Chuck Swindoll: Reformation Revisionism

by Daniel LaLond Jr. - Date: 2008-07-08 - Word Count: 589 Share This!

In The Grace Awakening, his magnum opus, Dr. Charles R. (Chuck) Swindoll presents himself as fanning the flame of "the torch of freedom" as originally held by protestant Reformers like Martin Luther. In this he convinces his followers that by trusting him and his teaching in The Grace Awakening that they are in line with the historic Reformation teachings of grace and faith alone. Swindoll wrote:

"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 sixteenth-century European Reformers raised the torch of freedom and withstood the religious legalists of their era, grace was the battle cry: salvation by grace alone a walk of faith without fear of eternal damnation" (The Grace Awakening, p. xiv).

Dr. Swindoll is right, the "spark that lit the reformation," was Sola Fide or faith alone. The Reformers, however, did not explain their terms as does Dr. Swindoll. You see, his understanding of grace insists, that "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 preconception regarding the ultimate salvation of even the most profligate obligates him to eliminate the Reformation (and biblical) marriage 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 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 invent history to buttress to their agenda, Chuck Swindoll has revised Reformation history. Does Swindoll believe that "the faith that justifies is a living faith that always 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? Rather, Chuck Swindoll teaches the opposite: that it is heresy to maintain that works must accompany faith. And he does this as if he accurately represents the Reformation! Is this not dishonest? How can this be anything other than revising history?

Related Tags: faith, bible, grace, salvation, gospel, sin, martin luther, justification, repentance, reformation, chuck swindoll, insight for living

Daniel LaLond Jr. is a Christian, a seminary graduate and a pastor. His book, The Lying Promise, tests the teaching of Chuck Swindoll. The Lying Promise also analyzes teaching like eternal security and the carnal Christian.

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