Lordship Salvation: Some Crucial Questions and Answers. Including a Reply to “So Great Salvation” by Charles C. Ryrie and “Absolutely Free!” by Zane C. Hodges. By Robert Lescelius. Asheville, NC: Revival Literature, 1992. 217 pp. Paper, $6.99.
Add another book to the lordship side of the Lordship Salvation controversy. The balance of books is on their side, and debate would be greatly slanted were it not for the ongoing work of GES and this journal.
There is really only one thing new in this book by Robert Lescelius, a Baptist with a background in missions and teaching. He tries to be a bit more friendly, irenic, and sincere in his presentation of the debate. This is not to say that he forgoes imposing on Free Grace (a term he refuses to use, preferring “non-lordship”) the usual charges of “easy believism,” antinomianism, and departure from historic evangelical Christianity. He merely does it without the emotional rhetoric of some of the other writers.
What is interesting is that he quotes and defends John MacArthur, Jr. so rarely. This has the loud ring of a silent indictment. He does assert that there are those on the Lordship Salvation side who have “presented Christ’s lordship to the point of works salvation” (p. 5). This book however, will not convince discerning readers that Lescelius has escaped his own indictment. How can he, when he says, “One must separate works from faith for salvation (Eph 2:8-9), but one must not divorce obedience from faith in salvation (Heb 5:9)” (p. 24)? Who separates works from obedience?!
What is most disappointing in the book is the lack of first hand exegesis and interaction with the key biblical passages. The author is content to simply proof-text almost all of his arguments for lordship interpretations. This simply will not suffice, satisfy, or persuade at this point in the debate. After this, his second line of argumentation is to quote Reformed theologians. It should be no surprise that Lescelius equates evangelical Christianity with Reformed theology, since he quotes John Gerstner freely.
It is also not surprising that as the author embraces Lordship Salvation, he relinquishes assurance. Doubts can be good, we are told. And though assurance rests on three legs, the first being the promises of God, the second the witness of the Spirit, and the third the evidence of a holy life, “assurance increases through obedience to the Word” (p. 83). The oxymoronic notion of assurance by degrees only shows that any assurance ultimately rests on obedience and works in this system.
I would at least commend Lescelius for honesty. For example, he unabashedly says that “Grace and demand are not incompatible” (p. 68), a logical extension of his theology. (Shall we scratch Rom 4:4; 11:6; and Eph 2:8-9?) He is also honest enough to recognize the spectrum of Free Grace positions, and seems to represent them fairly enough, though his arguments against Ryrie and Hodges are predictable, and have all been heard and answered in the GES forum before.
I would not recommend this book because it offers no serious exegetical help and is little more than a catalog of quotations from notable Reformed theologians.
Charles C. Bing
Burleson Bible Church