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

12 thoughts on “The Credo Review: MacArthur or Hodges?”

  1. Steve,

    Good question on easy believism. I diverge from other Free Grace advocates because I agree that easy believism is a bad thing. I also don’t think I am re-defining it to suit my purposes. Unfortunately, lots of opponents tend to make the term an accusation meaning ‘that person’s view’ (in contrast to his own).

    Clearly the term is not an attack on “believism”— for that would mean a denial of Sola Fide. The issue is in the adjective ‘easy’.

    I have proposed that the continuum for this conversation runs from a Hyper-Lordship (just shy of faith + works) on the far right, to Theistic Universalism (believing there is a God…just shy of everyone gets in for showing up).

    So, easy believism carries on in the extreme toward Universalism. Depending where one stands on the continuum, those to his left will be ‘easy-believism’ advocates. I think this same phenomenon happens with those who are more ‘lordshippy’ on the same continuum—to one’s right is a ‘definite’ Lordshipper!

    Easy Believism is when one has reduced the content and nature of faith to such a minimum so as to remove the sin issue in the individual (problem), as well as the Person and Work of Christ (solution), as essentials in the redemptive work of God.

    I do reject that it means something like, “Belief apart from a changed life gets one into heaven.” This kind of definition begs for redemption to be a process (a notoriously Roman Catholic emphasis), since the issue is about the re-birth and the moment of faith. It also inadvertently affirms a ‘correct’ faith with an ‘incorrect’ result.

    Hope this helps,


  2. We know the bible teaches no act of obedience, preceding or following faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, such as commitment to obey, sorrow for sin, turning from one’s sin, baptism or submission to the Lordship of Christ, may be added to, or considered part of FAITH as a condition for receiving everlasting life (Salvation.) (Rom 4:5; Gal 2:16; Titus 3:5). This saving transaction between God and the sinner is simply the giving and receiving of a free gift (Eph 2:8-9; Rom 6:23).

  3. James,

    While I completely agree with your point, especially as it concerns the nature of faith, I’m wondering what you think about things that might preceded faith…is there a change of mind concerning one’s lostness, must one hear the message before believing, etc.?



  4. I hear a lot this criticism of Easy Believism that sounds like “Your faith can’t be true because you don’t feel deep sorrow for your sin and you don’t have the terror of God’s holiness.”

    What do you think? Is saving faith required to have these kind of emotional elements too? I only know that I didn’t feel deep sorrow for my sin, it was more like sorrow because of depression and that caused me to call God.

  5. Good question.

    Even with issues like ‘godly sorrow’…we are a bit stuck on things like ‘how much’ or ‘how intense’, etc.

    The issue with faith (and feeling it) is actually related to the object of one’s faith. So, if one is believing unto salvation, then he must (I think) apprehend some sense of need/lostness in order to believe. Believing one isn’t lost and believing one needs the Savior is defeated by the contradiction.

    So…I do think they are making up feelings…yet, some kind of feeling / apprehension can be necessary.

    In my mind, that’s why the issue is God’s!


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