Monday, October 6, 2008

Beheading Hodges' Hydra - Part 1 of 3

Here we go again. Zane Hodges has written another article defending his "crossless" gospel. One person said several days ago that Hodges has been quietly studying the Word and not engaging and interacting at blogs. It may be true that Hodges is not posting at blogs, but it seems obvious that he is either reading or is being informed of the goings-on. This article seems to be an attempt at a rebuttal of sorts to his detractors, although it is too short to contain much in the way of real discussion. Instead, the article ends up "preaching to the choir" and falling far short of any kind of well-reasoned defense of Hodges' position... actually it only exposes just how weak his position really is.

There is much I could bring up about this article, but I will try to summarize. I see three primary errors in Hodges' latest article. First, he errs regarding his critics. Errors in this area abound throughout the article, which is why I say that this article seems to be rather polemic. Hodges starts out right from the beginning by attempting to attach a label to the view of those who oppose him - "theological legalism". This quite clearly seems to be an attempt to "get back" at the use of the label "crossless gospel" for his view. It really just comes off as rather juvenile, sort of, "oh yeah, well, I can call you a name too, so there!" Playing this word game is silly and unnecessary.

Hodges then resorts to trying to cast HIS view as traditional Free Grace theology, and claims that requiring the lost to accept Jesus' death and resurrection is "recent" and "co-opt[s] Free Grace theology"! This is beyond ironic. Zane Hodges is the first Bible teacher I've EVER heard teach that a person could be saved without admitting their sins and believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. If anything is "recent" here, it's Hodges' fringe view. Even some Crossless Gospel advocates often call those of us who oppose Hodges on this point "traditionalists" or "traditional free grace". A view cannot be simultaneously "recent" AND traditional! Hodges is simply going for shock value and well-poisoning to get the reader on his side. This is actually a repeated tactic throughout his article. Hodges tries to make it sound as if his view is the normal, older, common view, and that we have suddenly showed up trying to change things. In fact, the opposite is actually the case. It is ridiculous and utter nonsense to claim that Free Grace theology has always held that the lost only need to believe that Jesus can give them eternal life, and that WE'RE the ones coming along and changing things! The opposite is clearly the case, as any reader of Charles Ryrie can testify. Tom Stegall did a great job setting forth the "traditional" Free Grace view quite some time ago in Part 1 of his series, The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel. Even Dr. Earl Radmacher, who was at the center of a recent Crossless Gospel controversy, is quoted from his book Salvation, "How readily some fall into the trap of adding requirements to the Gospel beyond simply believing that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead." Apparently even Dr. Radmacher did not think that requiring the lost to believe that Jesus died and rose again could be considered "legalism". Hodges is only deceiving himself if he thinks that his view is "traditional" Free Grace, and that it is a new thing to require the lost to believe in and accept Jesus' death and resurrection.

Further, Hodges sets up a strawman by trying to portray those of us with the "traditional" view as if we require some kind of complicated test before a lost person can be saved. He says that if "the legalist" doesn't tell people what they must believe, "no one will ever figure it out!" As if we have some long, complex crossword puzzle of assorted items that the lost must guess at to figure out how to be saved. I'm sorry, but acknowledging that we're sinners and believing in Jesus' deity, death, and resurrection are hardly hidden concepts in Scripture. Reading the Gospels, you can't miss those things. They're quite obvious. Many, many people have "figure[d] it out" just fine. He seems to be trying to convince readers that accepting Jesus' death and resurrection as payment for our sins is somehow difficult to decipher from the Scriptures. Apparently Hodges is stumping for the popular, yet arbitrary and non-biblical, "the simplest gospel wins" argument. No one has explained yet why it is that the 'traditional' gospel is rejected solely for not being "simple" enough (and of course, "simple" is quite relative and subjective, as I've pointed out in the past... what's "simple" to one may or may not be "simple" to another).

Later in the article, Hodges includes a list of things Jesus never specifically asked anyone to believe. He makes it seem like traditionalists include all (or many of) these things as requirements for the lost to believe. Of course, this simply serves as shock value and another strawman, to try to get the reader to agree that the lost don't need to assent to everything on that list for salvation, when no one is suggesting that. Again, Hodges seems to think that requiring the lost to believe in Jesus' death and resurrection is tantamount to requiring them to pass a seminary exam. If he can't see the difference, then there's not much else that can be said.

At the conclusion of the article, Hodges claims that traditionalists "communicate to the unsaved person that he can only be saved if his doctrine is correct ... [and] make[s] him wonder, 'Did I believe enough doctrine to be truly saved?'" The issue of having our doctrine correct for salvation unnecessarily broadens the point. As if traditionalists require every minute doctrinal point to be correct. It is not a matter of doctrine per se, it is a matter of correctly identifying the person and work of the Savior who paid for our sins. Wondering "did I believe enough?" isn't unique to traditionalists and can happen to an RFGer too, i.e. "did I really believe I could never lose my salvation?" We all (should) mature and grow in our faith and understanding, such that we look back on our times of immature understanding and wonder if it was enough. Hodges' attempt to castigate his critics for something that applies to everyone, and to cast his view as "traditional", clearly fails.


  1. Rachel:

    Excellent opening review, looking forward to the next two installments.

    You wrote, Hodges then resorts to trying to cast HIS view as traditional Free Grace theology, and claims that requiring the lost to accept Jesus’ death and resurrection is “recent” and "co-opt[s] Free Grace theology"! This is beyond ironic. Zane Hodges is the first Bible teacher I’ve EVER heard teach that a person could be saved without admitting their sins and believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. If anything is “recent” here, it’s Hodges’ fringe view.

    This exemplifies why I like and use Stephen’s designation for what is coming from Hodges Wilkin and GES. ”REDEFINED” Free Grace Theology, which is a radical departure from not just FG theology, but the biblical plan of salvation as well.

    I wrote Is “REDEFINED” FG Theology- FG Theology? over the serious misnomer that GES speaks for or represents the FG community.


  2. Hello Rachel,

    I think it's very telling that Mr. Hodges closes his article with an appeal to authority - the Apostle Paul by quoting only part of Rom 3:26

    Hodges says (and I attempt to preserve context by quoting his complete section) The marvelous truth of free grace is this: A guilty sinner with far from adequate knowledge about the Person and work of our Lord can come to Him and believe that Jesus will give him eternal life. And the moment he does believe, he will have that life. This is true, in fact, even if a few moments later he encounters some theological legalists who inform him he doesn’t know enough to be saved! Such legalists refuse to justify such an “ignorant” believer. But God has already justified him. As Paul puts it so clearly in Rom 3:26, God is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

    But the Apostle would not allow the Cross and Christ's redemptive work there not to be seen, understood and depended on. Here is that Mr. Hodges failed to quote.

    Rom 3:21-26 NKJV

    21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all[h] who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    Oh it is beautiful to see the Gospel proclaimed.

    It is beautiful to see lies so clearly refuted and the Truth held so very high.


  3. Laughed myself silly when I saw the cartoon caricature that is at the top of the article now. Has to be Stephen's work.



  4. Glad you like the artwork. :-) Yes, Hodges' article reeks of exactly the kind of redefinition that caused me to first use the term.

  5. Rachel,

    If you are going to Behead Hodges' Hydra you will need the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17; cf. Heb. 4:12-13). I am hopeful you will use it in your upcoming articles.


  6. Hi Lou,

    Thanks for your comments. Part 2 will be posted on Wednesday, and will discuss Hodges' errors regarding the Gospel of John. Part 3 will be up next Monday, and it will discuss Hodges' errors regarding the apostle Paul.

    Hodges has definitely "redefined" FG theology. Practically everyone agrees with that, even his followers. They of course think he is right, nevertheless they recognize that his is a novel interpretation. It is just laughable for Hodges to claim that HIS view is the traditional, historic view.

    P.S. Stephen gets credit for the title AND the pic. He's clever that way. :-)

  7. Kev,

    Yes, the Crossless camp seem to enjoy finding the smallest snippets of Scripture that lend support to their view, while ignoring the rest of Scripture. It hearkens back to the "deserted island" scenario with the hypothetical man who only had a few words of someone named Jesus, yet was still saved (according to Hodges).

    As I mentioned to Lou above, I'll be discussing the errors regarding the apostle Paul from Hodges' article in Part 3 of this series.

  8. JP,

    I like your witty remark about the Sword. I do plan to use Scripture, note what I said in earlier comments on this thread regarding parts 2 and 3 of this series.

    But this is simply a review of this particular article, not a thorough refutation of everything Crossless. As such, since Hodges spends a significant portion of his article on non-Scriptural issues (such as I dealt with here, e.g. "legalism" and the attempt in several places to cast his view as traditional and ours as "recent"), then I felt it appropriate to address those issues. They are not as important as Scriptural issues, true, yet they do contribute to swinging readers in his favor by poisioning the well. It's simply a literary tactic. Similar to me writing an article about abortion - I can either call people of my view "pro-life" or "anti-choice"... each one subtly causes the reader to lean one way or the other without even hearing the arguments. It's not necessarily an illegitmate tactic, but it is one that I felt the need to expose and correct, since clearly Hodges' view is NOT the historic Free Grace view.

    Additionally, I have spent vast amounts of time and posts on arguing for my view from the Scriptures. I have posted at Rose's, Antonio's, UoG, my group blog, and here at my blog discussing many Scriptures in-depth.

    So, have confidence in my past postings and a little patience that I certainly do not plan to leave out discussing Scripture.

  9. Rachel,

    Yes, I thought my sword comment fit quite nicely with the title of your series! Thanks for this reassurance. I look forward to your upcoming articles.


  10. Rachael?

    You have been very reasonable and consistent about all of this.

    It is good to see a husband and wife working together for the gospel.

    Grace upon grace,


  11. Rachel/JP/Stephen:

    I think we need to recognize that this article by Hodges is a sign of open warfare on anyone or any fellowship that has rejected the teaching of the Crossless gospel.

    It’s also more than that. It is obvious to me that the GES is gasping for life. Its membership has been in free fall for a protracted period.

    A personal friend of mine attended the 2008 National GES Conference for two days. He reported to me during the GES conference that the number of attendees was down significantly even from the previous year.

    The egregious errors of Hodges’s reductionist assault on the Person and work of Christ has isolated the GES into shrinking cell of extremists that those who are balanced in their theology want NO further fellowship with.

    I also heard, but have not been able to confirm that Wilkin closed the GES office and now administers GES out of his home. Again, that is what I was told, but I have not confirmed this.

    In any event, we must not allow the heresy of the Crossless gospel gain any kind of foothold out side the small cell of extremist followers of Zane Hodges.

    Identify the heresy, the men who instigate it, warn the unsuspecting.


  12. "I also heard, but have not been able to confirm that Wilkin closed the GES office and now administers GES out of his home. Again, that is what I was told, but I have not confirmed this."


  13. All:

    I emailed Bob Wilkin yesterday asking him if he could verify this comment by Lou:

    "I also heard, but have not been able to confirm that Wilkin closed the GES office and now administers GES out of his home. Again, that is what I was told, but I have not confirmed this."

    I received an email from Bob Wilkin today informing me that the statement is not correct. Bob said they were thinking about moving the office to another location in Denton, Corinth, or Lewisville. However, at this time the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) office remains in Irving, Texas.


  14. Thanks for looking into that and reporting back JP.

  15. Rachel:

    Your article was wonderful. Particulary the stress on the fact that virtually every one of Hodges arguments was a straw man argument. How sad. I remember seeing a TV show about Lu Gherig, the famous baseball player who came down with ALS in his prime. One of his teammates said, "I saw a great man die."

    I studied under Hodges at DTS. I guess I could utter those same words with equal sadness.


  16. Hello Elijah,

    I actually posted this comment under the wrong article, so I've now moved it here.

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, it is sad that Hodges has espoused this strange, unbiblical view when he could have been continuing to support the truths of historic Free Grace. It is a lesson to us all to never lose sight of truth.

  17. Hi Brian,

    I don't think I ever responded to you - I apologize! I think I replied in my head, but not out loud. :-)

    Thank you for your comments, I appreciate your kindness. Stephen and I generally work pretty well together. As you may have seen in an earlier article, we're currently teaching an apologetics class together at our church. It is a 12-week series, and due to the lack of such a series in very many places, we've had to write and prepare all the lessons ourselves.

    We've created a forum for the issues we discuss in the class, called Reasons-To-Believe. Each week after we teach a lesson we post the notes we used so that those who weren't there can still follow along, or if folks want to review what we said, etc. Anyone should feel free to check out the site any time. So far we've taught the first 5 lessons, and are currently on a 2-week break as our church is hosting its Missions Conference this week and our adult classes are not meeting as they usually do. So the first 5 lessons are available, and will start back up on October 26.

    (And now back to our regularly scheduled "crossless" debate programming. :-) )

  18. Rachel,

    I especially appreciated your words here: "Wondering 'did I believe enough?' isn't unique to traditionalists and can happen to an RFGer too, i.e. "did I really believe I could never lose my salvation?" I tell you, candidly, I have friends in the "other camp" (I hate to put it thusly) whom I love & appreciate yet disagree with, & I had been trying to honestly give that view a hearing, but it simply did not "work" with me, it only confused & discouraged me. But when I return to the simple Gospel message of Christ, the confusion disappears. I really appreciate your work here, & thank you both for letting God use you. May the Lod bless you!