Lordship Salvation: The Only Kind There Is! An Evaluation of Jody Dillow’s The Reign of the Servant Kings And Other Antinomian Arguments. Curtis I. Crenshaw. Memphis, TN: Footstool Publications, 1994. 170 pp. Paper, $9.95.
Crenshaw was a contemporary of Jody Dillow at Dallas Theological Seminary. By his own testimony, the author converted to the Reformed Lordship Salvation position early in his seminary career: “While sick at home with the flu and a kidney stone, I read Warfield’s Perfectionism, Van Til’s Defense of the Faith, and Luther’s Bondage of the Will, which completely changed me. From this point forward, I fought continual battles in seminary over the lordship issue and the carnal Christian theory” (p. ix). His story saddens me. He recovered from one of the most painful maladies one can have (kidney stones) only to succumb to something even worse (Lordship Salvation).
The book is poorly crafted if, as the subtitle suggests, its primary purpose is to respond to Dillow’s book. We do not find extended quotations from Dillow followed by explanations of why his reasoning is flawed. What we do find instead are paraphrases of what Dillow wrote, sometimes without any documentation, or mere snippets from his work. It seems odd to this reviewer that the author can devote large portions of the book to quote Reformed writers and Reformed councils, yet can’t find room to give extended quotations from the person whose book he is ostensibly reviewing.
By the author’s own admission at most 28 pages of his book (101-28) are entirely new material written in response to Dillow’s book. Crenshaw notes, “The present book is an expansion of a series of articles I did in the Herald of the Covenant about eight years ago, and each chapter now (except chapter 5) was an article then” (p. ix). This explains why the book looks very little like a review of The Reign of the Servant Kings.
In an effort to convince his readers that his view is correct, the author discusses regeneration, repentance, faith, the relationship of faith to works, justification and sanctification, and assurance of salvation.
Occasionally Crenshaw does point up areas that need attention in Dillow’s argumentation. For example, he is right (see pp. 17-18) that Dillow probably needs to clarify his positions on perseverance and on repentance. (See pp. 10, 21 in The Reign of the Servant Kings.)
Crenshaw appears to point out another inconsistency in Dillow’s argument. On p. 118 Crenshaw says that Dillow takes 1 John 5:13 as the verse which states the purpose of 1 John. He then points out that this is a difficult position to maintain for one who holds that good works are not essential for assurance.
Interestingly, Crenshaw fails to cite the place in which Dillow says that 1 John 5:13 is the purpose of 1 John. For good reason. Dillow does not say what Crenshaw maintains. Instead, Dillow clearly states that 1 John 1:3 is the purpose statement: “[The purpose statement] is found where one would expect to find a purpose statement in a book or letter, in the opening paragraph (1 John 1:3)…His purpose in writing to these regenerate people is so that they may walk in fellowship with God…He is not writing to test their salvation” (p. 162).
Crenshaw’s book is not exegetical; he rarely attempts to explain a passage. Obviously he is writing to people who agree with him and who won’t question his interpretations.
For example, he contends that 2 Cor 13:5 teaches that we must examine our lives to see if we are saved (pp. 115-16). What is the evidence from the text in favor of that interpretation? Crenshaw cites two things. First, the phrase in the faith refers to being saved because of Col 2:7 (“continue in the faith” and “established in the faith”), 1 Tim 3:13 (“boldness in the faith”), Titus 1:13 (“sound in the faith”), and 1 Pet 5:9 (“steadfast in the faith”). We are not told why the expression in the faith has to refer to salvation in the passages cited. The author merely quotes the relevant portions of these verses and assumes that this proves his point. Second, Crenshaw argues that Paul used the word approved in 2 Cor 13:5 “to relieve all doubt that [he] speaks of questioning their justification” (p. 115). He then prints ten verses in Paul (including 2 Cor 13:5-7) where the words approved or disapproved are used–without comment–and then concludes, “So much for Dillow’s argument” (p. 116). This is exceedingly poor. Simply printing verses does not prove one’s point.
Over and over again we find the author referring to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Synod of Dort, Reformed writers, the Reformed interpretation, etc. At one point (pp. 11-12) he even lists 12 men and four confessions from church history and scoffs at the idea that they could all be wrong and Dillow right. He makes no secret that he is defending a tradition. Is this not the technique Rome uses? If tradition is crucial, why isn’t Rome right since her views are older and more widely held? If the Bible alone is not our authority, then why doesn’t Crenshaw consider all of the church fathers, all Catholic theologians and exegetes, the Council of Trent, and Vatican II, for example?
The author’s tone is neither gracious nor irenic. At times it borders on arrogance: “There is nothing new in Dillow’s book that I did not hear for four years in seminary. I have read every book the ‘carnal Christian’ men have written, studied under their best theologians, evaluated their most detailed arguments, dialogued with them in person, debated fellow students and pastors for over twenty years, and they are essentially say the same [sic]” (pp. 1-2). The pejorative language he uses for the Free Grace view is far from fair or high-minded: “anti-lordship salvation” (p. ix), “license theology” (p. 3), “the license position” (p. 3), “the license view” (p. 42), “antinomianism” (p. 2), “this radical view” (p. 4), and “a monstrosity” (p. 85).
I recommend this book for the well-grounded person who is seeking more insight into the Lordship Salvation position. However, if you are looking for a serious review of Dillow’s book, you must look elsewhere (e.g., JOTGES, Autumn 1992, pp. 67-69).
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society