Dear Guests: A blog visitor, who has gone by the handle of “Elijah,” occasionally posts at my and other blogs. *Recently Elijah posted a comment under my article Is “REDEFINED” Free Grace Theology- Free Grace Theology?Estimates holds anywhere from 2% to 6% of Germany were Nazis. It is an insult to a German to call them Nazis, as it is to blame whites for slavery, when the abolition movement was largely a white movement. Most of the major cults of the world, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science, and etc. came out of America. Does that mean that they are one of the many forms of American Protestantism? They are cults! I will not sully the German people with the barbarianism of a few. I will not saddle white people with the sins of slavery, nor American Protestants with being another branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Unless it can be shown that there is something in German nationalism that inexorably leads to Nazism, it is wrong to allege that Nazism is “one of many branches” of German nationalism. Unless it can be shown that white people are inherently racist against black people, it is an insult to place American slavery on the shoulders of the entire white race.
I asked “Elijah” if he would consider expanding that thread comment into an article that I could post as a series of lead articles at In Defense of the Gospel. I also asked him if he would be willing to sign off using his real identity, to which he agreed. Our “Elijah” is Ron Shea (Th. M; J.D.) of Clear Gospel Campaign.
Some guests may remember the Summer of 2007 when Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) was calling for an open, public debate on the GES’s Crossless gospel. In September 2007 Ron Shea accepted the challenge and publicly offered to meet Bob for the debate at any venue of Wilkins’s choosing. In a strange twist, within 72 hours, Wilkin suddenly lost his appetite for a debate on the Gospel. (You can read the report of those events at Open Challenge) LINK “Elijah” opened his thread comment to my “REDEFINED Free Grace theology article with, “Amen, Amen, and Amen.” What follows is his revised and expanded version of his thread comment that followed.
Unless it can be shown that American Protestantism leads inexorably to heresy, it is an insult to Protestantism to allege that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a branch of American Protestantism. A cult is a cult, and an “ism” is an “ism.” When they abandon their moorings, they have no right to claim that they are an ambassador of their hometown unless it can be demonstrated that the path they have tread was a paved road leading out of their hometown. When the path leads through rivers and streams, over fences, under barbed wire, and swinging from branch to branch without ever touching the ground, their claim as citizens of their hometown is dubious. Their claim to ambassadorship is absurd.
More to the point, unless there can be shown to be some thread within that theology or culture that inexorably leads down the path that the Grace Evangelical Society has taken, it is not only wrong, it is an insult, and it is an ad-hominem argument to lump all free-grace people in with the neo-existentialism of the Hodges-Wilkin model. The fact is, the Crossless gospel of Wilkin and Hodges is nothing more than the theological voice of the “empty Jesus” of the “seeker friendly” and “emerging church” movements. The GES is not a BRANCH of the Free Grace movement any more than those who taught license were a branch of Paul’s Free Grace movement. Moreover, as long as we are on the subject, let’s question whether Zane Hodges can be seriously consider Free Grace any longer. Before you laugh, or assume I am only being incendiary, consider this: The Free Grace movement was born as it progressively defended the doctrine of grace against one work after another. In 1923 in The Expositor, Greek Grammarian Julius Mantey proposed a “causal” nuance of the preposition “eis” as a good interpretation for Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized EIS (because of) the forgiveness of sins.” Whether Mantey was right, wrong, or sort-of right, the motivation for advancing this argument was a defense of the doctrine of GRACE. Quite simply, “if it be of works, then it is no more grace.” (Romans 11:6-7) Within a quarter century, Mantey’s understanding of the Greek proposition “eis” boiled over into a series of debates in the Journal of Biblical Literature with Ralph Marcus, professor of Classical Greek at University of Chicago, and editor of the Loeb Classical Library. Marcus may have gotten the better of Mantey in the day, but this was largely owing to the terms of the debate into which Mantey was suckered, which were virtually indefensible.
The Church of Christ ambled on its wobbly way, proclaiming water baptism a requisite for eternal salvation, and the Pentecostals raised their confused voices denouncing the Eternal Security of the believer. The questions of “Lordship” and “perseverance” had been on the back burner between Baptists and Presbyterians for a long time, and may have well stayed there if denominational lines hadn’t begun to fall, making the church a true market place for ideas. In the 70’s, the Lordship Salvation question took center stage. Florida Bible College (FBC) was at the forefront in defense of the doctrine of grace, with Richard Seymour’s work “All About Repentance” becoming a seminal defense of the doctrine of grace. Though not uniformly “Free Grace,” but with several able thinkers fully in the free-grace camp, Dallas Theological Seminary stood far off, lobbing shells in to protect the storming advances of the FBC boys. Charles Ryrie joined his voice with Seymour, proclaiming that no promise or commitment was required for eternal life.
The questions of water baptism, eternal security, and Lordship Salvation were well under control in the Free Grace camp. And most significantly, the terms of the debate had been framed. Even though not every Free Grace believer might agree on an interpretation of a particular verse, they uniformly agreed that neither water baptism nor “repentance from sin” were necessary for salvation, nor did one need to live up to some arbitrary standard of holiness to “stay saved.” The terms of the debate were clear. And the significance of each of these doctrines was appreciated in the Free Grace movement.
The question of assurance was a much more sticky wicket. Many Baptists professed to believe in eternal security rather than perseverance, proclaiming “It’s not we who persevere, but God who preserves.” But when confronted with problem verses like James 2, some would adopt a perseverance view, not even realizing that they had denied the doctrine of assurance.
There had been some historic voices calling in the wilderness who grasped the subtlety of this question, such as C.H. McIntosh and Morrow. But the Free Grace community at large had never fully grasped that perseverance and assurance were mutually exclusive. Nor had the free-grace movement at large grasped that ultimately, to embrace the doctrine of perseverance was to embrace justification by works through a rubber glove filled with holes.
Zane Hodges, standing on the shoulders of Morrow, C.H. McIntosh, and other greats, found the torch handed to him as the heir apparent of the Free Grace mantle. The fourth (and seemingly only major battle remaining) was his (Zane Hodges) to articulate. More than anyone else, Hodges was able to articulate why perseverance was a denial of the doctrine of grace, and to provide rational and coherent answers to some vexing questions raised in Scripture. Today, Hodges would unquestionably be the elder statesman of the movement, had he not apostatized.
Please continue with Part Two of Drifting Far Off The Marker.