July 2, 2007

Free Grace: Fractured by the “Crossless” Gospel

Greetings to All:

For the last 30+ days I have been focused almost solely on what I have come to conclude are the doctrinal errors of Zane Hodges. I do, however, want to reiterate that where Lordship Salvation is concerned I am convinced that it is a false, works based, man-centered interpretation of the Gospel. John MacArthur is as far off-center on the Gospel at his extreme end of the theological pendulum swing as Zane Hodges is with his interpretation in the opposite direction.

During the month long series I have devoted to the teachings of Zane Hodges I have received a number of private contacts as well as comments in various threads. The most significant contact I received was from Pastor Dennis Rokser of the Duluth Bible Church. Pastor Rokser sent me an e-mail directing my attention to an article that addresses one of the major concerns I have noted and touched on with the teaching of Zane Hodges on the Gospel.

The article I have been and will direct you to is titled, THE TRAGEDY OF A CROSSLESS GOSPEL (Pt. 1) It is written by Pastor Tom Stegall from the Word of Grace Bible Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Pastor Tom Stegall would consider himself a member of what is known as the Free Grace movement.

In the opening paragraph of his article he states,

‘Houston, we have a problem.’ Free Grace movement, we have a MAJOR problem!!! Let’s be honest: in the last few years things have changed doctrinally. The content of the saving Gospel has been tampered with.” (bold added)
And a major problem it is! I had slowly been coming to the conclusions that Pastor Stegall articulates in his article. Stegall has done his homework and thoroughly documents the excesses, and extremes that have been adopted by key men in the Free Grace movement.

Later Pastor Stegall writes,
There was once virtual unanimity among us in the Free Grace position that in order for a lost sinner to receive eternal life, he must believe that Jesus Christ is God-incarnate who dies for his sins and rose again to save him forever. However, today there are a growing number in our camp who no longer believe these are essential as part of the saving Gospel that is necessary to be believed for eternal salvation. That old Gospel is now considered ‘flawed.’ It is something that some Free Grace advocates now consider to be ‘adding to the gospel’ and something which makes them “shutter” and feel ‘extremely uncomfortable…’ I am deeply disturbed by such sentiments and by the shocking sentiments coming from leading representatives of the Free Grace movement these days.” (bold added)
The leading representatives of the Free Grace movement Stegall is referring to are none other than Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin founders of the Grace Evangelical Society (GES). Stegall goes on to expose the Straw Man arguments of the men who advocate the, “New and improved gospel.”

Brother Stegall also adds,
In a…book by Wilkin, “Secure and Sure,” he states no less than 113 times throughout the book in almost mantra-like fashion that a person receives eternal life simply by believing in Jesus for it…
Stegall goes on to quote several Free Grace men who have adopted the new and improved “Crossless” gospel, such as: Hodges, Wilkin, Jeremy Myers, and John F. Hart. He then makes this observation,
After reading these shocking statements as to what constitutes the Gospel and the contents of faith required for salvation, can we question any longer whether a significant change has occurred…? This is a radical departure from the one, true, saving Gospel of Christ described in the Scriptures and historically held by grace-oriented brethren.”
Through my own study I must concur with Pastor Stegall that Hodges and Wilkin have indeed made “a radical departure from the one, true, saving Gospel of Christ.”

Incidentally, Stegall is careful to point out that most men in the Free Grace movement do not share the new “Crossless” gospel position of Hodges and Wilkin. They are deeply concerned and I believe there may be radical consequences and changes for their movement if the leadership cannot be recovered to an orthodox position on the Gospel.

Pastor Stegall’s new article The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel is in my opinion, a must read for believers on both sides of the Lordship Salvation/Free Grace debate.

Go to: Duluth Bible Church. Click on the article titled, The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel.

No matter where you are in the Lordship/Free Grace debate this article is a MUST READ for believers across of wide spectrum of Evangelical Christianity.

Yours faithfully,


LM

19 comments:

  1. Lou,

    I read Tom Stegall's article with great interest and may very well read it another time or two. I did not realize that some of the prominent voices in the Free Grace movement in addition to advocating an eternal-life only approach to presenting the Gospel, also actively discourage other Gospel presentations.

    The debate that has been taking place has forced me to think a lot harder about what I believe the Gospel is and how it should be presented. As I had mentioned to you previously, I grew up under the ministry of a pastor named R.B. Thieme, Jr. (my parents ordered his bible studies which we listened to daily at home). A few of his publications are available on the web. One of those publications is a booklet meant to lead unbelievers to salvation titled "A Matter of Life and Death." I have re-read it a couple of times in the last week and I still think it gives an excellent presentation of the Gospel (I am not looking to elicit your opinion here, just expressing mine). It covers a lot of ground but substitutionary atonement, receiving God's righteousness, and the offer of eternal life are all there. If everything other than those sections mentioning eternal life were removed it just would not be as powerful of a Gospel message.

    Let us know when Part 2 of pastor Stegall's article comes out.

    Glenn W.

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  2. Glenn:

    Thanks for stopping by again.

    It is my understanding that this article is just the first in a series by Brother Stegall. I have asked for updates on when to expect the next.

    Real busy at work, more later.


    Lou

    PS: Did you visit the Unashamed site to read my final there?

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  3. Lou,

    I did stop by and read your response but not in great detail. I am planning on reading it carefully here soon.

    Glenn W.

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  4. Hey Lou, I read that article over at DBC and I'm glad I did. It's nice to know that this "Crossless Gospel" is not the main-stream of Free Grace believers.

    You know being entrusted with the Glad Tidings we truly need to be vigilant to be awake and aware of the dangerous doctrines that sweep across the sea of young believers. There are people who teach this "gospel" who ought to know better, who I'm sure will suffer great loss, but the danger is that it SOUNDS so honoring to Christ - "Believe in Him alone for Eternal Life"... oh it tickles even my heart! And it can, if we don't listen to what they are saying, seem to go right along with Scripture... we think they are saying things they are intentionally leaving out.

    There are doctrines which are not worthy of separation.. but the Gospel is worthy of my giving up my life to protect.

    How strange it is to find myself arguing against anyone who calls themselves "Free Grace".

    Kev

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  5. Kevl:

    I was just talking to a pastor in the FG movement yesterday.

    I asked him if this might lead to separating from Hodges and Wilkin. Because it is the Gospel, and if Hodges cannot be recovered, it will lead to a parting of the ways.

    It's a shame that Hodges, who has made many valuable contributions to the Lordship debate, has gone off to an extreme, out-of-balance view of the Gospel.


    LM

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  6. If a person doesn't need to know that Jesus died and rose again.. that would also seem they do not need to know they are a sinner...

    I can not wrap my head around this. No wonder I've had people out right shun me when I said I was "free grace".

    Kev

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  7. Kev:

    Strange teaching from Hodges!

    You have said something that is important on groups and labels.

    I purposely do not formally align myself with any groups or organizations, with one exception. I am a member of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI).

    I do not identify myself with organizations like the Grace Evangelical Society (GES), etc. because it takes just one or two men in leadership (like Hodges and Wilkin) to go off in their doctrine to cast a shadow of doubt/concern on the membership of the organization they head. It is a guilt-by-association thing, which isn’t right to do, but it happens.

    When my book came out some men in the Free Grace camp began to claim me as part of their camp. Some Lordship advocates began to label me as a Free Grace advocate. I told both groups they are being hasty, and I do not identify with any particular group or camp. Well, now that I have spoken up about the doctrinal errors with Hodges, some of the Hodge’s loyalists are up in arms with me. Over a year ago I warned them!

    Only briefly I have wondered why the Lordship advocates have not said much about my addressing the extremes of Hodges, which they also have a big problem with.

    That said- there are some very fine men, who are doctrinally sound, who identify themselves as part of the Free Grace movement. The problem for them is that the GES is fairly commonly recognized as the flagship (lack of better term) for the Free Grace movement. So, if you say you are in the Free Grace camp, you are automatically considered in the GES because for most the two are synonymous. The problem there is that with Wilkin and Hodges, seen as the leadership, and their doctrine having gone awry, you wind up with a guilt-by-association problem.


    Lou

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  8. Lou & Kevl,

    I agree wholeheartedly with the both of you. I have come to believe that all of the labeling that goes on is what the apostle Paul was preaching against in I Corinthians:

    1:12 Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
    1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?


    Such labels are divisive and serve to take our eyes off of Christ and put them on people and organizations.

    A few years ago I read a biography of Martin Luther and there was a quote of his that has stuck with me. To paraphrase (I do not remember the exact quote) he said that we need to know God and we need to know ourselves. While I don't think he was speaking of witnessing, this is the approach that should be taken with it. An unbeliever needs to know that he needs the gift of salvation and what Christ did to make that gift possible. To provide such information is not adding to the Gospel.

    How this situation develops will be very interesting. I am considered "free grace" under some definitions of the term but I have chosen not to use it when describing my beliefs on the subject. If I can take some of the internet posts as representative of the GES postion (a potentially big if) then they may be beginning to fall into a trap where the "eternal-life only" Gospel implies every facet of soteriology so we don't need to (in fact should not) include any other information when witnessing. This has a whiff of the logical hoops that the Scholastics jumped through in the middle ages ( loves to discuss stuff like this on his blog but he can get philosophically out of my leage in a hurry). Like I said, this could get interesting.

    Thank you.

    Glenn W.

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  9. I've taken a cautious approach with how I label myself sometimes. I'm dispensational in how I handle Scripture, but I try not to come out and say "I'm a Dispensationalist" because that word means different things to different people.

    This seems to be a lesson I need to learn over and over again.

    I wonder how Antonio would answer the question about needing to know you're a sinner.

    Kev

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  10. Men:

    This is from my book at the start of my appendix entry on Calvinism.

    "My notes do not add anything new to the debate over Calvinism, and they will not end the debate. I reject the erroneous suggestion coming from some Calvinists that one must be Arminian or Calvinist. Stated plainly: I do not identify with the theology of John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). My desire is to simply stand where the Bible stands, whether or not that identifies me with a particular system of theology."


    LM

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  11. Men:

    From what I have read by Hodges and Antonio they are fixed on the ONLY thing that needs to be believed is that Jesus is the Giver of eternal life and the lost man is, by believing that fact alone, born again.

    They would include all the essentials in a gospel presentation, but the lost man need only acknowledge the "eternal life" issue to be saved.


    LM

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  12. A fragmented gospel, is no gospel at all. Hey Lou, what part of Chicago are you from? I am originally from there.

    Scribe

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  13. Hi Scribe:

    I live in Bolingbrook. What part of Chicago did you live in?

    "Fragmented" is a good choice of words. It appears all that Hodges and Antonio require in their interpretation of what results in the recepetion of salvation is the belief that Jesus is the Giver of eternal life.

    Antonio seems to view any other information, to be believed, as an "addition" to the gospel.

    Thanks for stopping by, come back again.


    Lou

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  14. Lou,

    Well I've been all over, LOL! I've lived in the Humboldt Park area, the Little Villge area(23rd and Homan) and the Southshore area(79th and Saginaw.

    Amazingly I live not too far from you as I live Naperville...what are the odds?

    It's been my observation that Antonio (though I may be wrong) is bent on defending Hodges view of Free-Grace. I am no proponent of Free-Grace and would more likely side on the Lordship side, and I'm a Calvinist, doh! Either way it struck me odd when you and Antonio started "going at it" over the nature of the Gospel. Anyway, peace and blessings in Christ Jesus, Lou.

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  15. Scribe:

    I'm not very familar with Antonio. I don't know about his education or his relationship, if any formal, he has with Hodges. Antonio is, however, is very passionate and zealous about promoting and defending the Hodges' view of Free Grace theology.

    Yes, you are close by. I was at Disney World in Apri on business. If I may borrow a tune, "It's a small world after all..."


    LM

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  16. Lou & Scribe,

    It is a small world! I live in NW Indiana but take the train into the loop every day for work.

    If you are interested, Antonio posted a an article last year named I've Been Tagged! Part 1 where he gives some details of his education and his relationship with Hodges.

    Glenn W.

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  17. Well, don't you guys show up at my place looking for a grilled swordfish sandwich. :)

    I'll take a look at the article by Antonio on his relationship with Hodges.

    Thanks,


    Lou

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  18. Kevl and Lou,

    There are at least two ways that can be used in order to invite, or offer someone a gift.

    #1) Touch upon their need of the gift

    #2) Touch upon the appealing nature of the gift itself to possess

    John 4:10
    10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
    NKJV

    The gift of God, eternal life, is an appealing and desirable gift. When it is heralded as an absolutely free gift, men and woman may be persuaded to receive that gift based upon its appeal.

    I want to give you the link to an article that discusses logical and theological necessity.

    Please read this link so that you can have at least an idea of where I am coming from.

    Here is the link:

    Logical vs Theological Necessity

    It is a very short post, that you could read in about 2 minutes or less. My position is that:

    understanding your sinfulness
    understanding the death of Christ
    understanding one's sinfulness
    understanding Christ's deity
    understanding Christ's physical resurrection
    understanding Christ's miracles
    understanding Christ's virgin birth
    being repentant

    and other considerations, viewed from the perspective of the subject of our evangelism, can be logical necessities to the one theologically necessary requirement to salvation.

    There is only one theological necessity to bring eternal life: taking Jesus Christ at His word in His promise to guarantee eternal life to the believer.

    But there may be varying logical necessities, based upon the subjective nature of the personality and mind to which Christ's claims are presented, which would need to be met in order for faith in Christ to occur. In other words, faith in Christ could be precluded by these necessities not being met.

    For instance, an atheist would have alot of logical necessities to come to faith into Jesus Christ for eternal life. Someone who has grown up in a Christian home may not have many or any.

    For another look at logical vs. theological necessity, please refer to this post:

    Acts 17 and Repentance

    Antonio

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  19. Antonio:

    As I mentioed earlier I am not going to continue a protracted debate over your postion on the Gospel. We have both set out our respective positions.

    At Unashamed of Grace you wrote, "There is but only one object of faith which is the irreducible minimum to be believed: Jesus Christ in His promise of eternal life to the believer."

    As I read what you are writing your position boils down to the belief that the only thing a lost man must believe to be born again is that Jesus is the Giver of eternal life.

    From what I can tell you believe nothing else from the content of the Gospel as found in 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Romans 10:9 needs to be acknowledged, understood or believed by the lost man and he can still be born again.

    Do I have that right?


    Lou

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