A Grace in Focus reader alerted us to the following bad quote. It comes from an Assemblies of God pastor named David Kowalowski. He wrote it for a website called www.apologeticsindex.org. As a Pentecostal, his main concern seems to be the hyper-grace movement. But along the way, he says this about Free Grace Theology:
“Though the Antinomian heresy has surfaced with varied justifications and emphases over the centuries, its latest explosion in the so-called ‘grace’ movement has its most immediate roots in the extreme manifestation of Darbyite Dispensationalism referred to as the ‘Free-Grace’ movement of the 20th century (led by teachers such as Lewis Sperry Chafer, Zane Hodges, and Charles Ryrie) that eventually persuaded some of its number to become near or even complete universalists, believing that not even specific belief or trust in Christ or the cross was required to be saved, since, according to them, ‘grace’ meant there are no requirements or conditions of any kind for salvation.”
I don’t mind the label “antinomian.” It means “against the law.” Free Grace Theology is definitely against making the law a condition of eternal salvation. Kowalowski says antinomianism is “named after the teachings of Robert Sandeman (1718-1781) who, while not endorsing sinful practices, asserted that mental assent alone was sufficient for salvation.” I agree with that, too. To believe means to assent to the truth of a proposition. Belief is not a matter of behavior, feelings, or mystical encounters. It is mental assent to the saving message.
The author is also right that Free Grace has Dispensational roots. Although non-Dispensationalists can still hold to faith alone, in Christ alone, for eternal life, it becomes much harder to interpret things such as warning passages apart from a Dispensational context. Free Grace Theology is thoroughly Dispensational.
The author is also correct to say that some of the major teachers were Chafer, Hodges, and Ryrie.
But then the train goes off the rails.
First, the author charges that Free Grace leads to “near or even complete” universalism. Huh? I have no idea why he says that. He does not quote anyone to support that claim. He gives the false impression that a significant number of Free Gracers are universalists. I suppose it’s possible that some Free Grace people have become universalists. But that’s true of every other school of thought, from Calvinism to Roman Catholicism. It is not intrinsic to Free Grace.
Second, the author claims that some Free Grace people deny you need to believe in Christ to be saved. That is a nutty claim! Where is he getting this info? Again, he does not offer any quotes as evidence. He will certainly not find that in Darby, Chafer, Ryrie, or Hodges.
Not surprisingly, immediately after denouncing Free Grace, the author teaches salvation by works. Here is what he says:
“The Bible, however, teaches that saving grace is not given to all but only to those who have biblical faith–something the Bible says has very strong doctrinal content and moral consequences. While the doctrinal content and moral consequences of faith do not work for or earn salvation, they are indispensable parts of the bucket that receives God’s free gift.”
Read that carefully.
Before you are given “saving grace”—which I take to mean eternal salvation—you must first have “biblical faith” which indispensably includes “very strong…moral consequences.” In plain English, that means that biblical faith includes doing good works. Without works, you don’t have Biblical faith, and won’t receive saving grace. You need to be doing works to even be a candidate for salvation, let alone actually be saved.
The author might not like to use the term “merit” to describe the role of works in his version of the gospel, but there’s no doubt he is teaching hard-core salvation by works. Requiring faith plus “strong moral consequences” for salvation is no different than requiring faith plus circumcision, and just as much a perversion of the promise of life.
The author thinks that good works are part of the bucket that receives eternal salvation. I hope someone tells him his bucket is full of holes!