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Chuck Swindoll: Reformation Revisionism

Jul 5, 2008
In his magnum opus, The Grace Awakening, Charles R. (Chuck) Swindoll presents himself as taking up "the torch of freedom" as brandished by protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther. In this he leads his readers to believe that by following him and his teaching in The Grace Awakening that they are being true to historical Reformation teaching on the doctrines of grace and faith alone. Consider:

"Achievement must accompany sincere faith ... We continue to hear that "different gospel" and it is a lie. It is heresy. It is antithetical to the true message that lit the spark to the Reformation: Sola Fide - faith alone" (The Grace Awakening, p.86).

"When the sixteenth-century European Reformers wielded the torch of freedom ...grace was the battle cry: salvation by grace alone a walk of faith without fear of eternal damnation" (The Grace Awakening, p. xiv).

Indeed, the "spark that lit the reformation" was Sola Fide or faith alone. However, the Reformers did not define their terms as Chuck Swindoll does. Swindoll's understanding of grace promises, "regardless of how you choose to live, you can't live so bad that God says to you, 'you're no longer mine'" (Shedding Light On Our Dark Side, tape sld 1A). Swindoll's belief regarding the final salvation of even the most reprobate necessitates his elimination of the biblical (as well as the Reformation) linking of works to genuine faith.

Ultimately, Dr. Swindoll joins himself to the Reformers leaving the unread student with the conclusion that his views on faith and grace are in line with those of the Reformers, but they are not. Contrary to Swindoll, Luther believed that works or "human achievement," as Swindoll says, can not be separated from saving faith. Luther wrote:

"Faith must of course be sincere. It must be a faith that performs good works through love. If faith lacks love it is not true faith. Thus the Apostle bars the way of hypocrites to the kingdom of Christ on all sides...Idle faith is not justifying faith. In this terse manner Paul presents the whole life of a Christian. Inwardly it consists in faith towards God, outwardly in love towards our fellow-men" (Luther, Commentary On Galatians).

R.C. Sproul, in his book Faith Alone, wrote: "The Reformers saw saving faith as necessarily, inevitably, and immediately yielding the fruit of works. Martin Luther insisted that the faith that justifies is a fides viva, a vital and living faith that yields the fruit of works." Contrary to this, Chuck Swindoll believes it is a lie and another gospel to insist that works must accompany genuine faith. And he does this as though he were speaking for the Reformers!

Plainly, Chuck Swindoll leads the uninformed reader to view The Grace Awakening as book recovering the lost truths of the Reformation from the devious hands of present-day legalists who have corrupted them. When the truth is that Luther himself aggressively argued against the conception of grace and faith extolled in Swindoll's book.

Like those who rewrite history to bolster their agendas, Chuck Swindoll has changed the history of the Reformation to coincide with his views. Does Swindoll teach that "justifying faith is a vital faith that necessarily yields the fruit of works" as did Luther? Does Swindoll insist that "whoever doesn't do good works is without faith," as did the Reformers? No he doesn't, rather, Chuck Swindoll teaches the opposite: that there is no external proof of salvation or spirituality and that it is heresy to maintain that works must accompany faith. And he does this in the name of Reformation teaching! Is this not dishonest? How can this be anything short of historical revisionism?
About the Author
Daniel LaLond Jr. is a Christian, a seminary graduate and a minister. His book, The Lying Promise, tests the teaching of Chuck Swindoll. The Lying Promise also dismantles false teaching inside the Christian church.
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