Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Recommendation: "Free Grace Theology" Five Ways it Diminishes the Gospel

Wayne Grudem is best known for his prolific Systematic Theology. It has helped make theology accessible and enjoyable for the Christian layman. With his "Free Grace Theology" 5 Ways it Diminishes the Gospel, Grudem intends to demonstrate that the claims of Free Grace Theology are not faithful to the Bible’s teaching on saving faith. The book is short, only being 160 pages. It is made up of an introduction, five chapters, and a conclusion.

    Introduction
    1: Not the “Faith Alone” of the Reformation
    2: No Call to Repent from Sin
    3: False Assurance
    4: Under-emphasis on Trust in the Person of Christ
    5: Unlikely Interpretations
    Conclusion

In his introduction, Grudem helpfully defines the debate as being around the issues of utmost importance. He is not interested in fighting for the label of “lordship salvation” as this is a loaded term used by Free Grace Theologians against the historic protestant position. The debate should not revolve around loaded terms, instead both theological positions should be examined with Scripture on two major points: 1) Whether repentance is necessary for saving faith, and 2) the nature of good works in the Christian life.

Following the introduction, Grudem lays out his case against Free Grace Theology in five ways (as the book title reveals). First, he begins with historical theology—reciting what has been the classic Christian consensus regarding saving faith. Free Grace Advocates, Grudem reveals, fundamentally misunderstand sola fide—faith alone. For them, this means faith is all that is required for salvation. Christian consensus, however, has always taught that we are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies is never alone. In other words, saving faith must have accompanying works and fruit that demonstrate a changed life or that faith is a dead faith (James 2:14-26). In his survey, Grudem cites John Calvin (1509-1564), the Formula of Concord (1576), the 39 Articles of the Church of England (1571), the Westminster Confession of Faith(1646), the New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833), John Wesley (1703-1791), and the Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths (1916). Historically, the consensus among different significant figures, denominations and time is undeniable—the historic protestant position is at odds with Free Grace Theology. Second, Grudem challenges the errant definition of repentance as being only a change of mind. Third, he summarizes the dangerous consequences of teaching a salvation invitation that does not include the need to repent--it creates false converts. These individuals have an intellectual knowledge of Christ, but nothing more. Fourth,  Grudem identifies Free Grace Theology's tendency to actually diminish the person of Christ. Finally, Grudem closes his work by exposing and countering the exegetically unwarranted interpretations offered by Free Grace Theologians on texts which counter their position.

Free Grace Theology has profoundly, negatively, impacted many individual's understanding of the nature of saving faith. Most damaging (in my opinion) is its enabling of individuals to to have assurance that they are truly saved while they continue to live in their sin. Free Grace Theology has no doubt created the "converts" of the chilling text Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Wayne Grudem set out to write a critique of Free Grace Theology and demonstrate how it diminishes the Gospel. He has succeeded. He writes clearly, and kindly while not compromising the Gospel. My own experience with Free Grace Theology began in my teens with theological controversy in my youth group. I have been surprised to see easy believism continue to surface throughout my life at revival meetings, teen camps, Christian college, seminary, and in local churches. I am grateful for Grudem’s work and intend to recommend it along with John MacArthur’s classic The Gospel According to Jesus to those struggling with understanding the nature of saving faith. Grudem has once again enriched the church with another timely volume. 

Rating: Five Hatch Green Chiles out of Five