When people ask me to define Free Grace Theology, I usually explain that it exists on a spectrum.
Picture a line.
The line has a thin and thick end. Different debates have defined either end.
On the thin end, there’s the debate with Lordship Salvation. That group teaches that salvation is earned, kept, or proved by some level of work, commitment, or submission to Jesus. In contrast, Free Grace people insist that salvation is by faith, apart from works. Period. Works help serve the neighbor but are unnecessary to earn, keep, or prove your eternal salvation. Faith is sufficient for salvation because Christ’s work is complete. And since salvation in no way depends upon your behavior, you can never lose it. The believer is eternally secure. So, at the thin end of the spectrum, people who reject Lordship Salvation and affirm that salvation is solely through faith and eternally secure count as Free Grace.
But there’s also a thick end of the line. When you defend salvation by faith alone, you have to explain dozens of problem passages. Debates with other traditions also raise questions, such as Calvinism’s teachings on Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints. Other traditions raise other questions. As Free Grace theologians came to similar (but not necessarily unanimous) interpretations on those challenging texts and issues, a coherent body of doctrine developed (and is still developing) that is proving to be a robust alternative to Calvinism, Arminianism, Lutheranism, and so on. Of course, by addressing more issues, there was/is potential for more disagreements between teachers on particular passages and questions. Still, a unique perspective developed that’s also called Free Grace.
Given that spectrum, you can appreciate the difficulty of answering when people ask, “Is this teacher Free Grace?” or “Is this a Free Grace church?” The answer is: it depends.
But wherever someone lands on the spectrum, whoever has believed in Jesus for eternal life is a brother or sister in Christ and should be treated as such.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.
Why do free grace proponents who define repent as 'turn from sin' rarely if ever bring up the Greek word for repent? Those who adhere to a 'change of mind' definition of Metanoia are perplexed by this issue.
Shawn, you have defined the FG position well, while leaving it necessarily ambiguous. It would be helpful for FG organizations to have an acronym, comparable to TULIP. Say, for example, GRACE:
G = GRACE GIFT – By God’s Grace and Jesus Christ’s Provision through His death and resurrection, the free gift of eternal life is offered to all the world.
R = RESPONSE OF FAITH – Faith means believing that what God has said, He will do. This has been the means of justification from Adam on. A person can show that response in a variety of ways.
A = ASSURANCE OF SALVATION – A person’s response of faith results in their knowing for sure that their sins are forgiven and they have eternal life that can never be lost.
C = CONTEXTUAL INTERPRETATION – Scriptures must be understood in context and interpreted first by what the original wording meant to the original readers. This is best done by learning what it says in the original languages.
E = ETERNAL REWARDS – the justified sinner becomes a sanctified saint through walking by means of the Holy Spirit, obeying God’s Word, and intimacy with God. God rewards such sacrifice and service by the privilege of reigning with Christ in the future eternal kingdom.
Perhaps this needs tweaked, and of course biblical references supplied, but the FG organizations I’m familiar with would agree that these 5 elements are primary and (I hope) irrefutable.
I like the direction that the acronym is going.