Monday, August 6, 2012


Sometimes in evangelical (and other) circles, I find that to disagree with the teachings of a popular author or teacher makes one a bit suspect.  I’m not speaking here of disagreeing with the pastoral staff or leadership of the church, but of those “outside” the church.  There seems to be an aura around some teachers and to question their teachings or authority may be considered tantamount to questioning the Scriptures themselves.

I have often felt myself regarded with suspicion in these various groups because of my disagreements.  After all, I’ve questioned and disagreed with many hallowed persons, as a search through this blog will reveal.  I’m not trying to be disrespectful to these persons.  Many of them I admire greatly.  It’s just that (1) that’s the way I think – critically, and (2) I want the Scriptures to be the final arbiter in all doctrinal questions and not the teachings of men.

One teacher with whom I strongly disagree is John MacArthur, who I believe has taught a false gospel – the “gospel” of Lordship salvation.  As his teaching has been endorsed by many and as Mr. MacArthur himself is free to name names, I feel I need to give as my own the following apologia, which I quote from page xv of his book, The Gospel According to Jesus.”
“Many who disagree with me on this issue are faithful servants of God whose ministries have reaped abundant fruit for the kingdom.  It was necessary to quote and refute many of them by name in this book, not to try to discredit them or their ministries, but because it is hardly possible to address the concept of the gospel that is spreading throughout the church without quoting some of those who are teaching it.  There is no more important issue than the question of what gospel we ought to believe and proclaim.”

I was first introduced to the above mentioned book a number of years ago by a friend who told me that not only had reading it changed his life, but that it would do the same for all who read it and if every Christian did, it would revolutionize the church.  He also told me how I could obtain a free copy.

As I am never one to turn down a free book, I sent off for it.  And since it was claimed by my friend that it was life changing, I immediately began to study the book, red pen in hand.

I was impressed to see two forwards, written by men whom I have greatly respected.  I was astounded and grieved to find these men reinforcing the teachings in the book and making statements that I felt were unbiblical.

I went through the book page by page, marking arguments and writing notes in the margins.  On a blank page in front of the book, I wrote out what I felt was a series of clear rebuttals to what I believe are false doctrines and bad logic.  I kept the book in my library and used it for reference whenever questions regarding the doctrines taught in it would come up.

And then I did something stupid!  I loaned the book to a student.  Not long afterward he dropped out of class and moved without leaving a forwarding address.

I later obtained another copy, but haven’t felt like going back and repeating the exercise.  But a brief perusal is enough.  Most of my comments are from memory.

MacArthur’s great error is his insistence on conflating two different but related “calls” of Jesus:  His call to eternal life through faith in Him and His call to a life of discipleship.  MacArthur insists that those who separate these two calls are preaching a false gospel.  I would insist that to add any requirement than simple faith for eternal life is preaching a false gospel.

Mr. MacArthur feels that the gospel that I (and many, many others) proclaim is something new and is the reason for much that is wrong with the church.  But it’s the gospel I first heard nearly seven decades ago and the gospel I believed.

As I’ve said many times before, this is not a minor, trivial doctrinal dispute.  It lies right at the heart of our faith.

           Jesus Himself said:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life” (John 3:16).

John said:
“As many as received Him, He gave them the right to be children of God – to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

Over and over in the Gospels we read that belief – faith – is the only requirement for salvation.

Jesus calls us to total commitment to Him it is true.  But that commitment is not the requirement for our eternal salvation.  In fact, it is only those who have exercised faith in Christ who are able to make that commitment.

I’ll not spend much time in these arguments as I’ve made them all before.  If the reader desires to read more on the subject, I recommend that he click on the following:
            CHEAP GRACE
            FREE GRACE
            HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

As I recall, the final remark I wrote in the book contained a question.  If someone asked Mr. MacArthur, “What must I do to be saved?” how would he answer?  I don’t believe he could!


XLT said...

I have read many of his books, and based on the that, I would say he might have a number of answers to that last question... depending on how "bad" you are in his estimation. One of a few people I do not mind mentioning by name either.

Sherry said...

I don't like that I hear people praise him and quote him cuz in my book, this one drastic misinterpretation makes everything else he says suspect

Trent said...

Great article Bill! I agree with you completely. What is interesting is how many of his "followers" deny he teaches what he does when you bring them up. To bad you lost that book it would come in handy.