Dear Guests of IDOTG:
On going concerns have been raised by men in the Hodges/GES camp about the use of the label “Crossless” gospel. I am going to post a few notes to help my guests understand why the Zane Hodges interpretation of the Gospel has come to be known as the “Crossless” gospel.
Since the early days of the debate over the new interpretation of the Gospel that originated with Zane Hodges, the advocates of the so-called “Crossless” gospel have bristled over use of that label for their position. They often refer to the label as a pejorative. Pejorative defined means, “having a disparaging, derogatory, or belittling effect or force.”
Is the “Crossless” labeling a pejorative? Or is the “Crossless” label an appropriate choice that accurately defines the Hodges' interpretation of the Gospel?
Pastor Tom Stegall has been writing a series of articles under the title The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel. This series appears in the Grace Family Journal (GFJ). Pastor Stegall recently dedicated several pages to a discussion of why the “Crossless” gospel is the appropriate label for the interpretation of the Gospel coming from Zane Hodges and the Grace Evangelical Society. At the GFJ site scroll down to the Special Edition of The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel. Download Part 4, and direct your attention to pp. 10-ff.
Pastor Bret Nazworth read Stegall’s Special Edition, Part 4. This was his reaction, which he posted under the Special Edition of the Grace Family Journal.
Just got finished with Pastor Stegall’s first article in the special edition of the GFJ and it is a slam dunk. Once again he proves that GES is indeed preaching a crossless gospel. The fact that they preach a crossless gospel is not new information but the proof he presents is mouth-gapingly astonishing.In the same thread Rachel made an important contribution in reply to Bret’s note,
Terrifyingly, they are aggressively using their writing and speaking to delete the CROSS and RESURRECTION from being Gospel CONTENT wherever they can. The best that they can concede is that the cross may be helpful information but they are equally quick to add that it is “not the Gospel.”
Tragically, the deity of Christ, the cross and resurrection are superfluous details to the non-believer. Use it if you want, but never present it as part of the saving message that must be believed!
By their definition and distinctions we who preach Christ crucified for sins and resurrected as THE Gospel to be preached and believed upon by the sinner are preaching “ANOTHER GOSPEL.” Yes, no matter which way you dice it up, when our messages are juxtaposed, one of us has and preaches “another gospel”.
One of our messages has to bring “anathema” by biblical standards. There is no biblical squirm-room on this matter because they are undeniably different messages.
The GES has left us no room for doubting which one they would believe deserves anathema (as being “another gospel”). To my knowledge they have not said this, but by all implications, this has to be true. Think about this carefully. The message that contains, faith in Our Precious and Exalted God and Savior, Jesus Christ’s death for our sins and His glorious resurrection is the message, that by their definition of the gospel produces ANATHEMA. This message is totally different from their message.
Unimaginably, the message that exalts Jesus Christ and His Finished Work on Calvary is the message that by their definition of the gospel has to bring anathema. Can you stomach that?
Actually, Bob Wilkin has stated more than once that his version of the gospel is the only one, and all others are false (either that or his is false, but of course he doesn't think his is false). Wilkin debated Dr. Darrell Bock (Dallas Seminary professor) several years ago, here is the transcript.From the writing of Zane Hodges, Pastor Stegall demonstrates why his (Hodges’) position is appropriately labeled a “Crossless” gospel. Ps. Stegall writes,
On page 30 a questioner from the audience specifically asks him if “his gospel” is “the exclusive gospel.” He responds in the affirmative. The person presses him further, asking, “So therefore any one who is not adhering to the free grace gospel, in your opinion, would fall under the anathema of Galatians 1?” Now, obviously this person is asking about “free grace” in general, but in context he is referring to whatever Wilkin believes is “the gospel.” In Wilkins’s opening statement of this debate he indicated that the statement “faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone” is not the gospel. So this question references Wilkins's specific take on “the gospel.”
Wilkins’s answer: “Yes. In terms of the anathema of Galatians 1, my view is, any one who is proclaiming a false gospel … a person hypothetically could believe a false gospel and not proclaim it. But if they’re proclaiming a false gospel, they fall under the curse, which I take it is the curse of God which falls upon the life of someone here and now. It’s not like the NIV translates it, ‘let him be eternally condemned.’ That’s not a translation; that’s an interpretation. It simply says anathema -- let him be under the curse of God. And so I take it what that means is if I know someone that’s proclaiming a false gospel, I don’t send money into their ministry, I don’t pray for God to bless their ministry. Instead I pray for God to bring them back to the true gospel.”
Also, the following statement from a journal article written by Wilkin is pretty clear: “Jesus made it clear that the only condition [for salvation] is being convinced that He guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him. Add anything to that and you have a different gospel.” (See JOTGES Autumn 1998.)
“After reading all that Hodges has written…one is baffled as to how the preaching of the cross can seriously be considered ‘essential’.”Here is an example from Hodges,
“I have heard people say this: ‘In order to be saved you must believe that Jesus died on the cross.’ . . . . usually implied is the idea that Christ's work on the cross is sufficient to provide for our salvation... Let me be honest, I don’t like this way of presenting a gospel invitation.” (JOTGES 14:1, Spring 01, p. 11)Hodges, Wilkin, Meyers and da Rosa are on record claiming that a lost man can be saved apart from any knowledge, understanding or belief in the deity, cross or resurrection of Christ. Throughout the debate the Grace Evangelical Society’s most vocal apologist Antonio da Rosa has written some of the most extreme statements that reveal the true nature of the GES’s reductionist assault on the content of saving faith. For example:
“...my position that the cross and resurrection are not the conscious and necessary objects/content to saving faith, and my position that a man may be born again apart from an understanding of Christ’s death for sin.”
“Theologically speaking, ‘explicit belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection’ is not soteriologically necessary for the reception of eternal life.”
“If a JW hears me speak of Christ’s deity and asks me about it, I will say, ‘Let us agree to disagree about this subject.’ At the moment that a JW or a Mormon is convinced that Jesus Christ has given to them unrevokable [sic] eternal life when they believed on Him for it, I would consider such a one saved, REGARDLESS of their varied misconcetions [sic] and beliefs about Jesus.”
“I would never say you don’t have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This has the import of the gospel proposition which makes it salvific! If someone asks me point blank, do I believe that one must believe that Jesus is God in order to go to heaven, I would say ‘NO!’”
“If I were talking to a Jew, he may very well ask me about the deity and humanity of Jesus. I would certainly entertain his questions and answer them to the best of my ability. But if such a one continued to express doubts or objections to this, I would say politely, ‘Let us for the time being put this issue on the back-burner. Can I show you from the Jewish Scriptures that the advent of Jesus Christ fulfills many prophecies?’ . . . Objections and denials of things pertaining to Jesus can surely preclude one from faith in Him for eternal life. If this Jew can put aside...the discussion of Christ’s deity, and Christ’s voluntary consent to die, and look in a considerate way at the prophecies concerning Christ’s advent in the Old Testament, His miracles, His teachings, His compassionate acts, His righteous and holy acts, and through consideration of these things, become persuaded that Jesus guarantees his eternal destiny through faith, why would anyone consider him unsaved?”
“I do not believe that one must understand, assent to, or be aware of the historical Jesus of Nazareth’s deity in order to simply be justified and receive eternal life.”
“The Mormon Jesus and Evangelical Jesus are One and the Same.”
For the “Crossless” advocates the finished work of Christ and His deity are stumbling blocks to their methodology of personal evangelism. They do not hesitate to jettison (“put on the back-burner,” according to da Rosa) these truths from the evangelistic message. They essentially agree to deny the cross, His bodily resurrection and deity on a practical level, if those truths are offensive to the lost man they are witnessing to.
No amount of complaining by any advocate of the “Crossless” gospel, can change the fact that their interpretation removes the finished work of Christ on the cross from what a lost man must know and believe for salvation. The “Crossless” gospel advocates repeatedly claim the label “Crossless” is a misrepresentation. You will read comments such as:
Those of us who use the label “Crossless” have always conceded that these men believe in and would share the cross in an evangelistic setting. The crux of debate and controversy, however, is that they also believe a lost man does not have to know, understand or believe in the finished work of Christ to be born again. Because they dismiss the cross, His resurrection and deity from the Gospel to be believed for salvation, their system has been properly labeled a “Crossless” gospel.
I recognize that labeling the gospel message of certain men within the Free Grace camp as a “crossless” gospel is a provocative statement. Some have already claimed it is a misrepresentation of their actual position, since these men still believe very passionately that Jesus Christ is truly God who became incarnate to die for all our sins and who rose gloriously from the dead. And in addition, not only do they personally believe these cardinal doctrines to be true, they often preach these truths with the utmost conviction as being the absolutely necessary basis of our salvation. For that I am truly grateful. I have been very careful to this point specifically not to claim that they never preach Christ’s person and work, or that they deny His deity, death for sin, and resurrection as the essential grounds upon which God can even provide the gift of salvation to mankind. What I have specifically objected to as unscriptural is their denial that these truths are essential for the unregenerate to believe as part of the gospel to the lost. In this, they cannot claim I have misrepresented their position; for in fact, their position is now well documented through their many published writings and recorded public teachings.Pastor Stegall then proceeds to document “their many published writings.” I join Pastor Stegall and do not question the “Crossless” advocates personal belief in the finished work of Christ. I believe they will speak of the finished work of Christ to a lost man. The crux of controversy and the reason for the “Crossless” label is simply because they believe and insist a lost man can be born again apart from any understanding or belief in the finished work of Christ.
So how should we view their gospel preaching? First of all, we should admit that “while they” adamantly deny that the lost must believe in Christ’s deity, substitutionary death, and resurrection to receive the gift of eternal life, they also insist that these truths should still be proclaimed to the lost.
In my book In Defense of the Gospel I noted how in the early days of the Lordship controversy (1988-ff.), John MacArthur bristled at the label, “Lordship Salvation” when it was attached to his view of the Gospel. In The Gospel According to Jesus, MacArthur wrote,
“I don't like the term ‘lordship salvation.’ It was coined by those who want to eliminate the idea of submission to Christ from the call of saving faith, and it implies that Jesus’ lordship is a false addition to the gospel.”MacArthur has since those early days embraced the term. Does any one recall Hodges, Wilkin, Ryrie or any other Free Grace leader claiming we need to respect MacArthur’s wishes and use some other more agreeable label of MacArthur’s choosing? No one did that I am aware of! Yet there are some in the Free Grace community who want to concede to the “Crossless” gospel advocates demands to refer to their peculiar theology the way they insist it should be.
Based on the overwhelming evidence from their own writing the Hodges, Wilkin, GES aberrant interpretation of the Gospel will always, and only be referred to as the “Crossless” gospel by those of us who will not surrender the pure doctrinal high ground for the sake of unity. Whether those men like it or not, they need to get used to their theology being known and referred to as a “Crossless” gospel. In reference to the Hodges/GES interpretation of the Gospel the “Crossless” label is going to be used permanently and without apology.
If the teaching of Hodges, Wilkin and the GES on what a sinner must believe for salvation included belief in the finished work of Christ then the label “Crossless” gospel would be a pejorative. Since, however, it is on record that the GES teaches that lost men can be saved apart from believing in the finished work of Christ, the label “Crossless” is indeed appropriate and accurate term for their reductionist interpretation of the Gospel, and is going to be used permanently without apology.