What follows is an opening statement I wrote on Sunday (10/29). I prepared this in anticipation of the review of my book In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answer to Lordship Salvation. I felt it was important to set some groundwork for the discussion that will accompany the review of my book.
I want to make clear that I have no axe to grind and my concern with Lordship Salvation is not due to a personality clash with Dr. MacArthur or any advocate of Lordship Salvation. There is much about the ministry of John MacArthur that I can appreciate. His stand against the charismatic movement, for example, has been commendable.
That Dr. MacArthur is a sincere man of God I have no doubt. With all due respect extended to Dr. MacArthur, and others who are sympathetic to his position, I wrote In Defense of the Gospel to alert Christians about the serious doctrinal errors found in the interpretation of the gospel commonly known as Lordship Salvation. With that said I want to emphatically state without hesitation or apology that John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation is a false interpretation of the gospel. Much of what John MacArthur has written on the gospel is doctrinally sound. Even in his books that are apologetics for Lordship Salvation there is much we can agree to. What Dr. MacArthur does, however, is weave the contrary doctrine of Lordship Salvation into an otherwise orthodox message.
Based on what I have read in Dr. MacArthur’s various books on the subject, and comparing his Lordship position with Scripture, I came to a definite conclusion that Lordship Salvation is indeed a departure from the gospel. If I did not write openly on what I came to believe about Lordship Salvation, and Dr. MacArthur’s interpretation of it, I would have been dishonest with myself and compromised my convictions. This was not an easy thing to do, especially when the man we are speaking of, is in most other areas, doctrinally sound.
Dr. MacArthur is not the only man who advocates the Lordship gospel of submission and commitment in exchange for salvation. Walter Chantry, John Stott, John Piper and Kenneth Gentry are other recognizable advocates of Lordship Salvation. Dr. MacArthur, however, is the most recognizable and prolific apologist for the position. This is why I primarily cite and address Lordship Salvation from his printed materials.
My book comprehensively addresses the Lordship controversy. Within my book of nearly 300 pages you will find how I allow Dr. MacArthur to define Lordship Salvation from his own works on the subject. This way there is little chance for my having misrepresented his position. I then follow with Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.
Among the most serious errors with John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation that are addressed in my book are:
*Redefining faith (Eph 2:8) and believe (Rom. 10:9) to suit a gospel that demands upfront promises of commitment, surrender, cross bearing and self-denial for the reception of eternal life.
*Presenting the results of salvation as though they are the requirements for salvation.
*Presenting passages meant for the born again disciple of Christ as though they are conditions that must be committed to, to become a born again child of God.
My chief concern with Lordship Salvation is over what constitutes the gospel message that results in eternal life. Many men on both sides of the issue agree to a large degree on what should be the natural results of salvation. The agreement is that a genuinely born again Christian should have a desire to and exhibit, to some degree, a life that is in submission to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please understand that I am not going to get bogged down or distracted by a discussion over what we agree on.
The debate and controversy is over what the Bible says is the gospel message that leads to and results in the reception of eternal life, the free gift of God. This is the main concern and central theme of my book. In previous discussions I have attempted to keep the Lordship advocates focused on this topic, but most preferred to move off topic for a discussion of the results of salvation. I intend to hone in and stay fixed on dealing with how John MacArthur defines the way in which a lost man becomes a born again child of God. I do not intend to deviate from that theme for a discussion of peripheral issues.
For several weeks I have been discussing Lordship Salvation with Nathan Busenitz. Our disagreement has been, at times, sharp, but we have disagreed without resorting to some of the harsh rhetoric that often accompanies debates such as this. As I continue to dialogue with Nathan (and just as I noted above) I intend to focus the debate on how we define the gospel as it relates to the reception of eternal life.
Before I close this opening statement I want to mention that I do not feel compelled to answer every contributor and/or opinion expressed. Dr. MacArthur and men from the opposing view such as Zane Hodges do not enter these on line discussions about their books. For the most part their assistants do that for them. Dr. MacArthur wrote,
“But there’s no denying that these matters pertaining to the gospel are fundamental and therefore our disagreement on them is a serious matter. Surely everyone involved will agree that we cannot simply act as if nothing of importance is at stake…. Ultimately, the best forum in which to air this kind of doctrinal dispute is through careful, biblically reasoned dialogue, preferably in written form.” (The Gospel According to the Apostles, pp. 14-15.)
Dr. MacArthur is right: this is serious, there is much at stake, and the written forum is the best place to deal with this issue. John MacArthur and Zane Hodges write articles and books in which they address one another’s positions. Both of these men have had their works on the market for years. Their positions are widely known and have been widely debated.
My book In Defense of the Gospel is a newcomer to the debate. It has captured a great deal of attention because of its particular approach to the Lordship controversy. I am relatively unknown and I do not have a staff or organization around me. For that reason I have thus far chosen to personally address reviews, questions, and comments from both side of the debate. I have reserved the right, however, to respond to any persons or comments at my discretion.