Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Strange Beliefs of Stegall's System

(To view the PDF of this article, click here.)


Introduction

Last week Bob Wilkin posted his review of Tom Stegall's new book The Gospel of the Christ. While I don't agree with the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) gospel espoused by Wilkin, he does make some good points in his critique of Stegall's position. We must not forget Paul's command to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). In discussing the "MAIN WEAKNESSES OF THE WORK," Wilkin writes: "I believe the underlying weakness that causes all the rest is that Stegall is blinded by tradition...Like a five-point Calvinist, he thinks his tradition is right and he seeks ways to prove his tradition (from tradition, theology, logic, and Scripture), rather than searching the Scriptures and letting them speak for themselves."1

After studying Stegall's groundless (no-burial) gospel for several years now, I can't help but agree with Wilkin's assessment! In fact, before I ever read Wilkin's review, I had used  the Calvinism comparison myself in describing the main weakness of Stegall's position to others. Stegall's interpretation of the Scriptures is like looking at the Bible through rose colored stained glass windows and seeing everything in red.

While Stegall's position has a veneer2 of biblical orthodoxy, the following key beliefs appear to be the real basis for his redefinition of the gospel:3

12 Key Beliefs of Stegall's System

KEY BELIEF #1: TRIANGLES - In the preface of his book Stegall has a picture of a large upward pointing triangle containing a smaller downward pointing triangle. The smaller triangle has arrows on each side which represent "virtual mirror reflections".4 These triangles are said to picture the "threefold basis"5 of the groundless gospel "in an amazing triangular testimony".6 This geometric symbol appears later in the book as well.7 Stegall's triangle supposedly depicts the primary basis of the groundless gospel but strangely resembles the Masonic symbol for deity8 (scroll down to the "Triangulation" picture in the previous link) - a false deity whose secret name is Jahbulon.9 (Freemasonry is not a Christian organization - it is a pagan religion rooted in Gnosticism.)10 Amazingly, the pyramid with an upside down triangle is also a trademark of the Klu Klux Klan (notice how the two triangles form three interlocking K's), and is often displayed on the robes of The Exalted Cyclops. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) is a secret society of white supremacists and is classified as a hate group! More recently, the pyramid shaped symbol has come to be associated with the The Legend of Zelda video game and the Triforce. According to the legend, the Triforce is a triangular sacred relic made up of three smaller triangles known as the Triforce of Wisdom, the Triforce of Power, and the Triforce of Courage. These smaller triangles are said to represent the essences of three golden goddesses. The pyramid shaped symbol pictured in Stegall's book does indeed have "an amazing triangular testimony," but probably not the one Stegall intended. In reality, the Triforce symbol is a testimony to the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:18-29). It functions as a warning label highlighting the danger of the groundless gospel!

Some might argue that the Triforce symbol can still be used to the glory of God in spite of it's pagan roots and associations (similar to the altar "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" in Acts 17:22-34). But this thinking misses the point because it does not glorify God to redefine the gospel - and this is exactly what Stegall is trying to do with the "amazing triangular testimony" of his triangle. Notice what he says: "The years ahead will require us to define the sine qua non of the gospel".11 Apparently Stegall does not realize that God has already defined the gospel for us (see 1 Cor. 15:1ff)!

Stegall may be sincere, but he is sincerely wrong. The Bible says that Christians must "beware" (Col. 2:8, NKJV, Greek blepete) of mixing deceptive philosophies and worldly principles with the teachings of Christ. The apostle Paul warns: "See to it [or beware] that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Col. 2:8; cf. 2 Cor. 11:3-4, 14, NKJV). Greek scholar Marvin Vincent notes that "the elementary principles of the world" (or "rudimentary teachings," Col. 2:8, KJV) includes "pagan symbolic mysteries" - like the Gnostic/Masonic/Klu Klux Klan/Triforce triangle.12 A. T. Robertson concludes: "The Gnostics were measuring Christ by their philosophy as many men are doing today. They have it backwards."13

Not surprisingly, Stegall's triangle creates more problems than it solves.14 Notice what he says when he introduces it in the preface of his book. He writes: "As a reader, it will also be helpful for you to understand at the outset what the thesis of this book is based upon. The contents of saving faith articulated in this book have not been chosen arbitrarily. In the last few years, as I prayerfully and carefully studied each passage containing the various forms of the word 'gospel,' as well as studying the Johannine writings and many other individual, soteriologically significant passages, the consistency and coherence of God's Word became evident and overwhelming. The Lord has not been vague about what He requires us to believe in order to be born again. Nor has He hidden it from us. This is not a matter of the secret things belonging only to the Lord in contrast to the truths He has revealed (Deut. 29:29). He has provided abundant revelatory testimony to mankind in order to answer the question of what we must believe [that apparently takes years to figure out!]. He has provided a cord of at least three strands in testifying to the contents of saving faith."15

This statement by Stegall reveals several things: (1) If indeed the "Lord has not been vague about what He requires us to believe in order to be born again. Nor has He hidden it from us" - then why did it take Stegall "years" of prayerful and careful study before "the consistency and coherence of God's Word became evident"!? Are the contents of saving faith really that hard to understand and that difficult to figure out? This is a glaring problem that only highlights the arcane nature of Stegall's position. No wonder Wilkin incredulously asks: "DOES GOD HIDE THE SAVING MESSAGE IN A SYNTHESIS?"16 (2) How were the "many other individual, soteriologically significant passages" chosen? Stegall never explains - in fact, he suggests that this is a question which is never specifically answered in the Bible!17 Stegall wants us to believe that  his method of selection is not a case of the theological tail wagging the hermeneutical dog, but since he never explains his selection process, how is the reader to know? Wilkin is correct to conclude that such tactics on the part of groundless gospel advocates are nothing more than "arbitrary dogmatism".18 (3) Notice that there is a hint of uncertainty or ambiguity as to the basic structure of the triangle - for Stegall likens it to a cord of "at least three strands". So are there three strands or more than three strands? What if there are actually four strands and the fourth strand fundamentally alters the interpretation of the first three strands and highlights the error of Stegall's no-burial gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4)? It is telling that Stegall cannot even say with certainty that his geometric symbol is completely accurate.

The simple fact of the matter is that Stegall's triangle is his own invention. It's his unique system of theology. It's the lens through which he understands the Scriptures. It's the window through which he interprets the Bible. Calvinism has five points, the Triforce triangle has three points (in reality, Stegall's entire system has at least 12 key points or beliefs). While the two paradigms are quite different they do share at least one thing in common: both are man-made systems imposed upon the Bible.

KEY BELIEF #2: VIRTUAL MIRROR REFLECTIONS - In explaining his strange triangle Stegall says: "All three lines of evidence function as virtual mirror reflections of one another".19 Apparently the sine qua non of the gospel is bouncing around inside the triangle somewhere and Stegall has found the secret to harnessing its power.20 The triangle of power and the virtual mirror reflections go together. They are the two most important keys of the groundless gospel. Why else would Stegall highlight them in the very preface of his book?

Actually, the "virtual mirror reflections" highlight a design flaw in the Triforce triangle. If Stegall were intellectually honest he would have to admit that "The Contents of the Gospel of Christ"21 (the left side of the triangle) include Christ's burial (1 Cor. 15:4).22 Thus, this gospel truth should be reflected to the other two sides of the triangle - but it is not. Upon close examination it becomes clear that Stegall is using the "amazing triangular testimony" and "virtual mirror reflections" of his triangle not to define the biblical gospel, but instead to redefine it.

KEY BELIEF #3: UNANSWERED THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS - Under the heading "The Contents of the Saving Gospel,"23 Stegall attempts to explain why "The [Groundless] Gospel's Content is Not Arbitrary".24 Stegall once again draws the reader's attention to a picture of his enigmatic triangle as he discusses one of it's constituent parts: "Individual Salvation Passages & The Grounds of Redemption"25 (which he defines as "Christ's deity, humanity, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection...in addition to salvation through faith apart from works"26 - but noticeably excluding Christ's burial and resurrection appearances). Then Stegall makes the most amazing statement. He says, "But this raises an important theological question. Why would God require us to believe only those truths about Christ that provide the grounds of our eternal salvation rather than all other Christological and soteriological truths [such as Christ's burial and resurrection appearances - truths which Stegall argues do not provide the grounds of our eternal salvation]? The reason for this is nowhere stated specifically in Scripture, but the answer appears to be wrapped up in the mediatorial role of Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:3-6)."27 Notice Stegall just admitted that one of the constituent parts of his triangle is based on a theological question/premise that is nowhere specifically answered/stated in the Bible! Apparently even the triangle of power cannot solve this mystery.

KEY BELIEF #4: SYMMETRICAL LITERARY MARKERS - Stegall believes that the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 "provides symmetrical literary markers in the passage that distinguish the actual content of the gospel from the evidences for that gospel."28 Notice that even though Stegall uses the double occurrence of the phrase "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3, 4) as the key to decode the cipher of his mini-gospel he doesn't even include these two phrases in his gospel!29 In his view they merely mark out the content of the gospel but they are not included in that content themselves. Is it any wonder that a false gospel doesn't include the references to "the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3, 4)? It is truly a tragedy that Stegall exploits the Scriptures in this way. In contrast to Stegall's reductionist reasoning, notice what John Piper has to say about the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3, 4). Under the heading "6 Aspects of the Gospel Without Which There Is No Gospel," Piper declares: "The gospel was planned by God beforehand (verses 3, 4: 'according to the scriptures')...Now, why is that good news? Because I'm arguing this is an essential part of the gospel. You strip away 'according to Scriptures' - [so as to say] 'there was no plan here'...well what was it if it wasn't a plan? Historical vagaries, just something slipped up here, something went wrong here...that's not gospel."30

KEY BELIEF #5: RANDOM NUMERICAL FREQUENCY - In his book Stegall presents another unique method of interpretation in his continued attempt to redefine the gospel. His new method of interpretation borders on numerology by attaching "essential" gospel status to words based on the number of times they are mentioned in the New Testament. Conversely, he attaches no such "essential" gospel status to words that appear less frequently. Under the heading "The Frequency of Christ's Death & Resurrection" Stegall declares: "if Christ's burial and appearances are truly elements of the gospel of our salvation, and therefore essential to saving faith, then there is no adequate explanation to account for the fact that the death and resurrection most frequently appear together in the New Testament without any mention of the burial and appearances."31 Stegall then goes on to list a random selection of Scriptures referencing Christ's death and resurrection. Stegall's method of interpretation is flawed not because he is noting the number of times certain words occur in the New Testament, but because he is using numerical frequency to supposedly divine the essential and non-essential elements of the gospel without biblical grounds. It is telling that none of the passages Stegall lists even claim to declare the content of Paul's gospel! Furthermore, Stegall's reductionist reasoning contains its own refutation. When consistently applied, such a hermeneutic ultimately leads one to conclude that Christ's resurrection is a non-essential element of saving faith because it is not mentioned as frequently as Christ's death! In other words, based on Stegall's reasoning a misguided interpreter could conclude that the death of Christ is the one key work most frequently emphasized throughout Scripture as the one truth necessary for salvation, not His resurrection. This unbiblical conclusion is more easily arrived at when the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 is selectively omitted, as Stegall has done in his compilation(s) of Scripture.32

KEY BELIEF #6: MISTRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE - Stegall believes he has found support for his partial gospel in a somewhat obscure footnote from Daniel Wallace's textbook Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. In the footnote Wallace makes the following notation regarding the characteristics of conjunctions, saying: "Although the two elements [which are connected by a coordinating conjunction] might be equal syntactically, there is often a semantic notion of subordination. For example, on the surface 'I went to the store and I bought bread' involves two coordinate clauses joined by and. But on a 'deep structure' level, it is evident that coordinate ideas are not involved: 'I went to the store in order that I might buy bread.'...Paratactic structure (i.e., when whole clauses are joined) may or may not reflect the true semantic relationship."33 In short, Wallace is saying that coordinating conjunctions like kai ("and") can often have a notion of subordination on a deep structure level and can thus be translated as "in order that" or "in order to". The first thing to notice is that even if this was the sense of two of the three kai conjunctions in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, it still doesn't remove Christ's burial and appearances from the content of the gospel. But there are several reasons to conclude that Wallace's footnote does not apply to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 and cannot be used to support Stegall's partial gospel interpretation of the passage. I have already discussed all these reasons at length in my articles "Getting the Gospel Right" and "First Among Equals," but one of these reasons is particularly relevant to the discussion here. Namely, Wallace's footnote cannot be used to support a partial gospel interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 because such a connection leads to a mistranslation of the passage. This is an important consideration and even Wallace advices the exegete to: "Test each option with an interpretive translation in determining the best one."34 Based on Wallace's footnote (which points out that on a "deep structure" level the coordinating conjunction "and" can often be translated as "in order that" or "in order to") Stegall concludes: "As this relates to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 we could say that just as someone would not bury a living person, so the Lord's burial (v. 4a) was dependent upon Him dying first (v. 3b). And just as a person could not be seen by others unless he arose from the dead, so the Lord's post-resurrection appearances (v. 5a) were dependent upon Him rising from the dead first (v. 4b). In this respect, the burial and appearances are clearly seen to be semantically subordinate to the two main clauses in the passage. The claim that 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 contains a 'golden chain' of elements that must be of equal theological weight and that must all be elements of the saving gospel, is clearly seen to be unfounded."35 The problem with Stegall's reasoning is that it is based on an unstated mistranslation of the passage. Stegall implicitly is saying that 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 should read as follows: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, in order that He might be buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, in order that He might appear to Cephas, then to the twelve." However, if such a translation is correct and conveys the intended meaning of the passage, why do no versions of the Bible translate 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 the way Stegall has suggested? (Even Wallace in his NET BIBLE doesn't translate the passage the way Stegall has suggested.) That Stegall must rewrite the Bible to support his groundless gospel is a glaring problem! Such practices are characteristic of cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and their New World Translation but should have no place in the life and ministry of Bible believing Christians!36

KEY BELIEF #7: LOGICAL FALLACIES - Based on his unique translation of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Stegall makes the following leap of logic. He writes: "As this relates to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 we could say that just as someone would not bury a living person, so the Lord's burial (v. 4a) was dependent upon Him dying first (v. 3b). And just as a person could not be seen by others unless he arose from the dead, so the Lord's post-resurrection appearances (v. 5a) were dependent upon Him rising from the dead first (v. 4b). In this respect, the burial and appearances are clearly [?] seen to be semantically subordinate to the two main clauses in the passage. The claim that 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 contains a 'golden chain' of elements that must be of equal theological weight and that must all be elements of the saving gospel, is clearly [?] seen to be unfounded."37 Besides being confusing there are several obvious flaws in Stegall's statements. As Norman Geisler would say, the logic is self-refuting. Notice that Stegall is taking an equally firm contrary position to the one he caricatures in that he believes certain elements of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 must not be of equal theological weight and must not be elements of the saving gospel. Furthermore, if Stegall's logic and reasoning are consistently applied to the passage, we are left to erroneously conclude that Christ's resurrection is semantically subordinate to His death because we could say that just as someone would not resurrect a living person, so the Lord's resurrection (v. 4b) was dependent upon Him dying first (v. 3b). Based on Stegall logic and reasoning the argument could also be made that Christ's resurrection is also subordinate to His burial because His resurrection was dependent upon Him being buried first. Is Christ's resurrection now not part of the gospel because it is dependent upon His death and burial? Of course not. Although these conclusions are consistent with Stegall's logic they are at odds not only with the content of the gospel but also with the entire context of the passage which stresses the importance of the resurrection. 

Another problem with Stegall's reductionist reasoning is that it evidences the logical fallacy of being non sequitur. In other words, Stegall's conclusion does not follow his premise. Stegall's premise is that Christ's burial and appearances should be understood in a subordinate sense; his conclusion is that they are not elements of the gospel. This logical fallacy results from his failure to distinguish the difference between correlation and content. Stegall is confusing a supposed "deep structure level" correlation with the specific content of the gospel. However, the content of the gospel is not changed by some supposed "deep structure level" relationship of the clauses. In other words, even if two of the four coordinate content clauses in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 have a subordinate relationship or correlation to the others, all four clauses still remain content clauses because each is introduced by a hoti ("that") content conjunction. A supposed subordination of Christ's burial and appearances does not equate to their elimination from the gospel. Hence, Stegall's entire argument is rather beside the point and gives no validation to his partial gospel.38

KEY BELIEF #8: MISREPRESENTATION OF TRADITION - Stegall alleges that "it has been the standard Free Grace position even long before the advent of the crossless doctrine that the burial and appearances are technically not the gospel but proofs of it."39 Stegall promotes the same idea later in his book when he contends that "the vast majority of grace-oriented Bible teachers recognize that the contents of the saving gospel include Christ's death and resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 but not the supporting evidences of His burial and post-resurrection appearances".40 In response to Stegall's claims I would like to direct the reader to an excellent article written last year by George Meisinger, the president of Chafer Theological Seminary - "a non-crossless Free Grace school"41 (to use Stegall's words). The article is titled "The Gospel Paul Preached: A Church Age Model of Evangelistic Content". It's clear from the article that Meisinger represents and affirms "the standard Free Grace position on the gospel" yet does not agree with Stegall's no-burial interpretation of it.42

KEY BELIEF #9: MAN'S OPINIONS - In his book Stegall writes: "Opinions among commentators are divided as to whether the phrase 'according to the Scriptures' [in 1 Corinthians 15:4] qualifies the entire statement, 'and that He rose again the third day'".43 Wait a minute - "Opinions among commentators"? "BUT WHAT DOES THE SCRIPTURE SAY?" (Gal. 4:30, capitalization added; cf. Rom. 4:3). That's the only question that really matters. Let's back up for a minute and examine why Stegall makes such a comment in the first place. Stegall knows that he has some explaining to do in regards to his removal of "the third day" (1 Cor. 15:4) from the content of the gospel because he has no reason to remove it, at least if he wants to be consistent with his own reductionist reasoning (which views the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" in 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4 as marking out the real gospel). But Stegall knows that he has to remove the reference to the third day from the content of the gospel because the third day points to the burial of Christ (cf. Matt. 12:40, 27:63-64; Lk. 24:6-7; 1 Cor. 15:4).44 And Stegall has removed the burial of Christ from the gospel. So Stegall defers to the "opinions among commentators" as his new authority on the issue of the third day.45 A few pages later in his book Stegall similarly appeals to the supposed conversion experiences "of a vast percentage of God's children in the world today".46 The problem with Stegall's reductionist reasoning is that he is rejecting Jesus' statement on the matter, when He says, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day" (Lk. 24:46a, italics added; compare to the wording in Lk. 4:4, 8, 17, etc.). By saying, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should...rise again from the dead the third day" Jesus makes it clear that the reference to the third day is indeed "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:4)! That's what the Scriptures say. Commenting on Luke 24:46, Everett F. Harrison affirms: "Here Jesus is not simply stating the fact of His resurrection on the third day,  but rather the Scriptural necessity for its occurrence at that time. The same thing is true of Paul's statement in I Cor. 15:4 to the effect that the resurrection transpired on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures."47

KEY BELIEF #10: HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIOS - Stegall speaks rather approvingly of Zane Hodges' Deserted Island Scenario. He actually describes it as "a helpful illustration that raises some extremely important spiritual questions."48 Others in the Free Grace movement don't exactly share Stegall's sentiments. For example, Bob Nyberg states: "Some times hypotheticals are not helpful".49 John Malone declares: "Zane Hodges proposes a theoretical circumstance that is preposterous on its face, and invalid in its details."50 Fred Lybrand echoes these voices when he calls Hodges' scenario "a mistake".51 Maybe Stegall's admiration for the "strange scenario"52 explains why he is now proposing one of his own. Amazingly, Stegall is forcing a portion of God's Word into a strange scenario similar to the one imagined by Zane Hodges! While Hodges uses a few verses from the Gospel of John, Stegall uses the book of Galatians. Let's take a closer look at each scenario.

The Deserted Island Scenario

Hodges states: "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. 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 and rose again the third day."53

The Galatians-Only Scenario

Stegall presents his strange scenario in subtler terms than Hodges and in the form of a rhetorical question. Notice what he says: "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 about Christ's burial and post-resurrection appearances to Peter and the twelve [1 Cor. 15:3-5]?!"54

Similar to Hodges, Stegall is arguing that the lost soul in now saved as a result of believing the limited information presented to him. But notice that the book of Galatians doesn't even contain all five of Stegall's "essential, defining elements of the Gospel which must be believed for one to receive eternal salvation"55 - namely, the truth that "Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead"!56 There is only one mention of Christ's resurrection in the book of Galatians (Gal. 1:1, "raised"/egeiro) - as Stegall even indicates.57 And the word Paul uses for resurrection (egeiro) doesn't mean bodily resurrection. Instead,  it's defined to mean simply: "wake, rouse...fig. raise, help to rise".58 This is why even in English, the verse simply says that "God the Father...raised Him from the dead" (Gal. 1:1). Even though a bodily resurrection is not explicit in the lexical definition of egeiro, the truth of Christ's bodily resurrection is of course implied in the book of Galatians - just like the truths of Christ's burial and resurrection appearances (e.g. Gal. 1:8, 9, 11, 4:13; cf. Acts 13:28-31).59 No wonder William Lane Craig says, "In being raised from the dead, Christ is raised from the grave. In fact the very verbs egegertai [a form of the word egeiro] and anistanai [another Greek word for "raised" - though not found in Galatians] imply that the grave is left empty. The notion of resurrection is unintelligible with regard to the spirit or soul alone. The very words imply resurrection of the body."60 In light of these exegetical truths, Stegall must concede that one of his "essential, defining elements of the Gospel"61 is only implicit in the book of Galatians. Thus, the reductionist reasoning evident in the Galatians-Only Scenario is fallacious, for it is the logical fallacy of special pleading (i.e. a double standard) for Stegall to require Christ's burial and appearances to be explicitly stated in Galatians before he will grant them true gospel status while not applying this same requirement to one of his gospel essentials (Christ's bodily resurrection).62

KEY BELIEF #11: FICTIONAL CASE STUDIES - In his book Stegall presents two hypothetical case studies in an attempt to show that the lost don't have to believe in Christ's burial, three day interment, or resurrection appearances to be saved. Ironically, Stegall prefaces his fictional case studies by saying: "when seeking to determine the contents of saving faith, we are not considering what is typical for most Christians, or even what is logical [is Stegall admitting that his groundless gospel is illogical?], but rather what is divinely required for eternal life according to the Word of God."63 In light of this statement the reader would naturally expect Stegall to explain what the Bible says about what's required for eternal life, but Stegall does just the opposite. Instead of addressing any biblical basis, Stegall goes on to present two fictional case studies of people who supposedly got saved even though they rejected the truths of Christ's burial, three day interment, and resurrection appearances.64 Amazingly, Stegall then concludes that these facts are not part of the gospel.65 The real problem with Stegall's fictional case studies is not the case studies themselves, but that Stegall uses them to form soteriological conclusions about the gospel. This mindset is more postmodern than it is biblical. Stegall would do well to follow his own doctrinal statement when it says: "We believe the Bible is the only infallible rule for all faith and practice, and it is therefore solely sufficient (apart from human wisdom and ecclesiastical tradition) to lead an individual to salvation".66

KEY BELIEF #12: PERSONAL EXPERIENCES - Stegall contends that a valid reason to exclude the resurrection appearances of Christ from the gospel is because it "would nullify the salvation of a vast percentage of God's children in the world today many of whom cannot even identify the individual in verse 5 with the Aramaic name 'Cephas.'"67 Stegall seems to be grasping at straws in an attempt to bolster his groundless gospel. His claims are false and exaggerated. No one in the Free Grace gospel debate is saying that a lost person must give the correct identity of "Cephas" (1 Cor. 15:5; cf. Jn. 1:42) in order to be saved. The lost are not required to pass an exam in theology. Instead, they are required to simply believe the gospel. (Chafer quotes Manly as saying: "A man who refuses to believe anything that he does not understand will have a very short creed."68) In addition to this, Stegall's argument is based more on experience than on the Bible. Since when is one's soteriology and definition of the gospel based on the supposed conversion experiences of "a vast percentage of God's children in the world today"?!69 A vast percentage of God's children in the world today also asked Jesus into their hearts, but they were wrong.70 Sadly, Stegall has allowed postmodern thinking to influence his understanding of the gospel. One's theology should never be based on popularity or percentage of opinion but instead should be grounded in God's Word. The words of Dennis Rokser are appropriate: "The accuracy of Scripture is not determined by a popularity contest...Will you base your beliefs and practice on the popular opinion of the human crowd or upon the unfailing and unchanging truths of the Word of God?"71

Conclusion

In introducing his mysterious triangle in the preface of his book Stegall reassures his readers: "The Lord has not been vague about what He requires us to believe in order to be born again. Nor has He hidden it from us. This is not a matter of the secret things belonging to the Lord in contrast to the truths He has revealed (Deut. 29:29)."72 Later in the book Stegall again affirms: "The 'gospel' was never meant to be cryptically concealed from mankind".73 Yet ironically the groundless gospel of the non-buried and never-seen savior is indeed cryptic and puzzling! So is the complex belief system behind it. Thus, it's no surprise that Wilkin labels it: "Stegall's complicated system".74 Amazingly, the cryptic and complex nature of Stegall's system is one of the defining characteristics of a mystery religion: "A mystery religion is any religion with an arcanum, or secret wisdom [like Stegall's strange triangle - which is unknown to the average Bible reader]. In a mystery religion, an inner core of beliefs [like the 3 sides of the Triforce triangle or the 12 beliefs of Stegall's system], practices, and the religion's true nature, are revealed only to those who have been inititated into its secrets."75 Wilkin quips: "Of course, this is why we need pastors like the author."76 It's no wonder that after studying Stegall's "amazing triangular testimony"77 and "virtual mirror reflections,"78 Wilkin concludes: "BUYER BEWARE".79


ENDNOTES:

1 Bob Wilkin, "A REVIEW OF THOMAS STEGALL'S THE GOSPEL OF THE CHRIST," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 2010): 7.

2 The word veneer is defined as meaning "a superficial or deceptively attractive appearance, display, or effect: FACADE, GLOSS" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary.) Also see: "The Deceiver Savior of the Groundless Gospel".

3 In his book Stegall gives six explicit reasons to reduce the gospel to his no-burial interpretation of it (Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 564-588). Not surprisingly, all six of Stegall's reductionist reasonings can be traced back to one or more of the twelve key beliefs in his system. For instance, in the preface of his book Stegall presents his arbitrary "Threefold Basis for the Contents of Saving Faith" (ibid., 18). Under this heading Stegall immediately says: "As a reader, it will also be helpful for you to understand at the outset what the thesis of this book is based upon." (ibid., 18.) Stegall then presents the reader with the "amazing triangular testimony" (ibid., 19) of his triangle [KEY BELIEF #1] complete with it's "virtual mirror reflections" (ibid., 19) [KEY BELIEF #2] - he even includes a picture of it for added effect!

4 Tom Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 19.

5 Ibid., 18.

6 Ibid., 19.

7 Ibid., 286.

8 For more information on the Masonic triangle see: "Shedding light on Sheffield's 'lost' symbols" and "The Tau and the Triple Tau".

9 See John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Cult Watch, 104, 117; cf. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Secret Teachings.

10 Fritz Ridenour writes: "In truth, Freemasonry's bedrock ideas come from ancient Gnostic, esoteric, and pagan sources." (Ridenour, So What's The Difference? [Ventura: Regal Books, 2001], 177; cf. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Cult Watch; John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Secret Teachings.

11 Tom Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 42, bold added, italics his.

12 Marvin Vincent, Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 Vols., 3:486.

13 A. T. Robertson, Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament, Commentary on Colossians 2:8, http://www.studylight.org/com/rwp/view.cgi?book=col&chapter=002&verse=008.

14 For further discussion of the groundless gospel's arcane and arbitrary basis see: "Getting the Gospel Right," 2-3.

15 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 18.

16 Wilkin, "A REVIEW OF J. B. HIXSON'S GETTING THE GOSPEL WRONG: THE EVANGELICAL CRISIS NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT," The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 21 (Spring 2008): 20.

17 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 287; cf. Ibid., 18-19, 286. For further discussion see "The Strange Beliefs of Stegall's System," KEY BELIEF #3: UNANSWERED THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS (above).

18 Wilkin, "A REVIEW OF J. B. HIXSON'S GETTING THE GOSPEL WRONG," The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 21 (Spring 2008): 22.

19 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 19.

20 The phrase sine qua non is a term meaning "something absolutely indispensable or essential" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Stegall uses the phrase several times in his book (Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 42, 96-98, 197-198, 283). NOTE: The phrase sine qua non is Latin, not Greek. It is not found in the New Testament.

21 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 19, 286.

22 Wilkin correctly points out that "the burial of Jesus is part of the Biblical gospel as Paul says it is in 1 Cor 15:4". (Wilkin, "A REVIEW OF J. B. HIXSON'S GETTING THE GOSPEL WRONG," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 21 [Spring 2008]: 18; cf. Wilkin, "A REVIEW OF THOMAS STEGALL'S THE GOSPEL OF THE CHRIST," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 23 [Spring 2010]: 23.) Even Stegall once affirmed Christ's burial in the gospel as evidenced by the wording of his old church doctrinal statement. Under the heading "SOLE CONDITION FOR SALVATION," it read: "We believe the only correct response to the Gospel of grace which saves a soul from Hell is faith alone in Christ alone, whereby the lost sinner believes that Jesus Christ died for all his sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead (Jn. 1:12; 3:15-18, 5:24, 6:32-40, 8:24; Acts 16:30-31; 1 Cor. 15:1-4, 17)." (Excerpted  from the original Word of Grace Bible Church doctrinal statement, circa 2004.) After all the deacons who helped draft the original doctrinal statement either left the church, resigned, or passed away, Stegall proposed to change the wording and redefine the gospel. In his proposal he argued that the original doctrinal statement only "seemed to indicate" that Christ's burial was absolutely essential for someone to believe in order to go to heaven (Stegall, "Proposed Change" church handout, circa 2007)! However, Stegall's claim is seen to be groundless in light of the fact that one of the Word of Grace Bible Church gospel tracts from around the same time assigns the same salvific value to Christ's burial in the gospel (see the "Christ Has Bridged the Gulf" tract, bold his). For further discussion see the article "Getting the Gospel Right," 33-34. [Editor's note: Tom Stegall left the pastorate in December of 2011. He is currently the publications director at Duluth Bible Church in Duluth, Minnesota, where fellow groundless gospel advocate Dennis Rokser is pastor. For more information see the article "Stegall Goes Back to the Wolf Pack".]

23 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 284.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid., 286.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid. 287, italics his, bold added.

28 Ibid., 578, italics his.

29 Ibid., 480, 512, 529, 536, 543, 561, 576, 578, 700, etc.; cf. "Things of First Importance," endnote 4.

30 John Piper, "How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels,"  (compiled from the sermon outline and the sermon audio [1:13:50-1:13:20], bold and italics his.) Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. affirms: "'Of first importance' (en protois) in the gospel tradition that Paul has received and passes on is 'that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve' (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Death and resurrection, not as isolated events but in their significance and as the fulfillment of Scripture (entailing revelatory, tradition-establishing appearances of the resurrected Christ to the apostles), are central to Paul's message." (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., "'Life-Giving Spirit': Probing The Center of Paul's Pneumatology," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41 [December 1998]: 574, bold added.)

31 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 588, bold added.

32 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 588; cf. Stegall "Proposed Change" church handout (circa 2007). For further discussion see: "Getting the Gospel Right," 15-17.

33 Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 667, note 2.

34 Ibid.,  668.

35 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 585, italics his.

36 For further discussion see: "Getting the Gospel Right," 13-15, and "First Among Equals," endnote 6.

37 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 585.

38 For further discussion see: "Getting the Gospel Right," 14-15, and "First Among Equals".

39 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 556.

40 Ibid., 580.  

41 Ibid., 577.

42 Groundless gospel advocates would have us believe that Free Grace theology has always affirmed the non-buried and never-seen deceiver savior of the groundless gospel - but this is hardly the case! In all my study of Free Grace theology I have not found any Free Grace theologians before Dennis Rokser and Tom Stegall who have denied Christ's burial and appearances in the gospel. (Even Earl Radmacher affirms that the content of the gospel includes Christ's burial and appearances as stated in 1 Cor. 15:3-5.)  The standard Free Grace position on the gospel has historically included (either explicitly or implicitly) Christ's burial and appearances in the gospel. For example, A. T. Pierson (1837-1911) writes: "Christianity rests on four facts - the death, burial, rising, and appearing of Christ. This constitutes the essence of the Gospel. Upon a cross and an empty tomb our faith is built." (Arthur T. Pierson,  "The Resurrection of Our Lord," The Homiletic Review, Vol. 26 [July 1893]: 72-73, italics his; cf. Donald K. Campbell, The Theological Wordbook [Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000], 142; Everett F. Harrison, "The Son of God Among the Sons of Men, Part 15: Jesus and Mary Magdalene," Bibliotheca Sacra 105 [October 1945]: 438; H. A. Ironside, "The Mormon's Mistake, or What is the Gospel?;" Keith Krell, "The Facts of Faith;" William. R. Newell, Romans Verse-By-Verse, 5, 6, 19, 20, 21, 24, 397; Miles J. Stanford, "The Dispensational Gospels;" Warren Wiersbe, "Sanctified By Correction;" Andy Stanley, "Big Church, Part 4: Big Audience," etc.) For further discussion and specific quotes see: "Three Views on the Gospel of Grace" and "Beware of the Wolves Within Free Grace".

43 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 560, note 60, italics his.

44 Also see Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4 Vols., 4:82.

45 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 560, note 60.

46 Ibid., 566.

47 Everett F. Harrison, The Christian Doctrine of Resurrection, unpublished manuscript, 54-55. Commenting on the similarly worded passage in Luke 18:31-34, Merrill C. Tenney affirms: "By the inclusion of the phrase [in Luke 18:31], 'the things that are written,' Jesus connected the events of His passion with the Old Testament." (Merrill C. Tenney, The Reality of the Resurrection, 31.) For further discussion see: "The Deceiver Savior of the Groundless Gospel".

48 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 83.

49 Bob Nyberg, comment on "THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL," http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=2385651347&topic=3993 (accessed October 23, 2010).

50 John Malone, "Zane Hodges goes too far,"  (accessed October 22, 2010).

51 Fred Lybrand, "GES Gospel: Lybrand Open Letter," 20.

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

53 Ibid.

54 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 375; cf. Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 9," The Grace Family Journal (Special Edition 2008): 21.

55 Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL (Pt. 1)," The Grace Family Journal (Spring 2007): 9 (page 4 in the PDF file).

56 Ibid.

57 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 76; cf. Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 3," The Grace Family Journal (Fall 2007): 7 (page 6 in the PDF file).

58 Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 214. Liddel and Scott give this definition for egeiro: "to awaken, wake up, rouse, stir: metaph. To rouse, stir up...to raise from the dead" (Liddel and Scott, Greek-English Lexicon, Abridged from Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon, 189). W. E. Vine has: "to arouse, to raise (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Ed., Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary, 531). Likewise, Bill Mounce has: "raise up, wake" (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, 421). Also see Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament, Commentary on Galatians 1:1.

59 In answering the question "Where is Paul's Gospel to the Galatians?," even Stegall admits that it is in "Acts 13, where Paul's evangelistic message to the churches of Southern Galatia is recorded." (Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 340; cf. Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 9," The Grace Family Journal [Special Edition 2008]: 3.) Later in his book Stegall  once again declares that "the content of Paul's gospel has already been recorded for us in Acts 13". (Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 347; cf. Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 9," The Grace Family Journal [Special Edition 2008]: 6.) Another pro-groundless advocate likewise affirms: "In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul states plainly that any gospel other than the one he had preached to the Galatians during his visit to them is a false gospel. Scripture provides a record of the precise gospel that Paul preached to the Galatians during his first missionary journey. That record is contained in Acts 13." (J. B. Hixson, Getting the Gospel Wrong, 154-155.)

60 William Lane Craig, "The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus," italics his, bold added.

61 Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL (Pt. 1)," The Grace Family Journal (Spring 2007): 9 (page 4 in the PDF file).

62 The Galatians-Only Scenario will be discussed in more detail in a future multi-part blog series titled "The Dangers of Deserted Island Scenarios". [Editor's note: The series has been renamed "Lost in the Deserted Islands".] At this point I simply want to expose it [Stegall's Galatians-only Scenario] and note that it's one of the key beliefs behind the groundless gospel.

63 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 561.

64 Ibid., 561-563.

65 Ibid., 563.

66 "THE DOCTRINAL STATEMENT OF THE WORD OF GRACE BIBLE CHURCH, THE HOLY SCRIPTURES," (accessed September 22, 2010), bold added.

67 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 566.

68 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4 Vols., 1:75.

69 Ibid.

70 Cf. Dennis Rokser, Seven Reasons NOT To Ask Jesus Into Your Heart (Duluth: 3rd Edition, 2005).

71 Ibid., 36-37 (which are pages 38-39 in the above online booklet/pages 19-20 in the above PDF file).

72 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 18.

73 Ibid., 277.

74 Wilkin, "A REVIEW OF THOMAS STEGALL'S THE GOSPEL OF THE CHRIST," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 2010): 22.

75 WikiPagan, "Mystery Religion," http://pagan.wikia.com/wiki/Mystery_religion (accessed October 30, 2010).

76 Wilkin, "A REVIEW OF THOMAS STEGALL'S THE GOSPEL OF THE CHRIST," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 2010): 23.

77 Stegall, The Gospel of the Christ, 19.

78 Ibid.

79 Wilkin, "A REVIEW OF THOMAS STEGALL'S THE GOSPEL OF THE CHRIST," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 2010): 29; cf. Matthew 16:6. For further discussion see: "Things of First Importance".

Friday, April 27, 2012

Answers in Jonah


Here is a good one-word answer to Zane Hodges Deserted Island Scenario: Jonah!

"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction..." (Romans 15:4)

The Jesus Story

http://ymimexico.org/2012/04/06/the-gospel/

Nathan's contribution to the Jesus story. A work in chalk.





















Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shipwrecked on Zane Hodges' Deserted Island, Part 7



STRANGE SIMILARITY # 6: Both scenarios involve an unsaved soul with little to no knowledge of Christianity.

Hodges writes: "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. he has never heard about Christianity in his life...he doesn't know that Jesus died for his sins on the cross and rose again the third day [1 Cor. 15:3-4]...If we believe that Jesus is the One who guarantees our eternal destiny, we have believed all we absolutely have to believe in order to be saved...That's why the man on the deserted island can get saved with only the barest minimum of information."1 Hodges goes on to say: "No one has ever trusted in [Jesus'] name for his or her eternal well-being who has not been saved by doing so. And this is true no matter how little they might have known about the One whom that name represents."2

Similar to Hodges, Stegall states: "Yet...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 about Christ's burial and post-resurrection appearances to Peter and the twelve [1 Cor. 15:3-5]?!"3 Elsewhere Stegall asserts: "His being buried was not a work which accomplished our eternal redemption, and it is therefore not absolutely essential for someone to know about it and believe it in order to go to heaven".4

Playing Cut and Paste with the Gospel

In a twist of irony Stegall actually bears witness against the partial gospel position when he says: "some Christians [like partial gospel advocate J. B. Hixson, Getting the Gospel Wrong, p. 80] insist...that a lost person can be saved by believing only part of the gospel. But Scripture nowhere endorses such a possibility. In the Bible, people are never said to be saved by believing 'part of' the gospel but only by believing 'the gospel.' According to the New Testament, people either believe the gospel or they don't. To reject it in part is to reject it in whole."5 Stegall sounds like a traditional Free Grace advocate because he is using the same vocabulary as a traditional Free Grace advocate would use - but he has redefined the terms! That's why his gospel is so deceptive. The truth is, Stegall has no problem playing cut and paste with the biblical gospel. For instance, he writes: "When Paul states that the gospel that he received and delivered to the Corinthians is 'first of all,' he means that the gospel is in first place when it comes to importance. And this gospel message that was to be first in importance is defined specifically as the message 'that Christ died for our sins...and that He rose again.'"6  It is very revealing that Stegall must edit Paul's declaration of the gospel by adding ellipsis after the words "Christ died for our sins" (thus removing the mention of Christ's burial) and by adding an artificial period after the words "He rose again" (thus removing the mention of the third day and Christ's resurrection appearances). Also notice that Stegall omits the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3, 4) from his new, mini-gospel. Tragically, Stegall's "gospel" is a partial gospel lacking vital truths "of first importance" (1 Cor. 15:3). Ironically, Dennis Rokser says that "Hodges...undermines the 'core essentials' of the Gospel declared in this passage as NOT BEING OF FIRST IMPORTANCE when it comes to that which 'must be believed in order to be eternally saved.' What a strange twist!"7 Yes, what a strange twist indeed that Stegall and Rokser also undermine "the 'core essentials' of the Gospel declared in this passage as NOT BEING OF FIRST IMPORTANCE"!

Having highlighted the partial gospel mindset and cited some examples, we must ask: Is this what the Bible teaches? Is it really "not absolutely essential for someone to know" certain facts "of first importance" (1 Cor. 15:3ff) in order to receive eternal life?

People Must Hear the Whole Story

In contrast to Hodges and Stegall, the apostle Paul didn't have a "barest minimum"8 mindset when discussing the eternal destiny of the unsaved. He makes it clear that knowledge of the biblical gospel - not merely part of it - is essential for salvation (1 Cor. 15:1-5; cf. Rom. 10:2, 16-17; 1 Cor. 1:21; 2 Cor. 4:3-6, 10:5; Eph. 1:13-14; 1 Tim. 2:3-4).9 Free Grace theologian William R. Newell affirms "that the simple story, Christ died for our sins, was buried, hath been raised from the dead the third day, and was seen, IS THE POWER OF GOD to salvation to everyone who rests in it, - who believes!10 Newell goes on to add: "This story of Christ's dying for our sins, buried, raised, manifested, is the great wire along which runs God's mighty current of saving power. Beware lest you be putting up some little wire of your own, unconnected with the Divine throne, and therefore non-saving to those to whom you speak."11 In an excellent article titled "Missing the Whole Story," Kellie Arabie also affirms the same truth saying: "1 Corinthians 15:3-5 highlights the essential elements of the gospel. Christ died for our sins. He was buried and resurrected. He was seen by witnesses. Anything less than that falls short of good news. Anything less than that is not the gospel."12

In reviewing the facts of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, it's important to notice what the apostle Paul didn't say. For example, he didn't say: "It's not absolutely essential to know and believe all these things to be saved - surely not the fact that Christ was seen by Cephas and the others, my goodness! What was I thinking when I first delivered that to you? I'm sure I just overwhelmed you with the complexity of my message and confused you with unnecessary 'excess baggage' (so says Hodges13) and 'extra details' (so says Stegall14). Don't sweat the small stuff. You don't absolutely need to know and believe all that!"

Actually Paul took quite a different approach. When he explained from the Scriptures "the word of this salvation" to an unsaved audience in Acts 13:26-41, he highlighted four basic facts:

1. Christ's "death" (Acts 13:28),
2. His burial in "a tomb" (Acts 13:29),
3. He was "raised...from the dead" (Acts 13:30),
4. "He appeared to...His witnesses" (Acts 13:31).

This preaching is "the good news" (Acts 13:32); it is the full gospel message15 - and the Bible says that those who don't believe it will "perish" (Acts 13:41; cf. Jn. 3:16; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 4:3-6; 2 Thess. 1:8-9).

John Aeby (a former professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana) is correct to conclude that "we are saved because we have 'heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation' (1 Cor. 15:3-5) and have believed God's message and trusted God's Son".16


< Part  6                         Part 8 >


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): pp. 4-5, underlining added.

2 Ibid., p. 8, underlining added.

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

4 Stegall, "Proposed Change" to the "SOLE CONDITION FOR SALVATION," Word of Grace Bible Church handout (2007), underlining added. It's important to notice that Stegall's reasoning here is non sequitur and self-refuting. Stegall claims that "His being buried was not a work which accomplished our eternal redemption, and it is therefore not absolutely essential for someone to know about it and believe it in order to go to heaven". (Ibid.) Stegall is correct to point out that Christ's burial did not accomplish our eternal redemption, but his conclusion that it is therefore not part of the gospel is non sequitur. First, let's make sure we understand what redemption is, and then I will make my point. In the Bible, "redemption" involves the payment for sin - Christ redeemed us by His death on the cross (1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:12-15; 1 Pet. 1:18-19, etc.). Christ redeemed us by His death, not by His burial, and not by His resurrection. In other words, Christ's burial did not pay for sins, nor did His resurrection. Redemption was accomplished on the cross. It was there that the ransom price was fully paid (Jn. 19:30, Greek tetelestai = "paid in full"). Even Stegall affirms that "[Christ's] resurrection didn't pay for our sins, His death did." (Stegall, "THE GOSPEL OF THE RESURRECTED CHRIST," [1 Corinthians 15:1-11], March 27, 2005.) Similarly, in an article titled "TRUTHS ONE MUST SEE AND BELIEVE IN ORDER TO BE SAVED" Stegall writes: "[Christ's] sacrifice for our sins paid the penalty in full, satisfying God's holy demands completely...Christ fully paid for our sins when He died". (Stegall, "TRUTHS ONE MUST SEE AND BELIEVE IN ORDER TO BE SAVED," Word of Grace Bible Church website [accessed April 5, 2011].) In his book The Gospel Of The Christ, Stegall makes several more statements connecting full redemption with Christ's substitutionary death on the cross. He talks about being "redeemed by the blood of the Lamb". (Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ [Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009], p. 30.) He goes on to explain that "The Lord has seen fit to use a multiplicity of metaphors, images, and diverse terminology to depict the one truth of the Savior's death for our sins. These terms include 'cross,' 'tree,' 'blood,' 'gave,' 'offered,' 'sacrificed,' 'redeemed,' 'suffered,' 'slain,' etc. Yet, despite such rich diversity of expression, there is still a unity of content, as each of these terms point to the same substitutionary, atoning death of the Savior." (Ibid., p. 312.) Stegall also says: "Jesus had in fact provided redemption for Israel by that very crucifixion, and this redemption was proven by virtue of His resurrection." (Ibid., p. 660, italics his.) Stegall is echoing the words of John Hart when he says: "The resurrection proved our justification, but it did not provide for our justification." (Hart, "Why Confess Christ? The Use and Abuse of Romans 10:9-10," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 12 [Autumn 1999].) Dennis Rokser also affirms this same basic truth saying in reference to 1 Corinthians 15:4: "'and rose again' (which is the proof that God was satisfied with Christ's payment of our sins)." (Rokser, "EXAMINING LORDSHIP SALVATION Pt. 2," The Grace Family Journal [Fall 2007]: p. 13, italics his.) One last statement by Stegall is particularly to the point. Commenting on "the redemptive and propitious aspect of Christ's death in Acts 20:28," Stegall emphasizes: "The redemption price for every member of the Church was clearly the death of Christ". (Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ [Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009], pp. 660-661.)
     My point is simply this: Stegall doesn't believe that Christ's resurrection "accomplished our eternal redemption" (i.e. the resurrection didn't pay for our sins in any way, shape, or form) yet he still includes it in his gospel! Thus, for him to exclude Christ's burial for the same reason is ridiculous. Stegall's logic is non sequitur and self-refuting. If Stegall were consistent with his own reductionist reasoning he would not only have to exclude Christ's burial from the gospel but he would also have to exclude Christ's resurrection because it wasn't redemptive either - it "didn't pay for our sins, His death did."

5 Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, pp. 563-564, italics his.

6 Ibid., p. 512, italics and ellipsis his. Dennis Rokser argues the same groundless point. He states: "the content of the Gospel is the person of 'Christ' and His finished work ('died for our sins...rose again') responded to by faith alone." (Rokser, "A CRITIQUE OF ZANE HODGES' ARTICLE - 'THE HYDRA'S OTHER HEAD: THEOLOGICAL LEGALISM,'" The Grace Family Journal [Special Edition 2008], emphasis his.) Notice the obvious cut and paste involved in Rokser's definition of the gospel. He fails to mention that Christ's burial and resurrection appearances are also "the content of the Gospel" - being included in hoti content clauses in parallel with Christ's death and resurrection. It is quite revealing that Rokser never mentions any of these grammatical truths from God's Word.

7 Ibid.

8 Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 1: The Content of Our Message," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): p. 5.

9 Although I do not agree with his partial gospel, Dennis Rokser is correct to say: "The Gospel offers the good news of SALVATION to us. (1 Cor. 15:2a)...by which also you are saved....The present tense of 'saved' may be viewed in two possible ways. First, Paul may be communicating that these Corinthians via the Gospel were being presently saved from the POWER OF SIN in their Christian lives as long as they remained steadfast to the Gospel, just like they had been saved from the PENALTY OF SIN (Hell) when they had trusted in Christ. In other words, the Gospel they had received would continue to have saving effects from spiritual damage upon their lives 'if you hold fast the word which I preached to you.' In the second view, the apostle may be indicating that the Gospel continues to bear fruit in Corinth by various [unsaved] sinners continuing to receive it, and as a result being 'saved.' Both views are presented by Dr. S. Lewis Johnson in his comments on 1 Corinthians in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1255." (Rokser, Let's Preach the Gospel [Duluth: Duluth Bible Church, no date], p. 23, bold and caps his, underlining added.)
     The commentary of S. Lewis Johnson on 1 Corinthians 15:2a is as follows: "Ye are saved (Gr., present tense) may refer to continual salvation from the power of sin in the lives of believers, or it may refer to the day-by-day salvation of the inhabitants of Corinth as they received the message and formed part of the church of Jesus Christ." (Johnson, Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, Editors, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary [Chicago: Moody Press, 1990], p. 1255, bold his, underlining added.)
     While I agree that both views are acceptable, in this article I'm focusing on the second of the two meanings: the gospel has application to non-Christians to save them from Hell. This understanding of 1 Corinthians 15:2 is also supported by Zane Hodges. Notice what he says: "The problem in correctly understanding this verse [1 Cor. 15:2] is caused by the English translation. A very flexible Greek verb (katecho) is translated 'hold fast' in the New King James Version (the AV has 'keep in memory'). But the verb could equally well be rendered 'take hold of' or 'take possession of.' [e.g. Matt. 21:38, NIV; Lk. 14:9, NIV] In that case it would refer to the act of appropriating the truth of the Gospel by faith. Closer examination of the Greek text suggests that this is indeed the correct understanding. The Greek word order can be represented as follows: 'by which also you are saved, by that word I preached to you, if you take hold of it, unless you believed in vain.' From this it appears that Paul is thinking of the saving effect of the preached word when it is duly appropriated, unless in fact that appropriation (by faith) has been in vain. What he means by believing 'in vain' is made clear in verses 14 and 17: 'And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty [the AV has 'vain' for 'empty']. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins [the AV has 'vain' for 'futile'].' First Corinthians 15:2 must be read in the light of the subsequent discussion about resurrection. Paul is simply saying, in verse 2, that the Gospel he has preached to them is a saving Gospel when it is appropriated by faith, unless, after all, the resurrection is false. In that case, no salvation has occurred at all and the faith his readers had exercised was futile. But naturally Paul absolutely insists on the reality of the resurrection of Christ. He therefore does not think that the Corinthians have believed 'in vain.'" (Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege [Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1981], pp. 91-92, first and second brackets and underlining added.)
     In regards to Hodges exegetical insights on 1 Corinthians 15:2, I'm in agreement with another Free Grace advocate who said: "My opinion is that Zane Hodges explained 1 Cor. 15:2 exceedingly well, evidently before he changed his mind about the gospel". (Art, comment under the post "1 Corinthians 15," Rose's Reasonings blog, March 28, 2008, http://rosesreasonings.blogspot.com/2008/03/1-corinthians-15.html#c5057204266597401204, accessed April 10, 2012.)

10 Newell, Romans Verse-By-Verse (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1994), p. 19, capitalization and italics his.

11 Ibid., p. 21.

12 Arabie, "Missing the Whole Story," Kellie Arabie's blog (a bible.org blog), http://blogs.bible.org/tapestry/kelly_arabie/missing_the_whole_story, accessed April 24, 2012.

13 Hodges labels the gospel truths of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection "excess baggage". (Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 2: Our Invitation to Respond," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 [Spring 2001]: p. 17.) Hodges goes on to brand these gospel truths: "context" (Ibid., p. 9), "the facts surrounding the gospel message" (Ibid., p. 11), and "cloud...issues" (Ibid., p. 12).

14 Stegall labels the gospel truths of Christ's burial and resurrection appearances "extra details". (Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 9," The Grace Family Journal [Special Edition 2008]: p. 21.) Stegall goes on to brand these gospel truths: "additional facts" (Ibid), and "additional details...but they are not in themselves elements of the saving gospel." (Ibid.)

15 Herbert Lockyear writes: "First of all, Paul states the sum and substance of the sublime yet simple Gospel with which he accomplished mighty victories. Christ died for our sins, was buried, was raised, and appeared to His saints. If, as one early leader wrote, there are shallows in this very full and potent Gospel where a little lamb may wade, there are depths where an elephant must swim." (Lockyear, All the Books and Chapters of the Bible [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986], pp. 259-260; cf. Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology [Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2004], 4 Vols., Vol. 3, p. 549; Michael Svigel, "The Full Gospel and Nothing More," Insight for Living website, Newsletter Articles, http://www.insight.asn.au/newsletters.php?item=19 [accessed March 15, 2012].)

16 Aeby, commentary on Ephesians 1:13, "Walking with Christ through Ephesians," The Brethren Missionary Herald, Vol. 21, Num. 32 (August 8, 1959), p. 504.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Shipwrecked on Zane Hodges' Deserted Island, Part 6



STRANGE SIMILARITY # 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, underlining added.

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, underlining added.

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

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.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shipwrecked on Zane Hodges' Deserted Island, Part 5



STRANGE SIMILARITY # 4: Both scenarios arbitrarily select the saving message.

It's not wrong to require a certain portion of God's Word to contain the saving message if it's God's requirement. But problems arise when certain portions of God's Word are required to contain the saving message when in reality they do not.

First let's look at Hodges' salvation requirement. Notice what he says: "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...What is the core issue? Very simply it is this: We want people to believe that Jesus guarantees their eternal destiny. Of course, we would like them to believe a lot more than this, but this at least must be believed."1

But in response to Hodges, it really doesn't matter what "We want people to believe". That's a subjective and arbitrary requirement - not to mention cultish! The real issue is: What does God want people to believe? If Hodges were intellectually honest with the Gospel of John2 he would have to admit that God wants people to believe in Christ crucified for eternal life (Jn. 3:14-16). Actually, Hodges used to affirm this very truth! For example, in his book The Gospel Under Siege he wrote: "[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! But this very simplicity, the Gospel confronts and refutes all its contemporary distortions."3 Unfortunately, in his later years Hodges slowly drifted away from the truth of the gospel to embrace a "promise-only" message where people don't have to believe in "the Crucified One for eternal life" - they just have to believe in "the name of Jesus...for eternal well-being".4 Instead of John 3:14-16, his "gospel" became John 6:47. Notice how Hodges arbitrarily selected his new saving message:

  1. Hodges changed his saving message from John 3:14-16 to John 6:43a, 47
  2. Hodges cut John 6:43a, 47 out of the surrounding text and context
  3. Hodges connected the two fragments of text
  4. Hodges cited the text in the NKJV5

Similar to Hodges, Stegall also arbitrarily selects his saving message. Notice what he wrote in 2007: "The years ahead will require us to define what is the sine qua non of the Gospel".6 That same year Stegall proceeded to put his words into action. He redefined the gospel by removing the burial of Christ from his church's doctrinal statement on the "SOLE CONDITION FOR SALVATION".7 But he needed to find some Scripture besides 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (which mentions the burial of Christ) to make his redefinition of the gospel look legitimate. Stegall now believes he has found such a text in "Paul's epistle to the Galatians".8 But how did Stegall choose the book of Galatians? What was his selection process? Why not choose the book of Acts where Paul's gospel to the unsaved in Galatia is recorded? Stegall no doubt picked Galatians over Acts because while the book of Acts specifically mentions the burial of Christ, Paul's epistle to the Galatians does not. As if cherry-picking Galatians were not enough, Stegall then proposed a strange scenario in which the book of Galatians is isolated apart from all other books of the Bible!9 Amazingly, he doesn't seem concerned that his new Galatians-only gospel is based on a perilous kind of argument (some would say a logical fallacy) - the argument from silence. This kind of argument is based on nothing more than conjecture! In other words, Stegall's reasoning is not based on any Biblical evidence, but on the absence of evidence.10 Much like Hodges arbitrary selection of John 6:47, Stegall's new saving message consisting of "every word of Galatians"11 is artificial and contrived. Notice how Stegall arbitrarily selected his new saving message:

  1. Stegall claimed that he would define the sine qua non of the Gospel
  2. Stegall cut the burial out of the "SOLE CONDITION FOR SALVATION"
  3. Stegall changed his saving message from 1 Cor. 15:1-4 to "every word of Galatians"
  4. Stegall confined/isolated "Paul's epistle to the Galatians" apart from Acts 13, 1 Cor. 15, and all other books of the Bible which mention the gospel truths of Christ's burial and resurrection appearances.

< Part  4                         Part 6 >


ENDNOTES:

1 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, underlining and italics added.

2 I'm not talking about proof texts taken out of context. I'm talking about the Gospel of John as a narrative written from a resurrection perspective.

3 Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1992), pp. 18-19, italics his, ellipsis added. Note: This book was first published in 1981.

4 Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ: Part 1, The Content of Our Message," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 (Autumn 2000): pp. 5, 8, ellipsis added.

5 Fred Lybrand explains the significance of this point: "The [Bible] verse that washes up on shore [in Hodges' Deserted Island Scenario] must be from the NKJV. All [Bible] versions based on the NU MSS [i.e. the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament and the United Bible Societies' fourth edition manuscripts] (NASB, ESV, NIV, NLT, NET, etc.) translate it [that is, John 6:47] without 'in Me' in the sentence (the KJV translates it 'on Me' - which could create other challenges for Zane's hypothetical scenario). So in virtually all other versions [except the NKJV], the verse reads, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life (ESV).' 'Whoever believes what?' our island inhabitant would ask frantically; and, with absolutely no way to find our or figure it out. There is no content for believing if the Majority Text is not at least footnoted (and not faded) on the washed ashore page from John. If any of the popular versions of the English Bible (except the New King James Version) are used, then the man cannot get saved, according to Hodges's view. This should be seen as a glaring problem. Why would God allow the most important essential verse explaining the gospel (according to Zane) to have a text-critical problem that destroys all hope for the man on the island? Forgive me tone, but it is a glaring problem that Zane based his WHOLE argument on a DISPUTED VERSE in the Bible." (Lybrand, "GES Gospel: Lybrand Open Letter," pp. 21-22, emphasis his.)

6 Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 1," The Grace Family Journal (Spring 2007): p. 9, underlining and italics added; cf. Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009), p. 42. Apparently Stegall doesn't realize that God has already defined the gospel for us (see 1 Cor. 15:1ff).

7 Stegall, "Proposed Change" to the "SOLE CONDITION FOR SALVATION," Word of Grace Bible Church handout (2007), no page number.

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

9 Biblical Greek scholar J. Gresham Machen gives the proper perspective when he says: "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.)

10 This is why when Stegall attempts to prove his Galatians-only gospel he doesn't present any biblical evidence in support of his position - he just asks questions and makes an excuse for why he doesn't refute those who contradict. Stegall does this because his Galatians-only gospel is based on an argument from silence. It is based on conjecture. It is based on the lack of evidence. Notice Stegall's three lines of reasoning:
     (1) Stegall says: "Yet, to this imbalanced position, we must ask, does Paul's Epistle to the Galatians contain the saving gospel or doesn't it?" (This is a question! Stegall is not providing any evidence here in support of his position. Instead he is simply begging the question.)
     (2) Stegall says: "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 about Christ's burial and post-resurrection appearances to Peter and the twelve?!" (This is another question! Notice that again Stegall is not presenting any biblical evidence in support of his position. Instead he is employing a straw-man argument and again begging the question.)
     (3) Stegall says: "Such a conclusion is so palpably in error that it hardly requires a refutation." (This is Stegall's excuse for why he doesn't provide a refutation. But in reality Stegall doesn't provide a refutation because his Galatians-only gospel is based on an argument from silence which is nothing more than conjecture and the lack of evidence. All Stegall has to argue with is conjecture and he knows that conjecture can't refute anything! So he makes an excuse.)

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