Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Cross Under Siege by Zane Hodges

In recent years Zane Hodges and the Grace Evangelical Society (G.E.S.) have redefined the gospel of salvation from "the word of the cross" (1 Cor. 1:17-18) to what some have called "the new crossless gospel."1

Hodges himself did not always hold to his new view. I think this point needs to be emphasized more in the Free Grace gospel debate, because Hodges once denounced the position he eventually came to embrace. Below is a brief chronology of statements by Zane Hodges documenting his departure from the cross:

Classic Free Grace (1992)

"False doctrine...tell[s] us that it is dangerous - even wrong - to trust completely in what Christ has done for us in dying for all our sins (1 John 2:2; John 1:29)."2

"Either a man can look to the cross and find peace by believing, or he cannot....There is no escape from this conclusion. If I cannot trust completely in Christ and what He did on the cross, then the cross can give no peace about my eternal destiny."3

"[In John 3:14-16] Jesus means to say, He Himself will be lifted up on the cross, and the one who looks to Him in faith will live....So, in John 3, the issue is faith, or confidence, in Christ for eternal life. Will a man look to the Crucified One for eternal life, or will he not? The man who does, lives! By this very simplicity, the Gospel confronts and refutes all its contemporary distortions."4

Crossless Free Grace (2000)

"In recent years I have become aware of a way of presenting the gospel invitation that troubles me. I believe I have heard it from my earliest years, and I admit it didn't really bother me for a long time. Now it does. I have heard people say this: 'In order to be saved you must believe that Jesus died on the cross.' In the context of our present discussion, I mean that this is their summary of the requirement of faith. It is not just one item, among others, to be believed. Whenever I hear that nowadays, I get extremely uncomfortable."5

"Try to imagine an unsaved person marooned on a tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He has never heard about Christianity in his life. One day a wave washes a fragment of paper up onto the beach. It is wet but still partly readable. On that paper are the words of John 6:43-47. But the only readable portions are: 'Jesus therefore answered and said to them' (v. 43) and 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life' (v. 47). Now suppose that our unsaved man somehow becomes convinced that this person called Jesus can guarantee his eternal future, since He promises everlasting life. In other words, he believes Jesus' words in John 6:47. Is he saved? I suspect that there are some grace people who would say that this man is not saved because he doesn't know enough. For example, he doesn't know that Jesus died for his sins on the cross....My hypothetical unsaved man has just read the words of Jesus in John 6:47, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life.' All this person needs to do is to believe that statement and eternal life is his."6

"Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the Gospel of John teach that a person must understand the cross to be saved. It just does not teach this."7

"People are not saved by believing that Jesus died on the cross; they are saved by believing in Jesus for eternal life, or eternal salvation."8

"Salvation is not the result of assenting to a detailed creed. Salvation does not even require an understanding of how it was provided for or made possible....The simple truth is that Jesus can be believed for eternal salvation apart from any detailed knowledge of what He did to provide it."9

Cultish Free Grace (2008)

"In offering eternal life, Jesus Himself never invited anyone at all to believe in...His death on the cross for our sins".10

"Theological legalism [i.e. Classic Free Grace] seeks to co-opt Free Grace theology. Indeed it masquerades as this kind of theology. But this claim is false."11


ENDNOTES:

1 Tom Stegall, The Tragedy of the Crossless Gospel," The Grace Family Journal (Spring 2007): p. 9.

2 Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1992), p. 147, italics his.

3 Ibid., p. 148, italics his.

4 Ibid., pp. 18-19, italics his.

5 Zane C. Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 2: Our Invitation To Respond," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (Spring 2001): p. 9.

6 Zane C. Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1: The Content of Our Message," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): 4; Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 2: Our Invitation To Respond," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (Spring 2001): pp. 11-12.

7 Zane C. Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1, The Content of Our Message," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): p. 7.

8 Zane C. Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 2: Our Invitation To Respond," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (Spring 2001): p. 10.

9 Zane C. Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1: The Content of Our Message," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): 10.; Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 2: Our Invitation To Respond," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (Spring 2001): p. 12.

10 Zane C. Hodges, "The Hydra's Other Head: Theological Legalism," Grace In Focus (September-October 2008).

11 Ibid. Bob Nyberg correctly concludes: "Zane has narrowed down the definition of Free Grace theology to ONLY those who hold to his concept of the gospel which is 'believing in Jesus for eternal life.' According to Zane's limited definition of Free Grace theology, anyone who teaches that a person must believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins is a promoter of Theological Legalism and does not teach Free Grace theology. In other words, Free Grace theology is the sole possession of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society. Anyone who does not buy in to their minimalist (aka Crossless) gospel, cannot be a Free Grace advocate." (Nyberg, "Zane Hodges and Theological Legalism," www.4himnet.com/bnyberg/Zane_Hodges_and_Theological_Legalism.pdf)

2 comments:

  1. JP,

    I believe God is using you to speak important truth. Thanks for your ministry with your blog. This facet of Hodges' teaching is sinking in finally. This may be because this post was simple, illustrative and most importantly, kind. I can see that the gradual revealing, or gradual evolution, poses a complication at this time for evangelizing with the cross. I still have a lot to learn.

    -Michele

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  2. Hi Michele,

    Thanks for your input and encouragement!

    The Bible says: "Do not associate with those who are given to change" (Prov. 24:21b). It is evident that Hodges himself did not always hold to his new view. I think this point should be emphasized more in the Free Grace gospel debate, because Hodges own statements are highly contradictory.

    JP

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