At another blog the question is asked, “What are the signs that we have a perfect blend and balance of both grace and truth?” While neither term is defined there, it would be helpful to do so, especially for anyone unfamiliar with their usage in “the churches”. We can’t answer the question without knowing exactly what it’s asking.
Truth, to the Christian, is whatever God has said or done, whatever He has told us in His Word. Grace is simply favor bestowed from the greater to the lesser, and in particular, from God to people. But in recent decades, truth has been equated with cold, dead “doctrine”, while grace has been turned into a mystical (some say irresistible) force or, as a good friend of mine calls it, “totalitarian niceness”. Since the question on the table makes no sense if we use the Biblical definitions, I must presume that the modern ones are what it meant. After all, what need is there to find a balance between the favor of God and His truth?
Proceeding on that presumption, this balance is something I’ve written about many times: the need to keep both doctrine and love. Many want to discard one or the other, and when they do, that’s what makes doctrine cold and dead, and love/peace shallow and accepting of almost every sin. Doctrine, the teachings of the NT, is what makes peace possible, because our unity must be around central truths: Jesus, the One True God in human form, died for our sins and rose again, and anyone who puts their trust in Him alone for the purpose of being reconciled with God is saved. There are no other gods, no other Names, no other ways or paths, regardless of sincerity or good works. This is the most foundational, non-negotiable bedrock of our faith, such that to deny any part of it is to deny the whole (see my documents here under README for scriptural backing; this is not something I made up). It is not those who hold to this Doctrine that cause division, but those who deny or try to compromise it.
But many cannot reconcile this with “niceness”. They presume that to call someone else’s beliefs wrong is to be “not nice”, to be unloving, to be against peace, to be conceited and narrow. They will not tolerate the judging of sin among us, though it is plainly directed in such passages as 1 Cor. 5 (sinners though we are, we MUST judge those on “the inside”, our fellow believers). They see every instance of telling sinners they are lost as acts of hatred instead of loving the lost enough to warn them.
But above all, they cannot tolerate anyone expressing anything in a manner they deem “not nice”. This is the “totalitarian” part, because only they can decree where the wavy, blurry line is drawn. If you use enough syrup you can hurl the most vile insults and still be affirmed by others for your love and tolerance, while others, hurling insults or not, are condemned and treated as spiritual infants. Part of the problem is that the syrup proponents don’t always realize what they’re saying; they are blind to their own use of insults. When others respond to such subtlety and call it what it is, the “syrups” get indignant because they don’t see what they did, even after it’s pointed out to them. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and it goes a little something like this:
- B. Blunt: Mormons are not Christians because they deny the essentials of the faith; they believe in millions of gods, for example.
- C. Syrup: How can you hate such nice people? How can you be so narrow? You fundies are why people turn away from Jesus, who never said anything harsh… well, at least he was only harsh to Pharisees like you. You should try meditating as the Desert Fathers showed us, and then you’ll be loving and peaceful. I’d be happy to teach you, because I care.
- B. Blunt: Now who is being hateful? Here you are calling me a Pharisee just because I stood up for the fact that there is only one God anywhere in existence, and those who don’t believe that are lost. Can’t you tolerate me just as you tolerate Mormonism? It seems to me that the real problem here is that truth is not as important in your eyes as niceness.
- C. Syrup: See? There you go again, spreading your fundy hatred! You need to repent and examine your heart.
- The Syrup Cheerleading Squad: Yes, amen! We love everybody (except you). We aren’t harsh and intolerant. We just live the example (and keep affirming their lost beliefs for the rest of our lives) and let God do the rest. Boo on Pharisees who actually tell people they’re lost!
- B. Blunt: Aren’t you being unloving by giving the lost the impression that they will go to heaven just by sincerely practicing their religion? And once again, why aren’t you tolerating fundies? Why do you tell US directly that we’re “lost”? Why not do to us fundies what you do to Mormons: just live the example and never tell us we’re wrong? Why the double standard?
- C. Syrup: I’ll bet you stay up at night thinking of ways to attack people. I am loving and tolerant, as anyone can see (“Amen!” says the Squad). Learn to be like me, that’s my example. I had to use words for you because you’re… just… so… negative!
- B. Blunt: Learn to be like you?? You mean I should insult you and be a hypocrite?
- The Syrup Cheerleading Squad: Boo, boo on the Pharisee!! See how hateful and bitter these fundies are!? Away with them!
This double standard, this committing of the same alleged faults as others, is the sign of imbalance in any Christian community. It is expressed in what we see in most Christian blogs: bickering, backstabbing, lecturing, accusing, judging (by BOTH sides) in all the wrong places. (And for a REAL example of all this, see The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, or my summary of it).
But silencing half the Body will not bring balance, it will only cause disease. Decreeing the other half hateful isn’t working either, quite obviously. Declaring your own side’s standards to be The Standard will never work. As long as doctrine and niceness are seen as hopelessly incompatible, the Body will never be in balance. Love without doctrine is easily corrupted and diluted, while doctrine without love is cold and legalistic. But remember, love as defined in scripture is not something that sees no evil / hears no evil, but cares enough to warn when danger approaches. And doctrine is not our personal set of convictions but the foundations of the faith, the facts about Jesus and salvation.
Instead, try what I’m still working toward: completely ignoring the style of other’s words, looking instead to the message. So you think somebody insulted you and the evidence is obvious; “why not rather be wronged” (1 Cor. 6:7)? So you can’t stand fundies; why not treat them as you’d treat Mormons or Muslims? Why respect the enemies of your faith more than your own brothers and sisters? So what if you think all the disrespect is coming from them, let’s see you practice what you preach. And by the same token, the fundies need to do learn to look past the double standards and concentrate on the arguments. Don’t ape the name-calling and put-downs, even if the other side still does it. God is the One keeping score.
Let people talk; stop the control freak mentality and just present your case. Then there will be balance.
ADDED LATER: This balance will NOT be characterized by a lack of disagreement. There is room for that in the Body, just as “the eye cannot say to the hand, ’I don’t need you!’” Disagreement is not the problem, but only the attempt to force others to agree, even to walk and talk like us. Let the disagreements fly, but not the rancor, surgar-coated or plain.