Free Grace Food Fight

Some years have gone by since I updated this page. In my youthful zeal, I tried, and failed, to change the censorious tone of the national Free Grace movement. I got booted for my pains, although to be fair there were certainly times I made an ass of myself. Changing the movement’s direction remains a worthy cause, and perhaps someone will succeed, but God had other things for me.

I remain Free Grace — always have been. Free Grace people are my people; I became who I am largely through the training of Free Grace people and institutions who wrought better than they knew. Wherever I go, “on the flinty road, black-frosty, blown on with an eastern wind,” I’ll take the good news of the freeness of God’s grace and the gift of life through Jesus Christ. Maybe I’ll be back. The world is round.

Meanwhile, you can find me in Englewood, Colorado. Within a mile of my home, there are broken relationships, untaught believers, seekers honest and dishonest, homeless guys trying to find their next meal, junkies trying to find their next fix, abused children and their abusive parents…people who need Life that only Jesus can provide. They’ll never hear a paper at a conference, attend a seminary course, or read this blog. Many of them will never even enter a church building. I can do them more good by showing up at the park regularly.

I’m not a good solo act, but my partners are some of the best people I know. There’s a pile of good churches here, too — or put another way, there’s only One Church in Englewood, the Church of Jesus Christ, and it happens to meet all over town. Many of these groups would never pass the Free Grace movement’s painfully detailed litmus tests, yet they are brim-full of people who know, love, and walk with Jesus, preach Jesus, serve Jesus, and show Jesus to a watching world. In terms of ministry partners, I’ve done worse.

The content that was on this page is still below, for what it’s worth. I don’t know how relevant it still is; I’m not really keeping up with the discussions. Good luck to you; I’ll help you if I can. Feel free to contact me if you like, and I’ll do the best I can for you.

And if you’re passing through Englewood/south Denver, give me a shout, and we’ll get a cup of coffee.

*****

If you’re in a hurry, here’s the short version: it’s 80% personality conflicts and other relational sins seeking a convenient doctrinal issue over which to create a “respectable” division, and 20% real doctrinal substance. If you must be in it, your priorities should be first of all to conduct yourself blamelessly. Try making doctrinal truth your first priority and you’ll wind up conducting yourself as blamelessly as can be managed while you cheerfully bayonet everyone who disagrees with you, all the while patting yourself on the back for “defending the gospel.” Think I’m kidding? Look around.

***

There are several big problems in the present Free Grace Food Fight. The first, and by far the most important, is a matter of character. “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is a folly and a shame to him.” There is far too little listening going on on all sides; most of the proponents of the major positions can’t give a fair representation of their opponents — or won’t even try. A faulty conception of Christian unity continues to plague our community. And some people simply shouldn’t be allowed in the discussion to start with.

Theologically, the last year or so of studying Scripture’s own handling of Scripture has produced a fundamental shift in my thinking with three notable results for this discussion. (I owe something to Van Til and Ralph Smith on the Trinity as well.) First, the gospel is not predominantly about delivering propositions. Second, evangelism is a fuller endeavor than most realize, more about storytelling than theologizing. Third, although propositions still matter, other things do as well, and the other things require more maturity to grasp.

I am still working through how to present this material in terms of an overall biblical theology of story and history/typology, which is where it’s all headed. As far as I can tell. Details TBA, but don’t hold your breath; this stuff takes time.

Below you’ll find some older material I’ve written on the Food Fight.

Orthodoxy, Character, Wisdom and Witness: An Open Letter to the Free Grace Community is a plea to all sides in the current teapot typhoon to adhere to biblical standards not only in the content of our doctrine, but in the manner of our conduct. Nothing is quite as ugly as an ungracious man preaching a gracious message.

In late 2007 the Free Grace Alliance, of which I am not a member, graciously invited me to sit on a couple of panels at their annual conference. In that setting, I was representing minority views on a couple of very volatile issues, and I thank the FGA for their courtesy to me; they were the very model of hospitality. At their request, I provided this brief for the moderator of one of the panels. The panel format itself consisted of opening statements from each panelist, followed by questions taken from the floor. I don’t have transcriptions of the question portion, but here are my opening statements for the panels on assurance and the relationship of the cross to the gospel (if you’ve listened to the audio, these are a little different, because I went off-script in some spots). Speaking of the audio, you can now listen to both the assurance panel and the cross panel here.

13 Responses to Free Grace Food Fight

  1. My original message was erased!!!

    Owell.

    In a nutshell, I encouraged you, thanked you, appreciated you, and lifted you up in prayer.

    Your material blessed me and I pray that God continues to use you to be a minister of conciliation in the FG world.

    I had so many kewl things I said, but they are lost in electronic space!!

    owell, agian.

    Your fg brother,

    Antonio da Rosa
    http://free-grace.blogspot.com

  2. Tim:

    A few days ago at another blog you noted, “…when the FGA leadership asked me to, I cancelled my classes for a week last fall to fly to Dallas in mid-semester to participate in panel discussions on these issues.”



    The FGA panel discussion was centered on this question: “Is explicit belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection necessary for salvation?”



    I have the CD recording from the panel discussion. This was your opening response to the panel question, “I DON’T CARE!” 



    I asked you the other blog (no reply from you to date) and will repeat my question here:

    Would you please explain why you DON’T CARE about whether or not the lost must believe in the death and resurrection of Christ to be born again?

    LM

  3. Tim Nichols says:

    Antonio,

    Thanks. That’s my goal. Keep praying, brother — I can use it.

    His forever,
    Tim

  4. Tim:

    Have your say and take the last word on why you DON’T CARE.

    I am not going to help you spread the reductionist errors coming from Hodges, Wilkin and the GES.

    LM

  5. Tim Nichols says:

    Lou,

    As I said on the other blog, I have some difficulty keeping up with my reading on the internet on weekends. I’m a pastor, and I have other things to do, you know?

    If you want to have a two-way discussion, you’re going to have to accommodate the other person’s schedule — even for internet discussion. Judging from the fact that another comment from you has appeared while I’m writing this one, you’re going to have difficulty mustering the required patience. Seriously, man — relax, take a deep breath or two. You’re gonna give yourself a stroke. If you want to talk, let’s talk, but you can’t savage me for not having the hair-trigger responses that you do.

    I answered your question on the CD you heard, I answer it in the print version of my comments, available above on this very page. I also answered it on the other blog. In brief, because Scripture requires that I present the cross and resurrection anyway, and because Scripture never answers the “bare minimum message” question. For more detail, see any of the places where I answered your question in full. If you want to have a conversation, let’s have one. If not, well…that’s up to you.

    His forever,
    Tim

  6. Rose~ says:

    Tim,
    These articles were a blessing. Thank you.
    Rose

  7. Tim Nichols says:

    Rose,

    Happy to help. I’m hoping to have another round of them ready soon, but I’ve got so many balls in the air at present that it’s getting hard to know what to finish first.

    His forever,
    Tim

  8. Jim says:

    Tim let me know about the next round…It would be interesting to read.

    Jim

  9. Josiah says:

    I appreciate a lot of what you have to say Tim. As I’ve been reading both sides of this issue, I’ve found both sides guilty of accusing the other side of “leaving the faith,” or promoting some “horrible-heresy-worth-praying that-your-brother-will-come-back-to-the-fold” kind of . . . thing.

    I think that that sort of language expresses two things: a) people are really concerned b) that concern is leading to attack.

    My prayer, more than anything, is not that everyone will side on one side of the issue, but that we will be more Christ like in both our concerns and our attitudes.

    This will open the doors for further discussion.

    Secondly, it seems as if we’ve gone from trying to figure out how to clearly communicate our hope in Christ, to playing Judgment Seat.

    Is our goal to figure out who is really saved, and who has left the faith, in light of our doctrinal acid test?

    Or should we get back to, “what should we tell unbelievers in order to accurately communicate Christ’s saving message?”

    If the focus is on methodology and evangelism, vs. a positional (spiritual and doctrinal) acid test, then maybe we can all get along and get busy.

  10. Tim Nichols says:

    Josiah,

    It’s actually gotten bad enough that I’ve heard some (not everyone) say that the fight isn’t about what we say to unbelievers at all, but rather about which part of the message he has to believe to get saved — which is to say, the differences are not detectable when anybody’s actually evangelizing. And then these same folks will continue to insist that the battle is vital to the safety of the faith.

    Maybe history will side with them; I don’t know. But I think they’re wrong. And foolish. When we are merely obedient to what God has told us to do, we all work together just fine. When we begin swapping opinions about gnat-strangling fine points the Bible hasn’t clearly articulated, we can’t get along. Maybe I’m just too simple a guy, but it seems to me like maybe we could go back to simple obedience as a starting point, and use that as our common ground.

    And love one another. Let’s not forget loving one another.

    But like I said, I’m a simple guy. Maybe there’s a nuance I missed that allows us to skip the ‘love one another’ part, something analogous to “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.”

    His,
    Tim

  11. Josiah says:

    Amen.

  12. Sirius says:

    In your printed response, you make tis statement:

    God’s evangelism is 21 chapters
    long and it starts with Creation. From what we know about Paul’s evangelism, it also
    starts with Creation.

    I get the part about Paul. Mars Hill. Could you clarify a bit on the first point? What 21 chapters are you refering to?

  13. Tim Nichols says:

    Sirius,

    I’m referring to John’s gospel, which is written “that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing you might have life in His name.” (20:30-31)

    To clarify a little, I’m not saying that’s the only part of the Bible one could evangelize with, but that it is the one book with an explicitly stated evangelistic purpose. (And as it happens, I believe that the synoptic gospels were written to a believing audience anyway.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: