A Review of Wayne Grudem’s “Free Grace Theology: 5 Way it Diminishes the Gospel”, Part 2
In Part 1 I considered the first two chapters of Dr. Wayne Grudem’s recent book in which he argues against Free Grace Theology (FGT).
I had intended to complete my review in this article. However, there is so much to say about his interpretations of the eleven tough texts of Chapter 5 that I will need to cover the final chapter separately.
Therefore, in this second article we will consider Chapters 3 and 4.
II. CHAPTER 3: FGT DIMINISHES THE GOSPEL BY GIVING ASSURANCE TO UNBELIEVERS
Grudem, like most Evangelicals, does not believe that it is healthy for people to be certain that they have everlasting life. Such certainty, in his view, leads to complacency and a dearth of good works. Worse yet, such certainty actually keeps people from being saved, as he argues in his first subheading of Chapter 3 (see below).
The subheadings which follow (for Chapters 3 and 4) are all Grudem’s subheadings. We will consider the issues as he lays them out, paying special attention to the Scriptural support he cites.
A. The Result of the Weakened Free Grace Gospel Is Many Unsaved People
That heading suggests Arminianism, not Calvinism. According to Calvinism all of the elect will ultimately be born again no matter what messages are preached in various churches. The number of people who will ultimately be saved never changes. But here Grudem says that “the weakened Free Grace gospel” results in “many unsaved people.”
Grudem first presents an argument from experience. He says that people who hold to FGT “wonder what is wrong with their Christian lives. Why do they not have the joy they see in Christians around them? Why does the Bible never seem to make much sense? Why is prayer not very meaningful?” (p. 78).
We are not told who he has in mind. Is he writing about some of the people he cites in the book like Jody Dillow, Charlie Bing, Fred Chay, Dave Anderson, and Zane Hodges? I know those people and I do not know any of them who wonder what is wrong with their Christian lives, why they have less joy than other believers, why the Bible doesn’t make sense, or why their prayers are not meaningful.
This is a straw man argument. Even if he had provided examples, that would prove nothing. I suppose if he could finance a random study of ten thousand Lordship Salvation folks and ten thousand Free Grace folks, then maybe he could draw some semi-scientific conclusions. But he did no study. He is just sharing his opinion. He could be right. But then again, he could be wrong. Maybe it is Lordship Salvation people who typically lack joy, significance, and a meaningful prayer life? Or maybe the vast majority of people in both groups do well on all counts. What would any of this prove? Nothing. The issue is not who is happiest and most self-confident, but what the Scriptures teach.
Grudem gives no Scripture under this heading, which is inexplicable.
B. New Testament Epistles Frequently Warn Churchgoers That Some of Them Might Not Be Saved
The reader expects a discussion of a few passages from the epistles where church people are warned they might not be saved. The author quotes from eight verses or short passages: Jas 2:14-17; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 2 Cor 13:5; Heb 3:12; 1 John 2:3-6; 1 John 3:6, 9-10, 14. Grudem does not explain any of these verses. He simply quotes them, assuming his proof texts need no explanation.
FGT feels the need to explain what texts mean. Grudem does not.
To avoid making this review into a book, I will not explain texts that he does not explain. But readers can go to our website at www.faithalone.org and find that in most cases we have multiple articles on these passages. We have commentaries on every book of the NT as well, and in some cases more than one commentary on a given epistle.
Not one of the texts Grudem cites “warns churchgoers that they might not be saved,” if by saved Grudem means regenerate, which he does. Surely he should have written at least a paragraph or two about each of the eight texts to point out where a warning concerning eternal destiny is found. He should also discuss the Free Grace view of each text, but he says in a footnote that he will do that in Chapter 5. The funny thing is that of the eight texts he cites, he only discusses two in Chapter 5 (2 Cor 13:5; Jas 2:14-17). That is disappointing.
C. The Free Grace View Says That People Can Become Complete Unbelievers and Still Be Saved
Grudem does not show in this section why it is wrong for FGT to suggest that believers are eternally secure even if they later apostatize. We freely admit we hold to that position. But why is that wrong?
Grudem does not discuss the verses which we cite which clearly teach that believers may apostatize. Why no discussion of Luke 8:13, the second soil which “believes for a time and in time of temptation falls away?” What about 1 Tim 1:18-20 and Hymenaeus and Alexander who “concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck?” What about 2 Tim 2:16-19 and Hymenaeus and Philetus “who have strayed concerning the truth…and they overthrow the faith of some?” We discuss all those texts and many more in our discussion of apostasy. But for some reason he doesn’t cite the texts we cite, or discuss them.
If Grudem is convinced that believers can’t stop believing, then why not discuss key texts which say that they can?
In this section Grudem keeps complaining that FGT does not ask people who profess faith in Christ to examine their works to see if they are born again. Yet those are people who profess faith, not people who do not, which is what this section of Chapter 3 is supposedly about.
D. Free Grace Teaching about Assurance Makes a Fundamental Category Mistake
Grudem, like other Lordship Salvationists, says “The question is not ‘How do I know that Christ has died for people’s sins and that he will save all who believe in Him?’” He goes on, “The question is, rather ‘How do I know that I have truly believed?’” (p. 85).
Grudem’s supposed proof is once again quoting texts without a word of explanation. This time he cites six passages, three of which he quoted earlier, and three new ones. Without explanation, his quotes certainly do nothing to prove his point to those who are not yet convinced of his position. Once again the passages he cites do not indicate that believers are being warned that they might end up in the lake of fire. Once again Grudem does not present or discuss Free Grace interpretations of these texts.
Grudem’s concern, which he brings to the Scriptures, and not which he finds in the Scriptures, deals with how one knows he has truly believed.
By putting the word truly before believe, Grudem changes “whoever believes in Him” in John 3:16 to “whoever truly believes in Him.”1 This allows Grudem to get in works, for saving faith involves works in his view.
Grudem fails to discuss the only place in the entire Bible where Jesus or any of the Apostles asked anyone if they believed in Him. That is John 11:26. After saying that He guarantees everlasting life to all who live and believe in Him, He asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” Grudem would answer the Lord’s question with three lines of evidence that he really believes this: 1) the confidence he gets when he examines his works; 2) the good feeling the Holy Spirit gives him; and 3) the intellectual confidence he finds in the promises of Scripture to the true believer. But Martha made the same category mistake that FGT makes. She said, “Yes, Lord. I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God who is to come into the world” (John 11:27).
No mention of works. No mention of feelings. Simply the mention of the OT Scriptures which say that the Christ, the Son of God, was prophesied to come into the world and the evidence shows that Jesus is He.
Maybe in another edition of this book Grudem will explain Martha’s response to the question, “Do you believe this?” and maybe he will explain the Lord’s failure to question Martha about her works.
In this section Grudem answers the question, “How many good works does one have to do in order to be assured of salvation?” His answer is “Some” (p. 92).
He continues, “To be more specific, some change of life gives a basis for some measure of assurance, and greater change of life gives a basis for a stronger assurance” (p. 92).
Herein lies the problem with Lordship Salvation. Assurance is never certainty. It fluctuates based on one’s works, one’s feelings about one’s works, one’s sins, one’s feelings about one’s sins, etc. But assurance is not certainty because if greater change of life means stronger assurance, then the only way to have certainty would be to have a total change of life, that is, glorification. Prior to death those following Grudem’s theology will never be sure of their eternal destiny.
E. The Historic Protestant View Does Not Say That Assurance of Salvation Is Impossible, But Just the Opposite
Grudem is aware, of course, that his linkage of assurance with imperfect works and fluctuating feelings leads to the impossibility of certainty. So now he has a section supposedly showing that Lordship Salvation teaches that certainty of one’s eternal salvation is possible.
He cites me as saying that under the Lordship Salvation view of saving faith “it is impossible to be sure of your eternal destiny…” and that “because no one’s life is perfect, certainty of one’s eternal destiny is impossible in this system” (p. 95).
He says that I misunderstand his position because in his view people can “have a confident assurance of their salvation in this lifetime” (p. 95). Confident assurance is not certainty. I spoke of certainty. He spoke of confidence. There is a huge difference between being confident and being certain.
However, Grudem then goes on and cites “the most influential Protestant tradition since the Reformation…the Westminster Confession of Faith” as saying that believers might attain “an infallible assurance” and might have “certainty” (p. 96).
Grudem misunderstands the Westminster Confession. When it speaks of “an infallible assurance” and “certainty,” it is talking about the promises in the Bible to the one who believes in Christ. Those promises are infallible and certain. Joel Beeke, a Reformed pastor and professor who wrote his doctoral dissertation at Westminster Seminary on Reformation and Post-Reformation theology, says:
The Puritan composers of the WCF were consistent in reminding believers that the objective promise embraced by faith (never apart from faith) is infallible because it is God’s all-comprehensive and faithful covenant promise. Consequently, subjective evidence must always be based upon the promise and be regarded as secondary, for such is often mixed with human convictions and feelings even when it gazes upon the work of God. In fact, all exercises of saving faith apprehend, to some degree, the primary ground of divine promise in Christ.2
Thus the Confession pointed to one objective and infallible basis of assurance, the Word of God, and two subjective and fallible bases of assurance, the inner witness of the Spirit and the works which the Spirit produces in and through us. But the Confession teaches that the objective promises alone will not produce assurance. One needs the promises plus the subjective bases of assurance.
Grudem does acknowledge that the WCF requires more than belief in the promises of God: “This assurance is based on several types of evidence as indicated by many New Testament passages” (p. 96). He indicated earlier in Chapter 3 that those evidences are “continuing in faith” (pp. 83-84)—that is, believing the objective promises of God, “seeing evidence in their good works” (p. 84), and “the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit” (p. 88).
Calvinist David Engelsma comments on the difference between the Puritan doctrine of assurance (found in the WCF) and that of the Reformers: “The Puritan doctrine of assurance was not that of the Reformers. This is freely admitted by Reformed theologians who defend the Puritan doctrine of assurance.”3 He went on to say,
For Calvin, all the Reformers, and the Reformation of the church in the sixteenth century, faith is assurance of salvation, faith essentially is assurance: “Faith is a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us” (italics his).4
Engelsma’s concluding comments about the Puritan view of assurance of salvation apply equally as well to Grudem’s view of assurance:
Puritan preaching…is forever questioning your assurance, forever challenging your right to assurance, forever sending you on a quest for assurance, and forever instilling doubt. The Spirit does not work assurance by means of a gospel of doubt.5
Beeke, while lauding the Spirit’s work in giving us as much assurance as possible, inadvertently confirms what Engelsma charges:
For the divines of the Westminster assembly, all three grounds of 18.2—faith in God’s promises, inward evidences of grace realized through syllogisms, and the witness of the Spirit—must be pursued to obtain as full a measure of assurance as possible by the grace of God. If any of these grounds are unduly emphasized at the expense of others, the whole teaching of assurance becomes imbalanced or even dangerous. No Puritan of the stature of Westminster’s assembly of divines would teach that assurance is obtainable by trusting in the promises alone, by inward evidences alone, or by the witness of the Holy Spirit alone (italics mine).6
Not once does Grudem cite Calvinists who criticize the Puritan position on assurance. In addition to Engelsma, men like Kendall,7 Zachman,8 and Eaton9 warn about the lack of certainty that prevails in Puritan theology.
Grudem is uncertain that he is born again because, by his own admission, his works and his feelings are subjective and fallible. Since he teaches that works plus feelings plus the promises of God are all needed to produce some measure of assurance, then the best he can have is what Beeke calls “as full a measure of assurance as possible.” His position on assurance is what Engelsma labels “a gospel of doubt.”
Chapter 3 is entitled “False Assurance.” While Grudem means that FGT offers false assurance, the truth is that the chapter title applies to his own position. Grudem, though well intentioned, promotes false assurance. That is, he promotes non-assurance. What Grudem calls assurance is really doubt.
III. CHAPTER 4: FGT DIMINISHES THE GOSPEL BY UNDEREMPHASIZING TRUST IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST
Faith in Christ, according to Grudem (and Lordship Salvation) is not believing in Him for the everlasting life He promises. Grudem calls that mere intellectual assent.
Grudem briefly discusses mere intellectual assent (one page), since in his view most in FGT do not hold to that position.
Most Free Grace people, according to Grudem, believe that faith in Christ is both intellectual assent and trust in Christ (as evidenced by the five pages he devotes to this view). However, in his view the FGT view of trust in Christ is not robust enough.
A. Some Free Grace Advocates Say That Faith Equals Mere Intellectual Assent
The only people Grudem cites here are Zane Hodges, whom he calls “the founding father of the modern Free Grace movement” (p. 100), and me. He cites Hodges as saying that “Faith…is an inward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true. That—and that alone—is saving faith” (p. 100).10 He cites me as saying, “Stripped of its pejorative connotation, ‘intellectual assent’ is a good definition of what faith is” (p. 100).11
Hodges explained why he said that, but Grudem did not think it was important to give Hodges’s evidence or interact with it. Hodges went on to quote and then discuss 1 John 5:9-13,12 a passage which proves that faith is being convinced that a testimony is true. Hodges wrote,
Since we often accept human testimony, how much more ought we to accept divine testimony? To do this is to possess that testimony inwardly—within ourselves. The opposite of this—unbelief—is to make God out to be a liar.13
Hodges ended his discussion of 1 John 5:9-13 by saying, “And when a person has God’s word for it, they have no need to seek assurance elsewhere.”14
It would be nice to see Grudem’s response. But Grudem did not cite or discuss the support Hodges gave.15
In regards to Grudem’s citation of me, it is odd that he picks an article in which I am summarizing, but not explaining or defending, FGT’s view of saving faith. Elsewhere he cites my book, The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible.16 I have an entire chapter in that book explaining and defending FGT’s view of saving faith.17 In an earlier book I have five chapters on saving faith.18 It is a shame that he did not state my defense of my position.
Faith is intellectual assent of a proposition. As we shall see, Grudem’s rejection of that view of faith is in reality an unintentional rejection of God’s Word.
B. Other Free Grace Advocates Say That Faith Includes Trust in the Person of Christ
The discussion in this section is a bit confusing. Grudem at one point quotes Hodges again regarding faith being the conviction that facts or propositions are true. Yet he also says that Hodges taught that faith is trust in the Person of Christ. So is he suggesting that Hodges belongs in both category one and two?
Grudem also wonders whether Anderson and Dillow hold to faith as believing the promise of everlasting life or faith as trust in the Person of Christ.
The idea that belief is always propositional rankles Grudem:
Many wonderful Free Grace Christians whom I know pray to Jesus; they don’t pray to propositions about Jesus. In church they worship Jesus; they don’t worship propositions about Jesus (p. 102, italics his).
One wonders if Grudem has read Gordon Clark’s famous book Faith and Saving Faith, in which he shows that all belief is propositional.19
Clark was a Calvinist, but he recognized that the postmodern idea of faith being some sort of vague existential encounter (or feeling) is irrational.
In a section entitled, “Person or Proposition?” Clark, speaking about the type of argument that Grudem makes, writes:
In spite of the popularity and supposedly superior spirituality of the contrast between a mere intellectual proposition and a warm, living person, it rests on a mistaken psychological analysis. Even Berkhof admits, with at least an appearance of inconsistency, that “As a psychological phenomenon, faith in the religious sense does not differ from faith in general…Christian faith in the most comprehensive sense is man’s persuasion of the truth of Scripture on the basis of the authority of God” (Berkhof, p. 501).
This is an excellent statement and should be defended against Berkhof’s previous contrary assertions.20
Has Grudem read John Robbins, another Calvinist who wrote a compelling article defending the idea that all faith is propositional?21 Robbins wrote:
Truth is propositional, and only propositional. To put it even more plainly, truth is a property, characteristic, or attribute only of propositions. This view is in stark contrast to views, both academic and popular, of truth as encounter, truth as event, truth as pictorial, truth as experiential, truth as emotive, truth as personal, truth as mystic absorption into or union with the divine.
This last view, that truth is personal, not propositional, has led theologians to substitute the nebulous concepts of “commitment,” “personal relationship,” and “union” for the clear and Biblical concept of belief, thus undermining the Gospel itself.22
It sounds like Robbins has been reading Grudem. But Robbins wrote that in 2005. He concluded:
According to Scripture, truth is always and only propositional. There is nothing in Scripture that states or implies that truth is encounter, event, picture, image, or emotion. Passages that seem to imply that something other than propositions is truth turn out to be figurative uses of the word truth. If the Gospel is to be preserved and propagated, it can be preserved only within the framework of literal, propositional truth, for salvation is, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).23
One would think that in a book that is responding to FGT the author would at least be aware of and cite key books and articles cited by FGT. Many FG authors, myself included, have cited Clark and Robbins.
Grudem mentions GES and me again at the end of this section. When he does, he demonstrates that he lacks awareness of the significant discussions that have occurred in FGT. He writes:
I should add, however, that the Grace Evangelical Society and the Free Grace Alliance differ somewhat on this point [faith as trust]. The Grace Evangelical Society, under the leadership of Robert Wilkin, repeatedly emphasizes only believing the facts of the gospel (believing that I am a sinner and that Christ died to pay for my sins), with little or no mention of the need to go beyond belief that those facts are true and put one’s trust in the person of Jesus Christ. By contrast, the materials promoted by the Free Grace Alliance do affirm in several places that our trust must be placed in the person of Christ, not merely in facts about him (p. 105).
In the first place, neither GES nor the FGA believe or teach that a person who believes he is a sinner and that Christ died to pay for his sins is born again.24 People who believe in works salvation believe those things and yet are unregenerate.
In the second place, some in the FGA have criticized Zane Hodges and GES for suggesting that the object of saving faith is not the cross or empty tomb, but the promise that the Lord Jesus makes that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life.25 Hodges taught and GES teaches that the cross and resurrection should lead people to believe the promise of life.26 But believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection is not equivalent to believing the promise of life. You can believe that Jesus died and rose again and also believe in salvation by works.
In the third place, some in the FGA do not believe that assurance is of the essence of saving faith.27 All in GES believe that in order to be born again one must believe the promise that the salvation/life/justification he receives by faith alone, apart from works, is secure forever and cannot be lost.28
C. Both Groups Deemphasize the Element of Heartfelt Trust in the Living Person of Christ
Adjectives are especially important in Grudem’s understanding of saving faith. Trust must be heartfelt. The object of that heartfelt trust must not merely be Christ or the Person of Christ, but the living Person of Christ.
This allows Grudem to make saving faith subjective and relative. What is “heartfelt trust in the living Person of Christ”? Grudem does not say, probably because he is convinced that “saving faith” is a mysterious existential encounter. For example, Grudem speaks of saving faith as
…coming into the presence of the person of Christ and trusting him. The more you talk about the need for trust in the person of Christ the more you have to talk about a personal encounter with Christ, about coming into his very presence, and that means realizing deeply that he is your God (p. 106, italics his).
The more we emphasize coming into the presence of Christ and trusting him, the more the idea of optional submission to his lordship becomes unthinkable. When we truly realize what it is to come into the majestic presence of the risen Christ, any thought of saying, ‘Jesus, I’ll trust you as my Savior today, and later I might decide to turn from sin and follow you,’ is as far from our mind as the uttermost part of the sea (p. 106).
Robbins could have been speaking about Grudem when he wrote,
[the] view that truth is personal, not propositional, has led theologians to substitute the nebulous concepts of “commitment,” “personal relationship,” and “union” for the clear and Biblical concept of belief, thus undermining the Gospel itself.29
Assurance of one’s eternal destiny is, of course, impossible if the issue is “a personal encounter,” “submission to his lordship,” and “turn[ing] from sin and follow[ing] [Christ].” Grudem touches on assurance at the end of this section:
On the other hand, if saving faith involves more than just intellectual agreement that some statements in the Bible are true—if it also includes trusting Christ as a living person—that is not quite so easy to determine. It opens the question of whether an individual has really trusted Christ or not. It makes the question of whether a person has genuine faith more complex (pp. 106-107).
Grudem’s Lordship Salvation views make assurance of one’s eternal destiny “more complex” and “not easy to determine.” However, Grudem is trying to put the best spin on his view as possible. In reality, his view makes assurance of one’s eternal destiny impossible, since it requires two subjective elements, feelings and works.
Hodges could have been responding to Grudem when back in 1990 he ended an article on assurance saying, “So after all, if I have God’s Word for something, what else do I need?”30
Grant Richison likewise says,
Faith always rests on certainty, not on a suggestion of probability. Otherwise, chance is final and probability is empty. The very idea of probability precludes certainty and places chance at the core of a system…God’s self-attesting Word transcends all probable approaches to truth.31
D. Saving Faith Requires Trust in the Person of Christ, and This Means That Mental Agreement with Facts about Christ Without Personal Trust in Christ Is Not Saving Faith
The fourth section in Chapter 4 is a restatement of the third section. I suppose what Grudem intends to do in this section is give proofs of what he already said in section three. His proofs fail to prove, however.
His first proof is that “saving faith is pictured as coming to Christ” (pp. 107-108). FGT heartily agrees. However, Grudem then says that “to ‘come to’ a person implies interpersonal interaction” (p. 107). Three times on one page he says that saving faith involves “personal interaction” (p. 108). He concludes his first proof by saying, “A personal encounter is in view” (p. 108).
Those are the words of postmodernity, not Biblical Christianity. Postmodernity reduces faith to personal encounters, feelings, and probabilities.32 The Bible indicates that faith is being convinced that what God has said is true.
R. C. Sproul is not a proponent of FGT. He even believes that a personal response of repentance and submission is necessary to be born again.33 Yet he very much rejects Grudem’s idea that saving faith is a non-propositional personal encounter with Jesus:
We live in an era that boasts of its vehement resistance to propositional truth. Truth is said to be a “relationship” or “personal encounter.” Existential philosophy has placed so much stress on the personal and relational character of faith that an allergy has developed against propositional or objective truth.34
To come to Jesus is to believe in Him. Period.
The second proof Grudem provides is that “saving faith is pictured as receiving Christ” (p. 108). He cites John 1:11-12. Grudem, without any Biblical support, says, “A personal encounter with Jesus Christ is in view” (p. 109). Yet those verses define receiving Jesus as “believing in His name.”
His third line of proof is that “saving faith is pictured as believing something in your heart” (p. 109). He cites Rom 10:9-10. Grudem then announces, “Paul does not say ‘believe in your mind’” (p. 109). But Grudem misunderstands Paul. In Rom 12:2 Paul spoke of being transformed, “by the renewing of your mind.” In 2 Cor 3:14 and 4:4 he speaks of Satan blinding the minds of people. The words heart and mind are often used interchangeably in the NT to refer to the place where belief occurs. Sorg writes, “A striking feature of the NT is the essential closeness of kardia [heart] to the concept nous, mind.”35
Grudem’s fourth line of proof is that “saving faith is portrayed as believing in a person” (p. 109). Grudem gives a highly misleading quotation from BDAG. That lexicon lists word meanings in order of usage. Thus the first meaning listed is the most prevalent in the NT. Grudem gives the second meaning first and implies that BDAG says that all uses of pisteuō in John fall under that meaning. But actually BDAG lists about an even number of uses in John under definition one and two. And their placement of specific verses is not gospel. It is one man’s evaluation. In fact, in the previous edition of BDAG, called BAGD, there is no reference to commitment or total commitment in the second meaning (p. 661). It was added to the later edition.
Worse still, Grudem fails to point out what all Bible scholars, including himself, know—that pisteuō eis (believe in) is used synonymously with pisteuō hoti (believe that) in the Fourth Gospel. This is clear in John 11:25-27 where the Lord refers to pisteuō eis twice and Martha responds with an affirmation using pisteuō hoti. Also it is found in the famous theme verse of John 20:30-31. To believe in Jesus is to believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God, that is, it is to believe that He guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it (John 11:25-26 as compared with John 11:27).
My Father used to promise he’d come to my football, basketball, and baseball games. At first I believed in him. That is, I believed that he would indeed come to my games. But after one failure to fulfill his promise after another, I no longer believed in him. That is, I no longer believed that he would keep his promises. The alcohol had too strong of a hold on his life. He came occasionally. But often he did not.
Believing in a person is believing that he will fulfill his promises. It is not a personal encounter. It is not submission, partial or total, to the person. Grudem reads his Lordship Salvation Theology into his understanding of Scripture.
E. Free Grace Misunderstandings of B. B. Warfield on the Need to Decide to Trust Christ Personally
This fifth and final proof is no proof at all. So what if some in FGT have misunderstood Warfield’s view on saving faith? Warfield, as great of a theologian as he was, did not write Scripture. His books are not inerrant. Whether Anderson and Dillow have rightly or wrongly understood Warfield is beside the point. The point is that in Scripture unbelief is willful, but belief is not willful. A person can choose to be closed to the proclamation of God’s Word (Acts 13:46; see also John 5:39-40). But a person cannot choose to believe that someone is telling the truth. Of course, for Grudem, faith is not believing, but it is a “personal encounter” as he repeats at the end of this chapter (p. 118, though no header or page number appears). Of course, how does one choose to have a personal encounter with the God of the universe? Grudem never says.
Wayne Grudem fails to show that FGT diminishes the gospel in Chapters 3-4. Indeed, he shows that his Lordship Salvation Theology is built on a house of sand.
I believe Grudem’s book will do much to move people to accept the Free Grace position.
1 The idea that there is a sort of faith in Christ which will not save is contrary to what the Lord promised. As long as we believe in Him for what He promised, everlasting life, we are secure (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35-47; 11:25-27). Speaking of really believing confuses people and strips them of assurance.
2 Joel Beeke, “Assurance of Faith: Promises, Inward Evidences, and the Spirit’s Witness,” available at file:///C:/Users/Bob/Downloads/Assurance%20of%20Faith%20-%20Dr.%20Joel%20R.%20Beeke.pdf, 7-8.
3 David Engelsma, The Gift of Assurance (South Holland, IL: The Evangelism Committee of the Protestant Reformed Church, 2009), 15.
4 Ibid., 16.
5 Ibid., 53.
6 Beeke, “Assurance of Faith,” 10.
7 R. T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1997).
8 Randall C. Zachman, The Assurance of Faith: Conscience in the Theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993).
9 Michael Eaton, No Condemnation: A Theology of Assurance of Salvation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995).
10 Citing Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1989), 31.
11 Citing Grace in Focus magazine (which Grudem wrongly identifies as “the Free Grace Journal,” evidently not realizing that we have both a magazine and a journal), Sept-Oct 2014, 27.
12 Hodges, Absolutely Free, 31-32.
13 Ibid., 32.
15 Hodges gave much more support for his claim in the six and one half pages that preceded that quote. Hodges quoted and discussed John 6:47; 20:30-31; Rev 22:17; Rom 10:14, 17. Yet Grudem does not tell us what he said about those passages and he does not respond to what he said.
16 Robert N. Wilkin, The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2012).
17 Ibid., 7-22.
18 Confident in Christ, 2nd ed. (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999, 2015), 17-56.
19 Gordon H. Clark, Faith and Saving Faith (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1983).
21 John Robbins, “The Biblical View of Truth,” The Trinity Review, Feb-Mar 2005, 1-8.
22 Ibid., 2.
23 Ibid., 8.
24 There are some FGA members who hold that, but they are in the minority. See, for example, J. B. Hixson, Rick Whitmire, and Roy Zuck, Editors, Freely by His Grace (Duluth, MN: Grace Gospel Press, 2012), 76, where George Meisinger, one of the contributors, writes, “Apparently Wilkin rejects the idea that believing Jesus died for one’s sins is a sufficient object for saving faith.”
25 Thomas L. Stegall was a member of the FGA when he wrote The Gospel of the Christ: A Biblical Response to the Crossless Gospel Regarding the Contents of Saving Faith (Milwaukee, WI: Grace Gospel Press, 2009). Fred Lybrand, one of the founders of the FGA and its first Executive Director, wrote a 37-page open letter while he was the President of the FGA. In that letter he criticized Hodges and GES over this issue. See freegracefreespeech.googlepages.com/GESGospel. LybrandOpenLetter.04-14-09.pdf (accessed 12/23/2016). For responses from GES see Don Reiher, “Zane Hodges and GES Did Not Change the Gospel,” JOTGES (Spring 2010): 31-58, and Robert N. Wilkin, “Another Look at the Deserted Island Illustration,” JOTGES (Spring 2013): 3-20.
26 See the articles by Reiher and Wilkin cited in the previous note.
27 See David R. Anderson, “Is Belief in Eternal Security Necessary for Justification?” Chafer Theological Seminary Journal (Spring 2008): 47-59. Anderson was the President of the FGA when this article was published.
28 Zane C. Hodges, “We Believe in Assurance,” JOTGES (Autumn 1990): 3-17. One section is entitled, “IV. Assurance Is an Inseparable Part of Saving Faith” (pp. 11-16). The same article appeared again in a memorial issue: JOTGES (Spring 2009): 13-30. Both are available online at www.faithalone.org s.v., Resources/Journal.
29 Robbins, “The Biblical View of Truth,” 2.
30 Hodges, “We Believe in Assurance,” 17.
31 Grant Richison, Certainty: A Place to Stand (Pickering, ON: Castle Quay Books, 2010), 259.
32 See the previous note.
33 Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 168-71.
34 Ibid., 77.
35 New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 2, s.v., “Heart,” 182. See also “Mind,” 616-20.