September 14, 2011

Archival Series: William Carey Refutes the Grace Evangelical Society’s “Crossless” Gospel

The following is taken from: Terry G. Carter, The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2000), 148-49. The {bracketed statements} were inserted by the publisher and copied here verbatim from the book.

William Carey’s Letter to Andrew Fuller, November 1800

{Carey had a conversation with three Hindus about the Gospel.}

You will laugh, but I am totally unable to recollect so much of the conversation as to write any thing connected about it, so must leave it, as this is the case with so many disputes, conversations, and conferences held with the Hindus. They appear important while they last and I trust are really so but sometimes the sameness of one to another, renders them unimportant when written in English. Often the apparently little quibbles, tho really important in our situation don’t appear sufficiently so to send to England. We know nothing of the disputes which you in Europe are engaged in; ours bear a nearer resemblance to those of the Protestants with the Papists at the Reformation but a nearer still to those of the old Fathers, with the Heathen, and Gnosticks, such as you will find in Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus.
{Carey and Bro. Brunsdon went to the villages about 3 or 4 miles from town and encountered an old Brahman. Carey had asked if anyone knew how sins could be pardoned. The people referred him to an old Brahman who was wise. He replied that “profound meditation and acts of Holiness would answer the purpose.” Carey shared the Gospel. Here is a sample of the great missionary in action.}
You and I, and all of us are Sinners, and we are in a helpless state but I have good things to tell you. God in the riches of His Mercy became incarnate, in the form of Man. He lived more than thirty years on the earth without Sin and was employed in doing good. He gave sight to the Blind, healed the Sick, the lame, the Deaf and the Dumb—and after all died in the stead of Sinners. We deserved the wrath of God, but he endured it. We could make no sufficient atonement for our guilt but he compleatly made an end of Sin and now he has sent us to tell you that the Work is done and to call you to faith in, and dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, leave you vain customs, and false gods, and lay hold of eternal Life through him. After much discourse of this sort we presented him with a copy of Matthew’s Gospel and three more to three other persons. He promised to read and make himself well acquainted with its Contents and then to converse more about it. It was now dark. I, therefore, prayed with them and we returned home.

Nov. 2. This has been a good Day on the whole. In the morning I went out, and after several efforts to collect a few People together, I got a greater number than I expected….The people are so moveable, some going, and others coming that often the Congregation is quite changed before we have done. I think it desirable that all should hear of the incarnation, and death of Xt (Christ) and the reasons thereof, but as that account am often obliged to repeat those circumstances several times even at one standing that all may hear the Gospel.
{Mr. Thomas and Carey went to Calcutta and visited Mr. Wilcox}
There were a great number of Merchants, Sailors, &ct. perhaps thirty or more at his house. I entered into a conversation with one of them, a Man of great wealth and respectability. The others listened after a few preliminary questions and answers, I sensibly got into a preaching mood, and discoursed with them upon the Way of the Life by Christ, and the insufficiency of all other Ways. They objected to the Death of Christ saying that God could not die. I told them twas true God as the divine nature could not die, but God incarnate could and that he was incarnate for that very purpose, “made lower than the Angels for the suffering of Death.” They acquiesced and wondered. The great man to whom I principally directed myself at first told me that he had that day or the day before received a Gospel by Matthew. We have dispersed near 500 copies of Matthew’s which are read by many.
In October 2007 there was a team of Crossless” gospel advocates in Carey’s India. These “Crossless” advocates teach and believe any “misconception” about, even open rejection of, Jesus Christ’s Deity, Death and Resurrection should be put on the “back burner,” if the lost man objects to any of these vital truths.

Following are some observations on Carey’s comments above. Consider these observations in light of the Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin GES reductionist “Crossless/Deityless” interpretation of the Gospel.

1) Carey translated and distributed the Gospel of Matthew first, not John’s Gospel. Apparently, Carey had not come to the GES conclusion that the Gospel of John “is the only evangelistic book in the Bible!”

2) Carey’s disputes and conversations with Hindus more closely resembled those of early church history, revolving around the Person of Christ (deity, humanity, “the Heathen, and Gnostics”), and then also of the Reformation era, dealing with the Work of Christ!

3) When dealing with the Brahman, he made the problem of how sin can be forgiven the central issue, not just eternal life. He prefaced that by teaching the Deity of Christ; the Son of God was God in the flesh “God in the riches of His Mercy became incarnate”

4) He, like the apostle Paul, preached and emphasized to the lost Christ crucified and the sufficiency of His work on their behalf.

5) William Carey did not treat their “vain customs and false gods” as harmless additions to the “saving message” of Christ as the guarantor of eternal life. He did not put their “misconceptions” on the “back-burner.” Carey viewed them as hindrances to “faith in, and dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Clearly in the context, what Carey means by “leave your vain customs, and false gods, and lay hold of eternal Life through him” is to reject faith and dependence upon empty, worthless, and false objects of faith and transfer their faith/dependence/trust to the only worthy of object—the Lord Jesus Christ.

6) When objections were raised about the death of Christ, His deity, and the incarnation, Carey, unlike the “Crossless” advocates, did not say, “Let’s agree to disagree on that for now, the real issue is the simply the guarantee of eternal life.”

The teachers of the “Crossless” gospel who are in India today are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are sowing seeds of false doctrine and discord among the brethren. Their “contrary doctrine” has caused “divisions and offences” (Romans 16:17-18). The only thing more tragic than the division and offense they have brought to the body of Christ is the spread of this reductionist non-saving message to the lost.

May God help us continue to stand in defense of the Gospel. With God’s help the teaching of the “Crossless” gospel will continue to be exposed and refuted. May we do all that we can to recover the deceived and identify Crossless advocates so that the unsuspecting may be forewarned and protected from the GES’s egregious reductionist assault on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Originally published October 2007.


  1. Thanks Lou, for the article. Not that familiar with the cross less gospel advocates but I Cor. 1:18 comes immediately to mind as I read this article, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." And of course the verses that follow as Paul continues his thoughts to the Corinthian believers. I also wonder what they do with the Lord's table? If the cross is such a "back burner" issue then why are we commanded to observe this ordinance "till He comes"? Commands are typically linked to important truths.

  2. Brian:

    My first encounter with the cg had me in disbelief. Could men in he church with advanced training in the Scriptures actually believe this extreme reductionism is the saving message of Jesus Christ?

    Thankfully the cg is by and large confined to he GES and its shrunken membership.

    The cg is the most egregious form of reductionist heresy ever introduced to the NT by one of it's own, namely the late Zane Hodges.