I went to the School of the Supernatural meeting in Tucson last night where Phil Drysdale spoke. He spoke for about two hours on the subject of grace and then there was about a half hour of questions. He said he normally spends nearly 40 hours to teach on the subject, so we got his “quick” version last night.
It does help to hear a more extended talk like this in person because it makes things clearer, both in what he is saying and also why he is saying it. I still have a lot of studying to do on this subject, but here is a list of some of the things I am seeing (I will be emailing this list to Phil as well).
I liked his emphasis on fruit which he did mention a lot. His point on this is that we can’t make fruit through our own works, but we can bear His fruit by resting in Jesus. It is good to talk about fruit, because our life in Jesus should result in good fruit, and when there is bad fruit, we know something isn’t right. Of course, the concern on one side is that people will bear little or no fruit at all and think everything is okay, while the concern on the other side is that people will feel they have to produce the fruit through their own efforts and God won’t accept them until their fruit measures up.
Both Phil and the leader of the school here in Arizona specifically talked about people being upset with this teaching (the leader made it clear she doesn’t just bring in teachers who line up with her theology nor should people agree with everything that is taught, but of course she hopes we can love each other). Phil says he would rather preach grace and see a few abuse the message than to “preach bondage to the law”. But I don’t think that is the only two alternatives, and it seems to me that Phil is missing just how much a weak version of the grace message is spreading such that many people are living in their flesh, bearing bad fruit, and yet thinking everything is fine.
I asked Phil specifically about Steve Hill’s vision of the Spiritual Avalanche and he said he wants to avoid getting into debates and he didn’t seem to have looked into it too much. He has met Dr. Brown and heard him speak in the past and respects him, but doesn’t seem to want to engage directly in a theological debate (in part because he doesn’t see debates changing anybody’s minds). But proper understanding of scripture is important, and given Dr. Brown’s heart to learn what he can from the grace movement, I honestly think a friendly extended discussion on the topic would be helpful to both sides.
Phil did talk about how people seem to want to pick up the dead man, dress him up, and live as if he isn’t dead. But this seems to me like an area that needs much greater emphasis. Grace doesn’t mean we are free to do whatever we want (and here “we” means our carnal nature). Grace doesn’t mean that because we’re dead! When we were grafted onto the vine of Jesus, it is by dying to our flesh and choosing to live a life where His Spirit lives through us. But this isn’t a one time decision. We choose daily to be dead to our old nature and alive in Him.
Phil talks about the primary (or indeed only) thing we need to do is accept what Jesus has done for us. Clearly, we don’t earn God’s love or forgiveness, we simply accept it. This is where faith comes in, and yet faith means more than just an acceptance. It also means agreement. Faith means we hear what God is saying, receive it joyfully, agree with it in our hearts and decide to be loyal to that message (i.e., faith is having fidelity to what our King says). To me, the Western mind has watered down what faith means, where it simply means believing and receiving God’s gift. But I’m thinking faith is really much stronger than this. It includes those things, but also a deep trust in Him and a strong sense of loyalty to what He says.
Because nothing we can do can earn our salvation or holiness, Phil tends to put down anything we do. Yes, people are very quick to want to run out there and do something in their own strength and that frequently doesn’t go very well. And yet scripture clearly shows God’s delight in people who do things that please Him. This needs careful investigation. Just what moves God about people? What things does He like? What things doesn’t He like? In my view, God loves hearts that are after Him and showing faith. This is important, because otherwise it can come across that God wants passivity and the thinking that He’ll do everything. And yet He searches for who will go for Him. Who will have a heart like David had?
Part of the problem here is misunderstandings. We need more clarity on just what people in the grace movement are saying and what they are not saying. I suggested to Phil that he add a list on his website that would say, “If you are thinking I am saying any of these things, you haven’t heard me yet.” A FAQ page would also help where the most common questions are answered with a short reply (and then a link to further articles on the issue).
Phil tended to say that God’s commands are simply there to show us that we can’t do it ourselves. So when Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all of his possessions, it was simply to give him a law that he couldn’t obey. Or when Jesus was talking about the two greatest commandments, that was another way to show us that we can’t live up to the law. But I think Jesus was seeing what was in the heart of the ruler and telling him, you need to die to self and follow me. And with the commandments to love, it is because of who He is. He wants us to be like Him. Yes, it all needs to flow out of our hearts and coming close to Him, but He really does want to encourage us to be like Him.
Phil talks about repentance not being the Catholic sense of penitence, but rather a change of your mind. This is true, and yet again I am seeing this as too weak (just like it is too weak in my view to say the word convict only means “to convince”). I think God wants us to transform our minds. Totally. Completely. Utterly. We need to see things as He sees them. We need to have our minds transformed to think as He thinks. We need to have our hearts changed to be like His. We need to change our paths and run after Him with all our hearts and with a mind that becomes wise because it sees as He sees, understands as He understands, and knows what to do because we know what He’s doing.
Well, this is enough for now! I hope this is seen as a helpful.