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)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Preface to the new series: How To Lead People to Christ

Dear Readers of Free Grace Theology blog,

Jesus Christ is my passion and love. I want my life - my words, thoughts and actions - to ever be honoring to Him. He gave His life so that I may have life. Presently, I am trying to give my life to Him because He wants it, He asks for it; and by losing my life I actually gain it.

In this lifelong endeavor to bring glory to Jesus Christ, the One Who alone guarantees everlasting life to the believer in Him, I seek to be true to His word. It is this quest for truth that has led me to Free Grace Theology. This position best represents the whole range of divine data found in Scripture. Free Grace Theology, being derived from the Bible, is a grid also through which to now view the Bible. By means of its tenets, the Word of God may be read prima facie without contradiction, and without the endless inclusions of ad hoc and secondary assumptions to the texts. No other theology or position can legitimately assert this.

All people who can genuinely claim Free Grace Theology share a rich theological heritage, as well as the foundational principles by which it consists. A friend and proponent of Free Grace, Don Reiher, has posted several videos on YouTube that show panel discussions at the Grace Evangelical Society National Grace Conference. These glimpses of history show godly men committed to Free Grace Theology, who nevertheless had disagreements. Their humble practice of grace aligned with their proclamation of it. How very instructional it is to view men such as Radmacher, Bing, Hart, Hodges, and Wilkin share a table in harmony of purpose and unity of spirit.

One of my weak areas is that of Ecclesiology, and specifically ecclesiastical polity. I have recently been exposed to the principles of churches such as the IFC and the like; those who are part of "Separationist" congregations. The study has indeed been informative. It has given me a greater understanding of the attitudes and operations of some of the most vocal antagonists to Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, and the GES. In discussions with those who disagree with the GES in the Free Grace world, including some of its leaders, I have found that the ones who do not have a background in these churches do not believe that the GES is teaching doctrinal heresy. It is the unfortunate truth that people who put a high premium on extreme "separation" doctrine are promoting division in Free Grace Theology, often by less than honorable means. The fact of the correlation between the two is inescapable.

It must be noted that these men are going much further in their dissenting declarations and have been making accusations against the GES and those sympathetic to it. Their cries are of "Heresy!" and even more extreme they accuse of "False Gospel!" while those who are more level-headed, balanced, and deliberate, would not agree to either charge. In taking this extreme course they have sown seeds of discord among the brethren, causing deep rifts between men and women of like mind. Their premature and hostile call to arms has caused grace people, who were heretofore united (yet still having differences in doctrine) to take polar opposite sides and entrench themselves against each other.

Level heads must prevail. We ought not to allow the questionable tactics and attitudes of those with "Separationist" backgrounds to dictate the fate and future of Free Grace Theology.

At Zane Hodge's funeral, I had the opportunity to sit down for some time with Dr. Earl Radmacher. He is very displeased with what is happening in the Free Grace world. He stated that Satan is gaining a foothold in order to "divide and conquer". The fate and the future of Free Grace Theology is in our hands at the present moment. We ought not to allow the confusion and division being propagated by extremists to break us apart. Free Grace Theology needs to be a unified front.

In our conversation, Dr. Radmacher gave an illustration. Paraphrased, here it is: "In the Reformed movement, they have John MacArthur on the West Coast, R.C. Sproul on the East Coast, and John Piper in the Midwest. These three, having significant differences, nevertheless, do not speak against each other, or seek separation. They are unified in their purpose. We in Free Grace Theology ought to stop devouring each other and take a play out of these Reformed gentlemen's book. We need to be unified in our purpose!" I agree with Dr. Earl. Not only do we share a rich theological heritage, as has been explained above, we also share the conviction that eternal life is appropriated simply by faith alone in Christ alone.

Dr. Radmacher told me of an idea that he had at last year's Free Grace Alliance national conference. He suggested that there be leaders of the Free Grace world invited to a table, which does not have any corners or a head, to sit down and discuss these matters. Prayer would begin and end the meeting. During the conversation, one would speak. The next who would speak would have to accurately summarize and characterize the previous speakers message before moving on to his. Not until everyone's points were exhausted would the meeting be adjourned. In the so doing of this process, understanding would result. During this whole time, there would be a greater circle, enveloping the circle of leaders, populated by men and women who were to be constantly in prayer for the proceedings and an individual at the main table. What a great plan! Unfortunately, Dr. J.B. Hixson dismissed that suggestion out of hand. It is yet encouraging to note that Dr. Radmacher and Dr. Stephen R. Lewis are planning something similar at the GES National Conference this year.

Men and women, level heads must prevail! Those who do not operate in the realm of balance have colored the discussion with accusations of heresy and false gospel, all the while others in the Free Grace world on one hand may disagree with the GES, but on the other maintain that they do not preach heresy. We should not allow the questionable tactics of a small few disrupt the unity of our movement. Healing and understanding must be sought lest our movement implode, being relegated to the outer extremes of fringe theology. This self-destructive path is well under way.

Free Grace Theology has something to share with the world! It ought to be given an opportunity to be heard in the marketplace of theological ideas. Yet such a course as we are now on will ensure that such will never be realized. There must be accord. There must be understanding. And there must be charity. Furthermore, those who continually thrive off of the division and strife they create need to shape up, or create their own "Separationist" organization. They must not be tolerated. We must distance ourselves far from their extremist and destructive ramblings. It was a mistake to allow the hostile proclamation of their differences to have a platform at our blogs and our conferences. Dr. Radmacher has assured me that the intent of creating the FGA was not to distance itself from the GES. He invisioned that they could work together. But many pressures have been coming to bear upon some of the leaders so as to exclude those who more simply define the invitation to eternal life; and in so doing, alienate a great segment of Free Grace Theology. I was informed that the recently appointed Executive Director of the FGA, himself, comes from a "Separationist" church background. What a mistake! Such an attitude that comes from those churches surely is at odds with the purpose of the FGA to "connect and equip" free grace people!

We in Free Grace Theology will have differences of opinion. But our convictions are stronger than our differences, and the foundations of our faith are secure. It has been personalities, and not doctrine, that have been ripping our movement apart. It is my opinion that our differences can either be worked out, or set aside in Christian charity (as they have been in the past), that we may get to the work of proclaiming the glorious and incomparable grace and riches of the Lord Jesus Christ.

your Free Grace Theology host and friend,

Antonio da Rosa

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Looking back and looking forward

Dear readers of Free Grace Theology blog,

Coming soon, I will be providing the transcripts of Zane Hodges' two part message he gave at the 1999 GES National conference, entitled, "How to Lead People to Christ". I hope that there will be a wide range of discussion. I personally want to invite any and all of those who take a traditional Free Grace soteriology view to participate. During this series, any and all are welcome.

The following is something that I began to type on Rose's Reasonings in her thread about Yes/No questions, but decided I would rather put it here for your consideration and discussion. All are welcomed to comment, regardless of who you are.

PS: A number of us bloggers are considering ways on how to create blogs conducive to meaningful dialogue by adhering to a type of code of ethics. We hope to hammer this out sometime in order to facilitate an environment that promotes healthy dialogue and debate. Please pray for this, and know that that I am committed to discuss the issues at hand in a God-honoring way.

Now with no further ado:

We live in a sound-bite (sp?) culture. Context is the key by which statements are unlocked. Yes or no questions do not often facilitate understanding in theological dialogue. My advice is stay away from them with all diligence.

The discussions now taking place in the Free Grace world need much time, prayer, honesty, integrity, graciousness, and, did I say, time?

Those of us who hold to a refinement in the content of saving faith do so for many reasons. I and many others I know who align with the GES position came from the traditional understanding. I absolutely understand the concerns of those who side with an FGA understanding, having come from that viewpoint. 15 years ago, I would have had reservations with what I now believe.

To be quite honest, I don't see many in the traditional side of things being very interested in understanding the multitude of concerns I have with the way that evangelism is done. I do not see them truly considering the evidence for my concerns and for my positions. What I see coming from them is more reactionary.

I have been studying, testing, sharpening, and proving this position for over eight years now. What has happened, in general and in my opinion, is that a segment of the traditional side has had a very averse reaction to my position, and that they did so very prematurely.

I preach faith alone in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament Alone for eternal life-- salvation by grace alone through faith alone; so did Zane and so now does Bob Wilkin and the GES. This consideration alone should have been sufficient to allow for gracious discussions and the allowance of the benefit of the doubt for the time being. This should have precluded the accusations and divisions until all the relevent issues had been determined and fully discussed and fleshed out.

I am afraid to say that it has been a legalistic and fundamentalist attitude and mindset that poisioned the hope for meaningful dialogue from the getgo. These reactionaries have first used appeals to emotion and other such instruments to create a prejudicicial blanket that they enveloped my position with. Their coining of several pejoratives was done to further their desire to turn people away and dismiss my position out of hand. Such a mode of operation has poisoned the well and kept people from prayerfully comparing a position, held by godly men who tremble before the Word of God, against the teachings of the bible.

Discussions need to be done to let people decide for themselves based upon a considerate and prayerful exsamination of all the data and evidences in the issues.

We may now be on the way to those discussions. This is my hope and prayer.

Can you be willing to entertain the notion that the concerns that I have are valid? that the evidences I present are valid? that the positions that I take are the truth?

I personally am glad that I continued to investigate this position, even after having the reservations with it. I am now convinced that it is a more precise, and biblically accurate position.

Let it be known to the readership that after the initial pre-emptive type actions of some in the traditional FG side, I allowed the flesh to dictate some of my posts and comments around the blogosphere. In this I added fuel to the fire, and am therefore cuplable for a share of the stifling of this needed dialogue in the Free Grace world. I am sorry to my Free Grace brothers for my part in the hostilities that have been so dishonoring to the Lord. I ask that you all keep me accountable. The temptation to operate in the sphere of the flesh is ever present within us. But the more we operate by means of the Spirit, the easier it becomes to be successful in overcoming our temptations.

I hope that by all means that the Grace Evangelical Society's position may be widely discussed in the realm of Christian and theological ideas without the stifling prejudices heaped upon it by well meaning reactionaries, and without the uncivility and ungraciousness that has painted it from both sides.

submitted for your consideration,

Antonio da Rosa
Lakeside, CA

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bob Wilkin Exposes the Exegetical Flaws of J.B. Hixson's Book

Dear Free Grace Theology Readers,

You may remember back in June of 2008 that I posted an article called:

Disturbing news concerning the new book by Dr. J.B. Hixson, Director of the Free Grace Alliance

In this article I discussed how in conversations with both J.B. Hixson, the director of the Free Grace Alliance, and Dr. Earl Radmacher, the founding President of the Free Grace Alliance, I found out that Dr. Hixson kept Dr. Radmacher in the dark concerning some very controversial content to his book that Earl was going to endorse.

Since the time of the writing, I have discussed this once again with Dr. Radmacher at Zane Hodges' funeral. He likened the experience to a 'ticker tape parade' that was thrown for someone or some cause and then soon afterwards trying to pick up all the individual 'tickers', as if trying to take them all back. It is basically now impossible for him to do, at least while the first printing of this book (which will probably be the only printing) is in circulation, for his name adorns the book that speaks falsely about his now decesased friend and exegetical mentor, Zane Hodges.

Now we have an in-depth article, written by Dr. Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society, exposing many of the errors of J.B. Hixson's soteriology book. It is somewhat lengthy, but gets to the core of the exegetical errors committed in the Checklist Evangelism of the Traditional Free Grace propopents. He furthermore documents the very sloppy nature of the book, and low calibre of its scholarly content -- the book is essentially Hixson's doctoral dissertation done at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA, completed in 2007.

When constructing a dissertation for a Th.D. degree, I believe it is imperative to offer something to the scholarly community which is an addition to knowlege. Such is not the case with J.B. Hixson's book. There is essentially nothing new that has not been plumbed and discussed elsewhere in Christian literature by either Free Grace proponents more qualified then himself or Reformed and/or other Evangelical authors.

In the coming weeks we are going to discuss some of the issues that Bob Wilkin raises in his very well done, reasonable, and Christ-honoring review of J.B. Hixson's book, including J.B. Hixson's plagiarism of Bob Wilkin, as taken from the Grace Evangelical Society website.

Now submitted for your review and consideration:


WJC made a very insightful and relevent comment concerning Bob Wilkin's excellent expose of J.B. Hixson's book:

I read Wilkin's review last week and it is a well done analytical look at Hixson's book. It's hard to imagine that this is a Th.D. - and as such it sounds like it is an embarrassment to the "scholasticism" of evangelicalism and the FG movement more specifically. Forgive me if I'm a bit blunt but with sloppy work like this being published to promote Free Grace - who needs enemies? It is amazing what is allowed to pass as a doctoral dissertation in some quarters these days. I am however not the least bit surprised given what has been transpiring at the top echelons of the FGA under the leadership of Hixson. Somehow the lack of scholasticism and the poor support for some of his assertions in the book fit with what we have seen of Hixson's conduct as the FGA Executive Director. What does amaze me are some of the individuals who have chosen to align themselves with Hixson - men who I thought had much more going for them scholastically than is apparent in this "leader"...