March 24, 2008

The Fatal Flaws of “Crossless” Gospel Advocate Jim Johnson’s Criticism

Dear Guests:

In a thread at the blog of Crossless gospel apologist Antonio da Rosa (aka- Sock Puppet: fg me) Jim Johnson referenced the series by Greg Schliesmann titled, The Technical Meaning of the Term, “THE GOSPEL”

Following is Greg Schliesmann’s response to Johnson’s criticism.

I would like to respond to Jim Johnson’s criticism of my post regarding the technical sense of the term “the gospel.” He argues it is flawed because it did not include what he calls a “synchronic word study.” His criticism is flawed, first of all, because I did address the etymology of the word and its relationship to the question, “Does the NT ever use the term ‘the gospel’ in a technical sense for what the lost must believe to be saved?”

I can explain this issue with a simple analogy. Imagine a thousand years from now, someone argued “20th century English never used the term ‘the bible’ in a specific sense that referred to the Holy Book of Christianity.”

Researchers could easily dismiss this claim by the simple citation of examples from 20th century English that clearly used the word in this specific sense. These examples would show that English speakers often used the term “the Bible” in reference to this specific holy book. The force of such actual examples would hardly be helped or hurt by someone’s explanation of the etymology of the word. In fact, the word “bible” does have an etymology from a much more general meaning of “book” or “books.”

So, in respect to the question, what would be proved by demonstrating the basic etymology of the word means “book?” Nothing! One may even cite examples in 20th century English that use “bible” to refer to some other book. Yet, none of this changes the fact that 20th century English does in fact have a technical usage for the term “the Bible.”

This example demonstrates the same principle I explained in my post in regards to “the gospel.” I stated the basic etymology of the word means “good news” and that this sense is sometimes employed in Scripture without reference to the gospel of our salvation. Yet, when one considers the usages of the word after Christ’s resurrection, he would have to shut his spiritual eyes and defy all intellectual honesty to argue that the New Testament does not employ a technical usage of “the gospel” for the message that must be preached unto and believed by the lost for salvation. I examined or at least referenced dozens of clear examples in my article. Mr. Johnson does not even attempt to interact with them. That is the second fatal flaw of his criticism. We could ask Mr. Johnson to explain each of these examples without acknowledging a technical sense of the term, but let’s make it easier for Johnson and consider just one example:

2 Thessalonians 1:6-8Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This passage, like several others, teaches the condemnation of those who do not believe “the gospel.” If there is a message called “the gospel” the lost must believe in order to be saved, then we better be able to identify the content of this thing called “the gospel.” If we are able to identify a particular message that corresponds with the term “the gospel,” we have, by definition, proven that there is a technical usage for the term “the gospel” in the New Testament. If we cannot identify such a message, we are the most pitiable men on earth. Simply put, we would be bound to the uncertainty of whether we ourselves have escaped the condemnation of 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

Such a technical usage corresponds with scores of other passages that link “the gospel” to salvation from Hell (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:17-21; 4:15; 2 Cor. 4:4-5; Rom. 1:16; 10:16; Eph. 1:13, ect).

I would like to ask Mr. Johnson exactly what message is referenced by “the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” in 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

I have sent word to Jim Johnson that his flawed criticisms have been identified and promptly dismissed. He has also been informed that Greg has requested that he respond to his (Greg’s) closing question.

This thread is open to Johnson’s reply, if he is willing to engage what the Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 1:8.


Continue reading on this theme in the next article, Jim Johnson and the GES Dismiss, “THE GOSPEL”

UPDATE by Greg Schliesmann from the attached thread:
Mr. Johnson made an angry post on Antonio’s forum. Apparently, he felt that my post made no legitimate point that deserved a response but that it only amounted to ‘talebearing.’ Hmm. If he thought he might be able to disprove the points I made, do you think he would avoid responding? I don’t.

March 17, 2008

Free Grace Alliance: Redux

Dear Guests:

A great deal of new discussion was generated with the release of the Free Grace Alliance (FGA) Executive Counsel’s Official Statement. Some of the discussion has revolved around the FGA Covenant. Newly appointed FGA Vice President, Fred Lybrand shared his conviction that the Covenant has an “obvious meaning.” He also kicked off our discussion with his support of the recent FGA Official Statement.

Recent comments have been made in regard to the FGA’s Covenant. Fred Lybrand has reviewed some of these statements and concluded that while some were correct other remarks were personally disappointing.

After some discussion Brother Lybrand agreed to allow me to share his thoughts on a few comments being circulated in the blogs. Following will be a selective compilation of blog comments followed by Brother Lybrand’s short responses. Everyone concerned with the current climate in the Free Grace community should gain some helpful insights from this editorial perspective.

Blog statements will be in box quote and red letters. Lybrand’s response will follow each.

I am afraid that you have not listened to the testimony of Fred Lybrand who stated that the FGA is governed by a covenant rather than a doctrinal statement.

I agree that we need to emphasize the Covenant over a traditional doctrinal statement.

The covenant, as read, could be signed on by most if not all evangelicals the way it is read! John MacArthur himself could sign on to it! And as a matter of fact, there are reformed Calvinists (who are inherently Lordship) who are in membership with the FGA because they could agree to the very broad covenant! H. Wayne House is only one example.

Anyone “could” sign it, but I don’t see how it would be an act of good faith. The Covenant was designed to leave room for discussion (at the time we discussed the varying views on ‘repentance’ as an example).

John MacArthur could not possibly sign it & Bob Wilkin cannot either (according to my conversations with him). Additionally, no one who believes one can lose his salvation could sign it, nor one who fully integrates faith and works in the salvation event. The theory that Calvinists are inherently Lordship is a bit of a theological urban legend (see Gordon Clark’s Faith & Saving Faith for an example of a ‘Calvinist’ who gets free grace).

Some seem to think if a person buys one point of Calvinism, he must buy all five. But, that would have to be true of Arminianism as well (accept 1 point, accept all 5). Most of us believe that Christ Died for All (one of the points of Arminianism), yet we don’t believe in loss of eternal salvation (another point of Arminianism).

Lewis Sperry Chafer (and Ryrie and Darby and others) all consider(ed) themselves moderate Calvinists, but were blatantly Free Grace.

I don’t believe Ryrie or Chafer could sign the GES Affirmations because of its insistence that a genuine believer can [possibly] have no works/fruit/obedience ever in his life.

It is manifestly obvious that the covenant is NOT a definition of what Free Grace Theology is.

This is true, the Covenant is not a definition of Free Grace theology, but it is a fair shot at separating the Lordshippers (rabid puritan-Calvinists / neo-Calvinists) and the Arminians. Personally, I don’t mind ‘evangelizing’ either of these folks, but maybe the FGA isn’t the best place for that!

The covenant is very broad as written that it could be signed on by just about any flavor of evangelical. Re-read the statement. It is so broad and ill-defined that any evangelical could sign it (and of course that includes me! even section 3!)

I’m not sure what he means here about section 3 since I’m not up on his particular viewpoint. The section says:
Faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ has delivered us from condemnation and guaranteed our eternal life.”
It is apparent that this isn’t particularly decisional, but rather faith-based. The object of the faith is focused on the finished work of Christ and its results regarding condemnation and eternal life. There is nothing, for example about “asking Jesus into one’s heart” or “giving one’s life to Jesus.” It seems this pretty much wipes out all those folks, if they are operating in good faith!

Apparently some don’t think “finished work” means “finished work.” Well, what to you do? I suppose, if I desired it, I could figure out how to “sign” any statement.

Do a little more research before you make the uninformed claim that this covenant is the sine-qua-non of Free Grace theology. It is merely a covenant for membership to this organization.

It is not the sine qua non, but I’d argue its pretty close. We often tend to think in idealized ways, hoping for perfection and absolutes in our understanding. A sine qua non simply looks at the essentials of what it means to be free grace. In this regard, one either is or isn’t. Perhaps the essentials of our burden for God’s grace haven’t yet been cleanly defined. For me, all the boundaries for Free Grace will surround how the Gospel is affected (infected?) by the various tangents in the outlying theological territory. If faith alone in Christ alone is neutralized, then all is lost. I’m quite sure we advocates of free grace, no matter our odd twists, share this motive together, even as we disagree.

Hope this helps.

Pastor Fred Lybrand

March 15, 2008

New VP named to FGA Board

Dear Guests:

In an e-mail exchange with Fred Lybrand last night I was informed that he had just been officially named Vice President of the Free Grace Alliance (FGA) for 2008.

I am hopeful Brother Lybrand’s presence on the board will help the FGA find its voice and footing.


March 14, 2008

General Thoughts on FGA’s Official Statement & Thanks to Brother Fred Lybrand

Dear Guests:

The following was my concluding note to Brother Fred Lybrand (former Free Grace Alliance [FGA] Executive Director) in the previous thread under, The FGA Executive Counsel’s Official Statement

After I posted my concluding note to Brother Lybrand I felt it was suitable to publish on my home page. I encourage every guest to return to the FGA article, which I link to above, and read through the thread. There are many excellent notes from my guests about the current official statement from the FGA.

I have listed that article in my Favorite Picks section of my blog.

Dear Fred:

I want to thank you for visiting my blog and interacting with my guests and me. I’m sure I can speak for all of us when I say that we genuinely appreciate it.

There are many good comments from my guests about the official statement just issued from the current FGA executive counsel. My guests have identified what are glaring problems with the statement in its present form.

It is impossible to pick just one of the many fine comments to reiterate, but I’ll go with Stephen from 3/13/2008 11:57 AM.

He wrote,

How can defining the gospel not be part of our focus? Rachel rightly observed that we have said ‘believers are called to preach the gospel’ and our FAQ #1 says ‘The FGA is seeking to unite leaders, churches, and organizations which affirm the gospel of grace.’

How can we unite anyone around ‘the gospel of grace’ if we don’t have a consistent definition of what that is to base that unity on? i.e. if I think ‘the gospel of grace’ is the saving message and someone else thinks it’s ‘the entire bible’ or ‘any good news’ then our unity would be in word only, but not practice
I trust the FGA’s official statement will be up for additional review and serious revision to include a clear, uncompromised Bible based definition of the Gospel, and that the Gospel must be believed for the reception of eternal life.

At present the FGA is asking believers to ignore a major doctrinal difference on the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of an appearance of unity. There is no biblical precedent for such, which I consider an unholy alliance.

The following appears in my book, In Defense of the Gospel, which I believe captures a major component of what we are discussing.
When people are converted and receive a love of the truth, they are baptized into a body that has an inherent organic unity. Jesus Christ prayed in John 17 for a unity that came to pass at Pentecost. And every person who is baptized into Christ is in union. The unity is God and Spirit created. There is no unity to be created, the unity is there. It is only a unity that is to be maintained. Those who teach contrary to the body of revealed truth that is the center of this unity, they are the ones who create the divisions and create the stumbling blocks.” (Dr. Mark Minnick: The Scriptural Response to Teachers of Doctrinal Error. A sermon recorded November, 1997. See p. 214.)
As long as Crossless gospel advocates like Stephen Lewis, Jim Johnson and Antonio da Rosa (aka- Sock Puppet fg me) remain in FGA membership, which they joined by twisting the Covenant’s “obvious meaning to suit their Crossless theology, there can never be genuine unity.

The “contrary doctrine” of the Crossless gospel is the reason for and cause of “divisions and offences” in the body of Christ and in the FGA. I am guardedly optimistic about and am praying for the advocates of the Crossless gospel to depart from the FGA so that the purity the Gospel and unity of like-minded believers will be restored and maintained.

With God’s help and direction I want to do all that I can to further the cause of Christ. I will do whatever I can to nurture and encourage the FGA to courageously state and stand for the truth of the Gospel, and resist all who are tearing it down through the reductionist methods of Zane Hodges & Bob Wilkin.

Finally, thank you for speaking to me on the phone yesterday afternoon. I enjoyed the fellowship around the Bible. In my opinion, it was profitable as we shared a time of iron sharpening (Proverbs 27:17).

God bless you and you seek to honor God, His Word, and the precious Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Lou Martuneac

NOTE: I will be posting some follow up articles for additional discussion of this issue in the days ahead. Please (Fred) consider yourself welcome to visit, read and comment at my blog whenever you like.

March 10, 2008

FGA Executive Counsel’s Official Statement

The Free Grace Alliance (FGA) Executive Council met March 7-8, 2008 for their mid-year business meeting. From the meeting the following official statement was issued:

The FGA’s mission is always and everywhere to proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ when we preach the gospel. We encourage every member of the FGA to be fervent and faithful to preach that message. Within the membership of the FGA there has been discussion about the minimum one must understand to be saved. Regardless of a person’s convictions, believers are called to preach the gospel, not the minimum.

Please continue to pray for and support the FGA and join us in following the Executive Council's charge to ‘always and everywhere proclaim the death and resurrection’ of God's Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ as we preach the gospel at home and abroad.
I am reviewing this statement, have some initial thoughts, but I am reserving comment. For now, I am concerned over the direction this might indicate for the FGA in regard to the teaching and advocates of the Crossless gospel that are currently on the FGA board and in membership of the FGA. This may play itself out at the FGA’s National Conference in October.

You can view the statement at the Free Grace Alliance web site.

Your comments are welcome.


March 6, 2008

The Technical Meaning of the Term “THE GOSPEL,” Wrap Up

Dear Guests:

Let me begin by offering my sincere apology to Greg Schliesmann. At my request he wrote the multi-part series, The Technical Meaning of the Term, the “GOSPEL.” For some reason I forgot to post the final in the series, which acts as a sort of addendum. What follows was originally to post on December 20, 2007. All I can figure is that with the onset of the Christmas holiday I forgot to post this and moved on. Here, at last, is Greg Schliesmann wrapping up his penetrating series.

The following comments were posted to former GES staff member Jeremy Myers* at his personal blog, Till He Comes. What followed was a longer comment that Greg recently developed into the multi-part series just concluded, which is Greg’s full rebuttal of Jeremy’s definition of the Gospel. We’ll end this series with this original comment from Greg Schliesmann to Jeremy Myers.


After reading your post, How I Evangelize I read the articles by Pastor Tom Stegall again. Here is a quote that I think gets to the heart of my thoughts and observations about your latest post:
The Gospel which contains the cross, resurrection, and deity-humanity of Christ is now considered by Crossless proponents to be a fuller gospel needed only for Christians for their sanctification in time, but not necessarily for the unsaved regarding their justification before God. With the very definition of ‘the Gospel’ there has been an abandonment of a once universally held position within the grace camp.” (Tom Stegall, The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel, Pt. 2 p. 6:
My first observation is that you fumed over a particular distinction that the articles supposedly did not acknowledge, but the fact is the distinction is acknowledged right here and over 17 other places I counted and numbered with pen on my printed pages of the article. I would be happy to scan it for you so you can see yourself. You protested that the articles suggested you do not include the cross in the “Gospel” which you defined yourself in your latest post and in previous articles as “the entire New Testament gospel.”

However, the quote above directly states you include “the cross, resurrection, and deity-humanity of Christ” in what you consider the “gospel” in the very general sense of New Testament revelation. The articles acknowledge this fact, but specifically highlight the REAL issue that you do not include this as an essential element for the lost to believe for salvation. I have 14 instances marked, that are either statements by the author or quotes from GES members, where this issue is specified very clearly as being what is essential for the lost to believe for salvation–NOT whether you believe the message of the cross and Christ’s deity-humanity are part of general New Testament revelation. You express great offense that the articles claim your version of “the gospel” is Crossless, but your complaint hinges entirely upon a distinction that you’re making that 99.9% of evangelicals would never understand — that you consider “the gospel” to be all the good news of the NT, not the message that the lost need to believe to receive eternal life. And even then, the article specifically states this distinction and acknowledges what you claimed it did not — you do indeed include the cross, ect., in what you define as“the gospel,” i.e., the entire NT revelation and, and your words “possibly the Old Testament too.” In light of these facts, I must say–even as I am humbly looking to our gracious Lord and remembering that my speech must “be with grace, seasoned with salt”–a serious question is thus raised as to the purity of your intentions in protesting a supposed misrepresentation that is not even true and leveling an attack on the author, claiming,
“...the author of that article is making himself look foolish…;” “I laughed in his general direction…;” “as for the article…the only thing it does reveal is a lack of scholarship…;” “his baseless claims…,” ect.
Now if the true issue is so clearly defined in the article–THE ISSUE OF WHAT THE LOST MUST BELIEVE TO BE SAVED–and I believe it is, and like I said, I can scan my own copy of the article with notes and numbering in my own handwriting–and if your position on this issue is so Biblically solid, then why do you not deal with the real issue at hand, rather than raising all these sorts of protests and all this fuss about the author that can be directly quashed by quotes from the articles?

What I am most interested in is defending the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Again, the quote above gets to the heart of my thoughts on this. Christians have recognized that there is a general sense of the word “the gospel” meaning “good news”, e.g., “The Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke, ect.” But based upon a plethora of New Testament passages, Christians have also recognized that there IS indeed also a technical usage of the term “the gospel that came into effect after Christ’s resurrection that refers not to good news in general, nor to the general revelation of God given through the Old and New Testaments, but to the specific message that must be preached to the lost and must be believed by the lost to receive eternal life.

For years, even GES recognized this and took this for granted in all their literature which sought to defend “the gospel,” i.e., not the general revelation of God given throughout time, but to the message of salvation that the lost must believe to be saved. Even the title of Zane Hodges’ book, “The Gospel Under Siege” refers to this very thing–not New Testament revelation in general–but to the specific message that must be given to the lost and received by the lost for salvation. In light of the denial of “the gospel” as a technical term for this message by GES advocates, and the insistence that “Jesus guarantees eternal life to whoever believes in Him” by itself, without any substantiating truth such as His cross work or Deity, constitutes the message by which sinners are saved, for consistency, Hodge’s book should be retitled to “The Promise of Eternal Life Under Siege.” But of course “The Gospel Under Siege” refers to a specific message that nearly all evangelicals recognize because it is a thoroughly Biblical usage of the word that is substantiated in so many passages that it would be impossible to miss unless a person had some pre-determined reason to argue “the gospel” is never a technical term for the message the lost must believe to receive eternal life.

What could this pre-determined reason be? It seems once you accept “the gospel” as a term that in addition to being used in its general sense also as a prominent technical sense, then you are forced to admit Jesus Christ’s death for sins, resurrection, Deity, and humanity are an essential element to it. The claim that this belief also forces us to include the virgin birth and all sorts of other New Testament teachings in “the gospel” is simply wrong, ill-conceived, and contradicted by Scripture.


For an additional submission in this series see, THE GOSPEL & FAITH ALONE

*See Grace Evangelical Society Dismisses Jeremy Myers

Editor’s Note: I want to caution anyone who might visit Jeremy Myers’ blog, Till He Comes. Jeremy seems to enjoy posting some articles with a “shock value” to them. This demonstrates a disturbing lack of discernment that one might otherwise expect. Jeremy Myers not only holds to the false Crossless interpretation of the Gospel, but he has a whole other set of disconcerting issues, which lead to his dismissal from GES. Again, if you visit his blog, read with discernment.

March 5, 2008

2008 Grace Evangelical Society’s National Conference

Dear Guests:

The 2008 Grace Evangelical Society’s National Conference is under way in Dallas, Texas.

At the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) web site you can download conference notes from the various speakers at this year’s conference. Last night I was able to download several of these papers. I perused three papers authored and presented at the conference by Bob Wilkin. Wilkins’s notes are essentially a reiteration of the same arguments for the Crossless gospel he has been presenting for years.

The GES conference is largely dominated by speakers who are driving a stake in the ground that the Crossless interpretation of the Gospel, which was originated by Zane Hodges, is the official position of the Grace Evangelical Society.

In my opinion, however, the most striking news from the conference is the attendance estimates. Years ago I lived in West Texas. I have several friends who currently live in Texas. One was able to visit the GES conference yesterday, March 4th. According to this individual there are no more than 140 in attendance.* This is significant when you compare the current attendance to recent previous year’s attendance, especially when you take into account there are well over 20 speakers among the 140.

Former GES members have told me that the conference typically hosted up to and over 300 delegates. If the 140 attendance estimate is even close to accurate for this year’s conference this verifies that the “contrary” doctrine (Romans 16:17) of the GES’s Crossless gospel is resulting in scores departing the GES for safer theological fellowships.

In recent months I have made no secret of my hope and prayer that either 1) the GES leadership and its members will come to their senses, repent and return to a balanced position on the Gospel, or 2) the Lord will bring swift closure to the GES. As long as the GES is in existence there is a chance that their egregious errors on the Gospel could gain a foothold in broadening evangelical circles.

Thankfully, many Free Grace pastors and teachers have come to realize just how far askew of biblical orthodoxy the GES has drifted and no longer attend, endorse or host GES events.

It would be a genuine tragedy if even one more unsuspecting Christian were to be deceived and fall into the trap of the Crossless gospel.


*If any GES staff member would like to revise this 140 attendance estimate up or down they may e-mail that correction to me at their convenience.

I posted this article now because it is time sensitive. Later I will drop this article down my home page so that it appears beneath Greg Schliesmann’s wrap up of The Technical Meaning of the Term, THE “GOSPEL”.

March 1, 2008

The New Look & What This Blog is About

Dear Guests:

Welcome to the new look at In Defense of the Gospel. It is a subtle, but important change. At the top of my blog you will see that I have inserted a scene with the cross as the focal point.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
This passage defines the Gospel: Jesus, the Son of God, died (on the cross) for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. This is the Gospel message, which the Corinthians first received from the Apostle Paul, and by belief in Jesus and what He did to provide salvation they were born into the family of God.

The focal point of discussion and debate at In Defense of the Gospel is not necessarily over the question of a weak Gospel verses a strong Gospel, but of the one true Gospel standing apart from all other false gospels. As we have defined and refuted the egregious errors of Lordship Salvation and the Crossless Gospel believers are becoming better equipped to recognize these errors and biblically refute them.

Just two days ago, I had a call from a pastor who had some sense that the Zane Hodges Crossless interpretation of the Gospel was antithetical to the Scriptures. He read several articles here and The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel at the Grace Family Journal.

The reading confirmed his suspicion and worst fear that Hodges had gone too far with trying to answer Lordship Salvation and thereby himself has corrupted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That pastor is now better able to protect his congregation from either Lordship Salvation or the Crossless Gospel gaining a foothold in his church.

Lordship Salvation errs by addition, the Crossless Gospel errs by subtraction.

Any alteration of the Gospel either by addition or subtraction must be exposed and rejected! This is the primary focus of, In Defense of the Gospel.