[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Charles C. Ryrie and Zane Hodges

by Antonio da Rosa

Don Reiher, speaking in regards to the content of saving faith, has done a good job of showing that the Grace Evangelical Society, in general, and Zane Hodges, in particular, has "not changed[d] [their] theology to the degree [that their] accusers indicate"[1] in the current issue of the Grace Evangelical Society's Journal. In presenting the arguments in favor of his position, Don states this about a book by Zane Hodges, "The Hungry Inherit", which was first published in 1972:

[It is] clear in this book that the object of saving faith is Jesus' promise of everlasting life, not of Jesus' deity, death, and resurrection... Hodges was clearly saying in 1972 that the object of saving faith is the living water, the promise of life, not His person and work.[2]

It can be easily substantiated from a cursory read of the whole book that Hodges considered the encounter of Jesus with the woman of Sychar in John 4 to be normative evangelistic expression from the pen of the Apostle John for the Church age. Don Reiher quotes the following from the 1972 version of "The Hungry Inherit" after this introduction, "Note these words, intended to lead unbelievers today to faith in Christ"[3]:

Ignorant she had come, enlightened she had left. Empty she had arrived, full she had departed. The gift of God? She knew it now - eternal life inexhaustibly welling up within the heart! "Who is it that saith to thee, 'Give me to drink'? She knew Him now - the Christ, the Savior of the World![4]

In 1997, Zane Hodges put out a third edition of this same book, printed this time by his own publishing company, Redencion Viva. Owning all three versions of the book, (the two others by Moody,1972, and Multinomah Press, 1980) and comparing them has led me to believe that there is no disparity of thought in regards to the core conviction of Zane Hodges - eternal life is the irrevocable present possession of the one who simply believes in Jesus through His promise to guarantee this life to the believer. As a matter of fact, this foundational belief is strengthened further with each new version.

In the 1997, Redencion Viva edition, again commenting on the woman at the well of Sychar, Zane states:

The writer of the story we are looking at was the Apostle John. The book in which he placed the story had this simple purpose: "but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (Jn.20:31). Now the woman knew the two things Jesus had said she needed to know. First, she finally knew "the gift of God."... it was nothing less than eternal life, God's marvelous gift to thirsty souls. But she also now knew "who it was who said to her, 'Give Me a drink.'" As He had just declared, He was the Messiah - the Christ... she believed what He said [John 4:28, 29]... [a]nd the moment she did she received the gift of eternal life. The truth of His person carried that water with it, and everyone who believed that truth possessed "life in His name." As John the Apostle was later to write: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God' (1 Jn 5:1). The woman believed that now. So she now had God's living water!... Jesus had meant that once this woman knew what God wanted to give her and knew who He himself was, she would already have the gift of living water.[5]

It can't be stated forcefully enough that Zane did not subscribe to the Free Grace Alliance's pre-qualification and theological legalism, which comes in the form of checklist evangelism, in these versions of his book.

I have read a few of Charles Ryrie's books: Basic Theology, So Great Salvation, and Balancing the Christian Life, as well as essays he has written in other works. They have been tremendously helpful in providing a solid framework by which I could organize my own systematic theology, dispensationalism, and Free Grace Theology. Charles has laid groundwork in these areas that are still of great benefit today. In the latest version of Zane Hodges' book "The Hungry Inherit," Charles Ryrie gives the foreword. Here are some points of interest:

The burden of this work is to distinguish clearly salvation and discipleship. No distinction is more vital to theology, more basic to a correct understanding of the New Testament, or more relevant to every believer's life and witness. The distinction is introduced through two of our Lord's earliest conversations [the woman at the well and the interview with Nicodemus]... When one finishes this book, there can be no mistaking the fact that the free gift of the water of life and the call to discipleship are clearly distinguished in the New Testament...

Mr. Hodges is completely qualified in the technical aspects of this work...

As one who is known to share the convictions expressed in this work, I am very grateful to God for its publication. May it be widely read and used of the Lord to clarify and exalt His matchless grace.[6]

The Hungry Inherit clearly does not give any impression that anything other or greater than the simple faith expressed by the woman at the well is necessary in this post-cross era for the appropriation of eternal life. Was Dr. Ryrie beguiled or disengaged from critical observation at the time he gave his glowing and unqualified endorsement? I don't know. Nor have I been privy to any conversations concerning the matter at hand with him either in public or private.

Nevertheless, it is my opinion, which is based upon a educated hunch, that he would be very cautious in the way that he approached this subject, and would reserve judgement until he heard first-hand accounts and arguments from both sides and then compare them to scripture.

Who knows. In light of his high regard for Zane's qualifications and work, he may end up sharing the sentiments of Dr. Earl Radmacher, who stated in one of his books:

...I am indebted to the exegetical expertise and hermeneutical care of Zane Hodges, whose humility before the Word of God and untiring diligence continues to be a model for me of "a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). There have been times when I questioned his conclusions, but further investigation usually demonstrated his superior wisdom.[7]

I believe that the position of Zane Hodges and the GES has the full support of and fidelity to the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, I am persuaded that Charles would agree to Earl's description of Zane Hodges, and if perchance he would do the "investigation" that it would demonstrate to him Zane's "exegetical expertise," "hermeneutical care," "humility," "untiring diligence," and "wisdom".

Or who knows, maybe he already subscribes to Zane's position. He did endorse it by way of his foreword...

Blessings and peace to you all

[1] Reiher, Donald, Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring, 2010, pg 48
[2] Ibid., pgs 38-39
[3] Ibid., pg 39
[4] Hodges, Zane, The Hungry Inherit, First Edition, Moody Press, 1972, pg 18 (Don states it is from pg 20; I have the hardcover, I don't know if there was a softcover, and this might account for the discrepancy)
[5] Hodges, Zane, The Hungry Inherit, Third Edition, Redencion Viva, 1998, pg 20
[6] Ryrie, Charles, Forward to The Hungry Inherit, 1972, pgs 7-8
[7] Radmacher, Earl, Salvation, Word Publishing, 2000, pgs IX-X

Friday, November 05, 2010

How can a person positively identify another?

by Antonio da Rosa

For the purpose of referencing someone in a conversation or communication, what exactly must one do in order to positively identify someone?

Usually a first name will do among friends who through the context of their conversation mutually recognize the name and thus the person so named. Here positive ID occurs.

Often, though, persons communicating know more than one individual who shares a first name that has been referenced in conversation. Therefore it is encumbant upon the communicator referencing the third party individual to use a last name. At this point concencus can be achieved in a group and positive identification of an individual occurs.

To go further, at times a last name is not known, and thus attributes and/or characteristics of the intended referenced individual must be shared so that a delineation can occur, allowing positive identification to be made through shared awareness of how these traits delimit reference to a certain individual.

But what about expressed misconceptions in the context of communication, even great ones? Will egregious misconceptions necessarily preclude the ability to positively identify and reference an individual?

What if I were trying to convey a reference and positive identification of an individual in a conversation with a friend or group of people and I said something like this:

In order for you to get legislation enacted for your particular purpose, you must form a team of lobbyists to entreat the tax-fighting, card-carrying NRA member, pro-life California Governor-elect, Jerry Brown

Have I for the purpose of the communication identified the individual with whom I am encouraging lobbyist activity for the benefit of my hearers?

If you would say, "No," my question to you would be, "Why not?"

As a conclusion to this brief discussion, I will provide the two ways that positive identification for the purpose of reference in commmunication can occur:

1. A single unique reference is made about the individual
2. A conglomerant of references, attributes, and characterstics, that form a unique delimiting picture is given about the individual

When speaking to another about Jesus Christ, any one of a multitude of individual unique delimiting informations about Him can be given that will positively identify Him, and thus precise reference can be made, or a host of information, that when taken as a whole will create a unique picture, and accordingly, positively ID Him.

If a person is introduced to Jesus Christ through passages of the New Testament and are confronted with His unique claim to guarantee everlasting life to anyone who entrusts their eternal destiny to Him, and then so does, what are the arguments against this person having eternal life, even in the presence of egregious misconceptions about the Person and Work of Christ?