The term Cheap Grace was originally found in a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled The Cost of Discipleship. Bonheoffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. He was hung by the SS as a traitor in 1945 as he rejected Hitler’s rule.
To get started let’s look at the following excerpt is from Wikipedia:
In Bonhoeffer’s words: “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Or, to put it even more clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” The main defect of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship.
Bonhoeffer made these claims about the church two generations ago because they were settling for what he called “cheap grace”. He said that they were practicing a brand of Christianity without the cross. This was easy believism. In many circles it would seem all that was necessary is to voice creedal tenets, such as justification by faith alone. The ability to affirm right doctrine signifies that we are in the club. Dallas Willard has dubbed this as “bar code” Christianity. If we can be rung up by the great scanner in the sky, then eternal life is assured. With this understanding of Christian life, what is the need to have a transformed life?
Is this cheap grace more prevalent today than it was when Bonhoeffer pointed it out almost 80 years ago? I tend to believe it is. Of course our lives are more hectic than they were eighty years ago. It seems obvious that we just don’t spend as much time praising God as our grandparents used to. Many of the 35,000 versions of Christianity that are around today put almost all emphasis on God’s grace and none of our response to that grace. All we need to do is spend a few hours each week in our country club type facilities and everything is taken care of. Even if we miss a few, or even most Sundays that is OK. Discipleship has almost all but disappeared from our local congregations. We usually do something around the end of the year holidays to make us feel better about ourselves as Christians. Maybe it is putting in a few extra dollars for some poor relief efforts. But those efforts quickly dissappear along with our well intended New Years resolutions.
Call it what you want; cheap grace, McChurch, Church Lite, Bar Code Christianity. It all is pretty much the same. I am just afraid that when it comes to our eternity cheap grace might be very expensive indeed! As I said in the last post we need to live in the Lord moment by moment and not just those times it is convenient for us to do so.