It has been reported that Zane Hodges, the former Dallas Theological Seminary professor of New Testament, has passed away at the age of 75. Hodges is best known for his work in the "Free Grace" movement and his books such as "Absolutely Free." He was controversial in life and it is certain that he will remain controversial after his death.
Just last week I gave a message at Holy Epidemic in Melbourne, Australia called "Combating Easy Believism on the Streets." In that message I pointed out the fruit of Hodges' backwards theology as we have observed it on the streets of Dallas\Fort Worth, the home of Dallas Theological Seminary. I've seen seminary students and graduates argue the fine points of the Greek term for repentance while they are drunk. I've seen pastors walking out of comedy clubs, laughing at the same filth that the world laughs at, and then argue with us about what constitutes the Gospel. I've seen a free grace, KJV-only open-air preacher justify his adultery as a professing Christian because of this kind of theology. And this kind of thing just goes on and on.
This different gospel that Hodges (and others) proclaim reduces the glorious Gospel of Christ into nothing more than a general assurance that Jesus made a legitimate offer of eternal life and anyone who considers the offer legitimate is saved. Repentance was reduced in Hodges' theology to nothing more than "fellowship with the Father", eliminating the concept of turning from sin (and to the shock of other Free Gracers, he denied that it even meant "changing the mind about Christ"). The concept of the Lordship of Christ was thought to be limited to His deity rather than any claim of mastery, missing the obvious point that Christ's deity in no way lessens the duty of man towards Him but only increases it.
Hodges' theology affected me in Bible college when I took a theology course taught by a professor who was greatly influenced by this kind of thinking. This influence showed up in my own doctrinal statement where I wrote (as a false convert Baptist pastor) "Saving faith is intellectual assent to the facts of the Gospel". As if saving faith can be reduced to a number of bullet points that we merely say "uh huh" to.
In the days ahead, we're sure to read tributes to Hodges' scholarship. I read a blog this morning which praised his scholarship while admitting to disagreeing with his views on salvation. Maybe it's just me, but if his so-called "scholarship" led to errors in his soteriology, then isn't his scholarship flawed? He might have been able to defend his errant views well, but that does not make the man a great scholar. It only makes him a skilled manipulator of the text. There have been many of those kind of self-appointed scholars throughout history and history has not been kind to them.
I never met Hodges, never took one of his classes or heard him speak. But I was once a fruit of his theology. On this Thanksgiving Day, I have much to be thankful for. The Lord Jesus Christ, in His magnificent grace, rescued me from that false gospel and brought me to true salvation. He gave me the gifts of repentance and faith and in grace drew me unto Himself. I thank God that He rescued me from the blindness I was in and brought me to salvation.
Hodges is dead, but his soteriology is not. It probably will never totally die out. Free Grace proponents have made it very clear that they will be tenacious in their efforts to spread their theology within churches, seminaries, and even children's ministries. With Hodges' passing, I am reminded today how vital our work in Biblical evangelism is. How we must commit to being even more tenacious. How one day, we too will leave a legacy. Will it be a legacy of distorting the truth or boldly proclaiming it? Only time will tell.