Although much has been said and written about Hyper Grace, I readily accepted an invitation to attend a talk by Dr Roland Chia on 2 May 2016, organised by the Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Singapore.
Dr Roland Chia is the Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine of Trinity Theological College and the Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute of Public Christianity. Yet, credentials aside, it was the opportunity to hear a local critique and perspective of Hyper Grace that drew me to the talk. After all, Singapore is one of the main exporters of this doctrine through Joseph Prince of New Creation Church. It is only appropriate that one of our own presents a point of view.
In just over one hour, Dr Chia delivered his presentation very clearly and precisely. We were given a quick introduction, followed by a broad overview of what Hyper Grace Teachers understand about Scripture, God’s Moral Law, Sin & Repentance and the Cross of Christ, and how their interpretations are erroneous. Dr Chia quoted from Hyper Grace proponents like Clark Whitten, Paul Ellis, Steve McVey, and of course, Joseph Prince (Destined to Reign & Unmerited Favour).
For the benefit of those who are still uncertain about the error of Hyper Grace, here are summary statements of the distortions of Hyper Grace Teachers, reproduced from Dr Chia’s notes:
- They have dismissed the whole of the OT. Narratives in the OT are merely used as examples or illustrations.
- They have dismissed the relevance of the Ten Commandments and God’s moral laws for Christians.
- Their theology (i.e. doctrine of God) is erroneous because they have emphasised only certain aspects of God’s character and only some of His attributes (like love) while neglecting others.
- Their Christology is defective. For them salvation is centred only on the death of Christ. In the NT, the whole incarnate life of the Son is salvific.
- Their understanding of the ministry and teachings of Jesus is erroneous because they consider the teachings of Jesus before Calvary as irrelevant for Christians (this includes the Sermon on the Mount, the parables and the Lord’s Prayer).
- Their pneumatology is erroneous because they teach that the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin. This is instead attributed to the work of the devil.
- Their understanding of the writings of Paul is erroneous. Paul always balances the indicative and the imperative (you are such and such, therefore, you should do such and such). But the new antinomians only emphasise the indicative and entirely omit the imperatives.
- Their soteriology is erroneous because they teach that it is impossible for Christians to lose their salvation.
- Their eschatology is erroneous because they present an over-realised eschatology when they insist that Christians are already perfect.
- Needless to say, their entire theology of the Christian life and discipleship is erroneous.
- The Hyper Grace Teachers are also promoters of the health and wealth Gospel. They incorporate this quite easily in their theology of grace.
Indeed, it was time well spent on the morning of a public holiday. I definitely appreciate Dr Chia’s ability and willingness to say what needs to be said. As far as he is concerned, the doctrine of Hyper Grace is heretical and as such, harmful to the Body of Christ.
Of the hundreds who attended the talk, I don’t think anyone would dispute this at all. However, as intellectually and theologically stimulating as the talk was, it would be a great waste if it remained just that. And yet, for it to have traction, for pastors to be willing to preach it, for leaders to teach it, for members to run with it, I feel we need to be even more precise with the consequences of one who embraces such teachings.
For this, we must be willing and daring to define ‘harmful’ and what that entails. Really, how dangerous is the heresy of Hyper Grace? More pointedly, we must ask, “What are the eternal consequences, if any?” Is it dangerous enough for church leaders to collectively issue a statement against Joseph Prince? Is it dangerous enough for pastors to be equipped and to boldly preach this over their pulpits? Is it dangerous enough for cell leaders to be trained to address this at ground level? Would this be a priority? Is there an urgency? Should evangelistic efforts be redirected to winning back the many souls who think they are secured by grace but are not?
If we are not willing to grapple with these, then perhaps, all we have is mental assent that Hyper Grace is erroneous but are not adequately convicted that it is dangerous or serious enough to warrant any action on our part. In other words, let’s just ignore the elephant in the room. Wait. What elephant?
Once again, it was a great talk and I learnt a lot from Dr Roland Chia. I am looking forward to another session with him where Dr Chia will answer questions about another controversial movement, the New Apostolic Reformation – that’s another can of worms.
Got Questions: What is Hyper Grace?
Bill Muehlenberg: Antinomianism and the Hyper Grace Error
Michael Brown: Confronting the Error of Hyper Grace
Lim Poh Ann: Hyper-Grace: Jesus’ Pre-Calvary Teachings Irrelevant
Andrew Wilson: The “Grace Revolution”, Hyper-Grace, and the Humility of Orthodoxy
Author’s Note: This post drew quite a few comments and statements in defence of Joseph Prince and New Creation Church, and understandably so. The arguments are not new at all, mostly disputing Dr Chia’s summary statements as untrue or inaccurate. In fairness, these were not at the talk to benefit from Dr Chia’s explanation, supported by proper quotations and citations. Even so, I suspect this would mean little as positive personal experience appears to be of greater value and importance. I have learnt much from this little exercise, and I am grateful to all who have contributed. Praying for all to have wisdom and discernment, and the Lord’s amazing grace, of course.