Dear Guests of IDOTG:
The series beginning today is a revised version of a thread comment by Brother Ron Shea, originally appearing in Evangelism with the Jehovah’s Witnesses at my Door. The series opens with the initial installment:
What Turned Hodges to this Profound (Deconstructionist) Error?
I have often speculated on how or why a man of Zane Hodges’s 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 whomever) 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 Hodges to this profound (deconstructionist) error on the gospel. Is there any way to confirm such things? Could it have been an experience such as 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 assented 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 would 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 known as the “Crossless” or “Promise-Only” gospel.
Is this how it happened? We will not know until we pass to the other side.
Although the free-grace movement pre-dated Zane (John Nelson Darby, C.H. MacIntosh, Harry Ironside, Lewis Sperry Chaffer), and co-dated Zane (Ray Stanford, Dick Seymour, et al.), few could deny that Zane would, today, be the elder statesmen of the free grace movement had it not been for his final departure from the historic Christian Gospel as the only message of salvation. Almost everyone in the contemporary free grace movement had been influenced by Zane’s cogent treatment of “problem” verses and books. I scheduled all of my seminary classes around my determination to take electives under Zane on Hebrews, 1st John, and James. I will never regret it. And I’m sure I am not alone in my debt to Zane.
So it was all the more that 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. Zane’s arguments were plainly below the intellect and careful weighing of the facts that we had come to expect of him.
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’s defections.
Hodges’s 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 incorporated 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 his doctoral thesis twenty years ago, so please indulge any inaccuracies in my attempt to quote the line from memory.)I could not help but think, after reading Zane’s later discussions on repentance, that Bob’s words in his doctoral thesis described Zane’s articles to a ‘T’. Yet somehow, Zane’s inner circle, including Bob, “saw the light” of Zane’s new position.
Brother Ron Shea’s series will be continued with The “Deconstructionist” Gospel: Its No Coincidence