10 August 2010

Phil Johnson on MacArthur and "Lordship Salvation"

In the whole debate over "Lordship Salvation", John MacArthur has had a big red target painted on him, and those who teach "easy-believism" have strung him up and flung him into the depths of Hell because of one paragraph of one book he wrote 7 years ago ("Hard To Believe").

Now, let me ask you this: who would give you a better and more accurate picture of what I believe--someone who heard me say something seven years ago--or someone who hears me teach every week, who knows me personally, and has heard me explain my beliefs over the last several years?

The same question can be asked of those who continue to bash Dr. MacArthur. Who would give you a better and more accurate picture of what he believes--someone who read one paragraph of one book written seven years ago--or someone who knows him personally, works with him every day, and in fact is the editor of most of Dr. MacArthur's books?

Phil Johnson is the editor of Dr. MacArthur's books, and is closer--much closer--to Dr. MacArthur than those who continue to smear Dr. MacArthur's name with accusations based on a statement that Dr. MacArthur never made to begin with. The statement in question is:
Salvation isn’t the result of an intellectual exercise. It comes from a life lived in obedience and service to Christ as revealed in the Scripture; it’s the fruit of actions, not intentions.
Now, it certainly sounds like Dr. MacArthur is teaching salvation by works. But, here's the kicker--Dr. MacArthur never wrote those words! Here is the explanation from Phil Johnson, posted over at Paleoevangelical (Phil Johnson's words are in green, Lou Martuneac's words are in blue, text pertaining to the revision is in purple)--

Phil Johnson said...

Lou: "These comments reflect an effort I have made on more than one occasion. To date MacArthur has never personally disavowed the original."

That's simply untrue, and Lou knows it. Lou raised this issue over at the Pulpit blog in October 2006, and Nathan Busenitz answered him:

Shepherd's Fellowship Pulpit

Nathan's first reply to Lou in that thread quoted a statement from me that was posted on the GTY website about a week after the book's release. That statement was displayed prominently and continuously at the GTY website until a year after the corrected edition was in circulation. Here is that statement in full:

A Word of Clarification about Hard to Believe

One paragraph in Hard to Believe contains a glaring error that has the potential to mislead readers about the book’s whole intent. The problematic passage is the opening paragraph of chapter 6 (page 93), which seems to suggest that salvation is the fruit of godly living. The truth is exactly the opposite.

The error was inadvertently introduced into the manuscript in the late stages of the editorial process, when (in order to simplify the book) four chapters were deleted from the original manuscript and one of the remaining chapters was severely abridged. John MacArthur approved the abridgments.

Apparently, however, in an effort to make a new transition that would smooth over the deletions, an editor involved in the process made significant revisions to the opening of chapter 6. Unfortunately, that change was not submitted to John for approval. We believe the error was an oversight, and not anyone’s deliberate attempt to tamper with the book’s theology. The result, however, severely muddled the message of the book.

A revision has been sent to the publisher for future editions of the book. In all subsequent printings, here is how the opening paragraph of chapter six will read (revisions are in bold):
"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."
6/22/2009 6:15 PM

[Did you catch the change? The fruit of our faith is actions, not intentions. I dare anyone to listen to more than 30 seconds of any sermon Dr. MacArthur has delivered and see if one can still accuse him of teaching "salvation by works"--4*P]


Phil Johnson said...

Here's an expanded version of the facts behind page 93 of the original edition:

It's well known that I have been John MacArthur's primary editor for some 27+ years. I help him assemble most of his major books from sermon transcripts.

Hard to Believe is one of only three or four books since 1981 that I had no part in during the editorial process. At the publisher's behest, the editor of that book was a free-lance editor with no connection to our ministry. He was a highly competent man whose editorial skills are impressive and whose work is generally excellent. He assembled and edited the first draft of Hard to Believe.

John MacArthur read the manuscript, made revisions and corrections, and was generally pleased with the editor's efforts. I read a few samples only and agreed that the portions I read were excellent. (If you want to compare the book with the sermons it was drawn from, the process is fairly simple, and the sermons are on-line and downloadable for free.)

However, some reviewers on the publisher's side felt there was too much repetition in the book and the book was too long, so during a meeting to discuss final details about the book just before it went to press, they decided to delete four chapters from the heart of the manuscript.

John MacArthur agreed to the deletions, assuming it would be a simple process. The problem was that the original opening of (what is now) chapter 6 referred to some of the material that was deleted. So the chapter-opening was rewritten to make a different transition. To this day I don't know if it was an editor on the publisher's side or the free-lance editor who rewrote that opening paragraph. No one ever wanted to 'fess up.

But somehow, owing to the late deletion and the need to keep printing on schedule, the revision (deemed "simple" by the editors involved because it was less than 8 sentences) was never sent to John MacArthur for approval. Obviously, the paragraph was written by someone whose grasp of doctrine is minimal.

That botched paragraph contradicts what John MacArthur teaches everywhere else about justification by faith. He immediately issued a corrective statement. In light of all that, the fact that the same critics keep raising this issue anew every three years or so raises question in my mind about the real agenda of the critics.

6/22/2009 6:15 PM


Indeed, it does. It shows that the real intention of the easy-believers who still want to trash Dr. MacArthur's name don't really care about the truth--they simply want to shoot down anyone who dares to interfere with their pet theology.

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