Chuck Swindoll: Rewriting the Reformation

Oct 17


Daniel LaLond Jr.

Daniel LaLond Jr.

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In his magnum opus, The Grace Awakening, Charles R. (Chuck) Swindoll sees himself as taking up "the torch of freedom" as wielded by protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther. In this he leads his readers to believe that by trusting his teaching in The Grace Awakening that they are being true to historic Reformation doctrines such as grace and faith alone, but is such the case?


In his magnum opus,Chuck Swindoll: Rewriting the Reformation Articles The Grace Awakening, Charles R. (Chuck) Swindoll presents himself as taking up "the torch of freedom" as brandished by protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther. In this he leads his readers to believe that by following him and his teaching in The Grace Awakening that they are being true to historical Reformation teaching on the doctrines of grace and faith alone. Consider:

"Human works must accompany faith before you can be sure of your salvation. We continue to hear that "different gospel"...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 European Reformers brandished the torch of freedom and stood against the religious legalists of their era, grace was the battle cry...a walk of faith without fear of eternal damnation" (The Grace Awakening, p. xiv).

Indeed, the "spark that lit the reformation" was Sola Fide or "faith alone." However, the Reformers did not define their terms as Chuck Swindoll does. Swindoll's understanding of grace promises, "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 belief regarding the final salvation of even the most reprobate necessitates his elimination of the biblical (as well as the Reformation) linking of works to genuine faith.

Chuck Swindoll, in essence, aligns himself with the Reformers and leaves the naive reader with the false notion that his views on grace and faith are the identical to those of the Reformers. Contrary to Swindoll, however, Luther insisted that works or "human achievement," as Swindoll says, go arm in arm with authentic, saving faith. On saving faith Luther said:

"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!

Chuck Swindoll clearly entices the unstudied reader to conceive of The Grace Awakening as a book restoring the stolen truths of the Reformation from the treacherous hands of modern 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?