June 25, 2019

What About Charles Stanley and Eternal Security?

By Steven Youngblood, Pastor

Other than Billy Graham, perhaps there is no other Baptist leader in the world that is more well-known than Dr. Charles Stanley of First Baptist Church in Atlanta.  His television ministry and books have been most helpful to multitudes of evangelicals, and many Christians tune in to his daily radio ministry known as "In Touch."  Because of his appeal to professing believers of various denominations, he exerts a great influence upon the thinking of multitudes throughout Christendom.  His warm and compassionate demeanor conveyed through the television screen has endeared him to millions who are desirous of living sincere Christian lives.

Dr. Stanley published a book entitled Eternal Security in 1990.  Realizing that there are many groups that do not believe that the Bible teaches eternal security, the reader would expect that the author would give sound exegesis of crucial passages that are debated by both sides, and that he would clearly delineate the whole counsel of God as it relates to salvation. Pastors would hope to find from such a respected authority a dependable resource on such an important doctrine that they could recommend to their congregations.  Dr. Stanley's book, sad to say, is more perplexing and confusing on salvation than it is enlightening and edifying.  By the time a pastor comes to the end of the book, he finds himself disturbed by the author's teachings on salvation and eternal security.  That is, the pastor is disturbed if he believes that true salvation includes discipleship, holiness, and sanctification, and that these items are inevitable in genuine conversions.  However, if a pastor feels that these results are optional -- rather than essential --then he will have no problem with Dr. Stanley's teachings. 

Before a reader begins to read, interpret, and digest the teachings of an author, he needs to be aware of those who have influenced the writer in the development of his beliefs.  Such can easily be discerned by being alert to references in both the text and footnotes to other authors who are quoted as "authorities."  On numerous occasions, Dr. Stanley refers to the writings of Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, and Lewis S. Chafer -- men who have exerted a great influence on evangelicalism with their "nonlordship" and "carnal-Christian" teachings.  The extent to which these men have molded the soteriological thoughts of Dr. Stanley is readily apparent as you compare their writings with his own.  It is disconcerting to realize that Dr. Stanley has relied upon the writings of these modern-day authors who have concocted a new type of gospel that allows men and women to profess faith in Christ, while at the same time continuing in their former sins.  One searches in vain to find any references in Eternal Security to godly men of the past who greatly impacted their generation for Christ by their godly preaching and writing.  How different Dr. Stanley's theology and writings would be if he were to immerse himself in the writings of men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles H. Spurgeon, James P. Boyce, John Gill, John Owen, John Broadus, and others.

This brief article will not be able to deal in-depth with the many assertions that Dr. Stanley makes in his book, nor quote extensively from the book to establish the context of each statement, since only brief quotations are allowed in critical reviews or articles. The reader may establish the validity of the following arguments by reading Eternal Security for himself.  If it seems that Dr. Stanley is being quoted out of context, the reader may verify the truth of a statement by reading the entire context from the quoted page.

Chapter eight of Eternal Security is entitled "For Those Who Stop Believing," an intriguing heading that would make one think that Dr. Stanley must be talking about false professors who eventually return to their old lifestyle and forsake Christ -- like the dog that returns to its own vomit (2 Peter 2:22).  However, it soon becomes apparent that Dr. Stanley is referring to a category of believers whom he believes are truly saved, even though they later choose to stop believing in Christ! Such an assertion is mind-boggling in its ramifications upon local churches and their supposed converts.  Let us quote from the book:

The Bible clearly teaches that God's love for His people is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand. (p.74).

As certain men in Jesus' day declared that they had seen strange things by viewing His miracles, so we must say that we have heard strange things when we encounter such statements as quoted above.  What does Dr. Stanley mean when he says that an individual may "walk away from the faith," and, yet, still be saved?!  Does that mean that men like Judas Iscariot, Simon Magus, and Demas maintained their heavenly citizenship in spite of their apostasy?  If a man abandons his wife by walking away from her -- thereby breaking his vows of a lifelong commitment -- both the judge and the deserted spouse consider the relationship to be abrogated.  A divorce finalizes the broken relationship, and the two partners are no longer considered to be "in love" with one another.  The actions of the departing husband reveal that his commitment to his wife was superficial.  He has found "greener pastures" that are more satisfying to his own selfish interests, and he feels no qualms of conscience in abandoning the woman he professed to love.  Noone would suggest that the relationship was still intact after the wayfaring husband walked away from his wife.  

That being the case in physical relationships, how can it be thought God-honoring to suggest that an apostate (one who walks away from the faith) is still a member of God's family in a spiritual relationship?  Such reasoning is totally contradictory to the teachings of Christ and the apostles!  Such does not magnify God's love, as Dr. Stanley would lead us to believe.  On the contrary, such a "love" would be an unholy love that makes allowance for spiritual adultery, apostasy, and permanent ungodliness.  Such a thought should be shocking!  Dr. Stanley has exalted the love of God above His holiness, justice, and righteousness.  We must not "harp" on one string.  All of God's attributes must be taken into consideration when we interpret any portion of God's Word.  Isaiah 6:3 reveals that the heavenly hosts are praising the holiness of God, with their faces covered.  Isaiah did not hear the seraphim crying to one another, "Love,love, love, is the LORD of hosts."  No, he heard them magnifying God's holiness. Is the love of God magnified by suggesting that professors who walk away from the faith are kept secure by a loving God?  One thing is obvious:  Such a love does not hold people accountable for their professions and actions, but makes an amazing allowance for sinful indulgence.

Consider the following thoughts of the noted J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), well-known for his classic book on the doctrine of holiness:

There is a school of theology rising up in this day, which appears to me most eminently calculated to promote infidelity, to help the devil, and to ruin souls.  It comes to us, like Joab to Amasa, with the highest professions of charity, liberality, and love.  God is all mercy and love, according to this theology.  His holiness and justice are completely left out of sight!  Hell is never spoken of in this theology:  its talk is all of heaven!  Damnation is never mentioned:  it is treated as an impossible thing, all men and women are to be saved!  Everybody who believes anything has faith!  Everybody who thinks anything has the Spirit!  Everybody is right!  Nobody is wrong!  Nobody is to blame for any action he may commit!  It is the result of his position!  It is the effect of circumstances!  He is not accountable for his opinions, any more than the color of his skin!

Obviously, not all of Ryle's quote would be applicable to the ministry of Charles Stanley, but Ryle's references to a weakened theology and lack of accountability would most definitely apply to Stanley's view of assurance for all professors of faith in Jesus Christ.  

Whereas Dr. Stanley allows for serious defections from the gospel by professing believers not to affect their standing before God, the apostle John sets before us another option concerning such "AWOL" believers:  "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us:  but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1 John 2:19).  The Bible makes it clear that not all who call Jesus "Lord" are true believers.  The parable of the Sower and the Seed should abundantly testify to the truth that there will be false professions of faith that make changes in the lives of people for a time, but will prove counterfeit by defection at a later time. 

We wonder if Charles Stanley really understands what he is saying when he states that even those who walk away from the faith are in no danger of being cast off by a loving God.  Consider what it means to walk away from the faith by looking at the history of Israel in the wilderness.  At various times, certain of the Israelites wanted to walk away from the people of God that were temporarily stationed in the wilderness, and return to Egypt.  They wanted to go back to their old way of living, their former pleasures, and their Egyptian enjoyments.  To do so would entail turning their backs on the presence of God and the people of God!  Dr. Stanley seems to have no problem with modern professors who not only want to do the same thing, but do do the same thing.  The murmurers in the wilderness came under God's judgment, but pastor Stanley would have us believe that their followers today can get away with such mutiny by remaining under the umbrella of God's love.  To walk away from the faith means that a Christian professor is turning his back on God, His people, and the Bible.  And in turning from these wonderful possessions, the traitor is returning to the world with all of its pleasures, lusts, ignorance, ungodliness, etc.  The person who commits spiritual mutiny against the God of the Bible is obviously in love with this world.  The Bible teaches that such a person is not sheltered by God's love, but, rather, is outside of God's love.  First John 2:15 states:  "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."  

The mistake that Charles Stanley makes is in considering every confession of faith in Christ by professors to be legitimate.  Who would have ever thought that a pastor would make the claim that those who have abandoned the faith and returned to the world are still secure for the future because of God's love?!  At least those who deny the perseverance of the saints have this going for them:  They believe that a church member can prove his words to be false by his actions, and lose all grounds for assurance by his false profession.  Such a belief (losing salvation), though unbiblical, causes such a professor to be on the alert against returning to his former manner of living, lest he supposedly lose his salvation.  Dr. Stanley's view leads to an abuse of grace, and gives leeway for a professing Christian to totally abandon his commitment to Christ and return to the "pigpen" of this world.  It is shocking to think that former professors who no longer demonstrate any love to Christ or His Word can be stroked and carressed with the false assurance that they are still on their way to heaven.  Martin Luther would be flabbergasted at such a teaching.  In his day, Catholics had to pay a price in order to purchase an indulgence for their sins.  But in our day, it now appears that you can totally walk away from Christ, His Church, and the Word of God, and not have to pay a dime to indulge in ungodliness.  What kind of a gospel is this?!  Surely it must be a gospel that even devils can delight in, since they themselves also once walked away from the faith, so to speak.

Lest someone think that Dr. Stanley's statement has been taken out of context, let us consider a statement he makes in a footnote concerning another author he quotes regularly from in his book:

In his book Absolutely Free, Zane Hodges devotes an entire chapter to the concept of shipwrecked faith.  He argues convincingly that Satan can completely shipwreck a believer's faith but that this in no way affects the believer's security." (p.91)

It is somewhat embarrassing to realize that someone of the stature of Charles Stanley would need to have his writings refuted because of misleading and erroneous statements.  To think that a true believer could be so utterly vanquished by the devil as to suffer shipwreck in his faith is most appalling.  When a sailing vessel experiences shipwreck it is ruined and destroyed, according to our English dictionaries.  Is it possible that Satan could so master and overcome a genuine believer that their faith would be ruined and destroyed?  God forbid it!  Listen to the Word of God in Colossians 1:13:  "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son."  Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:29, as he speaks of his conquest over Satan:  "Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house."  In biblical salvation, Jesus Christ nullifies the stronghold of Satan over one of His sheep, thereby binding him from ever gaining the ascendancy over that saint again.  Jesus spoils the former residence of Satan when he saves a man, and sets up his own residence in the life of that individual forevermore.  Satan has been spoiled of one of his prized possessions.  Yet, Charles Stanley would have us believe that one who has been saved by Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, may yet be overcome by the devil and experience a spiritual shipwreck.  Thus, in the end, Satan ends up spoiling the house of the believer, rather than Christ forever spoiling the house of the devil.  What a strange salvation that initially overcomes the power of Satan in the life of an individual, only to later have the devil reestablish his power and control to the utter vanquishing of spiritual vitality.  Is God Almighty omnipotent, or is He not?  Is it really possible that after a divine work of grace in a believer's life, that Satan may return to bind Christ and spoil His house?  Such a concept is abhorrent to all Bible students who truly understand the grace of God in salvation.  Such a belief would give Satan the "last laugh" after having spoiled the supposedly inept work of the Holy Spirit.  Let us cast overboard such fallacious thoughts!

Compare this teaching of Dr. Stanley with the belief of one of our great Baptist forefathers from England.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon made the following comment in a sermon he preached on March 23, 1890:

If the faith whereby I have laid hold on Christ to be my Savior be altogether wrought in me by the Holy Ghost, through grace, then I defy the devil to take away that which he never gave, or to crush that which Jehovah himself created in me.  I defy my free-will to fling away what it never brought to me.  What God has given, created, introduced, and established in the heart he will maintain there.  "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up"; but what he hath planted none shall root up; for it is written, "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment:  lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day."

To add insult to injury, Dr. Stanley tells us that after the devil has thoroughly overcome a believer so as to cause shipwreck of faith, that such a believer will not lose his salvation, but will be secure.  What does a shipwrecked faith look like?  How does a faith that is ruined and destroyed function?  Ephesians 2:8,9 tells us that we are saved by faith.  If faith has been ruined and destroyed, can such a faith save a man?  Are we to believe that a professing believer who ends up with no faith is somehow different from the worldling who confesses no faith at all?  Is there really any difference between the two?  Neither of them have faith!  Both are controlled and dominated by Satan!  Neither of them bring glory to God by a renewed nature!  Are we supposed to take Charles Stanley seriously when he makes such assertions?  

Chapter Ten of Eternal Security is entitled "Faithful to the Faithless."  Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Atlanta, and pastor to multitudes via the television screen, makes some startling statements in this chapter that should cause Bible students to realize that there is a real distortion of the gospel being broadcast over the airwaves by noted evangelical leaders.  No man's writings are beyond critique and analysis, no matter what his position or following.  Like the Bereans of old, we must compare all teachings with the Word of God, even if it is the apostle Paul himself who is the teacher.  The Bereans compared Paul's teachings with the Scriptures before they would accept his doctrines as truth.  We must do the same with the teachings and writings of men in our day, no matter how popular they may be in certain circles. 

Consider this unsettling statement by Dr. Stanley:

Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy.  Christ will remain faithful.  (p.93)

If that is not enough to cause the reader to choke, Dr. Stanley continues with these words:

Whoever wrote this hymn (2 Timothy 2:11-13) must have known this concept is difficult to accept:  the holy Son of God allowing a man to retain his salvation once he has lost his faith?  That is not an easy pill to swallow.  (p.93) 

And, yet, Dr. Stanley would have his reading audience to swallow such a God-dishonoring statement.  Oh, how we need this generation of believers to once again read the writings of our Baptist and Puritan forefathers!  The substance of former generations is being replaced by superficial and nonsensical assertions by the present generation of teachers.  What a confusing world we find ourselves in as we read Dr. Stanley's book on eternal security.  We are informed that a man is saved by faith, but that he can also be saved without faith!  We are told that a man is redeemed by believing, yet he can remain redeemed without believing!  Which is it?!  Dr. Stanley wants to give us the best of both worlds, but his teachings directly contradict the Word of God.  He has turned the grace of God into lasciviousness.  Paul the apostle stated the following in Romans 6:1:  "What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid."  Charles Stanley would answer that question by saying that believers can continue in sin to the point of having no faith, and yet be assured of heaven.  Paul says "God forbid," while Charles Stanley says, "Let it be so, God!"  It seems hard to believe that such an evangelical leader would ever make such a statement, but listen to his words on the very next page of his book:

And last, believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation, for God remains faithful.  (p.94)

It is amazing that in a book dealing with the doctrine of eternal security, Dr. Stanley repeatedly speaks of those who lose or abandon their faith, as if that might be a normal thing.  He needs to explain how a true believer loses or abandons their faith, a faith that was the gift of God.  The Bible speaks of Christ being the "author and finisher of our faith" in Hebrews 12:2.  Nonetheless, Charles Stanley undermines the omnipotence of Christ in the life of His saints by saying that a believer can lose or abandon the faith that was initiated by Christ Himself.  If that were true, then Christ might "author" the faith of a believer, but not be able to "finish" their faith.  And, yet, Dr. Stanley would still place that person in heaven who supposedly lost or abandoned their faith.  Such thinking is illogical, unscriptural, and juvenile.  Sadly, Charles Stanley has been drinking from the wells of modern-day seminary professors who are espousing a new theology that is diametrically opposed to the beliefs and teachings that our forefathers held to.  Where did this new theology come from?  Not from the Word of God, but from selected verses that bolster and support the lifestyles of multiplied thousands of unfaithful converts who have walked the aisles of churches and stadiums.  Instead of questioning their theology and evangelistic practices, many have resorted to the new theology of Ryrie, Hodges, and Stanley, thereby finding an excuse for the ungodly lifestyles of their converts.  Rather than being honest with themselves by considering the possiblity that their teachings and practices might be contradictory to the Word of God, they have chosen to reshape the Word of God to conform to the mediocrity seen in the lives of their church members.  Numbers are everything today, even if the quality must be sacrificed to keep up a veneer of respectability. If church members do not live righteous and godly lives, then accomodate them by inventing a new category of believers who are not spiritual, but carnal.  Label them as "carnal Christians," and the carnival can continue on without any interruption.  If only one-fourth or one-fifth of the congregation returns for worship on Sunday evening, the rest are simply classified as worldly or carnal.  Maybe they will get serious about the Lord sometime down the road.  

Did you know that John the Baptist lost his faith?  I was not aware of that, neither had I ever heard anyone in my life mention the possibility that John temporarily lost his faith until I read Eternal Security by Charles Stanley.  Of course, Dr. Stanley learned of John's loss from his mentor, Zane Hodges.  Referring to Luke 7:17-20, Dr. Stanley states:

John did not possess saving faith at that time in his life.  He was no longer sure that Christ was the Savior of the world.  (p.98)

In the Introduction to this book, Dr. Stanley states that he was raised in the Pentecostal Holiness church, a denomination that does not believe in eternal security.  One would think while reading this book that Dr. Stanley was still a member of that church.  His views are somewhat bizarre and confusing.  Look very carefully at the last quote.  We are informed that John did not possess saving faith at this point in his life.  If that is true, then John was a lost man in Luke 7:17-20.  That would mean that prior to being put in prison he possessed saving faith, but while in prison he came to a point where he no longer possessed saving faith.  Logically, that would mean that John lost his salvation while in prison.  We are simply taking Charles Stanley at his own word.  He was the one who suggested it, not us!  And, yet, once again we are told by Dr. Stanley that John was not cast off by Christ, but honored publicly by Him as a great prophet.  The confusing statements of Dr. Stanley would lead the reader to think that John had it (salvation), lost it, and got it back again.  Strange thinking from an author who is writing a book to defend his belief in eternal security.  Perhaps he is confused himself!

The confusing thinking of Dr. Stanley continues on the next page as he makes this statement:  Satan wants to destroy your faith.  Once that is weakened or gone altogether, you are powerless against him.  (p.99)  Notice (once again) that he speaks of a faith that may disappear!  He said that Satan may weaken or cause your faith to be gone altogether.  How many Baptist pastors and their church members have read this book?  I had never heard the first negative comment against this book since its publication.  It was only after reading a critique of the book over the Internet, by a pastor who believes that a Christian can lose their salvation, that I began to wonder if he was quoting Dr. Stanley out of context.  Out of curiosity, I bought a copy of the book and read it in one afternoon.  It became obvious to me that "the half had not been told."  Perhaps I am living a secluded life, and have not read the appropriate periodicals to realize that evangelicals, and especially Southern Baptists, have been refuting the teachings found in this book.  I do hope that is the case:  that I am living an isolated life, and have not heard the outcry among conservatives against the teachings of this book.  My fear is that many have kept silent because of the reputation of Charles Stanley, or because they are in agreement with the contents.  Either way, the teachings of Dr. Stanley in this book are grievous to my heart.  Oh, that God may raise up a new generation of preachers who have the theology of a Spurgeon or Boyce!

What a fearful thought, to consider that the devil may cause a Christian to lose their faith altogether, and become useless to the kingdom of God.  This is what Charles Stanley is setting before Christendom as biblical teaching.  Dr. Stanley always holds a Bible in his hands while preaching, thus many would feel that everything he says is absolutely trustworthy.  I remember years ago that Herbert W. Armstrong and his son, Garner Ted, would always be holding a Bible in their hands while teaching over the television set.  While listening to them on the radio, they would always be in the Word of God.  That was what was so deceptive about their teachings.  Now, Dr. Stanley is greatly loved by most Baptists, but we must realize that he set down on paper his beliefs, and then chose to have them published before the world as a defense of a certain doctrine.  Anytime an author writes a book, especially a theological book, he must expect his writings to be analyzed, scrutinized, and critiqued.  He must not expect that everything he writes will be accepted "hook, line, and sinker," simply because he is the pastor of a large church or has a radio/TV ministry.  His beliefs must be measured by the Word of God!  If they do not line up with the whole counsel of God, then they must be rejected and exposed.  If faithful pastors choose to remain silent because of a man's position, then his influential writings will permeate local congregations and affect those who read their favorite author.  Yea, the accumulated writings of several influential authors can impact an entire nation.  And that has been happening rapidly in our nation over the past thirty or so years, but is now picking up in intensity.

Exegeting 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Dr. Stanley speaks of believers who have no time for the things of Christ, but choose to live their lives for themselves (p. 120).  He then comments:

This passage is so powerful because we are presented with a Christian who at no point in his entire life bore any eternal fruit.  And yet his salvation is never jeopardized.  There is never any question about where he will spend eternity. (p.121)

Who would have ever imagined that a Baptist preacher would tell his audience that bearing fruit as a Christian is not necessary?  Yea, Dr. Stanley avowed that there can be a Christian who at no point in his entire life bears any eternal fruit!  This is truly a shocking statement, whether Charles Stanley realizes it or not!  Do you understand what he has just stated?  Do you know what it means to say that a professing believer never bore any eternal fruit throughout his entire life?  It means that an individual can be a true Christian and, yet, never have a love for God's Word or God's people; never witness; never pray; never enjoy intimacy with Christ; never demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is listed in Galatians 5:22-23; never turn from sin; never give financially to the church; never live a separated life from the world, etc.  Such a "gospel" is no gospel!  If everyone bought into this kind of a gospel, then every church in America would have to close its doors!  Dr. Stanley would do well to study the dialogue between Faithful and Talkative as recorded in John Bunyan's book, The Pilgrim's Progress, to arrive at a Biblical understanding of the relationship between true faith and works.  Genuine faith is always evidenced by good fruit!

Compare Dr. Stanley's assertion with the following quote from the writings of William Tyndale, the renowned Bible translator and martyr of the sixteenth century:  "If thy faith induce thee not to do good works, thou hast not the right faith:  thou only thinkest that thou hast it.  For St. James saith, that faith, without works, is dead in itself.  He saith not, that it is little, or feeble:  but that it is dead:  and that which is dead, is not.  Therefore, when thou art not moved by faith to the love of God, and, by the love of God, to good works, thou hast no faith."

Charles H. Spurgeon proclaimed the following in a sermon he preached from 2 Timothy 2:15 on December 27, 1874:  "We have preached salvation by grace, but we do not preach salvation to those who still continue in sin.  The children of God are a holy people, washed, purged, sanctified, and made zealous for good works; and he who talks about faith, and has no works to prove that his faith is a living faith, lies to himself and lies before God."

Those who teach a salvation that does not result in  obedience or perseverance eventually begin to reinterpet the Word of God,  in order to line it up with their novel teachings.  Dr. Stanley is not able to escape the trap of giving new interpretations to familiar passages that have always been interpreted in a certain sense.  For example, consider his interpretation of the worthless slave that is spoken of in Matthew 25:30.  Jesus described the servant as being unprofitable, cast into outer darkness, weeping and gnashing his teeth.  Until reading Charles Stanley's interpretation, this writer had never heard anyone suggest that this unprofitable servant was a true believer.  A simple perusal of commentaries written by John Gill, Matthew Henry, and Charles Spurgeon reveal that those three men of old understood the servant as experiencing the agonies of hell.  Stanley states:  The final verse of this parable is so severe that many commentators assume it is a description of hell.  It is not.  (p. 124)

If Dr. Stanley is correct in his interpretation, then heaven is described in Matthew 25:30 as a place of darkness, where people weep and gnash their teeth.  What a strange description of heaven.  He justifies his view by saying that there is no mention of pain, fire, or worms in this verse.  Why would there need to be?  Why would people be gnashing their teeth and weeping if they were not in pain or fire?  But let us listen to Dr. Stanley's conclusion about this verse:

To be in the "outer darkness" is to be in the kingdom of God, but outside the circle of men and women whose faithfulness on this earth earned them a special rank or position of authority.  (p.126)

It seems highly unlikely that grade-school children would interpret Matthew 25:30 in such a fashion if they were asked to give their understanding of this verse on a quiz.  Undoubtedly, most of them would never equate heaven with darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.  Dr. Stanley tries at length to defend this novel interpretation of the unprofitable servant, but seems to dig himself into a deeper hole the longer he tarries over it.  Consider his final comments:

We do not know how long this time of rejoicing and sorrow will last.  Those whose works are burned will not weep and gnash their teeth for eternity.  At some point we know God will comfort those who have suffered loss. (p.127)

How sad that Dr. Stanley comes close to espousing the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.  He does not know how long these "unprofitable" believers will be in darkness gnashing their teeth, and neither can Catholic priests tell their parishioners how long their loved ones will spend in the fires of purgatory.  We wonder how long Charles Stanley thinks these "second-rate" believers might have to spend in sorrow for their fruitless, unproductive lives?  One year?  Five years?  One hundred years?  Five hundred years?  Why should they have to suffer at all if God remains faithful even to those children of His who are unfaithful, even when they lose or abandon their faith, as Dr. Stanley suggests earlier in his book?

One of the personal experiences that Charles Stanley had with one of the young men in his church is most startling, though understandable in the light of his theology of salvation without any fruit being necessary.  Dr. Stanley tells us of a young man in the Youth Department of their church that was a professing believer, but had never really lived any different from the world.  That is, until the young man heard Dr. Stanley preaching a series of messages on rewards for Christians.  The sermons had a great impact on the life of this young man, according to Dr. Stanley.  A conversation between the pastor and his young church member is given that is most interesting for what it reveals.  Let us consider just a couple of comments the young man made to his pastor.  Consider the first statement carefully:

I was always under the assumption that as long as a person had trusted Christ, and knew he was going to heaven, that was pretty much it. (p.128)

Where did the young man learn this from?  From sitting under the teaching ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley, although we must not blame the pastor for the young man's faulty understanding of the Christian life.  Or should we?  If the young man had heard what Dr. Stanley wrote in Eternal Security, then we would not be surprised that he felt that all a person had to do was trust Christ, and then be grateful for his ticket to heaven.  More than that, it may be that he had heard Dr. Stanley say that even if a believer abandoned the faith they would still go to heaven.  Consider the next few words from the mouth of this young man very carefully:

I began to realize that every moment counted.  I quit drinking.  I quit going to parties.  I started inviting my friends to church.  Everything changed.  I guess before that, I really wasn't motivated. (p. 129)

What kind of counsel would men like Adoniram Judson, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Knox, and other great men of the past have given to this young man after his confession of reformation, motivated by a series of messages on rewards in heaven?  What was the young man's motivation?  The glory of God, or concern for his own glory on a future day?  The most appalling thing about Dr. Stanley's use of this encounter with the young man is that he nowhere questions the boy's salvation, even though the young man was still drinking and going to parties while professing to be a Christian!  It is truly an unusual "gospel" that we are preaching nowadays, that allows intellectual assent to certain facts about Christ (such as his death, burial, and resurrection)  to pass for legitimate conversion, even though the individual still loves the world, acts like the world, and indulges in the world.  It is shocking that Dr. Stanley did not question the young man about his salvation upon hearing of his immoral lifestyle. If I had been in that young man's shoes, I would have been embarrassed to confess to my Baptist pastor that I was still "going for the gusto" that the world had to offer, while at the same time professing faith in Christ.  Apparently, the implantation of a new nature is no longer necessary to be considered a member of God's family.  Holiness is no longer needed as a testimony to one's new life in Christ.  When one pauses to reflect on the fact that Dr. Stanley stated in his book that a true believer could live his entire life and never bear any eternal fruit whatsoever, then he can understand why the pastor did not question the young man's salvation.  The gospel that Dr. Stanley preaches makes a great allowance for ungodly living, fruitlessness, and barrenness.

I have yet to meet a Baptist pastor who considered himself to be antinomian in his teachings, no matter how much license his doctrines made allowance for indulging in sin.  Those who are true antinomians in their teachings and practices always want to tell the rest of the world that they are simply enjoying their liberty in Christ, and that others who want to correct them are mere legalists. I must say that I have never read the writings of any Baptist preacher or leader who is more antinomian in his teachings than Dr. Charles Stanley.  His "gospel" of salvation does not guarantee any deliverance from sin whatsoever.  What a convenient "salvation" for the masses who do not want to go to hell when they die, but want to enjoy the pleasures of sin throughout their lives.  Dr. Stanley's writings will definitely indulge them in such a fancy.  What a pandora's box is opened for all kinds of wicked practices in the church when members are told that fruit-bearing is optional, not essential.  It does not matter if the preacher tries to occasionally exhort his people to be holy in their lifestyles, if he at the same time tells them that some believers may abandon or lose their faith, and, yet, still wind up in heaven.  Such teaching will be heard by the teenagers and adults of the church!  Instead of ascending to holiness, they will gravitate to the lowest level of carnality, and excuse their fornications, adulteries, drinking parties, abortions, homosexual lifestyles, hatreds, lies, thievery, and other sins on the basis of what they have heard their preacher proclaim from the pulpit.   Let us be even more blunt:  Dr. Charles Stanley is telling his reading audience that anyone can see the Lord without holiness.  This is a flagrant disregard for what the Bible painstakingly points out:  "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."  (Hebrews 12:14)  Dr. Stanley's writings in this book are nothing more than warmed-over Catholicism, providing indulgences for the people to continue in their carnal, ungodly lifestyles, all the time presuming that they are on the road to heaven.  Such teaching serves to greatly deceive the people who sit under such ministers.

There are more unsettling statements and exegetical follies in this book, but the interested reader will have to purchase a copy of the book and read it for himself.  Time and space constraints will not allow this critique to go further.  Let me conclude by saying that the "gospel" of Charles Stanley presented in this book is completely contrary to the gospel preached by our forefathers who were giants in the faith.  If they were alive today, they would condemn the teachings mentioned above as perversions of the true gospel.  A gospel that demands no commitment, holiness, or fruit-bearing is not the gospel that Christ and His apostles preached.  Let us stand on the authoritative teachings of God's Word on the issue of biblical salvation, and let us follow in the footsteps of those men and women of the past who preached both repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.