The Fourth Day of Apostasy: Free Grace Salvation
The Fourth Day of Apostasy
I submit that the book of James is critically important for those who wish to discern the errors of our time. James focuses our attention to the various causes and symptoms of “false faith.” He asks “Can that faith save you?” Click here for Day 1 (Liberal Theology), here for Day 2 (Prosperity Gospel) and here for Day 3 (Liberation Theology).
[Please note that I am NOT making any claim that particular Christians who are part of these movements are unsaved! Further, many truths may be taught and practiced by those who hold to these teachings. What I am suggesting is that the abuses found in the movements promote apostasy]. The links to the opinions of others may differ from those of my own.
Strike up the music:
On the fourth day of apostasy, James is warning me… of FREE GRACE SALVATION, Liberation Theology, Prosperity Gospel, and of Lib-er-al Theolo-gy.
Apostasy #4 – Free Grace Salvation
Keyword(s) from James: Faith without works (James 2:14)
Teaching: The Carnal Christian Gospel
Beginnings: Antinomian Controversy, John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson
Motto: “Lordship may come later, but it is not necessary”
Influencers: Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges
Mouthpiece: Grace Evangelical Society
Effects: False assurance; sowing of tares in the church
Cultural icon: Elmer Gantry
Adherents: Dallas Theological Seminary, many evangelicals
Interesting reading: MacArthur on Lordship Salvation (link)
Click here for: A Message for Free Grace Teachers
I. No evidence. What use is it, brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:14,18. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil. 1 John 3:7-8.
II. One can receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and exhibit no obedience or holiness of living. They can live a carnal lifestyle, bearing little or no fruit (showing no evidence of the new birth), and still be saved from hell. Even those who go on to repudiate the faith are saved, since they met the requirement for salvation when they previously believed in Jesus as their Savior. Free Grace theologians see James’ admonition (can that faith save you?) as being rescued from the temporal consequences of sin. So, a fruitless faith may lead to illness and death, but will not result in eternal damnation in hell.
This theology is totally contrary to Scripture. Faith is always tied to repentance in the Bible. Only one kind of faith saves: a repentant faith. Sorrow for sin, ongoing repentance, and the “fruits of repentance” are marks of true Christians. For an excellent rebuttal of Free Grace Theology (a/k/a “No-Lordship Salvation”), click here. PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE!
III. Confusion as to the interaction of faith and works as regards to salvation is not new. It has been the center of controversy from time immemorial. In America, the battle began in 1636 with the so-called Antinomian Controversy. The Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony were Christians, many of whom fled England due to religious persecution. The founders of the colony were also the founders of the church in the New World. Certain preachers began teaching that true Christians were united with the Holy Spirit when they first believed, and that assurance of salvation came only through union with the Spirit. Assurance was never to be sought by inspecting the fruit of the Christian’s life. Those who taught the doctrine of sanctification as necessary fruit of the Christian were condemned by these teachers as holding “a covenant of works” rather than the “covenant of grace.” John Cotton and Anne Hutchinson were involved in spreading the “antinomian” teaching. The churches in Boston favored the new theology. Those of the surrounding towns were solidly opposed. Eventually the leading “antinomians” were charged with sedition.
IV. Christ as Savior, but not Lord. Free Grace theologian Bob Wilkin writes:
“the sole condition of eternal life is trusting in Christ as one’s Savior. None of the following are conditions of eternal life: turning from sins, being willing to turn from sins, committing one’s life to Christ, baptism, doing good works, or persevering in the faith.”
What does it mean to “trust in Christ?” Those who oppose Free Grace (holding to so-called “Lordship salvation”) see repentance as an integral part of true faith. Jesus preached, “Repent and believe the good news.” Repentance itself is a gift of God — a gift that results in Godly sorrow and “fruit in keeping with repentance.”
V. Charles Ryrie (1925- ) and Zane Hodges (1932-2008) were two Dallas Theological Seminary professors who are/were defenders of Free Grace theology.
Hodges wrote Absolutely Free: A Biblical Response to Lordship Salvation. The book is a response to a critique of No-Lordship salvation by John MacArthur. He argues that if one believes the bare facts about Jesus, then he has true saving faith. He holds that repentance is not necessary, since the word “repentance” is not used in the Gospel of John. He teaches that God’s grace does not necessarily result in a changed life.
Ryrie wrote So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ. In the book, he claims that repentance is only a change of mind about Jesus Christ. Repentance does not include a repulsion for or turning away from one’s sin. He claims that one can be a saved Christian but not be a disciple of Christ. “Confessing Jesus as Lord” (Rom. 10:9) is defined only as believing in His deity.
VI. The Grace Evangelical Society (GES) (www.faithalone.org), founded in 1986 by Bob Wilkin, promotes Free Grace salvation. It publishes a semi-annual journal, and has an annual conference. One of the five solas of the Reformation is sola gratia – grace alone. The Reformers held that all of salvation – including regeneration, effectual calling, repentance and faith, justification, sanctification, and glorification – are by God’s grace alone. GES effectively denies the fullness of God’s grace.
VII. Free Grace Salvation critically distorts the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In attempting to protect sola fide, these theologians make a mistake similar to Roman Catholicism. They confuse cause with effect. Martin Luther wrote, “”Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life.” When people are taught that works are not a necessary fruit of salvation, they receive a diluted gospel that gives them false assurance of salvation. Jesus said that the way of salvation is narrow, and that few find it. Can one live like the devil (who also “believes” in Christ) and still be a Christian? Their doctrine brings shame to the cause of Christ and results in false professors becoming influential in the Church.
VIII. Elmer Gantry (1927) is a best-selling book by Sinclair Lewis, and also a movie starring Burt Lancaster in 1960. It is a satire on evangelical life in America. It is all about hypocrisy. Mr. Gantry is an unethical womanizer who is ordained as a Baptist minister. I choose this as the cultural icon because it relates to the common reaction many unbelievers have to Christianity: we are a bunch of hypocrites. When churches are dominated by false professors, “lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved….” (Mt. 24:12)
IX. The influence of Dallas Theological Seminary is seen in regards to dispensationalism as it relates to Free Grace salvation. Dispensationalists hold to a future literal 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ. Applying the teaching of Free Grace to the millennium, some teach that those who do not “accept Christ as Lord” and who evidence no fruit of salvation are cast outside the city, where they will weep and mourn. Thus, a kind of purgatory is created for those who “believed” in Jesus but did not accept Him as Lord. Only those who receive Him as Lord are allowed to reign with Him for a thousand years. This is similar to the Mormon teaching of the celestial versus terrestrial heavens, and to the Jehovah’s Witness teaching on the anointed 144,000 who get to live in heaven while the rest inhabit the earth.