Grace is not quantifiable – A Retraction

A little over a year ago I wrote a blog in relation to the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll. In that blog, I argued that God’s grace is not quantifiable and that we should forgive Driscoll for his sins and shortcomings. I got a fair amount of pushback for it and in the ensuing weeks as more and more of Driscoll’s sins and shortcomings were exposed I decided to delete the post. Not retract. Delete. This was cowardly, and I am genuinely sorry. It is easy in the digital age to simply delete a comment or post one wrote on social media or in the blogosphere, but that is not honest or virtuous.  So now, over a year later, here is my retraction.

In many ways, I stand by what I wrote – God does call us to repeated forgiveness, but what I wrote was imbalanced. I emphasized the unconditional love of God without the call to love God in return, to follow Jesus in costly discipleship. What I have since matured in understanding (with a lot of help from Dietrich Bonhoeffer) is that if God simply wanted to show us unconditional love and repeated forgiveness Jesus would have never died on the cross. God would have simply forgiven us and unconditionally loved us.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are about atonement – reconciling God and humanity, the fractured family of humanity, and making us one in Christ. Yes, God in Christ is providing forgiveness for our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross, but the other side of that coin is that the cross is the place where Jesus dives down to the depths of our separation and calls us to love God in return. When Jesus rose from the dead and found Peter who had denied knowing Jesus three times, his message to Peter wasn’t, “Peter, I love you unconditionally and forgive you for denying any form of relationship with me.” His statement was, “Peter, do you love me?” (John 21:15)

If all we do is tell people that God loves them and forgives them no matter what and never call on them to love God or as Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Then it’s no wonder when we get stuck scratching our heads unable to understand why people aren’t getting (as we like to say in Christianese) “transformed.”

 

 

Below is my retracted post.

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If I was in the position of the Acts29 leadership, I would probably do the same things in removing Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll from the roster of Acts29 churches. Does that make it right, maybe…maybe not.

Driscoll is being exposed right now, over and over and over, exposed to be not who many thought he was. And Acts29 did what they thought was right as being associated with Driscoll is not best for the organization. But what discourages me about the Acts29 leadership move on this matter is their disregard for Driscoll’s open repentance on each of the matters in which he has behaved like a total ass…

But a repentant ass. For each of his growing list of atrocities involving everything from childish to borderline illegal actions. So the question is this – How many times do I have to forgive Mark Driscoll?

And this isn’t just about Mark Driscoll, it’s about everyone. We all know a terrible human being (usually we’re related to one) who never ceases to grey our hairs. How do we know when enough is enough?

Grace is not quantifiable

If grace were a number it would be π. That’s Jesus’ point when Peter asks him, “’Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus responded saying, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but π to the infinite°.’” (Matt. 18:21-22 personal translation)

Having gotten to known my fair share of people over the years, some of whom have been pastors, I have found a consistent trend: people are the most screwed thing I know, and pastors are no exception. People sin…a lot.[1] And when they sin against us, followers of Christ must follow Christ’s example and forgive them.

Over and over again. We don’t get to say “enough is enough” after they’d made an ass of themselves seven times over. God’s grace is unquantifiable towards us, how dare we quantify it towards another.

 

 



[1] I would define sin as dehumanization of others and oneself, and I am thankful to N.T. Wright for this helpful definition in his book Surprised by Hope Participant’s Guide: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

Michael Michael (13 Posts)

I am a Ph.D. student at Trinity College Bristol. These blog posts contain some of my incomplete thoughts on political theology featuring less footnotes and more exclamation marks.


2 Comments Grace is not quantifiable – A Retraction

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