by Bob Wilkin
The word tradition does not have favorable connotations in the New Testament.
While Free Grace people can see the flaws in the Calvinist and Arminian traditions, we tend to be blind to the flaws in our own flavor of Free Grace Theology (FGT).
We all must be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11 who searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. The fact that one of the giants of our tradition like Ryrie, Chafer, Hodges, Darby, Thieme, Cameron, Latham, or Radmacher held a certain view does not make it correct.
I interact with Free Grace people on the nature of the atonement, the deity of Christ, the proper way to evangelize, how to have assurance of everlasting life, 1 John 1:9 and the confession of sins, the Rapture in Matthew 24 (or not), negative consequences at the Bema (or not), the outer darkness, repentance and salvation, etc. etc. etc. Some or even many of my views are rejected by various people who hold to FGT.
I do not expect people to adopt my interpretations of Scripture unless and until they are convinced from the context. A “Bob cult” would be a bad thing. I give plenty of Biblical proof to the interpretations I hold because I want people to have enough evidence to persuade them.
Zane Hodges was my mentor at DTS and for nearly 25 years after that before he went to be with the Lord in November of 2008. He taught me well to beware of tradition. Indeed, over the nearly 30 years I knew him, I saw him change his view on various passages and doctrines. What grieved Zane when people disagreed with his interpretation was not that they disagreed, but that they did not carefully consider his proof. When people were unwilling to be open to the Scriptures, he was upset.
We have many giants who held to FGT who have gone before us and are now with the Lord. I was privileged to be taught by a number of them. But we all must avoid having what Zane used to call “an ossified faith.” If our beliefs become set in stone, then we cease to be open to the teaching of God’s Word.
My encouragement for all, whether FG, Arminian, or Calvinist, is beware of tradition. That does not mean that we are open to the fundamentals being wrong. We know that Jesus is God, that justification is by faith alone, apart from works, that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, that Jesus is coming again soon, that eternal security is true, and that God is a Trinity. But we should certainly be open to our view of individual passages and of non-fundamental doctrines. (Of course, even with fundamental doctrines, if someone could show us from Scripture that we were wrong, we’d be open. But they cannot.)
If the Lord were to tarry for 40 years, many of our current group of Free Grace teachers will be with the Lord and off the scene. FGT will continue robustly if people follow the Lord by loving His Word. FGT will continue at a more anemic pace if people follow men and not God and His teachings.
It is fine to remember those who taught us God’s grace (Hebrews 13:17). We can and should follow their godly examples. But we need to beware of having our views fixed so that those whom we disciple no longer see the need to pray and study God’s Word. Our books and articles are no substitute for the Word of God! Read FG books and articles, yes. But study God’s Word and ask God for a noble and good heart.