This will be the final article in this short series that has reviewed the latest article by Zane Hodges. Part 1 addressed the errors Hodges makes in his article regarding his critics. Part 2 explained the errors his article makes regarding the Gospel of John. Here in Part 3, I will discuss the errors in Hodges' article regarding the apostle Paul and "the gospel".
First, Hodges states that most people think that the term "'gospel' defines what a person must believe to have eternal life", and goes on to assert that this is NOT the case. Greg has already done an excellent job of refuting this unfounded assertion of Hodges in a series found here, so I won't take much time to revisit all his points. I just want to highlight one glaring contradiction to this assertion of Hodges regarding the term "the gospel". In order to claim that the term "gospel" does NOT define what a person must believe to have eternal life, Hodges, et al. must completely ignore 1 Cor. 1:23, where Paul states that "we preach Christ crucified". Paul indicates that this message of "Christ crucified" (and his resurrection, implicitly, since crucifixion by itself was an obvious shame problem that would never have won anyone by itself, it was the resurrection that vindicated the shame of the crucifixion) was actually a stumblingblock and foolishness to his hearers. In the Hodges framework, if the cross or resurrection is a "stumblingblock" to someone believing in Jesus for eternal life, we should put it on the "back burner"! This is antithetical to Paul, who maintained that he would ALWAYS preach "Christ crucified", despite the difficulties such a message presented to his hearers. Surely if Jesus' death and resurrection were only one of many ways a person can be convinced of the "real" saving message (that of eternal life through Jesus, according to Hodges), Paul would have abandoned such a problematic message and used a more favorable approach. Yet here Paul stubbornly says he will just keep on preaching these specific details ("Christ crucified" and the resurrection). Choosing between Zane Hodges' method of evangelism and Paul's method of evangelism is an easy choice to make.
Second, Hodges says that because Paul uses the term "gospel" in 1 Cor. 15 to refer to MORE than what must be believed for salvation (although I dispute even that, but granting at this moment for the sake of argument), then that completely refutes the idea that "gospel" does at times mean "what the lost must believe to be born again". Hodges seems to think that using the term broadly in one place means it can never mean something more specific! If I say, "I love kids", "love" there has a certain meaning. But if I say, "I love MY kids", I've used the same term ("love") but in this case it has a much more specific meaning. He ignores the fact that the same term can be used in a variety of ways, sometimes broadly and sometimes specifically. One usage of a term in a certain way does NOT automatically refute other usages of the term.
Third, the point above assumes for the sake of argument that "gospel" in 1 Cor. 15 really does mean more than what the lost must believe for salvation, but that is definitely NOT a given. Hodges weakly attempts to defend such a position with 2 reasons. First, Hodges tries to say, regarding the list of items in 1 Cor. 15:1-8, that "all these items were of 'first importance' in Paul's gospel" (emphasis in original). Unfortunately for Hodges, this presents a conundrum for him. Does Zane Hodges find Jesus' specific appearance to James (part of his enumerated list) as "first importance" in the message Hodges presents to the lost? Hodges tries to say that if we say that Paul is referencing the saving message here, then we must include everything there in the requirements for belief. Hodges obviously does NOT think these things are necessarily part of the saving message, yet he does think that all these things are of "first importance" and SHOULD be preached. So if he thinks WE need to be "consistent" in saying that if some of it is "gospel" then all of it is, then he also needs to be consistent in saying that if some of it is "of first importance" then all of it is. He should be preaching Jesus' appearance to the 500 all the time just as he says he preaches the cross and resurrection all the time. If Hodges truly believes that Paul is giving each of these items equal value and importance, then we would expect to see Hodges saying that the appearance of Jesus to Peter is something of "great importance" and that he "always preaches" it, just as he claims is true about the cross and resurrection of Jesus. But of course we don't see this from Hodges or any other CG advocate. Hodges is simply being hypocritical then, and realizes himself that each of these items are not on an equal level of importance. Clearly, this is just a desperate attempt to discount what is a very strong biblical argument against the "crossless" gospel that Hodges promotes.
The second weak attempt of Hodges to defend his position that the "gospel" in 1 Cor. 15 is more than what the lost must believe for salvation relates to Paul's purpose in writing the chapter. Hodges says that "Paul is defending the truth of the resurrection" and that "[t]he items he lists are chosen for that purpose". (emphasis in original) The problem with this is rather obvious, so much so that this point seems even weaker coming from a seminary professor. Just because Paul is defending the truth of the resurrection doesn't categorically exclude the items he lists from being part of the gospel! Verse 1 of 1 Cor. 15 makes it plain that Paul is recalling "the gospel" that he had preached to them in the beginning. There is no reason that Paul could not have included all the points of the gospel, and also added on to it other evidences (the various appearances) that would have been helpful toward defending the resurrection specifically. This is in fact exactly what we find. Considering that Jesus had to die in order to be resurrected, it would actually have been quite natural for Paul to include this in his list. Plus, again, he had already stated in verse 1 that he was recalling the gospel which he had originally preached to them to start the church in the beginning. To say that Paul's defense of the resurrection in chapter 15 necessarily means that his list could not include the gospel is "ridiculous error" and not worthy of a seminary professor.
Finally, it is the height of irony that Zane Hodges is now saying that "the gospel" does not define what the lost must believe to be saved. Such a statement from him causes one to wonder what exactly he meant then when he wrote the book The Gospel Under Siege. Does that book claim that the entire Bible is under siege, since the GES teaches that "the gospel" can refer to the good news of the entire Bible? Surely not. Perhaps Hodges has merely changed his mind on the issue, but the impetus for such a change would seem to be a particular theological view (the new "crossless" gospel). Rather than allowing his theological view to be changed and formed by Scripture, Hodges is changing Scripture according to his theological view.*
In summary, the latest article by Hodges defending his "crossless" gospel has been shown to be lacking in many areas. Hodges fails to even correctly represent his critics, let alone adequately answer them. He ignores essential cultural understandings of the time of John, and must resort to desperate (and failed) measures to try to remove the saving message from Paul's "gospel" in 1 Cor. 15. This reductionist "gospel" of Hodges is not only crossless, it is impotent and non-saving. I pray that exposing these errors will help keep others from accepting and/or promoting Hodges' new and unbiblical view.
*Hodges has changed other Scriptures to support his view as well, including the terms "the Christ" and "the Son of God". Greg Schliesmann exposed and refuted this major error in his article, "The Christ Under Siege".