July 29, 2009

Free Grace Theology: What Every Advocate of Lordship Salvation Should Know, Part 2

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

We continue with the second installment of Brother Bob Nyberg’s series, The Free Grace Fracture. See- Part 1 of the series.

In 2000, Zane Hodges wrote an article entitled, “How to Lead a Person to Christ, Part 1: The Content of our Message.”6 The article appeared in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. In this article Zane presents a “Deserted Island Scenario.” He wrote:

Let me begin with a strange scenario. Try to imagine an unsaved person marooned on a tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He has never heard about Christianity in his life. One day a wave washes a fragment of paper up onto the beach. It is wet but still partly readable.

On that paper are the words of John 6:43-47. But the only readable portions are: “Jesus therefore answered and said to them” (v 43) and “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (v 47).

Now suppose that our unsaved man somehow becomes convinced that this person called Jesus can guarantee his eternal future, since He promises everlasting life. In other words, he believes Jesus’ words in John 6:47. Is he saved?

I suspect that there are some grace people who would say that this man is not saved because he doesn’t know enough. For example, he doesn’t know that Jesus died for his sins on the cross and rose again the third day. Needless to say, there is a lot more he doesn’t know either, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the eternal Sonship of Jesus or the doctrine of the virgin birth.

But why is he not saved if he believes the promise of Jesus’ words? It is precisely the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ in the Johannine sense of that term.
Is it necessary to believe in Christ’s work on the cross in order to be saved? Zane says, “no!” He continues:
The Gospel of John is the only book in our New Testament canon that explicitly declares its purpose to be evangelistic. Of course, I am thinking of the famous theme statement found in John 20:30-31, where we read: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.”

This statement does not affirm the necessity of believing in our Lord’s substitutionary atonement. If by the time of the writing of John’s Gospel, it was actually necessary to believe this, then it would have been not only simple, but essential, to say so….

Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the Gospel of John teach that a person must understand the cross to be saved. It just does not teach this. If we say that it does, we are reading something into the text and not reading something out of it!

What is my point? That we should not preach the cross of Christ to men? Not at all.… Instead, I am arguing that we need to focus on the core issue in bringing men and women to faith and eternal life. What is that core issue?

Very simply it is this: We want people to believe that Jesus guarantees their eternal destiny. Of course, we would like them to believe a lot more than this, but this at least must be believed. Our failure to clearly define our goal in evangelism can have a negative or impeding effect on our efforts to lead people to simple faith in Christ.
According to Zane, the core issue is not the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for sin. The core issue is that mankind lacks eternal life and they need to believe that Jesus guarantees their eternal destiny.

Remember that repentance is not a requirement for salvation in Hodges view. But Ryrie and Lightner insist that the lost sinner needs to change their mind about sin, and their own ability to deal with the sin problem. The issue is the fact that I cannot save myself and therefore I need to have a Savior. I need to place my trust in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. But according to Hodges, sin is not the issue and repentance is not required. The core issue, to Hodges, is not lack of a right standing before a holy God. Instead the core issue is that lost mankind needs eternal life.

Hodges goes on to explain:
In the final analysis, therefore, salvation is the result of believing in Jesus to provide it. Salvation is not the result of assenting to a detailed creed. Salvation does not even require an understanding of how it was provided for or made possible. All it requires is that the sinner understand the sufficiency of the name of Jesus to guarantee the eternal well-being of every believer.
Does that mean that we should not preach the message of the cross? Absolutely not! Hodges maintains that we should indeed preach the cross of Christ. He explains:
In the light of what we have just said, should we preach the cross of Christ? The answer to that is emphatically yes. And the most obvious reason for doing so is that this is what Paul and the other Apostles did.

Why should men trust Christ for eternal life? The gospel gives us the wonderful answer. They should do so because Jesus has bought their salvation at the cost of His own precious blood….

The preaching of the cross greatly facilitates the process of bringing men to faith in God’s Son.
Why preach the cross? Because it helps to bring men to faith. According to Hodges, preaching the cross demonstrates that Christ is trustworthy. However, (according to Hodges & GES) it is not faith in Christ’s work on the cross that saves. It’s only faith in the Christ who promised eternal life that saves.

In Hodge’s view, preaching the cross is helpful, but it is not absolutely essential since a person can be saved without believing in Christ’s substitutionary death.

When you buy a car, some equipment is optional like a sun roof. Some equipment comes standard like the engine. In my opinion, the minimalist view of the gospel treats the cross as optional equipment. It’s helpful, but not absolutely necessary. In the traditional view of free grace theology, the cross is standard equipment. The package just won’t work without the centrality of the cross as being the heart of the gospel message. The cross is the engine that gives power to the message. Or as Paul wrote, the gospel of Christ (which includes the message of the cross) is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. Paul also wrote:
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. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified…’” (1 Cor. 1:17-23).
Hodges began with the idea that repentance is not necessary for salvation. If sin is not an issue, or barrier to being saved, then what is? It’s the fact that mortal man does not possess eternal life. Zane simply followed his own reasoning to a so-called “logical end.”

As you explore the differences between free grace theologians, many more contrasts begin to stand out. It’s not simply an issue of whether or not repentance is a requirement for salvation.

6) http://www.faithalone.org/journal/2000ii/Hodges.htm

Please continue to Part 3 of this series. You will find there a chart that compares and contrasts the Ryrie/Lighter Free Grace theology over against the Hodges, Wilkin, GES “ReDefined” reductionist interpretation of the content of saving faith.

July 26, 2009

The Free Grace Fracture: What Every Advocate of Lordship Salvation Should Know

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Today I am presenting the first installment of an article that addresses and documents a rift that developed within the Free Grace community, which eventually lead to an open split. The author is Brother Bob Nyberg. I have never met Brother Nyberg, but we have become familiar with one another through the blogs and some brief discussions on the Gospel, especially the controversial Lordship Salvation and Crossless Gospel interpretations.

With Bob’s permission I am reprinting his article, The Free Grace Fracture (October 2007), which originally appeared at his personal web site. Well before I knew of or interacted with Bob Nyberg I wrote and posted, Free Grace: Fractured by the “Crossless” Gospel (July 2007). I consider his article and mine companion and complimentary articles.

Nyberg’s article is an important discussion because our brethren on the Lordship side of the Gospel controversy must recognize that there is a wide chasm in the Free Grace community. The chasm developed over a long period of time, beginning approximately 20 years ago.

Dr. John MacArthur frequently cites Zane Hodges’s writings as representative of the so-called “no-lordship” camp. MacArthur is right to a great degree in that label of Hodges, Bob Wilkin and Grace Evangelical Society (GES) soteriology, which is a theme I will develop in a future article. The shrinking cell of GES extremists insist the lost can be saved apart from knowing, understanding or believing in the Person (deity) and finished work of Christ. Every responsible Bible-believing should recognize and reject this egregious form of reductionist soteriology. IMO, however, when speaking of biblical justification MacArthur’s “no-lordship” has no traction with Free Grace men outside the GES who utterly reject the reductionism of Hodges. MacArthur himself recognizes and does draw the distinction between the Hodges and Charles Ryrie views noting that Hodges represents a more radical and extreme view than he (MacArthur) finds with Ryrie or Robert Lightner.

There are sharp differences between the views of Drs. Lightner/Ryrie and Dr. MacArthur on the necessary content of saving faith. However, everyone in or viewing the debate must understand that Hodges, Wilkin and GES have drifted far outside the main stream of Free Grace theology with their reductionist assaults on the content of saving faith. The teaching of Hodges, Wilkin and the GES is commonly known as the “Crossless” or “Promise-ONLY” gospel.

Today the fracture in the Free Grace movement is much wider across a very clear line of doctrinal division. Much more sharp and clear than it was at the time of this article’s initial publication. By following the teachings of Zane Hodges the GES has isolated itself into an extreme and radical corner of evangelical Christianity. Advocates of Lordship Salvation must understand that when they read or hear of the teaching of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin they are not hearing historic, balanced Free Grace theology. Brother Nyberg’s article will be a helpful read for all who wish to better understand the rift and fracture in the Free Grace movement. With that I present to you part one of Brother Bob Nyberg’s article The Free Grace Fracture.

The Free Grace Fracture
By Bob Nyberg

Myth: Free grace theology began in the 1980’s as a response to John MacArthur’s book
The Gospel According to Jesus.

If you do a search on the internet for the phrase “
free grace theology,” you will come across this popular myth. In reality, free grace theology has been around a lot longer than that. For instance, William Newell, Harry Ironside and Lance Latham wrote about free grace theology long before the lordship salvation controversy came to the forefront within Christendom.

William R. Newell (1868-1953) wrote:
To preach full surrender to an unsaved man as the way of salvation will just make a hateful Pharisee out of him.”
Dr. Harry Ironside (1876-1951) wrote:
When anyone comes promising salvation to those ‘who make full surrender’ of all that they have to God, and who ‘pay the price of full salvation’ he is preaching another gospel, for the price was paid on Calvary’s cross and the work that saves is finished. It was Christ Jesus who made the full surrender when He yielded His life on Calvary that saves us, not our surrender in any way to Him.”
Lance Latham (1894-1985) wrote:
Surely we must recognize WHO HE IS, or we will die in our sins (John 8:24). But this is vastly different from making Him your Lord in your life, in other words, promising to obey the rest of your life. This latter is preaching ‘works.’
Long before these men wrote on the subject, another free grace theologian took pen in hand and scribed the memorable words,
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Paul the Apostle; Ephesians 2:8-9)”
However, John MacArthur’s books on lordship salvation did evoke a response from free grace advocates. In 1989, Charles Ryrie wrote So Great Salvation: What It Means to Believe In Jesus Christ. In the same year, Zane Hodges wrote A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation: Absolutely Free. In 1991, Robert Lightner wrote Sin, The Savior, and Salvation: The Theology of Everlasting Life. All three of these men were professors at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Hodges, Ryrie and Lightner all represent free grace theology and oppose lordship salvation, but there are some differences between them. This is especially true regarding how they view repentance. Both Charles Ryrie and Robert Lightner insist that repentance is a requirement for salvation. In contrast, Zane Hodges says that repentance is not a requirement for salvation.

Charles Ryrie states:
The only kind of repentance that saves is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. People can weep; people can resolve to turn from their past sins; but those things in themselves cannot save. The only kind of repentance that saves anyone, anywhere, anytime is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. The sense of sin and sorrow because of sin may stir up a person’s mind or conscience so that he or she realizes the need for a Savior, but if there is no change of mind about Jesus Christ there will be no salvation.”1
Robert Lightner wrote:
The word repentance means a change of mind.… There is no question about it: repentance is necessary for salvation. However, Scripture views repentance as included in believing and not as an additional and separate condition to faith. All who have trusted Christ as Savior have changed their minds regarding Him and their sin.”2

“Repentance in Scripture has to do with a change of mind. Evangelicals agree no one can be saved who does not change his mind about himself and his need, his sin which separates him from God, and about Christ as the only Savior.”3
Dr. Lightner was wrong about one point. Not all Evangelicals agree that repentance is necessary for salvation.

Zane Hodges insists:
Faith alone (not repentance and faith) is the sole condition for justification and eternal life.”4

There can be no compromise on this point if we wish to preserve and to proclaim the biblical truth of sola fide. To make repentance a condition for eternal salvation is nothing less than a regression toward Roman Catholic dogma.”5
At first, this difference between Ryrie-Lightner and Hodges was seen as a minor issue. However, those minor cracks in the free grace dam have turned into a significant fracture within this movement today. Zane Hodges and the leadership of the Grace Evangelical Society maintain that a person can be saved without believing in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. This teaching has become known as “the crossless gospel.” However, I prefer the term “minimalist gospel” since Hodges is dealing with the “minimum requirements” a person needs to believe in order to be saved.

1) Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation: What It Means to Believe In Jesus Christ. (Wheaton, Illinois, 1989), pp. 94-95
2) Robert Lightner,
Sin, The Savior, and Salvation: The Theology of Everlasting Life. (Nashville, Tennessee), p. 167
3) Ibid., p. 212
4) Zane Hodges,
A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation: Absolutely Free (Dallas, Texas, 1989), p. 144
5) Ibid., p. 145

Please continue to Part 2 of this series.

For additional reading to further explain how the GES has ceased to be a voice for the Free Grace community, see- Is “RE-DEFINED” Free Grace Theology- Free Grace Theology?

July 20, 2009

Zane Hodges: Following a Man Who “Was Traversing a Course Contrary to Scripture”

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

A friend of mine and of this blog read the latest issue of Grace in Focus (May-June 09) a publication from the Grace Evangelical Society. The reviewer found *Dr. Stephen Lewis’s article entitled “Consensus Theology Stinks” to be both “interesting and alarming.” Following is his reaction to the article.


From the outset of my reading, I had a pretty good idea where Dr. Lewis was going to land. One of the lines of debate in the
Crossless gospel controversy relates to: “who really represents free grace theology?” Is it the sole possession of the Grace Evangelical Society (GES)? Has the GES cut itself off from the Classical Dispensational interpretation of the gospel grace?

Since GES cannot substantiate their novel position from historical roots, it’s no wonder that GES would include an article such as this to try to
bolster their crumbling position.

In his article, Dr. Lewis concludes:
Free Grace people sometimes have our own traditions and these traditions sometimes blind us to the clear meaning of Scripture. Take the response of some in the FG camp to the writings of Zane Hodges as an example. Some rejected out of hand his view on assurance as being of the essence of saving faith. Others rejected, out of hand, his deserted island illustration and his suggestion that all who simply believe in Jesus have everlasting life that can never be lost. Still others in the FG movement rejected his explanation of the Gospel of John because it contradicted their tradition. These people did not carefully read and consider his Biblical arguments. If they had, their traditions would have given way to Scripture. We must beware of our own consensus theology.
The underlined statement is the height of presumption. The very reason that Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and GES are being called to account is because men have thoroughly examined the Biblical evidence and found the GES Crossless/Promise-ONLY position to be wanting.

In Zane’s article,
The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism, he essentially declared GES to be the sole voice for “free grace theology.” In similar fashion, Dr. Lewis portrays Zane as being “the exemplar” of sound doctrine and anyone who challenges him as being in error.

When an individual or organization, begins to think that they are the only voice of truth or that they are nearly infallible, then they are treading on dangerous ground.

Certainly following the traditions of men is hazardous territory. On that point I can agree. But blindly following an individual man (Zane Hodges) who was traversing a course contrary to Scripture is an even greater danger.

Editorial Comment:
I want to thank the reviewer above for pointing out the dangerous direction of GES (Bob Wilkin, Exec. Dir.). Over the years the GES has steadily devolved into a cultic movement grounded on absolute loyalty to the personality of the late Zane Hodges at the expense of fidelity to the Scriptures. The GES people are unrepentant over and in need of recovery from the egregious reductionist errors on the necessary content of saving faith originated by Zane Hodges.

I want to conclude by reiterating and reminding all those who are advocates of Lordship Salvation of an important fact. The GES is an isolated, shrinking cell of theological extremists whose Crossless/Promise-ONLY gospel is a doctrinal aberration. The GES does not speak for or represent any man outside its own membership or its sympathizers.


*Stephen R. Lewis, Th.M., Ph.D.
Rocky Mountain Bible College & Seminary

July 13, 2009

Doctrine Is Dead

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

A pastor from Wisconsin directed me to this article Doctrine is Dead, which was written by Pastor J. B. Hixson, Ph.D. The article appears at the website of Dr. Hixson’s church, Brenham Bible Church. I trust you will find this a compelling read.

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16).

This just in from the Associated Press…Doctrine died today. The news of Doctrine’s demise, while tragic, was not entirely unanticipated. It had been battling a terminal illness for many years. Doctrine’s storied history is well known…from its powerful birth in the Apostolic Age; to its rapid rise to a firm place of centrality in the Christian life during the early days of the Church; to its serious injuries and repression throughout the Medieval Period; and finally its terminal diagnosis during the Enlightenment.

For a brief time, hope of Doctrine’s recovery re-emerged during the early 20th Century, as Inerrantists and Fundamentalists put forth aggressive treatment programs that appeared to cause Doctrine’s disease to enter remission. But such hopes were premature. With the onset of postmodern thinking, Doctrine suffered a rapid decline and finally breathed its last breath just this morning.

Reaction to this news has been swift and fairly consistent. One leading evangelical leader wrote,

While we are saddened by this news, we are glad to know that Doctrine’s suffering is finally over. Now we can get on with more important matters like relationship building, loving our brothers, and changing lives for Christ.”
Another pastor commented,

Our hearts go out to all of those who loved Doctrine, and stood by it until the bitter end. We pray that they will gain closure and move forward quickly. We invite them to stop living in the past. Come join the rest of us in mainstream evangelical Christianity as we seek to change the world through love, peace and goodwill, rather than the divisiveness of credalism.”
Not all Christian leaders have been as diplomatic in their comments. One highly influential Christian personality quipped,
It’s about time! Doctrine has had a stranglehold on the thoughts and minds of Christians for far too long. Good riddance!”
The general sentiment across Christendom seems to be one of relief. The climate within Christianity has been characterized by a disdain for doctrinal standards for quite some time. Those who draw lines of doctrinal distinction are perceived as unloving, even hateful or mean, while those who draw circles of inclusion are viewed as more progressive, loving and open-minded. Anyone who claims his view is “right” based upon Biblical Doctrine is charged with trying to control the thoughts of others or force his view on someone else. Indeed, the labels “right” and “wrong” have been replaced in favor of less dogmatic phrases like “opinion” and “bias.”

Some, evidently not wanting to appear as though they have entirely shunned Doctrine, have attempted to mask their disinterest in Doctrine by referring to “essentials” versus “non-essentials.” There are “essential” beliefs that are always right and on which we must always agree, they say, but on “non-essentials” that are a matter of opinion and not a matter of right or wrong, we must give others liberty to believe whatever they want. It’s an attractive concept, really, but supporters of Doctrine are quick to point out that the term Doctrine (from the Greek root word didaskalia) means “instruction in Truth,” and since “Truth” by its very nature is always right and never a matter of opinion (a point vehemently denied by opponents of Doctrine within postmodern evangelical Christianity—truth is never capitalized in their worldview), it is therefore always essential.

Furthermore, within this postmodern essential/non-essential paradigm, it seems as though the list of essential beliefs has grown smaller and smaller to the point that no one can identify what is on it anymore. Most churches have stripped their Doctrinal Statements of all but the most basic tenets, such as “We believe in God,” leaving everything else open to personal opinion. (For those who may not be familiar with the term “Doctrinal Statement,” this is what all churches had during the glory days of Doctrine. It identified a church’s belief system.)

In any event, it is likely that with Doctrine’s passing today, the “essential/non-essential” terminology will soon disappear entirely, as it will no longer be needed to placate Doctrine’s supporters. Those from the “Can’t-We-All-Just-Get-Along” political action committee within evangelicalism already have issued a statement celebrating the dawning of a new day:
Finally, once and for all, we can put an end to the judgmentalism, hatred, and arrogance of Doctrine’s disciples who insist that right belief is important. Such an archaic philosophy has been on life support for many years and we are heartened that we can now move definitively beyond it to happier days of fellowship, joy, affirmation and acceptance of all Christians regardless of their particular beliefs.”

One final addendum to this story…An obscure and little-known Christian leader, who goes only by his first name “Paul,” has cautioned that such celebratory response to the death of Doctrine is typical of those whose “consciences have been seared with a hot iron” and whose “itching ears” desire to hear only what makes them feel good. He goes on to point out that Doctrine is necessary for proper behavior and that Christians would do well to “hold fast to sound Doctrine,” for in so doing it will protect and preserve all who follow it.

It remains to be seen what effect the laying to rest of Doctrine will have on evangelical Christianity, but if this “Paul” is correct, it can only lead to great unpleasantness.

July 9, 2009

In the Interim

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

I want to give an update on the doings here. I typically post two new articles per week. In recent days, however, it has been a longer than normal time span between articles.

Over the holiday weekend I posted a 4th of July tribute to our nation’s birthday and her flag. During the year I post articles to honor and remember some of our nation’s history. Among them are Memorial Day, the 4th of July, the Civil War and 9/11.

I love America! If you love America you must surely be grieved to see how its foundation is being chipped away at, from the inside, in this present day. I post patriotic articles to remind us who we are, where we come from and Who it is that has our destiny in His sovereign hand.

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will,” (Prov. 21:1).
On the personal front my family and I are enjoying the Chicago summer months. At work I routinely put in 12 hour days, which I affectionately call my “half days.” I’m sure many are struggling in this difficult economy. Those of us who are blessed with a job are often called upon to go the extra mile, and with so many looking for work I’m sure we are happy to give more than the extra mile to our employer.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” (Matt. 5:41).

Remember to pray for those among us who are seeking work. Pray for God’s strength, direction, hope and provision in their homes.

Another project I am working on is the final proof reading of the revised and expanded edition of my book In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation. The new edition includes two forewords, plus four additional endorsements by recognizable preachers and/or theologians.

As for the blog articles, I do have several articles ready to publish and/or at various stages of production. Within a few days I will begin posting these. In the interim I am going to post an article I was directed to titled, Doctrine is Dead. The author, Dr. J. B. Hixson, discusses the subject as a news headline. He takes an investigative reporters slant on the subject. I found it an interesting read, compelling commentary and I trust you will too. Doctrine is Dead will appear here tomorrow (Friday) morning.

Any time at your convenience peruse the Labels section found in the left column of this blog. There are dozens of topics to choose from and (to date) 281 articles- any of which may be a helpful personal study.

Yours faithfully,

Lou Martuneac

July 2, 2009

The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Shortly before the July 2009 Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Annual Fellowship convened The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness by Dr. Peter Masters was published (Sword & Trowel 2009, No. 1 by Dr Peter Masters). Copies of the article were distributed to delegates at the fellowship. The articles release could not have been better timed because it dealt squarely with the subject matter of the Q&A Symposium, “Let’s Discuss Conservative Evangelicalism.”

Near the close of the symposium The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness was briefly mentioned within the context of a question. The first responder, however, immediately redirected the discussion away from the article and its implications for the “conservative” evangelicals. The focus was never recovered for a detailed discussion of the articles relevance to the subject for which the symposium was convened.

Last week I contacted The Metropolitan Tabernacle with a request for permission to reprint The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness in its entirety. This week I received their permission. I have posted it as the first comment in the thread under this article.

Read the following article as a study. Prayerfully consider this compelling polemic. My commentary will follow.

The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness:
An alarmed assessment by Dr. Masters of the ‘new Calvinism’ promoted among young people in the USA

When I was a youngster and newly saved, it seemed as if the chief goal of all zealous Christians, whether Calvinistic or Arminian, was consecration. Sermons, books and conferences stressed this in the spirit of Romans 12.1-2, where the beseeching apostle calls believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice, and not to be conformed to this world. The heart was challenged and stirred. Christ was to be Lord of one’s life, and self must be surrendered on the altar of service for him.

But now, it appears, there is a new Calvinism, with new Calvinists, which has swept the old objectives aside. A recent book, Young, Restless, Reformed, by Collin Hansen tells the story of how a so-called Calvinistic resurgence has captured the imaginations of thousands of young people in the USA, and this book has been reviewed with great enthusiasm in well-known magazines in the UK, such as Banner of Truth, Evangelical Times, and Reformation Today.

This writer, however, was very deeply saddened to read it, because it describes a seriously distorted Calvinism falling far, far short of an authentic life of obedience to a sovereign God. If this kind of Calvinism prospers, then genuine biblical piety will be under attack as never before.

The author of the book is a young man (around 26 when he wrote it) who grew up in a Christian family and trained in secular journalism. We are indebted to him for the readable and wide-reaching survey he gives of this new phenomenon, but the scene is certainly not a happy one.

The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book – large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.

We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, ‘Christian’ hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.

Collin Hansen contends that American Calvinism collapsed at the end of the nineteenth century and was maintained by only a handful of people until this great youth revival, but his historical scenario is, frankly, preposterous. As one who regularly visited American seminaries to speak from the early 1970s, I constantly met many preachers and students who loved the doctrines of grace, preaching also in churches of solid Calvinistic persuasion. But firmer evidence of the extensive presence of Calvinism is seen from the fact that very large firms of publishers sent out a stream of reformed literature post-war and through the 1980s. The mighty Eerdmans was solidly reformed in times past, not to mention Baker Book House, and Kregel and others. Where did all these books go – thousands upon thousands of them, including frequently reprinted sets of Calvin’s commentaries and a host of other classic works?

In the 1970s and 80s there were also smaller Calvinistic publishers in the USA, and at that time the phenomenon of Calvinistic discount Christian bookshops began, with bulging catalogue lists and a considerable following. The claim that Calvinism virtually disappeared is hopelessly mistaken.

Indeed, a far better quality Calvinism still flourishes in very many churches, where souls are won and lives sanctified, and where Truth and practice are both under the rule of Scripture. Such churches have no sympathy at all with reporter Collin Hansen’s worldly-worship variety, who seek to build churches using exactly the same entertainment methods as most charismatics and the Arminian Calvary Chapel movement.

The new Calvinists constantly extol the Puritans, but they do not want to worship or live as they did. One of the vaunted new conferences is called Resolved, after Jonathan Edwards’ famous youthful Resolutions (seventy searching undertakings).

But the culture of this conference would unquestionably have met with the outright condemnation of that great theologian.
Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)

In times of disobedience the Jews of old syncretised by going to the Temple or the synagogue on the sabbath, and to idol temples on weekdays, but the new Calvinism has found a way of uniting spiritually incompatible things at the same time, in the same meeting.

C J Mahaney is a preacher highly applauded in this book. Charismatic in belief and practice, he appears to be wholly accepted by the other big names who feature at the ‘new Calvinist’ conferences, such as John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler. Evidently an extremely personable, friendly man, C J Mahaney is the founder of a group of churches blending Calvinism with charismatic ideas, and is reputed to have influenced many Calvinists to throw aside cessationist views.

It was a protégé of this preacher named Joshua Harris who started the New Attitude conference for young people. We learn that when a secular rapper named Curtis Allen was converted, his new-born Christian instinct led him to give up his past life and his singing style. But Pastor Joshua Harris evidently persuaded him not to, so that he could sing for the Lord.

New Calvinists do not hesitate to override the instinctual Christian conscience, counselling people to become friends of the world.
One of the mega-churches admired in the book is the six-thousand strong Mars Hill Church at Seattle, founded and pastored by Mark Driscoll, who blends emerging church ideas (that Christians should utilise worldly culture) with Calvinistic theology [see endnote 1].

This preacher is also much admired by some reformed men in the UK, but his church has been described (by a sympathiser) as having the most ear-splitting music of any, and he has been rebuked by other preachers for the use of very ‘edgy’ language and gravely improper humour (even on television). He is to be seen in videos preaching in a Jesus teeshirt, symbolising the new compromise with culture, while at the same time propounding Calvinistic teaching. So much for the embracing of Puritan doctrine divested of Puritan lifestyle and worship.

Most of the well-known preachers who promote and encourage this ‘revival’ of Calvinism have in common the following positions that contradict a genuine Calvinistic (or Puritan) outlook:
1. They have no problem with contemporary charismatic-ethos worship, including extreme, heavy-metal forms.
2. They are soft on separation from worldliness [see endnote 2].
3. They reject the concern for the personal guidance of God in the major decisions of Christians (true sovereignty), thereby striking a death-blow to wholehearted consecration.
4. They hold anti-fourth-commandment views, taking a low view of the Lord’s Day, and so inflicting another blow at a consecrated lifestyle.
Whatever their strengths and achievements (and some of them are brilliant men by any human standard), or whatever their theoretical Calvinism, the poor stand of these preachers on these crucial issues will only encourage a fatally flawed version of Calvinism that will lead people to be increasingly wedded to the world, and to a self-seeking lifestyle.
Truly proclaimed, the sovereignty of God must include consecration, reverence, sincere obedience to his will, and separation from the world.

You cannot have Puritan soteriology without Puritan sanctification. You should not entice people to Calvinistic (or any) preaching by using worldly bait. We hope that young people in this movement will grasp the implications of the doctrines better than their teachers, and come away from the compromises. But there is a looming disaster in promoting this new form of Calvinism.

Why do some British Christians who hold the doctrines of grace give enthusiastic reviews to a book like this? There have been times in the past when large numbers of young people have suddenly become intellectually enthusiastic about solid Christian doctrine, only to abandon it almost as quickly. One thinks of the tremendous response the unique oratory of Francis Schaeffer secured on university campuses in the 1960s, and no doubt some young people were truly saved and established, but very many more turned aside. Gripped by the superiority of a biblical worldview, they momentarily despised the illogical, flaccid ideas of this world, but the impression in numerous cases was natural rather than spiritual. The present new, heady Calvinism, shorn of practical obedience will certainly prove to be ephemeral, leaving the cause compromised and scarred.

Has this form of Calvinism come to Britain yet? Alas, yes; one only has to look at the ‘blogs’ of some younger reformed pastors who put themselves forward as mentors and advisers of others. When you look at their ‘favourite films’, and ‘favourite music’ you find them unashamedly naming the leading groups, tracks and entertainment of debased culture, and it is clear that the world is still in their hearts. Years ago, such brethren would not have been baptised until they were clear of the world, but now you can go to seminary, no questions asked, and take up a pastorate, with unfought and unsurrendered idols in the throne room of your life. What hope is there for churches that have under-shepherds whose loyalties are so divided and distorted?

Aside from pastors, we know some ‘new’ young Calvinists who will never settle in a dedicated, working church, because their views live only in their heads and not their hearts. We know of some whose lives are not clean. We know of others who go clubbing. The greater their doctrinal prowess, the greater their hypocrisy.

These are harsh words, but they lead me to say that where biblical, evangelical Calvinism shapes conduct, and especially worship, it is a very humbling, beautiful system of Truth, but where it is confined to the head, it inflates pride and self-determination.

The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.
Why have the leading preachers servicing this movement compromised so readily? They have not been threatened by a Soviet regime. No one has held a gun to their heads. This is a shameful capitulation, and we must earnestly pray that what they have encouraged will not take over Calvinism and ruin a generation of reachable Christian young people.

A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked.
These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.
True Calvinism and worldliness are opposites. Preparation of heart is needed if we would search the wonders and plumb the depths of sovereign grace. We find it in the challenging, convicting call of Joshua:
Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

1 His resolution of the question of divine sovereignty versus human free will, however, is much nearer to the Arminian view.

2 A recent book entitled Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World by C J Mahaney and others, hopelessly under-equips young believers for separation from the world, especially in the area of music, where, apparently, the Lord loves every genre, and acceptability is reduced to two misleading and subjective questions.

(Italics his, bold and underline mine. Images have been added to illustrate some of that, which Masters warns of.)

The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness is a clarion call to “young people in the USA” and especially timely for young American Fundamentalists. This is a sermon in print, a “ministry of warning” that has been nearly non-existent in American IFB circles. This is a much needed “ministry of warning” to men in Fundamentalism who are rapidly moving toward increased dialogue, fellowship with and tolerance for the “new” Calvinism of “conservative” evangelicalism.


Gift Books Received from Dr. Masters

Yesterday (8-4-09) I received three books as a gift from Dr. Masters. Several weeks ago his personal assistant sent me an e-mail stating that he was sending me some books out of appreciation for reprinting this article here. The books I received are:

Worship in the Melting Pot, Not Like Any Other Book: Interpreting the Bible and Steps for Guidance in the Journey of Life.

From my initial perusal of Worship in the Melting Pot I can see how this would be a helpful companion document for those who share Masters’s concerns with the “worldliness” he identifies in this article among the so-called “conservative” evangelicals.

I am eagerly looking forward to reading each of these gift books. Later this week I will be forward a personal note of thanks to Dr. Masters.