Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheap Grace

As I often have to do, allow me to preface the series of Bonhoeffer quotes with a disclaimer. Every man lives in a context -- historical, theological and personal. Context helps define us and it also limits us. While I like what Bonhoeffer had to say in the statements I cite, I'm not endorsing all of Bonhoeffer's theology or his life. I don't know enough to do so. My friend, Pastor Ben House, who is much better read than I am on this (and most other subjects), has written a review of the Eric Metaxas biography wherein he raises some serious questions about Bonhoeffer and some of his theology. You can read that review HERE. Bonhoeffer, no doubt, got some things wrong (perhaps very wrong), but he also seems to have gotten some things very right. I found much of what he had to say to be very convicting to me.

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing....[45]
  • Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.... In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.[45-46]
  • Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. 'All for sin could not atone.' Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin....
  • Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.[47]

1 comment:

  1. In actuality, what we call "cheap grace" is no Biblical grace at all, it is something other. The best way to fight fake grace is to preach the real deal.

    I've read that Martyn Lloyd-Jones was giving a talk once and someone from the back yelled out "cheap grace" to which he replied, "if it wasn't cheap you couldn't have afforded it."