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Chuck Swindoll: Rewriting the Reformation

Jul 23, 2008
In Chuck Swindoll's defining work, The Grace Awakening, he presents himself as wielding "the torch of freedom" as formerly held by protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther. In this Swindoll leads his readers to think that by following him and his Grace Awakening doctrines that they're being faithful to the Reformation doctrines of faith alone and grace. Chuck Swindoll says:

Human achievement must accompany sincere faith before you can be certain of your salvation. We continue to hear that "different gospel" to this day 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 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).

True, the "spark that lit the reformation," as Swindoll states, was Sola Fide or faith alone. However, the Reformers did not understand their theological terms as Chuck Swindoll does. Swindoll's understanding of grace maintains, "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 confidence in the inevitable salvation of even the most corrupt necessitates his elimination of the biblical and Reformation joining of works to genuine faith.

Essentially, 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).

In his bookFaith Alone Dr. R.C. Sproul 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." In opposition to this Dr. Swindoll insists it is heresy and a different gospel to believe that works must accompany saving faith. And this he does as if he were representing the Reformation!

Plainly, Chuck Swindoll leads the uninformed reader to believe that The Grace Awakening is a book recovering the lost truths of the Reformation from the insidious hands of contemporary legalists who have perverted them. In truth, however, Luther himself tenaciously fought against the understanding of grace and faith presented 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.'s book, The Lying Promise, examines the views of Charles R. Swindoll. The Lying Promise also debunks false dogmas like eternal security and the carnal Christian.
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