The Original Review by Todd Wood
Because we are talking about the gospel, a major doctrine of our faith, and men’s differing interpretation of it, this can be a source for inflamed and emotional debate. I took the time to carefully write, reflect on, and edit this reply so as not to appear emotional or enflame passions. Much more could have been written, but In Defense of the Gospel is my definitive, comprehensive answer to the Lordship Salvation debate.
The debate primarily revolves around the way a man is born again, how he is justified, how he receives eternal life. It is the reception of the gospel, not the results of the gospel, that is the primary area of the debate.
Pastor Scott Markle posted the following in the thread that followed Pastor Wood’s review of my book, “As I continue to follow this discussion, there appears to be two main realms of controversy. The first seems to concern the definition of the ‘saving faith’ that is necessary for justification/eternal salvation. The second seems to concern the results of this ‘saving faith’ in the progressive sanctification of the believer (that is — in the daily walk of the believer).”
I like how Pastor Markle framed and divided the essentials in the Lordship debate. When you read my book, keep this in mind: It is the gospel, the way a man receives eternal life, which is the central theme of debate in my book.
As I begin to address Pastor Wood’s review I want to mention that several of his comments and questions are clearly and satisfactorily answered when addressed in the broader context of my book. In several instances below, I quote from portions of my book to provide clarity. Other times I simply refer Pastor Wood, and those of you reading this reply, back to my book. There are three of Pastor Wood’s twenty questions where I refer back to the book. With that said, let’s dive in.
Often authors will provide humble but shameless support for their own books. But I don’t know if I have ever read a personal endorsement that compares to the magnitude of Lou Martuneac’s verdict on his own book, In Defense of the Gospel, when he writes, “In my opinion there is not a single work on the market that brings as comprehensive and balanced an answer to the Lordship position as my book does” (p. 25).
I made that statement when I began writing in 1997 because it was true. I believe it to be true today. Because Lordship Salvation was introduced into our Bible College in 1996, my missionary co-worker and I looked for something comprehensive and balanced for our students and the college library. In the book I name several publications that were out there at the time, and those who have read the list would probably agree that they were either unsuitable or insufficient to meet the need. Today there are pamphlets and portions of books out there, but nothing comprehensive, dedicated and limited to an opposing view of Lordship Salvation. Since my book was released, I have heard from pastors that span three generations. Representatives from each generation have told me that when they were in Bible College they were aware of and/or exposed to Lordship Salvation. Each of them also told me that there was nothing like my book available then to aid them in their study and refutation of Lordship theology. According to these men, my book has filled that void.
Yet my expectations were not as high as Lou’s because earlier the author commented, “Much of what I have written is along the order of ‘milk’ for the relatively new or untrained believer” … “most at risk” … and a “primary target of the pro-Lordship advocates” (p. 22). I would think someone at risk of being swayed by false teaching ought to sit a little higher as a student in order to grapple with more detailed, precise theological instruction on the gospel and quit the milk-only diet.
I do not see a question here. I am unsure of what Pastor Wood means by “sit a little higher.” He may be suggesting advanced theological training. I would encourage Christians to take advantage of any opportunity to increase their knowledge and understanding of essential Bible doctrines. Due to any number of constraints, many Christians are going to be somewhat limited in their pursuit of theological training. Nevertheless, all Christians should be moving away from “the milk-only diet,” but not entirely.
Every so often, from just outside the door, and for just a few minutes, I listen in on our church’s new believers Sunday school class. I have to be transparent when I say that hearing those “milk-only” lessons warms my heart. They take me back to the time when I was a newborn babe in Christ, and those are sweet memories. I find nothing weak or tasteless with the milk of the Word of God. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love,” (Rev. 2:4). For me, an occasional sip of milk, reminds me of my “first love.” Move on to meat and grow, but do not quit the milk.
When it comes to “grappling with more detailed precise, theological instruction” I believe that task is best handled by the trained pastor. In my book I encourage and admonish pastors to know and understand what Lordship Salvation is. I ask them to personally study the issue out for themselves. It is the pastor “which the Holy Ghost hath made overseers” of the flock (Acts 20:28-ff). I would hope every pastor has one eye fixed on the theological horizon for error. Often error is not immediately recognizable, especially for the untrained and/or new believer. Once the pastor detects error, he will typically gather the flock to expose the error and instruct them as to what the scriptural response might be. This way his congregation is forewarned and, Lord willing, will not be caught up in the error. In various places of my book, I write more on this subject in the context of Lordship Salvation.
My primary goal has been to educate and equip believers at any stage in spiritual and doctrinal development. Educate them on what the Lordship Salvation gospel is so they can recognize it. Equip them to biblically resist Lordship Salvation and the men who advocate the position. Nevertheless, I did have the scholarly in mind and wrote some portions which may appeal to them. Also included on page 22 is this note, “To be sure there is ‘meat’ for the pastor and theologian. If I had not written to some degree for those with theological training I felt their attention might drift. The one drawback here is there will be some areas that will leave those without Bible training feeling a little lost. Even in those areas, however, I did try to present the meatier material in such a way that all might benefit to one degree or another.”
And another disappointment for this reviewer right at the start of Lou’s book was the suggestion “to read Appendix C – What About Calvinism?” (p. 24). I did…. But turning back to page 24, I should not have been surprised. Because Lou continued, “If you are interested in reading a thorough work on Calvinism I am going to suggest a fairly recent publication … May I suggest you purchase Dave Hunt’s, What Love Is This: Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God. This book is the most comprehensive work I have read on the subject. It is comprehensive, fair, balanced and highly readable.”
Pastor Wood appears to have been displeased with my appendix entry, which addresses Calvinism. I wrestled long about whether or not to include a discussion of Calvinism in my book. I write about that struggle. My decision to include an appendix entry and several sections in the main text is because Lordship Salvation is rooted in Calvinism. I felt my readers needed some foundational understanding of Calvinism’s five points, but wanted to keep the book primarily focused on Lordship Salvation. That is why I placed a limited discussion of Calvinism in the appendix.
Pastor Wood and some others had an even bigger problem with my recommending Dave Hunt’s book, What Love Is This?. I quote and refer to numerous men in my book and would not agree with everything they might have to say on any number of subjects. My recommendation of Hunt’s book does not mean I endorse everything in it. I do not endorse everything that other contributors to my book may subscribe to. Conversely, even though I disagree with Dr. MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation, there are areas he has stood for that I can appreciate and agree with.
I did not expect mentioning Hunt’s book would have caused such a distraction from the central theme of my book. Once my book was out, a friend wrote to tell me the Reformed men in our circles were going to be unhappy with the mention of Hunt’s book. Well, he was right. Maybe I should have included a qualifying statement.
Including two sentences about Dave Hunt’s What Love Is This? in my book of nearly 300 pages has become a distraction from the main question: Is Lordship Salvation an accurate/biblical interpretation of the gospel? Because the reference to Dave Hunt’s book created a distraction, I may instruct the publisher to have the reference removed to avoid having it serve as an ongoing distraction.
So Lou put me in a bad mood before I could hardly get out of the opening gates of his book. But with respect for Lou as a Christian college professor and missionary, I went through every chapter and appendix.
There are times I began writing a letter in response to something I did not appreciate or offended me. If I am writing a reply while in a “bad mood” it is evident, and my letter will read like I was blowing off steam. I never send those letters without first making heavy revisions; sometimes I do not send them at all. As I have matured in years, I have found allowing time for a cooling down period often results in better communication. One can say or write difficult things and still be gracious. A particular passage of Scripture has often helped me to communicate in a God honoring way.
Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man (Colossians 4:6).
I did my best to keep that verse in mind as I worked my way through Pastor Wood’s review of my book, and prepared this reply.
Here is the point where I begin to address his series of 20 questions.
1. Lou—“A system that seeks to add a ritual, a sacrament, commitment, or any good work to the finished work of Jesus Christ can be identified as a false gospel through the addition” (p. 29). Does any evangelistic presentation requiring prayers also qualify as a false gospel? And right after this particular citation in the book, there is an illustration of D. L. Moody witnessing to a Mormon (p. 29). Is the author implying that the Lordship Salvation doctrine taught by John MacArthur, whom the author references more than 100 times throughout the book, ought to be on the same heretical footings as Mormonism, that MacArthur’s exegesis is no better than Robert Millet’s eisegesis on the gospel? And does the author realize that carnal Christianity is the best advertisement for Mormonism? In fact, I have stories by the boatload of “carnal Christians” converting to Mormonism.
We must all appreciate men like Pastor Wood who minister to and among Mormons. One can imagine few mission fields that could be any more difficult to penetrate.
My illustration about D. L Moody speaking to a Mormon was to illustrate that the gospel is a matter of what Christ has done, not what man must do. Mormons are not saved. Some Mormon ranks might include, as Pastor Wood says, “carnal Christians.” There is nothing in Mormonism I am aware of that comes even close to portraying the gospel found in the Bible.
The Lordship advocates I deal with in the book are born again. Of that I have no doubt. The problem is that they have gone off in their doctrine on the gospel. They insist upon cross bearing and following Christ, issues which belong to the born again child of God, as conditions to become a Christian.
I never suggested that men who hold to Lordship Salvation are on the “same heretical footing as Mormonism.” To suggest Mormons and the Lordship advocates I quote are on the “same heretical footing” is an inaccurate portrayal of my meaning.
I meant exactly what I said on page 29 of my book, which the reviewer cites. In my book I state emphatically that Lordship Salvation as John MacArthur presents it in The Gospel According to Jesus is a false interpretation of the gospel. I quote other Lordship advocates like John Stott, Walter Chantry, and Kenneth Gentry to demonstrate the doctrinal problems with Lordship Salvation.
2. James Montgomery Boice in the foreword of MacArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus, “ … they are mistaken—dreadfully mistaken and they need to be shown their error from Scripture, which is what this book does. They also need to be shown that their view has never been the view of any major Bible teacher or theologian in the church until our own weak times” (p. 34). Is Boice attacking all opponents of Lordship Salvation as the author seems to suggest, or is he just zeroing in on all the Dallas doctrine, for example, some of the deficiency of Ryrie and then extreme statements of Zane Hodges?
Boice, does, in fact, make a blanket condemnation of all those who do not agree with John MacArthur’s interpretation of the gospel found in his book, The Gospel According to Jesus. If Boice meant to limit his statement to Hodges, the GES, or Ryrie, then he would have (or should have) named them.
3. Lou—“Recently I have spoken with two pastors who, by clear evidence in their own sermons, are men who irrefutably hold to the Lordship position. In both cases when I asked if they preach Lordship Salvation, they said, they do not. These men reject the use of the term ‘Lordship Salvation’ to describe their position on the gospel. When asked therefore, if they believe Lordship Salvation is their interpretation of the gospel, they believe they are being honest when they say no” (p. 40). Will the author not concede that there is great elasticity among pastors’ positions in regards to “Lordship Salvation” as well as “Calvinism,” and that some in either camp might not find it desirable to lump themselves with others that claim the same umbrella title?
Of course we find “elasticity” among men on any number of theological positions. Based on my reading and personal discussions, I would be hesitant to use the term “great elasticity,” when it comes to the men who hold to Lordship Salvation. In the section Pastor Wood refers to, I am addressing the use of the term “Lordship Salvation.” The section is titled, Why Is It Called Lordship Salvation? I only speak of why many men in the Lordship camp do not like their theological position referred to as “Lordship Salvation.”
4. Lou—“The Calvinist believes in an Unconditional Election. That means those who are not of the elect are preordained to Hell” (p. 51). Can one believe in the unconditional election to heaven but not the unconditional election to hell? And does belief in unconditional election to heaven have to imply the elimination of human responsibility or have to be categorized as sheer determinism or fatalism?
Pastor Wood cites a sentence from a section of my book titled, What Is The Calvinism Connection? On page 51 the reader will find a more detailed explanation from me about the ramifications of Calvinism’s Unconditional Election. Furthermore, I included an appendix titled, What About Calvinism? For a detailed read on how I defined Calvinism’s Unconditional Election and its implications, please refer to the sections of my book I cited here.
Earlier I mentioned my reluctance to include a discussion of Calvinism in my book. On page 23 I wrote:
If I did include an in depth study on Calvinism this would have been a book trying to address two major issues. I finally came to the conclusion that I would include an appendix for a very brief discussion of Calvinism, its five points and the hyper-Calvinism that flows from Calvinistic theology. This has been an agonizing decision because I know some readers are not familiar with Calvinism.
The focus of my book is Lordship Salvation. The primary focus of my reply to the book review is and I trust will remain focused on Lordship Salvation. I would prefer that the discussion of my book does not drift into a debate over Calvinism. That debate has been going on for centuries, and it is being debated elsewhere in SharperIron
5. Lou—“To say that salvation is at the same time both free and costly is not a paradox” (p. 62). So would the author consider any paradox in the gospel; and if so, where?
Again I must refer my readers to my book where this sentence appears. I believe the question posed here may be incomplete. When the quote above is read within its context, Pastor Wood’s question should be satisfactorily answered.
6. Lou—“These men have suggested that submission in discipleship is necessary as faith in order to be saved” (p. 62). But is Jim Wallis really in the same category doctrinally in believing the gospel as James Merritt, John Stott, and J. I. Packer? Let me illustrate. Seventy years ago, Frank Capra directed a famous, romantic, comedy film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Jim Wallis, Tony C., and the younger but wildly popular Shane Claiborne would use the film as a good sermon both religiously and politically and probably title it, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Heaven.” But the latter men Lou quoted would not.
The sentence above from page 62 is not a word-perfect quotation, but the meaning is not skewed. That sentence from my book precedes quotes by Wallis, Stott, and Merritt. Where these men stand in relation to one another on the broader scope of the gospel is open for review. On the salvation and discipleship issue, however, they appear very much in unison, which is evidenced by their quotes. If one were to read the quotes from each man in my book, he would find they are consistent with one another in their call for discipleship as though it is the means to receive eternal life.
7. On the back cover, “For much of the last decade advocates of Lordship Salvation have dominated the forum.” I don’t know about that. The Calvary Chapels and CSN (Calvary Satellite Network, headquartered in Twin Falls, Idaho) dominate Southeastern Idaho. So there is a steady diet of Dave Hunt, recorded messages of J. Vernon McGee, and a host of other conservative evangelical, anti-Lordship Salvation contenders. Don’t you think it all depends upon where you live? I am sure that Lordship Salvation among all “professing evangelicals” in Southern California is more diminished than what exists among all the reformed evangelical culture of South Africa and all their various degrees of belief and distortion over Lordship salvation. Pastor Doug Van Meter in Lou’s book does sound extreme.
In my city you can only hear a broadcast by J. Vernon McGee if you are up at 6 a.m., or you might sift through his five-volume commentary. When, which is seldom, he addresses Lordship Salvation on his broadcast or in print, it cannot be called a comprehensive treatment. As for Calvary Chapels and CSN, I am not familiar with them, but I suspect they may not necessarily qualify as national platforms. As for Dave Hunt, I reiterate my point, nothing comprehensive or dedicated to the Lordship debate.
The Lordship advocates on the other hand have, as I say, dominated the forum. John MacArthur is not the only one but certainly the most recognizable advocate for Lordship Salvation. Dr. MacArthur has a worldwide platform through electronic and print media. Books by John MacArthur, John Piper, Kenneth Gentry, and Walter Chantry are widely used and recommended by some men in Fundamentalism to represent and champion Lordship Salvation.
Pastor Wood refers to the “anti-Lordship Salvation contenders.” May I suggest a better phrase might have been, “men who take an opposing view.”
8. Lou—“The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) does not deal with salvation; it talks about discipleship (p. 78). Huh? No scrap of gospel in the Lord’s sermon to all the masses of people? What about the Kingdom of Heaven? And how to enter it? Obviously, the author is biased against D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. So the spiritual classic, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, would either go unread or be sniffed out for heresy. But what about reading The Sermon on the Mount (1978) by D.A. Carson?
I wrote a chapter titled, Salvation & Discipleship: Is There a Biblical Difference? This is one of the most thorough chapters in the book. I spent many hours on this subject because confusing discipleship with salvation is where much of the Lordship Salvation error originates. A quote from John MacArthur would help frame my reply to Pastor Wood’s questions above. Dr. MacArthur said the Sermon on the Mount contains “pure gospel.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 203.)
In the Sermon on the Mount, you find overtones to salvation. I believe Matthew 7:13-14 would be an example.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Dr. MacArthur, however, specifically cites Matthew 7:13-14 as, “…the Savior’s own presentation of the way of salvation…In fact, these closing verses are pure gospel” (Ibid., p. 203.).
I believe many of us would agree the gospel might be best defined in 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand…For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
The gospel, therefore, according to the Scriptures is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Do we find any mention of His death, burial, and resurrection in the Sermon on the Mount? Do we find the cross, justification by faith, or new birth? Do we find any clear John 3:16 message in the Sermon on the Mount?
Dr. MacArthur says the Sermon on the Mount is “the way of salvation.” Is Pastor Wood suggesting that the Sermon on the Mount be given to a lost man as the plan of salvation? The Sermon on the Mount can reveal to a lost man his sin condition. The Sermon on the Mount will show all men that they are not righteous and fall short of the glory of God. The Sermon on the Mount may bring conviction. Where, however, in the Sermon on the Mount do we find, as Dr. MacArthur claims, “pure gospel?”
9. Lou—“Dear reader, do not allow the Lordship teacher to rob you of your joy and confidence in the finished work of Christ” (p. 79). Still puzzled. John MacArthur’s latest study Bible is pulling me away from my joy in the finished work of Christ?
John MacArthur has written many helpful books. When Dr. MacArthur writes on Lordship Salvation, however, he is wrong. A man who was witnessed to through Lordship reasoning is going to learn very quickly that he cannot live up to the commitment he was told would bring him the free gift of God, eternal life. Once he comes to that realization, he may become discouraged or frustrated and lose his joy. He has to wonder what happens to the man who is not living up to the promise he made. Is he depending on the promise to live fully surrendered to the lordship of Christ? Or is he depending on the finished work of Christ independent of any promise or keeping of a promise?
10. Lou—“The book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul. He was writing about his own struggles with carnality” (p. 89). Is this the main purpose of Romans 7?
I cited Romans 7:14-25, which is Paul’s telling of his struggles with carnality. I use this portion of Romans 7 in a chapter titled, Can There Be a Christian Who is Carnal? I limited the passage from Romans 7 to verses 14-25 because the subject I am addressing is the carnal Christian. I really should refer everyone back to the book, but I will continue.
Following is the portion from my book which Pastor Wood raises issue with:
In Romans 7:14-25 the Bible makes clear that believers will experience struggles between their old sinful flesh and their new spiritual nature. The book to the Romans was written by the Apostle Paul. He was writing about his own struggles with carnality. Paul was a saved man, but he had struggles in his walk with God. Has there ever been a Christian who did not experience both victories over sin and also failures to resist temptation and slip into carnality? There is a very real warfare between the flesh and the spirit in the life of every believer.
That chapter is a key to the Lordship debate. Here is a sample of what Lordship advocates say about the carnal Christian. John MacArthur wrote:
The tragic result is that many people think it is fairly normal for Christians to live like unbelievers… . As I noted… . contemporary theologians have devised an entire category for this type of person—the “carnal Christian” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Version], p. 135.).
Walter Chantry wrote:
In a panic over this phenomenon [of worldly Christians], the evangelicals have invented the idea of “carnal Christians” (Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic, p. 54).
In the book I contest those men’s suggestion that the “carnal Christian” is an “invention” or “devised category.” I show from the Bible that this is a category of Christians found in New Testament times just as they are today. On page 92, I wrote:
The “carnal Christian” is not a category “devised” by “contemporary theologians.” It is a category of believers (“brethren”) identified in the Word of God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, by the Apostle Paul. Walter Chantry and John MacArthur must ignore the clear teaching of Scripture to arrive at the conclusion that the “carnal” Christian has been “devised,” invented, or fabricated only in recent times.
My purpose in quoting Paul’s personal testimony of his struggle between the Spirit and the flesh is to show that this struggle against carnality is common to every believer. Some succumb to the flesh and fail; others submit to the Spirit and have victory. We have, however, all experienced episodes of failure and carnality in our lives.
On Romans 7:14, Dr. John R. Rice wrote:
The conflict Paul felt is universal among Christians, the pull of the flesh against the Spirit, of the old man against the new (Holy Bible: Rice Reference Edition, p. 1,217.).
Dr. Ernest Pickering addressed the issue this way:
This is a familiar theme, particularly among Reformed theologians such as Lloyd-Jones… . Their impression seems to be that if one admits to the existence of “carnal Christians,” one is merely seeking to find a way to excuse the loose living of professing believers. Those who speak of “carnal” Christians are only employing the terminology of Scripture… . While brethren may deny the existence of such an individual, we would venture to say that a considerable number of examples could be found in their own churches! One is not going to make “carnal” Christians vanish simply by demanding that saving faith include surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Even if that were done it would not guarantee that the new convert would submit to the Lordship of Christ when confronted with a specific demand. If he did not do so, he would become a “carnal” Christian, walking according to the flesh and not the Spirit (Lordship Salvation: An Examination of John MacArthur’s Book, The Gospel According to Jesus).
11. A quote from Charles Bing, “While affirming that Christians can fall into sin, and act carnally, one Lordship author proposes that ‘carnal Christian’ is a ‘contradiction in terms’ ” (p. 91). Don’t even unbelievers look upon the carnal Christians in local assemblies as perfect examples of contradiction in terms? Paul fervently contrasts the carnal mind with the spiritual mind in Romans 8.
This does not appear to be a question directed to me. In any event my chapter on Carnal Christians is quite thorough on this subject.
12. There is an extended portion of a sermon by Joel Mullenix, “What Is The Gospel?” (pp. 98-102). I am showing my ignorance. Is this man still a professor at PCC and does he believe man needs to show repentance in order to be saved? I disagree with him about speculating over the matter of King Saul in the Old Testament as being a carnal Christian whom we will see in heaven.
To the best of my knowledge, Dr. Joel Mullenix is still on staff at PCC. I included a portion of the sermon he brought to the college student body in 1997 addressing several of the problems with Lordship Salvation. Dr. Mullenix’s sermon excerpt addresses the issue of carnal Christians for a chapter titled, Can There Be A Christian Who Is Carnal? The word “repentance” does not appear in Dr. Mullenix’s sermon excerpt because repentance is not the subject matter of that chapter. Why then does Pastor Wood raise the possibility that Dr. Mullenix may have a problem with the doctrine of repentance?
13. Lou—“Lordship advocates make behavior, not believing, the key to eternal life and evidence of a genuine conversion. That doctrine is certainly not the gospel of the Apostles, nor the doctrine according to Jesus” (p. 130). But isn’t a changed life “evidence of a genuine conversion”? And I know clearly Grace Community Church elders do not make personal works the means to appropriate saving grace. Compare LDS Robert Millet’s book, Grace Works, with MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus. There are huge chasms between the two soteriological systems, night and day different from each other. Millet, not MacArthur, is the example of one who muddily exchanges forensic justification for progressive sanctification and refuses to clearly share with his Mormon and “Christian” readers the whole picture of MacArthur’s belief about the gospel. This is what I call a “spread insidious” (p. 23).
I need to make a minor correction of the excerpt from my book, which Pastor Wood posted. The sentence actually reads,
Lordship advocates make behavior, not believing, the key to eternal life and evidence of a genuine conversion. That doctrine is certainly not the gospel of the Apostles, nor the gospel according to Jesus.
Evidence of a changed life ought to be seen, to some degree, in the life of any genuinely born again man. I make it clear in the book that I do not make room for and do not stand for the loose living of some professing believers. There will always be carnal Christians in our churches. These need to be counseled, prayed for, and guided to live a life that is a shining testimony of the grace of God in their lives. I believe in the eternal security of every genuine born again child of God. I believe there ought to be evidence of regeneration and a new life born of the Spirit. The loose living of some professing believers has frustrated many of us. It has, however, caused some men to react by changing the terms of the gospel, which has lead to a rise in the advocacy of Lordship Salvation. The problem of carnal Christians will not go away by changing the terms of the gospel.
14. Lou—“It is clear that John MacArthur, representing the Lordship position, makes salvation conditional not on simple belief, but also on the addition of a work of man in order to earn the free gift of God” (p. 155). I would think that any conservative evangelical or fundamentalist who places a statement like this in public print to be sold to the masses ought to spend some face-to-face interaction and clarification with John MacArthur. Is John really sneakily upholding a conditional salvation under the masquerade of unconditional election?
About the time my book was to be released, I did write a letter to John MacArthur. Prior to that letter, I attempted to contact him directly through the Grace to You ministry and his church. My e-mail was sent to ask Dr. MacArthur for clarification of his position on the gospel as stated in The Gospel According to Jesus. This was several years ago when I was first preparing the manuscript for publication. In response to the e-mail I directed to Dr. MacArthur, one of his associate pastors contacted me with a reply. The associate pastor informed me that Dr. MacArthur’s position on the gospel as stated in his book The Gospel According to Jesus remained unchanged. In the letter I sent to him in April this year I advised him of the direction my book takes and that I quote him liberally. I provided my e-mail address for him to contact me. To date I have not received a reply. If I were to have the opportunity to meet him “face-to-face,” I am sure we would find much to agree upon outside the doctrine of salvation. When it comes to his Lordship interpretation of the gospel, however, I would graciously tell him he is wrong. I would tell him Lordship Salvation is a “conditional salvation,” and explain why I believe this is wrong. This is what I have done in my book.
15. A quote from Charles Bing—“The forsaking of one’s possessions, or the willingness to do so is never made a condition of salvation in other evangelistic encounters in the New Testament” (p. 160). If an unsaved man flat out questioned while you were witnessing to him, “Do I have to give up Mammon as my master?”—Do we ignore this Holy Spirit conviction?
Of course not! No responsible soul winner would suggest that. If one were to read the chapter titled The Rich Young Ruler, from which this partial quote was lifted, he would find a careful treatment of the Lord’s encounter with the rich young man. Again I am reluctant to insert another portion of my book. I strongly urge everyone to read what I have written about the encounter Jesus had with the rich young ruler. One prominent theologian in Fundamentalism called this chapter, “one of the best in the book and right on” in that area.
16. Lou tucks in between Colossians 2:9 and John 8:24, “If He is not God, he is not the Savior” (p. 172). Amen! And additionally, I pose this question. If Christ is denied the position of Master, how can He be a true Shepherd?
See answer combined with question #17 below.
17. A quote from Robert Lightner, “The term Lord in Acts 16:31—or anywhere else it is used of Christ—does not mean Master over one’s life. Rather it is a descriptive title of who He is—the sovereign God” (p. 185). I agree 100% that the title declares Christ as sovereign God. But does not sovereignty imply mastery? Do not people deny the existence of God because they do not want to be accountable to this God? To be fair and balanced, where is the biblical data that supports “lord” as meaning master in Lou’s book? How come there is an absence of where kurios is actually translated “master” by the King James translators? Is this not important for proper exegesis?
From Vine’s Expository Dictionary, we read:
KURIOS, properly an adjective, signifying having power or authority, is used as a noun, variously translated in the N.T., “Lord,” “master,” “Master,” “owner,” “Sir,” a title of wide significance occurring in each book of the N.T. save Titus and the Epp. of John.
“Lord” as Vine indicates is, “a title of wide significance.” That would include as a name for a master. If I may, as kindly as I can, inform Pastor Wood that I did indeed include a discussion, “that supports ‘lord’ as meaning master” in my book. On page 171, I included a quote from Dr. H. C. Thiessen, which refers to the term “Lord,” “as a name for a master.” I refer to His title as “Master” in the paragraph immediately following Thiessen’s quote. Furthermore, the title “Master” or “mastery” is referred to or discussed by me, or a contributor, fourteen times in my book, excluding the nine times “Master” appears in a passage of Scripture. If I were reviewing a book consisting of nearly 300 pages, I could overlook or miss certain elements. This is what appears to have happened here, and I do not have a problem with it.
Let me conclude this section by saying that no responsible Bible-believing Christian would deny, minimize, or negate Christ’s lordship or His mastery. No one can; He is Lord! The word “Lord” can be translated as “Master” in the Bible. This, however, does not allow for anyone to use His title, “Master,” to create a message of saving faith that frontloads submission to His mastery in exchange for salvation.
18. According to Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Romans 10:9-10, if a professing Christian refuses to “confess Christ openly and without shame” (p. 178) and shows no remorse about this, is there really in existence a union of Christ and the individual?
Frankly, I am uncertain as to how I might provide a response. It appears I need to insert the quote by Dr. Wiersbe, and follow with a comment:
Paul gave us the spiritual understanding of this admonition…. He told us that God’s way of salvation was not difficult and complicated…. The sinner need not perform difficult works in order to be saved. All he has to do is trust Christ. He made it clear in Romans 10:9-10 that salvation is by faith; we believe in the heart, receive God’s righteousness, and then confess Christ openly and without shame (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. I, p. 547.).
Pastor Wood selected the very latter portion of Dr. Wiersbe’s quote. He then interjects a question about remorse and union with Christ. I could be missing his point, but I fail to see how the question addresses or fits within the context of the quote. A potential problem is suggested where I believe none exists in the quote.
19. Lou—“Dr. Piper also believes regeneration must precede faith, which I define as one of the identifying marks of a hyper-Calvinist” (p. 236). Really? This is gracious balance? Is Dr. Piper actually at the top end of a super-duper, Calvinism hyperness? What then would the author think of Jonathan Edwards, one of the godliest theologians whom God had graciously placed in America? Has the author ever written Dr. Piper to consider what other examples he might offer of “hyper-Calvinism”?
In years past I have worked happily in cooperation with men who are Calvinists for the cause of Christ in global missions. The point at which many of us have a serious problem comes when the Calvinist moves to hyper-Calvinism.
The primary mark of a hyper-Calvinist is when he has little concern for missions and evangelism, when he refuses to offer a universal invitation to every creature lest he interfere with the sovereignty of God. I am personally not aware of any man in Fundamentalism who would hold to this position.
Some men believe holding to a Limited Atonement makes one a hyper-Calvinist. I do not agree with that, but wholly disagree with a limited atonement and find it inconsistent with the Scriptures, especially 1 John 2:2.
On the regeneration-precedes-faith issue, I have come to this conclusion. Because I believe regeneration before faith is an extreme position, I consider it an identifying mark of hyper-Calvinism. I know this is not the position of many who disagree with Calvinism, but it is my opinion. There is more on this subject in my book.
Some men in the Reformed camp are uncomfortable with regeneration-before-faith theology. Even among men who believe regeneration must precede faith, there is a wide range of opinion on the chronology of the two events. For example, one man told me he believes, “there is a theological order, but not a chronological order.” Another man says he believes the act of regeneration may take place at a very young age, then years later that individual will express faith in Christ.
As for writing Dr. Piper: In April I first phoned Dr. Piper’s church in an attempt to speak to him directly about my use of his name and quotes in my book. A church secretary informed me that Dr. Piper was out of town. With that attempt unsuccessful, I sent a personal letter to him. My letter to Dr. Piper advised him about my book and its direction. To date, however, Dr. Piper has not replied.
Incidentally, men who heard Dr. Piper have told me he now claims to be a “Seven-Point Calvinist.” I have not verified or learned what the two additional points are. These, however, may be the “examples he might offer of ‘hyper-Calvinism.’” If there is to be a Seven-Point Calvinism, we have a dilemma! The TULIP, a cherished acronym, may be in jeopardy.
20. And the granddaddy of all by Lou in my opinion: “It is somewhat ironic that if you identify a brother who is promoting a false gospel and biblically mark him, he will likely accuse you of being divisive” (p. 211). Ironic? How can the author use the exegesis of Mark Minnick on Romans 16:17 for the purpose of targeting the doctrine of John MacArthur or Mike Harding in their interpretational nuances of the deep matters of the gospel when we are all swimming in water over our heads? I am dumbfounded, flabbergasted, confounded by the main thesis of Lou’s book. It is preposterous! Lou offers this translation of Romans 16:17 toward the Lordship Salvation contenders as though they were Lordship Judaizers, “Now brethren, I strongly urge you to look at, to fix your eyes upon those who produce and author divisions and stumbling blocks contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and I command you to continually shun, avoid, turn aside, and deviate from them” (p. 216). Once again among independent Baptists, it is biblical separation gone amuck, a Romans 16:17 too narrowly nuanced. In my opinion, the thesis of this book is way out of line.
Pastor Wood questions my quoting Dr. Mark Minnick from his taped series on Romans 16:17-18? The title of Dr. Minnick’s sermon is The Scriptural Response to Teachers of Doctrinal Error. He delivered this two-part sermon at the 1997 Mid-America Conference on Preaching.
In 1996 we discovered that men taught what we considered “doctrinal error” (Lordship Salvation) in our Bible college. In 1997 when my missionary co-worker and I began to address Lordship theology and the resultant fallout, we had few resources available to us. A pastor who was stateside heard of our dilemma, and he had recently attended the 1997 Mid-America Conference where Dr. Minnick spoke. That pastor felt those tapes would be a help to our Bible college students and us. Once we received the tapes, we were very pleased to add these to our library. I played the two sermon series in one of our college classes that semester.
In the same chapter, I utilize three quotes from Brother Mark Sidwell’s book, The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation. Why Pastor Wood takes exception to my use of Dr. Minnick’s sermon, but not my use of Brother Sidwell’s writing on the same subject, is at this time unclear to me.
In the book, I dedicate one chapter to address Jude 3. I titled the chapter, Is It The Christian’s Duty To Fight For The Faith?
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Portions of another chapter titled A Heart To Heart With Pastors And Christian Leaders address Romans 16:17-18.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Pastor Wood refers to Lordship theology as though it boils down to “interpretational nuances.” Stated plainly: Lordship Salvation is not a subtle or slight difference in the interpretation of the gospel. Salvation is either: “For by grace are ye saved through faith…” Or it is, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, plus surrender and commitment of life.” Both cannot be the gospel, and these are not “interpretational nuances.”
I contextualize Jude 3 and Romans 16:17-ff in the Lordship Salvation debate. It would take numerous pages in this reply to properly address this issue. The two chapters span approximately 40 pages. Let me ask this question: Is an errant interpretation of the gospel grounds for one to consider that he may need to “contend for the faith,” and possibly “mark” and “avoid?”
The Positive Notes:
In my opinion, the balance of Pastor Wood’s review, the positive notes, do not necessitate a response from me. He did try to be charitable in his concluding remarks.
Reflecting on the Review:
Early in his review, Pastor Wood stated, “Lou put me in a bad mood before I could hardly get out of the opening gates of his book.” When a man begins a book review in a “bad mood” and uses terms such as, “dumbfounded, flabbergasted, confounded, preposterous, the author is biased against…” one must wonder how much objectivity was brought to the reading. I was somewhat disappointed with the way he structured some of his questions. In my opinion, some of the quotes from my book, and my reviewer’s follow-up questions/remarks, would have been better understood if they were more closely framed within the context in which they appear in my book.
The debate over Lordship Salvation is a serious doctrinal issue, not a personality clash. Lordship Salvation has made deep inroads into our fundamental churches, fellowships, and Bible college classrooms. Unless the spread of Lordship Salvation is checked and effectively dealt with, the situation will only worsen. Some who are reading this could step into the debate and make a difference!
I wrote In Defense of the Gospel to inform, educate, and equip all ranks of Bible-believing Christians. It is my hope that what I have written will help many to recognize Lordship Salvation, know why it is wrong, and be able to mount a biblical defense when they encounter it.
Anyone who wants to share an opinion of what I have written should first read what I have written. Do not make a judgment about my book solely on what men have to say, pro or con. Form your own conclusions based on your own reading. My book is not a difficult read. I understand nearly everyone pro or con on the Lordship Salvation issue will disagree with some portion and/or suggest a better way for me to have dealt with some aspect of the issue. Some men have already offered helpful suggestions, and I appreciate their doing so. When I released In Defense of the Gospel, I understood it would become fair game. My skin is thick enough to graciously receive feedback from readers on both sides of the debate. I am open to any comments from any source as long as they have done their homework.
Rev. Lou Martuneac (M.A. Bible Exposition) was a faculty member at Pensacola Christian College (1987-1992). He also served as a missionary, vice president, and professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Johannesburg, South Africa (1996-1999). He has written two gospel tracts: The Unchanging Rock and Wings of Freedom. Rev. Martuneac, his wife, and his five children live in suburban Chicago.