I’ve been doing some research into Independent and Fundamental Baptists (IFB), looking for Free Grace friendly voices. David W. Cloud and his ministry, Way of Life Literature, is an important voice in that movement. I remember purchasing his Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible and Christianity as a young man.
Here is an article that Cloud wrote entitled, “Repentance and Lordship Salvation Revisited.” Although you can’t know someone’s complete theology from one article, I think you’ll agree this one is promising. Here are some quotes.
Cloud emphasizes that simple faith is all that is required to be saved:
“There is an evangelistic methodology in Christian circles today which is a plague to sound gospel preaching. Some call this ‘easy believism,’ but I don’t like that term. BELIEF IS EXACTLY WHAT GOD REQUIRES FOR SALVATION. ‘For by grace are ye saved THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph. 2:8-9). ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (Jn. 3:16). Salvation is received by believing. FURTHER, GOD HAS MADE IT EASY TO DO. A child can trust Christ and be saved; a weak-minded person can trust Christ and be saved. Salvation is not difficult, except in the sense that the sinner has to humble himself and repent.”
Although Cloud is hesitant to adopt the term “easy believism” for his position, that seems to reflect what he believes:
“I don’t like the term ‘easy believism,’ because salvation IS easy and it IS received by believing.”
Cloud helpfully distinguishes between “easy believism” and what he considers to be the real problem, “easy prayerism”:
“I believe a better term for this problem is ‘easy prayerism.’ It is a methodology which focuses on getting people to say a prayer…Repeating a prayer is not necessarily salvation, and we must not confuse it with such. Just because 50 people pray a prayer, or raise their hands in a gospel meeting, or some other thing like this, is no evidence whatsoever that those people have been saved. It is one thing to show some interest in salvation; it is quite another thing to be saved.”
Cloud rejects the idea that you must repent of your sins to be saved:
“We do not believe that a person must repent of all of his or her sins to be saved…That is certainly not something we teach and it is not something we have ever stated in any article. I have plainly stated that I do not believe that, and in fact it would be impossible to “repent of all your sins.” I have been saved for 36 years, and I still have not repented of all my sins!”
However, he does believe you must repent in terms of changing your mind to be saved (and note his explicit rejection of Lordship Salvation):
“I don’t believe in ‘Lordship salvation,’ but I do believe in ‘except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish’ salvation, and I believe repentance is a change of mind which results in a change of life. Call that ‘Lordship salvation’ if you want to. Repentance is a radical change in attitude toward divine authority, and if a person does not have such a change in attitude he has not repented and he is NOT saved and he does not have ‘eternal security.’… Repentance is largely a change of mind in relation to God Himself, to the role He has in life and in one’s own life in particular.”
Cloud strongly rejects the idea that you must make Christ Lord of your life before you can be born again:
“To require that a sinner make Jesus Christ Lord of every area of his life in order to be saved is an impossibility and would be the greatest form of works salvation ever devised. This false doctrine is actually taught by some independent Baptists, but I have opposed it ever since I heard of it back in the early 1980s.”
“To preach a “lordship salvation” that requires that sinners make Jesus Christ absolute Lord of every area of their lives in order to be saved is to confuse position and practice, justification and sanctification.”
Cloud recognizes the sad reality that many IFB preachers do, in fact, preach Lordship Salvation:
“I have known of several independent Baptist preachers that preach a true lordship salvation, and it is very destructive…What I am warning about here are churches that preach that repentance is turning from all sin and making Christ Lord of everything in one’s life and that if that has not happened one is not saved. And if you have doubts, you are probably not saved.”
Cloud believes that salvation will result in a changed life, but rejects introspection as a basis of assurance of salvation:
“We believe and are sure that salvation changes a man’s life, and we preach this boldly, because the Bible teaches it as clearly as it teaches anything, but to continually examine oneself as the basis for determining if one is saved, is extremely dangerous. Even the Apostle Paul, who, in our estimation, was the most dedicated Christian who ever lived, said of his own experience, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18). That is the experience of every born again child of God. The old flesh is still there even after salvation.”
Cloud himself is sure of his salvation because he has believed in what Christ has done (he uses trust, belief, and faith as synonyms):
“I know I am saved today because I have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for my eternal salvation, and “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). My faith is exclusively in Jesus Christ, not in myself or my changed life or my Christian experience. My Christian experience is pretty lousy when I compare myself with what the Bible requires of me.”
All in all, I find these quotes very promising.
Based on this article, Cloud seems to be basically Free Grace, or at least Free Grace friendly.
When you consider his Dispensationalism and conservative stance in most other areas of theology, the link to Free Grace becomes even stronger.
However, one article does not tell the whole story. I am not claiming that Cloud is with us, or that he is totally consistent. It may be he has made Lordship statements elsewhere. I’ll be doing more research. I encourage you to read the article for yourself. Do you know of any other IFB authors who may be friendly to Free Grace?