A Free Grace Response to Denny Burk

Denny Burk, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College recently wrote a piece where he references Free Grace thought on his blog.  His article is titled "Gagnon Calls on Exodus Leader to Resign."  You can read it here.

Burk writes:

As I noted two weeks ago, Chambers seems to be advocating the non-lordship view of salvation that was made popular by Zane Hodges back in the 1980′s. This so-called “free grace” view teaches that an ungodly lifestyle need not trouble the assurance of a true “Christian.” According to this view, a Christian can apostatize and still be considered a true Christian.

What concerns me here is Burk's mischaracterization of the Free Grace position which is so frequent among the Lordship movement.  Essentially what Burk, MacArthur and others argue is that their position is the true, biblical position of the Lordship of Christ.  This position maintains that in order for one to be saved, one must repent of their sins (defined as a turning away of sin), submit to Christ's Lordship and be willing to be obedient.  And because we in the grace movement, reject this as being incompatible with simple belief in Christ for salvation to occur we are referred to as the "no-lordship" theology folks.  So, they argue that if you truly believe in the Lordship of Christ you will be a Lordship Salvationist.

This is a common distortion of our position.  We believe in the Lordship of Christ.  Christ is Savior because He is Lord and King.  I have in the past privately corresponded with a pastor and graduate of Master's Seminary who is a staunch proponent of Lordship Salvation and interestingly enough he has agreed that this referring to our position as the "no-lordship view" is misrepresenting our view.  While those of us in the grace camp do not believe Lordship Salvation is consistent with the doctrine of grace, we do not refer to it as the "no-grace" position.

Burk further writes:

Those who continue in willful unrepentant sin will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those who say otherwise are simply contradicting the clear teaching of scripture (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5-6).

These texts have been addressed by numerous scholars within the Free Grace position (e.g. Jody Dillow in The Reign of the Servant Kings, of course Zane Hodges has addressed this, Dave Anderson, Bob Wilkin and René López to name a few).  While there are some theological differences among those who profess Free Grace, many believe these "inheritance" passages refer to a loss of rewards rather than salvation.

Speaking of Alan Chambers of Exodus Internation Burk writes:

He is leading a ministry whose mission is “to minister grace and truth” to homosexuals. Yet he’s embraced a view of salvation that would lead homosexuals to believe that all they need to do is believe in Christ momentarily. After that, they can apostatize without that having any negative impact on their assurance of salvation.

Burk and other Lordship advocates maintain that a person who professes Christ yet persists in homosexuality activity dogmatically cannot have assurance of salvation and subsequently would not be saved.  I like what Free Grace teacher Dave Anderson writes in his classical text, Free Grace Soteriology on assurance:

Often, in a discussion on assurance, I will ask a lordship salvationist if he thinks he will go to heaven when he dies. The answer is invariably yes.  When asked why or on what ground, the answer is usually something related to the evidence of the Holy Spirit working in the life. But when asked if it is possible for them to have a serious fall, they will usually answer yes, because they know 1 Cor. 10:12 cautions them against presuming they could not fall.  But what if they fall and produce rotten fruit for a long period of time? What would that prove?  They usually squirm here and say it would prove they never were Christians in the beginning.  Ah ha!  Then, what would we be forced to say about your good works today? The only answer is that these good works are being produced by someone who is not elect, by what manner of casuistry can they be construed to be a present ground of assurance that one is elect? Obviously, they cannot (p.217).

Obviously when one is in habitual sin, it can have a negative impact on one's assurance.  As Anderson points out in the Lordship Theology, one can only have assurance as long as they are not in a state of habitual sin or carnality.  One has to be in a present state of fellowship.  However, for those of us in the Free Grace camp, we contend that our assurance comes from the promise of God's Word and from the cross (e.g. 1 John 5:13).  We need not look to our fruit or perseverance but to Jesus.  Such a mentality often leads to legalism.

Free Grace Theology does not encourage homosexuals or anyone else to not worry about their sin since they are saved by grace.  We join with our Reformed brothers and sisters in exhorting believers to holy living and encouraging repentance for believers who are in sin.

Those of us in the grace camp do not view grace as an excuse for sin (Rom. 6:1-2).  Some are scared to preach the message of grace because they fear it will prompt ungodly and unholy living.  Rather, it is God's grace that ought to strive us to holy living.  That is the message Paul preached and it is our message today.  <><


  1. Hi Liam, thanks for this. I have read most of Anderson's Free Grace Soteriology and enjoyed most of what I read. Your quote from page 217 is most helpful, and particularly well conceived and expressed.

    With regard to the Lordship Salvation(LS) proponent's accusation, I think it is made because of their drastically different interpretation of Repentance. Since they view it as "turning from sin" instead of "changing your mind" in response to the convincing and convicting of the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-11) they don't realize what the Free Grace preacher is actually saying.

    Since we hold that a person must change their mind about sin, to agree with God that it is evil and they are fully deserving judgment and eternal punishment it is clear they completely distort what we preach.

    A homosexual doesn't need to simply believe in Christ for a moment.... they need to believe the Gospel of the Christ (1Cor 15:1-11). It must assure them (they must have faith), and they cannot be assured by the Gospel unless they know they are in danger without it.

    I work very hard in my ministering to not distort the positions of those I disagree with. It is most telling that they generally don't bother with that same trouble when they disagree with us.

    Good article Liam!

  2. Kev,

    Thanks for the encouraging reply. Excellent response. Agree with the above comments. I find that a number of people do not understand Free Grace theology because they read articles by those like Burk and MacArthur, hear their sermons and walk away with an impression that is not true and inaccurate. They therefore, do not agree without fully understanding what it is they are disagreeing with.


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  13. Liam,

    You wrote the following: "This position maintains that in order for one to be saved, one must repent of their sins (defined as a turning away of sin), submit to Christ's Lordship and be willing to be obedient."

    My response is that there are some Lordship Salvation advocates who believe that faith in Christ alone is the sole means by which justification is received. They deny that justification is received through turning from sin, submitting to God's authority, and having a willingness to obey God. They believe that obeying God and turning away from sin are the consequences of receiving a new nature from God. Moreover, just because those things are the consequences of receiving a new nature does not mean that those things get people into heaven. They are not the basis upon which people are accepted before God.