Do Believer’s Have It?
How Does It Relate To Prophecy?
A Review of the book, The
Reign of the Servant Kings
A book by Joseph C. Dillow entitled, The Reign of
the Servant Kings,1 has caused a considerable stir in theological
circles. Although it deals primarily with the issue of eternal security, it
contains some major prophetic implications — which is the reason I have decided
to review it.
Dillow asserts confidently that he has found the solution
to the age old conflict between Arminians and Calvinists. His book left me totally
The book is anything but a joy to read. It is long winded,
repetitious and tedious. It is also painful to read because it is full of agonizing
attempts to explain that the Scriptures do not mean what they say.
A Third Path?
Dillow is a Calvinist. In fact, he is really a hyper-Calvinist
because he believes that even Calvin was not true to his fundamental propositions.
Incredibly, he accuses Calvin of teaching salvation by works!
He begins the book with a review of the two basic views
of eternal security. He states that the Arminian view of conditional security
allows for a believer to fall from grace and be eternally condemned.2
He points out that the traditional Calvinist view is that a person cannot fall
from grace, but the true test of salvation is whether or not the person perseveres
to the end.3
Dillow asserts that both views constitute works salvation,
and therefore, both are wrong (p. 383). Interestingly, even though he is a Calvinist,
Dillow states that "if one had to choose between Arminian and Calvinist
interpretations of the relevant passages, the writer’s opinion is that the Arminian
view is eminently more successful and true to the text" (p. 14). He goes
on to say that, fortunately, one does not have to chose between either of the
interpretations because he has developed a third approach that he believes is
the biblical and "mediating path" (p. 14).
Dillow’s New Theory
From that point on Dillow pretty well ignores the Arminian
viewpoint. The rest of the book consists of a withering attack on traditional
Calvinism because of its assertion that a truly born-again person will persevere
to the end. What Dillow proceeds to do is carry the fundamental assumptions
of Calvinism to their logical absurdity.
Dillow’s reasoning goes like this:
1) God has predestined who will be saved and lost.
2) Those predestined to be saved are saved without
condition — not even faith or repentance is required.
3) The faith of those saved (if any) is a gift
of God, not an act of will, because Man is too depraved to exercise faith
on his own.
4) Faith and obedience are not related, therefore
faith does not necessarily produce obedience.
5) Since the saved are saved, there is nothing
they can do to lose their salvation.
6) To argue that the fruit of the Spirit must be
manifested in their lives as evidence of their salvation is to argue they
are saved by works.
7) A saved person can live a life of debauchery
and still be saved. In fact "a saved person can even publicly renounce
Christ and persist in sin or unbelief to the point of physical death and
still be saved" (p. 311).
If you consider the last point above to be shocking, consider
this statement: "Apparently, true Christians, due to their sin, can ‘have
no part’ with Christ (John 13:8), can be unforgiven (1 John 1:9), and can be
outside His love" (John 15:10). He reaches this astounding conclusion because
he says that none of the scriptures noted in parentheses apply to unbelievers.
Argumentation through Spiritualization
The length of the book (649 pages) is due to the fact
that the author goes to great lengths to try to explain away the meaning of
every passage in the Bible that contradicts his extreme theory. He does this
by spiritualizing, trivializing, or re-translating passages to give them a novel
meaning. Here are two classic examples:
1) Matthew 25:12 — "Truly, I say to
you, I do not know you." Dillow argues that all this statement means
is "I do not appreciate you," but it certainly does not imply
that those to whom it is addressed will be shut out of heaven (pp. 389-396).
2) Matthew 22:13 — "Bind him hand and
foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be
weeping and gnashing of teeth." Dillow denies that these words relate
to the unsaved or to a person who loses his salvation. He argues they were
spoken to a saved person who will live eternally in heaven! The "outer
darkness" is not Hell; it is just the "darkness outside"
the banquet hall where the marriage feast of the Lamb will be held (between
Jesus the bridegroom and His bride, the Church). "No literal darkness
. . . is intended," says Dillow. The "weeping and gnashing of
teeth" is just hyperbole for the profound regret that certain sinful
Christians will experience when they are not allowed to participate in the
wedding feast. It just means they will be standing on the outside of the
banquet hall looking in (pp. 350-351).
I am not making this up. I know it sounds like Alice
in Wonderland, but hang on, because it gets even stranger. Dillow realizes
the repulsive nature of what he is advocating, and he anticipates that many
will be tempted to toss his book in the fireplace. So, he writes, "It is
possible that part of the problem [of not believing his theory] is that many
assume that it is faith that saves us. If that is so, then if we stop believing,
we would no longer be saved" (p. 354). And all the time I thought the Apostle
Paul said we are "saved by grace through faith" (Ephesians 2:8).
Who is a Christian?
One problem that emerges from all this is how do you discern
whether or not a person is a true Christian? Dillow responds by saying, "We
do not discern this by an examination of his fruits or an assessment of his
grief over sin or a measurement of his desire to have fellowship with God"
(p. 284). Can you believe that statement? It appears to be antinomianism gone
to seed! (Antinomianism is the belief that Christians are free from the moral
obligations of the law due to grace.)
Dillow can’t quite make up his mind on this point. In
one place he argues that the way to discern a true Christian is to ask him theological
questions! For example, he proposes asking if the person is trusting in Christ
or something else (p. 284). But in other places, he says a person can be saved
who has renounced Christ! So, he finally ends up arguing that we should stop
trying to discern who are true Christians because it is really impossible to
know. After all, he points out, "a total unbeliever can live a long life
full of good works" (p. 308).
Dillow’s extreme theology compels him to conclude that
there is no way to discern whether or not a person is a Christian. How contrary
this is to the Scriptures:
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if
we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him,"
and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him.
— 1 John 2:3-4
By this the children of God and the children of the
devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of
God, nor the one who does not love his brother. — 1 John 3:10
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from
God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does
not love does not know God, for God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8
And what about the Christian who ends up renouncing Jesus
as Savior and Lord? Can such a person die in unbelief and still be saved, as
Dillow asserts? Not according to the Bible. Paul wrote, "If we deny Him,
He also will deny us" (2 Timothy 2:12).
Where is the biblical proof that unrepentant sinners can
be saved? Dillow points to Saul and Solomon! He argues that since Saul was once
saved, he was always saved, and that continued to be true even when he ended
up turning his back on God, living a carnal lifestyle, trafficking in demons,
and committing suicide. In his summation of Saul’s life, Dillow never bothers
to point out that God specifically withdrew His Holy Spirit from him (1 Samuel
16:14). I believe this withdrawal was a clear indication of Saul’s damnation.
I believe David realized this, and I believe that’s the reason that, following
his adultery with Bathsheba, he cried out to God: "Do not take Your Holy
Spirit from me!" (Psalm 51:11). Because of David’s sincere repentance,
God did not withdraw His Spirit from him.
Regarding Solomon, Dillow points to the fact that he wallowed
in sin and became a rampant idolater, yet he argues he must have been saved
because "he wrote three books of Scripture which reveal divine wisdom available
only to the regenerate mind" (p. 319). Again, Dillow conveniently forgets
to mention that Solomon repented before he died, calling his lifestyle "empty
vanity," and calling on his heirs to "fear God and keep His commandments
... for God will bring every act to judgment . . ." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
The Fate of the Unrepentant Saved
What will be the fate of those who are saved but who refuse
to repent? According to Dillow, it will be a slap on the wrist compared to the
fate of the lost who will be consigned to Hell. The unrepentant saved will suffer
from the consequences of their sins in this life. After death, they will suffer
embarrassment at the judgment seat of Jesus when they receive no special rewards.
They will be excluded from participating in the marriage feast of the Lamb.
And they will not be allowed to participate in the Millennial reign of Jesus
But when the Millennium concludes, and the Eternal State
begins, with the redeemed living in a new Jerusalem on a new earth, the carnal,
disciplined Christians will be restored to full fellowship in God’s kingdom,
and He will wipe away their tears (p. 531).
In other words, Dillow constructs a sort of Protestant
Purgatory for the "unrepentant who are saved." They will be cast into
darkness, experience deep regret, and be denied participation in the Lord’s
reign. Then after having been punished for their lack of repentance, they will
be restored to full fellowship.
Dillow asserts that those unfaithful Christians who never
repent in this life will do so at the judgment seat of Christ when every knee
will bow. "And, having confessed their sin, they, like the prodigal son,
will be restored to eternal fellowship with their King" (pp. 530-531).
If that doesn’t constitute second chance salvation after death, then I don’t
know what does!
Dillow concludes that all Christians are heirs of God,
but not all are co-heirs with Christ (p. 553). Only those who repented in this
life and lived obedient, faithful lives will partake in the Millennial reign
of Jesus. They will be the super-saints, whom Dillow refers to as "The
Partakers" (p. 585).
My Evaluation of Dillow’s Theology
In my opinion, Dillow’s theology blasphemes the Holy Spirit
by holding that spiritual regeneration can be so inadequate that it may never
be manifested in any way in a person’s life. It turns God into a monster who
saves arbitrarily, regardless of faith, repentance, obedience, or perseverance.
For all we know, from Dillow’s perverted theology, Hitler was saved! Finally,
his theology reduces Man to a helpless victim of God’s arbitrary selection and
renders his moral choices meaningless. This is a theology that makes a mockery
of what Christianity is all about.
Dillow’s preposterous concept of salvation reminds me
of an incident in Alice in Wonderland when Alice tells the White
Queen that her statements are impossible to believe. "One can’t believe
in impossible things," Alice complains. To which the Queen replies, "I
daresay you haven’t had much practice. Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as
six impossible things before breakfast."
Where I Stand
I believe that salvation comes by grace through faith
(Ephesians 2:8) and not by some arbitrary choice of God, for God is no respecter
of persons (Acts 10:34). I believe that faith comes through hearing the Word
of God (Romans 10:17) and that saving faith is always evidenced in the fruit
of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and in good works (Ephesians 2:10 and James
2:14, 20, 24, 26). As Haddon W. Robinson has put it, "Just as thunder follows
lightening, good works always follow true faith. We are saved by faith alone,
but faith that saves is never alone."4
I believe the predestination of God means that those who
respond to His grace through faith are predestined to be saved (John 6:40).
I believe God has both a perfect will and a permissive will. In the Scriptures
this is illustrated in the fact that "God does not wish for any to perish,
but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Yet, He is willing to
allow those to perish who do not respond to Him in faith and repent (John 3:36).
Man’s free will operates within the boundaries of God’s
perfect will and His permissive will. I believe God created Man with free will,
and just as a person can decide whether or not to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior,
that same person can decide whether or not to continue trusting in the Lord.
In other words, I believe a person can stop believing (John 15:2, 6, Romans
2:6-8, Colossians 1:22-23, Hebrews 10:26-27, and 2 Peter 2:20-21), and I believe
that if a person stops believing, that person is no longer an heir of salvation.
As Dillow himself expresses it, "If [faith saves us], then if we stop believing,
we would no longer be saved" (p. 354).
I really do not have any great problem with traditional
Calvinism, even though I disagree with it.5 The reason can be illustrated
in the following story.
Suppose there is a reprobate who stays drunk, can’t hold
a job, cheats on his wife, and abuses his kids. One day he hears the Gospel
and responds in faith, accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior. His life is transformed.
He stops drinking and starts treating his wife and children with respect. He
gets a job, pays off his bills, and becomes a respected member of his community.
Then, one day, many years later, he falls off the wagon, loses his job, deserts
his family, and ends up lying in a gutter choking to death on his own vomit.
The traditional Calvinist would say that because he failed
to persevere, he was never saved in the first place. The traditional Arminian
would say he fell from grace. Both would agree that he went to Hell. So, when
you get to the bottom line, the traditional Calvinist and Arminian both agree.
This is not the case with Dillow’s "Third Way."
He and those who agree with his extreme Calvinism,6 would argue that
the reprobate was saved regardless of how he ended up. To them, belief is a
moment in time, and not a continuing state. Dillow’s concept of belief flies
in the face of repeated warnings in the Scriptures that a believer must persevere
to the end.7
The Assurance of the Believer
I was raised in a hyper-Arminian church that taught a
person could be saved one moment and lost the next and then be saved again.
Every sin resulted in spiritual death. We were spiritual schizophrenics, never
knowing whether we were saved or not. We believed that if a person died with
one unconfessed sin on their conscience, they would burn forever in Hell. Needless
to say, I never yearned for the return of Jesus, for I was afraid He would come
on one of my bad days instead of one of my good days!
I praise God for the day I discovered I could be sure
of my salvation — when I discovered there is no condemnation for those in Christ
Jesus (Romans 8:1); that there is a continual cleansing from sin for those who
are walking in the light (1 John 1:7); that God has forgiven and forgotten my
sins (Hebrews 8:12); that I can know that I am saved (1 John 5:13); and that
I can have confidence regarding the day of judgment (1 John 4:17). But my confidence
and my assurance is based on a faith relationship that must persevere to the
end of my life (Hebrews 3:14).
Does that constitute works salvation? Not at all. I was
justified by grace through faith. My sanctification is occurring in the same
way, by walking in faith, trusting in Jesus and allowing His Holy Spirit to
shape and mold me. Salvation from beginning to end is a work of grace through
faith, but it is a process that I must allow through my free will and my faith.
God is not manufacturing robots. He is developing relationships.
Praise God for His glorious grace expressed in the gift
of His precious Son who died for our sins!
1. Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of
the Servant Kings (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992) 649
2. For a comprehensive presentation of
the radical Arminian view, see The Believer’s Conditional Security,
by Daniel D. Corner (Washington, PA: Evangelical Outreach Publishers, 2000)
801 pages. This book is as extreme as Dillow’s, but in the opposite direction.
It is thorough and thought provoking, but it is very mean-spirited. The author
often seems to be more interested in vilifying the people he disagrees with
than in dealing with their arguments.
3. I think it is interesting to note that
although the Calvinist doctrine of "Once Saved, Always Saved" has
been identified in the popular mind primarily with Baptists, two of the most
profound books of the 20th Century which advocated the Arminian viewpoint were
both authored by Baptists. The comprehensive one that has become a classic is
entitled, Life in the Son (Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers,
second edition, 1961) 380 pages. It was written by Robert Shank, a Baptist pastor.
The book contains a lengthy introduction that was written by Dr. William W.
Adams who was Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In that introduction, Dr. Adams
states, "I consider Life in the Son one of the most significant
books in this generation. I consider it possible that the judgment of time may
prove it to be one of the most important books ever written." The second
book, written by Dr. Dale Moody, was a commentary on the book of Hebrews. It
is titled, Apostasy: A Study in the Epistle to the Hebrews and in Baptist
History (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishers, 1997) 84 pages. Dr.
Moody was a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when he wrote
4. Haddon W. Robinson in an article entitled
"Lightning and Thunder," from Our Daily Bread (March,
April, May 2000) published by RBC Ministries of Grand Rapids, MI. It is the
devotional article for Saturday, March 11.
5. An excellent presentation of the traditional
Calvinist view can be found in The Gospel According to Jesus by
John F. MacArthur, Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, revised
edition, 1994) 304 pages. This book infuriated the hyper-Calvinists who quickly
dubbed MacArthur’s thesis as "Lordship Salvation."
6. Modern teachers who hold to Dillow’s
extreme Calvinism (but who may not agree with all his prophetic conclusions)
include Charles Ryrie, Charles Stanley, and Bob George — among others.
7. For warnings against possible apostasy
by believers, see: Romans 8:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Galatians 5:16-24;
Galatians 6:7-9; Philippians 2:12; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 4:1, 16; 2
Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 3:6, 14; James 1:12-16; and 1 Peter 1:17.