Book Review: Freely By His Grace: Classical Free Grace Theology ed. By J.B. Hixson, Rick Whitmire, and Roy B. Zuck. Pp 580.

Freely by His Grace, edited by J.B. Hixson, Rick Whitmire and Roy B. Zuck is the best text  on the market on Free Grace Theology.  It should be a seminary text for every student of God’s Word.  It objectively analyzes the subject matter, God’s Word and arguments made regarding God’s grace from Dispensational and Reformed Theologies.  This text should be examined closely so students of God’s word don’t fall into gospel confusion, works righteousness or eisegesis in interpretation.

Each of the 17 chapters define specific issues related to Free Grace Theology.  Each chapter secures linchpins for Free Grace Theology.  For example, the first chapter, “What is Free Grace Theology?” written by Michael Halsey, outlines a clear, but succinct presentation of Arminianism, Lordship Salvation and Free Grace Theology.  The term Lordship Salvation is used, because Reformed Theology holds to the Lordship Salvation  position.  Lordship emphasizes “entire surrender” of every area of life to the Lordship of Jesus with the requirement of “works of righteousness” to ensure salvation.   The challenge presented in this article and the rest of the articles is that the Lordship position is not supported by Scripture.  It is a practical reaction to the failure of many Christians who say they are Christians, yet do not grow spiritually in sanctification.  Instead they continue living in sin.  As Halsey concludes, “Salvation is not by maintenance; salvation is not by performance.”  (14)  It is solely by the finished work of Jesus.

The second chapter is a reprint of chapter one from L.S. Chafer’s book on “Grace.”  In summary, “God saves by grace,” “God keeps through grace those who are saved,” and “God teaches in grace those who are saved and kept how they should live.” (27)  Yet, Chafer cautions, “The eternal relationship between the Father and His child can never be set aside.  The Father may correct and chasten His erring child (1 Cor. 11:31-32; Heb. 12:3-15)…” (25)

J.B. Hixson focuses on “What is the Gospel?” to define this essential truth.  The Gospel is good news, but what are the human requirements at the point of salvation or after salvation?  Hixson wisely outlines if something must be done or added to life after salvation, then it is no longer grace, but works.  Interestingly in the endnotes, he takes issue with other Free Grace theologians who while they do hold to the finished work completed on the cross, that information is not necessary to be understood for salvation.  This some have referred to as a “crossless” gospel.  I completely agree with Hixson. (59)

George Meisinger addresses the content of the gospel from 1 Corinthians 15 in chapter four.  Meisinger delineates the basic essentials of the Gospel and then well defines six end results of understanding Christ’s death and resurrection.  Each  result helps define why Free Grace must be held if Scripture is rightly divided. (90-93)

Each of the writers record fine scholarship to remove cloudiness in thinking and restore objectivity for future discussions.  The rest of the chapters include: 5) What about Lordship Salvation?; 6) The Distinction between Salvation and Discipleship; 7) The Nature of Saving Faith; 8) Repentance and the Free Grace of God; 9) Regeneration and the Order of Salvation; 10) Is Salvation Forever or Can it be Lost?; 11) Can you know for Sure You are Saved Forever?; 12) Sin and Classical Free Grace Theology; 13) Sanctification by God’s Free Grace; 14) Rewards and the Judgment Seat of Christ; 15) What is Traditional Dispensationalism?; 16) The Link between Dispensationalism and Free Grace;  and 17) God’s Grace in Missions, Evangelism, and Disciple-Making.  I found each chapter well documented by God’s word and other authors.

The Gospel and the Christian way of life are far too important in which to muddle.  In our desire for clarity, it is important to stand with Christian charity, but without compromise.  Let no one take away from the sovereign work of God in Christ Jesus and let no one reduce the immensity of the grace of God by adding human works of righteousness. 

Book Review: Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth

Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth- A Critique of Dispensationalism, by John Gerstner

John Gerstner is obviously intelligent, steeped in Reformed Theology and willing to take other theologians to task.  He calls a spade a spade.  He has drawn a line in the sand that makes clear some of the differences between Reformed Theology and Dispensationalism.  I do appreciate his frankness and clear cut divides, because it makes it easier to understand the differences between the two theological systems.
He does, however, fail to be objective with Dispensationalism as other writers have done (e.g. Wilcox, Pink).  This clearest divide is declaring that Dispensationalism teaches a false gospel (pp. 149, 230, 251, 259, 263, 270).  There is nothing more fundamental than the gospel, and “one of us is wrong – seriously wrong,” he writes (p. 263).  Yet, the battle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), so where do these differences come from?
I’m amazed at how little Scripture is used to support his position.  His discussion of Dispensationalism is almost entirely from the writings of those who adhere to Dispensationalism, rather than arguing against the Scriptures they use to teach Dispensationalism.  That would seem more objective.  Anyone can take quotes from authors, even in context, and state that they apply to all people who hold a particular theology.  Gerstner cites many Dispensationalists, but often comes to wrong conclusions.  Again, Scripture is rarely used.
The differences come from a lack of understanding why we are here.  We are here to glorify God, most reformed theologians would say, but we are also here for the sake of the Angelic Conflict that existed prior to our creation (Matt. 25:41; Eph. 3:9-10; 1 Pet. 1:8-12).  If your theology doesn’t include the big picture of God’s creation and sovereign purposes, it will fall short of answering important questions and fail to harmonize much of Scripture.
Dr. Gerstner shows that while he understands Dispensationalism fairly well, he also has created a Dispensational Theology that is not true to Dispensationalism.  He declares that Dispensationalists believe that the Kingdom should have been set up at the First Advent (p. 19).  A few taught that, but most do not.  He states that Dispensationalists see “division and separation in Scripture rather than unity.” (p. 89, cf. 99).  There is certainly a division of administrations, but a unity of the overall decree of God in the fulfillment of His Plan to fulfill the Angelic Conflict. He argues that Dispensationalists are not as literal as they purport. (p. 92) They are much more consistent in acknowledging the different types of literature (genre) of Scripture.  Gerstner declares that Dispensationalists do not teach the imputation of Adam’s guilt (sin). (p. 108)  Darby may have been confused on that, but Luther was confused on many issues and all today, that I know of, teach the imputation of Adam’s original sin.  Adam was the federal representative for all mankind. Gerstner writes that Disp teach that God’s will is limited by human will (p. 115).  If God willingly limits Himself to allow an evil government to kill its own people, then that is not limiting God’s will.  That is allowing the creature to reveal it is disposed to evil when not dependent on the will of God.
Gerstner teaches that according to Disp that because man can refuse God’s blessed salvation, that God is therefore or would be frustrated and bereaved from blessedness (p. 129).  Man’s rejection of God’s provision could never deprive God of any peace or blessing.  Is Gerstner’s God that small?  Gerstner writes that a Disp teaches “man can save himself by throwing himself upon the saving grace of Jesus Christ.” (p. 141)  That reads into what is Disp because while man believes, God must take that spark of faith to simultaneously regenerate his dead spirit, i.e. it is God alone that saves man (John 1:13).  Gerstner teaches that Reformed Theology is the only correct view (p. 150).  I’m thankful for his frankness.  Unfortunately, he identifies all Dispensationalists as Antinomian (p. 209, 210-230).  He teaches that Dispensationalists teach more than one way of salvation (p. 155, 158). He teaches that Disp teach that “faith is a ‘work’” (p. 158, 161).  Again, these are not what Disp teach (John 1:13).
There are a number of things he writes that are Scripturally wrong and form the premise for his wrong theology. For example, he writes that God never invites reprobates (p. 177).  I was reprobate.  (Compare also John 16:8-11).  He uses OT Scriptures to say that the Church was mentioned in the OT (p. 187).  That must be why he doesn’t use a Literal historico-grammatical approach to  hermeneutics (interpretation). He writes that “mystery” means it was partly known because of the previous Scriptures (p. 199).  He’s twisting definitions to fit his theology.  He confuses that because Disp believe Israel and the Church are distinct that there are two kinds of salvation (p. 206).  The same salvation existed and exists for both.
I’m grateful for this volume, because it creates a clear divide between Reformed Theology and Dispensationalism.  R.C. Sproul, as a reformed theologian seems to support Gerstner, but states, “If a dispensationalist reads this book and honestly says, ‘This is not what I believe,’ nothing would please Gerstner more.” (p. xi)  As a dispensationalist, I find too much of what Gerstner has written, I do not believe.  Sproul also writes, “Is it possible that Gerstner has misunderstood dispensational theology and consequently misrepresented it? We must surely hold to this possibility.” (p. xi)  But Sproul also says, “If Gerstner is accurate, then dispensationalism should be discarded as being a serious deviation from Biblical Christianity.” (p. xi)  The study must continue, but not to be distracted from reaching the world for the sake of Jesus Christ.  The analysis makes clear that there are many questions that should be asked of believers in each theological system, “What saith the Lord?”