Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ. Matthew W. Bates. Brazos Press. Grand Rapids. 2019. 272 pages. ISBN 978-1587434297
W. Bates is Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in
Quincy, IL. He received his Ph. D. from the University of Notre Dame.
He earned his undergraduate degree in Physics and worked as an
electrical engineer and designed infrastructure for wind farmsi.
Personally, I prefer religious leaders, especially academics to have
“real world” experience. I feel that having a broader education
and experience outside of academia is vital for seasoning a person
Overview of Gospel Allegiance
Bates has stirred the hornet’s nest again. Gospel Allegiance
continues the debates that he began with Salvation
Allegiance. These are books
that most people either love or hate. If you love them, you are
probably excited to hear a Christian talking about Christ the King
and his coming kingdom. If you hate these books, you are probably
afraid that he is perverting the simple Gospel of Faith in Jesus.
is not the kind of book that will receive three stars on Amazon. You
are more likely
see rebuttals on the one
and five star reviews on
is divided into three parts, “Part 1: Discovering the Gospel
Allegiance,” “Bridge: Gospel Clarified – Gospel Mobilized,”
and “Part 2: Advancing Gospel Allegiance.”
opening illustration of Chapter 1, “Getting the Gospel Right,”
sets the tone for the book and it will set the teeth of many on edge.
Bates tells the story of sharing the Gospel, “repent and believe
that Jesus died for his sins,” with a Chinese friend named Mao.
Bates says “that Mao heard only a rough approximation” of the
Gospel. For many readers that will be enough for them to close the
book and quit reading. Some
may make it a couple of pages further in and slam the book down when
Bates says, “Among biblically informed pastors and scholars, the is
the most common error: claiming that our justification by faith is
the gospel or its center.”
think that it would be a shame to quit reading so early. Much of what
Bates presents will be novel to many of his readers. I have been an
active Christian for forty years and a pastor/teacher for the last
thirty. In that time, I have been surprised at how little that I have
heard about Jesus as the Messiah/Christ and his coming kingdom. I
have heard some about Heaven, but not much.
continues his assault on the sensibilities of his readers that are
new to his ideas in Chapter 2, “Not Faith but Allegiance.” In
Chapter 2 Bates analyzes the meaning of “faith” and “believe”
through the Scriptures. He discusses the range of meanings that the
Greek words behind faith and believe had,
as well as the changes in the meaning of the
word faith in English.
Bates seems to be quite balanced in his presentation with
one caveat that I will go into in the Summation.
I found this chapter to be very useful. I would recommend this book
for this chapter and the next.
defines exactly what he means by “The Gospel” in Chapter 3, “The
Full Gospel of the King.” He includes 10 elements in his
gospel is that Jesus the king
as God the Son,
sent by the Father,
on human flesh in fulfillment of God’s promises to David,
for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
to many witness,
enthroned at the right hand of God as the ruling Christ,
sent the Holy Spirit to his people to effect his rule, and
come again as final judge to rule.”
his 10 item list, Bates emphasizes number 8 while most evangelicals
emphasize a variation of number 4. While some may disagree, I believe
that this places Bates within the mainstream of evangelical
Christianity. It is a matter of emphasis, but
this may be a charitable reading.
Bridge: Gospel Clarified – Gospel Mobilized” will be difficult
for many evangelical readers. He asks and answers the question, “What
response to the gospel is required for salvation? Allegiance alone.”
By adding to the Reformation’s solas,
Bates will be going a bridge too far for many. Again,
some may put the book down without getting to Bates expansion of
“This is expressed in terms of repentance from sins, trusting
to him as the king described in the message of the gospel, and
baptism.” Once again, Bates is back in the fold; yet,
for a second time, this may be a charitable reading.
will address these charitable readings
in the Summation.
“Grace in Six Dimensions,” Bates begins to show how the Christian
is to live by Allegiance
first dimension of grace that Bates considers is merit. He shows that
the ancient Greeks believed in a merited grace. We do this when
considering a gift to a panhandler at an intersection. We ask
ourselves what will the spend the money on. Bates goes on to show the
Jesus and Paul overturned this idea of merited grace. The other
of grace, as explained by Bates, will fuel your reflections and
meditations on Scripture.
5, “Faith is Body Out,” Professor Bates begins examining the
implications (bodily works) of Gospel
on the believer. This is the place where Bates departs most
significantly “from other Protestant models,” and he is aware of
this departure. Traditionally,
faith is seen as “an inward confidence in God’s promises in
Christ, especially confidence that a person can be justified by
faith.” Under this view, works are an expression of sanctification,
rather than justification.
Bates, however, sees “faith as outward facing.” It is an
expression of allegiance because it is allegiance. He then gives
examples of faith (pistis in Greek and fides in Latin) being used in
the sense of loyalty, fidelity, evidence, and allegiance. This is
followed by an examination of Scripture, including the faith of
Abraham. Personally, I feel like his emphasis on allegiance began to
break down at this point. I
will come back to this in the Summation section.
did find the emphasis on the physical in Chapter 5 interesting, and I
will devote some time to thinking about that.
6, “How Works Are Saving,” opens with an illustration about
assurance of salvation. When he was young, Doug came to salvation
using the wordless book in a Vacation Bible School. Then later in
Bible college and seminary he began to experience doubts. Bates
implies that a proper understanding of gospel
would rectify the lack of assurance, but he isn’t very specific.
this point, I struggled to follow Bates’s argument because I did
not recognize the “confusing love-hate relationship with good
deeds” of “Classic Protestant theology.” I admit that
Protestant theology has a strain of the tension that he talks about,
but I would not call it part of the mainstream of Protestant
theology. It seems to me that Bates confuses salvation and judgment.
the sub-section, “Good Works Are Saving,”Bates quotes Paul, “God
will render to each one according to his [her] works...” I am left
with the assumption that these are the good works that are saving.
However, it seems more natural to me to take these works as the basis
for determining the reward for a citizen of Heaven. Bates
does bring out “Judgment according to Works” later in the
chapter, but I really disagree with his implication connecting the
Lamb’s Book of Life to books containing our deeds in Revelation 20.
7, “Taking the Allegiance Challenge,” contains Bates’s call to
action, to take the plunge. He
divides his challenge into three areas, doctrinal, pastoral, and
missional. Each of these areas has a corresponding question to guide
the reader in the Allegiance
Can we teach Gospel
Is there such a thing as too much Gospel
What does discipleship look like under Gospel
found myself frustrated over and over as I read Gospel
I absolutlely love Professor Bates’s emphasis on Jesus as the
Christ, as the King, as the one enthroned. I was fully prepared to
like this book at different points, but I just could not do it.
found Part 1, “Discovering Gospel Allegiance,” to be the most
useful. Professor Bates definitely spurred my thinking through this
section of the book. Even in this section, there were definitely
times that I had to give Bates a “charitable” reading. Based
on the rest of Gospel
I feel that Dr. Bates intends to be delivering an understanding of
the Gospel that is a radical break that Traditional Protestant
Theology has taught for 500 years.
were many opportunities for Professor Bates to build a bridge to
Traditional Protestant Orthodoxy, but he never reach a hand across
the divide. Instead, he consistently phrased his arguments in ways
that seemed designed to emphasize the chasm.
I would embrace the solas
of the Reformation for salvation which makes us fit citizens for the
Coming Kingdom of Christ, I think that Bates would see them as
hindrances to salvation by allegiance. There are definitely fault
lines between the Gospel
of Professor Bates and the theologians in the Reformation tradition.
all of the discussion on faith, I found it surprising that there was
not a single reference to Hebrews 11:1 – 3. This
is the most systematic exposition of what faith is in the entire
faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things
not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By
faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God,
so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
just doesn’t seem to fit in the idea of faith found in Hebrews 11.
did not find Part 2, “Advancing Gospel Allegiance,” to be useful
in my pastoral ministry. So much of this section is based on the
idiosyncratic interpretation of faith. It works if the premise is
accepted, but I found the premise unconvincing. As I read through
Part 2, I couldn’t help thinking that the Pharisees would love
associating faith with allegiance.
would say that Professor Bates found a new beautiful color (sometimes
faith means allegiance) and he tried to paint the whole world that
one color. By using his one color, he reduces the beauty and wonder
of our salvation.
I found parts of the books to be valuable, I
cannot recommend Gospel
by Matthew W. Bates to any but theologians and pastors who like to
keep abreast of the current theological debates. Bates
seems to have pushed too hard on a good idea.
i http://matthewwbates.com/matthewwbates/ - Information retrieved 13 August 2019.