- Free Grace theology
Free Grace theology refers to a distinct view of Christian topics, such as faith, repentance, assurance of salvation, and perseverance, that is tied to
dispensationalism. Two organizations that promote it are the Grace Evangelical Society (GES), and the Free Grace Alliance (FGA). GES and FGA [http://www.freegracealliance.org]
In spite of areas of disagreement, the core of "Free Grace" is the view that the Christian concept of
eternal salvationis bestowed on anyone who believes in Jesusirrespective of the subsequent behavior of the recipient of eternal salvation. [Bing, Charles [http://www.gracelife.org/resources/dissertation.asp "Lordship Salvation, A Biblical Evaluation and Response"] , Ph.D. Dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1991] Its historical antecedents are considered [ John F. MacArthur, Jr., "Faith Works, The Gospel According to the Apostles", Word, 1993] ] [ Michael Horton, "Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation" (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992)] to be Anne Hutchinson[David D. Hall, "The Antinomian Controversy 1636-1638 : A Documentary History", 1990] ] , Robert Sandeman[Robert Sandeman, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007] , John Cotton, [R.T. Kendall, "Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 2nd ed.", Paternoster Press, UK, 1997] John Nelson Darby, and Lewis Sperry Chafer. Both in its historical antecedents and in its contemporary expressions such as GES and FGA, Free Grace theology is a critical response to the view of Calvinism's Lordship Salvation, Catholicism, and Arminianismthat final salvation from the penalty of sin requires not only belief in Jesus Christ, but also a commitment to and perseverance in good works. [Dean, "Abiding in Christ: A Dispensational Theology of the Spiritual Life", CTS Journal, 2006] Free Grace theology was initially found among dispensationalists, but has since found acceptance in other groups as well.
Free Grace soteriology
Free Grace Theology is distinguished by its
soteriologyor doctrine of salvation. Like most Conservative ProtestantChristians, its advocates believe that God justifies the sinner on the sole condition of faith in Christ, not subsequent righteous living.See:
*Francis A. Schaeffer, "The God Who is There" Crossway Books, 1968, pp. 145-148
*John Piper, "The Future of Justification" Crossway Books, 2007 p. 78
*Charles Spurgeon, Sermon, "Justification by Faith", December 1868 http://www.sermoncentral.com/outsideurl.asp?outsideurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Espurgeon%2Eorg%2Fsermons%2F0844%2Ehtm] Free Grace Theology insists that faith is a passive persuasion that Jesus is the
messiahand that he provides eternal salvation as a free gift to those who believe in Him. See:
* [http://www.freegracealliance.com/about_covenant.php Free Grace Alliance Doctrinal Statement]
* [http://www.faithalone.org/about/4.html Grace Evangelical Society Doctrinal Statement]
* [http://www.scriptureunlocked.com/doctrine.html Scripture Unlocked Ministries Doctrinal Statement] ] Free Grace teaches that one need not proffer a promise of future behavior or good works in exchange for God's eternal salvation such as repenting from one's sins, or "making Jesus the lord of his life," that he cannot lose his salvation through sin and subsequent failure, and that he can be confident that he has obtained eternal salvation by reflex reflection upon one's faith in the Gospel promise, rather than through introspective assessment of one's personal good works. This view strongly distinguishes the gift of eternal life and the declaration of justification by faith from subsequent good works. There is also an emphasis within Free Grace on the judgment seat of Christ, where Christians are rewarded based on good works done in faith. [Earl Radmacher, "Believers and the Bema" Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1995 -- Volume 8:14]
Protestant Christian theologyagrees that faithalone in Christ alone is the sole means for receiving the free gift of eternal life "eternal salvation". However, the definition of faithwithin the Free Grace community differs from the view of Reformed scholarship. [M. Charles Bell, "Calvin & Scottish Theology", The Handsel Press, Edinburgh, 1985] [R. T. Kendall, "Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 2nd ed.", Paternoster Press, UK, 1997] The Reformed tradition has typically advanced the belief that faith stemming from one's free will cannot save. Within Calivinism, "grace" is a mystical substance infused into a sinner to over come their "bound" or "fallen" will, and empower them to believe. Because "grace" is believed to be "irrestible" in the reformed community, once who is elect, and thereby receives God's grace, shall be drawn irrestibly to saving faith. Moreover, since grace is "irresistable," once received, it will continue on a course by which it irrestibly conforms the convert to Christ likeness. Accordingly, one who believes without producing good works had never receieved God's grace, and therefore, was "never really saved" within the reformed community. A great deal of exegetical gymnastics within the reformed community has been devoted to defend the proposition that faith inherently includes good works. No argument, however, has been advanced for why the same Greek word, "pistis" is used hundreds of times throughout Scripture, and thousands of times throughout extant Greek literature, in mundane ways in which human works cannot sensibly be added. [Gresham Machen, "What is Faith?," 1925] Reformed theology frequently asserts different "kinds" of faith, some which can save, and some which are incapable of imparting salvation to a lost sinner. Faith that is the product of God's "grace" is the saving type. Faith which was merely the product of the fallen will of the lost sinner is not of God's grace, and therefore, not capable of saving. They nature of one's faith, therefore, can be identified by the ensuing works. If good works and a godly lifestyle ensue, the faith is determined to be the product of "irresistible grace," and was, in retrospect, of the saving variety. If a sustained change of life is not experienced, the "faith" is determined to have been from some source other than God's "grace." Hence, the subject is declared to have been "never really saved."
Free Grace & Dispensationalism
Free Grace theology is
dispensationalin its assumptions regarding the philosophy of history and in terms of its networks and affiliations. [Gerry Breshears, “New Directions in Dispensationalism”, paper presented to the Evangelical Theological Society, November 1991]
Free Grace & Assurance
One of the unique aspects of Free Grace theology is its position on assurance. All Free Grace advocates agree that assurance of salvation is intrinsic to the very nature of the Gospel promise.
Dallas Theological Seminary, in Article XI of its doctrinal statement, sums up the general consensus of Free Grace theology in reference to assurance: [ [http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement/ Dallas Theological Seminary Website] ]
:We believe it is the privilege, not only of some, but of all who are born again by the Spirit through faith in Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, to be assured of their salvation from the very day they take Him to be their Savior and that this assurance is not founded upon any fancied discovery of their own worthiness or fitness, but wholly upon the testimony of God in His written Word, exciting within His children filial love, gratitude, and obedience (Luke 10:20; 22:32; 2 Cor. 5:1, 6–8; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 10:22; 1 John 5:13).
Yet within the Free Grace world, there are two views on assurance. The first is that, although assurance of salvation should be the experience of every Christian, Christian individuals may or may not immediately experience this. The realization of one's possession of eternal life may come at a later time, as a result of further study of the Gospel.
A second view is that assurance is of the essence of saving faith. [See "Gospel Under Seige by Zane Hodges, REDENCION VIVA 1981, page 10. "A careful consideration of the offer of salvation as Jesus Himself presented it, will show that assurance is inherent in that offer.] This view holds that faith is a "conviction that what Jesus promises is true." If a person does not believe in his own "saved-ness", then it is posited that he does not believe in Christ.
Free Grace theology approaches the doctrine of
repentancein a different way compared to the most other Christian traditions. [The Reformed tradition, for instance, sees repentance as "a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ" ( Wayne Grudem, "Systematic Theology", p. 713). Defined as such, it is a component, not just of conversion but also of sanctification, and it is a regularly recurring element throughout the Christian's life. This repentance cannot be present in unbelievers at all (unless perhaps God is in the process of converting them) because only those truly regenerated by God can exercise it.] God's "irresistable grace," necessary to impart "faith" to man's fallen will (the bondage of the will), shall, by its very nature, advance the new convert to a state of holiness and Christ likeness. Without the infusion of this mystical "grace," the lost sinner cannot efficaciously believe, nor can he hope to attain to a state of holiness and Christ likeness.
As the reformation began, Erasmus' cry "ad fontes" (from the sources) was applied to terms like "justification," wherein the biblical and extra-biblical Greek literature were examined to establish the meaning of the term "dikaio" (justify). However, other theological beliefs, such as the need to "repent of one'sins" for eternal salvation, remained unexamined within the mainstream denominations. A return to the sources (Scripture and extant Greek literature) for a serious examination of words such as "metanoia" would not be widely observed within the church for several hundred more years.
Some of the earliest developments relating to the doctrine of repentance appeared in
Harry A. Ironside("Except Ye Repent", American Tract Society, 1937) and the "Systematic Theology" of Lewis Sperry Chafer(completed 1947), returned to consider the fundamental meaning of the Greek word "metanoia" (repentance), which simply means "to change one's mind." In biblical passages commonly understood to be directed to eternal salvation, the object of repentance was often seen simply as Jesus Christ, making repentance equivalent to faith in Christ. Passages identifying a more specific object of repentance were understood to focus on man's need to change his mind from a system of self-justification by works to a trusting in Christ alone for salvation, or a change in mind from polytheism to a belief in Jesus Christ as the true living God. Further exposition came from various Free Grace authors, [E.g., Dick Seymour, "All About Repentance" (1974); G. Michael Cocoris, "Lordship Salvation, Is it Biblical?" (circa 1983) and "Repentance, The Most Misunderstood Word in the Bible" (1993); Curtis Hutson, "Repentance, What does the Bible Teach"; Richard Hill, "Why a Turn or Burn Theology is Wrong"; and Ronald R. Shea, "The Gospel" booklet (1988); and numerous articles by John R. Rice and Curtis Hutson in the "Sword of the Lord" magazine.] and Robert N. Wilkin undertook a detailed examination in his doctoral thesisat Dallas Theological Seminary(1985), which he simplified for a more popular audience in the "Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society" from Autumn 1988 to Autumn 1990.
The Free Grace view has historically been that saving faith is believing in that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, died four our sins and rose from the dead, and offers justification and eternal life to whoever believes on Him alone for their eternal life. In a departure from the historic free grace position, a splinter movement within the Free Grace movement has a adopted a deconstructionist or existentialist view of Jesus, commonly known as "The Crossless Gospel." This belief asserts that there is no specific content to one's faith about the person and work of "Jesus." Only the pronouncation of the word "Jesus" is important, and the belief that this undefined existential entity offers eternal life to whoever believes on him. This deconstructionistic movement, however, has not found any traction in countries outside of the United States, where foreign lands have many different pronouncations for the Son of God, or Jesus, such as "Yeshua," "Joshua," "Isa," "Issiat," "Yesus," "Messie," "Son of Sweaty Bog," the "Son of Dumnezeu." Outside the United States, the crossless gospel appears to be a naive American phenomena that focuses on pronouncation of Jesus' name, rather than His character as defined by his eternal character, and his sacrifice for man's sins.
Perseverance of the saints
Free Grace advocacy
* [http://www.faithalone.org/ The Grace Evangelical Society]
* [http://www.freegracealliance.com/ Free Grace Alliance]
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