“everybody is at least a little bit right and a little bit wrong”

"More than 30 years ago now John MacArthur published The Gospel According to Jesus, arguing against 'easy believism,' . . . . I’d like to suggest that the views are both a little bit right, and they’re both a little bit wrong." - Olinger

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Mark_Smith's picture

"I think MacArthur did what a lot of us do—he read some sanctification back into justification, as exemplified by our point about believing the virgin birth. In that narrow sense, he added to the list.

On the other hand, he’s obviously right that Christ’s followers don’t deny or ignore his lordship. They know his voice, and they follow him—not perfectly, of course, but aspirationally."

The key point is this. I've read Gospel According to Jesus several times, and Gospel According to the Apostles, and I never got the impression MacArthur was saying you have to be perfect. No one who hears MacArthur preach would think that. But that didn't keep people from accusing him of saying that.

The truth is you cannot talk about justification and sanctification in isolation. They go together as a package. That is the thrust of MacArthur's lordship salvation belief. 

On the flip side, we have all heard stories like this. I had an older woman in the last Sunday School class I taught. She talked about how here son was a Christian. When you asked about him, he never went to church, hadn't in decades, was divorced, and drank. But when he was in 5th grade he prayed a prayer with Ms. Smith up in that room right there... She clung to it because she didn't want her son to not be saved.

It was this kind of situation MacArthur was addressing.

josh p's picture

I've listened to thousands of hours of MacArthur's preaching (and have read many of his books). I have a driving job and used to listen basically all day for years. I began to notice him finding lordship salvation in passages that were not teaching it. I too read GATJ very closely. At one point he defines saving faith as "total obedience." I think that is a real problem of communication at the very least. 
 

I believe Olinger has it right. I'm not going to give a dead person a list of things they must do to be saved. But the Bible absolutely teaches that a believer will bear fruit. No fruit=no salvation. 

Mark_Smith's picture

The standard is total obedience, yes. But no one can do that. That's where grace kicks in.

What MacArthur was battling when that book came out was the notion that a mere prayer indicated salvation. You see that hanging around today. How many times have you worked at a VBS. X number of kids raised their hand during the week. At the end, the pastor or leader proudly says X kids were saved this week. I always cringe. I have no idea how many were saved! Let's take a look in a decade to see how they are doing.

Plus there are antinomians that have no interest in an obedience component to salvation.

G. N. Barkman's picture

The deceased member's pastor said that he was encouraged by the number of people he'd seen saved at funerals he conducted.  He reported that he'd seen 350 people saved at one of those funerals.

Hmmm.   I think that's the problem Mac Arthur was addressing.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

A former church member moved to Texas last year to retire. She sent me info this past week, very happy. She's joined a SBC church that has a different philosophy than us. They had a guy come in who was a former MMA fighter. He puts up a ninja obstacle course, and speaks about how God can help anyone overcome obstacles. The lady says they had 10 people saved.

Maybe. But, what happens this Sundsy, when some of those people come back, the ninja guy is gone, and things are "boring?"

This isn't the way we ought to do evangelism. It also isn't the Gospel. Does the ninja guy even know the Gospel? This is the sincere, well-meaning, but shallow flavor of Christianity JMac was criticizing, I believe.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

My former church claimed about 800 people saved in VBS in a 20 year period, and of those decisions for Christ, a round number--a perfectly round number--were to be seen in church on Sundays.  I'm thankful to MacArthur for reminding "our tribes" that real salvation bears fruit.  And then you've got the opposite problem--people who insist on specific steps of sanctification (whether or not they're mentioned as important in the Scripture) before allowing brothers to join in fellowship.  Ironically, one example of this phenomenon also seemed to subscribe to the position that praying a prayer was equal to salvation.  Balance, I think.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

The standard is total obedience, yes. But no one can do that. That's where grace kicks in.

What MacArthur was battling when that book came out was the notion that a mere prayer indicated salvation. You see that hanging around today. How many times have you worked at a VBS. X number of kids raised their hand during the week. At the end, the pastor or leader proudly says X kids were saved this week. I always cringe. I have no idea how many were saved! Let's take a look in a decade to see how they are doing.

Plus there are antinomians that have no interest in an obedience component to salvation.

I don't believe conversion has anything to do with "total obedience." As you say it is the standard that should immediately follow but I don't believe it's appropriate to use that in evangelism. I agree with you and others that say JMac was opposing false doctrine. I just think he went too far the other way. Even many of his own (very reformed) colleagues asked for clarification. I think JMac is at his best when he is emphasizing the role (and necessity) of obedience in the life of the believer. He sometimes says that it's not the perfection of your life but the direction. I think that's well-said but that he could be more clear (or possibly more right) about what initial saving faith entails.