The Gospel Solution: Was Jesus Looking for “a Few Good Men”? By Tom Weaver with John Souter. Bremerton, WA: True Light Press, 1999. 291 pp. Paper, $15.95.
According to the back cover, this book “develops a comprehensive approach to understand the Gospels. This is more than a book on the ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus. Author Tom Weaver shows how Christians have often misunderstood the words of the Lord.”
One gets the impression from the title and subtitle, however, that Weaver is going to discuss what one must do be saved and the relationship between salvation and discipleship.
In reality, the author’s point is hard to follow. He speaks of something he calls Transitionalism. Evidently this is some modification of Dispensationalism. He suggests that Jesus was not teaching principles that are applicable to the church-age believer (contra 2 Tim 3:16-17). Instead, He was “clarifying the old covenant and its implications in order to reveal the futility of trying to keep the law” (p. 30).
Weaver sees this taught, for example, in Luke 15 and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In contrast to Zane Hodges, who has written an article for Grace in Focus on that parable, he suggests the Prodigal does not illustrate a believer who needs to repent and get right with God, but an unbeliever who needs to recognize his sinfulness and inability to merit salvation (pp. 141-61). Unfortunately, this completely misunderstands the point of the parable, and eliminates its intended applications to the believer today. That is the difficulty with the entire book.
The selection of material to be included in the book is a bit confusing as well. Why is there a chapter, for instance, on church discipline (chapter 10), or on Jesus’ teachings on divorce (chapter 13)?
I have been contacted by a number of people asking if this book gives a good defense of the Free Grace position.
While Weaver does appear to be Free Grace, his main focus in this book is not what one must do to be saved. His emphasis is more in the area of pre-evangelism, showing our spiritual bankruptcy.
There are, however, some references to what we must do to have eternal salvation. Here is one statement on why he knows he is going to heaven: “Not because I’m good…I still fall short of God’s standard of perfection. I’m going to heaven because I am depending upon what the Lord did on Calvary’s cross. Jesus accepts losers like me. Me and Zaccheus…Salvation has come to my house too, because I’ve turned, in faith, from the old life to trust in the Lord’s power to save me” (p. 56). While JOTGES readers might wonder at the wisdom of speaking of “turn[ing]…from the old life” as a stated reason for why Weaver knows he’s going to heaven, he doesn’t seem to be referring to turning from his old sinful ways. Rather, he appears to mean that he ceased to rely upon his own works.
At one point Weaver unfortunately suggests that in at least seven places “Mark hooks together…separate incidents for his editorial purposes” (p. 228, see esp. note 141). In other words, though he doesn’t seem to realize it, he accepts as true the dubious conclusion of some Evangelical NT scholars that the Synoptic authors created sermons that never really occurred. For example, he suggests that Mark 4:1-20 was not really spoken on one occasion, but was a group of sayings that the Lord gave on many different occasions. Yet there is an introductory formula in Mark 4:2, indicating that all that follows was indeed presented on one occasion. And there are concluding remarks in verses 33-35 which clearly confirm that understanding. Mark 4:1-33 is indeed one sermon given on one day. It is not something that Mark put together! (For more discussion of this issue see Thomas and Farnell’s, The Jesus Crisis: The Inroads of Historical Criticism into Evangelical Scholarship.)
If you are looking for a book on the gospel debate, you will need to look elsewhere. If you are looking for one on Dispensationalism, this book might be of some interest since it is somewhat helpful to see how the author struggles to develop his own unique brand of it.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society