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This interview was conducted by The Door in 1983. D= The Door.

C= Capon
D: The subtitle of your book says that you are writing about the outrage of grace. We must
admit, deep inside there is a voice that keeps saying you cant allow people to be forgiven
without repentance or some kind of cost. Otherwise people will go crazy. They will sin openly
without remorse.
C: But grace is outrageous. Remember the parable of the workers in the vineyard?
D: Where everyone gets paid the same, even those who only worked an hour?
C: Yes. That is not a parable about labor relations, by the way; it is a parable about goodness. It is
a parable about the fact that there is no proportion between the grace given and the earning of it.
All you have to do is be there and you receive the days pay. Thats outrageous and there is no
way to mute it.
But the most outrageous parable of all is the Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee
says, I thank God I am not as other men He tells God that he is a good man. And he is.
Theres no question about it. There Pharisee is the kind of person that every church member
would be happy to welcome as a member. He tithes, hes not a womanizer, and he honors his
contracts. He does everything hes supposed to do. HE is an honest-to-goodness-no-sham-nofake-good-man. And not only that, but he is coming to thank God for being that way; hes not
thanking himself. Then comes this other bozo, a tax collector who is bleeding his own
countrymen dry on a franchise from the Roman government. Hes been skimming the cream off
other peoples milk money for years. Outside is his Cadillac, with a case of Chivas Regal in the
back and two prostitutes in the front. He looks at his shoe tips and says, God be merciful to me
a sinner. And Jesus announces that this man goes down to his house justified rather than the
Pharisee. Why? The other man is a good man. It is not because the Publican is humble. That is a
cheap interpretation. The Pharisee has religion, and Jesus is trying to point to the futility of
religion. He is trying to point out that no one is bound to God because they have a series of chips
that can be traded to God or a deck of cards that can be dealt to God, because God says, Look,
dont play with me because you havent got a full deck. Theres a free drink on the house for
both of you. That is the real point. They both have no cards to play with God, but the Pharisee
doesnt know it and the Publican does.
D: But
C: But you dont like this scenario? Okay, Lets rewrite the parable a little. Lets bring the
Publican back a week later. Lets suppose hes made no change in his behavior. He has continued
to skim money from hi neighbors, He has continued to drive around with flashy whores and
drink high priced scotch. What do you think God is going to say to him? On what basis can you
say that God is going to say anything different this week than he did the week before?
D: Wait a min
C: You still dont like the scenario? Okay, change it again. Bring the Publican back after one
week of reform. Lets say hes stopped drinking and donated his drinking money to the heart

fund. Lets say he only has one girl instead of two. What do you want God to do with him? Do
you want God to look at this Publican and say that hes a good guy? Why are you so intent on
sending the Publican back with the Pharisees speech in his pocket?
D: Well we
C: Its because you dont understand the parable. The point is that both the Publican and the
Pharisee are invited to reconciliation with the only difference being the Publican knew he was
dead and said so. Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the gospel is
to be dead. You dont have to be smart.
D: Thats good news for us.
C: You dont have to be good. You dont have to be wise. You dont have to be anythingyou
just have to be dead. Thats it. The problem with the church is that none of us wants to die. But
that is the one qualification and that is what is outrageous. There can be only one requirement
and its got to be low enough to include us all
(After going on a bit and acknowledging that sin is indeed a bad thing he is asked:)
D: We can see you dont exactly have a low view of sin, but that point is that if you talk only of
forgiveness and unqualified grace, doesnt that, in effect, give people permission to sin?
C: There are two kinds of people. First, there are those who sin boldly. They do exactly what
they want to do and wouldnt think of asking anyones permission. Then there are those people
who need permission for anything they do, good or bad. Those people will always be shopping
for permission and they will find it somewhereeven in the gospel. But that doesnt constitute a
flaw in the gospel. That constitutes a flaw in personalities. You cant soft-pedal the proclamation
of the gospel because people like that are around.
The point is God gave permission to sin. The cross itself is Gods answer to that. If you
sin, God isnt going to do anything except die for you.
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