Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Anemic Grace

While I stated before that doing this series brings me no pleasure nor is their any personal axe to grind, I am encouraged. The issue I want to deal with is powerful, Biblical preaching. And like Stockton to Malone, the comments from the previous article set up the discussion perfectly.

Did Dr Jeremiah speak of Christ? Yes, he did. (So what was the problem, you may be asking. Read on, I hope to show.)
Didn't Jesus teach outside of the Word? Yes, he did. (So what was the problem, you may be asking. Read on, I hope to show.)
Did Dr Jeremiah use adequate illustrations to point to the nature of grace, as seen in our world around us? Yes, he did. (So what was the problem, you may be asking. Read on, I hope to show.)

[How's that for some ancient Jewish parallelism...but I digress.]

A pastor is not required to use the Scriptures in his preaching, as long as he doesn't mind his preaching lacking power and not leading to transformation. Consider the following (click link to see accompaning text):

The Word is necessary for salvation. (Example: Timothy)
The Word sanctifies (Example: David)
The Word penetrates to the motive (Example: Pentecost)

Therefore, why would we turn to something else when we have been told to preach the Word?

Perhaps I have not made my case. Allow me to appeal to the modern church's second canon: pragmatism.

Lady of Grace--Dr Jeremiah's illustration of a victimized woman extended grace to her perpetrator is insufficient. His explanation was not rooted in the grace of God. No mention was made as to what motivated this woman. Was she a believer and the grace of God motivated her to release the man from a stronger penalty? I don't know. But if she was, that would have been an excellent opportunity to relate where the grace originated. If she doesn't know Christ, we know her actions were not born out of love and that her actions not pleasing to God. If she is a believer, Dr Jeremiah failed to credit the greater grace that was imparted to her. If she is not a believer, Dr Jeremiah failed to note there must have been a egocentric (and not grace driven) purpose behind her actions.

Lying Bishop--Likewise, the story of Les Miserables may appear to be grace. The Bishop certainly does the unexpected. Valjean has violated the law and deserves to be charged. Yet, how does the Bishop extend this "grace." Does he not merely turn his head and ignore the violation. He absorbs the cost of the silver (by giving it to Valjean) but he does not pay for the penalty itself. Worse yet, the Bishop actually lies in the process. He tells the constable that he gave it to Valjean (which he had not) and scolds Valjean for not taking the candlesticks too (which he hadn't told him to do). Is this how God extends grace? He winks at sin and even participates in lying to extend grace? Is this the pattern a believer should pursue? Is it okay to sin as long as it is a way to extend grace?

Reductionism at its best--Perhaps, some are even frustrated with my use of prooftexts. Many consider this the classic case of reductionism. However, I would suggest that each prooftext listed has been used taking the fuller context of the passage into account. If I have erred, I want to be corrected. We can often be guilty of reductionism, stating something too narrowly to make our point. Some claim that turning to a text of Scripture to define grace could cause us to be of the same error. However, consider some of the statements Dr Jeremiah used to make his point. (This will only be a small, very narrow portion of about 15 dichotmies he rattled off. Again, I am only doing this from memory, so these are a couple that stick out.)

Forgiving your sin is mercy/Giving you Christ's righteousness is grace.
Listening to the cry of the thief on the cross was mercy/Telling him he'll be in paradise was grace.
Removing the wrath of God is mercy/Giving us the Holy Spirit is grace.Forgiving Peter of his denial was mercy/Commmissioning him to serve the church was grace

It is obvious that grace and mercy are closely related but distinct. However, to just begin carving your own distinct lines (when the Scriptures do not attribute these actions to one or the other) appears to be a giant reductionism in the making. These are not illustrating biblical truths to us, so that we also can walk in them. This is a disection of actions and attributes simply for the sake of making the preacher's point.

Perhaps the video, the juxtaposition of words and the modern testimony all produced emotion. That's not bad, but it is incomplete. The goal of the pastor is not to stir emotion but to glorify Christ in a way that calls the listener to conform to the image of Christ. That is a work beyond us. It is a work which requires full dependance upon God. My words cannot generate that kind of action. Only the Word of God can call a person to that kind of action.

Is the preacher of the new covenant permited to build his entire arguement outside of the text of Scripture? Sure he is. But permission is not his standard. The preacher should seek to do what is most beneficial, and the Word is that which is most powerful.

Nothing else can do it. As we'll see tomorrow, not even a hymn.


  • At 4:18 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    Is the preacher of the new covenant permited to build his entire arguement outside of the text of Scripture? Sure he is.

    Where is that permission to build his entire argument outside of scripture granted?

  • At 7:19 AM, Blogger danny2 said…


    i was trying to show my softer, more gentle side.

    i was giving dr. jeremiah the huge benefit of the doubt that since he was speaking to a college audience, not in an actual church, that he may have seen what he was doing as not having to actually preach...therefore, he chose a route devoid of a biblical foundation...

    therefore, outside of the context of the church, MAYBE he can claim permission...

    can't you just let me be a nice guy? :-)


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