PREVIEW: AN INTRODUCTION TO REGRACE
Why This Book?
In November 2014, Rick Warren asked me to write a series of blog posts on the shocking beliefs of the great Christians who shaped the church (especially the evangelical wing).*
*While I claim the term evangelical myself, because it best fits my theological views, I don’t stay within my corner of evangelicalism when it comes to reading the writings of others. I also believe that modern evangelicalism has a number of blind spots, something I’ve addressed on my blog—frankviola.org.
Warren’s hope was that the series would “soften” the uncivil climate in the Christian community over doctrinal differences.
If, for example, a Christian discovered that his or her theological “hero” had some peculiar, inaccurate, or even shocking belief(s), this would give him or her pause before unloading both barrels on a fellow believer over an alleged doctrinal trespass.
After watching the nonstop carnage on social media over theological disagreements during the last decade, I fully resonated with Warren’s goal. And so I began writing the “shocking beliefs” series on my blog.
Within a year, the series went viral, receiving hundreds of thousands of pageviews from all over the world.
In 2017, I had a conversation with the Baker publishing team about revising and expanding the series into a book.
They agreed, and that’s how this project began.
The Purpose of This Book
The book I wrote before the one you’re reading right now is called Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom—which is a fresh presentation of the earth-shaking gospel of the kingdom of God.*
*Frank Viola, Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017). Many have called Insurgence my “signature work.”
One of the lessons those of us who have joined the Insurgence have learned is to always walk in the love of Christ, even toward people with whom we disagree.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:24)
ReGrace has but one objective: to foster grace, civility, and tolerance among Christians when they disagree with one another over theological matters.
The subtitle “shocking” is subjective. Some Christians will find a number of the beliefs articulated in this book to be first-class shockers. Others will find them surprising. A small number may shrug their shoulders and muse to themselves, “So what?”
Yet the point made in each chapter is undeniable. No influential Christian of the past could claim flawless perception. Each of them had blind spots. Some of their views were peculiar at best. Others were aberrant or ran contrary to Scripture, at least to the minds of many evangelical Christians.
But despite their less-than-perfect beliefs, God still used them.
This fact alone should cause us to relax whenever we run into a teacher, preacher, author, or fellow Christian on a blog or social media feed who holds views with which we disagree.
Especially when we come to grips with the immovable fact that none of us is immune to being wrong.
That includes you and me.
Before we move on, I want to be crystal clear about five things:
1) There’s no reason to get offended with any of the chapters in this book. Unless of course, you’re easily offended. (If that’s the case, I have no guaranteed antidote for you, but I did address you directly in a previous book with a cure.)†
†Frank Viola, God’s Favorite Place on Earth (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013).
2) Most Christians have heroes. I know I do. But some people are overly protective of theirs. I was keenly aware of this when I wrote the blog post on the “Shocking Beliefs of John Calvin.” After I published it, I sent this email to Rick Warren:
Subject: Shocking Beliefs of John Calvin (this one may get me hung!) Hi Rick. The post is below. If I disappear, it’s your fault! You can reach me at Salman Rushdie’s place. 😉
Rick’s response made me laugh out loud. He promised to officiate my funeral if my body was ever found!
Keep in mind that I’m not a “Calvin-hater.” I never touched his theological system. I simply pointed out some beliefs he held that are shocking to many evangelical Christians, just as I did with the rest of the people I treat in this volume.
Nevertheless, in response to that original blog post, I was on the receiving end of hate mail. Even from Quakers! The smoldering anger laden in those emails would make Keyser Söze blush. (If you don’t know who Mr. Söze is, you can insert Howard Stern into that sentence.)