The spread of non-lordship teaching on repentance should concern evangelical churches today as it calls many essential New Testament teachings into question. Non-lordship salvation proponents have difficulty making sense of the biblical doctrine of regeneration and its place in salvation as their theology envisions regenerate Christians living altogether pagan lives. Hodges makes this clear when he says “though genuine repentance may precede salvation . . . it need not do so.” Non-lordship teaching on repentance leaves open the possibility that someone could be elect but not regenerate. Hodges “radical disjunction between saving faith and repentance . . . creates a Christian who is hostile to God, who cannot submit to God’s law, and who does not belong to Christ” (contra Rom. 8:1-13).
In addition, Ryrie claims that, “a believer could come to the place of not believing, yet God will not disown him.” Thus, the radical separation between repentance and faith results in little if any criteria for discerning which people in a church are believers. Such teaching would significantly harm the health of a church, specifically in the area of church discipline. It is difficult to make sense of how non-lordship proponents would conduct church discipline. How could a church justify treating one as a “gentile and a tax collector” who the church, according to their theology, believes to be regenerate? Therefore, the lordship position on repentance presents both a more consistent theological front and a healthier view of the church than the non-lordship position.
While non-lordship proponents would make a radical separation of repentance and faith in the ordo salutis (order of salvation), it is clear that Scripture makes no such radical separation as both repentance and faith are inseparably wed together in the gospel call. Furthermore, those in the New Testament who did not exhibit lives marked by repentance are to be treated as unbelievers (Matt. 18:17, 1 Cor. 5:1-2, 1 John 2:19). The necessary connection between repentance and faith together as the human response to the gospel call clearly reflects the biblical data. Neglect of this essential connection reflects departure from biblical soteriology and ecclesiology. The lordship position on repentance must be maintained in order for the gospel to be rightly preached and for the church to rightly reflect the glory of God.
Hodges, Absolutely Free!, 146. It is at this point that Hodges significantly departs from traditional reformed theology as much biblical teaching on salvation is modified to refer to fellowship with God. Hodges cites Calvin in defense of his view that faith apart from repentance is the lone condition for salvation. However Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion wrote, “Can true repentance exist without faith? By no means! But although they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished . . . repentance and faith though constantly linked together, are only to be united not confounded.” Thus Hodges fails to accurately portray Calvin’s teaching that faith and repentance are inseparably connected. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed. John T. McNeill. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. The Library of Christian Classics, Vols 21. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960). III.iii.5.
Nettles, “Review of Absolutely Free!“, 244.
Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 141. Ryrie grounds this on the assertion that “believe” is almost always in the aorist tense.