Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Dangers of the Free Grace "Deserted Island Scenarios," Part 4

DANGER # 3: Both Zane Hodges' "Deserted Island Scenario" and Tom Stegall's "Galatians-Only Scenario" isolate one portion of God's Word.

Both Zane Hodges and Tom Stegall have isolated a portion of God's Word in the strange scenarios they have proposed. First let's look at how Hodges has isolated the Gospel of John, and then we'll delve into how Stegall has isolated the book of Galatians in his Galatians-Only Scenario.

Zane Hodges Isolates the Gospel of John

Zane Hodges writes: "Now suppose that our unsaved man [in The Deserted Island Scenario] . . . believes Jesus' words in John 6:47. Is he saved?"1 Later Hodges goes on to answer his question when he 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, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life.' All this person needs to do is to believe that statement and eternal life is his."2 Fred Lybrand highlights one of the problems involved in Hodges scenario: "The most glaring problem for the GES Gospel as explained by Zane Hodges is found in what we might call a One Verse Fallacy. Zane does not simply elevate the Gospel of John above all the books in the Bible concerning the evangelistic message, he elevates one passage above all others. The readable parts are these: 'Jesus therefore answered and said to them...Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me has eternal life' (John 6:43a and 47, NKJV)."3 Lybrand is emphasizing how Hodges elevates John 6:47 above all other verses in the Bible. But it's important to understand that in addition to that, Hodges also isolates John 6:47 apart from all other verses in the Bible. This second distinctive is actually a defining characteristic of his Deserted Island Scenario, as Hodges even indicates. Unfortunately, Hodges' method of Bible interpretation is fundamentally flawed. In fact, it's not an overstatement to say that his hermeneutic is a perfect example of how not to interpret the Bible. It is very problematic to pick and choose Bible verses (such as John 6:43a and 6:47) and then take them out of context and build a doctrine on them. D. A. Carson affirms: "a text without a context becomes a pretext for a proof text".4 I've said this before but it bears repeating: "Hodges truly preaches a non-contextual, non-historical, hypothetical, heretical, 'promise-only' and 'crossless' gospel when he rips John 6:47 from God's Word and builds a doctrine on this 'imagined' and 'hypothetical' strange scenario of this Scripture washing ashore on a remote desert island."5

Tom Stegall Isolates the Book of Galatians

While Hodges isolates the book of John and more specifically John 6:47, Tom Stegall isolates the book of Galatians. Notice how he subtly introduces his Galatians-only gospel by asking: "does Paul's epistle to the Galatians contain the saving gospel or doesn't it?"6 (Stegall believes that the book of Galatians does in fact contain the saving message - even though it doesn't mention one of his "essential, defining elements of the Gospel which must be believed for one to receive eternal salvation in this age,"7 namely the fact that "Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead"!8) Stegall goes on to say: "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]?!"9 Although Paul's epistle to the Galatians is addressed "to the churches of Galatia" (Gal. 1:2), Stegall is making it required reading for the unsaved! Like Hodges before him, Stegall is taking a portion of God's Word out of context, isolating it apart from all other books of the Bible, and then building a doctrine on it. Thus, it's not surprising that... 

The Galatians-Only Gospel Just Doesn't Add Up

I can almost hear Stegall now:
Okay everybody, let's start passing out those Galatians gospel tracts! All you have is the Gospel of John? That's not good enough - it has to be "every word of Galatians"! What? The book of Galatians doesn't contain one of my five "essential, defining elements of the gospel"? Well, I'll just have to call our printer and have him make "several slight changes"...

There are grave problems involved when the book of Galatians is isolated apart from all other books of the Bible!

< Part  3                         Part 5 >


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

2 Hodges, "How to Lead People to Christ, Part 2: Our Invitation to Respond," The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 14 (Spring 2001): pp. 11-12.

3 Lybrand, "GES Gospel: Lybrand Open Letter," p. 20.

4 Carson, "One Way," Richard Phillips, Editor, Only One Way? (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006), p. 134. Even Hodges admits this point, which is ironic in view of his Deserted Island Scenario. He writes: "As a great Bible teacher once said, 'A text taken out of its context is a pretext!'" (Hodges, "The Hydra's Other Head: Theological Legalism," Grace in Focus [September - October 2008], p. 4.)  Similarly, Antonio da Rosa admits: "A text without a context is a pretext." (da Rosa, comment under the post "The Gospel According to Charles Ryrie," Gospel Life blog, September 15, 2006, http://reformationhappiness.blogspot.com/2006/09/gospel-according-to-charles-ryrie.html#3065858992673219404.)

5 Perreault, comment under the post "Is This Heresy?," theocentriblog, Tuesday, May 20, 2008, http://jmoorhead.blogspot.com/2008/05/is-this-heresy.html, accessed March 15, 2012.

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

7 Stegall, "THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL, Pt. 1," The Grace Family Journal (Spring 2007): p. 9.

8 Ibid., italics added.

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

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