October 15, 2009

The Gospel of the Christ: The “No Lordship” Counter-Claim

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’.

Let’s continue with the powerful series of excerpts from Tom Stegall’s book.

The “No Lordship” Counter-claim

In spite of past precedent and practice, those aligned with the Grace Evangelical Society and its view of the gospel may still claim that it is unfair to label their teaching as “crossless.” They may point out the fact that they each individually hold to faith in Christ’s cross-work and that they often do include the preaching of the cross in their evangelism. They may even claim that they do require belief in Christ’s cross-work in one respect, namely for sanctification and spiritual growth in the Christian life. So in light of these facts how can their view justly and rightly be called “crossless”? They may even try to draw a parallel to the way their view is being labeled “crossless” and the way Lordship Salvationists refer to the Free Grace position as the “no-lordship” view.1 G.E.S. proponents may object that since Free Grace people do believe in the Lordship of Christ, it is unfair and inaccurate to refer to our view as the “no-lordship” view; and in just the same way, since they do believe in the cross-work of Christ and have a place for it, it is unfair and inaccurate to refer to their view as “crossless.” So, is applying the phrase “crossless gospel” to the G.E.S. doctrine on the contents of saving faith really no different than the phrase “no-lordship” being applied unfairly to the Free Grace position?

There is at least one significant reason why this is not an equal or valid comparison. When Lordship Salvation proponents refer to the Free Grace position as the “no-lordship” view, they are specifically referring to the subject of eternal salvation, not sanctification in the Christian life per se. They are referring to our view as the “no-lordship salvation” view. As this applies to the Free Grace movement historically, “no-lordship salvation” would not be an accurate or appropriate designation since Free Grace advocates have traditionally viewed belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as a requirement for eternal salvation or justification, just as Acts 16:30-31 and Romans 10:9-10 teach. While Lordship Salvationists have traditionally understood believing in Christ as “Lord” to include the inherent component of submission of one’s life in service to Christ, Free Grace proponents have traditionally understood belief in Christ as “Lord” to mean belief in His deity due to His divine attribute and position of sovereignty.2 In this respect, to claim that Free Grace people promote a “no-lordship salvation” is an inaccurate and misleading description of our position, since we have historically required belief in Jesus as “Lord” in the deistic sense specifically for justification and eternal salvation and not only for sanctification in the Christian life. However, the same can no longer be said of the Free Grace movement as a whole due to the advent of the new G.E.S. view of the gospel that doesn’t even require belief in Christ’s cross-work or His deity for eternal life.3
For this reason, the charge of a “no-lordship” salvation has tragically become true and fitting right now for the G.E.S. faction of the Free Grace movement.
In light of these considerations, it would be neither inappropriate, nor contrary to historical precedent, to use the designation “crossless gospel” for the current theological controversy in the Free Grace camp. Yet, if we choose to do so, we must also be ready and willing to qualify what exactly we mean by the phrase. No label is perfect or immune from misinterpretation; and “crossless gospel” is no exception. Undoubtedly some evangelicals who are uninformed of the current controversy will interpret the phrase to mean that some Free Grace people are no longer even preaching the cross. Though the cross has been a glaring omission or de-emphasis in the evangelism of some Free Grace leaders in recent years, this is not the primary implication of the phrase “crossless gospel.”

Our use of the phrase is simply in keeping with the way in which 99% of evangelical and fundamental Christendom understands the term “gospel.” There is a consensus among evangelicals, whether Lordship or Free Grace, that the gospel is the message which people must believe in order to become a Christian and belong to Jesus Christ. Beyond that, opinions on the gospel diverge drastically. But it is highly doubtful that the rest of the evangelical world will pick up the nuance that certain crossless teachers are now putting on the term “gospel.”
Probably less than 1% of evangelicals interpret the word “gospel” in the manner that these crossless proponents are now using it, as being a Christian-life message that is only necessary to believe for sanctification and spiritual growth rather than for regeneration.
For these reasons, the phrase “crossless gospel” is still appropriate, even though some may dislike it or even despise it. Other Free Grace people who are opposed to the new crossless saving message have recently proposed and begun using other labels, such as the “G.E.S. gospel,” the “promise-only gospel,” and the “crossless faith” view. These are also accurate and appropriate designations that may eventually become the standard phraseology. If that happens, I personally would have no objections to changing my own terminology since the doctrinal position defended in this book is in no way dependent upon the use of a particular phrase. “Crossless gospel” is largely a convention used throughout this book and throughout the current controversy to abbreviate the new doctrinal error of our day. It is much easier to say “crossless gospel” than “the crossless content of saving faith.” The latter expression is not nearly as recognizable to the average Christian and often requires further explanation. But regardless of what labels are used, it is virtually guaranteed that those on the so-called “Refined” side will not accept any label or descriptive phrase that we on the so-called “Traditional” side come up with unless it portrays their doctrine favorably, which is something we simply cannot do because we regard the crossless gospel to be utterly contrary to the Word of God.

Please continue to- The Gospel of the Christ: The FOREWORD

1) Bob Wilkin, “We Believe Jesus Is Lord,” Grace in Focus 23 (March/April 2008): 1-2.

2) Charles C. Bing,
Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response, GraceLife Edition (Burleson, TX: GraceLife Ministries, 1992), 104; Thomas R. Edgar, “What Is the Gospel?” in Basic Theology: Applied, ed. Wesley and Elaine Willis & John and Janet Master (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1995), 158; J. B. Hixson, “Getting the Gospel Wrong: Case Studies in American Evangelical Soteriological Method in the Postmodern Era” (Ph.D. dissertation, Baptist Bible Seminary, 2007), 77-78; Robert P. Lightner, Sin, the Savior, and Salvation: The Theology of Everlasting Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 204; Lou Martuneac, In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation (n.p.: Xulon Press, 2006), 170-75; Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation: What It Means to Believe In Jesus Christ (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989), 69-70.

3) Hodges, “How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1,” 5; López,
Romans Unlocked, 216; Niemelä, “Objects of Faith in John: A Matter of Person AND Content”; Wilkin, Confident in Christ, 10.

For additional study see-
Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page
Is “RE-DEFINED” Free Grace Theology- Free Grace Theology?
GES Reductionist Affirmation of Faith
The Hollow “Gospel” of the Grace Evangelical Society
The “Christ” Under Siege: The New Assault From the Grace Evangelical Society
Believing the Gospel: “May Indeed Frustrate God's Grace?”
Zane Hodges: Drifting Far Off the Marker
Free Grace Theology: What Every Advocate of Lordship Salvation Should Know

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