I think there’s a lot of miscommunication going on when people criticize New Creation Church’s teachings on law and grace – and also when the opposite occurs (i.e. when New Creation members or leaders criticize those who disagree with them). In my opinion, a lot of times both sides are just talking past one another. What I mean is that there is more common ground between the two sides (and I’m talking about matters relating to law and grace) than both sides would readily admit. I’m not saying there are no differences. There clearly are. But I think if cool heads prevailed, we’d be able to learn more from one another.
While I am from New Creation, I don’t agree with everything Pastor Prince says. I may disagree with a lot of things but I’m there because I agree that the overall emphasis of preaching and the Christian life ought to be on God’s love and grace for us, rather than on what we ought to do for Him. I believe that the indicatives of Scripture are much more important than the imperatives of Scripture. I also believe that if one of the church’s goals is to see Christians become more Christlike, the route to that is not to preach more law but to preach more grace. But I also do think some interpretations of Scripture in New Creation seem to be more forced upon the text to fit into their theological lenses of filtering everything through the lens of grace.
I love City Harvest Church (CHC) and I’ve attended there a bit since one of my best friends comes from the church. I respect the church greatly and also respect Pastor Kong Hee. It’s a really excellent church and I have to say that many times I feel more at home with the people there than at New Creation. The community there is much stronger and I love being in a strong community. I think both churches have their strengths and also their weaknesses. I’m a firm believer that God didn’t deposit truth only in one church or one tradition. The danger is for any Christian (pastor or otherwise, New Creation or City Harvest, etc.) to think he/she has got it all correct unlike other Christians. I think when we all meet Jesus, we’ll see how wrong we’ve all been in our thinking and theology – and especially in the way we treat other Christians who differ from us in doctrine. It’ll be a wonderful moment but probably also a difficult one for many of us who have been loyal and faithful to one leader or church or system of doctrine/teaching while looking down on others.
In my opinion, God has truly blessed New Creation with great revelation regarding grace, as He has blessed City Harvest with great revelation regarding engaging culture, just as He has blessed Bethel Church (Redding, California) with great revelation regarding how the normal Christian life ought to be filled with signs and wonders. All three churches have so much to teach the Christian world in the respective areas they are strong in and all of them are having an enormous impact in the Christian world.
Having said all this, I’m not a person who thinks that we should all just get along together and ignore theological differences and think everyone is right. I do believe there should be more unity and love between different Christians, but that doesn’t mean theology is unimportant. I love good theology and I love to think through theology because there’s always practical implications of theology on the Christian life. I believe in having convictions and even strong convictions on certain doctrines, but that shouldn’t affect how we treat Christians who differ from us. Our differences regarding the relatively non-essential doctrines ought not to blind us to the unity we have around the relatively essential doctrines. Doctrines like grace and signs and wonders are hugely important for me and my Christian life. However, in comparison to doctrines like justification by faith alone and the deity of Christ, they are relatively non-essential. (Arguably, our view on grace can affect our view of justification, but I won’t get into that here). While I’d strongly disagree with Christians whom I think are legalistic or who are anti-charismatic, I will never deny them the fact that they are my brothers- or sisters-in-Christ and we’re going to worship Jesus one day side-by-side.
When I talk about essential and non-essential doctrines, I’m thinking about the quote by St. Augustine which goes:
In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.
This means that Christians should unite around the most important (i.e. essential) doctrines. For less important ones (i.e. non-essentials), we should give other Christians the freedom and liberty to disagree with us. And of course, we should be loving always. So for essential doctrines, we ought not to allow compromise, but should be one (i.e. think similarly) on these doctrines. If a church preaches that Jesus is not God, we ought to speak out strongly against that. For non-essential doctrines, we can have strong convictions about them, but we really shouldn’t treat those who differ from us as if they are not Christians or lesser Christians. Our attitude should be one of allowing them to disagree with us and yet still treating them as God’s beloved children.
Of course people will disagree with me when I say doctrines like grace (in the sense that New Creation views it) or signs and wonders are non-essential. For many people, their pet doctrine cannot but be an essential doctrine worth dying for. I can’t accept that simply because I think God doesn’t accept that. God is bigger that that. It’s this dogmatic spirit that makes the fundamentalist Christians demonize every Christian who differs from them even in one iota. If every Christian acts in such a way, there will not be any visible unity whatsoever.
I may have angered some New Creation Christians above when I said that grace is not an essential doctrine. When I say that, I mean grace in the way New Creation believes it. Not many Christians believe it the same way as them, but I still believe other Christians and churches do believe in justification by faith alone. I think New Creation’s beliefs on grace are much more biblical than the beliefs of those that criticize New Creation. But I’m not about to be overly critical of other Churches and Christians who differ from New Creation to the extent that I divide the body of Christ. These churches and Christians may preach a confusing message of grace, but I still believe the Christians there are saved and that God blesses the truth in the confusion and blesses the Christians in spite of the confusing message preached. I’ve written many posts in this blog defending New Creation in a sense simply because I think attacks have been unjust. But I know that God is bigger than New Creation and the “grace churches”. And just as much as I think many so called “grace churches” can teach the body of Christ a lot about grace, a lot of other churches who are strong in other areas have much to teach these so called “grace churches”. We all need each other.