by C Michael PattonMay 23rd, 2013 98 Comments
Without question, one of the most disturbing traits of the world of theology is the far too often reality that grace is eclipsed by theological legalism.
Twice today I encountered this in its most blatant forms by two very different types of people. Both were very passionate about theology and both, undoubtedly, believe that their attitude toward me or my teaching is justified and honoring to the Lord. However, I believe that both of these men sacrificed a major issue of grace in defense of minor issues in theology.
The first, whose name I will not share as he is undoubtedly well-known to most of you, caught me very much off guard. (And it is not really easy to catch me off guard as I receive dozens of “hate” emails every day from those who believe it is their job to put me back on the path of theological astuteness.) This man, a significant theologian in the world of reformation theology, does not believe I take theology seriously enough. Of course his reasoning comes (I imagine) from the fact that I don’t agree with him. And, of course, if I took theology seriously, I would agree with him! Ironically, this lack of grace often comes from those who believe most strongly in the reformed “doctrines of grace.” But this man sent me one of the most ungracious emails I have ever received. And, yes, it did hurt my feelings. But more than that—believing that this man’s criticism of me comes from his general disdain from the “heresy” of Evangelical Calvinism—it discouraged me that someone who believes he is so right theologically can be so graceless personally.
The second came from a Fundamentalist who was quite disturbed that I would suggest that Catholics could be saved. To be fair, I remember in the mid-nineties when Billy Graham suggested the same on national television. I was so angry and confused. I could not believe that Billy Graham would be so theologically inept as to make such a suggestion. In order for me to retain the belief that Billy Graham was saved, I had to convince myself that he had just gone senile in his old age. But this came from someone who has been a believer for quite some time and is a leader in his local church. This one statement (“Catholics can be saved”) has served to disqualify me and my teaching. To him, I will forever be one of the many who has compromised my faith for the glory of acceptance among men. Continue Reading »