Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

cheap grace, cheap love



Some in the church today dismiss what they term "cheap grace", perhaps echoing the sentiments of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was martyred by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer apparently denied the possibility of forgiveness which was not preceded by repentance, baptism, and confession. Many, similarly, see any suggestion that God can and will make his salvation plan effective for everyone as an example of "cheap grace".


If I were to address this issue personally, I'd be tempted to understand what is meant by the word cheap. Do those who decry "cheap grace" contend that a universal graciousness on God's part reflects poorly on God, making Him less admirable and praiseworthy. Or is the notion of "cheap grace" summarily dismissed simply because it might diminish the Christian's sense of personal accomplishment as having achieved God's graciousness by personal performance. The word "cheap" in this context may have other possible meanings, but these two readily come to mind.


In any event, I certainly don't want to impugn the beliefs and motives of Bonhoeffer, who by all accounts was an immensely principled and extraordinarily courageous man. I suspect that Bonhoeffer simply insisted that God's grace should be individually transformative. His own life indicates that he considered that transformation to involve much more than simple church ritualism and the associated appearance of piety.


I would have to agree that the purpose of Jesus, as the agent of God's grace, was to transform the human heart. I further believe that such transformation begins with a recognition of a new paradigm and continues as a life long effort to evolve spiritually. 


For those who may denounce the idea of "cheap grace" as a heretical effort to decouple God' grace from church compliance, I wonder if they ever consider that their doctrine involves "cheap love". Under the Orthodox Christian understanding of the Gospel, God's love is contingent upon an individual's knowledge, commitment, and diligence. God will love but He is not committed to love in any sense. His real commitment is to justice. In that presentation we see a rather stilted picture of the word love; it becomes something that must be earned by compliance and conformity. This kind of love is not freely given out of concern for the welfare of the loved one. It rather involves a demand to be subservient and obsequious, serving the lover's  needs and demands. In a human relationship, we would easily see how destructive this kind of love would be. It is not clear why such is not similarly the case in the Orthodox concept of divine love.