Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
What did Dallas Theological Seminary (hereafter, DTS) professors teach about eternal salvation (i.e., regeneration) to the general public? To answer that question, this article will survey books written by four DTS professors and published by mainstream presses between the years 1965 and 1990.The authors are John Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, and Zane Hodges. This article will ask the following four questions: according to the author, 1) What is the saving message? 2) What is the condition of salvation? 3) What is the definition of faith? And 4) Is Lordship Salvation correct?
II. JOHN WALVOORD
John Walvoord (1910-2002) was professor of systematic theology and a long-time president at DTS (1952-1986). During that period, he wrote several books, but I will mainly draw on three: The Revelation of Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ Our Lord; and What We Believe.
A. The Saving Message
What do you need to believe to be saved? Walvoord is not entirely clear on the content of the saving message. For one, a person must believe he is a sinner: “Before a person can intelligently believe in Christ, he has to be aware of the guilt of his sin.”1 He must also know that only the righteousness of God will save him: “What the sinner needs to learn is that nothing short of the righteousness of God will allow him to be saved.”2 And he must also know that while he is condemned for his sin, only one sin in particular prevents him from being saved:
An unsaved person needs to realize that while he is a sinner, as all men are sinners, this constitutes only a part of his condemnation before God. The one sin that prevents him from entering into grace and favor with God is the sin of unbelief. Accordingly, he must realize that salvation is by faith alone. He also needs instruction on the matter of righteousness.3
Moreover, he must know that both sin and Satan were judged on the cross, allowing for salvation by faith:
The three aspects of the Spirit’s convicting the unsaved are (1) that a person seeking salvation must understand the nature of sin in contrast to the righteousness of God, (2) that God provides a righteousness which is by faith and is not earned or deserved, (3) that God has judged sin in Christ on the cross, including the condemnation of Satan.4
The unsaved person may also have to believe in the deity of Christ: “Once a person is saved and has recognized the deity of Christ…”5
Taken together, Walvoord seems to have believed that you need to believe a great deal of information to be saved.
B. The Condition of Salvation
Walvoord says the condition of salvation is faith, not works. First, salvation is rooted in God’s grace, not our merit: “In every instance where grace is mentioned, it is entirely due to God’s favor, not human works.”6 Thanks to God’s grace, salvation is offered through faith, as per Acts 16:30.7 For example, Walvoord said that unbelief is the one thing that prevents a sinner “from entering into grace and favor with God,” hence, “he must realize that salvation is by faith alone.”8
In his explanation of the meaning of Christ’s death, Walvoord argued that, while Christ died for all, one must believe to receive the benefits of the cross: “The appeal is that God has already provided reconciliation for all, but it is effective only when received by the personal faith of the individual. The contrast is between provision and application. The provision is for all, the application is to those who believe.”9
Walvoord denied that salvation depended on doing works: “To make the continuance of our salvation depend upon works, however, is gross failure to comprehend that salvation is by grace alone.”10
In sum, Walvoord repeatedly taught that the condition of salvation is to believe, or to have faith, and denied it was by works. However, what does he think it means to believe?
C. The Nature of Faith
In Jesus Christ Our Lord, Walvoord defined faith this way: “In the nature of the case the issue of faith is to believe in the revelation given.”11 Walvoord explained that salvation was always by faith in the revelation given:
Faith as a condition of salvation is obviously faith in the promises of God insofar as they were revealed. For Adam and Eve this was faith in the promise that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent—would bring salvation to fallen man and defeat the tempter.12
In other words, faith seems to mean being persuaded that a revelation or promise is true.
However, just a few sentences later, Walvoord introduced the idea that genuine faith was manifested in works:
A believer who really trusted in Jehovah would, on the other hand, be sure to offer his sacrifices. The sacrifices, although not work which was acceptable as a ground of salvation before God, were nevertheless work which demonstrated faith. Faith in the Old Testament therefore took a definite outward form of manifestation.13
Was Walvoord making works part of his definition of saving faith?
Years later, in What We Believe, Walvoord distinguished between faith and saving faith:
It is rather obvious to any careful observer of the church today that there are many who have made some outward profession of faith in Christ who have never been born again and show no evidence that they are saved. How can one know whether he has put his faith in Christ or not? According to James 2:19, “Even the devils believe that—and shudder.” From these passages it is clear that there is saving faith and faith that does not save.14
Walvoord denied that simply believing the truth of the gospel is enough to be saved: “simply assenting to the fact of the gospel and believing mentally that Jesus died for the sins of the world does not result in salvation and is not really what can be called ‘saving faith.’”15 What else is required to have saving faith?
First, saving faith must be “an act of the whole person.”16 For Walvoord, believing with the mind is not enough—your whole person must be involved. He wrote that saving faith “may involve not only the mind but the feelings, or sensibility, and, most of all, it involves the will, for faith is actually a step authorized by our will.”17 Hence, he said, “faith is the sole requirement for salvation, but it is faith in which all the elements combine, that is, it is an act of human will and the human mind and the human capacity for emotion.”18 But even that is not quite enough.
Second, Walvoord further clarified that Biblical belief “is more accurately expressed as trust, or committing oneself to faith in Christ.”19 What is the difference between simply believing in Christ and committing oneself to faith in Christ? Walvoord appealed to an elevator to illustrate the difference. To get to the top floor, it is not enough to believe it can take you there—you must get in:
Faith would mean that he stepped in the elevator and put his weight into it and committed himself to its mechanical perfections. Likewise, there is more than mere assent in the matter of believing in Christ. Saving faith involves the work of the Spirit as well as the whole person—intellect, sensibility, and will.20
Getting into an elevator sounds like a work, doesn’t? In fact, according to Walvoord, saving faith is distinguished from false faith by the works it produces: “it is not faith plus works but faith that produces works that results in the salvation of an individual.”21 But if faith without works is not saving faith, then has Walvoord smuggled works into the condition of salvation by redefining faith to include them?
D. Lordship Salvation
Confusingly, despite saying that only faith that produces works results in salvation, Walvoord also formally denied that works were an additional requirement to faith for salvation:
In an effort to distinguish true faith from mere assent, some have found it necessary to add requirements to the single requirement of faith for salvation. In keeping with this goal, they have required a person who wants to be saved to accept the lordship of Christ and the promise to serve the Lord from then on. This has been made a prerequisite to faith. This view is contradicted in Scripture where works follow faith but do not precede it.22
However, while he faults Lordship Salvation for requiring works to precede faith, he obviously did not think it was wrong to require works to follow faith: “it is not faith plus works but faith that produces works that results in the salvation of an individual.”23 But what is the difference between “plus works” and “produces works”? Either way, works are required for salvation.
Although Walvoord faulted Lordship Salvation for requiring a person to “promise to serve the Lord,” he made “commitment” to the Lord a condition of salvation: “In other words, it is faith alone, but it is the kind of faith that saves. It is real faith and real commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior.”24 What, exactly, is the difference between a promise to serve and a “commitment to” the Lord?
Walvoord communicated a mixed message about the condition of salvation. Although he stated that salvation was by faith in Christ apart from works, he also taught faith must produce works and be a “real commitment” to Christ to be saving. It seems that Walvoord made works a condition of salvation just as surely as Lordship Salvation does.
III. J. DWIGHT PENTECOST
J. Dwight Pentecost (1915-2014) was distinguished professor of Bible exposition at DTS. He published several books during this period, but we will focus on two, namely, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine and Pattern for Maturity, which was republished as Designed to Be Like Him.
A. The Saving Message
What is the saving message according to Pentecost? I could not find a clear statement of what Pentecost considered to be the saving message. The following may be representative:
It is because your debt has been paid. It is because God’s wrath has been poured out upon Another and God’s judgment against your sins has already been executed in the Person of Jesus Christ. A divine transaction took place at Calvary, a transaction in which all of your debts were gathered together, and Jesus Christ paid them to the full. Jesus Christ offered to the Father complete satisfaction for your sins and mine.25
More generally, and more minimally, Pentecost presented the saving message as the call to believe in Jesus as your personal Savior: “The Word of God tells us that a man who does no more than believe that Jesus Christ is his personal Savior passes from death to life. Those are all the facts which are presented to you for your belief, that you might accept those facts and reckon upon them.”26
Interestingly, Pentecost thought that eternal security was central, not peripheral, to the kind of salvation Jesus promised:
As we consider with you the doctrine of security, we recognize immediately that our security is related to the kind of salvation which God has provided for sinners. Has God provided salvation, or has God provided a chance for salvation to those who accept Jesus as a personal Savior?27
For Pentecost, a salvation you can forfeit is not salvation, but a mere chance to be saved. Since Jesus promised eternal salvation, it makes a difference what kind of salvation you are believing in Jesus for.
Pentecost argued that eternal security is implied by God’s power and love, as well as the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Notably, he also thought it is implied by the promise of eternal life itself:
…the promise of God is a basis for our security. We go into a familiar passage such as John 3:16 where it is made so clear: “…God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Notice the two aspects of the promise: negatively, he shall not perish; positively, he shall have everlasting life!…When God offers a man life, God offers a man only one kind of life, and that is eternal life. Eternal life is the life of God, and as God’s life could never be terminated by death, so the life of God, given to the child of God, could never be terminated. We submit to you that the promise of God to give eternal life to the one who accepts Christ as his Saviour is a sufficient basis for our security.28
For Pentecost, the only salvation that Jesus promises is everlasting and irrevocable.
B. The Condition of Salvation
What is the condition to receive eternal salvation? Pentecost explained that the gospel “is characterized by its simplicity,”29 and is often misunderstood.30 The gospel is simple because we are saved through faith, entirely apart from works:
They had come to know Christ by faith; by faith and faith alone they had accepted the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. They were not saved by rationalization, by good works, by joining a church, by being baptized, or by following human philosophy. They were saved by the faith principle. They accepted God’s Word that He would save anyone who comes to Him by faith in Christ. And as a result they were born again.31
Furthermore, Pentecost stressed how faith alone makes assurance of salvation possible:
It is of faith, that it might be of grace, to the end that it might be sure. If God covenanted to do ninety-nine percent of the work of salvation if you did one percent, you would have no certainty that you had accomplished your part of the bargain so that God could do His ninety nine percent. You would live out your days in dread and fear because you would have no assurance that you had lived up to your part of the bargain. But, in order that salvation might be sure, God says it must be by grace. It is no wonder we delight to sing of the grace of God that brought salvation, for it is a gracious salvation that gives us certainty, security, and assurance.32
If salvation were anything less than eternal and by anything other than faith, you could not have assurance of salvation.
C. The Nature of Faith
Pentecost affirms that salvation is by faith, but what does it mean to believe? Pentecost says, “Faith is an attitude toward God in which we consider Him to be a faithful God who will perform what He has promised.”33 In other words, faith is persuasion that God will do what He promised. Pentecost’s view of the nature of faith is also implied in what he says about repentance:
There are a number of references we could cite to show that repentance is often used as a synonym for faith. In these passages you could eliminate the word “repentance” and substitute the word “faith” and it would not change the truth of the Word at all. The point to be observed is this: repentance is a change of mind toward the revealed truth of the Word of God. Previously a man disbelieved the revealed truth; and he has changed his mind and now accepts or believes the revealed truth, so that faith and repentance, on occasion, seem to be used interchangeably.34
Hence, for Pentecost, to believe something is to be persuaded that a fact is true. Elsewhere he says that “when one believes a fact, he turns from doubt or unbelief to faith in that revealed fact.”35
D. Lordship Salvation
While Pentecost does not address Lordship Salvation by name, he is very clear that we are saved by faith apart from any kind of work:
The Israelites didn’t have to work; they didn’t have to pray; they didn’t have to plead; they didn’t have to make a promise; they didn’t have to pay—they just had to look. And to look upon that serpent was to respond, in faith, to the message and the fact that Moses presented.36
Pentecost also warned that Satan confounds the gospel “by addition, not subtraction.” That is, Satan adds other conditions to salvation, besides simple faith in Christ:
That is why some will teach that salvation is by faith and good works; or, salvation is by faith and baptism; or, salvation is by faith plus church membership; or, salvation is by faith plus repentance. These are all attempts to darken the mind of the man who needs to be saved concerning the central issue and the basic plan of redemption.37
Moreover, Pentecost denied that salvation is by faith and repentance if repentance is defined as “sorrow for sin,” instead of as a “change of mind.” As I have already quoted Pentecost as saying, he believed that repentance could be used as a synonym for faith: “There are a number of references we could cite to show that repentance is often used as a synonym for faith. In these passages you could eliminate the word “repentance” and substitute the word “faith” and it would not change the truth of the Word at all.”38
But the main point is that salvation is by faith, apart from works, and even apart from repentance (if defined as sorrow for and turning from sins):
We want to consider now something of the relationship of repentance to salvation. It is here that the great doctrinal battle has been fought as to whether salvation is by faith alone, or whether salvation is by faith plus something. There are approximately 150 passages in the New Testament that tell us that salvation is by faith alone; that salvation is the gift of God to one who will accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior…Repentance is not a prerequisite to salvation; for if repentance is required, salvation is based, at least in part, upon works.39
In his books during this period, Pentecost was clear that salvation is by faith alone, apart from works, and that believers get an eternal salvation.
IV. CHARLES RYRIE
Charles Ryrie (1925-2016) was professor of systematic theology at DTS. He wrote several popular-level books between 1965 and 1990 that addressed the topic of salvation. In this section we will examine Balancing the Christian Life, A Survey of Bible Doctrine, Basic Theology, So Great Salvation, and The Ryrie Study Bible.
A. The Saving Message
What must you believe to be saved? On the one hand, Ryrie appeals to John 4:10 to illustrate the content of saving faith: “Know about the gift and the Person, then ask and receive eternal life.”40 Likewise, in his Study Bible comment on this passage, Ryrie says, “Salvation is a gift from Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Messiah. Notice that Christ asked the woman to receive Him and His gift without any prerequisite change in her life. After she believed, and because she believed, her way of living would be changed.”41 What is the object of saving faith? Jesus and His gift. However, Ryrie has also said that people “are saved through faith in the substitutionary death of Christ. And, of course, they must learn about the death of Christ somehow in order to have content to their faith.”42 And he explained that “Paul gives us the precise definition of the Gospel we preach today in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.”43 That is what we must believe today to be saved:
Paul wrote clearly that the Gospel that saves is believing that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. This is the complete Gospel, and if so, then it is also the true full Gospel and the true whole Gospel. Nothing else is needed for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.44
It is necessary to believe in Jesus’ substitutionary death and resurrection to be saved: “I do need to believe that He died for my sins and rose triumphant over sin and death.”45
If that is right, what about the woman at the well? Ryrie said she had saving faith, and yet she did not know or believe that Jesus died and rose again (since that had not yet happened). Does Ryrie believe the saving message changed? It appears so.
B. The Condition of Salvation
What is the condition of salvation, according to Ryrie? At times, he emphasized that faith was the sole condition of salvation: “More than 200 times in the New Testament, salvation is said to be conditioned solely on the basis of faith—faith that has as its object the Lord Jesus who died as our substitute for sin (Jn 3:16; Ac 16:31).”46 He said that a gospel that compromises faith alone is a false one:
The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is a false gospel and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel (Gal 1:6-9), and this is a very serious matter.47
He says that faith had no co-conditions for salvation: “Faith is the only condition. Anything added becomes a work attached to the grace of God. Faith is the condition, and it is faith in Him who alone can save.”48 However, elsewhere, Ryrie added both works and repentance as co conditions with faith for salvation. For example, he explained there is a “repentance that is unto eternal salvation,” the clearest example being Acts 2:38.49 At times, Ryrie took a modified change-of-mind view. For example, commenting on Acts 2:38, Ryrie could say, “Repent. To change one’s mind; specifically, here, about Jesus of Nazareth, and to acknowledge Him as Lord (= God) and Christ (= Messiah). Such repentance brings salvation.”50 Likewise, he said, “In both the Old and New Testaments repentance means ‘to change one’s mind.’”51 And again: “To repent is to change your mind.”52 Hence, repentance can be a synonym for faith: “if repentance means changing your mind about the particular sin of rejecting Christ, then that kind of repentance saves, and of course it is the same as faith in Christ.”53
But in other places, Ryrie says that salvific repentance also involves a change of behavior: “Biblical repentance also involves changing one’s mind in a way that affects some change in the person. Repentance is not merely an intellectual assent to something; it also includes a resultant change, usually actions.”54 Or he said, “Repentance means a genuine change of mind that affects the life in some way.”55 Or, in his comment on John 4:10, he noted that while the woman at the well did not have to change her life as a prerequisite to be saved, “After she believed, and because she believed, her way of living would be changed.”56
That creates a problem for Ryrie, and confusion for his readers, for if you must repent to be saved, and repentance involves a change of actions, then you must change your actions to be saved. But how is that compatible with Ryrie’s claim that salvation is by faith apart from works?
C. The Nature of Faith
Ryrie’s confusing stance on the role of works in salvation is further complicated by an illustration he often used to describe the condition of salvation, such as in his Survey of Bible Doctrine:
James 2:14-26 is saying that a nonworking faith is not the kind of faith that saves in the first place. What is said in that passage is like a two-coupon train or bus ticket. One coupon says, “Not good if detached,” and the other says, “Not good for passage.” Works are not good for passage, but faith detached from works is not saving faith!57
If the coupon to heaven requires both faith and works, then works are a condition of salvation. Ryrie also used the two-coupon ticket illustration in the Ryrie Study Bible, commentating on Jas 2:24: “Unproductive faith cannot save, because it is not genuine faith. Faith and works are like a two-coupon ticket to heaven. The coupon of works is not good for passage, and the coupon of faith is not valid if detached from works.”58 He used the illustration again in Basic Theology:
Unproductive faith is not genuine faith; therefore what we are in Christ will be seen in what we are before men. Faith and works are like a two-coupon ticket to heaven. The coupon of works is not good for passage, and the coupon of faith is not valid if detached from works.59
Hence, despite claims to the contrary, Ryrie taught that good works are necessary for salvation. One needs both faith and works to have a ticket to salvation. He emphasizes that in several books.
Ryrie’s belief that works are somehow necessary to salvation is further supported by his description of different kinds of faith (instead of different objects of faith), such as intellectual or historical faith,60 miracle faith, temporary faith,61 and saving faith.62 Ryrie further analyzed the nature of saving faith, saying it has different “facets”—intellectual, emotional, and volitional.63 He claimed that you must have all the facets to have genuine faith. Ryrie described this as believing with all your being: “While these three facets may be distinguished, they must be integrated when saving faith takes place. The person believes in Christ with all his being, not just his intellect or will.”64 But if willingness is part of genuine faith, how much is necessary? If emotion is a condition of having genuine faith, what kinds of emotions and how intense must they be for one to be saved? If producing works is a condition of having genuine faith, how many works must you do to have a “ticket” to heaven? The seriousness of these problems for Ryrie’s theology is shown in that he will raise the same objections against Lordship Salvation.
D. Lordship Salvation
Despite making works a co-condition with faith for salvation, Ryrie denied that making a commitment to Christ was a condition for salvation: “Simply stated the question is this: Must there be a commitment to Christ as Lord of one’s life in order to be saved?”65 According to some theologians: “one must believe and give Christ control of his life in order to be saved. Sometimes it is said only that there must be a willingness to surrender even if the surrender of life does not occur.”66 However, Ryrie replies, “But, if willingness is required at the moment of believing in order to be saved, how much willingness is necessary?”67 Ryrie warned against the confusion that Lordship Salvation will cause: “Confusion enters when we attempt to take the conditions for spiritual growth and make them conditions for becoming a disciple, or when we make the characteristics of the life of discipleship conditions for entering the life of a disciple.”68 And elsewhere, he said, “To make these conditions for the life of service requirements for acquiring the life is to confuse the gospel utterly by muddying the clear waters of the grace of God with the works of man.”69
However, these criticisms are ironic because in his explanation of faith Ryrie did exactly what he criticized. He made works and willingness aspects of saving faith and so also part of the condition of salvation, too, raising many of the same problems he sees in Lordship Salvation.
Although there are passages in Ryrie’s books that teach salvation by faith apart from works, there are other passages, such as his two-coupon ticket illustration, or his claim that saving faith must be “productive,” that make works a co-condition with faith for salvation. What did he really believe? During this time period, Ryrie sent a mixed message at best, and a salvation-by-works message at worst.
V. ZANE HODGES
Zane Hodges (1932-2008) taught NT Greek and exegesis at DTS (1959-1986). During the period we are studying, he wrote two books published by major publishers, The Hungry Inherit: Refreshing Insights on Salvation, Discipleship, and Rewards70 and Absolutely Free: A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation.71
A. The Saving Message
In The Hungry Inherit, Hodges focused on the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well as recorded in John 4, and summarized what the woman came to believe to be saved:
Ignorant she had come, enlightened she had left. Empty she had arrived, full she had departed. The gift of God? She knew it now—eternal life inexhaustibly welling up within the heart! “Who is it that saith to thee, ‘Give me to drink’”? She knew Him now—the Christ, the Saviour of the world!
She knew these two things. They were all she needed to know, deftly led to them by the will of the Saviour. Then a transaction had occurred. Without a word, without a prayer, her heart had asked and He had given them.72
Hodges said the woman knew two things and that was all she needed to know to be saved (i.e., that Jesus is the Savior and that Jesus offers her eternal life). Elsewhere, Hodges explained that “Not all facts about God are saving facts.”73 Why not? Because you can believe a great deal about Jesus while being ignorant of, or even rejecting, His promise of eternal life: “Naturally, there are many people in the modern world who would claim to believe that Jesus is God’s Son…But if they were asked whether Jesus guarantees resurrection and eternal life to people on the simple basis of faith, their reply might be negative.”74
For Hodges, to believe in Jesus for salvation is to believe certain facts about Him, such as the truth of His promise of salvation:
But to believe that Jesus is the Christ—in John’s sense of that term—is to believe saving truth. It is, in fact, to believe the very truth that Martha of Bethany believed. To put it as simply as possible, Jesus was asking Martha whether she believed that He fully guaranteed the eternal destiny of every believer. That was the same as asking if this great truth applied to her as well! And Martha affirmed that it did by affirming her conviction about who He was.75
According to Zane Hodges, the saving message is that Jesus guarantees the eternal destiny of the believer.
B. The Condition of Salvation
Hodges made clear that the one condition for salvation is belief. “The truth that Jesus is the Christ—the truth that He is the Giver of eternal life to every believer—is saving truth. Belief in this truth produces an immediate—and permanent—new birth.”76 Specifically, the condition of salvation is a single moment of belief. You are given eternal life the moment you believe in Jesus for it: “there is no such thing as believing the saving message without possessing eternal life at the same time.”77 Continuous faith in Jesus is not necessary: “a single moment of simple, childlike trust was all that God required.”78
Moreover, Hodges rejected salvation by works, saying works “have nothing to do with the bestowal of God’s gift, but they have everything to do with the life which should follow.”79
C. The Nature of Faith
Given that salvation is by a single moment of faith, what does it mean to believe? Hodges recognized there was a temptation to redefine faith to make salvation harder than it is:
But the superb simplicity of all this is lost on many modern evangelicals. Indeed, they are frightened by it, and they are tempted to evade it by invoking some special definition of saving faith. In the process, they cloud beyond hope the biblical doctrine of faith and distort in a tragic way the biblical message of grace.80
In Absolutely Free, Hodges clarified what it means to believe. He rejected the idea that we have seen in other DTS professors, namely, that faith is a combination of intellect, emotion, and will: “It is an unproductive waste of time to employ the popular categories—intellect, emotion, or will—as a way of analyzing the mechanics of faith.”81 He also rejected the idea that saving faith is distinguishable by its fruits,82 or that there are different categories of faith: “The Bible knows nothing about an intellectual faith as over against some other kind of faith (like emotional or volitional). What the Bible does recognize is the obvious distinction between faith and unbelief!”83 Simply put, according to Hodges, the Bible teaches that faith is persuasion that something is true: “What faith really is, in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true. That—and that alone—is saving faith.”84 Hence, when Martha believed Jesus’ promise (John 11:25-27), what mattered was the truth of His promise, not the way in which Martha believed it: “Everything depended on the truth of what she believed. It was not at all a question of what kind of faith she had. She either believed this or she didn’t. It was as simple as that.”85
D. Lordship Salvation
As indicated by the subtitle, Hodges’s Absolutely Free was explicitly written against Lordship Salvation which he condemned in the strongest terms:
This is the view that a commitment to obedience must be a part of true spiritual conversion. But beneath the surface lie all the hideous fruits of this disastrous way of thinking.
Eternity alone will reveal how many thousands of people have been deprived of their assurance by this teaching and have been brought into the bondage of fear in their relationship to God.
Instead of promoting holiness, the doctrine of lordship salvation destroys the very foundation on which true holiness must be built. By returning to the principle of the law, it has forfeited the spiritual power of grace.86
Hodges was consistent in rejecting works as an explicit or implicit condition of salvation.
Readers of Zane Hodges’s book would have learned that the only condition to have eternal life is to believe in Jesus for it. And he clearly warned against redefining faith to include doing good works.
What must I do to be saved? Between the years 1965-1990, readers of books published by these four DTS professors would have understood that the formal answer is that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, apart from works. However, thereafter the details became fuzzy.
For example, the saving message itself was not entirely clear. The authors either disagreed over, or did not explicitly state, the content of saving faith. However, broadly speaking, with the exception of Zane Hodges, most authors indicated that the object of faith included the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross and resurrection from the dead, with, perhaps, a sense of one’s own condemnation for sin. They implied that the content of the saving message changed over time, as more revelation was given, and especially after Jesus’ resurrection. By contrast, Hodges indicated the saving message was that Jesus guarantees the eternal life of believers.
A further area of disagreement is on the role of works in salvation. Although all authors formally accepted87 salvation by faith apart from works, only Dwight Pentecost and Zane Hodges unambiguously held to that position. By contrast, while both John Walvoord and Charles Ryrie warned against making works a condition of salvation, they also made statements making works a condition of salvation.
What did DTS professors teach the public about salvation? Sadly, rather than a clear and consistent theology of salvation by faith apart from works, readers of popular DTS literature between 1965-1990 received a mixed message.
1 John F. Walvoord, What We Believe: Discovering the Truths of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1990), 86.
5 Ibid., 90.
6 Ibid., 85.
7 Ibid., 83.
8 Ibid., 86.
9 John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1969), 182.
10 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1966), 82.
11 Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord, 58.
12 Ibid., 59.
13 Ibid., emphasis added.
14 Walvoord, What We Believe, 85.
15 Ibid., 87.
16 Ibid., 88.
17 Ibid., 87.
18 Ibid., 90.
19 Ibid., 87.
21 Ibid., 88, emphasis added.
22 Ibid., 89, emphasis added.
23 Ibid., 88.
24 Ibid., 90.
25 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine: Doctrinal Studies of Fourteen Crucial Words of Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1965), 39.
26 Ibid., 34.
27 Ibid., 123-24.
28 Ibid., 127.
29 Ibid., 61.
31 J. Dwight Pentecost, Designed to Be Like Him: New Testament Insights for Becoming Christlike (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1994), 244-45. Previously published within our timeframe as Pattern for Maturity (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1966).
32 Pentecost, Things Which Become, 27, emphasis added. Pentecost does not say that assurance of one’s own eternally secure salvation is of the essence of saving faith.
33 Pentecost, Designed, 244.
34 Pentecost, Things Which Become, 63.
35 Ibid., 71.
36 Ibid., 38.
37 Ibid., 61.
39 Ibid., 70.
40 Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor Books, 1982), 327.
41 Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1976, 1978), 1606.
42 Ryrie, Basic Theology, 314.
43 Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation: What It Means to Believe in Jesus Christ (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989), 39.
44 Ibid., 40.
46 Charles C. Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1972), 134.
47 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1969), 170.
48 Ryrie, Survey, 139.
50 Ryrie Study Bible, 210, emphasis added.
51 Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 92.
52 Ryrie, Survey, 139.
54 Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 92, emphasis added.
55 Ryrie, Basic Theology, 337.
56 Ryrie, Study Bible, 1606, emphasis added.
57 Ryrie, Survey, 133-34; cf. the Ryrie Study Bible comments on James 2:24: “Unproductive faith cannot save, because it is not genuine faith.”
58 Ryrie Study Bible, 1860.
59 Ryrie, Basic Theology, 300.
60 Ibid., 326-27.
61 Ryrie quotes Luke 8:13 as an example of “temporary faith.” Since that is contrasted with “saving faith,” he implies that “temporary faith” does not save. He says that temporary faith is distinguished from “intellectual faith” because “there seems to be more personal interest involved” (Basic Theology, 327). What does that mean? How do you know if you have the right amount of interest?
62 Ryrie, Basic Theology, 326-327.
63 Ibid., 327. The emotional aspect is especially problematic. Ryrie says: “The truth and the person of Christ are now seen in an interested and absorbing way.” If saving faith requires this kind of emotional commitment, how absorbed must you be? Compared to what? The volitional facet is equally problematic. Ryrie says, “Now the individual appropriates personally the truth and the Person and places his reliance on Him.” Again, what does that mean? How do you “appropriate” a Person?
64 Since belief must have some content which is believed, it is difficult to know in what sense you could believe only with the will. See Ryrie, Basic Theology, 327. This mistakenly puts the saving power in the kind of faith you have, instead of in the Savior Himself.
65 Ryrie, Balancing, 169; Ryrie, Survey, 134.
66 Ryrie, Survey, 134-35.
67 Ibid. This is deeply ironic since, as we saw in the previous section, Ryrie himself made willingness a facet of saving faith and said one must believe and have good works to have the right “coupon” to salvation.
68 Ibid., 136.
70 Zane Clark Hodges, The Hungry Inherit: Refreshing Insights on Salvation, Discipleship, and Rewards (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1972), 18-19, emphasis added. It was later republished as The Hungry Inherit: Whetting Your Appetite for God (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1980).
71 Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1989).
72 Hodges, The Hungry Inherit, 18-19, emphasis added.
73 Hodges, Absolutely Free!, 39.
76 Ibid., 42.
78 Ibid., 98.
79 Hodges, The Hungry Inherit, 32.
80 Hodges, Absolutely Free, 43.
81 Ibid., 31.
82 Ibid., 27.
83 Ibid., 30.
84 Ibid., 31.
85 Ibid., 39.
86 Ibid., 18.
87 The original print run for this issue mistakenly read, “all authors formally rejected…”