September 16, 2010

Archival Series: Ominous Signs of Lordship’s Coming Storm

Dear Guests:

Earlier this month [May 2008] I received an e-mail from a new visitor to my blog. His name is Pastor Norm Aabye.[1] Some of the content in his e-mail is, in my opinion, remarkable and little known information. Pastor Aabye shares a unique view of events that predate the modern day Lordship Salvation controversy. The Lordship controversy was reignited and gained world-wide attention with the 1988 release of Dr. MacArthur’s first major Lordship Salvation apologetic The Gospel According to Jesus.

From Pastor Aabye’s first hand historical perspective you can see that ominous signs of Dr. John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel were coming into view as much as seven years prior to the release of The Gospel According to Jesus. Pastor Aabye includes a reference to a related matter I have covered here, the IFCA meetings with Dr. John MacArthur in 1989.

I asked for and received permission to share his e-mail with you, my guests. This is Pastor Aabye’s e-mail, and I trust you will find it interesting.

Dear Brother Lou,

I “accidentally” came across your site while doing some research for a message I am preparing on the substance of the Gospel. Let me say that you are doing an admirable job of providing pertinent information on the Lordship Salvation issue.
My wife and I are currently involved in a ministry to the elderly in nursing homes in northwest PA and northeastern OH, but for 18 years I was the pastor of an independent Baptist church in Connecticut. But prior to my call to preach, I was employed for several years by Moody Press (this was before my wife and I determined that we were really more fundamental in our doctrine and beliefs than the Moody crowd, which has slipped further into New Evangelicalism!).
I clearly remember a staff meeting at Moody Press (MP) where Phil Johnson, who was then an editor at MP, presented one of John MacArthur’s newest books to us, The Ultimate Priority[2], which had to do with worship.

A controversy ensued at the meeting because of the back cover copy, which implied that a person’s eternity destiny was dependent upon how they worshipped. I clearly remember the director of MP requiring Phil Johnson to go back and rewrite the copy because of what was believed to be its erroneous implications. I believe this was around 1981 and John MacArthur was Moody’s “fair-haired boy” at that time. If I remember correctly, it was shortly after this that Phil Johnson left MP to work full-time with MacArthur in California.
When The Gospel According to Jesus was published in 1988, MacArthur’s favor with MP apparently quickly diminished.

Dr. Charles Ryrie was one of our key authors at that time, with his study Bible being the flagship product. His clear teachings on the substance of the Gospel were diametrically opposed to MacArthur’s Lordship view of the Gospel. I knew Dr. Ryrie and he was solid on all he taught, and a real Christian gentleman.
Years ago I was in a personal conversation with John MacArthur during a Christian Bookseller’s Association convention in Anaheim while I still worked for Moody. We were making some observations about Kenneth Hagin’s ministry and MacArthur began conversing with me about the charismatic movement in general. His knowledge on that topic is extensive, as it may be on other topics. While he demonstrated himself to be very capable in dealing with “certain” issues, I lost confidence in his ability to discern the simplicity of the Gospel itself. Dr. MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation is, of course, wrong primarily on the very basic issue of what constitutes saving faith, and certain other issues we are contending for.
The escalation of the Lordship Salvation debacle, as well as the blood issue and the eternal sonship of Christ [3], quickly made me lose confidence in him. Over the years, I have watched him plunge deeper into Reformed theology and was aware of his fall from favor from the IFCA International (I still have the tapes of the 1989 IFCA meeting in which John was asked to explain his views).
I have only begun to peruse the articles on your site, as there is so much to read, but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate what you are doing and the importance of a clear Gospel of grace in our day of confusion. May God continue to bless you in your efforts.


Pastor Norm Aabye
Saegertown, PA
Site Publisher Addendum:
For additional reading on the IFCA controversy with John MacArthur see these articles that include links to transcripts from the 1989 IFCA interview with John MacArthur-

IFCA Statement on the Nature of Saving Faith

Insights From the IFCA Interview with John MacArthur

[1] Pastor Norm Aabye was born and raised in Connecticut ; USAF veteran; saved in 1970, while serving in the Philippines; graduate of Colonial Hills Baptist College, Danbury, CT; ordained in 1987; founded River Valley Baptist Church in Ansonia, Connecticut in 1987, and pastored there for 18 years; taught in the Bible department for 9 years on the faculty of the New England School of the Bible, Southington, CT; founded C.A.R.E. Ministries (Christ’s Ambassadors Reaching the Elderly) in 2006, a nursing home ministry in northwestern PA and northeastern OH. Pastor Aabye and his wife, Priscilla, currently reside in rural northwestern Pennsylvania, serving as full-time missionaries to the elderly in nursing homes.

[2] You can view the back cover of John MacArthur’s The Ultimate Priority as it appears today.

[3] “Those who teach this view would include Ralph Wardlaw, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, Jimmy Swaggart, Finis J. Dake (Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible), Walter Martin (author of Kingdom of the Cults). Popular Bible teacher John MacArthur, Jr. for many years denied the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ, but he has changed his position and now embraces this doctrine.” For detailed study see- The Eternal Sonship of Christ by Pastor George Zeller. But has MacArthur truly repented of that view? Serious questions raise doubts over whether or not MacArthur has repudiated his former view and genuinely abandoned it. See John MacArthur: Christ’s Eternal Sonship for a discussion of this controversy.

18 comments:

  1. A controversy ensued at the meeting because of the back cover copy, which implied that a person’s eternity destiny was dependent upon how they worshipped. I clearly remember the director of MP requiring Phil Johnson to go back and rewrite the copy because of what was believed to be its erroneous implications. I believe this was around 1981...

    I would dearly love to know what Phil Johnson had written that needed to be revised. Since that time another work of MacArthur's has had to be revised because of disturbing content- his book Hard to Believe. The original contained the following in the first paragraph of chapter 6 entitled "Empty Words":

    "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 Scripture; it's the fruit of actions, not intentions. There's no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile...The life we live, not the words we speak, determines our eternal destiny."

    This was noted and objected to by Gary Gilley, who contacted Phil Johnson about it and received a reply. Tim Challies, who also inquired about this but received no answer, posts Gilley's account here:

    http://www.challies.com/general-news/john-macarthurs-hard-to-believe-and-lordship-salvation?quicktabs_1=0

    Johnson responded to Gilley that it must have been the doing of an editor at Nelson Books. That portion of the text of Hard to Believe has been revised and in the 2003 edition reads:

    "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...The life we live, not the words we speak, reveals whether our faith is authentic."

    However, in this same revised edition, the back cover copy has this:

    "The hard truth about Christianity is that the cost is high, but the rewards are priceless: abundant and eternal life that comes only from faithfully following Christ."

    Here we have a statement that more than implies that eternal life is not a gift, but a REWARD that only comes from faithfully following Jesus, essentially the same message as the portion that was removed.

    I wonder whether Phil Johnson also wrote this back cover copy or whether it is the result of an editor as well. And if it was not intended by MacArthur/Johnson but was the result of an editor at Nelson Books, why this was not also changed in the revision.

    JanH

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  2. Jan:

    Thanks for raising this. It is another example of MacArthur’s disturbing statements on the gospel. The p. 93 paragraph from Hard to Believe has been revised as you documented.

    I addressed this briefly last year in What is the Fault Line for Fracture in Fundamentalism?

    To date, however, I am not aware of any instance in which Dr. MacArthur has personally, publicly disavowed the original paragraph from Hard to Believe. This is significant!

    Furthermore, what you’ve shared from the back cover is no less egregious than the original on p. 93 paragraph in its implications. It is works salvation and very similar to what I’ve address around this term “final salvation.”

    For example:

    There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.” (John Piper, What Jesus Demands From the World, p. 160).

    Endurance in faith is a condition for future salvation. Only those who endure in faith will be saved for eternity.” (R. C. Sproul, Grace Unknown, p. 198).

    See- The Gospel & Separation: Is the Term “Final Salvation” Necessarily Wrong?

    BTW, I did go to Amazon and viewed the back cover of HtB that is shown there. It still reads just as you citied on your comment above. I wonder if this was another editor taking license and has it or will it also be revised.


    Lou

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  3. To date, however, I am not aware of any instance in which Dr. MacArthur has personally, publicly disavowed the original paragraph from Hard to Believe.

    I don't know why we would ever hear of such a thing when he has said elsewhere:

    We cannot be saved by works, but we have been saved to do good works. Therefore when God judges, He will look at a man's works to determine if salvation has indeed taken place. An unbeliever's works will reveal his unbelief. They will reveal the absence of God in his life because all his works will be unrighteous. Even when he tries to be righteous his works will turn out to be filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). The believer, however, by faith has been given the power of God to produce righteous works. His salvation will be clearly indicated by them.

    God looks at a person's works. If He sees manifestations of righteousness, He knows that the person is regenerated. If He sees no such manifestation of righteousness, He knows that the person is unregenerate. Therefore God's final judgment can be rendered on the basis of works.


    http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg45-19.htm

    This is ridiculous.

    When God sent the judgment of the death of the first born, the angel was to look for the homes where the blood was applied to the door posts, not the place where good works were in evidence. The only "work" he was to look for was the application of the blood to the door of the home. He was to look not for works but for blood. Today the only "work" He looks for to determine our eternal salvation is that we believe in Him whom He sent (John 6:29, 53-57; 1 Cor 5:7.) If He sees that, He again passes over judging us.

    Not to mention how strange it is for a man who believes God regenerates a person before he even believes to say God only knows who He has regenerated once He sees works that prove regeneration has taken place. I know about not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing, but this is taking that concept a little too far, methinks!

    JanH

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  4. Jan your quote from MacArthur is shocking! I truly thought the man couldn't shock me further.

    How is it that people trust these men who spout such anti-biblical (not just extra-biblical) filth???

    How can one would would describe God's judgment in such a way be considered an authority on God's Word? You said;

    This is ridiculous.

    There is no better way to put it.

    Kev

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  5. Kev-

    The reason a man who would describe God's judgment in such a way can be considered an authority on God's word is because he talks out of both sides of his mouth. In other places he says things that are clearly correct, if only he would stop there and not expound further. For example, the first sentence is very Biblical and has verses that say exactly this very thing (Eph 2:8-10):

    We cannot be saved by works, but we have been saved to do good works.

    His problems all begin at "Therefore..."

    JanH

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  6. Jan/Kev:

    In other places he says things that are clearly correct…

    And that is why so many fall prey to LS through John MacArthur. He is so right so often on various issues that most do not read him with discernment. In his TGATJ there is much one can agree with, but that often leads folks to go right over and past the errors when they appear. They don’t expect that he may in fact be preaching a non-saving, works based message because he couches it in terms that are orthodox. Jan. you have, however, demonstrated what LS as JMac defines it truly is: Works for eternal salvation!

    Back to the article though: Interesting how LS teaching was already being detected in MacArthur well before TGATJ was published in 1988. Pastor Aabye wrote,

    Years ago I was in a personal conversation with John MacArthur…. While he [MacArthur] demonstrated himself to be very capable in dealing with ‘certain’ issues, I lost confidence in his ability to discern the simplicity of the Gospel itself. Dr. MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation is, of course, wrong primarily on the very basic issue of what constitutes saving faith, and certain other issues we are contending for.”


    LM

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  7. Yes back to the article. I wonder how many of MacArthur's followers (will we eventually have MacArthurism??" know his history with problems of discernment.

    Has anyone ever catalogued the history of MacArthur's teaching front to back?

    Kev

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  8. Ryrie is no fundamentalist. He is a new evangelical just like MacArthur. Why do you use him as an answer to MacArthur when he is a compromiser as well?

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  9. Josh:

    Neither Ryrie or MacArthur is a new evangelical. Neither Ryrie or MacArthur is a fundamentalist. Ryrie is in this article because he answers MacArthur’s erroneous Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel.


    LM

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  10. Josh:

    Just a couple of quotes from Ryrie, which exemplify why Pastor Aabye referenced him in contrast to MacArthur.

    “The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is a false gospel and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), and this is a very serious matter.” (Balancing the Christian Life)

    “The issue is, How can my sins be forgiven? . . . Through faith I receive Him and His forgiveness. Then the sin problem is solved, and I can be fully assured of going to heaven. I do not need to believe in Christ’s second coming in order to be saved. . . . But I do need to believe that He died for my sins and rose triumphant over sin and death. I do not need to settle issues that belong to Christian living in order to be saved.” (So Great Salvation)

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  11. Lou, is it your understanding that MacArthur created/invented LS?

    Also if you don't mind, what would you classify Ryrie and MacArthur if not New Evangelicals?

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  12. Josh:

    My answer to your first question comes from excerpts in my book. That is with one exception, the last paragraph.

    Lewis Johnson wrote, “The forerunner of the current debate erupted in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Two well-known evangelicals, Everett F. Harrison and John R. W. Stott debated the issue in Eternity magazine in September, 1959.” In reference to that debate, in the context of the Reformed origins and current support of Lordship, Dr. Robert Lightner wrote:

    The lordship salvation view did not begin in the 1950s. In reality the view is as old as covenant reformed theology, with which it is very compatible, although not all who embrace a nondispensational theology subscribe to lordship salvation, and some dispensationalists embrace it. Chantry was right when he said lordship salvation “is largely associated with Reformed theology (and rightly so).” Supportive of this is the fact that the most recent full-scale defense of lordship salvation from one who claims to be a dispensationalist cites dozens of Reformed writers such as O. T. Allis, Berkhof, Boice, C. Hodge, J. I. Packer, Pink, and Warfield.”

    Through the centuries, Satan has tried to confuse, cloud, and complicate the gospel of Jesus Christ. For many the problem begins when one’s mind is corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

    2 Cor. 11:3-4But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

    As I define and answer Lordship Salvation I will be drawing primarily from the teaching of Dr. John MacArthur because he is this generation’s most prolific apologist for the position. To date MacArthur has published five major works on Lordship Salvation, plus numerous articles and sermons in audio, print and online formats. Please understand that Dr. MacArthur’s character is not under scrutiny or being called into question, MacArthur’s teaching, however, is. As far as I know John MacArthur’s character is above reproach in both Christian and secular circles. Although I am grieved over his interpretation of the gospel I am grateful for his personal testimony especially since so many preachers have lost theirs and in so doing have harmed the cause of Christ.

    Not in Book>>>
    To answer your question: No John MacArthur did not invent LS. LS is another one of the Devil's devices to corrupt the simplicity that is in Christ. John MacArthur has been deceived in his understanding of the gospel and has done untold harm to the NT church through his teaching of LS.


    LM

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  13. How would you classify Ryrie and MacArthur? I am curious as you said they aren't NE.

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  14. Josh:

    This discussion is about Lordship Salvation. How about your addressing what I just posted above about MacArthur in answer to your question. In any event,

    As for JMac/Ryrie- if you know what the classic definition and mindset of a New evangelical you would know nether of them fit that mold. The chief distinction is that they are polar opposites on the gospel. Where one categorizes them is secondary, but they would both be considered primarily evangelical, but NOT of the neo type.

    That said; if you want to continue in this thread contribute something to the LS controversy.

    Thanks,


    LM

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  15. I came across this from the New Hampshire confession of faith, which was a toned down confession for those less calvinistic than the LBCF:

    "We believe that Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour."

    I haven't gotten into my historical confessions book yet, but it seems MacArthur's position has a historical aspect to it.

    Regarding the second Ryrie quote, he speaks of those who don't have to believe in the 2nd coming to be saved. Does Ryrie or anyone else actually know of Christians who deny the 2nd coming? If not, then it is purely a theoretical idea and not of any weight.

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  16. Josh:

    The lost do NOT have to believe in the 2nd coming of Christ to be born again. This creates a huge problem for LS advocates who insist on using 1 Thess 1:9 to bolster their interpretation of repentance, salvation. I wrote an entire new section in the chapter on repentance in my book to address this. Here is small sample on 1 Thess. 1:9-10,

    There is a major problem for the Lordship position in claiming that 1 Thess. 1:9 is making the intent “to serve” a necessary description (thus condition) of genuine repentance/faith. If “to serve” is a condition/necessary description, then syntactically so must the phrase “to wait” be as well. Wait for what? “His Son from heaven,” i.e. the Second Coming of Christ. There is no other passage in Scripture that conditions the reception of eternal life on believing in Christ’s Second Coming or waiting for it!

    There is simply no way the two infinitive clauses can be separated. They are both present tense, active voice, infinitives, and they are both subordinate, dependent clauses that are parallel to one another and dependent upon the main, independent clause of 1:9, “how ye turned to God from idols.”

    To be born again do the lost need to believe in the Second Coming of Christ? If we accept MacArthur’s view that the Thessalonians were saved by “turning from evil and the intent to serve,” then the Scriptures also demand waiting for the second coming of Christ as a third condition for conversion.


    You asked, “Does Ryrie or anyone else actually know of Christians who deny the 2nd coming?” Can’t speak for Ryrie, I don’t; do you?


    LM

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  17. I think I would have to go back and reread Balancing the Christian Life to gather the full intent of Ryrie. I read that book over a decade ago.

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  18. Josh:

    I'd encourage you to also read Ryrie's So Great Salvation.


    LM

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