May 14, 2008

Is “RE-DEFINED” Free Grace Theology- Free Grace Theology?

In recent days I have noticed that my blog is hosting a significant number of new and returning visitors. I imagine my involvement in the Sharper Iron thread on the Crossless gospel has created and/or renewed interest among folks outside the Free Grace (FG) community in this vital debate over the true nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the SI thread I have noted that some do not realize there is a clear cut division in the FG community over the Zane Hodges/Bob Wilkin Crossless interpretation of the Gospel. I first noted this division in my article titled, Free Grace Fractured by the “Crossless” Gospel. Because of the heighten level of interest I felt it was time to offer another, but related perspective of the divided Free Grace community.

In recent weeks I have been viewing various blogs on both sides of the Lordship Salvation & Crossless Gospel debates. One item that has stood out in my reading is the unfortunate misconception that the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) is largely perceived as the voice of the Free Grace movement at large. The problem is that there are many men in the FG movement that reject and have separated from the GES over the very teachings that have come to be associated with all men in the FG camp. I have been interacting at these various blogs to correct and dispel that misunderstanding.

One reason for the misconception is that some of the more vocal GES/Crossless gospel advocates have been writing and presenting their views as though they are the official voice and representative of the Free Grace movement. In fact, the views they present are unique only to the Hodges, Wilkin, GES faction of the FG movement.

I recall my introduction to Antonio da Rosa and his Crossless view of the Gospel. Antonio interacted in the discussions about Lordship Salvation during my debates with key Lordship advocates in 2006. His failure to have a meaningful, helpful impact was largely due to his arguing from the presuppositions of his Crossless/Deityless interpretation of what the lost can be unaware of and/or reject and still be saved. Not at first, but soon I began to see that Antonio held to a peculiar and disturbing view of the Gospel. This made his entrance into the threads an unwelcome presence and distraction. I kept my distance from Antonio so that I would not be identified with his theology or the GES faction of the Free Grace movement, which he was writing on behalf of.

Many Lordship Salvation advocates refer to the Zane Hodges interpretation of soteriology as “Free Grace” theology. Last week I was surfing blogs that are favorable toward Lordship Salvation and I came across this statement from the author of an article,

In case you haven’t heard of it, ‘Free Grace’ is the name given to a theological system founded by Zane Hodges and currently promoted by Bob Wilkin and The Grace Evangelical Society. According to ‘Free-Grace’ theology…
The problem begins when the writer identifies Hodges, Wilkin and the GES with “Free Grace theology” without drawing a distinction between GES and the vast majority of Free Grace men who reject much of GES’s theology. I took a moment to demonstrate that there is clear and sharp division in the FG movement over what is coming from Hodges, Wilkin and GES. This was my (revised) comment to the article’s author and guests.
I have not visited here in many weeks, but glad I saw your opening remarks. I want to provide some clarification on your statement above.

Today there is a very clear and definite divide in the Free Grace (FG) community. There are two very distinct factions that have become even more sharply divided in the last year. One FG faction is the Hodges, Wilkin, GES camp. Then there are those in the broader FG community who reject the extremism of Hodges and Wilkin.

The dividing line between the two camps in the FG community is primarily over two areas of doctrine. The first is over repentance: Hodges/Wilkin teaches that repentance is not part of or a condition for salvation. Hodges says repentance as a “change of mind” is not found in Scripture. Many, many men in the FG camp reject this from Hodges.

The second issue, which is the main and very sharp dividing point, is over what has come to be known as the “Crossless” gospel.

This reductionist view of the Gospel from Hodges and Wilkin teaches that the lost man does not have to understand or believe who Jesus is or what He did to provide salvation, but can still be born again.

Even conscious rejection of the Lord’s deity, in a personal evangelism setting, is viewed as something to be put on the back burner and left there. The GES believes issues like that are to be dealt with in a discipleship setting.

Other dangerous teaching coming from Hodges and Wilkin include: 1) There is no sin barrier/problem between God and man. 2) There is no technical meaning for “the Gospel.” 3) The Lord’s titles, “the Christ” & “Son of God” do not mean or infer the Lord’s Deity.

I share these things with you and your readers to make the point that there are many men in the FG community who reject these egregious errors coming from Hodges, Wilkin and the GES. These men are Free Grace, they reject Lordship Salvation, but they are not in any way holding hands with the theology of Zane Hodges.

At several blogs your guests can read scores of articles where the theology of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the GES is sharply refuted. Those refutations are being written by men from within the Free Grace community
In the comment thread of another article, because Antonio was posting comments as though he was speaking on behalf of the broader Free Grace movement, I wrote,
Antonio da Rosa is the most vocal apologist in the blogosphere for the troubling teachings of Zane Hodges and the GES. Antonio does not speak for the Free Grace community at large. Some of the most extreme statements you will read anywhere on the Gospel come from Antonio. (I inserted links to some of Antonio’s most extreme teaching) His views are examples of what the GES faction of the Free Grace community has spiraled down to by following the teaching of Hodges.

Antonio da Rosa’s “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel and related extremes are NOT representative of the Free Grace community at large. Scores of godly Bible-believing pastors in the Free Grace community, utterly reject the teaching of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and GES on the Gospel. The Hodges faction in the FG community has become a rapidly shrinking group that tries to portray itself as the voice of the Free Grace community at large. This is a serious misnomer!”
IMO, there is little chance members of the FG community are deceived by attempts to characterize the entire FG community as though it holds to the Crossless gospel and its various disturbing implications. It is, however, important to keep the general evangelical community informed that GES men like da Rosa do not write for or represent a vast segment of FG men who vigorously and biblically reject the Crossless gospel.

The “Crossless” gospel, which is the Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, Grace Evangelical Society (GES) position is unique ONLY to that shrinking cell of (GES) people that commonly fall under the larger FG label. So, when Antonio is speaking of “Refined Free Grace” theology, he is speaking of Zane Hodges’ “ReDefined Free Grace” theology.

When Antonio and other Crossless advocates present their view of the Gospel it is a misnomer to suggest their view is representative of the whole of the FG community. Antonio’s lumping the majority of FG people who reject the Crossless gospel is steadily and successfully being corrected across a broad spectrum of evangelical Christianity.

If GES’s Crossless gospel was the representative view of the entire FG movement I never would have come to identify with the movement. I am thankful to have met men like Charlie Bing, James Scudder, Tom Stegall and Dennis Rokser who do not hold to the GES’s Crossless interpretation of the Gospel. They have not succumbed to what is most definitely a REDEFINED Free Grace theology.

As a parenthetical note: Crossless advocates are fond of self-identifying their view as, “Consistent Free Grace Theology.” This label is a rather novel misnomer, and I may expand on this later. Anyone who has watched the GES over the past few years knows GES leadership and membership has consistently changed and shifted in their theology of the Gospel. One pastor wrote,
The one thing I appreciate about Hodges, Wilkin and GES is that they are consistent. They are consistently wrong!”
It is a serious misunderstanding to assume the Zane Hodges Crossless interpretation of the Gospel is widely held by men in the Free Grace community. Because of this I will continue spending time interacting with various non-FG groups to help them understand that the GES faction of the Free Grace community is an isolated, shrinking cell of people who have gone off to the far extremes that most in the FG camp reject and have separated from the GES over.


For a companion article, please read: The Crossless Gospel: Consistently “Refined.”


  1. Amen, Amen, and Amen.

    Estimates hold anywhere from 2% to 6% of Germany were Nazis. It is an insult to a German to call them Nazis, as it is to blame whites for slavery, when the abolition movement was largely a white movement.

    Most of the major cults of the world, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science, and etc. came out if America. Does that mean that they are one of the many forms of Americna Protestantism?

    Me genoita! They are cults. I will not sully the German people with the barbariarism of a few. I will not saddle white people with the sins of slavery, nor American Protestants with being another branch of Jehova's Witnesses.

    A cult is a cult. And it doesn't matter from where they came. When they abandon their moorings, they are no longer part of that system, and unless there can be shown to be some thread within that theology or culture that inexorably leads down that ath, it is wrong, it is an insult, and it is an ad-hominum argument to lump all free-grace people in with the neo-existentialism. The fact is, the crossless gospel of WIlken and Hodges is nothing more than the theological voice of the "empty Jesus" of the "seeker friendly" and "emerging church" movements.

    They are not a BRANCH of the free grace movement any more than those who taught license were a branch of Paul's free grace movement.

    Moreover, as long as we are on the subect, let's question whether Zane Hodges is really free grace any more. Before you laugh, or assume I am only being incendary, consider this:

    The free grace movement was born as it progressevely defended the doctrine of grace against one work after another.

    In 1923 in The Expositor, Greek Grammarian Julius Mantey proposed a "causal" nuance of the prepositoin "eis" as a good interpretation for acts 2:38, "Repent, and be baptized EIS (because of) the forgiveness of sins."

    Within a quarter century, this boiled over into a Debate with This went on to boil over into a series of debates in the Journal of Biblical Literature with Raplph Marcus, professor of Classical Greek at University of Chicago, and editor of the Loeb Classic Library. Marcus may have gotten the better of Manty in the day, but this was largely owing to the terms of the debate into which Mantey was suckered, which were virtually indefensible.

    The Church of Christ ambled on its wobly way, and the pentacostals raised their confused voices denouncing the Eternal Security of the believer. The question of perseverance had been on the back burner between Baptists and Presbyterians for a long time, and may have well stayed there if denominational lines hadn't begun to fall, making the church a true market place for ideas.

    In the 70's, the Lordship question took center stage. Florida Bible college was at the forefront. Not quite as thick in the battle, but with bigger academic guns, Dallas Seminary stood far off, lobbing shells in to protect the storming advances of the FBC boys.

    Hodges, though stnading on the shoulders of C.H. McIntosh and MOrrow, and other greats, found teh torch handed to him as the heir apparent of the free grace mantle. Today, he would unquestionably be the elder statesman of the movement, had he not apostosicized. I can still recall his vivid illustratoin in his class on Hebrews . . . "How shall we escape if we neglect . . . if we . . . DRIFT AWAY!" Zane's imagery was stark. Passing a bouy on the ocean, there is nothing that shows itself like a river. It is a uniform body with no aparent relative motion. But ignore the bouy for 20 minutes, and look back for it, and you find that you have drifted far of your marker. The message was that it can happen to any of us.

    I was so overwhelmed by his imagery, I have alwasy prayed that after runnign the race, I would not be disqualified. Little was I to imagine it was my beloved instructor who was drifting, and who, for his own reasons, never looked back over his shoulder to see where the bouy was. And when he was finally told that the bouy was three miles northwest, he no longer saw it as a marker near a parcel of solid ground. It was only a mile stone of progress, as Zane advanced in his wobly way toward some strange new doctrine. It was the Christ of Jackson Pollack and Salvador Dali. Filled with emotions and whatever baggage you bring to it. An inflaitable rubber man. Stuff him with what you will. Make his ears big, or is feet long. As long as the nametag says "Jesus," its all the same.

    Suddenly, not only the cross is miles behind us in the rear view window, so is grace. Grace, my friend, is not the SUGGESTION that eternal life be offered freely and received freely. It is the demand. If it is not received freely, it is not grace. The promise is made void.

    And now we come to the great circular logic of Zane hodges, former heir apparent of the Free Grace mantel . . . "John doesnt' teach repentance to be saved, and John is sufficient for salvation, therefore, repentance is not needed for salvation. hmmmmm? Does that depend, perhaps . . . on your definition of "repent?" Zane has come to believe, against the full body of greek literature, that repentance is turning from one's sins. Appart from the fct that this position is indefensible from greek, it is also idiotic, and ignores the demand that true saving repentance place on the christ plus works crowd. IT IS THEY WHO SHUT OF THE KINGDOME FROM THE CHRIST PLUS WORKS THAT PRESERVE THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE.

    The synchertists must repent of dead works. They must renounce salvation through religion, ritualism, sascerdotalism, morality, personal reformation. They must renounces all of these good and worthy tnings ahs having any contribution in their salvation. They must accept the gift as a gift.

    Adn to what would Hodges say? It is a gift."

    "Ok" so if someone is trusting in Christ plus works, do they need to repent of their Works professor Hodges?"
    Hodges: "It is not by Faith plus repentance, it is faith alone.

    "Well, professor Hodges, what is repentance?"

    "Why its turning from your wicked ways!"

    Do you start to see you aer arguing in a circle? And you will never make a whit of progress.

    But do you also see that if a man need no longer repent of his dead works to be saved, than the head of the free grace movement is no longer teaching grace! You can come as you are! Ten Commandments, circumcision, nine consecutive first fridays, etc. As long as you have Jesus, the rest is OK.

    Now really? Is this a defense of grace? Is this a defense of faith alone? It is universalism. It is existentialism. It is deconstructioniusm. Jesus is whatever you want him to be.


    Stand Firm my friends.


  2. Elijah:

    Thanks for this extended lesson. I am going to consider your comment for possibly posting it as a feature article for my guests to read for their consideration and comment.

    I want to let this sink in.

    Kind regards,


  3. Lou, thanks for surfing other sites and finding places where a well placed explanation, like that which you gave above, can clearly delineate between Free Grace Theology and the “Content-less Message” of Hodges and Wilkin. This is so important to Christianity.

    Some don’t like it that you, Rokser, Stegall and a host of bloggers have named names. That is interpreted as mean-hearted, hateful or unfair play. Once again, I have seen that communicated over on the SI blog. You are the bad guy because you reported the bank robber and the robber is defended because his name is getting bad press in the news. Are we ever confused!

    Imagine you live in my town and I say to you that it has been proven that one of the restaurants is serving burgers with live e-coli in them and I told you to be careful eating out but I refuse to say which restaurant is serving them. What are you going to do? What is going to be your response? Your response will be the questions of which and where! If I refuse to tell you those details you’re going to be angry with me.

    Isn’t it amazing that when you publicize who is serving up a new gospel and that they should be aware of said person you are mean-hearted.

    Sorry, but people need to know not only what is said but also WHO says it. Thanks for letting people know WHO serving up the “Big Whopper E-coli patty” rightly called the cross-less, promise-only, deity-less gospel.


  4. BNaz:

    I appreciate your note above. I have been at a school function and just got home. I'll have more for you tomorrow.

    For now, IMO it is imperative that people not just know how to recognize false doctrine, but also know WHO they are that teach the false doctrine.

    The kind of criticism I am getting comes with the badge.


  5. Hi Naz:

    I am going to pound away at helping as many as possible to understand that the GES is a shrinking faction of extremists that does not represent the general Free Grace population.

    The GES (“Content-less”) advocates are being driven off the doctrinal field of play, and into a corner.

    That is exactly where I want them: ISOLATED!!!

    They almost have nowhere else to go, with their Crossless heresy, outside of their own inner-circle.

    I would like to see it come to the point where it becomes almost impossible for the GES (Hodges, Wilkin, Lewis, Johnson, da Rosa) to ruin and deceive even one more unsuspecting believer with their egregious errors.


  6. That’s right Lou, I am glad for the voices that God is using to expose the error of the content-less gospel. I am glad for what Rokser is doing on the incongruity issue as well. The notion that we can preach one message and accept as okay that people believe another is absurd. That is the compromising stand that many Free Gracers are making in order to stay in good graces with the cross-less crowd.

    Why can we not expect the hearer to believe in the very Gospel message that we preach. Why do we feel its okay to slap someone on the back and say “your in” when they have believed in less than Christ and in his death for their sins and resurrection? Have we become God to give people like that the “luz verde” when they believe less than the gospel we have be ordered by Christ to preach (Acts 1:8). How can we stand back and say that’s okay when they don’t believe that Christ died for their sins but say that they believe in Jesus as their Savior? What gives them the right to we declare them saved in such a case? That is a major problem doctrinally.


  7. Naz:

    It is bad enough we have the Crossless gospel, but it is equally frustrating that we have men, who I believe know better that are willing to take the New Evangelical UNITY at the EXPENSE of DOCTRINE approach.

    Why would any Bible believing pastor/teacher want to seek out and encourage fellowship with the advocates of known and vital doctrinal error?

    It seems to me that they prefer friends and fellowship over the tough choice of fidelity to God and what His Word clearly mandates.

    More to follow.