“The Lordship-Grace Salvation Controversy,” in The Front Lines Theology Series, No. 1 Edited by Conrad Koch. Bloomington, IN: Integrated Resources, n.d. audio tapes. $22.00.
This resource/study packet is designed for the staff and friends of the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ to help them understand the issues behind the Lordship controversy. The packet contains two audio tapes (one hour each) with an expanded outline for taking notes. The tapes are taken from a 1986 seminar given to Campus Crusade staff by Dr. Walter Russell, Professor of Biblical Studies at Talbot School of Theology.
Also part of the packet are various articles or book excerpts from proponents on both sides of the debate. This includes John Stott, Everett Harrison, Will Metzger, Darrell Bock, Millard Erickson, James Montgomery Boice, Roy Zuck, John F. MacArthur, Conrad Koch, and J. G. Machen.
The first tape overviews the issues and positions, but the majority of the tape is an explanation of the Lordship position. The Lordship view is defined with four qualifications to faith: (1) the need to confess Christ as Lord; (2) the need for repentance (defined as turning from sin or the willingness to do so); (3) the need for obedience to Christ; and (4) the inclusion of discipleship as essential to salvation.
The Free Grace position is supported by two main points: (1) the overwhelming percentage of verses in the NT that mention faith alone as the sole condition for eternal life, and (2) the NT concept of grace (as apart from works of any kind).
The second tape attempts to show how Free Grace adherents explain the passages cited in favor of the Lordship position. Romans 10:9-10 is interpreted as confessing Jesus as Deity (i.e., Lord equals Yahweh or Jehovah) and Mediator of the gift of eternal life. Repentance is defined primarily as a change of mind about Christ rather than a change of life for salvation. Russell also notes that Lordship theologians are guilty of what James Barr calls the “illegitimate totality transfer” when they assume that the word repentance is a technical term for turning from sin.
The discipleship passages are considered to be designed for sanctification, not salvation. Most of Jesus’ challenges to discipleship came three years or more into the Savior’s earthly ministry. Yet, according to Russell, Lordship teachers accuse the Free Grace position of deceit by failing to demand a discipleship commitment in the Gospel.
Although there are a few comments that desire to show a centrist perspective, the tapes mildly promote a Free Grace position. Russell even states that emphasizing the demands of discipleship may ultimately be counterproductive and harmful to growth in grace and sanctification.
While some of the taped lecture is now slightly outdated, the bibliography cites several more recent Free Grace books, including those by Zane Hodges.
John F. Hart
Professor of Bible
Moody Bible Institute