Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When Simple Faith is Not Enough...

If someone believes Jesus in His promise based upon what little they may know about Him, are the headed for hell unless they furthermore assent to ontological details about His person? Is someone who entrusts his or her eternal destiny into Jesus' hands lost because of ignorance of some bullet points on an orthodox doctrinal checklist?

I would not want to be in the position of stating that anyone who simply trusted in Jesus for eternal life is lost for lack of understanding or knowledge of things about Him.

Man-made theology says such things. But the promise of the Savior flies in the face of such doctrinal legalism and is surprisingly simple, precise, and complete:

"Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47)

Imagine someone solely trusting Jesus as His certain hope of heaven and Jesus letting him down. Envisage a man relying competely upon Jesus for eternal life through His promise yet Jesus reneging because of the man's ignorance of a doctrinal stipulation, thus missing heaven by a creedal technicality.

Picture a man believing only in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation and leaving empty handed. This unquestionably impinges on God's faithfulness. What happened to:

Faith alone in Christ alone?

The Checklist Evangelism being espoused by the Duluthian antagonists and their sympathizers has it dying the death of a thousand qualifications.

They would invalidate the simple act of faith which indeed appropriates eternal life, unless one jumps through each theological and doctrinal hoop to their satisfaction.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When asked to put up, they back down

NOTE: THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED AND MODIFIED as of 6:20 PM Pacific Standard Time, August 22.

All the Duluthian antagonists have declined to publicly debate this important gospel related issue. What does this mean, and what does it say about their position? We will flesh this out a bit further down.

Lou Martuneac said he wouldn’t host a debate at his church at all. He even went so far as to say that he might leave a church that held a debate. He says, “If the pastor of my church were to announce such an event for my church, I would meet with him and the deacons and strongly object to it. If they went ahead, I would not attend and would likely be looking for a new church.

Lou Martuneac furthermore stated this argument:
Why would any pastor want to host a preacher in his own church knowing that his flock is going to be exposed to what he (the host pastor) believes is false teaching?

This is why I would never agree to host a debate/open forum on the interpretation of the Gospel being debated in recent months.

I don’t think it is wise to subject a congregation made up of believers at various levels of spiritual and doctrinal growth to what you may be convinced is false teaching.

Jeff read Lou’s remarks and stated, “"If… you truly feel that it is your obligation to think for your flock, then I would agree that declining an invitation for open debate is the way to go." (emphasis his)

Jeff expressed my sentiments exactly.

If Lou Martuneac, Greg Schliesmann, Tom Stegall, and Dennis Rokser's positions are true, then this will come out in a debate. Their arguments will be more persuasive, compelling, and biblically accurate. Furthermore, Dennis has taught this church for many years and inculcated his doctrines into it. He additionally could teach afterwards, critiquing from his own pulpit what had been said by his opponents.

Lou must think his position is not so persuasive. Why else would one seek to shrink away from a moderated, equitable, fair and balanced debate?

If the debate was only Bob speaking at Duluth or any other 'majority' FG church, I can see Lou's concern. But since the debate would be two sided, and his side would have the opportunity to champion their position and declare its stronger biblical evidence and support, his point is completely canceled.

Aren't people able to weigh and consider two points of view presented at the same time and make determinations for themselves without Lou's 'babysitting' concerns? Or do they need Lou's superior wisdom to dictate to them the truth?

Lou's objections are but a poor attempt to find justification for the declining of an invitation to an equitable and moderated debate.

Furthermore, let me express this. The debate does not have to be at Duluth. The reason Bob probably proposed that one should be at Duluth in the first place, as well as his national conference, was so that Dennis wouldn’t feel as if it would only be on Bob Wilkin’s turf. Bob surely wanted to propose a fair debate, in that, one of them would be on Dennis Rokser’s home field, where he could have the advantage.

If Pastor Rokser has the same concerns as Lou, why don’t we just hold two sessions of debates at the GES conference? Since GES conference goers will be hearing Bob Wilkin's position through much of the convention, why not have Dennis come and give the other side? Surely he may be able to persuade some with the truth who have not yet made up their mind! Surely he could show himself as bold in person in the same way as he is making his objections to Free Grace Theology in writing. If it is a case that he doesn’t want his flock to come into contact with GES theology, let him then commit to a debate at the Grace Evangelical Society national conference.

As a quick note, some think that a debate would not be profitable, but should continue in writing (as if both could not occur?). Glenn W. stated this, “Because when writing a paper a person can usually reign in their emotions and advance important points without those emotions clouding the issue.” But he notes how emotional the writings on the web are getting in the same comment! He said, “The emotions I am seeing on the web make me believe that nothing positive is going to be accomplished on the web.” I don’t know how Glenn can say that writing keeps people from emotionalism. He mentions that it should be writing without comments, such as in a journal. But did that keep Tom Stegall from using the emotionally charged and pejorative “crossless” designation THIRTY ONE (31) TIMES in the span of only EIGHT (8) pages?

Public, moderated, equitable, and fair debates have much to offer. It presents what people actually believe, rather than caricatures from the other side. It keeps people accountable for what they have said. It gives the opportunity to present issues side by side for consideration. Public debates can be used the same way as testimony in a courtroom. There is time for statements, questions, cross-examinations, rebuttals, and so forth. By this medium, men get at the truth; issues become condensed and the distinctions become clearer. Glenn talks about emotion as if debates encourage them. Passion is a good trait for debates, but when one becomes emotional, that is when he loses! Good debates spurn emotionalism! I have listened to at least 4 debates that Bob Wilkin did. He did so with Christian character and gentlemanly conduct.

From what I read, the Duluthian antagonists have much to hold the Grace Evangelical Society accountable for. Why would they not want to take advantage of an opportunity to do so at one of their conferences? They would have a platform to warn unsuspecting GES conference goers of the dangers of its theology. They would have ample opportunity to make a case and persuade those who may be sitting on the fence, or who haven’t thought about these issues yet.

To me it is duplicity. Dennis Rokser, Tom Stegall, Lou Martuneac, and Greg Schliesmann want to scold and reprimand the Grace Evnagelical Society in public but only in written form. When the opportunity comes to discuss these things in a personal and public forum, the boldness shrinks away. Why can’t they do both? Who said that they have to do only one so as to leave the other undone?

They should be happy to come to the GES convention and shut the mouths of the Free Grace heretics, showing them the error of their ways with their more persuasive and biblical arguments.

But indeed, such an unwillingness to debate where real consequences can be at stake, manifests itself in the way that these outspoken antagonists are shrinking back into recreant discomposure. They are scared to death to debate.

So they will continue to publish their bitter rants and tirades, in the safety and solace of the written page; leaving us all wondering how we are to take such men seriously when they feel no moral compunction to stand their ground and defend their attacks against those whom they shame.

In the 80s during the Lordship controversy between MacArthur and Hodges, at least 3 formal debates were in the works. John MacArthur backed out of them all. He later stated that he would rather have a "private" debate, like the one Dennis proposed. But even when the time for this came, John backed out.

What does this say about MacArthur? The first impression it leaves in the mouth is that he ran scared from debating the scholarly Zane Hodges. Isn't it easier to attack straw men than the real thing? You may continue in caricatures in writing, but in the public forum of an equitable, fair, and moderated debate, you do not have the luxury of doing so.

There is a strong and compelling correspondence between the Duluthian antagonists and John MacArthur. When asked to put up, they back down.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Public Debates Declined!

The readers of Free Grace Theology Blog know that there has been an emphasis here lately on clear and simple appeals to faith in our evangelism. Some have taken great offense to this position and have vocally expressed their objections in writing. Two of these men are Tom Stegall (of Word of Grace Bible Church) and Dennis Rokser (of Duluth Bible Church). Serious allegations have been made against the doctrine of the Grace Evangelical Society (of which I am a member) by these pastors. Tom Stegall through the venue of Dennis Rokser's medium (The Grace Family Journal) has publicly launched a pre-emptive strike with an untamed war of words, misrepresenting and caricaturing consistent and biblical Free Grace Theology.

Bob Wilkin, Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society, has invited Dennis Rokser and anyone else Rosker wants to two public debates, one in Duluth, and one here in Texas at the GES National Conference. Dennis wrote back later and said he was “praying” about it. He said he was not sure he wanted to debate Bob publicly, but would like to meet privately. Bob responded by saying that a private meeting would have been fine if Tom and Dennis hadn’t written their public articles attacking Bob, Zane, and GES. But since those are now public, the debate (if it happens) should be public as well.

I emailed Dennis for some clarification on a charge that he made toward Bob that discussions with him were "stonewalled". If Dennis' assertion would be interpreted with the common and prevalent usage of this term, it would be false, as Bob has always been willing to dialogue with anyone. In his reply to me Dennis forwarded a portion of an email he addressed to Bob Wilkin, where he wrote, "After prayer and discussion with other godly leaders whom I respect, I have decided to decline your written offer to publicly debate you at Duluth Bible Church and at the upcoming GES national conference in Ft. Worth regarding our doctrinal disagreements of your teaching of the 'crossless gospel.'" Furthermore, in the same email, I find out that Bob also formally invited Tom Stegall to a debate, unto which he declined promptly.

I reported this exchange on Lou Martuneac's blog (he promptly deleted it) and included a bit of my commentary. Lou is another outspoken opponent of the Grace Evangelical Society. I wrote that I wondered why these men would decline to debate this issue. Was it that they did not want their flocks to be persuaded by the biblical, consistent, and simple arguments of the GES? Was it that they did not want to answer the multitude of examining questions that the GES conference attendees would barrage them with? Or was it because they did not want their forceful mischaracterizations to be exposed?

Dennis Rokser was made aware of my comment by Lou Maruneac and emailed me this one-liner, "I'm very disappointed that you have reported the material I sent you inaccurately and negatively." To which I responded:


The whole thing makes me disappointed. It is one thing to discuss theology like Christian brothers. It is another thing altogether to coin an inaccurate, pejorative, disingenuous, and misleading label of a theology that shares a rich heritage with your own. This same label is then applied ad naseum. What kind of poisoning of the well is it to include the designation 31 times in only 8 pages of Tom Stegall's second article? It is a debate tactic that betrays a weak position. Furthermore, it is childish and bad form. The tone is adversarial and demeaning.

I believe it shows a lack of character on your part and that of Tom Stegall to refuse Bob's invitation to debate in both your forum and his. Your ministry has sounded the alarm and has proceeded to go publicly to war. Did you suppose that you were going to persuade Bob with your correspondences with him? Why the surprise that he didn't "repent"? The reactionary rhetoric coming from your side is at times vicious. We are supposed to be Christian gentlemen. Now, when given the opportunity to flesh these things out in a public forum, you and Tom retreat to the safety of your written devices. Did it not occur to you that you could continue to publish Tom's articles and have a reasonable, equitable, agreed upon, and moderated debate at the same time?

Your charges are very strong. You fault the GES with heresy and heterodoxy. Now you wish to retire to the loft of your refuge, continuing to merely toss your grenades our way. You are thus placed in a position of public unaccountability free from the direct cross-examination of those brothers in Christ who you vehemently oppose with the constant barrage of theological name calling.

I don't know what exactly I have reported inaccurately. About the 'negatively', I found [this situation] negative and relayed it as I saw it.

Antonio da Rosa

In my comment I left on Lou Martuneac's blog, I asked him if he or Greg Schliesmann (who is also an opponent of the GES and has written against it on Lou's blog) would like to take the place of Dennis and Tom in a debate with Bob Wilkin. I am sure that it could be arranged. I don't know what the fear on their part is. Do their arguments look better on paper where they can use their pejorative term, 'crossless gospel' 31 times in the span of 8 pages? Or does the thought of operating on an equal playing field give them second thoughts?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Calvinism's Doctrine of Total Inability (to give Assurance of Salvation)

Frank Turk, AKA the centuri0n, recently posted this article:

Salvation vs Calculus

The introduction to the article seems like he was prompted to write it in consideration of the discussion of the refinements in Free Grace Theoglogy that I have been blogging about recently.

Read his article. In it you will find an illustatrion of the total inability of any Calvinist to have assurance of his salvation. After you read, return and read my comments (which he may end up deleting) here.

Hey Cent,

I believe that your position irepairably damages assurance. I am sure that you would stipulate that there are different degrees of growth in true Christians. If I were to ask you what the range was, you may answer very slow to rapid. Quite the range. In fact, if we were to suppose that growth can be very slow, the perception of that growth could be infinitesimal, even regarded as non-growth.

Question #1: In this case, how is one to be certain that he indeed has the right kind of faith?

Question #2: If he deems that he does not have the true kind of faith, in other words, it is spurious or insufficient or defective in some way, how is it that he can exercise the right kind of faith?

Take for instance your illustration. Your child has an orthodox and correct understanding at his level. Couldn't we have determined him 'mathmatically saved' at this point? You state that he has a "completely correct view of arithmatic" albeit incomplete!

In reality we cannot!


Because the possibility remains, that although he currently has what appears to be the right type of mathmatical astuteness, he may, years later exercise "a knowledge which refuses to grow, refuses to receive more"; one that is "willful[ly] ignoran[t]."

Question #3: How can anyone have assurance of salvation if at any time, there is a possibility of a stunted growth that betrays an insufficient, spurious faith? How can anyone have any assurance until persevering in this growth until death?

John MacArthur states quite sternly, "You may be a spiritual defector who hasn't defected yet!" (transcription from GTY radio program)

In closing, let us look at the tragic position of what you actually advocate, illustrated by Robert L. Dabney:

“There is a spurious as well as a genuine faith. Every man, when he thinks he believes, is conscious of exercising what he thinks is faith. Such is the correct statement of these facts of consciousness. Now suppose the faith, of which the man is conscious, turns out a spurious faith, must not his be a spurious consciousness? And he, being without the illumination of the Spirit, will be in the dark as to its hollowness.”

The kind of theology Dabney and Calvinism represent strips believers of their grounds of assurance and dangles them over an abyss of despair.

Antonio da Rosa

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Free Grace Theology - Majority/Minority Views

Some within Free Grace Theology believe that my position is a minority position. Very well. Grace, in itself, is a minority position in Christendom.

For what some in Free Grace Theology call the 'Majority' the issue is that there are theological requirements in ADDITION to believing in Christ for eternal life that a person must meet before he can receive eternal life. They are conditions that express multiple objects of faith. Without these extra conditions being met, faith in Christ would be invalidated, and one would be lost. They are non-negotionable auxilliary conditions to simple faith in Jesus for eternal life.

The emphasis of the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) and myself is biblical clarity and simplicity in the evangelistic appeal to faith, in other words, the invitation. We wish to evangelize the way Christ did in the book of John, which is the only document in the whole of the Bible that considers itself sufficient to reveal the terms of receiving eternal life. No other bible document does so (!); the others are written with a Christian audience in mind.

Jesus simply states that the believer in Him has everlating life. Jesus guarantees eternal life to every believer. This was His appeal to faith. It should be ours. It is simple, concise, and clear.

I have been FG for many years now. I have heard many appeals and invitations. Lou Martuneac and Larry Moyer, for instance, have people pray for salvation. This is unbiblical and the problems that this can spawn are multitudinous. Ask 10, what some would call, 'Majority' FGers, what the appeal should be, or how should one be brought to Christ at the end of a gospel conversation, you will get 11 answers, all of which have problems that can generate confusion.

If someone believes Jesus in His promise based upon what little they may know about Him, are the headed for hell unless they furthermore assent to ontological details about His person?

I would not want to be in the position of stating that anyone who simply trusted in Jesus for eternal life is lost for lack of understanding or knowledge of things about Him

What does it mean to believe in Jesus, for this 'Majority' position? For you readers out there, please define exactly what it means to 'believe in Jesus' for eternal salvation. Paul says that if one believes in Jesus he will be saved (Acts 16:31). Must 'believing in Jesus' include an assent to an array of orthodox doctrine? Why isn't 'believing in Jesus' simply trust in Someone for a specific purpose?

The appeals to faith by FGers have often times been unfortunately garbed in confusion, ambiguity, unbiblical wording, unbiblical practices, and a complexity that can net very bad results, such as false professions and assurance.

If anyone ought to know how to make appeals and invitations to faith in Christ alone for eternal life, it ought to be the FGers!

The 'minority' position emphasis is the simple fact that anyone who believes in Jesus for eternal life has it. The 'majority' position not only qualifies saving faith in Christ, it leaves much room for confusion, and can be damaging to certain assurance.

Can the 'majority' position find any scripture that contains all the theological conditions that must be met before one has eternal life? Of course not. A string of several scriptures must be put together and even then, there is ambiguity. The 'majority' position contains more than one condition for receiving eternal life. At the very least, there are 5 theological objects of faith making 5 separate conditions for receiving eternal life, all of which must be met: omit one and the faith in the rest are invalidated.


PS: Some may take issue with the fact that I state that the 'Majority' puts forth several objects of faith (and quite frankly, they often garble what 'faith in Jesus' really is). Whatever the evangelist puts forward as the 'things that must be believed' necessarily in a sense become the objects of faith. Simple complete reliance upon Jesus for eternal life is not enough. Auxilliary conditions must be met, and faith will be invalidated unless one specifically meets these extra conditions. When the evangelist speaks in so many words, with ambiguities that have implied material, confusion can result.

The 'Majority' position states that one must believe A, B, C, D, E, and F to be saved. If one is required to believe these things, firstly, they are multiple conditions. How many theologically required conditions are there to be saved? Furthermore, if one is told that he must believe these things, they necessarily become objects of faith. This conclusion cannot be escaped and is mere common sense. The majority position requires that these things be believed. If they are believed, they are objects of faith. And if they are required, then they become co-conditions to "believing in Christ".

Monday, August 06, 2007

Will the REAL Jesus Please Stand Up?

In any instance of communication, a single unique reference is sufficient to delimit identification.

For instance, I have never met Rose Cole, from Rose's Reasonings Blog, although we have talked on the phone, emailed each other, and discoursed on blogs.

If, when I was talking to, let say, Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, I referenced Rose, of the Rose's Reasonings blog found at http://Rosesreasonings.blogspot.com, who is paralyzed from the waist down,

Would I necessarily be talking about a different Rose?

(Rose is not paralyzed)


I made a UNIQUE reference to her, in that the Rose I am refering to has a blog called Rose's Reasonings at the very site of http://rosesreasonings.blogspot.com.

The fact that I refered to Rose as being paralyzed from the waist down was nothing more than a misconception or untrue belief I HAVE ABOUT HER, not some spurious, fake, or imaginary Rose.

If one unique reference is all that it takes to limit that reference to a specific person, why is it that we say that Mormons refer to a wholly "different Jesus" when they make reference to Him in (at least) 20 unique and distinct areas of agreement with evangelicals?

We all have or had misunderstandings and misconceptions about Jesus. How many misconceptions about Jesus does it take to make Him another Jesus? Can a simple misunderstanding preclude me from refering to the historical Jesus Christ? What if all I had was the gospel of John and I was misinformed and believed that Jesus Christ was born in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. Yet I have read the gospel of John and make reference to Him from there. Am I necessarily referring to a "different" Jesus because of this misconception?

Communication would become impossible if we required absolute precision when making reference to people. We all have misconceptions (IOW FALSE BELIEFS) about everyone, including our spouses, parents, and siblings. When we make reference to these people, are we conjuring up an imaginary "different" relative, because no one in the world fits the 100% description and conception we have of the referent?

Everyone here should realize that such a thing is absurd.

All that it takes is ONE unique reference to delimit identification of a specific person.

Let us speak as to the irreducible minimum to identify Jesus Christ for salvific purposes:

#1) The name : Jesus

But there are many people named Jesus, I must make the reference unique. Let me continue:

#2) His unique ability: Jesus is the Guarantor of eternal life to everyone who believes in Him for it.

No one in the universe can fit this reference[!!], other than the historical Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, born of the Holy Spirit and Mary, crucified on a Roman Cross, and resurrected from the dead.

I could delimit Christ in other ways, that he was risen from the dead after being put to death on a Roman cross. No person in the universe can fit this unique description.

BUT THIS INFORMATION IS NOT SALVIFIC. For our purposes in evangelism, the irreducible minimum which delimits reference to the historical Jesus, which is indeed salvific, is that JESUS dispenses irrevocable and eternally secure eternal life to the believer in Him for it. This information is sufficient to delimit our referencing to the bona-fide Jesus Christ (in whom we all have misconceptions about).

No one but the consistent FGer can give a solid, objective answer to the question, "What is essential to know concerning Jesus to delimit our faith to Him and not some imaginary person?" Let me tell you why. If the non-FGer lists 10 strong and rock-solid references to the Lord Jesus Christ, all it would take, for them anyway, to speak of another Jesus, is to include a blatantly (to them) erroneous belief.

Lets say you asked this question to the normal Traditionalist. He could say, "If you delimit Jesus Christ by these things, you will make sure that you aren't discussing someone else" :

1) virgin birth
2) hypostatic union
3) death for sins
4) resurrection from the dead
5) name: Jesus
6) mother: Mary
7) had apostles named Peter, John, and James
8) Died on a cross
9) was a carpenter
10) Performance of great miracles such as raising people who were physically dead
11) He is God

But lets say that I beleive all these things about Jesus Christ, but I say that he was the spirit brother of Lucifer who was made God by another God.

Well, the whole thing goes to pot and I am now believing in a different Jesus, even though I agree to the list of these 11 rock solid references!

The whole idea becomes a slippery slope. How can ANYONE be sure that they are believing in the REAL Jesus (as opposed to these imaginary figments being brought to life by heretics) when one really can't know if all what they believe about Jesus is in fact true in reality?

Where does one draw the line? There can be no logical difference between a major or minor misconception, nor any OBJECTIVE means by which to discern which category to put them in. Any misconception is a blatant erroneous belief, no matter how sincere it is.

Let's use Rose Cole from Rose's Reasonings again. If I came up with 11 unique references to her (that could be true of no one in the universe but Rose Cole) but then referred to her as an astronaut rather than a visual arts person at her church (maybe THAT isn't even what she is!), am I referring to a DIFFERENT Rose?

To insist on the application of an orthodox doctrinal checklist for eternal life is superfluous, erroneous, and damaging to assurance. Am I to look at my doctrine for assurance or am I to look to Christ through His promise of eternal life for assurance?


with each of those 11 rock solid references to Jesus Christ comes an explanation of each. Not only must I assent to the references and doctrines contained in that list, I must assent to them in the way the creeds such as the Westminster Confession or others defines them. The slippery slope keeps getting more slippery by the moment!

In reality (let's try to stay here!) there is only one Jesus Christ who can truly impart eternal life to the believer in Him for it. Simple trust in Him to do so will bring eternal life.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Content of Saving Faith

All that is theologically required for the immediate reception of eternal life is that the sinner understand to be true the sufficiency of the name of Jesus to guarantee the eternal well-being of every believer.

Jesus is uniquely qualified to dispense eternal life by virtue of His name. On this authority He may dispense it to whomever He wishes. It is through His wisdom and council with God the Father that they have decided to dispense eternal life to those and only those who believe in Jesus for this gift.

John 1:12
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name

Acts 4:12
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

1 John 3:23
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ

Matt 12:21
And in His name Gentiles will trust.

John 3:18
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God

Acts 10:43
To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.