cheap grace

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It’s always interesting to me when I discover exactly where and when a Christianese term originated, especially if the source isn’t just “the Bible.”

Yesterday I learned that the common expression cheap grace is a relatively recent word in Christianese—it first appeared in English in its current meaning in 1948 in the first English translation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book The Cost of Discipleship. See below for draft entry.

cheap grace n. An attitude toward God’s grace and forgiveness marked by toleration of sin in oneself and expectation that no matter how much one sins, Jesus will continue to forgive it.
The phrase itself cheap grace was widely popularized in the English-speaking world by being used in the opening lines of the English translation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship (see 1948 cite).
See also *carnal Christian; *costly devotion; *costly grace; *wet devil.
1948 Bonhoeffer The Cost of Discipleship ch. 1 : Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace…. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. 1989 Balmer Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America 203 : “There is no cheap grace,” he concluded. “There is no cheap salvation. Saving faith is impossible without repentance and obedience and renunciation.” 1994 Shelly Written in Stone 50 : They feel free to criticize and church-hop without ever doing anything to build up a church. This approach to Christianity reflects a “cheap grace” mentality. Yes, salvation is altogether a work of grace. But the grace that cost God his Son is not cheap.

Do you use the expression cheap grace? What are some sample sentences you use it in?

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