Condemned by Man’s Grace
A neighbor left me with a book with which he was impressed. It was Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace? It is helpful to point out that my neighbor has no desire for, or interest in, the Scriptures, true faith, and least of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Truth. He and his wife, who are Catholic, aren't the least interested in anything I have to say concerning God. Yet apparently they esteem Yancey's book as inspiring and godly. I red it; Yancey in all his delusion has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, except to misrepresent Him and give the common vile definition of grace we see abounding everywhere in nominal Christendom.
Philip Yancey publishes a shining example of “Christian” contradiction. He claims to believe in grace and to have faith in a “Jesus.”
So what is grace? Grace has been defined as unmerited favor, something man does not possess in his own right or power, something the Bible says is quite foreign to him outside of God.
So what is the presumed source of the grace Yancey espouses? He would say the source is God, yet he criticizes nominal Christendom and expects it to have that which is not possible to have…but by God’s grace!
He expects an egg to lay a chicken, and a serpent’s egg at that.
We need the grace of God not only because we don’t deserve anything other than condemnation from God for our ways, but because we are as powerless to find favor with Him as we are to sprout wings and fly.
Yancey’s error is that he condemns, in hypocritical “Christian,” “non-judgmental” form, nominal Christians who fail to have and to demonstrate the grace of God to the world, as though they don’t need God to provide that grace.
The Bible is clear that when man receives that gift of grace from God, he receives both the desire and the ability to bestow grace upon his fellows. That gift of grace becomes his nature.
If one is able to dispense grace, it is only because he received it in the first place. If he cannot have grace to give except it is freely and undeservedly given him, how then should Yancey be able to condemn him for not having or giving it? Is this not the height of contradiction?
Yancey says true things. For example, he allows that repentance is the gate to grace; however, where does one find it in his power to enter that gate? Jesus declared:
“No one can come to Me unless the Father Who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Therefore everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:44-45 MKJV).
Grace must reach to the very beginning of man’s need for goodness, of which he is entirely bankrupt. Even repentance comes by the grace of God. I look around and I see multitudes in unrepentance. Of those who are repentant, I perceive that it is only by the grace of God. Certainly I did not repent except by the grace of God; this I know and this is what the Bible clearly teaches:
Ephesians 2:4-10 MKJV
(4) But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us
(5) (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),
(6) and has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,
(7) so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
(8) For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,
(9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.
(10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
The apostle Paul said that it was God Who caused us (believers) not only to do good, but to even want to do good:
“For it is God Who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 MKJV).
Yancey describes grace as manifest mercy, forgiveness, and goodness, such as expressed in the parable of the “good Samaritan” helping the beaten, left-for-dead traveler, or in the parable of the father gladly receiving his prodigal son back with no strings attached. All this is true, but Yancey fails to see God as the sole Author of that grace.
He also fails to see the grace of God working in the negative. For example, when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, what was God up to? He was sending Joseph into Egypt and preparing him to rule in the future so as to save his father’s family, Egypt, and even the nations round about from a coming terrible famine, which God also engineered. It was all grace, both the need and the supply.
As well, by grace, God would be forming a nation out of Jacob’s family. That nation was formed through bondage, in the iron furnace of Egypt, through suffering over centuries. Apparently, Yancey thinks suffering to be a crime.
Where does Yancey get off chastising the churches for not extending grace to others, just because they don’t do what he thinks they ought? Yancey’s idea of grace, if he were to live true by it, would have compelled him to build many arks in Noah’s day, to save as many as possible from the Flood. And Yancey would condemn Noah for not bringing aboard as many as possible. I almost suspect that he would even try to save the fish.
While Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord, the rest of humanity did not, at that time. Was God lacking grace or power? If not, Yancey condemns God Himself for not exercising more grace. My reply to him is this:
Grace is God’s business, and He is faithful and sure to dispense grace when, how, and through whom HE sees fit; all judgment is in HIS hands.
Yancey presumes that grace is exercised by man in man’s wisdom, and thus he judges (and condemns) men according to his perceptions. His problem is that he only knows Christ after the flesh, with limited, carnal understanding. He fails to attribute goodness to God alone and thus condemns the righteousness of God as not being unique and sufficient, by supplanting it with man’s righteousness and his own. This is something for which the Lord reproved the rich young ruler:
“And behold, one came and said to Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? And He said to him, Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the Commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17 MKJV).
As the one who came to Jesus was looking to man as good because trusting in his own goodness, so Yancey errs, expecting and even demanding goodness from man. So doing, he dismisses God’s righteousness, which is the only righteousness there is, as Jesus said.
And if one condemns the righteousness of God, he condemns man for his unrighteousness. This may seem like a contradiction, but if God’s righteousness is not enough, then someone must do something to take up the slack; if man doesn’t do it (and Yancey is right in saying that he hasn’t), then Yancey criticizes him for it. But man can’t do it – it has to be God’s doing.
So hear your own words, Philip Yancey; hear your own words! Where is your grace? And are you dispensing it as you say others ought to do? Do you have enough to go around for those you think lack it?
And if you obtained it, how did you manage to do so? Did you buy it with all your hard earned money? Did you get it by your own virtue somehow or because you deserved it? If so, then it is no longer the true Biblical grace of God that you received, is it? At least, not according to the Bible:
“Even so then, also in this present time a remnant according to the election of grace has come into being. But if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it is of works, then it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:5-6 MKJV).
Ironically, Yancey writes: “Nietzsche gave this warning, which applies to modern Christians: ‘Be careful, lest in fighting the dragon you become the dragon.’” In other words, one is liable to become that upon which he focuses. Yancey has set himself up as judge after the appearance. His book is all about chastising men for lack of grace. He becomes that upon which he has focused; he judges without grace.
Yancey has focused on the lack of his concept of grace – lack of grace on the part of men; thus is he self-righteous and judgmental, concocting, and walking in, his own grace. It is the perspective not of a prophet who tells people their sins and shortfalls, but of the “well meaning” accuser of the brethren, who finds fault because attributing virtue and righteousness to the flesh.
The proof in the Scriptures of this is where Jesus spoke of suffering death, and Peter rebuked Him saying, “God be gracious to You, Lord. This shall never be to You.” Jesus replied, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, because you savor not the things of God but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).
Men hate the thought of suffering and evil; they hate the thought of correction and judgment. Therefore, Yancey is very popular, because he chooses man’s way and righteousness, sparing the rod. But suffering, evil, judgment, and correction are needed and dispensed by the grace of God, whether through human agency or otherwise, to bring forth good. And those who think like, and follow, Yancey will suffer disillusionment.
Yancey’s message is one of hypocrisy and self-righteousness, attributing to man powers he does not have and condemning him when he fails to exercise those powers. Yet Yancey allows himself to escape the judgment he foists on others, by having a double standard. In declaring we are all in need of total grace, he salves his wicked conscience and justifies his own shortfall before God.
Here is the crux of Philip Yancey’s problem: He knows enough of the Bible to know there is such a thing as grace. He knows Christians are supposed to experience and practice grace, but he doesn’t see that grace in the Christian Church; that is, he doesn’t see that grace in what he thinks is the Christian Church.
Not knowing God’s grace himself, and not having experienced the true life in Jesus Christ by a new birth, he has mistaken the false church for the true. Those he calls Christians are Christians in name only, and that is why he finds no grace; hence the confusion.
Not having experienced God’s grace, he does not know that only God can grant it to any man. Not knowing this, he assumes (albeit I think he would deny it) that professing Christians must produce that grace. Finding that they do not do so, he condemns them in what he presumes to be a gracious way.
Mr. Yancey would do well to stop writing and begin seeking after the Lord for grace.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16 MKJV).
Judging by our site and the things we have to say to, and about, nominal Christendom, one might ask, “Who are you to criticize Yancey? Do you not find fault with those who profess faith in Christ, taking them to task for their unbelief, doctrine, and practice?” To which I reply, “The difference is that while Yancey is trying to get blood from a stone and beating the stone for not producing it, we are calling a stone a stone, exposing it for what it is, and casting it off as something pretentious and illegitimate, expecting nothing from it. We preach Christ and repentance so that people may obtain grace from Him, rather than trying to walk by their own light.”
But God must give Philip the true grace in His time and way, and one day, He will. Yancey will receive it, repent, and entering that narrow gate, will have something to talk or write about, something that will minister reality to others. The grace of God will flow through him to others, so that they will be edified toward God and not turned away from Him instead.
By the grace of God, those who read his present literature will be kept from deception, escaping the harmful effects of that which parades as essential truth and godly counsel.
And by the grace of God, we are also tried, proven, and victorious.