I have been reading the transcripts (see links below) of the interview, conducted by the Executive Committee of the IFCA, with Dr. MacArthur in June 1989 shortly after the release of The Gospel According to Jesus.
The result of that interview with Dr. MacArthur, in regard to his Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel, lead to the IFCA’s Executive Committee writing and issuing the doctrinal statement titled, The Nature of Saving Faith.
The first transcript (Part 1) of the Q&A with 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 was being questioned about are:
1) The blood of Christ
2) The eternal sonship of Christ
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.
Part 2 of the interview was devoted totally to some of the doctrinal issues stemming from The Gospel According to Jesus.
In the early portions of Part 2 transcripts you can read from Dr. MacArthur’s own remarks, about several people he knew when he was a young man who sorely disappointed him in regard to an alleged relationship with Jesus Christ they had. They either backslid horribly, or their appearance of being a Christian was a façade; I don’t know which.
What I do know is this: Those events started him on a journey that lead him to adopt and later advocate the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel.
In the transcript Dr. MacArthur said,
“And as a pastor I have seen them come and go and come and go and come and go, and trying in my own heart to assess the nature of true conversion was very much a personal struggle with me, not a theological one. And then I began to study the Gospel of Matthew, and I preached in Matthew for eight years at our church. And in that process of going through Matthew, I began to come to grips with the whole gospel record, because I was doing a study of the synoptics and John at the same time. And I began to fix on how Jesus evangelized and what He called for and so forth.”This point in his life and study of Scripture is pivotal. He had experienced the disappointment that any pastor would if those he believed to be saved went bad or had lived out a facade. With those disappointments in mind his study of Matthew resulted in coming to believe The Sermon on the Mount contains pure gospel. In my article, Is The Sermon on the Mount Pure Gospel, I explain why that sermon is not an evangelistic appeal.
In his review of The Gospel According to Jesus, Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote the following, which I cite in my book:
“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.”Dr. Pickering speaks of the “desperate desire” which lead to Dr. MacArthur’s “changing the terms of the gospel.” From reading Dr. MacArthur’s opening remarks in the LS section of the IFCA interview with him- one can read when, how and why his “desperate desire” originated.
IFCA Interview with John MacArthur (Part 1)
IFCA Interview with John MacArthur (Part 2)
The Lordship Q&A is in Part 2