In this blogpost I’d like to reflect on yet another theological stream that I can see in Scandinavia, often referred to as grace teaching. I have seen a number of examples especially in Norway and Sweden, and some of the influences would be for example Joseph Prince from Singapore and Åge Åleskär from Norway. Some might object to call this stream reformed and I’m not sure if they would themselves, but I’ve heard for example Joseph Prince quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones to back up his theology, and he is undoubtedly reformed, so whether “the grace teaching” is reformed or not is not the topic, they are at least inspired by reformed theology and therefore belong in these reflections.
The theology of the grace preaching would emphasize that Jesus has lived and perfected the whole of the law and given the result (righteousness) to those who believe. Therefore we are not under the law and it doesn’t apply to us any longer. The focus would be to liberate people from all kind of legalism and musts that Christians so easily fall under. At least some preachers in this stream would put a strong border line at the cross basically saying that everything that takes place before the cross (including the life of Jesus) belong to the Old Covenant and therefore does not apply to the New Covenant established at the cross of Jesus. The critics would call this stream licensious (i.e. giving permission to “sin under grace”) and neglecting for example Jesus teaching in the sermon on the mount.
My primary reflection is that there is actually very much in this theological stream that I appreciate. They are inspired by solid reformed theologians in their understanding of law and grace and they truly know how to rejoice in God’s gift of righteousness. This is not a bad thing in my perspective but something I believe they are right in doing!
My second reflection is a concern I have. In the 80′s the “faith movement” started because they felt that there was a need for teaching on faith in Sweden and everything was built around one topic in Scripture. Altough many things were very healthy with this faith teaching, some things did go wrong and that was partly, I believe, beause their theology was all focused around one area in the Scripture. The current grace teachers, many who have backgrounds in the faith movement, I believe are sometimes very close to do the same mistake all over again, but this time the theological focus is another issue lacking in Scandinavia, i.e. grace. The risk would be that longing to see the teaching of grace being restored to church they will start to build “grace churches” rather than “faith churches”. I strongly believe in the grace of God and the need for a biblical understanding of the grace of God to be restored to the Scandinavian churches, but my longing is first of all to build with “the whole counsel of the Lord” in order to see a biblical church, rather than just a grace church.
My third and final reflection is on the division of Old and New Covenant on the cross. I don’t want to claim that they are wrong because I would need to study the details of what they claim before I would like to make that kind of statement, and certainly the cross is very central to the Christian faith. However, sometimes I feel that it is a quick and unreflected way to get away from Jesus teaching. My perspective would rather be that Jesus came with grace and truth and when Jesus began his public ministry he proclaimed “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15. I believe there is a breaking in with the kingdom of God, which is part of the New Covenant which starts with Jesus coming to earth rather than with the cross. Jesus also certainly preached the good news, the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation, and central for the New Covenant, so even if the death of Jesus at the cross is establishing the covenant in blood, it certainly comes to us through the life of Jesus.