Thursday, September 27, 2007

Zane Hodges and the Grace Evangelical Society

With movements like the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul(NPP) redefining justification to be by the christian's faithfulness as opposed to faith in Christ, it is important to consider the position of another group damaging the cause of Christ. Zane Clark Hodges is a Pastor of Victor Street Bible Church in Dallas, Texas and a graduate of and former professor at the dispensational Dallas Theological Seminary. In lieu of his former influence at Dallas, Zane is a founder and leader in a movement that has caused much confusion in its perversions of God's word. As a dispensationalist, Zane makes no bones about his disagreements with Reformed theology. In spite of this ,however, he and his comrades at the Grace Evangelical Society(GES), a ministry organized to propagate the theology of Zane, claim to hold to the reformation tenet of sola fide and claim the support of the reformers themselves. Because of this, their teaching must be examined to see if their claims are true. This study will focus on Zane's doctrine of salvation(soteriology) as this is his major error. At the outset I want to say that Zane holds to many scriptural truths such as the Trinity, deity of Christ and the inerrancy of scripture among many others and so to agree with him in some areas does not indicate either a necessary influence or association with him or his ilk. This is important to note as many groups attempt to dissuade people from the truth by using the "fruit of the poisoned tree doctrine" knowing that most people will not be discerning enough to search for the truth.

Zane on Faith as a Gift

Zane claims to hold to a salvation that is absolutely free, and yet he denies faith is a gift from God in his book Absolutely Free! (AF) on page 219 where he states "The Bible never affirms that saving faith per se is a gift". If salvation is absolutely free it must be a gift and if faith is essential to salvation as the scriptures indicate in Ephesians 2:8, Romans 3:28 and John 3:16 then faith itself must be a gift or salvation is not absolutely free as I must do something to get it. His claim that the Bible never affirms saving faith as a gift shows his lack of knowledge of scripture as Philippians 1:29 clearly states it is given to us to believe in Christ. In his book The Gospel Under Siege on page167 Zane elaborates this thought by saying "It is often claimed by theologians that man has no capacity to believe and that faith, like salvation, must be given to him as a gift. But this view is contradicted by 2 Corinthians 4:3,4 where Paul writes: 'But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.'" and later states "God's role in bringing men to faith is therefore revelatory" revealing his blindness of scripture which states in Mark 4:11,12 "And He said to them. 'To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.'" What is given to us is the ability to know the truth of revelation, which is faith. We can now see that Zane holds to the Arminian view of "free will" and that believing earns justification and salvation. This is called neonomianism in theology circles. Neonomianism believes the ten commandments saved in the Old Testament but in the New Testament it is, in this case, the law of faith or in other cases the law of love. In contrast, scripture teaches the elect "were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13) and again it says "it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:16). Zane and other Arminians may say yeah but in John 1:12 it is to those that receive Christ that are saved to which I say a hearty amen. But what they fail to understand is that receiving Christ equals believing in him. As the Holy Spirit baptizes the person in Christ, regenerating him, that person has received Christ and believes. I receive phone calls and mail all the time without any action of my own. When I was born in the flesh, my parents did not ask my opinion on the matter, nor does God on the new birth.

Zane on the Atonement

For all his talk of the gospel of grace being under seige, eclipsed and absolutely free, it is surprising that Zane makes only passing reference to the doctrine of the atonement in his books. In his book Absolutely Free! on page 85 Zane says " Frequently (though not always) lordship salvation is combined with a harsh system of thought that denies the reality of God's love for every single human being. According to this kind of theology, God dooms most men to eternal damnation long before they are born and really gives His Son to die only for the elect." He later states "It does not lie within the scope of this book to deal with this tragic error." The atonement is essential to the gospel. Any book trying to prove an "absolutely free" gospel must deal with the death of Christ and who He died for. It is clear,however, from his quote and reference to the book Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 by R.T. Kendall, that Zane holds that Christ died for every human being. For this to be true,however, everyone must therefore go to heaven as Christ's death is the basis for our salvation to be absolutely free. On the cross Christ cried out "It is finished" (John 19:30) completing his task of earning our salvation. If Christ died for all humans and not just for "His people" as the Bible says in Matthew 1:21, and not all go to heaven, then salvation is not "absolutely free" and we must do something to earn it. The reformer, John Calvin , contra Kendall, believed Christ died for the elect and referred to universal redemptionists as "buffoons" in one place. Calvin states, "Besides, we note that St. Paul does not speak here of anyone but the faithful (fidelis). For there are certain buffoons who, to blind the eyes of the ignorant and others like themselves, want to cavil here that the grace of salvation is given to us because God ordained that his Son should be the Redeemer of the human race, but that this is common to all, and indiscriminate." (quoted from The Will of God and the Cross by Jonathan Rainbow p. 123) . The Bible is clear that Christ came only to serve and give His life "a ransom for many (the elect)" (Matt. 20:28).

Zane on Perseverance

Zane states in his book Absolutely Free! on page 80 " The simple fact is that the New Testament never takes for granted that believers will see discipleship through to the end. And it never makes this kind of perseverance either a condition or a proof of final salvation from hell". He later states on page 138 that Christians can reject a good conscience and suffer shipwreck of the faith as Hymenaeus and Alexander did in 1 Tim. 1:19-20. Zane has even been quoted as stating in a sermon that Christians can become atheists but should not be thought to be going to hell, as they once professed belief. Scripture is clear, however, in 1 John 2:19 that " They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us". True faith perseveres. As faith is a gift from God, we can be confident that "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6) . Zane's reference to Hymenaeus as being a Christian reveals again his lack of insight in the Word of God. 2 Timothy 2:17-21 clearly indicates that Hymenaeus is not in the faith. Verse 19 states "the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are His" and in verse 20 we learn that " in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor". Finally, Hebrews 10:39 tells us " But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul". Perseverence is clearly a gift included in our salvation.

Zane On Faith

One area I find some agreement between Zane and myself is on his definition of faith in chapter 2 of AF. Zane holds to a literal understanding of faith as opposed to the figurative or metaphorical view of the pietists and revivalists. Theologians of today often trichotomize faith into three psychological categories notitia, assensus and fiducia. This usually leads to an unscriptural distinction between "head faith" and "heart faith". This teaching says that there are real gospel believers going to hell because they believed only intellectually and lacked "holy affections". They often quote from James 2:19 that the demons believe but are going to hell. While it is a truth that the elect love Christ because he first loved us (1 John 4:19), we must first believe in Christ in order to love Him. Hebrews 11:6 says "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him". Belief precedes any and all "holy affections" and is the basis for those affections. 1 John 3:6 teaches that "whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him" and in 4:8 says "he who does not love does not know God, for God is love". Clearly the reprobate do not believe God. As for the demons faith, it clearly makes them tremble and so is real but faith is not what saves, Christ as the object does and we know from Hebrews 2:16 that "He does not give aid to the angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham". It is only through the definite atonement and imputed righteousness of Christ that we are saved through faith. I say only some agreement, however, because for Zane, faith is the one thing our "free will" can do to earn salvation. For Zane, faith is a magic formula akin to an "abracadabra" or an "open sesame" earning our way to heaven. Scripture teaches that it is the definite atonement and imputed righteousness of Christ that saves man. They grant new life to a person, opening blind eyes to see, and deaf ears to hear the truth of the Gospel, which is faith. It is the object of faith that saves and not the faith itself.

Zane On Sanctification

Zane sees a difference between "salvation" and "discipleship". On page 68 of AF he states that "discipleship is obviously hard, while eternal life is free", on page 74 he states that discipleship "has to a willingness to work, and to work hard" and finally on page 88 "Salvation is absolutely free; discipleship most certainly is not". This again is not in line with scripture. While it is true that not every disciple was a believer, every believer is a disciple of Christ. Every Christian answers as Peter did in John 6:68 "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life". The word disciple means follower. Why would a Christian believer follow Buddha? Why would a person who followed Mohammed be called a Christian? In John 10:27 Jesus tells us "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me". Also, discipleship like "salvation" is by faith and not hard. Paul asks us in Galations 3:3, " having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh" and verse 5 asks "He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law , or by the hearing of faith". Jesus contrary to Zane says in Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light". Discipleship is the aspect of salvation called sanctification, where God sets His people apart from the world and sin. It is by faith(John 17:17) and it is not hard but sets us free(John 8:32).

Is Zane A Sandemanian?

Two men who are often slighted as being predecessors of Zane, and accused of holding to his errors are Robert Sandeman and Gordon Clark. J.I. Packer accuses Sandeman of this in the foreword to John MacArthur's book The Gospel According to Jesus. Also Michael Makidon of the GES wrote an article at on Robert and his ministry. In a guilt by association way Gordon Clark is accused by Banner Of Truth as being a Sandemanian at . This is not so for either men. Both Robert Sandeman and Gordon Clark held firmly to Christ's definite atonement and imputed righteousness. To these men salvation is a gift of God from start to finish. I encourage readers to read these men for themselves, as much that is written about them is false witness. Robert Sandeman's theology is clearly presented in his magnum opus Letters On Theron and Aspasio, which is no longer in print but available on Thomson-Gale. I owe a debt of gratitude to Sandeman for my ordering of thoughts in this critique of Zane and the GES. Gordon Clark's works include Predestination, God and Evil and What is Saving Faith? and are available at . Lord willing, I intend to do thorough treatments of these much maligned men in the future as they are two of my heroes in the faith. I have done a short bio of Robert at The Scottish Legacy part 2 at this site.


Zane and the GES are not in the tradition of either the Reformers, Robert Sandeman, Gordon Clark or most importantly of Scripture. I put the link to the GES so the reader can read for himself what they are saying or order his books if you so wish. His main books are Absolutely Free! , The Gospel Under Seige and Grace In Eclipse. Two other major works disseminating his theology are The Reign of The Servant Kings by Joseph Dillow and The Other Side Of Calvinism by Laurence Vance. For another critique of Zane from an Arminian and dispensational group go to the Middletown Bible Church in Connecticutt site at . This site includes many quotes from Zane's sermons I do not have access to and is important in noting the differences in arminianisms. For a critique advocating the "traditional" trichotomizing of faith see The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur and Faith Alone and other works by RC Sproul.

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