By Jonathan Perreault
Several months ago (Mar-Apr 2009) Ken Neff published an article in the GES newsletter Grace in Focus. The article was titled, “What Is the Free-Grace Gospel?” It is not my intention to give a full critique of Neff’s article. Rather, I would simply like to clarify my position in the Free Grace gospel debate in response to what he wrote.
I have several problems with how Neff has portrayed my position:
Neff makes it appear as if I disagree with his first two observations. But in reality I agree with him when he says that “It seems arbitrary to say that some, but not all of the good news must be believed.” I also agree that “A patchwork content approach is not convincing.”
He makes it appear as if I am a patchwork gospel advocate. However, I have made it clear that I don’t agree with the patchwork/partial gospel approach of Greg Schliesmann, Tom Stegall, and J. B. Hixson (see my online summary chart: “Three Views On The Gospel of Grace”).
Neff makes it appear as if I have proposed “six essentials.” Yet I don’t even know what six essentials he is attributing to me. And he doesn’t cite where my supposed six essentials may be found.
I believe that Ken Neff and the GES have seen my position in the Free Grace gospel debate quite out of focus. I would like to ask them to correct their distortion of my position, and to portray it more accurately in the future.
Editor’s note: The preceding is a slight condensation of a web post Jonathan made. We are sorry for misrepresenting his position, and are glad to correct it publicly. The reason, I believe, that Ken indicated Jonathan had six essentials is because he has written extensively online, saying that one must not only believe the five essentials of Stegall and Hixson, but he must also believe that Jesus was buried (1 Cor 15:4a). That is one more essential than the five. Perreault calls the gospel of Stegall, Hixson, and others, “the groundless gospel.”
However, as Jonathan points out here, he never indicated how many total essentials there are. Surely the number is higher than six if everything the NT calls the gospel is included. On the one hand, in an article called “The Gospel According to the Apostle Paul,” Perreault lists four points that routinely make up Paul’s gospel: “Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and He appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve.” But he never says or implies that if a person believes those four points, he is born again, even if he believes in works salvation. He has another article called “Justification by Faith Alone” that seems to suggest that one must believe that as well. On the other hand, he posts approvingly on his website an article from William R. Newell (who agrees with Perreault’s understanding of 1 Cor 15:3-4) on Paul’s gospel in which Newell lists not five, but 13, “great doctrines” that make up Paul’s gospel.
Possibly Jonathan somewhere lists exhaustively everything a person must believe to be born again. If not, hopefully he will do so in the future. For unless the unbeliever believes everything he must believe to be born again, then he remains lost. And unless the evangelist knows precisely what to share, the evangelist is ineffective.