As promised, here is installment number one of the transcription of the first of my workshops I gave at the 2009 GES National Conference. There has been some minor editing and formatting. I haven’t been able to locate the outline I gave out for this session. If any of you still have the outline, would you be so kind as to scan it and send it to me?The Content of Saving Faith and the Current Controversy in Free Grace Theology
As I was mentioning, there are controversies in Free Grace Theology. Unless you were just introduced to Free Grace theology, you probably are aware of some of the controversies, such as:
B) Assurance, is it of the essence of saving faith?
C) Issues surrounding the ‘Outer Darkness,’ (is this material talking about unfaithful believers or those who are lost)
D) Can believers apostasize?
E) Theory of atonement. Zane Hodges put out an article entitled something like, “Propitiation: Does it Only Work if you Believe.” It is a discussion of an actual versus a potential propitiation.
Today we’re going to be talking about the content of saving faith. And in the process of me talking about this today, I’m going to be splitting it up into two camps.
I want to say at the outset that I have no ill-will towards anyone of an opposing view. I happen to love the people on the other side, I wish them well, and desire to have greater communication with them; but I have fundamental differences with them (as they do with me); and though I can and would fellowship with them, many, if not most do not feel they can fellowship with me, and I do believe that this is a problem.
In the course of this study we are going to talk about two kinds of Free Grace theology. One I call “Consistent Free Grace Theology” and that is the one I believe is espoused by the Grace Evangelical Society, and the other I would term “Traditional” or “Fundamentalist Free Grace Theology” (held by the governing and founding members of the Free Grace Alliance, Dr. Radmacher excepted).
With that, lets begin.I. Talking about saving faith
(here is a brief description of my understanding of what faith is):
A) Faith is a persuasion/conviction that something is true, nothing more nothing less. I think that most of us here are going to agree that faith is persuasion. When I am persuaded that something is true, as a passive result I believe in that. It is no different than mundane, everyday faith. If I say that I believe that my son is going to get an ‘A’ on a report, it is no different than the type of faith that saving faith is.
B) Faith precludes doubt. If someone has doubts in a proposition, he cannot be said to be having faith at that same time. Conversely, if he has faith in something, he does not have any doubts whatsoever in that issue.
C) There can be degrees of doubt but not degrees of faith. One can be strongly disposed toward a proposition, or be leaning towards it. But if a person is not convinced that something is true, this person does not believe it.
We are going to talk about salvation by faith alone. Most people in Free Grace theology believe that salvation is by faith alone.A. Fundamentalist Free Grace Theology
(The theology espoused by the Free Grace Alliance)1. Their understanding of saving faith is complex, it is a compound procedure, having multiple objects of faith.
They are not talking simply believing in Jesus, relying or trusting in Him. They are requiring that a man jump through consecutive hoops in order to get to the purpose of the faith, and that is receiving everlasting life.
So there are a series of hoops, in essence, that you have to jump through in order to get there. There are some 4, 5, or 6 propositions or more that need to be believed in order for salvation. We need to note here that where they get these propositions from, where they get these hoops from, where they get these steps of believing, that you have to believe this, and then this, and then this, and then this, and at the end there, after you have been able to believe all of that, you can now believe in Jesus for everlasting life; where they get that from is from a synthesis of aribtrary passage selection.
A person that I know who has written a book recently (from a fundamentalist FG persuasion) has stated that he got his position on saving faith through bible synthesis; but the thing that we need to know is, is that this person nor any other person who has a checklist for salvation has apprised us of the objective hermeneutical process by which they regard one truth essential to be believed for eternal life and another to be non-essential.
And that is an important thing, because when you think about it, one person’s subjective criterion for finding what truth must be believed for eternal life is going to be different than somebody elses. They are going to be reading the bible differently than me, and when we find it through a synthesis we are going to find that we are going to get into some problems, which I will be talking about later.2. Fundamentalist Free Grace theology’s understanding of the content of saving faith creates a slippery slope.
A ‘slippery slope’ fallacy consists of minor actions that can cause a significant impact through a long chain of logical relationships. How much does one need to understand about each component in the content of saving faith checklists provided by traditionalist Free Grace theology? For instance, one of the components of Fundamentalist Free Grace is that you have to believe in the deity of Christ. How much must I believe about the deity of Christ? (One Traditional Free Grace theologian says that I need to believe that “Jesus is God, equal to the Father.” Another one says that I need to believe that “Jesus is merely in some sense transcendent, in some sense something more than a mere human.” Now which one is right? They both can’t be presenting the same gospel if one requires this content here, and one requires another content there. They cannot be.)
Each component in the fundamentalist’s checklist for the content of saving faith has many descending levels of meaning. For instance, if we are talking about that “you must believe in the ‘substitionary atonement,’” well, what do I need to believe about the substitionary atonement? And which position on it do I need to believe in? And once you figure that out, there are descending levels of meaning about ‘propitiation’ and ‘atonement’ and stuff like that. How much do I need to know?
And then, who is the arbiter of this? In each one of the components in the traditionalist’s checklists, an evangelist is coming out and giving you a certain level that you must understand, each one saying something different; but he then becomes the arbiter, he then becomes the authority, and we don’t have a pronouncement of the Lord Jesus. We have a pronouncement on the authority of the evangelist himself.
And here I will stop today.
The main point of this section deals with the fact that the theology of the Free Grace Alliance necessitates a multiple object list as the content of saving faith. Accordingly, Jesus Christ cannot simply be trusted in for eternal life. The respondents need to first be pre-qualified by, in essence, confessing a creed of the evangelists subjective choosing.
Furthermore, each credal point has many levels of meaning that will require some form of astute theological awareness. How much awareness, too, is based upon the subjective hermeneutical criterion and ultimately the authority of the evangelist himself, and not the Lord Jesus Christ.