Monday, April 10, 2006

Inaccuracies in HK Flynn's Response to Phil Simpson

HK Flynn has begun to register her disputations with Phil Simpson's article which has been posted here in full now.

I have made Phil aware of this, and solicited him to respond. He may or may not respond here through me. He can speak for himself. For now, let's take a look at some of what her objections.

More accurately, the FG view is that all of mankind owe God their
obedience, but the offer of eternal life is distinct from issues of obedience.
We are saved by believing Jesus as the Guarantor of eternal life. John's Gospel
insists on a free (Just as I am) offer of eternal life.No matter how rebellious
my child was, if he were caught in a terrible fire, I would not feel obligated
to address those important issues simultaneously with my rescue efforts.

Repentance from sin is not a necessary part of the call of the gospel? Even for a synergist this is remarkable. At least she has shown us her true colors. She will later claim

Hodges and the GES insist repentance is a message for all men everywhere.

So, which is it? Is it part of the gospel call or not? Yes or No.

These are inaccurate and offensive ways to describe FG anti-“Lordship Salvation” doctrines.

A. How? This is an assertion with no argument. How is it "offensive" or "inaccurate" when Bob Wilkin in his own writing on his own website states very plain that there 3 views on this in the Free Grace Community, relative to the doctrine of eternal security. Two of these assert very plainly that true believers can apostatize.

See here:

The very first one is named, by him, as "Antinomianism."

B. Considering Free Gracers regularly say that the Reformed teaches salvation by works, why is this offensive their description of their own interlocutors not?

C. It's actually quite accurate. Your own writers deny they believe in the "Lordship view." Ergo, they are anti-Lordship. One accepts Christ as Savior but not Lord.

D. You are right, this is an offensive doctrine these folks teach. I submit it is a stench in the Lord's nostrils.

In fact, we believe in the miracle of new birth, where the perfect life of God is given as a gift to the believer. The only normal outcome of that miracle is a lovingly obedient life. That type of lifestyle proves one’s discipleship and one’s love. But needless to say it doesn’t cause salvation; nor does it prove (to oneself) one’s state of regeneration.

Let's deal with this in two parts and see if this is in fact what they believe or not.

The only normal outcome of that miracle is a lovingly obedient life.
This is deserving of special attention, for Ms. Flynn is careful to state "normal" outcome. She has very judiciously left room for cases where no fruit at all might be manifested. Why? Answer: Because Free Gracers couch their terms in order to differentiate between what does happen and what should happen.

Could it be that "obedience" is defined by Bob Wilkin as "believing in Jesus" not "obeying God's commands"

Could it be because when they say that obedience is not optional, they teach that it is not optional for sanctification? We agree. That's not the issue. The issue is "Is sanctification" an inevitable result of regeneration?" This is where Free Gracism waffles. Let's look at some examples:

To say that progressive sanctification is an "inevitable result" of salvation is
evidence of doctrinal confusion. In each Christian, there may be at times a
varying degree of affirmation to the leading of the Lord.
(Breese )

This next one of my favorites, because this writer equivocates over "salvation" and 'justification" in his own statements, and that alleviates his difficulty. It is past time that Free Gracers begin paying attention to the way the Reformed community uses these words. We do not conflate "salvation" with "justificaiton" or "regeneration." Justification is Sola Fide. Good works are the natural evidence of regeneration, and are Sola Gratia. If they do not occur, this is evidence of spurious conversion. Contrary to him, Reformed theology does not say that works are required for justification, rather they flow from sanctification, for that naturally occurs. Such is the nature of saving faith.


According to Gerstner, anyone who says that good works are not a condition of
eternal salvation is an Antinomian and not a true Calvinist. He evidently can't
conceive of what he calls "the preservation of the sinner."

This is hardfor me to understand. How can a person maintain that justification is by faithalone and say that good works are required for salvation? If good works are
required for eternal salvation, then justification can't be by faith alone.

Justified by faith, saved by grace. What is so unclear about that?

Here is Simpson's original statement about the Free Gracer theology:

• One may receive Christ as Savior, yet reject Him as Lord. That is, one may
receive Christ by faith alone ("intellectual assent" is the definition some of
them affirm), yet do so with ongoing rebellion--accepting the gift while shaking
a fist at the giver. God does not necessarily change the heart (to grant a love
for Christ, or even a receptivity to Him) when He saves someone. "

Here is Hodges (emphasis mine):

We said earlier that we believe that all born-again Christians will do good
works. We believe it, however, because it appears to be the only rational
inference from the scriptural data
. But, let it also be said clearly, it is an
No text of Scripture (certainly not Jas 2:14-26!) declares that all
believers will perform good works, much less that they cannot be sure of heaven
unless they do. No text says that!

So, first Ms. Flynn omits the first part of what Mr. Simpson said, which is certainly true, and then is careful to state that the "normal" result of regeneration (it's often hard to tell since these people constantly equivocate over the terms "justification, salvation, conversion, and regeneration; here we are left to assume that "new birth" is her term for "regeneration") is obedience. This is very consistent with her position, since they do affirm that the "normal" result (what should happen) is works following regeneration. However, Zane Hodges, as we can see is clear this is only an inference and there is a hypothetical possibility they may not, and sanctification is what Bob Wilkin is s adamant about, yet what's not being clearly stated is whether or not sanctification, eg. "fruit bearing" of some kind will be the natural result. If we go by two of the views on eternal security that Wilkin cites, true believers can apostatize, so it seems they can, in this view either hypothetically or in reality stop bearing fruit and even "lose their faith" so to speak.

Wilkin waffles: (emphasis mine)

Reformed theologians suggest that good works are the inevitable result of the
new birth. All believers will produce good works, they say.

Some people from the Lordship Salvation position seem to think that we in the Free Grace
camp deny such teaching. While GES has no specific statement directly on this
point, most members of GES would not have a problem with the above statement--at
least in terms of what it actually says.

[Many of us would have a problem with how this proposition is explained, with its ramifications. We will get to that concern later.]

There is a difference between what is hypothetically possible and what is likely and reasonable.

I would say that it is hypothetically possible for a believer never to produce
even one good work
. However, I don't think that ever has or will
occur--except in the cases of people who trust Christ at the very moment of
death. (Most consider such cases outside the scope of this issue.)

Let me illustrate my point using statistics and probability.

Say we were to flip a normal coin one thousand times per day for ten years. Is it
hypothetically possible that it would come up heads each and every time? Yes.
Would that actually ever occur? No. The odds against such an occurrence are one
in 23,650,000. You could flip coins from now till the cows come home and never
get even forty heads in a row--let alone 3.65 million in a row. (The odds of
forty in a row would be more than one in a trillion.)

In the same way each believer is faced with maybe a thousand choices daily. Some would be much
more than fifty percent inclined to do good. Some less. This would depend on
maturity and growth. However, let's assume for the sake of discussion that the
odds were one in two on each choice that a believer would do good as opposed to
evil. With such odds a believer who made a thousand choices in a day would
likely do five hundred good deeds.

Even a very carnal new believer would do many good deeds in the course of a day. He might say a number of prayers, whether formal or informal. He might give a word of encouragement. He might give money or aid to a needy person or family. He might make many choices to be
honest when he could have cheated. He might spend time with and give loving hugs
to his spouse and kids. He might attend church, witness, read the Word, or do
any number of acts of obedience.

I think it unlikely that any believer--unless he were in a coma or constantly high on drugs--could go through even one day without doing some good deeds. Other people may or may not observe
and recognize them as good deeds, but they will occur.

The real issue in this discussion is to be found in the degree to which one's new nature will
manifest itself. The question is: Is it possible for sin to dominate the life of
a believer, and if so, for how long?

Reformed theologians say that sin can dominate a believer, but only for a short time. Those from the Free Grace perspective suggest that sin can dominate a believer--with no time limit

Unless we diligently cultivate our faith through Bible reading and study, prayer, fellowship, worship, evangelism, and other acts of obedience, we will find that our flesh begins to dominate our behavior.

The Reformed view cannot say how long a believer might be dominated by sin. Weeks?
Months? Years? Decades? The reason for this imprecision is because the doctrine
itself is unscriptural. There are many verses which warn believers not to let
sin have dominion over us (e.g., Rom. 6:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:14; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; 1
Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:14-26; Jms. 5:19-20; 2 Pet. 3:17). There are none which
say that there is a time limit on how long a believer can be dominated by sin.

(God does take disobedient believers home. In some cases, such as
Leviticus 10 and Acts 5, God acts swiftly. In some cases, such as 2 Samuel 11
and 1 Corinthians 11, He does not. There is no indication in Scripture how long
God might allow an errant believer to continue in sin before He would choose to
take him home. He is sovereign and makes such choices as He knows are best in
individual cases. He has not bound Himself to some formula.)

Victory is not guaranteed. Rewards go to the overcomers, to those whose lives are
characterized by good deeds. To those who aim not just to do the good, but the
best. To those who maximize their gifts and abilities for Christ.

The call of Scripture is not merely to produce good deeds. It is to maximize our
lives. To whom much is given much is required.

Good works are inevitable. Even so, it is a sad possibility for a believer to be dominated by
sin over a long period of time. Only if we fight the good fight, run the race
with endurance, and keep the faith will we receive the victor's crown (1 Cor.
9:27; 2 Tim. 4:7-8). May we live up to the motto of the Marines: Semper Fi
(actually Semper Fidelis)--Always Faithful.


“There is no necessary connection between saving faith and works. In fact, to insist on good works as evidence of salvation introduces obedience into the plan of salvation, compromising seriously, if not fatally, the freeness of the gospel offer.”(Zane Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, p.14)

Part 2:

That type of lifestyle proves one’s discipleship and one’s love. But needless to say it doesn’t cause salvation; nor does it prove (to oneself) one’s state of regeneration.

Not according to 1 John.

First of all, if you deny monergistic regeneration, you end up affirming regeneration by works.

2:29 b "everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him."


5:1 a "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."


Every one practicing righteousness has been born of Him (God)

paV o poiwn thn dikaiosunhn ex autou gegennhtai

Every one believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God (Him).
paV o pisteuwn oti IhsouV estin o cristoV ek tou qeou gegennhtai

See the grammatical parallel is exactly parallel. In Greek it is also exactly parallel. Therefore, we are certainly and undeniably dealing with one of John's parallel statements.

The verbal constructions are exactly parallel. Again, going back to the Greek, we can see that "everyone who practices righteousness" is a present participle. In 5:1, the one believing is also a present participle.

So we have:

Every one practicing righteousness
present participle

has been born of Him (God)


Every one believing that Jesus is the Christ
present participle

has been born of God (Him)

Thus, as you can see, we have different verbs, same verb forms.

In both passages the same verb for "to be born," gegennhtai is used and the form is the exact same form, perfect passive . (In fact, exegetically, this is the very reason we teach from this verse that righteousness is a result of being born again).

So we have:

Every one practicing righteousness
present participle
has been born of Him (God)
perfect passive

Every one believing that Jesus is the Christ
present participle
has been born of God (Him)
perfect passive

Thus, as you can see, we have different verbs, same verb forms, and same verb, same verb forms. Whenever there is that exact a grammatical parallel, we generally conclude the relationships between the verbs/ideas expressed are the same or similar, unless there is some other warrant within the text to do so. In this case, I do not see any such textual/contextual warrant. Thus, the question the Arminian must answer, is simply "Why do you reverse the logical/temporal relationships between faith and regeneration?" Does not exegesis determine theology? It seems to me the only reason one concludes that this verse somehow proves the concept that regeneration is the result of faith is one thing, tradition, a theological presuppostion. Say what one will about the Reformed position, with regard to this text, the conclusion we reach concerning the logical/temporal order that regeneration precedes faith is derived from consistent exegesis of these texts. One simply can not lay charge to exegeting our tradition into these texts.

Both synergists and monergists teach, from 2:29 that practicing righteousness is a result of being born again. On this there is no dispute. We do teach this. Every pastor, teacher, and seminary professor I have ever heard has taught in part using 1 John 2:29 that practicing righteousness is the result of being born again. Since practicing righteousness is, indeed, one of the tests for a true believer that John lays out in this epistle, since he is dealing with Gnostic/Judaizer hybrids that were not practicing righteousness, we have more than sufficient warrant to do this. Also, another one of the tests John lays out is the test of faith in Jesus as the Christ, e.g. believing. Again, there is no soteriological or exegetical dispute from either party about this. We know that John is saying here that practicing righteousness is a result of the new birth, (which we call "regeneration" in theological jargon), because his point is to put this forth as a test by which his readers can know a true Christian, one who is not a mere professor of Christ, but a true convert, a true disciple of our Lord. In other words, if he was not saying that practicing righteousness is the result of regeneration, e.g. being born again, the statement would be meaningless as a test for assurance of our own salvation or the validity of another's profession of faith.

However, one group teaches, from this text, 5:1, that being born again is the result of believing. The other group, using consistent exegesis, teaches that the believing is a result of regeneration, again, because the test John has laid out is just that, e.g. faith in Christ is proof that one is regenerate. In short, the grammatical constructions does not allow for the assertion that regeneration is the result of faith. It supports regeneration preceding faith, for, if practicing righteousness is the result of being born again, then believing in Jesus as the Christ is the result of being born again, particularly if one looks at 2:29 and believes, as we both do, that practicing righteousness is a result of regeneration. The language simply can not support the theological conclusion that regeneration results from faith, particularly from this text. If we conclude a logical and even temporal order from 2:29 in the relationship between the practice of righteousness in the true believers life and regeneration, then we have every right to draw the same conclusion regarding the relationship between believing that Jesus is the Christ and regeneration from the corresponding verse, 5:1, particularly when John is using this statement as a test for personal assurance and a test for fellowship. We know we are born again because we believe. We know others are born again, because they believe. Why? Because believing is the result of the new birth, just as practicing righteousness is also the result of the new birth. If we say that believing causes the new birth, then we must necessarily conclude, if we are going to consistent, that practicing righteousness is also a cause of the new birth. Such a statement would rightly be quickly condemned as false teaching.
God is creating a people for himself by calling them out of darkness into His light by enabling them to believe the Gospel. The passage shows that the new birth (regeneration) both enables and precedes faith. The verb tense, as viewed from the original Greek, make's the apostle' s intention unequivocal: Every one who goes on believing [present, continuous action] that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God [perfect, completed action with abiding effects]. So faith is not the cause of, but the evidence of the new birth. To drive the point home, it is important to note is that John speaks of other actions that take place as the result of the new birth several times in this epistle (1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:18). For example in 1 John 3:9 he says, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." The exact same sequence of words is utilized. It is indicating a cause and effect relationship between the new birth (cause) and the Christian who does not continue in a life of sin (effect). Both show that the cause of regeneration brings about the effect of a life that does not continue sinning. So not only does the tense of 1 John 5:1 show belief being actualized as the result of regeneration but this is also a continuation of a pattern of speech that John uses throughout the entire epistle. Therefore it is extremely unlikely that the Apostle means anything else by this than faith is the result of our spiritual birth ... that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is the immediate cause of the desire that give rise to faith in the Savior. John's frequent repetition of the events that come about as the result of regeneration reveal an unmistakable intent.

John's very own metaphor for "regeneration" is "born again."

1 John 5:1: We believe because we are born again.

1 John Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves (Greek: pas ho agapwn) is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (I John 2:29)

The structure of these is parallel to John 8:43.

John 8:43 is very clear:

Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.

"Why do you not understand what I am saying?" It is because you cannot hear My word. This is stated verbatim. Jesus says there is a causal relationship between their ability to understand and hearing. They do not understand because of their inability to hear. John then parallels this with:

8:47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.

John writes a grammatical construction exactly like I John 2:29, 5:1, and 4:7! He first spells out, verbatim, the causal relationship between ability to hear and understanding in v. 43 and endcaps with v.47's end that says "for this reason..." "He who is of God, hears the words of God." for this reason, you do not hear them, because you are not of God. There is a logical, temporal, causal relationship, verbatim.

Again, 1 John 2:29, 4:7, and 5:1 also are this same construction:

He who is of God hears the words of God.

They hear because they are "of God."

You do not hear them because you are not of God

They do not hear because they are not of God

Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

They practice righteousness because they are born again.

Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

They love because they are born again and know God.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

They believe because they are born again.

4 Simpson describes one of the FG arguments on James this way.
"How do I know that the other passages in which James uses the word "save" refers to temporal deliverance from sin’s consequences? Because I say they do. "

This is false. It is because of the biblical understanding of salvation of the soul, the proverbial tradition of death as the consequence of wickedness, and because of the context of James. See Lopez, Hodges, Hart and da Rosa

Ms. Flynn lifts her foil's statements from their context. She quotes the first half but not the second. For Mr. Simpson then states:

This is common in "free grace" writings; such statements as "the context clearly
shows", or "though the lordship interpretation may be such and such, there is
nothing in the passage which demands such an interpretation" occur often. So,
circular reasoning and arguments from silence should be looked for when reading
articles or books from "free grace" teachers (or in any scholarly writings,
including those from the "lordship salvation" proponents as well!).
In other words, he anticipated her objection, and, true to form, rather than interacting with his statements, she simply repeats the very error Phil noted.

Hodges and Wilkin don’t see conversion as caused by a decision but by a faith that comes when God convicts the unbeliever of sin righteousness and judgment, and inwardly reveals the truth of the Gospel. Their views are far from being Reformed but are equally far from Simpson’s statements.
Hodges and Wilkin preach decisionism categorically. This faith comes by way of some sort of prevenient grace and results in faith which results in a decision to call upon the Lord and be saved. True God has a revelatory role, but one is not at all "saved" until one makes a volitional decision to receive Christ.

The revelatory role of God, according to Hodges is stated thusly.

The obvious answer is that God's role is revelatory-which is to say, He allows His truth to break through to man's heart in the same way that light penetrates darkness. Presumably this is a reference to prevenient grace. Fair enough. More of his peers in pastoral circles would do well to follow his lead (Jack Graham for example).

Elsewhere he writes:

Consequently, saving faith occurs when it dawns on our hearts that Jesus Christ saves us forever the moment we believe that He does.

Brother Phil's statement was
"However, I’m afraid that the unintended consequence of their teaching is a
generation of many who believe that, because of a decision made years ago, their
salvation is secure, even though 'by their works they deny Him' (Titus 1:6). "
Mr. Simpson's statements are quite accurate, and her objection equivocates over "salvation" and "conversion." In addition, he made no references to sacramental prayers, but rather the assertion that believers may apostatize (which is a view of eternal security held by this group) which she mentions in her next statement:

More generally, they believe many who think they are saved are not, and that traditions like sinner's prayer and walking aisles is partly to blame. They don’t give assurance tehy proclaim the content of saving faith and insist with Calvin that assurance is the essence of saving faith.

This is naive. How ironic in the very next objection she chastizes Philip for using an outdated view of Hodges that is based on an outdated statement he made while at the same time you make this statement about Calvin that shows me you don't know what Calvin has said on this.

She writes that it appears that Simpson is getting his sources about Free Grace Theology from Reformed sources and not his own, while she seems to be getting her sources about Calvin on assurance from some place other than Calvin.

Her reading of Calvin is highly selective here in that it fails to account for the reasons Calvin said what he said. See for starters.

Hers is a false antithesis between Calvin and the Confessions. As the above article cites:

Is assurance of the essence of saving faith? Calvin answered "yes" because his focus is on faith's foundation. The Confessions focus is on the subjective persuasion of that assurance. Each is correct when the issue is viewed as a difference in focus from the time at which they were written, for the same reason that Paul says that we are justified by faith and James says that faith without works is dead. Perhaps it is best to say that assurance is of the essence of saving faith in the same way that the tree is contained in the seed. Assurance is of the essence of saving faith implicitly. The subjective persuasion of assurance can be cultivated just because of the certainty of its object - Christ.

If she wishes to cite Calvin, then you need to define what he means cite all of Calvin on the matter and not the portions that appeal to her. Ditto for Wilkin, Hodges, and the rest.

He had a pastoral concern in mind, one that was trying to provide assurance to those freed from bondage to Rome, who labeled all assurance as the sin of presumption.

He defined saving faith with the other Reformers as assensus, cognitio, and fidcuia. Knowledge is foundational for faith, so faith rests on the Word of God. Faith is inseparable from Christ, for He is the One to whom the Word refers. Assuring faith belongs only to the elect, so those who have assurance, for Calvin, are the elect.

Calvin taught that this faith is transformative. It bloomed into sure sanctification. Ergo, if one is not experiencing this in such a way as to apostatize, so the later confessions asserted, one has cause to examine one's faith.

There several grounds of assurance for Calvin, including election:

The firmness of our election is joined to our calling [and] is another means of establishing our assurance. For all whom [Christ] receives, the Father is said to have entrusted and committed to Him to keep to eternal life.

Calvin also taught that there is such a thing as spurious faith. Calvin, also said there is much that resembles faith that lacks a saving character. For example, he speaks of "unformed faith," "implicit faith," "the preparation of faith," "temporary faith," "an illusion of faith," "a false show of faith," "shadow-types of faith," "transitory faith," faith "under a cloak of hypocrisy," and a "momentary awareness of grace." ( Inst. 3.2.3, 5, 10- 11. For Calvin on temporary faith, see David Foxgrover, "`Temporary Faith' and the Certainty of Salvation," CTJ 15 (1980):220- 32; A. N. S. Lane, "Calvin's Doctrine of Assurance," VE 11 (1979):45- 46. On temporary and unformed faith, see Exalto, De Zekerheid des Geloofs bij Calvijn 15- 20, 27- 30.)

Self-deceit is a real possibility according to Calvin. In fact, the reprobate often feel nearly identical to the elect with regard to faith:

"There is a great likeness and affinity between God's elect and those who are given a transitory faith."(Inst. 3.2.11). Consequently, self-examination is essential: "Let us learn to examine ourselves, and to search whether those interior marks by which God distinguishes his children from strangers belong to us, viz., the living root of piety and faith."

Commentary (on Ezek 13:9).
You must examine yourself in light of Christ: If you contemplate yourself [apart
from Christ, the Word, and the Spirit], that is sure damnation."(Inst.3.24.5.)

Calvin relates the work of the Holy Spirit to that of assurance. Ms. Flynn, I suppose, would have us believe that he says that faith is "it," but that's untrue. Such a positon would make faith, not Christ, the ground of assurance. For Calvin the ground is Christ Himself, not faith. That is why faith is the essence of assurance for Calvin. That faith comes from the Holy Spirit first and foremost. That is the first order test of assurance. Calvin does not however, negate the secondary order tests of assurance. Specifically, the Holy Spirit may assure the believer that he is not a reprobate or temporary believer by revealing to him that he possesses "signs which are sure attestations"( Inst. 3.24.4) of faith, such as "divine calling, illumination by Christ's Spirit, communion with Christ, receiving Christ by faith, the embracing of Christ, perseverance of the faith, the avoidance of self-confidence, and fear. (Helm, Calvin and the Calvinists 28). Calvin says that all Christians can have assurance, but he does not believe that all Christians will possess it.

By the time Dort rolled around, there was a school of thought that asserted that those who had no assurance of salvation did not possess saving faith. Theodore van der Groe and Theodore van Thuynen maintained that assurance is inseparable from faith, but used this to argue that if one did not possess assurance one lacks saving faith. Another school, that of Wilhelmus à Brakel, Jacob Groenewegen, and the German, Friedrich Lampe argued that assurance must be regarded as a fruit of faith. They regarded hungering and thirsting after Christ as belonging to what the Dutch called "refuge-taking" faith, as distinct from "assured" faith. They deemed refuge-taking faith to be of the essence of faith, and assured faith, of the fruit of faith. They were sure that the attachment of assurance to faith was pastorally injurious because it discouraged "beginners in grace" by causing them to think that their lack of assurance meant that they were as yet unregenerate.

Alexander Comrie tried to chart a course from the two positions. Comrie maintained that assurance certainly belongs to the essence of faith, but that the faith of Christians did not always conform to this experience. He thus believed he would address this dissonance by a number of theological distinctions, viz. the habitus and actus of faith. Comrie's position is basically this: the seed of assurance is already present in refuge-taking faith, albeit largely dormant, but the goal of the believer must be to grow in the consciousness of what he already possesses in principle, in order to attain in due season to full assurance in Christ. At every point whether as seed, or in the growth of assurance, or as full assurance all assurance is the sovereign gift of the Spirit, which manifests Himself both through inward graces and outward acts.

By the time the Puritans came around, pastoral needs were different, thus the emphasis on the more experimental work of the Spirit. Antinominan tendencies had developed. Moreover, some had come to say that saving faith enables men to peer into the secret counsel of God's election. Ergo, the second order tests for assurance took precedence over the early view insofar as many had come to interpret the first order tests in such a way that they questioned the subjective experience of their faith and felt a need to peer into the elective counsel of God itself. Ergo, a new pastoral need arose, which has since evolved into a mediating position. The difference between Calvin and the confessions is, therefore, one of emphasis only.

When we see this:

This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it. We also have this: This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.
And we have this:

Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed

Since Calvin recognized false faith and that not all believers possessed assurance and discussed introspection as well as discussed the growth of faith in Christian living in such a way that assurance became more and more certain over time, he did not simply believe that faith is the essence of saving faith as if all one must do is believe and have assurance. The later confessions recognize this.

6 Repentance:

" Repentance is not simply, as the 'free grace' teachers define it, 'changing one’s mind about God'. "

Needless to say Simpson could have read a few less Purist tomes and a little more Hodges. His book Absolutely Free! has a chapter describing his view of repentance, which was itself a change from an earlier view (in the 70’s?) If Simpson didn’t read Absolutley Free! than what did he read?

Correct, Zane Hodges did change his view, but Simpson is not discussing Hodges in particular. Rather he is discussing the movement itself. Ms. Flynn would do well to read a little less Hodges and a broader range of the literature her own movement has produced.

Here is what the Journal Editor of the Grace Theological Society, Bob Wilkin, has actually written about those in this movement; it appears Phillip's assessment is quite correct: From

Editor's note: The change-of-mind view suggests that the NT words for repentance, metanoia and metanoeo, mean a change of mind. It argues that these words are sometimes given as conditions of eternal life, though never in John's Gospel, and that in such cases they refer to a change of mind about Jesus Christ. This change of perspective is seen as being a synonym for faith in Christ. Thus there is but one condition, faith in Christ, which can also legitimately be called repentance. This is certainly a Free Grace view. However, as one who argued for that position in my doctoral dissertation and has since rejected it, I would urge all our readers who hold this view to re-examine it in light of the arguments made at the conference and in this article by Zane Hodges (and hopefully future articles by him as well).

Bob Wilkin from here:

First, nowhere do the Scriptures condition obtaining eternal salvation on our turning from our sins.

Second, "repentance" is actually a mistranslation of the Greek term metanoia. A better translation would be "a change of mind."

Third, the Bible speaks of three things which people need to change their minds about in order to be saved: oneself, Jesus Christ, and idols. One must see himself as a sinner and not self-righteous. One must see Jesus Christ as his Sinbearer and his only hope of eternal salvation. And, those who trust in idols to give them eternal life (more of a problem in the first century world than it is today) must stop trusting their eternal destiny on idols and instead place all of their trust upon Jesus Christ. (N.B. Many around the world today trust in charms, amulets, magic, and astrology to give them safety, peace, and guidance here and now only. If people aren't looking to such things to give them eternal salvation, they do not need to change their minds about such thinking to be saved from hell as Acts 19:1-20 indicates. It is particularly important to recognize this since magic and superstition is rampant in the world today.)

May we clearly share with people what saving "repentance" is (i.e., a change of perspective) and what it is not (i.e., turning from sins). This is crucial if we are to make the gospel clear and keep good news and grace in it.

Here is Bob Wilkin from here:

There are three explanations of Luke 16:30 that are consistent with the Free Grace position. The first two understandings involve the rich man considering repentance as the condition of eternal salvation.

First, he might understand repentance as a change of mind about Christ. Thus for him repentance is the same as faith. What Abraham says in v 31 could be seen as substantiating the change-of-mind understanding: "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." Where the rich man spoke of repentance, Abraham spoke of persuasion. This was the position I adopted in my doctoral dissertation (DTS 1985).

Second, he might understand repentance as a decision to turn from one’s sins and get right with God. In this case, the rich man believed in justification by faith plus turning from sins. Of course, if this was his view, then he was wrong. Some might reject this understanding as out of hand. After all, it contradicts the good news. Yet we must remember that the Bible records what people have said, even if they were wrong.

Third, the rich man may not be implying that repentance is the condition for eternal salvation. He may know that the only condition is faith in Christ. However, he may believe that for his brothers repentance would come first, then faith. Certainly repentance can open a person to hearing the gospel.

Wilkin rejects the change of mind view here, to his credit, but then he goes on to say about the second:

The second understanding is much simpler and is more likely what the rich man meant. It is reasonable to conclude that he still didn’t understand the gospel. Note that in light of Matt 7:22 there will be many who have spent time in Hades who nonetheless will still have a faulty view of the gospel when they get to the Great White Throne Judgment. Many will say "Lord, Lord" and will point to their works as the reason why they should get into the kingdom.

Is it that surprising that many in Hades will believe in a works gospel? Some, like the rich man, will be convinced they are doomed because they hadn’t lived a good enough life. Others, probably the majority, will think that when they appear before God for their final judgment they will be able to prove that they did enough good works to justify their entrance into the kingdom (Matt 7:22).

We should not develop our view of the gospel based on what a new arrival in Hades believes! After all, it was his works-salvation thinking that landed him in Hades in the first place! If we want to pick someone in Luke 19:19-31 who is clear on the gospel, wouldn’t Abraham be a much better choice?
So, if you believe you must turn from your sins when you come to God and cry out to be saved, according to Wilkin you are worthy of hell.

7 Further on in his long section on repentance, he writes:
“It has been argued that John does not use the word 'repent' in his gospel, and never uses
the term to apply to unbelievers.”

This odd assertion would have been a fine place to site a source! But the writer rarely offers any. I wondered if he wasn't really getting his information about FG from Reformed books and articles. Hodges and the GES insist repentance is a message for all men everywhere.

Try these on for starters, for they could not be more clear:

How about here:

To begin with, we do not really have here an argument from silence, but an argument about silence. The issue is: why is John silent about repentance in the fourth Gospel?

A classic "argument from silence" would run like this: "Our historical data for (let us say) the period 1168 B.C. to 1068 B.C. is sketchy and incomplete, so Arabia could have been a major regional power during that time." The argument is worthless, of course. The silence of our historical data tells us nothing about the power status of Arabia during the period described.

The present issue is not comparable, as the following discussion will show.

Second, it is important to note that those who might reject the argument about the absence of repentance in John's Gospel are not claiming not to know John's view of repentance. On the contrary, they are making a direct claim about John's theology!

For example, lordship people claim that, of course, John held that repentance was necessary to salvation. They usually add that, though he does not mention it explicitly, repentance is there implicitly. But the search for "implicit" indicators of repentance in John's Gospel becomes a hopeless hodgepodge (forgive the expression) of guesses and misguided creativity.

In the same way, grace people who hold the "change of mind" view1 of repentance are telling us that John did believe repentance to be necessary to eternal life, but simply chose never to say so explicitly.

If my view of John's silence is an argument from silence, so is this--bigtime!

And here:

In the last issue of Grace in Focus (May/June 98), we considered the fact that John is silent, in his Gospel, on the subject of repentance. In view of the purpose of the Gospel of John to bring people to eternal life (John 20:30-31), we were constrained to conclude that John did not regard repentance as a condition for eternal salvation.

John is also silent about repentance in his three epistles. This is an interesting fact to which we will return later in this article.

But John is far from totally silent on the subject of repentance. In fact, he refers to it no less than a dozen times in the book of Revelation. It is surprising to realize that John has more references to the subject of repentance than any NT writer except Luke!

The author who ranks third in references to repentance is Matthew (8 times). But all other writers trail Luke, John, and Matthew by a considerable distance. Mark has only 4; Paul in all of his thirteen letters only 5; the author of Hebrews 3; and Peter 1. Jude has none.

These counts are based on the actual number of occurrences of the Greek noun (metanoia) and verb (metanoeo) for repentance. Even if we also count metamellomai (a less common word for repentance), Matthew only gains 3 uses, Paul 1 and the writer of Hebrews 1. Paul also has 2 uses of ametameletos (= "not to be repented of").

ohn's showing here is impressive, considering that all of his references are confined to one book. It seems clear that if we examine the dozen uses in Revelation, we ought to get a fairly definite idea about John's own doctrine of repentance.

Repentance for the Saved in Revelation

It is striking that eight of John's twelve references to repentance (all using the Greek verb metanoeo) are found in the letters to the seven churches. There is no good reason to take any of these references to unsaved people, and plenty of reason to refer them to the saved.

For example, in Rev 3:14-22 our Lord rebukes the church of Laodicea for being spiritually "lukewarm." Then in v 19 He states: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent." The reference to chastening here recalls the teaching of Heb 12:3-11 and clearly shows that the Laodiceans are the Savior's beloved children whom He desires to correct. They can avoid His chastening if they repent.

To the same effect is Rev 3:3. The Lord has just declared to the Christians of Sardis that "I have not found your works perfect [Greek = complete] before God" (3:2). He then commands them to "remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent." On its face it is plain that these are Christians who have actually labored for the Lord but whose works for Him are not yet complete. They have been overtaken by a spiritual deadness, or lethargy (cf. 3:1), from which they need to arouse themselves. They need to "be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain" (3:2) and "hold [them] fast" (Greek = "guard" or "keep" [them]). But to do this they need to repent of the deadness of their present experience (cf. James 2!) which was threatening the loss of their previous accomplishments for God (cf. 2 John 8).

That this is an experience appropriately applied to true Christians alone, is a fact that will probably only be denied by teachers of Lordship Salvation! Very obviously, John is not telling these people that what they really need to do is to believe and be saved. If anyone can find that in this text, he is a magician!

Basically the same thing can be said of the remaining references to repentance in the letters to the seven churches. The Christians in Ephesus have "left" their "first love" (Rev 2:4). Their original devotion to Christ has died down. So the Lord says to them: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent" (2:5). The future of the Ephesian church as a witness for her Lord depended on whether the Christians there would repent of their cooling devotion to the Son of God and resume their previous vigorous activity for Him.

In the church at Pergamos (Rev 2:12-17) there were those who held false doctrine that encouraged compromise with pagan immorality and idolatry (2:14-15). The church is called upon to repent of its toleration for such teaching, and warned that otherwise the Lord will deal with these people Himself (2:16).

Finally, the female teacher in the church at Thyatira, who called herself a prophetess (Rev 2:20), had been warned to repent of the immoral conduct to which her false teaching led, but she had failed to repent (2:21). For this reason, the woman herself would be disciplined by sickness (2:22; cf. 1 Cor 11:30), and her followers in the church would experience great tribulation, or trouble, "unless they repent[ed] of their deeds" (2:22). No one here was threatened with hell, but simply with severe discipline.

The early church did indeed have female prophets, as is made plain by Acts 21:9 and 1 Cor 11:5. Whether the woman designated as "Jezebel" in Rev 2:20 was a true prophetess by spiritual gift and now claimed to utter prophecies that God had not given to her, or whether she was not a gifted prophetess at all, it is not possible to say. But that she was also unsaved goes far beyond anything indicated in the text. Even the false teachers, Hymenaeus and Alexander, are treated by Paul as subject to discipline to purge them from blasphemy (1 Tim 1:20; cf. The Gospel Under Siege, 2nd ed., pp. 83-84).

The NT plainly recognizes that some false teachers (though not all) are Christians who have gone far astray and will perhaps only be recovered by severe discipline. There is nothing to show that the "Jezebel" of Thyatira (probably not her real name) was not one of these. The statement of her impending punishment strongly suggests that John thought of her as a Christian who had severely strayed from God. Despite God's longsuffering patience, she has ignored her opportunity to repent and now faces His approaching discipline.

In these eight occurrences of the verb "to repent" in the letters to the churches, not so much as one of them suggests the idea of turning from unbelief to faith in God or Christ. In every case a particular failing of some duration is the object of the repentance that our Lord commands.

The words of some duration are deliberately chosen. In every case in Revelation 2 and 3 something has gone wrong with either the attitude or the behavior (or both) of some (or all) of the Christians in these churches. Significantly there is no call to repentance in the letters to the churches at Smyrna (2:8-11) and Philadelphia (3:7-13). The reason is obvious: there is nothing about which these churches need to repent!

This is obviously the reason for the absence of a call to repentance in 1 John. The church, or churches, addressed (perhaps the leaders are chiefly in view) are in excellent spiritual condition (cf. 1 John 2:12-14, 21) and need simply to "remain" (= "abide") in the truth and in fellowship with their Lord (2:24, 28). The same may be said of the church addressed in 2 John and of Gaius, who is addressed in 3 John.

As John's use of repentance in Revelation 2 and 3 makes clear, repentance is for those Christians who have in some way gone astray. The issue is not some failing which is immediately addressed by confession (1 John 1:9). The issue is always some prolonged attitude or practice. The same view of repentance is found in Luke 15 which, Deo volente, we will address in a future article.1
Repentance for the Unsaved in Revelation

There are four uses in Revelation of the Greek verb for repentance (metanoeo) which are clearly applied to the unsaved. These are: Rev 9:20, 21 and 16:9, 11. What is remarkable about these uses is that they too refer to repentance from long-held sinful attitudes or practices. In no case is there a reference to repentance from unbelief.

In 9:20, 21 the list of things not repented of is long: "The rest of mankind...did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood...And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts." This is pure and simple an assertion that the unsaved did not repent of their sins. And this unrepentance was maintained in the face of the devastating plagues of Revelation 8 and 9, and in particular the plague of 9:13-19, by which a third of the world's population is killed (9:18)!

In Rev 16:9, as men are scorched with heat from the fourth bowl judgment, "they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory" (italics added)! Put another way, they refused to stop blaspheming and withheld the glory which was due to Almighty God (cf. Rom 1:21). In 16:11, under the fifth bowl judgment, men "blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds" (italics added).

Clearly there is nothing in these texts about repenting of unbelief! In fact, mankind actually believes that God is behind these plagues and they refuse to change either their attitude or their ways. For this reason, God's judgments continue to fall. There is no issue in these texts that pertains directly to eternal salvation. The issue is plainly unrepentant behavior which justifies the temporal judgments of God.

In Revelation, therefore, repentance is always related to God's temporal judgments, whether of His own people or the world at large. This is John's clear doctrine of repentance. Repentance is never related by John to obtaining eternal life.


Many very fine grace people have held the view that the apostle John, at least in his Gospel, regarded repentance as a "change of mind" that turned one from unbelief to faith in Christ. Unfortunately it is impossible to find such a doctrine of repentance anywhere in John's writings.

The view that repentance is sometimes a virtual synonym for saving faith is without any evidence in John's five NT books. In future articles I hope to show that this concept of repentance cannot be found anywhere in the NT. Instead, the doctrine of repentance as found in Revelation is in fact the teaching of all the NT authors.
And from the keyboard of Bob Wilkin: (emphasis mine)

If commitment in the sense of pledging to serve God is synonymous with faith in Christ, we would need to find passages conditioning eternal life upon pledging one's lives to serve God. We find none. In fact, in the Gospel of John, the only book in the Bible whose primary purpose is evangelistic, the word "commit" only occurs twice and neither time in reference to man (John 2:24 refers to Christ and John 5:22 refers to the Father). This is a telling fact. In addition, the word "repent" doesn't occur at all. However, the word "believe in its various forms (noun and verb) occurs 99 times in John's Gospel.

The evidence is overwhelming. Belief is not synonymous with commitment in the sense of pledging to do something. (It is, of course, in the sense of entrusting one's eternal destiny in God's hands.) Ed.

So you can see what I mean when I say the argument is really an argument about John's silence. Why was he silent on this major biblical theme?

What is unclear about those statements? Phil Simpson is discussing John's usage of the word, and it is quite true that Bob Wilkin himself has stated that the term "repent" is not used in John's gospel and your movement asserts quite clearly that the texts in which he does refer to it are in Revelation, and these are all, according to them, references to believers, not unbelievers.


  1. Mr. Bridges,

    You wrote, [Quote]Hodges and Wilkin preach decisionism categorically. This faith comes by way of some sort of prevenient grace and results in faith which results in a decision to call upon the Lord and be saved. True God has a revelatory role, but one is not at all "saved" until one makes a volitional decision to receive Christ.[Unquote]

    Just out of curiosity, where precisely do Hodges and Wilkin preach that faith is a decision? I have read some but not all of their writings, and my perception has been that they never regard faith as a decision or a choice. Here, for example, is a quote from Dr. Wilkin during his debate with Dr. White:

    [Quote]Now the point was brought up, which I thought was a canard, about the idea of choosing to believe. If you’ve read my book, Confident in Christ, I specifically say in the first chapter on saving faith that faith is not a choice. I guess you missed that. What I say is that we are either convinced or not convinced. You said that you can see that this projector is on. That’s right. That’s what faith is–to be convinced something is true. And Gordon Clark, in his book Faith and Saving Faith, demonstrated that. You’ve heard the old line: notitia, assensus, fiducia. That’s understanding, acceptance, and trust. Gordon Clark points out that fiducia is a synonym for faith. And so when you say “understanding, acceptance, and trust,” that’s like saying, “understanding, acceptance, and faith.” You can’t say that a part of something is the whole thing. It would be like saying that a car is made up of glass, metal, and automobile. Well, you can’t do that because an automobile is a car. Faith is fiducia. And so when he says that “you’re choosing to believe,” no, you don’t choose to believe. The evidence either convinces you or it doesn’t. And if the evidence convinces, you believe.[Unquote]

  2. Decisionism refers to decisional regeneration. One is not saved (regenerated) until one has made a volitional decision of some sort.

    When Free Gracers hear this, they immediately seek to accuse us of talking about sacramental prayers.

    First, while they formally deny this, it is simply unarguable that by far the majority of Free Gracers practice sacramental prayers. Their formal writing is growing more and more concerned with this, and, among the bloggers the continued denial of the use of sacramental prayers, while a good thing, is certainly a simultaneous affirmation that this is going on. If it wasn't a problem, their formal writing would not be addressing it.

    Jeremy Myers writes: But one thing was confirmed in my own mind. The“sinner’s prayer” is a dangerous witnessing tool. It can leave many people thinking that they are going to heaven because they have “prayed a prayer” yet never understood that eternal life is received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

    This was a pastoral concern he has. It appears that the FG community is quite concerned that folks in their camp have gone in that direction. That's why I have said to Jodie in the past that when she denies they believe this, I must reply, "Then why the continued pastoral concern?" If it isn't happening, then there should be no concerns addressing the reality of its occurrence.

    Free Gracers waffle. On the one hand they want to say that persons are passive in saving faith, it just comes upon them by persuasion, but on the other they say their view of saving faith is identical with Gordon Clark's view.

    A. First of all the verbs for believing are active in Greek. This is basic.

    B. Second, regeneration does not occur until after believing. Wilkin consistently interchanges "eternal life, new birth, born again," and "regeneration in his writing.

    C. Free Gracers assume that we are saying they believe a person makes a commitment to Christ to be saved.

    i. No, we are saying just the opposite, for their definition of faith is Sandemanian. Commitment is excluded.

    ii. A "decision" need not be a commitment, per Clark.

    D. As I noted the Free Grace folks love to extol the work of Gordon Clark. You just cited Wilkin. That's a prime example. He loves Clark's work.

    In Clark’s point of view, there is an operation of volition coupled with mental assent in the occurrence of salvific faith. Either Wilkin doesn't understand Clark and is confused (yet again) or he is hiding his decisionism. Take your pick. Either way, it gets back to the same spot.

    E. In his own review of The Gospel According to Jesus, Butcher noted, "the call of the Grace Gospel is to a decision, it is only to the biblical decision of trusting Christ alone." Later, he defines trusting Christ as intellectual acquiescence.

    The reason they are waffling is quite simple. The will is libertarian. They locate faith in the mind, not the will, but one does have to make a series of decisions even prior to being persuaded. It makes the mind libertarian as well. Finally, why did one person believe and not the other? On an Arminian theory of the will any answer is meritorious in some manner. At some point, even subconsciously, a person has decided to believe. They have found the argument convincing.

    He says faith is not a choice. The problem is that philosophically, he is making faith causeless and more or less resultless, since he denies monergistic regeneration. This flatly denies 1 John 5:1 that states that men believe with a cause.

    Regeneration follows this in their view.

    Decisional regeneration is the result, because at some point the person believes and they are not "saved" eg. regenerated until afterwards.

  3. Mr. Bridges,

    Thank you for the reply and your time. I think I better understand where you are coming from now.