September 23, 2019

BJU’s Soteriology: “Turn From Their Sins,” for Salvation

In a previous article, BJU: It’s a Question of Doctrine1 we introduced a discussion of a section in the current BJU Position Statements, which we will examine in a moment. In the Question of Doctrine article our concern was primarily with a chapel message by BJU president Dr. Steve Pettit.  Statements made such as the following were considered.
“What is the race? It is the whole of the Christian life of faith…. When you start [the race] in faith you need to run and finish in faith…. The race has to be faithfully run to the finish, there is justification, sanctification and a glorification. If you lose, if you don’t finish you lose everything, you lose your soul.”
We demonstrated Dr. Steve Pettit teaching the same element of Calvinistic theology (Perseverance of the Saints) as John Piper, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur and Kevin DeYoung.

Today, we turn our attention more fully to the current BJU Position Statements: Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology under the subsection, With Regard to the Doctrine of Soteriology.2 In paragraph one this statement appears,

God offers this salvation freely to all men who are willing to repent and turn from their sins (Acts 3:19, 17:30) and place their full faith and trust in the atonement Christ made by His finished work on the Cross (Luke 24:46–48, Heb. 9:11–15, 10:10–14).” [bold added]

Does God condition salvation on a lost man’s willingness, “to repent and turn from their sins?”  “Lordship Salvation” is an interpretation of the gospel which requires faith in Christ, plus commitment of life, to stop sinning and start obeying in “exchange” for salvation. Here is John MacArthur, on Lordship Salvation’s message to the lost.
The gospel that Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer…It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness. It put sinners on notice that they must turn from sin and embrace God’s righteousness.(Dr. John MacArthur: An Introduction to Lordship Salvation.)
“Seeking the Lord is important, calling upon Him is critical, but so is forsaking wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts. It is impossible to talk about seeking the Lord without talking about turning from sin. It is impossible to talk about turning to the Lord without turning away from iniquity and wickedness. Clearly, this is an essential in the gospel message…. If you’re going to receive the Lord and the salvation He brings, you’re going to have to straighten out…. Salvation comes to those who turn from sin to God.” (The Doctrine of Repentance, Sermon- April 3, 2005) 
“The gospel call of Jesus was a call to forsake sin as much as it was a summons to believe in Him. It was a call to turn from sin.” (The Call to Repentance, Sermon- January 24, 1988)
Dr. Ernest Pickering
John MacArthur is stating what he believes to be God’s plan for the salvation of lost mankind.  MacArthur is stating Lordship’s indispensable condition that must be met if a lost man is to receive “eternal life” and the “forgiveness” of sins. That condition is the lost man “must turn from sin” to receive the gift of eternal life and ultimately enter heaven. Dr. Ernest Pickering recognized John MacArthur's teaching was a departure from the biblical plan of salvation. 
“MacArthur laments, ‘Contemporary Christendom too often accepts a shallow repentance that bears no fruit’ (p. 96). This theme recurs over and over again in the book. The recommended cure for this malady is to require more of the seeking sinner than the Bible requires. Instead of ‘merely’ believing on the finished work of Christ the inquiring soul must also be willing to have Christ as Lord over every area of his life. It seems evident upon an examination of this thesis that those who espouse it are adding something to the gospel that is not in the Scriptures.” (Ernest Pickering, Lordship Salvation: An Examination of John MacArthur’s Book, The Gospel According to Jesus.)
Brother George Zeller wrote, “The unsaved person is told that if he does not turn from sin, surrender, have a willingness to obey, fulfill the demands of discipleship, etc., then he cannot be saved. Sadly, the focus is turned away from the all sufficient, finished work of Christ which is the sinner’s only resting place.”3

From Brother Zeller’s article, John MacArthur’s Position on the Lordship of Christ we read,
MacArthur defines REPENTANCE as turning from your sins (Faith Works, p. 74). He also teaches that true repentance “inevitably results in a change of behavior” (Faith Works, p. 75). But is not TURNING FROM SINS a CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR? Is MacArthur confusing the RESULTS of repentance with REPENTANCE itself? Is not he confusing the FRUITS with the ROOT? MacArthur is more accurate when he says, “true repentance involves a change of heart and purpose (Faith Works, p. 75). The inner change will produce an outward change.4
Dr. John Van Gelderen wrote,
Jesus said, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32). Sick people do not turn from their sickness to a physician. If they could turn from sickness, they would no longer need a physician. Rather, sick people turn to a physician for deliverance from their sickness. Similarly, sinners must turn to Christ, the Great Physician, for deliverance from their sin and its consequence.5
A lost man cannot turn from sin, but he can turn to God to deliver him from the penalty and power of sin (Romans 6). Lordship Salvation contends that repentance is turning from sin(s) or the resolve to turn from sins. Repentance is viewed as a commitment to discipleship and fruit bearing. Scripture has a better answer. The Bible teaches that the Savior saves “the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6) in their sin, and believers from the power of sin (Rom. 6:1-ff; Gal. 5:16). (In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, p. 128)

Lordship Salvation is a works based, man-centered message that conditions the gift of eternal life on an upfront commitment to change behavior and perform the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) of a disciple that should be the result of a genuine conversion. Calling on the lost to “turn from their sinsfor salvation is to condition salvation on behavior, not believing. That is works salvation!

We have looked at everything above to get to this,

The BJU Position Statement on soteriology is virtually identical to John MacArthur’s  

definition of Lordship Salvation.

BJU’s Position Statement says God “offers…salvation freely,” and this is true. By conditioning what God offers “freely” upon the willingness of a sinner to “turn from their sins” BJU’s Statement corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).

Historically BJU never allowed the teaching of, let alone publish an official position statement legitimizing Lordship Salvation. In fact, BJU had in years past utterly rejected Lordship Salvation.6

Is it possible BJU unwittingly stumbled into the trap of Lordship Salvation not realizing that is where they have positioned the university’s soteriology? Or has the university officially accepted the “Lordship Salvation” interpretation of the gospel? 

If Dr. Steve Pettit and the BJU administration reject Lordship Salvation they will surely retract and revise the BJU Position Statement we have highlighted here. Otherwise, and tragically, we’re left to conclude that BJU has become a welcoming place for Lordship Salvation.

1) BJU: It’s a Question of Doctrine

2) BJU Position Statements: Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology

3) In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, p. xi.)

4) John MacArthur’s Position on the Lordship of Christ

5) Repent and Believe, Part 8: Confusing Terminology: 
Turn from Sin.

6) A Review of Walter Chantry’s “Today’s Gospel” by Dr. Stewart Custer

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