January 21, 2009

Evangelism with the Jehovah’s Witnesses at My Door

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

On Monday morning a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) team knocked on my door. I always tell the cult groups that Jesus was God citing
John 1:1, 10:30; Col. 2:9; Hebrews 1:8.

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I Am,” (John 8:58).
To those passages the JW’s replied, “we believe Jesus was a God.” Did you catch that?  Just “a god.” That of course comes from their corrupted New World Translation of John 1:1.

I told them as long as they reject that Jesus Christ is one and the same as the Father, the Bible says they are dead in their sins and on the way to Hell. They maintained that Jesus was “
a god,” but NOT equal with the Father. I sent them on their way with another admonition that as long as the reject the Lord’s deity they are dead in their sins and on the way to Hell.
Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins...,” (John 8:21).

I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I AM He, ye shall die in your sins,” (John 8:24).
The tragedy here is what happens when these unsaved JW's come to the door of a Grace Evangelical Society (GES) Crossless Gospel advocate. The JW’s open rejection of the Lord’s deity would have been an acceptable misconception for the GES Crossless gospel advocates. The JW’s “misconception” would have been put on the “back burner” and left there in that evangelistic setting I just had.

I can hear the GES gospel advocates say, “
Let us for the time being put this issue on the back-burner.” Why does the GES camp do that in their evangelism? Because they do not believe the lost need to be aware of, understand or believe in the Lord’s deity or finished work to be justified and receive the gift of eternal life.

The passages from John’s Gospel are clear: NO lost man can be born again who does not believe in the deity of Christ that, as I explained to the JW’s from the Bible, Jesus and the Father are one and the same. As we have seen, however, Crossless gospel advocates insist a lost man’s conscious rejection of the Lord’s deity does not hinder him from being born again. The Crossless gospel advocates, “...would consider such a one saved, REGARDLESS of their varied misconcetions [sic] and beliefs about Jesus.”1

Consider this stunning admission, “If someone asks me point blank, do I believe that one must believe that Jesus is God in order to go to heaven, I would say ‘NO!2

It is tragic to watch men who claim to believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God take positions that are wholly antithetical to the clear teaching of Scripture.  This is the tragedy of the reductionist errors that originated with Zane Hodges that are being perpetuated by Bob Wilkin and the theological extremists of the GES.

It is beyond any doubt that the
Crossless & Deityless gospel that was originated by the late Zane Hodges is the most egregious form of reductionism ever introduced to the New Testament church by one of its own.

Join those of us who have stood in defense of the Gospel against these GES inspired reductionist assaults on the Person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


LM

1) Antonio da Rosa: Believe Christ's Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold.

2) Ibid.

*
For additional examples of reductionist heresy against the Gospel, i.e. the content of saving faith from Crossless gospel advocates see the following articles:

Is This Heresy?

Can the Biblical Jesus & Mormon Jesus be “One and the Same?”

Clinching the Deal on the “Crossless” Gospel

67 comments:

  1. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also,” (1 John 2:23).

    Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son,” (2 John 1:9).

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  2. Lou, this has always concerned me with the GES group. Would they really be consistent with their theology? I'm curious to see how one of them would respond here.

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  3. 1 John 5:7 is a good one to show the deity of Christ. They will of course say that it was added in the 16th century, which gives you an opportunity to prove one of the errors of the NWT (that it is a paraphrase based on the wrong greek text).

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  4. Hey Lou,

    I'd love to take credit for it by my church's Youth Pastor witnesses to JWs by showing that John Smith was deceived by an Angel of light.

    He's found, as I'm sure you have, that they just about worship Mr. Smith so taking up swords against him just brings out their unreasonable stubberness. I equate this with when I'm witnessing to a person who's a practicing homosexual. I just leave that sin out of the conversation as I explain their need for salvation. After they see their need aside from the thing they've been taught to identify themselves with they are much more receptive to talking about it.

    Once the JW sees the possibility that Mr. Smith was deceived, they see we're not attacking him. Then they are able to discuss the things he taught in an entirely different light.

    Of course then the path is clear to show them that Jesus is God. Not just "a god" or some offspring of His.

    Kev

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  5. I appreciate this real life example that demonstrates that our differences in evangelistic practice (compared to GES') cannot be reasonably dismissed as theory or nuance. GES' soteriology allows for even complete rejection of Jesus' deity, however unlikley they think that to be.

    I can't find the exact quote at the moment but I recall that one GES advocate recently said something along the line of "we should be comfortable evangelizing with one another." I don't question GES' passion for the lost, I believe it's genuine though guided by bad theology. However, the assertion that our differences are so minor is simply incorrect and demonstrates a lack of understanding.

    Wilkin, for example, told a JW's mom in our church not to worry about the errors in her son's JW theology, that she should just focus on getting him to believe in Jesus for eternal life.

    I readily agree that she doesn't have to address EVERY error in her son's JW theology, but Jesus' identity as uniquely God is one of those things that makes the Christian Jesus ontologically distinct from the JW Jesus -- having the right Jesus is a non-negotiable to saving faith. I am then absolutely not 'comfortable' evangelizing alongside GES adherents when their view in practice allows, in this dispensation, something as basic as the deity of Jesus to be relegated to sanctification/discipleship.

    A GES advocate may claim that while we're uncomfortable with their method, they aren't so uncomfortable with ours. This assurance rings hollow however. For example: Using a feed reader (which monitors all comments made on a blogspot blog regardless of the age of the post under which it is made) I became aware of a plea for assurance of salvation that was made on an old post on a GES advocate's blog. I, of course, replied. The GES advocate deleted my simple presentation of the Gospel because it was, in his view, too confusing or too complex.

    Even if I grant they are correct for the sake of argument, the point remains that they are clearly not comfortable with our evangelistic practice any more than we are with theirs. Why the duplicity then? Wny clamor for "can't we all just get along" when it's clear, from their actions, that they can't "just get along" with our practice any more than we can "just get along" with theirs. It smacks of smoke and mirrors.

    Getting back on track a bit, I think GES advoctes will think this JW has other barriers to everlasting life, namely that they are relying on ('a' god) named Jesus + works. I acknowledge and commend them for this. But then we already have objection to works in common with GES -- this similarity does nothing then to reconcile our substantially different views in practice and, again, you've given a fine example of precisely when that difference comes into play.

    Regards

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  6. I have often speculated on how or why a man of Zane Hodges character fell to such corrupt theology.

    At some time in our lives, we have ALL been in a heated argument where the other person was as "wrong as rain," that if 10,000 people had heard the entire exchange, they would have agreed with you. And yet, your "friend" (or whatever) argued until he was blue in the face with a vigor that was undeniable, and it was clear he had chosen to believe a lie to exonerate himself. His logic may have been idiotic, but he believed it.

    No one will ever know what turned Zane to this profound error, but if there were a way to confirm such things, I would bet on the following scenario:

    Zane had been involved in a dialogue about the gospel with someone he loved. By the time that person died, he or she had accented only to the fact that Jesus offered eternal life, but had either rejected His divinity, His atoning death, or His resurrection.

    It was not necessary that they rejected all three. Zane was a smart man, and would not be able to advance any kind of an argument that eliminate one of those facts from the embodiment of saving faith from the others. (The elimination of one without the others would seem arbitrary).

    The pain of his friend being in hell was more than he could bare, and his mind began to tinker with ways to rationalize they were with the Lord. And this gave birth to the reductionist gospel.

    Is this how it happened? We will not know until we pass to the other side.

    But those of us who read some of Zane's later writings, and his attempts to defend these novel theological positions . . . those of us who weighed Zane's arguments objectively stood by and watch in disbelief.

    For Zane, we can only speculate. But as for his followers, the answer is far simpler.

    In the Gospel of John, there were "secret service believers" who were unwilling to confess Him publicly, because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. I have noticed that those who have embraced the crossless gospel were not theologians and Christians punctuating the evangelical landscape, who read the work of some unknown theologian (Zane) on the web or in print, and found the arguments compelling.

    NO! The "inner circle" consisted of those men (and women) who had been embraced by Zane as a friend, and/or fellow theologian. They had an emotional stake in Zane's friendship. Or more importantly, because Zane was a respected theologian of the first order, they had a vested emotional stake in Zane's validation of them as theologians. To a man, people like Bob Wilkin and John Niemela somehow "saw the logic" of all of Zane Hodges defections. His position on repentance is illogical, and lexically and theologically indefensible. In Bob Wilkin's own doctoral thesis, he had a section reviewing the existing works on the subject. In his remarks about one book, his comments incoroprated a rather terse humor. "So and so writes largely from her own emotional experience, and devotes little effort to a serious exegesis of the text." (I read this 20 years ago, so please forgive any errors.)

    I could not help but think, after reading Zanes later discussions on repentance, that Bob's words in his doctoral thesis described Zanes articles to a "T".

    Yet somehow, Zane's inner circle, including Bob, "saw the light" of Zane's new position.

    Zane's crossless, dietyless, deconstructionist gospel is likewise indefensible. And few (if any) men who were not Zane's inner circle of friends read his arguments and came away convinced. But his inner circle did!

    In every case, when Zane Hodges adopted a positon that left most free-grace advocates in disbelief, the same group of men consistently "saw the light" of Zane's reasoning. And in every case, they were men approved by Zane, and who therefore had a motive to perpetuate that validation, and not short circuit it.

    This is not a coincidence. Zane's inner circle, many being men of able minds consistently "saw the light" . . . because they sought the approval of Zane more than the approval of God.

    As the waves spread outward from a pebble thrown in a pond, the "second circle" were those who may have met Zane, but more significantly, enjoyed the friendship and/or validation of one of Zane's inner circle. Look at Antonio de Rosa. A young Christian who has clearly not thought through many important questions relating to the gospel. For example, Antonio is still trying to figure out the relationsihp of eternal secrity to the doctrine of grace, while he has expressed an intimate connection between grace and the doctrine of assurance, an infinitely more complex doctrine than eternal security.

    Even in his committment to assurance, if you read Antonio's comments, they are typically directed to the latest writings of Hodges and Wilkin and Niemela on the subject, and evidence not the slightest understanding of the crux of the issue about assurance, or how it relates to the doctrine or grace, or how it relates to the doctrine of perseverance.

    This clearly demonstrates that Antonio has not been discipled "from the top down" starting with the most important doctrines, but brainwashed "from the bottom up," embracing as the critical doctrines of Scripture the latest stuff that Hodges or Wilkin or Niemela happen to churn out.

    But Antonio can very capably apprehend and regurgitate Bob Wilkins’s defense of the crossless gospel. He is clearly smart enough to grow into a strong and mature believer if he were exposed to a good systematic exposition of Soteriology and Evangelism.

    And who of us can assail Antonio's commitment? His zeal is beyond question, albeit, sometimes inappropriately manifested.

    So why is Antonio so committed to this error? His respect for Bob Wilkin (and Zane), and the validation he receives from those relationships. Consistently, these remain the ONLY people who have "seen the light." This is not a coincidence.

    When Peter played the hypocrite, and would not eat with the gentiles, Paul saw it as no small matter. When our leaders are in error, those who respect their leadership will follow their error. He withstood Peter face to face, and "called him out," and, as we would say in the navy, "dressed him down."

    And it is no secret that Antonio is a friend of Bob Wilkin, holds him in high esteem, and therefore, receives validation as a person and as a Christian, for his "commitment to sound doctrine" by Bob Wilkin. Again, very few believers outside of their group have come across Bob Wilkins's writings on the web, or in print, and walked away persuaded of the logic. But those with an emotional stake in Zane, or Bob, or John Niemela, or others, have been seduced (or blinded) by the approval they receive from men whose approval they covet.

    This really brings to mind two different groups of people, the crossless gospel crowd, and the rest of us.

    REGARDING THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL CROWD:

    Zane Hodges has gone to be with the Lord. Bob Wilkin is the heir-apparent of the crossless gospel mantel. If Bob were to return to the purity of the gospel, I believe the crossless gospel would evaporate in a matter of years.

    I believe Bob is in his early fifties. As one ages, one is less likely to receive reproof from one younger than he, and more likely to respond only to an elder. This is human nature for all of us even if we don't have a serious pride problem.

    Being in his early 50's, there are very few men left toward whom Bob Wilkin looks up.

    Just as significantly, there is a natural pride component that would be true of any of us. Bob did not advance this heresy in a poorly thought out footnote consisting of ten words. He has articulated his position with clarity and specificity. He cannot save face by saying, "That's not what I meant. That was a poor choice of words. Yes, I agree with what you are saying about the content of saving faith."

    It is too late for that. With the paper trail Bob has left behind him, the only way he can say that is to say, "I was wrong."

    These words do not come easily to most man. Far less to a man of intelligence who has labored to advance an errant argument, and cannot dismiss is error as a poor choice of words.

    And, for those of us who have known Bob, every person I have ever known has perceived deep spiritual pride in Bob. He sought to make himself the epicenter of free grace, and glorify his own name. He never presented himself as a servant to advance the ministry of others, but to get them to serve him to advance his ministry. I have never met anyone who knew Bob who did not walk away with this perception of him.

    So we have not only a situation in which a modest man would have trouble, but that situation in which the man for whom we pray has evidenced, to many, a serious narcissistic streak.

    Nevertheless, we have a moment in time, and we should labor in prayer ten hours for every hour we spend on the "front lines" (blogging). Nebuchadnezzar was certainly a prideful man. But after being brought low, eating grass and braying for a donkey for several years, humbled himself and acknowledged the God of Daniel.

    The GES has, by all external evidence, lost membership and income, and will probably implode within two years. Whom the Lord loves, He reproves.

    I have no doubt of God's love of Bob Wilkin, and no doubt of Bob's potential service to God if he returns.

    We should pray, not for God's reproof of Bob, but that He would work in His infinite judgment and knowledge, in the manner best suited to return Bob. This may be to Bring Bob low in reproof, and it may be to bless him. (After all, "The goodness of God produces repentance" also!) The method is God's choice. We should pray for the outcome, not the method.

    If Bob returns to the gospel message, I believe the other circles emanating outward will begin to do likewise. As I noted, Bob is the heir-apparent of Zane's theology.

    Finally, regarding the crossless gospel crowd, it is important that someone Bob respects will step up to the plate and confront him as Paul did Peter. At Bob's age, as I said, that pretty well limits the options to those 60 or over.

    I believe Earl Radmacher could be that man. I recognize that his love of Zane, his respect for Zane, and their longstanding friendship of many years, prevented him from taking such action while Zane was alive.

    I realize the free grace movement has not been limited to the DTS crowd. Florida Bible College, and many of the Independent Baptist tradition, (Jack Hyles, John R. Rice, Curtis Hudson) were at the forefront long before Radmacher or Ryrie stepped into a visible position on the stage.

    Nevertheless, the most visible defense of the Free Grace gospel has shifted, in very high proportion, to the DTS crowd. And, more than any other men living today, the mantel "Elder Statesman of the Free Grace Movement" is clearly shared by Earl Radmacher and Charles Ryrie.

    Earl Radmacher may be the only living person to whom Bob Wilkin Looks up. We must labor in prayer that Earl would be willing to set aside his irenic personality, and sit down with Bob in a serious talk. And if not Earl, that God would raise up someone else whom Bob respects as an equal.

    If all of us who love the truth do our part, in prayer, or in confrontation (only when profitable), the crossless gospel movement can become a thing of the past, and the vanguards of this movement can be restored to usefulness in the spread of the gospel.

    REGARDING US:

    As I noted, most men will only receive reproof from one older than they are . . . especially when it is in matters of theology. Bob Wilkin regards few men (if any) as his equal as a theologian. If he begins to return to orthodoxy, whether it be a result of God's reproof, God's blessing, God's conviction of his error and illumination of Scripture, or a man of Radmacher's stature confronting Bob for a serious chat, each of us should keep his place in humility.

    Imagine if you changed your interpretation of some particular verse (albeit, not as serious an error as the crossless gospel), and a narcissistic baby Christian who had held the proper interpretation before you basically presented himself to the world as your mentor. It would be rather offensive. The credit should first and foremost, go to you for the intellectual honesty and humility to change your position, not to some little narcissist who had been saved six months earlier, but by chance, happened to have arrived at the more logical interpretation before you did.

    If Bob Wilkin is ever to return to the clarity on repentance that he expressed in his doctoral thesis, and a clarity on the gospel of Christ crucified for the sins of the world, great credit should go to him for the humility and the intellectual honesty it will require of him after painting himself in one heck-of-a corner.

    Let's try to keep our own egos out of it, and not make Bob feel he is "acquiescing" to men of inferior intellect and theological ability. Our actions, including our demeanor and attitude, should, first and foremost, be humble. They should be, in every way, geared to restoring him, not glorifying ourselves.

    A FINAL ADMONITION

    We all seek approval and validation. And it is a stark warning to each us. Each of us is torn by a myriad of emotions. And to us, many of these emotions are invisible and unseen by us . . . because we are in the middle of them. They can taint our view of reality. Whether it is the pain of recognizing that someone we loved is probably in hell, or the need for validation, or any other emotional motive, Satan stands ready to seduce each of us from the purity of the gospel, one inch at a time.

    This he not the only heresy we will see in our life time. Throughout our lives, each of us will be target by the enemy. And he will seek to sift each of us like wheat in a moment when we are weak. A moment when we deeply need an income to support our family, and a church or teaching job comes available, but at a cost. A moment when our dignity as a theologian has been abased, and we covet the validation of another. A moment when we have been rejected, and covet the love and acceptance of someone we can see and hear and touch.

    Stand strong my brethren. The battle is not behind us. It is in front of each of us. And we do not know where the ambush for us has been set.

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  7. To All:

    I appreciate each of your comments. They would have been posted the moment you submitted them, but due to my working 12 hours day of late I am not able to monitor the blog as much as I’d like. That is why I had to enable comment moderation.

    There are always those in the GES Crossless camp who drive by to post personal attacks because that is all they have left, and they are unwelcome here.

    I’ll follow with a few brief notes on what you have shared above.


    Lou

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  8. Jonathan:

    I can pretty much assure you they will not respond here. I had to ban most of them for various behavior and/or doctrinal aberrations.

    Frankly, I am of late preferring to see my blog become a resource, rather than a debate platform. The debate over the heresy of the Crossless gospel has been settled. I want to alert as many as possible to be aware of and to resist any new GES attempts to spread the Crossless gospel outside their own cell of theological extremists.

    Earlier this month one of my blog partners, Kevl, posted a simple question to Antonio da Rosa. As is his (da Rosa’s) pattern, he dodged it because it would be another stark admission of the GES reductionist assault on the content of saving faith.

    BTW, thank for posting the article I link to below the article, Is This Heresy? This is where you documented some of the reductionist extremes we have been reading from Antonio da Rosa. The thread yielded some very helpful discussion.

    Yours in Him,


    Lou

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  9. Stephen:

    You wrote, "Wilkin, for example, told a JW's mom in our church not to worry about the errors in her son's JW theology, that she should just focus on getting him to believe in Jesus for eternal life."

    Thanks for sharing this stark example of what is so wrong with GES evangelism. Salvation no matter what misconceptions the lost have about who Jesus is and/or what He did to provide salvation.

    And as you noted the methods of the GES are no "theory or nuance."

    You wrote, "The GES advocate deleted my simple presentation of the Gospel because it was, in his view, too confusing or too complex."

    I remember that.

    Take care,


    Lou

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  10. Elijah:

    You opened with, "I have often speculated on how or why a man of Zane Hodges character fell to such corrupt theology."

    Hard to know for sure. My concern is over how some, thankfully not many, have fallen into the trap of Hodges's reductionism. You have made a compelling argument for this may have transpired.


    Lou

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  11. Luke:

    You wrote, "1 John 5:7 is a good one to show the deity of Christ. They will of course say that it was added in the 16th century, which gives you an opportunity to prove one of the errors of the NWT (that it is a paraphrase based on the wrong greek text)."

    No telling what they might come up with. What we do know is that the GES insists the lost do not have to be aware of, understand or believe in the deity of Christ to be born again.

    Furthermore, I want to remind everyone that Hodges stripped the Lord’s titles, “Son of God” and “the Christ” of their deity to prop up his reductionist assaults on the content of saving faith.

    See the two part series, The “Christ” Under Siege by Greg Schliesmann.


    LM

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  12. Hi Kev:

    You wrote, "Of course then the path is clear to show them that Jesus is God. Not just 'a god' or some offspring of His."

    JW's like most every cult deny and reject the deity of Christ. It is the truth of His deity, the Triune God, that I show them from the Scriptures so that Holy Spirt can take and use Scripture to convince them of truth. This is how I choose to sow seeds of doubt in their minds in regard to what they have been taught.

    Some of my favorites are: Hebrews 1:8 & Colossians 2:9 and the others from John's Gospel that I posted in the article.


    Lou

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  13. Rev. Lou,

    I've dealt with some JW's who didn't know how to argue what they believed and left when I asserted that Jesus is Lord.

    I've dealt with another who knew very well what he believed and seemed to have an answer to everything.

    re: John 8:58, this fellow is not denying that Jesus pre-existed Abraham. He asserts that Jesus was the "first created being" -- an exalted position to be sure, but not God Almighty. And he argues that the "I Am" statement is not really a claim of deity.

    Is there a good answer that doesn't just take us to fighting over who has the better translation? Because that really looks like a no-win proposition.

    One of my favorites has also been Hebrews 1:8 ... "and let all the angels of God worship Him". But they translate "worship" as "do obeisance to" ... and Joseph accepted that, so they've again undermined the argument of full deity.

    Again ... a good answer? Without just arguing translations?

    Thanks for you comments.

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  14. A couple thoughts on the "content of the Gospel" discussion:

    1. Is this an argument of what lack of knowledge indicates or what knowing rejection of truth results in? The latter would surely be far more serious than the former.

    2. Even if it is lack of knowledge, Jesus' early followers lacked knowledge of many things, but they knew and acknowledged His Deity. The man born blind (John 9) is one of my favorite examples.

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  15. Daniel:

    The unfortunate folks in the JW cult movement (as well as Mormons and a host of others in cult movements) are deceived in a great many ways. In every case they attached themselves to a personality, most of whom rejected the deity of Christ. In my experience arguing that they have a corrupt translation is not going to accomplish much for eternity.

    If we are going to give the Holy Spirit something to use it needs to be the Sword of the Spirit. Most of them will look at a non-New World Translation (NWT) Bible. If they won’t look to a non-NWT Bible I will quote from my KJV to avoid them relying on or interacting from their corrupted NWT Bible.

    With the Scriptures I primarily choose to share with cultists that Jesus is Deity. From Scriptures such as we have seen in this article and thread I show them that apart from belief in the Deity of Christ they are dead in their sins and will split Hell wide open if they die in that unbelief.


    LM

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  16. Daniel:

    I rarely can read the ninth chapter of John’s gospel without welling up in tears of the greatness and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and this man’s recognition of this truth.

    Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, 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,” (John 9:35-38).

    The crux of the controversy and main point of this article is the GES’s reductionist heresy in regard to the content of saving faith.

    There are certain absolutes truths that must be known and believed to be born again. The Scriptures are absolutely clear that that Deity of Christ is one of those absolutes.

    Against the overwhelming body of Scriptural truth the Crossless and in this example Deityless reductionists in the GES will insist the lost man (in this dispensation) does not have to be aware of, understand or believe in the Deity of Christ, but can still be justified and receive eternal life.

    JW’s reject the truth of the Lord’s Deity. Mormons openly reject the Lord’s deity preferring to view Him as the half-brother of Satan. None of these egregious errors matter in GES personal evangelism. As Antonio da Rosa affirms these heresies are to “put on the back burn” in an evangelistic encounter.

    It is this Zane Hodges inspired reductionist assault on the Gospel, i.e. the content of saving faith, that would lead da Rosa to state without apology, “The Mormon Jesus and Evangelical Jesus are One and the Same.”


    LM

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  17. Daniel,

    If you are speaking in terms of the essential truths one must believe to be saved, I disagree that there is a difference between lack of knowledge and rejection. A person must believe the gospel to be saved, and the content of it does not change from person to person (1Cor. 1:17-23; 2Cor. 4:3-4; Gal. 1:7-9).

    For example, Jesus said, "Unless you believe I Am, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). Neither ignorance nor rejection means believing.

    However, if you are speaking of the condition of a person's heart in terms of receptiveness or an attitude conducive to salvation, of course, there is a difference between a person who is seeking but does not know certain information (a soft heart) and the person who outright rejects truths related to the gospel(a hard heart). And I believe this also solves any dilemma: A person who is receptive to the truth of the gospel but ignorant of some aspect of it will not stay ignorant. God will continue to draw this person. In His sovereignty, He will bring a messenger of the Gospel to this person, like He did in certain Scriptural examples (e.g. Acts 8:26ff; 10:1ff).

    -- Greg

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  18. Daniel,

    In regards to your mention of John 8:58. I believe this is an excellent verse to show the Deity of Christ.

    The New World Translation published by the Watch Tower Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) translates it, "Before Abraham came into existence, I have been." This is a blatantly false translation. Greek has other tenses to say "I was" or "I have been". But this is in the present tense, and is correctly translated "I am".

    Also, Christ speaks of Abraham coming into existence with a different verb that speaks of something coming to pass or coming to existence (like "became"). The verb Christ uses for Himself, in contrast, only speaks of existence (like "is" or "am"). To say "Before Abraham became, I am" speaks of a sort of existence that is different than Abraham's which had a beginning point. It is clearly a claim to eternal existence. It is also equivalent to the phrase God used to describe His being (cf. Exodus 3:14.)

    Also, this is the same word translated "I am" in vv. 12, 16, 18, 23, 24, 28, and 58 throughout the chapter. Never does it mean merely, "I have been".

    Had Christ merely claimed to be older than Abraham, perhaps the Jews would have considered Him to be crazy. But they picked up stones to stone Him because they considered His claim to Deity

    -- Greg

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  19. >>Had Christ merely claimed to be older than Abraham, perhaps the Jews would have considered Him to be crazy. But they picked up stones to stone Him because they considered His claim to Deity

    True. But the answer from the well-studied JW?

    They misunderstood him - probably deliberately. They wanted him to be claiming something for which they could accuse him because they already hated him.

    It's twists like that that my former co-worker had that have made it difficult.

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  20. >>If you are speaking in terms of the essential truths one must believe to be saved, I disagree that there is a difference between lack of knowledge and rejection.

    Well, there are several angles to look at on this one.

    1. Are faith and knowledge then the same? If not, what is faith beyond knowledge?

    I hold that faith is so far beyond knowledge that faith shapes the way I live whereas knowledge really does not. I know many facts about Mohamed. But that does not make me a Muslim for I do not believe what he said -- as evidenced by the fact that I do not pray Muslim prayers and otherwise obey Muslim teachings.

    2. Have not some truly believed who did not know all the facts that Paul listed in his summary of the Gospel in I Cor 15?

    The man born blind did not know of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. He believed Jesus as one to be worshiped (make that God) based on what he did know.

    3. Many would hold other items such as Jesus' virgin birth to be doctrines one cannot knowingly deny and be saved. But we attempt to lead our children to faith in Christ younger than we attempt to teach them what "virgin" means. Are we wrong to do so?

    4. And this is back close to #1 ... the emphasis on knowing the right facts about Christ ... does not a good catechism get one that far? And how many well-catechised are in hell today!?

    Knowledge does not save. Jesus saves in response to faith in Him. Absolute trust ... the "I'll follow you anywhere because wherever you lead me is best" trust.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Daniel:

    I am going to give you a kind preemptive caution that I offer any one who is sympathetic to the GES’s Crossless gospel.

    My blog will never be a place for open propagation of the Crossless gospel, including comments and/or links supporting its most vocal apologists. Some don’t appreciate my method of administration, but this is not a democracy. I want to protect the unsuspecting from being drawn toward the heresy coming from the GES.

    I want IDOTG to be a place where men and women can come and find resources with which to better to recognize and effectively resist the twin errors of Lordship Salvation and the Crossless Gospel.

    My article exposes how the GES Crossless gospel advocates view an open rejection of the Lord’s deity as a mere “misconception” that should be put on the “back burner” in an evangelistic setting.

    If you liked to comment further, then share with us whether or not you agree with the GES position, which insists the lost can be born again apart from knowing, understanding or believing in the Deity of Christ.

    Thanks,


    LM

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  22. Daniel:

    You wrote, "Knowledge does not save. Jesus saves in response to faith in Him. Absolute trust ... the 'I'll follow you anywhere because wherever you lead me is best' trust."

    That sounds much like Lordship Salvation.

    The full title from the first of the now three editions of The Gospel According to Jesus reveals a great deal. Most don’t pick up on its significance. Here is that title: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, “Follow Me?” The Gospel According to Jesus.

    On the cover JM reveals that he believes the Gospel, the way a lost man is born again, is by following Jesus. LS calls on the lost man for an upfront commitment to self-denial, cross bearing and following in “exchange” for the gift of eternal life. I will sometimes refer to this as “frontloading faith” with a commitment to the kind of behavior that should be the result of a genuine conversion.

    What you write sound very much like what JM is teaching.


    LM

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  23. >>If you liked to comment further, then share with us whether or not you agree with the GES position, which insists the lost can be born again apart from knowing, understanding or believing in the Deity of Christ.

    Sorry, I thought I'd made that clear in my 2nd post in this thread:
    "2. Even if it is lack of knowledge, Jesus' early followers lacked knowledge of many things, but they knew and acknowledged His Deity. The man born blind (John 9) is one of my favorite examples."

    Let me state for the record, in unambiguous terms:

    Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ means, at a minimum, believing Him. It means making Him the standard. It means believing Him as God.

    If I understand John correctly, that is the primary point of his gospel. The major point of the gospel of John is that Jesus is God and, believing thus in Him, we might have everlasting life.

    One can have some misconceptions ... but one is saved by believing in Jesus who is Almighty God.

    So ... not banned yet? :-)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Kev,

    I have no experience witnessing to Mormons as I don't think I've known any since I was a kid. What you've said about them practically worshiping Joseph Smith sounds like other things I've hears of them though. And my, was he ever deceived! Or at least a deceiver ...

    A thought though on this:

    >>I equate this with when I'm witnessing to a person who's a practicing homosexual. I just leave that sin out of the conversation as I explain their need for salvation.

    Is sidestepping the obvious sin in the discussion really following Jesus', John the Baptist's, or the Apostles' model? Did not Jesus point out the Samaritan woman's sin (John 4) and the rich young ruler's covetousness? Did not John confront Herod about the public scandal of him having his brother's wife? Did not Nathan confront David about his sin -- "thou art the man!"?

    Sin is the reason we all need a Savior. How will we show someone his need for the Savior if we sidestep the sin?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Daniel:

    While I appreciate your reply I find portions vague.

    You wrote, “Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ means, at a minimum, believing Him. It means making Him the standard. It means believing Him as God… One can have some misconceptions ... but one is saved by believing in Jesus who is Almighty God.

    ..at minimum, Believing Him?” Believing what? Believing IN HIM for who He is (Deity) and what He did to provide salvation? Or, believing a promise of eternal life from a Jesus, no matter what “misconceptions” about who the lost think He is, including the Mormon’s half-brother of Satan heresy, which is the GES-Antonio da Rosa position.

    I want to share with you that I realize there is a rift in the GES Crossless camp over the Deity of Christ issue. Some reject the Hodges/Wilkin view that the lost do not have to understand and believe that Jesus is Deity to be born again. But without exception (that I am aware of) the GES camp believes the lost can be saved apart from knowing and believing in the Lord's sacrificial death on the cross and bodily resurrection.

    I suspect you are one who insists on belief in His deity as an absolute must, but DO YOU believe the lost can be born again apart from believing in the finished work and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

    There are absolutes that must be preached to the lost and believed by the lost for them to be born again. The Lord’s deity, His sacrificial death and resurrection are absolutes. Unbelief and/or unawareness of these are never acceptable “misconceptions.”

    It is a genuine tragedy that Zane Hodges introduced what is arguably the most egregious form of soteriological reductionism the NT church has ever been exposed to by one of its own. A tragic legacy!


    LM


    PS: Of course you are not banned, but I want you to understand that I take my responsibility to protect and/or edify my guests very seriously. I am not going to let anyone use my blog to through overt or subtle comments deceive them and draw them toward Lordship Salvation or the Crossless gospel.

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  26. Elijah:

    Above you wrote, “The GES has, by all external evidence, lost membership and income, and will probably implode within two years. Whom the Lord loves, He reproves.

 I have no doubt of God's love of Bob Wilkin, and no doubt of Bob's potential service to God if he returns.

We should pray, not for God's reproof of Bob, but that He would work in His infinite judgment and knowledge, in the manner best suited to return Bob.

    This week I received an e-mail from a man I never heard from before. He found my blog by searching the Internet for information on Lordship Salvation. He is one who has long known that LS is a false, non-saving message.

    He also shared with me that he was once a member of GES, but once he learned that GES revised the Gospel’s content of saving faith he stopped supporting GES.

    This man understands that LS errs by addition and the GES’s Crossless gospel errs by subtraction. Both are assaults on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    We must prayerfully work to recover whom we can from the reductionist errors of Zane Hodges. While we also warn and protect the suspecting lest they fall into the trap of the Crossless gospel.


    LM

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  27. Daniel, one can not live in a theological bubble when you are being God's Witness.

    Paul didn't harp on the idolatry when it was obvious, he tailored his message to the need of those listening.

    People need to be witnessed to where they are. Not where we want them to be.

    You don't "ignore sin" with the Homosexual. You take them through the character of God to show them that even if they were "straight" they would still be going to hell.

    You leave the sin they identify themselves with out of it until they hear the truth of the situtation they are in.

    You don't "bash" their homosexuality because that gives them an excuse not to hear the truth. You give them the truth in a way they have no defense against.

    You speak the message they have ears to hear - you are a sinner going to hell even if you stopped practicing homosexuality.

    When they know you're not there to hate them for their sexual preference but are in fact there to love them enough to show them their desperate need, then they will listen.

    You don't ever find people who need to be witnessed too unless you go looking for them.

    Kev

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  28. Daniel,

    You made a post about the condition of salvation being "absolute trust" in contrast to "knowledge". Related to this, you indicated the distinction between absolute trust and knowledge is "faith shapes the way I live whereas knowledge really does not".

    You are not alone in defining faith this way. Many teachers of this very concept of faith have gone to their deathbeds not "knowing" whether they were saved. Looking over their lives, they could not say with absolute certainty whether their belief in Christ crossed the realm of knowledge and entered and remained within the realm of true, obedient, life-surrendering "trust". And I believe, if you are honest, this despair should not only grip you on your death bed, but every waking moment of your life if this concept of faith is true.

    Scripture, however, uses the word "believe" in its normal meaning. Notice, for example, in the story of the blind man which you indicated is one of your favorite examples. In John 9:35, Jesus asked the blind man, "Do you believe in the Son of God?"

    If "belief" involves a commitment to follow Christ and is distinguished from non-saving knowledge by the way it affects the way we live, isn't this question impossible to answer? Wouldn't it require us to measure the level of our own commitment and obedience and determine that is sufficient to qualify as true faith? And, in practice, isn't it true that many believers of this sort of theology, and even its teachers, struggle with the question of whether they truly believe (because they realize some level of their own disobedience)?

    Yet Jesus' question implied He expected the man who received his sight to answer whether he believed. And the blind man was able to answer that he believed (9:35). The same is true with Martha (11:25-27).

    While we're in John, what about the examples of the "secret disciples". It seems that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were of this sort (cf. John 19:38-39), keeping quiet about Christ in order to keep their positions in the Sanhedrin. Even when Joseph does a good work by taking the body of Jesus after His crucifixion, he is identified as a secret disciple. Did his level of obedience, despite fearing the Jews more than fearing God, demonstrate the definition of true faith as you described it--the 'I'll follow you anywhere because wherever you lead me is best" trust?

    Likewise, John indicates, "many of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the the Pharisees, they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42-43). Here it does not seem that John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knows about your definition of trust. In fact, John uses the same construct as John 3:16 "whoever believes in Him": "many...believed in Him". He also contrasts ("Nevertheless..." v. 42) these secret believers with those who did not believe (cf. vv.37-41) Do we accept John's use of the word "believe" at face value, or, in direct contrast what he states, do we assert they did not truly believe? If it's accepted at face value, I cannot see how your definition of faith fits in. If they did not truly believe, how difficult it must be to distinguish between saving faith and non-saving faith when even the Spirit of God uses the same words to describe them!

    I will conclude by saying your analogy of knowing things about Mohammed shows me that you're missing the whole point of the Gospel.

    Whatever things you know about Mohammed, you believe about Mohammed. You might say, "No, I don't believe Mohammed is a true prophet." Then neither do you "know" he is a true prophet. All that you "know" in this respect is that some people (i.e. Muslims) claim he is a true prophet. The distinction isn't between knowing and believing. The distinction is between knowing someone asserts a certain proposition and knowing it yourself.

    With the Gospel, we are asked to believe Christ, the God-man, died for our sins, rose again, so that we will be reconciled to God upon simply believing in Him.

    The Gospel involves the promise salvation by faith in Christ, which is why Paul wrote Galatians to defend this (cf. Gal. 1:6-9; 2:16; 3:1-2).

    Many people know Scripture asserts Christ died for our sins, but they do not know what that means. That doesn't demonstrate a distinction between knowing and trust. It demonstrates and distinction between knowing and not knowing.

    On the other hand, let's take the example of someone who "knows" he is bound for heaven on the basis of knowing who Christ is, what He did, and what is promised in the Gospel. Isn't the certain knowledge of his salvation based upon the facts of the Gospel a more proper example of an "absolute trust" than the self-deceived person who thinks he may be saved because his commitment is the sort that ensures he will follow Christ wherever that may lead (cf. Mark 14:31)?

    With respect to your comments about the disciples in the Gospel of John, you have accepted the arguements of the crossless gospel. Obviously people were not required to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ before He died. The message of the Gospel of Christ was first proclaimed as the message of salvation only after the resurrected Christ commissioned His Apostles to that end. And finally, with respect to every statement in 1Cor. 15:1-8, not every statement in that passage comprises the Gospel. It is a summary of the Gospel with supporting evidences.

    Speaking of the Gospel of John, I hope you realize that while salvation provides a life-long and eternal relationship with Jesus Christ, it is an issue that can be settled forever the moment you believe in Jesus Christ and what He's done rather than trusting in your own commitment to Him (John 6:37-40).

    Sincerely,
    Greg

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  29. Brief response as my last long one either got messed up by Blogger or is still awaiting Lou's review.

    >>Whatever things you know about Mohammed, you believe about Mohammed.

    True. And nothing I believe about Mohamed leads me to believe in him or his teachings.

    What I believe about Jesus leads me to believe in Him -- to trust and obey.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Daniel:

    There are no comments from you awaiting moderation.

    Earlier Greg gave you a number of issues to consider in regard to the importance of the Lord’s deity in this discussion. Not sure why you posted what seems to be a redirect away from the primary issue in this discussion for a comment about Mohammed. Maybe the missing comment you refer to is on message here. I don’t know, but I am hoe it will be.

    May I suggest you direct your comments to the crux of this discussion, which is that the GES insists that the lost, even while in open and conscience rejection of the Lord’s deity, can be born again.

    This article documents an example of the GES’s reductionist assault on the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ that was originated by the late Zane Hodges.


    LM

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  31. Daniel,

    I think you raise a valid question in regards to the difference between "believe" and "believe in".

    The difference is not in the level of commitment (as you can see from John 12:42 for example). While we can conceptually distinguish between the content of faith (what is believed) and the object of faith (who is believed in), Scripture does not distinguish those two concepts in terms of sufficiency. In other words, it does not say, "It is not enough to believe the propositions comprising the saving message. You must believe IN."

    In fact, John 20:31, which I believe is certainly an evangelistic verse states "believe THAT Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life in His name".

    Charlie Bing has a good section on this in the "Faith" chapter of his disseration. You can read it at:
    http://www.gracelife.org/resources/dissertation.asp?id=chp2

    However you distinguish the ideas, the condition of salvation is not "trust AND obey". Salvation is offered as a free gift by faith apart from works of obedience. (Rom. 3:19-23; 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9; ect.).

    This brings us back to the point that salvation is not granted on the level of one's commitment but it is granted freely as one accepts the propositions of the Gospel. There is no dichotomy between believing the gospel and believing in Christ. To let Scripture uses its own terminology, faith is being persuaded something is true (Romans 4:21).

    -- Greg

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  32. >>There are no comments from you awaiting moderation.

    OK, I thought it might be by mistake or Blogger doing something weird.

    >>Maybe the missing comment you refer to is on message here.

    Yes, it was about a page dealing with all that. I'll try to reconstruct it today.

    ReplyDelete
  33. [pardon if this is a double-post ... I don't think it went through the 1st time.]

    >>While I appreciate your reply I find portions vague.

    Sorry. Let me try again. (And this is what I tried to address on Friday, but lost my post.)

    >>I suspect you are one who insists on belief in His deity as an absolute must

    Let me remove myself from the "suspect" category. Guilty as charged.

    No one is saved without worshiping Jesus as the One True God. No one ever has been. No one ever will be.

    The OT saints likely did not know of the Father, but Jesus revealed Him (John 1:18). But they worshiped the Son, the Creator, the Law-giver at Sinai -- Jehovah, the eternally pre-existent Son.

    >>With respect to your comments about the disciples in the Gospel of John, you have accepted the arguements of the crossless gospel.

    Some arguments? Maybe. Their conclusion? Absolutely not. (And here I will attempt to answer your bolded question, Lou.)

    The free-grace contenders labeled "crossless" or "groundless", depending on which argument and label you're looking at, are arguing the wrong question. It's not simply that they are being soteriological reductionists. They or somebody have gotten the whole argument couched in reductionist terms. As a champion debater friend of mine explained, "he who frames the question wins the debate".

    So we have to break out of the question, "what is the minimum that a person can know/believe about Jesus in order to be saved."

    That question has no good defensible answer because it is the wrong question. We slip into the reductionist trap if we debate that question.

    A biblical question is "what must I do to be saved?". "Believe" being the verb in that answer, a fair follow-up question would be, "what does 'believe' mean biblically?".

    We could cite dictionaries or argue from what is not said about belief / faith, but I want to point out what John says of the faith of the new birth:

    "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God:" (I John 5:1a -- so this is the faith that results in regeneration.)

    "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not;" (I John 5:18a)

    Faith that produces a change (regeneration) such that a person "sinneth not" -- brethren, that faith will see a man or woman through to heaven! Let us proclaim nothing less than salvation by grace alone through that kind of faith alone in Christ, the risen Son of God, alone!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Greg,

    re: John 12:42 ... the rulers who believed Jesus but would not confess Him b/c they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God ... the ones who caused Jesus to cry out that His word would judge them at the last day ... are you saying they were saved?

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  35. Daniel:

    You affirmed your view is that the lost must believe in the deity of Christ to be born again. This, of course, puts you at odds with the majority of GES “Crossless gospel advocate such as Antonio da Rosa who wrote, “If someone asks me point blank, do I believe that one must believe that Jesus is God in order to go to heaven, I would say ‘NO!’

    You also wrote, “And here I will attempt to answer your bolded question, Lou.” The bolded portion of the question was, “DO YOU believe the lost can be born again apart from believing in the finished work and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

    From there you proceeded to dodge the question.

    This is the pattern from those of you who are in or align with the GES camp. Those of you who believe the lost can be saved apart from knowing, understanding or believing in the deity and/or death and resurrection of Christ simply refuse to give a clear and straight up answer to a clear, unambiguous request for a clear, unvarnished answer.

    For nearly two years there has been this pattern from GES Crossless gospel advocates of evading the true crux of the doctrinal controversy. IMO, this evasion approach to discussing the doctrine will never cease from the GES camp. Why? Because GES’s stripping the Gospel of its necessary content that must be believed for salvation is the soft underbelly and most obvious example of the Hodges, Wilkin reductionist assault on the necessary content of saving faith.

    It is this soteriological reductionism that has cost GES the loss of membership, support and venues. It is because of the obvious implications of a full disclosure and admittance to their reductionism that they will NOT acknowledge it in clear, unvarnished terms as you have just shown once again.

    It is this key defining issue that GES Crossless advocates refuse to answer with a simple, “Yes” or “No.”

    Following is a portion from my book on Lordship Salvation, which fits the GES pattern of dodging the crux of the controversy over the egregious teachings of Zane Hodges in regard to the content of saving faith.

    It would seem reasonable to me that men who claim the Bible as their sole authority should *meet together and discuss their doctrinal positions. This at least allows for a better mutual understanding, if not reconciliation. The Bible teaches that doctrine is the basis for all unity and practice. How then can men call for unity while simultaneously being unwilling to openly discuss their doctrinal positions?

    The Crossless gospel camp, however, will never agree to meet and discuss their teachings if it means being open and transparent in regard to their adopting the reductionist teachings of Hodges who insisted the lost man does not have to be aware of, understand or believe in the deity and/or death and resurrection of Christ, but can still be born again.


    LM

    *The GES faction of the FG movement declined to accept an invitation from the FGA in late 2007 to meet in a private academic setting to discuss the doctrinal issues. Then of course there was Bob Wilkin in 2007 clamoring for an open debate (with him on the issue) who then suddenly lost his nerve for the debate once Ron Shea accepted the challenge. See Open Challenge.

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  36. Daniel:

    I need your e-mail address for an important communication that needs to be off-line.

    You can e-mail me by clicking on the Email me! link below the cover of my book and From the Author paragraph.


    LM

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  37. >>This, of course, puts you at odds with the majority of GES

    Lou, of course I disagree w/ Antonio. And you've just hit one point where I do.

    >>From there you proceeded to dodge the question.

    Lou, you're an intelligent, well-read man. You understand my answer. You know the fallacy of the false dichotomy. And you understand that is what I'm saying you're setting up.

    Early in this thread, I made the distinction between lack of knowledge and rejection of truth.

    How much truth can one knowingly reject and be saved? NONE.

    Is it possible for someone to lack knowledge of Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, and the facts that He was seen by Peter, the 12, then 500+ and be saved?

    Before those facts, obviously, yes. Afterwords ... I don't know.

    To declare someone who believes all the truth he knows about the Lord an unbeliever b/c he doesn't know certain facts makes knowledge the key to heaven.

    Jesus never made knowledge the key to heaven. Certain early heresies did. But Jesus and the apostles did not.

    It is faith that Jesus recognizes when He saves -- not catechism memorization. If it were the latter, the Roman Catholic church would be ahead of all the rest of us.

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  38. Daniel:

    You wrote, “How much truth can one knowingly reject and be saved? NONE.” Again you are at odds with the majority of GES.

    I’m sorry, but you continue to dodge the question. Again you redirected away from the crux of the doctrinal controversy, which I what the lost must believe to be born again to a “knowledge/catechism” side bar distraction.

    There are undeniable Scripture based absolutes for the lost man to believe to be born again. They are His deity, sacrificial death and bodily resurrection. (John 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 15.)

    I’m sorry, but I have no time to run circles around your attempts to dodge the crux of the reductionist heresy of the GES’s Crossless gospel in regard to the content of saving faith.

    We have long since come to understand that the GES camp refuses to be open and honest when it comes to the true crux of the doctrinal controversy. Earlier I noted Wilkin losing his nerve for an open debate he had been calling for once Ron Shea accept Wilkin’s challenge and the GES camp refusing to participate in an FGA sponsored private academic setting to has out the doctrinal issue. Any question that gets to the heart of their reductionism must be side-stepped as you are clearly attempting to do.

    Unless you can give a clear, unvarnished answer to the question I have revised to help you come to answer, please refrain from posting here.

    In this dispensation, DO YOU believe the lost can be born again apart from believing in the finished work and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

    My blog is not a place where I will allow for or tolerate the perpetuation of the Crossless gospel. Neither will I allow for any of its advocates to participate whom, such as yourself, refuse to give a clear, unambiguous answer to simple questions and/or refuse to discuss and furthermore dodge what is the true crux of the doctrinal controversy.


    LM

    PS: I think I may reading you parroting Rose when she claims that “We Just Can’t Know.

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  39. Dear Guests:

    When I read the GES’s reductionist assaults on the Gospel, i.e. the content of saving faith, I am beginning to see a very strong parallel to an event in Matthew’s Gospel.

    Is it possible the GES Crossless gospel advocates are unwittingly working against the Gospel being received and believed by the lost?

    I’ll have more on this in an upcoming article.


    LM

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  40. Daniel stated:

    re: John 12:42 ... the rulers who believed Jesus but would not confess Him b/c they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God ... the ones who caused Jesus to cry out that His word would judge them at the last day ... are you saying they were saved?

    Daniel, although your description of the believers in John 12:42 is false, I'm happy to see you see the passage cannot fit with your doctrine of salvation and faith. As you can see from this passage, there is no difference in the way Scripture uses "believe" and "believe in" in terms of commitment. While you might make such a distinction, it is obviously not Scriptural.

    The believers in John 12:42 are saved, but they are not the ones you say "who caused Jesus to cry out that His word would judge them at the last day". The Spirit of God inspired John to use the exact terminology to describe these Pharisees as John uses throughout His gospel as the condition of salvation. They "believed in Him". This is clearly the only and exact condition of salvation in John (1:12-13; 3:15, 16, 18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 47; 7:39; 8:24; 11:25, 26; 12:37-47; 17:20; 20:31). It is a shame to impose your theology over the clear statements of Scripture.

    Moreoever, your view is unacceptable because it makes Scripture contradict itself in the very passage at hand. You said these Pharisees who "believe in Him" (12:42) are the ones "who caused Jesus to cry out that His word would judge them at the last day". However, this is clearly not true. The one who will be judged is the one who "does not believe" (12:47ff). How will you attach this description to the very ones the Spirit of God says do "believe" just a few verses earlier.

    If you pay attention to the text in vv. 37-50, there are two groups within the religious rulership that are contrasted. There are unbelievers (cf. 37-41) and there are believers (cf. 42). When Jesus "cried out", he addressed both believers (cf. 44) and non-believers (cf. 47).

    As I mentioned before, the believers in v. 42 are contrasted from the unbelievers of vv. 37-41 ("Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him". So it is simply wrong to say the believers of v. 42 are the unbelievers of v. 47ff.

    -- Greg

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  41. Daniel stated:

    "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not;" (I John 5:18a)

    Faith that produces a change (regeneration) such that a person "sinneth not" -- brethren, that faith will see a man or woman through to heaven! Let us proclaim nothing less than salvation by grace alone through that kind of faith alone in Christ, the risen Son of God, alone!


    In the first place, John does not attribute "sinneth not" to faith. Rather, "sinneth not" is attributed the the new birth, which is a result of faith.

    That's a big difference. Is "sinneth not" an attribute of a person's faith (which he initially exercises while unregenerate)?? Or is "sinneth not" an attribute of the new nature which God provides subsequent to faith? That's the first step to interpreting this correctly.

    Secondly, John does not allow room for any sin being attributed to whatever is born again: "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." No sin whatsoever can eminate from the divine nature, i.e., His seed. That is the point of the passage--sin is never an expression of the new nature.

    John recognizes that believers sin (1John 2:1) and even sin habitually (1John 5:15-16). To interpret 1John 3:9 as saying that believers themselves do not sin or that they do no sin habitually contradicts the rest of the Epistle and the rest of Scripture. Moreover, to suggest whatever is born of God sins a little bit contradicts the whole point about the new nature and the seed of God from which absolutely no sin can eminate.

    Thirdly, to say that we are saved by a certain kind of faith, and that this faith involves some sort of commitment where we avoid sin our whole lives is blatant works/law salvation. For the condition of salvation (e.g. Daniel's definition of faith) to involve the avoidance of sin would mean that we would need to avoid sin perfectly (Galatians 3:10). For one's assurance of heaven to be attached in any way to his own estimation that he is avoiding sin reflects an attitude of self-righteousness, even if he offers credit to God (Luke 18:9-14; Rom. 3:19-21).

    Jesus Christ paid for all of our sins on the cross. The condition of salvation is simply to believe in who He is and what He did. Avoiding sin is not the issue. Accepting Christ's payment for our sins is the issue.

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  42. OK, let me keep this very simple.

    >>Again you are at odds with the majority of GES.

    Amen.

    >>“In this dispensation, DO YOU believe the lost can be born again apart from believing in the finished work and resurrection of Jesus Christ?”

    "Finished Work" is a phrase different theologies load with different meanings. I can answer this one:

    In this dispensation, DO YOU believe the lost can be born again apart from believing in the vicarious atonement by crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

    With 98% certainty, NO. If 2% uncertainty gets me banned, so be it.

    May I ask a question?

    Are you teaching that knowledge of these facts about Jesus equals saving faith?

    P.S. I'm not "parroting" Rose or anybody else.

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  43. Daniel:

    Thanks for the answer, close enough anyway; but I’m not sure how when the Scriptures are absolutely clear you are hesitant. Nevertheless, you answered.

    You asked if I am, “teaching knowledge of these facts about Jesus equals saving faith?”

    You may have been confused about some point of doctrine to pose that question, but No! Simple knowledge of the Gospel, apart from faith and belief in the Gospel does not save! Awareness of alone is not saving faith.

    The following two paragraphs appear in my book IDOTG:

    Faith (belief) is a very common word in the New Testament. It is the translation of the Greek (pistis), and occurs 245 times, and is almost always translated faith, but is occasionally rendered believe, belief, assurance, or fidelity in the King James Version of the Bible.

    The meaning of the Greek word is very similar to its English counterpart. Faith is basically a trust or confidence in someone or something. Dr. Zodhiates’s definition is: “Being persuaded, faith, belief. In general it implies such a knowledge of, assent to, and confidence in certain divine truths, especially those of the gospel.

    In select passages that pertain to the reception of eternal life we find the word, “believe.”

    That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” (Rom. 10:9).

    And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house,” (Acts 16:30-31).

    W. E. Vine writes on believe as used in Romans 10:9, “to believe, also to be persuaded of, and hence to place confidence in . . . reliance upon and not mere credence.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 116.)

    However, without knowledge of the necessary content of saving faith there can never be belief in the content of saving faith.


    LM

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  44. I noticed an earlier post where Daniel stated:

    "To declare someone who believes all the truth he knows about the Lord an unbeliever b/c he doesn't know certain facts makes knowledge the key to heaven. Jesus never made knowledge the key to heaven. Certain early heresies did. But Jesus and the apostles did not."

    The key to heaven is what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. The condition of salvation, though, obviously involves knowledge. If knowledge isn't essential to salvation, why should missionaries risk their lives to reach people with the truths of the gospel?

    While the word "believe" in reference to the gospel means nothing out of the ordinary, the truths of the Gospel are themselves out of the ordinary. They lie outside human wisdom (1Cor. 1:19-21). And therefore, something out of the ordinary happens in the human heart in order for one to believe these truths.

    The problem of man's failure to believe the Gospel is not lack of truth available. God actively uses truth to draw men to Himself (John 1:9; 12:32). The problem is man's lack of willingness to accept that truth (cf. Rom. 1:18ff). Man has moral incentives to reject the truth of the Gospel and the truths that form its foundation.

    People do not want to admit there is a God to whom they are accountable. People do not want to admit they are sinners in need of a Savior. People do not want to concede their works of obedience can contribute nothing to salvation. Even Daniel's definition of faith involves a person's commitment and service to God. It is not that these people lack the intellectual capacity to believe the Gospel--it is that their hearts are set against it.

    Paul wrote, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." (2Cor. 4:3-4).

    He also called the Gospel "the message of the Cross" and indicated the lost must believe it to be saved: "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND BRING TO NOTHING THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRUDENT.' Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:17-21)

    That's why Daniel is preaching a false gospel when he makes faith a matter of one's commitment of service to Jesus Christ while questioning whether one needs to know the message of the cross! It's the very opposite! Salvation is not a matter of one's level of dedication to Jesus Christ. It's a matter of accepting the simple message that offers life with Him as a free gift.

    According to Paul, one must believe the Gospel, the message of the cross. This isn't a matter of simply accumulating knowledge. The message is simple. Even the foolish can understand it. But will you humble yourself to accept a message that says your sins have been paid by the death of Jesus Christ and eternal life is offered through the belief of this message?

    When Daniel complains about calling someone an "unbeliever" who has not believed the Gospel, the one he is really slandering is God--as if God just left the Gospel in pieces like a puzzle he must fit together himself. But God is very active in the process of drawing people to Christ through truth. Earlier I stated:

    If you are speaking in terms of the essential truths one must believe to be saved, I disagree that there is a difference between lack of knowledge and rejection. A person must believe the gospel to be saved, and the content of it does not change from person to person (1Cor. 1:17-23; 2Cor. 4:3-4; Gal. 1:7-9). For example, Jesus said, "Unless you believe I Am, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). Neither ignorance nor rejection means believing.

    However, if you are speaking of the condition of a person's heart in terms of receptiveness or an attitude conducive to salvation, of course, there is a difference between a person who is seeking but does not know certain information (a soft heart) and the person who outright rejects truths related to the gospel (a hard heart). And I believe this also solves any dilemma: A person who is receptive to the truth of the gospel but ignorant of some aspect of it will not stay ignorant. God will continue to draw this person. In His sovereignty, He will bring a messenger of the Gospel to this person, like He did in certain Scriptural examples (e.g. Acts 8:26ff; 10:1ff).


    Related to one of these examples, notice how God told Cornelius (who was seeking God yet unsaved) how he would be saved:

    And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.'

    Yes, believing the truths of the Gospel is the condition of salvation.

    -- Greg

    P.S. To know a proposition is claimed is not belief. But to know a proposition is true is belief.

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  45. Greg, let me clarify this:


    Secondly, John does not allow room for any sin being attributed to whatever is born again: "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." No sin whatsoever can eminate from the divine nature, i.e., His seed. That is the point of the passage--sin is never an expression of the new nature.


    OK, you're citing chapter 3, a favorite passage of mine. Let's put some context here:

    1Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

    2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

    3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

    4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

    5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

    6Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

    7Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

    8He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

    9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

    10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

    Are you saying that someone can be simultaneously in the "committeth sin" and therefore "of the devil" category and the "sinneth not" "because he is born of God." category? Someone at once sinful and sin-free? Someone at once of God and of the devil?

    This, Greg, cannot be!

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  46. Greg:

    I really appreciated this note from you.

    The key to heaven is what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. The condition of salvation, though, obviously involves knowledge. If knowledge isn’t essential to salvation, why should missionaries risk their lives to reach people with the truths of the gospel?”

    That brought two passages of Scripture to mind.

    And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” (Eph. 6:15).

    For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:13-15).

    Thanks for reminding us of the unsung missionary heroes fulfilling the Great Commission to the uttermost parts of the earth.

    Lou

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  47. Hi Again All,

    You know this whole "intellectual ascent" or "knowledge of" thing is fundamental to the arguments about the CG LS and the Gospel as declared by the Apostle Paul.

    Even knowing that the Gospel is true is not faith.

    Knowing it's true, and trusting that He who accomplished it did so for you and therefore you are saved IS faith.

    Belief, as in "believe on" Jesus is more than just believing He did those things for the Demons believe and they will suffer for eternity.

    You must put your trust in it for it to be faith.

    It's the fundamental problem with LS because LS teaches that trust is not enough.

    It's the fundamental problem with the CG because they teach that faith without a defined Object is enough.

    We must know Who we are putting our faith in and why, and we must put our actual trust in Him.

    We can't play lip service to His identity and why we need to be saved any more than we can pay lip service to His grace.

    Kev

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  48. Daniel, you asked:

    Are you saying that someone can be simultaneously in the "committeth sin" and therefore "of the devil" category and the "sinneth not" "because he is born of God." category? Someone at once sinful and sin-free? Someone at once of God and of the devil?...This, Greg, cannot be!

    Daniel, to begin with, you are using a passage to define "faith" that has nothing to do with initial faith in the gospel but with the new nature which is received subsequent to faith.

    In any case, I will answer your question. It should be evident to all believers that they fit in the "committeth sin" category. Even John says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1John 1:8). And in that Satan sinned "from the beginning" and introduced sin to the human race, all sin (however you wish to categorize it) has its root in Satan.

    Yet, at the same time, there is also a sense that whoever is born of God is incapable of sin. That is, the believer's regenerate self does not sin.

    While this is paradoxical, it is not any more so than what Paul stated in Romans 7:

    "Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me".

    It's not any more paradoxical than the fact that the believer possesses both the sin nature and Divine nature.

    It is also not any more paradoxical than what John says at the end of the Epistle about the possibility of a "brother" (i.e. a spiritual brother) committing sin unto death while in the next breath stating that whoever is born of God cannot sin:

    "If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. (1 John 5:16-18)


    -- Greg

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  49. Kev,

    While I appreciate your post, I disagree with your dichotomy of intellectual assent and trust.

    Let me ask you these questions:

    - Is it possible for someone to accept the Gospel as true without believing it?

    - Is it possible for someone to simply believe the Gospel without believing in Christ?

    - Is it possible to know you are saved based on who Christ is and what He accomplished without trusting in Him?

    - Did Christ die for Demons? Did God promise salvation to Demons if they would believe the Gospel? And do we have any reason to think Demons believe Christ died for their sins?

    -- Greg

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  50. Greg,

    You asked - Is it possible for someone to accept the Gospel as true without believing it?

    No, if you mean belief as in "to be persuaded of the truth or existence of: to believe in Zoroastrianism; to believe in ghosts."

    Yes, if you mean belief as in "reliance on, trust in"

    - Is it possible for someone to simply believe the Gospel without believing in Christ?

    Yes, if you mean putting your trust in Him.

    No, if you mean believing that He exists/ed.

    - Is it possible to know you are saved based on who Christ is and what He accomplished without trusting in Him?

    No.

    - Did Christ die for Demons? Did God promise salvation to Demons if they would believe the Gospel? And do we have any reason to think Demons believe Christ died for their sins?

    No.

    The word "believe" the Gospel doesn't mean to believe that it happened. It means to trust it. The Demons believe that Jesus carried out the Gospel, but they are not saved. (no I'm not saying they can be saved, I'm merely using the exact same language that James used).

    It's one thing to believe that Jesus died on the Cross. That is knowledge. Repentance unto life is to trust that He died in your own place there.

    Kev

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  51. Kev,

    Thank you for your reply.

    I am trying to get you consider that there is no dichotomy between intellectual assent to the Gospel / believing the Gospel / believing in Christ / trusting in Christ. This is important because faith is the condition of salvation. I believe that claiming it's more than intellectual assent is opening a can of worms. Inevitably, I've found one of two things is true. The one who claims this is mixing up the very distinction he is trying to convey (i.e. a distinction about the propositions believed) and/or he defines faith in a very subjective way in that it is only considered "real" based upon some (undefinable) level of actions that accompany it.

    I believe you are confusing the categories of the nature of faith and the propositions believed. Earlier you criticized "intellectual assent" as a description of faith. At first, you suggested "trust" constitutes saving faith. Most of what you said, however, to distinguish the two is actually a distinction in the propositions believed rather than related to the nature of belief.

    For example, I asked: "Is it possible for someone to simply believe the Gospel without believing in Christ?"

    You said, "Yes, if you mean putting your trust in Him. No, if you believing that He exists/ed."

    However, by "the Gospel", I am not merely refering to the proposition that Christ exists. Thus you distinguished between the propositions.

    You said, It's one thing to believe that Jesus died on the Cross. That is knowledge. Repentence unto life is to trust that He died in your own place.

    Again, you made a distinction in propositions: a) to know Jesus died on the Cross; or b) to know He died in your own place.

    Why is it "knowledge" if you believe that Jesus died on the Cross, but it's not knowledge if you believe Jesus died in your own place? When I speak about knowing the Gospel or (intellectually) assenting to the Gospel, I am speaking about knowing Jesus died on in my place (i.e. for my sins).

    I think that if you take into account what I believe is Scripturally meant by "the Gospel", you wouldn't find a dichotomy between intellectual assent and trust.

    By the Gospel, I am refering to the message that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for my sins and rose again, hence reconciling me to God forever upon my simple acceptance of this message.

    If I assent to that message, I am not merely assenting to the claim that God exists or that Christ died, but I am assenting to the redemptive truth associated with Christ's death and the related promise of eternal life.

    Conversely, to "trust in Christ" in this regard is to intellectually assent (or know) that He died for my sins and thereby secured my eternal destiny. To intellectually assent to a promise is to "trust". There is no dichotomy.

    Many times I've heard people say something along the lines of, "It's not enough to believe Christ died for your sins. You need to trust it!" I am afraid these people haven't really thought through what they are trying to convey. I think it would be more Scriptural to say, "It's not enough to know the words 'Christ died for our sins'--you need to know the meaning and accept it to be true."

    I believe part of what has contributed confusion is the pseudo-intellectual Latin definition of fides as notitia, assensus, and fiducia, which basically is like saying the definition of faith is understanding, assent, and faith. And it seems part of the reason why stress is laid on something beyond assent is the desire to convey an act of the will involved in believing---but assent is an act of the will. Especially as it relates to God and the Gospel, people are reluctant to assent for reasons that are deeply moral.

    I will reply to your statement about James 2 and demons in a separate post.

    -- Greg

    "...as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue..." (2Pet 1:3)

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  52. Kev,

    In speaking about the nature of faith in Christ as more than intellectual assent, you brought up the faithful demons of James 2:19. You said, "The Demons believe that Jesus carried out the Gospel, but they are not saved."

    Let me give you several reasons why your statement and reference to James 2 in this regard is misguided and dangerous:

    1. Scripture repeatedly claims everyone who (i.e. people) believes the gospel is saved (e.g. Rom. 1:16; 1Cor. 1:17-21; 2Cor. 4:3-4; ect.) The implication of your statement could easily be taken to mean that it's not enough to believe the gospel. In fact, what other implication would you expect a person to take from it? And yet this implication is contrary to Scripture.

    2. Since salvation is not offered to demons, whatever they do or don't do is inconsequential in regards to the question of what me must do to be saved. Even if they trusted in Christ or performed works (or whatever someone says is a condition of salvation), they would still be unsaved.

    3. We must also recognize there is nothing within the nature of faith that causes God to save us. Rather, it is God who graciously drew salvation's wondrous plan and set forth its terms. We understand God provided for the salvation of people (not demons) by faith in Him. Therefore, we should not imply that our faith must somehow outweigh the faith of demons in its nature. Otherwise, it sounds as though we can be saved because we're able to work up some quality, nature, or level of faith that demons cannot, hence making faith a ground of our salvation rather than the mere instrument. It is better to realize simply that salvation was never offered to demons on any basis.

    4. The belief described in James 2:19 is monotheism. Nobody has claimed belief in monotheism saves. The very fact monotheism is reference should be a clue to the fact the subject in this passage is not with regard to faith in the Gospel or salvation from hell. Had James wanted to lead to your point, he could have said Demons believe Jesus died and rose again, or something more specific to the Gospel. But he did not.

    5. The words in James 2:18-19 were undoubtedly spoken by an objector. James used a diatrobical literary device that was used in ancient Greek only for the introduction of an objector. The objector is introduced in 18a and countered in 20. The same device is used, for example, in 1Cor. 15:35-36 and Rom. 9:19-20. All of the known examples in ancient Greek are the same. There is no reason to impose over the pattern of this device. While the interpretation of the passage is another subject, it is obviously not wise to base a claim on what an objector says or to imply that James was somehow advocating the point of the objector.

    6. The gospel involves the truth "Christ died for our (people's) sins" and promises eternal life to people who believe in Him. While demons may (or may not -- who knows?) assent to the truth Christ died for people's sins, they could not believe the Gospel as we do, "Christ died for our (demons') sins" (and even if they did, they would be wrong).

    7. From what we see in Scripture, demons' belief in Christ as the Son of God involves believing/ knowing He will damn them (Mt. 8:29) whereas our belief in Christ as the Son of God involves believing/ knowing He will save us. In both cases, belief is belief, but what is believed is completely different.

    I hope this helps.

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  53. Greg, there is a major problem with your argument.

    >>Since salvation is not offered to demons, whatever they do or don't do is inconsequential in regards to the question of what me must do to be saved.

    James is arguing that a certain type of faith, is not "perfect", is incomplete and cannot save.

    I affirm that type of faith is that which is "without works", but regardless, his argument is to show the insufficiency of some type of faith.

    Here is the passage:

    James 2: 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

    18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

    19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

    20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

    21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

    22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?


    Now, if you are right, then James' argument is empty. James becomes fallacious.

    But James is writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And none of us is such a fool as to ascribe fallacy to Him.

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  54. Hi Greg,

    You said I believe that claiming it's more than intellectual assent is opening a can of worms.

    I know that vitamin pills exist. That they are properly tested and approved. I know that they put compounds into the human system that have helpful properties.

    Putting aside the idea of "taking" them. I don't trust them.

    I know everything about them (just go with me here..lol) I know they are approved by the proper authorities. But I don't trust them.

    I can know that Jesus died on the cross, but if I don't trust that I have not repented unto life.

    There are a number of reasons why I might not trust it, even if I know it to be true.

    I might not think I'm a sinner for example. Maybe I think I'm a "good enough person to get to Heaven" already...

    I've got a lot of experience in preaching the Gospel and interaction with the Lost on the subject of Salvation.

    There is no more "effort" or "merit" to trusting it is just something DIFFERENT (not more) than knowing.

    I may know that vitamins make people healthy, but I don't trust that they will make me more healthy. I know the facts of the truth of vitamins, but I have not repented about those facts.

    It's a pretty crummy example, and I'm sorry for that. It's the best I could come up with quickly here.

    Kev

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  55. Greg,

    I never termed them as (or implied them to be) "faithful" demons.

    They KNOW who God is but they don't trust - not that they could be saved through trust, but they don't anyway.

    I think we're getting a little off topic. I don't want to debate this with you. Sorry... this is just not an important theological point for me right now. :) I know what you're saying.

    Kev

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  56. Dan,

    Maybe James' argument would appear fallacious in the lenses through which you're seeing the passage and my comments on it. However, it actually is completely logical. One thing that may help to realize is that in v. 18, "without" is a textual variant. It is not in the Majority Text, and I suspect some scribe added "without" to help it make more sense to him.

    The objector essentially says in irony "You have faith---show me your faith by your works. I have works---and I'll show you by my works my faith." The point is, whether you take faith or works as the starting point, you're not going to demonstrate one by the other. In the same vain, the objector presents the example of the demons. The point of both arguments is to suggest that belief cannot be demonstrated by actions. This is a claim James rejects.

    Although I disagree with the Crossless Gospel of Hodges and Niemela, I have to give both of them credit for some excellent exegetical work they've done on this passage. You can read an excerpt on James 2:18 from Hodge's Gospel Under Siege at
    http://zhodges.cust.he.net/deadfaith/objector.html

    For more information on the general context, outline, and argument of James, I recommend you read Niemela's articles at:

    James 2:24: Retranslation Required 1 http://chafer.edu/journal/back_issues/v7n2_1.pdf

    James 2:24: Retranslation Required 2
    http://chafer.edu/journal/back_issues/v7n1_2.pdf


    Faith Without Works: A Definition

    http://chafer.edu/journal/back_issues/v6n2_1.pdf


    I would encourage everyone to read the articles with discernment and the skepticism they may naturally have over the author's stance on the crossless gospel, yet consider whether the evidence the present makes their case. I believe it does.

    James 2 has to do with genuine born again believers. If you back up to chapter one, you will find his exhortations have to do specifically with born again believers (James 1:16-18). He desires these regenerate brethren to experience the saving effect of the Word of God (1:21). But this saving affect is only realized as they actually apply the Word--for it is very possible for a regenerate believer to deceive himself in thinking he's spiritual for learning the word without applying it (1:22). In his own words, James is discouraging his regenerate brethren from becoming "hearers only" and not "doers of the word".

    Chapter 2 continues on from this subject. Also, it seems very fitting to see 1:19 as a general outline of the book, sort of like Revelation 1:19 provides a general outline of Revelation. James 1:19 speaks of "swift to hear" (cf. 1:21-2:26); "slow to speak" (cf. 3:1-18); and "slow to wrath" (cf. 4:1ff). But as he speaks of the saving power of the Word for believers and subject of hearing the Word, James is quick to point out the Word must actually be applied to be of any benefit (cf. 1:21-2:26).

    Clearly James has in mind a "salvation" to be experienced by spiritual brethren who are already saved (1:16-21). The idea of salvation, I believe, speaks of glorifying Christ and redeeming the value of our lives as God has intended for us instead of wasting our lives in sin.

    What James says is very applicable and practical to believers. Do not believers commit the sin James speaks of in James 1:22, 23-24, 26; 2:1, 6, 15, ect? Much of what James says is convicting to me as a believer because I fail in these areas. And that's why James is writing--to exhort brethren in these areas--not to hold up these concepts as tests of genuine faith and salvation from hell! Even the sin committed in James 2:14 is committed by "one of you", i.e., one of you regenerate brethren.

    James speaks about applying the Word, for example, when we have a chance to help a brother or sister in need. While it is wonderful we believe truths such as "it is better to give than to receive", that belief actually benefits us when we apply it. So if we see a brother in need and only wish him well, our belief that "it is better to give than to receive" is dead in that the belief is separated from the work that should accompany it. That's the point. If you don't think it's possible for genuine believers to fail in this area--then I wonder how realistic you are about your own tendency to fail God's standards.

    I believe the correction James deals is very clear---if you believe truths in which you've been instructed, apply them!! The "false faith" / "salvation from hell through working faith" view that Daniel mentioned completely misses the point: for even if the appropriate works are added to this "false faith" it remains "false faith" in his view.

    The point of James here is not encourage false believers to somehow re-work their faith in the Gospel but the encourage believers to do works in accordance with their faith.

    -- Greg

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  57. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  58. Greg, the discussion between you and Kev got me thinking and I've been mulling something over the last several days and would appreciate your comment on it.

    I think you made some great points about not distinguishing between propositions yet I still lean toward that there is a distinction between belief-in and faith-in when leaving the proposition intact. For example, Rachel and I have dialogged with those who have no problem acknowledging the truth of what Jesus did for them, yet deliberately reject appropriating it (placing their trust in it) because they don't WANT Him to have done that -- the truth of what Christ did for them actually offends them so they push back with a deliberate "No thank you."

    In this case I see a meaningful difference between knowing the truth of something without placing faith/trust in it.

    Am I missing something? I would appreciate your critical thoughts on this, thanks.

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  59. Stephen,

    Thank you for the comments/question and the chance to reply. I'm happy the discussion stirred some thoughts. I've thought about this too.

    Let me first point out one difficulty of your question: someone who understands a proposition (e.g., that Christ died for my sins) but does not accept it to be true has not believed it. It is true the cross of Christ offends most people, and that is why, even if they understand the propositions of the Gospel, they reject them (cf. 1Cor. 1:17-23; 4:3-4). So first of all, let us not attribute "belief" in situations where people actually do not believe or assent.

    However, is it possible for a person to actually believe Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins, rose again, and guarantees eternal life by faith in Him alone -- yet to actually reject the offer?

    Theoretically, I would say yes. But I would be very careful to say that inasmuch as Scripture does not even address the issue of people believing the truths of the Gospel without appropriation, we need to be very careful about trying to explain the distinction or trying to address this in evangelism. Secondly, I would add that the problem we're speaking about is NOT attributable to a distinction between belief and trust.

    You can see from Scripture that "believe" is sufficient to describe the condition of salvation. Something like 84 instances in the NT use this word explicitly as the condition of salvation. Many passages indicate that all who believe have eternal life, ect. Likewise, some passages use the phrase "believe that...." (e.g. John 20:31; Rom. 10:9); "persuaded that" (Rom. 4:1); "believe our report" (Rom. 10:16) or "believe the gospel" (Acts 15:7-9) to describe the condition of salvation.

    From this you should see Scripture itself does not deal with any distinction between believing the propositions of the Gospel and "appropriation". Rather, it assumes everyone who has believed the propositions has appropriated.

    I think two keys help explain this:

    First, it takes supernatural influence (cf. John 1:9; 12:32; 16:7-11; 2Cor. 4:3-4) as well as man's agreement/ volition/ will/ choice for him to assent to the truths of the Gospel (cf. Acts 7:51-52; 16:31; Rom. 10:16; 21; 2Cor. 5:20; 2Thes 1:8; Rev. 22:17). People do not come to believe these truths apart from supernatural influence and an act of man's will.

    Secondly, Scripture assumes there is a purpose for which we believe. One is to believe in Christ to receive salvation. Some passages tie purpose to believing, some do not. But all assume man exercises his choice to believe in order to be reconciled to God.

    Let me give you some examples...

    "But you would not (choose not) to come to Me that you may have life." (John 5:40).
    - The purpose to come to Christ, i.e., to believe in Him is to receive life (i.e., to be reconciled to God).

    "but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:31)
    - The purpose to believe this, again, is to have life.

    "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." (Acts 16:31)
    - The purpose to believe is to be saved, i.e., to be reconciled to God.

    "...We implore you (beg you) on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God."
    - By the Gospel, Paul begged men to exercise their will (by believing) for the purpose of being reconciled to God.

    "...even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law" (Gal. 2:16)
    - The word "that" (hoti) describes the purpose for which Paul/Peter believed, i.e., to be justified by faith in Christ.

    "...whoever wills, let him take of the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17)
    - The purpose of accepting the invitation, again, is to receive life (i.e., to be reconciled to God).

    All of these passages speak of people exercising their will (to believe) in order to be reconciled to God.

    In other words, the Gospel offers a gift. The way to receive the gift is to assent to these truths. When you do that, you've also trusted in Christ. There is no distinction.

    So, I would ask, do you see a distinction between assenting to the truths of the Gospel for the purpose of receiving the gift (i.e. an eternal, reconciled relationship to God) and trusting in Christ?

    If not, I would say there is no distinction between believing / trusting in this regard. Trusting is believing that good will follow.

    The distinction we talked about is purpose, i.e., believing the Gospel in order to be reconciled to God.

    This leaves open the possibility that a Satanist, for example, under the influence of Satan, could believe the truths of the Gospel for the purpose of opposing God. Yet, Scripture doesn't even address this issue and we definitely shouldn't redefine faith to account for this theoretic possibility. I would encourage everyone, though, to be like Paul, and beg men to exercise their will to believe for the purpose of being reconciled to God (2Cor. 5:20).

    What are your thoughts?

    -- Greg

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  60. Hi Greg, Been sick and wrapped-up with starting a new Wednesday night series at church too, didn't mean to be away so long.

    You said: "is it possible for a person to actually believe Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins, rose again, and guarantees eternal life by faith in Him alone -- yet to actually reject the offer?

    Theoretically, I would say yes. But I would be very careful to say that ..."


    To clarify somewhat, what is the Traditional Free Grace view on apostasy for example, those who willfully reject what they know, or at least knew at some time, to be the Gospel of salvation? (We know many who claim to be "ex-Christians" through online debate and bulletin boards and blogs who are in this category). Hebrews 6 is not a passage I've yet studied from an FG perspective so I'd appreciate your thoughts on that as it relates to the idea of willfully rejecting what one had previously believed/received.

    I realize however that the scenario of the apostate is somehwat different than the scenario of someone assenting to the truth of the Gospel without having purposed to appropriate it so I'll endeavor to explain how I don't see even this scenario as theoretical.

    We have encountered some who at least claim this is their experience: that they believe the Gospel to be true yet found the very truth of it to be what turns them away and say "no thank you" to God because, in their view, "it's terrible that God would even allow His own son to suffer the horrendouse penalty of anybody elses' sin". At face value, they believe the truth of the gift but the perceived unethical origin of the gift causes them to reject it, much like one might refuse to accept a life-saving medical procedure if they believed (even falsely) that the procedure was at the unethical expense of someone else.

    Or, a situation where the only way for my wife to live is for me to sacrifice myself (like flinging myself on a grenade that would otherwise kill us both) yet she opts to stay right next to me anyway and die even though she no longer needs to. She opts to "pay the price" anyway -- she may even have done so out of a sense of love for me, yet she nevertheless rejected the gift without rejecting the proposition.

    This not completely unlike some we've talked to who, in either defiance or a twisted nobility, refuse to accept Jesus' sacrifice and say instead "no thank you, I'll pay for my own sins, even if that means I have to go to hell forever." This isn't theory, we've talked to people that have said as much -- they simply don't like who they'd have to thank so they reject the gift knowing full well that the result is their own damnation.

    You asked: [D]o you see a distinction between assenting to the truths of the Gospel for the purpose of receiving the gift (i.e. an eternal, reconciled relationship to God) and trusting in Christ?

    Agreed, no, so perhaps trust is not the best qualifier and you've made a good case for that. "Purpose" then may well be better and, if I understand you rightly, you are saying that biblical belief is assent+purpose, or assent with purpose? Or do I misunderstand?

    Finally, I just thought of a biblical passage that I think depicts a sense of what I'm trying to convey -- Matthew 22:1-14. The initially invited didn't doubt the truth of the king's invitation -- they believed it alright -- but they deliberately rejected it and even reacted with contempt scorn. It seems to convey that merely believing the truth of the invitation is not sufficient, but that there is a requried aspect of purpose or willingness to accept the invitation as well.

    Again, I appreciate your critical thoughts.

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  61. Brothers/Sisters in Christ:

    All good comments on this thread. If I could, I'd like to come back for a moment to the central issue of this article--the essential to salvation doctrine of the Deity of Christ.

    I've noticed that we who witness to the cults are usually good about making it clear to them that the Deity of Christ is an essential. That being said, I've also noticed that many in counter-cult apologetics (or evangelism in general) fail to do the same with general unbelievers. This troubles me greatly.

    The last time you lead someone to Christ, did you spell out for them the Deity of Christ, or did you simply tell them about the "Son of God" presupposing they would somehow divine that He is God in the flesh?

    There are many professing believers today who simply can not reconcile the fact that Jesus is God the Son, and the "Son of God". I fear this is partly because we who shared the gospel with them simply didn't explain it.

    Let us be consistent with the gospel message, regardless whether we are speaking with someone trapped in the cults, or the generic unbeliever.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Jimmy

    P.S. Anyone know of a gospel tract presentation that clearly spells out the Deity of Christ?

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  62. Jimmy, I agree with should be clear about the Deity of Christ when we evangelize. I think of John 8:24.

    Ron Shea has a gospel booklet called "The Gospel" that explains Christ had to be God to pay for our sins. Lou has a link to his site called Clear Gospel Crusade or something like that.

    -- Greg

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  63. Stephen, you understand. When someone says "believe in Christ to save you," (which I believe is Biblical) He is speaking about believing in Christ to do something for you. That is accepting His offer.

    Also, when you believe in someone to do something for you, that is trusting. So I think it is also appropriate to use "trust" to describe the condition of salvation. The problem is when people who use "trust" criticize the use of "believe".

    Scripturally, it is also not wrong to talk about salvation in terms of assenting to facts. That is what "believe that" means. The assumption in Scripture is when you "believe that...", you're believing in Christ to save you.

    In this regard, I think John 20:31 is interesting. I read Rachel's article on it. Honestly, I disagree that statement is in reference to believers. I believe this verse is definitely evangelistic. The point isn't to convince believers who already believe that Jesus is the Christ to believe in Him even more so that they can experience life even more fully. It's a purpose statement but also an invitation to an unbeliever: believe that Jesus is the Christ so that, (in this act of) believing, you may have life. The verb tense used there isn't any problem at all for the statement I just made.

    If Scripture talks about the condition of salvation in this way (i.e., "believe these facts"), so can we, despite the rare of examples like you pointed out.

    I'm interested to talk with you about your question about apostasy in another post when I have more time.

    Also, you and Rachel can feel free to email me to talk about any of these things.

    -- Greg

    P.S. In regards to your actual example of someone who believes Christ died for her sins but resents Him for it, a couple possibilities come to mind...

    ...maybe this person doesn't really believe Christ died for her sins. Maybe she's thinking, "Hypothetically, if I accept your proposition, I find it repulsive"

    ...maybe she is someone who once believed and is saved but now looks for excuses to justify her defection from the gospel

    ...or maybe this is a rare example of someone who actually believes all the facts of the gospel but rejects the offer, thus refusing from the start to believe in Christ to save her.

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  64. Jimmy:

    Here is the link to Ron Shea's site, Clear Gospel Campaign.


    Lou

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  65. Actually "Clear Gospel Campaign" isn't like "Clear Gospel Crusade". Sorry Ron Shea.

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  66. Greg,

    I may differ from Stephen on this some, or maybe we might differ on how we express it here. But I want to go back to this statement of yours:

    "[D]o you see a distinction between assenting to the truths of the Gospel for the purpose of receiving the gift (i.e. an eternal, reconciled relationship to God) and trusting in Christ?"

    Yes, I do see a distinction. I think many people believe the facts, that Jesus died on a cross for people's sins, blah blah. But I maintain that if they've never appropriated that personally, i.e. Jesus died for MY sins, I could never get to heaven on my own, Jesus is now MY Savior, etc. then they aren't yet saved.

    Recently we went through a short series in our small group at church about witnessing. At one point the leader asked people for their testimonies. Ironically, Stephen shared his, which included that he grew up in a Christian home and "knew" all the facts, but it wasn't until he was around 12 that he realized the need to appropriate those facts personally. It wasn't until then that he realized that he did not truly know if he would go to heaven when he died, despite his knowledge of and general assent to the facts of the gospel.

    You also said,

    "Scripturally, it is also not wrong to talk about salvation in terms of assenting to facts."

    This is correct at a base level, however, the "facts" of the gospel in Scripture were life-changing. The culture was different than American or European culture, where either everyone already "assents" to such facts in general, and/or tolerance is a virtue so no one really cares what facts you assent to.

    Think of a Middle Eastern country today, like Iran. Imagine someone there "assenting to [the] facts" of the Christian gospel. Such assent is sure to get one in much trouble, perhaps even killed. So while it's true that all the Iranian Christian did was "assent to facts", assenting to such facts was really more than mere mental assent. An Iranian Muslim will not assent to the facts of the gospel without a personal commitment to follow Christ... which is how it should be for all of us. I don't mean that as a Lordship kind of commitment, but I don't see anywhere in Scripture where a cold, distant, intellectual assent to some set of facts is all that is required.

    It seems to me, though, that you are trying to say that there is no such thing when it comes to the Gospel. That anyone who truly believes the facts of the Gospel is also personally trusting and appropriating those facts, and that anyone who hasn't personally appropriated those facts hasn't really believed the facts. Is that right? If not, please correct me. Because if that is right, I must disagree. As I've already said, I am fine with making a distinction between "believing" or "knowing" the facts of the gospel and actually trusting Christ for salvation.

    And perhaps that's where I'm seeing a distinction. It's one thing to know a few facts. It's another thing to trust the Person about whom those facts are true. It's a personal thing. Saying that saving faith can be the same as mental assent is like saying that people can be true believers without even hardly knowing it. As in, "do you agree that Jesus died and rose again?" "yes" "then you're saved!" "Huh?" When the person has never had a time in their life when they recognized their own personal sin, that it is what separates them from God, that they personally can never do enough good to fix the problem, and that Jesus did fix the problem through his death and resurrection, and they are now personally trusting Jesus and his finished work to reconcile them to God and to save them forever and ever.

    So, if you're saying that "assent" to the above facts (or something similar) is what you think is required of the lost, then I can agree. But I still don't think that that is the normal understanding of mere "assent" to facts. Salvation is a personal event. I know Hodges doesn't like the "chair" illustration, and maybe you don't either. But I like it quite a bit, I think it illustrates well the difference (especially in our culture) between just knowing about the facts of the gospel and personally appropriating them for yourself. Perhaps such an illustration might convey to some that they need to "do" something to be saved, but it certainly never gave me that impression, nor anyone else I was ever with (as far as I know). Especially when it is surrounded by clear explanation that we can do nothing of ourselves to be or stay saved, then I think the chair illustration is great. It simply shows that it's not enough to know certain facts (even the "right" facts) about Jesus, you must personally believe them to be true for yourself. And in so doing, you make a decision to follow Christ. Not a specific decision to give up all you have or whatever, but I do believe that becoming a Christian is more than just being convinced of the truth of some facts... it is a decision to apply those facts specifically and personally - to follow Christ.

    I'm not sure about the idea of believing in someone for the purpose of something. That sounds a little strange to me. If something is true, I believe it. I can't just decide I believe something in order to get something else. For example, I can't just decide to believe in evolution so I can get some paper published in a scientific magazine. I can talk like I believe in evolution, but I can't really believe it just because I want something. But maybe I've misunderstood what you and/or Stephen are saying on that.

    Finally, you said,

    "In this regard, I think John 20:31 is interesting. I read Rachel's article on it. Honestly, I disagree that statement is in reference to believers. I believe this verse is definitely evangelistic. The point isn't to convince believers who already believe that Jesus is the Christ to believe in Him even more so that they can experience life even more fully. It's a purpose statement but also an invitation to an unbeliever: believe that Jesus is the Christ so that, (in this act of) believing, you may have life. The verb tense used there isn't any problem at all for the statement I just made."

    Obviously this probably isn't the thread to have a discussion on this. Perhaps you'd like to post more of your thoughts at the thread on my blog where I talked about this? Or email would be fine too. But I just want to make clear that I was NOT saying that John 20:31 doesn't or couldn't have an evangelistic use or even secondary purpose. I just see relatively significant evidence that the book of John as a whole was intended for those who were already at least familiar with the facts of the gospel and Jesus' life, and perhaps even were second-generation believers. That doesn't preclude it from also being an invitation to unbelievers, but I don't think the Gospel of John was written primarily to convince unbelievers to believe. (And it just so happens that, if true, this statement alone pretty much unravels the entire Crossless Gospel since most, if not all, their beliefs in this area hinge on John being primarily evangelistic.)

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  67. Greg,

    Thank you for your comment, and also for referring me to Ron Shea's site. I'll check it out.

    Jimmy

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