February 26, 2007

IFCA Statement on: The Nature of Saving Faith

To All:

In 1990 the IFCA International, of which John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church is a member, had several scholars do a study to interpret their statement of faith on salvation. It is my understanding that this statement was drafted in response to Dr. MacArthur's original edition of The Gospel According to Jesus, published in 1988.

The title of the IFCA statement is: The Nature of Saving Faith.

The IFCA statement appears to be very balanced and to speak against MacArthur’s Lordship interpretation of the gospel. The study committee is listed at the end of the paper. It is very impressive.

Dr. Robert Thomas of The Master’s Seminary was on the committee. Dr. Thomas is considered a world class New Testament scholar, he taught at Talbot for years (1959-1986) where John MacArthur was one of his students. Dr. Thomas has been at The Master’s Seminary since 1987.

This is just a sample from the statement:

Some suitable expressions equivalent to the reliance on Christ that brings salvation include “believe in,” “trust in,” and “depend on.” Other terminology that may be misleading in representing this relationship include “submit to,” “yield to,” “dedicate [oneself] to,” and “make Jesus Lord of one's life.” These are better reserved for a stage of sanctification that usually comes subsequent to saving faith. Two additional phrases, “make a commitment to" and “become a disciple of,” are ambiguous because they could or could not refer to reliance on Christ, depending on how they are defined. “Repent” is not a suitable way to describe saving faith, because it only partially represents what it is to rely on Christ alone.
That paragraph addresses several of the controversial terms/phrases that are inherent in the Lordship gospel. They appear in The Gospel According to Jesus and in the later works by MacArthur on Lordship Salvation.

The sentence in bold is the key to the Lordship error. As I demonstrate in my book and in various articles here and at other sites John MacArthur, and the Lordship advocates he represents, conditions the reception of salvation on the upfront promise from a lost man to "submit, yield, dedicate" his life in "exchange" for eternal life. Lordship Salvation places demands on a sinner (requirements for salvation) that belong to the born again child of God in regard to growth as a disciple of Christ.

This IFCA statement was adopted by the Executive Committee (Board of Directors) in November 1990 and was affirmed by 93% of the individual members participating in a straw poll.

Incidentally, another Master’s Seminary faculty member, Dr. James Rosscup (retired June 2005), also wrote about his reservations with MacArthur’s expressions of his Lordship theology. See post #10 on page 2 by Bob Topartzer at Sharper Iron in my response to Pastor Todd Wood’s review of my book.



  1. Bob Topartzer2/27/2007 3:55 PM

    Lou, nice post of part of the IFCA statement on salvation.

    Actually John MacArthur is a personal member of the IFCA but Grace community church is not a member. The IFCA has personal membeship divided into two groups- Ministry and lay membership. Then they also have church membership. John is a personal ministry member.

  2. Hello Bob:

    Thanks, I hope many find this information enlightening and useful.

    As for the IFCA membership info: I'm pretty sure I saw the Grace Community Church listed on some sort of membership or supporting church role. I'll go back and try to find that again to verify.

    Since writing this post I remembered that the disconcerting themes from MacArthur's original book The Gospel According to Jesus, can be found in each of his Lordship books, including his last apologetic, Hard to Believe.

    My point is JM has (to date) not revised or retreated from the expressions of his Lordship gospel that prompted the IFCA statement in 1990.

    Kind regards,


  3. What is your motive for bringing up the IFCA which is well over 15 years old. I'm beginning to think you have a personal agenda here. You don't have to agree with MacArthur, but he is a brother in Christ and your "attack mode" is making you look very foolish and is getting very tiresome.

    Dr. MacArthur appeared before the IFCA back in June of 1989. You can read the transcript of those meetings here.



  4. Anonymous:

    I appreciate your concerns, and I will address them in a series of comments here later today.

    Did you read my book? I devote some time to explaining how this is not a personality clash, why I cite JM more than any of the other lesser known LS advocates, and why this should not be a personal issue for anyone in the debate.

    I want to extend a friendly caution, the next time you get anywhere near bringing into question my motives (Matthew 7:1-2) I'll have to break of our discussion, and delete your comments. As kindly as I can put it- I have to put up with my motives being called into question at other sites, but I should not have to allow for that here.

    Would you take a few moments to address the brief portion of the IFCA statement I cite in relation to JM's and the other LS advocates doctrinal position?

    You might consider adding a few thoughts about the doctrine, which is what the debate centers around regardless of the personalities involved.

    Check back for much more later today.


  5. To All:

    I thought I'd try allowing anonymous comments. I’m not sure that has been a good experiment.

    I want to encourage anyone to participate. I notice almost no other blog in our circles allows that. SharperIron went so far as to require real names and to sign to a type of “good behavior” statement.

    Allowing anonymous comments It tends to beget drive-by postings.

    Frankly, I'm not sure why anyone in Christian circles would be unwilling to sign with their name.

    I’ll let it go a little longer to see what happens.


  6. You have suggested I am in some kind of “attack mode” against John MacArthur. I trust I can assure you that there is no personal animosity in my dealings with the Lordship Salvation issue, and/or John MacArthur personally.

    For instance, my debates at Pulpit Magazine with Nathan Busenitz (Dr. MacArthur’s personal assistant). We disagreed sharply over the doctrine of LS, but did so charitably. I repeatedly cited Dr. MacArthur from his various works. If Nathan had perceived my comments were personal attacks against Dr. MacArthur he would have rebuked me, and I would have deserved/needed that rebuke.

    Nathan informed me Dr. MacArthur does not make himself available for any interaction on his books or articles. I am certain that Dr. MacArthur is a very likeable man. He has, however, gone off in his soteriology. The doctrinal issue is all I am concerned with.

    Here is sample from my book on what personal feelings about Dr. MacArthur there may be. This note is from Dr. Ernest Pickering, and I share the same feelings:

    John MacArthur is a sincere servant of the Lord, of that we have no doubt.... We believe in his advocacy of the so-called lordship salvation he is wrong. He desperately desires to see holiness, lasting fruit, and continuing faithfulness in the lives of Christian people. This reviewer and we believe all sincere church leaders desire the same.... But the remedy for this condition is not found in changing the terms of the gospel.”

    The reason why I quote and refer to JM in my book and in other venues is very basic. He is the best known, most prolific writer/apologist for the Lordship interpretation of the gospel. His interpretation of the Lordship position is probably universally held by most, if not all who would be sympathetic to that position. His four books on the subject are on shelves and in personal libraries all over the world. I do mention various others LS writers in my book, but most of them are far from household names.

    The point is that by quoting and referring to John MacArthur folks across a broad spectrum of evangelical Christianity are going to recognize and identify with the issue.


  7. Brief excerpt from my book. The first draft of the following was written in 1998.

    It was disconcerting to me and my missionary co-worker that the Lordship advocates working as missionaries from the States whom we had to biblically “contend” with in South Africa steadfastly refused to discuss the Lordship gospel on a doctrinal level. Instead they tried to turn the doctrinal difference into a personality clash. For instance they would say, “Only a few angry Fundamentalists are attacking Lordship Salvation because they are jealous of John MacArthur’s popularity and his ministry’s success.” These men were attempting to divert attention away from their Lordship position, and a frank discussion of the doctrine, by creating a personal conflict where there was none.

    Well before John MacArthur’s book The Gospel According to Jesus was released, and since then as well, many Bible believing preachers, colleges, seminaries, and associations have come out against Lordship Salvation. Lordship Salvation had already been rejected long before John MacArthur was associated with it. Men such as John Stott, J. I. Packer, Walter J. Chantry, and Martyn Lloyd Jones are among the most noteworthy advocates of the Lordship gospel prior to MacArthur’s book being published. Lordship has not been rejected because of any one personality associated with the position. The rejection of Lordship is due to it being a deviation from the historic gospel found in the Scriptures.

    The Lordship position has, since 1988, been widely associated with John MacArthur because he has embraced it as a distinctive teaching of his ministry and in several of his books, which I have cited. While the Lordship Salvation position was not new in 1988, its promotion by such a prominent evangelical as John MacArthur provided for the position a new credibility and unprecedented influence among evangelical Christians. It must be stressed again, however, that those who reject Lordship Salvation, reject it solely because of its doctrinal deviation from God’s Word, not because of any personality clash or professional jealousy.


  8. I have heard/seen other men say/write things about Dr. MacArthur and Lordship advocates in general, that I would not say, and corrected when necessary.

    I just finished teaching a two-part series on LS. Several times I corrected some misconceptions held about the doctrine of LS and its advocates. In the second session someone suggested that Dr. McArthur couldn’t be a saved man since he preaches a false gospel. If I were in “attack mode” I might not have squashed that.

    At the Grace Conference I am speaking at in July (see article below) I will treat Dr. MacArthur and all LS advocates with dignity and respect. If anyone states a misconception about the doctrine or him personally I will correct it.

    I am first in line to protect any man, including Dr. MacArthur, from personal attack or mischaracterization of motive.

    If my pastor or spiritual leader's doctrine were under fire I might bristle. Who wants to see a friend or spiritual leader come under fire? I don't, and you don't either.

    However, I would consider what the critic has to say, go to the Scriptures, look at my leader's position is, to see if he is sound or may have erred.

    Would you agree that it is possible a man can go off in his doctrine? If he has, should it be ignored and/or the one with concern dismissed as interested in personal attacks?


  9. Dear Anonymous:

    Here is a sample list of books/authors who have written in support of Lordship Salvation. In my book I cite the ones in bold print below.

    Alderson, No Holiness, No Heaven!
    Boice, Christ's Call to Discipleship
    Belcher, A Layman's Guide to the Lordship Controversy
    Blanchard, Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
    Day, Lordship...What Does it Mean?
    Clark, Today's Evangelism
    Crenshaw, Lordship Salvation: The Only Kind There Is
    Tozer, I Call it Heresy
    Chrisope, Jesus is Lord
    Kenneth Gentry, Jr., Lord of the Saved
    Horton, Christ the Lord
    Gross, Christianity Without a King
    Koerselman, What the Bible Says About Saving Faith
    Reisinger, Today's Evangelism
    Reisinger, Lord and Christ
    Lescelius, Lordship Salvation: Some Crucial Questions and Answers
    Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic


  10. Dear Mr. Martuneac:

    I appreciate the graciousness of your response and the information you provided. I now have a clearer understanding of your position and although it differs from my own, I realize your position is not a personal attack on Dr. MacArthur. Please forgive me for misjudging your motive.

  11. Dear Anonymous:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your giving me a fair hearing. Most times no matter what I offer, it is dismissed.

    I have told people that if it weren’t for the Lordship issue I loved to go skiing with or play a round of golf with Dr. MacArthur. Because of the doctrinal divide, however, we’d probably bury each others 4 irons in our skulls by the 10th hole.

    Now, that is some humor I’ve interjected, but in all sincerity, it gives me no joy to write about these things when it has to do with a man who has made excellent contributions in other doctrinal and practical areas.

    I sat on my manuscript for about six years before releasing it for publication. I wanted to be sure I had my position and understanding of LS right. Plus, I knew my motives would be questioned and I’d be getting shot at from every direction. Dr. MacArthur has a wide following and people are passionate about him and this issue.

    The following appears in my book:
    “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.’ MacArthur is right: this is serious, there is much at stake, and the written forum is the best place to deal with this issue.”

    I can’t repeat here what can be read in my book, but I did not initially intend to publish and I did not one day decide to take the LS issue on. I was asked by men, who I served under, to look into and write on the Lordship issue. The first was in 1988, the second in 1996.

    For years different folks encouraged me to organize my work for publication. I resisted that for various reasons: one of which was to watch and guard my own motive. Eventually, because I felt that I must, and felt as though the Lord was in it, I entered the written forum.

    Well, that is all. I hope this is an encouragement to read.

    Again, I appreciate your kind note to me.

    God bless you,


  12. I did a perusal of the first link to the transcript.

    The first transcript of the interview of Dr. MacArthur dealt with three areas of doctrine. Each area was or is an ongoing concern some have with John MacArthur. The three issues he is being questioned about are:
    1) The blood of Christ
    2) The eternal sonship of Christ
    3) Dispensationalism

    The blood of Christ issue is one that people have been passionate over. Most I have heard from or about have moved on from this.

    The eternal sonship caused a huge flap. Some IFCA members resigned over it. Later MacArthur issued a statement that I once read at the GTY site where he acknowledged he had made a mistake on that issue.

    As for the dispensational question- the concern was raised because of the heavy, nearly exclusive use of reformed theologians in the footnotes of The Gospel According to Jesus.

    Here is a question to JM from the transcript:
    “This will be the final question on dispensationalism. It has to do with your book, The Gospel According to Jesus. The question states, ‘It's heavily footnoted with reform theologians as well as including two prefaces by reformed men. Could you find no one from the dispensational pre-mil, pre-trib position to write support for your views?’”

    MacArthur’s reply (excerpted):
    “I'm sure we could. The publisher made the choices. We had a number of people write those forewords. Part of the reason for that is to show...and I quoted a lot of people because I think through the years the reformed theology that has come out of the reformation or the doctrine of salvation has been most carefully and thoughtfully preserved in reform circles….”

    Two thoughts:

    1) I was not aware that a publisher determines who the author can use for footnotes.

    2) Lordship Salvation is rooted in Calvinism. To support LS it would be reasonable to expect supporting notes would be from Reformed sources.

    I'll take a look at the second transcript later and post a comment.


  13. I am reading through the 2nd half of the IFCA interviews with Dr. John MacArthur. The Q&A centers around his book The Gospel According to Jesus and his position on salvation.

    I am halfway through and I have already read enough from Dr. MacArthur’s remarks to know why the IFCA met afterwards to write The Nature of Saving Faith.


  14. The nature of saving faith as defined by the IFCA represents a typical diluted interpretation as would be expected with two DTS professors on the board. Our Lord's terms for forgiveness such as deny youself, take up your cross, hate your life, lose your life for my sake and the call to repent for forgiveness of sins are all swept aside to purport a forgiveness given to those who just have faith that God will forgive sinners.

  15. Anonymous:

    The only reason I am allow your comment without a name is because you have articulated what is among the worst and anti-biblical that Lordship Salvation teaches. And that is that forgiveness is NOT the gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9) it is an exchange of all that you declared must be performed by lost man for the reception of eternal life.

    You have, like John MacArthur, twisted the terms of discipleship into requirements for salvation. LS is a non-saving message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).