The phrase a circular firing squad can be used in a humorous way. It describes a situation where people are attacking a common target, but wind up attacking themselves. When they miss the target in the middle of the circle, they are shooting each other.
But the phrase can also be a warning. A person can be a part of a circular firing squad without realizing it. They might think that those in the firing squad are united in their goal to shoot the guy in the middle of the circle. In the process, they soon realize that they have disagreements with their fellow firing squad members.
There’s a funny example of a circular firing squad in the book of Acts. The Sanhedrin is united in their opposition against Paul. All the members of the council want to kill him. They are taking aim at him. As Paul is put on trial, he observes the obvious. Some of them agree with him about certain things he preaches, such as the resurrection from the dead. Others do not. So, he yells out that he is with the group that believes in the resurrection of the dead. Those who don’t believe in it are putting him on trial (Acts 23:6-9). The group that did not believe in the resurrection from the dead adjusts their aim from Paul and directs it at those on the council who did believe in it. Those who did believe in it start “shooting” at those who did not. The members of the Sanhedrin, while initially “shooting” at Paul, begin to shoot at one another.
Probably most of us have been a part of a circular firing squad at some time in our lives. We join in a cause with others against a given issue, only to realize later that we do not agree with those on our team. In fact, we may agree in some areas with the one we are all attacking, and disagree in those areas with our fellow firing squad members. That is what happens in the case of Paul and the Sanhedrin.
It seems to me that something like that is happening now in the wider free grace community. GES has made a strong stand on the content of saving faith. It maintains one must believe in Jesus for eternal life. When one believes that promise, he has assurance of that salvation because of the promise of Christ. If you have never had that assurance, you have never believed the promise and thus you have not believed in the saving message.
Many in the wider free grace community have taken aim at such a stance. GES’s position is on trial. And there are many who disagree with it. If I could use the analogy, they are all shooting that position down.
I, of course, agree with the GES position. But let’s lay that aside for a moment. Whether it is the Biblical gospel or not is not the point of this blog. Even if the GES position is incorrect, I just want to point out that the attack on that position is a circular firing squad.
Those taking the shots at GES’s position do not agree with themselves on many particulars. In fact, they often agree with GES and disagree with their fellow firing squad members. No matter what view a person takes on this issue, I think we could all agree on that.
In this short blog, I am not trying to defend the position I hold. I would like to point out, however, that those opposed to that position have not stated their own view of the gospel. There is a reason for that, it seems to me. They differ among themselves and they are not united. They are only united in their opposition to GES.
Some, for example, say that GES has gone too far. We cannot insist on assurance of salvation like GES does. We all know good people who have never had assurance of salvation. Others in the squad would say that GES hasn’t gone far enough. They say we must insist on the unbeliever knowing about the Deity of Christ, His death, and resurrection. Some would say the unbeliever must repent, while others would agree with GES that they do not have to repent. I have been in discussions with free grace people who say that the Lordship Salvation gospel and the gospel preached by the Catholic Church are saving messages. Others in the free grace community would say they are not. Those who say they are not would agree with GES. Some would say that GES’s gospel is not a saving one, others would say it is. There are, of course, many other areas about the gospel about which those in the firing squad would disagree among themselves. In these areas, some would agree with GES, some would not.
Again, I am not trying to convince anybody of my position. But I do hope at least some in that firing squad would recognize my point here. If the firing squad was aiming at me and my position of the gospel—if I could carry the analogy out—I might simply say, “You guys are shooting at me because I hold that the gospel of Lordship Salvation and the gospel of the Catholic church are not saving messages!” Some holding the rifles would say, “That is absolutely correct! You need to die!” But others would say, “Wait a second, I agree with the guy we’re shooting at!”
Whether any in the firing squad would agree with GES’s view of the gospel or not, I hope at least some would look around and say, “Hey guys, I just noticed we are standing in a circle.”