November 21, 2006

Confusion & Contradiction: Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs

Dear Guests::

At PyroManiacs I was engaged in a discussion with Phil Johnson on the Lordship interpretation of the gospel. It is my understanding Phil Johnson is the senior editor for John MacArthur’s books. Most of Dr. MacArthur’s books are not actually written by him. They are primarily transcribed sermons compiled, edited and reproduced in book form. Phil is in charge of the editing process.

There were two main areas of discussion at Pyro between Phil and myself. One was in regard to regeneration before faith issue, which is an extreme extra-biblical error found among most Lordship advocates. The second was a discussion surrounding Luke 9:23-24. I am going to address the latter now, the former later.

I began the short exchange on Luke 9 by using the following post:

And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it,” (Luke 9:23-24).

Does Luke 9:23-24 state conditions man must satisfy to receive God’s free gift of salvation? Luke 9:24 is a conditional verse. Twice it says “for whosoever will . . .” Do you view the demands of Luke 9:23-24 as a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be believed for salvation?

You can see I asked Phil if Luke 9:23-24 states conditions or demands for salvation. His response was, “Nope.”

Later Phil wrote,
“I believe Luke 9:23-24 is a call to salvation; but it's still not proper to regard it as a set of ‘conditions’ by which someone can merit salvation.”
So, he believes Luke 9:23 is a salvation passage, but the commands for cross bearing, self-denial and following, which appear in the verse, are not conditions for salvation. Phil further substantiates his salvation interpretation of the passage by criticizing me for believing Luke 9:23-24 has to do with the daily life of a disciple.

Shall we review (which I provided for Phil) what Dr. MacArthur says about cross bearing, self-denial, and following in regard to the reception of salvation. He writes,
Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation… (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 221).

Half-hearted people who were not willing to make the commitment did not respond. Thus he turned away anyone who was reluctant to pay the price, such as the rich young ruler,” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 222).

Anyone who wants to come after Jesus into the Kingdom of God, anyone who wants to be a Christian, has to face three commands: 1) deny himself, 2) take up his cross daily, and 3) follow him.” (Hard to Believe, p. 6.)

Dr. MacArthur says to become a Christian one must face three commands found in Luke 9:23. They are, “…deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Dr. MacArthur says anyone who is unwilling to make the commitment to the conditions of discipleship will be turned away. According to Dr. MacArthur the rich young ruler was “turned away” because he would not “make the commitment” to give up that he had. Dr. MacArthur says the lost man was turned away, not because of his sin (covetousness), rather because he would not make a commitment to discipleship. That is what Dr. MacArthur believes and he states it expressly. There is no misunderstanding of his meaning!

Dr. MacArthur is calling for lost men to make a commitment to the conditions of discipleship found in Luke 9:23. He believes the calls for cross bearing, self-denial and following are salvation appeals. He is, therefore, demanding these conditions be committed to for the reception of eternal life.

Phil sees the conditions of discipleship in Luke 9:23 as evangelistic in nature. In spite of this Phil wrote,
I don’t think the word ‘conditions’ is appropriate here…. Luke 9:23-24 is a call to salvation; but it’s still not proper to regard it as a set of ‘conditions’ by which someone can merit salvation.”
The Luke 9:23-24 passage is a conditional passage. Dr. MacArthur cites the three elements in Luke 9:23 as conditions for the reception of eternal life. Phil, however, says they are not conditions.

Just like Dr. MacArthur, Phil contradicts the Scriptures by redefining passages meant for a disciple of Christ, as though they are salvation appeals. Then I have shown how Phil unwittingly contradicts and compromises Dr. MacArthur’s message of commitment to the terms of discipleship for salvation.

In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus is speaking about discipleship, not on how to become a child of God. No one is saved because he takes up the cross and follows Jesus. No one is saved who makes, as Dr. MacArthur demands, a “wholehearted commitment,” to take up the cross and follow Jesus.

Confusing discipleship with salvation is one of the most serious errors in Lordship Salvation. A chapter in my book is dedicated to this doctrinal error. The chapter is titled, Salvation & Discipleship: Is There A Biblical Difference?

Dr. Joel Mullenix said,
Salvation is free, discipleship is costly. Salvation comes by simply believing in Christ. By receiving by faith the free gift of salvation through His work on the cross. Discipleship is evidenced by daily submission to the will of God. They are two separate things. The Bible makes a distinction between salvation and discipleship.” (In Defense of the Gospel, p. 72.)
Apart from redefining the biblical plan of salvation to suit the Lordship system there is no way Luke 9 can be construed as an invitation to salvation. Confusing discipleship with salvation leads to a works based gospel, which Dr. MacArthur and Lordship advocates propose. It also leads to the confused and contradictory statements we have seen from Phil Johnson.

Lordship Salvation, as defined by Dr. MacArthur, is a message of faith plus commitment to the conditions of discipleship, and this is a false, non-saving message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).

Later we will look at the regeneration before faith position and Phil’s defense of it. I will also address a few other note worthy items that came out through Phil’s comments and reactions.


LM

November 19, 2006

Summation of the Debates with MacArthur’s Staff

To All:

Over the next few days I will prepare and then post a summation of the recent discussions/debates with Nathan Busenitz and Phil Johnson.

In the meantime, please read many, if not all, of the posts I have written this and last month. There is much here that will help define the issues in the Lordship controversy.


LM

Crucial Turning Point in the Lordship Debate with Phil Johnson

Dear Guests:

Phil Johnson is the senior editor of John MacArthur's books. He, along with Nathan Busenitz (Dr. MacArthur's personal assistant), are the point men for Dr. MacArthur. Phil and Nathan speak for him on matters of doctrine and especially in this debate his books on Lordship Salvation.

As you know I have been in a weeks long debate over Lordship Salvation and my book with these men at Pulpit Magazine and Pyromaniacs. A host of others joined Nathan and Phil in support of Lordship Salvation and against my book on the subject.

Following is an important post I just filed for Phil at his site, and I filed it at Pulpit Magazine as well, under Nathan's Nov. 10 article, A Few More Thoughts on Lordship, Part 2. I also posted this at SharperIron.

My post Follows...

Earlier I asked, “Does Luke 9:23-24 state conditions man must satisfy to receive God's free gift of salvation?”

Phil's reply, “Nope. Even faith, strictly speaking, is not so much a 'condition' as the instrumental means of our justification.... I would say, however, that Luke 9:23-24, Jesus' own call to discipleship, reveals the character of true faith.”

Dear Phil:

If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me,” (Luke 9:23).

You just said these are not conditions man must satisfy to receive salvation. I understand you mean man does not have to go through some ritual or process of discipleship and eventually become a Christian. I would agree with that. Also, I happen to believe Jesus’ calls to discipleship are directed to those who are already born again disciples of Christ.

I have to point out that you are in contradiction and at odds with Dr. MacArthur. He writes:

Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation, not . . . a second step of faith following salvation. . . . Those who are not willing to lose their lives for Christ are not worthy of Him. . . . When Jesus called disciples, he carefully instructed them about the cost of following him. Half-hearted people who were not willing to make the commitment did not respond. Thus he turned away anyone who was reluctant to pay the price, such as the rich young ruler. He wants disciples willing to forsake everything. This calls for full-scale self-denial--even willingness to die for His sake if necessary.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 221, 222, 226).
Without any doubt, Dr. MacArthur is speaking of what he believes are the requirements for salvation: How to be born again. He interjects discipleship in what otherwise would be a sound way, but the main theme is in regard to the reception of eternal life. Denying self and following are invitations to salvation? The way to be saved is by agreeing to deny self? The rich young ruler, a lost man, was turned away because he would not pay the price? Let’s read more examples:
Anyone who wants to come after Jesus into the Kingdom of God, anyone who wants to be a Christian, has to face three commands: 1) deny himself, 2) take up his cross daily, and 3) follow him.” (Hard to Believe, p. 6.)
Similarly Dr. MacArthur wrote,
That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 148.)
Phil- There is no misunderstanding of Dr. MacArthur’s meaning, no other way to spin or redefine it. He is conditioning salvation on upfront commitments to keep commands, pay a price, bear the cross, to follow, unconditional surrender, etc. Dr. MacArthur demands an exchange of these commitments for salvation.

I am going to repeat this important point: Once you enter a commitment of man into the gospel, the message becomes man-centered and no longer the biblical plan of salvation.

There is no spin, no straw man, only a message that clearly frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21), and furthermore confuses, clouds and complicates, “the simplicity that is in Christ,” (2 Cor. 11:3).


LM

November 15, 2006

Lordship’s (Out of Order) Salvation

On November 13, 2006 at Pulpit Magazine Nathan Busenitz posted a reply to Larry in which he lays out the regeneration before faith position. It is post #51 under the A Few More Thoughts on Lordship (Part 2) article.

This post to Larry opens the door to some serious inquiry in regard to regeneration and faith. In particular: the regeneration before faith issue.

Representative of the Calvinist camp, the ordo salutis (the order of salvation) might be shown as:

1) election, 2) predestination, 3) gospel call 4) inward call 5) regeneration, 6) conversion (repentance & faith), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) perseverance, 10) glorification.
Those who take a different view of the ordo salutis would typically present it this way:
1) foreknowledge, 2) election, 3) calling, 4) repentance, 5) faith, 6) regeneration, 7) conversion, 8) justification, 9) sanctification, 10) preservation, 11) glorification.
The big difference in the two examples is in the relative placement of regeneration and repentance/faith. There is an order, and I trust you (Nathan) would agree that the events in the ordo salutis occur simultaneously. The Calvinist and Lordship advocates will insist there is no chronological order and that would be the correct thing to say. Repentance, faith, regeneration, conversion, and justification occur simultaneously. Some aspects in the ordo, occur in a chronological order, but the events I cited above do not, they are simultaneous.

It is a mistake to separate regeneration and faith in a temporal way, because they are simultaneous. One important matter, however, should be recognized. In 1 Thess. 1:9 Paul suggests faith precedes repentance. In Acts he puts repentance before faith (Acts 20:21). Repentance and faith occur so closely and/or at the same instant that one must not attempt to separate them.

In an earlier article I pointed out that the elements of the event in ordo occur simultaneously, but the event has a trigger. Calvinists believe regeneration initiates or triggers the simultaneous events in the ordo. Pastor George Zeller made this observation:
The doctrine of man's total depravity has been carried to the extreme by some Calvinists resulting in a wrong understanding of man's inability. They believe that the sinner is dead in sin and totally unable to respond to the gospel. They believe he first must be regenerated and only then will he be able to believe the gospel.” (In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 280-281.)
There is a logical order, not chronological, but logical based on what the Bible says. The Bible teaches faith logically precedes regeneration, for example:
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:11-13).

“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him,” (1 John 5:1).
The Bible teaches that faith and regeneration are instantaneous: John 3:1-21 (especially vss. 8, 13-16) Rom 3:22, 26; 10:4, 6, 8, 9-13.

The following passages also demonstrate that justification and faith are also simultaneous: Romans 3:22, 26; 10:4, 6, 8-13
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Ephesians 2:8-9 demonstrates that salvation occurs simultaneously at the very instant man places his faith in Jesus Christ. The Calvinist has a problem with this because he believes man cannot call on the Lord (Rom. 10:13) in faith until he has first been regenerated. The troubling conclusion is that salvation (eternal life) is not received through faith; rather faith is the result of salvation. Nathan wrote,
Thus, according to the reformed ordo salutis, regeneration has causal priority over faith and repentance. This is simply a way of showing that God initiates salvation, enabling and empowering the sinner to believe and repent. Like Jesus told Nicodemus, ‘Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3).”
John 3 is the account of Nicodemus’ visit to the Lord at night. This is a very familiar event. We see Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night. He was likely afraid to approach Jesus in broad daylight for fear of the Jews.

I look at John 2:24-25 as a gateway to John 3 and the encounter with Nicodemus. The passage reads, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”

Before Nicodemus arrived Jesus knew what was in his heart and where his problem was. This is why Jesus went right past the acknowledgement of his teaching and miracles right to the heart of Nicodemus’ problem.

Nicodemus had heard the teaching of Jesus, and likely witnessed some of His miracles. It is apparent that Nicodemus was being drawn to the Lord through what he had seen and heard. It is important to note, however, Nicodemus was not yet born again, he has not been regenerated. We can know this because Nicodemus did not even at this point understand the concept of being born again. Jesus is going to tell him how a lost sinner is born again and receives everlasting life.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15).
Jesus gave the illustration of Moses lifting up the serpent (Numbers 21:6-9) to illustrate how man will be saved from spiritual death. Those who looked upon the brazen serpent were spared death from the sting of the fiery serpents. They believed God and by faith looked upon the serpent of brass and were saved. This illustrates the Son of Man being lifted up and those who by faith, believing look to Him will be saved, have everlasting life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).
In John 3:16 Jesus explains the way in which a lost man receives everlasting life. In His definition of salvation, Jesus says believing precedes regeneration, everlasting life.”

In light of this statement from Jesus, in which He clearly teaches, “everlasting life” came from believing on His name, those who believe regeneration precedes and enables repentance/faith and belief find themselves in contradiction to the Lord. As long as you insist regeneration precedes and enables “the sinner to believe and repent,” you are contradicting the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the debate over the order of regeneration and faith/belief is with the Lord.

The regeneration before faith view under girds the Lordship gospel of submission, full-surrender, self-denial in exchange for salvation. The Lordship advocate believes the lost man has been regenerated (given new life, born again) prior to repentance, faith and belief. To reiterate, he does not believe in a chronological order, but he will insist regeneration has the “casual priority” over, and is the trigger for: repentance, faith, and believing.

Therefore, demands for a commitment to the “good works,” (Eph. 2:10) which should follow salvation in the life of a believer, are no longer works, because they believe the work of conversion, salvation, justification and union with Christ has already been accomplished. Lordship advocates can make any demand he wants because in the Lordship system he is dealing with one who is already a born again child of God, has already become a disciple of Christ.

Lordship advocates call on lost men to make decisions that are impossible for him to make. Nathan stated, “…we are asking them to do something that is impossible apart from the initiating work of the Spirit.” The solution for your impossible decision is the extra-biblical, rational view of ordo, which insists regeneration (eternal life) precedes faith.

From an article titled Faith vs. Fatalism, Evangelist John VanGelderen wrote,
Is it ‘look and live’ or ‘live and look?’ Is it ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved’ (Is. 45:22) or ‘Be ye saved, and look unto Me?’ Is it ‘He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life’ (John 6:47, cf. John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24) or ‘He who hath everlasting life believeth on Me?’ Did Paul say to the Philippian jailer ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 6:36) or ‘Thou shalt be saved, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?’” (In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 66-67.)
Pastor George Zeller wrote,
Does regeneration precede faith? Actually they both take place in the same moment of time. The moment a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ he is regenerated (born again). The moment he receives Christ by faith he also receives God's gift of eternal life. It all happens in an instant of time.” (In Defense of the Gospel, p. 281.)
Nathan’s Calvinistic presuppositions of regeneration’s “casual priority over” (before) faith under gird Lordship’s upfront demands for “implicit obedience, full surrender,” and the “exchange of all that we are for all that Christ is” for the reception of eternal life.

Nathan wrote, “But at this point, the argument is no longer about lordship salvation, but rather about Calvinism.” I would disagree with that because both systems are inseparably intertwined. If one is unwound, both unravel.

I have shown in my book that in regard to the reception of salvation the Lordship position is a false interpretation of the gospel. Lordship Salvation is a works based, non-saving message that frustrates grace. John MacArthur, Walter Chantry, James Boice, and John Piper are sincere men who love God, but they have changed the terms of the gospel to combat the equally heretical so-called “Easy Believism” movement or the Zane Hodges inspired Crossless Gospel.

In years past many Bible believing pastors and Christian leaders have shown that the presupposition of regeneration preceding faith is a position that comes from the reliance on reason over the revelation of Scripture.

We conclude there are two very different interpretations of how eternal life is received.

1) Nathan representative of the Calvinist view of ordo believes regeneration (the gift of eternal life) precedes repentance/faith and belief in Jesus Christ. Nathan believes man cannot believe or express repentance and faith unless he has first been regenerated, been born again. This opens the way for the Lordship gospel of commitment to the “good works” of a disciple in exchange for salvation.

2) Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).

So, a choice must be made: do we accept the revelation of Scripture and the words of Jesus Christ; or do we choose to rely on a position born from reason rather than revelation as the basis for their theological moorings?


LM

Some of the most penetrating work on Calvinism’s regeneration before faith has been written by Pastor George Zeller. Click on The Dangers of Reformed Theology where you can read about this and other “dangers” that come from Reformed theology.

November 11, 2006

Important Contribution at SharperIron

Dear Guests:

Please visit this link to SharperIron. In the thread of an article titled, Lordship Teaches... you will find an important contribution by Bob Topartzer.

There are several important contributions, which Bob Topartzer makes in his post at SharperIron. One of which has to do with one of John MacArthur’s former professors. I am not the first to raise concerns with Dr. MacArthur’s position, and I will not be the last. Since the introduction of The Gospel According to Jesus (1988) men have raised concerns with portions of Dr. MacArthur’s definition of the Gospel.

At the SharperIron site you will find documentation by Bob Topartzer that supports and further confirms the problems with John MacArthur’s statements.

Dr. James E. Rosscup is retired Professor of Bible Exposition at The Master’s Seminary. Dr. Rosscup was one of John MacArthur’s professors at Talbot.

Bob Topartzer documents how Dr. Rosscup had written to point out some of the "exaggerations" in his former student’s books. Ironically, several of the excerpts Dr. Rosscup refers to are the very same, which I have been addressing all along.


LM

November 10, 2006

Did John MacArthur MisState His Position?

Today I posted several comments in the thread at www.pulpitmagazine.com

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.


LM

Pulpit Magazine is “Bugged.”

To All:

Early in today’s article by Nathan Busenitz at Pulpit Magazine he wrote,

“If an evangelist today got up before a largely unbelieving audience and preached a message about the life to come that consisted of 'deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ,' Lou would accuse him of frustrating grace, preaching works, and adding to the gospel.”
When Nathan refers to “the life to come,” I can agree that it should include following Christ in discipleship, which includes: denying self, and cross bearing. All of us are weary of those who profess Christ, but evidence little or no interest in the things of the Lord. We probably have examples of these in each of our churches. I have written about the life that follows conversion, for example:

“One must always be careful not to bounce off one unbiblical teaching into another. This has sadly been the case of some people who have, with good cause, been frustrated by those who make professions of faith in Christ, but do not live for Christ. This writer shares the distress over those who call themselves Christians, but are weak and seem little interested in the things of the Lord. Certainly there are many Christians who do not live up to what they profess to believe. This frustration, however, does not warrant ‘changing the terms of the gospel.’” (In Defense of the Gospel, p. 41.)
Lordship Salvation, as Mike Harding and I contend “frontloads” the conditions of discipleship into the definition of saving faith. Upfront promises to follow, obey, commit, to deny self are required of a lost man, without which he cannot be born again. That is Lordship Salvation!

Why is Nathan, “bugged?” This is because In Defense of the Gospel and my comments in these threads have honed in on, and through the use of Dr. MacArthur’s own writing and the writing of other Lordship advocates, clearly defined identified the “works salvation” message of their system.

Nathan has drifted from a discussion of the requirements to receive eternal life back to the life of a person who has been born again and sets out to follow the Lord as a newborn disciple of Christ. We all agree that a genuinely born again person should demonstrate some evidence of growth in the Lord. There will, of course, be varying degrees of growth, but a desire and willingness “to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 3:18).

Here Nathan reveals one of the most serious errors in Lordship theology, when he wrote, “…by separating salvation from discipleship.” You see, Lordship Salvation blends the two into one, blurring the lines of distinction between salvation and discipleship. They believe the “good works” of discipleship are the requirements that must be met and/or agreed to for the reception of eternal life.

Remember this: Nathan did not venture into the issue of salvation and discipleship. They have no answer for their blurring the lines of distinction between the two doctrines. My chapter titled, Salvation & Discipleship: Is There A Biblical Difference shows the extremes to which Lordship advocates apply passages meant for the born again child of God as though they are the conditions which must be met and/or agreed to in order to be born again.
“Lordship advocates…attempt to redefine passages such as Luke 9:23; 14:26-7, 33 as though they are salvation messages. These passages are in fact meant to give instruction to born again Christians as to how they might live as a disciple of Christ.” (In Defense of the Gospel, p. 30.)

“Lordship Salvation sets upon the path to Christ a stumbling block. It makes rough and uncertain the sinner's path to Christ. It complicates and frustrates God's simple plan of salvation. Lordship Salvation teaches that to be saved a man must do more than place his faith in Jesus Christ. In addition to faith and belief in Christ, Lordship Salvation demands promises of surrender and commitment to fulfill what the Lordship advocates consider genuine saving faith. Surrender and commitment of life in exchange for salvation is the doctrine of Lordship Salvation. That doctrine adds to the Bible’s definition of saving faith.” (In Defense of the Gospel, p. 38.)
Nathan’s frustration over not being able to defend Dr. MacArthur’s writing from the criticism I have with it has resulted in his twice in two days misrepresenting me. Yesterday, I reiterated through Dr. MacArthur’s own writing, that he does indeed condition the reception of eternal life on promises of cross bearing, obedience and full surrender. Nathan has no answer other than to claim I don’t understand Lordship, or I misinterpret Dr. MacArthur’s meaning.

From yesterday, “I show only these (see five quotes from Dr. MacArthur in yesterday’s thread) to demonstrate that I am not misunderstanding or misinterpreting Dr. MacArthur’s position on the requirements for salvation. He conditions the free gift on a lost man’s willingness to ‘pay the ultimate price.’ This is ‘works salvation.’”

Placing demands on a lost man for upfront commitments of surrender, self-denial, and cross bearing, in exchange for salvation (the free gift), are false additions to the gospel and thereby grace is frustrated (Gal. 2:21).


LM

November 8, 2006

Update On A Key Issue

I have been reflecting on, and want to return to a part of the discussion I had last week with Nathan Busenitz at Pulpit Magazine.

In reply to one of my concerns with Dr. MacArthur's stated position, Nathan wrote,

“When John MacArthur speaks of an ‘exchange’ he is not saying that I offer God my obedience and he, in return, offers me His salvation. That is works salvation. It is a false gospel.”

Now I read this quote from The Gospel According to Jesus:

“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.” (p. 140.)

An objective, unbiased reading can lead to just one conclusion: Dr. MacArthur demands a promise of life long obedience in “exchange” for salvation. This is man being told he must “offer” what he will do or become in “exchange” for salvation. This is “works salvation.”

The Bible presents a much better, and a much different view of salvation than creating demands for life long obedience for the reception of eternal life.

LM


Following is the original note I posted at Pulpit Magazine

Nathan:

You wrote,
“When John MacArthur speaks of an “exchange” he is not saying that I offer God my obedience and he, in return, offers me His salvation. That is works salvation. It is a false gospel.”

“The full title of John MacArthur’s original book is What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, Follow Me? The Gospel According to Jesus. The title alone should raise concern even before one opens the cover. The point made in the title is that John MacArthur and those who advocate Lordship Salvation believe the Lord’s words "Follow Me" are a necessary component of the gospel and must be acted upon for salvation.” (In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 37-38.)

What Dr. MacArthur does is demand from a sinner the upfront, or as Pastor Mike Harding noted, “frontloaded” promises of surrender, self-denial, commitment to follow, to be willing to die for Jesus’ sake, in “exchange” for salvation.

“That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom. Seen through the eyes of this world, it is as high a price as anyone can pay. But from a kingdom perspective, it is really no sacrifice at all.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 148.)

“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. (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 140.)

Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation, not . . . a second step of faith following salvation. . . . Those who are not willing to lose their lives for Christ are not worthy of Him. . . . He wants disciples willing to forsake everything. This calls for full-scale self-denial–even willingness to die for His sake if necessary. (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], pp. 221, 226.)

In one of the clearest expressions of portraying discipleship as though it is the key to salvation Dr. MacArthur wrote,
“Anyone who wants to come after Jesus into the Kingdom of God, anyone who wants to be a Christian, has to face three commands: 1) deny himself, 2) take up his cross daily, and 3) follow him.” (Hard to Believe: The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus, p. 6)

These conditional elements of Dr. MacArthur’s gospel are inconsistent with your assertion that a sinner must come to God “empty and broken.” If a sinner comes to God with a promise for the kind of behavior and acts of a born again disciple that Dr. MacArthur demands, he has come with an offer of works.

There is no straw man! There is no way around it, no way to paint it in a different light. Dr. MacArthur says it plainly: without the frontloaded promise of “good works,” there is no “exchange” for salvation. This is a works based message. Lordship Salvation is a false gospel!

LM

November 7, 2006

Your Reaction to the Discussions

Greetings:

I thought I would create a thread where you can freely comment on the discussions that took place at Pulpit Magazine and SharperIron in regard to my new book.

The discussions, the theology, the tone, any and every opinion you have on the discussions are welcome. You will, of course, keep Colossians 4:6 in mind as you comment.

Thanks,

LM

Post Your Own Review

Here is the opportunity to post your own review of my book.

Some men have written quite a bit about my book at other sites. I want to reserve this thread for those of you who have not, or were not comfortable sharing an opinion at the other sites. You do not have to worry about doing a "professional, technical" review, just share your impressions. The one requirement for comment is that you must have read my book.

I am going to post a few of the positive comments I have received from various pastor and Christian leaders since my book was released earlier this year.

I will read and carefully consider any comments, positive or negative, that you choose to share with me.

So have at it.

LM

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.

END

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.)


LM

There is No Straw Man

This is another reply I wrote to Nathan at Pulpit Magazie:

Nathan/All:

Lordship advocates can deny that they have a “barter” system, but as I demonstrated from Dr. MacArthur’s own books he does indeed demand an “exchange” of “unconditional surrender, etc.” for the gift of eternal life.

Furthermore, there is a big difference between the exchange of dependence and the exchange of submission and surrender. The Thessalonians were no longer going to depend on their idols, they would begin to depend on Jesus Christ to do for them what their idols could not do.

As for Dr. MacArtur’s system: He is demanding the upfront promise of the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) to secure eternal life. He insists man must offer “surrender, submission, following, obedience, self-denial” in “exchange for salvation.” Your system not only implies, it demands the barter/exchange of the promise of good works for salvation. It’s right there in Dr. MacArthur’s book.

Lordship advocates can deny that they have a “barter” system, but as I demonstrated from Dr. MacArthur’s own books he does indeed demand an “exchange” of “unconditional surrender, etc.” for the gift of eternal life.

“The straw man argument is a logical fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To ‘set up a straw man’ or ‘set up a straw-man argument’ is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent.”

The position of offering promises of “unconditional surrender” in “exchange” for salvation is right in Dr. MacArthur’s books, which I cite for anyone to read. That position is not attributed to him, it is his position. There is no straw man.

Claiming “straw man” does not make the clear, incontrovertible evidence of the “barter” system of Lordship Salvation go away.

Would I “flatly deny this (barter) accusation”? Sure, because nothing is being bartered. The Thessalonians did not offer anything, they came to Christ empty-handed. It was a decision to forsake dependence on idols and begin to depend on God. There are no works done or even being promised. Did the Thessalonians offer or promise anything when they transferred their dependence to God? No!

On the other hand, your denial does fall flat because there is indeed a barter of “good works” for salvation. Your system frontloads and demands a lost man promise to become a committed, fully surrendered disciple of Christ. This means in exchange for salvation he promises to do the good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

Are you prepared to say that John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation does NOT define saving faith as full surrender in exchange for salvation? (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 140.)

The Lordship system demands a commitment to a change in behavior or action; the promise of “good works” in “exchange” for salvation.

LM

November 2, 2006

Lordship Salvation’s Submission Gospel

Dear Guests:

In the Lordship Salvation debates there are somes areas of agreement. In my discussions with Nathan Busenitz (Dr. John MacArthur’s personal assistant) at Pulpit Magazine we shared some areas of agreement, but not on the essentials.

In past discussions I have stated I try to stand where the Bible stands whether or not that stand identifies me with a particular group or system. Was I shocked or surprised that Nathan finds me in some level of agreement with view of soteriology? Not really, and it did not embarrass me to be found in some level of agreement.

I want to let readers know that in my book of nearly 300 pages there are ample examples of clear cut differences I have with Lordship Salvation. Several chapters, which Nathan never mentioned or addressed, in our on line debates (Fall 2006), draw out these distinctions. For example Nathan wrote,

But Lordship sees repentance as more than just a change in dependence. It is also a change of allegiance. It includes a willingness to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ.”
That statement does define a major point of departure. For a discussion of how Lordship Salvation interprets repentance please read How Does the Lordship Advocate Define Repentance?

Earlier Dr. Mike Harding wrote,
In defense of Lou’s book let me say the following. I believe that Lou points out over-statements and sometimes irresponsible comments made by some of the Lordship writers. Lordship writers must be warned of frontloading faith which gives the impression that a person is a completely mature disciple at conversion.”
Pastor Harding is right in regard to Lordship advocates frontload faith with a requirement for a commitment to begin living like a mature disciple from the inception of salvation. Some of the following are examples of the kind of “over-statements” that Pastor Harding and I have discussed.
Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion; it is the sine qua non of saving faith.” (The Gospel According to Jesus: [Revised & Expanded Edition])
Sine qua non defined means: an indispensable condition. We see that Dr. MacArthur says “forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake” is not subsequent, does not follow conversion. Therefore, the “sine qua non” (indispensable condition) of saving faith is “forsaking,” and Dr. MacArthur requires an upfront commitment to this for salvation.
That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom.” (The Gospel According to Jesus: [Revised and Expanded Edition], p. 148.)
Open the gates of the kingdom” can have only one meaning: How a lost man is born into the family of God. Dr. MacArthur says, “wholehearted commitment, a desire for Christ”, and “unconditional surrender,” is the “only response” that will result in salvation.

I have a major chapter dedicated to a discussion of the Rich Young Ruler. One well known theologian read my book and said this chapter was among the two “best in the book and right on biblically.”

This episode is a hallmark of Walter Chantry’s polemic and a key point in Dr. MacArthur’s apologetic. In his discussion of the Rich Young Ruler, Dr. MacArthur wrote:
Our Lord gave this young man a test. He had to choose between his possessions and Jesus Christ. He failed the test. No matter what he believed, since he was unwilling to forsake all, he could not be a disciple of Christ. Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 78.)
In Hard to Believe MacArthur wrote:
And he needed to be willing to submit to the Lord Jesus, even if it meant he had to give up all his earthly possessions. He might not ask, but the requirement for eternal life is the willingness to give it all up if he does.”
Can there be any doubt that Dr. MacArthur is conditioning the “reception of eternal life” on the “willingness to give it all up?” The willingness to surrender possessions, forsaking everything is, according to Dr. MacArthur, the requirement for salvation. If the young man had surrendered his riches to the poor on the spot, or promised to do so later, would this have guaranteed for him eternal life?

Nathan Busenitz wrote,
I believe biblical repentance includes surrender. You (Lou) assert that it does not.”
There is a fine line of difference, but it is a sharp and clear difference in this matter of submission. Submission is to the conviction of the Holy Spirit; no more, no less. A lost man cannot submit to anything else!

I do not believe repentance includes the type of surrender for salvation as Dr. MacArthur defines it in the quotes above.

Lordship Salvation, according to Dr. MacArthur, frontloads faith with commitments for submission and surrender in “exchange” for the gift of eternal life.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for is righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” (Galatians 2:21).
Lordship Salvation frustrates grace!


LM

Lordship Salvation’s “Barter” System

To All:

That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom. (Dr. John MacArthur: The Gospel According to Jesus: [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 148)
Dr. MacArthur says the reception of salvation is based on an “exchange.” That is how he defines the way in which a man must come to Christ to be born again. His terms for salvation are: “wholehearted commitment, a desire for him at any cost, unconditional surrender,” in “exchange” for the gift of eternal life.

Exchange is defined this way in the dictionary: To give up (something) for something else; to part with for some equivalent, change for another. Barter: to exchange goods….

Barter is defined this way: As to exchange in trade, as one commodity for another.

Therefore, we see “exchange” and “barter” are essentially interchangeable. Dr. MacArthur says salvation, the reception of eternal life, is an “exchange.” Dr. MacArthur believes if there is no “exchange” there is no salvation. What is the exchange Dr. MacArthur calls for? He says the gospel requires an exchange of “wholehearted commitment, surrender, self-denial, cross bearing, a willingness to die for Jesus’ sake” for the reception of salvation, the free gift of God.

During my on line debates with Nathan Busenitz (Dr. MacArthur's personal assiatant) he wrote,
In fact, John MacArthur flatly denounces any type of ‘barter’ salvation. In chapter 13 of The Gospel According to Jesus, John explains: ‘We need to understand that this [the lordship view] does not mean that we barter for eternal life. We do not buy salvation by surrendering our lives.’”
Dr. MacArthur contradicts himself. He denounces what he says is necessary for conversion. He demands the sinner make promises for obedient Christian living in “exchange” for the free gift of God. Dr. MacArthur says “a full exchange of self for the Savior” is the response Jesus calls for, without which man cannot be saved. Yet he says, “We do not buy salvation by surrendering our lives.” Later we are going to see that John MacArthur does indeed put a price on the reception of salvation.

Lordship Salvation is a system that demands an exchange, and this is bartering. When man is told he must do or even promise to become something to receive God’s free gift of eternal life, it is no longer free, and it immediately ceases to be the gospel. The Lordship interpretation of the Gospel is a man centered message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).

Any system that says man must offer something to God in “exchange” for eternal life becomes a works based message and corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ. Lordship Salvation frontloads faith with a necessary promise for the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) of the believer in “exchange” for salvation.

Dr. MacArthur wrote,
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. (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 140.)
Earlier Nathan referred us to Dr. MacArthur saying, “We do not buy salvation by surrendering our lives.” Here we read salvation can only be attained (purchased) by paying the “ultimate price” of “full surrender.” To imply that receiving the free gift of God requires that man “pay the ultimate price” is a gospel of faith plus works! There is no doubt that Lordship Salvation, according to John MacArthur, is a barter system, an “exchange” of what man must offer Christ to receive His free gift of salvation.

You can call it submission or allegiance; but an “exchange” for salvation is trying to merit what cannot be earned. No upfront promise for “allegiance” or godly Christian living brings a lost man any nearer to Heaven than keeping the Law!
Disconnect from your mind that any offer of surrender, even the desire to pay the high price of discipleship, will open the gates of Heaven. If man comes to the Savior seeking salvation and forgiveness of sin, he better come with empty hands and an open heart, because that is all he has. Man has nothing to offer, nothing to bring in 'exchange.' If there is a price to pay it is infinite and man cannot afford it. He is hopeless, helpless, and Hell-bound! When through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word he sees himself in that condition and recognizes Jesus Christ as his only hope for salvation he is ready to be born again. Once that man (biblically) repents and places his faith in the finished work of Christ he is born into the family of God.” (In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 234-235.)

LM

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him,” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4.)