets of Gnosticism regarding the nature of Christ and man; inherited depravity.
Became a nominal Christian during formative years of Catholic Church.
Writings (City of God, Confessions, etc) contributed to evolving Catholic theology.
Controversy with Pelagius in Rome about the nature of man and free will strengthened Augustines influence.
Augustines theology, given the fallacy of inherited total depravity is logical, sequential and representative of Systematic Theology.
What Augustine taught about fall of man:
a. Sovereignty of God demanded foreordination of all things.
b. Man had free choice in Garden, but his nature changed at the fall.
1) Loss of freedom of choice in spiritual matters.
2) Obstruction of knowledge - in spiritual matters.
3) Loss of enabling grace by which he chose to do good.
4) Loss of paradise.
5) Development of concupiscence (flesh over spirit).
6) Physical death.
7) Hereditary guilt in posterity.
- What Augustine taught about redemption of man:
a. Totally in hands of God; man is completely passive.
b. Grace is irresistible to the elect (predestination and election).
c. Justification by an infusion of moral perfection of Jesus by grace through the Holy Spirit.
d. Sanctification (perseverance of saints) - Holy Spirit works in Christian to secure salvation.
C. In our time (1970's), Calvinism became an internal influence.
- Catholicism had changed through centuries to system of works (sacerdotalism).
Luther sought to return Catholicism back to Augustines salvation by faith only.
John Calvin reduced Augustines theology to five points
1) Total Hereditary Depravity
b. Imputation of Righteousness of Christ
2) Unconditional Election (justification by faith only)
3) Limited Atonement
4) Irresistible Grace
5) Perseverance of the saints (once saved, always saved)
1) Invalid definition of imputation (see Barnes Notes, Romans 4 for complete study) to mean transfer
2) Transfer of Adams guilt to posterity (inherited guilt)
3) Transfer of mankinds guilt to Christ
4) Transfer of Christs perfection to believers
5) Error of this concept shown by Ezekiel 18 (see vv. 4, 18)
- Calvinism is now embedded in Protestant theology.
Restoration Movement confronted, opposed, defeated Calvinism. As pioneers gave up creeds, turned back to Bible, their battles were with Calvinists, as they came out of Calvinistic churches: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.
Churches of Christ free of internal conflict; debated sectarians often.
D. Modern Calvinists dont like all of Calvinism (New-Calvinism).
- Commentaries, versions of Bible (NIV), Evangelical upsurge, magazines (Verdict, Present Truth,etc.) influenced a generation of preachers.
ACC teachers and writers (R. C. Bell, K. C. Moser, Burton Coffman, etc.) exposed generation of students to Calvins imputed righteousness.
C. H. Dodd, Church of England prelate, expounded on difference between gospel and doctrine, and had an influence on Carl Ketcherside and cohorts.
Seen as radicals in early years, Ketcherside & Leroy Garrett lived long enough to see their theories become popular among institutional preachers: Rubel Shelly, Max Lucado, etc.
Ketcherside infiltrated students at Florida College through Edward Fudge who spread Calvinism to many of his generation across the nation (Hubert Moss, Bruce Edwards, Arnold Hardin, Clyde Goff, Jack Kirby, Mark Nitz, a host of others.
E. C. H. Dodds Core Gospel (Gospel/Doctrine distinction) led to arbitrary challenges tosound doctrine.
- Reject imputation of Adams sin to mankind (total depravity).
Some accept imputation of mankinds sin to Christ.
Most accept imputation of personal reighteousness of Christ to believer.
Inconsistency doesnt seem to bother brethren any more than Free Will Baptists who differ from Primitive Baptists.
F. New definition of Gospel used by Bill Love, The Core Gospel to critique preachers from A. Campbell to J. D. Tant for lack of gospel preaching.
- Gospel seen as essential to salvation (defined deity of Christ).
Doctrine seen as unimportant, and would not limit fellowship among those who accept the deity of Christ.
Provided rationale for broadened fellowship with sectarians - no doctrinal position was to be bound on others; tolerance for error and permissiveness for every shade of belief. Some accepted the fallacy that grace covered sinners evan as, and while, they sinned, a position compatible with typical once saved, always saved.
Factionalism (rejection of this definition of gospel) was the only sin which would limit fellowship. Sound preaching not tolerated. Charges of perfectionism, legalism, Pharisaism, hurled at those who opposed unity in diversity. Doctrinal preaching was not equated as gospel preaching, doctrine emphasized the church more than Christ, creed more than the cross.
One of the most striking examples of the displacement of the cross appears in T. W. Brents huge volume, The Gospel Plan of Salvation (1874). It became a standard work and wisely read for decades...The only extended treatment of the atonement is a five-page section devoted to refuting the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement. Although one finds a few references to Christs death scattered throughout the books 662 pages, nowhere does one find any systematic or extended discussion of human need and how God met that need at the cross...In a book claiming to set forth the gospel plan of salvation, I find such omission astounding, the sign of something deeply awry in the theology of the movement (p. 120).
G. The Cruciform Church by C. Leonard Allen also decried the lack of preaching on the cross and too much about the church.
H. Concurrently, a number of conservative brethren echoed the charge, nearly plagiarizing the terminology and examples of Love and Allen. A large segment of brethren seem disenchanted with doctrinal preaching, coming from the same mindset as defined by Love and Allen.
I. Brethren initiated a paper, Christianity Magazine, dedicated to accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Faithful preaching was seen as too hard, unloving, unkind, negative, too controversial. Journalism was sought after and scripture was limited in use; one-sided teaching refused to allow error to be reviewed. Elements for unity in diversity have been advocated. Doctrinal unity is described as impossible.
J. In midst of a retreat from preaching the whole counsel (Acts 20:28), divorce and adulterous marriages became a national and congregational problem.
K. Because divorce became so rampant, it had ramifications with Christians.
L. Debates, books, preachers advocated many positions as to why the guilty, put away fornicator could remarry.
M. Homer Haileys view on the alien who would come to God took center stage among thinking of brethren; his views advocated in book by that name.
N. Romans 14 used by Ed Harrell to defend fellowship with Homer Hailey in series of articles, Homer Hailey: False Teacher? (Christianity Magazine, Nov. 1989), The Bounds of Christian Unity (1-16), (Christianity Magazine, Feb. 1989-May. 1990), The Parameters of Fellowship, (Christianity Magazine, March/April, 1997).
O. A wave of preachers jumped on the band-wagon of grace-unity with its attendant errors and charges against sound preaching.
- Grace Covers Sin
Obedience equated with Perfectionism
Toleration for error became a hand-maiden with criticism of sound preaching; permissiveness toward sin but caustic rejection of truth
Faithful preachers labeled with bad attitudes for truth-telling; branded as having a lack of integrity for identifying teachers of error; charged with fomenting trouble by doing what gospel preachers have always done.
Note: History of this generation (facing institutionalism, liberalism, indifference, New Hermeneutics, modernism, immodesty, worldliness) must be one of aggressive evangelism (1 Timothy 1:8-11; 2 Timothy 1:8-13; 4:1-4).
Soft preaching, eliminate-the-negative preaching, being tolerant of error and being willing to fellowship sinful beliefs and practices is something new. Those who charge faithful preachers with initiating a controversy among brethren over these principles should learn who split the log, and who is real Troubler of Israel.
III. Gods answer to Departures from Sound Doctrine
First Century and now - the same.
B. Declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:25-32); commend to grace of God.
C. Preach the word - in season and out - whether brethren like it or not - 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
D. The grace of God has appeared - Titus 2:11-15 - speak these things...let none despise.
E. This is the true grace of God - stand in it - 1 Peter 5:12.
e-mail this author at email@example.com
Return to Watchman Front Page
return to December index