Repentance Versus the Heresies of Curtis Hutson & Jack Hyles: An Open Letter (dated Dec. 12, 1996) to Dr. Shelton Smith, Editor of Sword of the Lord. By Roland Rasmussen. Published in pamphlet form by Faith Baptist Church of Canoga Park, CA. 21 pp. $1.00.
Having written my doctoral dissertation on repentance and salvation, I read this booklet with keen interest. As the title suggests, this booklet could hardly be described as irenic; it is a strong attack on the Free Grace view of the gospel.
Its thesis is that faith alone is not sufficient to save anyone. According to Rasmussen, sorrow for sin and turning from sins are also required for salvation.
This raises a problem for anyone who believes in justification by faith alone. How can justification be by faith alone if remorse and “abandonment of sin” (p. 13) are also required? However, seemingly unaware that what he is saying contradicts justification by faith alone, Rasmussen rebukes the late Dr. Hutson for teaching that faith and repentance are synonyms. Hutson advocated the change-of-mind view also held by such men as Drs. Lewis Sperry Chafer and Charles C. Ryrie. Rasmussen directly states that “faith and repentance are not the same” (p. 19, though no page numbers appear in the booklet). Clearly there can be no other conclusion than that for Rasmussen there are at least two (or even three) conditions of salvation: 1) faith, and 2) remorse over—and turning from—one’s sins. Faith isn’t enough. Nor are faith and remorse enough (see p. 13). All three are required.
Rasmussen doesn’t say, but one wonders which sins must be abandoned? How would a person seeking salvation know what he or she had to give up in order to be saved? Should we carry around a list of the sins which must be forsaken? If so, where do we get this list? Does the Bible contain a list of sins that must be forsaken to gain the free gift of eternal life? Logically, if sins must be abandoned, then all sins must be abandoned. That would include both sins of commission—things we do which we are commanded not to do (such as lying, cheating, stealing, coveting, being jealous, having outbursts of anger, etc.) and sins of omission—things we fail to do but are commanded to do (such as praying without ceasing, giving, loving our neighbor as ourselves, owing no man anything, loving your wife as Christ loves the church, submitting to your husband, etc.).
There are many biblical difficulties inherent in the view that one must abandon his sins in order to gain eternal salvation—none of which is answered in the booklet. According to the Gospel of John, the only book in the Bible whose express purpose is evangelistic (John 20:31), the only condition of eternal life is believing in Jesus. Repentance isn’t mentioned even once.
Jesus didn’t tell the woman at the well in John 4:17-18ff that she needed to be sorry for her sins, or that she needed to resolve to give them up. Nor did John indicate that she was sorry, or that she determined to turn from her sins.
Likewise in Acts 15:7-11; 16:30-31 and Ephesians 2:8-9 there is no mention of remorse or turning from sins. Salvation is not of works, lest anyone should boast.
If even one passage in Scripture clearly shows that a person is saved by faith alone, apart from remorse or turning from sins (and many do), then we can be sure that faith is the only requirement, since Scripture is without error and doesn’t contradict itself.
This booklet contains three citations from seventeenth century Baptist creeds which adopt the view that to be saved one must have remorse for his sins and must either resolve to amend his life or else actually endeavor to do so. While this is interesting, I wonder what it proves. The issue, which surely Rasmussen would agree with, is what the Scriptures teach, not the Council of Trent, Vatican II, the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the Second London Confession of 1688 (one of the Baptist Creeds Rasmussen cites). Even if every Baptist who ever lived held Rasmussen’s view—and thank God they have not—if the Scriptures don’t teach that view, then it must be rejected.
Herein lies the major weakness of Rasmussen’s presentation: The author devotes only about one page (part of pp. 15 and 16) in an effort to show that his position is biblical. Interestingly, in none of the limited passages he cites is salvation even mentioned! The closest is Luke 13:3, which says, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” That text in no way proves Rasmussen’s view. In the first place, some commentators feel that Jesus was speaking of perishing physically. Jesus may well have been promising that, apart from national repentance, Israel would fall and be removed from the promised land and many Jews would die. (This is what happened in the Jewish Wars of A.D. 66-70.) In the second place, even if this is referring to individuals and eternal condemnation, one must still determine what Jesus meant here by “repent” (metanoeō). Rasmussen fails to show contextual evidence that it doesn’t mean “change of mind regarding Christ,” as Hutson and Hyles would presumably argue. In fact, he merely cites the verse and moves on, with not a word of comment about it.
Rasmussen would like for Sword of the Lord to adopt his view of the gospel. Fortunately, that isn’t likely to happen, since Sword of the Lord has long stood for the clear gospel, the free gift of eternal life received by faith alone in Christ alone.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society