Nathan Busenitz is the personal assistant to Dr. John MacArthur. In late 2006 Nathan invited me to enter a series of what grew into protracted discussions at the Pulpit Magazine web site over the Lordship interpretation of the gospel. (John MacArthur’s Grace to You ministry operates Pulpit Magazine)
As for Nathan personally, I have never met him, but he is one of the most pleasant men I have ever sharply disagreed with doctrinally. It was refreshing to debate the Lordship Salvation issue with Nathan at his site. I believe Nathan and I gave an object lesson on how men can disagree sharply, and yet charitably.
At the height of our discussions I encouraged Nathan to expand our discussion to other important and related doctrines, but he was not very interested in discussing anything other than repentance. That was a little frustrating because the Lordship interpretation touches on numerous Bible doctrines. The repentance question, however, became a very important and revealing discussion because it is with repentance that the Lordship advocate takes some of his most serious doctrinal missteps. Through my interaction with Nathan we get a clearer picture of Lordship’s view of repentance, salvation.
During our on line discussion Nathan stated,
“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…. Lordship Salvation defines sin as rebellion or ‘lawlessness’ (which is how 1 John 3:4 defines it). To turn from (or forsake) one’s rebellion is (by definition) to begin submitting.” Nathan’s definition of repentance (representative of the Lordship position) requires a lost man to be inclined (i.e., make a decison) to stop sinning and “start obeying” to receive the gift of eternal life. This is to tell a lost man that he must turn over a new leaf to be born again. Nathan’s repentance is telling a lost man that he must make a commitment to change his behavior, which is telling a lost man he must repent toward good works. I am certainly not suggesting that a lost man who thinks he can pray for salvation, while at the same time is determined to continue his sinful ways, can be genuinely born again.
“If I truly hate my sinfulness, and am broken over it, I will be simultaneously inclined to stop doing it. And as I earlier pointed out, the inclination (or desire or willingness) to stop sinning is the inclination to start obeying. And an inclination to start obeying is a change of allegiance (from self to God).”
For the record here, and in my book, I strongly object to the reductionist Crossless gospel associated with Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society. Nathan’s repentance, however, demands a commitment for reformation of life to receive the gift of eternal life.
Lordship Salvation’s repentance confuses sanctification (growth of a believer) with justification, (God declaring/making a sinner righteous). For Lordship advocates anything short of a commitment to obedience is not repentance, and would leave the lost man dead in his sins, no matter he believed about his guilt before God or the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Upfront commitment to the kind of behavior expected of a spiritually mature Christian is the Lordship advocates definition of repentance.
Referring back to Nathan’s comment above he wrote,
“Lordship sees repentance as more than just a change in dependence. It is also a change of allegiance.”As soon as I saw Nathan’s use of “allegiance” in his definition of repentance I had an immediate concern. I followed up with two questions for Nathan based from a passage of Scripture.
I posted the above twice to Nathan’s attention at Pulpit Magazine, but he never replied to it. It is a question Lordship advocates cannot answer! Lordship’s repentance, which calls for commitment, submission, and allegiance infringes on the finished work of Christ. A commitment to do what is right is misplaced dependence. That is depending on behavior for salvation. That is works dependence!
“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” (John 12:42-43).
The Bible says they were not open about, and would not confess a “change of allegiance.” Did they biblically repent; were they believers?
Nathan also wrote,
“Lordship teaches that repentance includes a turning from lawlessness and rebellion, which necessarily means a willingness to surrender, and a turning to God.”This is where Calvinism’s regeneration before faith is a key issue. Nathan’s order is wrong! Lost man cannot turn from sin, but he can turn to God to deliver him from sin and Hell. To be saved, must a man depend on a commitment to and promise of righteous living, or must he depend on the finished work of Christ? Must a lost man make a decision to stop sinning and commit to obedience and allegiance for salvation? To be born again, a man cannot trust both a personal commitment and the finished work of Christ.
Salvation comes by the total unconditional transfer of a man's dependence to God alone through Christ's atoning sacrifice and resurrection, and occurs apart from any personal upfront commitment to the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a mature born again child of God.
A proper understanding of repentance can only be drawn out of a study of its precise theological usage in the New Testament, and must be based upon its primary meaning, a change of mind.
The above is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment or discussion of the doctrine of repentance. I have posted Nathan's opinion on repentance, which is representative of most Lordship advocates. The revised and expanded edition of my book is nearly complete. In the book there are numerous pages dedicated to a thorough discussion of repentance.