A 2019 doctoral paper by Nicholas James Claxton (available online—see here) is entitled “Faith Without Works: The Gospel According to Zane Hodges.” Claxton’s paper is irenic in tone. In his conclusion, he raises seven objections to the views and exegetical method of Hodges. I’ll briefly answer three objections in part one and the other four in part two. Here are Claxton’s first three objections:
- “It is surely misguided to elevate the Gospel of John…” (p. 27).
- “Why would Jesus and His disciples devote so much attention to repentance when their real need was saving faith? Would it not have been more profitable, from Hodges’s viewpoint, to call people to accept the ‘absolutely free’ gift of salvation?” (pp. 27-28).
- “Hodges’s view of saving faith seems anemic in light of the New Testament testimony…Faith results in transformed works…The true believer hears God’s words (John 8:47) and follows Christ (John 10:27)” (p. 28).
First, it isn’t misguided to elevate John’s Gospel concerning the saving message because that is the stated purpose of the book (John 20:31). And because no other book in the Bible has that purpose.
Isn’t the Song of Songs the only Biblical book on marital love? Aren’t the Pastoral Epistles the place to go for instruction on church leadership? Aren’t 1-2 Thessalonians essential books dealing with the church’s rapture? Don’t certain books have themes that set them apart?i
Second, why preach repentance if it isn’t a condition for everlasting life? Claxton does not realize that he affirms Hodges’s view of John’s Gospel. Hodges said that is precisely why John never mentions repentance in His Gospel. John discussed repentance a dozen times in Revelation. Why not in John?
Jesus and His apostles were concerned about more than leading people to faith. We know from the Synoptic Gospels that they were also calling the nation of Israel to repent so that the kingdom might come in that generation. Faith alone would not bring in the kingdom.
In addition, repentance is the way in which those out of fellowship with God return to the Father to regain His blessings and live productively again (Luke 15:11-32).
Third, Hodges’s view of saving faith is only anemic if one has predetermined that saving faith is some special kind of faith. When he says that transformation and obedience are the guaranteed results of saving faith, Claxton implies that faith is commitment, surrender, repentance, and obedience. He believes that perseverance in good works until death is required to avoid eternal condemnation. Saying that perseverance is guaranteed eliminates assurance prior to death. In Claxton’s view, if a professing believer falls away and dies in that state, then he proves he never believed in Christ. Since no believer can be sure he will persevere (e.g., 1 Cor 9:27), assurance would be impossible until it was too late.
i This is true of chapters as well. 1 Corinthians 15 is the great resurrection chapter. 1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter. Luke 15 is the repentance chapter.