November 5, 2006

What Was Missed in the Discussion

Dear Guests:

The following was the first post I submitted following the Day 5 article.

Nathan has chosen to limit his discussion of my book to one chapter. That is the chapter, What is Biblical Repentance? I am fine with that because it is an important issue, but not the only key issue in the Lordship debate. It has been a beneficial discussion and I will look for helpful ways to refine my work from this discussion.

We found that there is much to agree on in the doctrine of repentance. However, we have sharp disagreements in the application of repentance. You can review these disagreements in the preceding threads.

Unfortunately, as I anticipated, Nathan did not venture into other key issues in the debate. Most of them are definitely not “unnecessary side arguments.” For example, I have written chapters titled:

Salvation & Discipleship: Is There A Biblical Difference?
Can There Be A Christian Who Is Carnal?
What Is Saving Faith?
The Rich Young Ruler
Romans Chapter Ten (v. 9)
Acts 16:30-31
Is It The Christian’s Duty To Fight For The Faith?
A Heart To Heart With Pastors And Christian Leaders

Each of the first six chapters is crucial to understanding the doctrinal and practical problems with Lordship Salvation. In these chapters I define and then biblically answer specific doctrinal and practical errors found in Lordship Salvation.

The last two chapters are my call for those who, like me, find Lordship Salvation to be a departure from the biblical plan of salvation, to take a biblical, militant stand against it. These are followed by a series of nine appendices.


From there I close with a few kind remarks.

What is one of the most disconcerting issues with John MacArthur's Lordship theology is his misuse of the verses meant for the discipleship of the believer as though they are salvation appeals.

On the SharperIron site I asked Pastor Mike Harding this question: Does Dr. MacArthur’s submission/discipleship position define the gospel you believe results in eternal life? He replied,

"To answer your question I do not agree with expressing the response to the Gospel as JM does in some cases. I think your quotes have established that he over-states the case at times, gives the impression of frontloading faith as mature, completely surrendered discipleship."

I am in agreement with Pastor Harding above. However, I personally believe the term "over-states" is too generous. In my opinion, John MacArthur does not "overstate" his position, he is defining exactly what he believes. His "overstatements" are not editors getting it wrong. His message of submission, surrender, cross bearing, exchange, etc., occur to often to be dismissed as editorial mistakes.

MacArthur does not merely "give the impression," he literally places demands on the sinner for salvation that the Bible does not.

"One of the most significant errors with Lordship Salvation is the confusing of passages meant for the born again disciple of Christ (such as Luke 9:23-24, 14:25-33) and presenting them as though they are gospel messages directed to the lost. It is from this error, which the whole of Lordship Salvation flows. This error leads to a faulty definition of faith, redefines the role of biblical repentance in salvation, both of which result in a gospel message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21). (See MacArthur's Discipleship Gospel below.)



  1. Hello Lou and thank you for your book, which I ordered from Amazon and will hopefully get it today. I think I'll be in agreement with the great majority of it. (Of course, that doesn't make us "right!" C.S. Lewis mentions that when two friends agree, it sets up a very strong feeling of being right that is very difficult to overcome....!)

    Often intelligent and sincere people come to opposing conclusions because of presuppositions, and these should be examined. I put a post to that effect in the Pulpit debate under Part I. So far, no one has responded to it.

    Here I would like to point out that it really could clear the air if we had the courage to say, even of someone we like on other grounds, that "I believe so-and-so's statement is wrong as I understand it."

    I think Pastor Harding could use such a mechanism without having to pronounce himself an authority on MacArthur's total writings, or even on doctrine of Lordship Salvation in toto as he understands it. He could say something like "Although I espouse Lordship Salvation in some sense, it is not in the sense I understand these words to mean."

    Enough on methodology. Now I want to offer a definition of the portion of Lordship Salvation that is your major concern (and mine), which is the portion that deals with the requirement for becoming a Christian. I would love your response or dialog on whether you think it is clear. I think the definition has the following property, that both proponents of it and opponents of it find that it says what they advocate or disagree with, respectively. Lordship salvation teaches that to receive eternal life from God, you must give your life to God.

  2. Hi Larry:

    Hope you find my book helpful in defining the debate. As I said, important elements were not addressed and I believe intentionally. The LS men have not had to deal with the way I have come at their position. In the past others came to the debate from an the Easy-Believism perspective, which made their arguments easily countered.

    As for your definition, most Lordship advocates would probably find it too generic, and weak. This is especially true of the Lordship men, who call for “whole-hearted commitment,” in exchange for eternal life.

    I have written some brief definitions, and posted one at SharperIron last month. The problem with defining LS is that it has so many facets that contribute to the error it is very difficult to write a brief definition.

    When I first began writing I quickly found that LS had so many troubling issues that a brief position paper would not be sufficient to address the problem. You will read about that in my book.

    As for Mike Harding, I do appreciate his desire to be balanced and biblical. He has stated that he is uncomfortable with the way Dr. MacArthur “over-states” the position. As you saw, however, I am convinced JM is not “over-stating,” he is defining what he believes in very precise terms.

    Anyway, thanks for checking in here. Feel free to comment again.

    By the way, once you finishing reading my book, feel free to come back with your take. I may create a discussion thread only for those who have read it to share their opinions.