Tuesday, May 1, 2012

DANGER ISLAND! Examining the Deserted Island Scenarios of Free Grace Theology, Part 8

DANGER # 7: Both scenarios assume that the saving message excludes the burial of Christ.

The strange scenarios of Zane Hodges and Tom Stegall are "joined at the hip" (to borrow a phrase from Lou Martuneac who probably borrowed it from somebody else) in assuming that the saving message excludes the burial of Christ.1 Notice what each man says in this regard:

A New Twist to 1 Corinthians 15:4

Hodges writes: "Our object is to lead [people] to believe in Christ to provide their eternal salvation. The gospel message [in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4] about His death, burial, and resurrection is the normal context for our presentation of this core objective. But at the end of the day, anyone who trusts Christ for eternal life is born again."2 Hodges labels the gospel truths of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection "excess baggage".3 Elsewhere he call these truths "the facts surrounding the gospel message"4 and says that they tend to "cloud the issues" when making appeals to faith in Christ.5 Hodges believes that the saving message excludes virtually all the historical facts of the gospel. Thus, along with Christ's death and resurrection, out goes the burial of Christ! In view of Hodges' belief that the saving message excludes the burial of Christ, it's not surprising that he isolated John 6:47 in his Deserted Island Scenario rather than 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. While 1 Corinthians 15:4 specifically mentions the burial of Christ, John 6:47 does not.

Tom Stegall also admits to preaching the maximum consisting at least of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, but requires something less than this to be believed.6 Stegall acknowledges that "it is quite common for Christians to reference 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and then state that the gospel is the message that 'Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again'...since the burial happens to fall in-between these two pillars, it gets included each time this passage is quoted".7 Stegall goes on to argue: "The death and resurrection of Christ are the two key events/works repeatedly emphasized throughout Scripture as an inseparable couplet necessary for salvation, not His burial."8 Like Hodges, Stegall believes that the burial of Christ is the normal context for the saving message but not part of the saving message itself. Stegall labels the gospel truths of Christ's burial and resurrection appearances "additional details in 1 Corinthians 15".9 Elsewhere he calls these truths: "extra details in Acts 13,"10 and "additional details...but they are not in themselves elements of the saving gospel."11 In view of Stegall's belief that the saving message excludes the burial of Christ, it's not surprising that he isolated the book of Galatians in his Galatians-Only Scenario rather than 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. While 1 Corinthians 15:4 specifically mentions the burial of Christ, the book of Galatians does not.12

Getting the Gospel Straight

The assumption that the saving message excludes the burial of Christ is simply not according to the Scriptures. For example, the prophet Isaiah includes the burial of Christ in his "evangelistic message"13 - his gospel (Isa. 53:1-12; cf. Rom. 10:15-16).14 The apostle Peter includes the burial of Christ in his sermon on the day of Pentecost when the church first began (Acts 2:22-32, 40) - and 3,000 souls were saved (Acts 2:41)! The apostle Paul includes the burial of Christ in "the message of...salvation" to the unsaved Galatians (Acts 13:26-41). The apostle John includes the burial of Christ in his "evangelistic" narrative (John 2:13-22, 12:1-8, 23-24, 14:18-19, 16:16-22, 19:38-42).15 Most importantly, Paul includes the burial of Christ in his definitive declaration of the gospel to the Corinthians, reminding them of what the content of the gospel really is - the message they believed and by which they are saved (1 Cor. 15:1, 3-5; cf. Rom. 1:16; Eph. 1:13; 2 Thess. 1:8-10).16

In light of these biblical truths, let me be more specific in highlighting the strange similarity between the teachings of Zane Hodges and Tom Stegall: Both scenarios wrongly assume that the saving message excludes the burial of Christ.

< Part 7                         Part 9 >


ENDNOTES:

1 Adapted from Lou Martuneac, "Lordship Salvation and the Crossless Gospel: 'Joined at the Hip.'" In Defense of the Gospel blog, November 23, 2009, italics his.

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

3 Ibid., p. 17. Hodges does not explicitly say this. He says: "All of the excess baggage that we bring into our encounter with unsaved sinners is just that, excess baggage!" (Ibid.) Although in the immediate context Hodges is speaking against "Inviting People to Believe" by praying a prayer, in the broader context of the article he is also speaking against what he calls "Doing the Two-Step" - that is, inviting "people to believe the basic facts of the gospel, and then...ask them to appropriate this truth for themselves." (Ibid., p. 12.) Hodges says that such a technique "bothers" him. (Ibid.)

4 Ibid., p. 11.

5 Ibid., p. 12.

6 This point is discussed further in the article "Getting the Gospel Right," p. 21 in the PDF file.

7 Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, p. 559, italics his.  There are several things to notice about Stegall's statement in regards to his reductionist reasoning:  
  (1) Stegall's reasoning is incongruent. He is including supposedly non-saving truth in his saving message.
   (2) Stegall's reasoning is intellectually dishonest. He is including Christ's burial in the gospel as well as excluding it. He says that "it is quite common for Christians to reference 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and then state that the gospel is the message that 'Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again'...since the burial happens to fall in-between these two pillars, it gets included each time this passage is quoted". Amazingly, Stegall is saying that even though the burial of Christ is being "included" in the gospel, it is really being excluded!
   (3) Stegall's reasoning is postmodern. Notice that Stegall is ascribing his own beliefs to others and then using that scenario as his basis for truth. In other words, Stegall's basis for truth is not what the Bible says, but what he says other people say!
   (4) Stegall's reasoning is found wanting. It fails to explain why it is also quite common for Christians to reference 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and then state that the gospel includes three or even four points - one of which is specifically the burial of Christ. Similarly, Stegall's reasoning also fails to explain why it is quite common for Christians to reference 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 and then state that the gospel is the message that "Christ died for our sins, was buried, was raised, and appeared". If the burial and appearances are not part of the gospel (as Stegall contends), why confuse people by including them in the gospel - especially verse 5?

8 Stegall, "Proposed Change" to the "SOLE CONDITION FOR SALVATION," Word of Grace Bible Church handout (2007), underlining added; cf. Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, p. 588. Elsewhere Stegall writes: "the Lord's burial and appearances are not the required content of saving faith...they are not technically part of the gospel" (Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, p. 589).

9 Ibid, underlining added.

10 Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 9," The Grace Family Journal (Special Edition 2008): p. 21, underlining added; cf. Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, pp. 375-376.

11 Ibid.

12 No wonder Biblical Greek scholar J. Gresham Machen writes: "The First Epistle to the Corinthians must be allowed to cast light upon Galatians."  (Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Printing Company, 1925], p. 125.) Machen goes on to emphasize: "The epistle to the Galatians must always be interpreted in the light of 1 Cor. xv. 1-11." (Ibid., p. 145.)

13 C. I. Scofield, What Do the Prophets Say?, pp. 57-58.

14 For further discussion see the article "The Romans Road Leads to Isaiah 53".

15 Hodges states: "The Gospel of John is the only book in our New Testament canon that explicitly declares its purpose to be evangelistic. Of course, I am thinking of the famous theme statement found in John 20:30-31, where we read: 'And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." (Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1: The Content of Our Message," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 [Autumn 2000]: p. 6.) One might have expected Hodges' to name John 6:47 as "the famous theme statement found in John" - but surprisingly he doesn't! This is significant. Notice Hodges just admitted that the "evangelistic...theme statement" of John's Gospel comes only after the substitutionary death, burial, resurrection, and manifestation of the risen Christ have been shared. In other words, John's famous "evangelistic...theme statement" comes only after the apostle John has shared the biblical gospel.

16 NOTE: The word "saved" in 1 Corinthians 15:2 can refer to both first and second tense salvation, i.e. justification and sanctification. See Rokser, Let's Preach the Gospel (Duluth: Duluth Bible Church, no date), p. 23; cf. S. Lewis Johnson, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 1255.

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