Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Monday, January 02, 2006

John MacArthur is 'Hard to Believe'

This is a modified version of this post. I have removed a disputed quote from John MacArthur for reason I do not wish the discussion of such to divert focus from the following quotes. If you wish to hear more about the quotes, you may ask me. My email is in my profile.

Although Michael Horton is no friend to Free Grace theology, as he is in the Lordship Salvation ‘camp’, he does make some interesting comments about John MacArthur:

“MacArthur adds W. E. Vine's definition of faith as including even "conduct inspired by such surrender" (173-74). If we are justified by faith and if faith is surrender, obedience, and conduct inspired by such surrender, then we are justified by works. The logic seems unavoidable:

We are justified by faith alone.

Faith is surrender, obedience, and conduct inspired by such surrender.

Therefore, we are justified by surrender, obedience, and conduct inspired by such obedience” (Michael Horton, Christ the Lord, pg 44).

Horton uses logic to assess MacArthur’s position, and comes to the same conclusion we all should: MacArthur’s position teaches works-salvation.

Horton goes so far as to charge MacArthur with teaching an essentially Roman Catholic view of justification:

“MacArthur, it seems, is so disturbed by the antinomianism of his opponents that, in order to make what he calls easy-believism more untenable, he insists that the believer is justified by knowledge, assent, and obedience (or, at least, ‘the determination of the will to obey truth’), rather than by knowledge, assent, and trust. Granted, the formulation is different from official Roman Catholic teaching, but it merely moves the element of works into the definition of faith itself. This leaves the impression that, if a believer is repeating the same sin, he or she must not be justified yet, since ‘repentance is a critical element of genuine faith’ (p. 172) and ‘faith is not complete unless it is obedient’ (p. 173)” (Horton, Christ the Lord pg 40/ References to MacArthur are from TGATJ).

Horton later adds:

“Not only does MacArthur seem here to repeat the Roman Catholic confusion of justification and sanctification; he actually makes the forensic declaration depend on a real moral change in the person's behavior. First, the robe is ‘the reality of a changed life’ not the declaration of a changed status, as the Reformers would have understood it. Second, ‘the son cannot receive all the blessedness of the father's table until he is robed in the right robe. And so there must be more than a declaration involved.’ In other words, God cannot declare one righteous before there is moral change. The legal declaration depends on moral transformation in MacArthur's statements here, just as surely as in Trent's[i.e., Roman Catholic position]” (Horton, 42-43)

Horton not only considers MacArthur’s view of justification to be essentially Roman, he states that MacArthur’s position critically wounds Christian assurance:

“While MacArthur may not intend for readers to come away from his remarks prepared to conclude that they are not Christians because they find themselves committing the same sins repeatedly, I do not think this is an unwarranted conclusion based on his comments” (Horton, pg, 50).

Shortly thereafter he adds:

“MacArthur, as we have seen, not only takes the focus for our assurance off of the finished work of Christ, but even raises questions about the focus for faith itself. Is faith resting in Christ's life and death or in ours? We must be careful not to react to the antinomian threat by driving the sheep back to themselves, away from Christ” (Horton, pg 51).

A Roman Catholic Apologist has this to say about MacArthur:

“MacArthur spent almost all of his 300-page work [TGAJ] exegeting passages from the Gospels, systematically going through many of the teachings of Jesus which specified that works indeed play a large part in our standing and relationship with God. This is not surprising. Catholic theology has always maintained that the Gospels deny faith alone theology most emphatically” (Robert Sungenis, Not by Faith Alone, pg. 597).

“Entrance into the kingdom requires earnest endeavor, untiring energy, and utmost exertion, because Satan is mighty, his demons are powerful, and sin holds us fast” (John MacArthur, Hard to Believe, 149).

How is this not works-salvation?

He states that entering the kingdom is conditioned on earnest endeavor, untiring energy and utmost exertion! Clearly the endeavor, energy, and exertion are not point-in-time events. They must occur over time. It is also important to see that even commitment is not enough! Only the fully committed over the course of their whole life will make it into the Kingdom.

Can anyone else see the radical difference between the Lordship Salvation gospel and the Free Grace gospel?

I am sorry, but John MacArthur is "Hard to Believe"!

25 Comments:

Anonymous Andy said...

In reading some of the reviews of MacArthur's Hard to Believe on Amazon.com, I noticed that the portion of Hard to Believe that Antonio cited (from p.93) was apparently removed from future editions.

January 02, 2006 12:36 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

More like somewhat revised, but still included.

Antonio

January 02, 2006 12:39 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

"They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."(Romans 3:24,HCSB)

I still haven't figured out the "concept" of a free-grace gift costing me anything.

I think Ryrie responded well in So Great Salvation to JMAC in '89

Gospel Direction

GODBLESS,
NATE

January 02, 2006 2:36 PM  
Anonymous andy said...

Thanks for the clarification Antonio. Perhaps “revised” would have been a better word to use than “removed.” Following is the relevant section of the Amazon review to which I was referring:

N. Oder posted the review on February 18, 2005 under the title “Clarification note!”
Begin Quote
I recently noticed on John MacArthur's website (www.gty.org) a clarification for this book, Hard to Believe: The High Cost and Intimate Value of Following Jesus. The clarification corrects a key paragraph in the book (one that was commented on by a reviewer Challies Dot Com above). The Grace To You staff comments that they believe this was an honest editorial error that unfortunately resulted in severely muddling the message of that portion of the beginning of Chapter 6
"Don't believe anyone who says it's easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God's Son His life, and it'll cost you the same thing. Salvation isn't gained by reciting mere words. Saving faith transforms the heart, and that in turn transforms behavior. Faith's fruit is seen in actions, not intentions. There's no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile. Remember that what John saw in his vision of judgment was a Book of Life, not a book of Words or Book of Intellectual Musings. The life we live, not the words we speak, reveals whether our faith is authentic."
I'd encourage anyone who has the early version of this book to go to Grace To You's website (www.gty.org) and copy this corrected portion of Chapter 6 for your copy.
End Quote

January 02, 2006 2:44 PM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

Wow! Great Post!

Michael Horton is beginning to make important distinctions. Praise God!

You quoted him saying:

(MacArthur) actually makes the forensic declaration depend on a real moral change in the person's behavior. First, the robe is ‘the reality of a changed life’ not the declaration of a changed status, as the Reformers would have understood it. Second, ‘the son cannot receive all the blessedness of the father's table until he is robed in the right robe. And so there must be more than a declaration involved.’ In other words, God cannot declare one righteous before there is moral change. The legal declaration depends on moral transformation in MacArthur's statements here, just as surely as in Trent's [i.e., Roman Catholic position]” (Horton, 42-43)

Are the quotes (in bold) from Trent?

God Bless!

Jodie

January 02, 2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

I see on Amazon that this is that older book from Horton, Christ the Lord. That list it as from Baker, 1992.

January 02, 2006 6:57 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

The quotes are from John MacArthur in his book The Gospel According Jesus.

Antonio

January 02, 2006 9:16 PM  
Blogger ambiance-five said...

Good thoughts.

January 03, 2006 4:10 AM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Hi Antonio!!!

What an excellent post! I think this is a real problem, (I'll say it again) a real problem!

I like this quote from Horton:

We must be careful not to react to the antinomian threat by driving the sheep back to themselves, away from Christ...

...but you say he is in the Lordship camp? (Never having read anything by him, but just based on what you posted here, I'm scratching my head... )

Antonio says:
Can anyone else see the radical difference between the Lordship Salvation gospel and the Free Grace gospel?

I'm not entirely sure what all is entailed in the Free Grace gospel, (it's the label thing) but I sure see a difference between the Lordship Salvation gospel and the gospel that saved my life.

Keep challenging, Antonio!

January 03, 2006 6:36 AM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Antonio,
I have been very supportive of your blog and you've thanked me for that on one occasion, so why don't you respond to my comments anymore? I expressed an interest in something hoping you would give me some clarification:

(I know you're blogging today because you've been commenting on my post!)

...but you say he is in the Lordship camp? (Never having read anything by him, but just based on what you posted here, I'm scratching my head... )

January 03, 2006 6:36 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Andy and nate, thank you for your comments!

Nate thank you for the link.

Ambience 5, thank you for taking the time to visit my humble blog!

Rose,

Thank you ever for your support.

Michael Horton is a 5 point Calvinist, who has been very vocal against Free Grace theology and Zane Hodges.

Rose, you are a rose in a desert place :)

Your friend Antonio

January 04, 2006 10:54 AM  
Anonymous andy said...

Rose,

To see Zane Hodges' review of Michael Horton's Christ the Lord, see the following link:

http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1993ii/J11-93b.htm

January 04, 2006 11:09 AM  
Anonymous andy said...

Here's the link:

http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1993ii/J11-93b.htm

January 04, 2006 11:24 AM  
Anonymous andy said...

Sorry about that. The above attempt to link the article apparently does not work. You'll need to copy and paste the website into your browser.

January 04, 2006 11:28 AM  
Blogger ambiance-five said...

The way I see it our salvation cost Christ. Why focus on what we pay? Our cost whatever little or big we may see it will always be small in comparison and just look what we gain!

Praise God we gain so much more than we could ever lay down.

January 06, 2006 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus commands us to to works in order to have eternal life!

John Chapter 6

I must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life.

October 07, 2006 8:54 PM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

Does anyone see the irony in this comment thread at all?

In the one hand, the real substance of Horton's criticism of Dr. MacArthur is that it seems to confuse justification and sanctification -- meaning, somehow, what Dr. MacArthur said confuses the moment we are justified by God with all the things we do subsequent to being justified. Maybe, given the language in the edition Horton criticized, he might be right.

But problematically for the rest of you, you are doing exactly the same thing Horton accuses Dr. MacArthur of. You are confusing the results of Justification -- the necessary results of justification -- with Justification.

For example, Rom 3:24 is an interesting and important sentence -- but it doesn't say anything other than Justification is God's job. That is, we don't make ourselves right with God, but God makes us right. But what happens after God has done this for us and to us? Does the book of Romans say?

I think it does. In fact, all orthodox commentators on the book of Romans says it does. When we read this:

we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

that's not a paraphrase of James. That's Paul in Chapter 5 of Romans. In that, he is saying that our faith produces something we can see. He has put the Legal system on its head -- because it is not obedience which produces righteousness, but righteousness, by the declaration of God in justification, which produces obedience.

It comes: it is made. It is the basis of hope if we read this passage to the end. And to say that this is "Roman Catholic" in some way is simply name-calling rather than reasoning.

There is no question that grace is a free gift of God: the real problem for those think Antonio is onto something here is whether or not that gift ever gets opened in this life, and whether we can ever see that it has come to us. In the GES view of things, we don't have to see anythibg, because the work that Grace does is not in this life -- it's only an eternal benefit. But if we read the rest of Romans rather than one verse and close the book, we find that a faith that saves works both in the next life and in the one we are living right now.

Bring it on, Antonio. You have asked for a debate format that looks more like trading term papers, and I am coming here to tell you that if that's what it will take for you to interact seriously with this topic, I'm here to trade term papers with you.

Bring it. The Gospel is calling your name.

October 19, 2006 7:11 AM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

nate:

Let me make sure I undestand your comment -- are you saying that the NT doesn't tell us that there is something costly about discipleship?

I'd like to see you work that out, and then I'd be willing to share the relevant portions of the NT with you to help you think this out.

October 19, 2006 7:13 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

"John MacArthur is 'Hard to Believe'", Jan 02, 2006, 12:04 PM.

(comment by centuri0n on Oct 19, 2006)

Hello Antonio, centuri0n et al --

The comment by centuri0n to this post looks unresponded to, and perhaps Antonio, like many teachers, leave such things "as an exercise."

For those who like short and succinct statements, I think you jump to a conclusion here, centuri0n. Paul says "tribulation brings about perseverance (Rm 5:3)." But you change it to "faith produces something we can see." Paul: what suffering brings about. You: what faith produces. Not the same subject.

January 04, 2007 6:31 AM  
Blogger God=Truth said...

So do you believe the Book of James was mistakenly canonized? I think the point is being missed, repentance and good works are not necessary for salvation, yes we are justified by faith alone, but they are necessary results.....

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

James 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead

James 2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

You cannot earn the free gift of salvation, but receiving that gift has an effect on your life and the result of that gift is works. But not us doing them but God through us, Christ through us doing them..

Phil. 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

2 Cor.2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,

How can we be the "Aroma of Christ" among those who are being saved and those who are perishing, if are lives are not changed?

If you believe upon salvation that Christ or the Holy Spirit enters your heart, one must surely believe a change occurs... And someone declaring that the change manifests in the form of spiritual growth and Lordship, or "good works" if you will, is not a works based salvation.

People need to quit putting words in each others mouths...

The root of the disagreement is not a debate between works and faith, it should be a debate about what is the result of true saving faith...

The Bible needs to be taken as a whole, in context. As God speaks to us through it..

I live for Christ, and I pray that everyone would... For that is the best thing anyone could ever do...

Thanks for the opportunity to share whats on my heart...

In Christ, Chris L.

July 12, 2011 6:43 PM  
Blogger FF said...

Who said that Horton is in the "Lordship" camp!? You obviously have never read Horton. He represents the few who uphold a true historical view of the doctrines of Grace that came out of the Reformation! There's a clear and obvious distinction between Michael Horton, Ken Jones, Kim Riddlebarger, Ed Clowney, Sinclair Ferguson, etc., and Lordship proponents such as MacArthur, John Piper (who I heavily gleanned from in my early years of embracing reformed theology), Paul Washer, Todd Friel, etc. But their is also a distinction between Hodges and Horton as well. Just don't see how anyone who has ever read Horton thoroughly would assume that he is a Lordship advocate!

January 08, 2014 11:07 PM  
Blogger FF said...

I meant "there"

January 08, 2014 11:08 PM  
Blogger Seminole said...

I believe that faith alone is the way that justification is received. Faith means to depend upon or rely on. Faith is not the same as obedience or surrender.

After justification is received by faith, God changes your life so that you will obey God and surrender to Him. Obeying God and surrendering to God are not the means by which justification is received. They are the evidences that God has justified you.

April 10, 2014 10:22 AM  
Blogger broknprism said...

"I still haven't figured out the "concept" of a free-grace gift costing me anything." -- Nate. Hi Nate. Must we not deny ourselves to follow Him, hate our lives, lose our lives to find them, seize the kingdom by force, agonize to enter the narrow gate? The treasure in the field and the pearl cost the buyers nothing? The branch with no fruit is somehow nevertheless connected to the vine? By what evidence? Is faith without works dead, or not? Please take James aside and school him for us, OK? Hope to see you there, friend.

December 06, 2014 5:04 PM  
Blogger Red Beetle said...

https://www.facebook.com/groups/489336621174684/permalink/642198025888542/

The above is an essay opposed to Lordship Salvation. The author argues that Calvinism never held to the heresy of Lordship Salvation. In fact, men like Scott Hahn, a professing Presbyterian pastor at one time, held to this justification-by-faith-and-works heresy in line with Norman Shepherd (Shepherd was a professor at Westminster Seminary, Penn., who was forced out of the seminary when it became known that he was teaching justification by faith and works). The "Shepherd Controversy" at Westminster Seminary essentially taught the Lordship Salvation heresy,, denying Sola Fide, and Scott Hahn would later become Roman Catholic. Check out the essay.

December 20, 2014 10:06 PM  

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