March 13, 2007

Defining the Debate with Dr. Mike Harding

Dear Guests:

Pastor Mike Harding was addressing another man in this thread at SharperIron (see p. 5). He made some helpful remarks that help in defining some of the major issues in the Lordship debate. I wanted to comment on a few of his remarks. Following is his post on p. 5 of the SI thread titled, John MacArthur: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Pre-Millennialist.

The most pertinent question on Lordship is in regard to the nature of saving faith. Brother Martuneac and I were in general agreement about repentance. As Lou and I interacted on this issue, Lou affirmed the recognition of the object of faith being Christ as Lord and Savior. We disagreed over the idea that Christ had to be recognized by a sinner as “the Lord” as opposed to “my Lord.” However, I don't think Lou would object to the sinner calling on Christ as “my” Lord. It seems that the real disagreement between some good men on this issue (by good men I mean men of the caliber of Kevin Bauder) is whether submission is a part of faith at all, whether that submission is explicit or implicit in faith, and finally whether submission is in principle as opposed to complete, mature, and total. The position that I have defended is that submission is (1) implicit in faith, (2) that saving faith is submissive in principle, and (3) that this faith will grow and progressively mature. On the other hand, there are passages in the Gospels and the Epistles that exemplify faith in explicit terms of submission. As far as the so-called “hard sayings” of Christ that discuss aspects of commitment and discipleship in relationship to the Gospel of the Kingdom, these are the most difficult issues to resolve and I believe that these passages have become the battleground between the opposing positions.
Following is my reply to Pastor Harding at SharperIron. I had posted a few comments in the same thread just prior to this one.

Mike:

You are referring to “nature” or “content” of saving faith. I like to boil it down a little differently to clearly define the area of debate. I like to speak in terms of what are the requirements for and what are the results of saving faith. We all agree that genuine saving faith should result in genuine results. As you put it, “that this faith will grow and progressively mature.”

The question that fuels the debate is: What is required of a sinner that would constitute saving faith, i.e. the faith that results in his receiving the gift of eternal life? As we have discussed saving faith as defined by many LS men is front-loaded with demands for commitment to the results of salvation as if these commitments are required for salvation. Those statements are the crux of the debate and have never been edited, explained, or eliminated by the men who make those claims.

MH wrote,
As Lou and I interacted on this issue, Lou affirmed the recognition of the object of faith being Christ as Lord and Savior. We disagreed over the idea that Christ had to be recognized by a sinner as "the Lord" as opposed to ‘my Lord’. However, I don't think Lou would object to the sinner calling on Christ as ‘my’ Lord.”
No problem with “my Lord,” and not necessarily a problem with “the Lord.” There is nothing inherently wrong with speaking (even in soul-winning) of “the Lord.” It comes down to what is being implied by the speaker when he calls upon a sinner to receive Jesus Christ as Lord. When I hear this, “You must receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior,” I do not necessarily cringe, but I am listening. I am listening for how the term/title “Lord” is defined as it relates to what a sinner is required to know or what decision he must make regarding Christ’s lordship for salvation. The reason I am listening is because the Lordship interpretation of the gospel (as defined by JM) has made deep inroads into fundamental Baptist circles.

Allow me an example. I heard this myself in a Sunday morning service. The speaker was preaching a gospel message directed only to the lost. There was no mention of sin, death or Hell. Repentance was briefly mentioned, but there was no mention of faith or believing. The lost were told that all he must do is, “open the door to his heart for the Lord to rule in His life” and he will be saved. This kind of “submission” to “the Lord” for salvation is an example of crossing the line.

MH wrote,
…whether submission is a part of faith at all, whether that submission is explicit or implicit in faith, and finally whether submission is in principle as opposed to complete, mature, and total.”
I think many would agree there is an element of submission in principle as long as we are defining faith in terms of dependence, trust and believing. If someone were to define submission to the gospel message of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, as “submission in principle,” I have no problem with that. The problem is that many of the LS men go way beyond principle. They may, but I am not certain LS advocates teach a lost person must start out his relationship with Christ immediately following salvation in “complete, mature and total submission.” I’m sure we’d all like to begin our walk with God in “complete, mature and total submission.” We, however, know the realty of the inner warfare (Rom. 7) and the sin which doth so easily besets us (Heb. 12:1).
What they are calling for is the upfront commitment for “complete, mature and total submission” to the commands of Christ to begin a relationship with Christ. Once “commitment, full-surrender, a willingness to die for Jesus’ sake,” becomes part of a definition for saving faith, that then is a departure from principle and Scripture.

MH wrote,
On the other hand, there are passages in the Gospels and the Epistles that exemplify faith in explicit terms of submission. As far as the so-called “hard sayings" of Christ that discuss aspects of commitment and discipleship in relationship to the Gospel of the Kingdom, these are the most difficult issues to resolve and I believe that these passages have become the battleground between the opposing positions.”
I trust we all agree none of us here are taking on the Hodges’ Mental Assent only as the “opposing position.”

The “battleground” is to a large extent over the “commitment and discipleship” passages. I would also include the Sermon on the Mount because LS advocates consider it supportive of their view of the gospel message for today. John MacArthur (representing LS) for example says the Sermon on the Mount contains, “pure gospel,” and he writes,
Hell will be full of people who thought highly of the Sermon on the Mount. You must do more than that. You must obey it and take action.” (Hard to Believe, pp. 81,86.)


LM

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