Monday, June 16, 2008

Mohler's lack of discernment

IS MOHLER'S CONCEPT OF THE
GOSPEL SHORT OF THE MARK?

President R. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently said, "I was recently asked to rank the most important evangelical books of the last twenty-five years. In my judgment, The Gospel According to Jesus belongs in the top ten of that urgent list."

The book by John MacArthur was published in 1988, and after I read it, I wrote a two-page review in which I stated that MacArthur "falls short of the mark which is suggested by the noble title of the book. I for one would not relish the thought of being confined to a reading of this book for an understanding of the Gospel. . . . I fear that MacArthur has only succeeded in moving away from the Gospel in the effort to 'guard' it against those who erroneously distinguish between the Saviorhood of Christ and the Lordship of Christ. The only Savior we know is the Lord, and the only Lord we know is the Savior -- the Lord Jesus Christ."

Unfortunately, even though I read the book more than once, I failed to find any clear, positive presentation of the Gospel of salvation by faith which might lead an unsaved reader to believe on Christ for salvation.

In my review, I also expressed my longtime and unwavering adherence to the Gospel of salvation by faith alone, and offered a few significant comments on that view from C. H. Spurgeon's great sermon based on Romans 5:1, Peace by Believing (MTP, Volume 9, Year 1863, Sermon #510, pages 282, 283, 285, 286, 287).

When that book first came out in 1988, at the time John MacArthur did not teach justification by imputed righteousness, nor did he hold the Creedal view of the Eternal Sonship of Christ. At the time, he was teaching justification based on "infused righteousness," and he taught that Christ, although eternal, was not the Eternal Son of God, but He was the "Son of God" via incarnation. Since the publication of his book in 1988, he has changed his views on both of these teachings.

I think MacArthur's previous view on justification based on "infused" righteousness must have had a great bearing upon his making so many confusing statements in The Gospel According to Jesus.

But it is not my purpose now to renew my critique of MacArthur's confusing book, but rather to express my disappointment that Dr. Mohler found the book so significant. It is rather disheartening to realize that the president of one the SBC's most important seminaries evidently has such lack of discernment about the Gospel of Christ to so highly esteem MacArthur's book.

We consider, however, that this evident lack of discernment by Dr. Mohler about the Gospel is consistent with what appears to be his lack of discernment about the doctrine of Regeneration, as he continues to pack his Faculty with "born again before faith" advocates.

In case you missed it, here are some words of Spurgeon on the simplicity of the Gospel which are quite the contrast to what you get in The Gospel According to Jesus.

SPURGEON:

You will, doubtless, have observed that this summary of the gospel is very simple. Whenever you meet with teaching which is cloudy and complicated, you may generally conclude that it is not the gospel of your salvation, for the truth of Christ is so plain that he who runs may read, and the wayfaring man though a fool need not err therein.

Perhaps some of you have been thinking that conversion and salvation are dark and mysterious things, and that you have to pass through many singular operations and feelings in order to be saved. Now, beloved, the whole of our faith lies in a nutshell. He that believeth in Jesus Christ the incarnate God, is saved.

These few truths if grasped by the mind, received and trusted in by the heart, will save you. It is at the cross that salvation must be found. . . .

Bind it about your heart, and defy the hosts of Rome or hell to unloose its folds. Wrap it about your loins in death, and hold it as a standard in both your hands in life. This simple truth, that "Jesus Christ has come to seek and to save that which is lost," and that "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life," must be your jewel, your treasure, your life.

[Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 13, Year 1867, #786, excerpts from pages 706-708].

6 Comments:

At Tuesday, June 17, 2008 8:28:00 PM, Anonymous Hugh Donohoe said...

Johnny Mac was reacting against the "easy believism" that was prevalent and still is to a degree. But the proverb is true, "all movements go to far." Johnny Mac was right to point out that many of Jesus' own words were/are never given during invitations. When is the last time you heard, "count the cost" during an altar call? I agree Jesus is saviour AND lord. They should be kept together, then maybe Zane and Johnny Mac wouldn't have much to argue about. Many Johnny Mac fans were critical of the book in the sense that is was not well written. But the pointing out that many gospel presentations in evangelical churches were not well rounded, was needed. And perhaps that is why Mohler considered the book important. Bob, I think you would agree with Calvin, "the church is always reforming."

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 11:38:00 AM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...

"EASY BELIEVISM"

Hugh Donohoe said...


Johnny Mac was reacting against the "easy believism" that was prevalent and still is to a degree.

That was major or primary error of the book -- equating simple, or original, belief in Christ with what JMac called "easy believism."

Right out of the gate, JMac equated accepting Christ, asking Jesus into your heart, and deciding for Christ -- all of which imply simple/original faith in Jesus Christ -- as not being "biblical terminology" and as constituting "products of a diluted gospel."

C. H. Spurgeon used every one of those terms, and other similar terms. A lot of preachers have probably used those same terms since they found that Spurgeon used them.

And while JMac condemns those Spurgeonic terms as not being "biblical terminology," he hardly demonstrates that his own terminology is exclusively biblical.

The most inane, inept, and illogical argument of all is that a term or phrase is not "biblical terminology." You can easily dispose of a wealth of theology by that tactic.

JMac was obsessed with an emphasis on post-faith
"obedience,"
but one of his greatest errors was failing to emphasize that simply believing in Christ is the very first and original act of obedience, and without that as the foundation, all subsequent effort at obedience is null and void. The most important obedience of all is that first act of trusting Christ as Savior (John 20:31; 3:14-18).

The obedience of simply trusting Christ as Savior is the pre-requisite of all other obedience. And that's the foundation which MacArthur failed to lay, and he even seems to admit as much on pages xiv and xv of his "revised" book where he says the first book had "no treatment of the doctrine of justification."

But he not only did not treat the doctrine of justification by faith, he actually condemned it (pages 187, 170, 174).

At best, the book emphasized that works proceed from true faith, but where it failed so greatly was to make a clear distinction between the simple obedient faith that unites to Christ for justification, and the subsequent obedience which, to various degrees of sanctification, is the inevitable fruit of simple faith in Christ.

This book is the epitomy of confusion. For example, JMac claims that the Sermon on the Mount is the plainest "statement of the gospel according to Jesus" (page 180), yet on page 214 he asserts that "Jesus' gospel was not yet fully completed until His death."
That kind of rather confusing material is what you get in JMac's book.

 
At Wednesday, July 02, 2008 4:32:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Bob, let's not declare something "confusing" just because YOU cannot understand it. In fact, I would ask you to double-check your copy of MacArthur's book, as your quotes seem to be grossly innacurate. On page 180, I cannot find anywhere that MacArthur says The Sermon on the Mount was the plainest "statement of the gospel according to Jesus," as you allege. What it does say is that the CONCLUSION of the Sermon on the Mount "amounts to the Savior's own presentation of the way of salvation." And on page 214, MacArthur nowhere says, as you allege, "Jesus' gospel was not yet fully completed until His death." What he DOES say is, "The work of redemption was done."
These are not confusing or contradictory statments, as you say. Brother, could it be that you are reinterpreting MacArthur to make him say what you want him to say? Unintentionally, of course. I am sure you would never intentionally misquote someone like that.

 
At Thursday, July 03, 2008 7:35:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Speaking of MacArthur's work, Bob said:

"But he not only did not treat the doctrine of justification by faith, he actually condemned it (pages 187, 170, 174)."

You've got to be kidding, Bob. You are going to have to give some direct quotes on that--I see nothing on the pages you cited that backs up your claim. Who in the world would believe John MacArthur actually CONDEMNED the doctrine of justification by faith, based simply on your unsubstantiated assertion?

It's hard to believe that no one has called you on this already. Oh wait, someone would have to actually read this blog first...

 
At Tuesday, July 08, 2008 12:45:00 AM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...

MACARTHUR?

Mark said:


Who in the world would believe John MacArthur actually CONDEMNED the doctrine of justification by faith, based simply on your unsubstantiated assertion?

MacArthur's comments on page 187 of the original book were critical of justification by faith purely based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. He has since changed his view to the creedal view on imputed righteousness, and accordingly has revised the book somewhat, although it still seems to be muddied at places.

 
At Tuesday, July 08, 2008 5:59:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...

MACARTHUR

Mark said...


I would ask you to double-check your copy of MacArthur's book, as your quotes seem to be grossly innacurate. On page 180, I cannot find anywhere that MacArthur says The Sermon on the Mount was the plainest "statement of the gospel according to Jesus," as you allege.

I was referring to the statement on page 180 (1988 edition), "You will not find a plainer statement of the gospel according to Jesus anywhere in Scripture."

That is in a paragraph where JMac is referring to "all He (Jesus) has said in the Sermon on the Mount."

I don't think I have misrepresented the matter.

 

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