02 October 2006

A New Song in My Mouth

How I Got Drawn into the Lordship Debate—part 2
(for part 1, click here)

f course, my conversion did not instantly correct every problem in my life. I had a new desire to serve Christ and obey Him as Lord, but it seemed I could follow Him only falteringly, as I stumbled through my own ignorant confusion and the debris of my shattered world-view and religious presuppositions.

But the Holy Spirit sovereignly shepherded me, and in retrospect, I know that God ordered my steps. Two days after I picked up the Bible and started reading, a friend invited me to an evangelistic meeting in which the preacher gave a very clear explanation of the cross and the atonement.

(The evangelist's identity may surprise you: it was Jack van Impe. His message was titled "The Greatest Love Story Ever Told," and he made lots of references to Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. I was absolutely amazed to see so much about the cross in the Old Testament. From that day until now, I have never doubted that the Bible is the Word of God.)

The gospel suddenly made perfect sense to me, and that in turn shed light on everything I read in Scripture.

I instinctively knew I needed to be part of a church, so in the weeks that followed, I visited several churches in my community. I wasn't particularly keen to joint a Baptist church. Other than that, I wasn't really sympathetically inclined or disinclined toward any denomination. I had little grasp of what made Baptists different from Lutherans or why pentecostals were generally more exuberant than Roman Catholics. I had one criteria for any church I would be part of: they needed to believe and teach the Bible as true.

After several weeks of visiting churches, I ended up joining a fundamentalist Baptist church about a mile from my home. The preacher's messages were based on the Bible, and he clearly believed it.

Almost from the day of my conversion I sensed the Lord's call to full-time service, so I inquired about studying at a Christian college. Since I knew nothing about evangelical schools, I more or less chose a school blindly. I figured it would be safe to enroll in the alma mater of the pastor who baptized me. And in the providence of God, that was Moody Bible Institute.

When I graduated with a diploma from Moody in 1975, I still needed a year of liberal arts credits to earn my bachelor's degree. So I enrolled for one year at a southern independent fundamentalist Baptist college.

It was during that year at the Baptist college that I first heard the expression "lordship salvation," and became aware of this controversy over the gospel.

In the next installment, I'll tell how that came about.

Phil's signature


Colin Maxwell said...

It's amazing how God leads us in those early days when we just really haven't got a clue about any discernment. Truly the steps of good men are ordered by the Lord. I moved from ecumenical circles into fundamental evangelical teaching in less than 3 months...not because I could tell you why we should separate from apostacy, but because I wasn't getting fed and a man of God "up the road" had god food for my new born soul: 1 Peter 2:2

Colin Maxwell said...

Oops should be "good food" but "god food" is an interesting typo.

Oliver said...

I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Tom said...

Well I'll be horn swangled.... We were at Moody at the same time! Diploma 1976, BA 1983 (spent some time as a youth pastor before going back for the liberal arts credits)

De Rossett?

Culbertson? What floor?

Small world.....


donsands said...

"the Holy Spirit sovereignly shepherded me"

Amen, I truly believe that to be the case for all God's elect.

The Lord will seek out all His lost sheep. He is the Great Shepherd of our souls. What a gracious Savior we do serve.

Thanks for sharing your testimony. Looking forward to some more thoughts on Lordship salvation.

Antonio said...


Maybe, at some point, rather than plumb the mystical experiences that made you "feel" that Lordship Salvation was "right" (for you), you can do a series on Expositions of Lordship Salvation that rely solely on the Bible and well-reasoned contextual and exegetical treatments that actually support your new "worldview".

Furthermore, I notice that on your last installment, none other than Bob Wilkin, of the Grace Evangelical Society, made comment in your meta. You did not even show him any hospitality or welcome, for you did not acknowlege him by responding to his short comment.

For those who may not have read it, I cut and paste it here:

Your suggestion that "The careful arguments that have been made against Zane Hodges' system have never really been answered by him or his devotees" is self serving and disingenuous. I met with you for four hours a few years back and while you had no answer to my questions that satisfied me, I wouldn't say that you never really answered my objections. At that time you didn't tell me to my face that I really had no answers to the Lordship arguments. I recall you saying at the time concerning assurance of salvation that everyone, yourself included, has doubts from time to time. When I said I didn't, you were shocked. Lordship Salvation is what makes you doubt, Phil. Jesus was clear that all who simply believe in Him are eternally secure (John 3:16; 4:13-14; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-27). I believe in Him. Hence I am secure. Since your definition of belief renders it impossible to be sure you've done it, you aren't sure. All who believe in Lordship Salvation can look forward to a life of doubts.


Antonio da Rosa

James Vander Woude said...

"You'll notice from the link in our right-hand sidebar that the current theme on the Pulpit blog is "lordship salvation." We're not going to entertain a debate on that subject here at PyroManiacs. Our friend Antonio and others who want to engage me on that subject can take it over to Pulpit. There's no point in letting it spill over here."

That's from the beginning of Phil's first post on the "How I got involved in the Lordship Salvation" brouhaha.

Say, this cutting and pasting thing is fun!

DJP said...

Boy Antonio, I'll bet you're fun at a movie. Fifteen minutes in, you jump up and say, "This movie is dumb! There's no climax, no resolution -- nothing!"

Oh, wait. I must be wrong. For you to do that, you'd have to have two ways you like to play the fool in public. Not just the one.

Antonio said...

Matt 5:22-24
whoever says to his brother,'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says,'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Phil Johnson said...

Antonio: "Maybe, at some point, rather than plumb the mystical experiences that made you "feel" that Lordship Salvation was "right" (for you), you can do a series on Expositions of Lordship Salvation that rely solely on the Bible. . ."

Maybe, at some point, rather than endlessly posting long comments with cut-and-paste material on my blog, you could read something that I have actually written and respond accordingly.

I carefully explained what I'm doing in this series of posts: I'm giving a word of personal testimony about my own involvement in the lordship controversy, how I originally got drawn into it, and why I'm not particularly interested in endless debates about it these days—especially with an out-of-tune one-string fiddle who can't seem to talk about anything else and yet seems to have no real understanding of what he is so steadfastly opposed to.

I'm not trying to make an argument against no-lordship doctrine or inviting a debate about the issue here at PyroManiacs. In fact, I specifically asked you and your gang o' antinomian aficionados who are evidently itching to argue with me about the subject to meet me elsewhere for that fight. (Check the first paragraph of the preamble to the first blog in this series.) Once again: if you or Mr. Wilkin would like to debate the doctrinal issues, post a comment for me at the Pulpit blog.

I missed Mr. Wilkin's comment, because he posted it 4 days after the post he replied to. No slight against him was intended.

It's true that I took Mr. Wilkin to lunch a few years ago. It's absolutely not true that he made any arguments or points on the Lordship issue that I didn't have any answer to.

Actually, as I recall, our conversation was mainly a wide-ranging overview of other controversies, including the watered-down gospel of "Evangelicals and Catholics Together"-style ecumenism, the New Perspective on Paul, and other attacks on justification by faith. I expressed surprise and dismay that someone like him, who fancies himself one of the last few faithful holdouts in favor of solafideanism, could remain stone silent on these more timely issues, never publishing a serious defense of justification by faith that would be useful against actual threats to true gospel freedom, while constantly re-publishing the same tired arguments defending his own novel opinions about objective assurance.

(I think Bob said he hadn't really looked into the "New Perspective" yet, and his constituents weren't really all that concerned with such academic issues.)

I did, however, recently receive Bob's latest newsletter, featuring the article titled "Lordship Salvation for Dummies," and it seems since our conversation, he has actually taken several giant steps backward. If time permits, I intend to post something about his newsletter article on the Pulpit blog within the next couple of weeks.

Bob Wilkin:

Greetings. Please read my original post again. If you want to pick a fight with me, go over to the Pulpit blog and do it.

Lee Shelton said...

"All who believe in Lordship Salvation can look forward to a life of doubts."

Those who believe they live a life free of any doubt must believe that they have somehow transcended the plane of earthly human existence.

DJP said...

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:23)

You foolish person! (1 Corinthians 15:36a)

O foolish Galatians! (Galatians 3:1a)

Are you so foolish? (Galatians 3:3a)

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned (Titus 3:8-11)

Kay said...

Free grace adherents are not remotely emerging, then? One end of the scale, doubts are verboten, and the other end, they're almost mandatory.

I'm enjoying the posts, Phil.

Robert said...

"My Chains fell off/My heart was free/I rose, went forth , and followed thee"
Wonderful words from my favorite Wesley hymn!

Tim Brown said...

In many ways, Phil, your story parallels my own.

I had many presuppositions from two decades ago when I became convicted as a sinner in 1998. I had much confusion for a few years. And the Lord has been faithful to me even while allowing me to stumble through my own debris. Debris from the "easy believism" days.

Plus a mind that just runs and runs. Parsing everything at 1000 miles an hour.

And it was only a few years ago that things became even more clear to me. I'd tell my wife what was going on in my mind and she'd just sit there and tell me "That's what everyone has been trying to tell you!". The Lord knows how to get through to us.

Tim Brown said...

I think it was D.L. Moody who once preached on assurance (or something involving assurance).

Upon leaving the church, a woman came up to him and said "Mr. Moody, I've been a Christian for 40 years and never doubted once that I'm saved".

D.L. Moody's response reportedly was "Then Ma'am, I doubt you are."

One of the enemie's weapons for those who are converted is to try to get them to believe that their faith isn't real. If he can do that then he has you on the mat.

For years I lived in self-deception, thinking I was converted when I wasn't. But I never once doubted...I was told never to question it, after all, I had said the right words (in other words, done the right works...) which was a deadly deception.

Craver Vii said...

I don’t have a problem accepting that a Christian might wrestle and wonder without losing his salvation. If a person is truly saved, no one can serve the Holy Spirit an eviction notice. But is it bizarre for a Christian of over 20 years NOT to have doubted? I don’t see a problem with that, either.

TeamPyro, thanks for not deleting some of the antagonistic comments. Folks, it’s a blog, not a flog. But if you feel you must go toe to toe with these guys, it’s not really fair to cry about it.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I was invited to hear Wilkin speak at DTS a couple years ago at DTS in a small class on FG. It was amazing to hear him misrepresented the Lordship view and then to go off on this assurance deal. For him, you are not saved if you doubt your salvation. Sorry Phil, I doubt he believes you are saved.

This is what is so strange about this deal: you can curse Christ and live like the devil all your life and they will say you are saved. Yet, if you believe the Gospel and have doubts of your salvation (because of your awareness of your own sinfulness), then you are not saved at all. Amazing.

candy said...

I guess I am sorta confused. Aren't we supposed to have some assurance of our salvation, due to the "perseverence of the saints"? Where do we draw the line between easy believism...and God's grace? Is it due to how far we think we have come in the faith that brings assurance...or is it our faith in what God has done for us? So..yeah...I guess I am somewhat perplexed...so please help me out with this.

donsands said...

"I lay it down fully and broadly, as God's truth, that a true Christian, a converted man, may reach such a comfortable degree of faith in Christ, that in general he shall feel entirely confident as to the pardon and safety of his soul, shall seldom be troubled with doubts, seldom be distracted with fears, seldom be distressed by anxious questionings and, in short, though vexed by many an inward conflict with sin, shall look forward to death without trembling, and to judgement without dismay. This, I say, is the doctrine of the Bible." J. C. Ryle, 'Holiness'.

I hope this isn't to far down a rabbit path.

jazzycat said...

If Free grace theology is correct, Hitler may be in heaven today. Hey, a fleeting moment of belief as a teenager and he would be there in their system. Bob Wilkin has some nerve to talk about assurance with someone else considering his belief system. He should check his assurance with Jude 1:4.

Taliesin said...


Peter tells us to "make our calling and election sure." (2 Peter 1:10) John says he wrote 1 John so that we "may know that [we] have eternal life." (1 John 5:13)

This means at least three things: (1) some people who are not believers are deceived and believe that the are; (2) some people who are believers do not have assurance ("know") that they are; and (3) assurance is possible and desireable.

So, per the quote from Ryle that Don supplied, if we have heeded Peter's advice and we have examined ourselves, particularly in accordance with 1 John, then yes, we can have assurance most of the time (note that Ryle uses "seldom" a lot).

IMO, the danger is trusting in the evidence for our salvation, not as evidence of our salvation. So how the change is brought to our lives is through a trust in what God in Christ has and will do for us.

Tim Brown said...


The key, I think, is to measure ourselves by the same standard that we would measure others -- in other words, we shall know by the fruit we produce.

Jesus said "by their fruits you shall know them". And this is true for ourselves as well. Of course, we tend to focus on our failures (well, at least I do and I've talked to others who then admit the same thing) which can lead to doubt. But the question is "do you see a difference from last year to this year" for example. For example, I see where over the past years I've become a bit more solid in my faith from some of the things I've had to go through (which forced me to quit leaning on others, for example).

Then of course is the testimony of others about what they see in you.

When I first started out 8 years ago, I was speaking with a guy I attended Logos with (at MacArthur's church). He's an elder now. I asked him once, "How do I know my faith is real?".

His answer sent a shiver down my spine. He said "It'll last". Period.

Nothing about feelings (besides, what is the biblical definition of the 'saved feeling'?), but endurance and life-change.

I don't think I've said anything new to you. But the short of it is the line is drawn where you can look at your life and see biblical growth. 2 Peter 1 comes to mind. The "add too" phrases for example, as well as "the fruit of the spirit".

For whatever it's worth...

Bhedr said...

Actually Free Gracers do believe you can doubt Gods promises and His word and still be saved. One Key Free gracer(Jodie) in whom I respect said this:

>>(However, their may be competing beliefs, fears, deceptions and affections that stall, slow down or reverse the action.) <

A competing belief is doubt. Fear is doubt. Deception is doubt.

They just believe it is safe to doubt the Person of Christ and have misconceptions about him. IOW they believe that if you believe Buddha is Jesus or Satan's brother is Jesus then as long as you believe in Grace then you are saved.

The trouble with that argument is that Jesus is Grace and truth as we learn from the Gospel of John. This puzzles me as to why they cannot see their own argument against you and that in part you do not see their point in areas barring the gross teaching of having false religious misconceptions about Christ. I believe their is a differance between doubting in fear and being outright skeptical about the Person of Christ as well as His grace.

I have learned a great deal from both you Phil as well as the Free Grace camp, but I share your perspective on the Sovereignty of God and so that makes me a Lordshiper according to their arguments. I do think it behooves us though to teach faith as resting on the finished work in the Person of Christ as apposed to teaching commitment. Just simply teaching Repentance and Faith as Spurgeon did, safely lands us with the whole counsel of God. Spurgeon was strong on rest. Some in the Lordship camp are not and so that is why personally I am apprehensive from taking that Label. We musnt lose sight of what Spurgeon was so keenly aware of and that is where the Free Gracers hammer away and I am kinda glad they do. I am troubled though that they do not see the Holy Spirits conviction in the call to repentance and feel that faith comes in some way outside of that, because it is impossible to believe without the Holy Spirit first drawing and convicting us of sin and our need of the saviour as our sin bearer. This is one reason why Dr Erwin Lutzer is my favorite.I know he is small potatoes to some in your camp, but I think he is right on target.

Unknown said...

I've responded to some of the chatter about Free Grace Theology on my blog out of respect for the bad vibes about discussing/debating the FG-concept here in this bright white sanctuary.



Antonio said...

Jodie did a good job of responding to you all as well.

You can read her responses clicking her blog form her profile.

Melody said...

I'm looking forward to the next installment.

My first exposure to "Lordship salvation" was when I read The Gospel According to Jesus about twenty years ago at age ~30 years old. I didn't know that it was called "Lordship salvation" until some time later. I only knew that this book was life changing for me. It brought me (a believer since a child) from an immature faith when I was well past the age to grow up, to an adult understanding of my responsibilities as a believer.

I'm not a theologian; I'm just a mom. I can only testify as to my experience. I believe that I was able to accept the truth of this book because of the Holy Spirit in me, and that rejection of Christ's lordship would not have been possible. I had just never been confronted with it before I read that book.

Lou Martuneac said...


Just curious, which independent fundamental Baptist church and after Moody, which college did you attend?



Phil Hoover said...

Well Phil,

You ought to come on back to Chicago, and see MBI now!