Sin, Sleaze and Hyper Grace
One of the biggest problems in the Christian church in the West today is that of antinomianism. The Greek word for law is nomos, and most folks know what the prefix anti means, so this term basically means “against the law” or just plain “lawlessness”.
The term can have various meanings, but theologically speaking it has to do with the belief that the Christian has no real obligation to, or involvement with, God’s law and righteousness. Because we are saved by grace alone, we are no longer under the law in any form, and we need not worry about the law and its demands.
Of course Paul had to deal with this error long ago. In Romans 6:1-2 he wrote: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
But in an age of so much shallow preaching, so many selfish and self-centred gospels being proclaimed, and so much dangerous hyper grace teaching being heard, it seems we now have an epidemic of antinomianism in our churches today.
Obligation-free Christian living is all the rage, where believers think that they can do whatever they like, even live like the devil, because everything is covered by God’s love and grace. The very concepts of sin, holiness, the wrath of God, and judgment to come, are almost never heard from so many pulpits today.
It is all about how God loves us unconditionally, his grace is all we need, and we should just enjoy life and have our best self now. That is the mush that is being preached more often than not, and as a result, standards of Christian behaviour seem to be at an all time low.
Christians are so blasé about their walk with the Lord, thinking God just looks down upon them and smiles a lot, that the very basic biblical notions of obedience, sanctification, holiness, and the crucified life are rapidly disappearing. Once again we see here a perfect example of lousy teaching leading to lousy living.
Orthodoxy is vital, as is orthopraxis. But when a false gospel is proclaimed, we will always see it worked out in sinful and disobedient lifestyles. Thus the constant need to guard the gospel, and make sure what we are proclaiming in fact is an expression of biblical truth.
Of course concern about this is not new. In addition to Paul dealing with it 2000 years ago, this has been the constant concern of men of God throughout church history. Let me offer just two voices who had to deal with this. They both warned repeatedly about these issues last century. First, listen to A. W. Pink:
Healthy Christianity can only be maintained where the balance is properly preserved between a faithful exposition of the holy Law of God and a pressing of its claims upon the conscience, and by tenderly preaching the Gospel and applying its balm to stricken hearts. Where the former predominates to the virtual exclusion of the latter, self-righteous pharisaism is fostered; and where the proclamation of the Gospel ousts the requirements of the Law, Antinomian licentiousness is engendered. During the past hundred years Christendom has probably heard fifty Gospel sermons or addresses to one on the Law, and the consequence has indeed been disastrous and deplorable: a light and backboneless religion, with loose and careless walking.
Now the words of A. W. Tozer:
Antinomianism is the doctrine of grace carried by uncorrected logic to the point of absurdity. It takes the teaching of justification by faith and twists it into deformity. The creed of the Antinomian is easily stated: “We are saved by faith alone; works have no place in salvation; conduct is works, and is therefore of no importance. What we do cannot matter as long as we believe rightly. The divorce between creed and conduct is absolute and final. The question of sin is settled by the Cross; conduct is outside the circle of faith and cannot come between the believer and God.” Such in brief, is the teaching of the Antinomian. And so fully has it permeated the Fundamental element in modern Christianity that it is accepted by the religious masses as the very truth of God.
I write all this because on a daily basis I find evidence of this very thing. All around me I see people who profess to be believers who are living just like pagans. They seem to not have the slightest heart for holiness, a passion for purity, or a desire to be fully devoted to God.
Many would have put up their hand at an emotional gospel meeting some time ago, said a brief ‘sinners’ prayer, and now think they are home and hosed with nothing to worry about. They have their life insurance all ready, so now they can go back to living just like they always have.
They sing ten choruses of “Just As I Am” and leave just as they were. No real conversion seems to have taken place, and they are just as lawless now as they were when they were non-Christians. An example of all this which I just came upon today still has me shaking in my boots.
On the one hand it is absolutely unbelievable, but on the other hand it is easily believable. Given all the hyper grace antinomianism swirling all around us, this should not be surprising at all. I refer to Christians and the new book and film series, Fifty Shades of Grey. I just wrote on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/02/10/fifty-shades-of-sleaze/
And as I just wrote elsewhere, “If a ‘Christian’ tells you he/she has no problem reading/watching Fifty Shades of Grey, then I am quite willing to say that they are clearly not disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.” But what made me absolutely shudder is this:
One of our nation’s leading Christian publishers conducted a survey asking respondents to name the most influential book they had read in the past year. A startling number of women – Christian women – said “Fifty Shades of Grey” was their favorite book of the year. Why is that so noteworthy? Because the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books are a written form of pornography, plain and simple. It’s a book series that’s become nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, having sold more than 100 million copies in just a few short years.
Jim Daly of Focus on the Family continues:
The demand has been so intense a feature film is set to be released on Valentine’s Day weekend and talk of it has flooded mainstream entertainment news shows. There are reports that sex scenes comprise one-fifth of the film. Of course, it would be easy to simply slap a label on the material and dismiss it out-of-hand. But there’s a deeper issue we’d be missing. How and why has pornography ensnared so many women, including Christian women?
Can you imagine that? Women who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ saying this was their favourite book of the year? Not only should they not be reading such filth, but to actually label it as their favourite? What in the world is wrong with these women?
I will tell you what is wrong: they are just deceiving themselves. They think they are Christians but they are not. Anyone who can happily swim in a cesspool of filth and sleaze and claim to be a disciple of Christ is fooling themselves big time.
Now I just happened to have somebody elsewhere throw this line at me: “Actually, many will and have and ARE real Christian women. It’s called temptation and sin and no Christian anywhere is exempt from this. Saying a Christian is not a real Christian because they’ve engaged in something sinful is not what I would think a real Christian would say about another Christian.”
I replied to him as follows:
You miss the point big time. Yes we are all tempted and we all can fall. Our attitude is crucial here: when we sin, do we agree with God and say it is wrong and repent, or do we keep happily sinning, thinking it is no big deal? The attitude here makes all the difference in the world. The real Christian always hates sin and avoids it as much as possible. The fake Christian has no problems at all with indulging in porn like this and even justifying it.
And spare us this unbiblical foolishness that we can never exhort and encourage one another in holiness. If a brother or sister is living in sin, it is our obligation under God to warn them, speak to them, and pray for them. We are to love them enough to confront them.
But this mindset is all around us. Sin is no big deal, because God accepts us just as we are, and makes no demands on any of us. This is antinomianism pure and simple. It is the deadly error of the hyper grace movement. It is cheap grace, and no genuine disciple of Christ should have anything to do with these damnable errors.
Biblical grace never makes excuses for sin. Real grace always leads us to holy living. Anything else is a sham. Let me finish with a few words about real grace versus false grace from some great Christians:
“The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.” -Charles Spurgeon
“Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, not the apologist of sin.” -Charles Spurgeon
“Any concept of grace that makes us feel more comfortable sinning is not biblical grace. God’s grace never encourages us to live in sin, on the contrary, it empowers us to say no to sin and yes to truth.” -Randy Alcorn
“Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.” -John Piper
21 Replies to “Sin, Sleaze and Hyper Grace”
Very important and timely, Bill.
It is very easy to be led away from faith through sexual sin. Thanks for posting this Bill.
And for another example of self-delusion, but a small victory for common sense in the Uniting Church see this:
Some may question the ignorance within UnitingCare in giving approval last August, but at least they did act when reminded that the film promotes/perpetuates abuse & violence.
And I don’t care that they responded to only “three tweets.” Elijah was ONE against the evil in Israel. Jesus was on His own at the Cross.
The new-age and modern thinking of “letting people do what they want” has taken a huge hold. Live how they want, love who and how they want, etc etc is now the order of the day. The Christian is seen as someone who wants to restrict personal freedom (like a scathing old schoolmarm); because the popular teaching is that there is no such thing as sin, we will all go to the next world and be welcomed with smiling faces before departing again on our next round of second chance “reincarnation”.
I often recall the thought of “would I wish to meet the returning Jesus while engaging in this or that activity”. It’s actually a really good process to put one’s self through. The twinges of conscience that it can generate are powerful. The likes of Fifty Shades are certainly not in our house.
The problem isn’t ”cheap grace” but cheap law.
As Tullian Tschividjian shows in this article…
Thanks Jeremy. But let me cut you off there, as you are not following my commenting rules. Your article-length comment was of course way too long, and you simply use my site to push your agenda, in this case the rather troubling agenda of Tchividjian. Plenty of Reformed thinkers – and others – are rightly quite worried about his hyper grace and antinomian message, despite all his protests to the contrary. I will not run with his potentially damaging message here. Those who want to do so can set up their own websites and push it to their heart’s content, thanks.
The thing as well is, not just the ‘big & obvious sins’ count, but also the small ones… every time I’m driving 10km/h faster than I should I feel convicted & guilty (‘law of the land’); every time I have a bad thought against a brother or sister or unbeliever I feel the need of repentance, sometimes straight away, sometimes a little later; every time I’m angry with my husband the Holy Spirit comes in and tells me off. It seems to me like God is pretty clear about His commandment ‘be holy as I am holy’. There’s no way around holiness & sanctification. The Word makes that very clear. Again, it all comes down to which god we believe in… and it seems the ‘god of self’ is the most worshipped even in ‘Christian’ circles. But don’t you dare to confront (‘criticize’ or ‘judge’) them because that would make you ‘condemning’, even though the Word says the ones who don’t believe in Him (Jesus as Lord and Saviour in every area & aspect of our life) are condemned already. It’s time to wake up, not slumber away & accept everything the enemy is presenting as an innocent temptation! God is Holy & He demands holiness of His people! Jesus’ first words starting his ministry were ‘REPENT for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
In a church I previously attended, we were given an illustration of ‘freedom in Christ’ from the pastor. He had gone swimming for 2 hours in a rock pool with his family, where there were signs saying no trespassing. He said that was an example of our freedom in Christ – to not worry about the rules!!!
Are there actually any Australian churches left that are faithful to the gospel? I can’t find any.
This reminds me of something arguably a bit more serious of a problem than Fifty Shades.
Some time ago I heard of an online dating service called Ashley Madison which specifically and blatantly promotes cheating and affairs, especially towards married couples. Yes you’ve heard that right. Their slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair”.
AM boasts they have well over 22 million clients already worldwide. Sickeningly, according to their own internal surveys, some 70% of their members identify themselves as Christians of some kind. Worse yet is the suggestion that Christianity’s own doctrine of forgiveness precisely is what allows them to cheat:
There are a few small silver linings in all this:
AM’s founder, a Canadian chap named Noel Biderman, is himself married but not practicing what he promotes…
For a business that’s set up on the basis of cheating, one may very well question the honesty of the members who answered those survey questions. And this brings up a very interesting development; accusations from an ex-employee that many client profiles on AM are faked:
Thanks Mark. Yes when these sleazeballs came to town five years ago I wrote them up:
“……It is the deadly error of the hyper grace movement. It is cheap grace, and no genuine disciple of Christ should have anything to do with these damnable errors…..”
I came across this comment on American Thinker:
“….For those ‘deviancy apologists’ who write that ‘oh, stuff like this has always gone on – it’s just a movie’ and so on: the issue is about normalizing deviant behavior. Do we need young people to think that the subject matter of this movie is ‘just another acceptable lifestyle’? And once you lower the bar – ONCE AGAIN – on what is acceptable, what is next? – As there is always a class of people that want to ‘push the envelope’, who want to introduce more and more depraved behavior. As long as feminists believe the path to liberation for females is unfettered sex, they should realise that men will lose interest while in search of the next ‘easy’ partner. And if the feminists gleefully accept that young people are going to ‘do it’ anyway, isn’t it also a given that males will use them for unfettered pleasure and not concern themselves with their partner’s ‘feelings’?…..”
Hyper grace is very very cheap grace – just as cheap as feminist grace – and the female followers of hyper grace may well find that out the hard way [no pun intended].
God Bless Bill.
GREAT ARTICLE!! thanks again Bill!!
And Sharon Stay… there is!! Don’t give up hope! I felt the same for so long, but Praise God there are still churches who will not compromise the Word of God!!
Here is a link to Dr Miriam Grossman’s blog explaining why you should not see 50 shades of sleaze…
Thanks John. And Dr Meg Meeker as well:
Most Christians today believe that the Bible says what they want to do rather than believing they need to do what the Bible says.
Many pastors keep people in pews, measuring their Christian life based upon church involvement.
Bible based and disciplined churches are needed.
My experience is that people are attracted to the Hyper Grace message because they want more intimacy with Jesus Christ, not because they are looking for excuses to sin. People were sinning in the church for centuries before the Hyper Grace message came along. If they want a theology to support their lifestyle of sin, liberal theology has been around for a couple centuries. But grace is found in Jesus Christ, and understanding His grace supports our intimacy with Him.
Thanks Gerritt. And of course misunderstanding and perverting His grace weakens our intimacy with Him, and has been an ongoing problem for 2000 years, as the Apostle Paul knew full well.
But I already said in my article that there would be various reasons why people flock to hyper grace teachings and teachers.
I noticed a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in your article. I researched him and discovered he was considered to be an atheist. I agree that no Christian should read or watch 50 Shades of Gray. But it won’t send them to hell if they do. Not accepting Christ’s sacrifice as payment for our sin debt is what sends someone to hell. Respectfully, JF
Thanks Jane. But not quite. Bonhoeffer was of course not an atheist. And it is sin which separates us from God, and which sends us to a lost eternity. Thus the person who wilfully and defiantly does what they know is wrong (in this case, reading and watching porn and making excuses for it) demonstrates that they are no true disciple of Christ, and are still dead in their trespasses and sins. So in that more specific sense, yes it will send them to hell.
Thanks Bill I totally agree.
But the danger is in reacting to the scandalous preaching called ‘Hyper-grace’ (a name I regret, as it should rather be PSEUDO-grace) is that there’s always a great danger present of applying the wrong cure to the wrong patient. ie., to give the law given for sinners, to the righteous to keep, is to err in combating error, and to fall into the deadly Galatian error of justification by works.
Yes, the Law, so badly missing today, must be preached, and the Pseudo-grace being taught to people who have been told they are regenerate and clearly are not, is the problem now faced.
But as Paul says, the Law is NOT given to the righteous; (1 Tim. 1:9. ‘Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless…‘) ie., is not given to the genuine Christian, for the righteous in Christ have a far superior law, indeed a RISEN LIFE, for CHRIST is within them, and they have the law of His life expressing itself in them by the kind of life HE lived, ie., a HOLY life.
We need great grace in our preaching/teaching to ‘rightly divide the word of truth’.
Thank you again
Great Article. It grieves me that people sitting in such churches, do not pick up their Bible.
The Holy Spirit would open their eyes to realize they are being deceived and leave!
It also grieves me that there are CBNO’s in number. There is a difference between struggling with sin and talking pride in it.