Zane Hodges is a major figure in the Lordship Salvation debate. Hodges is probably as prominent and well known a figure in the debate from the Free Grace perspective as John MacArthur is for the Lordship Salvation perspective.
In this series it has not been my desire to take anything away from the helpful contributions Zane Hodges has made to the Lordship debate. There are, however, serious concerns I have with some of the polarizing statements he has made in various books and publications, such as the kind I have noted earlier and will reiterate and expand on below.
When the Lordship Salvation controversy broke out following the release of John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus (1988) the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) was formed. Zane Hodges, Mike Cocoris, and to a lesser extent Dr. Charles Ryrie responded to the Lordship position. Dr. Ryrie’s book So Great Salvation is among the most reliable answers to the Lordship interpretation of the gospel from that period, and I cite it a number of times in the pages of my book.
Hodges rightly identifies reformed theology as the root of Lordship Salvation. There is, however, a serious problem in that Hodges eliminates repentance from the conversion experience. In his book Harmony With God Hodges takes the position that the process of repentance may be a preparatory step in coming to salvation, and should be evident in the life of a believer, but a lost man can be born again without repentance. Hodges also said he no longer holds to the “change of mind” view of repentance. For example:
“Many very fine grace people have held that the view the apostle John, at least in his Gospel, regarded repentance as a 'change of mind' that turned one from unbelief to faith in Christ. However, it is impossible to find such a doctrine of repentance anywhere in John’s writings.” (Harmony With God, p. 21)
“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.” (Harmony With God, p. 123.)
Another area for concern is that while Hodges believes the death (cross) burial and resurrection should be part of a gospel message, he also teaches it is not necessary for lost men to believe Jesus died for their sins in order to be born again. The core objective of Hodges’ gospel is for the sinner to believe Jesus grants eternal life, and this alone results in salvation from sin, death and Hell. According to Hodges, all a sinner needs to do is trust Christ for eternal life and he is born again. This teaching is found in an article by Hodges available through the GES website titled, How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1 & 2 (see links below). For example Hodges states,
“People are not saved by believing that Jesus died on the cross; they are saved by believing in Jesus for eternal life . . . Let us always point men to Christ Himself as the object of faith, rather than to some concept that must be theologically clarified before it can really be understood…. You see, as we noted previously, the facts surrounding the gospel message–such as the death and resurrection of Christ-are important facts for what they tell us about the reasons for trusting Christ. But believing these facts doesn’t save anyone. People are only saved when they believe that Jesus gives them eternal life the moment they believe in Him for that. The simple truth is that Jesus can be believed for eternal salvation apart from any detailed knowledge of what He did to provide it.” (Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14:1, Spring 2001.)
This teaching of a cross-less gospel by Hodges made a number of men in the GES very uncomfortable. A response was written by Pastor Gregory P. Sapaugh and appears in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, A Response to Hodges: How To Lead A Person To Christ, Parts 1 and 2..
This passage is arguably the clearest definition of what constitutes the gospel of Jesus Christ. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
In the thread under The Teaching of Zane Hodges I am interacting with Antonio da Rosa. Antonio is passionately committed to Free Grace theology especially as it is presented by Zane Hodges.
“Yes, I believe that a man can be born again who has not come to an understanding that Jesus died (was crucified) to pay the penalty for their sin.”My reply is:
In that case you have a problem with Romans 10:9-10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
You are teaching a "cross-less" gospel message. You believe and preach the cross, but find it not at all necessary for a lost man to believe this in order to be saved. Based on Roman 10:9 I have to conclude this is wrong!
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 defines the gospel. Romans 10:9-10 states believing these facts (defined in 1 Cor. 15:3-4) are conditional to be born again. Presenting these facts is essential, but to render them unimportant for the sinner to acknowledge and believe undermines the gospel.
I want to encourage you to read Dr. Kevin Bauder’s article at Sharper Iron titled, Thinking About the Gospel, Part 1. In the article Dr. Bauder addresses 1 Cor. 15:3-4 in a compelling way.
Zane Hodges takes what some, even in the GES camp, view as an extreme view of the Free Grace position. Hodges advocates that position, which insists a person, can profess Christ, but demonstrate absolutely no evidence of a new life in Christ, and still be counted as among those who are truly saved. His books, which present this position, are The Bible Knowledge Commentary, The Hungry Inherit, The Gospel Under Siege, Grace in Eclipse, and The Epistles of John, pp. 111-112,145.
Recently I discovered a paper titled, Sanctification Confused: Understanding the Controversy Being Created by the Free Grace Movement by Mr. Lenny Demers. The article cites Hodges from numerous sources that substantiate much of what I have been sharing of late in regard to the teaching of Zane Hodges.
[In the opening page of Brother Demer's article you will notice he refers to Dr. Charles Baker. Dr. Baker has made some very good contributions to the Lordship debate and I cite him in my book.]
Many have appreciated some of the helpful contributions Zane Hodges has made to the Lordship debate. There are, however, some polarizing statements and positions by Hodges, such as the kind I have noted above, that leave many disappointed and frustrated.
Hodges is very close to the heart of the Lordship debate, and I am not as comfortable with him as I'd like to be on several key points of doctrine. Because of the concerns I had and continue to have with Zane Hodges I decided it would be in the best interest of accomplishing my goals for In Defense of the Gospel to make only a brief mention of Hodges, with a caution to my readers about the direction the he has taken on certain key elements of the gospel.
I would like encourage good people on both side of the Lordship/Free Grace controversy to feel free to post some comments here on this short series on the teaching of Zane Hodges. I would be especially interested to hear from those of you in the Lordship camp. Or if you prefer, please write me via e-mail. Just click on the e-mail icon, which appears just above the Links section.
God bless you,
For additional reading on doctrinal concerns with Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society please visit George Zeller’s site.
For additional reading on the theology of Zane Hodges choose from the following links.
How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1:
The Content of Our Message
How to Lead People to Christ, Part 2:
Our Invitation to Respond
Harmony With God, Part 1
Harmony With God, Part 2
Harmony With God, Part 3