Inconsistent Grace?

Andy Naselli —  January 11, 2009 — 9 Comments

Here is an observation that is related to the discussion generated by my previous post (though it may not apply to anyone in that discussion): People are often more gracious to those on either their left or right.

  1. Some people are more gracious to those to the left of them than they are to those to the right of them. For example, some (not all) more broadminded evangelicals will tip-toe around a postconservative evangelical or emergent leader in order to give the least possible offense, but they will also strongly denounce “fundamentalists” without the least concern about offending them.
  2. Other people are more gracious to those to the right of them than they are to those to the left of them. For example, some (not all) fundamentalists will overlook egregious errors by fellow fundamentalists (e.g., errant bibliology or soteriology) in order to give the least possible offense to those in their camp, but they will also strongly denounce “new evangelicals” for less serious issues without the least concern about offending them.

Is this a fair observation? Perhaps there are too many exceptions for this to be any sort of a general trend.

9 responses to Inconsistent Grace?

  1. While there are a few notable exceptions, it does seem that #2 occurs far too often. A personal observation in regards to #2 is that this often seems to arise out of a type of binary thinking that fails to carefully deal with the nuances involved (“us” vs “them”, camp mentality, etc).

    So while it is a generalization to be sure, I think it’s a fair observation. Thanks for the post.

  2. I see #1 all over, but I rarely see #2. Most would engage Ehrman over Owen or Turretin reincarnate. I believe that most think that those to the left are more intellectual than those to the right—you see it in politics and in theology. It’s the nature of the culture in which we live. Why not respect anyone made in the image of God until he shows he won’t listen to you?

  3. I would say both. Living on the line between Red and Blue, I think both are common, just in different settings. The people who get crucified are those who try to move between both worlds, since they get it from both sides.

  4. Are there no examples of a third category of people who try to be generally consistently fair to others on their right and left?

    I suppose all of us like to think of ourselves as those examples, but hesitate to say so because we are all aware that we are not perfectly consistent people.

    Is an inconsistency in others like this really a fault to be criticized or a result of the Fall to which we ought to graciously respond?

  5. Thanks, Duncan.

    1. Sure there are examples of that. That’s why I qualified my observation with words like “often” and “some (not all).”

    2. I’ve noticed that tendency over and over, e.g., “These extremists on the right say this, these wackos on the left say this, but I’m the reasonable, happy medium perfectly placed right smack in the middle.”

    3. This seems like criticizing someone for criticizing. It also seems to be based on a faulty premise, namely, that criticism and grace are mutually exclusive.

  6. I emailed a few friends to ask if they agreed with my observation.

    One of them (let’s call him Matt) replied this way: “Most definitely a fair one! The difference may be less one’s location on the spectrum (left or right) as compared to one’s direction on it.”

    Another (let’s call him Joe) followed that up: “I think your observation is valid . . . and Matt’s reply is, in my experience, very true. But your article leaves me with a few questions:
    1. What do you mean by grace? Overlooking errors and tiptoeing so as not to give offense?
    2. Is that Biblical graciousness? If it is, should we always be gracious in that sense?
    3. What issues are worthy of a reply that may be perceived as ungracious? (Php. 3:2, ‘dogs’)
    4. It could come across from your post (1) that grace is good and (2) that the rightness of someone’s graciousness is measured by whether it’s balanced to the left and right. This is not the point that you’re making, but it seems that your post could imply it.”

    My brief response to Joe’s four points:
    1. No. I was using “gracious” how others typically do in this context, i.e,. being nice or kind and not mean.
    2. No.
    3. Lots, esp. issues tied to the gospel.
    4. And that would be a wrong implication.

  7. Andy,

    Although certainly exceptions exist, I believe that you are right on in your assessment. It is a completely fair observation. In my own personal experience and background I saw #2 happen with regularity.

  8. Andy,

    1. You’re right, please pardon me for not noticing how you qualified your point.

    3. You’re right on this too. I’m probably guilty of the inconsistency I mentioned in my second sentence. Sorry about that! I guess we don’t need to look far for examples of inconsistency.

    I hope I didn’t appear to have someone in mind as a target.

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  1. The God-Man is Bleeding! » InFocus - January 29, 2009

    [...] Naselli points out how easy it is to be influenced to show grace inconsistently depending on whether someone is left or right of us [...]

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