Blogtext: Grace and the gifts of Grace. "Charis and Charisma"

The doctrine about Grace and the 

Grace of God as it is.

The doctrine of grace is sometimes upheld at the cost of Grace itself. ‘

For some time now I have been guided to reread the available literature about some very large events in Church History. I say ’guided’ in a most cautious manner lest some should think I claim divine revelation to do so. All the same I have, among hundreds of other things, been reading about the events under a series of popes all called Innocent (which is the worst case of abuse of language you can accomplish) as they attempted to exterminate various ’heretics’. ”Champions of the Faith” they called themselves, these bloodhounds of religion.

Which basically is the same as someone saying: ‘They think differently than we. But because we are right and they are wrong it is our duty to make them recant, and if they do not, to prevent them from ever speaking again. Our truth, and our doctrine is totally and unequivocally God’s truth and anyone not agreeing is an enemy of Faith, of God, and of the one Holy Catholic Church. It is our duty to convert them from their severe co-operation with the Devil Himself. And if they do recant we will still make life hell for them for as long as they shall live. And if they do not recant we will blot them out from under the sun in the most inhumane and cruel way possible. Hear Hear. This is the grace of God that protects the Church from the pestilence of false doctrine..’

Did you ever understand the doctrine of grace in this way? Does the Bible support a doctrine of Grace that allows even an infinitesimal fraction of such a perversion of what the word means? Ah but you say: that was true for a time in the middle Ages and then it was a trait of the Unholy Roman Church, and has nothing to do with us today. Say things like ’The inquisition’, whisper ’Torquemada’, cry the ’Dominican order’ and all fingers point to Rome. Say: to call a brother, sister, wife, son or daughter a heretic, could supply you with the forgiveness of sins and you immediately know that the Lutheran reformation started with Luther denouncing the sale of indulgences. But did it stop Luther from denouncing the heretics of His time in the same manner as the Catholic Church had done? It did not. Conveniently forgotten does not mean eternally forgotten. I assure you, it did not refrain from exactly the same self-righteous condemnation of those who disagreed on Doctrine as ever Rome. It is painful reading. Every giant has feet of clay and iron.

A but I am a Protestant of a different order, you see I am of a Reformed leaning, I heavily rely on Calvin and Zwingly and Farel and Bucer and Oecolampadius and they surely did nothing of the sort?!” You are seriously mistaken. But you see they have written what is there in the official Church history, cleverly defending what of their misdeeds are known with their own Doctrines, not with the Grace of God. In Fact they all frequently and deliberately flaunted the express words of God and excused their Actions with high faluting speeches such as : ”For the Higher glory of God”

Every man will have sinned against himself and against God during his lifetime. But some rewrote theology to justify their deeds. That is truly extraordinary. But well attested in the history of the Church.

I could quote you chapter and verse on the betrayal of the Good News for the next thousand pages if that was my aim. It is not, but I assure you had I done so your faith in your ’Church Fathers’ of whatever denomination would be under heavy flack. Whisper ”Michael Servetus” to a Calvinist and watch the reaction. Mostly there will be merely a blank stare because he will know nothing of it.

A very hard question
Would you buy a car from a man who in order to be the sole provider of cars in your area had sneaked into the only neigh-boring car salesman’s place at night, doused his wares with petrol and burned his shop down? If you knew? Depends on your scruples and on how much you are prepared to pay for the car on sale. (The price will have been jacked up the moment the competition was gone.) Knowing the moral timbre of that man would you trust him, his sales tactics and his honour?

You will answer that for yourself. Where am I heading with that parable?

This next question is still harder to answer

Would you trust a Doctrine of Grace formulated by a Church which defended

 it’s doctrines from scrutiny and dialogue by shutting up anybody asking

 legitimate questions? A Church which evidently was prepared to accept any

 amount of breaking of all the laws of God in order to make its definition of

 the Doctrine of Grace the only available one, by killing off the opposition?

 And doing so by denying the Grace of God to those who saw things in a

 different light?

You would not? Thousands out there do and never give it a moment’s thought. The backdrop to this monograph is the very strange situation in the world of Christianity regarding the gifts of the Spirit. I have written several papers on various aspects of the topic in previous weeks. Thy will be found on my website along with other treatises of various matters.

I was again guided back to the original New Testament teachings on Grace. My Koiné Greek has been upped lately by various means and for reasons that begin to dawn on me more and more. Doing so about the Doctrine of Grace lead me to examine the role of both Doctrine and Grace in the NT and caused me to see what I had always known, (Well for fifty years anyway) but was suddenly revealed to my inner man in a most forceful manner. The Greek word for grace is ”Charis.” The Greek Word for Spiritual gifts is (very conveniently) ”Charismata”. Conveniently, I say, for those who separate the two from each other and thereby legitimize the withholding from the people, that any denial of the Spiritual gifts is also a denial in part of the Doctrine of Grace. Because the same grace that saves us from ”the kingdom of darkness” provides the gifts to the body of the Church, with no ’best before buy date’. The English reader of the Bible would not stumble on ’Charis and Charismata’ at all. Although the Grace of God is unthinkable without the gifts of Grace. And the other way round.

Will you let that sink in? Some of the most ”anti-charismatic Churches” in the world still claim to be in full possession of ”Charis”. They have adopted a theology that allows them to cut and paste and delete freely in the word of God and while hiding some (obviously excepting the ones they have retained) spiritual gifts under any carpet maintain to be defenders of Grace and Truth. To maintain a truncated doctrine of Grace is to my mind disgraceful. I say that they have adopted a theology because what today is in their sack has been in a bag before. Those very Churches of whom I spoke in the beginning of this monograph have passed on their specific scholastic and rationalist theologies to our modern day. The more rationalistic they are the less of Grace and the work of the Spirit do they know. Modified, sure, some harsh edges cut off, sure, but essentially in possession of the very same attitudes and doctrinally stone-faced gracelessness has survived. From the bags of then to the sacks of now. And they are also, many of them, showing all the signs of being on the way down a cul de sac, a one way street. Meet an ultra-Calvinist fully informed of his eternal calling and eternal salvation and hard on the doctrine of predestination and you have seen the hardness of the Inquisitor.

Who defines who the heretics are?

Particularly helpful is the reading of the history of the Heretics that came in the way of Martin Luther. Sebastian Frank and Gotthard Arnold come to mind. They both converted from Rome to Wittenberg and both of them became doctors of the faith and were leading figures in Lutheran Universities. And then they up and left! Great shocks. What did they give as reasons?

 Sebastian Frank met Luther in Heidelberg but became terribly disillusioned by the total lack of character reforming effect that the Lutheran preaching had on people. The teaching of Righteousness by faith alone simply passed over the heads of a people conditioned for centuries on salvation by works and obedience to the doctrines of the Church of Rome. A doctrine that did not do what the NT said would happen if sound doctrine was preached could by definition not be sound doctrine. Chew that over! Sound doctrine produces life not more doctrine. See John 5:39 “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life: and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to me that you may have life.”

Doctrine and knowledge of the written word do not equate the spiritual life of the Church of Christ.

Gottfried Arnold motivated his giving up the Professorship of Secular History on this account: ”He was nauseated by the high-faluting emptiness of the self-glory seeking rationalists filling the Lutheran Universities. Doctrinal correctness is most conducive to pride. He added: out of what he had seen ”
there was no longer any hope that anything wholesome or even in the slightest manner reminiscent of true Godliness would ever arise out of a university.” What is that about not finding suitable raw material for the needs of the churches? The Church does not need a theologically indoctrinated broiler. It needs men who know the grace of God, not merely the doctrine of it.

A doctrine of Grace that hides the Charismata out of sight while pretending to be a work of The Spirit, but without the transforming power of that spiritual claim, cannot be either Grace or Spirit.

Whatever the Doctrine of God means, having a more or less correct doctrine in no way guarantees the presence of God in that assembly. It is the glory of the Lord, His holiness, His power and righteousness evidenced in the fellowship of believers that proves His presence, not the doctrinal statement on the handout.

The Doctrine of Grace means that the unmerited favour of God is bestowed upon sinners. For those who have sinned before they first came to trust in Christ endless forgiveness is offered. But fail in your marriage as a believer and go through a divorce and local grace is gone, how ever much you repent of that known sin. The silent ostracism going on in many gatherings of believers is mute testimony to the most graceless reality. Forgiven but not restored is the caption over the head of many. Fail to comply with the unspoken social customs of the current church group and you will more often than not be left on the fringe. Grace and forgiveness should go together. But it is the very lack of forgiveness that characterizes innumerable splits in and among churches. Observers of the effects of the reformation rather nail it when they say that the reformation gave rise to the worst  fissiparity* ever seen in the life of the Church.

See the danger of giving a church a name after a Doctrine?
How many Salem Churches lost all 
PEACE and were swallowed up by ignominy?
How many Philadelphias lost all 
BROTHERLY LOVE and hung out the sign: Closed for good?
How many a Grace church ended in 
GRACELESS brawls of the flesh?
How many a Mercy Church has shown the most callous and 
MERCYLESS legalism?

The idolatry of Doctrine.

I hesitate not to speak of the idolatry of doctrinal correctness. Not any longer, especially not after many hours of Church history. The one  irrevocably  definite teaching about the Church that is the core of John 17 has fallen victim to doctrinal war after doctrinal war. And, absurdity of absurdity: each splinter-group claims to know the Grace of God..

Here is a short list of Words of Spirit and Truth that our Lord stands by until Kingdom come.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 

 ‘Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” 
The people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 

” And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.”

”Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, 
Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. ”

”When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd 
divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Defending the truth is not done by gagging the opposition but by shutting it up by superior standard of conduct and behaviour. Only if engaging in dialogue with the opposition and joining a common quest for the truth by the spirit and the Word alone will we learn to be people of grace. The living Church is Unity in diversity. A fellowship where all know that they only see in part and therefore never pretend to know it all. That is when Grace operates as more than a relic from a lost continent.

One further bad news from the original languages: the word ’Traditions’ comes from a word meaning ’to step over, to betray’. Christ is betrayed when unchallenged traditions are allowed to curb the Living Word. Paul made it plain: Stop your inherited traditions, if they obviously sacrifice the truth for ideological uniformity. The fear of the vital dialogue stems not from the Lord but from the fear of losing power.

Be still for the presence of the Lord is in this place?

It is with abject shame that we must acknowledge that the Doctrine of Grace is put higher than Grace itself. But it takes Grace to see that.

No doctrine of anything has ever saved a single soul. But on that altar of correctness thousands literally have lost their lives. The illusion that a formal statement, however correct, is what it signifies will not hold before the Judgment seat of Christ. If the doctrine of Grace, or any doctrine, can only be maintained by the killing off, the silencing, the marginalisation of those who question the doctrine when they see it being abused or twisted, then it is neither true nor should it any longer be defended. If restored it will fill the lives of the believers with generous Grace, Mercy and Love.

The best illustration of the insufficiency of doctrine before God is given by the Lord himself. Matthew 7:21f "
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’  Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’ (CSB)

Truth be told?

Truth that needs defending by Doctrine is not truth at all. Because the truth of the Holy Scriptures is Christ Himself, the great I am of the Bible. 
It is not in the doctrine about Christ, but Christ himself. ”Why seek ye the living among the dead? ”Doctrine is a filtered down description of truth. It is filtered through the minds of fallible men. Whatever our titles and doctorates and power positions and clerical robes. But never the Truth itself. We do not preach the Doctrine of the deity and humanity of Christ, we lift Him up so that he can draw all men to himself. The doctrine does not need the living Lord in order to be taught. Thousands of dead doctrines are taught to those who merely want knowledge about things. We preach Christ and him both crucified, dead and risen. To those who think that correct doctrine is the only thing needed, the words of Paul come in like a thunderclap: ”You did not so learn Christ”

Hanging your doctrine on the wall is like the home where the Father of the Household had gone off to war. When he left he hung his hat on a peg in the hall. Whenever the Children asked after their Father, Mother would point to the hat. ”He will come for his hat one day..”

She continued to tell the children that even when the letter had come from the war office ”Missing believed, dead in action.”

Charis” without the ”Charismata” is merely a hat on the wall. So indeed are ”charismata” without ”Charis”. Church history has known both.  Has known? Knows..

We either learn from history or we are doomed to repeat it.
“All things were written for our instruction who have the end times upon us.”
We will not know grace by a Doctor’s hat in the pulpit but by our reddened knees from when we bowed so low that not a vestige of pride or intellectual stronghold any longer had the slightest value to us or, indeed, power over us. Only those who need grace ever know it. And to those who have a formal grasp of the doctrine of grace but have seen no need for it themselves, it can become a dead albatross around their neck.|

Through my own loss of everything back in 1985 I learned a lesson. “Never to judge anybody except in those areas where I myself have been forgiven, that is, shown grace and mercy." There are things in the
doctrine of grace that I will never understand fully. But I know in every part of me what Grace is. It taught me the justice of God and made me fear before Him, but it also enlightened me and released me from all that fear. His Grace is never loveless.

By the grace of God, I am what I am. It is all I can hope to be.

Teddy Donobauer April 20 2020

*fissiparity=multiplication by division


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