Cheap Grace and Cheap Platitudes: The SBC Leading the Way

“Forgiveness does not mean excusing.” ~C.S. Lewis


Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Continuing on in my “intemperate” tirade, I present the topic of cheap grace. 


Years ago, when I first became a Christian, I went on a cruise with my dad (a non-Christian). A friend gave me the book The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I spent most of the cruise shaken to my core.


The premise of this book is simple. Bonhoeffer, who died in a prison camp for his part in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler (note to patriarchs-this is a real man), emphasized when Christ bids a man to come, he bids him to come and die. He also said that we must take up the Cross with all of its implications.

I became a Christian in the Boston area. At the time I knew virtually no Christians, having become a Christian during an episode of Star Trek. I knew a couple of seminarians but no one my age. However, I pursued the faith with a vigor given to me by God. As time went on, however, I met more and more professing Christians who had a seemingly lackadaisical attitude towards the faith.

One woman told me she was glad for “once saved; always saved” because she shure wasn’t living the faith. When I asked why not, she just shrugged and continued partying. There seemed to be little remorse or concern about her lack of spiritual interest.

I have had more people inform me that so and so is "saved" because he "walked the aisle" and "accepted Jesus into his heart" at a church or Christian gathering. These supposedly saved folks exhibited little regard for the faith or their activities.

I asked an elder in Texas why so many people profess the faith and so few people seem to show any effort in pursuing the faith. He said the longer he was a Christian, the more people he believed were not Christian in spite of their protests to the contrary.

Pete Briscoe, an awesome pastor in Texas, dove into this topic and discussed chronic sin. I am paraphrasing what he said. He thought that the difference between a Christian and one who confesses but does not possess the faith is how that person responds to the sin. True Christians fall down, realize their sin, repent, pick themselves up and continue in this process until the day they go home.

In contrast, a non-possesser of the faith, falls down, doesn’t give two hoots about it, does relatively little to prevent such a repeat fall and mutters something about “once saved, always saved.”


The Christian faith in America has entered what Michael Spencer called the "post evangelical wilderness". Everyone defines what is right in their own eyes and splintering is occurring at an alarming rate. How else would pastors like Ed Young Jr, Joel Osteen, and Benny Hinn achieve such worldly success?

We now offer cheap grace and just about cheap everything else. This would include cheap forgiveness, cheap healing, cheap faith and cheap repentance.

What is the posture of the true Christian? We must be willing to offer forgiveness when it is asked of us. Here is a link to an article called Beware of Cheap Forgiveness. LINK


The writer takes on the passage that claims you must forgive or God will not forgive you. Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Does this verse really mean that unless you forgive “Brother X’s sin against you”, God will not forgive your sins?

The author calls our attention to several verses such as Colossians 3:13 (NIV) " Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

He says that such verses state that “we are commanded to forgive others in the same manner that God forgives us.”


 He goes on to elaborate the following. “How does God forgive us? Only when we confess. Confession opens the door to forgiveness. I John 1:9 says, “If…” underscore that conditional clause, “…if we confess our sins…” then comes the apodosis, or the consequence, “God will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Nothing in the Bible indicates that God forgives sin if people don’t confess and repent of the sin.”


"Furthermore, the Bible always calls the sinner to repentance—that is, a radical reversal of the attitudes and actions that resulted in the sin. Confession without repentance is always hollow.”  He refers to Acts 2:37-38 (ESV)


Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers,what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."


Note in this verse the following pints. The listeners were “cut to the heart.” They felt remorse. They were told to repent and then they would receive the forgiveness of their sins. The author concludes “What Scripture does teach is that we must always be ready and willing, as God is always ready and willing, to forgive those who repent. But forgiveness without confession and repentance doesn’t lead to reconciliation.”


The author then goes on to quote Bonhoeffer.

“cheap grace… which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner.”


It is imperative that the sinner deeply repent in order to achieve forgiveness from God and then from the offended party. If this step is not taken, true reconciliation with both God and man is not possible. Isn’t that what it is all about, a restored relationship? The author says “Genuine forgiveness and Biblical reconciliation require a two-person transaction that is enabled by the confession and repentance.”


I found an excellent article in the National Catholic Reporter written by Bill Tammeus, who calls himself a small “c” catholic (meaning he is Protestant), which addresses the issue of forgiveness in light of the terrible sex abuse debacle in the RCC. LINK

On a side note: there have been far too many Baptists who have smugly pointed to the abuses in the RCC. There are far too many sex scandals in the SBC for anyone to point fingers elsewhere.


I don’t necessarily agree in total with the author’s position but I feel that he brings some much needed perspective to the situation. I fully expect that some readers will dismiss the article out of hand just because it is in a Catholic publication. Please don’t. His words are thought provoking. I also would love to get the perspectives of our Calvinist readers about his view of the Reformed tradition approach to sin in the first paragraph.


“At one time I might have said, simply (and simplistically), that I think it’s everyone’s obligation to forgive and move on. I’d have said that out of my Reformed Tradition (Presbyterian) theology, and no doubt I could have said sincere words to justify it theologically.”


He now disagrees with this perspective and goes onto explain. He believes that only the victim has the right to forgive a criminal act. In other words, if a pedophile raped 10 boys, only the boys and the family can forgive him. A pastor cannot forgive these acts for the boys. Yet, how many churches end up forgiving the criminal and ignoring the victims?


The author expresses concern about the “instant forgiveness” offered by the Amish to the man who killed five children. He claims that such forgiveness is based in self interest due to faulty theology. He says:


“Indeed, once one understood the foundational motive for that immediate forgiveness (the German Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer called such forgiveness “cheap grace”) the act became even more problematic. That’s because the Amish understood that if they didn’t forgive, they themselves would not be forgiven by God and that would jeopardize their chances for an eternal relationship with God. A harsh way of putting it is that they didn’t forgive as an act of charity but as an act of self-interest.

A most interesting perspective on forgiveness ends this thought provoking article. He says that forgiveness, in the sex abuse scandal, would involve a transaction involving more that just the pedophile priest and the victim. He says that the entire church leadership must be involved in the act of repentance since the leadership deliberately covered up for the abusers.


He ends his article by saying “Forgiveness can and should be liberating, but not if we do it on the cheap. In the end, there’s no iPhone app for it.”


I leave you with this short video on cheap forgiveness. Although it is directed at forgiveness within marriage, it fits well for the church as well.


Here are two quotes from Bonhoeffer to contemplate after you view this video. LINK

"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."


"Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."



Lydia's Corner: 1 Samuel 14:1-52 John 7:31-53  Psalm 109:1-31 Proverbs 15:5-7


Cheap Grace and Cheap Platitudes: The SBC Leading the Way — 16 Comments

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    you said “…who died in a prison camp for his part in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler (note to patriarchs-this is a real man)…”

    I hope the parenthetical statement is not based on the preceding statement? You not saying he was a “Real” man because he attempted to assassinate Hitler and certainly not, I wouldn’t think, because he failed in that attempt are you?

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    Oh no, real men would have “reasoned” with Hitler and used lots of stats. I am sure that would have worked. Wonder why we did not think of that with bin Laden?

  3. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Karlton, I think the references to “real men” or girlie men is a response to the patriarchal focus on gender roles. The TWW women are using their own faulty doctrine against them. I think it is hilarious. Doug Phillips, Piper, Eldridge, etc are always making the man out to be the warrior and great spiritual leader.

    I do understand your point but think you are missing the larger point of the post. I am not sure if this is an oversight on your part or simply a way to refocus the conversation to one you think is an easy win for your ego.

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    Some of these guys remind me of Neville Chamberlain.

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    He gave up his life to save the lives of many Jews. He was willing to take a risk. That is a real man.

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    And then he offered comfort and care to other prisoners before he was executed. Read his Letters and Papers from Prison.

  7. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Great post. You mention some great leaders in the faith and some great concepts and truths here.

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    Great post! You have given all of us much to ponder.

    Martin said,

    “The TWW women are using their own faulty doctrine against them”

    Care to elaborate on our “faulty doctrine” here at TWW? I am most interested.

  9. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    “The TWW women are using their own faulty doctrine against them”

    It is the fault of my grammatical structure. I meant that the patriarchs have faulty doctrine and you are using it against them in ways I am finding quite amusing. In other words, you are taking what they teach and pointing out how they are not really living out what they teach.

    For example, they claim to be protectors and responsible but they spend all their time on gender roles and ignore ministers in their midst who are predators. How is that being the “protectors” they claim to be? You call them girly men and it fits

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    “Some of these guys remind me of Neville Chamberlain”

    Some are even more like Marshall Petain and collaborate with the enemy. Steve Gaines and Paige Patterson come to mind….

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    Thanks so much for your clarification. Yes, the patriarchs emphasize over and over again Scripture verses that support their extra-Biblical teaching and ignore the rest. I hope we are helping our brothers and sisters in Christ to understand that.

    There will be much more to come on this topic because it’s definitely a HOT BUTTON issue with us.


  12. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    The whole submission thing has been so badly exegeted, as have several of Paul’s passages that seem to suggest a secondary role for women. The only clear statement he made was as to his practice not HIS practice, using the word “I”. Patriarchy and a secondary role for women is a phenomenon of the Fall. It is the result of sin. God’s comments to Adam and Eve are descriptive not prescriptive, and boy was God right about that. Men can be boors, abusive, power seeking over the women and children around them.

    Seeking to maintain the male dominance in religion, some have come up with a heresy — the eternal submission of the Son to the Father (ESS). Jesus said “I and the Father are One.” Jesus while on earth was submissive to the Father and to their joint plan for our salvation.

    The Bible teaches that we are all priests to each other. There is no hierarchy seen in the new testament church, which met in homes, including in the home of at least one independent business woman who traveled and carried Paul’s message to a church.

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    Many scholars think the whole head covering thing was Paul being sarcastic to the church for even considering such a thing. How, if circumcision is not important does one come to the conclusion that head covering is.

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    Couldn’t agree with you more! We have discussed ESS in the past, but we have picked up some new readers. There will be upcoming posts on this topic for their benefit.

    We will also be getting back into so-called “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”, which isn’t biblical at all! Time is on our side because we are beginning to see the havoc being wreaked by these false doctrines in Sovereign Grace Ministries, a “family of churches” which seems to have been enforcing these doctrines for decades. There is no way to avoid the law of sowing and reaping, and SGM has planted some really BAD seeds. CJ and Company must really be praying for crop failure.

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    If forgiveness means not holding onto a grudge and hatred that consumes you and turns you into a bad person, then yes, everyone should forgive. Just like it is said that the Sabbath was for the benefit of mankind, maybe forgiveness if meant for our inner peace and happiness, and deny Satan a foothold into our lives. However, there is nothing wrong with simultaneously forgiving, then seeking justice from government and asking God for vengeance. Doing these things are the only way some people can forgive.

    I saw a documentary on the late Pope John Paul and how he forgave the man who shot him. Everyone praised the Pope, rightly so, but I remember being struck that the charges were not dropped and the gunman was still in prison. I remember thinking that is not fair. The Pope gets all this credit for being a forgiving person. But if anyone in my old fundamentalist church had done the same thing, we would be condemned for not dropping all the charges, told it therefore not “true forgiveness”, and maybe we weren’t “really” Christians.

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    re: Dr. Gary and Barb – “America’s Family Coaches”?