Perhaps one of the most devastating arguments against the no-lordship position is the appeal to antiquity. While some of the free grace teachers would deny it, the fact is that there is not one significant figure in the history of the church before the twentieth century who affirmed their position. With the exception of certain strands of antinomianism, there is not really any other theological position akin to free grace theology in the history of the church before the 1900’s. This fact alone should be enough to convince any Christian of free grace theology’s falsity.
In contrast to the no-lordship position, Lordship salvation has a long and steady line of tradition going back to the days of the Apostles. (Note: of course I realize such a statement may be seen as anachronistic; however, the essential element of Lordship teaching—the perseverance of the saints—can be seen in church doctrine throughout history even though it may not have been labeled “Lordship salvation” until recently). Consider the following research that supports my arguments above:
As to the lack of historical foundation for the free grace opinion, D.A. Carson, in his Exegetical Fallacies, points out numerous instances where Zane Hodges, in the cause of free-grace theology, makes exegetically unwarranted interpretations and mistakes. One particular criticism he lodges against Zane Hodges (and other free-grace teachers) is the absolutely bizarre and novel interpretations they give for very clear passages of Scripture in the Bible. Carson says of Hodges’s work on James 2,
“Perhaps one of the most intriguing—and disturbing—features of Zane C. Hodges's book... is that to the best of my knowledge not one significant interpreter of Scripture in the entire history of the church has held to Hodges' interpretation of the passage he treats. That does not necessarily mean Hodges is wrong; but it certainly means he is probably wrong…” (137).
Dr. Michael Horton and his colleagues at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA wrote a book a number of years ago entitled Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation in which they analyzed the Lordship salvation debate. Although the writers had critiques of both positions, the overwhelming number of objections were leveled at the no-lordship position. Perhaps the greatest objection to the free grace position was its novelty. Michael Horton wrote,
“…James Boice, J.I. Packer, and others have argued in their works [that] no respected, mainstream Christian thinker, writer, or preacher has ever held such extreme and unusual views concerning the nature of the gospel and saving grace as Zane Hodges [and his free grace counterparts].”
Furthermore he said,
“In our estimation, there is not the slightest support for Hodges and Ryrie to claim the reformers’ [like Luther's and Calvin's] favor for their novel views” (11).
Dr. Thomas Schreiner also notes the novelty of the free-grace (“loss-of-rewards”) view of salvation in his book The Race Set Before Us. See his comments on pages 28, 184, and 188.
While the free grace position is ahistorical and a theological innovation, the Lordship position has a firm historical foundation. Consider just a few pieces of information:
John MacArthur, in an appendix to his book Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, furnishes an abundance of historical material that clearly shows that Lordship salvation has been the consistent witness of the church throughout history. See pages 221-37.
Wayne Grudem, when discussing this issue in his Systematic Theology, writes,
“It is misleading to brand 'Lordship salvation' as if it were some new doctrine, or as if it were any other kind of salvation—MacArthur [a lordship teacher] is teaching what has been the historic position of Christian orthodoxy on this matter…” (715).
Much more could be said on this issue. But what has been shown is sufficient to support my contention that the free grace position is a Johnny-come-lately theological movement while the Lordship salvation camp stands on solid historical ground.
For more information about this here are a few resources to consult:
1. See my previous post about the historical validity of Calvinism and the resources I mention there since the Lordship position simply represents the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.
2. See Phil Johnson’s excellent article on antinomianism here.
3. Andy Naselli has written a recent book that convincingly shows that the free grace position stems from Keswick theology which was started around the early half of the twentieth century. Get Naselli’s book here.