A Biblical definition of GRACE needs to be clarified before we look at what Seth and AIM teach.
“The word ‘grace’ thus comes to express the thought of God acting in spontaneous goodness to save sinners: God loving the unlovely, making covenant with them, pardoning their sins, accepting their persons, revealing Himself to them, moving them to response, leading them ultimately into full knowledge and enjoyment of Himself, and overcoming all obstacles to the fulfillment of this purpose that at each stage arise. Grace is election-love plus covenant-love, a free choice issuing in a sovereign work. Grace saves from sin and all evil; grace brings ungodly men to true happiness in the knowledge of their Maker. This is the concept of grace with which the New Testament writers work.” J.I. Packer
Romans 5 is all about God’s grace toward repentant sinners, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God….”
Let’s see what AIM’s leader, Seth Barnes, has to say about grace, in Searching for a place of grace, he says,
“God himself gave us ten rules upon which to organize our lives and multiple books of the Bible to show us the specific ways in which we should live. But Jesus, knowing we’re terrible rule-keepers, has a better idea. He wants to help us make a paradigm shift away from the old covenant and toward a new way of living…”
10 rules to organize our lives by?? Scripture says,
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
The law condemns us, it doesn’t organize our life. Grace is the only way we are justified (Eph 2:8-9), however, we are proven genuinely saved by our obedience.
I John 2:5-6 says, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Rom 6:16
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22
“As I reflect on my upbringing in the church and in missions and I think about all the complicated situations I was in that needed grace, it’s amazing how graceless many of the communities I was in were. When people messed up, they were kicked out.”
Seth’s idea of grace is overlooking sin. This is reiterated in the Racer’s testimony above… “Minimizing the real dangers of sin by accepting the fact that “life is messy”.
A church is mandated by Christ in Matt 18 to punish unrepentant sinners, Matt 18:17, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Christ wants His church pure, “…so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Phil 1:10-11
“You have to appreciate the role of rules and then you have to be willing to break them when grace is more right than the rules…I want to live in a place where rules are respected, but grace is normal. For 25 years I’ve been fighting to create a place like that at Adventures…It’s the glistening white surface on the pearl of great price that Jesus described. “
Grace has been defined here as love and acceptance with no holy standards. Sin is minimized and the “pearl of great price” is undefined. Here is what Jesus actually said about His laws and the pearl in Matthew 13:41-46,
“…The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. …Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
The pearl is a picture of salvation, hidden, but once revealed by God’s grace, it is worth giving up everything for. Law breakers, unjustified by Christ’s atoning death through faith and repentance, will be thrown into hell. Seth says the opposite, his definition of the priceless pearl is a life free from rules. Seth is not sowing good seed…in the preceding verses 37-39 we read,
“He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.”
In this world of Adventures that Seth is “fighting to create”, “grace” trumps obedience, sin with no repentance is just fine and it is more loving and gracious to overlook sin. Contrast this with King David who was very aware of the unmerited favor given to him, an unworthy sinner.
“Be gracious to me, O God,
according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:1-4)
Note how sins are marginalized and called “flaws”,
“So, it’s about identity and insecurity. I see so many insecure people living under the weight of their all-too obvious flaws and I know that there is an answer. People make peace with their flaws all the time – why not be one?…When the spotlight is on your flaws, you can’t. So to get to where you can breathe again, you have to somehow escape that place of condemnation.“
Unfortunately, no Biblical answer to how to escape the condemnation of sin is given by Seth. Rom 8:2 says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”