Saturday, April 21, 2012

DANGER ISLAND! Examining the Deserted Island Scenarios of Free Grace Theology, Part 6

DANGER # 5: Both scenarios are hypothetical.

The strange scenarios proposed by Zane Hodges and Tom Stegall are nothing more than conjecture!  They are theological speculations - "theologically contrived and not exegetically derived."1

In his article "How To Lead People To Christ, Part 1," Hodges introduces his topic by saying: "Let me begin with a strange scenario. Try to imagine an unsaved person marooned on a tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean."2 Notice here that Hodges asks his audience to "imagine" his Deserted Island Scenario, thereby affirming that it is indeed imaginary and make-believe. A few sentences later Hodges goes on to add: "Now suppose that our unsaved man somehow becomes convinced that this person [in John 6:47] called Jesus can guarantee his eternal future".3 Then in Part 2 of the article Hodges says, "Let's return for a moment to that deserted island in the Pacific Ocean that I invented in my previous article. My hypothetical unsaved man has just read the words of Jesus in John 6:47".4

Stegall's Galatians-Only Scenario is also based on nothing more than theological speculation. He asks: "Are we honestly to believe [or suppose] that a lost soul could actually read and believe every word of Galatians and slip into hell...?"5 Notice that Stegall uses the word "could" as opposed to the word can. This is a subtle yet important distinction because the word "could" suggests "less force or certainty" than the word can.6 While Hodges plainly tells us that his scenario is hypothetical, Stegall is subtle in implying it - which only makes Stegall's strange scenario more dangerous to the unsuspecting.

Taking the Guess-work Out of the Gospel

Fred Lybrand highlights the danger of hypothetical scenarios when he says: "After much reflection I want to suggest that we adjust the questions we are asking and discussing. Usually this discussion...is about a hypothetical situation where someone didn't have time to hear the 'whole message' of the gospel. In this situation, the Questionee is being put on the spot with, 'Would God send that person to hell? Can't He save them if they just believe that He's the answer to their eternal need?' The problem is that folks in theology tend to deal too much in Theory and not in Fact. Theories are basically unproved (and often un-provable), so another word for this would be GUESS. Most theorizing and conjecturing goes beyond what the Word says [1 Cor. 4:6], and mistakenly forces conclusions, that in turn are used to interpret scripture...We just guess...and try to support our guesses with passages and reasoning. Sometimes we find passages and then guess based on them; but, in the end, it's still just a guess."7

Hodges and Stegall can debate theological speculations ad nauseam, but at the end of the day all that really matters is "what the Word says" (as Lybrand has noted). It is telling that in evangelizing the real lost souls in Galatia and elsewhere the apostle Paul didn't hand out gospel tracts of John 6:47 or even "every word of Galatians,"8 but instead he preached the good news of salvation including Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and appearances (Acts 13:26-41; cf. Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 15:1-11).9

We Must Not Be Wise Above What Is Written

The apostle Paul gives an admonition to the Corinthians that we need to hear today. He says: "Do not go beyond what is written" (1 Cor. 4:6, NIV).  Augustine put it this way: "We must not be wise above what is written."10 The danger of hypothetical scenarios is that they tend to go beyond what is written! Paul tells Christians what to do with theological "speculations". He writes: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; [we are] CASTING DOWN IMAGINATIONS [the NASB says "DESTROYING SPECULATIONS"], and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and [we are] bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5, KJV; cf. 1 Tim. 1:3-4).11 Instead of commending Hodges' imaginary scenario as "a helpful illustration"12 (as Stegall has done), the apostle Paul would cast it down - and he urges us to follow his Godly example (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:6, etc.).


< Part  5                         Part 7 >


ENDNOTES:

1  Stegall, "Vigilance Regarding the Truth of the Gospel: Reengaging the Heresy of the GES 'Crossless' Gospel, Part 1," In Defense of the Gospel blog, http://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2010/05/vigilance-regarding-the-truth-of-gospel_04.html (accessed, May 4, 2010).

2  Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1: The Content of Our Message," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): p. 4, underlining added. Notice that Hodges says: "Let me begin with a strange scenario." Let's begin with the Bible. Problems arise when strange scenarios begin to redefine and/or undermine the truth of God's Word and thus overthrow the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:18, NKJV). Hypothetical scenarios are dangerous because of the tendency to allow the theological tail to wag the hermeneutical dog. (Adapted from Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 9," The Grace Family Journal [Special Edition 2008]: p. 18.)

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

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.

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

6  Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (2004), p. 284.

7  Lybrand, "GES Gospel: Lybrand Open Letter," p. 15, second ellipsis his.

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

9  See the article by Jonathan Perreault, "Getting the Gospel Right," Free Grace Free Speech blog, pp. 15-17.

10  Augustine, On The Soul And Its Origin, Chapter 15. Similarly, C. I. Scofield cautions against "logic chopping and inferential reasonings. It is being wise above what is written." (Scofield, "Biblical Notes and Queries," W. R. Moody, Editor, Record of Christian Work, Vol. 28 [New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899], p. 381.)

11  In the original Greek language in which the New Testament was written, the phrase "casting down" means: "to pull down, demolish...the (subtle) reasonings (of opponents) likened to fortresses...to refute, 2 Co. x. 4 (5); to destroy". (Thayer, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, see the entry for kathaireo/"casting down," http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2507&t=KJV.)

12  Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 4," The Grace Family Journal (Special Edition 2007): p. 3.

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