March 24, 2008

The Fatal Flaws of “Crossless” Gospel Advocate Jim Johnson’s Criticism

Dear Guests:

In a thread at the blog of Crossless gospel apologist Antonio da Rosa (aka- Sock Puppet: fg me) Jim Johnson referenced the series by Greg Schliesmann titled, The Technical Meaning of the Term, “THE GOSPEL”

Following is Greg Schliesmann’s response to Johnson’s criticism.

I would like to respond to Jim Johnson’s criticism of my post regarding the technical sense of the term “the gospel.” He argues it is flawed because it did not include what he calls a “synchronic word study.” His criticism is flawed, first of all, because I did address the etymology of the word and its relationship to the question, “Does the NT ever use the term ‘the gospel’ in a technical sense for what the lost must believe to be saved?”

I can explain this issue with a simple analogy. Imagine a thousand years from now, someone argued “20th century English never used the term ‘the bible’ in a specific sense that referred to the Holy Book of Christianity.”

Researchers could easily dismiss this claim by the simple citation of examples from 20th century English that clearly used the word in this specific sense. These examples would show that English speakers often used the term “the Bible” in reference to this specific holy book. The force of such actual examples would hardly be helped or hurt by someone’s explanation of the etymology of the word. In fact, the word “bible” does have an etymology from a much more general meaning of “book” or “books.”

So, in respect to the question, what would be proved by demonstrating the basic etymology of the word means “book?” Nothing! One may even cite examples in 20th century English that use “bible” to refer to some other book. Yet, none of this changes the fact that 20th century English does in fact have a technical usage for the term “the Bible.”

This example demonstrates the same principle I explained in my post in regards to “the gospel.” I stated the basic etymology of the word means “good news” and that this sense is sometimes employed in Scripture without reference to the gospel of our salvation. Yet, when one considers the usages of the word after Christ’s resurrection, he would have to shut his spiritual eyes and defy all intellectual honesty to argue that the New Testament does not employ a technical usage of “the gospel” for the message that must be preached unto and believed by the lost for salvation. I examined or at least referenced dozens of clear examples in my article. Mr. Johnson does not even attempt to interact with them. That is the second fatal flaw of his criticism. We could ask Mr. Johnson to explain each of these examples without acknowledging a technical sense of the term, but let’s make it easier for Johnson and consider just one example:

2 Thessalonians 1:6-8Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This passage, like several others, teaches the condemnation of those who do not believe “the gospel.” If there is a message called “the gospel” the lost must believe in order to be saved, then we better be able to identify the content of this thing called “the gospel.” If we are able to identify a particular message that corresponds with the term “the gospel,” we have, by definition, proven that there is a technical usage for the term “the gospel” in the New Testament. If we cannot identify such a message, we are the most pitiable men on earth. Simply put, we would be bound to the uncertainty of whether we ourselves have escaped the condemnation of 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

Such a technical usage corresponds with scores of other passages that link “the gospel” to salvation from Hell (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:17-21; 4:15; 2 Cor. 4:4-5; Rom. 1:16; 10:16; Eph. 1:13, ect).

I would like to ask Mr. Johnson exactly what message is referenced by “the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” in 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

I have sent word to Jim Johnson that his flawed criticisms have been identified and promptly dismissed. He has also been informed that Greg has requested that he respond to his (Greg’s) closing question.

This thread is open to Johnson’s reply, if he is willing to engage what the Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 1:8.


Continue reading on this theme in the next article, Jim Johnson and the GES Dismiss, “THE GOSPEL”

UPDATE by Greg Schliesmann from the attached thread:
Mr. Johnson made an angry post on Antonio’s forum. Apparently, he felt that my post made no legitimate point that deserved a response but that it only amounted to ‘talebearing.’ Hmm. If he thought he might be able to disprove the points I made, do you think he would avoid responding? I don’t.


  1. At his blog, Jim Johnson announced he has resigned from the Free Grace Alliance (FGA).

    I find this welcome news. It is a step toward purifying the FGA from the corruptive, divisive and debilitating influence of the teaching of the Crossless gospel.


  2. Dear Guests:

    I have read Jim Johnson’s March 22 article in which he announced his resignation from the FGA. In it are examples of an increasingly pugilistic tone to his comments.

    Earlier today he continued this pattern and also said he would not respond to Greg Schliesmann. On the one hand he says he’s “decided not to pursue dialogue,” so now he “intends to speak [his] mind.” So basically, Johnson wants to say whatever he wants without the fear of anyone criticizing what he says.

    In his article Jim wrote, “The point is to you as it was to me last night. We do not preach a crossless message.”

    This is outright dishonest, but we have come to expect this kind of disingenuous commentary from men in the GES faction of the FG camp. The “Crossless” label has nothing to do with what they claim to preach.

    He also wrote, “We do not preach a crossless message.” This is the common mantra of “Crossless” advocates such as Johnson and da Rosa. They do all they can to redirect attention away from the crux of the doctrinal controversy, which is what the lost man must believe to be born again.

    Johnson can’t even engage Greg on 2 Thess. 1:8 because it unravels his “Crossless” gospel.

    Finally, I was very pleased to read that he quit the FGA. No man that believes the things he and his “Crossless” advocates do about the lost and the Gospel can belong to the FGA when the “obvious meaning” of the Covenant repudiates their system.

    I can only hope and pray that da Rosa and Lewis follow Johnson’s lead and isolate themselve in the shrinking cell of “Crossless” gospel advocates.

    Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember…

    These men (and LS advocates) can count on my remaining on the “watch” for any new attempt by any “Crossless” advocate to further infiltrate or undermine the body of Christ (especially unsuspecting believers) with their “contrary/perverse” views of the Gospel. (Rom. 16:17-18; Acts 20:28-31)

    I also informed Johnson that he read only two of Greg’s five part series.


  3. Lou, this is another example of lack of integrity and honesty on the part of crossless advocates.

    Mr. Johnson made an angry post on Antonio's forum. Apparently, he felt that my post made no legitimate point that deserved a response but that it only amounted to "talebearing". Hmm. If he thought he might be able to disprove the points I made, do you think he would avoid responding? I don't.

    Not one crossless advocate has interacted with the Scriptures, comments, and points that I've made in my articles regarding the titles of Christ ("The Christ Under Siege") or the technical usage of the term "the gospel". They have made radical reinterpretations on these issues without the willingness to interact with Scriptural criticism whatsoever.

    The only thing that Antonio da Rosa, Jeremy Myers, or Jim Johnson have done in response these posts is dismiss them because they did not meet some superficial standard they make up along the way. Such a dismissal is often accompanied by some unwarranted angry rant.

    The same lack of candor was displayed by Matthew (dispraxic_fundamentalist). When I wrote articles about Christ's titles ("The Christ Under Siege) in which I unraveled undeniable "exegetical fraud" on the part of Zane Hodges, no crossless gospel advocate interacted with a single point in them. However, a few months later Matthew began posting crossless re-interpretations of these titles without interacting with the Scriptural points I presented. So I engaged Matthew on your forum a few months ago. Ultimately, his only reply to the Scriptures and arguments I gave him was "well-argued". So he could not refute any of it. Then, a few weeks later he posted his own article on this subject. That article, again, did not reference a single point from my articles or the personal exchange we had on your blog. In my opinion, it is simply deceptive for him to present a case for something with the same arguments I refuted and to do so without even dealing with these points. It is deceptive for one to pretend that he has an air-tight case when he can't even defend his arguments when challenged.

    That's like trying to sell a bullet-proof vest to the market after it was already shot full of holes in the product testing stage. That's a dangerous "cover-up". But the stakes are far higher when it comes to the spiritual realm. These men just do not seem to care. I hope more people come to see their outright dishonesty and deception.

    -- Greg

  4. Lou, I just found Jim Johnson's blog site and read this comment:

    I went and read the “challange” (I feel like old west movie where I’m the bad guy going out into the street to meet the sheriff wearing a white hat!) to post on a talebearers blog, I must decline. Why? Because there is a point where they will get there [sp?] chance to refute my doctrinal position.

    First of all, my question was not supposed to be some game or spectacle. It was a straightforward reply to Mr. Johnson's comments. My question "what message is referenced by 'the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ' in 2Thes 1:8" is a legitimate question for Mr. Johnson. It's strange that he compares it to some wild west duel.

    But he says he won't respond because we might refute his doctrinal position. Is that supposed to be sarcasm? It sounds like Mr. Johnson is genuinely closed to any interaction which may refute his doctrinal position.

  5. Hi Greg:

    I whole-heartedly agree with each of your notes above.

    I have long noted the same bad behavior that accompanies their false and "contrary" teaching on the Gospel. Goes hand-in-hand with these men. Da Rosa being he most stark example, but Johnson is becoming more and more like da Rosa in tone and vitriol.

    All I read from Johnson is pontificating from the bleachers. He has never made any meaningful contribution to the Lordship Salvation debates. In this issue he is going to shoot from the relative safety of the sidelines.

    I must say that I am very pleased to see that Johnson is retreating and will isolate himself to his shrinking cell of Crossless gospel extremists. Actually, Johnson is not retreating, he is afraid to engage you or your articles in the first place. IMO, it is a good thing that he is isolating himself in their own Crossless blogs. We should, however, stand watch for any new attempts by them to spread their doctrinal errors though any means: print or electronic.

    Your articles devastated their Crossless heresy, and since they have no answer they do not answer. Instead they either isolate themselves and/or howl in protest and try to demonize any one who has taken a biblical, militant stand against their egregious errors.

    They will not go away, their voices are going to remain, but thankfully continue to shrink in number as more believers begin to recognize their heretical views.

    IMO, we need a few of them around so that we always have an example to show others of just how far askew of the Scriptures men can drift, and how poorly they behave once they have departed from the faith once delivered (Jude 3) through the teaching of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin.


  6. Greg, your response to Jim is so simple and so clear. Even a child could understand it. The example of "The Bible" in English is so simple yet so poignant. So also is the undeniable evidence that the apostles and the Bible used "The gospel", at times, in a technical sense for the message the lost must believe.

    Jim says pejoratively that we "dismiss" his views yet, as Lou pointed out and I observed myself individually, Jim appears to have dismissed your/our view after reading only two of your articles on the matter. Who dismissed who? Pot, kettle, black?

    Thanks for your defense of literally "the gospel".


  7. Greg:

    You wrote, “These men just do not seem to care. I hope more people come to see their outright dishonesty and deception.”

    What I have come to conclude is that the one thing they care about more than anything else is defending the Zane Hodges “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel. They have elevated his teaching above the plain teaching of the Word of God. This is why, beginning with Hodges, they have to negate, tear down, twist and redefine passages of Scripture that refute the Crossless gospel.

    (Matthew: aka- Dyspraxic Fundamentalist) believes God raised up Hodges and gifted him to understand and interpret the Bible in a way that has not been discovered by any other pastor/teacher in New Testament times.

    Matthew wrote an article, with a title that ought to raise eyebrows even before on reads more. The title is, I am proud to be one of Zane Hodges' godchildren. In that article Matthew wrote, “It should hardly be a surprise that God is using Zane Hodges to bring a right understanding of the nature of saving faith. This is the vital truth for this age. This is needed truth for the last days.”

    The followers of Hodges uphold his “radical reinterpretations” through “exegetical fraud” of the titles of our Lord, “the Christ” and “Son of God.” This is one of more stark examples of how they do damage to God’s Word to uphold the Crossless gospel and their icon: Zane Hodges.

    IMO, it is not a coincidence that Antonio da Rosa uses one of Hodges’ books and/or his picture as his (Antonio's) avatar.

    I deliberately chose the Bible (with Cross) for my avatar that appears by my posts to quietly demonstrate my first loyalty lies to the Word of God and our Savior who died on the cross.

    This is, IMO, becoming a cult of deceived brethren who are coming to the point of worshipping the teaching of Hodges, if not the man himself.


  8. Greg/All:

    Following is another example of the repetitive, dishonest rhetoric coming from Jim Johnson and the Crossless gospel camp.

    Johnson wrote (at da Rosa’s blog), “I think most of us in the ‘Crossless’ crowd have come to understand that the basis of what you consider wrong with us i.e. that we preach a flawed gospel.” (3/24 @ 10:41pm)

    This is the mantra of the Crossless camp. They are simply unwilling to acknowledge that the true crux of the debate is what the lost must believe for the reception of eternal life.

    Johnson avoids acknowledging this because the debate would then have to be focused there, and that is where his position fails the test of Scripture, just as you (Greg) have irrefutably demonstrated.


  9. Hi All:

    Just some random thoughts on the post:

    1. Jim seems unwilling to walk Greg's path which is clearly paved with Scripture and destined for truth.

    2. As an educator, Jim Johnson should know that a good teacher asks questions to engage his audience.

    3. I've come to understand that if one is afraid of an answer (as it appears Jim is), it's not the question's fault!

    4. Similar to Greg's experience, Jim ducked out of a discussion I was having with him on the GES blog late last year. I find "stonewalls" (if they can be labeled such) rather frustrating.

    5. I was personally impressed with Greg's tact and obvious respect for "Mr. Johnson".


  10. Jon:

    Thanks for the thoughts you shared here.


  11. Everyone:

    I would like to give a summary of the issue that was at hand in my post that Mr. Johnson attempted to dismiss:

    One of the clear teachings of the New Testament is that during this period of time after Christ's resurrection, the lost must believe a message called "the gospel" to be saved. According to Scripture, there is no true distinction between believing in Jesus Christ and believing "the gospel."

    Unfortunately, advocates of the Grace Evangelical Society have sought to define what the lost must believe to be saved apart from this consideration. They argue that in order to be saved, the lost must only believe that someone named "Jesus guarantees my everlasting life". According to them, a person may be saved upon believing this proposition apart from any truth that identifies the true Jesus or His death and resurrection which are inherent to the gospel.

    In the past, GES, like all evangelicals, taught the message which must be believed for salvation is called "the gospel". That was the idea behind the title of Zane Hodge's book, The Gospel Under Siege. However, as criticism arose in the past two years over this issue, it became clear to GES that they must alter their stance of the entire concept of "the gospel".

    They saw it is impossible to defend their position if they admit that the lost must believe "the gospel" to be saved. There is not one passage in Scripture where one could identify "the gospel" merely as the GES minimum message of "Jesus guarantees everlasting life for believers". Instead, Scripture clearly teaches that Christ's death and resurrection is inseparable from "the gospel". In fact, in 1Cor. 1:17-23, Paul interchanges the terms "the gospel" and "the message of the cross". This corresponds with his description of "the gospel" later in the same book (15:1-4).

    So GES came to see that they could no longer defend their long held position that the lost must believe "the gospel" to be saved, but that "the gospel" did not necessarily include the death and resurrection of Christ.

    Mr. Johnson's position and criticism represents the new shift taken by GES. Now they argue that the lost need not believe "the gospel" in order to be saved because "the gospel" is just a general term for good news and may even include everything in the New Testament. Therefore, they deny that there is ever a usage of the term "the gospel" in the NT that describes what the lost must believe to be saved.

    My previous posts listed many passages where Scripture clearly teaches salvation comes through faith in "the gospel" (e.g. Eph 1:13), belief of the gospel is an absolute requirement for salvation (e.g. 1Cor. 1:17-23), and those who die without having believed the gospel will go to hell (e.g. 2Cor 4:3-4; 2Thes. 1:8).

    When these passages are viewed for themselves, no advocate of the crossless gospel will ever be able to explain them away. Mr. Johnson attempted to dismiss my posts but would not interact with the verses. When he saw that I was willing to defend the posts, he could not even defend his own criticism.

    If Mr. Johnson's criticism represents the best the crossless gospel crowd has to offer to refute all these passages that teach the lost must believe the gospel in order to be saved, we do not have much to worry about. Scripture is clear on this issue. Crossless advocates can only hope to follow the example of Mr. Johnson and throw up diversions to avoid this issue. Scripture devastates their position.

  12. Greg:

    Above you wrote, "However, a few months later Matthew began posting crossless re-interpretations of these titles without interacting with the Scriptural points I presented. So I engaged Matthew on your forum a few months ago. Ultimately, his only reply to the Scriptures and arguments I gave him was 'well-argued'. So he could not refute any of it."

    That exchange took place in the thread of my article titled, Is the Crossless Label the Right Label?


    See Greg’s comments beginning on 12/17/2007 @ 4:12PM