Tribute to Dr. George Linhart, Grace Chapel, Havertown, PA

August 8, 2012
By dreiher2

Dr. George Linhart

In my late teens I was introduced to a ministry called “Youth Ranch” which was a ministry popularized by Florida Bible College. It was a meeting with music and Bible teaching, and usually accompanied by a clear presentation of the Saving message of Christ every week. It was started by some local students and graduates from Florida Bible College. One of them was a “Youth” pastor at First Baptist Church of Newtown Square, named Buzz Nofal. Another was an assistant pastor at Grace Chapel Havertown named Rick Rodriquez along with John MacMurray, who also was involved at Grace Chapel. I actually did not attend the Havertown Youth Ranch, but I attended the Newtown Square Ranch led by Fred Bishoff and later by Don Britton. I then attended the West Chester Youth ranch led by Bruce Lynam. I credit Bruce for leading me to assurance of Salvation (which is Salvation) at age 19. It very well may be the day I was born again. A person cannot be saved without believing Jesus’ promise 100%, and who is 100% sure of salvation. I heard all sorts of confusing Gospel presentations all my life and was VERY confused.

Dr. George Linhart was a graduate of Illinois Institute of Technology, and received his ThM and ThD degrees from Dallas Seminary back when it was still a sound school, and he served as senior pastor at Grace chapel for 28 years. I believe he retired in the early 80′s. I got a good dose of  Dr. Linhart at a Florida Bible College singles retreat led by John MacMurray in 1979. I remember Dr. Linhart also spoke at Pastor Carl Green’s installation service at Calvary Fellowship Church in Downingtown, PA. It was an amazing message, and I still have that tape. I used to be a member at Calvary Fellowship Church. I was there in its early days, as it moved from the East Whiteland Fire Station to its new building. Rick Rodgriguez, a former pastor at Grace Chapel, was lead pastor at Calvary Fellowship. there when I joined in 1978. I can remember Dr. Linhart teaching from time to time at special services and retreats. I still have my set of tapes on “The Attributes of God” which I got while I was there. I can remember hearing Dr. Linhart deliver very pointed and organized messages and studies on a variety of subjects, especially Christian Maturity. He would refer to the Greek a lot during his teaching, and that is one of the things that got me interested in going to Bible College and Seminary and learning the original languages. Dr. Linhart always seemed to spend a lot of time focusing on the meaning of the text itself, rather than coming up with a lot of “window dressing.”

Dr. Linhart was a very strong proponent of the teachings of Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer (founder of Dallas Theological Seminary) about the Christian life as was popular at Dallas Theological Seminary back in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. That view, of course, is no longer predominant at Dallas, especially in the Theology Department.  I believe Dr. Linhart graduated from DTS before Prof Hodges was there. Dr. Linhart pointed me to Zane Hodges’ books while I was at that singles retreat in 1981.

In 2005-2006, our family occasionally attended Grace Chapel while we were looking for a new church. During that time, I was helped by long time member Mary Beth Dean, to gather as many cassette tapes as I could from Dr. Linhart. I can remember the church using “The Way of the Master” evangelism series, and I KNOW Dr. Linhart was turning in his grave. I believe Mary Beth is still one of the leaders of the Seniors ministry there. I was able to digitize about 150 of his messages, along with some from Dr. McGahey, Dr. Showers, Dr. Cahill and others.  I put the CDs in their Library.

Here is a link to one of the messages I digitized called “The Grace of God in Salvation” by Dr. Linhart. He reads an extended quote from Prof. Hodges’ book, “Grace in Eclipse,” and speaks very highly of him as being the “clearest teacher on salvation.”

Dr. George Linhart – Grace of God in Salvation Part 1

Dr. Linhart is the one who turned me on to Dr. Hodges, Redencion Viva,  and later (in the early 80′s) the Grace Evangelical Society.

Obviously, I cannot say I agree with all of what Dr. Linhart taught. He tended to lean toward 4 point Calvinism, and did not cross every “t” and dot every “i” like those of us in GES would, and he used the word “Trust” instead of “Believe” in Christ. He spoke of “transferring your trust to Christ.” The concept of “trust” confused me for many years. I thought it was something needed beyond  simple intellectual persuasion. I am not sure what Dr. Linhart meant by trust, but I have a feeling he used it as a synonym for simple belief. Nevertheless, Dr. Linhart was very strong on Chafer’s and Ryrie’s distinction between Justification Salvation, and Sanctification Salvation. He strongly believed in the 3 traditional categories of Unbelievers, Carnal Christians, and Spiritual Christians. I can remember learning about Christian Growth from him, and how we needed to “log” time being controlled by the Holy Spirit in order to make any progress in the Christian life. I actually now believe in 4, based upon Jody Dillow’s book, Reign of the Servant Kings, namely, Overcomers.

For some reason, in early November 2005, I felt strongly motivated to go to Willow Valley Retirement Village in Lancaster (where Dr. Linhart was a chaplain) to show him the list of all the cassette tapes I digitized and to hear him speak. I believe it was an anniversary of him retiring from Grace Chapel. I rode the mini bus from Grace Chapel to the Retirement Village. It was a common thing that Grace Chapel did.  It was good to see Dr. Linhart and there were many people in attendance at that chapel. Right before he wheeled his scooter up to the front to speak, I introduced myself, and told him of my association with Rick Rodriguez and John MacMurray, and I showed him my printout of all of his cassette tape messages that I had digitized and placed in the library. His eyes lit up and he understood exactly what I was doing. He seemed thrilled that someone would be so committed to his teaching to do that.

After the music, when Dr. Linhart spoke, I was paying attention, but I wish I had taken notes, or had a recording of that service. He spoke about how certain notable pastors are not being clear on the message of salvation, especially during TV interviews. He stressed the need to take great pains to be very clear when talking to people about salvation at EVERY chance.

I found an online summary of his message:

“Pastor Linhart s final message to members of his former church was founded on Galatians 3:26, For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. In this message he urged them to be clear in understanding eternal salvation was found only by placing simple trust in the finished work of Christ on Calvary s cross. Nothing could, nor need be, added to what Christ has accomplished. Eternal life was to be accepted by faith in Christ alone. He urged them to be faithful in clearly proclaiming this message to all mankind. The final verse he quoted in his last sermon summed up his entire life of Christian ministry, it was found in 2 Timothy 4: 2, where Paul enjoined the young preacher, Timothy, to Preach the Word.”

What happened next caught us all by surprise. As Dr. Linhart slowly wheeled his cart down the aisle to the right, while the closing hymns were sung, and someone closed in prayer, nobody really noticed that Dr. Linhart slouched over and stopped moving and was turning blue. He had suffered a major heart attack. Norman Linhart (his brother) and several men took him from the cart and administered CPR. There was a great commotion, although it suprised me that it took so long for medical attention to arrive. After all there were LOTS of old people at a Retirement Village. To make a long story short, he was revived, but he only lived about 2 weeks after that.

I am not sure if you ever heard a preacher or teacher strongly emphasize something, and then drop over from a heart attack afterwards, but I can tell you that day really marked me. I have faced a lot of criticism for trying to apply what Dr. Linhart charged us with that day. In fact, I have been criticized by two men who were actually former members at Grace Chapel. One, for me stressing Grace “too much” in his words. The other told me to stay away from the teaching of Prof. Hodges, regarding his teaching on assurance. I am sure that if they were there during that service (the did not go) they would not have been so critical of me.

I thank the Lord for men such as Dr. Linhart, and others like him, who also face criticism, and perhaps ever end or limit their ministries, and possibly careers, by refusing to compromise on the importance of being crystal clear on the single condition necessary to get everlasting life as taught in John.  Satan’s #1 tactic today is explained in both the parable of the 4 soils in Luke 8:12, and also in 2 Cor 4:4.  Satan, the God of this world, is actively trying to confuse people by veiling (blurring) the clear message that we see in the Gospel of John, and to snatch away the message of salvation, “lest they believe and be saved.” If he was not actively confusing people, and snatching, many, many more (not everyone) would be saved.  Since those of us who are actively “emphasizing Grace too much” are actually the only ones doing what we are supposed to be doing, and are on the front lines of the war, those who attack us are really doing Satan’s work. Don’t be bitter towards these people. Pray for them, and their salvation. Perhaps they have never believed,  simply been intellectually persuaded of Jesus’ saving promise of eternal life for those who simply believe in Him for it.  I seriously doubt the salvation of anyone who thinks that we can emphasize the Grace of God too much, and who thinks a person does not have to be 100% sure of their eternal destiny at the moment of belief. They misunderstand Grace. Dr. Linhart understood Grace and the simplicity of  “believing in Jesus” for everlasting life. That was his final message to the world. I am doing the best I can to apply his exhortation. I hope everyone else there in that room is doing the same.

- Don Reiher

One Response to Tribute to Dr. George Linhart, Grace Chapel, Havertown, PA

  1. diane on June 10, 2013 at 5:23 am

    Thank you Don for this great tribute and challenge. I never knew Dr. Linhart, but now I do and I thank you for posting this. It warmed my heart greatly.

    There’s so much you said here that made me want to shout for joy, but I quietly just read and smiled with lots of AMENS in my heart. I, too, have been greatly helped my men of God who may cross their “T”s and dot their “I”s a little different on some points. But that’s because they were still learners just like we’re all suppose to be. Zane, too, sharpened how he taught through the years because he was a constant learner…. opened to God’s Word. I remember him saying so clearly how that if we ever stopped being a learner, God wouldn’t be able to use us… (something like that). God used great men of God in our past to bring us along on our journey with Him. And all I can do is thank God for those He brought across my path.

    I think that Zane, and Dr. Linhart, and Dr. McGee, and Dave Hunt, and Howard Hendricks, etc., etc., etc. are probably having wonderful conversations now and rejoicing in the ONE who gave each of them eternal life by faith alone in Christ alone.

    Thanking God for you, too.

    All because of HIS wonderful grace,

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