Sunday, October 23, 2005

Thoughts on This Morning's Sermon

I was a bit concerned in church today. Durning the sermon the Senior Pastor quoted Phillip Gulley from the book What's So Amazing About Grace. Phillip Gulley is a Quaker minister from Indiana. Here is a synopsis from of the book mentioned in the sermon:
In What's So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God's love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy? Yancey sets grace in the midst of life's stark images, tests its mettle against horrific "ungrace." Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men? In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace's life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear?

I have never read the book quoted in the service, but I have read If Grace is True. And I almost couldn't get through it. I argued with the authors the whole way through the book. Here's why (again, taken fro
Ordained pastors with backgrounds in traditional Protestant denominations, Gulley (Home to Harmony) and Mulholland (Praying Like Jesus) are now Quaker ministers and Universalists who believe that God will in fact save every person and banish no one to the fiery furnace. For every scriptural passage promoting "an eye for an eye," they counter with as many advocating "turn the other cheek." Jesus is deemed Lord and Savior, but his blood was not spilled to expiate human sins. As for the concept of free will-that is, each of us has to choose between accepting and rejecting God, thereby sealing our own fate-they argue that it is not up to us to choose salvation; God has already chosen to save everyone. Do the authors argue convincingly that each of us will end up in "heaven"? Yes. Will they convince all readers that there is no "hell" reserved for the likes of Hitler and Saddam Hussein? Probably not. Still, even those who believe in the absolute inerrancy of the King James version of the Bible will find something here to encourage them to rethink beliefs they have held for years.

(You should go here and read the reviews...)

Gulley's views on faith don't square with Lutheran Confessions. Grace is given freely, but through faith, not just because I'm a good person. That was hammered into my skull again and again after reading the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. No matter how you spin it, we recieve grace through Christ through faith. Its that simple. Gulley has totally gutted the Christian faith in his zeal to be "inclusive" and "universalist." He has taken Christ out of the equation.

*Correction* oops, I messed up. Thanks to Dave for finding and alerting me to it.


Anonymous said...

We went to University Lutheran church in Clemson yesterday. Liked it. It might be the church for us.

dave said...

You can rest easy. Your pastor isn't going universalist on you. I believe what happened is the conflation of two author's identities. What's So Amazing About Grace? is written by a Philip Yancey (double-check the review you quoted), while If Grace Is True is written by a Philip Gulley, whose congregation is near my home. You're absolutely right about Gulley's theology--it is absolutely Christ-less. He seems to start with the premise that God is love and selectively builds his theology from there. He must like the beginning of John 3:16--God certainly does love the world!--but he seems to gloss right over the part about whoever believes in His only Son not perishing but having eternal life. Likewise in the next two verses. I'm sure he likes the part that says God didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but I'm sure the part about those that don't believe being condemned because they don't believe in the name of the only Son of God would be a bit of a problem for his universalistic sensibilities.

BTW, my plate has been full as of late, so I've been rather scarce. Loved your Playbook posts! I also noticed that your employer is building a store in the new Metropolis complex in Plainfield--any chance of your transferring there when it opens this spring?