Tag Archives: faith alone

The Credo Review: MacArthur or Hodges?

Credo Magazine (not associated with Credo House) published a review of Back to Faith. Credo Magazine describes itself as “… self-consciously Evangelical, Reformational, and Baptistic,” so it stands to reason that they would seek to uphold the tradition found in the cliche [We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone].

Honestly, I am grateful for the interaction on such an important issue as the role of faith and works in the life of the Christian.

Now I want to address some of the points:


On 12.06.11 | In Gospel, Reformation | by

Back to Faith: Reclaiming Gospel Clarity in an Age of Incongruence. By Fred R. Lybrand.

Reviewed by Lucas Bradburn

LUCAS SAID [Thirty or so years after the “Lordship salvation” controversy overtook the evangelical world, the debate still continues. While the issue no longer is at the center of theological conversation, the two sides in the debate—typically identified as “Lordship salvation” and “free grace theology”—continue to produce books. Representing the free grace camp, Fred R. Lybrand has recently contributed to the discussion with his book entitled Back to Faith: Reclaiming Gospel Clarity in an Age of Incongruence. Right off the bat Lyband’s readers are prepared for the book’s thesis through his provocative dedication to both John MacArthur and Zane Hodges, veteran players in the lordship debate. It quickly becomes apparent which person had the greater influence upon Lybrand.]

While I know Lucas means to say that Zane Hodges influenced me more on this topic than MacArthur did, it isn’t really a clear understanding of the influence these men have had on me.  MacArthur’s influence was pre-1983 when I entered Dallas Theological Seminary.  Oddly enough, this corresponds with the noted change in MacArthur’s theology surrounding the ‘lordship’ issue. One clearly does not hear much ‘lordship teaching’ in JMc’s pre-1984 sermons.  And, as I describe in Back to Faith, he especially was used to give me a heart for honoring the Bible as the Word of God.  MacArthur also deepened in me a desire to stay faithful to the text and its context.

Hodges certainly influenced me in an understanding of grace, but Ryrie, Chafer, Spurgeon, Stanford, Radmacher, Elliot Johnson and many others can’t be dismissed from the conversation.  And too, I’ve read my my Bible as well 🙂  What I feel Lucas also fails to realize is that I took a major stand against Zane’s aberrant discussion of the gospel (in association with the Grace Evangelical Society – GES – Bob Wilkin).  The article I wrote is available here:  GES GOSPEL OPEN LETTER (Lybrand) .  Frankly, I lost a number of dear friends over the stand I took.  Nonetheless, to date no one has challenged my analysis in any printed form…and…the issue involved (the errant idea that the cross is unnecessary to know/believe in order to receive eternal life by faith).  In fact, God seems to have used the “Open Letter” (along with other’s like Tom Stegall’s The Gospel of Christ) to essentially end the issue.

What I am committed to is the meaning in the text itself.  There are times when we are tempted to run ahead of the Bible and force-fit passages to our theology.  Honestly, I think both John MacArthur and Zane Hodges have done such from time to time.  I hardly believe I’m immune either.  Nonetheless, both men are dear to me in individual ways…and oddly, I don’t see them as enemies of the gospel—just imperfect men who overstated their case from time to time.

In Back to Faith, I basically argue that Zane flirted too much with Easy Believism (bordering on Universalism at times), while John flirted too much with Works-as-Proof (bordering on sounding like works are necessary for eternal life).  Sola Fide is only maintained when these ditch-like extremes are carefully avoided in the safe part of the road that honors the profound distinction between Justification and Sanctification (birth and growth).

God bless,

Fred Lybrand

 Back to Faith is on Kindle Now

The False Branch Theory and John 15


So I’m in the shower (weird how we think there) and I’m going over John MacArthur’s view of John 15 about abiding (in my mind).  I listened to MacArthur at a pace of 6 tapes a week for two years in my early days after coming to faith.

He described the branches that were ‘thrown in the fire’ as false branches (Judas Branches).  Lest you think I’m making this up, I tracked it down:

There were the true branches and there were the false branches in the analogy. The true branches are represented by the eleven and the false branches are represented by Judas Iscariot. That whole thing flows out of the context of Judas’ betrayal. And at that point, the “In Me” simply means “identification.” I don’t think you can push too much theology into that “in Me” and say that it means absolute conversion. It’s attachment at that point, that’s all. And I think you have a Judas branch, and I think what it’s saying is that there will be people who will attach themselves superficially to Christ but in evidence bearing no fruit at all, will ultimately be cut off and cast into the fire because they show they have no life, because if they are had any life at all, they would have fruit. So I think it’s a graphic illustration of the whole context of what the disciples have just been through with them as compared to Judas.

(from: http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/1301-N-8.htm )

So, I did a little more digging and found that my old pastor and teacher Ken Gangel said something similar in the Holman NT Commentary on John 15:

15:6. Verse 6 narrows other possible interpretations of verse 2. We struggle a bit with the words, “he cuts off.” But thrown away and withers takes it further than we want to go in any reference to people who may have been true believers at one time. Certainly the words thrown into the fire and burned could never refer to those who were at one time true believers.
Blum treats this carefully and wisely:

These words have been interpreted in at least three ways: (1) the “burned” branches are Christians who have lost their salvation. (But this contradicts many passages, e.g., 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28–29; Rom. 8:1.) (2) the ‘burned’ branches represent Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). (But Jesus spoke here of dead branches; such a branch “is thrown away and withers.”) (3) the “burned” branches refer to professing Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ is spiritually dead and therefore will be punished in eternal fire (cf. Matt. 25:46) (Blum, p. 325).
Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 4, John, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference, 283-84 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).

Yes, of course it is strange that fire means literal hell in an analogy…and…yes, of course, it is strange that ‘in Me’ doesn’t mean ‘in Me’ (within their own view) consistently throughout the passage.

But what really struck me under the 98 degree stream of water was the whole idea of a FALSE BRANCH.

The reason this struck me (all these years later) is that there is NO SUCH THING in reality as a FALSE BRANCH.  There are parasites (mistletoe) that look like they belong to the tree, yet Christ clearly (and easily could have said that) said the were vine branches.  Back then there were no such things as ARTIFICIAL BRANCHES either.  Artificial came along with wax and plastics and science (‘contrived by art’ around 1300AD).  Christ is using a real, live thing as an illustration.

When the Lord uses sheep, He says some of the sheep are “not His.”  He does not say that they are false sheep (you know…look like the real thing…but really aren’t sheep).  False prophets are still real people and false teeth are still used for teeth….and, we know where these things come from.

But, where would a false branch come from?  In nature (certainly in the NT era) no one had a notion or word for ‘false’ branch (any more than they would have for a false rock, stream, or fish).  The branches are real, and they are In Christ.  Obviously you must understand Him to be speaking of losing salvation or losing reward (see 1 Cor 3).

From Whence Cometh this Interpretation?

Necessity…and…it turns out to be a wonderful example of eisegesis, or imposing meaning on a text.  Since Blum/Gangel exclude any alternate meanings of the word ‘dead’ in the context, they miss the obvious nature of the warning for believers.  Therefore, with that as impossible and losing one’s justification as impossible (I agree)—all that is left for MacArthur, et al, is to make up the notion that there could exist in Christ’s mind (and on the earth) the idea that some branches (in Him) are actually fake or artificial branches.

I love these guys and I have no bones to pick, but all of us must learn to be very, very careful when we handle the Word of God.  Saying, “It must mean A because B is false elsewhere, can easily tempt us not to read the actual words of the text.”

My practice is to try to settle on a meaning from the immediate passage BEFORE I compare it to other places in the Word.  The comparison is valuable, but it is a dangerous way to interpret a passage by imposing meaning from elsewhere right off the bat!  The Analogy of Scripture is great, but you must inductively begin with the parts rather than than the whole.

So, what do you think?

Fred Lybrand


THE FLAW in DORT (5 Point Calvinism)

I’m so grateful that many of you have pitched in (but haven’t posted yet), and that a number of other have dropped my private notes of apology (too busy)!

I am finding that part of the problem with most Free Grace folks who are against Calvinism is that they simply have not read the original documents.  There is much in Calvinism that I love, and many things that I find to be pretty useless.  We all know that Calvinism is a theoLOGICAL system which largely makes sense if Scripture is not used as the standard of evaluation.  Do not miss the point– Calvinism is HIGHLY scriptural; yet, it is also, highly theological.  In other words, this is how Calvinists put it together.

Yet, one point is often denied in certain Free Grace circles; there is no such thing as Consistent Calvinism.  There is simply a broad spectrum of viewpoints within the largely circle.  We see this same reality with Arminians, Dispensationalists, Amillenialists, Preterests, denominations, and Free Grace advocates.  Sorry, that’s just the truth.  When we preach against “Calvinism” without defining terms, we are in the worst of straw-man worlds.  Sadly, we are attacking friends and patrons.  I personally have felt the same sense of being ostracized for not taking a stance against Calvinsim.

All Free Grace Advocates (faith alone in Christ alone) OWE a debt of gratitude to the Reformation for the recover of Grace being returned to the forefront of conversation and focus.  However, it doesn’t mean that forms and aspects of Calvinism aren’t mistaken (they are)!

Here is THE FLAW in DORT, as I study through it:

Dort assumes that humans are still depraved after regeneration.  In other words, they apply the same standards to a ‘saved’ person as they do a ‘lost’ person.  Practically, this means that they not only have the individual needing to be elected unto salvation, but elected unto sanctification (spiritual growth).

There is nothing inherently required in the ‘5 points’ or in Scripture concerning growth.  The very reason a believer can be accountable is that he is indeed a ‘new creation’ in Christ.  There is a new game in play where God can reward or chasten based on our works (and attitude, faith, doubt, etc.).  Saying that on is chosen to belong to Christ is one thing, saying one is chosen to produce good works (increasing) is quite another.

We are certainly called to good works as believers (read Titus), and God has set the kind of good works in place by His own will (see Ephesians 2:10); but to say God is imposing His will on us to make us obey is actually irrational and indefensible.

Said differently:

Before Christ = Depraved

After Christ = NOT Depraved

I’m catching a flight…so I’ll prove this later!

What do you think?  Where does this go?

Grace and peace,

Fred Lybrand

Face it, You are at Least a Little Bit of a 5 Point Calvinist!

So, in studying the Canons of Dort, I’m reminded of the statements of dear friends and mentors like Dr. Radmacher who have said (to the effect), “I’m a O.O Calvinst and a O.O Arminian.” I mention Dr. Radmacher because he has been very vocal about this issue in recent years, but it doesn’t diminish my love or appreciation for him.  We all must learn to disagree graciously…and on this one, I just disagree.  Of course, I regularly have disagreements with myself as well (so, I’m very in-discriminant in the matter!). The idea is that if you buy one part of the “5 Points” of Calvinism, you must necessarily buy them all.  I’ve addressed this elsewhere.  While I find some of the points in Dort untenable , I find other points quite wonderful.

ARTICLE 11 (under the First Head of Doctrine) And as God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by Him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

ARTICLE 5 (under the Second Head of Doctrine) Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.

Article 11 is basically saying that the saved / justified / elect cannot, for any reason, lose their salvation.  This was a huge point the Reformers recovered (thought there is some muddling in the matter as they invite an over-dependence on works/fruit as proof of faith…to be discussed later…or see www.backtofaith.com).  Surely, those of us who believe in eternal security have to agree with Dort on this one.

Article 5 is a plain statement of the gospel…whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life…how clear would I want it?  I know there are some who question if faith in Christ’s crucifixion should be included (see GES Gospel: Lybrand Open Letter), but I certainly find this statement to resonate with my own soul and the forgiveness I have found through faith in the Savior and His finished work.

The point is that as one works through the system of Dort (or Westminster, or the Remonstrance, or Augsburg, etc.), one will find point on which he agrees and points on which he differs.  Taken as a ‘whole’ system, one can be forced to reject or accept…and yet, is that really an accurate description of the view?

The challenge is in the logic of the system, and in theology, it tends to come down to a couple of errors we consistently see:

1.  Bad premise, bad conclusion

2. Good premise, non sequitur conclusion

These are oversimplified, but just because something seems logical, it nowise means it is logical.  Certain points are often pushed along until the absurd becomes the nauseating.  Please know, all sides fall into this from time to time.  Theology is too often built on the shaky cliffs of inference, conjecture, and speculation.  What might happen if we ever dared to just affirm what the Scriptures say and leave the rest to class-time in eternity?

God bless,

Fred Lybrand

Up for a little theology? I need your help on Calvinism…

So, here’s a video that explains it all:

Help Me on Calvinism from Fred Lybrand on Vimeo.

So, here’s a copy of DORT (Dordt; from the Synod of Dordrecht): http://fredlybrand.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/canons-of-dort.pdf

Again, I need your agreements and disagreements and why…this project could turn out big!


Fred Lybrand



P.P.S.  Please put an AGREE or a DISAGREE at the very top of your post…as it will make our reading easier.