Friday, February 17, 2006

Two Questions for Sandemanians

Question 1: In Sandemanianism, is it theologically possible (not is it probable, or is it likely, or has it ever happened, but is it theologically possible) for someone to be saved and yet never produce a single good deed in response to this salvation? In other words, can someone be saved and yet never make a single step towards sanctification, where there is absolutely no change within the heart or life of the person? If your answer is “Yes” then please tell me where the Scriptures allow for this. If your answer is “No,” then please tell me how this is not, in fact, the implication of your theology.

Note: I’m not trying to build up a straw man. I know that you all certainly seek sanctification in your own life and encourage it in the lives of others.

But every time I have made a statement along the lines of “Saving faith necessarily produces genuine works,” I have been accused of crossing the lines of Galatians or Romans 4 (this accusation usually requires the false equating of salvation by faith alone with justification by faith alone). It is the word “necessary” that sparks this accusation. I believe that there is no such thing as someone who is justified but not sanctified and, in turn, glorified. I believe that the nature of justification is one that necessarily produces sanctification by the Spirit. But if good deeds are not a necessary byproduct of justification, and yet you do affirm that they are indeed a byproduct, we must conclude that you affirm them to be an unnecessary byproduct, which opens the door for the possibility of someone being saved and yet never producing a single good work in his entire lifetime. So what is the case?

Question 2: Is apostasy a possibility for a true, regenerate believer? What defines apostasy, and what does apostasy look like? What is the relationship between apostasy and sanctification?

Evan May.


  1. It is unnecessary to ask this question.

    The movement’s leaders have already explicitly answered both questions in the affirmative:

    As to Question 1:

    "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)

    Jody Dillow argues that works cannot even be a necessary evidence or product of justification. He reasons in the following way:

    "However, requirements which must be met in order to secure a certain result, going to heaven, are in fact, conditions necessary for the attainment of that result. And if a life of works is a necessary condition for obtaining the result of heaven, then salvation is ultimately conditioned upon works and not faith alone, and so the words of Paul have been turned upside down." (Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, 2nd ed., p. 232)

    They go on to aver that requiring works even as a product of justification results in "backloading the gospel with works" (Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, 2nd ed., pp. 11, 232) or in "slipping legalism in through the back door" (cited in R. Alan Day, Lordship: What Does It Mean?, p.61).

    Even Charles Ryrie (who is somewhat of a more moderate representative than the unholy trinity of Dillow, Wilkin, and Hodges) who professes to believe that works validate faith as genuine (cf. his notes on James 2 in his study Bible on pp. 1859-60), nevertheless, argues against judging a Christian's profession of faith by his external fruit since his fruit might be so unnoticeable that no one could perceive it:

    "Two, this does not mean that a certain person's fruit will necessarily outwardly evident." (Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation, p. 45)

    He later even implies that the necessary fruit that he speaks of may not be manifested in this life, but in heaven, when he states:

    "So likely it can truly be said that every believer will bear fruit somewhere (in earth and/or heaven), sometime (regularly and/or irregularly during life), somehow (publicly and/or privately)." (Ryrie, So Great Salvation, pp. 46-47)

    As to Question 2:

    “In the last chapter it was seen that the theory of the saints perseverance was falsified by the many examples of carnality in the Bible. Now however, we must direct our attention to biblical data which seems to suggest that a true Christian can not only be carnal, but he can actually commit apostasy as well.” (Joseph Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, 2nd ed., p. 333)

    “You can even become an atheist; but if you once accepted Christ as your Savior, you can’t lose your salvation.” (R. B. Theime, Apes and Peacocks, p. 22)

    “Do you know that if you were a genius, you couldn’t figure out a way to go to hell?...You can blaspheme, you can deny the Lord, you can commit every sin in the Bible, plus all the others; but there is just NO WAY!” (emphasis original, R. B. Theime, A New Species, p. 9)

    "The simple fact is that the New Testament never takes for granted that believers will see discipleship through to the end. And it never makes this kind of perseverance either a condition or proof of final salvation from hell." (Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free!, p. 80)

    As anyone can see, this heterodox theology is a blight upon true Protestant Christianity.

    We can and should be explicit in condemning this latest example of antinomianism as a demonic perversion of biblical Christianity.

    A thousand plagues upon their house.

  2. I don't think FG has a good answer for this "yes" or "no" question. If works ever are produced then they fall into their own trap of "works salvation."

    For a hair-raising thread on apostasy, check out the Free Grace response to Zane Hodge’s apostasy quotes.

  3. Well, we have modern day Phariseeism dressed up as "true Protestant Christianity".

    Tell me, rabbi FP, what exactly do you hope to gain by denying the truth and splitting hairs so fine that even you can't see them clearly? Pretending to guard the door are you?


    scripture is quite clear about the relationship between works and grace. But it lies along simple lines. Those who would be clever in this world often miss it. Having read some of your previous posts here, I don't think you have made that mistake.

  4. I’m not attempting to be quarrelsome here. I just have some honest inquiries regarding the Reformed faith along the lines of Mr. May's post.

    In addition to, “Are good works inevitable?”, perhaps another question to ask is, “Is progressive sanctification monergistic or synergistic?”

    R.C. Sproul writes on p. 212 in Grace Unknown, The Heart of Reformed Theology, “As part of the process of our sanctification, perseverance is a synergistic work. This means it is a cooperative effort between God and us. We persevere as he preserves.”

    He also writes on page 198, “Endurance in faith is a condition for future salvation. Only those who endure in faith will be saved for eternity.”

    I guess I’m wondering if the Reformed faith, as represented by R.C. Sproul, agrees with the following logic:

    Major Premise: Endurance in faith (aka perseverance) is a condition for future salvation.
    Minor Premise: Perseverance is a synergistic work.
    Conclusion: A synergistic work is a condition for future salvation.

    If this represents a valid and sound argument, is the Reformed faith comfortable with the conclusion that a synergistic work is a condition for future salvation so long as the synergistic work is considered non-meritorious?

  5. solifidian:

    In asking this question, we must remember a few things:

    Phi 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
    Phi 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    Sanctification is synergistic in the fact that man's involvement is a reality. However, sanctification, while being 100% the work of man, is also 100% the work of God. You don't have this "I do this much and God does that much."

    Furthermore, sanctification and glorification depend upon the efficacious fulfillment of the will of God. So while we are working out (not working for) our salvation, we recognize that it is God who works in us.

    Now the next question is “Is the Reformed faith comfortable with the conclusion that a synergistic work is a condition for future salvation so long as the synergistic work is considered non-meritorious?”

    I would answer “Yes” descriptively speaking. All who are justified will be sanctified and will be glorified (Romans 8:29-30). Justification, which is the basis for our salvation (which determines our standing before God), is by faith alone. Sanctification, naturally, is by faith and good deeds that are done in response to justification. Sanctification is indeed the necessary byproduct of justification, as is glorification.

    Going back to my original question, solifidian, in Sandemanianism, is sanctification a necessary byproduct of justification, or can someone be justified and never be sanctified? If “yes,” then how does that fit in with Romans 8:29-30?

  6. I guess I’m wondering if the Reformed faith, as represented by R.C. Sproul, agrees with the following logic:

    Major Premise: Endurance in faith (aka perseverance) is a condition for future salvation.
    Minor Premise: Perseverance is a synergistic work.
    Conclusion: A synergistic work is a condition for future salvation.

    If this represents a valid and sound argument, is the Reformed faith comfortable with the conclusion that a synergistic work is a condition for future salvation so long as the synergistic work is considered non-meritorious?

    This is a good question. At last, we have a solid response! Thank you!

    The classic Reformed formulation is justified by faith, saved by grace.

    The difference looks, in simplified form like this:

    Monergistic Regeneration results in faith and repentance in the human heart with results with justification (the imputation of Christ's objective righteousness to us). This in turn will produce fruit of some sort. Sanctification is synergistic, but the deck is stacked, as it were, to prevent apostasy. Any works are underwritten by grace, and this is what underwrites perseverance such that, when we die or are translated, whichever comes first, no regenerate Christian will have apostatized.

    In synergism, regeneration falls outside this chain of grace and election is the result of foreseen faith, ergo, the charge that synergism, without at least a doctrine of prevenient grace, is functionally Unitarian. As such grace is not seen to underwrite faith or repentance and it may or may not underwrite any perseverance, depending on who you speak to in the F/G community. Bob Wilkin admits that 1 of the 3 positions on this question in the F/G community is that of the Reformed community, (the denial of apostasy), but 2 of the 3 positions on this deny this 3rd position.

    As to apostasy, I have always used RBC Howell's definition because my Wesleyan associates agree to it as a good definition (and since Arminans affirm that the regenerate can apostatize, it helps with common ground).

    There are 3 evils apostasy embraces: Repudiation of evangelical doctrine (Christ, the gospel, etc...e.g you lose a credible profession of faith); loss of "spirituality of mind" (in 19th c. vernacular this meant loss of conviction of sin, interest in spiritual things, etc.), and a gradual or radical decline in morals (rather like the frog in hot water illustration we use today).

    In backsliding only one, maybe two, but never all three are embraced. All Christians can backslide, but they will return, maybe back and forth, and they may be tossed to and fro.

    Now, practically, the only cases we have of apostasy being actually spoken of in Scripture are Hymaneus and Alexander, Simon Magus, and those in I John about whom John writes as having left us and, by so doing, proven they are not of us. All of these are said under the power of the Holy Spirit in proclamation (Peter to Simon) or by inspiration (Paul and John in writing Scripture), so, for purposes of church discipline we go by what we can, which is why we have rather long, drawn out, and redemptively oriented discipline policies in our church covenants.. So, we can't, since we aren't those persons, know for a certainty who has apostatized, just as we can't know for a certainty who is regenerate, as, in the ultimate sense only God can know and, I would say, only those persons can know, ergo, the reason we accept credible professions of faith for baptism in the Baptist church and practice church discipline.

    In the end, in the ultimate sense, we affirm that no believer will apostatize, because grace underwrites his perseverance. This synergism is derived from a regenerate nature, and that is why it differs from that synergistic regeneration, for, in that case faith and repentance arise from a state of fallenness, not a state of grace.

    I hope this helps clarify a few things.

  7. Ephraim,

    If professing Christians are unable to distinguish between biblical Christianity (which repeatedly emphasizes the necessity of works as a result/vindication of true justification) and the "Free Grace" Sandemanian heresy (which denies the necessity of works even as a result of justification), the church is in a sad state indeed.

    And fyi, there is a vast qualitative difference between the soteriology of the Protestant Reformers (who popularized the sola fide slogan to begin with) and the theology of these contemporary Sandemanian “Free Grace” heretics.

    Sandemanian theology is often the Romanist caricature of Protestant Christianity that I find myself responding to in polemical situations.

    Sandemaniasm is not my position, it was not the position of any of the Reformers, it is not the position of the majority of Protestant Scholars alive today (Reformed, Arminian, Lutheran, etc.) nor (and most importantly) is it the position of the NT.

    It is a contemporary novelty and a blight on all of us who truly affirm sola fide in the historic sense of that slogan.

  8. DF,

    It is quite probably a difference in our perspectives. You account for the Protestant and Romanist perversions which ultimately end up in some heretical camp by contrasting them with what you refer to as "biblical Christianity".

    My view of what you are calling biblical Christianity would be that it is actually biblical Judaism in the renewed covenant form. As Christianity (in its form both at the start and today) is a later arrival, I do not use it as a baseline for comparative analysis.

    Sorry if I misunderstood your premise and position.