On Saturday, June 3, 2017, I debated Dr. Matthew Bates, author of Salvation by Allegiance Alone. You can hear the debate by clicking here.
My overall reaction to the debate is that the issue of what a person must do to be born again was made clear. Bates argued that what is required is “embodied action.” When I asked what that was, he said it was living out the Sermon on the Mount.
On the other hand, I argued that the sole requirement is faith in Christ for the life which He promises, everlasting life. I suggested that verses like John 3:16; 11:25-27; and 20:30-31 are very clear on this point.
The host, Julie Roys, seemed to be siding with Bates. I said on the air that he did not believe in justification by faith alone. She then corrected me and said that he does believe it, but defines faith differently. But Bates wasn’t defining the English word faith differently. He is defining the underlying Greek word pistis differently. (For a discussion of the lexical argument he made from BDAG, see here.)
After I said that he directly denies justification by faith alone, he said (19:20 ff.) he believes in justification by faith alone, but then he turned right around and clarified, saying that he believes in justification by pistis alone, that is, by faithfulness alone. And that, of course, implies that both faith and works are conditions of salvation. Hence, he does not believe in justification by faith alone.
Round and round we went.
I think that by end of the debate Julie understood that Bates was teaching salvation by works, not salvation by faith alone.
I kept pressing Bates’s claim that we are saved by living out the Sermon on the Mount (which would involve doing many works!). At one point Julie pressed him on this, too. His response was straightforward works salvation: “Paul is very clear that we are going to be saved by works” (go to 42:54-58). He went on to talk about Rom 2:6-11. (When I had my turn I explained that Paul was speaking hypothetically there and in Rom 2:13 as Rom 3:21-26 shows.)
Bates believes that salvation is yet future: “we are going to be saved…” We must persevere in good works, in “embodied actions,” in order to obtain at the end of the age what he calls “final salvation.” Of course, if you need embodied actions in order to be saved, then you need works to be saved. I hope the listeners understood the difference between what Bates and I were saying.
It was very hard in this debate to decide what to comment on and what to let go. The hour-long show resulted in a total of 47.5 minutes we were on the air since there were breaks. I was given around 15 minutes total to make my points. There was so much I wanted to say.
I am very thankful to the Lord for this opportunity. My thanks to Julie Roys and the Moody Radio Network, around 250 stations nationwide, for allowing me to take part. They even graciously advertised the new book by Zane Hodges and me called Tough Texts: Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? We sent them five free copies which they gave away to listeners. And they have placed a link to our website at the home page for Up for Debate.
My thanks, also, to Dr. Bates for helping make this a lively debate.
I’d appreciate your prayers for the fruit of this program in the lives of the listeners.