Saturday, December 1, 2012

FGA President's Letter - December 1st


I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. It seems to me that when you celebrate thanksgiving you know that Christmas is not far off. Christmas is right around the corner as we step into the month of December.
The paradox of Christmas is that in a place that you do not think you will find anything you need is the place you actually find everything you need. In that stable we understand as Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “The Infinite became an Infant. The Creator became a Creature. God was in a Cradle.”

We call it the incarnation. It is simply a miracle!
God became human!

The invisible became visible!


The untouchable became touchable!
Eternal life experienced temporal death!

The Transcendent One descended and drew near!
The unlimited became limited!

The infinite became finite!
The immutable became mutable!

The unbreakable became fragile!
Spirit became matter!

The problem of sin was solved!
In such a strange place we find everything we need.

As St. Anselm said. “Jesus did not come out of curiosity or out of some personal need. The Father sent him on an errand of mercy solely to accomplish our redemption.  And that is the Christmas message that we freely proclaim. That little baby was no ordinary little baby. He is the one about whom Isaiah prophesied over 700 years before the birth of the baby Jesus, whose name will be called Emanuel - God with us. And so we proclaim that purification and propitiation has been prepared and as such eternal life is free for all those who believe in risen Lord Jesus Christ, the name above every name and the only name by which a man or a woman, boy or girl can be saved.  Let us make sure that this season above all seasons that we do not tell people what this age wants, but what it needs, not what it will reward but what without which it cannot be saved.
One of the ministry venues for FGA is our opportunity to connect. The FGA conference in October gave us such a great time to meet many from literally around the world. But we not only got to know them, we now have an opportunity to help them. One of our guests was Pastor Tero Fredrikson of Greater Grace Church, Vaasa, Finland. Read his message regarding the FGA conference.
Dear Friends,
I want to express my gratefulness to Dr. Bing and the FGA for the conference I attended last month. When we were singing the first worship song together I sensed the kind of unity I have longed for for a long time. That was only a prelude to the conference, since every message and workshop was so loaded academically, but also the presence of God was very real in the lives of the speakers and the attendants. I am writing a book in Finnish about soteriology from the free grace and dispensational perspective. In the future my plan is to extend the book to be a systematic theology. The purpose of the book is to be a textbook in Bible colleges and discipleship training. Writing the book is not an easy thing for me and I found myself in an academic impasse. I needed mentoring to get myself out of that situation, and your conference really helped me to move on.
I and my fellow elder Dr. Kale Koskinen were extremely built up by the way FGA received us. We were treated like kings. I want to become a member of FGA and be a part of that fellowship. The Free Grace gospel needs to be spoken out aloud in Finland. We need preaching, teaching, training and writing to accomplish the mission. Let us do it together.

I also believe that Greater Grace World Outreach affiliation will be blessed by the FGA. I got many doctrine books and I have passed them to our key pastors, and books have been receivedwith gratefulness and read with passion.
We have a vital role to play with Tero and many others who do not have many of the resources that we here in the USA at times take for granted. Perhaps this Christmas season we might not only look to our own church, city our country, but might we also think about, pray for, and get involved and invested with Finland and other “remote parts of the earth”. May we consider how the Lord might use FGA as a ministry and you as individuals to promote the glorious grace of God.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, Ph.D.
President, FGA


 


 

 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Christmas Resource!

If you’re looking for a way to make the Christmas story come to life in the lives of the people of your church, consider this:

 

This Christmas, present the Gospel, and the story of the incarnation in a fresh way—via drama, from the perspective of Joseph!  For information on how to obtain a free copy of the original script, or a free DVD of the 40-minute play,“Christmas Mystery—a man and more...” as performed in 2011, please visit, gratefulsue.com and click on “Drama.”  See gratefulsue.com for poetry, drama, and more from a Christian perspective.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

FGA President's Letter - November 1st


Dear FGA

The arrival of November brings us to the season of Thanksgiving. We at FGA have much to be thankful for. First and foremost, I am so thankful and grateful to the Lord for allowing the FGA conference in Dallas last month to be such an exciting time of encouragement, education and equipping. Special thanks are due to Dr. Roger Fankhauser and Dr. Charlie Bing for their leadership in overseeing the conference. Also, a special “thank you” goes to Angie Snell. She is the one behind the scenes that makes it all really happen!

Our speakers did a fine job clarifying the distinction of justification and sanctification and the role of discipleship. Special guest, Dr. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Seminary, delivered a wonderful plenary session and his banquet presentation was an expression of excellent biblical exposition. Dr. Roy Zuck was presented the 2012 Trophy of Grace Award in recognition of half a century of excellent theological leadership, and his clear stand for grace theology. All of our speakers, did an excellent job teaching on the topic of Discipleship. There were also many excellent workshop presentations contributing to the topics practical ministry strategies and the need for theological scholarly excellence.

We were delighted to have many international missionaries and church planters from Africa, Canada and Finland at the conference. As always, the book tables were a great opportunity to see the new resources that are available. There are new works that provide excellent training at all levels. Let me whet your appetite: Final Destiny by Jody Dillow is now available. This is the long awaited revision of  Reign of the Servant Kings. It is a wonderful resource.  Refreshing Grace, by John Correia is a new and excellent primer on Calvinism, Arminianism and Molinism. It is based on the theme of a local FGA conference held in Phoenix last January. There is a new collection of essays on the essentials of Free Grace Theology titled Freely by His Grace, edited by Roy Zuck, J.B. Hixson and Rick Whitmire.  Finally, Mark Spencer has written an excellent exposition of Free Grace Theology for beginners called A Moment in Time. There are many other fine works that were represented at the conference and are now available at the FGA book store.
 
Let me encourage you to mark your calendar to make plans to join us next year for the FGA National Conference in Dallas, October 14-16.
FGA will also be sponsoring a regional conference in Phoenix, Saturday - March 2nd. We are also planning to have a regional conference in Salem, Oregon.

I know that many of you serve in locations and ministries that are not always friendly to the view of Free Grace Theology. In fact, we are often accused of being “anti-nomian”, soft on sin, and giving assurance of salvation when we should withhold it until we see enough fruit in a person’s life. As Paul said, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Gal. 6:9-10) Doing good includes speaking the truth in love and that means speaking the true gospel of the Grace of God; nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay, Ph.D.
FGA President

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Low Cost of High-Cost Discipleship

 

Dr. Roger Fankhauser

Burleson Bible Church

 

We often hear in free grace circles that “salvation is free, but discipleship is costly.” I agree wholeheartedly. Following Jesus means making decisions that could cost me something – even if the cost is as small as choosing to use my time to pursue kingdom purposes rather than personal interests. It could cost minor persecution, severe persecution, or maybe even death. It could cost money and other possessions. It could cost loss of relationships with friends or family. The cost is indeed high, and we do need to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33).

 

Discipleship is costly, but I believe in the bigger picture it costs less to follow Jesus than to not follow Him. Here’s why. Discipleship is costly in the absolute sense only if we look at the costs in this life. In this life, the costs are, in fact, high. Sometimes very high. But when I look at the whole story, the benefits of following Jesus far outweighs the cost. No matter how high the cost.

 

Think of making a financial investment. Let’s say I put $500 per month into an IRA for my retirement. Does it cost me something? Absolutely! I have $500 per month less for going out to dinner, buying fishing tackle, making a car payment, or anything else. But you won’t hear me saying “my retirement is so costly,” even though it is. The obvious reason is that I am expecting the payoff down the road to significantly exceed the $500 per month I’ve placed in the IRA.

 

I think we should look at discipleship the same way. The return on my investment far outweighs the cost I pay to follow Jesus. Even Jesus viewed obedience this way. Read carefully the words in Hebrews 12:2,

 

“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NKJV)

 

The short term cost: “Endured the cross, despising the shame”

 

The long term return: “For the joy set before Him…. Has sat down at the right hand”

 

The cost to Jesus was more than I think I’ll ever understand. The cost was high – torture, death, bearing the weight of my sin. But the reward outweighed the pain.

 

What benefits result from our obedience? Bringing glory to God might be the greatest benefit. If He gave me nothing else, and somehow my obedience brings Him glory, the benefit still far outweighs the cost. But God gives us even more!

 

Every believer must face the Bema seat, as Paul writes:

 

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10, NKJV)

 

We receive something positive for what we have done “good” in this life; and we receive something for what we have done “bad”. I don’t pretend to know what this negative side actually looks like, but it seems clear we receive a return on our investment for what we have done in this life, even some sort of loss for disobedience. By the way, lest anyone wonder, the “loss” is not speaking of our eternal salvation. We receive eternal life freely by faith alone in Christ alone. Our final destiny is by grace; our reward, on the other hand, is based on “what we have done”.

 

Positive reward for what is good; negative “reward” for what is bad. It seems the truly high cost of discipleship happens when we fail to faithfully follow here and now, no matter the short term cost. In the long run, I lose more than I gain by not following faithfully. I might well avoid some short term cost, but I lose any positive “return on my investment”.

 

To avoid turning this post into a book, let me simply list some of the other passages (in no particular order) that give benefits from faithful discipleship:

 

  • Reward: 1 Cor. 9:24-27
  • Freedom: John 8:31-32
  • Glorifying God: John 21:18-19, Acts 5:40, Acts 21:11-14, 1 Pet. 4:16
  • Pleasing God: Phil. 4:17-18
  • Building character: James 1:2-4
  • Experiencing abundant life / eternal life: Gal. 6:8
  • “Greater riches”: Hebrews 11:13, 24-26
  • Ministry opportunities: Acts 4:1ff, Acts 16:19ff

 

Is discipleship costly? Absolutely – here and now. But, when we look at the entire picture, the return on our faithfulness is so high, the truly high cost position happens when I fail to live as a disciple. When we talk of the cost of discipleship, let’s be sure to point out the benefits. In the long run, the real cost of high-cost discipleship is low!

 

“You see, the cost of following Jesus Christ is everything. But the rewards! Ah, the rewards are heavenly…. I want you to consider me not as an evangelist but as an investment counselor showing you how to make the ultimate investment, one that qualifies you to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” (Mark Bailey, To Follow Him: The Seven Marks of a Disciple (p. 125))

Thursday, October 4, 2012

From the President


 

Dear FGA Members and Friends,

In just a few days the FGA national conference will convene in Irving, Texas. I must tell you that this year I believe we have an excellent field of speakers and workshop leaders.  The theme is “Discipleship in the Gospel of Luke”. This is such an important topic for us in the Free Grace Movement because our theology clearly emphasizes the distinction between what is necessary to gain the free gift of eternal life and the requirements to live a life of discipleship.  The gift is free, but discipleship is costly. There has been so much confusion as theologians and pastors seek to blend the two conditions together with the result that the freeness of the gospel is clouded and confused. This confusion leads to a charge of “easy believeism” or “cheap grace”- a charge and a caricature that we strongly reject.

At the conference we will hear from Dr. Dave Anderson, President of Grace School of Theology, Dr. Charlie Bing, Dr. Jody Dillow, Bob Tebow, Dr. Tom Constable, Dr. Brian Fisher and special guest, Dr. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Seminary. Mark will also be the speaker at the FGA banquet. There are many others who will join us as we seek to examine what it means to live a life of submission to our Lord Jesus.

I want to remind you that the FGA is an Alliance of pastors, educators, missionaries, evangelists, and leaders who hold to Free Grace Theology. We are an Association of Christian men and women who seek to encourage, educate and connect to fulfill the great commission, as we make disciples with a clear understanding of the difference between evangelization and edification.

Many of our members have been busy this past year researching and writing. Let me mention a few new resources to you.

  • John Correia has written an excellent primer on Calvinism, Arminianism and Molinism entitled Refreshing Grace Gods Will Our Will. This is a great tool to introduce people to the issue of election and free will and an excellent overview of these theological systems.
  •  Dr. Jody Dillow has completed his new edition of Reign of the servant Kings entitled Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings. It is twice as long as the early edition (1130pages) and has a complete update of the first edition with many new chapters. Don’t miss this great resource.
  •  Marty Cauley has finished his massive 2 volume, 1200 page tome titled, The Outer Darkness.
  • Keith Krell has had his Ph.D. dissertation published titled Temporal Judgment and the Church- Paul's Remedial Agenda in 1 Corinthians. This is an excellent work on the theology of judgment in the life of believers.
  • Mark Spencer has a new book out that provides an expositional overview of theological conclusions regarding evangelism and discipleship. It is titled A Moment in Time and it is an excellent resource to give people for an overview of Free Grace Theology through clear exposition of the Bible.
  • G. Gordon Olson has revised his book, Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism.
  • The Faith That Saves: The Nature of Faith in the New Testament written by myself and John Correia has been newly published by Wipf and Stock. 
  • There is also a collection of essays on Free Grace Theology titled Freely by His Grace: Classical Free Grace Theology.  The book is edited by Roy Zuck and many FGA members have contributed selections on issues of Free Grace Theology.
        
There are many other projects that are in process that will also help provide you with excellent tools in your study of the Bible and Theology, and as you seek to lead people into a clear understanding of the issues of salvation and sanctification.

If you are unable to come to the FGA conference we will have the recorded sessions available for you to purchase along with other books and resources through the FGA book store. Let me invite you to browse the store and the website, www.FreeGraceAlliance.com.   I think you will find some helpful resources.

If we can help you with theological questions or ministry opportunities please send me an email. If you are not yet a member of the FGA let me invite you to sign up at www.freegracealliance.com/join. I believe that the FGA as an alliance and association will be encouraging to you personally and be of benefit to your ministry.

Serving him with you
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay, Ph.D.
President

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Refreshing Grace: The First book from Biblical Framework Press!

RefreshingGraceFrontCoverOnlyHave you ever wondered how God can be in control of everything and still allow people to have free will? I think that for many Christians, this is a real conundrum. Sure, there have been “fights” between Calvinists and Arminians over this issue for 500 years; Calvinists argue that God is great and in control, and Arminians counter that God is good and offers salvation to all.

 

For many Christians, though, neither answer is sufficient because God says both in His Word. But how can both be true?  Well, this week John Correia, an FGA executive Council member, published a new book titled Refreshing Grace. This book takes a new approach to this often emotionally charged issue and explains the issue, and a fresh biblical solution to it, in an understandable way.

 

If you’re interested in the issue of God’s sovereign control and our free will in salvation, our prayer is that Refreshing Grace will help you understand the issue with more clarity and passionately pursue Christ with that new knowledge.

 

The book is available on Amazon.com in paperback as well as on Kindle. It will also be forthcoming on the FGA resources page and available at the FGA national conference!

 

Amazon.com paperback edition.

 

Amazon.com Kindle Edition.

Monday, September 3, 2012

From the President - September 2012

Dear FGA Members and Friends,
The fall season brings with it a long awaited cooling off for those of us who live in Phoenix. After many months of hovering between 100-115 degrees, we are ready for a change. The fall also means that we are near to the FGA National Conference, which will be held in Irving, Texas October 8-10. We are looking forward to a wonderful line-up of speakers including, our banquet speaker, Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Seminary. We will also hear from Dave Anderson, Jody Dillow, Charlie Bing, Tom Constable, Bob Teebow, and many more. For those of you who live locally and cannot attend the entire conference, you can register to attend for one day. We hope to see many of you in just a few short weeks.
One of the most exciting developments in the FGA is the list of new resources. There is always a danger of listing some resources, because there is the chance that you will leave someone off the list. Forgive me in advance if my list is incomplete. But there are some really wonderful resources and tools hot off the press.
●For many of us, we have long awaited the new edition of Reign of the Servant Kings by Jody Dillow. The wait is over. Both Jody and the book, Final Destiny (all 1100 pages), will be at the conference.
●Mark Spencer will also be speaking at the conference and will display his new book, A Moment in Time. This is a wonderful book providing the biblical exposition of Free Grace Theology.
Fresh Grace: God's Will and Our Will in Focus is a book by John Correia, FGA council member and conference speaker, which provides a great introduction to the theological systems of Calvinism, Arminiansm, and Molinism, emphasizing Free Grace Theology.
●Keith Krell has just had his Ph.D. dissertation from the University of Bristol, England published and it is a very good read. It is called, Temporal Judgment and the Church: Paul's Remedial Agenda in 1 Corinthians.
●A new collection of theological essays comes under the title, Freely By His Grace: Classical Free Grace Theology. This is edited by JB Hixson, Rick Whitmire and Roy Zuck, founding member of the FGA. The book includes chapters by many FGA members.
●Paul Tanner has written an article to be published in the upcoming Journal of the Evangelical Society, JETS, called "The Cost of Discipleship: Losing One's Life for Jesus' Sake."
●Wipf & Stock publisher has just republished the book I wrote with John Correia, The Faith That Saves, and I have also had an article published this past month in the Chafer Theological Journal entitled, "The Role of First Century Shame and Honor Codes from secular through the sacred concerning the Pauline theology of judgment at the Bema Seat."
●Also, in the Chafer Theological Journal there is a very good article by Andy Woods entitled, "Romans 7 and Sanctification."
It looks like there is something to read for everybody.
In Ecclesiastes the Preacher tells us that the writing of books is endless and wearisome to the soul. But then again, "readers are leaders and leaders are readers." I believe that these new resources will be of help to you and your ministry. You can purchase these books online through the FGA bookstore now and as they become available. Also, many books will be available for purchase at the FGA conference.
I pray that your fellowship with the Lord is growing as you begin a new season of life. I also pray that the Lord will use you as never before in your ministry this fall, as you seek to bring honor and glory to His name. Remember the true and penetrating words of Merrill Tenney, "This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book." So, as you read some good books this year, make sure you make time for The Good Book.
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, Ph.D.
President, FGA

Friday, August 3, 2012

FGA President's Letter-August, 2012

Dear FGA Members and Friends,
It is interesting and important to note that the first and most important issue the early church faced had to do with the clarity of the Gospel. The book of Acts is rightly called the “Hinge of History” for it functions as a hinge and forms a transition between Jew and gentile, between law and grace, and between Jerusalem and the utter most parts of the world.
As with many transitions it is often not always smoothly or seamlessly expressed. Such was the case in the early church. Many of the battles the Apostle Paul faced revolved around the formation of the doctrine of justification by faith alone and the function of sanctification by faithfulness in the lives of believers. This is seen to be the case in the Jerusalem Council and other events recorded by Luke in the Book of Acts.
The Apostolic Fathers who should have known better comingled justification with sanctification and so confused the clarity of the gospel. Salvation seemed to be tied to baptism and confession followed by commitment to obey, in some form, the Mosaic Law.
Jumping ahead to the Roman Catholic Church, which some say started at 450 AD and others 1000 AD, in either case the gospel continues to be less than clear and often times confused regarding the meaning of grace and the role of faith in receiving the free gift of eternal life. The Reformation provided a much needed correction, but as we have seen throughout its subsequent history its correction was not without its problems. Once again, in the modern church the confusion between justification and sanctification is manifested in both Reformed and Roman Catholic Church doctrine.
The past might not tell us what to believe, but it can teach us what to avoid. It is to the ancient past, to the inspired scriptures themselves that we must focus upon to find the divine guidance for living the Christian life.
This fall the FGA National Conference (October 8-10 in Irving, Texas) is focusing on the biblical description and distinction of discipleship as seen in the Gospel of Luke. Our conference will provide biblical exposition, theological precepts, and practical application concerning the greatest need inside the Church of Jesus Christ.  There will also be some great ministry tables, a fine selection of book tables with some new publications available, and a great time of fellowship.
I hope to see you at the conference. For details and registration go to www.FreeGraceAlliance.com.
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us
Dr. Fred Chay
President, FGA

Sunday, July 1, 2012



                                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                                  
Memorials are used in the Bible to help us remember the loyalty of God to His people. They allow us to recall the goodness and faithfulness of God in dealing with both Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church.

 The month of July for Americans is a time to commemorate and celebrate the liberty and freedom we have as a nation. It also allows us as Christians to realize the tremendous role we have had in forming and fashioning this nation. Freedom is the hallmark of our nation. Liberty was what our founding fathers desired as they sought to escape the tyranny of the law under King George in England.  And as we know, freedom came with a price.

The apostle Paul states in Acts 13:38-39, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.”

Many translations use the term “free” or “freed” and this is a legitimate translation. However, it is interesting that Paul uses the term which is normally translated “justified” when speaking about those who can receive eternal life and be “freed” through believing. This is normative theology for Paul as seen in Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:3-7. In Acts 13 being “freed” is put in juxtaposition to the ability or lack of ability of the Law. Again, this is a familiar argument with Paul, the former Pharisee, as he testifies of the powerlessness of the law  concerning issues of both justification and sanctification as seen in 2 Corinthians 3:7, Romans 7 and Galatians 2:16. We who believe in Jesus Christ have had the price paid for us and receive the free gift of eternal life apart from all law keeping. In fact as Paul tells us in Romans 4, it must either be of law or of grace. It cannot be both.

 I hope this 4th of July gives you time to reflect on what it means to be an American. (You might also enjoy a hot dog and some watermelon.) But might you also remember and rejoice in the freedom we have in Jesus-- because of Jesus. He paid the price for our freedom. As Paul states, Jesus is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom.3:25). He calls it propitiation.

 The FGA exists to proclaim the free and gracious gift. We seek to lead, encourage, educate and connect people and ministries to become more effective in this proclamation. Let me invite you to the upcoming FGA Annual National Conference in Irving, Texas October 8-10. This year we have a great line up of plenary speakers and workshop leaders including, Dr. Dave Anderson, Dr. Mark Bailey, Dr. Charlie Bing, Dr. Tom Constable, Dr. Jody Dillow, Dr. Brian Fisher and Bob Tebow. The theme this year is discipleship. There will be presentations on both the theological themes and practical ministry issues involving discipleship in the Gospel of Luke. We also have as our conference banquet speaker Dr. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Theological Seminary.  I hope you sense that this will be a good investment of your time, both for your own personal encouragement and ministry enhancement. Online registration is now open on www.FreeGraceAlliance.com.

Rejoice in the freedom that is yours in Christ. And make sure that you tell others.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,


Fred Chay
President, FGA

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: Justification: Five Views

Justification is a central topic to Free Grace theology, and as such when a book is written in scholarly circles to discuss justification it is worth considering! 

 

Beilby, James K., and Eddy, Paul Rhodes, eds., Justification: Five Views. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Academic, 2011. 308 pp. $15.38.

 

Multi-view books rise and fall on the quality of their representatives, and Justification: Five Views stands with an impressive list of contributors. James Beilby and Paul Eddy, both professors at Bethel University, have edited several books for the IVP Spectrum series of multiview books and are therefore quite well qualified to edit this volume as well. The flow of the book shows their prowess. This is the fourth multiview book that they have co-edited for IVP, and their experience shows through in the book’s layout from Reformed to Catholic.

 

In addition to this, the book brings together an impressive list of contributors to their viewpoints, drawing some of the best and brightest in modern Christian scholarship to weigh into the issue. Michael Horton and James Bird are both prominent evangelical scholars and capable Reformed thinkers. James D.G. Dunn hardly needs an introduction, being world-renowned in Pauline studies. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen brings a unique perspective as a Finnish Lutheran and professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Gerald O’Collins and Oliver Rafferty well represent the Catholic understanding of Justification from their accomplished perspective.

 

Multiview books generally follow a straightforward outline, and this one is no exception. The basic content of the book is a discussion of the Christian doctrine of justification from five distinct points of view. Contributors each write approximately 25 pages explaining their particular view of justification followed by the other contributors responding to the strengths and weaknesses of the view just explained. This format allows for a dialogical feel to the book, with each author being able to interact with the other views and sharpen their own distinctions from the others by means of rebuttal.

 

Every contribution to this work adds significantly. This begins in the opening chapters penned by Beilby and Eddy, who discuss the historical development of and the current state of the debate on justification before turning the discussion over to the experts in their respective views. I found the opening chapters to be particularly helpful, and the historical development in particular gives readers a sense of the discussion in its appropriate context. Within the current state of the debate, the editors go to lengths to point out how the New Perspective on Paul has impacted the discussion. (57-67) Then, they set out the current “flash points” in the debate, including the significant issue of the necessity of works for justification before God. (68-73)

 

From there, each contribution works along a spectrum from Reformed (and therefore evangelical) to Catholic. Michael Horton espouses a traditional Reformed view focusing on imputation of alien righteousness by faith, while Michael Bird straddles the fence between that and the New Perspective view by focusing on the historia salutis (131-132) and the impact of Gentile-Jewish reapproachment upon a fundamentally Reformed understanding of justification. James D.G. Dunn represents the New Perspective view, that while individual salvation is in view in the NT, “justification” in Paul is more about the “boundary markers” that Israel had which are no longer appropriate in light of Christ’s sacrifice. (191) From there, Kärkkäinen espouses a unique view that combines Lutheranism with the Eastern Orthodox view of theosis, stressing participation in God’s essence. (223-228) Finally, O’Collins and Rafferty finish with the Roman Catholic view of justification as imparted righteousness and ethical conduct. Their contribution is split between an historical view from Augustine to Trent (269-281) and a personal narrative from O’Collins concerning his own journey of thought in his life as a Catholic scholar. (281-290)

 

This treatment on the important doctrine of justification certainly has its share of strengths. Particularly in the issue that sparked the Protestant Reformation, doctrinal dispute can often lead to recrimination and name-calling. There is none of that in this work; instead, the irenic tone is evident throughout each contribution. Even when responding to a diametrically opposed view, the contributors go out of their way to be gracious and encouraging to one another. For instance, O’Collins begins his response to Horton’s Reformed perspective with praise for the entire enterprise. (127) Horton thoughtfully returns the thanks in his response to the Roman Catholic position. (291) These merely serve as examples of the general tone of the book, and Beilby and Eddy deserve commendation for ensuring that the debate does not devolve into a fight.

 

Secondly, the introductory chapters are especially helpful. Beilby and Eddy set the debate within the historical framework from the New Testament through the history of the church, right up to the modern ecumenical movement. (13-52) The framework of the discussion on justification must be its development within the context of theological discussion in the church, and this chapter does an exceedingly good job of fulfilling that need. Once that is accomplished, they set the parameters and important concerns to the issue in its current context, staging the debate to come. They sum up the current status well: “…the doctrine of justification is a contested one at virtually every turn. At stake for many is the defining conviction of the Protestant Reformation. At stake for all concerned is a proper understanding of Scripture and, particularly, the thought of Paul.” (82)

 

The irenic nature and well-framed debate lead to a third strength of this book: ecumenical dialog. While the differences can be stark, engaging Scripture with professing Christians in significant issues shows that dialog can be irenic as well as significant. While the chasm at the end of the day between Evangelical and Catholic theology is still pronounced, seeing the spectrum represented in the viewpoints serves to show that the issue is not black-and-white. The flow of the book from Reformed through NPP and Lutheran to Catholic along a discernible spectrum showcases that spectrum well.

 

Unfortunately, this book has several shortcomings that tend to overshadow its strengths. While it is tempting to seek to defend a view and critique the others within a review, in a multiview book this is not appropriate. Instead, the various views should be well-expressed and understandable to the target audience regardless of which one the reader adopts at the conclusion. 

 

Certainly, this book does not present a Free Grace understanding of justification in that all five views argue in one way or another that works are necessary for final justification at the end of the day.  Thus, if a reader is looking to be encouraged in Free Grace theology this book is not helpful. If instead a reader wanted to know what many scholars are saying, as well as the critique of other writers of each view, then it could have some merit from the perspective of ideas.

 

Ideas aside, there are several structural and approach-related shortcomings.

 

First, the book has significant repetition of content. Within the chapter on the current state of the debate on justification, Beilby and Eddy spend ten pages (57-67) explaining the New Perspective and contemporary responses to it; this would seem to be the purview of Dunn as his contribution to the work rather than the editors. In a similar manner, Horton spends six pages (93-98) within his section critiquing the New Perspective rather than focusing on a thorough explanation of the Reformed understanding of justification. In another place, Rafferty spends over half of the Roman Catholic perspective reiterating the historical evolution of justification dialog already put forth by the editors. (264-281; cf. 13-52) These repetitions are unhelpful in a book that is already short and takes valuable space away from the contributors.

 

Next, the very purpose of the book asks the contributors to “address a wide range of important biblical and theological issues as they present their views.” (9) Attempting to accomplish that goal within only 25 or so pages of presentation is a quixotic project to say the least. Adding to this range, the fact that there are historical issues as well as biblical and theological ones that bear on the debate only exacerbates the problem. Attempting to publish a book that is concise while asking for this amount of detail is too much, and as such the book sides with brevity at the expense of detail.

 

This fact leads to the third shortcoming in the book, namely explanation of terms and ideas. The contributors speed along in their presentations without defining terms, apparently assuming that their readers know their definitions. This is especially concerning given that the book is keyed to discuss a term and therefore its definition, namely justification! Nowhere is this more apparent than in the deification view, where Bird rightly notes in his response that Kärkkäinen never defines what he means by theosis or deification. (250) A reader who is well-read in Eastern Orthodox theology will know theosis well, but the average American reader will not and is therefore left wondering. Likewise, there is a better simple summary of the New Perspective’s view in the introductory chapter (57) than there is in Dunn’s presentation.

 

The challenge with this approach is one of audience. If the book’s intended audience is those who are well-versed in the positions and terminology of various camps on the issue, then the brevity of the treatments causes the book to be unhelpful. For those with significant exposure to the issue there will be little to learn in such brief introductions. On the other hand, for those who are unfamiliar or only just introduced to some of the positions, the lack of guidance on terms and ideas can make the entire presentation inaccessible and make the responses unhelpful.

 

Unfortunately, the shortcomings of this book make it one that I cannot readily recommend. It is certainly not targeted at laypersons, as it naturally assumes that its readers are interested in a technical discussion and have at least some skills with the biblical languages. Many pastors will not have the background in the issues presented to get much out of this book without significant reading beforehand to know terms and positions, particularly of the deification view but also of the New Perspective. Seminarians will likely not find enough here to add to the discussion. Therefore, while the book holds great promise in concept I cannot give it a wholehearted or even a qualified recommendation.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


                                                            


                                                                                                                          June 1, 2012

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus,

 One of my functions as President of the Free Grace Alliance is to respond to the mail.  Each month I receive a variety of letters and e-mails containing comments, and requests regarding the Free Grace Alliance.

The queries usually involve one of two types of questions. Many have ministry questions and are interested in ministry opportunities, looking to network and align themselves with like-minded people from their ministry perspective. This is always a delight to be able to connect people and encourage them to maximize their ministry.

The second topic of interest that comes to my desk usually includes theological questions and often involves questions concerning topics like - dispensationalism. “Does one need to be a dispensationalist to be a member of the Free Grace Alliance?”  Others ask, “Can a person be a member of the Free Grace Alliance if they are not a strict sensationalist?”  Some even ask questions regarding the topics of “Millennial Exclusion Theory,”  “The Nature of Gehenna,” and the belief in “The Partial Rapture Theory.”   And of course everyone’s favorite - “Can I be a Calvinist and be a member of the FGA?”  These types of questions are of great importance theologically and biblically.  And as such, each of us needs to determine what we sense is the teaching of the scriptures.

In terms of the FGA, I tell them to look to our Covenant statement on our website to see what “we believe.”  It is certainly not all of what we believe, but it is what all FGA members do believe. FGA is not a denomination or a congregation. It is somewhat of an association, and is actually more of a conglomeration - an alliance of like-minded people working toward a common purpose.  I sense that FGA has a theological unity without uniformity. We serve as a ministry within diversity, maintaining our unity, as expressed in the FGA Covenant. There is a time to be dogmatic. There is even a time to be “bull-dog-matic,” but there is also a time to allow for difference of opinion.   All that being said - - I welcome your letters.

Please mark your calendar for the FGA National Conference in Dallas/Irving, Texas - October 8-10.  It will be a great opportunity to fellowship with like-minded believers and hear from some excellent speakers.



Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay, Ph.D.
President, FGA


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Letter from the President-May 2012

Greetings FGA Members and Friends,

It is unfortunate that in theological parlance, people often find themselves limited to two perspectives, Calvinism or Arminiansim. In the Christian world and in the theological world as well, many people still do not realize the third option is Free Grace Theology. And we must make sure that people know and understand that third option.

Free Grace Theology is a theological system. The best theological system is the one that deals with the most data and brings the fewest assumptions to its system. Free Grace Theology at its core is concerned with Soteriology or the doctrine of Salvation. And so it is essential that we have an understanding of the term "Justification" for it is critical to understanding God's work and His gift.

Let me call to your attention a new book titled  "Justification-Five Views" (IVP 2011). As the title indicates, it is a multi-view and multi-author book following the helpful format of a point - counterpoint or writer - responder presentation. Besides being an excellent book to understand what is going on in the academic world, which eventually trickles down to the pulpit and then to the people, this book is of great concern for those who hold to a Free Grace Theology. It is interesting that all of the views either clearly or in some slight camouflaged form, hold to a view concerning the relationship of faith and works that leads to a Lordship Salvation view of the gospel. It also appears that for each of the views, the doctrine of assurance is significantly based on works as the authenticating agent in assurance. This is to be expected in the chapter by a Catholic theologian and the Classic Reformed view as well. But the Neo Reformed view and the ever so close "New Pauline Perspective" view also move in this direction. The unique Theosis view of the Eastern Church ends up in the same camp, but its emphasis is far less focused. Although all of these views have different ways of dealing with the exegetical, theological and historical data; at the end of the day they all lead the pastoral reader and eventually the sermonic hearer to a conclusion and a communication of the gospel that is less than clear.

Howard Hendricks used to say, "Leaders are Readers and Readers are Leaders." This is ever so true today with the communication and technology age in full swing. We do not have a choice about whether we are going to read. The only choice is what we are going to read. Let me suggest that you might want to check this book out--- that is, if you are a leader. It is not an easy read, but it is a most important topic for us to understand.

The wisdom from the past is still good for the present: "The men of Issachar understood the times and therefore knew how to respond".

One of the ways to respond is to "take it to them."  In Phoenix this past weekend, Grace Line Ministry, of which I am president, held its 6th annual Spiritual Life Conference. We had over 230 people hear six presentations on "The Cost of Discipleship." Topics included the Mindset, Methods, Menace, Models and Motivation for living the Christian life. Three of the four speakers for the conference were FGA members and three FGA council members participated in the conference. 
Let me pose a question to you. What could you do to make a spiritual life conference happen in your city? Let me encourage you to get a few pastors together to brainstorm using sanctified common sense and prayer and see if it could happen. If FGA can help you with input or resources let us know. Game On!

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay, Ph.D.
President, FGA
_______________________________
Save the Date

I hope you will make plans to join us at the FGA National Conference in Dallas, Texas October 8-10. This year's theme is Discipleship. Plenary speakers and workshop leaders include Dave Anderson, Charlie Bing, Jody Dillow, Bob Tebow and many more. Our special guest and banquet speaker this year is Dr. Mark Bailey, President of DTS.



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Letter from the FGA President-April 2012




A Greeting of Grace to those of the FGA,

In case any of you wondered if the FGA is necessary let me assure you that it is. One only needs to read some of the latest Christian books to see that the fight the Apostle Paul had is one that we are still engaged with to this very hour.  This is evidenced in two recent books. Both come from associate pastors under Dr. Mark Dever, Ph.D., Cambridge University, who is the Senior Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Dever has created the “9 Marks of a Healthy Church Ministry” and a series of books written to help churches in a variety of ways regarding both theology and ministry.

The first book is by Greg Gilbert, B.A., Yale and M.Div. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called “What is the Gospel?” The foreword is by D.A. Carson and it is endorsed by many of the “who’s who” from the reformed theology arena. This is a small slender volume that is very attractive to look at and easy to read. It articulates the typical reformed view of faith, repentance and confession for justification. It also describes that assurance is necessarily evidenced by fruit in the life of the believer. The second book is focused more on assurance as is evidenced by its title; “Am I Really a Christian?” by Mike McKinley, M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary. This book is also highly endorsed from the reformed wing.  A few of the chapter titles will give you the feel for the direction of the book. 

“You are not a Christian if you enjoy sin.”
“You are not a Christian if you do not endure to the end.”
“You are not a Christian if you love your stuff.”
“Can I ever really know if I am a Christian?”

I am sure that you can guess the answer to that last question contained in the book. Both of these books are smooth and easy, as well as passionate about their position and the desire to warn the church against cheap grace.

Speaking of “Cheap Grace” Dietrich Bonhoeffer is back in the news with the excellent biography by Eric Metaxas. The foreword of the book is by Pastor Tim Keller. As you might remember it was Bonhoeffer’s seminal work, “The Cost of Discipleship”, that caused some confusion concerning the clarity of the Gospel with his vocabulary of “Cheap Grace” and the need for a costly committed faith.   Pastor Tim Keller in the foreword declares that the gospel is about costly grace not cheap grace and that true conversion will elicit a change on the inside that will be evidenced on the outside. The gospel of costly grace “will change what we do and how we live.”  

I hope that you can see that we are still in need of a clear presentation of the gift of eternal life based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. To this end the FGA exists. If you are reading this letter I assume that you are part of the team that is committed to keeping the gospel free and clear. Many of our members are engaged in ministries to that end. Please pray for Dr. Charlie Bing (Grace Life) as he will be traveling this month to Finland to train pastors in grace theology. Pray for me (Grace Line) as we will hold our annual spiritual life conference this month. This year’s theme is: “The Cost of Discipleship Living Today in Light of Tomorrow.”  Pray for Sam Sacco as he is planting a new grace church in Goodyear, AZ. These are just a few of the ministry activities this month from the many of you who are part of the FGA.

Let me encourage you to mark your calendar for the FGA National conference October 8-10 in Dallas, TX.  We have many exciting plenary and workshop speakers and we are pleased to announce that Dr. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Seminary,   will be our banquet speaker and will also speak at one of the plenary sessions.

Finally, this month we will celebrate Easter.  It is interesting that the saddest and the gladdest days are just three days apart.  So much can happen in three days.  It was during those three days that Jesus,”in order to test the limits of life needed to touch the borders of death.” As author Carl Henry said, “Jesus planted the only durable rumor of hope amid widespread despair and doubt of a hopeless world.”

Proclaim the hope---It’s Free!  Make sure you proclaim it clearly!

"Tomb thou shalt not hold Him longer
Death is strong, but life is stronger
Stronger than the dark with the light
Stronger than wrong with the right
Faith and hope triumphant say
Christ will rise on Easter day.
                                                  ~ Phillip Brooks ~


Serving Him with You
Until He comes for us,

Fred Chay, Ph.D.
President, FGA