I am pleased to present the first installment of Greg Schliesmann’s new multi-part critique of Zane Hodges’s polarizing article, The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism.
There have been a number of reviews and critiques that have irrefutably shown that Hodges has checked out on Scripture and declared war on believers of every stripe who reject his Crossless gospel that is the most extreme form of reductionist heresy ever seen in the New Testament Church. This new series by Greg Schliesmann will devastate the article by Hodges on many levels.
Be sure to contact any one in your sphere of influence in your family, church or school. Encourage them to read and consider this critique by Greg Schliesmann.
The article by Hodges has ended any speculation on whether or not he, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) have become a cell of theological extremists and have isolated themselves as such. Greg’s review will erase any lingering doubts as to just how egregious the teaching of Hodges is. This series will be a lasting defense of the Gospel again the reductionist assault on the content of saving faith being propagated by Hodges, Wilkin and the GES.
“Legalism is not a very nice word,” Zane Hodges once wrote. Clearly, Hodges did not intend to be “very nice” when he chose this word to denounce the Free Grace community at large. In his recent article, “The Hydra's Other Head: Theological Legalism,” Hodges condemns Free Grace proponents who teach what Hodges himself once taught in regards to the Gospel, namely that the unsaved must “trust completely in what Christ has done for us in dying for our sins. This article will evaluate some of the tragic errors of Hodges’s recent polemic. The appeal to believers will be formed upon the one area of agreement shared with Hodges: the Scriptural Gospel heralded by the normal Free Grace community and Hodges’s new saving message are two different messages that are completely incompatible.
In case you did not catch the “legalism” in the opening paragraph, Hodges now advocates the idea the lost must only believe someone named Jesus (even if that person is not deemed to be the God-man who died on the cross and rose again) guarantees everlasting life by faith alone. While Christ’s death and resurrection may be helpful for explaining the promise, only a “theological legalist” would insist such truths are essential to the message of salvation, according to Hodges.
Hodges’s recent article is actually a two-page a diatribe—“a bitter, abusive denunciation.” The term “theological legalists” or “theological legalism” or “legalist” (for short) occurs 17 times in two pages to describe the normal Free Grace view. The term “theological legalism” is bolded nine times throughout the article. He compares it to “ecclesiastical legalism” of Catholicism, “cultic legalism” of Mormonism, and “commitment legalism” of Lordship Salvation.
Quite obviously Hodges is at war with the Free Grace community at large. In his own words, “In ecclesiastical circles, to call someone a legalist is to hurl an insult of the first magnitude. If someone says, ‘You’re a legalist,’ the instinctive reply would be, ‘Them’s fighting words!”
Unfortunately, Hodges’s antagonism extends to the point of blatant misrepresentation of the Free Grace view. Hodges describes the normal Free Grace view by stating that we teach, “It is not enough to simply believe that Jesus Christ gives us eternal life when we believe in Him for that. We must also believe certain orthodox doctrines that go along with such belief. But these doctrines are not in themselves identical with believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life. Instead these beliefs form a kind of checklist that measures the validity of one’s faith.”
What are these “orthodox doctrines?” On the next page, Hodges gives a checklist of “orthodox doctrines” that Jesus did not ask the lost to believe including His eternal oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, His virgin birth, His sinless and holy life, His ascension to the right hand of God, His intercessory work as our Great High Priest, and His Second Coming.
Yet Hodges does not quote a single Free Grace proponent who claims the lost must believe in the Trinity, virgin birth, Second Coming, or any of the orthodox doctrines enumerated above, in order to be saved.
In reality, Hodges is writing to condemn the view that teaches the lost must believe in the God-man Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again so we could be reconciled to God forever by faith in Him alone. Yet, instead of dealing squarely with what normal Free Grace proponents have always taught, Hodges creates a grotesque caricature of the position so that it is easier for him to refute.
The Scope of Hodges’s Condemnation
By his definition of “theological legalism,” Hodges condemns every single Free Grace champion of the past such as C.I Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord and every Free Grace leader of the present including J.B. Hixson, Charlie Bing, Robert Lightner, Roy Zuck, Dennis Rokser, and James Scudder. Only those closely aligned with the new direction of the Grace Evangelical Society (such as Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, John Niemela, and Bob Bryant) are exempt from the charge.
Therefore, one must not mistake a criticism of Hodges as a criticism of Free Grace. Many Free Grace proponents now condemned by Hodges have esteemed him as a teacher, mentor, scholar, or professor. It is challenging to admit such a person has become a heretic. So I appeal to supporters of Zane Hodges, that you be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19) as the Free Grace community responds to Hodges’s new path.
As a believer who meets Hodges’s definition of a “theological legalist,” I would like to point out some of the problems in Hodges article.
 Zane C. Hodges, Legalism: The Real Thing (JOTGES 9:2)
 This quote comes from Hodges’s postscript (p. 147) in The Gospel Under Siege. There he criticized Lordship Salvation proponents from discouraging a person to “trust completely in what Christ has done for us in dying for our sins.” In the same postscript, Hodges uses John 3:14-15 to illustrate saving faith as a matter where one “look[s] to the cross” and “must focus on Christ and His sacrifice.” Though Hodges may have held to his crossless content of saving faith his entire career, it is apparent than in the past he sometimes spoke in terms that would allow him to blend in with the normal Free Grace community. Certainly Hodges would now denounce the claim that one “must” focus on Christ and His sacrifice for salvation or assurance.
 Hodges, How to Lead a Person to Christ, Part 1, ( JOTGES) 11.
 The American Heritage Dictionary. Copyright © 2005, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated 2005.
 Zane Hodges, Legalism: The Real Thing, (JOTGES) 9:2.
 Stegall demonstrates the “normal Free Grace” view of the Gospel described in this article actually is the normal view that has been traditionally taught by Free Grace churches. Hodges’s view is novel in Free Grace theology. See- The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel, Part 1.
 In the article, Hodges names Getting the Gospel Wrong by Free Grace Alliance Executive Director J.B. Hixson as representative of this “theological legalism.”
Greg Schliesmann’s critique of Hodges’s polarizing Hydra’s Head article continues in Part 2 of his series.