15 November 2006

Why the lordship "debate" died

A message for those desperate to revive a dead horse
by Phil Johnson



ob Wilkin, founder and chief mouthpiece of the Grace Evangelical Society, published this "review" of The Gospel According to Jesus in the October-November 1988 issue of the GES newsletter, within a few weeks after the book was first released:

The Gospel According to Jesus
A Review*

by Bob Wilkin

MacArthur's book hits four main issues: assurance, faith, repentance, and the relationship between salvation and discipleship.

Assurance
While he never says it in so many words, MacArthur does not believe in assurance. That is, he thinks that no one can or should know with certainty that he is saved. He suggests that it is healthy for believers (regardless of how long they have been saved—or rather, think they may have been saved) to have doubts about their salvation as long as they do not worry obsessively about it (p. 190). (He never explains what constitutes too much worrying about one's salvation.) He views doubt and worry over one's eternal destiny as a strong motivation, if not the only motivation, for people to live holy lives (pp.23, 77, 123, 178, 190, 217-18).

Faith
Faith is viewed by MacArthur not as an objective reality but as a subjective mist. He suggests that one can believe all the facts of the gospel and still be unsaved (pp. 68, 74)! Faith, he suggests, also must include a complete submission to Christ's sovereignty over one's life (pp. 68, 74, 135). Of course, since no one submits perfectly in this life, if that is what faith is, how could any one hope to know for sure he had placed his faith in Christ? MacArthur's view of faith leaves no room for assurance.

Repentance
Defining repentance as turning from one's sins (pp. 162-65). MacArthur suggests that in order to obtain eternal salvation one must turn from his sins and keep on doing so (pp. 58, 111, 162-65). He even admits at one point that this is in part a human work. He says, "Nor is repentance merely a human work" (p. 163). That is, he sees it as a work of God and us. We must cooperate in our salvation, according to MacArthur, by striving against sin our whole lives, never knowing we are saved and always hoping we are turning from enough sins. MacArthur contends that if anyone ever falls they were probably never saved in the first place (pp.77, 84, 123).

The Relationship between Salvation and Discipleship
Obedience to God's commands is central to MacArthur's view of both of these subjects. He suggests that one is saved not merely by obeying God's command to trust in Christ alone, but by obeying all of God's commands (pp. 33n, 96, 126-27, 174-78). Progressive sanctification is, according to MacArthur, the inevitable result of justification. If one ceases to obey God at some point, he proves he was probably not saved in the first place (pp. 77, 84, 123). How well must one obey to be saved? MacArthur admits that no one can obey 100% of the time due to the flesh which remains with us until we die (p. 174). Yet he fails to say how much obedience is needed (99%?, 90%?, 80%?, 70%?—or maybe God grades on the curve?).

MacArthur says that salvation requires human effort (pp. 33,97, 100, 163)! He argues that this is not teaching works-salvation since our efforts and works alone will not save us (pp. 33, 163). Salvation, in his view, takes God's works plus our works. However, if it takes our works at all to be saved, then eternal salvation is at least in part by works and can rightly be called works-salvation.

While we may disagree strongly with what MacArthur's book says, we should not only believe in grace but manifest it as we talk with those who hold errant views of the gospel. While it is apparent from Galatians 1:6-9 that we should not support the ministry of those who distort the gospel, that is not to say that we should be argumentative and belligerent. Let's demonstrate love and grace in the way we talk to and about those who promote a false gospel.

*An expanded review of this book will appear in the Spring 1989 issue of the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society.


I wrote Bob a letter on 4 November 1988, in which I identified myself as the book's editor and said,

While I had no expectation that GES would be supportive of Dr. MacArthur's position, I had hoped for an honest evaluation of the book....

In the first place, assurance is not, as you state, one of the four main issues of The Gospel According to Jesus. The book barely touches on the subject. Its focus is the message Jesus proclaimed and the response He demanded. The book clearly is not intended to be a treatise on assurance. Far from teaching that assurance is impossible, however, Dr. MacArthur consistently encourages readers to examine their lives by the biblical standard, and be sure of their salvation.

Also, despite what you say, Dr. MacArthur never once speaks of "doubt and worry over one's salvation as a strong motivation . . .for people to live holy lives."

Perhaps one further quotation from your review will serve to show the utter dishonesty of the way you dealt with this book. You write, "[MacArthur] even admits at one point that [repentance] is in part a human work. He says, 'Nor is repentance merely a human work' (p. 163). That is, he sees it as a work of God and us" (your emphasis).

But did you read the paragraph in its entirety? Here it is:

Nor is repentance merely a human work. It is, like every element of redemption, a sovereignly bestowed gift of God. The early church, recognizing the authenticity of Cornelius's conversion, concluded, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life" (Acts 11:18; cf. Acts 5:31). Paul wrote to Timothy that he should gently correct those who oppose the truth, "if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25). If God is the One who grants repentance, it cannot be viewed as a human work (emphasis added).
Perhaps you haven't thoroughly read the book. If not, I encourage you to do so. I have no doubt that because of your theological position, you were predisposed to disagree with the book before you even saw it. But please do yourself and your constituents a favor and read the book again carefully and completely. The gospel is too important an issue for you to treat this book so cavalierly.

You mention at the end of your article that you're planning an expanded review for the Spring issue of your journal. I hope that review will be written with more integrity than this one. I hope you'll use more quotations, and more in-depth ones. I hope you'll let the book speak for itself, rather than taking it upon yourself to explain what Dr. MacArthur "never says . . .in so many words." I hope you'll respond to Appendix 2 of the book, which seems to me to offer convincing proof that your view of the gospel is the one that deviates from the historic Christian faith. Above all, I hope you'll interact with the biblical data Dr. MacArthur brings out in the book. Rather than simply attacking Dr. MacArthur for urging believers to examine themselves, why not explain why you believe 2 Corinthians 13:5 doesn't mean what it says?

Awaiting Your Reply,

Phillip R. Johnson

When I received no reply or acknowledgement from Bob Wilkin, I wrote him again on 25 April 1989, enclosed a copy of the original letter, and again requested a reply. More than fifteen years later, he has still not replied to or acknowledged that letter, and yet the original "review" is still posted at the GES website in its original form.

For more than a decade following the book's initial release, I replied to every letter sent to our ministry regarding The Gospel According to Jesus and the lordship debate. There were literally hundreds of letters on the issue, and with no more than three or four notable exceptions, every bit of interaction I ever had with hardcore no-lordship advocates was equally fruitless.

That's why I have been less than responsive to the spam and goading that appears from time to time in the comments here on the blog. Frankly, I think the GES version of no-lordship doctrine is as outlandish as some of the distinctive doctrines of the major cults. And given the obvious lack of seriousness in the commenters here who have advocated those doctrines, I'm no more inclined to devote multiple posts to the subject at PyroManiacs than I would be to discuss the Seventh-Day Adventists' doctrine of "investigative judgment."

But, in an effort to keep the spam out of other comment-threads and appease the handful of people who are itching to debate the issue here, I'll open the comment-thread in this post to the discussion. I just want to make a few ground rules, which I will strictly insist on:

  1. Raise only one issue at a time, and no more than three twelve-line paragraphs per comment (including Scripture references). Ask a question, make a challenge, or make a point, and I will try to answer it. Post a long diatribe or a term-paper-length "comment," and I'll ignore it. (I might even delete your comment if it seems a deliberate breach of this rule.)
  2. No prefabricated cut-and-paste-style comments, and no rambling propagandizing or graffiti-style posts.
  3. If you cite Scripture and the point you are making isn't stated plainly by the text itself, please cogently explain the point you think the text makes.
  4. If I raise a question in reply, you must give an answer to the point, and not a deflection that introduces a different issue.
  5. If you ignore my questions or counterpoints, I will delete your subsequent comments.
  6. I will endeavor to honor the same rules, and if you think I have failed to do so, please feel free to call me on it.
  7. Keep your comments on the lordship issue in this thread, and nowhere else on my blog. Starting now and until this thread is closed, comments on the lordship issue in other threads will be automatically and unapologetically deleted.
Now, let the dead-horse-flogging begin.

Phil's signature

410 comments:

1 – 200 of 410   Newer›   Newest»
DJP said...

So, was there a Spring of 1989 review? If so, was it any better?

Albert said...

Phil,

What's been your assessment of all the discussion over at Pulpit? Any comment on the mass of interactions over there?

Phil Johnson said...

Daniel:

Yes, there was a review, but it was a different review by Kevin Butcher, not the "expanded" version of the Wilkin hit-piece Wilkin's nitial review seemed to promise.

It was more complete and somewhat more thoughtful than Wilkin's initial offering, but it ignored every one of the pleas and objections I made in my letter to Wilkin, and Butcher more or less started over from the beginning, dealing with different issues altogether. You know—the typical no-lordship tactic of evasion.

Albert:

I thought Nathan Busenitz answered the comments at "Pulpit Live" well. I was disappointed that those who seemed so eager to hijack threads and draw me into debate at PyroManiacs had practically nothing to say to me over there.

David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Johnson:

An excellent post as usual. Thanks for bringing out what you did, and though I've not yet read Dr. MacArthur's book, I certainly plan to in the future. One of these days, my amazon wish list will all be mine... :)

SDG,
dbh

farmboy said...

Out of curiousity I took a gander over to the Pulpit blog. After the beating that horse has taken all that's going to be left of him is a grease spot on the ground.

As a new Christian I purchased The Gospel According to Jesus with no knowledge of the background behind its writing. The title seemed like something I probably ought to know better, so I purchased and read the book.

In terms of understanding conversion, how genuine conversion evidences itself through changed behavior, reading the book was critical in my development as a Christian.

I remain perplexed as to how anyone could find the content of the book controversial or at odds with Scripture.

a simple bloggtrotter said...

I look forward to seeing who comes out of the no-lordship camp to answer, and if they actually make a bible-based argument. However, I still can't see how that is possible without misrepresenting or twisting something.

Phil Johnson said...

Incidentally, Kevin Butcher's review in the GES Journal was also filled with errors and misstatements. His page-number references often bear no relationship to anything MacArthur actually wrote. For example, he puts the words "mastership of Christ" in quotes alongside this reference: "(cf. pp. 230ff)." But nowhere in the book (much less the pages Butcher cited) does MacArthur ever use that phrase.

Butcher wrote, "MacArthur lumps the entire Free Grace Movement together with those who preach the health and wealth gospel (p.30)." Nothing on page 30 or anywhere in that vicinity makes any reference whatsoever to health-and-wealth theology. (Nor does MacArthur make such a claim anywhere in the book that I can find.)

Butcher accuses MacArthur of equating antinomianism with "a disdain for holiness and a consistent Christian walk." But the expression antinomian appears fewer than a dozen times in the book, mostly in quotes from historical figures like Luther and Whitefield. MacArthur himself defines antinomianism as the error of "separat[ing] justification and sanctification so radically that you allow for one without the other." Butcher's review is full of misrepresentations such as those.

Sam H. said...

You mean you're not going to help someone sell their book? Where's your heart man?

Phil Johnson said...

To be fair, I think Butcher made a couple of legitimate points, viz.:

"For example, justification, Paul's famous term for identifying the instantaneous and judicial acquittal which God gives to men at the moment of faith, is relegated to a mere two pages of explanation!"

"In a book claiming to explain Jesus' personal view of the Gospel it is inconceivable that MacArthur spends so little time explaining the significance of the work of the Cross!"

Of course, those shortcomings were acknowledged by MacArthur himself and remedied by the addition of two additional chapters in the book's second edition.

Mike Messerli said...

Phil,

I have not read John's book either, but know the debates well (being in the "kingdom of Dallas"). Bob is an acquaintance, and I am sorry to hear that this has happened. It does not build up the kingdom to have this kind of stuff going on. It makes it hard for any of us to have a real discussion with the issues so clouded like this. Thanks, Phil, for your clarity and your thoughts.

donsands said...

"The Gospel According to Jesus" is a much needed teaching in our day of easy believers preaching an easy and watered down gospel.

The Lord said: "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary ... that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations". Luke 24:46-47
Repenting of your sins and trusting in Christ's death and ressurection has to preached together.
The bottom line is that it's all grace. God's grace and mercy make it possible to believe and repent.

A sinner who repents, and cries out for mercy has the mighty hand of mercy upon him, instead of what he deserves, which would be the mighty hand of God's judgement.

"whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple". Luke 14:33

Count the cost.

Lou Martuneac said...

Hi BlogTrotter:

My book In Defense of the Gospel does address the Lordship interpretation of the gospel from a biblical perspective. The subtitle of my book eludes to that: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.

There is much I have in common with most Lordship advocates when it comes to the reseults of salvation. The point of departure and the crux of the debate is the requirements for salvation.

One of the most troublesome issues with Lordship Salvation is confusing the passages on disciple (growth) of the believer with the plan of salvation.

By the way, you can view and read portions of my book on line at Amazon. Just search by my last name or the book title.

On my blogsite, you can more about the debate and some articles I have written about the Lordship gospel.

Yours faithfully,

Lou Martuneac

www.indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com

TheBlueRaja said...

Welcome back.

Lou Martuneac said...

Phil:

Two questions-

1) Are you aware of and/or have your read the review of The Gospel According to Jesus by Dr. Ernest Pickering? It was prodcued shortly after TGATJ was published and is still in print.

2) If Dr. MacArthur were to withhold a response to a sincere inquiry or request for clarification about The Gospel According to Jesus, what would your reaction be if the inquirer were frustrated with a non-response?

Thanks,

LM

Phil Johnson said...

Lou:

1. Yes. I read it when it first came out, several years ago. As I recall, one of Pickering's main complaints was that MacArthur departed from Scofieldian dispensationalist orthodoxy, particularly by suggesting that Jesus' gospel was the same message the apostles proclaimed. MacArthur's second book on the issue was an in-depth answer to that argument.

Pickering also misunderstood the concept of antinomianism. MacArthur dealt with that, too, in The Gospel According to the Apostles.

2. Depends on the inquirer and whether he and/or his argument really deserved a whole reply in and of itself. I'm not aware of a single argument regarding the Lordship issue MacArthur hasn't answered, though he has no obligation to give a personal reply to each individual who demands a reply—even if the critic insists he is an original thinker with an iron-clad case.

Paul Doutell said...

The horse looks like it was hit with a frozen meat chub.

TEXpresby said...

Let's turn the horse into a frozen meat club!

TEX

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

Phil,

Reading Wilkin's mis-characterizations of John's position on Lordship salvation brought up the key defect in the non-Lordship position: defining the Lordship of Christ subjectively rather than objectively.

When non-Lordship advocates first explained the gospel to me, the language they used invariably went something like this:

"You need to accept Jesus as your personal Savior by asking Jesus into your heart." Now, that is about as subjectively as one can present the gospel. Further compounding this, after "salvation," one is admonished to then "make Jesus your Lord."

That is the non-Lordship problem in a nutshell; the idea that one can be saved without regard to the Lordship of Christ, and then make Jesus one's Lord.

Matthew 9:5-7, Mark 2:5-11, and Luke 5:20-25 made the issue clear to me. The issue in salvation is the authority of Christ. Non-lordship advocates seem to somehow manage to separate Christ's authority from His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection.

If Jesus is not Lord over the unsaved, by what authority can He save them? The most amazing thing to me about the passages cited above is the fact that Jesus forgave a man of his sins before He had been crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. And then healed the man to prove His authority to do so, and that authority is the central issue.

Daniel Kropf said...

Impacted Wisdom Truth:-
I heartily agree.

And here's a question to consider: If you "MAKE" someone your lord is he really your lord or is the one that makes him lord really the lord?

Jesus is the Lord, and we can either acknowledge it or not.

centuri0n said...

Oh Brother.

The problem that I find, over and over again, with the GES/no-Lordship position is that its advocates always -- every time -- put the cart before the dead horse.

Here's what I mean. Lou said:

There is much I have in common with most Lordship advocates when it comes to the reseults of salvation. The point of departure and the crux of the debate is the requirements for salvation.

One of the most troublesome issues with Lordship Salvation is confusing the passages on disciple (growth) of the believer with the plan of salvation.


The problem, of course, is that the GES position wants to construct an impenetrible force field at the moment of salvation, through which nothing can pass. That is to say, anything that happens after the moment of salvation has any causal or genetic relationship with what happened at the moment of salvation.

To them, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is (a-hem) Lord, that's all she wrote. The rest of your life is a sort of meaningless script. Sure: there's apparently some kind of additional benefit to, for example, confessing sin and repenting, but it's so unnecessary that one could actually defend one's sinning and embrace corruption and still meet the King of Kings and hear him saym "well, done" as opposed to "well done, you good and faithful servant".

It is hardly a works-based theology to admit that even Peter declared on Pentecost that if you know that Jesus is Lord and Christ, you should repent and be baptized. But if you admit this -- if you admit that even on pentecost there were necessary consequences of faith, and that those consequences demonstrate the presence of saving faith -- the no-lordship advocate believes you have placed sanctification (the consequences of grace) "in the plan of slavation", whatever that means.

But notice something so far: only one question. Open Season of Phil for no-lordship question, posted at peak viewing time for the blog, and suddenly all we hear is crickets.

Antonio? You there, bud? I thought you were dying to protect this sacred truth, my friend.

Can't wait to see the rest of this. It's a great ideaer.

DJP said...

Phil? Should there have been a rule about link-trolling or flogging your self-published book, instead of accepting your gracious invitation substantively to engage?

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Where is Antonioi?

Curtis Forrester said...

Do you have a link to a document that summarizes the Lordship debate in scholarly and "objective" language? Something akin to how, say, Gonzalez in History of Christian Thought would describe the history and players of an historical debate?

geekforgreek said...

Ok -- I'll poke my head out and ask the pressing question I've had on the issue... could you respond to this portion of the GES review?

How well must one obey to be saved? MacArthur admits that no one can obey 100% of the time due to the flesh which remains with us until we die (p. 174). Yet he fails to say how much obedience is needed (99%?, 90%?, 80%?, 70%?—or maybe God grades on the curve?).

Thanks for the help and the opportunity to ask.

centuri0n said...

Can't speak for Phil, but here's Geek's question:

How well must one obey to be saved? MacArthur admits that no one can obey 100% of the time due to the flesh which remains with us until we die (p. 174). Yet he fails to say how much obedience is needed (99%?, 90%?, 80%?, 70%?—or maybe God grades on the curve?).

Because the question is such a stumper, I'll answer it in the spirit it is asked. If Phil has some other opinion or whatever, he can speak for himself.

John says this about that:

1John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In that, John doesn't say that we have to be even 0.001% "obedient" -- as if someone is either 100% pure or completely damned to hell. John's admonition is this:

[1] The repentent are saved by Christ. Note that here there is no causal link, but instead the characteristic of the saved ones is that they repent -- somehow, the ones in the set of the saved are also ones in the set of the repentent.

[2] The ones who say they have never sinned have a 2-fold problem:
[a] they are trying to make a liar out of Christ, which is not very smart.
[b] they do not have His word in themselves, which means they have an eternal problem.

[3] the contrast is simple: the ones who do not recognize their sinfulness in a way which causes confession and leads us to be "cleansed" are apart from Christ, and the ones who do confess are "cleansed" and are in Christ.

In that, it is not about what percentage of your life is, right now, sanctified. It is about acknowldging that we are sinful and need to repent. Sanctification is the on-going mortification of sin, which only ends on the Last Day when not only are we sanctified 100% but are also glorified 100%.

So if you want a statistical analysis of my sanctification, I can give it to you this way: by God's grace, I am more sanctified today than yesterday, but I am hardly a sinless man. Thank God for what I have obtained in Him, and Thank God for what is still to come from Him.

BReformed said...

I read TGAJ all the time, over and over. I love the truth so clearly enunciated in it.

Phil, I would like to know if you have ever read and/or reviewed "Reign of the Servant Kings". Just last month, a man sent me the book because he did not like that I was committed to the lordship position. He wants to set me straight. I have not read it yet, but noticed you mentioned it in a previous post.

Phil Johnson said...

Forrester Footnotes: "Do you have a link to a document that summarizes the Lordship debate in scholarly and 'objective' language?"

Try this.

geekforgreek: "could you respond to this portion of the GES review?"

Check here for John MacArthur's reply to that question. Look especially at the section near the end of the article with the subheading "The Problem of Quantification."

BReformed: "Phil, I would like to know if you have ever read and/or reviewed 'Reign of the Servant Kings.'"

I read it. The book is a systematic refutation of the doctrine of the perseverence of the saints. I have a very detailed review by Dr. James E. Rosscup (who was specifically targeted by Jody Dillow in that book), and Dr. Rosscup's critique is actually longer than the book itself. Dillow's book twists and turns historical theology in a failed attempt to make it appear Calvin was a no-lordship guy and the Puritans and contemporary Reformed theologians have corrupted the true gospel of the Reformation.

Oh. And Dillow also thinks the "outer darkness" where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30) is a realm of the outer courts of heaven, not a description of hell. If you can swallow that, you will prolly think Dillow is real "scholarly." I'm not impressed with any argument that has to twist the warnings of Christ about hell so that they really turn out to be nothing more than a caution to people in danger of being relegated to a less-glorious region of heaven.

doug witzke said...

Hello all,

I grew up in a church and went to a Bible college that espoused the more typical Dallas/Ryrie views of this debate. I also graduated from Dallas Seminary. I read the books of MacArthur, Ryrie, and Hodges. Interestingly, I believed, from the start of my Christian life, that Christ was Lord of my life. It was never a question! (Though I did not always obey properly) So, I had a hard time seeing why this was a real issue. Lordship is taught all over Scripture!

It seems that the real point of contention is this: What is the nature of salvation? Is it merely "being saved from Hell" (justification alone)? or is is a COMPLETE salvation from sin (all of its effects)? i.e. Salvation is a unified whole that includes justification, sanctification, and glorification (Ro.8.28ff). Jesus Christ perfects those whom He saves (after all, He is the Savior, not us!).

Phil Johnson said...

Bonus

Here (from someone who is no friend of John MacArthur or "lordship salvation") is a fairly decent summary and critique of the bizarre point of view Jody Dillow defends in Reign of the servant Kings.

Seth McBee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bluecollar said...

Phil,

How do you respond to those who believe that John 20:31 - 31But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." - is a clear indication that John's gospel is set apart from the other Gospels and it alone is the gospel of evangelism set apart from the rest of the Bible?

Phil Johnson said...

Bluecollar:

John 20:31 says the purpose of John's gospel is evangelistic. It does not follow that John's gospel is set apart from the other books of the New Testament as the sole source of evangelistic data.

Trinian said...

He even admits at one point that this is in part a human work. He says, "Nor is repentance merely a human work"

I'm new to this whole post-modern reinterpretation, so I know it's possible to warp a text so that it says something that it didn't previously say. But, how does one go about making a text say something that it patently denies? This must truly be the secret to ultimate power, and I must have it!

Charles Whisnant said...

Phil
If I hold Lou's position in salvation as the model of my presenting the Gospel, following a sermon that I have just taught, would I fail in my presenting the Gospel?

Which was my position before reading John MacArthur's book in 1989. Since that time I have taken that position.

My second question is: What about those years prior to the Lordship position: Many in those years did made a profession of faith. What about those professions?

Charles

Paul Doutell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paul Doutell said...

Phil,

How would you compare modern no-lordship theology to the Sandemanianism that Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes in his book _The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors_ (pp. 170-190)? There seem to be many similarities.

If I read Lloyd-Jones properly, Andrew Fuller, in refuting Sandemanianism in the 1790's, "Faith without repentance is not genuine."

My point is this. MacArthur wasn't introducing anything new in TGAJ. Christians fought and won this battle with no-lordship types who separated repentance from saving faith long before Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges, and their pals at Dallas Seminary showed up.

Jim said...

Phil,

It seems to me that one of the major areas of contention is over "assurance of salvation". Do you or Mr. MacArthur believe in assurance; yes or no?

IOW, can a christian know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are saved?

bluecollar said...

Phil,

Thank you for responding.

In your opinion is this Antinomianism a product of some new brand of Dispensationalism? As such can it be sustained without using (read: perverting, abusing)some Dispensational hermeneutics?

Paul Doutell said...

Compare that statement from Andrew Fuller with these statements in _Understanding Christian Theology_ (Charles Swindoll and Roy Zuck, gen. eds., Nelson 2003), a book which self-consciously prides itself on its "strong ties to Dallas Seminary" (p. xi):

"Repentance is not necessary (though it may often occur) for entering into an eternal saving relationship with Jesus Christ" (p. 879).

"If an unbeliever asks if he must give up his sinful ways to have eternal salvation, tell him no" (p. 944).

What kind of deplorable theology tells a sinner that he can have his sin and the Savior, too?

Gojira said...

Hi Phil,

Could I get your initial thoughts on this:

http://members.aol.com/mjsawyer/Lordship.html

I know that you are a busy man, so if you have never read it and really don't have the time to do so now, then that would be cool too. It is, after all, your dime that I am coming to you on.

Gojira

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: "Do you or Mr. MacArthur believe in assurance; yes or no?"

Yes, of course.

"IOW, can a christian know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are saved?"

Yes, of course. Those who are truly regenerate (2 Corinthians 5:17) are entitled to full assurance (1 John 5:13).

Now here are two questions for you:

1. Is it possible that some people who think they are saved actually have a deadly false assurance?

2. Does even a mature Christian's settled assurance negate her duty to repent from sin and examine herself on an ongoing basis? (1 Corinthians 9:26-27; 1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 6:4; Hebrews 4:1)

bluecollar said...

Can anyone tell me how much of an impact Zane Hodges has had on the overall doctrinal positions at DTS? Is it lasting or have others since come through to change the course?

Phil Johnson said...

bluecollar: "In your opinion is this Antinomianism a product of some new brand of Dispensationalism?"

Not a "new" brand, but a particular brand. It clearly stems from the unique variety of Chaferian dispensationalism taught for years at DTS. Other than people with some direct tie to DTS, almost no one holds the view.

bluecollar said...

Phil,

A few months back a challenge was issued. Those of us on the Lordship side were challenged to show anywhere in scripture repentance resulted in Justification. I gave my answer to that challenge then. How would you respond?

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Phil, it seems to me that much of the Chafer position was already found in the theology of J.N. Darby and others in the Brethren many years before Chafer founded DTS.

While the theology of Zane Hodges and Bob Wilkin is radically removed from Darby on many points, there is a strong historical continuity in themes between Darby, Chafer and GES theology.

This seems to me to be a natural theological progression. If I am correct, then it is somewaht unfair to accuse Free Grace theology of being some novelty dreamed up in DTS.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Jim said...

Phil, thank you for your direct and straight forward answers.

You asked:

"1. Is it possible that some people who think they are saved actually have a deadly false assurance?"

Yes, for sure there are people who think themselves saved, but are in fact lost. The question would be; what are they basing their assurance off of? Is it their own good works, efforts at keeping the law, etc. I think this could be fairly easily discerned by the average evangelical. Obviously, most of mainline christianity and the RC adherents would not be capable of giving a Biblical explanation of salvation.

"2. Does even a mature Christian's settled assurance negate her duty to repent from sin and examine herself on an ongoing basis? (1 Corinthians 9:26-27; 1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 6:4; Hebrews 4:1)"

I think we must ask the Lord to search our hearts and reveal any unknow sin. Any known sin must be confessed and any wrong actions must be repented of. This is part of the normal christian life. But to repeatedly question your salvation is not only wrong, but an affront to the grace of God. I would seriously wonder about such a person, whether or not they actually understand the meaning of and work grace.

Jim Kirby said...

I think the issue of lordship is settled in my mind clearly from Romans 10:9ff.

Verse 9-10 are in the form of a chiasm:

a- If you confess Jesus as Lord...
b- and believe in your heart...
c- you shall be saved
b'- with the heart man believes unto righteousness
a'- with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Clearly, if the lines are parallel, then confession of Lordship is confession unto salvation. "You shall be saved" incorporates both parallel elements. From my study of that text, the confession seemed to be a baptismal formula. Can a person who is saved truly not be willing to confess "Jesus as Lord"? I do not think so.

Further, in verses 11-13, there is another chiasm that makes the point:

a- Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.
b- No distinction between Jew and Greek.
b'- The same Lord over all [Jew and Gentile]...
a'- Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

The objective reality is that Christ is Lord of His people, whether Jew or Greek (i.e., Gentiles). Subjectively, the evidence that His people are not put to shame is their calling upon His name.

It is like a good friend of mine said, "Saviorship is something Christ does in time and space. Lordship is who he is eternally." He does not abrogate Lordship in time and space to accomplish His saving work.

So much for my two cents.

Jim Kirby

bluecollar said...

If this is a "theological progression" why then don't present day Dispensationalists hold to it?

Dr. MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Bock, Blaising, Moorhead, Busenitz, and others do not hold to Zane Hodges. Why not?

Phil Johnson said...

Gojira: "Could I get your initial thoughts on this"

Yeah, he wants terribly to summon Calvin to the aid of a no-lordship perspective. Like Dillow, Radmacher, and others who do this, he is forced to quote Calvin selectively and ignore the larger thrust of Calvin's doctrines of the effectual call, assurance, and the perseverance of the saints.

The question of whether Calvin, the Puritans, and the later Reformed theologians agreed in their respective views of the doctrine of assurance has been discussed and dissected for decades by some of the finest theological minds in history, including Wm. Cunningham, RL Dabney, Warfield, Hodge, etc. It's curious to me that none of the modern no-lordship people (who typically insist Calvin has been misunderstood by everyone except R. T. Kendall) shows any familiarity with the historic discussion of these issues.

See, for example, G. C. Berkouwer's excellent chapter "Election and the Certainty" of Salvation" in Divine Election. Read David Lachman's superb treatise on The Marrow Controversy for more historical background on the questions of Calvin's Calvinism, later Reformed theology, and whether assurance is of the essence of faith. Cunningham also treats this question in depth and detail in a chapter titled "The Reformers and the Doctrine of Assurance" in his brilliant work The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation. Paul Helm decisively refutes Kendall in Calvin and the Calvinists.

Moreover if you want to see and appreciate just how much Joel Beeke is really my homeboy, savor his fine doctoral dissertation "Assurance of Faith," or read the popular-level version of it, The Quest for Full Assurance: Legacy of Calvin & His Successors.

All of these are thorough, scholarly, convincing answers to the arguments set forth in the paper you linked to (and all the other quasi-scholarly works of writers like Dillow and Hodges). As far as I can tell, not one no-lordship proponent has ever produced a single work on the level of these works and seriously attempted to refute them.

DJP said...

BlueCollar -- ...Dr. MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Bock, Blaising, Moorhead, Busenitz...

...Dan Phillips....

< ahem >

Phil Johnson said...

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist: "This seems to me to be a natural theological progression. If I am correct, then it is somewhat unfair to accuse Free Grace theology of being some novelty dreamed up in DTS."

Well, I disagree—somewhat.

I do agree that some of the groundwork for antinomian no-lordship doctrine was laid by the Darbyites (in the rigid discontinuity they made between Old and New Covenants) and passed on to Dallas through Scofield and Chafer. But the fully systematized no-lordship gospel is uniquely the legacy of DTS.

I've worked alongside Plymouth Brethren with no Dallas ties in various places from New Zealand to Italy to Michigan, and none of them held the no-lordship position. As far as I can see, Dallas is the only strain of dispensationalism to take the implications of no-lordship doctrine to its logical extreme and systematize the view as virtually the centerpiece of their theology. The Plymouth Brethren I know in the UK, Italy, and New Zealand are not antinomian in their view of the gospel, and most of them regard the US brand of no-lordship doctrine as an abomination. (I suppose there are a few exceptions nowadays among the NZ Brethren, but only among those who have come under Radmacher's influence there.)

As I said, I can't think of a major proponent of the position who doesn't have some direct tie with DTS. There may be one or two exceptions, but I think it's a pretty reliable rule. The genealogy of the view is so clear, James Boice used to refer to it as "the Dallas Doctrine."

DJP said...

Jim Kirby -- just fyi, one Dallas grad I spoke with would have said that "Lord" is a confession of Deity, not Lordship in the sense of authority.

...to which my comeback is, "...and, to you, 'God' is a title of less authority than 'Lord'?"

bluecollar said...

djp - Please don't hit me! :)

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: "Obviously, most of mainline christianity and the RC adherents would not be capable of giving a Biblical explanation of salvation."

Precisely. And my position would be that no-lordship advocates likewise fall short of giving an adequate biblical explanation of salvation. They don't understand the true and full implications of sola fide and the principle of justification by faith alone. They don't appreciate the necessity of regeneration. S. Lewis Johnson suggested that Zane Hodges' theology was tainted with semi-pelagianism. I'm inclined to agree. So I do fear that the "faith" and "assurance" of a lot of no-lordship people is a spurious, self-deceiving, arrogant brand of confidence.

And according to 1 John 2:19, when they fall away from the faith (as they frequently seem to do) they give justification for such a concern.

Jim: "I think we must ask the Lord to search our hearts and reveal any unknow sin."

Of course. But given the fact that you admit false assurance is a possibility, let's suppose a person who once thought he enjoyed settled assurance "examines his heart" and discovers he no longer loves Christ or confesses Him at all, and decides to abandon the faith completely. Zane Hodges claims that person is still safe. In fact, Hodges and Wilkin seem to say they are absolutely certain such an individual is still saved and heaven-bound. So (especially in light of 1 John 2:19) I really have little confidence in that sort of "100% assurance."

What do you say? If self-examination doesn't even provoke a professing Christian to repudiate and repent of his sin, is that person still entitled to settled assurance, or is he deceiving himself?

Solifidian said...

Mr. Kirby,

In the event that you may be interested, you can read a Free Grace understanding of Romans 10:9-10 in Chapter 8 of R. Larry Moyer's book, Free and Clear. The title of the chapter is "If I Don't Confess Him, Do I Possess Him?" The book is available online here .

Cordially.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Mark, that is the thing about theological progression. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it halts.

Reformed theology is arguably a development of elements that were already present in Lutheran theology (a big simplification, I admit), yet many continued to favour the less Reformed theology of Lutheranism.

My point is there is continuity within an existing tradition, despite the fact that many within that tradition have not seen fit to follow through such progression.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Gojira said...

Phil,

Thank you for such excellent thoughts! And of course, thank you for the excellent book recommendation! This site carries many of his titles:

http://www.heritagebooks.org/browse.asp?fname=Joel+R%2E&lname=Beeke

I have read his article from the Master's Journal. I will admit, and I say this to my shame, that I have not read the book of his that you mentioned, although I have read a work of his on holiness (which was very good) and one about family worship.

You speak of Kendall. I would say that you would certainly be correct in any misgivings you would have concerning his work on Calvin. Paul Helm certainly does give a very good critique.

All in all, thank you very much for giving your thoughts. As for myself, I am looking forward to ordering and receiving the book by Beeke.

Phil Johnson said...

bluecollar: "A few months back a challenge was issued. Those of us on the Lordship side were challenged to show anywhere in scripture repentance resulted in Justification. I gave my answer to that challenge then. How would you respond?"

Matthew 9:13: "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

Matthew 12:41: "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here."

Mark 1:4 & Luke 3:3: ". . . repentance for the remission of sins."

Mark 2:17: "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

Luke 24:47: "Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations."

Acts 3:19: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."

Acts 5:31: ". . . to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."

Acts 8:22: "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you."

Acts 11:18: "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."

Phil Johnson said...

Paul Doutell: "How would you compare modern no-lordship theology to the Sandemanianism that Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes in his book _The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors_ (pp. 170-190)? There seem to be many similarities."

Yes, that's a must-read chapter for anyone who wants to delve into the lordship controversy.

The dispensational antinomians and Sandemanians (or Glasites) have this in common: A merely-notional view of faith.

John MacLoed's volume Scottish Theology (Banner of Truth) also has a great chapter on the Sandemanian controversy. It's very instructive for those grappling with the issue of faith and no-lordship doctrine.

Jim said...

Phil:

I think that this is where many conversations break down into finger pointing and criticism. You are obviously much more educated and informed than I concerning the intricacies of these debates. I only thank God that we don't need to be scholars to understand and receive His Word.

The religion of this world says, "I must work" to earn salvation. The gospel reveals our total inability to merit any favour in God's eyes. Therefore salvation is all of grace, whether or not I remain faithful to Christ does not negate His grace.

However, I think this is where the straw men start popping up. A backslidden christian will definitely feel the weight of conviction regarding his sin. If our churches are acting according to the NT model, we will have exercised church discipline upon that individual and given him over to the chatisement of his flesh.

Is it not something hypothetical when we discuss the assurance of backslidden believers.

However, my concern is that if we preach a gospel of grace+something, we have necessarily added a requirement to the gospel. If we work backwards the "proofs" of salvation, can they not become "requirements" for salvation so that some are actually deceived thinking their form of godliness merits them believer status?

Was this not the error of the Galatians? Having begun by grace, they "persevered" in the flesh?

Phil Johnson said...

I think I have replied to every question directed at me so far.

We're now about 60 comments in, and there've been some curious no-shows in the conversation...

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: "If we work backwards the 'proofs' of salvation, can they not become 'requirements' for salvation so that some are actually deceived thinking their form of godliness merits them believer status?"

Not if we correctly understand the doctrines of justification by faith and substitutionary atonement. Notice that one has even mentioned anything about "merit" until you just did.

"Was this not the error of the Galatians? Having begun by grace, they 'persevered' in the flesh?"

Sure, because they apparently hadn't grasped the principle of sola fide and were seeking (or tempted to seek) justification by their legal obedience. The problem was not that they assessed the validity of their assurance by examining the quality of their faith's fruit.

Remember, it was to those very people that Paul said: "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (6:19-24).

Kristie said...

Wow, I wish this blog had been around 20 years ago. I picked up the book a couple of times and wasn't able to finish it because I was frustrated I couldn't ask MacArthur directly what he meant by a statement. It raised more questions and tensions for me.

Reading this thread raises even more questions. I realize how MUCH I have been influenced by DTS/Chafer/etc, etc. I already knew that, but I was unaware of how other theologians use Calvin to argue their point on the progressive sanctification. I still have the chart in my head of a wavy line progressing upward to sanctification.....so that is not right?

I would like some practical discussion here. Phil you already brought up the example of someone who thought they were saved, then doubted their salvation and concluded they weren't saved...but then a Non-Lordship person would say they were saved anyhow even without furthur repentence. That was a helpful example for me, and I totally agree.

Example #1: Another one is this. Suppose you are following up on a person coming to church and who wants to know more. They have been coming to the new believers class, etc. Finally after hearing the Gospel very clearly, they say they want to become a Christian. But they also are a chain-smoker. Would you tell them they have to give up their smoking first, then become a Christian? Or would you say, sure you can, and then figure the Holy Spirit will convict them at the right time about thier addiction. (I guess if we were N. Carolina, I would have to pick another vice, huh?)

Example #2: What about the person that chain-smokes, but says, "Okay, I want to come to Christ, and I am quitting cold turkey." They hand over their last pack of cigs, and begin to come faithfully to church, reading their Bible, searching the Scriptures...etc. But unbeknownst to you, they still have anger "issues" and yell at their kids and wife on a daily basis. Is that person a Christian?

The first instance I gave, you know of a vice/sin, and the second you don't. The first you see the rough edges, the other you don't. The first you would say, "I don't know....I don't see real repentence..." The other you might say, "Wow, he really did a 180!"

How do you approach each in sharing the Gospel with them?

BTW, the most helpful reading I have done on this whole topic is J. Edwards', Religious Affections. What is your opinion on that?

C.T. Lillies said...

We're now about 60 comments in, and there've been some curious no-shows in the conversation...

Well Phil, when you post a lifeguard the kids generally stay out of the deep end of the pool.

I'll admit some of this is deep water for me so I'm staying out of it--er, except for this. Actually this is clearing up some confusion I've had in discussions with pastors who've graduated from DTS.

Thanks a bunch.

Josh
"...the word of God is not bound."--2 Timothy 2:9

donsands said...

kristie,

Some good thoughts. If I can throw a couple in the mix.

Salvation is not about this particular sin, or that particular sin so much, as it is a new heart that no longer loves sin, but now loves righteousness.
The Holy Spirit abides with us after He regenerates and renews us. Titus 3:5
But now there will be a struggle against the sin we used to love, for we are still in these bodies of death. Rom. 7:24; Gal.5:17 But the power of sin is broken. 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 1:7-10
And we now live by faith through His grace.

Phil Johnson said...

Kristie: "Would you tell them they have to give up their smoking first, then become a Christian?"

No. In the first place, Scripture never says smoking is a "sin," so (as you surmised) I think that example is flawed. But I get what you mean, and I won't evade the point.

Here's my reply: No one ever has to do any work or establish any pattern of behavior "first, then become a Christian." Calling someone to repentance is not like asking them to do a pre-salvation work. That's the typical no-lordship caricature, but every person who has ever addressed the issue from our side of the debate has emphatically denied that any work must be "done" as a prerequisite to saving faith and repentance.

The expression "give up" is unfortunately ambiguous. Repentance involves renouncing and hating one's sin—and it's in that sense that the believer turns from his sin or "gives it up" at the very moment faith is born.

That obviously doesn't guarantee that we won't occasionally succumb to the flesh and the habits we formed as unregenerate people and stumble repeatedly (Romans 7:19-21). But the key difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that the true Christian hates his sin and longs to be free of it (vv. 22-24); whereas the non-Christian or phony Christian loves his sin and revels in it without any hint of repentance.

So if someone came to me and (as in a real-life case I once dealt with) refused to acknowledge that his practice of bestiality is sinful, and declared that he had no intention of renouncing the practice or regarding it as an abomination, I would say he is unrepentant and unbelieving and therefore without a clue about what it really means to trust Christ as Savior.

I always wonder what these people who love their sin and deliberately hang onto it actually think they are seeking "salvation" from? Do they think Christ offers salvation from punishment but not from sin? That point of view is purely and simply unbelief and I doubt very much that anyone who holds it is truly and authentically a Christian.

(I'll have more answers for Kristie in a future comment. I'm trying to keep these reasonably short, in accordance with my own rules.)

Rey said...

Folks, just because someone with connections to DTS says X doesn't invalidate the statement neither is it invalidated by a majority saying otherwise. Just wanted to make sure that people don't shrug off what someone says because of affiliations.

Phil Johnson said...

Kristie: "What about the person that chain-smokes, but says, "Okay, I want to come to Christ, and I am quitting cold turkey." They hand over their last pack of cigs, and begin to come faithfully to church, reading their Bible, searching the Scriptures...etc. But unbeknownst to you, they still have anger "issues" and yell at their kids and wife on a daily basis. Is that person a Christian?"

First, Donsands' comment is right on the money: "Salvation is not about this particular sin, or that particular sin so much, as it is a new heart that no longer loves sin, but now loves righteousness."

Second, if the person's anger is a chronic sinful anger that he tries to justify rather than renouncing and hating, and if the changes in that person's public life are cosmetic only and done merely in order to receive the praise of men, it may well be possible—even likely—that the person is no genuine believer. Time will generally tell, though—and if not, then certainly the day of judgment will declare it.

Such a person certainly ought to be concerned, however. And the reason I utterly hate no-lordship doctrine is that it gives people just like that a damning false assurance.

Rey said...

(Obviously it doesn't validate the statement either. It just simply is.)

Phil Johnson said...

Kristie: "BTW, the most helpful reading I have done on this whole topic is J. Edwards', Religious Affections. What is your opinion on that?"

It's a fine book. It also speaks very well to the question of whether Christians ought to seek private messages from God.

danny2 said...

to me, the dividing line with assurance seems to be that some want us to write the day we accepted Jesus in our Bible and then turn to it anytime the devil makes you doubt your salvation...

whereas, the Word of God instructs us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, it only makes sense that the Holy Spirit would prod us to investigate if we are (for why would Satan want the nonbeliever digging around to see if they are) and NO WHERE in Scripture is our assurance to come from a moment of decision we made.

this over simplified perspective on assurance lends itself to simply being decisional regeneration....ironically, the person is convinced they are saved by their own work (a decision) far more than the person who believes in repentance and faith.

Phil Johnson said...

Rey: "just because someone with connections to DTS says X doesn't invalidate the statement neither is it invalidated by a majority saying otherwise."

Granted, the fact that the influence of DTS is almost singularly responsible for the popularity of no-lordship doctrine doesn't prove the doctrine is wrong. But the point is still not utterly insignificant. And (to borrow from DA Carson's words about Zane Hodges rather inventive interpretation of James) the novelty of the position certainly means the view is probably wrong.

Mike-e said...

1. I was wondering if you could respond to Wilkins' comment:

Progressive sanctification is, according to MacArthur, the inevitable result of justification. If one ceases to obey God at some point, he proves he was probably not saved in the first place (pp. 77, 84, 123). How well must one obey to be saved? MacArthur admits that no one can obey 100% of the time due to the flesh which remains with us until we die (p. 174). Yet he fails to say how much obedience is needed (99%?, 90%?, 80%?, 70%?—or maybe God grades on the curve?).

2. Also, I was wondering what the Lordship position is on 1 John 3:8-9 and how you would respond to the non-Lordship position on that passage, which would be "How much sin is allowed in someone's life before they can be categorized as one who 'continues in their sin.'"

Thanks for the great post Phil. And I would recommend everyone to check out Wilkins' debate with James White.

Jim said...

Phil:

One last question; do you have assurance that you are saved? At what point in your christian life did this fact become a reality to you?

Phil Johnson said...

Mike-e: "I was wondering if you could respond to Wilkins' comment:

"Progressive sanctification is, according to MacArthur, the inevitable result of justification. If one ceases to obey God at some point, he proves he was probably not saved in the first place (pp. 77, 84, 123). How well must one obey to be saved? MacArthur admits that no one can obey 100% of the time due to the flesh which remains with us until we die (p. 174). Yet he fails to say how much obedience is needed (99%?, 90%?, 80%?, 70%?—or maybe God grades on the curve?)."


I did answer that a few comments back, by posting a link to the answer John MacArthur himself gave to Ryrie, who made the same point about objectively quantifying one's failures. Go here, and read the section under the subheading "The Problem of Quantification." In the course of answering the question, MacArthur makes an important point: Jesus commands us to treat willfully unrepentant sinners as unbelievers, and if the church were practicing discipline the way Jesus commanded, there would be no "lordship debate." I've never seen a no-lordship defender reply to that point.

"2. Also, I was wondering what the Lordship position is on 1 John 3:8-9 and how you would respond to the non-Lordship position on that passage, which would be "How much sin is allowed in someone's life before they can be categorized as one who 'continues in their sin.'"

Same answer as the earlier question. But the question reminds me that there used to be a website selling t-shirts with the question "How much sin can I get away with and still get to heaven?" I can't recall the reason for the t-shirts. They were promoting some book, or were sold as witnessing tools, or something. But the line unfortunately captures the spirit of a lot of the rhetoric on the no-lordship side of the debate.

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: "One last question; do you have assurance that you are saved? At what point in your christian life did this fact become a reality to you?"

That's actually two questions. We'll let it slide, though.

1. Yes.

2. About a year or so after my conversion. I was troubled in the matter of assurance for several months because my conversion occurred without my ever walking an aisle, praying with someone who led me to Christ, or any of the other decisionistic actions people often equate with salvation. Hearing how other Christians talked about the conversion process confused me and that, together with the realities of a Romans-7 experience, made me occasionally wonder if I was truly saved.

But the lordship of Christ was not something I ever regarded as optional. From day one of my conversion, that was the issue. I gave an extended account of my testimony in the earlier series I did on the lordship issue. See the start of that series here. A complete list of the posts in that series is here.

Antonio said...

Phil,

is it true that John MacArthur and Zane Hodges had a scheduled debate and John MacArthur stipulated that there were to be no recording instruments in the debate, and then finally altogether dropped out of the debate?

Lou Martuneac said...

Charles:

I answered the first of what appear to related questions. Go to PM to check my answer. I may repeat it here because it deserves to be along aside the question you posted here.

You question here, “If I hold Lou's position in salvation as the model of my presenting the Gospel…What about those years prior to the Lordship position: Many in those years did make a profession of faith. What about those professions?”

You did not define my position. In eny event, you may be referring to a time when you might have preached what is commonly known as the “Easy Believism” gospel. The “Easy-Believism” & “Mental Assent Only” positions I also reject and say so in my book.

I detest the “1-2-3 Pray with me” kind of evangelism that is found in some circles. The sinfulnes of man and the judgment of God are given only passing mention. If a lost man is not convinced of his sin and pending judgment he will see no reason to be saved.

Therefore he has no reason to repent or depend on Christ to save him. Any “sinner’s prayer” he might utter would be empty and vain.

Not to put words in your mouth, but what I believe I am seeing in your two questions follows.

Those who advocate the lordship salvation position see only the mental assent or “easy believism” position as an alternative. Likewise those who hold to Hodges’ mental assent position decry all others as advocates of "lordship salvation."

Many on both sides of the debate apparently do not see or are unwilling to consider the possiblity of what I refer to as a “biblically-balanced position” in the middle.

LM

Antonio said...

Phil,

also,

what do you think about Beeke's claim that current reformed scholarship no longer sees their doctrine of assurance as a faithful outworking of reformation principles?

Do you admit that Luther and Calvin both shared with Free Grace theology their doctrine of assurance as being of the very essence of saving faith?

"Doubtless, if we are to determine by our works in what way the Lord stands affected toward us, I admit that we cannot even get the length of a feeble conjecture: but since faith should accord with the free and simple promise, there is no room left for ambiguity" (Institutes III.ii.38)

Is it awkward for you to admit that you are defending a view of assurance significantly at variance with that of Calvin himself?

Lou Martuneac said...

Charles:

At PM you asked, “Is it a gospel that you believe will not bring a person to salvation? So I am preaching this Sunday, and I present the message of salvation to the people, how do I do this in light of your view point?”

I want to make sure I understand the question. I believe you are asking if a lost person is being witnessed to through the Lordship message of “commitment, submission, and exchange” for eternal life and he makes a profession of faith; is he saved. Is that it?

That is a great question. In the last 10 years only two others have asked me that. I purposely did not address that question in my book because I was concerned it might raise unnecessary questions and doubts among some folks about their position in Christ.

If, for the reception of eternal life, a lost man is told he must commit to, as Dr. MacArthur insists, “unconditional surrender and implicit obedience” and he is depending on that commitment, alongside the sacrificial death of Jesus to save him, works has entered the picture and, therefore, he is not saved.

This is one of the core problems with Lordship Salvation. Demanding a commitment to the “good works” (Eph. 2:10 expected of a believer and requiring that commitment for the reception of everlasting life.

Lordship Salvation presents an extra-biblical demand for a lost man to make a commitment for the works of a born again disciple of Christ for salvation.

Yet Lordship advocates rightly insist works play no part in salvation. This is something I illustrate and describe in my book: the presence of error along side orthodoxy.

LM

PS: When you see my use of quotations above, understand that these conditions for salvation are right out of both editions of The Gospel According to Jesus. These are many other citations in the context of what he believes are required to be born again. They are not my interpretation of Lordship; they are the printed position of John MacArthur.

Jim said...

Phil:

Thanks for your gracious answers, and link to your history in this debate. I think now I understand the definitions better of "Lordship" vs. "No-Lordship".

However, I feel like I am missing the bigger picture, as it doesn't seem like there is that huge of a chasm between the two. Perhaps the differences lie more in the convenant vs. dispensation discussions.

Mathew Sims said...

Antonio,
I'm sure Phil can take care of himself. However, earlier in the thread the issue of Calvin's views came up so you may want to take a peek at those. Further, the beauty of the Reformation is the Sola Scriptura and Semper Reformanda is that we do not base our doctrine off of Calvin or Luther per se, but off of Scriptures themselves.

Further, the Westminster Confession of Faith says, "III. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong;[10] may often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory:[11] growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ,[12] who is both the author and finisher of our faith.[13]" (XIV III) and "III. This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it:[10] yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.[11] And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,[12] that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,[13] the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.[14]" (XVIII III).

So if you are talking about historically, if not from the beginning very close to after the beginning Reform theologians separated saving faith and assurance of faith.

MBS
Soli deo gloria

Matt said...

Lou, I confronted you over on the Pulpit blog about ripping MacArthur's statements out of the context of the plethora of clarifications that have been offered, but I see that you're still determined to mislead people. Where do true believers in Christ get the power for “unconditional surrender and implicit obedience”? Acts 11:18: "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." Thus moving “unconditional surrender and implicit obedience” out of the rhelm of human works and into the rhelm of the work of God in regeneration. If I remember correctly, you reject the notion that regeneration happens before conversion, so it would do you well to include that important piece of information as well, because what that means is that your disagreement is far deeper than you are letting on.

This has been explained in detail for the past month, so you can't continue to act as though the statement: “unconditional surrender and implicit obedience” stands alone.

Lou Martuneac said...

Dear Phil:

I assume you have followed some of the discussions I have had with Nathan Busenitz at Pulpit Magazine. He reviewed my book In Defense of the Gospel, which was followed by a considerable amount of debate.

My concern with Lordship Salvation is not with what should be the results of salvation. I share the distress that all of us should over those who profess Christ, but live more like the Devil. A desire to live for and obey Christ should be evident following a genuine conversion.

My concern has been with how Dr. MacArthur states Lordship Salvation’s requirements for salvation. For example, the following by Dr. MacArthur from the both editions of The Gospel According to Jesus:

From the original edition, “Saving faith is a commitment to leave sin and follow Jesus at all costs. Jesus takes no one unwilling to come on those terms.”

From the Revised & Expanded Edition, “Saving faith does not recoil from the demand to forsake sin and follow Jesus Christ at all costs. Those who find his terms unacceptable cannot come at all.”

From his original edition, “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.”

From the Revised & Expanded Edition, “That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom.”

There are more, and there is no doubt Dr. MacArthur is speaking in regard to the reception of eternal life. Other men, who are sympathetic to Lordship theology, have also shared their concern with these statements.

My Question: Is it possible these citations by Dr. MacArthur suggest the reception of salvation (eternal life) is conditioned on an upfront commitment to what would be the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) of a born again disciple of Christ?

LM

Lou Martuneac said...

Matt:

Your wrote, "If I remember correctly, you reject the notion that regeneration happens before conversion, so it would do you well to include that important piece of information as well..."

If you visit my blog you will find an extensive treatment of regeneration/faith/conversion, etc. I posted the same article at Pulpit Magazine to Nathan's attention.

You will find memory, in this case, did not serve well. No problem, there is much that is being discussed at various sites.

Kind regards,

LM

www.indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com

Antonio said...

Phil

What is "full assurance" if it is not certainty?

You never showed us how you can have this "full assurance". You were asked twice by Jim concerning how you have this "full assurance", but have failed to deliver your practical syllogism.

John MacArthur has stated on his radio program:

"You could be a spiritual defector who hasn't defected yet"

What does such a concept do to one's quest for "full assurance"?

The logical implications of Lordship's perseverance theology and its introspective doctrine of assurance is summed up nicely by R.L. Dabney

"There is a spurious as well as a genuine faith. Every man, when he thinks he believes, is conscious of exercising what he thinks is faith. Such is the correct statement of these facts of consciousness. Now suppose the faith, of which the man is conscious, turns out a spurious faith, must not his be a spurious consciousness? And he, being without the illumination of the Spirit, will be in the dark as to its hollowness." (Discussions by Robert L. Dabney, D.D., L.L.D., pg 180-181; taken from: Volume I: Theological and Evangelical, edited by C. R. Vaughan, published by the Presbyterian Committee of Publication, Richmond, VA., 1890.).

What does such an understanding as this do for one's quest for "full assurance"? How can one have full assurance apart from persevering in faithfulness until death?

What is a definition of "spurious faith"? What is the physchology of it? How is it that someone cannot know if they believe something apart from external experimentation? Is the mind unable to determine whether or not it believes something?

Lou Martuneac said...

Matt:

You wrote, "I confronted you over on the Pulpit blog about ripping MacArthur's statements out of the context of the plethora of clarifications that have been offered, but I see that you're still determined to mislead people."

Those statements and the disturbing implications run like a thread through Dr. MacArthur's books.

The clarifications that have been offered did not change the tone or meaning of those statements. As long as we remember the issue is over the reception of eternal life, which those statements define, they remain highly controversial.

Here is just one more example from Hard to Believe, "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."

There is no misleading, those statements are verbatim, in context, citations from Dr. MacArthur's books. They stand for something, and readers can discern that for him or herself.

LM

Antonio said...

Is it not embarassing that Free Grace theology's doctrine of assurance is parallel to the Reformers and their "reformation principles" but Reformed theology has significantly departed from them? John Calvin, Martin Luther, Melanchthon, the Augsburg Confession and the Heidelburg Catechism understand the simplicity and beauty of faith and the assurance that is of its essence.

Were John Calvin and Martin Luther "antinomians" as well?

Is it not also significant that both Calvinism and Arminianism share the same "bear or burn" theology? If one does remain faithful in works and obedience until the end of life, hell is certain. No works = no heaven. Entrance into heaven is made conditional on a perseverance in obedience. What is this but works salvation?

"...we must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith." (John Piper "TULIP: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism...", pg 25)

Calvinism: failure to persevere in faithfulness and obedience = hell
Arminianism: failure to persevere in faithfulness and obedience = hell. D.A. Carson says "...at their worst, the two approaches meet in strange and sad ways." (Reflections on Christian Assurance, WTJ 54 (1992) pg 21) Don, you are dead on, but you have seriously understated!

Phil Johnson said...

I've been in meetings and doing other things since about 2:00, and I see Antonio finally checked in while I was out. It looks like several other questions have also piled up since I stepped out.

I'll get to them all eventually, Lord willing, but let me start by reminding you all of a couple of the ground rules:

1. Watch the comment length. I'm not going to be legalistic about the 3-paragraph, twelve-line rule. That's a guideline. But some of these comments are almost twice that. I'm going to start deleting unless you guys cut it back.

2. Several of your comments raise multiple arguments indiscriminately again, instead of dealing clearly with one issue at a time. Please limit each comment to one issue. (You can ask more than one question, if it pertains to the same issue, but please keep your prose and your logic tight.) That's not an unreasonable request if you really expect me to answer every question. I'm making a good-faith effort to do that.

3. Here's a new rule of thumb, too: If you've already made two comments and I haven't had an opportunity to answer you yet, please hold off posting comments until I do. Otherwise, you're just getting around my attempt to keep the comments succinct and to-the-point and manageble for me to answer in a reasonable time.

OK?

Matt Waymeyer said...

Antonio,

Your claim that Free Grace’s doctrine of assurance is reflected in the Heidelberg Catechism seems difficult to sustain in light of question 86:

Q. Since we are redeemed from our sin and its wretched consequences by grace through Christ without any merit of our own, why must we do good works?

A. Because just as Christ has redeemed us with his blood he also renews us through his Holy Spirit according to his own image, so that with our whole life we may show ourselves grateful to God for his goodness and that he may be glorified through us; and further, so that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits and by our reverent behavior may win our neighbor to Christ.

Antonio said...

Matt,

where in the Bible does it distinguish between man works and God works? Is it not the man doing the works, even if you say it is a "God work"? Has God fully and 100% co-opted the mind, spirit, soul, and body of the individual to automatically do these "God works" which are necessary for salvation?

John Gerstner writes:

"The question is not whether good works are necessary to salvation, but in what way they are necessary. As the inevitable outworking of saving faith, they are necessary for salvation."

And again:

"Thus, good works may be said to be a condition for obtaining salvation in that they inevitably accompany genuine faith." (Wrongly Dividing..., 210)

The apostle Paul would never agree with this! In fact, he is precise on the distinction between faith and works. For example:

"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Rom 4:4-5).

And again:

"…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5-6).

This false dichotomy between man's works and the works that God does in him is, to use a Lordship word, spurious. Eternal life and justificatoin is not contingent ONE IOTA on any work that is done by or through the sinner.

The lengths that Lordship people will go to include works as a necessary condition for eternal life. Take for instance their old addage: "You are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves you is never alone." Let me complete it: "You are saved by faith alone (apart from works), but the faith that saves you is never alone (apart from works)." This is internally inconsistent. The bottom line is that a man is saved by faith that is not apart from works, in other words, saved by faith accompanied by works.

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio: "Is it true that John MacArthur and Zane Hodges had a scheduled debate and John MacArthur stipulated that there were to be no recording instruments in the debate, and then finally altogether dropped out of the debate?"

Nope.

MacArthur has never agreed to a public "debate" with anyone on the lordship issue, nor would he. Some DTS students tried to organize a MacArthur-Hodges debate around 1989, but MacArthur declined from the outset.

Before that (if I recall correctly, it was in 1988, just a few weeks before The Gospel According to Jesus was released) several men with an interest in the Lordship issue attempted to arrange a round-table discussion on the issue. It was to be not a "debate" but a kind of private symposium on the lordship issue, bringing together several of the leading representatives of various points of view. Originally the plan was to deal with issues, not personalities. But one of the organizers told one of the key participants that the real agenda behind the meeting involved was to "silence John MacArthur" before the book hit.

When the real agenda of the meeting became part of the controversy, John MacArthur simply asked that the meeting be delayed until after all the men had an opportunity to read the book. Some of those who evidently were seeking a showdown backed out at that point. In the end a smaller group did meet. My friend Dr. Richard Mayhue (who was pastoring a church in Long Beach at the time but is now dean of The Master's Seminary) was there, representing the lordship view. My understanding is that neither side felt the discussion was very fruitful.

Nevertheless, John MacArthur has never declined to meet privately with Zane Hodges. But if Zane has ever attempted to arrange either a debate or a private meeting, I never heard anything about it.

Antonio said...

Matt Waymeyer, have you read the whole document? A.A. Hodge in A Commentary on: The Westminster Confession of Faith

found at

http://www.mbrem.com/confessions/wcf18.htm

States:

"The Reformers, on the other hand, went so far as to teach that the special object of justifying faith is the favour of God toward us for Christ's sake: therefore to believe is to be assured of our own personal salvation. Thus Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin taught. This is the doctrine taught in the Augsburg Confession and Heidelberg Catechism."

Maybe A.A. Hodge saw something you didn't.

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio: "What do you think about Beeke's claim that current reformed scholarship no longer sees their doctrine of assurance as a faithful outworking of reformation principles?"

Not sure what you are talking about. Give an exact reference. I know Beeke personally; we've spoken together at conferences; I've read his doctoral dissertation on assurance, and I certainly agree more with him than he does with you on the matter of assurance. He's absolutely no friend of your no-lordship doctrines.

"Do you admit that Luther and Calvin both shared with Free Grace theology their doctrine of assurance as being of the very essence of saving faith?"

I believe a measure of assurance is of the essence of faith. What do you do with that? It's not the doctrine under debate in the lordship controversy. Have you read MacArthur's chapter on assurance in Faith Works (The Gospel According to the Apostles) where he deals with precisely that issue in careful detail?

Matt said...

Lou,

You said:
"If you visit my blog you will find an extensive treatment of regeneration/faith/conversion, etc. I posted the same article at Pulpit Magazine to Nathan's attention.

You will find memory, in this case, did not serve well. No problem, there is much that is being discussed at various sites."

So I did a little Google search. Turns out it was regeneration before faith that you don't believe, http://www.sfpulpit.com/2006/11/01/lou-and-lordship-part-3/ rather than regeneration before conversion, sorry for the mix-up. Either way, it's pertinent information.

Again, even in your longer quote from MacArthur, there is still context missing. Is he talking about what is necessary for the reception of salvation, or it's the existence? I know he uses the word "for" there, which can go either way, so again, more context is needed.

Matt

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio: "Is it awkward for you to admit that you are defending a view of assurance significantly at variance with that of Calvin himself?"

What's really awkward is trying to deal with nonsense questions like that without getting snarky about it. I've referred to multiple documents today that decisively refute the claim you are making. Have you read the Berkouwer book I referenced above? Cunningham? Dabney? Helm? Beeke?

Your selective quoting and gross misunderstanding of Joel Beeke suggests that you probably have not read him firsthand at all but are merely parroting something someone else cited. Do yourself a favor and read Beeke for yourself.

Matt Waymeyer said...

I don’t know what else to say, Antonio. The Heidelberg Catechism very clear states that we “must” do good works “so that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits” (Q. 86). This is hardly unclear, and it is hardly the Free Grace doctrine of assurance.

Phil Johnson said...

Lou M.: "When you see my use of quotations above, understand that these conditions for salvation are right out of both editions of The Gospel According to Jesus."

Not exactly. I have the original manuscript on disc and I did a search for the phrase you put in quotes: "unconditional surrender and implicit obedience."

This is a small point, but you have turned the word order around and botched the punctuation. So that's not an accurate quotation. Again, that may not affect your point materially, but it demonstrates you are not actually quoting "right out of both editions of The Gospel According to Jesus," as you claimed you were. If you do quote directly from the book, you ought to give page numbers so that readers can check the context, instead of taking your word for it.

Because frankly, your bare suggestion that MacArthur uses that phrase in the context of discussing "conditions for salvation" is also a bit misleading. In the context, MacArthur is commenting on Jesus' call to take up a cross and follow Him. The full sentence in the book is this: "He was demanding implicit obedience—unconditional surrender to His lordship."

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: " feel like I am missing the bigger picture, as it doesn't seem like there is that huge of a chasm between the two."

Near the conclusion of the article I referenced above, MacArthur writes, "It should be obvious that these are real doctrinal differences; the lordship controversy is not a semantic disagreement. The participants in this debate hold widely differing perspectives." Read the article and I think you'll understand better why he says that.

Phil Johnson said...

Lou M.: "My Question: Is it possible these citations by Dr. MacArthur suggest the reception of salvation (eternal life) is conditioned on an upfront commitment to what would be the "good works" (Eph. 2:10) of a born again disciple of Christ?"

Nope. He's simply pointing out that saving faith has a built-in element of surrender—meaning a spirit of surrender. We're not talking about a work at all, but rather an attitude of the heart. Same with the word commitment. MacArthur used it to speak of an attitude and spirit of yieldedness to Jesus' Lordship—not an action or motion of any kind, and definitely not a human work, but a divinely-bestowed grace—an intrinsic aspect God's gift of faith to us. MacArthur has re-emphasized this point repeatedly in all his books, and if you'll examine the wording changes that were made here and there between the 1st and 2nd eds. of TGATJ, you should be able to detect that a large number of them were made in an attempt to remove any hint of ambiguity for those who wanted to pretend the word "commitment" speaks of some kind of ceremonial or labor-intensive process.

Incidentally, this thread was started to discuss the actual lordship controversy as it has progressed (or rather stalled) over the past decade. The meta here is not supposed to be a promotional vehicle for self-published books. Make any point you want or ask any question you want relative to the issues, but please leave off the incessant not-so-subtle promotional references to your book, OK? That's getting old quickly.

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio: "What is "full assurance" if it is not certainty?"

Whoever claimed they were different? Read my answer again. I did not deny but affirmed that genuine believers have every right to full certainty of their salvation.

"You never showed us how you can have this "full assurance". You were asked twice by Jim concerning how you have this "full assurance", but have failed to deliver your practical syllogism."

I've referred more than once to MacArthur's chapter on assurance in Faith Works, which deals in-depth with this question, and which you obviously have never read with any comprehension. It gives a complete answer to all your questions about assurance in far more detail than I can do in these space-limited questions. Show some familiarity with that chapter and then I'll answer any firther questions you have about assurance.

I'm skipping some of your questions because you greatly overstepped the limit again, and because I have actually dealt with several of the issues you are rasing in a comment above. You need to do less commenting and more reading, Antonio. Now, it's your turn to answer the question I asked someone else: Do you even believe spurious "faith" is a real possibility, or do you think everyone who thinks he is a true believer really is?

centuri0n said...

Phil --

Let me interject here that you're a saint.

Good night.

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio: "Is it not embarassing that Free Grace theology's doctrine of assurance is parallel to the Reformers and their "reformation principles" but Reformed theology has significantly departed from them?"

Not in the least. If you would actually read some of the material I referred to when I dealt with this point above you would see why.

The rest of the comment you began with this question is exactly the kind of spam that I've asked you not to post here. Disconnected quotes that make no obvious point, and an oblique comment directed at Don Carson (who has never posted a single comment here) are not appropriate. Either make a serious effort to follow the guidelines, or else all your comments will be summarily deleted without compunction. That's your last warning.

DJP said...

Phil -- ...please leave off the incessant not-so-subtle promotional references to your book, OK? That's getting old quickly.

Oh - he has a book? Hunh.

Wonder whether he has a blog....

Antonio said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matt Waymeyer said...

Incidentally, Antonio, with apologies to my wife’s grandmother (long-time member of an RCA church), I couldn’t care less what the Heidelberg Catechism says, at least in terms in settling this debate. The reason I addressed your claim is this: I believe that the Free Grace movement is striving to be taken seriously by the evangelical church, and that part of the strategy to accomplish this involves quoting various theologians throughout church history as if they were in agreement with Free Grace doctrine. On the rare occasion when I actually look up these quotations and read them in their original contexts, I find that the Free Grace writer has provided only a sliver of the whole picture, and one that erroneously makes it look like John Calvin (or whoever) was the first president of the Zane Hodges Society.

Good stuff, Phil.

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio:

No one here is defending Gerstner's point of view, either. Padding your comments with strings of quotations from him without any exposition from you doesn't advance your argument at all, and it severely exacerbates the problem I keep complaining about: Prefab posts consisting primarily of disjointed quotes from unrelated sources and people who are no part of this debate are not appropriate for the discussion we're trying to have here.

If you have a point to make, make it. If you want to make an argument that requires a long string of quotes from peripheral sources, post it at your blog or somewhere else, and then link to it here.

I'm beginning to think your long prefabs aren't merely spam after all, but perhaps a mask for the fact that you can't make a cogent argument in your own words.

Mike-e said...

Phil, I just want to thank you for taking the time to answer all these questions, including mine. That is very commendable and such an ecouragement to me. So thanks!! :-D

donsands said...

Good discussion. This is a very important debate.

I see so much where people say, "You need to accept Jesus as your Savior, because He wants you to. Ask Him into your heart, and believe He died and rose, and you're a Christain. (I'm not saying Lou and Antonio are saying this here.)
After He's your savior, then you make Him your Lord.
It is extremely deceiving, and deadly to the soul in my opinion. I'm glad my local church rejects this false gospel. Again, I appreciate Dr. MacArthur's book.

So if this debate helps us all fight the good fight of faith, so that we grow in His grace and knowledge, so that we can expose this type of watered-down gospel, then we have done a good work in the kingdom of God.

Thanks Phil for all your hard work.

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio:

I looked up the article by Beeke you keep referencing, and as I expected, his central point is the exact opposite of what you indicate.

Yes, the article intro says, "The bulk of current scholarship [i.e., the majority of people writing about the issue nowadays]... no longer views the post-Reformation struggle to develop a detailed doctrine of assurance as a faithful outworking of early Reformation principles."

However, Beeke disagrees with "the bulk of current scholarship." He even disagrees with Wm. Cunningham, who took a mediating position, believing that there was a difference in viewpoint between Calvin and the Puritans, but not a substantial conflict. Beeke's article, by contrast, argues persuasively that the difference between Calvin and the Puritans was only an insignificant difference in emphasis.

The intro further says, "With regard to the faith/assurance question in Calvin and Calvinism, the theories of qualitative departure (Kendall) or of non-antithetical yet substantial discrepancy (Cunningham), are both erroneous. The discrepancy between Calvin and Calvinism on faith and assurance was largely quantitative and methodological. In other words, it was a matter of emphasis and method, rather than qualitative or substantial."

BTW, I think those quotes come not from Beeke himself but from Robt. Thomas, who wrote the summary (a kind of preface) of Beeke's article for the TMS Journal. I'd have to check with Dr. Thomas personally to verify that, but I believe it is accurate.

The summary goes on to say, "In this article the aim is to show through a comparison of John Calvin (1509-1564) and a typical Dutch Second Reformation divine, Alexander Comrie (1706-1774), that notwithstanding different emphases on the question of personal assurance of faith, both Calvin and the Calvinists were fundamentally of one mind on assurance."

Antonio said...

Matt Waymeyer:

This is what A.A. Hodge had in mind when referencing the Heidelberg Catechism that shows that it believes that certain assurance of one's salvation is of the very essense of saving faith:

Q. 21.
What is true faith?

A.
True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.

Phil,

My point was not that Beeke agreed with my position, but that he agreed that Reformed theology of today, in the interest of assurance, was contrary to that of the Reformers and that of the Reformation.

Calvin and Luther agree that works are not to be evaluated for the purpose of assurance; that works have nothing to do with assurance, but Lordship salvation makes works a primary consideration for assurance of salvation.

If men are saved by grace through faith, then one must only consider if they believe Christ's promise to guarantee eternal life to those who merely believe Him to do so.

It puzzles me that if faith is presented in contradistinction to works in the Scripture; that if eternal life is by grace through faith apart from works of any kind whatsoever; that Lordship Salvation, in line with Rome and against the Reformers, insist that works be regarded as evidence that one is going to heaven.

Calvin and Luther agree that works are not to be a consideration, but Christ and His promise only, looked to in faith.

"But if we have been chosen in Him, we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves... Christ, then is the mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own election." (Institutes III.xxiv.5)

He furthermore states:

"Doubtless, if we are to determine by our works in what way the Lord stands affected toward us, I admit that we cannot even get the length of a feeble conjecture: but since faith should accord with the free and simple promise, there is no room left for ambiguity" (Institutes III.ii.38)

BTW, an answer to your question is forthcoming. I will be MORE THAN HAPPY to answer ANY QUESTIONS that the Lordship Proponent sets forth.

Lou Martuneac said...

Phil:

When I cited "unconditional surrender and implicit obedience,” it was to Chris, and only a sample from the broader citations.

I did not intentionally turn the word order around. I just dropped them in from memory of the citation. I chose not to cite a full quotation to try and stay within the length guidelines you set.

LM

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio: I was strongly tempted to delete that last comment, because you are in violation of rules 4 and 5. I have asked you several direct questions that you have not bothered to reply to.

This time I'm having mercy. Make one more post without any effort to address any of the questions and points I have made, and I will automatically delete every comment you post henceforth.

Please, make an effort to participate in this dialogue in good faith. My patience is running short with your deliberate scoffing at the ground rules. I realize I said the length-limits I set are only "guidelines," not hard-and-fast rules. But hardly any of your posts have even attempted to stay close to the limit.

Are you trying to push the limits.

Phil Johnson said...

Lou M.: "I did not intentionally turn the word order around. I just dropped them in from memory of the citation."

I realize that. My point was that you claimed your "quotations . . . are right out of both editions" of MacArthur's book. In fact, that was not a legitimate quotation from the book at all, but a reconstruction based on a "memory" you didn't bother to verify or cite. You can't legitimately "quote" from memory and insist that you are using quotations directly from the book itself. That's sloppy.

Just like the theology you espouse.

Antonio said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phil Johnson said...

Antonio: The groundrules are clear, and I gave you multiple warnings about your deliberate violations. My warnings to you were likewise clear and explicit. Go back and re-read the rules, and then re-read my many comments to you in this thread.

Matt Waymeyer said...

Antonio,

I knew you were referring to question 21 in the Heidelberg Catechism (although I’m surprised you quoted the first part of the answer to the question since I’m certain you don’t believe that saving faith consists of “a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word”—see question 22 along those same lines). But when question 86 expounds on this by adding that we must do good works “so that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits,” the rest of the picture is filled in and your claim that the Free Grace doctrine of assurance is found in the Heidelberg Catechism suddenly rings hollow.

marc said...

Phil,
Did Antonio finally go ahead and get his name legally changed to "Comment Deleted"?

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio violated every guideline and ignored every warning I gave him.

I've sent him copies of his comments and offered him one opportunity to regain his posting privileges. We'll see.

But this is exactly what I mean when I say it's hard to find committed no-lordship people who are willing to engage the debate seriously and soberly.

Lou Martuneac said...

Phil:
Again, that may not affect your point materially, but it demonstrates you are not actually quoting "right out of both editions of The Gospel According to Jesus," as you claimed you were. If you do quote directly from the book, you ought to give page numbers…

Sorry this will be a little long, but needed here.

I did post complete, exact and accurate quotes to you. To reiterate an earlier point, one can see that in these quotes Dr. MacArthur is speaking of what he believes are the requirements for, not the results of salvation.

These quotes taken at face value are unmistakably addressing what Dr. MacArthur believes are necessities for the reception of salvation. Here they are again formally referenced with page numbers:

“Saving faith is a commitment to leave sin and follow Jesus at all costs. Jesus takes no one unwilling to come on those terms.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 87.)

“Saving faith does not recoil from the demand to forsake sin and follow Jesus Christ at all costs. Those who find his terms unacceptable cannot come at all.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 95.)

You wrote, “In the context, MacArthur is commenting on Jesus' call to take up a cross and follow Him. The full sentence in the book is this: "He was demanding implicit obedience—unconditional surrender to His lordship."

Which book and page number does this appear?

If Dr. MacArthur is speaking of a born again child of God taking up the cross and following I am in substantive agreement. If, however, an upfront commitment for cross bearing and following is demanded for salvation, we part.

“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.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 140.)

I can see in the quote above why one can interpret it strictly to the post conversion life of a born again child of God. If, however, Dr. MacArthur suggests obedience and surrender, or even the commitment to “implicit obedience and full (or unconditional) surrender” must be made for the reception of eternal life, he has checked out on Scripture.

“That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 148.)

“Anyone who wants to come after Jesus into the Kingdom of God, anyone who wants to be a Christian, has to face three commands: 1) deny himself, 2) take up his cross daily, and 3) follow him.” (Hard to Believe, p. 6.)

Please allow me this question: Speaking for Dr. MacArthur, are you prepared to say Lordship Salvation does NOT condition salvation (being born again) on an upfront commitment to follow Him in submissive obedience, taking up the cross or self denial?

LM

Lou Martuneac said...

Phil:

"That's sloppy. Just like the theology you espouse."

I am not in the habit of defending myself or repsonding to comments like that.

I have to believe, however, that even your closest friends or allies would wince at what you just wrote to a brother in Christ.

Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech be always with grace..."

I forgive you.

LM

Phil Johnson said...

Lou M.: "Please allow me this question: Speaking for Dr. MacArthur, are you prepared to say Lordship Salvation does NOT condition salvation (being born again) on an upfront commitment to follow Him in submissive obedience, taking up the cross or self denial?"

Yes, of course I'm prepared to say that. Did you read my earlier post pointing out that MacArthur repeatedly explains that all those expressions (as well as Jesus' call to take up the cross, which speaks of a preparedness to die) describe an attitude of the heart, and not a process of self-preparation or a "work" done to merit salvation? If you will simply read those quotations in that light, instead of with the spin you insist on putting on them, they describe the nature of faith, not additional "conditions for salvation."

Phil Johnson said...

Lou M.: "I have to believe, however, that even your closest friends or allies would wince at what you just wrote to a brother in Christ."

If so, they would be wrong to judge my comment "graceless." I do believe your theology is sloppy. I'm in the process of explaining precisely why. And it would actually be more "graceless" of me to pretend I don't think there's a serious problem with what you are teaching—especially in light of the fact that it is the gospel you are unnecessarily clouding.

Kristie said...

Thanks for the answer Phil on my scenarios. The Scriptures you provided helped. I also appreciate the clarification that Lordship Salvation does not mean pre-salvation work on the part of the one being saved.

Kristie said...

Donsands, (man I had to do a lot of scrolling to get back to your post...)thanks for your clarification. I totally agree with you. I think my problem is that I have never studied Lordship Salvation in depth, and have misunderstood it as being a kind of perfectionism....Like someone comes to Christ and to prove they truly believed, they have be somewhat perfect--and it better happen pretty quickly. I think that is the same thinking behind the previous comment asking if it's 80 or 90 percent.

Well, I'll just sit back and listen for now (until the horse is completely dead). Thanks.

Evangelical books said...

Hi all,
125 comments later, I am none the wiser. The horse is dead "...by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days."

Antonio, I will try and be as nice to you as possible. Respect and follow the rules. Check your sources first before quoting them.

As an "outsider", I find it hilarious that you and your friends are citing Beeke, Hodge, Calvin and the Heidelberg Catechism as if they were all Non-Lordship salvation people. Why not cite and defend Zane Hodges and the GES? I think you will have a better case there.

kyle said...

Phil,

I’m glad that the lordship view denies that surrender and obedience are additional conditions for salvation, but I think it’s confused to think of surrender and obedience as built into the concept of what faith is. Faith is a matter of belief. Surrender and obedience are matters concerning a person’s motivational structure. I think belief in the gospel and the motivation to surrender and obey always go together, but that they’re conceptually distinct. The reason they always go together is because both are necessarily brought about in regeneration. The work of the Holy Spirit effects a change in belief and a change in what the person is motivated to do.

Now, this view isn’t subject to complaints of “easy believism” (which is an odd notion anyway – belief can’t be easy or hard). And the worries typically associated with a “merely notional faith” or faith as “mere intellectual assent” don’t arise with this view, even though faith is just intellectual assent (belief). So am I a lordship guy (or, do you take there to be any interesting differences between what you think and what I think)?

lionfood said...

I debate this issue with the "Gospel of Bono" types quite often. They refuse to believe that their walk should have any Holy evidence to be authentic - yet the center of their faith is charity (not the result of their faith). It's rejecting what they feel is a works based salvation with what truly is a works based salvation. My heart hurts for anyone who rejects the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A wiser man than all of us (Jonathan Edwards) once wrote that he has much more confidence in a man's salvation if he's questioned it than if he never has.

We cannot let fear defeat us, but if we don't truly understand what is meant by "fear and trembling" - there is cause for concern and analysis.

centuri0n said...

LionFood:

That's a great avatar. It's practically a glamour shot. And if you're arguing with fans of Bono, my sympaties to you.

centuri0n said...

BTW, how many different times and ways does it have to be said that we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them?

You must be mumbling or something, Phil. Nobody can be this intentionally unwilling to hear a very simple affirmation of the incarnational effects of Grace.

Charles Whisnant said...

I totally disagree with Jenson, this is not a dead horse, I am sure there are yet many who, if they have read these comments, here and over at Pulpit's, are just getting the point of both positons.

This issue is far too important to have wise comments like that. If one does not like these, then I would say, go over to another site.

This is good folks....

Charles

centuri0n said...

Kyle:

Not speaking for Phil, but how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I mean, all the angels are distinct conceptual entities. Can you count them all? I can't.

It's fine, I guess, to say that obedience is not itself faith -- but there is no (saving) faith which comes without the obedience inherent in repentence. You might say, "you have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. Faith has an effect -- an eternal effect, and an effect today which is necessary because of what does to a man.

Faith changes us. Faith is a result of the new birth. Faith prepares us for good works and equips us for good works. If we have faith, we are changed. To erect the impenetrible causation forcefield at the point of Faith and say, "Oh brother: that's obedience and not faith," is like trying to say that it's not the car which takes me to work: it's the gasoline. If you have a car without gas, where's it going? And if you have gas without a car, where are you going?

Rose~ said...

Charles is right. I don't think it is a dead horse either.

I totally disagree with Jenson, this is not a dead horse... this issue is far too important...

I have gotten alot out of reading these mostly respectful exchanges.

Phil, every time I have seen you comment to Antonio in the past, you have been "snarky" (to use your own word). This time I feel like YOU are being more serious about discussing it on your blog. I appreciate that.

Forgiven Sinner said...

Seems like someone knows what button is the Phil button.

PS
Looking for to seeing you again at the 07 SC in March....will you autograpgh my old PYRO sticker for me?

Gojira said...

Hi Centurion,

If I may, could I get you to clearify somethings?

You write:
"Faith changes us. Faith is a result of the new birth."

If Faith is the result of the New Birth, then what you wrote would on the surface appear to be very confusing, as you appear to be saying that it is faith itself which changes us and not the new birth. Yet is faith is a result of the New Birth, which you also affirm, how can you say that it is faith and not the new birth that changes us?

I ask that because it would seem easy that one could contstrue that one's ultimate savior is faith and not Christ.

Phil Johnson said...

Kyle: "So am I a lordship guy (or, do you take there to be any interesting differences between what you think and what I think)?"

You didn't really say enough for me to tell. You could just be parroting Gordon Clark, who was by no means a "no-lordship guy," but he nevertheless deliberately reduced faith to assent only. I think he did this because he overreacted to the neo-orthodox claim that truth is "personal, not propositional." He defined even personhood as "a set of propositions." In effect, he reduced everything to propositions only, and once he did that, he had to define faith as intellectual assent only.

But in taking that position, Clark was departing from a long heritage of Reformed theologians who had defined faith more carefully, more thoroughly, and more biblically as a response of the intellect, affections, and will. I think Clark's view tends to a kind of hyper-Calvinist antinomianism, but discussing that would take us off track. It's not really about the lordship issue. So if that's where someone wants to go with this, let's save that discussion for a future thread.

Phil Johnson said...

Gojira: "How can you say that it is faith and not the new birth that changes us?"

He didn't say that. He simply made the point that faith is of such a character that it necessarily effects a real change in us.

You added the part about "not the new birth."

Phil Johnson said...

Rose: "every time I have seen you comment to Antonio in the past, you have been "snarky" (to use your own word). This time I feel like YOU are being more serious about discussing it on your blog."

"In the past," this issue has always been off topic. That's because I have refused to allow my blog to become a forum for Antonio's agenda-driven spammer-style approach to commenting on other people's blogs all over the blogosphere. "This time," I invited the discussion; therefore it's on-topic; so it's a whole different matter. (Unfortunately, Antonio still refused to play nice.)

Nevertheless, I'll answer any question or reply to any argument from anyone who simply makes a good-faith effort to follow the handful of guidelines I laid out in the above post. And we can continue having we a reasonable, thorough discussion as long as those who want to argue will at least attempt to honor my requests about the format and length-limits on posts.

Discussing the issues, even vigorously, is fine with me. Having someone repeatedly try to hijack my blog is not fine. Hence, my response to the two scenarios is markedly different.

Gojira said...

Hi Phil,

Perhaps you have misread my remarks. Let's go through it again.

Here is what Frank said: "Faith changes us. Faith is a result of the new birth."

Please note, he explicitely said 1)that faith changes us, and 2) faith is the result of the new birth. The change in us, he states, is from faith. He links faith as a result of the new birth. He makes no mention of the new birth changing us; he said it is faith that changes us. Hence, I asked for clarification, for if what he wrote isn't what he meant, then could he please explain what he did mean.

Gojira

Gary said...

Lou M.: "...are you prepared to say Lordship Salvation does NOT condition salvation (being born again) on an upfront commitment to follow Him in submissive obedience, taking up the cross or self denial?"

Phil: Yes, of course I'm prepared to say that...all those expressions (as well as Jesus' call to take up the cross, which speaks of a preparedness to die) describe an attitude of the heart, and not a process of self-preparation or a "work" done to merit salvation?...

I was compiling a post to put on the Pulpit Mag site regarding the LS debate - but it got real long - so I hacked and chopped it to this:

God has made demands of mankind throughout history that He knew that man would be unable to meet - "Be holy as I Am" for example. Likewise, Christ demands that we acknowledge His authority and right (Lordship) to demand that we forsake all - even our own life - to be a follower of His. He demands that all men see their sinfulness and it's offense to the Father and that all men need to reject and forsake that behavior and turn to righteous living (repentance). He demands that all men look to Him only and believe (faith) in His redemptive life and death - as the Savior from sins penalty. He demands this unflinchingly. I believe that man is utterly incapable of doing this without enablement from God. This is why the question of regeneration preceding faith is interjected into the conversation.

If man is able, without aid from God, to submit to Christ's Lordship in salvation - to recognize and repent of his sins - to find faith inside himself to place in Christ - then the discussion is over.

I think that until we come to an agreement on what is man's condition without God there will be no possibility of resolving this debate. As long as Total Depravity does not equal Total Inability in the minds of some, then the FGers and LM will always conclude that LSers are adding something to Faith for salvation.

I hope this meets code - I do not want to be associated with "Comment Deleted."

DJP said...

So, Gojira, your honest reading of Frank is that we can either be changed by faith, or the new birth, and only in one way? Once we're born again, no more change?

It doesn't immediately occur to you that we could be regenerated, and (as a result) believe, and that this faith could continue to change us and, say, work through love (Gal 5:6)?

Chris Connally said...

Phil,

I remember back a few years ago the patience you showed toward me regarding the debates on Calvinism and I owe you much thanks. You also sent me the two books "The Gospel According to Jesus / Apostles" and for that I owe you a big thank you as well. These two issues and the Holy Spirit's use of you in helping me understand them has had an impact on me as a person and pastor that cannot be expressed with words. God bless you and know that this dead horse is worth beating as there may be other Chris Connallys lurking in the shadows taking it all in. God bless you and Dr. MacArthur for having the courage to take a stand on an issue that is not a popular stand in this day of compromise.

Phil Johnson said...

Gojira: "Let's go through it again."

OK. Lets.

"Here is what Frank said: 'Faith changes us. Faith is a result of the new birth.'"

Right. There's a chain of cause-and-effect changes that take place at conversion. If faith changes us, and faith is a result of the new birth, then it ought to be fairly obvious to a reasonable person that the new birth likewise effects a change.

Your argument here is entirely based on a semantic spin you want to impose on what Frank said to make him seem to say something he never actually said. It's the same tactic employed by Wilkin in the above snippet, where he quotes a phrase ("Nor is repentance merely a human work"), falsely puts stress on the word merely, in order to skew the meaning, and then tries to insist that's what his opponent actually said.

If that's the best you've got, the no-lordship view is not just a dead horse; the carcass has pretty well been picked clean, I'd say.

Phil Johnson said...

Chris:

Thanks, and it's good to see you.

Gojira said...

Hi Dan,

That was very Roman Catholic of you. Please read Frank'S post and state just where he places the new birth as an effective change. He said faith changes.

lionfood said...

centuri0n:

Thanks for the avatar compliments - not a glamour shot, just goofing around at a photoshot (I was taking the shots not modeling) and I don't argue with good works - but it aint the Gospel and some folks think it is. You know the folks I'm talkign about, white rubber bracelet, 2" deep theology. ;)

DJP said...

Ah, Gojira; I see a promising career in circus knife-throwing yawning open for you. To throw so many knives, and miss every single time....

Gojira said...

Hi Phil,

You broke your own rules. You also assume something that you have yet to prove to anyone, namely that I am "no lordship" Please prove it or retract your comments.

"Right. There's a chain of cause-and-effect changes that take place at conversion. If faith changes us, and faith is a result of the new birth, then it ought to be fairly obvious to a reasonable person that the new birth likewise effects a change."

I love how you put the spin on this. I nowhere denied that the new birth wasn't the cause of the faith. What I have asked is that the very misleading comments be explained. In his post, it isn't the new birth that is the explicit moral change; that, in his post, was regulated to faith. Hence, logically, in his post, it isn't the new birth that affects any change, it is the faith, which he said, changes us, which would exclude the new birth as that change.

Gojira said...

Hi Dan,

"Ah, Gojira; I see a promising career in circus knife-throwing yawning open for you. To throw so many knives, and miss every single time...."

Hmmmm....are you wanting to play the female assistant or somehing? I mean, if you wanna talk trash, I'm here for ya.

My repeat challage to you:Please read Frank'S post and state just where he places the new birth as an effective change. He said faith changes. Otherwise, I can think of a ton of Catholics that just gave you a hearty amen.

Jim said...

Phil:

You have emphatically declared your belief that salvation requires no "process of self-preparation or a 'work' done to merit salvation".

I think this is precisely the bone of contention from what I have seen. Is it therefore not possible that Lordship advocates have "muddied" the waters so to speak by not making an adequate distinction between receiving Christ as Lord and actually becoming a disciple?

Connie said...

I've followed and been involved in the "Lordship" debate since the mid 80's and we were at DTS when MacArthur's book came out--not an easy place to be for a "Lorshipper" in that day.

From my vantage point it boils down to this:

1) FG'ers don't recognize or acknowledge the Biblical position of man's complete and utter inability (total depravity).

2) FG'ers are unwilling to grant God complete sovereignty in whom He elects and sanctifies. They do all sorts of gymnastics to "grant" salvation to anyone and everyone--especially their dear grandmother, uncle, mother, son, etc. who has made some sort of profession in the distant past but shown no BIBLICAL fruit.

The gospel FG'ers hold to and present is a man-centered theology and will always cater to man's desires.

bluecollar said...

A simple question: Does the following portion of scripture take place in an evangelistic setting?

"34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

If so then the discussion is over.

centuri0n said...

You see: this is why [a] TeamPyro is always a blessing to me an [2] we should never, ever let movie mosters post in the meta when they speak broken engrish. I admire a guy who goes by his real name and not his anglicized name as much as anybody -- especially when he's a lizard monkey -- but let's face it: I wrote that post in English and not in some other language.

To wit -- I wrote:

Faith changes us. Faith is a result of the new birth.

See -- I wrote Faith changes us. Faith is a result of the new birth. and not "faith changes us one way, but the new birth -- after the new bith there's this causation force field after which we can't say any effects come through. The New Birth doesn't really enter into it."

Why is this such a complicated thing? Faith is not just some hat we wear; it's not a button from the Pawn Shop. Faith is itself a result of Grace. And God's grace changes us. We are changed by Grace, and by the new birth, and by faith -- and that change is not just potential but actual. It does something right now.

Let's peel off the schlocky rubber costumes here and be serious for even 1 minute: in what other place in our lives do we try to fortify the compartmentalizations the links of a causal chain as the non-lordship kids are doing in this discussion?

It's ridicurous. Almost as ridicurous as trying to paint me as Roman Catholic. Oh wait -- he tried that, too.

Gojira said...

Frank,

I never said that you were a Roman Catholic. Can you document where I did? If not, perhaps you should have the integrity to admit that you were wrong.

I do find it laughable that you in private honestly tried to defend:

"Some people say that the word justified means "to declare someone righteous." They say, "Justified means 'just-as-if-I'd never sinned.' " But God isn't saying, "I'm going to pretend that it was just as if they had never sinned." To justify doesn't mean to declare you are righteous when you are not; it means to make you righteous. That is an important distinction.

Paul's usage [of the word justify] was drawn from the Old Testament concept. The equivalent in the Hebrew is the verb tsadeq, which primarily means "to cause someone to be righteous." God does not say, "I'm going to pretend you are righteous"—He makes us righteous. It is the opposite of condemnation. It is a transformation. If we believe that God is saying that we are righteous when we are not, then conversion isn't a transformation. But justification makes us righteous. And I believe we are made right with God—that we receive an actual acquittal, an actual imputation of the righteous nature granted to us."
Justification by Faith, John MacArthur, Moody Press, 1985, p. 50.

DJP said...

So, you meant what Phil and I already told Gojira you meant? The obvious sense of what you said?

Gojira said...

"Let's peel off the schlocky rubber costumes here and be serious for even 1 minute: in what other place in our lives do we try to fortify the compartmentalizations the links of a causal chain as the non-lordship kids are doing in this discussion?"

Frank,

Please prove that I am "no lordship" or retract your comments.

Also, why did you change what you meant from what you wrote?

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: "I think this is precisely the bone of contention from what I have seen. Is it therefore not possible that Lordship advocates have 'muddied' the waters so to speak by not making an adequate distinction between receiving Christ as Lord and actually becoming a disciple?"

Not at all. The no-lordship view muddies the waters by insisting that if obedience (or discipleship, or however you want to frame it) is seen as an inevitable result of faith, that is logically no different from making it the cause or a "pre-condition" of justification.

I say: If we truly believe, we are justified by faith alone, and obedience (or as you say, "discipleship") is an inevitable result.

The no-lordship critic turns cause and effect around and claims I am making works a prerequisite for justification. That's totally illogical and therefore what muddies the whole issue.

Gojira said...

Oh an Frank,

"especially when he's a lizard monkey"

Gojira wasn't a lizard "Monkey" But, like the quote I made from you, I'm sure you didn't mean this either, even if it is what you said........ ;-)

Douglas

JSB said...

FWIW, I understood Frank's comment to mean, gasp, exactly what Frank said it meant. The objection seems to me to be nothing more than playing "gotcha" with the way something is phrased. Time to move on.

Phil: A marvelous display of theo-blogging virtuosity.

Gojira said...

Phil,

Just curious, do you continue to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith? That would be provided of course if you think the 2 Cor. 13:5 passage is admonsihing is to examin ourselves to see if we are truely believers? If that is what you hold, do you still continue to do it, and how often would you say one should eximine themselves?

Thank you.

Rey said...

Maybe it's because I haven't read the book or responses to the book but I am thoroughly confused. Some of the comments sound as if this is the Calvinism vs. Arminianism Debate under a new title. Am I misreading?

Phil Johnson said...

Gojira: "Justification by Faith, John MacArthur, Moody Press, 1985, p. 50."

Years ago, MacArthur wrote a formal retraction and several clarifications of the paragraph you posted there. At least eight or nine of his subsequent books have included lengthy expositions of the principle of imputation and repeated explanations of the fact that God "makes" us righteous (or, better, gives us a righteous legal standing) not merely by forgiving and forgetting about our sin, but by imputing to us the perfect righteousness of Christ.

If you're deliberately trying to use an old, retracted and oft-clarified quotation from an out-of-print study guide to suggest MacArthur teaches something he emphatically does not teach, you'll soon be excused from the conversation.

Gojira said...

JSB,

I wasn't playing a game at all. If you were to read what I originally wrote, the only thing I asked for was clarification, and then I stated why I wanted clearification, because of the way it could be taken. Phil and Dan somehow read that as a challange.

Myself, I would much rather praise Christ for saving me and changing me than to say that my faith, not the object, but the faith itself As Dan, Phil, and Frank seem to want to point to.

But that is just me.

jerryb said...

Just an observation, Paul refers to "strongholds which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God". When he talks of fortresses, he is not speaking of strongholds given over to the Devil by the Believer. He is speaking of fortresses constructed to repel the truth of the gospel. The battering ram which tears them down is the Lordship of Christ (2 Cor. 4:7). FG's help rebuild the wall by denying that God has the right to command men to repent and believe (Mark 1:15).

Gojira said...

Hi Phil,

"If you're deliberately trying to use...."

It would seem to be that you were reading something into my words that I did not write. My comment had to do with someone defending such a thing, not that MacArthur stills hold to those things. I do have the study guide, though. I also find it rather odd that someone would actually try to defend something that MacArthur himself retracted. But no, I am not guilty of the charge you are claiming.

By the way, was his formal retraction published as widely as the study guide? Just curious.

Regardless, I have had several Mormons and Catholics tell me that they are thankful for MacArthur. Usually when I have quoted to them from Hard to Believe without telling them who wrote it, they tell me they loved it and wished Protestants would see the beauty of how that man(remember they didn't know it was MacArthur) presented basic Catholic theology. Of course, they might have not known what they were talking about, but they sure did love what they read.

Gojira said...

Phil,

I leave you in peace.

Phil Johnson said...

Gojira: "Just curious, do you continue to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith? That would be provided of course if you think the 2 Cor. 13:5 passage is admonsihing is to examin ourselves to see if we are truely believers? If that is what you hold, do you still continue to do it, and how often would you say one should eximine themselves?"

Yes.

Second Corinthians 13:5 does command believers to examine, among other things, whether we are "in the faith"; whether we are adokimos, disqaulified; and whether Jesus Christ is truly "in us"—basically, to put ourselves to the test in light of the judgment to come.

We're all commanded to examine ourselves thussly before coming to the Lord's Table (1 Corinthians 11:27-31). So such careful self-examination should take place regularly, but the specific frequency with which we do it is not specified. I personally don't think daily is too often (cf. Hebrews 3:12-14).

What you seem to think is that this self-examination must involve some assurance-shattering angst about what I might discover on careful self-examination. Not so. If you're not indulging in some kind of deliberate, hard-hearted, long-term dalliance with sin, self-examination should strengthen your assurance, not shatter it. Do you love Christ and hate sin? Those are the fruits of genuine faith. But if you are purposely and rebelliously wallowing in deliberate disobedience, you have no right to assurance anyway.

Some of the the no-lordship writers apparently think full assurance should be instantaneous and automatic, and that one moment of confidence should forever eliminate any further need for any kind of self-examination. They are claiming in effect that the state of mind Paul described in 1 Corinthians 9:27 was sinful, foolish, and somehow at odds with the principle of sola fide. I disagree, of course.

Phil Johnson said...

Gojira: "By the way, was his formal retraction published as widely as the study guide? Just curious."

More widely. The retraction has been published on the Internet, several times, in various forums, wherever the issue has arisen.

The study guide was published in a small quantity, and has long been out of print and unavailable.

The numerous subsequent books dealing more in-depth and more clearly with MacArthur's position on justification have been printed and distributed in large numbers.

Since 1990 or thereabouts, I've never encountered a single person who was genuinely confused about whether MacArthur affirms sola fide and the imputation of Christ's righteousness or not. The only time that quote ever surfaces is in the hands of a critic with an agenda.

Go figure.

Jim said...

Phil:

I want to thank you for your succinct elucidations. Your efforts in clarifying your understanding are much appreciated. Perhaps a FAQ link would be beneficial for future readers.

I would not consider myself an official FG adherent, but I doubt any of them would deny that Christ is our Lord, or that He has the full right to command our obedience. I don't think they are advocating licentiousness in anyway.

However, you cannot say in full honesty that every believer is obedient to the Lord Jesus. If that were the case, we would have had revival long ago and the moral corruption in our society would be decreasing.

If obedience was an inevitable result of the new birth, why does Jesus give us so many commands and warnings? What level of obedience would be considered obedience? Does not our Lord ask for 100% surrender? Please show me one church in America that can exemplify this trait.

I agree totally that we are to surrender to the Lordship of Christ as those redeemed by His blood, but sadly this is not the case on the whole in the body of Christ today.

lionfood said...

or

"The only time that quote ever surfaces is in the hands of a critic with an.....incredibly hard time with their own humility and sanctification. "

Jerry Morningstar said...

Blue Collar comment at 8:31 am - Agreed.

Gojira comment at 9:35 - thanks

Phil - thanks for doing this - I agree with Frank or Dan [one of those guys] - you are a saint - not in a Roman Catholic sense though

Phil Johnson said...

To All:

As far as I am aware, I have answered every question and replied to every argument that has been properly posted according to the guidelines by the nattering nabobs of the no-lordship neighborhood.

No, the thread isn't over. I'm just checking here: Is there something substantive I've missed so far? Bueller? Bueller?

On the one hand, I agree completely with Jenson Lim, above, who complains that this horse is well and truly dead. The lordship side won this debate decisively years ago, and it's astonishing to see so many from a younger generation now trying to resurrect the rotten and dilapidated horse-carcass.

On the other hand, there a lot of people who are confused about whether the horse is really dead after all, because, "Look! It seems to be moving."

No, friend, that's just a merry-go-round, and after a decade or more of riding it, you wouldn't think it much fun, either.

Still, I opened this thread, and I'm determined to stick with it for the long haul, even though so far, we've seen nothing but the same decades-old questions repeated yet again, mostly by people who have never bothered to pay any attention to the answers.

Ah, well. Let the horse-flogging continue.

Greg Welty said...

Quite obviously, Phil Johnson was made for a thread such as this. By my lights, he has acquitted himself extraordinarily well, and has cogently answered every question put to him. In particular, I think his remarks here contain the root of the issue. To say that a fundamental commitment to obey Christ is the inevitable accompaniment of faith is not to say that it is either the cause or ground of our justification. To claim "justification by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone" is *not* to say "justification by faith and works". To identify these two claims strikes me as willful misrepresentation of the Lordship position.

I was converted under John MacArthur's ministry in the mid 80's, and I remember buying TGATJ the day it came out. I was still a new Christian, but I had enough of the New Testament in me to recognize that the no-Lordship position, at least as MacArthur presented it, relied on a pretty bizarre and counterintuitive parsing of select NT passages. However, I did have some low-level, nagging doubts that perhaps the no-lordship position wasn't really as MacArthur represented it. Perhaps he was giving a good argument against a position no one held.

I'm both happy (and, for another reason, saddened) to learn, from the comments of some of the no-lordship commentators in this thread, that in fact MacArthur represented their stream of thought rather well.

Tom Chantry said...

Or, as I'll never forget one high school teacher accidentally saying, "We're really beating this with a dead horse, aren't we!"

Sorry, I just thought everyone needed to ponder that visual image a moment.

Nate B. said...

Phil,

Thanks for redirecting this discussion back here. After 24 posts and over eleven hundred comments on the topic over at Pulpit, I'm definitely ready to let someone else have a turn.

The key issue, as you noted, is the nature of saving faith. Free grace claims that true faith need not be a repentant faith (in spite of the many passages that emphasize repentance and distinguish true faith from mere lipservice).

Lou Martuneac acknowledges the need for repentance, but tries to exclude from it "any sincere intention to serve God" (p. 114 of his book). This in spite of the many examples and explanations in his book that actually make such an exclusion impossible.

Thank you also for reemphasizing the fact that lordship does not, in the least, teach salvation by works. The "barter-system" that LS opponents try to turn it into is truly a straw man.

I should also note that Lou himself affirms faith as "an act of obedience" (p. 247). Because Lou rejects God's initatory work of regeneration in salvation, it would seem that he is actually the one making human obedience the condition for salvation.

Anyway, thanks for taking this on. I'm ready for a vacation.

- NB

Stephen Dunning said...

James 2:14, 17:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? ... In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

bluecollar said...

Phil,

I have seen your "Tripe" review of Hodges' work on James.

Question - Do you know of ANYONE else in church history that comes to his conclussions on James 2:14-26?

kyle said...

Phil: What more would you need to know to tell?

I don't know enough about Gordon Clark to parrot him. I guess I seem to agree with him about what faith is (but not quite, if you've represented him accurately. I reduced faith to belief, not assent only. You can assent to something you don't believe; i.e., you could be insincere). But there doesn't seem to be any connection at all between his argument and mine. I don't reduce everything to propositions. I don't think people are sets of propositions (but I don't know what that has to do with my question). I'm not any sort of antinomian (I thought my comments were pretty clear about that). I just reject your view about what faith is, despite what you say about it's reformed pedigree.

Look, I believe the gospel. Also, I take an inordinant amount of joy in it such that I'm motivated to act in line with it's truth. I think both of these are consequences of my having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. I think the same thing has to be true about every Christian. It's just that the two things are conceptually distinct (a pretty simple thought experiment would show this).

Now I know you think I'm mistaken about this. I won't ask you to explain why you think I am (but you can if you want). I'll just ask whether you think this view of mine makes any mistakes that you take to be relevant to the central points of concern in the lordship debate.

Gojira said...

Hi Phil,

Thanks for answering my question concering the 2 Cor. Passage. Since you obviously pass the test for justification by faith alone by examining things that don't justify you, I can only hope that you will continue to pass the test and not find yourself disqualified. Logically speaking, even you would have to admit the possibility that you might, before the end, find yourself disqualified. Which means that you would have never been saved in the first place. Which means that I am talking to a man who potentially may or may not be saved, as it would all depend on the strength of his emotions in regards to love and hate. Both of which Catholics would give a grand amen to.

By the way, since in your reply you broke your own rules, I hope you will entend the same courtasy.

You talk about assurance in regards to this self examination:

"What you seem to think is that this self-examination must involve some assurance-shattering angst about what I might discover on careful self-examination. Not so. If you're not indulging in some kind of deliberate, hard-hearted, long-term dalliance with sin, self-examination should strengthen your assurance, not shatter it."

It would appear to me that you are stacking the deck. That it, by your own words it seems as if you were going into the self examination with the pre made supposition that you were already saved. I say that because you state that such an activity should "strengthen your assurance, not shatter it." That tells me that you are going into it with already with a sense of assurance. Doing that leaves you biased, especially since you cannot yourself define just how long term long term "long-term dalliance with sin" is. Since I would venture that you yourself sin probably a little bit more than once a month....well... :-)

". Do you love Christ and hate sin? Those are the fruits of genuine faith."

I most certainly do in regards to your question, and I most certainly agree in regards to your statement. However, I am not saved by either one. I am saved by Christ, who He is and what He did. And I am saved by that alone.

Less you misunderstand me totally, Phil, let me stress to you that I most certainly do hold to self examination.

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: "you cannot say in full honesty that every believer is obedient to the Lord Jesus."

Why not? That's exactly what Scripture says in Romans 6:17; Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 1:22; etc.

Again, none of us obeys perfectly—and no one on the "lordship" side has ever suggested otherwise.

The problem the argument from the no-lordship perspective is that it jumps from the fact that we cannot obey perfectly to the utterly illogical conclusion that a spirit of obedience in the believer's heart isn't a necessary fruit of faith at all.

Gojira said...

AMEN Stephen Dunning!

The James passage is talking about a man who is walking around saying he has faith yet walking around doing things that would deny the faith he says he has. In a similiar way, it would be like me saying I loved my now departed mom, yet never showing that love in my teatment of her.

Works flow from faith. For example, the supposition of why Noah built the ark isn't because he was afraid of drowning. It was because he believed God.

In the same way, our works flow from faith. They flow because we believe. The works themselves don't save us, though, as they are the result of believing. Everyone who has believed will have fruit. Jesus himself said some 30, some 60, and some 100. Quite naturally, some will have more fruit than others, and we should exhort them, along with everyone else, to more fruit. And of course, apart from Christ, there will be no fruit at all.

The biggest problem with the LS position is the hugely unguarded things they say that would make a person with 30% fruit doubt his salvation. Now of course that isn't the stated intent of the LS position. It is however the results of poorly done communication on the part of the LS position.

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: "If obedience was an inevitable result of the new birth, why does Jesus give us so many commands and warnings?

Because we don't obey perfectly. Romans 7.

"What level of obedience would be considered obedience? Does not our Lord ask for 100% surrender? Please show me one church in America that can exemplify this trait."

What are you suggesting? That if perfect obedience is impossible, obedience itself is therefore not our duty at all? That same kind of faulty reasoning underlies Arminianism, hyper-Calvinism, and a host of other theological errors.

The gospel message, like the law, is not framed to fit what fallen sinners are willing or able to do. Belief itself is impossible for the unregenerate hearer (Romans 8:7-8). You don't eliminate the difficulty by framing the gospel call in terms that make salvation accessible to someone acting by his own unaided "free will"; you actually corrupt the gospel if you do that.

To whoever asked if this whole dispute is really just another way of debating the issues Calvinists and Arminians argue about:

In my opinion, yes.

Gojira said...

Phil said: "More widely. The retraction has been published on the Internet, several times, in various forums, wherever the issue has arisen."

Good. I've only seen it in one place though, and it was at the end of a review of MacArthur's work by John Robbins that stated it was published on a small forum group. I do know that he widely published his views concerning his rethinking of the "Eternal Son of God" issue. Want to know why I think he did that? Because John MacArthur is a man of integrity.

And here I am waiting for a few of you guys to prove that I am a "no-lordship" proponent or publically retract the accusation since it was made publically. But at least MacArthur has integrity to admit when he is wrong.

Phil Johnson said...

Greg Welty:

Thank you. It gratifies me more than you know to think that The Gospel According to Jesus might have had some formative influence in your thinking as an early Christian. I appreciate you and am thankful for the ministry God has given you.

centuri0n said...

gojira:

Since you're gone, I'm just talking to the wall here, but you said it was "very Roman Catholic" of Dan to agree with me, and that many Catholics gave a "hearty amen" to what I had said -- whatever it is you think I said. I'd call that calling me and my post RC.

As for you being no-lordship, what would you call what you're trying to advocate for? You don't seem to like the idea that faith causes us to do works out of obedience; you don't seem to like the idea that grace changes us in a "now" sense and not just in a "heaven" sense. That's no-lordship. If you are something else, I'd like to know what it is not just by assertion (i.e. -- "I am a rubber ball") but by definition (i.e. -- "I am round, red in color, made of rubber, and kids play with me").

As for whatever it is you're refering to in email, I remember our e-mails well, have them in my log, and can post them here if you want to trot them out. Let's see if you have been reading those as closely as you have been reading this thread.

centuri0n said...

Dan:

Yeah, I know. Somehow you, me and Phil speak the same language -- and it turns out to be English. Who knew?

donsands said...

It's been a good and notable discussion.

I had a thought after reading the last comment about assurance.

There's no doubt that God knows those who are His, and have been His from before creation. He comes and seeks us out in our rebellion. He sheds His precious blood for our sins. He comes and rescues us, and brings us to repentance and faith in the gospel. We are born again.

This new relationship is still hindered, because of our flesh, the world, and the devil.

Relationships have diversity. There will intimacy, security, adversity, and uncertainty.

Even our Savior, who said time and time again that He came to die, when in the garden said, "Father if it's Your will".

One day we will be rid of our flesh, the world, and the devil. Hallelujah!

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Jim said...

Phil:

How does one gauge a "spirit of obedience"? Is 20% obedience acceptable? Is that not a subjective test which greater substantiates my claim that not all believers are obedient?

How many times does a soldier need to disobey before he is disciplined and eventually court martialed?

If a christian "inevitably will obey", why is this obedience not perfect? What prevents that perfection? Is the Holy Spirit not capable of producing 100% perfect obedience? Is there not a responsibility on the part of the believer to submit?

Sorry for the number of questions, but I thought they fit together as a unit.

Phil Johnson said...

Kyle: "Look, I believe the gospel. Also, I take an inordinant amount of joy in it such that I'm motivated to act in line with it's truth. I think both of these are consequences of my having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. I think the same thing has to be true about every Christian. It's just that the two things are conceptually distinct (a pretty simple thought experiment would show this).

Now I know you think I'm mistaken about this. I won't ask you to explain why you think I am (but you can if you want). I'll just ask whether you think this view of mine makes any mistakes that you take to be relevant to the central points of concern in the lordship debate."


Not that I can see from what you have said. Seems to me that the section of your statement I boldfaced would work as a fairly succinct summary of the basic gist of what the lordship side of the debate is saying.

Perhaps you are merely saying your love for Christ and desire to obey are fruits or regeneration, not faith per se. If so, I might argue with you about that on a day when I had nothing better to do, but it's a completely different argument than I'm having with the no-lordshipers.

Phil Johnson said...

Jim: "How does one gauge a 'spirit of obedience'? Is 20% obedience acceptable? Is that not a subjective test which greater substantiates my claim that not all believers are obedient?"

I've answered this question repeatedly.

1. It's not necessary to "gauge" our obedience any more than it is necessary to "gauge" our love for Christ. Do you love Christ? Yes? Do you Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength—perfectly and all the time? No?! Then how do you know you love Him enough? And if you can't possibly love Him "enough," is it really necessary to love Him at all? Do we need to tone down the First and Great Commandment, then, so that reprobates like us will be able to obey it? See how quickly that kind of rationale begins to look foolish?

2. The need to "quantify" obedience is often thrown by no-lordship teachers at those of us who insist Christ demands surrender to His lordship. But yours and others' persistent comments on this issue here demonstrate that it is the no-lordship folk who are hopelessly hung up on this issue.

3. I'm going to post the pertinent excerpt on this question at the Pulpit Live blog. Look for it there in an hour or less.

Jim said...

Phil:

Thanks for your time and patience. I honestly thought my last question to you was phrased in a different context than previous ones in this thread. This discussion has been very helpful to me in understanding the position of those advocating the "Lordship doctrine". I will agree that labels always come up short in giving adequate descriptions.

In Christ,
Jim

Bobby Grow said...

Phil said:

Second Corinthians 13:5 does command believers to examine, among other things, whether we are "in the faith"; whether we are adokimos, disqaulified; and whether Jesus Christ is truly "in us"—basically, to put ourselves to the test in light of the judgment to come.

What's the context of II Corinthians? Paul was arguing for his Apostleship contra the "pseudo-apostles" (Judaizers) whom the Corinthians had fallen for. Paul was challenging the CORINTHIANS to test themselves throughout the epistle, to see if they were indeed in the faith . . . because if they were then they would recognize Paul as the genuine Apostle of Christ, and the pseudo-apostles trying to hi-jack the church for what they were, false apostles. Exegete and commentator, Murray J. Harris says on this pericope:

5,6. Rather than demanding proof (dokime) that Christ was speaking through Paul (v. 3), the Corinthians ought to be examining and testing (dokimazo) their own selves. The repeated heautous ("yourselves") is in each case emphatic by position. Paul continues like this: "Don't you know yourselves [heautous] sufficiently well to recognize that Christ Jesus lives within each of you [cf. Rom. 8:9] and that therefore you are in the faith?" Although for the sake of emphasis he adds "unless, of course, you fail the test [adokimoi]," he does not believe the Corinthians are counterfeit and knows that no Corinthian is likely to form such a conclusion about himself.

As v. 6 implies, the Corinthians' belief in the genuineness of their faith carried with it the proof of the genuineness of Paul's apostleship and gospel, for he had become their father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (I Cor 4:15). The themselves as men and women in Christ formed the verification of his credentials (cf. 3:2, 3). Only if they doubted their own salvation should they doubt Paul's claim to be a true "apostle of Christ Jesus" (1:1). If they did not fail the test, neither did he (v. 6). (Quote taken from: Murray J. Harris, ed. Gaebelein, "The Expositor's Bible Commentary," 404-05)


First of all Paul was engaging the Corinthians rhetorically to "prove his Apostleship".

Second of all does this text provide a "universal prescription" for Christians of every era to see if they are indeed in the faith? In other words is there a "universal application" to this text or an "particular application"? Obviously a particular application. If we were to take this as a universal application, first of all we would have to find an genuine Apostle (such as Paul), and then we would have to find a church that was being seduced by "false-apostles". Once we found that scenario, then maybe this text could be applied by that particular Apostle with the purpose of establishing his true apostleship.

My point, this text does not provide a normative mandate or prescription for Christian's of all eras to "test if they are in the faith" in the sense that Phil uses it above.

Greg Welty said...

Gojira,

One brief comment. You said to Phil:

Logically speaking, even you would have to admit the possibility that you might, before the end, find yourself disqualified. Which means that you would have never been saved in the first place. Which means that I am talking to a man who potentially may or may not be saved, as it would all depend on the strength of his emotions in regards to love and hate. Both of which Catholics would give a grand amen to.


*What* would all depend on the strength of his emotions? At worst, *his assurance* of salvation, not his salvation itself. And this is quite different from the Roman Catholic view, on which it is our justification which ebbs and flows over time, not our assurance.

I could be wrong, but it looks to me you're either imputing to Phil a view he doesn't hold (that his salvation depends on his possession of assurance), or you're having Roman Catholics "amen" a view they don't really hold.

jazzycat said...

Phil,
Great job! your rapid response was amazing.

Rich Ryan said...

Bobby:

I, like you, really appreciate Harris' commentary on 2 Cor. His magnum opus came out in NIGTC while I was preaching through the book. VERY helpful. I would recommend it.

I would point out one clarification to your post that I think bears consideration.

While the issue of super/pseudo apostles is "a" major theme of 2 Cor (esp chapter 12) the immediate context of 2 Cor 13:5 starts in 2 Cor 12:20-21 where Paul is transitioning to his coming visit and his concern that their lives (in general) were not lived in accord with their conversion.

Harris goes into much more detail on this issue in NIGTC, pointing out the fact that starting with the 1st letter through the 4th letter the issue of "impurity, immorality and sensuality" was still being "practiced" (NAU quotes – not Harris). It never left the church and was characteristic in some of their lives. The issue of the charge to test themselves is rooted in the behavior that characterized those who had not repented (12:21). The Apostleship issue simply brought to light what was present in their hearts already.

True, they were putting Paul's apostleship to the test. Paul in turn says, "Listen, some of you have been characterized by licentious living for years now. If that is true, you need to step back and see if the same Christ that is in me (13:3 - mighty) is actually in you."

In that sense, unbridled living (without the fruit of repentant change 12:21) is the issue at stake. For that Paul calls them to consider if the mighty Christ is in them. How can he be if they are remaining in sin in these areas?

So I think Phil’s application of this verse (in unbridled sin) is the context and applies here.

For what it’s worth.

JSB said...

Oops, Phil, this I don't get as an Arminian and a Lordship guy:

"That if perfect obedience is impossible, obedience itself is therefore not our duty at all? That same kind of faulty reasoning underlies Arminianism."

Can you expand on this further? You're not suggesting Arminians argue that obedience is not the duty of a believer, are you? I may just be missing what "faulty reasoning" you're referring to.

I don't see this as a divide between competing theological systems. Lordship Salvation is biblical, for Arminians, Calvinists and anyone else who can read. I'm on your side on this one!

Phil Johnson said...

Bobby Grow: "My point, this text does not provide a normative mandate or prescription for Christian's of all eras to "test if they are in the faith" in the sense that Phil uses it above."

...a point which might have some significance if my belief that self-examination is a universal duty hinged on that verse alone. But it doesn't. I also cited numerous other verses where the principle of self-examination is taught. And I expressly made the point that in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, self-examination is commanded as a regular duty of all believers.

The 2 Corinthians 13 passage merely proves that it is entirely appropriate for professing believers and church members to be urged to undertake the kind of self-examination whose purpose is determining whether or not they are truly in the faith.

Again, though, we see how often no-lordship arguments depend on arcane semantic fine points about what Scripture doesn't say, as opposed to plain statements about what it does say. That should tell us something.

Bhedr said...

Phil you said,

>MacArthur has never agreed to a public "debate" with anyone on the lordship issue, nor would he. Some DTS students tried to organize a MacArthur-Hodges debate around 1989, but MacArthur declined from the outset.<

To be fair...don't you feel Wilkins should have the same benefit of the doubt for not responding to you as a supporter of MacArthur in the same benefit you have extended to him for not feeling he needs to respond to Zane Hodges support group?

Also consider that the edge of this debate fills an empty void in us that only God can fully meet. Often I wonder if this is not a dead horse beating session but instead a chasing of the wind.

Have you ever heard that song by Steve Green?

Remember those students years ago that you first taught out of 1 John that seemed to be so caught up in everything except Him. Jesus Himself. You were purchased at a price and His greatest desire for you is intimate fellowship with Him. He loves you as a mother loves her new born child.

Phil Johnson said...

JSB: "You're not suggesting Arminians argue that obedience is not the duty of a believer, are you? I may just be missing what "faulty reasoning" you're referring to."

No.

Sorry for the lack of clarity. I shouldn't have assumed the point I was making would be perfectly obvious to all. Here it is in expanded form:

The lordship argument seems to suggest that if we can't obey perfectly, then obedience cannot possibly be a duty.

In exactly the same sense, hyper-calvinists argue that if the reprobate are unable to believe on their own free will, faith cannot possibly be their duty.

Arminianism makes the same false assumption (believing that inability annuls duty), but they turn it around and reason thussly: If the gospel commands people to believe, they must be naturally capable of doing so.

I wasn't suggesting that no-lordship doctrine and Arminianism are absolutely the same thing; only that they reason alike on the question of whether one's inability nullifies his or her responsibility.

Gojira said...

Hi Greg,

Love and hate are emotive words. He is talking about his love for Christ and his hate of sin. Neither is why a person was declared righteous to begin with. The up front point was not about "asurance," since a person can be saved and not have assurance. The problem goes to him affirming that one has to do that to see if in fact thay are a Crhistian at all. If you are doing it for that purpose, then you have to face the fact that at some point you just may fail whatever test it is you give yourself (and please note that Paul did not specify the the contents of this so called test). That being logically so, you can't in fact say if you are actually a Christian or not. You are only left with a percentage of "Well, I hope I am a Christian."

2nd point is since assurance was brought up by Phil himself by saying that it should in actuallity increase assurance. That is pre-supposing an assurance that can be increased. So his examination of himself to see if he is a Christian or not is already flawed since he admits atleast a measure of assurance going into it.

3rd point. The Roman Catholic would in fact love it because of their own teaching of faith and works. They would at best call a Protestant doing such a thing a hypocrite because the Protestant is basing not his faith on examination but on his works to see if he remotely qualifies as being a Christian. They would rightly say that is what they have taught all along and ask why he rejects their perverted gospel.

To sum it all up, all that person who examines themselves to see if they are really a Christian can say at best is tht they have reason to hope so, but otherwise will have to wait till the very end to see. Catholics would certainly say amen to that. And the whole time the Person of Christ and the cross we are to cling to everyday of our lives goes totally ignored.

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