September 29, 2007

Myers Launches New Study on the Deity of Christ

To My Guests:

I noticed that GES editor Jeremy Myers is posting a new series on his website on the terms “the Christ” and “the Son of God.” In the introductory article, Myers stated:

“I do not yet know where this study will lead.... Many people today teach that the terms ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of God’ refer to the divinity of Jesus. While that certainly has been a popular view in the past, and may be what is considered the ‘traditional’ view, more and more students of the Word are realizing this view does not fit all the Biblical data. However, if in my study, I find that this traditional view best fits Scripture, I will believe and teach it to the best of my ability.”

Please notice that Myers suggested that he has not yet reached a conclusion on the meaning of “the Christ” and “the Son of God.” However, a few sentences later he claims the "Biblical data" indicates that His Deity is NOT conveyed by these terms. The fact is, Myers has already argued that Christ's Deity is NOT involved in these terms as quoted in the latest article, The “Christ” Under Siege, Part 2

Here is an important question for Myers:

Eternal life is conditioned on believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (cf. John 20:31). Since you are uncertain right now, by your own admission, what John means by these vital terms, then how can you say with certainty that you know you have eternal life?

Myers also stated:

“There are certain men out there right now on different blogs and publications calling me a heretic for even proposing such a study.”

We highly doubt anybody called Myers a heretic for “even proposing such a study.” Myers did not cite any examples of such men. Not until late Friday evening, did we even know that Myers was “proposing such a study.”

Myers has already drifted into heresy because he has already argued that someone can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as “the Christ, the Son of God” without believing in His Deity! Furthermore, there are men sympathetic to the GES “Crossless/Deityless” interpretation of the Gospel who believe a lost man can consciously reject the Deity of Christ and still be born again by believing in the name Jesus for eternal life. Myers and Bob Wilkin refuse to discuss or answer questions about this especially disturbing aspect of their evangelism.

It is dishonest for Myers to pretend that he has not already argued for a certain conclusion, and that we called him a heretic for “proposing such a study.” This is not unlike the approach of the Iranian President, Ahmadinejad (sounds like “I’m in a Jihad”). Ahmadinejad profusely argued the Holocaust is a “myth” and held a conference with notable Holocaust-Deniers to build his case. Then when he was recently challenged for making such an absurd claim by the president of Columbia University, he claimed to have only asked for “more research on the Holocaust.” With all due respect, Myers demonstrated the same transparent lack of honesty.

Whether or not Myers concedes these titles convey His Deity, we believe his lack of honesty reflects his agenda to continue to deny that a lost man can be saved apart from believing in the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is our hope and prayer that Jeremy Myers will repent of the teaching he has brought, and will return to orthodoxy.


LM & GS

*Later today (10/1) I will be moving this article down the home page to keep Greg's The “Christ” Under Siege: The New Assault from the GES at the top.

September 25, 2007

Where is The Balance in Repentance?




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.


REPENTANCE:

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.


LM

September 23, 2007

Repentance: Poll & Defining

To All:

As a reminder, Greg Schliesmann’s The “Christ” Under Siege, Part 2 will be posted by the end of this week.

In the meantime, I am opening a poll question. There are multiple answers to choose from. This is your your chance to participate in an informal, anonymous poll on the definition of biblical repentance. There are three choices. Please choose the one that best describes your personal position on repentance. (I believe the poll feature allows for anonymous voting, but I am not sure.)

On Tuesday morning I am going to post an article to share some thoughts and comments on the overall debate over the Gospel as well as the doctrine of repentance within the broader discussion. I will comment along the lines of the extremes in the debate, plus my desire and effort to define what might be the balanced position on repentance that many (not all) would be comfortable with.

It might interest you to know that I am going to open the comment thread for anonymous interaction of the doctrine of repentance. I am, however, going to give one specific instruction for posting in that thread as an anonymous guest.

Check back again for the new article and comment thread.


LM

GES blog moderator is blocking questions on repentance to Bob Wilkin! On Sunday morning I posted two questions on repentance to Bob Wilkin at his GES blog. To view the two questions I posted to Wilkin, and some comments, open the comment thread below.

September 21, 2007

Boiling Down the “Crossless” Gospel

Dear Guests:

As you may recall Bob Wilkin deleted the articles and discussion threads that relate to this subject from his GES blog. See Wilkin Deletes All Trace…

Immediately following the GES blog fiasco one of my guests directed this comment to me,

“Perhaps it's just me, but it seems ironic that the ‘simple’ GES gospel is very complex to actually explain.”

I replied as follows,
“The ‘simple GES gospel’ is especially difficult to explain when its advocates at the GES will not discuss and/or field questions on it.”

What are some of the main components of the Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, GES “Crossless” gospel? Following is how the “Crossless” gospel boils down.

1) A lost man does not need to know, understand or believe anything about who Jesus is and what He did to provide salvation.

In spite of this, he can be born again by believing in a promise of eternal life.


2) A lost man can be ignorant of or consciously reject the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ Jesus, but according to GES teaching he can still be born again.

The GES considers an open rejection of Christ's Deity an issue to be resolved after he believes in the promise of eternal life. Here is a sample of what “Crossless” advocates believe evangelism ought to be,

“In evangelism, we have a targeted goal. We are seeking to bring someone to believe that they have eternal life simply by believing in Jesus for it… even if misconceptions about Him are present.”

The “Crossless” advocate goes on to say that if a lost man does not understand or even rejects the Deity of Christ and/or His sacrificial death on the cross,
“…the teaching of godly men…can clear up any misconceptions that the newly born again person may have.”

The “Crossless” advocates, therefore, try to steer a lost person toward saying he believes a man named Jesus will give him eternal life. The unsaved man can be steered clear of or right over the death, resurrection and Deity of Christ, and still be assured that by stating belief in that promise he is, according to GES teaching, born again. Only afterward will the GES teacher mention that he, “the newly born again person,” has some “misconceptions” about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some men have begun to label the GES method of personal evangelism as the “Amway” or “Abracadabra” gospel.


3) A lost man, according to GES teaching, does not even need to know or believe he is a sinner.


4) The GES teaches that the Lord's titles, “Christ” and “Son of God,” do not mean or imply the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The “Crossless/Deityless” advocates claim to believe in the Deity of Jesus Christ. These men, however, are willing to tell the lost that Christ’s Deity is irrelevant, allow it to be rejected and still push for a decision to believe in a promise. That kind of evangelism raises serious questions over just how committed they are to the doctrine of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The “Crossless” gospel reduces the Deity of Jesus and His sacrificial death on the cross down to optional information for the sinner to remain unaware of or consciously reject. Yet these men will assure the same lost man that he can still be born again by believing in a promise for eternal life. The “Crossless & Deityless” gospel of Hodges, Wilkin and the GES amounts to a practical denial of His Deity and His sacrificial death on the cross.


5) The GES's distortion of the term “the gospel.” There have been two ways GES has dealt with “the gospel.”

a. To claim the lost do need to believe “the gospel,” but that there is a fuller version of the gospel (including Christ's death and resurrection) for sanctification and a mini version of “the gospel” that only includes the promise of eternal life which is all that the lost need to believe.

b. To claim that “the gospel” is just a word for “good news,” and this word does not have a technical application in Scripture to the specific message the lost need to believe to be saved.

According to some observers it appears like they are officially leaning toward this second argument.

The “Crossless/Deityless” gospel is an extreme departure from the faith once delivered (Jude 3). The abuse and dumbing down of our Lord’s titles is a trampling of the Lord’s name and His person.

If these men have not already had their conscience seared I am praying that they can be recovered from these unbiblical, heretical, blasphemous teachings; repent of them and then:

*Set out to undo the damage of false teaching they introduced to unsuspecting lost people and Christians alike, and…

*Correct the reproach they have heaped upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel.


LM

September 19, 2007

Absurdity From the Extremists

To All:

Earlier today a friend sent the following to my e-mail account. At the end he gives me permission to post it. I was going to put this in the comment thread under SHOCK, OUTRAGE & SCANDAL.

After further reflection, however, I decided to give it this placement. These thoughts are powerful and penetrating!

Dear Lou,

I just had a few comments about the claims being made this week on one website that you are supposedly sympathetic to Lordship Salvation or soft on Lordship.

Personally, it strikes me as utterly absurd that a few extreme people in the Free Grace camp would claim that someone who wrote a book against Lordship Salvation is really just a Lordshipper himself! That's kind of like whispering at a Republican Party convention, "Well, you know, even though George "W" says he's opposed to the Democratic agenda, I think he's really just an inconsistent Democratic."

Another thought comes to mind. I remember you sharing with me how you read Charlie Bing's book Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response and loved it. That's hardly the response of a Lordship sympathizer!

Within the Grace camp (those of us who are opposed to Lordship Salvation), there is a spectrum of different views on certain key subjects, such as repentance, works/fruit, etc. Some, like Charles Ryrie in his book So Great Salvation, hold that repentance is strictly a change of mind rather than a change of behavior. But when it comes to James 2, Ryrie also believes some degree of good works are necessary as a result of faith if someone has been truly born again. Ryrie would disagree with Zane Hodges on both the meaning and necessity of repentance, and he would disagree with Hodges's interpretation of James 2. Though I personally agree with Ryrie on repentance but disagree with him on James 2, I would never consider him to be a Lordship Salvationist. That would be absurd and just plain dishonest! He is still in the Grace camp!

In fact, Dr. Ryrie was even the keynote teacher-speaker at the 2006 annual G.E.S. Conference. It strikes me as hypocritical that some extreme "Free Grace" people who seem to be blindly following every teaching of Zane Hodges are now aiming their pea-shooters at you while they have rolled out the red carpet for Ryrie! So who is next in line to be marginalized, ostracized, or disowned from the Grace camp, Ryrie? Lightner? McGee?

Robert Lightner also disagrees with Hodges on repentance, holding to the change of mind view; but he, like Ryrie, disagrees with Hodges on James 2. Yet Lightner has identified himself for years as opposed to Lordship Salvation, and even says so in his excellent book, Sin, the Savior, and Salvation.

The late J. Vernon McGee is claimed by the "Free Grace" side as one of their own. Before he went home to the Lord, he told his pastoral successor at Church of the Open Door in L.A., Michael Cocoris, regarding MacArthur's view of salvation,
"This salvation by dedication is heresy."
Yet McGee's view of James 2 was that of Ryrie and Lightner and not that of Hodges. In addition, at times he was not as clear as he could have been and should have been on a number of things. Regarding repentance, in his Thru the Bible commentary at 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, McGee even says,
"It is only when a person turns to Christ that he will turn from something. He will turn from his sin. If a man doesn't turn from his sin, it is because he hasn't turned to Christ."
Now I personally disagree wholeheartedly with McGee's comment here. A person who turns to Christ for eternal life "should" also turn from sin, but repentance does not mean that he necessarily "will" do so. Otherwise, we've now added a turned/reformed lifestyle, to one degree or another, as a condition for eternal life. But be that as it may, are those who are now criticizing you also willing to say the beloved J. Vernon McGee was really just a Lordshipper too?!

Part of the problem is the label "Free Grace." What does that mean? Who decides whether somebody is part of the "Free Grace" circle or not? Is the measuring stick of whether someone is really "Free Grace" whether they agree with the opinions of the Grace Evangelical Society? If so, then there are a lot of men in the Free Grace Alliance who are not even "Free Grace." I have even heard about some people insinuating as much, and that is terribly troubling to me. If being "Free Grace" means having to agree with the Grace Evangelical Society in its peculiar views then I'll be the first to admit "I'm NOT Free Grace!" But of course, that is absurd. I am thoroughly for a salvation that is free and by grace alone; and I am thoroughly opposed to Lordship Salvation—and so, of course, are you Lou.

Another major problem I see right now is that there exists an almost cultic mindset among a few Free Grace people that if you don't agree with Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin on repentance, James 2, etc., then you're not truly "Free Grace" and therefore you must be Lordship. It's as though they've circumscribed the "Free Grace" camp to include only those who follow Hodges's novel interpretations. The sole and final authority for faith and practice has become Hodges's interpretation of things, rather than the Word of God itself. Some people in the "Free Grace" camp are practicing Sola Hodges right now instead of Sola Scriptura. This is a dangerous mindset that must stop.

Obviously these few extreme "Free Grace" bloggers who are looking for errors in your theology are just trying to divide the brethren. They're taking a page right out of the playbook of that diabolical mastermind himself, Satan, who is the accuser of the brethren, a slanderer, and a liar. It is an abomination to God when brothers seek to employ this "divide and conquer" strategy.

"These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren," (Proverbs 6:16-19).
Just a few thoughts on what's been transpiring lately.

Take heart brother,

Your friend in the Lord

P.S. Feel free to post this at your site as you see fit.

What Is Biblical Repentance?

Dear Guests:

The following is from the revised and expanded edition of In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 145-146. The revised edition of my book will be released by the publisher in Spring 2010.

Repentance is a change of mind where one recognizes he is a hopeless, Hell-bound sinner before a just and holy God. When he agrees with the convincing and convicting work of the Holy Spirit that he is a sinner (John 16:7-9) and transfers his dependence to the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation—he has biblically repented. Biblical repentance is a change of mind that should produce the fruit of a change in direction from self and sin toward God. The fruit that should follow is distinct from repentance itself. In Acts 26:20, Paul summarizes his ministry to King Agrippa by indicating he calls people to a change of mind where they turn to God, and once they’ve turned to God, been saved, they should do the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) that are fitting of that change of mind and dependence on the Lord. This is distinct from Judaism which was teaching people should do works to get saved, but Paul also emphasized people should “have…fruit unto holiness” (Rom. 6:22) once they have been saved.
The chapter on repentance, from which this portion is lifted, is 27 pages in length.

Please feel free to post any questions or comments.

Yours faithfully,


LM

September 17, 2007

Wilkin Deletes All Trace of Articles and Discussion of the “Crossless” Gospel at GES Blog.

To All:

I am reporting the sudden disappearance from the Grace Evangelical Society's blog of all articles and comments on their “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel.

There have been incremental steps leading toward today's deletion of the articles. Initially the GES staff would not answer questions on the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, then the closing of comment threads, then moderating threads to intercept legitimate questions. Today a total and complete shut down of the discussion.

This move does not transcended the doctrinal debate, but this now additionally becomes a credibility and integrity issue for Wilkin, Myers, the GES and its board.

The only surprise is that Wilkin did not order the destruction of the on-line scrutiny and evidence of what they truly believe long before today. Today's action is another definitive indication that these men do not want to expose their interpretation of the Gospel to any further legitimate scrutiny, discussion and questions.

Incidentally, I did capture a snap shot from the GES blog of the Sept. 10 & 14 articles (in their entirety) titled, GES Board Turns Down Debate Offer & Where Do We Find the Saving Message respectively.

More to follow…


LM

September 14, 2007

Bob Wilkin Posts (and then Deletes) His Refusal to Go Through With the Debate He Has Been Calling For

Update 9/16/07

I came to mind that it is entirely possible that Wilkin will not repost his refusal to debate Ron Shea. There had to have been a significant amount of damage and loss of credibilty resulting from the posting and sudden deletion of Wilkins's article on Friday at the GES blog.

Wilkin did not post a simple statement declining to debate Shea, he attached two private e-mails between him and Shea. There is little doubt the e-mails were added by Wilkin in an attempt to discredit Shea and insulate him (Wilkin) from questions as to why he chose to back out of the debate he had been calling for since early this summer.

Wilkin may just drop out of sight on the "Crossless" gospel debate issue entirely. Maybe today (Monday) we will have something from Wilkin at the GES blog.


Update 7:20PM:
It appears that for today Bob Wilkin will not be reposting his article in which he declined the opportunity to debate the “Crossless” gospel with Ron Shea.

I think someone friendly to Wilkin saw what he posted earlier , including the private e-mails, and told him to get it off his blog immediately.

We can likely count on seeing another Wilkin attempt to pass on having the debate he has been calling for. The next one will surely reflect some heavy revisions.

If Wilkin wants to recover what integrity he sacrificed with the first article he might consider an admission to having used poor judgment and express his regret and apologies for having done it. If he were to repost and leave it as though his posting of the private e-mails never happened his integrity and reputation would IMO remain damaged and suspect.

We have all done things we are not proud of. We have all had a time or two when we had to tighten our belt an extra notch and do the right thing. If we confess these things and make them right with the offended party (or parties) the issue is settled. If, however, no genuine acknowledgement of or personal responsibility for the offense is taken, the offense remains.

Bob: Do the right thing!


URGENT UPDATE (1:30PM):
Inexplicably the GES just took down Wilkin’s post in which he declined to debate Ron Shea. Earlier I saw and read the article in its entirety. I reported on that below.

In it Wilkin posted two private e-mail exchanges between himself and Ron Shea. I have those documents in my possession. IMO, Wilkin pulled the article because he (Wilkin) by publicly disclosing these e-mails compromised a trust. Wilkin disclosed e-mails that contained private, personal information. This is a serious breach of trust and confidentiality.

Wilkin noted that his board approved the public disclosure of his article including the private e-mails. I have a gut feeling we will see Bob’s refusal to debate announcement again, but the e-mails will have been deleted.

Wilkin might seriously consider drafting a well thought out, and heartfelt public apology for disclosing those e-mails.


10:07AM: This morning Bob Wilkin posted his (not unexpected) decision to back out of the debate over the "Crossless" interpretation of the Gospel that he had been calling for since early this summer.

This came as no surpise. His desire for a debate was answered by Ron Shea who has the credentials to meet Bob.

In the opinion of some close to these men Wilkin lost his enthusiasm for an open debate as soon as he found that a man of Shea's caliber agreed to meet him. Wilkin's refusal to meet Ron had been expected from the time Shea posted his Open Challenge. The method and means of Wilkin's refusal was the only question.

How Ironic: On August 22, at the GES site, an article appeared titled, Bob Wilkin Offers to Debate GES Critic and is Turned Down

The follow up could now be titled, Bob Wilkin's Offer to Debate is Accepted and Bob Turns It Down



LM

September 10, 2007

The “Christ” Under Siege

Part 1: Does the Samaritan example in John 4 prove “the Christ” is a title devoid of Deity?

This article series will examine the claim of Grace Evangelical Society (GES) proponent Zane Hodges that “the Christ” is a title devoid of Deity. The first part will examine his arguments in reference to the Samaritans in John 4.

Crossless gospel advocates deny that the lost must believe that Christ is the Son of God (Deity) who came in the flesh, died for our sins, and rose again. Instead, they have isolated Christ's guarantee of eternal life apart from these essential truths that identity Jesus as the Christ and comprise the gospel. They claim the lost must only believe that “the guarantor of eternal life to all believers is named Jesus” [1].

To support this new doctrine, crossless gospel advocates must redefine Jesus' title as “the Christ”. Among other things, they deny this holy title conveys His Deity. In other words, they claim the lost can believe on Him as “the Christ” and receive eternal life without believing His Deity. This is important because several passages predicate eternal life upon believing on Jesus as the Christ (cf. John 20:31; 1 John 5:1; Acts 9:22; 17:3; 18:5, 28).

To prove that a person can believe Jesus as “the Christ” while not believing in His Deity, crossless gospel advocates appeal to the example of the Samaritans in John 4. They have turned this into a major argument for their position. Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin (Executive Director of the GES), and Jeremy Myers (GES staff member) all claim the Samaritans received eternal life by believing in Jesus as “the Christ” while not believing in His Deity. This article will deal specifically with crossless gospel advocates’ interpretation of “the Christ” in John 4. Does the example of the Samaritans prove that the lost can believe in Jesus as “the Christ” and receive eternal life while not believing His Deity?

In order to understand this argument and the importance of it, let us follow the reasoning of Zane Hodges in How to Lead a Person to Christ, Pt. 1 [2]

“One night [a] student made a statement to me that I have never forgotten. He said something like this, 'I know that I trusted Christ for salvation before I realized that Jesus was the Son of God.' I was surprised because I had never heard anyone say this before. But I did not quarrel with that statement then, nor would I quarrel with it now.”

In contrast to Hodges, I would quarrel with this statement because John 20:31 says,
I have written these things that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Hodges's statement is a flat contradiction of John 20:31 in addition to a number of other passages. How does he get around the term “Son of God” in this statement?

Hodges theorizes that we should look for the least “common denominator.” In other words, if there is a passage that predicates salvation upon believing something less than what is stated in John 20:31, only the “common denominator” is the required element and John 20:31 contains superfluous information. Hodges believes he has found such a passage.

First, he takes us to another passage where we find the same term “the Christ, the Son of God:”
“It is precisely the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ in the Johannine sense of that term. Our Lord’s exchange with Martha in John 11:25-27 demonstrates this clearly. You remember it, don’t you? ‘Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26). Her reply is a declaration that she believes Him to be the Christ. Martha said, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world’ (11:27). Notice here that to believe that Jesus is the Christ means to believe that He guarantees resurrection and eternal life to every believer.”

Notice that Hodges only attempts to define “the Christ” at this point. He says nothing about the meaning of “the Son of God” even though Martha connected it with “the Christ.” In this particular article, Hodges remains consistent in distinguishing “the Christ” which he equates to “guarantor of eternal life” from “Son of God,” which he conceded to be a divine-ontological title. As far as Hodges’s argument about the “Christ,” he has it backwards. It is not the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ any more than it makes Him God. It’s the other way around—the fact that He is the Christ, the Son of God means that He can guarantee eternal life.

Hodges goes on:
“But now let us look at John 4. In that famous passage we have the Samaritans saying to the woman who had encountered Jesus, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world’ (John 4:42). Observe that the common denominator to both passages is the term ‘Christ.’ On Martha’s lips He is ‘the Christ, the Son of God,’ and on the lips of the Samaritans He is ‘the Christ, the Savior of the world.’ This is not an accidental or insignificant difference.” (Emphasis mine)

Hodges is starting to argue that in the phrase “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31) only the truth that He is “the Christ” is essential because the least-common denominator between John 20:31, 11:27, and 4:42 is “the Christ.” Hodges’s “common denominator” theory does not hold up. Someone else could just as easily cite John 9:35-38 and 1 John 5:5 in respect to John 20:31 to suggest the least common denominator is to believe “that Jesus is the Son of God.” In fact, 1 John 5:5, says, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Furthermore, if “the Son of God” is appositional to “the Christ” in John 11:27 and 20:31 (and other passages), the proper understanding of “the Christ” in all passages entails believing that He is the Son of God. It simply does not need to be repeated in every single verse. Hodges's “common denominator” argument is weakened even more by the fact that 4:42 is a textual variant that may not even contain the words “the Christ”, just “the Savior of the world.”

Hodges clearly explains his understanding of the Samaritans in John 4 and how this ties into his “bare minimum” gospel:
“In Jewish prophecy and theology the promised Christ was also the Son of God—that is, He was to be a divine person. Recall the words of Isaiah: ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (9:6-7). But in Samaritan theology, the Messiah was thought of as a prophet and the woman at the well is led to faith through our Lord’s prophetic ability to know her life. Her words, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet’ (4:19) are a first step in the direction of recognizing Him as the Christ. There is no evidence that she or the other Samaritans understood the deity of our Lord. But they did believe that he was the Christ. And John tells us in his first epistle that ‘whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’ (5:1)!”


Problems with Crossless Gospel Advocate's Interpretation of John 4
First of all, every argument of Crossless Gospel advocates in regards to the Gospel of John ignores the clear Scriptural truth of progressive revelation. This was addressed in False Paradigms of the Crossless Gospel, Pt. 1. They also disregard the fact that John is written as a narrative that may portray a consummate view of what it means to believe in “Jesus” as “the Christ.” From a historical standpoint, a person living during Christ's earthly ministry who stood in His physical presence would have a different perception of the Person indicated by the name “Jesus” than a person presented with “Jesus” only after this Man died. The name “Jesus” is not just a name to be attached to “guarantor of eternal life for all believers.” It refers to a real, historical Man, and it represents some particular truths that identify Him, apart from which a person may falsely believe Jesus Martinez guarantees eternal life. When these essential historical truths are presented, it becomes necessary to explain the significance of His death, and that He did not just die but was raised. Only in this way can this Jesus be known as “the Christ, the Son of God.” While going into this further would not fit the purpose of this article, this is important to note at the outset.

The passage at issue is John 4:7-42. One should be aware of all the assumptions built into Hodges's conclusion that the Samaritans believed in Jesus as “the Christ” without believing in His deity. His argument is built upon assumption after assumption:


Assumption 1:

First, Hodges asks us to accept his premise that popular Samaritan Messiahology circa 29 A.D denied the Deity of the Messiah. Let me ask: how do we know what the Samaritans believed about the Messiah at that time? Hodges cites no historical works to prove his point. Actually, there are no extant records that speak of Samaritan theology on the Messiah in any period prior to the fourth century at the earliest. In fact, there is no such thing as the “Messiah” in ancient records of Samaritan theology.

The earliest historical insight we have into Samaritan thought related to this matter comes from a collection of Samaritan commentaries called Tibat Marqe. Tibat Marqe speaks of a coming figure called “Taheb” (Ta'ib). Several realities invalidate the assumption that this document reveals Samaritan beliefs about Taheb at the time of Christ. First, this work originated no earlier than the fourth century.[3] In fact, some distinguished scholars in Samaritan studies now argue it originated much more recently than the fourth century. [4] There is no evidence of belief in “Taheb” prior to this work. Secondly, the reasoning that the Samaritan concept of the Messiah at the time of Christ must have been similar to the Taheb described in the later 4th century Tibat Marqe seems historically anachronistic. If anything, it is more likely that the Gospel of John directly or indirectly influenced, Marqah, the author of Tibat Marqe, especially when Johannine themes such “knowing the truth” and “walking in truth” recur in Tibat Marqe. [5] Historians recognize a certain amenability of the Samaritans toward Christians, who were thought to have treated the Samaritans favorably. Samaritan scholars Anderson and Giles noted, “The Sources for Marqe are the Pentateuch, the New Testament, Jewish (non-Torah) documents, and certain Muslim documents. ” [6] It is most likely, therefore, that the concept of Taheb developed hundreds of years after the time of Christ. Thus, Hodges has absolutely no basis to comment upon Samaritan thought regarding Taheb, much less the Messiah, in 29 AD!

But there is an even more significant problem that puts Hodges into an indefensible position. It is significant and highly problematic for Hodges that the woman calls Him “Messias”. The Hebrew word Messias is equivalent to the Greek Christos. We know the woman actually used this word because John specifically quotes her saying “Messias” and then includes the Greek translation “Christos” (John 4:25). Where did the Samaritan woman get “Messias” from? If we grant that Samaritans at this time had no Scriptures beside the Torah, Hodges must deal with the fact the woman calls him “Messias.” This term was incepted in OT Scriptures outside the Torah, namely the Psalms wherein the Deity of the Messiah is taught. It is actually impossible that the Samaritan woman equated “Messias” or Jesus to the later concept of Taheb because she knew Jesus was a Jewish man and the “Messias” was a Jewish term and concept. Taheb was specifically to be a Samaritan, not a Jew. Where did the Samaritan woman and her community get the term Messias? It could only come from one of two places: a) the Psalms which speak of His Deity or b) from the Jews who took this word from the OT Scriptures, i.e., the same Jews that Hodges claims believed in the Deity of the Messiah. This point reveals inexcusable assumptions in Hodges’s argument.

When Hodges says, “in Samaritan theology, the Messiah was thought of as a prophet” I'm sure he has in mind Deuteronomy 18:15, 18. But so what? We agree this prophecy was fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Messiah is a prophet. Obviously, the fact He would be a prophet did not preclude His Deity. Furthermore, this verse in Deuteronomy does not use the term Messias used by the Samaritan woman in John 4--so we cannot pretend that it explains the extent of the Samaritans' understanding of Messias in 29 AD!

We do not need to argue these particular Samaritans in Sychar expected a divine Messiah. It is enough to point out that Hodges is building a case based on assumptions that cannot be proven. The simple fact the woman called Him “Messiasshatters Hodges's underlying assumption.


Assumption 2:

After Hodges' unproven foundational remarks on popular Samaritan Messiahology in 29 AD, Hodges asks us to accept his next assumption: this particular Samaritan woman and community accepted the same popular non-Deity view of the Messiah. Hodges's distinction between the Jews and Samaritans regarding the Messiah--that the Jews believed the Messiah would be Divine while the Samaritans did not--is disingenuous to start with because various and opposing views of the Messiah prevailed in Israel, the one People whose Messiahology we actually know anything about! This is easily demonstrated in the Gospels. Isn't that why Jesus corrected a popular false view of the Messiah, for example, in Matthew 22:41-46? If opinions varied in Israel, why should we assume they did not in Samaria?


Assumption 3:

If we are to base our understanding of “the Christ” based on what some Samaritans supposedly believed about the Messiah before He even preached to them, then Hodges must have concluded the Samaritans already believed the Christ would be the guarantor of eternal life to all who would believe in Him before He even arrived on the scene. But if Hodges is supposedly relying on historical information to suggest the Samaritans denied the Deity of “Messias,” would he be so kind as to furnish information that proves the Samaritan community believed “Messias” would be guarantor of everlasting life by faith alone? No. Furthermore, certain things in the passage argue against Hodges's assumption. Jesus said “if you knew the gift of God...” (John 4:10). Why would He say this if the Samaritans already knew the gift of God was eternal life by faith alone? When the Samaritan woman mentions the Messiah she said, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things...” Notice that she does not say, “The Messiah will guarantee eternal life by faith alone.” This is particularly conspicuous after Christ has already raised the issue of eternal life. Obviously, no matter whose viewpoint is ultimately true, we should NOT base our understanding of “the Christ” upon what Samaritans supposedly believed about Jesus before he even preached to them!


Assumption 4:

This fourth assumption is the most reckless assumption of all--that Jesus never convinced these Samaritans that He is the Son of God! There is not one reason to argue from this passage that Jesus did not convey His Deity by His words and actions. For one thing, crossless gospel advocates ignore important indications that oppose their view. We'll consider these next. Furthermore, if Scripture clearly teaches that believing in Jesus as “the Christ” involves believing He is the “the Son of God,” what right do we have to truncate this by claiming the Samaritans believed in Jesus as “the Christ” minus His Deity!? This assumption is not just an argument from silence, it is illicit because it contradicts other Scripture. This is a classic case of trying to override clear passages by the more ambiguous.


Observations on John 4 Overlooked by Crossless Gospel Advocates:

1. In Jesus’ opening statement to the woman Jesus said, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” (John 4:10). Jesus wants her to know two things: 1) “the gift of God” and 2) “Who it is...” How can someone read the Gospel of John without realizing His Deity is the most important feature that identifies “Who it is...” Christ's Deity is also indirectly implied because He offers the “gift of God” (4:10) and presents Himself as the source of this gift (4:14).

Jesus Christ said, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14). In the first sentence, the “I” (ego) occurs for emphasis. It is otherwise unnecessary in Greek because the verb is in the first person and identifies the subject. The first person pronoun emphasizes that Jesus Christ is not merely speaking as an evangelist but as the very source of the living water and the gift of God.

2. The woman's view of Jesus increases progressively from v. 10, 12, 19, 25, and 26. Her ignorance of Him is mentioned in v. 10: “if thou knewest...Who it is...” In v. 12, she asks in disbelief, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob...?” As Christ speaks, her estimation moves up. She responds, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet” (v. 19). Her estimation of Him continues to rise as He speaks. Next she replies, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ...” (v. 25). In the next verse Christ replies, “I AM, who speak unto thee” (v. 26). If Jesus' statements in 4:10-15 referenced only His “function” as Christ and if the woman believed in Him as “the Christ” by 4:19, why did she express uncertainty about the identity of the Christ is 4:25 where she said, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things”?

This point contradicts Myer's argument about the woman's statement in John 4:19, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” Myers argues, “If Jesus had just told her that He was God, and shown her by references to Scripture that He was God, isn't her response in 4:19 rather odd?”[7] In contrast to Myers, I think it is rather odd to delimit belief in Jesus as “the Christ” by this statement made by a woman before she even believed in Him! That would be like delimiting belief in Jesus as “the Son of God” by the blind man's statement in 9:17, “He is a prophet,” before he even believed in Jesus as the Son of God (cf. 9:35-38). Furthermore, Myer's argument is self-contradictory. If Jesus' statements in 4:10-15 referenced only His “function” as Christ and if the woman believed in Him as “the Christ” by 4:19, why did she express uncertainty about the identity of the Christ is 4:25?

The example of the Samaritan woman is not the only place where the Gospel of John records an example of a person's estimation of Jesus moving up to the point he or she believes in Jesus as the Son of God. There is a parallel in John 9 with the example of the blind man (See 9:11, 17, 25, 30-33, 35-38). Notice that the blind man was required to believe in Jesus as the Son of God: “He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” (9:35-38). Was the bar higher for the blind man? Did Jesus require the blind man to believe in Him as the Son of God after offering a lower standard to the Samaritan woman?

3. Jesus' omniscience is referenced in 4:17-18, 29, and 39: “He told me all that ever I did.” Though the woman did not immediately believe in Him as the result of this sign, it certainly pointed to His Deity. Eventually, she and others came to faith after the witness of this sign. This sign more directly points to “Who” Jesus Christ is (Deity) than the “gift” He offers (cf. 4:10). It is also interesting to note that the omniscience Jesus Christ expressed regarded her sin: “Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” (4:17-18). If someone were to omnisciently point out your sin in the process of offering a Divine gift, the implication is that this person is not a sinner Himself – he is Deity. Nathaniel also came to the same conclusion, that Jesus is “the Son of God” through a sign of His omniscience (1:47-49). As far her progressive realization that the sign pointed to His Deity, the example of the blind man is also similar in this respect (John 9:1-38).

4. The Samaritan woman could not have believed in Jesus as the Christ under Hodges’s construct of supposed Samaritan theology in 29AD because she knows that Jesus is a Jewish man: “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?”(4:9). If anything is to be surmised from later Samaritan belief in Taheb, it should be obvious, first of all, that Samaritans expressly rejected the idea that God would operate through the Jews to bring in a savior figure. Taheb is supposed to be Samaritan. Notice that Jesus Christ says this: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” (4:22). It is only after He says this that the woman brings up the Jewish “Messias” (4:25). Jesus Christ identifies Himself, a Jewish man, as the Messiah. This very clearly suggests the woman was led to believe in the true Jewish concept of Messias, not the Samaritan concept of Taheb. According to Hodges, “In Jewish prophecy and theology the promised Christ was also the Son of God—that is, He was to be a divine person.”

5. Jesus identified Himself by saying literally “I AM” (Gr. ego eimi). While this is a way of identifying oneself in Greek without necessarily referring to Deity, we should be very careful about downplaying these words when spoken from the lips of Christ. Jesus used these words to identify Himself as the “I AM” (cf. 8:23-24; 58). I believe every single one of the “I AM” statements from Christ that John records in the Gospel of John and Revelation refer to His Deity. Even when the “am” is transitive/equative (e.g. I AM the bread of life), Deity is required for that identity. Even when He proclaimed, “I AM” in response to a request for “Jesus of Nazareth” to be identified, His words conveyed something very powerful (See John 18:3-6). John clearly indicates that this is a holy phrase from the lips of Christ. When He uttered these words, He identified Himself as the incarnate “I AM” of the Old Testament (Ex. 3:14; Isaiah 43:10-11) who alone could be the Messiah and the “Savior of the world” (Isaiah 43:10-11; 45:21-22; John 4:42).

6. This passage simply does not claim to relay all that Jesus Christ taught about Himself before the Samaritans “believed” (cf. vv. 41, 42). The passage does indicate that some of the Samaritans in the city believed “because of the word of the woman who testified, He told me all that I ever did.” If anything can be directly inferred from this miracle, it is His Deity.

7. Even the phrase “Savior of the world” (4:42) requires that the Christ be Divine. In fact, “all the ends of the earth” were commanded to look to none other but the One true God as Savior (Isaiah 43:10-11; 45:21-22). To suggest a person can receive salvation by believing in a person they believe is not God is tantamount to saying a person can receive eternal life through an act of idolatry.

While these observations are offered for consideration, it is not our burden to show any specific statement that the Samaritans believed in Christ's Deity. Hodges appealed to the example of the Samaritans to blunt the plain meaning of John 20:31. To believe He is “the Christ” involves believing He is “the Son of God.” Nothing in Hodges arguments has offered any valid reason to truncate the clear meaning of John 20:31.


Denying Vs. Not Believing?

Since August 24, Lou Martuneac has sought a reply from GES on this question: “Can a lost man be born again, while consciously denying the deity of Christ, if he believes in Jesus for eternal life?” [8]

Even though the affirmative answer is the obvious logical answer of their view, both Bob Wilkin and Jeremy Myers have refused to answer. Wilkin replied, “Do you know of a passage in the Bible where someone ‘consciously denying the deity of Christ’ is said to ‘believe in Jesus for eternal life?’”

Wilkins’s reply seems lacking of candor in light of the fact he already advocates Hodges's view on the Samaritan woman in John 4. Apparently, GES is operating on the premise that there is a soteriological difference between “denying” and “not believing” the Deity of Christ. While they already argue people are saved while “not believing” Christ's Deity, they refuse to publicly admit their belief that a person may be saved while “denying” Christ's Deity. This distinction is unbiblical. John 3:18-19 states:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

The simple fact someone has not believed that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God means that one is condemned. According to this verse not believing is tantamount to denying (also see John 3:36). Why would someone ultimately not believe in Him as the only begotten Son of God? Is it only because he is lacking intellectual facts? No, it is because he loves darkness rather than light. Similarly, in the realm of confession, not confessing is tantamount to denying (cf. 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7).

Let us think of a practical example. Do Jehovah's Witnesses “not believe” or “deny” the significance of Jesus as “the only begotten Son of God?” Both! If the individual JW accepts the teaching of his denomination, he too is guilty of denying that Jesus is “the only begotten Son of God.”

Now rewind 2,000 years. Hodges has claimed the Jews believed the coming Messiah would be the Divine Son of God. According to John 4:25, the Samaritans apparently adopted the Jewish term and idea of a coming Messias. But, according to Hodges, they adopted this term while denying the Jewish teaching in which this very term was incepted! If Hodges's view is true, did the Samaritans “not believe” or “deny” the Deity of the Messiah? Both! Taking the Jewish Scriptural term Messias and divesting it of Deity would be just like what Jehovah's Witnesses have done by taking the name “Jesus” and divesting it of Deity. To “not believe” in His Deity is to deny it.

Furthermore, Jesus did not merely teach, “If you consciously deny I AM, you will die in your sins.” He taught, “Unless you believe I AM, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

In a recent internet post, Jeremy Myers admitted this verse spoke of Christ's Deity, but he claimed believing in Christ's Deity is only a normal logical step toward believing His promise, not an absolute requirement [9]. At the same time, however, he cited the Samaritans in John 4 as an example of people who were saved through faith in Christ's promise while not believing His Deity. I asked him this question:

Am I correct that, according to your view, it could be said to the Samaritans: “You do NOT believe I AM, yet you shall NOT die in your sins?” If so, how do you maintain the veracity of Christ's words in John 8:24?

Jeremy Myers refused to answer.


Conclusion:

The burden of proof is on advocates of the “Crossless-Godless” Gospel to prove Christ's Deity is NOT involved in believing in Jesus as “the Christ”. They have certainly not proved this by appealing to John 4. Instead, they've offered an argument built on assumption after assumption. They will never succeed in this endeavor because the Bible is reliable and Scripture will not contradict Scripture.

The Old Testament predicted the Messias to be Deity from the very inception of this title. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ specifically taught that a non-Deity view of the Christ is deficient. He taught that the Christ is the Son of God and specifically described this in terms of Deity. He explicitly predicated salvation upon believing in His Deity. John 20:31 predicates eternal life on believing “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” The “Son of God” gives explanation to “the Christ”. The Word is clear. It is essential to believe in Christ's Deity.

We cannot blunt these clear teachings of the Word of God with eisegetically forced propositions that are built upon assumption after assumption.

In the next article, we will consider positive Scriptural proof of “the Christ” signifying Deity.


Greg Schliesmann

I would like to thank my pastor, Tom Stegall, for his important contributions to this article. His research uncovered the false claims about Samaritan theology made by crossless gospel advocates (John 4:35-38).

Continue Greg's series with, The “Christ” Under Siege: The New Assault From the Grace Evangelical Society.
_________________

[1] E.g. See: Zane Hodges, How To Lead people to Christ, Pt. 1. Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Autumn 2000).

[2] Ibid.

[3] For the view that Tibat Marqe was written during the 4th century A.D., see J. MacDonald, The Theology of the Samaritans (London: SCM, 1964), 42; see also J. D. Purvis, “The Fourth Gospel and the Samaritans,” Novum Testamentum 17 (1975): 163-68.)

[4] Some distinguished scholars in the field of Samaritan studies now argue for a much later date and more complex history of composition for Tibat Marqe than the fourth century AD. See. Catrin H. Williams, I am He: The Interpretation of ̉Anî Hû̉̉ in Jewish and Early Christian Literature (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Siebeck], 1999), 258.

[5] Boismard, Marie-Emile. Moses or Jesus: An Essay in Johannine Christology, trans. B. T. Viviano (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1993), 40-41.

[6] Robert T. Anderson and Terry Giles, Tradition Kept: The Literature of the Samaritans (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), 271.

[7] See Myer’s comments on OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society. Blog comments posted 8/28/2007 8:28 PM.

[8] Lou Martuneac, OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society (August 24, 2007)

[9] See Jeremy Myer’s comments on OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society. Blog comments posted 8/28/2007 2:29 PM.

September 7, 2007

Not Losing Sight of Lordship Salvation

Dear Guests:

Greg Schliesmann’s new article, The “Christ” Under Siege will be posted on Monday morning.

The teaching of Zane Hodges and the GES on the “Crossless” gospel caught my attention in the summer of 2006. In May 2007, however, I was encouraged to take a closer look at the “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel. Up until that time it seems to have been a subject that was being debated primarily by pastors and theologians. Now it seems to have generated wide spread interest to a great many believers across a broad spectrum of evangelical Christianity.

Historically, the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) came in to being to collectively combat the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel. Unfortunately, the leadership of the GES has drifted far from the balanced theological moorings it once enjoyed. Men who have departed the GES for safer doctrinal ground are primarily found in the Free Grace Alliance. Some simply refer to themselves as part of the “Free Grace community.”

With the Spring 2006 release of my book In Defense of the Gospel the reaction and attention was so wide spread that I felt it necessary to create this blog. The site was initially and only set up to address and deal with the interpretation of the Gospel known as Lordship Salvation. A shift in focus has quite obviously taken place at this site.

With so much attention focused on the “Crossless” gospel and the pending debate between Bob Wilkin and Ron Shea I do not want my guests to lose sight of the fact that Lordship Salvation is a works based, man-centered interpretation of the Gospel that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21). Those who understand the inherent danger of Lordship Salvation's theology, must never lose sight of the urgency with which we, “should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered,” (Jude 3).

I am, therefore, providing links to some of the articles from my archives on Lordship Salvation. Please take a moment to peruse the following or more of the many related articles on Lordship Salvation. (See the labels section for some guidance to these.)

John MacArthur’s Costly Salvation

Lordship Salvation’s “Barter” System

The Relationship Between God’s Grace & Lordship Legalism

Is the Sermon on the Mount “Pure Gospel?”

Feel free to read these over the weekend. To reiterate, however, Greg Schliesmann’s new article, The “Christ” Under Siege will be posted on Monday morning.


LM

September 6, 2007

Update: Open Challenge to debate the “Crossless” Gospel

Dear Guests:

As details (meant for the general public) become available on the particulars for the public debate between Ron Shea and Bob Wilkin I will post them here.

Since yesterday’s Open Challenge for Formal Debate from Ron Shea to Bob Wilkin I can inform you of the following developments:

1) The senior pastor of a local church ministry that identifies with the Free Grace community has offered to host the debate. Both Shea and Wilkin are aware of this host site, and are personally acquainted with the pastor. This church has the facilities and recording equipment to meet the needs of the debate, and is centrally located for both men.

2) It is my understanding that Bob Wilkin is in receipt of the Open Challenge for Formal Debate directly from Ron Shea. I am confident that Shea and Wilkin are ironing out the details.

I will continue to provide updates as additional details become available.


In the thread under The Deity of Christ: A Defining Question to the GES Naz (Bret) wrote, “But, the word Christ, was synonymous with Son of God, which was synonymous with deity (John 4:25-26 & Matthew 26:63-68).”

The Bible is clear on this, but the “Crossless/Deityless” advocates simply dismiss these truths in preference for what Zane Hodges has redefined and determined to be truth.

The doctrine of the “Crossless” gospel advocates has never been so fully exposed. The discovery of their downgrading of the Lord titles, “Christ” & “Son of God” has IMO, given an ever increasing number of FG believers good reason and cause to step back giving the GES, Wilkin and Hodges a very wide berth.

IMO, the GES did not want so full a disclosure of their beliefs on the Gospel and deity of Christ to get such wide spread attention. The defenders of the “Crossless” gospel are now in the unenviable position of explaining their reductionist interpretation of the Gospel, including the dismissal of Christ’s deity from what the sinner must have some knowledge of and belief in order to be born again. (Romans 10:9-10)

If am trusting Wilkin will accept Shea’s challenge to the debate he (Wilkin) has been calling for over the last several months. I am confident the debate will address the GES position on the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ as it relates to the Gospel of Christ, the sinner and his conversion.

Very shortly I am posting another article in the series on the “Crossless” gospel from Greg Schliesmann by this weekend. The title of his new article is,

The “Christ” Under Siege


LM

September 5, 2007

An Open Challenge for Public Debate Between Ron Shea & Bob Wilkin

This publicly published letter constitutes a challenge by Ronald Shea for Bob Wilken to engage me (Ron Shea) in a public debate over the “Crossless gospel,” and the essence of saving faith.

PROPOSED TERMS
I propose that the topic being addressed is directed specifically to:
“In the present dispensation, what is the content of saving faith?” and/or
“In the present dispensation, is a belief in Jesus’ divinity, His atoning death, and/or His resurrection necessary for faith in Jesus to constitute saving faith?”

PROPOSED FORMAT
Referring to the opposing sides as #1 and #2, I would propose a general format of:

Affirmative statement no. 1: 15-20 minutes
Affirmative statement no. 2: 15-20 minutes

Cross examination no. 1: 3-5 minutes
Cross examination no. 2: 3-5 minutes

Rehabilitation no. 1: (from cross exam) 5-8 minutes
Rehabilitation no. 2: 5-8 minutes

Summary 1: 5-10 minutes
Summary 2: 5-10 minutes

Arrangements must be made in advance for audio and video recording of the debate.

I am amenable to changing the above format to one which is deemed most appealing to the listening audience, both in terms of structure and time. I will fly to any venue in the United States to conduct this debate.

In the Bonds of Calvary,


Ron Shea
Clear Gospel Campaign


*Below is an image of Ron Shea's open challenge to Bob Wilkin. A copy has been forwarded via e-mail to Bob Wilkin at his GES offices.

Major Announcement at Noon (Central)

To All:

At Noon (Central Time Zone) a MAJOR announcement will be made here at my blog site.

The announcement is directed to Bob Wilkin (Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society).

The announcement addresses the proposed debate being called for by Bob Wilkin on the subject of what has come to be known as the “Crossless” gospel.


LM

***UPDATE: Just moments ago the GES just shut down its blog site for further comments on the "Crossless" gospel. They also deleted my post there to the GES readers that the MAJOR announcement to Bob Wilkin is coming at Noon today. Earlier today I sent Bob Wilkin an e-mail advising him of the pending announcement to him on the "Crossless" gospel debate he has been calling for. The timing of the deletion of my note, and shut down of the GES blog is noteworthy.

September 3, 2007

Bob Wilkin (Alleged): Response to the Debate & Deity Question

To All:

It appears Bob Wilkin is not going to provide a direct answer or go on public record personally in regard to the doctrine of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ or a debate over the "Crossless" gospel.

The "Crossless" gospel Debate:
It appears Wilkin is going to be speaking through one young man (Antonio da Rosa) who is not on the Grace Evangelical Society staff. The indication is that Wilkin is still interested in a debate, but Wilkin has not personally verified this. Until such time we can only assume it is genuine.

If Bob Wilkin comes out and will speak for himself it would go along way toward clearing up any confusion that may exist and is originating from the young man who is acting as if he speaking on behalf of Wilkin and the GES. If this young person has not been given the OK from Wilkin, he has overstepped boundries and has been irresponsible. Lacking the personal interaction from Wilkin we have a young man, who is spoiling for a fight, and has become the stumbling block in the way of a resolution of these issues. I encourage Bob Wilkin to speak for himself as soon as possible and/or state whether or not he is aware, and supportive of the non-GES staff young person speaking on his behalf.

If the report from the non-GES staff member is to be believed and genuine, Wilkin insists that if there is to be a debate he (Wilkin) must have control over whom he will face from the opposing position. I am not highly knowledgeable about the protocol of a formal debate, but I am quite confident that Wilkins’s demand is quite irregular. In my opinion, a fair debate and a question Wilkin must answer is: Will he agree to an open debate no matter who represents the opposing view of the "Crossless" gospel?


The Deity of Christ Question:
If the non-GES staff member's report can be believed it is plain that Wilkin has apparently decided not acknowledge or reply directly to my request for him to reiterate his desire for a debate on the "Crossless" gospel. It would be helpful if Wilkin were to at least go on his own blog and speak for himself.

In any event, Bob Wilkin has gone five days without replying to my three e-mails, but allegedly found time to speak to a third party about the debate. I am not under any further constraint to withhold his e-mail response to my open/public question to him on the deity of Christ.

This was my OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin

Brother Bob:

You are the Founder & Executive Director of the GES. I am hopeful that a man of your character, reputation and desire to seek truth will respond with an honest, transparent answer to this simple to understand, direct question.

Can a lost man be born again, while consciously denying the deity of Christ, if he believes in Jesus for eternal life?

Following was Wilkins’ answer to the question:

“My post concerned the charge of a crossless gospel. Your question does not deal with that post. I have not replied to any of the posts, but when I do, I will probably not deal with off topic questions or posts.

Do you know of a passage in the Bible where someone ‘consciously denying the deity of Christ’ is said to ‘believe in Jesus for eternal life’? That would help me answer your question.”

What we have here from Wilkin was not unexpected. This is the same dodge that came from Jeremy Myers. Bob Wilkin is going to remain silent on the deity of Christ. Why do these men shrink from an open and frank discussion of the deity of Jesus Christ? It is impossible to disconnect the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, Wilkin is determined to divorce the Lord’s deity from the Gospel; why is that? This is something that an open debate would bring out.

If any debate is to be organized, It is my firm belief, and I am speaking in an unofficial capacity:

1) Wilkin must agree to allow the opposing side to select the men who will represent their view. IMO, to dictate who will represent the opposing view is outside the bounds of accepted debate protocol.

2) Because the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is a vital component in any discussion of the Gospel, His deity must be one of the subjects for open discussion. For Wilkin to shrink back from or refuse to openly discuss the importance of Christ’s deity in relation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be unthinkable.

There will, I am sure, be more to follow on this issue. Check back here for updates. Please feel free to post any comments, questions or concerns in the thread below.


LM

{Regarding Antonio da Rosa: For consistently demonstrating a spirit of unrestrained aggression, unchristian like combativeness, agitating for and causing “divisions and offences” (Romans 16:17) da Rosa has forfeited the privilege to participate at my blog. For more on this see the thread that accompanies this article and the previous article: Snap Shot..., including the details in the thread that follows.}

September 2, 2007

A Snap-Shot of the "Crossless" Debate

To All:

While we wait for Bob Wilkin to respond to my offer to help him have the debate he is calling for I thought this would be a good article to serve in the meantime. This is a synopsis of the issues in the “Crossless” gospel debates and I feel this would be a good transitional piece for over the holiday weekend.

The following is a slightly edited version of a note I just posted at the pro-“Crossless” gospel blog, UnAshamed of Grace. Antonio da Rosa administers that blog. Antonio is one of the most vocal, emotionally charged and spiritually immature {see below} advocates of the “Crossless” gospel you will find anywhere in the blogosphere.

{Antonio da Rosa deleted my post and one from another man, which is da Rosa's standard practice when he has to bury some of the most disturbing aspects of their theology and/or practices. He is often banned and/or reprimanded at blogs for this and other poor choices in behavior.}


On the doctrine of the Gospel, popularized by Zane Hodges, there is no doubt that Antonio and Jeremy Myers (GES staff member) have checked out on Scripture. They not only have reduced the Gospel to a message that has little resemblance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they have undermined His deity with the twisting of His titles.

When my book on Lordship Salvation came out I warned Antonio that he might not want to get too cozy with me. I purposely did NOT quote Hodges and even in my book gave a warning to my LS readers about Hodges. I saw the signs of this radical departure from orthodoxy as far back as 11 years ago. That is why I kept my distance.

Once I finally went ahead with public thoughts and posts at my blog on Zane Hodges (June 2007) and his interpretation of the Gospel, which is the official position of the GES, it set off what is now over two months of open and sharp debate. The one disappointment is that in a very short time it became obvious, to any objective observer, that the men who advocate the “Crossless” gospel were never going to be thoroughly clear, genuine or transparent about their belief system. Their doctrine has come under intense scrutiny. They are unaccustomed to this level of scrutiny and are having a hard time dealing with it. They consistently fall back to what they feel are the safe mantras and will not deviate from them.

The acceptance of the teaching of Hodges on the Gospel has thoroughly corrupted their view of the Scriptures. They view the Gospel of John such single-mindedness that for them it trumps and negates the balance of the Bible whenever it touches on the Gospel and/or salvation. To make matters worse they have badly misinterpreted and skewed John’s Gospel.

Now, their egregious errors have come to light. Their view is now under intense scrutiny and I am finding that many who had little idea of just far they have gone doctrinally astray are seeing it in full view for the first time.

Readers (at my blog) have also been able to witness the evasion and dodging of the deity of Christ questions. Matthew (Dyspraxic Fundamentalist) is one of the few who has been open and transparent. He is a regular contributor at one of Antonio's blogs, and he admits that under their system a man who consciously denies the deity of Christ can be born again only by believing in the name of Jesus for eternal life. At the GES blog I have gained more admissions to this disturbing fact that is inherent with their interpretation of the Gospel.

For these men a Jehovah's Witness (JW), who clings to his heretical beliefs about the deity of Jesus, can be born again under their system of believing in the name of Jesus, who for the JW, is anything but deity. William Fiess and Alvin at the GES blog have affirmed this position. This is no hypothetical situation; it is real and reveals one of the most egregious extremes coming from the GES on the Gospel.

There is no doubt Antonio da Rosa and Myers take the same position, their message demands it, but they will NOT acknowledge the deity question let alone answer it. Jeremy is especially unwilling to do so because from his GES position, that admission would be catastrophic for the GES.

Furthermore, I have been in contact with Bob Wilkin, who has written me several times, but has not yet replied to a proposal I have made to him to have the public debate he has been calling for. I am somewhat disappointed that once I offered to help organize that debate Bob stopped replying. I trust and asked him if I might expect to hear from him by Tuesday. I have been updating this exchange at my blog (see below).

By the way, there is new set of articles coming to my blog shortly after the holiday weekend. These articles will raise the level of debate on their interpretation of the Gospel. The men (Jeremy, Antonio, Wilkin, et al.) who hold to the position coming from Zane Hodges and the GES will have much to be called to account for.

{Please view an important comment I have posted in the thread below. It addresses the spiritual immaturity of Antonio da Rosa.}


LM

I have added a new site to my Helpful Links. It is a penetrating article by Brother George Zeller. Please visit The Teachings of Zane Hodges, Jospeh Dillow, Robert Wilkin, & the GES