The Polar Opposites
In the current debate there are two extremes in evangelical and fundamental circles over the definition of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The opposing views are commonly known as “Lordship Salvation” and the “Crossless” Gospel. The Lordship interpretation of the Gospel is most notably identified with Dr. John MacArthur. The Crossless (Deityless) interpretation of the Gospel is most notably identified with Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and is the official position of the Grace Evangelical Society.
The overall debate is not over a question of a weak gospel verses a strong gospel, but of the one true gospel standing apart from all other false gospels. If the strong Lordship gospel erred by addition, the weak Crossless gospel equally errs by subtraction. Any alteration of the Gospel either by omission or addition must be rejected!
Lordship Salvation tears at the very heart of the gospel; it corrupts the “simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3) Telling a lost man he must offer anything, in addition to faith, believing and repentance toward his salvation, is a “works” philosophy and is a departure from the “faith which was once delivered” (Jude 3). Lordship Salvation conditions the reception of eternal life upon an upfront promise of cross bearing, “full surrender” and “whole-hearted commitment.” That is Lordship Salvation, which is a false addition to the Gospel.
The increasingly meaningless Crossless gospel has alarmed many within the Free Grace community. For the conversion of the lost the Crossless gospel advocate considers who Jesus is, His deity, sacrificial death and resurrection unimportant and non-essential for the lost man to know, understand or believe. The sinfulness of man, the pending judgment of God and what Jesus did to provide salvation does not need to be known, understood or believed. A lost man can consciously reject the deity of Jesus, but according to Crossless teachers he can still be saved if he will simply state he believes a man named Jesus will give him eternal life. Misconceptions about the deity of Christ, sin, Hell and the substitutionary death and resurrection of the Lord are matters to be addressed after a statement of belief in the name Jesus for eternal life.
Representing the Lordship view of repentance, Nathan Busenitz (John MacArthur’s personal assistant) sees repentance as necessary for salvation. In addition, however, he defines repentance as “a change of allegiance” and includes a willingness to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ. Nathan views repentance as a decision to stop sinning and start obeying. See- How Does the Lordship Advocate Define Repentance?
Representative of the Crossless view of repentance, Zane Hodges believes repentance is not a condition of salvation, and is not necessary for conversion. In Harmony With God, Hodges wrote,
“Thank God there is only one answer to the question, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ That, of course, is the answer not only of Paul and all the apostles, but of Jesus Himself. The answer is: ‘believe!’ Repentance is not part of that answer. It never has been and never will be....I myself once held the ‘change of mind’ view of repentance and taught it. But the Scriptures have persuaded me otherwise.”
These are the opposing views of repentance coming for the Lordship and Crossless teachers. Both definitions reveal a serious departure from Scripture. Neither one is right! Men who fall somewhere in the middle of the Lordship and Crossless extremes are in close agreement on repentance, but you will find some variance among them.
Refining the Defining:
The delayed publishing of my revised an expanded edition of In Defense of the Gospel is primarily for two reasons:
1) My discovery and addressing of the Crossless interpretation of the Gospel. I have devoted a great deal of time to dealing with this issue and providing space for men like Pastor Tom Stegall and Greg Schliesmann to make contributions to the discussion.
2) The doctrine of repentance. Upon its release in April 2006 my book immediately came under a great deal of scrutiny, as one should expect when you put your thoughts and doctrinal position in print for public consumption.
In my debates with the Lordship advocates (2006) and in the current debate with the advocates of the Crossless gospel I found that one of the areas of sharpest disagreement is over the doctrine of repentance. Both groups hold to opposing errors on repentance.
The confusion from differing views underscores the importance of clearly and accurately articulating the biblical view of repentance. This has lead to my decision to look at this doctrine and try to find that biblically defined position. Criticism, occasionally constructive, from both sides has shown me where I can refine my position and articulation of this vital doctrine. This requires study and prayer, which I am undertaking.
It is not my goal to appease or fit in to either side of the debate. No matter where I stake out my position on repentance I am sure to be applauded or criticized by folks from within both camps. Preachers, I am sure you can identify with that. My desire is to simply stand where the Bible stands, whether or not that will identify me with a particular system of theology or movement.
Now It's Your Turn:
Have you taken the poll on repentance in the left column? It is an informal, unscientific poll, but I thought it might give us a snap shot of what kinds of specific opinions exist among the guests to my blog.
Here is what I’d like to see in the thread. I am encouraging each of you to go into the thread and write, in a sentence or two, how you would define repentance. Try to boil it down to a simple, succinct defining statement. I am going to allow for anonymous posting for this thread so that all may post a personal definition without concern over criticism.
IMO, this will be an interesting a study to see the diversity of opinion on the doctrine of repentance.