October 26, 2008

Kevin Bauder: Theological Pedigree to Gain a Hearing

Last week, at the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron (SI), I was engaged in several discussions on issues of concern to Fundamentalism, Independent Fundamental Baptists in particular. The SI site is made up of administrators moderators and participants that are by and large strongly Calvinistic in their theology. Many embrace Lordship Salvation. SI is supposed to be a site for Fundamentalists, but it is IMO exemplifying a steady shift of many Reformed men in the Fundamentalist camp toward the Evangelical mindset typical of Drs. John MacArthur, Mark Dever and John Piper.

Another one of the concerns I have had for several years has been in regard to a trend that has taken root and is growing in some segments of Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) circles. That trend was displayed in an article by Dr. Kevin Bauder

I am reposting here at my blog the remarks that I posted at SI as a stand alone commentary on Dr. Kevin Bauder’s article, To the Young Guys: Speak to be Heard.

Dr. Bauder:

You wrote,

You want people to listen to you? One of the best things that you can do is to finish school.”
In 2001 I spoke at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College for two days on the topic of missions. After one chapel the floor was opened for Q & A. One young man asked about advanced theological training in preparation for the mission field. His question was one of concern about going to seminary and he used the term, “cemetery,” suggesting seminary would chill evangelistic fire. My reply was two fold: 1) If the fires of evangelism go out it goes out in the heart of the believer, the believer lost his fire- seminary does not do that; 2) Anyone headed to the mission field would do well to gain advanced theological training because you will need a sharp sword on the foreign field.

I am for and support encouraging our young Fundamentalists (YF) headed for the ministry to avail themselves of as much formal advanced theological training as possible. To reiterate: I am for the attainment of advanced theological training, which I want you (and other readers of what is to follow) to be clear on before I react to select portions of your article.

You wrote,

If you want to be heard, get a real education. The more you get, the better the hearing you’ll likely gain.”
Fundamentalist, young or old, is not even the issue here. I am going to address the standard you have set for what you believe earns a man the right to be heard and/or taken seriously.

Let’s review some men, in their youth, that by your standard should not have been given a public hearing because they had no advanced theological training. As a matter of fact, if my research is correct, these men had practically no formal training of any kind. (All biographies from

G. Campbell Morgan

In 1886, at the age of 23, he left the teaching profession, for which he had been trained, and devoted himself to preaching and Bible exposition. He was ordained to the Congregational ministry in 1890. He had no formal training for the ministry, but his devotion to studying of the Bible made him one of the leading Bible teachers in his day. His reputation as preacher and Bible expositor grew throughout England and spread to the United States.

Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, commonly C.H. Spurgeon, (June 19, 1834 – January 31, 1892) was a British Reformed Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the "Prince of Preachers." He also founded the charity organization now known as Spurgeon's, that works worldwide with families and children, as well as a famous theological college which after his death was called after him: Spurgeon's College. His sermons were translated into many languages in his lifetime.

D. L. Moody

His Sunday School teacher said of Moody, "I can truly say, and in saying it I magnify the infinite grace of God as bestowed upon him, that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday School class; and I think that the committee of the Mount Vernon Church seldom met an applicant for membership more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of Gospel truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness."

C. I. Scofield

Scofield served as secretary of the American Home Missionary Society of Texas and Louisiana; and in 1890, he helped found Lake Charles College (1890-1903) in Lake Charles, Louisiana. As the author of the pamphlet, "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth" (1888), Scofield himself soon became a leader in dispensational premillennialism, a forerunner of twentieth-century Christian fundamentalism.

In 1895, Scofield was called as pastor of Moody's church, the Trinitarian Congregational Church of East Northfield, Massachusetts, and he also took charge of Moody’s Northfield Bible Training School. Although, in theory, Scofield returned to his Dallas pastorate in 1903, his projected reference Bible consumed much of his energy, and for much of the time before its publication, he was either sick or in Europe. When the Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1909, it quickly became the most influential statement of dispensational premillennialism, and Scofield's popularity as Bible conference speaker increased as his health continued to decline.
H. A. Ironside

During this time, Ironside also began his career as a writer, publishing several Bible commentary pamphlets. In 1914, he rented a storefront and established the Western Book and Tract Company, which operated successfully until the depression in the late 1920s. From 1916 to 1929, Ironside preached almost 7,000 sermons to over 1.25 million listeners. In 1918, he was associated with evangelist George McPherson; and in 1924, Ironside began preaching under the direction of the Moody Bible Institute. In 1926, he was invited to a full-time faculty position at the Dallas Theological Seminary, which he turned down, although he was frequently a visiting lecturer there from 1925 to 1943. After a series of sermons presented at the The Moody Church, in Chicago, he was invited to a one-year trial as head pastor there in 1929. Almost every Sunday that he preached there, the 4,000 seat church was filled to capacity. While there, he continued traveling to other US cities during the week for preaching engagements. In 1932, he expanded his travels internationally. Ironside preached the 1935 funeral of Billy Sunday, at Moody Church. In 1938, he toured England, Scotland and Ireland, preaching 142 times to crowds of upwards of 2,000. In 1942, he also became president of the missionary organization, Africa Inland Mission.

In 1930, Wheaton College presented Ironside with an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree, and in 1942-06-03 Bob Jones University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
If the YF takes your comments seriously he has effectively been told to be seen and NOT heard (in public) until he has attained what you deem a suitable theological pedigree. If you follow the standard you just set for the YF to get a serious hearing then you, and any who share your opinion, can’t listen to any young man without an advanced degree, which would have to of included a young Spurgeon, Moody, Ironside and Scofield if the likes of them were among us today, and probably are.

You are essentially telling the YF to stay out of the public arena of discussion unless and until he has earned an advanced degree. Taking the standard you set seriously would mean that not until he had been awarded an honorary Doctorate in 1932 you would not have taken H. A. Ironside seriously.

Dr. Bauder, if we follow your,
minimal educational requirement to command a hearing… the necessary command of languages, exegesis, and theology,” we shouldn’t take any preacher seriously, regardless of age, who has not arrived at the level of theological pedigree you set as the minimal acceptable standard. You have effectively told the YF that he can’t speak to be heard until he has arrived at a level of academic excellence you have set as the standard to get a hearing.

Finally, I want to cite the following from you,

Broadly speaking, most Christian leaders have to earn a Master of Divinity degree before many people are interested in what they have to say.”
Dr. Bauder I appreciate your encouraging the YF to equip themselves for ministry. What you wrote, however, is IMO a sample, an eloquent sample, of the INTELLECTUAL ELITISM that has found its way into some segments of Fundamentalism.


October 20, 2008

Zane Hodges, “Legalism is Not a Very Nice Word.” (Part 3)

Dear Guests:

We continue with Greg Schliesmann’s third installment from his series critiquing Zane Hodges’s The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism.

Jesus Never Invited the Lost to Believe in His Death?
With another sweeping claim Hodges says, “in offering eternal life, Jesus Himself never invited anyone at all to believe in...” Hodges then lists eight truths, none of which are part of the saving message according to Hodges. Those truths include “His death on the cross for our sins” and “His bodily resurrection.”

However, most Bible students can immediately think of verses in the Gospel of John in which Jesus connected believing in His death with the offer eternal life. For example:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15).
With John 3:14-15 in mind, one author described salvation as a matter of “looking to Christ and his cross alone”; “trust completely in what Christ has done for us in dying for all our sins” (1John 2:2; John 1:29); “...look to the cross and find peace by believing,” “trust completely in Christ and what He did on the cross;” and claimed “any system of doctrine that forbids us to find complete peace by simply looking to God’s Son, who was lifted up for us on the cross, can by no means claim to be the true Gospel.”

So what? That author was Zane Hodges in the postscript of The Gospel Under Siege[11]. How could Hodges offer John 3:14-15 as the support of such statements and then claim “in offering eternal life, Jesus Himself never invited anyone at all to believe in” His death on the cross?
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, How can this Man give us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day ,” (John 6:51-54).
How does this passage fit with Hodges claim that “in offering eternal life, Jesus Himself never invited anyone at all to believe in” His death on the cross?

In offering eternal life in this passage, Christ did not describe it being found simply in the letters J-E-S-U-S or the “promise.” Rather, he spoke of “life” being found in the “bread” of His “flesh” (6:51). Likewise, the requirement “drink His blood” illustrates an appropriation of his death, not belief in the mere promise of life apart from His death.

Advocates of Hodges’s position will deny these rather obvious observations by pointing out people were saved during Jesus’ earthly ministry without understanding or believing the picture Christ illustrated in this passage. While that is true, it is still essential to interpret this passage.

Crossless Gospel advocates fail to deal with the proleptic nature of this statement. In other words, Christ spoke in anticipation of His death and resurrection to a general audience that was neither saved nor yet prepared to believe in Him (cf. 6:15, 26, 36). It was impossible to meet His condition to “drink my blood” before His blood was actually offered. Neither Jesus’ general audience nor His disciples understood His words at the time (6:52, 60). However, Christ knew the unsaved audience would generally be alive just months later when He fulfilled His part of the illustration by actually dying on the cross. Once the blood and flesh were given, it would then be incumbent upon them to meet the requirement that Christ set forth in the illustration with the words “eat my flesh...drink my blood.” It would be incumbent in the sense that their eternal destiny depended upon it (v. 53, 54). It is very significant that John uniquely included this and other proleptic statements in his Gospel.

Yet Hodges contends, “Theological legalism maintains that the saving message has ‘changed’ since the cross...Yet the ‘theological provisos’ required by theological legalism are absent from the Fourth Gospel....” One would have thought that Hodges would have dealt with such passages as John 3:14-14 and 6:51-54 before making that claim. But if Hodges interpreted this passage in a way that upheld any real meaning in Christ’s words, he could never claim, “in offering eternal life, Jesus Himself never invited anyone at all to believe in” His death.

It is also notable that the Apostle John, writing on this side of the cross, first appealed directly to His readers to “believe” in connection with and upon describing the death (19:35) and resurrection of Jesus (20:29-31).

Finally, Jesus Christ now invites the lost to believe in His death for our sins. Jesus Christ Himself preaches through the ministry of the Gospel:
“...and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near,” (Ephesians 2:17).

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” (2Cor. 5:20-21 ).
Unlike Hodges’s crossless saving message, God’s saving message is actually described as “the message of the cross” (1Cor. 1:17-18). And unlike Hodges’s insistence on separating the name of Christ from the work of Christ, the Gospel invites the lost to believe on “Christ crucified” (1Cor. 1:23).

Greg Schliesmann

[11] Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, pp. 147-150.

Greg Schliesmann’s critique of Hodges’s polarizing Hydra’s Head article will be continued.


October 17, 2008

Zane Hodges, “Legalism is Not a Very Nice Word.” (Part 2)

Dear Guests:

We continue with Greg Schliesmann’s second installment from his series critiquing Zane Hodges’s The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism.

Lack of Exegetical Evidence to Date
In the Spring of 2007, the Grace Family Journal published an article by Tom Stegall titled The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel that sounded the alarm against Hodges’s new message of salvation. The article introduced the issue that Hodges teaches a message of salvation that does not deem the cross or Deity of Christ as essential. The article demonstrated the novelty of Hodges teaching in light of the historical Free Grace position. Supporters of Hodges responded with indignation that a criticism was leveled prior to extensive exegesis.

The only exegetical attempt Hodges has made to support his “Crossless gospel” view was published by the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society in his articles How to Lead a Person to Christ, parts 1 and 2.

Hodges argued that a person could indeed receive eternal life through faith in Jesus without believing that Jesus is “the Son of God.” His foundational exegetical argument was based on the conversion of the Samaritans in John 4. His argument was exposed as negligent in my articles The Christ Under Siege, parts 1 and 2.

Ironically, Hodges and his followers who vehemently protested the label “Crossless gospel” given to their position before, they claimed, sufficient exegesis was provided by opponents of their position. It is hard not to notice Hodges’s hypocrisy.

More importantly, Hodges's article is full of incredible, sweeping claims about Scripture with absolutely no exegesis or serious biblical support or consideration of any kind. We will examine some of these claims later in this article.

How Do You Know the Content of Saving Faith?
Hodges raises the epistemological question, “how do you know?” in regards to what constitutes the content of saving faith. Hodges argues, “who determines which theological doctrines are necessary for eternal salvation? The Bible, we are told. Who then determines what the definitive list contains? The answer, of course, boils down to this: the theological legalist himself!”

Interestingly, Hodges uses the exact same epistemological argument often made by Roman Catholics against Protestants who uphold the sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture.[8] Catholics apologists use the argument in regards to knowing the canon of Scripture, interpretation of passages, and doctrines. And just like the Roman Catholics, Hodges raises a question he really cannot solve himself. In fact, as we will see, Hodges unwittingly exalts himself as a sort of authority apart from whom the Church would have never discovered the saving message!

The very premise that “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine” warrants the consideration of “all Scripture” when examining any spiritual question. Paul wrote to Timothy:

“...that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2Timothy 3:15-17

Whatever view we hold should be harmonious with the sum of Scripture. If it does not, we must be willing to allow Scripture to correct our view.

In fact, few Biblical doctrines could be substantiated or entirely defined if we were confined to defining them based solely upon a “single space” in Scripture. Does that mean all such doctrines run into the same epistemological problem? Does Hodges also believe we cannot “know” the doctrine of the Trinity because it is not defined in a single space? I am not claiming the doctrine of the Trinity is necessary for salvation; but why would there be an epistemological difference in defining a Biblical doctrine that is not necessary for salvation from one that is?

Furthermore, where does the Bible state that the contents of saving faith must be specifically enumerated in a single space? If it does not state that, how do we know such a standard exists? For that matter, where do we find Hodges’s view enumerated in a single space? We are told John 6:47 or 11:25-27, for example.[9] However, both of these verses describe the result of believing in Christ, but neither of them in themselves describe the necessary content of believing in Christ. In fact, John 6:47 does not even mention the name “Jesus,” which Crossless gospel advocates actually insist is a necessary component. Nor does John 6:47 by itself prove “everlasting life” defines the content of belief in Christ rather than simply the result.[10] The Crossless gospel advocate then resorts to the very procedure he condemns: combining verses, or worse yet, giving further explanation to a verse.

Hodges’s contention that the contents of saving faith must be fully defined in a single space imposes an extra-Biblical standard. That’s actually legalism. At the very least, Hodges is condemned by the same standard he imposes on others. The Bible does not tell us the contents of saving faith must be detailed in a single space nor does it tell us what space that is. So how does Hodges know what space that is? The answer boils down to this: Hodges himself! As a matter of fact, Hodges may very well be the very first person in Church history to conclude: 1) the content of saving faith is completely detailed in a single verse; or 2) that verse is John 6:47. If the legitimacy of Hodges’s epistemological approach is so self-evident, then why is Hodges the first person in 1900 years of Church history to reach this conclusion?

When Hodges claims to have found the saving message detailed in a single space, he actually ignores multitudes of verses both inside and outside the Gospel of John.

For example, Paul claims he was commissioned to preach “the gospel” (1Cor. 1:17), which is “the message of the cross” (1Cor. 1:18), which is the same message the lost must believe in order to be saved (1Cor. 1:18, 21).

It is difficult to see how this single passage, as one example, does not contradict everything Hodges has argued. It should raise a red flag that perhaps his underlying assumptions are wrong.

We do not solve the epistemological question by casting off dozens of verses that clearly state the lost must believe “the Gospel” to be saved (see my article on The Technical Meaning of the term, “THE GOSPEL.”)

When one notices descriptions of “the Gospel” (e.g. 1Cor. 1:17-23; 15:1-4; 2Cor. 4:3-4; Gal. 1:6-9; 2:16, 21; Rom. 1:1-4, 16; 10:16); statements that identify the true object of faith (1John 4:3; 5:5-6) as opposed to a false Jesus Christ (cf. 2Cor. 11:6;) and statements about what the lost must believe to be saved (e.g. John 6:53; 8:24; Acts 13:40; 1Corinthians 1:17-23; Rom. 4:4-5; 24-25; 10:9; 2Thes. 1:8), he will notice the consistency on the fact that the message of salvation centers on the Person of Jesus Christ--namely His identity as the “Son of God” incarnate--and the accomplishment of Jesus Christ on the cross--namely that He died for our sins and rose again so that salvation is guaranteed through faith in Him alone.

Many Scriptural points could be added that confirm this same message. The fact of the Bible’s consistency on this matter and the way in which these verses harmonize with each other happens to reflect itself in the general unity throughout history among the normal Free Grace position and historical grace-oriented position about what constitutes the Gospel.

Believers can take heart. The Bible is not an endless maze. It is a fixed revelation, which God limited to the exact truth He wanted us to know (Deuteronomy 29:29). To suggest a truth cannot be known unless it is limited to a “single space” within Scripture is truly a faithless position.

Greg Schliesmann

[8] For an example of the same epistemological argument used by a Catholic apologist, see “The Practical Problems of Sola Scriptura

[9] Hodges, “
How to Lead a Person to Christ, Part 1: The Content of our Message,” JOTGES (Autumn 2000):

[10] John 6:47 states “
He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” “Everlasting life” is the result of believing in Jesus, but it cannot be logically proven that this verse makes it part of the content of saving faith. The same logical reasoning, which confuses the result with the condition, would then require “rivers of living water” (i.e. “The Holy Spirit”) to be essential to the content of saving faith in John 7:37-39 and not abiding in darkness essential to the content of saving faith in John 12:46. If everlasting life is part of the essential content of saving faith, it must be shown in combination with other verses.

Greg Schliesmann’s critique of Hodges’s polarizing Hydra’s Head article continues in Part 3 of his series.


October 15, 2008

Zane Hodges, “Legalism is Not a Very Nice Word.” (Part 1)

Dear Guests:

I am pleased to present the first installment of Greg Schliesmann’s new multi-part critique of Zane Hodges’s polarizing article, The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism.

There have been a number of reviews and critiques that have irrefutably shown that Hodges has checked out on Scripture and declared war on believers of every stripe who reject his Crossless gospel that is the most extreme form of reductionist heresy ever seen in the New Testament Church. This new series by Greg Schliesmann will devastate the article by Hodges on many levels.

Be sure to contact any one in your sphere of influence in your family, church or school. Encourage them to read and consider this critique by Greg Schliesmann.

The article by Hodges has ended any speculation on whether or not he, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) have become a cell of theological extremists and have isolated themselves as such. Greg’s review will erase any lingering doubts as to just how egregious the teaching of Hodges is. This series will be a lasting defense of the Gospel again the reductionist assault on the content of saving faith being propagated by Hodges, Wilkin and the GES.

“Legalism is not a very nice word,” Zane Hodges once wrote.[1] Clearly, Hodges did not intend to be “very nice” when he chose this word to denounce the Free Grace community at large. In his recent article, “The Hydra's Other Head: Theological Legalism,” Hodges condemns Free Grace proponents who teach what Hodges himself once taught in regards to the Gospel, namely that the unsaved must “trust completely in what Christ has done for us in dying for our sins.[2] This article will evaluate some of the tragic errors of Hodges’s recent polemic. The appeal to believers will be formed upon the one area of agreement shared with Hodges: the Scriptural Gospel heralded by the normal Free Grace community and Hodges’s new saving message are two different messages that are completely incompatible.

In case you did not catch the “legalism” in the opening paragraph, Hodges now advocates the idea the lost must only believe someone named Jesus (even if that person is not deemed to be the God-man who died on the cross and rose again) guarantees everlasting life by faith alone. While Christ’s death and resurrection may be helpful for explaining the promise[3], only a “theological legalist” would insist such truths are essential to the message of salvation, according to Hodges.

Hodges’s Tone
Hodges’s recent article is actually a two-page a diatribe—“a bitter, abusive denunciation.”[4] The term “theological legalists” or “theological legalism” or “legalist” (for short) occurs 17 times in two pages to describe the normal Free Grace view. The term “theological legalism” is bolded nine times throughout the article. He compares it to “ecclesiastical legalism” of Catholicism, “cultic legalism” of Mormonism, and “commitment legalism” of Lordship Salvation.

Quite obviously Hodges is at war with the Free Grace community at large. In his own words, “In ecclesiastical circles, to call someone a legalist is to hurl an insult of the first magnitude. If someone says, ‘You’re a legalist,’ the instinctive reply would be, ‘Them’s fighting words!”[5]

Hodges’s Misrepresentation
Unfortunately, Hodges’s antagonism extends to the point of blatant misrepresentation of the Free Grace view. Hodges describes the normal Free Grace view by stating that we teach, “It is not enough to simply believe that Jesus Christ gives us eternal life when we believe in Him for that. We must also believe certain orthodox doctrines that go along with such belief. But these doctrines are not in themselves identical with believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life. Instead these beliefs form a kind of checklist that measures the validity of one’s faith.

What are these “orthodox doctrines?” On the next page, Hodges gives a checklist of “orthodox doctrines” that Jesus did not ask the lost to believe including His eternal oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, His virgin birth, His sinless and holy life, His ascension to the right hand of God, His intercessory work as our Great High Priest, and His Second Coming.

Yet Hodges does not quote a single Free Grace proponent who claims the lost must believe in the Trinity, virgin birth, Second Coming, or any of the orthodox doctrines enumerated above, in order to be saved.

In reality, Hodges is writing to condemn the view that teaches the lost must believe in the God-man Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again so we could be reconciled to God forever by faith in Him alone. Yet, instead of dealing squarely with what normal Free Grace proponents have always taught[6], Hodges creates a grotesque caricature of the position so that it is easier for him to refute.

The Scope of Hodges’s Condemnation
By his definition of “theological legalism,” Hodges condemns every single Free Grace champion of the past such as C.I Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord and every Free Grace leader of the present including J.B. Hixson[7], Charlie Bing, Robert Lightner, Roy Zuck, Dennis Rokser, and James Scudder. Only those closely aligned with the new direction of the Grace Evangelical Society (such as Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, John Niemela, and Bob Bryant) are exempt from the charge.

Therefore, one must not mistake a criticism of Hodges as a criticism of Free Grace. Many Free Grace proponents now condemned by Hodges have esteemed him as a teacher, mentor, scholar, or professor. It is challenging to admit such a person has become a heretic. So I appeal to supporters of Zane Hodges, that you be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19) as the Free Grace community responds to Hodges’s new path.

As a believer who meets Hodges’s definition of a “theological legalist,” I would like to point out some of the problems in Hodges article.

Greg Schliesmann

[1] Zane C. Hodges, Legalism: The Real Thing (JOTGES 9:2)

[2] This quote comes from Hodges’s postscript (p. 147) in
The Gospel Under Siege. There he criticized Lordship Salvation proponents from discouraging a person to “trust completely in what Christ has done for us in dying for our sins.” In the same postscript, Hodges uses John 3:14-15 to illustrate saving faith as a matter where one “look[s] to the cross” and “must focus on Christ and His sacrifice.” Though Hodges may have held to his crossless content of saving faith his entire career, it is apparent than in the past he sometimes spoke in terms that would allow him to blend in with the normal Free Grace community. Certainly Hodges would now denounce the claim that one “must” focus on Christ and His sacrifice for salvation or assurance.

[3] Hodges,
How to Lead a Person to Christ, Part 1, ( JOTGES) 11.

The American Heritage Dictionary. Copyright © 2005, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated 2005.

[5] Zane Hodges,
Legalism: The Real Thing, (JOTGES) 9:2.

[6] Stegall demonstrates the “
normal Free Grace” view of the Gospel described in this article actually is the normal view that has been traditionally taught by Free Grace churches. Hodges’s view is novel in Free Grace theology. See- The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel, Part 1.

[7] In the article, Hodges names Getting the Gospel Wrong by Free Grace Alliance Executive Director J.B. Hixson as representative of this “theological legalism.”

Greg Schliesmann’s critique of Hodges’s polarizing Hydra’s Head article continues in Part 2 of his series.


October 12, 2008

ReDux on Rose’s, “We Just Can’t Know?”

Dear Guests:

Last week I asked Rachel to weigh in on the discussion her husband Stephen initiated in his article KnetKnight’s Reasoning on Rose: We Just Can’t Know?

I asked Rachel for her input because she has spent considerable time in personal interaction with Rose over issues related to the GES’s Crossless gospel and its most extreme advocates. Rachel has posted her comments in the original thread, KnetKnight’s Reasoning on Rose: We Just Can’t Know? Don't miss Rachel's note on how Bob Wilkin would witness to a Jehovah's Witness (JW) especially what is conspicuous by its absence.

Because of the importance of this issue, Rose’s compromised rather than balanced stance in regard to the reductionist extremes of Zane Hodges’s “REDEFINED” Free Grace Theology and Rachel’s special insight I have reprinted her (Rachel’s) extend comment here for your consideration.

I know this is a late comment on this thread, but Lou mentioned in an earlier comment that he wanted me to comment on this topic.

I did interact with Rose fairly extensively sometime ago on the subject of the “
Crossless Gospel.” I found that Rose treated my points essentially the same way she treats Antonio’s points - effectively silence. My opinion (and that’s all it is, just an opinion), is that Rose simply cannot answer either side’s points, for whatever reason. It seems to me that when she reads Antonio, she can’t think of a solid response, yet when she reads those on our side, she also can’t think of a response. So she has decided that since everyone (supposedly) preaches the same truths to the lost anyway, and that therefore the lost will believe those same truths anyway, that it doesn’t really make any difference, so why fight over it.

I think that the biggest issue for Rose is in the “
exceptions.” I think she feels she simply cannot be dogmatic about saying that the cross and resurrection are absolutely necessary, because, what about a child, what about a mentally disabled person, what about some rare, weird scenario of someone dying halfway through the Jesus story, etc. I think these “exceptions” combined with the CG folks’ constant refrains of “we always preach the cross” have allowed her to adopt this apathetic position.

The problem is that this issue actually
does make a significant difference. I noted this at Rose's blog in a thread from about a year ago where Rose was asking for help in coming to a decision on this issue. Here’s what I said regarding whether or not the content of the gospel matters:
This discussion is not by any means a ‘moot point’'. Not when we have Jeremy Myers thinking his daughter was saved at the age of 2 (!) simply because she (supposedly) believed Jesus could take her to heaven. Not when we have Bob Wilkin telling a JW’s mother that she only needs to be concerned about getting her JW son to believe that Jesus can give him eternal life apart from his works,* and she need not ‘get into all that [erroneous JW doctrines]’.
(Note: I personally witnessed, and have access to a recording of the interaction of Wilkin and the JW’s mom at our church - the mom attends our church.)

Oddly enough, even Antonio agrees with us that this issue is important, rather than “
moot” or unnecessary. He has, of course, tried to backpedal on that, but his words are written in public for all to see, and I actually agree (at least in principle) with what he has said regarding the importance of this.

I don’t normally have any reason to quote Antonio, but in this case I think his words illustrate two good reasons why this issue matters so much,
even through his errors. On another forum a few years ago, someone named “Tyler” said the exact thing Rose is now saying, that it doesn’t really matter because all our gospel presentations include the cross and resurrection anyway, etc. Here is part of Antonio’s response:
Hi Tyler,

I humbly disagree with you concerning it being ‘moot’ and only interesting theologically for I can enumerate several factors why it is important:

1) Child evangelism is one practical ramification. How much does a child have to understand about ‘substitutionary’ atonement, Jesus being God, or the son of God, etc... What exactly must be known, what exact contents to the object must be exactly known, that will be the difference between eternal life, and almost knowing enough?

Simple faith in Jesus is the key! Believe in Jesus and you will live forever with Him.

‘Unless you become like children...’

2) Another is the issue of evangelizing ‘Christian’ cults. Biblical Christianity is the only religion in the world where works do not in some way contribute to ultimate salvation. In most Christian cults, they refer to the Bible for their doctrine (among other places). They refer to the same Jesus as we do but with misconceptions few or many. The primary purpose of evangelism is to get the individual born into God’s family, thus starting a relationship with God, and starting a true knowledge of Him. The primary aim in evangelism is to get the potential convert to the place where he entrusts his/her eternal well-being to Jesus. At that moment the individual is saved and those dozen or more concommitant gifts (indwelling, sealing, every spiritual blessing in Christ, etc) are imparted to the new convert.

If this new convert is determinate to seek out God and His knowledge and puts forth the effort, he WILL grow in his understanding. The Word will open up to him in a new way, and through time and growth, many of the old misconceptions will be cleared up.

We need to get them saved then encourage them in proper theology. We need to get them saved and then disciple them. Once the Holy Spirit is in their hearts, He can do His job through time and the Word.
Of course I disagree with Antonio’s points, but it clearly illustrates the significant difference our views make in how we approach such people. It is one thing to wonder about “exceptions.” But children and members of groups such as JW’s and Mormons can hardly be labeled “exceptions.”

So Rose’s contention that this is a “doctrinal nuance” is simply indefensible! Yet for some reason(s) Rose is unwilling to explore the issue any further at this point. Perhaps she is the type of person who, when confronted or forced into a corner, has a tendency to push back merely for the sake of pushing back as a sort of defensive posture. But when given time to dwell on it on her own, without pressure, she may be more willing to come to a particular conclusion.

I do think there is a point where there is only so much that can be said and done, and a person must be left in God’s hands. We must do our best, but we cannot change every mind and convince every person. There is only so much that can be done, and for me personally, I feel that Rose is at that point. She began to refuse to interact with me on the issue or to answer my questions, so I cannot force her to answer. If she is done, then she is done, and there’s not much more I can do about it. If she wants answers, she knows where to find them.


*Is there any doubt that Wilkin and Hodges have stripped the deity, death and resurrection from the content of saving faith. I also note that Wilkin did not tell the JW’s mother to present the cross, resurrection or deity of Christ to her unsaved son. Why? I believe Antonio da Rosa (Sock Puppet: fg me) best speaks the answer for the GES’s Crossless & Deityless gospel: “Believe Christ’s Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold.”
If a JW hears me speak of Christ’s deity and asks me about it, I will say, “Let us agree to disagree about this subject.” I will discuss with him Jesus’ ability to impart eternal life by faith alone apart from works. This is where I want to zero in with the JW or the Mormon. They believe that salvation comes by faith AND works, and LOTS of works (not unsimilar to the Traditionalist religion).

At the moment that a JW or a Mormon is convinced that Jesus Christ has given to them unrevokable (sic) eternal life when they believed on Him for it, I would consider such a one saved,
REGARDLESS of their varied misconcetions (sic) and beliefs about Jesus.
From Antonio’s How I Might Do Evangelism With a Jewish Man,
If I were talking to a Jew, he may very well ask me about the deity and humanity of Jesus. I would certainly entertain his questions and answer them to the best of my ability. But if such a one continued to express doubts or objections to this, I would say politely, ‘Let us for the time being put this issue (Christ’s deity) on the back-burner. Can I show you from the Jewish Scriptures that the advent of Jesus Christ fulfills many prophecies?’”
And finally Antonio’s astonishing statement, “The Mormon Jesus and Evangelical Jesus are One and the Same.”

Please Note: Because of the importance of Rachel’s input on Rose and the Crossless gospel I have rescheduled Greg Schliesmann’s critique of Zane Hodges’s Hydra’s Head article to begin on Wednesday morning.

October 10, 2008

The Gospel is Under Siege Again by the Very Man Who Wrote the Book on It!

Dear Guests:

I want to encourage each of you to visit the
Grace Family Journal. There you will find in the Special Edition section A Critique of Zane Hodges Article The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism, which you can download in PDF form. Here is a sample from one of the closing paragraphs:

Hodges once claimed in the opening sentence of an old Bib Sac article on the resurrection, “The central fact of the Christian faith is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Zane C. Hodges, “The Women and the Empty Tomb,” Bib Sac 123 (October 1966): 301. Are we now to be led to believe that a person can become a Christian without ever having to believe the “central fact of the Christian faith?” In addition, according to Hodges’s recent GES article which I am reviewing, John’s Gospel doesn’t even require belief in this “central fact of the Christian faith” to have eternal life?! I must confess that the Gospel is under siege again by the very man who wrote the book on it!
In his critique Pastor Rokser clearly demonstrates how the Gospel has been assaulted and put under siege by the man who wrote the book on it.

As a reminder, next week I will begin publishing Greg Schliesmann’s comprehensive review and critique of Hodges’s article. Here is another sample from Greg’s review:
In another incredible, unsupported claim about Scripture, Hodges says it is wrong to believe the term “Gospel...defines what a person must believe to have eternal life.”

We have always maintained that the term “
Gospel” is sometimes used in Scripture in the general sense of good news. But to deny that the term “the Gospel” is ever employed to indicate the saving message represents willful denial of the clear teaching of verses such as 1Cor. 1:17-23; 4:15; 2Cor. 4:3-4; Eph. 1:13; 2Thes. 1:8; 2:13-14; and others. To suggest someone must be “conditioned” to understand the term “the Gospel” in these verses as the message one must believe to be saved is ludicrous. Quite the opposite! Someone must be conditioned and theologically blinded by Hodges’s theology to understand the term “the Gospel” in these verses in any other way than the message one must believe to be saved.
I’ll close with this compelling passage from the Inspired Commentary, which we must heed lest the “perverse things” of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the GES makes any new inroads into unsuspecting churches or fellowship of believers.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears,” (Acts 20:28-31).
See Perverse Things Draw Away Disciples

Yours faithfully,


NOTE: At the
GFJ’s Special Edition Take a moment to download Pastor Tom's Stegall's latest installment in his series The Tragedy of the “Crossless” Gospel, Part 9. It is titled, What is the Gospel According to the Galatians?. We will have more to report from Part 9 in upcoming articles.

October 8, 2008

Stakes Through the Heart of Zane Hodges’s Hydra Head

Dear Guests:

Three new major reviews Zane Hodges’s polarizing article, The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism, have been or will be published this week.

Bob Nyberg’s review was the first to be published. See Major Development… for the link.

Brothers Gordon Cloud and Art Sims have reviewed and/or reacted to the disturbing implication of the Hodges Hydra Head article. See Hodges’s Hydra Head Under Additional Review for those discussions.

I have previously advised you (with samples) that Greg Schliesmann’s Review will be publishing his review here at IDOTG next week.

At The Land of Reason blog Rachel has posted the first two of her three part review titled, Beheading Hodges’s Hydra.

At the Grace Family Journal, Pastor Dennis Rokser has published A Critique of Zane Hodges Article… . Following are three samples from Pastor Rokser’s critique.

1) In the ongoing debate over this new free grace crossless gospel of the GES, Hodges’ article is filled with exegetical, doctrinal, and logical fallacies. Furthermore, for those who have falsely accused us (who have opposed the teaching of the crossless gospel) of misrepresenting the views of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin, think again and judge for yourself, for this article provides indisputable facts to prove the claim unwarranted and patently wrong.

2) Hodges takes the same view as Covenant Theology in denying progressive revelation related to the saving message of the Gospel. The issue is not merely, “What did God require of sinners to be saved in past ages?”, but “What does He require to be saved in this present age under the dispensation of grace?” In factoring in progressive revelation, Ryrie states, “
The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various dispensations.” This has been the standard dispensational soteriological view for many years.

Furthermore, Hodges fails to note that John does not even personally appeal
to his readers to personally believe the content of what has been written in his Gospel until he declares the record of Christ’s death (John 19:35) and His bodily resurrection (John 20:31).

3) I find it conspicuous by its absence that Hodges omits any statement on the DEITY of Jesus Christ in either his evangelistic checklist of what a sinner needs to believe to have eternal life or in the separate list of what Jesus never invited anyone to believe. Why the obvious omission?
Rokser’s critique was posted TODAY!  
You may visit the GFJ to download the PDF and learn the answer to that penetrating question.

As you read these reviews you will come to understand just how far askew of the biblical plan of salvation Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin their extremist followers in the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) have drifted. Share these reviews with as many people you can in your various spheres of influence. We must do all we can to expose the GES’s Crossless interpretation of the Gospel.

We must help the unsuspecting to first recognize, then reject and refute the egregious reductionist assaults on the Deity and finished work of Jesus Christ emanating from Zane Hodges and the GES.

Make no room for the ecumenical spirit of compromise or cooperation with the prime instigators of the Crossless gospel.


October 6, 2008

KnetKnight’s Reasoning on Rose: We Just Can’t Know?

For well over a year Rose of Rose’s Reasonings has been suggesting the Zane Hodges Crossless gospel is a mere “theory, doctrinal nuance,” and a “difference of opinion that is acceptable.” Those of us who know and understand the reductionist assaults on the Person and work of Christ have a much different view of the Grace Evangelical Society’s (GES) “Crossless & Deityless” interpretation of the content of saving faith.

This week KnetKnight (Stephen), one of my blog partner’s in defense of the Gospel, has posted a series of comments on various issues and personalities in the debate over the GES’s
Crossless gospel. His comments appear in the Clinching the Deal on the “Crossless” Gospel thread.

Just below I have reproduced a revised version of one of
*Stephen’s thread comments. IMO, Stephen is making a genuine attempt to understand and articulate why Rose is either unwilling or unable to state any clear, unvarnished opinion of the teaching of the Crossless gospel. IMO, this is an open and honest attempt to help Rose either see what she has become and/or help recover her from what she is becoming.

Hey Lou. I am starting to think that Rose is in a whole new category. I am not saying this to pick on Rose, you have rightly pointed out my intent is to simply understand her.  It seems she adheres to what might be better termed a “we can’t know” gospel, or “who cares” position ala Tim Nichols -- an inclusive view that is sympathetic to a broad range of Free Grace gospels on the premise that we can’t really know for sure so we lay the message out there then “leave it up to God.” As I pointed out in earlier comments, that position undermines the concepts of biblical inspiration and objective truth.

Rose is essentially taking a stand on uncertainty, along the lines of “
I’m not certain of the content of saving faith so the rest of you shouldn’t be so certain either.”  To be clear, Rose’s stand against Lordship Salvation makes it clear she has strength of conviction regarding what the Gospel is NOT, but that she is not sure with it IS.

If I am assessing her view correctly, and I did say “
if,” then that explains a lot. She is then technically correct to state she is not specifically sympathetic to the crossless gospel, but her own uncertainty won’t allow her to reject them either. Neither does she reject us. It was her Hydra’s Head article that sparked me to realize she is not really “in” either FG camp.  I don’t say this to her credit, nor do I state it meanly; it is simply evidence of her unwillingness to commit to an objective truth on the all important matter of salvation.
None of this is new information really, I’m just seeing it more clearly now. It makes her inclusive position more “understandable,” but also more troubling. For all my disagreement with the crossless folks, at least they are committed to a stand on what they think is objective “truth,” albeit a painfully reduced truth regarding the content of saving faith. Rose isn’t committed to anything except the middle -- and this is one of those cases where being in the “middle” reveals a compromised stance rather than balance.

Like I said, none of this is strictly new info, but putting it together casts a whole new light on it for me. IMO, saying Rose is crossless is truly not a correct label to saddle her with... her actual position is, IMO,
worse than crossless in that it is couched in comfy post-modern terms -- ala “
we just can’t know.” Rose may think she is a harbinger of peace and reason with such a position, but she is, probably unwittingly, chipping away at the idea of objective knowable truth. No wonder she is on the fence so often in this regard; she seems to think “the fence” is a reasonable position, at least in regard to this topic. This kind of lukewarm view of objective truth is central to what I have read in J. B. Hixson’s Getting the Gospel Wrong. My heart breaks with compassion for Rose and those like her who have bitten the apple of post-modernism’s uncertainty.

One more thing. Rose also said “Both sides have the same content in their presentation to the lost.” But why?  I pointed out in the Really Consistent? article on our blog that their practice is logically inconsistent with their view that such info is optional. If it is their view that this info truly is optional to the content of saving faith then it is legalistic and inconsistent of REDEFINED Free Grace advocates to insist that such optional info always be presented.
The Redefined Free Grace crowd has attempted to saddle us with “legalist,” but the term is demonstrably more applicable to the unresolved conflict between their own view and practice. I love irony, too bad in this case that the implications of their confused/confusing/inconsistent gospel are so sad in terms of the souls they risk confusing with their muddled theology.
I encourage Rose to consider what has been shared by Stephen. I encourage Rose to consider and express whether or not she feels Stephen has accurately assessed her position. She is welcome to submit a reply in this thread.**  Or she may prefer to respond either at her own blog or the Crossless gospel blog she partners at. She may, however, choose to ignore and/or disregard Stephen’s evaluation.

In my
Clinching the Deal thread I linked to above, Stephen and I continued our discussion of his comments. All (who have not forfeited their privilege to post here) may comment freely.


Please proceed to the companion article, primarily composed by Rachel, ReDux on Rose’s, “We Just Can’t Know?”

*Changes to his original thread comment have been made by Stephen to better reflect the sum of our extended discussion in the Clinging the Deal thread.

**I retain the right to edit any content of Rose’s potential reply that I believe endorses or legitimizes any of the egregious errors of the Crossless gospel.

October 5, 2008

Rachel is Beheading Hodges’s Hydra

Dear Guests:

I am pleased to announce that Rachel (Stephen’s wife) has published the first of a three part series in which she reviews Zane Hodges’s article, The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalism.

Part 1 of Rachel’s review has been published at her blog, The Land of Reason.

Her is a sample from Part 1 of Beheading Hodges’s Hydra

Even Dr. Earl Radmacher, who was at the center of a recent Crossless Gospel controversy, is quoted from his book Salvation, “How readily some fall into the trap of adding requirements to the Gospel beyond simply believing that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.” Apparently even Dr. Radmacher did not think that requiring the lost to believe that Jesus died and rose again could be considered “legalism.”

Hodges is only deceiving himself if he thinks that his view is “traditional” Free Grace, and that it is a new thing to require the lost to believe in and accept Jesus’ death and resurrection
Please visit The Land of Reason to read Rachel’s Beheading (of) Hodges’s Hydra, which is posted for your consideration.


October 1, 2008

Greg Schliesmann to Review The Hydra’s Other Head

Dear Guests:

Mr. Greg Schliesmann is preparing a review of
The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalists by Zane Hodges. In just a few days Greg’s review will be posted here as a feature article. Following are two samples from Greg’s review.

In the article Zane Hodges slams those who teach what Hodges himself once taught, namely that the unsaved must “trust completely in what Christ has done for us in dying for our sins,” as “theological legalists.”  Hodges slams this position because he now believes it is “theological legalism” to claim the Bible requires the lost to believe in Christ’s death, resurrection, or Deity as part of the content of saving faith. Instead, Hodges advocates the idea the lost must only believe someone named Jesus (even if that person is not deemed to be the God-man who died on the cross and rose again) guarantees everlasting life by faith alone.
Hodges claims the normal Free Grace position is “at war with the Gospel of John.” This is an entirely gratuitous and unsupported claim. Rather than normal Free Grace proponents having a problem with the Gospel of John, Hodges’s views on the Gospel of John create a problem with the rest of the New Testament, which requires the lost to believe “the Gospel.”
Greg has contributed a number of articles here that have devastated the reductionist teachings of Hodges, Wilkin and the GES. For example you can read Greg’s two part series, The “Christ” Under Siege and The “Christ” Under Siege: The New Assault from the GES.

You might also view Greg’s series,
False Paradigms of the “Crossless” Gospel, Part 1 & Part 2.

Once you read those samples from Brother Schliesmann you will better recognize and understand the anti-biblical teachings of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin.

Check back for Greg Schliesmann’s review of Zane Hodges’s polarizing article,
The Hydra’s Other Head: Theological Legalists.