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What's So Amazing About What's So Amazing?


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#1 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:18 PM

By Brother Andrew Dangerfield.


INTRODUCTION

The Apostle Paul in Romans warns us of those who cleverly and deceptively change the truth of God into a lie (Rom 1v25). The most damaging example of this was to be an apostate Christianity arising out of what was originally the true ecclesia (2 Thess 2v1-12). One of the most notable characteristics of this form of Christianity is its ability to deceive and lead people away from the true gospel. To deceive means that people are tricked into thinking something is good and right when in fact it is evil:

2 Thess 2v3,8-10 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition… And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”


In the dark ages of the Roman Catholic Church, the signs and wonders came in many crude forms - splinters from the cross of Christ, feathers from angels’ wings, the bones of saints and small bottles of Christ’s blood. In our days however, the signs and wonders take an even more sophisticated form. They not only manifest themselves in countries where the Roman Catholic Church holds sway. They also are seen in the western world, not only in the churches of Catholicism but also amongst those churches who hold the same fundamental doctrines as the Catholic Church. The signs and wonders come in the form of “miracles”, “healings” and “tongues” at evangelical revival meetings. But they also come in the form of clever new philosophies and teachings that significantly revolutionise the thinking of modern Christianity.

One such example is the above mentioned book, What’s so amazing about Grace? by evangelical writer Philip Yancey. It is not only changing the way “Christianity” thinks, but it is also even making inroads into our own brotherhood. The purpose of this short summary is to help us all to wake up to the dangers of these influences (Eph 4v14; Rev 16v15). It is also aimed to prevent as many as possible from being deceived by the power of this new persuasion. We must face up to the fact that much of this modern “Christian” literature is faith-destroying because it is changing the way we think without us even knowing it. The accolades by commentators on the cover of the book show how influential this type of philosophy really is:

“This is beyond a doubt the very best book I have read from a Christian author in my life.”

“Philip Yancey is one of the most engaging and convicting writers in the Christian world.  Once again he has produced a work with something in it to make everybody mad.”

“Philip Yancey has written another brilliant award winner.”


It is not often realised that the most dangerous type of error is that which is mingled with sufficient amounts of truth (Gen 3v4-5). This book is one classic example of that. It may be argued that “O well, most of the book is pretty right, just overlook the things that are wrong.” The problem is actually trying to discern the things that are wrong. Books like this are so riddled with wrong doctrine and practice that it becomes way too difficult to extract the good from the evil. It is not readily understood that the very foundation and basis of this book is flawed. It is based on the doctrines of the trinity, pre-existence of Christ, substitution and that God’s character is changeable. In fact the very definition of grace on the back cover (and discussed on page 70 of the book) is not only wrong, but it is presumptions, rebellious and a licence for evil (Rom 6v1; Jude v3,4). Not only that, but it flies right in the face of the true relationship God wants to have with His children. We might also ask, why can a book be so influential when so little Scripture is used to support his theories?

Let it be said at the outset that none of our works can merit salvation (Rom 3v23-24; 4v1-8; Eph 2v8-10). Without God’s grace, a free gift of salvation, we would have no hope (Psa 51; Eph 2v12). In no way whatsoever would we ever want to minimise the strength and power of God’s abundant grace and mercy. We must realise however that there is a big difference between Biblical grace and substitutionary grace. The comments in this study are by no means comprehensive, and in fact are extremely brief given the amount of material with which to deal with here. There is no pleasure in exposing these disturbing issues. These matters are outlined here for the simple reason “that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal 2v5) and that we should have “no greater joy than to hear that our children walk in truth” (3 John v4).

#2 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:18 PM

THE WORD OF GOD MUST BE THE FOUNDATION

The influence of modern “Christian” literature has become more and more popular in recent years. This Evangelical way of thinking is having an influence over time and it often takes many years to really manifest itself. What is not often understood is that these influences can take 10 or even 15 years to really make their mark within the ecclesial environment and upon the faith of individuals. We have to wake up to this! We have to ask: Is the decline in daily reading and diligent Bible study now taking its toll amongst us? Why is it that the reading of God’s Word is being replaced by the writings of the apostasy? The Bible is not a cheap novel. Its benefits only come through time, diligent application and prayerful searching. Consider the following comments by Bro Robert Roberts in the preface to the Bible Companion:

"Salvation depends upon the assimilation of the mind to the divine ideas, principles, and affections exhibited in the Scriptures. This process commences with a belief of the gospel, but is by no means completed thereby; it takes a life-time for its scope, and untiring diligence for its accomplishment. “The mind is naturally alien from God and all His ideas (Rom 8v7; 1 Cor 2v14), and cannot be brought at once to the Divine likeness. This is a work of slow development, and can only be achieved by the industrious application of the individual to the means which God has given for this purpose, viz., the expression of His mind in the Scriptures of Truth”


Our society today is one where instant answers are given to all desires of the heart. So it is with modern Christianity. This is one of the real dangers with books like What’s so amazing about Grace? Diligent application to God’s Word is no longer required (and definitely not encouraged) because God’s saving grace is freely given to anyone who just cries “help”. This immediately becomes appealing, because no effort is required from the individual to respond to God. Not only this, but these “Christian” writings often “hit a nerve” to entice the reader in. They play upon people’s prejudices and past experiences and use these as a foundation upon which to build a highly appealing argument. Like the serpent in the garden, Truth is mixed with error so cleverly that the errors become almost unrecognisable. Also, one of the immediately obvious characteristics of many “Christian” books today, and particularly in What’s so amazing about Grace? is the lack of Scriptural evidence presented. This cannot be overemphasised. These books are easily readable with many stories and concepts that sound good on the surface, but which really are not Scripturally sound. In other words, they “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof - from such turn away… Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3v5,7)

God’s Word however is powerful and can change lives (Heb 4v12). The Word alone is sufficient to transform our minds and to sanctify us, as it was for those in Old Testament times (Job 2v3; Psa 119v9,11,93; Prov 2v1-9; 3v1-3). The Word is all sufficient to save (John 1v12-13; 6v63; 17v17; 1 Pet 1v23-25; Jms 1v18-21; 1 John 3v9; Rom 12v2). So let us turn to God’s Word for the answers (Isa 8v20), and not to the writings of an apostate Church. May the following questions and comments presented help us to that end.

#3 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:18 PM

‘SKATING ON THE VERY EDGE OF DANGER’

What is particularly disturbing is the subtle overall influence of Yancey’s argument and where it leads. The main thrust of his argument is that “God loves you anyhow” rather than an emphasis on repentance and a changed way of life. Because there are many pages of nice stories about Jesus’s parables and how we should forgive others and care about the poor (to which we would wholeheartedly agree), it becomes very easy to miss where the book is eventually leading us. Just because some of the book has elements of truth, doesn’t make the overall argument right. A simple glance at the final 2 pages of the book shows where his philosophy about grace finally leads us. God’s grace is seen to descend upon a drunken rock concert with people singing “Amazing grace”, despite being “high on dope and booze”. This is his conclusion to it all. Surely we must realise that forgiveness is only bestowed on believers when they approach God in the way appointed, after true repentance (see comments by Bro Harry Tennant on page 8).

We might also ask, why does Yancey finally quote Rom 6v1 and Jude v4 in his chapter on “Loopholes” when he has just spent 175 pages leading us right down that very road itself? He actually admits in this chapter (chapter 14) that he has so far “presented a one-sided picture of grace… Depicting grace in such sweeping terms makes people nervous, and I concede that I have skated on the very edge of danger. I have done so because I believe the New Testament does too.” (p.178) This whole concept of “skating on the very edge of danger” for well over half his book (and then for the majority of the book afterwards) should really be sounding alarm bells. Where in the Bible is “skating on the very edge of danger” advocated? Are we really going to promote this book to our young people when he actually admits doing this?

#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:19 PM

While Yancey briefly back-pedals to show that God’s grace has to be accepted, this is just a brief statement in chapter 14 and is in the context of extreme cases of blatant rebellion against God. Is he now saying that there are only “loopholes” to grace in extreme circumstances? Why is it that the examples of “grace abuse” in the chapter on “loopholes” are so deliberately extreme? Is this because he has to go into ‘damage control’ mode to fix the problem? Examples given as sins that could place us outside of God’s grace are; beating someone senseless and hoping to gain forgiveness from a priest, a man unrepentantly leaving his wife and children for another woman, or “Christian martyrs” devoting “their last nights in prison to drunkenness, revelry, and promiscuity.” Is this really all there is to the problem of “grace abuse”? After spending so much time showing that “Jesus' stories of extravagant grace include no catch, no loophole disqualifying us from God's grace”, then why does he briefly turn around and say that there are a few catches and loopholes? Is this just a contradiction or does he suddenly find himself in an uncomfortable position because of all he has said so far?


Do the truthful statements two thirds of the way through the book suddenly cancel out all the previous wrong doctrine and presumptuous attitudes he advocates? This is where the dangerous weaving together of truth and error is very difficult to discern. Yancey is exactly right when he finally admits, ”Shouldn’t we grow in grace as Peter commands? Shouldn’t our family likeness to God increase?” (p.184) yet follows this by saying, “Christ accepts us as we are, wrote Walter Trobisch, but when he accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” But isn’t this all the wrong way around? Does Christ really accept us “as we are” or is there need for repentance first? This idea of “God accepts me just as I am” without having to change first is constantly emphasised by Yancey and is fraught with peril. It is wrong because it is based on Evangelical doctrine.

One reason this book is dangerous is because it leaves so many issues up in the air, open-ended and unresolved. In fact Yancey actually admits to this in a recent interview on his internet website. He acknowledges that he is more comfortable with “mystery” rather than “certainty”, that God is not often “forthright and direct” but instead He is a God who just “raises more questions”. He then says, “We can't handle all of the truth. We don't have the capacity.” So it is with his approach in this book. There may appear to be occasional qualifications, but they are very contradictory to what he says elsewhere, and in fact are very contradictory to the overall thrust (and certainly the conclusion) of the book. We must realise that the underlying problem is a doctrinal one. We need to be alert to these dangers of mixing truth with error. We also must be alert to where these arguments eventually lead.

#5 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:19 PM

THE UNDERLYING DANGER OF ‘CHRISTIAN’ WRITINGS TODAY


One of the key underlying problems with “Christian” literature today, and particularly in What’s so amazing about Grace? is what is NOT said. Ephesians 2v8 says that “by grace are ye saved through faith.” Grace and faith are interlinked and closely connected. But why does this book hardly say anything about FAITH? How often does he speak about “the gospel” or “the truth”? What about baptism? Where does he ever talk about HOPE of a resurrection and immortality? Where does he ever talk about the Kingdom of God or the promises to Abraham and David, by God’s grace? Alternatively he speaks of going to heaven! Why nothing about all the fundamentals that are interlinked with grace? The true Biblical concept of God’s grace should definitely always be emphasised (and continually!), but this should not be done without a proper Scriptural balance to it all. Philip Yancey is an Evangelical and his doctrines form the basis of his arguments.

#6 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:19 PM

It says in John 1v14,17 that Jesus Christ is “full of grace and truth”. Yancey here spends 280 pages speaking about his own philosophy of grace but why no emphasis on TRUTH? His argument is totally one-sided. Can these 2 be separated? Or is truth not important? This is one of the key dangers with this type of “Christian” literature. This danger is not readily apparent on the surface but it has a subtle underlying effect that rubs off on us over time. The Yancey approach is causing many to forsake viewing the Truth as a whole way of life, with all the elements of the Gospel interlinking as ONE. Many are now segmenting faith, grace, works and “the gospel” into separate boxes and this is creating confusion in people’s minds. There is developing a virtual paranoia of being motivated to do anything, even reading the Bible, just in case this is “salvation by works”. A cynical attitude is also developing amongst us and evil motives are often being imputed on our older brothers and sisters who have spent their whole lifetimes striving to live Christ-like lives. Isn’t this true? Practical living of the Truth is not “salvation by works”! It is all about being like Jesus Christ! We should be aiming to develop the mind of Christ (Phil 2v5)! Unless we have the key doctrines of the Atonement and God Manifestation right, our whole relationship with God and our approach to life is undermined.

#7 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:19 PM

IS GOD’S CHARACTER WAVERING AND CHANGEABLE?


“Sometimes God’s conflicting emotions tug against each other… In the book of Hosea, for example, God wavers between tender reminiscences of his people and solemn threats of judgement.… In Hosea, the scandal of grace became an actual, talk-of-the-town scandal.  What goes through a man’s mind when his wife treats him as Gomer treated Hosea?  He wanted to kill her, he wanted to forgive her.  He wanted divorce, he wanted reconciliation….  Absurdly, against all odds, the irresistible power of love won out…. At the heart of the Gospel is a God who deliberately surrenders to the wild, irresistible power of love.”  (What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 66)



Some questions:

Where in the Bible does it say that God’s emotions are conflicting? Where does it say that God “wavers”? How often does He find it difficult to make up His mind what to do?

A Big problem: If God’s emotions really are conflicting, then is He still wavering about His purpose with the Earth? Will this “solemn threats of judgement” emotion come back to Him in the future? Is it possible that His character will change again in the near future, when he sees how bad the world really is getting?

If there is a possibility that He can change again, how can we be confident that He will accomplish what He has promised?

Where in the Book of Hosea does it ever say that Hosea “wanted to kill her”?

Does God really have to “surrender to the wild, irresistible power of love” or does the Bible teach that “God is love”? (1 John 4v8,16) Does God have to surrender to other people or new ways of thinking?

The character of God is shown to us in Exodus 33v18-20; 34v6-9. The name of God, Yahweh, is a reflection of His character and purpose. In the Kingdom age, the whole world will know that there is “One Yahweh, and His name One” (Zech 14v9). It is inconceivable that since the revealing of the Name in Exodus that God’s character and purpose could have changed or have been changeable. Jesus Christ also is the perfect manifestation of the unchangeable character of his Father (Heb 1v1-3). Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” (Heb 13v8-9)

#8 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:19 PM

“I have come up with an all-encompassing principle that, I believe, expresses the essence of the Old Testament laws on uncleanness:  No Oddballs Allowed.”  (What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 150)

“From Cain onward, people had to follow God's precise instructions or risk having their offerings rejected.  God demanded perfection; God deserved the best.  No Oddballs Allowed.”  (p. 150)

“In essence, Jesus cancelled the cherished principle of the Old Testament, No Oddballs Allowed, replacing it with a new rule of grace: 'We're all oddballs, but God loves us anyhow.”  (p. 153)

“We need not approach God by a ladder of hierarchy, anxious about cleanliness issues.  If God's kingdom had a 'No Oddballs Allowed' sign posted, none of us could get in.  Jesus came to demonstrate that a perfect and holy God welcomes pleas for help from a widow with two mites and from a Roman centurion and a miserable publican and a thief on a cross.  We need only call out 'Abba', or, failing that, simply groan.  God has come that close.” (p. 157)


Some questions:

What does this concept of “oddballs” have to do with salvation?

Does God expect us to “follow God’s precise instructions” today? Consider John 14v21-23.

Does God deserve the best from us today? If He doesn’t, then what does God “deserve”? Consider John 4v23-24 and 1 Peter 1v13-16.

Can we just do whatever we like and still be saved? Consider Romans 6v1-8.

Is there any need for believers to change their way of life? Consider Acts 14v15 and Eph 4v21-23.

Does God’s abounding love mean that we can now just rebel against Him and do what we please? Look at Gen 3v16-17; Jude v3-8.

If we fall short of God’s expectations, should we pray for forgiveness (Psa 32v1-2; 51v1-4; 1 Jn 1v8-9) or should we just say, “Doesn’t matter, God loves me anyhow” ?

Could this principle of “We’re all oddballs, but God loves us anyhow” apply to the Roman Catholic priests in the dark ages who put Christ’s brethren to death? Look up Rev 13v7-8 cp. Rev 20v4.

Could we relate this principle to Judas Iscariot ?

If we had this sort of attitude, and rebelled against God, how do you think this would make Him feel?

Is it possible that He could be made very sad or even angry? Or would He still be happy with us?

Would He still save us? Consider 1 Cor 6v9; 15v1-2; 1 Pet 2v11-12; James 1v22; 2v17-18 etc.

Are there any other ways we could explain what “the cherished principle of the Old Testament” is? Or do you think Philip Yancey’s explanation is pretty close to the mark?

If these comments of his are unscriptural and therefore flawed, could it mean that the foundation of his whole book is flawed?

#9 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:20 PM

“I can understand your refusal to forgive.  This is entirely in accordance with the spirit of the Bible, with the spirit of the Old Law.  But there is the New Law, that of Christ as expressed in the Gospels.”  (What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 112) 

“As society unravels and immorality increases, I hear calls from some Christians that we show less mercy and more morality, calls that hark back to the style of the Old Testament.” (p. 158)

“My study of Jesus’s life convinces me that whatever barriers we must overcome in treating “different” people cannot compare to what a holy God - who dwelled in the Most Holy Place, and whose presence caused fire and smoke to belch from mountaintops, bringing death to any unclean person who wandered near - overcame when he descended to join us on planet Earth.” (p. 175)


Again we are presented with ambiguous language. What does he mean by “different”? Some questions:

Where in the Bible does it say that “the spirit of the Old Law” was a “refusal to forgive” ? See Rom 7v12.

Do you think that God would have been happy with people who refused to forgive in Old Testament times? Or was this God’s character anyway?

What Scriptural evidence is there to say that “the style of the Old Testament” is to “show less mercy and more morality”? Compare this with God’s words in Micah 6v8: “What doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Yancey however presents us with the deceptive and dangerous proposition that mercy and morality are actually opposites. They are not!

If this is really what “the style of the Old Testament” is about, then of what importance is the Old Testament for us today? Should we place any reliance on God’s teachings in the Old Testament? What about the promises to Abraham and David? Or has all this been done away with?

If he indicates that God’s character is changeable, then how do you therefore explain God’s statement: “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Mal 3v6)

How can you also reconcile all these comments with the Bible’s clear description of God, in “whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1v17) ?

If Yancey’s concepts about grace are based on God “overcoming” His previous Holiness “when he descended to join us on planet Earth”, then what reliance can we place on the rest of this book?

If this whole redemptive process is dependent on the pre-existence of Christ and the doctrine of a Trinity, then how confident can we be that all his other arguments are based on sound doctrine and not error?

#10 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:20 PM

TRINITY AND PRE-EXISTENCE OF CHRIST


“In 'The Art of Forgiving', Lewis Smedes makes the striking observation that the Bible portrays God going through progressive stages when He forgives, much as we humans do. First, God rediscovers the humanity of the person who wronged him, by removing the barrier created by sin. Second, God surrenders His right to get even, choosing instead to bear the cost in His own body. Finally, God revises His feelings toward us, finding a way to 'justify' us so that when He looks upon us He sees His own adopted children, with His divine image restored.  It occurred to me, as I thought about Smede's insights, that the gracious miracle of God's forgiveness was made possible because of the linkage that occurred when God came to earth in Christ.  Somehow God had to come to terms with these creatures He desperately wanted to love - but how?  Experientially, God did not know what it was like to be tempted to sin, to have a trying day.  On earth, living among us, He learned what it was like.  He put Himself on our side.”  (What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 106)

“From the Gospel accounts, it seems forgiveness was not easy for God, either… Only by becoming a human being could the Son of God truly say, 'They do not know what they are doing.'  Having lived among us, He now understood.” (p. 107)



#11 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:20 PM

Some questions:

Where in the Bible does it say that “forgiveness was not easy for God”?

Where do we ever read in the Scriptures that God “chose to bear the cost in His own body”? Or is Yancey speaking about the doctrines of the Trinity and substitution combined into one?

Where in the Bible does it say that God came to earth, became a human, and finally realised how difficult it really was? Did God really have to “rediscover our humanity”?

How similar do you think this is to the Roman Catholic doctrines on the nature of Christ and his death?

Can God really be tempted to sin?

Did God ever struggle to come to terms with human beings whom he “desperately wants to love”? Or is it true that God’s character IS LOVE? If “God is love” (1 John 4v8,16) then how could He have ever been in a position where he struggled to come to grips with all this?

If God’s character changed over time, is it possible that His character could therefore change again in the future? If God has “struggled to forgive” in the past, is it possible that He could again struggle to forgive us at the Judgement, despite our repentance?

If Yancey’s understanding of God’s forgiveness and grace is based on the doctrines of the Trinity and pre-existence of Christ, how much confidence can we place on the rest of the book?

What was God’s relationship with the faithful in O.T. times? Did he really “struggle to forgive” them, given that this was before he had a chance to “learn what it was like” to be a human and to “have a trying day”?

Not only is this doctrinally wrong, it is the ramifications of believing such doctrine that should really concern us.

#12 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:20 PM

LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY / SUBSTITUTION


“Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more... And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less - no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder.  Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.” (What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 70)


The extension of God’s love is unconditional. The whole world is given the opportunity to respond to His love. Christ died while we were yet sinners (Rom 5v8). In love, God has extended the opportunity of salvation to us (John 3v16). But what is our response to that love? This is the key question. Our response to it will determine whether or not we will be saved. The amount God loves us does not mean that we can do what we like and still be saved. Salvation is dependent on us responding to God’s love.

#13 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:20 PM

It is possible however to even incur God’s enduring and abiding hatred. He may have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but he certainly has no pleasure in the sinner either. There comes a time when the sinner loves the sin and has no desire to repent, and at this point the wrath of God is directed at him personally. Consider these quotes:

Psalm 5v4-7 “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.”

Psa 11v5-6 “The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.”

Rom 9v13-15 “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

#14 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:21 PM

“By instinct I feel I must do something in order to be accepted.  Grace sounds a startling note of contradiction, of liberation...”  (What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 71)

“Ask people what they must do to go to heaven and most reply “be good.”  Jesus’s stories contradict that answer.  All we must do is cry “help”!” (p.54)

“Grace baffles us because it goes against the intuition everyone has that, in the face of injustice, some price must be paid.  A murderer cannot simply go free…  Anticipating these objections, Paul stressed that a price has been paid - by God himself.  God gave up his own Son rather than give up on humanity…”  (p. 67)

“In the movie The Last Emperor, the young child anointed as the last emperor of China lives a magical life of luxury with a thousand eunuch servants at his command. “What happens when you do wrong?” his brother asks.  “When I do wrong, someone else is punished,” the boy emporer replies.  To demonstrate, he breaks a jar, and one of the servants is beaten.  In Christian theology, Jesus reversed that ancient pattern: when the servants erred, the King was punished.  Grace is free only because the giver himself has borne the cost.” (p. 67)

“God shattered the inexorable law of sin and retribution by invading earth, absorbing the worst we had to offer, crucifixion, & then fashioning from that cruel deed the remedy for the human condition.”  (p.92)

“The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity…. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”  (p. 45)



#15 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:21 PM

Some more questions arise from Yancey’s comments here:

Is it possible therefore to “do nothing” and be accepted by God?

What is true liberation all about? Are we liberated from responsibility to God and thinking of others, or does the Bible teach that we are liberated from the domination of sin? Consider Rom 6v2-7; Gal 5v13.

If “grace is free” only because of the doctrine of sustitutionary atonement, is it possible that Yancey’s whole theory about grace is therefore flawed?

How similar is this doctrine of substitution to that which is taught by the Roman Catholic Church?

Is it possible then that this is just Roman Catholicism dressed in a new, more acceptable, pleasant sounding, grace-like guise? If it is, then what are the ramifications of us believing in this new doctrine?

Please tell me where the Bible teaches that believers go to heaven when they die.

If all believers have to do is “cry help!” then is baptism essential for salvation? Are we required to live lives in accordance with Christ’s commandments?

Is God’s love unconditional even if we continue a life in rebellion, refusing to repent?

#16 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:21 PM

The popular view of modern Christianity is that man’s sins placed him in a debt to God which had to be paid for by someone else. Instead of being an unpayable debt that God has forgiven, substitution teaches that Christ actually cleared the debt of each believer by his blood, shed on the cross. The supposed “angry God” of the Old Testament is then seen to be appeased when He sees Christ’s blood spilt, and as a result lets us all off free. Finally God is seen to give in to the “irresistible power of love”. It is said that “Christ died instead of us”. An example of this concept is given on page 67 of What’s so amazing about Grace? where another child gets punished rather than the one who actually did wrong. One example that is sometimes given in the churches is that we are all lined up about to be shot dead by the devil, then Jesus rushes in at the last minute and says, “No, kill me, and let the rest off free.” This doctrine however is fundamentally flawed.

There are key problems with the substitution theory. If Christ died “instead of us” then, logically

1) We should not die (which we do),

2) Jesus shouldn’t have been resurrected if he truely paid the penalty due to us (ie. God must have snatched the price back!),

3) The redeeming power would have been in Christ’s DEATH, not in his RESURRECTION,

4) If Christ paid our debts, our debts (sins) are not forgiven but paid for, and

5) the truth is that Jesus Christ actually benefited from his own sacrifice (Phil 2v9 God has “highly exalted him”). We also must ask the question - How can a substitute possibly benefit? Substitution is clearly wrong. The truth is that Jesus Christ died as our representative, who we are striving to copy and emulate (Rom 6v4-5; Phil 2v5; 1 Pet 2v21 etc). He is our EXAMPLE, not our substitute! The ramifications of this false doctrine are detailed in the comments on page 8.

#17 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:21 PM

The Key issue: Not only does Yancey believe in the doctrines of substitution and the trinity, but he uses these as the very authority and foundation for his whole philosophy about grace. As far as God’s plan of salvation is concerned, he equates God’s grace (unmerited favour bestowed on repentant brethren) with God’s willingness to forgive (the offer given to all mankind). Because of this he must come to the conclusion that nothing we do can make God love us more and nothing we do can make God love us less!

James 1v22 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

Eph 4v14 “…Be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

“We are accustomed to finding a catch in every promise, but Jesus' stories of extravagant grace include no catch, no loophole disqualifying us from God's grace… How different are these stories from my own childhood notions about God…” (What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 52)

#18 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:22 PM

“We are accustomed to finding a catch in every promise, but Jesus' stories of extravagant grace include no catch, no loophole disqualifying us from God's grace… How different are these stories from my own childhood notions about God…” (What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 52)

“In one of his last acts before death, Jesus forgave a thief dangling on a cross, knowing full well the thief had converted out of plain fear.  That thief would never study the Bible, never attend synagogue or church, and never make amends to all those he had wronged.  He simply said 'Jesus, remember me', and Jesus promised, 'Today you will be with me in paradise.' It was another shocking reminder that grace does not depend on what we have done for God, but rather on what God has done for us.”
(What’s so amazing about Grace? p. 54-5)


He says that the thief on the cross was converted “out of plain fear”. This thief supposedly had “never studied the Bible” or never gone to a religious assembly. But he was saved anyhow. The obvious result is that we might think that we don’t have to study our Bible or go to the meetings either. How does Yancey know that the thief had “never studied his Bible” anyway? Even so, the people in these days had access to what some might call “a walking Bible” - Jesus Christ himself. He was the Word made flesh!

What Yancey ignores is that the thief on the cross believed in

1) the Kingdom of God,

2) that Jesus was the king of the Jews,

3) that Jesus would rise from the dead,

4) that he could also rise from the dead,

5) that his sins could be forgiven,

6) the power of Christ to save him and

7) that Christ would physically and literally return to the earth. This is THE TRUTH!


#19 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:22 PM

Some more questions:

Are there really any loopholes which could disqualify us from God’s grace?

Do you think that disbelief and outright rebellion against God could be described as a “loophole” or a “catch” which may disqualify us from God’s grace?

If not, then why does Yancey go on later to concede that there are actually some loopholes? Why does he later on in the book have to do a total back-flip (in Chapter 14) to the extent that his whole argument about grace becomes questionable? What are we supposed to believe? Are we supposed to believe that only sins such as unrepentant adultery are a “loophole” or is there more to it than this?

Do you think it is fair to say that the thief on the cross purely “converted out of plain fear”? Or is this another case of unfairly imputing false motives against someone without any evidence to back it up?

#20 Fortigurn

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 08:22 PM

The consequences of belief in substitution

The popular view of apostate Christianity is that man’s sins placed him in a debt to God which of himself he could not pay.  Christ then cleared the debt of each believer by his blood, shed on the cross… 

If Christ paid off a debt with his blood, our salvation becomes something which we can expect as a right.  The fact that salvation is a gift, brought about by God’s mercy and forgiveness, is lost sight of if we understand Christ’s sacrifice as being a debt payment.  It also makes out that an angry God was appeased once He saw the physical blood of Jesus.  Yet what God sees when we repent is His Son as our representative, whom we are striving to copy… 

Bible Basics, page 280


“It is important to understand these things, because they qualify us for acceptable approach to God, and they work out the right result in character and daily life…. The orthodox theology of the day generates an offensive spirit of presumption.  So also do wrong views on this subject interfere with proper development of character. The idea that Christ has borne our punishment and paid our debts, and that his righteousness is placed to our credit, and that all we have to do is to believe it, is demoralizing.  It nullifies that other most important element of the truth, that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God, and that he only is righteous who doeth righteousness.  It draws a veil over the truth that we have to “work out our salvation” by a “patient continuance in well-doing”, and that he only that endureth to the end shall be saved.  It undermines that most important testimony of the Gospel that Christ is the Judge of who is fit to be saved, and that he will impartially give to every man according to his works.  These blighting results are to be witnessed in all communities where the doctrine of a substitutionary sacrifice and a (substitutionary) imputed righteousness holds sway.  Where there is any robust righteousness of character exhibited, where any true holiness of life - it is where the purifying truth is discerned, believed, and cherished in daily Bible reading and prayer.  The truth is a beautiful and perfect whole.”     

Bro Robert Roberts, The Blood of Christ, pgs 29-30


God dealt with Christ representatively. There is a great difference between a representative and a substitute. A representative is not disconnected from those represented.  On the contrary, those represented go through with him all that he goes through.  But in the case of a substitute, it is otherwise.  He does his part instead of those for whom he is the substitute, and these are dissociated from the transaction.

Christ suffering as the representative of his people is one with them, and they are one with him.  In what he went through, they went through.  Hence Paul says believers were crucified with Christ, and baptized into his death…. But “now is Christ risen from the dead” and being raised, he constitutes the one name given under heaven whereby men may be saved (Acts 4v12).

Bro Robert Roberts, Christendom Astray






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