Theology Thursday – Faith Alone?

The Grace Evangelical Society (“GES”) explains the organization “was founded in 1986 to promote the life-giving truth that God offers man the free gift of everlasting life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, apart from works done before or after the new birth (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:26).”

The organization is often associated with the late Zane Hodges, a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who co-authored an edition of the Majority Text with Art Farstad in the early 1980s. Hodges infamously published a book entitled Absolutely Free! in 1989, which helped spark the “Lordship” controversey with John MacArthur. 

In this excerpt from GES’ website, we see the organization’s position on salvation. The most significant thing to note is that it does not believe repentance is part of the Gospel at all:

Salvation

The sole condition for receiving everlasting life is faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died a substitutionary death on the cross for man’s sin and rose bodily from the dead (John 3:16-18; 6:47; Acts 16:31).

Faith is the conviction that something is true. To believe in Jesus (“he who believes in Me has everlasting life”) is to be convinced that He guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it (John 4:14; 5:24; 6:47; 11:26; 1 Tim 1:16).

No act of obedience, preceding or following faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, such as commitment to obey, sorrow for sin, turning from one’s sin, baptism or submission to the Lordship of Christ, may be added to, or considered part of, faith as a condition for receiving everlasting life (Rom 4:5; Gal 2:16; Titus 3:5). This saving transaction between God and the sinner is simply the giving and receiving of a free gift (Eph 2:8-9; John 4:10 ; Rev 22:17).

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Ed Vasicek's picture

It is a shame that the Grace Evangelical Society does not embrace the idea of repentance as part of salvation, although in the above the word is not used (but the phrase "turning from one’s sin" summarizes what I think of when I think of repentance, a return to God and not merely a change of mind).

There are some who define repentance only as "changing my mind about not believing in Christ," and thus retain the word while stripping it of much of its meaning.

These groups often struggle with repentance (turning, or better yet, wanting God to help me turn, from sin), viewing it as a work or a promise of works.  I think they fail to understand that God brings the sinner to the point of repentance.

I have always found John 3:16-21 most fascinating. Early, you have salvation though belief in Jesus Christ, but then the idea that only the repentant will come to the light of Jesus Christ.  Interested in what comments others might have on this portion as it relates to the discussion above.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

I like Chafer a lot. His soteriology was a very critical part of my own theological formation. But, I see Chafer as the unwitting fountainhead of what ended up as Zane Hodges' soteriology. Chafer didn't make repentance a part of the Gospel; instead, he considered repentance to be an inseparable, integral part of saving faith. I never understood why he didn't separate the two, but Chafer clearly believed in repentance. He was emphatic about it. He just didn't break it out from faith.

Hodges is the logical end-result of this. I haven't read Ryrie, who is often billed as a via media between Hodges and MacArthur.

I have a Reformed soteriology, and believe repentance is a fruit of regeneration. The 1833 NHCF has a beautiful description of this position (Article 7):

We believe that in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance and faith and newness of life.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Paul Henebury's picture

Many in the GES hold to a view of saving faith as assent to the propositions of the Gospel.  They would fight shy of seeing it as full trust which would issue in repentance.  I hung around these guys for a while (Bob Wilken even suggested I write for their Journal).  I knew Zane Hodges and Wilken.  They were godly men.  However, I could not sign up to their view of repentance.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Bruce Rettig's picture

A repentance-free view of conversion reveals that repentance, while right, isn't ever necessary. Also from their website:

Therefore, obedience to the Word of God, while not necessary for obtaining everlasting life, is the essential responsibility of each Christian (Rom 6:12-23; Heb 5:13-14; 1 Cor 2:14–3:4). However, the Bible does not teach that this obedience will be manifested in all believers. 

A commitment to obedience, requires a life of repentance that has begun at the new birth (Mt. 7:21, 1 John 1:8-9, Mk. 1:15).

 

Bruce

O taste and see that the Lord is good:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in him. 

Psalm 34:8

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