He Saves: The Assurance of Salvation Through Faith by R. T. Kendall. Tyrone, GA: Authentic, 2006. 54 pp. Paper. $5.99.
This short book by R. T. Kendall is apparently based on four sermons he preached from Rom 1:16. The titles of the four chapters are “What is the Gospel?,” “The Righteousness of God,” “Saving Faith,” and “The Wrath of God.” I was excited to read this little book because these are key issues in Free Grace circles and I wanted to know where R. T. Kendall stood.
However, I was disappointed with the book because the chapters were poorly researched, badly written, and disorganized. In Kendall’s autobiography, he writes that early in his ministry at Westminster he decided to start preaching without notes. If these four chapters are transcriptions of his sermons, it seems that without notes, Kendall’s sermons followed a “stream-of-consciousness” approach without any discernable outline or structure. This is what happens to most (but not all!) pastors who preach without notes.
Completely aside from this, Kendall does make some good statements in the book, but these are overshadowed by numerous statements that are unclear. For example, regarding the issue of assurance, Kendall writes that those who hold that good works are a necessary condition or result of faith “will never have assurance that [they] are saved. Who among us will ever feel holy enough to be able to say, ‘Yes, I now believe I’m saved’?” (p. 8). This is good, but only a few pages later, he contradicts himself when he writes, “Faith always produces obedience” (p. 19). He seems to recognize this contradiction and so goes on to clarify that “Jesus’s faith was a perfect faith, so it produced perfect obedience. We are therefore said to be saved by Christ’s obedience” (p. 19). Aside from the fact that this reveals the dubious concept of degrees of faith, Kendall has not avoided the implication that even imperfect faith must result in obedience.
Things become even more muddled when he later explains how a person can be declared righteous. He tells his readers, “You can make him [sic] happy only by trusting in your heart that His [sic] Son died on the cross for all your sins. If you really believe that in your heart, you have satisfied his [sic] justice” (p. 24). I don’t think the goal of our faith is to make God happy, but more than that, how does one know if they have “really believed”? Further still, our faith will never satisfy God’s justice. God’s justice is satisfied through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It is this issue of faith where Kendall is the most unclear. He talks about “temporal faith” (p. 29) being insufficient to save. Of course, later, he does define faith as “persuasion” (p. 38) that what God says in His Word is true.
In the chapter on the wrath of God, Kendall takes the traditional view that Paul is referring to hell, and not to temporal deliverance from divine discipline (p. 46). At the end of the chapter, he writes that those who want to escape the wrath of God (i.e., hell) can “utter this prayer from your heart: Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me. I need you. I want you. I am sorry for my sins. Amen” (p. 54).
Though I appreciate Kendall’s landmark book Once Saved, Always Saved, his writing and his theology seem to have degenerated since the time that book was first published; therefore, I do not recommend this new book.
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society