September 21, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: The Dilemma of Muslim Evangelism

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Earlier this month I had the privilege of introducing the new book by Pastor Tom Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ: A Biblical response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith.

In Tom Stegall’s introduction of his book he noted:

My objective in writing the book was to provide a biblical response to the controversy within the Free Grace community over the subject of the ‘crossless gospel’ and the contents of saving faith. Part I of the book lays the groundwork by introducing the problem of the crossless/promise-only/Grace Evangelical Society (GES) gospel and its associated doctrines. The remainder of the book still interacts with the new GES theology but it is primarily an exegetical synthesis of dozens of key passages involving the terms ‘gospel’ and ‘Christ’.

Today is our fourth in the series comprised of excerpts from Stegall’s book. You can begin reading this series from the start at, The Gospel of the Christ: The Sinlessness of Christ. The selections I am publishing (with permission) provide a balanced cross section of issues related to the Gospel.

The Dilemma of Muslim Evangelism

First, the problem of the new, (GES) aberrant form of the gospel is not merely theoretical and harmless. Some proponents of this new gospel, when confronted with the possibility that their gospel allows a person to deny the deity of Christ and still receive eternal life, have averred that the problem is all just “hypothetical” and inconsequential, since they also believe and proclaim Christ’s deity, death for sin, resurrection, etc. However, this defense will not suffice for one moment.

Imagine that an advocate of crossless saving faith is evangelizing a Muslim with his abbreviated, John 6:47 version of the saving message. He tells the Muslim that Jesus can guarantee him everlasting life if he just believes in Him for it. Then the crossless gospel advocate dutifully proceeds to inform the Muslim that Jesus is also God’s Son, who died on the cross for his sins and who rose from the dead. Then, at this juncture in the conversation, the crossless evangelist is met with an arresting question from the Muslim, who asserts the following:
Well I don’t believe that Jesus is God’s Son, since the Qur’an repeatedly calls it a monstrous falsehood to believe that God has any equals. Jesus—blessed be his name—was a man and a great prophet; but my tradition also tells me in the Hadith that he is coming back again before judgment day. Perhaps that will be in my lifetime; so I can conceivably see and believe that he can guarantee me everlasting life somehow. However, I must also reject your claim that he died on the cross, since the Qur’an also rejects this in Sura 4:157. And therefore I must also deny that Jesus—peace be upon him—rose from the dead, since he never died, as Sura 4:158 states, “they did not slay him for certain; God lifted him up to Him.” However, dear Christian, you said before that if I simply believe in him as the only one who can guarantee me eternal life, then I can receive eternal life on that basis, right? Well, I believe in Jesus—blessed be his name—as my guarantor of eternal life, though I reject your claim to his deity, and his death for my sins, and his resurrection.
Now what will the crossless gospel advocate say in response? Will he warn this Muslim that he has a false assurance and that he is still dead in his trespasses and sins until he believes in the Jesus of the Bible? But how can he warn him, since the Muslim is just consistently following the logic of the new crossless gospel? The same scenario could be replayed countless times simply by *substituting members of other cults and world religions in the place of the deceived Muslim. Clearly, this is not just a “hypothetical”19 problem with no eternal consequences.


Please continue to Excerpt 5, Evangelizing the Way Jesus Did

19 Brandon Wallace, “Free Grace Theology for Beginners,” Grace Evangelical Society Conference, Dallas, TX, February 27, 2006.

*The following exemplifies Stegall’s contention above. This statement was made by GES member, Antonio da Rosa, who has been a featured speaker at GES national and regional conferences.
At the moment that a JW or a Mormon is convinced that Jesus Christ has given to them unrevokable (sic) eternal life when they believed on Him for it, I would consider such a one saved, REGARDLESS of their varied misconcetions (sic) and beliefs about Jesus.” (Believe Christ’s Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold)
For additional study on the tragedy of the Grace Evangelical Society’s Crossless gospel see the following articles.

The Gospel Under Siege by the Very Man Who Wrote the Book On It

GES Reductionist Affirmation of Faith

Is the “Crossless” Label the Right Label?

Believing the Gospel, “May Indeed Frustrate Grace.”

The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society

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

Free Grace Theology: What Every Advocate of Lordship Salvation Should Know

Men Consistently “Saw the Light” of Hodges’s Reasoning.

11 comments:

  1. Great argument.

    Much better than the others we have used which are similar.

    Kev

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  2. Hello All,

    Its been some time since I've commented, but this article focused my attention on something that has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time as I have followed the LS/CG issue.

    While they are two sides of the same coin, it seems to me that they are joined at the hip at the point of opposition to faith in the cross work of our Lord Jesus Christ as the necessary first step for the sinner in receiving salvation. Both LS and CG advocates say in their own way that a relationship with God can be established apart from the cross of Christ, apart from the necessity of the death of Christ on the cross as the only point of contact between an absolutely holy God and the spiritually dead sinner(Jn.12:24 et al). LS would put surrender and total commitment to Christ as Lord ahead of trusting His work of dying on the cross for my very own sins/sinfulness. This is a position no different from that of the crowd in the NT who "believed in Him" because they were convinced of His Lordship powers, or from that "Surrender" to His Lordship rule during His Millennial reign by those born naturally in that time. In both cases, such "surrender/commitment" is seen to be inadequate to save as soon as Satan's power is unleashed.

    CG proponents, on the other hand, deny the cross by asserting that bare belief the an undefined person called "Jesus" is enough to save apart from any accurate understanding of His person or work. No misconception, faulty belief or even a complete lack of belief concerning His substitutionary death on the cross is deemed as standing in the way of eternal life. LS and CG are probably far apart on many things, but in this subtle (in the case of LS) and blatant denial of the necessity of the cross as to first point of contact between God and the sinner, they seem to be in complete agreement.
    In view of the prominence and centrality of the cross of Christ in the Bible as a whole and the NT in particular, it is hard to accept or believe that those who tenaciously hold to either one can be accepted as sincere in their service for the One Who died there.

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  3. Tim-

    I find I have no words in response to your post- probably because you took all the words right out of my mouth!! Regarding LS especially, that is precisely exactly what my complaint has been all along, only you said it better (can I quote you? :))

    You have absolutely hit that nail right square on the head.

    Bravo!!

    JanH

    P.S. The reason LS puts the cross in second place is because of limited atonement.

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  4. Tim:

    Good to have you back, we’ve missed your insightful commentary. This new comment is no disappointment.

    You wrote, “While they (LS/CG) are two sides of the same coin, it seems to me that they are joined at the hip at the point of opposition to faith in the cross work of our Lord Jesus Christ as the necessary first step for the sinner in receiving salvation.”

    I knew this would resonate with Jan who has commented on this theme several times.

    More from me later.


    Lou

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Jan,

    Just another way to think about the same conclusion about LS and the cross.

    You said,

    "The reason LS puts the cross in second place is because of limited atonement."

    ..........

    Actually, there are many, many Lordship Salvation folks who do not believe in limited atonement.

    My observation is that don't recognize that faith is belief in a message (some content / proposition(s), etc.). So, as a result, they miss out by misunderstanding faith as commitment to a person, etc. (there are many slants they have to their view of faith).

    It really isn't all Calvinism which is the problem...it is clearly Hyper-Calvinism where their contribution to the misunderstanding lies. Many other persuasion like the basic idea of LS rather than faith in the Savior and His message of the cross.

    Grace,

    Fred Lybrand

    P.S. For a good display of the various forms of Calvinism (and the inherent issues attending it) see: Spurgeon & Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching.

    9/23/2009 8:02 AM

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  7. Hello Fred:

    Thanks for the helpful comments to Jan. Glad you referenced the book by Iain Murray. I cite it in my book and link to it for my blog. Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching, which is a great read.

    Thanks again,


    Lou

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  8. Sorry I didn't proof it...maybe the meaning still leaks through!

    FRL

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  9. Actually, there are many, many Lordship Salvation folks who do not believe in limited atonement.

    Thanks for the reminder, Dr. Fred. Now that you mention it, someone else had also commented here that they encountered LSers who are not TULIP and said these folks are even harder to recover than the TULIP ones. I do tend to have a hard time remembering that there is a larger band of LS adherents than Grace Community Church and the other Reformed crowd MacArthur hangs around with. I have heard there are non TULIP LSers, though I don't know who these folks are by name. I do wonder whether they have been led to their LS view by someone who was TULIP. I know my own 4 point pastor is getting increasingly LS in his gospel presentation as he is increasingly influenced by JM.

    I am aware, though, that (thankfully!) not all TULIP folks are LS. Spurgeon certainly being the prime example, as, I guess, is Ian Murray (I don't know much about him. I will read that link you posted.)

    I do notice, though, that the vast majority of the LS crowd do come from the Reformed camp, at least these days. Also, I learned from R. T. Kendall* that the practical syllogism harks back to Beza rather than Calvin. Kendall said that it was Beza who developed the doctrine of LA and Calvin didn't go into it much. He questions whether Calvin held to it at all. Calvin was a proponent of a sort of passive faith that has assurance as its essence. Beza said faith has a more active, volitional component and therefore has the fruit of faith as its essence, which became his practical syllogism, and hence LS. Kendall tied this view of faith to LA, election, and temporary faith for Beza. It seems our camp is more in agreement with Calvin on what faith is.

    I think I am due to read Kendall's book again.

    I think the Arminians tend toward LS too, don't they?


    JanH

    *Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649. Judging by what I found when I went to see what else Kendall has written, this is probably the only book by Kendall that can be recommended.

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  10. Jan,

    Nice! I actually find "Once Saved Always Saved" a helpful work by Kendall (not sure about his use of Romans 10)...in fact, I quote it in my new work Back to Faith (dealing with faith, works, and John Piper) www.backtofaith.com will be up soon. It is really worth the read

    When anyone changes faith into something other than faith...what a predictable mess!

    Grace,

    FRL

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