Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life. By R. Larry Moyer. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997. 272 pp. Paper, $13.99.
Larry Moyer, co-founder and executive director of EvanTell ministry in Dallas, has been a Free Grace evangelist for over twenty years. In this book Larry shares insights gained from his many years as an evangelist. There is much to like about this book.
Moyer’s discussion of assurance of salvation is excellent. He indicates that the ground of assurance is the promises made in Scripture to the believer, not the works which we do: “The fruit of such a walk is …love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ([Gal 5:] 22-23). Nowhere in Scripture, however, are these things the basis for determining if one is saved” (p. 58). Larry deals with a number of so-called problem passages such as Luke 8:13, John 8:30-32, John 15:6, Col 1:21-23, 2 Cor 13:5, Jas 2:14-26, and 1 John 3:6 (pp. 62-79). His explanations are completely consistent with those given in this journal and in Grace in Focus.
Also highly commendable is Moyer’s refutation of false conditions of eternal salvation such as commitment to Christ’s Lordship (pp. 99-114), confessing Christ (pp. 115-126), baptism (pp. 127-140; his discussion of Acts 2:38 and 22:16 on pp. 130-34 is also outstanding), and good works (pp. 145-59). His discussion of Rom 10:9-10 on pp. 116-23 is worth the price of the book.
The discussion of repentance (pp. 85-95) will certainly please all that hold to the change-of-mind view. While I no longer hold that view, I appreciate his position as being one that is consistent with justification by faith alone.
There is one point that deserves attention. The discussion of saving faith lacks the clarity found elsewhere in the book. Since I hold a somewhat different view of saving faith, my perspective is admittedly biased. However, it seems to me that Moyer is on shaky ground when he suggests that saving faith is more than “mental assent” (p. 41).
Take, for example, his illustration of a luxury liner that is sinking in the middle of the ocean. Three people stand near the lifeboats. “The first has no knowledge that lifeboats save and therefore never steps into one. The second understands that lifeboats save but for some reason refuses to step into one. The third passenger not only understands the ability of the boat to save, but accepts as being true that the lifeboat has the ability to save. The passenger therefore steps into the lifeboat and in so doing relies upon it as the means of salvation” (p. 41).
Moyer then asks, “Which of the three is saved?” Obviously the third passenger only. This leads to the conclusion: “A person is saved when he or she understands the ability Christ has to save and acts on that knowledge by trusting Christ” (p. 41, italics his).
There are a number of questions that arise. First, while Moyer speaks of the second passenger understanding that lifeboats save, does he not mean that the second passenger believes that lifeboats save? Of course, that would destroy the illustration, so he is forced to choose the word understand. But surely he does not mean that the person merely understands the claim that lifeboats save, but doesn’t really believe it. What person on earth is there who doesn’t believe that lifeboats save?
Second, isn’t the promise of the gospel that the moment we believe in Christ for eternal life we have it? Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Thus there is no additional step of choosing to “act on that knowledge by trusting Christ.” Once a person believes that Jesus saves all who simply believe in Him, that person is born again.
Third, does not John 20:31 show that mental assent, properly understood, is indeed all that is required? All who believe “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” have eternal life. When one compares John 11:25-27 where the same expression occurs, it is clear that the expression refers to Jesus’ promise of eternal life to all who simply believe in Him for it.
If the lifeboat illustration were true to Scripture, any person on board ship who believed, or who had ever believed, that lifeboats save all who simply believe in them would at that moment be saved from the shipwreck. There would be no additional step to take. No getting in the boat. Therein is the problem. In the gospel we need to simply believe in Christ. In salvation from shipwrecks we need not only to believe, we must also get in the boat—and stay in the boat since there is no eternal security related to lifeboats! There is no promise that all who have come to faith in lifeboats will be forever free from the danger of death by drowning at sea.
I realize that many JOTGES readers will regard my objection as off base. I understand, having once held that very view myself (using similar illustrations which convey the same point). However, hopefully those who do disagree with me will give strong consideration to my points (for example, see Zane Hodges’s, Absolutely Free!, pp. 25-43) and to coming to our annual conference next Spring. Our topic will be saving faith and this very issue should be a lively source of discussion.
I highly recommend this book. It is, as my fishing buddies say, a definite keeper!
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society