May 11, 2009

Men Consistently “Saw the Light” of Zane’s Reasoning, Part 3

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

We are continuing the series by Brother Ron Shea with this third installment:


For Part 1 & 2 respectively see-
What Turned Zane Hodges to This Profound “Deconstructionist” Error?

The “Deconstructionist” Gospel: Its No Coincidence

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 a few years.

I believe Bob is in his early to mid 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 likely 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 Wilkin 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 is 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 men. Far less to a man of intelligence who has
labored to advance an errant argument and cannot dismiss his error as a poor choice of words. For example, I try to pray for John MacArthur daily, that he would repent of his error, and proclaim the true gospel. (I confess, I do not pray for him daily, but I do pray for him often.) Yet, I realize that MacArthur is a tough nut to crack. Not because his logic is so compelling. Not because his exegesis is sound. But because he is already on record, and would look ridiculous to many if he jumped ship. Pride is typically the biggest anchor holding a man in false doctrine.

And, for those of us who have known Bob, virtually every person I have ever known has perceived deep spiritual pride in Bob. He sought to
make himself the epicenter of free grace… . He did not present himself as a servant to advance the ministry of others, but to get them to serve him to advance his ministry. I can’t recall meeting anyone who knew Bob and did not come away with this perception of him.

When GES was first founded, I received a letter from Bob explaining that the only way it would get off the ground was by co-operation and “
networking.” He asked for referrals so that the exposure and circulation of GES would be expanded.  I mailed him the address of EVERY SINGLE PERSON I knew who was a Christian, and many who I hoped might be inclined to hear the truth.

Several years later, after
The Gospel Booklet was published, I sent a copy to Bob, and asked if we could mail a copy to every one in the GES, making them aware of it if they wanted to order some for evangelism or discipleship. He wrote me and advised that “GES did not give out their mailing list.” 

I wrote Bob back explaining,
No, you don’t need to give me the addresses. I would prepare letters and envelopes with a copy of The Gospel Booklet, and ship them to you along with the money necessary to mail all of them. You would not need to give me their addresses.”
I received Bob’s reply, telling me:
1) The members of Grace Evangelical Society would not be interested in it,
It was not very well written anyway, and
If I wanted to write a good tract, I should contact the American Tract Society and get help with it.
Of course, it is always possible that Bob was sincere in the three comments he wrote to me. That is up to each person to judge for themselves. But I perceived it as a consistent pattern and practice of Bob seeking to make himself the sole epicenter of grace. And this was not the only incident with Bob that served to persuade me of this. And I am not alone in this perception of Bob.

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 like a donkey for several years, he humbled himself and acknowledged the God of Daniel.

The GES has by all external, observable evidence, lost membership and likewise significant financial support. In my opinion the GES will probably implode within two or three years. “
Whom the Lord loveth, He chaseneth,” (Hebrews 12:6).

I have no doubt of God’s love of Bob Wilkin, and no doubt of Bob’s potential service to God
if he returns to a biblical view of the gospel.

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, who came under the influence of the
Crossless gospel, will begin to do likewise. As I noted, Bob Wilkin is the heir-apparent of Zane’s reductionist 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.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed,” (Gal. 2:11).
At Bob’s age, as I said, that pretty well limits the options to those 60 or over. I believe Earl Radmacher could be the man Wilkin might respond to. I recognize that his (Radmacher’s) love of Zane, his respect for Zane, and their longstanding friendship of many years, might have prevented him from taking such action while Zane was alive.

I realize the Free Grace movement has not been limited to the
Dallas Theological Society (DTS) crowd. The Florida Bible College, and many of the Independent Fundamental Baptist tradition 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 a handful of
DTS graduates. 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 for 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, and only in love), 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.

End Part 3, Please continue to Parts 4 & 5.


  1. Bob Wilkin has come full circle. Being part of a cult when he was younger, he is now a leader and a mover within his own cult that was godfathered by Zane Hodges. His actions follow this mentality. Sad.

  2. I want to offer a thought in regard to Bob Wilkin’s refusal to let Brother Shea offer The Gospel Booklet to the GES membership.

    In my way of thinking Bob refused to let Ron distribute The Gospel Booklet, NOT because it was poorly written. Instead, IMO Wilkin had already begun turning to the reductionism that Hodges originated and introduced him (Wilkin) to. Therefore, Shea’s Gospel Booklet, would have been considered a false interpretation of the gospel and for Wilkin unsuitable for the GES membership because of the GES new (changed) interpretation of the gospel.

    Ron, if you could share your opinion, I’d appreciate your insight on the timeline factor of what I suggested here.


  3. Doug,
    I did not know that about Wilkin in his younger days. Wow! Plenty to think about now.

    No doubt you are on to something. Poorly written? Somehow I think not.

  4. Hey Lou and Mark:

    Obviously we will never know what was going through Bob's mind. But the Gospel Booklet came out in 1988, twenty one years ago. While it is impossible to know when the seeds of heresy took root, this was a long time ago, and not long after Bob presented his doctoral thesis on repentance with an orthodox free-grace view. Even if the drift toward heresy had alread begun, I doubt it was very formative 21 years ago.
    The key is to remember that Bob and I were friends at DTS. Both New Testament majors. He was a doctoral student, and me, a Th.M. student. On more than one occasion, he was my grader in certain New Testament classes. He knew well my doctrine, my world view, my committment, and my intellectual capacity. He was fully familiar with all of these. This probably goes a long way in explaining why he didn't want to debate me.

    But years before he fell into such profound heresy, as I sought to develope a ministry, I fear Bob saw me as a rival to his corner on the market of grace. It was clear that Bob was more than willing to receive my help to build up his ministry, but sought to use whatever position of leverage he possessed to marginalize me from developing my own ministry.

    After all, I was a threat to his hegemony over the doctrine of grace. And it was a ministry reserved for Bob alone! (Sort of like the Catholic Sacraments, he was the sole distributor of God's grace. (Smile).

    Not only did he offer a litany of rather suspect (and insulting) reasons for why he would not help distribute The Gospel Booklet among the members of GES, about a year and a half after that incident, someone wrote in and asked (in the bi-monthly newsletter) if there were any tracts or literature that presented a clear and accurate gospel.

    The next newsletter, Bob listed about seven or eight tracts and booklets. Yep, you guessed it! The Gospel Booklet, praised by luminaries such as Radmacher, John Walvoord, and Curtis Hudson, was no were to be seen in the recommended list! (Darn! I really should have gone and gotten help from the American Tract Society when I had the chance!) That was around 1988.

    Some eight or so years after that, I met a guy named Ian McGrath, the founder of American Inland Missions. Ian had received permission to distribute the Spanish copy of The Gospel Booklet at Louis Palau Crusades in South and Central America. At Ian's own expense, he would print up 40 thousand copies of the Spanish, and fly them down to the Crusades to distribute them. When he realized that they were not known among the GES crowd, he left a phone message to Bob asking if he could introduce it at the annual GES meeting (which was coming up fast). This was circa 1997, about 12 years ago now. Bob never returned his call. Which could have been an oversight, except Ian called Bob about 12 times! Kind of left you with the impression Bob was trying to avoid so much as acknowledging the existence of the Gospel Booklet.

    By some strange quirk of fate, Earl ran in to Ian, and learned of the situation. Deeply troubled about the entire matter, Earl had a nice talk with Bob. I am not intimate as to what was said. But at the GES meeting later that month, Bob introduced Ian to tell those present about the Gospel Booklet.

    (Rumor has it that Bob also had to put a royal robe on Ian, and lead him around the town on a fine horse, showting "This man has found favor in the eyes of the king," and that when Bob went home that night, he put a blanket over his head. (Smile--See Esther 6:1-12). But than again, it just may be a rumor.

    Believe it or not, Bob's actions have served me well as a spiritual compass. I'm as puffed and prideful as any man on the planet, and could have fallen into such self worship a thousand times more easily than Bob. But seeing how transparent his motives looked to everyone but him, and realizing my motives would be no different, it reinforced in my mind how important it is to examine my own heart honestly in this lifetime, or run the risk of looking like a total fool in the life to come. So I have come to more forecfully appreciate that my mission in life is not to make my name great, but to make myself a servant . . . to build up the ministries of those whom I am discipling . . . at sacrifice to my own "ministry" or "name".

    Maybe that is why God is blessing my ministry in Pakistan. I'm not there to suck the emotional blood out of the brethren, viewing them as objects to mirror back to me some warped sense of my own aggrandiosity, or elevating myself to an object of greatness or worship. I'm just a servant.

    But since September, Clear Gospel Fellowship has grown to multiple churches totaling over 700 members.

    Isn't it amazing how, when we try to marginalize other believers to make our own name great, we only marginalize ourselves? But when we make our selves a servant and seek to empower our disciples and elevate them to a place of honor and influence in the church, we find that our own honor and influence has grown along with them. Isn't God's word amazing?

    I'm not claiming to be the one who searches the heart of Bob Wilkin or any other fallen descendent of Adam. But I've been surrounded by narcissists throughout my life . . . emotional vampires who would find a way to take credit for whatever I accomplished, and posture themselves to make me their servant or their understudy. Or to marginalize me so that the only light on the hill was their own . . . a passive object whose purpose in life was to hold a mirror for them to mirror back to them a sense of their own aggrandiosity. So I feel I am pretty good at recognizing signs of a profile of a narcissistic personality disorder. And right or wrong, that is my take on Bob Wilkin. And, as with the prideful Hamon, Bob too is ever more painting himself into a corner.


  5. Isn't it amazing how, when we try to marginalize other believers to make our own name great, we only marginalize ourselves? But when we make our selves a servant and seek to empower our disciples and elevate them to a place of honor and influence in the church, we find that our own honor and influence has grown along with them. Isn't God's word amazing?

    1 Peter 5:5-7.

    God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

    Heaven's SOP.


  6. Ron:

    I sincerely appreciate your informed and unique insight into the goings-on at GES in its infancy and beyond.


  7. I want to second Lou, Ron. You have some unique perspectives and I thank you for sharing them.

    I would like to ask about Doug/Gojira's earlier comment about BW coming full circle. What cult was he a member of?


  8. That's a good question. I'd like to know his cultic background too.


  9. Bob Wilkin talks about this breifly in the introduction of his book "Confident in Christ." I believe it may have been metioned in conection with the debate he had with James White. Wilkin was part of some extreme Pentecostal Holiness group. With their emphesis on works and not sinning, it is no wonnder that he would wind up proporgating the extereme opposite.

    Mark, being trying to contact ya, man. :-)