Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Hyper-Grace by Dr. Michael Brown

Rarely is a book responding to error within the church so timely, conscientious, and precise. While I value much grace teaching today and don’t believe this is the final revelation on the subject, I must recommend Hyper-Grace to every believer exposed to modern grace teaching.

Dr. Michael Brown’s Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of theModern Grace Message is a much needed response to the deluge of popular new grace theology in the church today. In a respectful but emphatic tone Dr. Brown interacts with a large variety of popular “grace movement” teachers and doctrines, highlighting both liberating truth and destructive error. Hyper-Grace carries out a systematic examination, asking difficult questions, examining a wealth of scriptural interpretation, and thoroughly interacting with the main tenets of new “grace theology” in a clear and engaging way.

The table of contents alone posits questions that both “grace teachers” and those examining their theology need to answer: “Has God Already Forgiven our Future Sins?” “Should Believers Confess their Sins to God?” “[Are we]Sanctified or Not?”  “Is Spirituality Effortless?” “Is God Always in a Good Mood?” “Why are we Running from the Words of Jesus?” Dr. Brown’s chapters also ask if the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers and/or believers of sin and if so should we repeny? and what does that mean? The fact that many of these questions have risen means that foundational Christian teaching and understanding is being questioned. Many believers who have taken answers to these questions for granted must go back to the Word and examine why they believe what they believe. Dr. Brown quotes large portions of published works naming specific teachers and interacting with the teacher’s comments themselves sometimes positively and often negatively. While I have not read every work the book interacts with, I have read some, and his approach seems fair, though critical. He acknowledges, “[grace teachers] have stated categorically that grace does not give us a license to sin. That is not the question.”

Condensing his concerns at the beginning of the book Dr. Brown states, “I’m afraid that many modern grace teachers, in their zeal to safe-guard the glories of grace, preach their message without fundamental aspects of biblical truth. These would include: 1) God requires holy living from His people; 2) our sins do have an impact on our relationship with God; 3) you can preach grace and preach against sin at the same time; 4) there is much in the Old Testament that remains of foundational relevance to believers under grace.” All of these points are vital and need to be thoroughly discussed by those interacting with modern grace teaching. I have been greatly blessed by many preachers and teachers who could be considered a part of the “grace movement.” I have also been highly disturbed by those who claim that the Holy Spirit no longer convicts us of sin, that we don’t have to repent, that God is pleased with us regardless of our behavior, that the Sermon on the Mount and teachings of Jesus don’t apply to believers and other more egregious errors. I have sat late in the middle of the night discussing these same points with friends, leaders, and co-laborers in the gospel. I am delighted that Dr. Brown has addressed many of these same concerns not only in broad strokes or concepts but in specific and thorough treatment.

Hyper-Grace excels when fleshing out our real relationship with Jesus Christ. Our daily walk and talk with our Father, our response to His Spirit, and our worship, conversation, and love walk with the Son must be at the center of our theology. We must have an honest understanding of how grace relates to our ongoing and open relationship with our living God. Dr. Brown elucidates point after point about our daily interaction with God that challenges modern grace theology. Much “grace teaching” makes sense only in the light of a mechanical system of justification but fades into irrelevance when placed in the context of a relationship with a living Person. I especially loved the chapter “Find Out What Pleases the Lord,” which clarifies with verse after verse that there are actions and behavior that clearly please God and there are actions and behavior that clearly displease God.

I do not agree with everything Dr. Brown writes in Hyper-Grace. While in general I hold the same theology, I would speak and write with a different nuance than Dr. Brown, and perhaps even openly disagree, on certain points regarding forgiveness, the law, the new nature, and the sin nature. There were a couple of times when I wrote next to  a quote “Dr. Farley is right” or “Dr. Ellis is right” [Andrew Farley and Paul Ellis]. Mostly these were occasions when Dr. Brown was questioning what exactly was meant by a certain statement, but though I often went on to agree with Dr. Brown’s point I also emphatically agree with some statements from “grace teachers.” The pure in heart will benefit enormously from the new understanding of true grace and identity in Christ that is rising within the church today. Those looking for ways to avoid dealing with their sin will also find theology that masks the sting of their conscience. All involved need to re-examine the scriptures and their theology in light of the new understandings of grace. I look forward to articles and books from "grace theology" proponents interacting with Dr. Brown's Hyper-Grace.

In the midst of examining modern grace theology, Hyper-Grace offers a clear and positive view of genuine biblical grace in all of its beauty. While the unqualified and often exaggerated statements of modern grace theology are attractive, love rejoices in the truth, and Dr. Brown brings verse after verse forward to create a beautiful, biblical collage describing the true, life-changing, liberating grace of God which leaves no room for condemnation. It’s a grace that requires great things of us, but empowers us beyond failures, fantasies or excuses.

I have page after page of Hyper-Grace filled with highlighter and marginalia. I cannot wait to discuss this book with both those who will agree and disagree, but most of all with those who like me have greatly benefited from both sides of the discussion. This book is much needed in the body of Christ today, not only to correct significant error, but to draw believers into a lucid understanding of grace, sanctification, and a vibrant relationship with God.

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