Carson on Zane Hodges

I finished D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies: Second Edition.  In this post, I’ll talk about what Carson says about Zane Hodges.  Zane Hodges was an evangelical who opposed Lordship Salvation.

What is Lordship Salvation?  I’ll try to define it as I understand it, and hopefully my characterization is correct.  Essentially, Lordship Salvation is saying that just believing a set of intellectual propositions about Jesus is not sufficient for salvation, but that a person must also live the Christian life—-surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord, obey God, produce the fruit of the Spirit, do good works, etc.  Adherents to Lordship Salvation do not believe that they are teaching that people are saved by their good works, or by a combination of faith and good works; rather, they maintain that true saving faith produces good works, and that good works are a sign that a person has truly been saved.  Critics of this view, however, think that it’s legalistic, and that the only act that is required for salvation is receiving God’s free gift of grace, which was made possible through the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Zane Hodges tries to defend this position against Lordship Salvation.  One way that he does so is by distinguishing Christian discipleship from salvation.  When Jesus says in Luke 14 that people must forsake all—-family, life itself, etc.—-for Jesus, Hodges thinks that concerns discipleship, not salvation (even though, as John MacArthur points out, Matthew 16:26, after saying that the disciples must deny themselves, states that what is at stake is their souls, and whether or not they shall lose them).  Similarly, non-Lordship advocates have argued that, when James says that faith alone is not sufficient to save but that good works are necessary as well, James is speaking of temporal salvation (in the fashion of wisdom literature), not eternal salvation.  When it comes to eternal salvation, however, Hodges thinks that Revelation 22:22 is a passage that reveals the path to that: “And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely”.

Carson disagrees with Hodges position, and I will present three reasons why.

First, on page 92, Carson states that Hodges “never wrestles with the possibility (in my view, the dead certainty) that in spiritual matters grace and demand are not necessarily mutually incompatible: everything depends on their relations, purposes, functions.”

Second, on pages 84-85, Carson quotes Hebrews 3:14: “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first” (NIV).  Carson interprets this to mean that our perseverance is evidence that we have been saved, or have come to share in Christ.  Carson does not mention Hodges, but this point is relevant to the Lordship salvation debate.

Third, on page 129, Carson notes that “not one significant interpreter of Scripture in the entire history of the church has held to Hodges’s interpretation of the passages he treats.”  While Carson acknowledges that some interpreters have distinguished between accepting Christ as Savior and accepting him as Lord (as non-Lordship adherents do), he thinks that Hodges’ exegeses are novel and unusual, when placed against the backdrop of the history of church interpretation.  In a sense, Carson is making an argument from authority, which he decries elsewhere in this book.  But I doubt that he would rest his critique of Hodges’ exegesis entirely on its novelty.  Rather, he’d probably say that its novelty should clue us in that something is wrong, but that we should refute Hodges’ exegesis on solid exegetical grounds (i.e., look at language, context, etc.).

I can sympathize with Hodges’ view because I myself feel that there is tension between grace and works.  While the New Testament at times presents salvation as a free gift from God, it also seems to aver that we will not be saved if we are doing certain sins, or refraining from good works.  Hodges tries to explain that away, and I’d like to read his case some more at some point.  I read Absolutely Free a while back, and, while I enjoyed his barbs against Lordship Salvation, I ultimately was not convinced by his arguments.  Perhaps I can benefit from other things he has written.  I do not think that the New Testament authors believed that they were contradicting themselves.  Perhaps they believed that one entered the covenant by grace but stayed in the covenant by repentance or good works, or that good works were a sign of God’s grace.  Practically speaking, however, these approaches amount to legalism—–being unsure of one’s salvation and trying to prove it by becoming good enough.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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11 Responses to Carson on Zane Hodges

  1. Wow
    are you saved?
    Would you mind if i counseled you a bit ?


  2. You site is amazing…


  3. James Pate says:

    I prefer not to be “counseled”, but, although I disagree with you on Catholicism, you may have insight on how as a Christian you deal with the grace, faith, and good works question. If you have any thoughts on that, or if you wrote about it on your blog, please feel free to share them.


  4. These are must reads by Zane Hodges:

    Grace in Eclipse
    The Hungry Inherit

    You can get both in one volume cheap at:

    I am quite familiar with all the arguments and would be happy to answer any of your questions concerning his views. I knew that man and supported his ministry. He went home to be with the Lord in 2008. His arguments are very persuasive.

    God bless!

    Antonio da Rosa


  5. James Pate says:

    Thanks Antonio! I’ll also check out your blog.


  6. wow great facts… mind if i share something..

    Over the last year or so a growing number of books and articles has appeared targeting the Free Grace movement for critique and rebuttal. These publications mention the Grace Evangelical Society and its literature. This is a positive development. GES definitely wishes to have its views seriously discussed in the marketplace of ideas.

    It might be possible to describe these writings as presenting what is known as “Lordship Salvation.” But this designation, though widely used, does not indicate the true historical antecedents of the movement in its present form. The term could be used with equal ease to describe many who are Arminian in theology. Yet the major “Lordship” writers of today are not Arminian, however much they tend toward conclusions similar to those of Arminians (e.g., on assurance). Instead, these writers describe themselves as Calvinists. But John Calvin himself, were he alive today, would probably disown them because they more closely resemble the scholastic theology that resisted the Reformation than Calvin’s own theology.1

    In deference, therefore, to the many Calvinists who hold a biblical theology of grace (e.g., R. T. Kendall, M. Charles Bell, Charles C. Ryrie), we refuse to describe the writers we are talking about as Calvinists. Instead, it would be better to identify them with the theology that became predominant in Puritan thought and which was, in significant respects, a rejection of certain basic concepts of Reformation theology. Hence my series title is “The New (i.e., contemporary) Puritanism.


  7. p.s. please spare sometime to check out my site….

    thanxs by for now


  8. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thanks for sharing that! I have vague familiarity with some of those arguments—-for example, that Lordship salvation is closer to the Puritans in thought than Calvin. Whether I agree with that, I don’t know. On the one hand, Puritanism did encourage a great deal of spiritual insecurity and introspection, which Lordship salvation has the potential to do. John MacArthur actually tries to respond to the argument that Lordship salvation resembles Puritanism in his book, Faith Works, affirming that he believes in the assurance of the believer. On the other hand, I doubt that Calvin believed that a person could simply accept Christ as his personal Savior, live any old way he wanted, and go to heaven.

    As far as Lordship writers resembling the scholastics is concerned, I wonder how that is the case. We’re talking about people like Thomas Aquinas when we say scholastics, right?


  9. The Bible is so adventurist So much stories and teachings in the Bible Like if you Want Wisdom read the bible, if you need counseling and teaching, read the bible the truth is all in the bible. If you need strength and encouragement Read the bible the Bible helps us grow it feeds us Gods words It’s like a love story That never Ends.

    I love this verse
    For God so loved the world That he gave he’s only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. .. That is some powerful words.. John 3:16

    also James 3:16 I got for my prophecy And that also helps us and gives us knowledge understanding and wisdom..


  10. Oh I was just joking about that I think your counseling me a bit.. lol 🙂 ….
    But what did i say about Catholicism, Although they don’t know the full truth.. what else


  11. Pingback: Book Write-Up: Faith Alone, by R.C. Sproul | James' Ramblings

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