Jason B. Hood, in an article in Christianity Today, wrote an article criticizing the teaching of radical grace. You can read the whole article here:
Apparently the teaching of radical grace is much more widespread than I had realized, which is heartening! He speaks as if this is a significant and widespread movement whose beliefs must be guarded against. His basic thesis is that those who believe in a radical form of grace hold that a charge of antinomianism is a badge of honor, and that being heresy, it is a ridiculous litmus test for spiritual authenticity. If you are not familiar with antinomianism, there is a great explanation of it here:
Hood says that such preachers teach that
“one should not lay great stress (particularly in pulpit ministry) on the pursuit of holiness and radical descriptions of the requirements of Christian discipleship.”
He later goes on to say that Paul does draw the charge of allowing moral license because of the grace afforded by the gospel, and refutes it:
The antinomian charge will not stick for Paul, and is in fact repudiated in the most vociferous way. Romans 6:1 asks two questions—What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?—which are introduced by Paul so that he can utterly refute them. His first two words in the Greek of 6:2, me genoito, are the strongest possible denial available to him in Greek—a denial so strong that it difficult to express in English without using “French.”
I have to counter that if Paul had not laid down an idea of radical grace, the question would not have risen in the first place. He raises the question because it is the natural conclusion from what he has been saying:
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” Romans 3:21-24, NASB.
Paul’s answer is clearly NOT to simply press us into a heavier obligation of moral fortitude because of grace! Mr. Hood abandons Paul’s line of argument directly, after noting that he doesn’t expect our newfound belief in grace to lead to moral license. What is Paul’s line of argument?
“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.” Romans 6:11-14, NASB.
As I’ve said many times, when we are introduced to grace, we are justified completely, and we undergo an identity change. Paul is not telling us to place ourselves back under obligation to the law. He is telling us to live in accordance with our new identity. However, even when we fail to do so, we are still under grace, and our new identity remains secure. If this is ‘antinomianism’ then so be it. I think it is normal Christianity.
There is some logical inconsistency going on in Mr. Hood’s article, and in all who will not cozy up to the fact that Paul, and indeed the whole NT, really does teach radical grace. If we are justified as a gift His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, then it is true that we are not under obligation to do the works of the law to procure our own justification. There is no ambiguity. We are justified as a gift. It is a grave disservice to water this down or bring in an obligation to do works after the work of justification has been accomplished for someone.
If this is true, if this is real, that we must do nothing to secure our own justification, then this is a game changer. We are free, free indeed! It is an antinomian dream! If it isn’t true, then Jesus’ death was of no account, it is all a strange and disturbing story about some weird guy a long time ago. If we can still break our justification, then we are lost.
Mr. Hood would say, you are mixing up things! I’m not talking about justification, I’m talking about sanctification. This is the whole point of the teaching of radical grace. If your idea of sanctification isn’t touched by your justification, you are right back under obligation to the law. However, we are not under law, but under grace! As Paul says later,
“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Romans 11:6, NASB.
So radical grace leads to and expects radical obedience, but it is the obedience of a gifted musician to the music he loves, not the obedience of a coal miner to their detested job. Mr. Hood sets up a caricature of the teaching of the radical grace movement and shoots that down, arguing in a roundabout way that it is a wrongly celebrated heresy. Instead, I argue that radical grace is the only path to true heartfelt holiness that flows from the desire and depends on the substance of the new creature that we have become. Under radical grace, we walk by the Spirit not the flesh. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled call to abandon the walk of the spirit and come under the flesh. We must not bow to the ridicule of such men. It is all too common. Grace, true radical grace, is the crown jewel of the Christian faith, and the only path to holiness and joy. It is the only path which is able to produce holiness as a fruit without making an idol of ourselves or our behavior.