Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Omissions From the Gospel, Important to Consider: Follow-Up Three

At least two different gospels are advocated by independent Baptists who say that they fellowship around the gospel, that is, both unify on the gospel and separate over the gospel.  In order to explore this topic further, use it as a teaching moment, we're going to analyze a quote from Lou Martuneac in the comment section of the first follow-up or part two in this now four part series.  Lou has written a book about salvation, he titled, In Defense of the Gospel.  Here's the comment:

You wrote, “Lordship is either included with the gospel or it isn’t.” No problem there until we learn how the advocates of Lordship Salvation define His lordship. What decisions(s) the LS preacher insists must be made by a lost man about Christ’s Lordship to be born again, justified. 
The Lordship Salvation (LS) controversy revolves around the requirements for salvation, not the results of salvation. This is where the divide over the gospel is and where the FBFI should debate the issue. 
A genuine conversion should evidence itself in genuine results. New believers will vary in levels of growth, but growth should be evident to some degree. The focal point of controversy is Lordship’s requirements for the reception of eternal life, i.e. how to become a Christian. 
Man comes to Christ for salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) and then follows Christ in discipleship (Eph. 2:10). In his critical review of MacArthur’s TGATJ, Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote, “Salvation is free; discipleship is costly. Salvation comes by receiving the work of the cross; discipleship is evidenced by bearing the cross (daily submission to the will of God). Christ here [Luke 9:23-24; 14:26-27, 33; Mark 8:34] is not giving instructions about how to go to heaven, but how those who know they are going to heaven should follow Him.” 
LS teachers hold that the title “Lord,” when applied to Jesus, necessitates the lost man’s upfront submission to the rule and reign of Christ over his life, in sanctification, for both initial salvation (justification) and final salvation (glorification).

I think it would be of value to take this comment paragraph by paragraph to be clear on what we're talking about here.  First one.

You wrote, “Lordship is either included with the gospel or it isn’t.” No problem there until we learn how the advocates of Lordship Salvation define His lordship. What decisions(s) the LS preacher insists must be made by a lost man about Christ’s Lordship to be born again, justified.

Lou says, "No problem" with my statement that one gospel with Lordship and another without Lordship are different gospels, and says that the issue is "how the advocates of Lordship Salvation define His lordship."  Is that true?  By how lordship is defined, he says he is referring to what "decision(s)" "a lost man" must make "about Christ's Lordship to be born again, justified."  And is that true?

It's true that definition of Lordship does distinguish between the false and the true gospels, as related to Lordship, but not how Lou is saying.  If there is a false definition of Lordship, it is those who equate "Lordship" with deity and say that Lordship is merely deity, that Lord equals God.  I had read this, and when I looked for a quote, I found Charles Bing:

So Lord is a title that primarily conveys Jesus' deity. What this means for salvation is that Jesus has the power and authority to save sinners because He is God. What this does not mean is that sinners can only be saved if they submit to Him as the Ruler of their lives.  Ruler is only one subset of deity, and it is arbitrary to make that one divine function and position into a subjective demand. As the word implies, salvation requires a Savior. Jesus came to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15; 4:10) and He can because He is God. Sinners need a divine Savior. 
It is one thing to say that to be saved a sinner must acknowledge the divine authority that Jesus has as God or as the Son of God. It is quite another thing to say that to be saved a sinner must submit to Jesus as the Ruler of his life.

I agree with Lou, but not as he presents the twisting of a definition.  Men twist the definition of Lordship and essentially gut Lordship of its essential meaning.  I'll deal more later with what Bing wrote, as have others like him. However, the root problem of this false definition above is that it removes volition out of faith.  He says a "sinner must acknowledge the divine of authority that Jesus has as God," limiting faith in Jesus Christ to mere acknowledgement, resulting in intellectual salvation only.  It is akin to the dead faith of the man who solely professes in both James and 1 John.

Lou's second statement in this paragraph is typical of what I call "loaded words."  Is salvation ever called "making a decision"?  Who is saying that?  No Lordship proponent calls faith in Christ, "making a decision."  There is also an intimation from Lou that a lost man can't make a decision about Christ's Lordship, because that would be a work for him, impossible in his lost condition.  All of a man's conversion is impossible.  He can't "just decide" he's going to believe.  He believes according to a work of God's grace, the power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, in his spiritually dead heart.  Believing in Christ as Lord is no more a "work" than believing in Christ as Savior.

Most non-Lordship advocates also teach that after someone accepts Christ, only then can he follow Jesus as Lord, that is, only after salvation can someone decide to follow Jesus.  To the non-Lordship person, someone doesn't decide to follow Jesus until after he's saved.  This is usually called "dedication," a second experience after salvation sometimes.  In other words, He might not follow Jesus for awhile after he's justified, because following is a matter of discipleship.  They say the call to salvation is not a call to follow Jesus, but that is the call of discipleship, and it occurs an undetermined amount of time subsequent to justification.  This is the message of the four spiritual laws tract, which said that at the moment of justification, Jesus is in the life but not on the throne of the life.  He might be allowed on the throne of the saved person at some time in the future.
Lou talks like John MacArthur originated the teaching of "Lordship Salvation," when Lordship salvation was biblical and historical salvation until folks like those at Dallas Theological Seminary and what it spawned, as pictured in the four spiritual law tract above.  The idea is that the unsaved person is self on the throne and Jesus not in the life, but the saved person is self on the throne but now Jesus in the life.  That is the new and corrupt view of salvation.  Here's the second paragraph of Lou's comment:

The Lordship Salvation (LS) controversy revolves around the requirements for salvation, not the results of salvation. This is where the divide over the gospel is and where the FBFI should debate the issue.

You can't separate requirements and results of salvation, as the two are inexorably connected.  The non-Lordship position leads to a false view of sanctification, with this second "decision" or truly second blessing.  Second blessing theology comes with the false view.  That actually can't be escaped.  When you read the writings of non-lordship independent Baptists, they read like Charismatics on this.

Here's paragraph three from Lou:

A genuine conversion should evidence itself in genuine results. New believers will vary in levels of growth, but growth should be evident to some degree. The focal point of controversy is Lordship’s requirements for the reception of eternal life, i.e. how to become a Christian.

Lou says "should," not "will" in the first sentence and this is tell-tale -- "should evidence" and then, second sentence, "should be evident to some degree."  Also you should notice that Lou says, "requirements for the reception of eternal life."  I know that some readers might think I'm being too picky here, but what Lou writes all fits together.  There is a consistency to his presentation.  Eternal life is a gift that doesn't come by receiving eternal life.  You won't read that anywhere in the Bible. We receive everlasting life by believing in Jesus Christ.  Many non-Lordship advocates will compare salvation to a gift someone receives, so that if you just receive the gift, you'll be saved.  It is a gift, but not one that comes by receiving the gift.  I don' t think this is too technical.  It's an important distinction.

Here is the next and longest paragraph from Lou:

Man comes to Christ for salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) and then follows Christ in discipleship (Eph. 2:10). In his critical review of MacArthur’s TGATJ, Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote, “Salvation is free; discipleship is costly. Salvation comes by receiving the work of the cross; discipleship is evidenced by bearing the cross (daily submission to the will of God). Christ here [Luke 9:23-24; 14:26-27, 33; Mark 8:34] is not giving instructions about how to go to heaven, but how those who know they are going to heaven should follow Him.”

Strong irony exists in this paragraph from Lou.  He says "man comes to Christ for salvation."  You read it.  Isn't "coming to Christ" discipleship language?  That's the very language that Jesus uses in Luke 9:23-24, a text to which later Pickering refers in Lou's paragraph:

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

I agree with Lou that "come after me" is salvation terminology.  "If any man will come after me," come to Jesus, "let him deny himself," etc.  Maybe Lou would argue that he was imprecise in his use of "come after me," or misspoke.  I would say that Lou is correct.  "Come after me" is salvation terminology and so Luke 9:23-24 is a salvation terminology.  The context, the next verse, shows that's true too.  If someone saves his life (psuche, his soul), he will lose it, but if he loses his life (psuche, his soul), he will save it.  Someone's soul is saved by his losing his soul.

A person must give up his life in order to be saved.  That's the same message that Jesus gives all over the gospels about salvation.  You can't hang on to your life and be saved.  This is a description of the so-called "submission" Lou talks about.  I don't use the word "submission" for "losing your life," because the word submission sounds like it must be a work.  However, to be clear, I call it, "relinquishing control."  If you keep control of your life, you don't believe in Jesus, because you are still an idolater, like the rich young ruler.  You are serving yourself as god, and you can't believe in you to be saved. It's as simple as that.   You'll find this in very old commentaries on Matthew and Luke in the parallel passages.

In the paragraph, Lou refers to Ephesians 2:8-10, which is a reference that does not prove his point, unless someone equates saving faith with works.  No Lordship advocate, whom I have read, does that.  Lordship salvation says we believe Jesus is Lord, which constitutes relinquishing of the life to Him, not hanging on to it for Himself, because Jesus is King, repentance from the old way to the new way, which entails following Jesus, that is, coming after Him.  You can't believe in yourself and in Jesus, that is, you don't put Jesus on a shelf with your other gods.  That's what Lou's non-Lordship position does.

Pickering, who received his ThM and ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary, uses Luke 9:26-27, which is obviously salvation, especially in light of Luke 9:27-29.  Luke 14:26-27 and Mark 8:34 start with the same language, "If any man come to me."  It's the same language used in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me," same exact Greek word (erxetai).  "Cometh to me" is salvation terminology.

John 6:35, And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
John 6:37, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Hebrews 11:6, But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Coming to Jesus or coming to God are not post-justification or post-conversion language, but salvation.

In the above last quoted paragraph of Lou's comment, he writes the following:

LS teachers hold that the title “Lord,” when applied to Jesus, necessitates the lost man’s upfront submission to the rule and reign of Christ over his life, in sanctification, for both initial salvation (justification) and final salvation (glorification).

No Lordship teacher says what Lou does here.  Jesus is Lord whether a lost man believes He is or not.  If someone believes in Jesus or receives Him, he receives Him for Who He is, and He is Lord. A lost man doesn't believe in Jesus if He rejects Him as Lord, doesn't receive Him as Lord.

If someone believes Jesus is Lord or receives Him as Lord, this is more than just intellectual assent. A lost man, who continues in his sin, lost, can give assent to Lordship.  If someone believes, it is more than His mind, but also His will.  If someone believes Jesus is Lord, God will save him, and he will submit to Jesus as Lord.  He will follow and keep on following Jesus.  Someone who does not receive Jesus as Lord, is not repenting, continues in rebellion against Jesus Christ and in idolatry. That is someone who does not believe in Jesus Christ.

Lou would advocate some kind of selective approach about Jesus, isolating Him as Savior, and leaving out His Lordship.  Charles Bing above said that accepting Jesus as Lord means accepting him as God. That clashes with the confession of Thomas in John 20:28, when he said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God."  Those concepts relate, but they don't overlap.  In 2 Peter 2:1, the unbeliever is called one who 'denies the Lord who bought him.'  I have no doubt that men want Jesus as Savior, but most reject Him, because they don't want Him as Lord.  Lou would have the latter be saved anyway.  That is a different gospel.

11 comments:

Greg Linscott said...

Here's where I get in the awkward position of standing up for Lou. :)

It seems to me that to a great degree, this is an argument taking place theoretically. I know there are people on the extremes on both ends, but I have heard people who champion both positions whose gospel presentations are virtually identical. As much as someone like Lou argues between salvation and discipleship, I cannot think of any times where I have heard any "non-Lordship" person who actually preaches expositionally say something like "hey, submission to Christ doesn't really matter. We just want to sell you the fire insurance." I mean, I know such things happen out there... but I don't see someone like Martuneac or even Pickering dismissing the need to follow Christ. And while the rhetoric can get heated, I think that the most reasonable people on both sides can see that this is not corruption of the gospel to the degree that Roman Catholicism makes, for example.

I personally process someone who takes Pickering's position (like a lot of my Faith profs--maybe even all of them, as I think about it) in a similar way to people who differ on other soteriological issues (like particular redemption or total depravity/total inability). Bauder's articulation in AFWS seems applicable here:

"To my less Calvinistic friends I offer the right hand of fellowship,
and my commitment to labor with you in the Lord’s vineyard for the salvation of souls. And to my
more Calvinistic friends I say, God has His elect who have not yet heard: let’s go find some! To all
I say, Believe all that the Bible teaches and practice all that it commands. To be sure, our different
understandings of the biblical teachings and commandments may separate us at some levels, but we
can respect one another much more than if any of us chose to ignore an aspect of God’s Word."

Now, Lou may not agree with me on this, but I think those who take his position but emphasize a commitment to discipleship in their ministries are practically speaking not in the same category as the people who are rushing quick decisions and having baptismal tanks outside the buses every Sunday--or, for that matter, the OPC pastor friend I made in Maine who used to say that he could not legitimately tell people Jesus died for them because he didn't know if they were elect or not. Discussions like you are prompting here, Kent, need to happen... but I don't think that the parties are as far off from one another as is sometimes portrayed.

Hemia Smeding said...

Very well said. The "should" in regards to the result of salvation is suspicious indeed. It gives room for the non- Lordship preacher to still pronounce people saved regardless of any results of salvation in the individual.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Greg,

Here's how I would agree with you. Some didn't hear Lordship up front, but still understood it, because they heard the Word of God, which teaches it. They were convicted of sin, received Jesus Christ, changed lives. They know they believe in Him. I think there are many but a shrinking number of these, because more than ever the division between the two has clarified.

Your comparison to the other doctrine doesn't work for me, because with Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism, you still have faith in Christ. In something non-Calvinistic, but Lordship, you still have faith in Christ. With this, it isn't faith and it isn't Christ. When you make a point of putting Lordship on the other side, after salvation, as a decision, you are damning people, increasingly more as I see it, because this false doctrine gets out of hand. It justifies the Hyles stuff, as much as they argue it, like continuationism justifies Charismaticism.

I don't think helps to "see it their way," except as a thought experiment, but as a matter of acceptation, of inclusion, it's just damning. It's wrong, Greg. You can't be this soft about it.

Thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hemia,

Thanks, I agree.

Greg Linscott said...

Kent,

On the other hand, wouldn't you agree that it is possible for someone to hear the "Lordship gospel" presented (as we are using the term in this discussion) and "respond" in a way that ultimately is not in saving faith in Christ?

I'm not trying to be "soft" about this, in one sense. I do think these things matter, and that we need to be talking about them and honing these things out. At the same time, I do think that some of this discussion is due to our current cultural climate. In many times throughout human history, you really don't have a scenario where people have the general option of "making a (mental) decision" or "praying the prayer"... if they identify in any way with Christ, it has immediate societal consequences (like a Jew being removed from the local synagogue in the early days of Christianity). Paul didn't have to pause and explain to the jailer at Philippi that he needed to follow Jesus as the master of his life, because the jailer would have understood the consequences and immediate repercussions that "believ(ing) on the Lord Jesus Christ" would have for him and his household.

I think that is important as this discussion is to have, if the trends that we see currently developing in our society continue along the pace they are on, it's going to remedy itself to a great extent. Why would you want to identify as a Christian in a loose sense when being a Christian makes you a homophobe and a bigot? Within a generation, we have a great potential for a huge shift... where identifying with Christ will have immediate societal implications.

Another thing... you agreed with Hernia that the "non Lordship pastor" has the ability to "pronounce people saved" erroneously. Well, as much as that can be a problem, wouldn't those of us on the "Lordship side" have to admit that it is possible for us to accept people we believe to be regenerate into our church membership who may later be found not to be? As much as we emphasize this (and should, I believe), we still must allow the Spirit to do the work in peoples' hearts. No matter where we end up in the debate, the church is still called to continue teaching everything that Christ commanded to those who have professed conversion and been baptized. Some children who grow up in homes with Christian parents and make professions of faith still end up departing from the faith as adults, whether the "Lordship gospel" is presented or not.

Let me ask you this, Kent: if someone comes to your church for membership, but was saved and baptized in Lou's church--trained to believe like he does--do you prompt that person to really believe and be baptized again, this time for real? Just how far do we take this as another, distorted gospel?

KJB1611 said...

Dear Greg,

The most extreme 1-2-3, pray after me Hyles-type people also don't say "hey, submission to Christ doesn't really matter. We just want to sell you the fire insurance." They say that it is really too bad that the 99% of people who say the prayer don't come to church or live for God. Those people are really missing out, they say. Of course, they are all still saved – they just never became disciples.

Greg Linscott said...

-------------
The most extreme 1-2-3, pray after me Hyles-type people also don't say "hey, submission to Christ doesn't really matter. We just want to sell you the fire insurance."
-------------

No, but the most extreme do structure their evangelistic efforts where that is essentially what is communicated--mass decisions with little-to-no-effort to disciple and keep them accountable. I remember talking with a pastor friend back in New England who was himself probably closer to Martuneac's position than Kent's lamenting the efforts of a well-known college with a church ministry attached in northwestern Florida. Apparently, they were doing large scale evangelism efforts with children in the summer, but making absolutely no efforts to connect them to a church afterwards. When this pastor asked the high up leadership why not, he was told something to the effect that "the rest was God's business." Now, _that_ is a problem.

At the same time, I have to admit that there are people who may appear not to have saving faith from my own vantage point that God can see are truly regenerate. That doesn't mean they are the norm, but as I cited Lot, the Scriptures do seem to point to such exceptions.

Conversations like this also serve as an illustration of the extent to which all sides take this. As much as Kent and Lou are in opposition on this... why do they keep pursuing this in a way they wouldn't with someone like a Mormon or a Roman Catholic? I say that because whether they want to acknowledge it or not, they recognize on some level there is enough in common between them to warrant a conversation, and that they see potential value in making the attempt to help the other better clarify the gospel, and presumably make sure the proclamation of that gospel is more effective and used by the Lord to the conversion of souls and the building up of His church.

Farmer Brown said...

Kent, I do not disagree that salvation without result is not salvation. If you are born again and no change takes place, you are not born again. 1 John 2:3-4 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

However, where is the simplicity in your position? Does someone have to understand that he is giving up his life, in order to be saved? Does he have to consciously have that thought? Maybe I am lost in the volume of the discussion, but it seems like you are saying he does.

Repent and believe are the Biblical requirements. Believe involves living by every word of God, because if you believe in him you will do what he says. However, people who are saved often to not understand that when they come to the point of repenting and believing.

They do not think it all the way through, but like Peter on the water they just cry out. That Jesus is Lord of every part of your life is a mature thought that has to be learned. It just seems that this is all getting so complicated, but repent and believe is not complicated.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer,

This is something that I preach to kids, to teens, to college aged, to adults, to immigrants, to everyone. They understand it. When they hear it, they know that what they are hearing is the plan of salvation. People know that this is the gospel. It rings true with them. So do they believe it? Far less often than if I left out Lordship. The plan of salvation, as I give it, breaks down in three places, not in this order, but in this chronological order.

One, I'm not a good person. 98% plus today say they're good.

Two, I deserve Hell. People won't admit that.

Three, you aren't in charge any more. They want to be. They don't mind Jesus saving them, but they don't believe in Him. The authority part is the part they have the hardest time with.

It is very simple, just doesn't get the professions.

When Lou talks about degree of growth, he's talking about degree of incessant sinning, not growth. They put up with nonstop obedience, and the excuse is that they haven't grown. The issue is actually likely they're not saved.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Greg,

I believe that Lou and I will talk about it, because it has been accepted as both the gospel among fundamentalists and independent Baptists, and they are both called independent Baptist, not Mormon.

George Calvas said...

To repent and believe the gospel has much to do with the manifestation of Jesus Christ in whom the Holy Ghost of God is using to preach that gospel. There would be very little issue with these particulars if those who preach actually live according to that manifold wisdom of God.

They all talk about God much in the same way that tell stories of their families, but they do not have the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) upon them so those that are lost have ears that can actually hear God calling them to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.