Saturday, January 11, 2014

The False Theological Definition of the word "Grace"

Throughout the centuries Christian theologians have created some doctrines and added them onto scripture, muddying the waters when it comes to the highly ethical teachings of Jesus. Truth is empowering, but when men invent doctrines that have no foundation in reason, and none that was revealed in scripture, the truth loses its power and effect.  Before truth can empower people to change, we have to remove what is false. And in many ways, falsehoods are propagated when theologians invent false definitions for words in scripture. It then blinds the masses.

And this brings us to the importance of having an exact language to describe things exactly how they are. There have been several attempts at fixing this by philosophers and mathematicians. How does language influence how we see the world? In many ways, language controls our thinking, and the thinking controls our behaviour. For example, in our day and age, we have three words: murder, manslaughter, and execution. In our current legal definitions, we distinguish between murder and manslaughter. Externally, it is the same act, but internally, quite different. How is murder and manslaughter different? It is the intent of the person who committed the act. And how the current legal system behaves mirrors how our actions are judged in the afterlife: it is the intention or purpose of the act that counts. Someone may do something extremely stupid with bad results, but if their intention is good, and they learned from it, the act was not evil. As one learns the truth and is guided by it, good intentions will begin to lead to good results. So, returning to my example, we distinguish between murder and manslaughter. But that was not always the case. If we turn back the clock, we see that in ancient Hebrew there was just ONE word that meant murder, manslaughter, or executing someone who committed a murder. Since there was one word, they had one concept in their legal system: blood revenge. Someone got killed, no matter what, if blood got spilled more blood had to be shed. And cultures got caught in an endless cycle of bloodshed. There was just one word for someone getting killed. So in the Mosaic law, one can see laws were given to distinguish these different acts, and cities of refuge were provided for those who committed manslaughter, or acted out of self-defense.

THE THEOLOGICAL DEFINITION OF THE WORD "GRACE" ????

So now we come to the word grace, which is a word that has acquired some false theological definitions. I came across the Hebrew word for this when translating, so I was curious, what was the definition? In one sense, the Hebrew word at times does mean something similar to our word for judging how things physically appear: we will call it "graceful." If one does a favor toward another, we call them "gracious." And in English there is a modern idiom where one can say, "Goodness, gracious!" - which in fact, is a verbal pattern that has a true hidden spiritual origin which Swedenborgians will understand. Apparently people used to say if one has "grace in one's sight" which means one has a favorable opinion of that person. But theologians, being as they are, sometimes invent definitions according to their theology. So, what is the modern Christian theological definition of grace? I did a random search, here is one modern theological definition:
Grace: (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
I remember seeing this added in footnotes in some study Bibles. And just to be sure, I doublechecked by checking About.com - Christianity:
Definition: Grace is God's unmerited favor. It is kindness from God we don't deserve. There is nothing we have done, nor can ever do to earn this favor. It is a gift from God. Grace is divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration (rebirth) or sanctification; a virtue coming from God; a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine favor.
And to be triple sure: lets check the Merriam Webster dictionary, who seem to be in survival mode in the internet age by having videos of people talking about word definitions:
GRACE: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
So is this true? Does grace mean it is unmerited, undeserved, and it does not matter what you do? No, it is FALSE. This is a word definition that was INVENTED by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century. If you look in any Hebrew concordance, grace simply means "favor." There is nothing in the word definition that says it is "unmerited" or "undeserved." And yet, Protestant theologians and ministers keep repeating it over and over again. IT IS A FALSE INVENTION OF THE PROTESTANT CHURCHES.

To confirm that "unmerited favor" is a false Protestant invention, lets check the Catholic Church and see what they have to say. Because much of Protestant theology was inherited from the Catholic Church. If I go to the New Advent Encyclopedia (which should be always double checked for accuracy) , they get a bit complicated, with a distinction between "actual grace" and "sanctifying grace."  I am not going to go through it all (since the Catholic Church has misconceptions of its own), but the Catholic Church confirms that the modern English definition is a Protestant invention. From Actual Grace:

With the early Protestants and Jansenists, the necessity of actual grace may be so exaggerated as to lead to the assertion of the absolute and complete incapacity of mere nature to do good

On this point the Catholic Church is correct. And I honestly first ignored it because the Catholic Church has so many other errors in it. One of the reasons I first ignored it is I thought the Catholic Church was talking about good for the sake of self-credit, this is not good, it is hypocritical. Remember, every action is judged by its INTENT. Good deeds, good works, are the result of a living, active faith of the human will. Where does the false definition of grace come from? It comes from a Protestant misunderstanding of the apostle Paul. For this see The Fundamental Error of the Protestant Church. Otherwise, why would Jesus himself say that everyone will be judged according to their works? (see Matt. 16:27, Rev. 2:23).

THE HEBREW VIEW OF THE WORD FOR GRACE

Lets go straight to scripture, ignoring what any Christian church has to say. Because many Christian churches have to ignore many passages of scripture, and hope that their congregations just listen to them and not read it for themselves. Here is the first passage that mentions "grace", which is right after God decides to destroy the entire land with a flood:

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Gen. 6:8)

And the word grace can easily be translated as favor. Was this favor unmerited? Undeserved? It did not matter what Noah did? NO. This we know from the next verse:

Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. (Gen. 6:9)

In other words, Noah lived a good life, obeying God's commandments. Favorable actions will simply lead to favorable outcomes. And the outcome we are looking at is one's eternal destiny. SIMPLE. If you want to live a good life, you have to ignore a lot of false theology. The Protestant theological definition of grace is unethical, immoral, and has no rational justification. You cannot apply it to your life, and the judge cannot apply it to the courtroom. Nor can managers apply it in their job when reviewing the work of those who report to them, nor can parents apply it when disciplining their children. It makes no moral or rational sense, and should be rejected.

THE NEW CHURCH VIEW

I say "New Church" because one is needed due to the falsity found in both Protestant an Catholic churches. Because actions are judged by one's intent, one CANNOT do good until one first removes false ideas and sinful behaviours. For this see The Three Steps of Spiritual Development, which also covers the symbolism of the Jewish festivals of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.

One Protestant reasoning I have heard is that the law was to teach everyone they cannot be perfect. So what do they say we should do? GIVE UP! Don't even try! But this is utterly ridiculous, and leads to spiritual and moral apathy. And it is in contradiction with scripture. So why in the world did Jesus say this:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)

Which means, we should eternally strive towards perfection. Its a goal that will never be reached, but we should constantly try to correct ourselves for the better.

Another New Church doctrine: "grace" or favor is what spiritual people who live according to truth seek, but those who are of a higher level of spirituality do no seek God's grace or favor, but his mercy. It is a deeper acknowledgment of one's sinfulness, done from the heart. Swedenborg explains it in this way:
...there is a distinction in the Word between mercy and grace, and this in accordance with the difference of those who receive. Mercy is applied to those who are celestial, and grace to those who are spiritual; for the celestial acknowledge nothing but mercy, and the spiritual scarcely anything but grace. The celestial do not know what grace is; the spiritual scarcely know what mercy is, which they make one and the same with grace. This comes from the kind of humiliation of each, which thus differs. They who are in humiliation of heart implore the Lord's mercy; but they who are in humiliation of thought beseech His grace; and if these implore mercy, it is either in a state of temptation or is done with the mouth only and not from the heart. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 598.2).
That there is a distinction between mercy and grace, which correspond to God's love and favor to save humanity, is hard to describe to those who have not experienced humility. There are many things that Swedenborg describes that one will not know until they experience it. Mercy and grace (or favor) often appear together in scripture, and concerns God's desire to bring humanity to himself.

RECIPROCOL CONJUNCTION

There is no such thing as "free" salvation which Protestant theology likes to talk about so much. In scripture, a relationship between a person and God is known as a "covenant" - you do your part, God will do his. If you don't move, God won't move toward you. If you turn away, he will turn away from you. This relationship can be described as a "reciprocol conjunction." Every action has a reaction, and what goes around comes around. I will quote from Swedenborg on recipocol conjunction between man and God:
...From the Lord, through man's internal, life continually flows into man's rational, and through this into his external, and indeed into his knowledges, external and internal — and not only adapts them to receive life, but also arranges them into order, and so enables man to think and at last to be rational. This is the conjunction of the Lord with man; without which man could not think at all, still less be rational. This may be plain to every one from the fact that there are in man's thought numberless arcana of science and of analytical art, so many that they cannot be explored to eternity, which do not flow in through the senses or through the external man, but through the internal. But man on his part, by means of knowledges external and internal, goes to meet this life which is from the Lord; and so he reciprocally conjoins himself. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2004.2)
This is a central doctrine: this reciprocol conjunction is the union of love and truth, which is also represented in the marriage of one man with one woman. Do good by the truth that you know. Inasmuch as you try and approach God, he will approach you. It is a universal law. I like this image below to describe it: the Yin-Yang tree. Inasmuch as you reach down and remove the sins in yourself (your earthly body) so your soul will reach up to heaven. Look at any tree - the branches above the earth will be a mirror of the roots in the earth below it. Inaction - unmerited favor, belief alone, what have you - this STOPS the spiritual process.



So if anyone tells you that grace means "unmerited" favor - check again. It is a man-made definition, and dates back to the 16th century. It is UNAPPLICABLE to any actual situation in life. It is not pragmatic or useful whatsoever. If there is any truth in it, it is this: that any good that you do does not originate from you, but from God, who is goodness itself, and the source of all good in humanity across the universe. But it is no excuse for spiritual apathy and to do whatever evil you want.

And for those who believe all they need to do is believe, and God somehow does everything else, perhaps they may find this poem a bit "uplifting":


GRACE DOES NOT MEAN UNMERITED FAVOR

I thought I would add a final update here, because this is important. Much of what is taught in the church today is based on a false theology. And that false theology uses false word definitions - and this word "grace" is one of the key words to the Protestant theology. As most Christian denominations are uncomfortable with Emanuel Swedenborg due to the fact he had visions, I want to emphasize here that he backed up many of his key points with scripture throughout his theological works.  I will simply start adding in this section other web blogs of Christians who have discovered that grace does not mean unmerited favor - from SCRIPTURE ONLY. But if you really want to know how evil this doctrine this is in the sight of God and heaven, then read up on Emanuel Swedenborg. Here is a list below:


This is a good post. It begins with this statement: 

Is a sinner commanded to do anything to receive God's Favor?
Today's Christianity says there's nothing one has to do!
      This is the teaching in today's accepted Christianity that there is nothing a sinner must do, no action or change, no behavior change, no repentance of sins and changes in one's life that are based on the breaking of God's 10 commandments in order to receive God's Grace.

And another quote:

God demands a heart that is humble, because He says in James 4:6, "God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble." Every sinner coming to Christ, must humble himself, as a small child, and become converted, Mat. 18:3-4, to receive God's grace and His kingdom, and he must remain humble to grow in God's grace, or God is going to resist you and eventually reject you! God will resist the proud! God will resist any one proudly wrapped up in himself as a professing minister or a professing member and all that each has done, or as he thinks he has done, as in being some great spiritual leader. People as members of a church  should not be looking to these proud leaders, but instead they should be looking to the true, great, spiritual leader and Shepherd, Jesus Christ and trusting what He teaches from His Word and not from traditions and commandments of men.

Grace is Unmerited Favor" - This Common Definition is Wrong - this from a long time Christian. He begins on the false definition of grace:

There are a few key words in the Bible that are given wrong definitions even though the definitions are widely accepted. Such wrong definitions created much confusion and a weak church.

He however does not know (as most don't) the difference between mercy and grace.  When trying to come up with a definition, he comes up with this:

James Ryle defines it as, "Grace is the empowering Presence of God enabling you to be who He created you to be, and to do what He has called you to do."

Which is not what it is. See The Fundamental Error of the Protestant Church, as Protestant ministers have a tendency to make us "passive subjects." Mercy and grace is God's desire to save humanity.  So what is that "empowerment" that God gave man to do what you should do? Its not called grace. It is your own will power. Yes, in addition to a brain, giving everyone power to reason and think, God gave you this thing called a body which allows you to act according to what your brain says. There is no complicated theology here. Grace and favor also occurs when you are given the opportunity to do something:

He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5)

And Protestants will take that verse to mean everyone can do nothing and has no will power, which is not true. It means it begins with trust and hope in God, and an acknowledgement that any good that you do (bearing fruit) originates from God. Thus I brought up the concept of "reciprocol conjunction" above, thus Jesus says abide in me, and I in you. Reciprocol action/reaction. It also means that the smallest matters are governed by Divine Providence. There are no accidents.

Grace is not Unmerited Favor - this one is good. It asks some very simple questions:

1. If Grace is unmerited favor (that is to say, God is good to us even though we don't deserve it.) Then every body gets this grace right?
Then why does God only give it only to the humble? James 4:6, and 1 peter 5:5
If it is truly unmerited favor, wouldn't God give it to the proud more then the humble? Wouldn't they "not merit" it more then the humble?
2. If Grace is unmerited favor (God is good to us even though we don't deserve it.)
then why can you fall from it?
Gal. 5:4 says you are fallen from grace.- So, God is going to give me something I don't deserve and then take it away if I don't deserve it. I'd be better off backsliding so I could get more grace.
3. If Grace is unmerited favor (God is good to us even though we don't deserve it.)
Then why was Grace upon Jesus? Luke 2:40


Many, or most of us, have been conditioned by religion to believe that Grace is unmerited favor. The thought that it could be more than that, will be difficult for some to grasp. The truth is, we have all been affected by the teachings of the Babylon system of religion.
The sorry weak Evangelical meaning of grace has kept the saint’s sin-conscious and sinning. The thinking of many is, since we are such undeserving worms, we are too weak to be anything but “Sinners saved by grace.” Rubbish! 

A quote from a forum at Grace is not unmerited favor

In my understanding ( I work in a baptist-run environment), it is an offshoot of the doctrine that man is completely wretched, vile and deserving only of God's wrath. The "unmerited favor" doctrine is another one of those theological ideas that transforms grace into another judicial act, making Christ's sacrifice a legal matter, not an act of supreme love. In fact, in many Baptist circles, GRACE is an acronym : God's Riches At Christ's Expense. And I cringe everytime I see it...

Which is observant: the false definition stems from a false idea of "vicarious atonement" - a theology that did not exist until the 11th century A.D. I have blogged about that before. See The Error of Vicarious Atonement.

I can go on and on.  And since this poster said "I cringe everytime I see it" I will conclude with this particular lesson from a chalk board:

8 comments:

  1. Out of curiosity, I just checked on the internet to see if anyone else has recognized that the word definition of grace as "unmerited favor" is a falsehood taught to many Christian congregations. Indeed there is. Found this one: IS GOD'S GRACE UNMERITED FAVOR? http://www.netchurch.tv/read_blog/5147/is-god's-grace-unmerited-favor. It covers a bit more scripture, and arrives at the same conclusion. And this from outside the New Church. People are ever so slowly waking up.

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  2. Another blogger got it right. See "Grace is Unmerited Favor" - This Common Definition is Wrong http://christianity-rediscovered.blogspot.com/2006/08/grace-is-unmerited-favor-this-common_30.html

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  3. Thanks for sharing this very informative article.
    spiritual thoughts

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  4. Hi Doug,

    Of course, I agree with your implied conclusion that we are not saved by grace alone, but must have good intentions, and from those good intentions door good works. That is basic, Biblical Christianity.

    However, the problem with Protestant theology on grace is not so much a wrong definition of grace. It is the idea that we can accept and receive God's freely given grace without repenting from our sins and living according to God's commandments.

    Whatever the true definitions of grace and mercy are, they are in fact unmerited by us. God gives them to us not because we deserve them, which we don't, but because God loves us with an infinite love, regardless of whether we are saints or sinners.

    However, if we are sinners, we cannot and will not accept God's grace. We reject it and turn away from it just as we reject and turn away from God.

    I don't think our battle is as much with the Protestant definition of grace, as unhelpful as it is, as it is with the preposterous idea that a sinful, unregenerate person bent on worldly and selfish pursuits can in any way receive the grace that God freely offers to us and wants to give to us with no thought either of our deserving it or our not deserving it.

    It's not that we deserve grace for our good works. On that point the Protestants are actually correct. It's that if we do not love God and the neighbor as Jesus teaches, and do not do good works for them out of that love, we cannot be vessels capable of receiving God's grace--which is really God’s love.

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  5. The word "grace" comes from the root "gratia" from which we also get the words "gratis" and "gratuity".

    Chew on that.

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    Replies
    1. The word translated as "grace" comes from Hebrew chen or chanan, which is often translated as favor. In Greek it comes from charis. You are on the English definition, but its an accurate translation. But if one interprets it as "thankful" from the Latin root, it is not longer accurate. In its first usage in Hebrew, Noah found grace because he was righteous and follows God's commandments. When we live by the truth, we come under God's grace; and when we love and from love know the truth, we come under God's mercy. Grace comes from spiritual understanding, mercy from a regenerated will. That grace is related to spiritual understanding is shown by the phrase that someone "found grace in his eyes" - eyes always a symbol of spiritual understanding. Mercy is not related to understanding, but willing, thus it is mentioned more often with goodness and the heart.

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    2. I believe you articulated this subject very well. I stumbled on your post after reading numerous scriptures and coming to the same conclusions. I have dubbed this "THE dangerous doctrine", although I am having trouble defining all the dangers. Help!

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    3. Those who separate faith from charity, and define grace as unmerited favour, if they follow this will have a problem in performing actual repentance against sins. This is one of the dangers that Swedenborg described as an outcome. The overall danger, is that this doctrine actually destroys all spirituality in the church, as all spirituality is the union between good and truth, or works and faith. Thus we see the Protestant churches are actually in a steep decline, and losing influence.

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