Book Reviews

Simply by Grace by Charles C. Bing

Simply by Grace is a clear, simple book on the gospel message and what it means to be saved.  It covers many primary subjects well: salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, assurance of salvation, the importance of good works as a Christian and the rewards to follow, walking in freedom, our identity in Christ, etc.  The book could serve as a helpful resource for new Christians.

However, in Bing’s attempt to avoid the error of works salvation he tips too far in the opposite direction.  “Belief in Christ as Savior is the one condition for salvation” (p. 109) he proclaims, and he is correct.  But he never explains what he means by belief or faith.  He denies that works is an evidence of salvation (pp. 85-87) due to the subjective nature of works—how many are enough, what is the motivation and so forth.  He even writes no passage of Scripture claims that our works can serve as evidence of salvation (p. 85), despite the fact that such is found all over the New Testament and 1 John is written for that express purpose.  He addresses only a couple of texts on the subject: 2 Corinthians 13:5 (pp. 68-69) and James 2:14-26 (pp. 87-90).  His interpretation of James 2 is that James is not talking about salvation from sin and hell, but from lost rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  This is a strange view at best and totally misses the point which he ignores throughout the book—what is the content of saving faith?  He tells us what it is not (pp. 148-153) but he never clearly tells us what it is.  And of course this is the essence of the debate raging today on the so-called Lordship salvation issue.

On the other hand Bing is clear that a person can be saved but not be a disciple of Christ (pp. 120-128).  This, by deduction, would mean that saving faith can be nothing more than mental assent to a set of facts about who Jesus is and what He has done.  There is no need to turn from sin (repent), although Peter (Acts 2:38), and Paul (Acts 26:18-20) both disagree; a changed life may be normal but not universal.  One can refuse to be a follower or learner of Christ yet faith is presumably genuine in such people.  To show how far Bing is willing to take this idea he sees the ungodly men in Jude 4 as Christians (p. 63).  Bing is concerned about the subjectivity of works, what about the subjectivity of faith?  To assure someone who claims to believe in Christ as Savior but does not desire to live for Him that he is saved is dangerous assurance.