Dallas Seminary Book Review (Zuck) of Back to Faith

Many Reformed theologians and others accept the following cliché of John Calvin in 1547: “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.” In examining this statement Lybrand, executive director of the Free Grace Alliance, shows that it is logically invalid. He notes that if faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone, this is “speaking nonsense” (p. 21). He points out that this “runs perilously close to including works as an essential for salvation” (p. 6).

In discussing James 2:14–26 Lybrand points out that the cliché is exegetically invalid because James wrote of genuine faith, not a so-called faith. True faith, however, is “dead,” that is, it has not grown or matured. “James is concerned about Christians who have faith, but who do not put works with their faith. Indeed, the entire section cries out for one simple point: add works to your faith! It is a fiction to assume that James is concerned about a false faith when his emphasis is on the importance of adding works to one’s faith. The faith is real, and it will thrive with the addition of works” (p. 102).

In chapter 6 Lybrand discusses more than seventy New Testament passages in which works are seen not as guaranteed, but as encouraged. Thus the cliché is wrong, for it suggests that “works are guaranteed.” Many pastors and theologians have promoted this cliché, but none so vigorously, Lybrand suggests, as John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. So Lybrand spends an entire chapter examining Piper’s view. Lybrand says Piper affirms “faith alone” (pp. 195, 198–205), but he also affirms that faith is “not alone” (pp. 196, 205–23). Piper says faith “produces the works” (p. 224), and that “unless faith has works, then it is not faith at all” (p. 224). This faith must persevere, according to Piper, for if it does not, it is spurious faith.

As Lybrand correctly observes, “The cliché is wrong, and works do not prove salvation since salvation is accomplished apart from works” (p. 249).

This thorough analysis of a common cliché is a welcome discussion of the relationship between faith and works. As the book’s subtitle suggests, this work can help reclaim the gospel’s clarity.

—Roy B. Zuck

January 1, 2011



Mathew 25 Outer Darkness

Some years ago I gave a 21 part series on Eternal Rewards. While I do not think believers will suffer in  Gehenna (patently unscriptural), I do believe that consequences can be both positive and negative, at least as loss (used to debate this with Miles Stanford in our private letters) for the believer. Of course, one’s eternal destiny is never at issue.

Here’s a link to my understanding of Mathew 25

Matthew 25 and the Outer Darkness (Click Here)

I’d love your thoughts,


For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, xso that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil 2 Corinthians 5:10

A Change of Mind about Repentance: Dare we?

A Change of Mind about Repentance

By Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Repentance has been a sticky issue and has been around as a major conversation piece since the Reformation. I know, because ‘my view’ (which I found out I share with Dr. Elliot Johnson of Dallas Theological Seminary) has been labeled an error by those involved in the Marrow of Divinity Controversy way back in the 1600s! Of course, no need to get excited, every view on the planet and throughout history is an error to someone or some group.

So, the issue of concern here — is repentance necessary to get saved (as in from-hell-to-heaven)? If it is necessary, then is it a part of saving faith? These are the essential questions. There are many views, often being represented as repentance meaning the necessary turning from all known sin (and interest in future sin, usually) to ‘believe’ in Christ. In this regard, some purveyors of salvation make repentance as much of a part of faith as they do works (see the book, Back to Faith).

I have a bit of an uncommon solution, and I’d like your thoughts on the matter. Here are the two parts of my thinking—

1. Repentance is a precursor to faith, but is not a part of faith.
2. Repentance is not causally connected to faith.

Of course, I mean ‘saving faith’ here; the kind that delivers the faith-in-Christ-alone soul from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col 1:12-13).

When I say it is a precursor, I mean that repentance is necessary-but-prior to faith alone in Christ alone. In a similar way to hearing the Word is repentance’s role in the process (Romans 10:17). Said differently, one must hear before he believes…so too, one must repent before he believes. I really don’t want to exhaust the references in a blog post, but I will make a simple observation. Repent and Believe are different words…that’s a clue! People are always attempting to merge these things, but they don’t need merging they need sequencing. John Calvin saw repentance as FOLLOWING faith in Christ (a little publicized fact). I believe the Bible is clear, but only if you rightly understand repentance to mean “a change of mind.” Of course, each context dictates the nature of the ‘change’—sometimes it is a change of mind about sin, but sometimes it is a change of mind about the object of our faith. Zane Hodges proposed it was a change toward God, but that is just a theological imposition. Hermeneutically, all we can do is take the ‘change’ element and look to the context to understand repent-from-what-thing (?). Simply put, we turn from whatever we have been trusting (self, works, or our admiration for Gandhi *see Rob Bell*), and turn to trust in Christ and His finished work on our behalf. If one does not turn from a failing object of faith, then one cannot put faith in the right object (Christ alone). Sorry.

That repentance is not connected to faith should be obvious, but it is not, of course. To prove this we only need to show that the excluded middle (as it were) is being ignored. Here’s what I mean— If one is saved only by faith in Christ, then we can know that if one is unsaved he does not have faith in Christ. Like “love and marriage,” you can’t have one without the other. Right?

Well, repentance does NOT work that way. People can repent with great conviction and fervor, but it means nothing without faith alone in Christ alone. Otherwise, what could Hebrews 6:1 possibly mean when it denigrates “repentance from dead works?”

Try it this way:

Just because you repent, why does that meant you have believed?

If you can repent without belief, then you can’t be sure that you have believed just because you have repented.

This really is the crux (pardon the allusion) of the problem! People are actually putting their faith in their repentance (so called), instead of in the Savior. The reason they do that is that they have wrongly co-mingled faith and repentance.

Far better to keep the ideas separate just as the words are different. I encourage you to call people to repent when you share the gospel…but call them to repent from the misguided objects of faith which obscure their vision of the no-addition-needed Savior. Repentance is before Faith, just as hearing is before repentance. It is in this way that we can maintain Faith-Alone-In-Christ-Alone.

Please share your thoughts!

God bless,
Fred Lybrand

A full discussion and comments on this blog can be found at: Free Grace Alliance

The Credo Review – How Many Evangelicals Don’t Believe in Sola Fide?

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.

Oops…they removed the original review. Here’s the summary link: https://credomag.com/2011/12/faith-alone-justifies-yet-the-faith-which-justifies-is-not-alone/

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 [The purpose of Lybrand’s book is to call his readers back to an understanding of the Gospel that is free from any inconsistencies. He argues that while many evangelical Christians hold firmly to the doctrine of sola fide—believing that salvation is granted by grace alone through faith alone—they also unconsciously undermine the power of this doctrine by maintaining that good works should necessarily and inevitably flow from faith. This incongruity is concisely seen in the popular cliché, coined during the Reformation, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.” Although it is trite, Lybrand argues that this cliché is not true.]

Response by Fred Lybrand

As I reflected on Lucas’s words here I want to say outright that I think he is genuinely aiming at what I am getting at, but is missing the mark by what is communicated.  Clearly I see a problem with affirming a cliche that is fundamentally self-defeating.  However, the following two points are not really what I believe or propose:

1.  “Many evangelical Christians hold firmly to the doctrine of sola fide”

2.  “…they also unconsciously undermine the power of this doctrine by maintaining that good works inevitably flow from faith”

“Many evangelical Christians hold firmly to the doctrine of sola fide

The term ‘many’ suggests that I believe ‘the greater part’ or ‘a large number’ of evangelicals affirm the doctrine.  Actually I believe ‘most’ or ‘just about all’ evangelical Christian hold to sola fide.  In fact, it is almost the definition of evangelical (whether Calvinist or Arminian).  The way it is expressed, or the way some not-so-trained might express the sola fide gospel certainly creates a milieu of problems and confusions, but at it’s core evangelicalism is not aberrant (like works based sub-groups) or Roman Catholic.  In fact, if sola fide goes away, then it seem to me that evangelical (Protestant) Christianity goes away as well.  Back to Faith is actually an effort to maintain the clarity of our tradition, not an effort to deny it.  Now, while I do believe most or just-about-all evangelicals hold to sola fide, I do not believe they do a very good job of consistently communicating it or aligning their theological sub-points with it.

“…they also unconsciously undermine the power of this doctrine by maintaining that good works inevitably flow from faith”

I actually don’t believe that the power of the doctrine of sola fide is undermined (though I am not sure what Lucas exactly means by this), though I do believe the clarity of the doctrine is undermined.  This may seem an issue of semantics, however it is clear to me that the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone apart from works has all the power it needs fully and inherently build into it (see Romans 1:16).  On the other hand, if the message is muddled or confusing to the listener then there is no power in it; yet, the loss of power comes from a mis-communicated message itself.

When theologians, evangelists, pastors, and teachers say that good works flow from faith, they have said nothing of consequence in-and-of itself.  Works flowing from faith makes sense to anyone who ponders the nature of belief and action (though there is a mixing of faith as an event and faith as an ongoing experience).  However, that is not actually the emphasis in Back to Faith.  It is not simply that ‘works follow faith’, but rather that some Calvinists emphasize that (a) since works MUST follow from faith, then (b) works proves one has ‘true’ faith.  Wait, it goes even further.  Not only then does works prove faith, but a lack of works prove a lack of faith (they say).  Of course, the final resting place of this ‘logic’ is that the one without works, thus without faith, never had faith or salvation (justification) at all. [yes, our Arminian friends would affirm that one can have it and lose it…more reasonable, but not supportable biblical in my view].

This kind of reasoning is a tumbling downhill.  And, though it seems right, it actually works against the clear communication of the gospel.  What one shares at first is “Believe in Christ alone.”  What one shares to the ‘unchanged’ (according to who’s reckoning?) person who says he has believed is, “No works? No faith…now REALLY believe!”  Inadvertently the hapless individual is actually re-focusing his own thoughts on his works (and faith in these same works) as a means of assurance, if not salvation.  I call all of this muddled, yes miscommunication.

Sola Fide is good and powerful and held by most in evangelical world…but there is a subtle mistake some make as they follow a line of thought away from the clarity of faith alone in Christ alone apart from works.  It is easy enough to note.  Obviously all Reformed thinkers would admit that one can have works without having the accompanying salvation.  Historically this has been known as ‘working one’s way to heaven’.  So, clearly if one sees works in another it could me that (a) the person is not a believer, but is working hard to be good enough to get into heaven, or (b) that the person is a believer and his good works are related to his new life in Christ.  Since either option is possible, concluding something based on works is an exercise in conjecture (if not outright judgmentalism in some cases).

Sola Fide argues that the transaction with God is by grace through faith apart from works.  Works are not in the formula (so to speak).  If works have nothing to do with saving faith in the Savior Jesus Christ, then what role could they possibly have in proving something one way or another about the nature of that ‘faith-apart-from-works’ event?

The simple answer we offer is that works DO have something to do with growth and a walk with God (sanctification).  It would be difficult, if not truly antinomian, to ascribe walking with Christ as a sola fide proposition (the way it is meant in the context of the Reformation).

The burden of Back to Faith is clarity; a clarity that comes by respecting justification and sanctification, adoption into the family and growth as a member, as distinct aspects of what the scriptures afirm, and what most think of as, evangelical.


Fred Lybrand

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:

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 Faith that Saves is not Alone?