November 15, 2019

Al Mohler’s Problem With Grace

Note: This post is not about homosexuality, though that is a topic I deal with. Keep your comments consistant with the theme of this post, and don’t drift into a pro- or anti-homosexual rant. Those comments will be deleted. 

The worms are loose after Al Mohler opened a can of them on his blog this week. Mohler stirred things up by, in a long and winding route, concluding that megachurches may be the new distributors of liberal theology. Or is it that he just took a backhanded swipe at a specific megachurch pastor? No doubt about this—in his blog, Mohler takes a direct shot at those who are working through the whole issue of homosexuality within the church.

Short and to the point version: Andy Stanley recently preached a series of sermons called “Christian.” One of these messages was titled “When Gracie Met Truthy.” (Stanley obviously needs help with his sermon titles.) To illustrate his topic—grace—Stanley shared a story about some in his church. It seems a woman decided to divorce her husband when she found he was in a sexual relationship with another man. Not only did she ask him to move out of the house, but she asked him and his lover to find another church. So the men started attending a satellite campus of Stanley’s North Point Community Church nearer their home. They were living in an open relationship, something that came to light after the men had begun serving as volunteer greeters at their new church. Stanley did a little more investigation and determined that the second man was not yet divorced from his wife. Stanley concluded their relationship was an adulterous one, and informed the men they could not serve as volunteers in that fashion.

The story came to a conclusion with the first man’s ex-wife and her daughter inviting the men to a Christmas service at their campus of North Point so they could celebrate the holiday together. Stanley shared this story as an example of grace in action, illustrating the topic of his sermon—grace.

On his blog, Mohler, after a sharing a rather long history of the megachurch movement (kind of like taking your car in for an oil change only to get a lecture on the combustion engine), takes issue with Stanley for barring the men from ministry because of adultery and ignoring the issue of homosexuality. According to Mohler,

The inescapable impression left by the account was that the sin of concern was adultery, but not homosexuality. Stanley clearly and repeatedly stressed the sin of adultery, but then left the reality of the homosexual relationship between the two men unaddressed as sin. To the contrary, he seemed to normalize their relationship. They would be allowed to serve on the host team if both were divorced. The moral status of their relationship seemed to be questioned only in terms of adultery, with no moral judgment on their homosexuality.

Because of this, Mohler concludes that Stanley intentionally used this story to help “normalize homosexuality” in his church. Mohler then uses this story to say that megachurches may now be preaching liberal theology. (Many megachurches I have attended preach no theology, only self-help and motivational messages; but that is for another day.)

Let’s ignore what he has to say about megachurches. If you have read this site for more than two weeks, you know that we find many  of these churches to be suspect at best for failing to point people to Jesus. And let’s ignore the issue of homosexuality, which continues to baffle even the most well-meaning disciples. (And I am not defending Andy Stanley in the least. Maybe he is trying to make homosexuality normal within his church. I don’t know.) What is the real problem with Mohler’s blog post? The problem is he missed the whole point of Stanley’s message: The tension between grace and truth.

Grace. Just why do we fight so hard against God’s free gift of grace? Why do we constantly take this freely-offered forgiveness from God and insist we do our part to earn it? The tale Stanley told seems scandalous. Two men leave—really, destroy—their families in order to take up house together in a fashion God did not design men to engage. These two men obviously had sinned. They didn’t need anyone to pronounce “moral judgment” on them. They knew what they were doing. And yet the first man’s wife, whose life was shattered by his actions, forgives him and invites him to a Christmas celebration as part of her family. What an incredible illustration of God’s scandalous grace in action.

Yet Mohler misses this entirely. He misses grace in his headlong race to be sure that Andy Stanley understands right and wrong when it comes to homosexuality. Mohler writes,

What does Andy Stanley now believe about homosexuality and the church’s witness? We must pray that he will clarify the issues so graphically raised in his message, and that he will do so in a way the unambiguously affirms the Bible’s clear teachings — and that he will do so precisely because he loves sinners enough to tell them the truth — all the truth — about both our sin and God’s provision in Christ. Biblical faithfulness simply does not allow for the normalization of homosexuality. We desperately want all persons to feel welcome to hear the Gospel and, responding in faith and repentance, to join with us in mutual obedience to Christ. But we cannot allow anyone, ourselves included, to come to Christ — or to church — on our own terms.

No, it seems we must come on Al Mohler’s terms. He states that his problem with Stanley’s message is that there was no mention of repentance. If only we were able to act right, he says, there would be no tension between grace and truth. “His affirmation of grace and truth in full measure is exactly right,” says Mohler, “but grace and truth are not actually in tension. The only tension is our finite ability to act in full faithfulness.”

What would Mohler have done with the king Jesus told us about, the one who invited some well-heeled men and women to a dinner party, only to be rejected by them all? Remember how the king then sent his servants out to the highways and byways to gather in everyone they could find? Losers, drunks, whores, the homeless. Religious and non-religious. The obese and gossipers. All were freely invited to come and feast. Do you think there may have been a homosexual as part of that gathering? How would Mohler have responded if he was there when Jesus told this parable?

Would he have said, “Jesus, certainly you mean that those who were invited repented and acted in full faithfulness before they sat at the table, right?” Would he have demanded that Jesus pass moral judgment on these cretins as he demanded that Andy Stanley do with the two sinners in his church?

This is not about homosexuality, divorce, adultery or even church discipline. This is all about grace. And grace is one thing the Al Mohler’s of this world will not tolerate unless we add, as Michael Spencer put it, “all the codicils and footnotes we’ve written for the new covenant.” Michael wrote those words in what I consider his greatest essay, Our Problem With Grace. Almost prophetically he writes what applies so readily here today:

Sometimes Christians go very, very far down the road of sin’s allurements and dwell there for years. When this happens, we shouldn’t be outraged by such behavior, as if the church is scandalized. The church ought to be a scandal of grace every day, and when it’s not, the Gospel is missing. Go find it. Our treatment of that wayward person, in personal relationships and in the congregation, is all about God’s determination to be glorified in the lives of those for whom Jesus died as a substitute and a sacrifice.

Grace doesn’t approve. Grace just refuses to give up on us. (God really is amazing!)

As Daniel Amos sang it, Jesus came for sinners/losers and winners. His grace is extended to all on one condition: That we die. Not that we stop sinning according to someone’s moral judgment, but that we die. And all of us can do that.

I cannot write about grace with quoting Father Robert Capon, who expounds so radically about grace that Michael warned me not to let anyone else know I was reading his books lest I be branded a heretic. Capon writes in his Parables Of Grace,

But if the salt of the earth becomes insipid—if a disciple of Jesus forgets that only losing wins, and a fortiori, if the apostolic church forgets it—where in the wide world of winners drowning in the syrup of their own success will either the disciple or the church be able to recapture saltiness of victory out of loss? The answer is nowhere. And the sad fact is that the church, both now and at far too many times in its history, has found it easier to act as if it were selling the sugar of moral and spiritual achievement rather than the salt of Jesus’ passion and death. It will preach salvation for the successfully well-behaved, redemption for the triumphantly correct in doctrine, and pie in the sky for all of the winners who think they can walk into the final judgment and flash their passing report cards at Jesus. But every last bit of that is now and ever shall be pure baloney because a) nobody ever will have that kind of sugar to sweeten the deal with, and b) Jesus is going to present us all to the Father in the power of his resurrection and not at all in the power of our own totally inadequate records, either good or bad.

But does the church preach that salty message? Not as I hear it, it doesn’t. It preaches the nutra-sweet religion of test-passing, which is the only thing the world is ready to buy and which isn’t even real sugar let alone salt. In spite of all our fakery, though, Jesus’ program remains firm. He saves losers and only losers. He raises the dead and only the dead. And he rejoices more over the last, the least, and the little than over all the winners in the world. That alone is what this losing race of ours needs to hear, even though it can’t stand the thought of it. That alone is the salt that can take our perishing insipidity and give it life and flavor forever. That alone …

This is why I would much rather read and re-read Capon than pay attention to Mohler. Presented with an opportunity to praise a good message on grace, Mohler paints himself into a corner of morality. It is just more of the same: Good Christians don’t (fill in the blank with your own pet sin). Mohler blew it. Andy Stanley (and megachurches in general) are not preaching liberal theology. What can be more liberal than a grace-less Gospel?


Comments

  1. Game. Set. Match.

  2. Perhaps the biggest issue we have with grace is that it is massive, huge, enveloping, abundant. It is not pored out in strict quantities, it is not nicely squared, diced or sliced.

    And for some reason we always want control so we try to fit grace in our pathetic little systems.

    We are trying to mold grace, while it is meant to mold us.

  3. Aidan Clevinger says

    I’m curious: do you take issue with Mohler’s opinions on church fellowship and homosexuality, or simply that he insisted on a point that has nothing to do with Stanley’s original sermon? I agree that he shouldn’t take issue with the sermon; it was a beautiful illustration of how Christians should show the grace that they themselves have been show. But towards the end of the essay it seemed like you moved from that topic to the broader topic of impenitence and church fellowship. And as far as that’s concerned, Jesus called people to repentance frequently. And Paul said that we shouldn’t even eat with a sexually immoral believer.

    Sorry if the last few comments aren’t relevant; I just wasn’t sure what the overall issue was with Mohler’s statements.

    • “And Paul said that we shouldn’t even eat with a sexually immoral believer.” Good point , although Jesus ate with them regularly ( and yes he didn’t have a problem telling them to “sin no more”). But staying far away from people who struggle with such things is a bit of a stretch , “sexual” issues are certainly difficult to overcome.. And correct me if i’m wrong , but wasn’t the Paul referring to a guy in the church sleeping his with his mother when he wrote that?

      Just a few late night thoughts.

      • Aidan Clevinger says

        Very true, Tapji. I think it’s the difference between people who are sincerely sorry for what they’ve done and people who refuse to repent. I struggle with sexual issues a lot, and I’ve had some very gracious people in the church condescend and help me out with them. Likewise, I’ve also had times when I simply refused to admit that what I was doing was wrong and had no desire to stop it – in those times what I needed was a heavy dose of Law.

        What I’m advocating is balance. Going too far to either extreme is bad, and I kind of got the vibe from this article that we might be going too far in one direction.

        • Law is only going to make it worse. And I speak from the perspective of someone who got the crap kicked out of me for confessing my sins. Law only creates dispair…. Apply this to any sin…

          Greed, lust, drugs, over eating, being a workoholic, etc… Would you apply the law to a workaholic? If you think your going to be perfect…wait a few years. I thought like that when I was in my 20’s. Now I’m 37 and I realize that I’m going to be dealing with these issues until the day I die. It doesn’t help…and you don’t need to be a Christain to be hounded by the “law”. Many Christians will do it to you.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Greed, lust, drugs, over eating, being a workoholic, etc… Would you apply the law to a workaholic?

            Probably not if that Workaholism showed itself as 24/7 Bible Study, Prayer, and Witnessing (TM). With those manifestations, it would probably be interpreted as the Holy Spirit or other Godliness. Which makes you wonder about all those examples of Uber-Christians held up in CCC or the Navs or similar parachurch groups.

      • Aidan Clevinger says

        Also, I don’t see much difference between impenitent incest and impenitent adultery/impenitent homosexuality, just like I don’t see much difference between any of those things and the impenitent viewing of pornography.

      • I’m reminded of how Philip Yancey starts his book “What’s So Amazing About Grace”. It starts with a story of a prostitute in Chicago addicted to drugs who sold her child to men for sex…so she could get drugs. When confronted with all this she was asked, “Why don’t you go to the chruch for help?”

        “Church?!?” she exclaimed… “I feel bad enough…and they’d only make me feel worse!”

        Nope Christianity is for the prefect, the elite, those that have all their crap together. Grace is a myth and the sadder point is that many people will get dsitracted by the other issues which only makes me point that grace is a myth. Why….? Becuase they get caught up on the issue of homosexuality and they can’t move past it.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Malcolm X wrote in the era of Jim Crow that “A white man’s girlfriend will NEVER tell him she’s doing a black man, because that is an Automatic Red Murder Flag for the White Man.”

          And “Teh Fags” is an Automatic Red Murder Flag for Evangelical Christians. (Fred Phelps is just the lunatic fringe extreme case.) Mohler was just playing “Teh Fag Card”. And he’s not the only one.

    • Phil M. says

      It seems the only way we can possibly read 1 Corinthians 5 is in the light of the specific situation at Corinth where a man was sleeping with his stepmom and flaunting it, and it was causing all sorts of problems within the church itself. If we try to universalize these admonitions, it seems that we’d eventually all be eating alone.

      That’s the problem when we try to start drawing lines in the sand. Once we start thinking that God’s acceptance of us or His happiness with us depends on our relative sinlessness, well, where does it stop? How sinless do we have to be? We will always be struggling with something. We’ll always be human. Maybe we just need to accept the fact that God loves, and the way to be healed is to let him heal us. We can’t do it on our own.

      • Aidan Clevinger says

        With all due respect, I think you all are missing the thrust of my argument – or perhaps I myself didn’t articulate it well. By “Law”, I don’t mean “let me badger you with this until you drop”, I simply mean, “Letting someone know that what they’re doing is wrong and that they should stop it”. I cited Paul simply to point out that New Testament have dealt with the issue much more harshly than I was advocating.

        The way that the woman in Stanley’s sermon dealt with the man in question was beautiful and exemplary. But, even if his comment is irrelevant to this particular example, Mohler isn’t wrong when he says that the church should call people to repentance. And (though I might be wrong about this) the tone I’m getting from the article and the comment is that even that sentiment is wrong. And that is simply wrong. In every way. A Gospel without repentance isn’t a Gospel at all. And preaching about Jesus without preaching about His expectations for His disciples isn’t being faithful to His message. “Neither do I condemn you” was immediately followed by “go now and sin no more”. Neither is optional.

        • Phil M. says

          It’s the tone of the call to repentance that people often get wrong. I think many of us imagine an “or else” at the end of Jesus’ admonition to “go and sin no more”. I know I often hear it presented that way. I’ve begun to see it in a much different light though. Imagine if a child is out trying to clilmb a tree that’s too dangerous for him to climb. He was warned by his parents, but he can’t resist. He tries climbing it, falls, and runs to his mom. His mom would comfort him and probably say something “now don’t go do this again!” It’s not really out of anger for that particular action, but it’s out of genuine concern for her son’s well-being. “Don’t do this again because you’re just hurting yourself”.

          So I think Jesus’ admonition to the woman caught in adultery isn’t to scold her. It’s saying something like, “dear sister, you’ve got to quit living like this. It’s not what you were created for. It’s demeaning to you, and you were meant for something so much better.”

          • I love the idea of “or else”. Exactly how it’s portrayed, and how I hear it in my mind. But of course, you’re right. Thanks. That’s a deeply helpful insight, and freeing. (It’s hard to detect sarcasm in Internet posts, so let me add I mean no sarcasm whatsoever. That is a really valuable insight, and I’m grateful for it.)

  4. Joseph (the original) says

    And yet the first man’s wife, whose life was shattered by his actions, forgives him and invites him to a Christmas celebration as part of her family. What an incredible illustration of God’s scandalous grace in action.

    Or a classic case of co-dependent behavior…

    But God bless her for extending hospitality (also a recent article)…

    I will put myself in the place of this nameless women extending grace to the underserved…

    My ex-wife carried on a 10-year secretive affair with her boss. Kept up the Christian mother/wife façade sufficient to keep her Christian family & mine convinced of her respectability. Kept it from our 3 boys too…

    The boss went thru the motions of marriage counseling with his then wife while the affair continued. Both my ex-wife & her boss played their respective spouses during this time…

    Long story short, I initiated reconciliation, but pursued divorce when it was clear there was no desire on my spouse’s part to preserve our marriage. Her boss already in divorce proceedings during this very disruptive episode in my life…

    The church they now attend (a Calvary Chapel) refused to marry them after both divorces were final. I was told the reason as it was explained to my boys. However, I do think it was not complete disclosure. They elected to be remarried in a civil ceremony with a Justice of the Peace.

    The collateral damage to both families never addressed. No ownership of their actions even hinted at.

    I can tell you truthfully there will be no invitations to my ex-wife & her husband at any time in the future. It is not even a remote consideration…

    I have no desire to interact with them either civilly or barely tolerated. I simply do not have any reason to do so…

    Not sure it would even be a gracious thing to do if I did. There would be nothing about grace in such a gesture. And I am convinced Jesus understands my situation completely without any expectations otherwise…

    • True, some situations are just not redemptive for us and we need the wisdom to bow out and not try to plant a smiley face on it.

      • Joseph (the original) says

        yes. there are situations that are neither positive nor restorative. and i will not compromise/sacrifice my emotional health & well-being on the altar of some ethereal ‘greater good’ or divine principle…

        sheesh…

        and no, there will be no smilies stamped on my situation. not even one with a halo… 😉

        • Joseph (the original) says

          since nobody has responded to my initial response that such a ‘grace’ infused act could be severe co-dependency, i will restate…

          i have had the eye-opening experience of knowing a few very, very dysfunctional saints that simply had a self-sacrificial reputation in the small churches i attended…

          their piety cannot be denied. and i dare say, not even duplicated. but if you knew the dynamics of the family you would know it was the most unhealthy, dysfunction, warped version of anything Christian…

          so, the fact that some believers/Christians/saints exhibit a form of piety/nth degree of sainthood, there can be a serious problem underlying such qualities. and churches are the major attraction for those with serious emotional problems to begin with.

          not everything that ‘looks’ holy necessarily is…

          ~caveat emptor

  5. Can’t wait to hear what Mark Driscoll has to say about this?

    • Driscoll would probably get in his Ford F-250 pickup truck (becuase that’s what real men drive….) through on some counntry music, and hit the 7-11’s from Seattle to Atlanta. Probably Keystone is going to be the beer of choice… Anyhow when he gets to Atlanta he’ll probably beat the crap out of him. But that’s only after he realizes that he can’t discipline him and make him confess all his sins for the past 40 years…..

      • Eagle, I hate to tell you this, but most men who are really tough really aren’t impressed or intimidated by Driscoll, with his skinny jeans, skin-tight logo t’s,and fauxhawk.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “Fauxhawk” as in “Makes him look like a pudgy Kewpie doll”?

          And isn’t “skinny jeans and skin-tight tee’s” almost a uniform among the bufffed-up subset of the gay community?

      • Country music? I think Driscoll would be more into heavy metal or hard rock or even rap. 😉

        • Given his wardrobe choices and the rhetoric, I always pegged Driscoll for more of a Carman guy….

          “Don’t want no monsters in my house tonight
          Don’t want no monsters in my house
          You won’t get me screaming,
          You’re nothing but a demon
          It’s time for you to go now
          I am a temple of the Holy Ghost
          And I’m protected by the Lord of Hosts
          Get out in the name of Jesus Christ
          ‘Cause I don’t want no monsters
          In my house tonight !”

          • Sorry for being critical of the wardrobe today. Guess I’m jealous that I can’t wear skinny jeans. I’ll stick to my Carhartt’s.

      • Wow, from bashing one brother to bashing another.

      • I really doubt Driscoll cares for country music. In The Radical Reformission, he tells the story of being invited to visit a “gay cowboy bar “by an old friend and even being encouraged by his wife to go, just to see what his reaction would be. He had his eyes opened to a subculture he never knew existed. And he makes it clear that at the time he did not care about cowboys (gay or not) or anything to do with their lifestyle (which I assume would also include their music).

      • Joseph (the original) says

        real men drive Ford F-250 pick-em-up trucks? not Chevy Tahoe’s with 4-wheel drive???

        oh pooh…i guess i didn’t get the memo… 🙁

  6. Churches ought not be in the sin affirmation business. Sin of any kind.

    We all have them. We all do them. We are all bound by them.

    But we don’t affirm them or advocate them.

    No docrine of sin…no need for grace.

    • The Previous Dan says

      Good point. It is only the sick who need a doctor. But Mohler seems to be ignoring the cure in an effort to make sure that every last bit of sickness is properly identified. I think the question is, is that necessary? Or is the Church overly obsessed with diagnosis to the point that it skips over administering the cure. That is an honest question that I’m not sure I have the answer to.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        But Mohler seems to be ignoring the cure in an effort to make sure that every last bit of sickness is properly identified. I think the question is, is that necessary?

        I heard that described once as “Playing God on the White Throne, extracting every Juicy morsel of Sin on the rack before pronouncing Damnation.”

        And should that be “Sin Affirmation” or “Sin Obsession”?

  7. Robin C says

    Jeff, what if Andy Stanley told the same story but instead of homosexuality, the man committed adultery and stole a lot of stuff. Would stealing or the lack of rebuke of stealing become the topic of a blog post? Better yet, the man commits adultery and breaks the sabbath all the time, do we talk about the man breaking the sabbath in our blog post, complaining that adultery wasn’t the issue here, Andy Stanley was actually normalizing sabbath breaking? I ask this because here are two ten commandments which if placed along side adultery would probably not get the pleasure of being the topic of a Mohler blog post since adultery would be the big no no here. Sexual sins seem to always trump everything else. Now, if it was a matter of stealing by itself or break of the sabbath by itself, we may have another story. This leads me to ask this question, what would Stanley have done had it been two single homosexual men wanting leadership positions? Stanley doesn’t tell us because the point of the message seems to be about someone forgiving another person and trying to connect this to scandalous grace. It shockingly doesn’t appear to be a story with a moral point, trying to make you a better person. In fact, Stanley could have changed the story to be about your run of the mill adulterer with another woman. If he had done that, he would have gotten a thumbs up in the blogpost because he actually (appropriately) exercised some form of church discipline.

    I am so tired of homosexuality being used as the standard for determining our obedience to Christ or lack there of. Perhaps that is an over generalization but it seems that over and over again homosexuality is the soap box many preachers stand on. Then again, it is the hot button culture issues of our day.

    I am not saying it isn’t sinful but, I am still waiting around to see if Mohler and any of his Calvinist Baptist comrades can actually give us Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins without all the footnotes that Michael Spencer so aptly wrote about.

    In the end, it isn’t this particular blog post that is so frustrating, it is every single time someone says something that may or may not be kosher to these men, there is another blog post about how such and such person didn’t parse their words just right and are dangerously close to any number of heresies. Interestingly, Andy Stanley in the past year or so preached at a Passion conference where John Piper was also a speaker. If I am not mistaken Piper and Mohler run in similar circles so, it makes me wonder how “liberal” Andy Stanley is.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I am so tired of homosexuality being used as the standard for determining our obedience to Christ or lack there of. Perhaps that is an over generalization but it seems that over and over again homosexuality is the soap box many preachers stand on. Then again, it is the hot button culture issues of our day.

      op cit Malcolm X re Automatic Bright Red Murder Flags.

      I am not saying it isn’t sinful but I am still waiting around to see if Mohler and any of his Calvinist Baptist comrades can actually give us Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins without all the footnotes that Michael Spencer so aptly wrote about.

      Because Christ Crucified has been obscured by Predestination and Perfectly-Parsed, Truly-Reformed Theology. (Or should that be Purity of Ideology?)

  8. dumb ox says

    “Mohler stirred things up by, in a long and winding route, concluding that megachurches may be the new distributors of liberal theology. ”

    Based on that statement alone, I would agree with Mohler, if ones definition of “liberalism” is the belief that man is basically good, perfectable, capable of controlling his environment, in no need of the intrusion of the divine, and having no need for religion apart from pragmatism. These days, that could easily be the definition of “conservative”. Moralistic, therapeutic deism has no political bias.

    • Thanks Dumb Ox. I always wondered what “liberalism” is.
      I’m still training myself to leave judgement of others up to the divine. My judgements never stick, nor do they count.

      • “Liberal Church” – a church that preaches against different sins than the church you attend . . .

      • dumb ox says

        When I listen to “conservative” politicians declare that regulations are bad, that people will do the right thing if given the right motivation, all I hear is classic enlightenment liberalism. NPR had an great story this week regarding business fraud and why “good” people can do very bad things. What is the difference between a “good” person and a “bad” person? Means. Motive. Opportunity. Christians will often agree that the definition of ethics is doing the right thing when no one is looking, but the reformed view that we are simultaneously both saint and sinner understands the importance of accountability and oversight. As I said before, the “annointed of God” must be held to a higher standard, rather than just assume all that they do and say is “annointed”.

    • As far as I can tell mohler isn’t talking about theological liberalism in any real sense, instead he is talking about political liberalism, ie: not being as terrible a person as possible to gay people,

      • Richard Hershberger says

        In fairness, he didn’t use the phrase “liberal theology”. Jeff paraphrased it that way. I wondered the same thing, since “liberal theology” is a pretty specific term of art, and doesn’t apply here.

    • dumb ox says

      To understand Mohler’s view of grace, I think it is important to redeem the word definitions, i.e. “liberal” versus “conservative”. I think this will get to the root problem. Mohler’s fundamentalism is a product of the enlightenment, which treated grace as an affront to man’s atonomy. I believe fundamentalism inherited the enlightenment’s low view of grace and emphasis upon human effort and optimism.

  9. I think the problem with grace is quite simple. It doesn’t exist. You know yesterday I just finished Philip Yancey’s “What’s so Amazing About Grace” and he touched on why so many churches are graceless. The broken know that they are broken. Jesus liked the broken becuase they were honest about themselves. The homosexuals would probably show more humility and grace becuase they know they are broken. They are not setting themself up as the “models”. People that are broken know that they are broken..it’s that simple. It’s the elites that can’t admit their broken nature. Al Mohler can’t admit that his sin is just as bad as the homosexuality. He has to play a “one man upmanship…” And with homeosexuals its easy…I mean Christians have been trashing gays for years. Do you think they are going to stop? And with the debates in society it’s only going to get worse.

    The situation shows why grace is a myth. The homosexual would know and appreciate grace more so than the elite. Mohler in his pride can’t admit that he’s broken…and out of pride he has to do the next best thing which is what many fundagelcials do…AND do well. Find another person, beat the shit out of them, use the Bible in the process..and then deny them grace. Its easier to judge than give grace. And Mohler and many other Christians remind me why grace is a myth.

    Every fricken day Chrisians have the opportunity to show grace and every day they rountinely screw it up. The other day I heard on the news that the Secret Service agent that initiatied the prostitution scandal in Columbia came from a Christian household. Wife led a Bible study in the neighborhood and the kids were home schooled. Here’s an opportuntiy to show grace to someone who lost their job, screwed up their life and put their marriage on the rocks. What will the church do?!? They probably purchased the bullets and dug a grave in the backayrd before he even got back to Maryland and salivate at the thought of taking pleasure in knowing that have another opportunity to shoot one of their wounded.

    It’s why grace is a myth.

    • But grace doesn’t come from people. It comes from God. What this situation really shows is that on our own, people can never save ourselves because we are just so self-centered and screwed up. If the world offered “grace,” it would be a myth, but God’s grace is a reason for hope because it is just so different from anything we’ve ever seen in the world.

      • Kate but Christians can’t disperse God’s grace. Christianity is about morality and behavior modification. It’s a system for the elite. Not broken, and crushed people like myself. And if grace comes from God than why does God choose to use people as tool for his church?

        • Considering the people that Jesus spent his time with I don’t see how you can logically conclude that Christianity is for the elite, the moral and demands behaviour modification. The ‘heroes’ of Scripture are all deeply flawed and broken individuals who experienced God’s grace.
          As for why God uses humans to demonstrate/dispense grace to others – that’s part of the gift of grace – we, broken, flawed and seemingly hopeless people, get the privilege to be involved in the work of God.
          To be honest if Yancy can’t convince you of grace then I probably can’t. I’m sorry you’ve had such a lousy time with Christians – I’m not too happy about the way we behave either at times.

        • Eagle, I’m with Kate, and Ali.

          I’ve probably hit you over the head with this verse before, but it bears repeatin’, as my dad used to say about things: Romans 3:4, “Let God be true though every man be false.”

    • Prodigal Daughter says

      Eagle,

      I agree with Kate. It’s not a myth. It’s just that you have to taste grace and experience it before you can give it away. How can “Christians” give it away when they themselves don’t have it? I speak from experience. When I was a “Christian” that was moral (or thought I was), I had no grace to give away. I didn’t understand it. When God took me through paths that showed me my utter brokenness, and I died to myself and received his grace, then I understood it. And then I was the forgiven woman who was able to forgive others who were “indebted” to me. It wasn’t until I had realized my need for and had received grace that it became real to me. It was no longer a myth, but something that I had and was now commanded to give away.

    • The Previous Dan says

      In general I agree with your post. The part I would take issue with is your assertion that homosexuals are more aware of their sinfulness/brokenness. I don’t think any category of sinner, fundy or homosexual is any more willing to acknowledge their brokenness. There are some pretty judgemental pugnacious people on both sides of that picket line.

    • Great points Eagle – I’d like to point out though that all of mankind is bloodthirsty in exactly the same ways. Take, for instance, the ongoing controversy in Ireland with regards to Catholic priests and the abuse of children. I read a headline the other day which said that the Pope has backed up the determination of the Irish priesthood to not comply with the secular law which requires anyone who hears of any report of a crime against a child to immediately report it to the police. The (secular) public outcry against the decision of the Pope and the priesthood is tremendous.

      So, in this case, it is the church who would offer grace, but secular society would see justice.

    • humanslug says

      Grace may be a rare animal these days — particularly in religious settings — but it’s not altogether extinct.
      It’s real. I seen it and experienced it. I saw it last night.
      I witnessed and experienced God expressing His grace through Christians in a somewhat religious setting last night during a home Bible study. It was raw and messy and scandalous and shockingly honest and beautiful — and it softened every heart in the room, mine included. Call me a nut or fanatic if you want, but God came and spoke grace through the people in that living room last night, maybe even through me a couple of times. And while it was wonderful, there’s something that’s almost terrifying about that kind of grace. It carries too many scary implications, and prompts too many scary questions.
      Needless to say, we didn’t get around to studying too much scripture last night. I guess God had other business on His agenda.
      It’s very rare, Eagle. I’ll admit that. But God’s grace is still alive in the earth and still working in and through His people.

      • You know…at the lowest points in my life…when I was struggling to get by and I was brutal honest about my shortcomings I learned in painful way that grace was a myth. Why you expereinced grace and I didn’t…I will never know. All I know is that when life beat the shit out of me, and I turned to the church (when I was a Christian) what I got was a hammering, a lecture, and rebuking. I was riducled and stunned. Its the modus operandi for Christians. My analysis still stands…and it’s based off persoanl expereince. Grace is a myth. I’m glad you found it…I did not. And it’s one of the things in the back of my mind as I debate what to do and where to go. Because I don’t want a repeat of what happened.

        • Eagle. I have learned the hard way that my experience is not necessarily the standard. Your experience has been bad, but that is not the same as saying it is bad for everyone.

          I would not be where I am today but for other Christians. I am and adult child of two alcoholics, bad stuff came down at home, did poorly in school, ended up in the counter culture. Met Christ, and there were people who loved on me. A pastor who would meet me for coffee at 8 pm at night at short notice, friends I could call. And people who also loved me enough to give me a massive kick in the a$$ and told me to grow up. One of the pivotal events in my life was being publically rebuked by an ex navy-seal and told to grow up. When I asked God about it He said clearly ‘the guy is right!’ At that point in my life I knew I needed to change and broke because I saw I needed God’s grace.

          Along the way there have been jerks, but I have also been blessed by some very good people. And also along the way I have been a real a$$ and have needed to repent. I sometimes dished out hard stuff, and now years later I see its because I was hurt from a young age, but even the healing process hurts.

          So I would have to say I disagree, grace is not a myth. You have had hard times, and you say grace is a myth. But it reminds me of the guy who holds a quarter up to his eye and says ‘wow! it is so big it covers the sun!’

          Take the quarter off and maybe you may see a bit clearer. For example, from my little corner of the world I have seen grace extended to you by fellow iMonks, the Chaplain has had you write an article, and people here respect you. When you write, I watch for it because at times you have some penetrating insights.
          I hope you can find a good community in your area. They do exist!

          • Your story sounds somewhat similar to a woman I used to work with. Her mother and stepfather were both alcoholics who never went to church or talked about God. But they did send her to the Catholic grade school across the street. There the nuns took a personal interest in her, introduced her to God, and helped her to get baptized and receive the other Sacraments of the Church. To this day she is grateful for those nuns and the influence they had in her life.

        • Eagle, this is just an opinion, but it sounds as though you haven’t experienced grace because you are holding on so tightly to your bitterness. Let go of it, and the need for retribution at how you were mistreated, and grace will come flooding in. Not before. I say this as one who was also mistreated by a pastor.

    • Hi Eagle,
      I don’t blame you for being so sure that there is no grace. You lived through a horrible side of so-called Christianity from what you’ve shared. I was once blind sided by my spouse who confessed to some things I never thought I’d hear. Stuff that most marriages don’t survive – and can get people shunned as you describe. It shook everything I thought to be true. A pastor and two Christian friends I’d been in small group with for years heard my devastation and never, ever checked on me. I found myself screaming at God. I didn’t believe He could be real any longer. But then I started to find healing and peace that I couldn’t explain. It was God’s love that made me search after Jesus. And somehow, I came to forgive my spouse. Perhaps that is grace. I realized that my sin was no less (though more culturally expectable). That the very forgiveness offered me could not be withheld from giving out. It was a journey, not a quick forgiveness. My heart still hurts. But we’re making it because I found God and the real Jesus when nobody else could / would comfort me. I like to think it was God’s grace that finally spoke His love into me—and I think it was His grace through me to forgive and eventually embrace my spouse again. I hope that wasn’t preachy. Honestly, I would not follow Jesus or consider my Christian upbringing if I hadn’t experienced real rescue in my deepest conscience. Peace to you!

  10. Eagle, I don’t follow your reasoning here. How does the failure of Christians to demonstrate and regular practise grace prove that grace is a myth?
    Grace originates with God and is given to all of us. Our failure to practise grace does not make it a myth – it simply proves what unworthy recipients we are in the first place.

    • She my reply to Kate above….grace my came from God…byt why does God use people to dispense it?

  11. Why do you keep following these people? If I start a blog parsing every week’s worth of white supremacist blogs, people are going to start to wonder whether I’m a white supremacist too. Let them stew in their own juices. People will figure out their theological issues and relationship problems for themselves (or not).

    Sometimes I think that evangelicals love homosexuality the way the Anti-Defamation League loves white supremacists–as a way to make their audience sit up and pay attention. If the ADL was just raising money for hospitals, or the evangelicals were just preaching love of neighbor, that wouldn’t get nearly as much interest.

  12. ahumanoid says

    The most ridiculous thing about this whole kerkuffle is that anybody that listens to Andy Stanley knows what his position is on homosexuality. He is a conservative evangelical, and has the same positions on sexuality as the rest in that group.

    Mohler is manufacturing a controversy. It’s not that hard to figure out Stanley’s position on the issue.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

      I remember hearing NT Wright lament that it often seems that if you don’t say everything you have to say on a particular issue every time you talk about the issue people are going to pass judgement on what you didn’t say, even though you’ve said it at other times. So, we end up having to be ridiculously thorough or prefacing everything with a litany of caveats and addenda.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        So, we end up having to be ridiculously thorough or prefacing everything with a litany of caveats and addenda.

        Just like all those speed-talked or speed-scrolled disclaimers at the end of the radio or TV commercials that promise you the moon and the stars…

  13. This may be a little off-topic, but it’s something that I’ve wondered about after reading several iMonk posts. I absolutely accept as true (intellectually, at least) that God saves losers. Losers just as they are, with all their rotten little petty sins and filthiness. But I still find it hard to actually believe it in practice, and here’s the thing. This sounds diabolical, but here goes . . .

    Sometimes I find myself using this proclamation of unconditional grace as rationalization for sin. You know, God loves me in spite of my vices, he’ll forgive me, it doesn’t really matter what I do because I didn’t earn redemption. That kind of thing. I know this argument is a lie, but it’s a hard one to ignore. Generally I’m sort of afraid to believe in the unconditional grace that Jeff writes about so eloquently, because if I let myself start thinking that my efforts at self-discipline don’t matter, I absolutely will go back to my long-treasured vices. It has to matter. I know that ideally I ought to shun sin because it is separation from God, and in my best moments I do – but I’m not always at my best, and what’s my motivation for resisting temptation if it’s really okay to be a sinner? Grace is great AFTER you’ve sinned, but it sometimes is disastrous to think about when you’re trying not to! Does anyone else ever have these thoughts, and if so, how do you counter them?

    • I struggled with this myself when a was a younger woman…..I pretty much rationalized away many active sins with the lovely comfort that “God will understand anyway and forgive me, so tr-la-la-la-la I go!”

      I came to understand how off base this was due to the words of a very smart priest (and military chaplain, btw). He asked me to envision the person I loved most on earth (then it was my husband, for others it might be a child or sibling or close friend) and think about my love for them. He talked me through an imaginary case where this person did something terrible that hurt me….badly…….and that they then came to me, sobbing and begging for forgiveness. I was asked to talk this out, and see whether I could forgive this beloved person and move on. I shared that I would be wounded, but could find it in my heart to forgive, (as long as it didn’t become a PATTERN).

      So…(he asked)…..since you are willing to forgive, does it matter if he hurts you again with this behavior?

      Well, of COURSE, if he loved me he wouldn’t abuse our love, no matter if I can forgive or not. We shouldn’t hurt anyone, least of all the ones we love…..or it isn’t real love, it is taking advantage of someone under the cloak of “love”.

      The point??? We have to question not only if God loves us (there is only one possible answer) but whether WE love HIM enough to make every effort not to hurt or grieve Him with our sin. If it is silly to think “I can do what I want and this person I love will forgive me…..so I will do what I want, yippee!”. That is using, not loving.

      Real love would say “I am so grateful that he (or He) can forgive me, but I love him (Him) too much to allow this to happen again.

      When we fail, He will still be there with loving arms…….but failing and deciding freely to sin are very different choices.

      So

      • Mike the Geologist says

        Nice, Pattie; you just put chapters 6-8 of Romans in a nutshell. Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace.” The answer to Kate’s question is; who do you love more- your sinful self-will or Jesus. If the answer is Jesus then pick up the cross and put the self-willed life to death. It is not “sin management” it is “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (6:18).

      • Adrienne says

        I’m concerned on a few levels with this one. Pattie, since we cannot add or take away anything from God, he cannot be hurt by our actions. He needs nothing from us, but instead chooses to be everything for us. The Law is not for him, it is for us. Eagle, even in your harshest response, I can see your point as well. Grace and our response to it is a confusing paradox. He doesn’t NEED us to repent, but he wants us to know the harm that sin does to US, not Him. I think perhaps God’s purpose is to hold up a mirror to humanity. Even the lowest of us knows what it means to have (or at least not have) love, so perhaps our acceptance of God’s grace is His divine measurement for the treasures in heaven He promised us and for those of us fullest in the spirit, a way to become as close to Jesus as our hearts desire.

        • Excellent, Adrienne!

        • Adrianne, I must disagree. God does not “need” us, but He sure WANTS us.

          Christ is one with the Father, and He certainly felt hurt, rejected, used, lonely, and sad. We are His beloved children, and it is painful to be rejected by your child, especially while they harm themselves and turn their backs on the good and healthy things you have taught them.

          So, yes, our planned sin hurts the heart of the Father, Son, and Spirit. We are instantly forgiven, but that is no excuse to go on sinning. It is an abuse of Love and Grace.

          • Adrienne says

            Pattie, that sounds a bit like semantics to me. I don’t think I called into question God’s capability of emotion. I agree with you that Jesus certainly wants his children with him!

      • That was about a hundred times better than I said it.

      • I guess I’m starting to see that a lot of my relationship to God has revolved around beating certain habitual sins. Regular prayer and devotion does help, but it isn’t enough. I guess I’ve been focusing too much on my faith as a means rather than an end . . .

        Every time I figure something out like this, it seems so obvious that I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. Oh, well, it’s a good thing God is patient with my cluelessness!

        • Tokah Fang says

          I often find myself praying, “Oh Lord, forgive me, and idiot.” 😉

    • “Does anyone else ever have these thoughts, and if so, how do you counter them?”

      I did have those thoughts! I ended up Catholic. So be careful. 😛

      A lot of the problem is that people don’t realize that grace and work are not incompatible. The Christian walk does require effort. We can’t earn our salvation–but that doesn’t mean sit around, think about forgiveness, and wait for holiness to descend upon you. Dallas Willard said it something like this: Christianity is opposed to earning, but not to effort. Because in the end, we serve a Jesus who said in one breath, “Neither do I condemn you,” and with the very next, “Go and sin no more.”

      • Michael says “The Christian walk does require effort. We can’t earn our salvation–but that doesn’t mean sit around, think about forgiveness, and wait for holiness to descend upon you.”

        I would agree with the first part…the Christian walk does require effort. However, the effort that is required happens in the mind, not the members. It is the daily struggle to remember your baptism and see yourself as a new creature in Christ, it is in continually taking hold by faith of the promises Christ has given to us about what He has done for us and what we are now in Him because of that.

        So…I would say sitting around, pondering forgiveness and waiting for holiness to descend on us is EXACTLY what we should do, at least from our own perspective. Christ promises that good works will come out of you, but you will not be aware of them. He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it. The action comes from God, not us. If we focus on “doing good works” we will always give grace lip service, but end up ultimately trusting in our own righteousness because it is our default position.

        • That sounds a bit gnostic to me–believe all the right things in your mind, and don’t worry about what you actually do with your members. And when a habitual sin hurts someone you love, and they ask you to stop hurting them, good luck telling them that God doesn’t want you to focus on good works. My own experience, and the testimony of Christians throughout church history, both tell me that you do actually have to put forth effort. And not just in trying really really really super hard to believe.

          • The Previous Dan says

            I would tend to agree with Laura on the basis of Galatians 3

            “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”

            Spiritual growth, personal righteousness, etc. comes into my life as a work of the Spirit when I hear and respond in faith to the Word of God. The same way I became a Christian in the first place. The effort required on my part is to seek Him, not to try to improve myself.

          • But, does “the law” refer to any kind of works, or specifically the Jewish Law? If what NT Wright says is correct, this is referring to people who said that you are not in the family of God unless you are circumcised, as opposed to simply having to believe to be in God’s family (or justified, to use the theological term).

          • The Previous Dan says

            Yes, that was the specific issue these words were written in reference to. But if it has no broader application than that, I may as well get out the scissors and get rid of it because the original issue is meaningless in our modern world. I believe it has application to our lives today.

          • cermak_rd says

            I’m wondering if simple ethics might suffice here though. After all, if your sin is hurting another, then that seems to me very different from a sin that hurts only yourself or your deity. Once other people are involved, for instance a spouse to which one has promised to remain faithful, then it becomes a matter of ethics and treating others as one might like to be treated, doesn’t it?

    • Josh in FW says

      Yes, I share those thoughts. It is something I’ve been trying to sort out for a while now. Pattie, your answer is much more satisfying than what I’ve been told by those around me.

    • “Grace is great AFTER you’ve sinned, but it sometimes is disastrous to think about when you’re trying not to!”

      I think it depends on how deeply we receive that message of grace. For me, the _only_ thing that really gives me strength to consistently turn from sin and live for God is an overwhelming sense of God’s unconditional love for me. At the times when I am most aware of God’s loving presence in my life, sin loses its appeal and living for God becomes not just a duty, but a joy. On the other hand, any self-discipline that is based on guilt or fear or shame only works for a while, and even when it works its end result is to alienate us from God – as much as any sin would.

      Martin Luther said, “Sin boldly, and more boldly still take joy in Jesus Christ.” His real point there was that as long as we’re fixing our eyes on Jesus and taking joy in him, we don’t have to worry about avoiding sin because we will naturally be drawn to what is right. But take away that joy – which stems from the absolute freedom we have through the grace of God – and all our strength is lost. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh 8:10)

    • In Titus 2:11, real engagement with grace “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
      Wayne Jacobsen had one of the best blog posts I’ve read on this topic, “Does Grace Excuse, or Transform?”
      http://lifestream.org/blog/2011/06/04/does-grace-excuse-or-transform-2/

      • In some ways, though, I do wonder if grace isn’t somewhat of a license. I think of the parable of the prodigal son (I prefer calling the prodigal father, but that’s another discussion). The father gives the son his inheritance when he asks for it, and he would have known full well that this would lead to the son getting himself into all sorts of trouble. Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t this sort of thing in play.

        The fact that God gives us freedom to choose means that we are given grace to actually do what we want. That means that sometimes we will do things that aren’t the best for us. That means we’ll get ourselves into all sorts of troubles. I’ve found that sometimes it seems that there are people who need to hit bottom before they come to senses and run back to God. It’s not saying that our behavior doesn’t matter. It certainly does. But our behavior doesn’t change or determine God’s stance towards us.

        There are a lot of people who go to prison and experience God in that environment because it’s a very structured environment. They learn to live with the very limited freedom they have. But when they get out, often they don’t know what to do. Sometimes I just wonder if the idea that we’ve been given true freedom isn’t just completely terrifying to us. We want to be told what to do and when to do it. We’ve been so conditioned to accept a system where we are rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad that living a life outside of that paradigm just seems impossible.

        • Excerpting the key point from Wayne, fromt he link above:
          The problem stems from people only seeing grace as a theological concept. They try to parse out their beliefs about grace, sin, and repentance, but it all leads to nonsense outside of a growing relationship with Jesus himself. Grace is the portal to engaging him without guilt or shame. But engaging him brings transformation to our lives. Those who teach a theology of grace that does not embrace a relationship become quite destructive in the world. Finding out God is not holding their sin against them seems to negate the only motivation they had for holiness. How sad is that?

          My contention is that if they grow to live loved by the Father, they will begin to learn how to love others around them and that will begin to transform their existence in the world. That’s why I do not talk of “unconditional love”, but of “transformational love”. Living loved will transform you. Embracing a theology of grace without a relationship of love will only mess you up. That transformation, however, does not come by human effort (the ol’ bootstraps) seeking to make itself conform to God’s ways. It actually begins when we lose confidence in our own ability to change ourselves and seek his help. And it is a process that comes over time out of a growing relationship with God that first learns to rest in his love, and then to grow in trust for him and the way he works in the world.

  14. Pattie – Have you been rummaging around in the closets of my mind, heart, and soul? Your answer hits the nail on the head. Thank you!

  15. And furthermore, as one who watches Andy Stanley’s messages each week and has seen the entire series of:”Christian”, all this furor is proving his point exactly: there is a necessary ‘tension’ between grace and truth – Jesus CHRIST was FULL of both grace and truth (John 1:14), we are not. Our small group here had considerable angst over this particular sermon, and I, for one, am looking forward to his message conclusion this coming Sunday, but, no matter how it is all resolved, our LORD is the only Being Who is FULL of grace and truth, Andy Stanley is not, I am not, thank GOD, HE IS!

    • Thank you for your comments. I, too, have had some “angst” over this story, and I am very interested to see/hear how it is handled from this point. The issue before us is a huge one for the church, and it is not going away. That being said, I found your comments honest, concise, and helpful- far more so than most! Thank you!

  16. Martin Romero says

    I do wonder now, though, is the tension between ‘grace’ and ‘truth’, between ‘grace’ and ‘law’, or between ‘grace’ and something else altogether? Because, as far as I can see, ‘grace’ is ‘truth’ and ‘law’ is ‘truth’ as well. Both are ‘truth’ in the sense that both have been given by God at different times… Not sure I have an answer to my own question. Only know that, according to the Scriptures, we’re now under ‘grace’ and not under ‘law’. And I believe that grace is amazing not because after you’ve sinned you see what you’ve done, but mainly after I realised that I’m a sinner. That’s who I am, not what I do. And God is still accepting of me despite of that.

    In my opinion, one of the best illustrations of God’s grace I’ve ever read was written by an atheist, a Scottish writer by the name of Robin Jenkins. In “The Pearl-Fishers”, an unpublished novel found in a desk drawer after his death, Robin Jenkins tells the story of Effie, a young pearl-fisher which arrives at a rural village with her family of Scottish travelers, or ‘tinkers’ as they were usually called, because her nearly-dying grandfather wanted to be buried in the place where he was born. The residents react in different ways, many of them showing outright rejection as they consider the ‘tinkers’ to be dirty thieves and what not… However, she also meets Gavin Hamilton, a religious, gentle young man who takes his Christianity a bit too seriously and is considered by the locals as a “would-be saint”.

    In contrast with other’s ideas, he offers Effie and her family a place where to stay and receives them into his home, the Old Manse. Things get even more complicated when, to everybody’s surprise, Gavin falls crazily in love with Effie and thoroughly accepts her, no matter who she is or has done. This love gradually develops, as Effie struggles with her own ideas of who she is and what she deserves, being used to a life of rejection of discrimination, and her attraction to this crazy strange who is offering her everything she’s dreamed of. Meanwhile, all the locals keep them under their scrutiny and have their own differing opinions, some of them, good Christian people, reaching ‘pharisaical’ levels due to their outrage with a situation they consider unthinkable.

    I loved the book. Might not be one of the best of Robin Jenkin’s works and might leave you with a feeling that it lacks a bit of polishing, but I thought it was beautiful in its simplicity and insightfulness. And it struck me when I saw the parallels between this simple love story and God’s scandalous grace poured unto us.

    I wonder if I was a bit geared toward that conclusion, as I had been reading “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning at the time 🙂

  17. I want to start off by saying that I enjoy reading Imonk, and I miss Michael. He put into words a lot of thoughts that I have and opened my eyes to a lot. That being said I think there is a bit of irony in the post and the comments in that very little grace is ever shown to Mohler, Driscoll, Piper, or others in their camp. Very often the comments move from disagreement about their positions to personal attack. And this is every bit as wrong as anything you think these men are doing. I haven’t had a chance to listen to Stanley’s sermon, it might be a great one. I did read Mohler’s post. It seems that Mohler’s problem is that Stanley made a point of saying the men couldn’t serve in the church only because they were in an adulterous realtionship, implying that their homosexual relationship was no problem. Like it or not this is a big issue in churches today. I hear some people say, “Why don’t they go after greed and pride and gossip and gluttony like they do homosexuality?” And I agree that some preachers have ridden the hobby horse of homosexuality to death. But the thing is no one is trying to argue in the church that greed, pride, gossip, and gluottony are okay. People are trying to make the argument that homosexuality is okay. And that is not grace. It is not grace to tell people what they are doing is fine when in fact what they are doing is sin. When Jesus saved the adulterous woman from stoning he didn’t turn to her and say, “Go and keep on doing what you have been doing.” He said, “Go and sin no more.”

    • Well said. My thoughts exactly.

    • Phil M. says

      But the thing is no one is trying to argue in the church that greed, pride, gossip, and gluottony are okay.

      By not doing more to prevent them, they’re tacitly saying they’re OK.. Isn’t that the same argument that people are making for homosexuality? Homosexuality is pretty easy to denounce for most people because a relatively small portion of the population actually have to deal with that issue. Greed and pride are far bigger problems if you ask me, but most pastors don’t want to touch them because in their heart of hearts they know they themselves are greedy and proud.

      I’m not saying this to condemn anyone. I just think we like believing that there are some people who actually do have all their sh*t together. That fact is there aren’t.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Homosexuality is pretty easy to denounce for most people because a relatively small portion of the population actually have to deal with that issue.

        You always denounce those sins you have absolutely NO chance of ever committing.

        Greed and pride are far bigger problems if you ask me, but most pastors don’t want to touch them because in their heart of hearts they know they themselves are greedy and proud.

        Whereas your own favorite sins? “That’s Meddling!”

        And don’t forget Gluttony — IMonk did a famous posting on it a couple years ago, and YouTube is full of grossly-fat preachers ranting and railing in all Righetousness against some other (usually sexual) sin.

      • I don’t think there is anyone who has it all together, and I know I certainly don’t. I would like to point out a difference between sins such as greed and sins such as sexual immorality. Although I can sin sexually without anyone knowing it, just with the thoughts in my head, many sexual sins, such as adultery, are actions that are clearly sinful. If a man and woman are caught in adultery, it is clear they have sinned and need to repent. This is also true of sins like stealing and physical abuse. Greed is a heart issue that is not always easy to recognize and prove. If I was to go and talk to another Christian because they have been consumed with greed, I better have good reasons for doing so. And how am I supposed to prove that person is greedy without being a complete busy body? A nice house, a nice car, and nice clothes are not evidence of greed. The person with these things might also give a large percentage of their income to helping others. I do believe greed is a big problem in the church, in our country, and in my own heart. I preach against it often. But a sin like greed is not as clear cut as many sexual sins. It seems as if many people assume that gossip, pride, selfishness, and things like this are never preached against. This hasn’t been my expeirence and I myself preach against them when the text deals with it. And though these things certainly go on, I don’t know of anyone who trys to say it is okay or not sinful.

    • Amen, and amen. Well done.

    • You don’t need to “argue” for something that everyone seems to already believe. I’ve never seen it argued that we should all wear clothes to church, because everyone seems to agree to that (although I’m sure there’s a nudist church out there somewhere). I’ve been in plenty of churches where everything about them communicates that greed, pride, gossip and gluttony are no big deal. Sometimes pride and gluttony are presented as minor character flaws, but greed and gossip can usually be easily twisted around to become virtues. I’ve never been in a single church where they are treated as seriously as any of the sexual sins. In all but a few cases, being depressed is treated as a far worse sin than being a gossip.

      While I personally believe that engaging in homosexual sex is a sin I accept that there are reasonable arguments that scripture is ok with monogamous homosexual relationships and that this is something I may be wrong on.

  18. I don’t think James flub when he backed up the use of the tongue with recognizing that our judgements of others aren’t always the judgements that God would give.

    A little phone call to Mr. Stanley wouldn’t have made for a sensational “BOOM” Mohler piece, but it would have exhibited the grace – human and Biblical.

  19. I don’t think James flubbed when he backed up the use of the tongue with recognizing that our judgements of others aren’t always the judgements that God would give.

    A little phone call to Mr. Stanley wouldn’t have made for a sensational “BOOM” Mohler piece, but it would have exhibited the grace – human and Biblical.

  20. I wonder if when Mohler talks about “normalizing homosexuality,” he means saying that it’s not a sin, or saying that it’s a normal sin just like all the other ones, and that it’s not a Very Sinful Sin that you have to be totally clean of before you’re allowed forgiveness.

  21. Could it be that some evangelical leaders just like being the center of attention? Some seem to latch onto every fad and cultural debate they can. It gets their names in print, and sells their books.

    I’m going to settle in tonight and start re-reading Ragamuffin Gospel for the umpteenth time. That’s my official response to this whole mess.

    • + 1 gazillion…..

      ………..I have all of his books and dive in sometimes, wade in the shallow end at others….but always am more on course afterwards!

    • Lee – a great quote of Brennan’s in another book I’ve read recently was this doozie: “There is a great danger in harsh words, the power of unlove to deteriorate a persons heart and spirit, as representatives of the grace and love of God, our communication should be seasoned with love and compassion.” Ahhhh yes!!! Such a breath of fresh air, eh?

    • IM needs a like button…just like Facebook. 😀 Narcissims + mega preacher = attention hound.

  22. Ichabod says

    Don’t expect grace from ecclesial bullies.
    Don’t expect mercy from the morality cops.

  23. First, I’ve been watching that series of Andy’s online – it’s been very good for me. I don’t agree with everything, but the message in and of itself has been good because mostly I can’t bear calling myself a Christian. This message, in particular, was OUTSTANDING! It was grace upon grace upon grace!

    Imagine – a world full of Christian’s acting this out in real life time, face-to-face! I’m thinkin’ it would cause, dare I say, a revolution?!?!?!

    I’m not sure I could even stomach reading this guy’s blog just by the snippets you shared here. I found this to be ironic: “…..God’s provision in Christ. Biblical faithfulness simply does not allow…..”

    What are we doing then? Being provided for by Christ’s provision? Or are we being Biblically faithful? Talking out of both sides of ones mouth has never done much for the Gospel message!!

    And lastly, I take BIG issue with this: “But we cannot allow anyone, ourselves included, to come to Christ — or to church — on our own terms.” Ugh, I’m sorry, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little! Seriously! We have ‘terms’ on how we come to Christ or go to church?!?!?!?! That’s the b.s. I ran from all those years ago – this has GOT TO STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I will say though, that stories like this, people like this man, all they do is push me more into the arms of my Savior – the Man who accepts us based on His finished work – not mine. I’ve never been more glad to be a loser!

    Thank You Father for your scandalous grace!! May we, each one, be so immensely grateful for your scandalous grace we are able to do nothing less than extend it to others! Amen!

    • Ugh. I posted my comment above and then read some of the comments. Now I feel like a complete a$$ – wish I could delete my comment. Alas, I cannot. I make a really sucky follower sometimes. And I really need to learn how to make better sense with my words. Or just shut-up. Yes, I think I shall :/

  24. It seemed to me that Mr. Mohler’s concern about the sermon was summed up by the following near the end of his article where he talks about the tension of grace and truth and the failure of many in the Christian community surrounding this issue:

    “We can only hope that Andy Stanley and the church will clarify and affirm the biblical declaration of the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, even as he preaches the forgiveness of sin in any form through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His affirmation of grace and truth in full measure is exactly right, but grace and truth are not actually in tension. The only tension is our finite ability to act in full faithfulness. The knowledge of our sin is, in truth, a gift of grace. And grace is only grace because of the truth of what God has done for us in Christ.

    And yet, even as we know this is true, we also know that the Christian church has often failed miserably in demonstrating grace to those who struggle with same-sex attractions and those who are involved in homosexual behaviors. We have treated them as a special class of sinners and we have assured ourselves of our moral superiority. The Gospel of Jesus Christ destroys that pretension and calls for us to reach out to all sinners with the message of the Gospel, declaring the forgiveness of sins in Christ and calling them to faith and repentance.

    The Gospel is robbed of its power if any sinner or any sin is declared outside its saving power. But the Gospel is also robbed of its power if sin — any sin — is minimized to any degree.”

  25. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swidlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were sanctifed, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”

    They will not inherit the kingdom of God, in large part because they simply would not like it! Those things do not happen in His kingdom. This “vice list” is long enough to condemn all of us, but there is power in the name of Jesus and in the Spirit of God to make us all different people. That process is, evidently, going on in various degrees of effect in all Christians. Until the Day when that process is completed, I think Michael’s quote is priceless: “Grace doesn’t approve. Grace just refuses to give up on us.”

  26. Personally, I think Stanley is right and Mohler is wrong. A man who leaves his wife for another man is not doubly guilty over a man who leaves his wife for another woman. If homosexuality is to be called sin (which it is, in the Bible), it is a sin precisely BECAUSE it is adultery. It falls under the (7th?) commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” There is not another commandment “Thou shalt not commit homosexuality,” as if the two could somehow possibly be different things. Homosexuality IS adultery, whether or not the perpetrators are running around on heterosexual spouses. All sexual sin falls under this category, and we ought not create a heirarchy of which ones are worse than others. That is not to say that some are certainly more harmful than others, but IMO Mohler is trying to get the gay man with double jeopardy because he’s paranoid of them darned liberals trying to redefine “sin.” Normally, I’d say he has a point: Mankind is naturally rebellious against God’s created order and always trying to justify the sin we like most, and in today’s social/political climate, this particular one seems to be the rallying cry of the progressive agenda. But the extreme right-wing harping on this sin ad-nauseum does nothing to abate this: Rather, it fuels it, and justifies homosexuality to its proponents because it conforms all Bible-believers to their stereotype of fundamentalist hypocrites. Stanley did NOT justify this man, but Mohler would condemn him for not going for the jugular. Mohler, get out of the pulpit and run for government office, that is obviously your passion.

    • Miguel,

      I don’t disagree with what you said, but I wonder sometimes if we are not missing something? I mean I know and fully understand and agree with the idea tha sin is sin and that to violate one part of it makes one guilty of it all. That is a pretty classical and accepted understanding. And as I always say, I think we have be careful to distinguish between the one caught in homosexual lust and is repentant and the one who has completely given themselves over to it and instead of it being a point of shame and repentance they are prideful in their sins, even seeking to go further and say that they are not sinning.

      It just seems to me that when I read Romans 1 it is pretty easy to get the idea that homosexual acceptance and pride is sort of the end of the line when it comes to debauchary and hedonism. Hence all the strong condmnations about being given over “to a reprobate mind.”

      I’m not saying I agree with that above, I’d like to work it out some more, but it is interesting. Male/female sexual immorality is sinful and I’m not saying it shoud be accpeted, but is there some truth to the statement that male/female sexual immorality is a pervision of what God intended while same sex immoriality is a complete rejection of what God intended? Don’t know.

      • BTW
        I know I can’t spell. Please put a spell check button on these posts. Please!

        • Firefox browser will automatically underline anything you misspell. Won’t give you the correct spelling though…

      • Austin+….

        It is an interesting conversation. Most intriguing to me is the idea that many churches look at homosexuality as the hot-button topic, when it comes to sexual sin, but then ignore pornography and adultery. You pose a good question…”Is there some truth to the statement that male/female sexual immorality is a perversion of what God intended while same sex immorality is a complete rejection of what God intended?”

        If you consider adultery in terms of cheating on one’s spouse, then we have a situation where two people have entered into covenant relationship with each other, sealed and confirmed by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The undivided Trinity stands as the ultimate witness to our oaths of fidelity to our spouses. If I break those vows, I consider it more than a perversion of what God intended…I would call it a rejection…especially if the participants are unrepentant.

        Paul defines sexual sin as a special type of sin…sin against God, and sin against self. We not only grieve God with sexual sin, but we damage the integrity of our very own spirits, the makeup of who we are spiritually, physically, morally, sexually, etc.

        Why do we protest homosexuality, yet ignore adultery from the pulpit? Where are our pastoral discussions about pornography? I worry sometimes that these sexual sins are much more prevalent than homosexuality, but we ignore them, choosing instead to debate what is more visible or “hot” in the culture. It is a brokenness of relationship in general that leads people to sexual sin…Are we adequately addressing this?

        You know that I’m far from liberal theologically. I know that we both agree that all types of sexual sin are damaging. I just worry sometimes that our protests might be hitting the edge of the target, because the bullseye, the center, the axis, of the problem is just hard to see, and even harder to hit.

        Thanks for intriguing thoughts, as always…

        • Lee,

          I agree with all of that, yet I’m stuck with two nagging thoughts or questions.

          Perhaps we hear so much about homosexual sin (and I don’t deny other sexual sins are sometimes ignored) because it brings such a “natural” (that’s not a good word) revulsion?

          And I can’t get away from the fact that word choices mean things, and Paul uses some pretty strong words when talking about those who have given themselves to homosexual activity with no repetance that seems fairly unique. Just thoughts.

          • Instead of Natural I would say Cultural. Large sections of our culture are bigoted against gay people and so they make good two minute hate targets because it’s always easier to rally people against things the have already been taught to dislike. There is also the benefit that there are not that many of them, so even if the hate filled atmosphere drives them away you won’t lose as many people as you would if you spent a lot of time trying to stop fornicators from getting married and adopting children.

            Although I don’t think these are things in favor of spending so much time on it.

          • Perhaps we hear so much about homosexual sin (and I don’t deny other sexual sins are sometimes ignored) because it brings such a “natural” (that’s not a good word) revulsion?

            And, interestingly, many gay people will testify that they have just as strong a “natural” revulsion to the thought of engaging in heterosexual relations.

          • Moral indignation (a.k.a. jealousy with a halo) is cultural. You’re very right, if we focused on the sins WE do, we could clear out the building real quick. It’s always easy to paint evil as something outside of us that we fight against. The us-vs.-them scenario it creates is the epitome of self-justification, and the antithesis of all true Protestant theology.

            But it is natural for the thought of gay sex to seem disgusting to a heterosexual. Nobody taught me to dislike it, they just taught me it was wrong. That doesn’t stop me from liking a long list of other “wrong” things.

        • But I will say the more I read your post the more I agree with it.

          Good words.

          • I think the bottom line to it all is something you’ve hit on repeatedly today…repentance. God measures hearts. We may fail time and time again in our attempts to resist sin, but it is the heart that God measures.

            Thank God for grace (today’s real topic, I suppose….)…

        • And what if the homosexuals are single? Wouldn’t they just be fornicating rather than committing adultery? (I’ve even heard evangelicals explain that masturbation is committing adultery with oneself!)

          There’s this popular idea that the Bible teaches that sex must be limited to marriage, but that isn’t borne out by the text, which leaves open the possibility of prostitution and concubinage, among other things. (Rape is punishable by marriage!) You have to really spin it to get the familiar version of sexual morality, such as it is.

          Is everybody aware of the “God hates shrimp” site? (godhatesshrimp.com if memory serves).

          • To say that the text leaves open the possibility of prostitution and concubinage simply because kings and patriarchs did it and were not condemned is equivalent of saying God also condones murder and the worship of idols. In fact, you can (and we always do!) justify just about any sin you want using that line of reasoning. The Bible absolutely does teach that sex ought to be limited to marriage, and the church has understood this to be the clear meaning of the text quite consistently for 2000 years (there’s a dissenting fringe on every issue). Deuteronomy 22:13-21 demonstrates the expectation under the old covenant that people were to be married as virgins. Jesus condemns the very act of thinking about it in Matthew 5:27-30. …and later in the NT under 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.

            God hates shrimp is political rhetoric at it’s worst, designed to paint all traditionalists as if they were in league with Westboro extremists. This is both faulty logic and offensive. Check out the story in Acts 10:9ff. The culinary laws have always been understood to be repealed for Christians. There is no such repealing of sexual mores in the New Testament. This is aside from the fact that not even the fundamentalist fringe of historic Christianity takes so strictly a literal-imperative approach to scripture as to consider the Levitical code (a historic record of the societal regulations for the ancient Hebrew theocracy) as binding or mandatory for Christians. In fact, Christians are encouraged to submit to the governments they already have.

            Keep in mind you would never take such a strict, face-value approach to any other text dating 2000 years or older. The Bible wasn’t written with the mindset of a modern instruction manual, it is several centuries and cultures removed from our own, so the tendency to read it through our own cultural lenses has to be intentionally filtered. The rules of grammar and logic to apply, and where these are forgotten, we find the Bible use as support for innumerable heinous causes. Any comparable book would just as easily fall victim to the same… but there isn’t one.

          • Gerald, not to split hairs, but ALL homosexuals are single, unless they are married to a member of the opposite gender.

        • Josh in FW says

          Well said Lee, as usual.

    • Miguel, you wrote:

      “If homosexuality is to be called sin (which it is, in the Bible), it is a sin precisely BECAUSE it is adultery.”

      Not in the way that I understand the Bible to mean adultery. Gerald is on the right track I think.

      • I think not. The whole point of the “thou shalt not commit adultery” command was to address sexual immorality at large. According to Jesus, even lust is a form of adultery, and he did not specify this was only if married men did it. Yes, in our day and age we categorize adultery as marital infidelity and label premarital promiscuity as “fornication.” But unless you want to argue like Gerald that fornication is not sin (despite the traditional rendering of 1 Cor. 6:9), I think it is safe to say it falls under the general category of this type of sin, said category being established by the decalogue. …or perhaps I am wrong about how you understand the Bible to mean adultery?

        • My understanding is that in biblical times that adultery was having sex with a person who belonged to someone else. Jesus confirmed that you could do this with a mental act as well.

          I must say that I do appreciate your thoughtful comments in general.

          • Thanks. I enjoy your feedback, it makes me think more critically. One thing though: Having sex with a person who belonged to someone else: Women were treated as property back then; married women belonged to their husband, and unmarried women belonged to their father. So do you think it could possibly have been looked at as adultery for having sex with a person who belonged to her father? The passage from Deuteronomy 22 does seem to imply this.

  27. I think the discussion about grace is so interesting. It’s a fundamental idea in Scripture, yet we have such a hard time embracing it! Have you read The Brothers Karamazov? There is a story in the middle of the book about Jesus returning to old Seville, and the grand Inquisitor tells Jesus that He failed, because he gave us freedom. He tells Jesus that we don’t want freedom, we don’t want grace, we want rules. We want structure. We want someone to tell us what to do, and so that is why something like the Inquisition was necessary. It’s a very interesting part of the book, and I think it connects to what you are discussing with grace. Grace is freely given, and yet do we want it? Do we want the freedom that comes with grace? Often times it seems like no. As humans we often would rather choose the rules, and the law over the freedom and grace given in Christ.

  28. Frankly says

    Is it wrong of Mohler to ask Andy to be consistant on what qualifies or disqualifies someone to serve in a particular role in a church?

    If someone is disqualified to serve for adultery (other partner married) — which is an open and unrepentant violation of the scriptures… which is the point Stanley made… you also say that someone can’t lead in that way because they are in an open violation of the scriptures for being in a homosexual relationship?

    “The most puzzling and shocking part of the message was the illustration and the account of the homosexual couple, however. The inescapable impression left by the account was that the sin of concern was adultery, but not homosexuality. ” (Mohler’s post)

    That is how I read the article.

    Mohler even says that we cannot treat homosexuality as a worse sin. Im not sure some of you read the whole article but just got pissed when he referenced Homosexuality and it fit your mold of “well… there go those darn fundamentalists again….”

    Toward the conclusion of the post Mohler writes this:

    “And yet, even as we know this is true, we also know that the Christian church has often failed miserably in demonstrating grace to those who struggle with same-sex attractions and those who are involved in homosexual behaviors. We have treated them as a special class of sinners and we have assured ourselves of our moral superiority. The Gospel of Jesus Christ destroys that pretension and calls for us to reach out to all sinners with the message of the Gospel, declaring the forgiveness of sins in Christ and calling them to faith and repentance.

    The Gospel is robbed of its power if any sinner or any sin is declared outside its saving power. But the Gospel is also robbed of its power if sin — any sin — is minimized to any degree.”

    I didn’t read that Mohler said we shouldn’t be full of grace and compassion for, in this case, the homosexual… but rather his focus was on Stanley, from the front, being clear on sin and that you can’t say adultery disqualifies you from serving (NOT unwelcome in the Church… but in a specific serving role) but homosexual practice doesn’t disqualify you from the same serving role.

    The larger point was that is seen in the mega-church movement is that in the pursuit of loving people we can’t give up the truth that ALL sin need a savior and Jesus offers us redemption.

    • Chad Winters says

      Good point, unfortunately it will be ignored or vilified on this site now. I miss Michael Spencer

  29. Does the Evangelical Church have a clue re: how quickly the present and next generation is moving to where faithful gay relationships will no longer have the societal and even religious stigma of being regarded as sinful vis-a-vis faithful heterosexual relationships? Or do they indeed have a clue, and are therefore ramping up the volume and using every hook (e.g., Egalitarianism) in the book to link things they disagree with to homosexuality in an effort to turn back a tide which will likely wash them and their influence away in the not too distant future?

    • ahumanoid says

      I’ve wondered these same things…

      • Eric, even if the Evangelicals could accept this, the Catholic Church will not. I would expect an outreach and ministry, not unlike AA, where practicing homosexuals are welcome and acknowledged, but in the context of people struggling with sin. This may finally not be some sort of “Super-Sin” like now, but Christ has made it pretty clear that one man-one woman marriage for life is His plan, and all else (save celibacy) is disordered.

        • It may not matter what the RCC (or any other church) thinks and does. If the numbers and dollars (i.e., attending and contributing members) aren’t there, what the church says and does becomes increasingly irrelevant and ineffective.

          • Oh Eric, ye of little faith 🙂

            The Church has survived worse….much worse……..and for 2000 years.

            I am pretty sure Christ meant that bit about “the gates of hell [or Hollywood] not prevailing against it.”

            IMHO, it is the churches who are trying to be hip and relevant, and therefore pretty meaningless, that will go down the tubes. After all, they are the Ten Commandments, not the ten vague suggestions of how to be a nice person without offending anyone around or becoming *gasp* intolerant.

          • The church will do fine, but the RCC in America will seriously decline in its influence, relevancy, and resources.

  30. I am a longtime follower of Andy Stanley’s communication style (if not his content). Based on his style and history, the whole story is either a composite story based on many different events or else completely made up. Note that the story involves the head pastor of one of the largest churches in U.S. personally selecting greeting team members. I really do not think that is the case.

    Second, Andy Stanley’s style is extremely important here. He learned from his Dad (Charles). But, he made one key change. Whereas his Dad has always had 5-12 point sermons, Andy will take each and every point and make a separate sermon out of it. He basically takes a 5 point sermon, breaks it into 5 separate sermons, and adds a composite (or even made up) story for illustrative purposes.

    As other commenters today have mentioned, Mohler is only commenting on one point of a much larger sermon. You would have to listen to the whole sermon series to get all his views.

    Now, having said all that, I agree the story is a good example of the conflict between grace and truth. I just wish pastors who use this style point out the story is a fictional account made for illustrative purposes.

  31. Sunday:
    “We gather as a body of forgiven sinners……. We have sinned against our Lord and our neighbor.”
    “You my friends hung Jesus there on the Cross. This Christ has died for the forgiveness of your sins……..”
    “Take, eat, His body given to you for the forgiveness of your sins….”
    “I Christ’s place and at His command I say your sins are forgiven.”
    “Go in the peace of the Lord.”

    Not hard or fancy. Let God do the rest.

  32. Spam! Spam! Spam!

  33. Spam!

  34. Isn’t Al part of a Mega-Convention? Isn’t he President of a Mega Seminary? The problem is never with size, small, medium or large, just with rightly dividing the Word so that it is taught and exampled as it should be.

    As to Andy Stanley, unlike his father who is theologically driven, Andy is philosophically driven. His theology is molded by his philosophy where, for his father, his philosophy is molded by his theology. So one might find a way to correct Andy on an errant view in one area but they will only see them pop up in others because it is a symptom of a greater problem.

    BTW I have taken the time to become familiar with Andy Stanley’s teaching and I can tell you that he speaks in a rather foreign tongue to often for my edification. It is almost like he has mastered the form without the necessary substance.

  35. Prophets like Al Mohler are rarely appreciated. Hopefully he is “iron sharpening iron”,…which causes some sparks. Whether Al Mohler understands grace, or the rest of us for that matter, is demonstrated in how we handle others- especially those with whom we disagree. I used to attend Andy Stanley’s church, and I have read numerous articles by Al Mohler, and I believe that both of them understand grace. Let’s not attack Al Mohler because he questioned/challenged Andy Stanley.

    • “Let’s not attack Al Mohler because he questioned/challenged Andy Stanley.”

      Agreed.

      We spent six years at North Point, and our questions and/or concerns over Michelle Obama speaking at North Point were dismissed as judgemental, not kingdom minded, putting politics before Christ, etc. Long-story-short, the responses we received made us feel like Pharisees. (And, if I recall correctly, the sermon that Sunday it was announced she was coming had a lot to do with…Phariees).

      I sense this is going the same way. Anyone who questions Andy and/or has concerns over the example, will be dismissed as judgemental, graceless, etc.

      Since when is it Pharisaical to have questions or concerns?

  36. All theologizing aside, why would Andy Stanley used a situation like this in a sermon? To me, it’s mind-boggling and unconscionable. Why would anyone trust going to him for counseling, now knowing you could be used as a sermon illustration.

    • I agree Mark, but I really don’t think this is the case. I really believe the whole story is made up. This is a common technique used by many pastors. The story is fiction designed to make a point. Remember, this is a 30000 multi-site mega-church with video feeds, 3-D holograms, and production lighting audio and visual systems. Volunteer force may number 5000-10000 and be scattered across many campuses. Andy has absolutely no idea who is serving as greeters and he has no idea who came to a particular service.

      Those in the audience at Stanley’s church would probably understand that, but when we listen to it on the internet we project our own church experience on the story.

      Now, having said all that. I have had problems in smaller churches where the pastor did use things told him during counseling and confession for sermon illustration. In that context, it is clearly unconscionable.

      • You make a great point. I have been in churches and heard stories that were frankly quite unbelievable.

        This may be another case of that.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        This is a common technique used by many pastors. The story is fiction designed to make a point.

        Then why not present it as a parable instead of a true event?