There are many criticisms against the Word of Faith preachers like EW Kenyon, Hagin, Copeland, etc. Against grace preacher like Joseph Prince, Watchman Nee, etc. Against more seeker-friendly like Rick Warren etc Against evangelist like Billy Graham etc. Against the Calvinist preachers. Against the Armenians preachers etc. It is not that I am agreeing fully with the above list of preachers and doctrines, but that we should do a better job of pointing out where the error is, where is the truth (mostly ignored), and refrain from labeling and attacking the people. We are taught to judge. We know how to take the nutrients and spit out the bones or toxin. It is not uncommon to find that the very people who are being criticized as false, are also preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, of salvation through Jesus Christ by faith in Him and are bringing many people into the Kingdom of God. How one is saved will make for a full discussion by itself. I will address it in future if I have not already done so in my postings here. But in this post, I wish to present some guidelines for graceful criticism. I need to quote this by someone great person "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."
Again, one can spend much time debating what is the essential minimum of the Gospel of Christ. But here is the proposed framework:
- Present a higher level framework or model of the truth
- Say what is the right truth of the saying (this will help us to be less critical emotionally)
- Say what is the wrong part of the saying
- Don't attack the person. Just stay on the saying.
- Please remember to check the context of the saying. Did we quote the saying out of context?
- Abstain from imposing your opinion as to the intention of the speaker. We are no God and we do not know the intention of the speaker. Stay on the saying.
The essential for most Christians is "Salvation is by Grace through Faith in Christ Jesus"(Eph 2:8-9). The differences come in the subsequent phase of sanctification. Some forgot that we need grace too, in this sanctification process. An in-depth discussion of this is given in Degree of Grace - From Grace-less to Ultra-Grace.
The sufficiency of Christ's death on the cross to save from our sins is very very important. The only part we play is our humble acceptance of Christ's redemption work for us. We don't add any more to a completed work of Christ. We just receive and trust Him and go on for it. Our salvation is not dependent on us and we could not spoil it is a great assurance to those being abused by some Church leaders who use fear to drive their members to participate in church activities and tithings. Our salvation is based on Christ and not on us. Christ salvation is not just for paying the penalty of sins, removal of sins from our life, but most important of all, a new birth, a new creation in Zoe (God's kind) Life. Without the rebirth of the Holy Spirit into God's kind of life, we cannot have an intimate relationship with God and we do not have the attributes of Godly life. We have new godly attributed life, we are righteous and can, therefore, walk in righteousness. Grace is the empowerment for us to do the things we could not formerly do (in our sinful nature) but now we are able to do - the righteous and godly things that glorify God. While we don't have to follow the Laws to be saved, yet our lives should have conduct that surpasses the requirements of the Laws. The Laws become a minimum checklist mirror for us reflect and tell us our new godly life.
How can we live out this Christ live within us? By faith is shown in obedience and good work. 1Thess 1:3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what James tried to point out that faith(internal) without work(external expression of inward faith) is dead. James 2:17.
The potential error of grace preachers(e.g. Joseph Prince) is the neglect of emphasizing the obedience of good work of faith. Work tends to be taken as work of the flesh and then condemned (see Fleshy Work & Spiritual Work).
There is also the neglect of the time element of growth. Complete is mistakenly taken as already arrived rather than complete, completely equipped, with Christ within, to begin this new life of GROWTH into the maturity of Christ (Full Image of Rom 8:29). A durian seed is not a durian fruit. Both are complete durian except one is the seed of potential and one is an end result fruit of a grown durian tree. A seed is complete. Plant it and it will grow to a tree and bear fruit. An incomplete seed will not grow. Like a fertilized egg, given the right temperature and time, it will hatch to become a chick. An unfertilized egg is incomplete and no matter how long you put at the hatching temperature, no chick will come out of it.
This process of growth will include discipline, training, trials, testings to build up one's Christ's like character. While Christian life may not be a bed of roses, it is a journey of overcoming victories with Christ within and along with us. I recalled a preacher said that Billy Graham, with all the accomplishments, can only say "It is all the grace of God". Grace is not needed if all we want to do is sit at home. Grace is only needed when we move out in faith to answer the calling of God. It is work of faith and of grace that brings glory to God and to ourselves! Because God works through us. We become the heads and not the tails. God help us and we share in His glory. It is all grace, from the beginning of salvation to sanctification to glorification. Praise and thanks to God for saving us and using us to be part of His great work.
A summary of Grace doctrine in the mind-map format: