Earning in hypergraceDallas Willard, noted Christian philosopher and writer on Christian spiritual formation, wrote:”Grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.”
Hypergrace teaching promotes an “effortless” pseudo-Christianity that de-emphasizes works of sanctification in Christian life. Instead, it claims that since Christ has done all the work necessary for salvation, there is nothing we need to do but receive all the blessings (usually material) that flow therefrom. Hypergrace preacher Joseph Prince’s notion of “resting” in Christ’s finished work effectively results in a lukewarm Christian spiritual life for devotees with little to no discipleship and zero formation. This is not the gospel at all.
Biblical grace is not opposed to effort, which is action. Grace is opposed to earning: earning one’s salvation through works and self-generated merit. Rather, we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. Once justified by faith in Christ, we engage in the effort of spiritual growth and sanctification by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit—a life of discipleship and spiritual formation where Spirit-empowered action is paramount. As such, grace is saturated in action and effort but without self-centred striving or earning. If effortlessness applies at all, it is this: effortless effort—action powered by the Spirit engaging one’s whole being into Christlikeness liberated from any sense of self-driven earning of merit. But action it is.
In contrast, while hypergrace teaching ostensibly preaches against effort, it is ironically riddled with earning. Hypergrace devotees are urged to declare and decree their prayer requests; name and claim their desired outcomes; tithe 10% to the church for abundant return on investment; eat the Lord’s Supper for healing like prescribed medicine; apply anointing oil on anything and everything for blessings of protection, prosperity, and success and so on.
What we see here is a list of superstitious acts designed to earn or elicit God’s supposed blessings and breakthroughs. It is evident that the attitude and activity of soliciting blessing is none other than “earning” by any other name. Ironically, a hypergrace ideology promoting “effortless” Christianity ends up conflagrating a wildfire of covetous earning. This fact refutes and negates its claim to grace. For grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.
In short, hypergrace is not grace at all! On the contrary, hypergrace opposes effort but encourages earning. It pretends to be the gospel and casts aspersions on non-hypergrace teachings as false. What an inversion of truth! Sad indeed.
Persecution is normative for true Christian disciples
While it is true that true Christian disciples will be persecuted, it is not equally true that anyone who is persecuted for their beliefs is a true Christian disciple. There is no logical symmetry here. Even if persecution occurs, someone being persecuted is not a sign that they are necessarily a true Christian believer or preacher of grace. Many people of all stripes are persecuted for a variety of reasons! This is yet another illogical sleight-of-hand that hypergrace preachers and devotees use to deceive and conceal. It conceals their own theological errors and deceives others as to the false nature of their ideology.
Hypergrace prosperity preachers wrongly claim that since they receive criticisms from mainline biblical teachers, they must be rightly preaching the gospel of grace. This is not only logically unfounded, as shown above, it is also empirically unsubstantiated. Empirically, there is no evidence to suggest that prosperity preachers are suffering from persecution. Far from it, they seem to enjoy material wealth and comfort; they get away with preaching falsehood and errors week after week without any repercussions; and they have the freedom to mock and criticize churches and preachers not teaching hypergrace. Talk about billionaires crying poor and wolves calling themselves meek!
The Bible clearly teaches grace in the midst of suffering and persecution for true disciples of Christ. The hypergrace quasi-cult movement clearly embodies neither.
Fallacy of overreached sainthood
Hypergrace falsehood says:(1) We are no longer sinners but saints once we are justified by faith in Christ. (2) We are sinners not because we sin but we sin because we are sinners.
Statements (1) and (2) are mutually contradictory when applied together to a believer who is justified by faith in Christ. For such a believer can and does sin in experience even when they are justified by faith. But if they are saints and no longer sinners, how can they sin? Or if they still sin, how can they be saints since they sin only because they are sinners? One cannot have the cake and eat it too.
Martin Luther’s dictum “simul justus et peccator” says it well: one is simultaneously a sinner and justified by faith. In other words, anyone who has faith in Christ is justified by that faith and thus a “justified sinner.” This nuanced view makes sense paralogically by showing how one is both justified and a sinner from two distinctive but interlinked logical standpoints. From the standpoint of identity, one is indeed justified in Christ and a saint. From the standpoint of experience and behaviour, one is a sinner as one is not totally free of sin. Both are equally true.
Philosophically speaking, this is possible because of double imputation. We can impute the identity of “saint” to the believer on the basis of their regenerated spirit given by grace. We can also impute the identity of “sinner” to the believer on the basis of their unregenerate soul and body that awaits sanctification by grace through works. Thus, Luther is correct in designating believers in Christ as “justified sinners.”
Hypergrace, lacking in logical coherence and nuance, thus promotes a superficially glossy but philosophically naive, and theologically fallacious teaching. Not good news but sleight of hand deception.
Confusion of identity
When we say "grace is not merely a doctrine but a person: Jesus," what are we really saying? In one sense, we are saying that grace equals Jesus and Jesus equals grace. In other words, they are synonymous or interchangeable. A logical symmetry exists between grace and Jesus. But is this correct?
No. But more on this below.
In another sense, saying that grace is the person of Jesus may mean that grace is an essential quality of Jesus, for Jesus excellently embodies the grace of God in his person. Now this is a different claim from the first one above. There is logical asymmetry between grace and Jesus. How so? Here, grace is embodied or exemplified or expressed in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the embodiment and exemplar of grace par excellence. But grace is NOT Jesus and Jesus is NOT grace. Jesus and grace are not synonymous or interchangeable.
This is because grace is an attribute or quality of Jesus who is God, not Jesus in totality. God has many superlative qualities/attributes: grace, mercy, love, wisdom, truth, holiness, wrath, justice, and impassibility, to mention a few. So grace is but one of the attributes and not the totality of God, and by extension, of Jesus. Hence, saying that grace is the person of Jesus only makes sense if it means grace is one key attribute of Jesus, one that is embodied by Jesus.
To say that grace is the person of Jesus in the first sense—equating grace with Jesus and vice-versa with no qualifications—is a falsity. It overlooks the distinction between an entity and its attributes. In Aristotelian logic, an entity is distinct and separate from its attribute. The entity possesses attributes but the attribute is not the entity. So, to claim that grace is Jesus is to commit the fallacy of conflating the entity with its attribute. This is blatantly erroneous. From this reasoning, we can see that the hypergrace claim that grace is the person of Jesus, overlooking or downplaying all of God's other attributes especially that of wrath and holiness, is a logical fallacy and theological sleight-of-hand.
More can be said about the ontological relations between entity and attributes, substance and qualities, from logical perspectives outside the western paradigm. For example, Indian middle-way dialectics (madhyamika) would have something to contribute to our understanding of the deeper metaphysics of entity-attribute relations. But more on that another time.
In any case, hypergrace is still blatantly false. No rescue from Indian middle-way dialectics there!