A 2019 doctoral paper by Nicholas James Claxton (available online—see here) is entitled “Faith Without Works: The Gospel According to Zane Hodges.”
In part 1, we considered Claxton’s first three objections to Hodges. Now we will discuss his other four objections:
4. “To limit the content of faith to Christ’s guarantee of eternal life seems far too restrictive” (p. 28).
5. “Hodges’s view of perseverance is inconsistent. If God graciously brings a sinner to salvation and ensures His eternal security, why would He not also progressively conform the believer to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-30)?” (p. 28).
6. “There is simply no exegetical evidence that saved people are divided into inheritors of the kingdom and mere citizens” (p. 28).
7.“When confronted with evidence that seems to contradict his position, Hodges simply redefines the terms” (p. 29).
Fourth, Claxton agrees that everlasting life is guaranteed to all who believe in Jesus. However, he thinks that believing in Jesus requires more than believing in Him for everlasting life. He suggests that one must also believe “in Christ’s atoning death and resurrection” and “in Jesus as ‘the Son of God’” (p. 28).
This objection is a strawman. Hodges said that he always preached the death and resurrection of Jesus to explain how He could guarantee everlasting life to the believer. And Hodges taught that to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27; 20:31), is to believe in Him for everlasting life (cf. John 11:25-27). Claxton’s problem with Hodges’s view of faith is that Hodges did not teach that transformation and perseverance are guaranteed (points 3 and 5).
Fifth, Claxton’s question reveals a lot about his theology. He does not believe that God guarantees instant sinlessness. He’s right. But wouldn’t a better question be, “If God graciously brings a sinner to salvation and ensures His eternal security,” why would He not instantly conform the believer to the image of His Son? Why is the conforming progressive? Wouldn’t it glorify God more if it were instantaneous? And isn’t that what we all want? Wouldn’t we love to have glorified bodies immediately?
Claxton’s view makes assurance impossible. If our progress is stalled or even goes backward, we would rightly doubt our salvation if gradual, steady progress is guaranteed.
Maybe God does not guarantee success in this life because He wants to select those who prove faithful to rule with Christ in the future (1 Cor 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 2 Tim 2:12; 4:6-8; Rev 2:26). This life is a test that will determine our role in Jesus’ kingdom.
Sixth, a fiat is not only a type of car. Fiat is a declaration. Anyone can declare anything. The truth is in the evidence. Claxton gives no evidence to prove that there is no evidence that some believers will rule with Christ and others will not. The most straightforward evidence would be to select three passages Hodges uses to demonstrate that only some believers will rule with Christ. He could have chosen Luke 19:11-27; 2 Tim 2:11-13; and Rev 2:26. Those are texts Hodges often cites in this regard. But he did not select those or any other passages. He declared that Hodges was wrong.i
Seventh, the issue is not that Hodges redefined the meaning of terms to suit him. He interpreted the meaning of words based on the context. That is what a lexicographer does. Claxton gives the impression that words have single meanings and that Hodges was evading the lone meaning. However, words have fields of meaning. Hodges interpreted the context to determine which of the meanings was correct.
Dr. Dave Lowery recently retired from the NT department at DTS. He had been a student under Hodges and then later his colleague. He famously said that if he were on trial for his life, he’d want Zane Hodges as his lawyer because Hodges left no stone unturned. That was my experience with Zane as well.
i He attempted to prove this point in two ways. First, he cited 1 Cor 6:9-11 without explanation. He seems to think those verses prove that the believers in Corinth were spiritually mature, which is odd in light of what Paul says about the readers in the letter. Second, he says that Hodges evades the apparent meaning of texts by redefining terms. That is his seventh point.