Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Gothard's Game of Grace: An Exemplar of Externally-Pursued Sanctification

The discussion of the external works as a saving power presents an excellent opportunity to review
 Bill Gothard's redefinition of grace, as he ends up remerging justification and sanctification to turn the Christian life into salvation by works. 

We've already established that justification as an external and alien declaration defines Protestant belief, and sanctification that follows in a Believer comes about by God's work in them from the inside out. 

Luther resisted the idea of participation in sanctification altogether, and Calvin defined it as cultivating obedience. Both men stated emphatically that all holiness arises from union with Christ which begins in the inner spiritual life of a Believer which eventually results in good works. "Not of works lest any man should boast.”

To help put Gothard into perspective, I've made a chart of the order of salvation to compare and contrast general Protestant belief with Roman Catholic beliefs. The different colors represent that which precedes conversion, the conversion experience, and life that follows conversion. Note that Protestants separate justification from sanctification, noting that sanctification is an internal process. 

Now consider Bill Gothard's redefinition of grace. Grace means "to look favorably upon" as an attitude of kindness. Gothard claims that it is also a spiritual power that God imparts (somewhat similar to how faith is understood). He claims that after initial salvation and conversion, grace becomes something merited by the Believer to acquire spiritual power. 

By making faith into a work, he remerges justification and sanctification, much like Catholicism does in their scheme. He also borrows the concept of Christian Perfection from the Arminian Higher Life Movement which claims that a Believer can perfect themselves through a more spiritual life and reach a point at which they no longer sin. 

In the video clip, you can hear Gothard make the claim that works of humility and humbling experiences provide a means for the acquisition of more spiritual power. The statements that Gothard makes in this short clip form the basis of his beliefs about purity and self-sanctification which often comes through submission to one's earthy authorities. 

An obsequious system ensues wherein people must submit to their authorities which, in turn, works some spiritual magic that is believed to reform the unjust. Suffering becomes a glorified Christian rite.

I like to think of Gothard's system like a Pac Man video game. Through works of goodness and humbling experiences, a person accrues points that enable them to overcome evil. The person who dies with the most points wins, and they can show off their accumulated grace points in this and the next life. The acolyte must strive always to merit grace, then merit more through their continued good works, or all hope is lost for them. 

Gothard's system becomes just another example of salvation by works because it takes only what God can do within the inner life of a person and turns it into a list of rules and moral imperatives by which they save themselves.