The FBFI Annual Fellowship is in its second day. Last night the *keynote speaker was Dr. Chuck Phelps. His message title was, “Living in the Grip of the Glorious Gospel.”
I want to address just one aspect of Dr. Phelps’s message, which is his discussion of the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel. Within his message he quoted a portion from Dr. John MacArthur’s Hard to Believe. This book is one of five major apologetics by John MacArthur on his Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel.
“Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God’s Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing. Salvation isn’t gained by reciting mere words. Saving faith transforms the heart, and that in turn transforms behavior. Faith’s fruit is seen in actions, not intentions. There’s no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile. Remember that what John saw in his vision of judgment was a Book of Life, not a book of Words or Book of Intellectual Musings. The life we live, not the words we speak, reveals whether our faith is authentic.”The selection above is a revised version of the original paragraph that appears in MacArthur’s Hard to Believe, p. 93. The original appeared as follows (see bold for the edited portion):
“Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God's Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing. Salvation isn’t the result of an intellectual exercise. It comes from a life lived in obedience and service to Christ as revealed in the Scriptures; it’s the fruit of actions not intentionsThere’s no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile. Remember that what John saw in his vision of judgment was a Book of Life, not a book of Words or Book of Intellectual Musings. The life we live, not the words we speak, determines our eternal destiny.”That passage, in either form, is one of the most controversial, **among many, coming from Dr. MacArthur since his release of the original edition of The Gospel According to Jesus. It was Phil Johnson (MacArthur’s senior editor) who notd the original manuscript, the paragraph in question, from Hard to Believe was altered by an editor at the publisher. Phil has posted a revision, which I was under the impression Dr. Phelps had cited. Several persons have indicated that it was the original version that Dr. Phelps cited in his message.
To date I am not aware of any instance in which Dr. MacArthur has personally and publicly edited, explained or eliminated the original paragraph from Hard to Believe. This is significant! (If anyone can document MacArthur personally retracting the paragraph from Hard to Believe, please post that link in the thread below.)
All of the friction in recent weeks in the IFB camp is of course troublesome. There has been talk of a split over Calvinism or possibly the ***“worldliness” of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals, which despite those trends many of our Reformed brethren are growing increasingly fond of close fellowship with the evangelicals. These are important discussions, but for some men these things are not clear issues that necessitate separation. IMO, those are not the clear fault lines for an ****Acts 15:39 type of parting of the ways between men in the IFB community and/or the FBF, but Lordship Salvation is!
Reasonable men can get along over differences of opinion over Reformed theology. Many men who reject Calvinism have cordial personal friendships with IFB men who are Calvinistic in their theology. There is the desire to work in cooperative efforts and I understand that desire. It is, however, antithetical to the Scriptures to call for unity in any fellowship at the expense of compromise with Lordship’s message, which has changed the terms of the Gospel. Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote:How can there be unity within a fellowship when two polar opposite interpretations of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ are accepted as legitimate?
“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.” (Lordship Salvation: An Examination of John MacArthur’s Book, The Gospel According to Jesus.)If a brother in Christ believes eternal salvation is received through faith plus commitment of life he has fallen into the trap of Lordship Salvation’s man-centered, works based message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21). We need to prayerfully exhort and convince those men to reconsider their advocacy of Lordship Salvation and to repent of it.
If there is to be fracture in Fundamentalism the fault line is IMO Lordship Salvation.
PS: Later today I am posting an article in regard to Thursday’s Q & A Symposium titled, “Let’s Discuss Conservative Evangelicalism.”
*The other slated keynote speaker, Evangelist Will Galkin, was unable to attend due to a family illness.
**Additional controversial quotes from MacArthur include:
“Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” (TGATJ, p. 78)***A an article of supreme importance exposing the trend of worldliness among “conservative” evangelicals was published by Dr. Peter Masters. See, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness (An alarmed assessment by Dr. Masters of the ‘new Calvinism’ promoted among young people in the USA from Sword & Trowel 2009, No. 1)
“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.” (Hard to Believe, p. 9.)
“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.” (TGATJ, p. 140).
“One of the most comprehensive invitations to salvation in all the epistles comes in James 4:7-10... The invitation in 4:7-10 is directed at those who are not saved...” (From the 20th Anniversary edition of TGATJ (p. 250). See, Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page
****See- Is it Sharp Nuff’ Yet?