By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
Editor’s Note: Dr. J. B. Hixson is a passionate and enthusiastic proclaimer of dispensational truth. What’s more, the combination of education and experience that he has achieved are especially noteworthy, and qualify him to be regarded as a leading spokesman for traditional dispensational theology for many years to come. It is my privilege to count him as a friend, but even more important is the fact that all of us can look to him as a resource for wisdom and encouragement as we seek together to understand and promote the great dispensational themes of Scripture. I commend his ministry to anyone looking for a clear, challenging and insightful presentation of dispensational and prophetic truth. You can contact him through his website at NotByWorks.org. It is my privilege to welcome him for the very first time to Dispensational Publishing House.
“I was fortunate to be raised in a Christian family, and my grandfather was a preacher—a Dallas (Theological Seminary) guy, a Bible Presbyterian,” said Dr. J. B. Hixson, thinking back upon his earliest memories. “My mother was not raised in a Christian family, but she came to faith through a Backyard Bible Club. I came to faith at age six, and my dad was the one who led me to the Lord.”
“He reiterated the simple gospel message—that Christ died for my sins,” Hixson stated.
That simple gospel message has become the driving force of Hixson’s life and ministry. He had the benefit of experiencing many good elements of the evangelical world as he grew up. For instance, he remembers how the Lord used his attendance at Word of Life Youth Camp in Schroon Lake, N.Y., and he has deep roots as a churchman.
“It was at the age of 15 that I really felt the Lord saying, ‘I would like you to go into ministry,’” he said.
Hixson’s lifelong dream was to attend Dallas Seminary. He finally got there through a set of providential circumstances after initially fearing that finances would force him to attend a different seminary.
When Hixson arrived at Dallas, he realized that several controversial issues had come to the forefront of discussion in the school, and his time there was formative in preparing him to focus on those very issues throughout his ministry. Two disputes that greatly attracted his attention regarded the nature of dispensationalism and the definition of the gospel.
“I was right in the thick of it,” he said. “There was a part of Dallas that was very influential in terms of the grace movement. The Lordship salvation debate was still very much raging. So, any chance I got, I wanted to be involved in that debate.”
Hixson came through Dallas strengthened in his belief in traditional dispensationalism and committed to a historic free grace understanding of the gospel. He remained in the thick of the discussion over the gospel and the contention between proponents of Lordship salvation and those who promote the free grace position.
Hixson was involved with the Grace Evangelical Society for many years, then later helped to found the Free Grace Alliance. Ultimately, he discontinued his fellowship with both organizations, however, as he watched them drift toward the embrace of extreme positions, such as the crossless gospel.
Hixson’s concern over those issues—and misunderstandings of the gospel from several directions—led him to write Getting the Gospel Wrong (Grace Gospel Press, rev. ed., 2013). It is based on the doctor of philosophy dissertation that he wrote at Baptist Bible Seminary.
Still a young man, Hixson has already had wide and varied experience in various roles as a pastor, professor and administrator, and in overseeing a parachurch ministry that distributes a daily half-hour radio program. “My journey has really been unique,” he stated. “It is not one that I would have scripted. Our life verse is Proverbs 15:31.”
The ear that hears the rebukes of life
Will abide among the wise.
Hixson has already moved many times in his ministry. “There are times that I wonder what life would have been like if I had just settled down in one church for 40 years,” he said.
Looking back, Hixson believes that obtaining his doctorate of philosophy has been the key to receiving wider ministry opportunities.
“I have done a ton of adjunct teaching,” he said. “After I got my Ph. D., the Lord just started opening doors. The secret was I was a guy who was not afraid of technology, I was familiar with all of the student management systems, I was credentialed and I was traditional dispensationalist. Finding guys like that was like finding a needle in a haystack.”
Hixson sees troubled times ahead for higher theological education, but he still believes that there are great opportunities to lead a resurgence of dispensational theology.
“I think, right now, Christian education is suffering the inevitable consequences of postmodern thinking that eventually takes no prisoners. It is grabbing everybody. We have seen several schools go out of business and others have made a marked departure from orthodoxy.”
“I think, historically, dispensationalism has always been a grassroots movement, and that is what distinguished it from most other theological systems out there,” Hixson stated. “Most of them began in the academy. “Dispensationalism was really an organic movement at the grassroots level when God’s people got access to the Bible again and began reading it for themselves. Whereas the academy is promoting Reformed theology, dispensationalism was just the result of God’s people in the church getting together and studying the Word of God—and that gave birth to institutions.”
Hixson believes that we must regain that organic connection in order to effectively promote dispensationalism to a new generation.
“We are making strides toward getting it back into the mainstream,” he added.
Hixson pointed to the Left Behind series as one positive example of such an attempt.
“It introduced a whole new generation of people who would have never otherwise even heard of a two-phase coming of Christ and related doctrines,” he stated.
“The Scofield Reference Bible did more to advance the cause than anything in its day,” he added. “You are not going to change the seminaries and get them to start teaching people. The grassroots—the people—catch on by reading blogs and listening to radio programs and getting information that they are flat not going to hear from their average mega-church preacher.”
Hixson has traveled to all 50 states to speak in conferences and churches, and goes into many different types of churches to promote Not By Works.
“I still think the conference model works,” he said. “You have to be sensitive to the culture and realize that the way people used to do conferences does not work today. It needs to be people who can communicate well—not just pass on information. You have to find a way to communicate the same substance in a way that resonates with young people.”
“Substance is what matters most. Style is secondary,” Hixson added. “You have got to be right on the issues. But there are ways to communicate it—taking advantage of technology.”
“Word it in such a way that the light bulb goes off,” he emphasized. “In this day and age, people are much more visual learners than ever before.”
“Change is always difficult, and people from our ilk often like to keep new methods and new approaches at arm’s length, because they are often associated with false doctrine.”
Previously in this series:
- A Dispensational Discourse: An Introduction (June 4, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Rich McCarrell (June 11, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Charles Dyer (July 2, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Ron Bigalke (August 6, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Christopher Cone (September 3, 2016)
- A Dispensational Discourse with Dr. Woodrow Kroll (October 3, 2016)
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
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