November 10, 2006

Did John MacArthur MisState His Position?

Today I posted several comments in the thread at

The following I directed to Pastor Harding, but it includes content for all. I end with a question for Dr. MacArthur.

Pastor Harding:

You wrote, “I emphasize that submission is in principle (deny self, take up his cross) and that following Christ is the inevitable and necessary result (though not automatic). As they grow in Christ they will grow in submission.”

The “inevitable and necessary result” I heartily agree with because you emphasize “result.” Lordship Salvation, however, demands upfront commitments as a requirement for salvation.

You rightly point out and I agree that they are not calling for a fully mature Christian at the moment of salvation or to become a perfect Christians. They do, however, demand the upfront promise to obey, deny-self, follow in exchange for the free gift of God.

As for submission, one can speak of this in “principle,” but the surrender for salvation as defined by Dr. MacArthur goes way beyond “principle.”

At the end of your post you wrote, “My suggestion is that some of the quotes Lou has cited should be carefully evaluated and either edited, explained, or eliminated.”

Through the years and in his various books I have noted how Dr. MacArthur edits some of the more troubling statements. I mention and cite examples in my book. The revisions I have reviewed, however, do little or nothing to minimize the troubling implications of the originals. In recent days I provided examples.

Is Dr. MacArthur willing to say that he misstated his position on what he believes are the requirements for the reception of eternal life? I posted only five of the questionable statements from his various books. For example:
Thus in a sense we pay the ultimate price for salvation when our sinful self is nailed to a cross. . . . It is an exchange of all that we are for all that Christ is. And it denotes implicit obedience, full surrender to the lordship of Christ. Nothing less can qualify as saving faith.”
Is Dr. MacArthur willing to say that the reception of salvation is not conditioned on the sinner making an upfront commitment to full surrender, implicit obedience, submission, self-denial and following?

I recall John MacArthur’s public admission of having erred on the eternal sonship of Christ issue. It appeared on one of the GTY web sites, but I did not download it.

I believe it was in 2000 I wrote a letter to Dr. MacArthur to ask if he still held to the Lordship gospel as presented in The Gospel According to Jesus. I wrote to ask about this because someone said they heard or read that Dr. MacArthur had changed his position on the Lordship issue. Since I was reading and researching this issue I sent a letter of inquiry. I received a reply from an associate pastor. He assured me that Dr. MacArthur’s position remained unchanged.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Lou,

    You are right on. I hope Dr. MacArthur will revise his comments, especially in the Gospel According to Jesus. Salvation is not an exhange of our obedience and good works for His salvation. Thanks for resurfacing this very imporantant issue.


  3. Cindy & Mike:

    Thanks for the notes you submitted.

    I worked late and just got home. Having some family time now. Check back this weekend, I am going to respond to each of you individually.

    Yours in Him,


  4. Mike:

    I appreciate your encouraging words.

    Dr. MacArthur has not pulled back from the problematic statements. I am talking about since the release in 1988 of The Gospel According to Jesus.

    It would surprise me if he did reconsider and disavow the disturbing statements he makes in that book.

    In any event, I will continue to address this important issue.

    Take care,


  5. Hi Cindy:

    Thanks again for writing a well tought out post. One suggestion: type your message in Microsoft Word, then copy and paste it into the place you want to post it. This way you can compose and save off-line, the sign on and put it up.

    You are correct in assuming the Lordship message can lead some to doubt.

    As for Pastor Harding: I want to caution folks to read his posts with discernment. I am grateful he does not go to the extremes that John MacArthur does, but he does hold to a "surrender" position on salvation. For example he said, “Jesus Christ demands submission to His authority in saving faith.”

    He is also Calvinistic in his approach to salvation, including the regeneration must precede faith position.

    The Evangelicals & Catholics Together movement is as unscriptural an alliance as there can be. Those who yoke up with unbelievers disregard the Scriptures which forbid this kind of fellowship. (2 Cor. 6:14-ff.)

    Thanks for the encouragement.


  6. Cindy and Lou --

    We should continue to not only expose errors (which I have tried recently to do in dialoging with Nate, but perhaps I was too strident, however much I concentrated on ideas not people), but to try various things in our appeals to the various individual saved people who advocate the errors -- applying the Golden Rule.

    I'd like to put forward various clarifying ideas. Some of them you may have heard of before. First of all, there is a difference between front-loading and back-loading. People get very upset when we accuse them of front-loading, when they are just backloading.

    Frontloading is to say "in order to be justified ..." then you load the conditions of it up with whatever you think the conditions are.

    Backloading is to say "in order to HAVE BEEN justified ..." then you load the conditions you believe to be required for someone to HAVE BEEN justified.

    I admit it's a slight use of pejorative connotation -- nobody wants to be told they're "loading" something that is really not there into the gospel. So here is my idea to be more fair in making that kind of distinction, which by all accounts should be made.

    Loading is a pejorative term. I suggest we abandon it, along with all pejorative emotive labels for the errors that our fellow believers have, or even we ourselves. Let's apply the Golden Rule.

    My main new idea I'd like to introduce into the discussion is the distinction between what faith does, and what Christians do.

    Faith produces works. But today, have you done what one day God well tell you "well done, good and faithful servant" about?

    Paul addresses a premature assignment of glory to ourselves in 1 Cor 4:5, which brings out how God looks not only at results, but motive.

    Therefore faith -- eminently -- works. Christians work -- BY faith. Otherwise, without faith, since whatever is not of faith is sin, we are not doing any accomplishing of anything.

    People sometimes read Hebrews 11 as if faith did all the things described. No. Read it again! the people described did those things -- by faith.

    There's also a great quote of Luther that brings this out, which I'll try and find.

  7. Larry:

    I appreciated the posts you directed to Nathan. I also caught an enjoyed the witticism.

    You did raise vaild points which show the contradiction between the "explanation" and the reality of the Lordship gospel.