In recent days I have noticed that my blog is hosting a significant number of new and returning visitors. I imagine my involvement in the Sharper Iron thread on the Crossless gospel has created and/or renewed interest among folks outside the Free Grace (FG) community in this vital debate over the true nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the SI thread I have noted that some do not realize there is a clear cut division in the FG community over the Zane Hodges/Bob Wilkin Crossless interpretation of the Gospel. I first noted this division in my article titled, Free Grace Fractured by the “Crossless” Gospel. Because of the heighten level of interest I felt it was time to offer another, but related perspective of the divided Free Grace community.
In recent weeks I have been viewing various blogs on both sides of the Lordship Salvation & Crossless Gospel debates. One item that has stood out in my reading is the unfortunate misconception that the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) is largely perceived as the voice of the Free Grace movement at large. The problem is that there are many men in the FG movement that reject and have separated from the GES over the very teachings that have come to be associated with all men in the FG camp. I have been interacting at these various blogs to correct and dispel that misunderstanding.
One reason for the misconception is that some of the more vocal GES/Crossless gospel advocates have been writing and presenting their views as though they are the official voice and representative of the Free Grace movement. In fact, the views they present are unique only to the Hodges, Wilkin, GES faction of the FG movement.
I recall my introduction to Antonio da Rosa and his Crossless view of the Gospel. Antonio interacted in the discussions about Lordship Salvation during my debates with key Lordship advocates in 2006. His failure to have a meaningful, helpful impact was largely due to his arguing from the presuppositions of his Crossless/Deityless interpretation of what the lost can be unaware of and/or reject and still be saved. Not at first, but soon I began to see that Antonio held to a peculiar and disturbing view of the Gospel. This made his entrance into the threads an unwelcome presence and distraction. I kept my distance from Antonio so that I would not be identified with his theology or the GES faction of the Free Grace movement, which he was writing on behalf of.
Many Lordship Salvation advocates refer to the Zane Hodges interpretation of soteriology as “Free Grace” theology. Last week I was surfing blogs that are favorable toward Lordship Salvation and I came across this statement from the author of an article,
“In case you haven’t heard of it, ‘Free Grace’ is the name given to a theological system founded by Zane Hodges and currently promoted by Bob Wilkin and The Grace Evangelical Society. According to ‘Free-Grace’ theology…”The problem begins when the writer identifies Hodges, Wilkin and the GES with “Free Grace theology” without drawing a distinction between GES and the vast majority of Free Grace men who reject much of GES’s theology. I took a moment to demonstrate that there is clear and sharp division in the FG movement over what is coming from Hodges, Wilkin and GES. This was my (revised) comment to the article’s author and guests.
“I have not visited here in many weeks, but glad I saw your opening remarks. I want to provide some clarification on your statement above.In the comment thread of another article, because Antonio was posting comments as though he was speaking on behalf of the broader Free Grace movement, I wrote,
Today there is a very clear and definite divide in the Free Grace (FG) community. There are two very distinct factions that have become even more sharply divided in the last year. One FG faction is the Hodges, Wilkin, GES camp. Then there are those in the broader FG community who reject the extremism of Hodges and Wilkin.
The dividing line between the two camps in the FG community is primarily over two areas of doctrine. The first is over repentance: Hodges/Wilkin teaches that repentance is not part of or a condition for salvation. Hodges says repentance as a “change of mind” is not found in Scripture. Many, many men in the FG camp reject this from Hodges.
The second issue, which is the main and very sharp dividing point, is over what has come to be known as the “Crossless” gospel.
This reductionist view of the Gospel from Hodges and Wilkin teaches that the lost man does not have to understand or believe who Jesus is or what He did to provide salvation, but can still be born again.
Even conscious rejection of the Lord’s deity, in a personal evangelism setting, is viewed as something to be put on the back burner and left there. The GES believes issues like that are to be dealt with in a discipleship setting.
Other dangerous teaching coming from Hodges and Wilkin include: 1) There is no sin barrier/problem between God and man. 2) There is no technical meaning for “the Gospel.” 3) The Lord’s titles, “the Christ” & “Son of God” do not mean or infer the Lord’s Deity.
I share these things with you and your readers to make the point that there are many men in the FG community who reject these egregious errors coming from Hodges, Wilkin and the GES. These men are Free Grace, they reject Lordship Salvation, but they are not in any way holding hands with the theology of Zane Hodges.
At several blogs your guests can read scores of articles where the theology of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the GES is sharply refuted. Those refutations are being written by men from within the Free Grace community.”
“Antonio da Rosa is the most vocal apologist in the blogosphere for the troubling teachings of Zane Hodges and the GES. Antonio does not speak for the Free Grace community at large. Some of the most extreme statements you will read anywhere on the Gospel come from Antonio. (I inserted links to some of Antonio’s most extreme teaching) His views are examples of what the GES faction of the Free Grace community has spiraled down to by following the teaching of Hodges.IMO, there is little chance members of the FG community are deceived by attempts to characterize the entire FG community as though it holds to the Crossless gospel and its various disturbing implications. It is, however, important to keep the general evangelical community informed that GES men like da Rosa do not write for or represent a vast segment of FG men who vigorously and biblically reject the Crossless gospel.
Antonio da Rosa’s “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel and related extremes are NOT representative of the Free Grace community at large. Scores of godly Bible-believing pastors in the Free Grace community, utterly reject the teaching of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and GES on the Gospel. The Hodges faction in the FG community has become a rapidly shrinking group that tries to portray itself as the voice of the Free Grace community at large. This is a serious misnomer!”
The “Crossless” gospel, which is the Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, Grace Evangelical Society (GES) position is unique ONLY to that shrinking cell of (GES) people that commonly fall under the larger FG label. So, when Antonio is speaking of “Refined Free Grace” theology, he is speaking of Zane Hodges’ “ReDefined Free Grace” theology.
When Antonio and other Crossless advocates present their view of the Gospel it is a misnomer to suggest their view is representative of the whole of the FG community. Antonio’s lumping the majority of FG people who reject the Crossless gospel is steadily and successfully being corrected across a broad spectrum of evangelical Christianity.
If GES’s Crossless gospel was the representative view of the entire FG movement I never would have come to identify with the movement. I am thankful to have met men like Charlie Bing, James Scudder, Tom Stegall and Dennis Rokser who do not hold to the GES’s Crossless interpretation of the Gospel. They have not succumbed to what is most definitely a REDEFINED Free Grace theology.
As a parenthetical note: Crossless advocates are fond of self-identifying their view as, “Consistent Free Grace Theology.” This label is a rather novel misnomer, and I may expand on this later. Anyone who has watched the GES over the past few years knows GES leadership and membership has consistently changed and shifted in their theology of the Gospel. One pastor wrote,
“The one thing I appreciate about Hodges, Wilkin and GES is that they are consistent. They are consistently wrong!”It is a serious misunderstanding to assume the Zane Hodges Crossless interpretation of the Gospel is widely held by men in the Free Grace community. Because of this I will continue spending time interacting with various non-FG groups to help them understand that the GES faction of the Free Grace community is an isolated, shrinking cell of people who have gone off to the far extremes that most in the FG camp reject and have separated from the GES over.
For a companion article, please read: The Crossless Gospel: Consistently “Refined.”