Monday, February 06, 2006
Free Grace or Lordship Salvation? (Part 6)
II. Examining the Debate

Once the issues and positions are clearly understood, they need to be submitted to the truth of Scripture and reason. All doctrine and theology need to continually be analyzed by the light of God's Word. It is through correct examination that a person can come to a truthful and biblical conclusion. In the debate between the free grace and lordship salvation positions, it quickly becomes clear that the free grace view does not stand up to biblical scrutiny or to reason. Three areas where the free grace position falls short are in its misunderstanding of faith, its incorrect view of salvation, and its erroneous presupposition of libertarian free will.

A. Misunderstanding Faith

The free grace view does not properly understand faith. As seen above, their position sees faith as mental assent to the gospel message. Zane Hodges writes, "What faith really is, in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true. That—and that alone—is saving faith" (Hodges, Absolutely Free, 31). This idea is often based upon their reading of the Gospel of John. To them, John is the book upon which a believer's understanding of evangelism should come. As Hodges states, "The fact is that John's gospel is the only book in the New Testament which plainly declares that it was written with an evangelistic purpose in view" (Ibid., 26). While John is the only book that "plainly declares" it is for the purpose of evangelism, to deny the evangelistic relevance of the rest of the New Testament is to misunderstand much of its purpose. Nevertheless, Hodges and others use John to support their position. Hodges argues, "One of the most striking facts about the doctrine of repentance in the Bible is that this doctrine is totally absent from John's gospel" (Ibid., 146-147). Therefore, John did not regard repentance as a condition for salvation. After establishing this idea, they interpret biblical passages that call for repentance in order to be saved in light of their interpretation of John.

However, their understanding of the gospel message in John is simply not correct. Macarthur counters, "It is true that John does not use the word repentance, but . . . our Lord did not use the word grace. One suspects no-lordship theologians would recoil from any suggestion that the doctrine of grace as missing from Jesus' teaching" (MacArthur, Faith Works, 81). The point is not whether the word repentance is found in the Gospel of John, but whether repentance was taught. It is obvious that Jesus does speak about the idea of repentance in the book of John. MacArthur demonstrates this by saying, "To John, becoming a believer meant resurrection from death to life, a coming out of darkness and into light, abandoning lies for the truth, exchanging hatred for love, and forsaking the world for God. What are those but images of radical conversion?" (Ibid., 82) So, it is easy to see that John did not leave out the concept of repentance in his gospel.
posted at 4:30 PM  

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I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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