Friday, April 13, 2012

DANGER ISLAND! Examining the Deserted Island Scenarios of Free Grace Theology, Part 2

This series of articles is titled "DANGER ISLAND!" What exactly is dangerous about the Deserted Island Scenarios? Let's focus our attention on answering this question by examining:

 The Dangers of the Deserted Island Scenarios

DANGER #1: Both scenarios assume that God will not give further revelation from His Word to those who have received some Bible truth.

In reference to the Deserted Island Scenario, Zane Hodges says: "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?"1 Notice that Hodges never entertains the possibility that the marooned islander could receive further revelation after believing the truth of John 6:47. In response to Hodges' question, consider what Bob Wilkin says in an article titled "Is Ignorance Eternal Bliss?" Wilkin writes: "Scripture teaches that all who respond to the light they have will receive more light. The account of Cornelius coming to faith in Jesus Christ shows that (Acts 10-11). So do Paul's remarks on Mars Hill in Acts 17:27. God brings the explicit good news of Jesus Christ to all who respond to the light they have by seeking God."2 If Wilkin's assessment is correct then surely God will send the marooned islander additional light at least comparable with what is revealed to Cornelius in Acts chapter 10! Interestingly enough, notice in Acts 10 how the apostle Peter highlights the gospel truths of Christ's "death...on a cross" (Acts 10:39), burial and resurrection on the third day (Acts 10:40), and reappearance to witnesses (Acts 10:40-41). The Gospel of John includes all this information as well. Hodges' Deserted Island Illustration falls short of the Biblical model and is therefore rightly rejected.

Kevin Lane has written an excellent article highlighting the same point I'm making about how Hodges' question is in reality based on a false premise. Notice what Keven says in the article titled "Is There Any Question?". He writes:

"In defense of their 'Redefined Free Grace Gospel' members of the GES [the Grace Evangelical Society] and it's community of sympathizers will often ask this hypothetical question: 'What if a person on an tropical island is only told that Jesus will guarantee their eternal life and they believe Him for it? Is that person saved by grace through their faith in Jesus?' Then they ask who are we mere [or mean!] men to say the person could not be saved? And then they state that if this person could be saved, then reception of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a requirement for Salvation...[But if] we do receive what He is revealing then He will give more. Even if it takes sending an Angel to an Evangelist to get someone to the person so they can hear 'beginning with' where ever they are but ending up with the full preaching of Christ to them. Just like in Acts 8:35. And having had a preacher sent to them, and having heard (received), they can have faith and be saved unto Eternal Life. Because the REAL questions, the ones we find in Scripture that relate EXACTLY to this subject are found in Romans 10:13-17: 13 For 'whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.' 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things! 16 but they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'LORD, who has believed our report?' 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. When I ask 'Is there any question?' the answer is these questions: How can they call on Him if they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him if they have not heard? How shall they hear without a Preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? The false premise of the question asked by the GES and it's sympathizers assumes that God will not give further revelation to the person who is seeking. But everything we know about our Graceful God tells us otherwise. We are told that 'he who seeks will find' and we are told that God put Christ's work on the Cross on public display. We are shown that God will send the preacher to the one who has received just the little bit they are given."3

Similar to Hodges, Tom Stegall also proposes a strange scenario based on the false assumption that God will not give further revelation to those who respond to the light. But instead of fragments of text from the Gospel of John, Stegall uses the book of Galatians. Notice what he says: "There are a few extreme Free Grace advocates [supposedly like Donald Campbell, Warren Wiersbe, George Meisinger, Keith Krell, Andy Stanley, etc.] who...say that it is not enough that lost sinners believe that Jesus Christ is God-incarnate who died for all their sins and rose from the dead [no bodily resurrection mentioned] and that salvation is by grace through faith alone. According to them, one can still believe all of these truths and go straight to hell [a straw man argument]. Yet, to this imbalanced position, we must ask, does Paul's Epistle to the Galatians contain the saving gospel or doesn't it? Are we honestly to believe that a lost soul could actually read and believe every word of Galatians and yet slip into hell for lack of knowledge...?!"4

Stegall here is assuming that God will not send additional light beyond what is contained in the book of Galatians. That is one of the false premises of his strange scenario. But Stegall's own words bear witness against his reductionist reasoning. He makes a statement in regards to the Deserted Island Scenario that highlights the same problem of the Galatians-Only Scenario. Stegall says: "We have to ask the theological question, if God could cause John 6:47 to reach a poor man stranded on a desert island, then why couldn't He allow a few more verses or even the whole chapter to wash ashore, so the poor man would have absolutely no room to doubt who Jesus really is"?5 The same basic question can just as easily be asked in regards to Stegall's Galatians-Only Scenario! In other words, we have to ask the following theological question: If God could cause "every word of Galatians" (as Stegall has said) to reach a poor man stranded on a deserted island, then why couldn't He allow a few more verses like 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 or even the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 to wash ashore, so the poor man would have absolutely no room to doubt who Jesus really is? For that matter, why couldn't God allow a portion of Acts 13 to wash ashore (as that was Paul's original message to the unsaved in Galatia)? 

One of the problems with Stegall's Galatians-Only Scenario is that it assumes that an unsaved man "could...slip into hell for lack of knowledge about Christ's burial and post-resurrection appearances to Peter and the twelve". In other words, the scenario assumes that the lost soul will not receive further revelation of gospel truth. This assumption is both illogical and unbiblical. The scenario is actually a straw-man argument because no one in the Free Grace gospel debate is saying any such thing. That's why Stegall doesn't quote anyone as saying that - because no one has! In contrast to what Stegall has said, what has been affirmed is that an individual who is responding to the truth will be given more truth. Such an individual will not be sent to hell (as groundless gospel advocates misrepresent us as saying), but will instead be sent more light! The principles is this: "Light received brings more light, but light rejected brings night."6 In other words, the unsaved soul who believes every word of Galatians will not "slip into hell for lack of knowledge" but will instead receive more gospel truth, "as it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!'" (Rom. 10:15b, NKJV; cf. Isa. 52:7). Biblical examples of this being true include:

Ninevah (Jonah 4:11)
The Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:25-40)
Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48)
The Macedonian man (Acts 16:6-10)
Lydia (Acts 16:13-14)
The Athenians (Acts 17:22-34)

God is not wishing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. Ezek. 18:23, 33:11). Therefore in His "perfect patience" (1 Tim. 1:16; cf. 2 Pet. 3:9) He will move to bring more light to a lost person who has received some gospel truth. So if the "lost soul" in Stegall's Galatians-Only Scenario does one day "slip into hell," it's because he rejected the light that he had, not because he didn't know enough information.7

< Part  1                         Part 3 >


ENDNOTES:

1 Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1: The Content of Our Message," The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): p. 4.

2 Wilkin, "Is Ignorance Eternal Bliss?," The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 16 (Spring 2003): p. 10.

3 Lane, "Is There Any Question?," On My Walk blog, September 29, 2008, accessed April 13, 2012.

4 Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 9," The Grace Family Journal (Special Edition 2008): p. 21.

5 Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press: 2009), pp. 94-95.

6 David Anderson, Free Grace Soteriology (Xulon Press, 2010), p. 269; cf. Gregory Sapaugh, "A Response to Hodges: How to Lead a Person to Christ, Part 1 and 2," The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (Autumn 2001): p. 27.

7 See 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 and 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. For further discussion see the article "In Defense of the Gospel, Part 1," Free Grace Free Speech blog.

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