False Paradigm #2:
The true object of faith is preached only when we require the lost to believe the literal name “Jesus” for everlasting life. If you require belief in truths about "Jesus" in addition to His name for salvation, you distort the object of faith by changing the object of faith from the name “Jesus” to theological facts about Jesus.
This article is going to begin addressing the question, “What does it mean to believe in Jesus alone for salvation?” Does the gospel truth that salvation is offered by faith in Jesus Christ alone mean that a person does not need to believe any truths about Jesus aside from His name and promise? That is what some advocates of the “Crossless” gospel now claim. I want to address this claim as a way to lead into the topic of the next article on whether it is possible to believe in a “false Jesus.”
This false paradigm is succinctly articulated by Grace Evangelical Society(GES) advocate Antonio da Rosa:
“The ‘doctrinal checklist’ advocates' position on saving faith consists of believing in a death, and a resurrection, along with other, what they would consider orthodox, information. They make doctrine the object of faith and not Christ alone.”
A recent internet article stated,
“The 'Majority' position states that one must believe A, B, C, D, E, and F to be saved. If one is required to believe these things, firstly, they are multiple conditions. How many theologically required conditions are there to be saved? Furthermore, if one is told that he must believe these things, they necessarily become objects of faith. This conclusion cannot be escaped and is mere common sense. The majority position requires that these things be believed. If they are believed, they are objects of faith. And if they are required, then they become co-conditions to ‘believing in Christ’.”
To date, I am not aware of Zane Hodges or Bob Wilkin making this claim so explicitly. However, da Rosa’s argument seems to be the logical next step to the “Crossless” gospel. GES staff member Jeremy Myers agrees with da Rosa’s label of those who reject their teaching as “doctrinal checklist advocates.” He takes it a step further with the label “doctrinal legalist.” Hodges has claimed we are “adding to the gospel,” which he compares to “the efforts made by Lordship people to add provisos to the message of faith in Christ.”
These are serious accusations. To point the lost to a false object of faith is tantamount to preaching a false gospel. A person cannot be saved through an exercise of faith in the wrong object!! If we are telling people to put their faith in the wrong object, woe is us!
Before proceeding, I am compelled to briefly explain our view that the “Crossless” gospel camp condemns. As reconciled people, we are given “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). That obviously involves carrying forward a message that involves reconciliation to God (Luke 24:46-47; 1 Cor. 1:17-23; 2 Cor. 5:20).
In conjunction with this message, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). Why would this be important? To understand “the gospel” that Jesus Christ “died for our sins” to reconcile us to God requires the necessary presupposition that one is a sinner before a righteous God who will execute judgment. “The gospel” the lost must believe is good news in light of this truth. “The gospel” explains that Christ “died for our sins” and “rose again” (1 Cor. 1:17-23; 15:1-4). The simple phrase “Christ died for our sins” is meaningful, yet simple. It means Christ’s death paid for our sin. We agree that the lost must believe in Jesus Christ alone in order to be saved. If a person truly believes Christ’s death was the payment for his sins, he would not attempt to resolve the sin issue by his works or reformation. Not only did Christ die, but He also rose. His resurrection declared He is the Son of God, with the power to save everyone who believes in Him in light of His completed work.
To summarize, in order to trust the true Jesus Christ and receive salvation, a person must believe: He is God and Man (John 6:32-35, 51; 8:23-24, 1 John 4:3) who died for our sins and rose again to reconcile us to God by faith in Him alone (John 3:14-15; 6:32-35; 50-51; 1 Cor. 1:17-21; Rom. 1:4, 16; 4:23-25; 10:9; John 6:35-58; Rom. 1:4, 16; 4:23-25; 9:30-10:10, 16). This is the Scriptural view that has consistently been taught by grace-oriented brethren throughout the ages.
Why do some “Crossless” gospel advocates say we have changed the object of faith? It is because we believe the lost must believe He is God who came in the flesh to die for our sins and rise again. Some readers may wonder, “How can someone get saved without believing these truths?” Da Rosa supports his view with arguments like this:
“My daughter believes in me as her ‘Dad’. As her dad I work at a Costco warehouse where I am a merchandiser. She doesn't know what I do there. She doesn't understand. She may even believe that I own the whole store and run it myself! My daughter believes in me as her ‘Dad’, as the one who provides for her, feeds her, clothes her, shelters her, etc. When she believes in me, she is believing in a man who is a merchant at a Costco, whether or not she knows what I do, have done, or has wild misconceptions about me. She has trusted me as her dad and I provide for her. The means by which I can provide for her is not the issue. The issue is whether or not she is going to trust me as her dad, trust me for her well-being, and I will provide for her, or is she going to doubt in me, and worry, and be anxious about where she is going to find her well-being.”
The Two-Edged Sword:
Young children depend on their parents without knowing their names or promises. If this is how we are going to determine truth, this analogy could argue just as strongly against GES’s own checklist that the lost need to believe Jesus’ name and promise of eternal life by faith alone. A child apprehends his parents by sensory experience, not by belief of their names or truths about them. Christ is apprehended as the object of one’s faith only by the essential truths that identify Him.
Even a child recognizes certain features about her dad that identify him, like his appearance and voice. For example, let's say a man with dark slicked-back hair and a ponytail driving a Lamborghini approaches Antonio da Rosa’s daughter. On the license plate is the name “Antonio.” He promises to guarantee her well-being if she will get in the car. She does not realize he is actually Antonio Banderas, the cunning Hollywood actor who played Zorro. Would she get in his car? Of course not. The one thing she knows for sure is that this "Antonio" is not her dad.
When “Crossless” gospel advocates say we preach a false object of faith because we believe the lost must believe certain essential features that identify Jesus Christ, I wonder about the practical effect to their own evangelism. To date, most “Crossless” gospel advocates claim to preach Jesus Christ’s death for our sins, resurrection, deity, and humanity along with the promise of salvation. They say this helps to lay the foundation for the “saving proposition.” But I wonder, do they make a practical caveat to avoid preaching a false object of faith like we are accused of doing? Do they caption their presentation of “the gospel” with the explanation:
“I’m going to tell you about this Cross issue, but before I do that, I must warn you that this truth is non-essential. You must not believe in Jesus and His death for your sins for salvation. Instead, you must consciously separate Christ’s work on the cross and His promise of eternal life. You must believe in Jesus through His promise alone, not His death”?
It seems their paradigm would demand this. Despite everything “Crossless” gospel advocates say to sound orthodox, the logical conclusion of their view is that the presentation of Christ’s death and the truths of the gospel could hazard men’s souls because men might be tempted to involve Christ’s death, resurrection, and deity as essential elements to the object of their faith.
The Biblical Answer:
Da Rosa wants to make it sound as though we have complicated the saving message to the preclusion of simple, child-like faith. However, the argument da Rosa articulated is not faithful to the analogy Jesus used when he said "whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will by no means enter it..." (Luke 18:16). Christ's point was not about a child's lack of knowledge about his parents but rather his trust upon his parents. But again, a baby apprehends his parents by sensory experience, while we apprehend Christ by faith in the essential truths that identify him.
That does not mean the saving message is complicated. That does not mean we cannot exercise child-like faith in Jesus Christ. Da Rosa misrepresents the issue when he says young children cannot articulate “how Jesus can be both God and God's Son at the same time.” The issue is not articulating how Jesus can be both God and God’s Son, nor is it articulating how Jesus can be both God and man. Jesus never said, “You must believe how I am God.” He said:
"…I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24)
"…When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM…” (John 8:28)
Frankly, I do not know how. All I know that it is true. And I know five-year old children who believe that it is true. And when I was a young child, I believed it was true. I remember wondering if I would be able to understand how this worked when I grew up. So far, the answer is no. I do not understand that any better than I did when I was five or six. All I know is what I knew then—that it is true. Neither a child nor an adult needs to articulate how Jesus can be both God and man. They only must believe that He is God and man.
“Crossless” gospel advocates put an emphasis on believing “in Jesus’ name”. This is a Scriptural phrase (e.g. John 1:12). According to “Crossless” gospel advocates, that means to believe the literal name “Jesus” for everlasting life, without necessarily having any other information about who He is. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus’ name?
For one thing, even the Greek name behind “Jesus” conveyed a meaning to its original hearers that the English transliteration does not. It means “God-Savior” or “God’s Savior” and implies Christ’s deity and unique role as mediator between man and God. His very name conveys the idea of salvation or eternal life as reconciliation to God, not just some sort of eternal, godless well-being. I wonder if “Crossless” gospel advocates would allow for the lost to believe in the translation of Christ’s name (“God’s Savior”) for everlasting life rather than the transliteration (“Jesus”). How do we know it must be the transliteration rather than the translation? And if it must be the transliteration, why not insist the lost must know the Greek pronunciation? The fact is, the English word “Jesus” was not what He was called in Greek or Aramaic. It is doubtful that Greek-speakers in His day would have even connected the English “Jesus” with what they spelled and pronounced much differently.
But does believing in Jesus’ name mean to simply believe His name is "Jesus"? Even a casual perusal of the Gospel of John or other books of the Bible will show otherwise. When Jesus prayed, "I have manifested Your name to the men You have given Me..." (17:6), He meant that He manifested the Person and authority signified by the name. The word "name" is used hundreds of times in this sense in Scripture. It would be superfluous to cite verses. A search for the exact term "name of the Lord" in an online Bible will show over 100 results that confirm this point.
But “Crossless” gospel advocates actually admit this. Da Rosa stated,
“Christ's ‘name’ is everything who He actually is. This ‘name’ represents everything who He TRULY is.”
After this statement, da Rosa continues with an unexplained leap of logic as if believing the literal name “Jesus” is some magical door where only the name “Jesus” is seen on the human side but all true Christology is seen on the divine side:
“When we believe in the ‘name’ of Jesus Christ for eternal life through the persuasion of the content of the gospel message we are believing in Him in who He truly is in all capacities, whether or not we understand them or not.”
Obviously, the lost do not need to know everything about Jesus in order to be saved, but they do need to know the essential truths that identify Him. The fact we are to "believe in His name" indicates first of all that we are to believe in a Person. In fact, when the Gospel of John speaks of believing in reference to salvation, it uses two common prepositions: “in” and “that”. The preposition “in” is directional and indicates what our faith looks upon, and it always refers to His Person: "in His name" (1:12); "in the Son" (3:36); "in the Son of God" (9:35). Likewise, the preposition “that” points to some essential truth about His Person, often emphasizing His deity: "that I AM" (8:24, 28); "that the Father is in Me, and I in Him" (10:38); "that I came out from God" (16:27); "that You did send Me" (17:8, 21); "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (20:31). The fact we are called to "believe in His name" harmonizes completely with the fact that Scripture outlines essential truths the lost must believe about Jesus to be saved.
Contrary to this, both da Rosa and Hodges have added the phrase “REGARDLESS OF BLANK SPOTS...” when referring to believing in Jesus’ name for salvation. They say you can be saved when you believe in “Jesus” for everlasting life regardless of blind spots you may have about Jesus Christ. This is like a blank check. For example, you can take away His deity, His humanity, His work on the cross, His resurrection, and the fact that He ever came to earth--and you will be saved. Or you can add anything. You could believe “Jesus” is the former Branch Dividian leader David Koresh, as long as you believe in “Jesus” for eternal life. You can believe “Jesus” is an occultist wizard master that grants eternal access into some sort of pleasurable, ethereal realm of the occult. You can believe Jesus is a sinner who guarantees eternal life. If you live in the Tribulation, you can mistake the Antichrist for “Jesus” as long as you believe he guarantees eternal life.
Finally, da Rosa confuses essentials truths about Jesus as individual objects of faith. He says,
“The ‘Majority’ position states that one must believe A, B, C, D, E, and F to be saved…The majority position requires that these things be believed. If they are believed, they are objects of faith. And if they are required, then they become co-conditions to ‘believing in Christ’.”
It is not clear how da Rosa avoids his own accusation. In his book Secure and Sure, Bob Wilkin has a section titled “Three Essentials”. He says Jesus “routinely communicated three things. We, too, must share those three elements. They are: 1. believing 2. in Jesus 3. for eternal life.” Notice how Wilkin enumerates these three essentials exactly as da Rosa enumerated the essentials of our view. If we have five objects of faith, then by his own definition, da Rosa has three objects of faith. Da Rosa may argue his three essentials can be put into one sentence or one proposition, but so what? So can ours.
But how can we respond to the accusation that we tell the lost to put their faith in different objects? Does the need for a person to believe he is a sinner constitute an object of faith? No, in fact, the Holy Spirit’s pre-evangelistic work involves convicting “the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). That does not mean He wants people to put their faith in their sin. Rather, a person must accept the presupposition that he is a sinner in order to understand “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3) or even in order to understand and respond to the gospel appeal, “Be ye reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20).
Are essential truths about Jesus individual objects of faith or are they essential parts to the one true object of faith? Jesus Christ Himself, in an evangelistic appeal, presents Himself as the “Bread of Life” (John 6:32, 33, 35, 41, 48, 50, 51, 58). This involves His deity: “For the bread of God is He which comes down from heaven…” (6:33; cf. 32, 41, 50, 51, 58). This involves His incarnation and death: “He which comes down from heaven”; “the bread that I will give is my flesh” (6:51); “except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood…” (6:53). And by implication, it involves His resurrection: “I am the living bread” (6:51); “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (6:54). Did Jesus present multiple objects of faith when He described Himself as the “Bread of Life”? No, these truths were all wrapped into His very identity as the “Bread of Life.” And when Jesus calls the lost to believe on Him as the “Bread of Life,” He is not mandating that people must believe on the literal term “Bread of Life,” but rather the truths signified by it. This example demonstrates how the person and work of Jesus are wrapped into His identity. That is why He is called the “Lamb of God”. That is why the “Jesus” that Paul preached is “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2).
When Jesus is divested of His deity, humanity, death for sins, and resurrection, what are we left with? A guy named “Jesus” who guarantees eternal life. Is this the true Jesus of the Bible we are called to believe in? In the next article, we will see the shocking false paradigm that allows “Crossless” gospel advocates to answer “Yes!”
 Antonio da Rosa, "Checklist Evangelists."
 Antonio da Rosa, "Free Grace Theology-Majority/Minority Views."
 See "Welcome & Where We're Headed" [Note comment #1 in the thread posted by Jeremy Myers on August 3, 2007 @ 4:15pm.]
 Zane Hodges, “How To Lead people to Christ, Pt. 1.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Autumn 2000).
 For example, see Tom Stegall, “The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, Pt. 1,” pp. 6-11. Grace Family Journal (Spring 2007).
 Antonio da Rosa, “How Much Information is Really Needed?”
 Notice, this is exactly what da Rosa is concerned about:
“But we must not confuse the evidence (i.e. a gospel message) which supports and undergirds the promise of eternal life, with the content of saving faith itself. This would cloud the essential issue between God and men! When we ought to be pointing men and women to simple faith in Christ through His promise which unequivocally offers eternal life to the one who takes Him at His word for it…”See: Antonio da Rosa, “Will the REAL Jesus Please Stand Up?
The phrase “through His promise” is a favorite phrase of da Rosa who uses it no less than eight times on blog entries on the subject of what the lost must believe to be saved.
Antonio da Rosa, "Major Problems With Checklist Evangelism," (July 26, 2007 blog entry).
 Antonio da Rosa, "Checklist Evangelists."
E.g. “Everyone who believes in that name for eternal salvation is saved, regardless of the blank spots…” Zane Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Pt.1,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Autumn 2000).