Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Gospel Delusion - Part 1

The Gospel Delusion

A review of John MacArthur's The Gospel According To Jesus 20th Anniversary Edition

Part 1: The Obligatory Introduction

The preface of Dr. MacArthur's work states that his understanding of the Gospel, as gleaned from a very long intensive study of the book of Matthew, is the “backbone of everything (he) preach(es)”. (1) Of his position and it's presentation in this edition of his work he says “This edition makes no significant revisions to the 1994 edition but includes one new chapter – chapter 1- which amplifies and sums up the book's main point.”(2) These two statements are the reason my review of his work, and therefore his theology, will be based solely on the preface and first chapter of this edition of his work. His main point is the backbone of everything he preaches, and this one chapter is his presentation of that point. The rest of the book, though it may well build on and/or argue more completely, will stand or fall on the fidelity of Chapter 1 based on the author's own description.

As I sat down to dig into The Gospel According To Jesus (TGATJ) this past summer I did so with just a bit of fear in my heart. I had to be honest before God, and in my hands was the highest writing on the subject of Lordship Salvation. My honesty before the Lord demanded that I approach the work with an open mind, fully ready to throw out everything I have believed in favor of Truth if it truly was to be revealed to me. There is simply no other way to approach theology with honesty. So I prayed that the Lord would give me the courage to make known my convictions if they were in fact changed. See I have made no secrete of my opposition of Dr. MacArthur's theology in the past. If I were to be converted to his way of thinking by his strongest work on the subject then I would have to be equally as open about this as I was about my opposition. After prayer... and with a serious sense of caution I opened the book and began to read. Moments later I grabbed the red ink pen that over the next month would end up covering much of the free space in the pages of the book. It had begun, and so let's also begin.

The premise for writing the book is Dr. MacArthur's opposition to the idea that “Jesus is a kind Savior who patiently waits for sinners to accept Him and that He offers eternal life – no strings attached – in exchange for anyone's decision to do so.”(3) I could end this review ever so quickly, and really save myself much work if I were to quote verses such as 1 Cor 15:1-2, Acts 16:30-34, Rom 2:4, Rev 22:17 and/or many others but that would spoil the fun. And really, if I just responded to that statement Dr. MacArthur's followers would say that I didn't actually read his arguments... or that I am misrepresenting him or something...

But before I leave this quote I ask that you read it again, and then read what the Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” NASB
The stark contrast between what Dr. MacArthur writes and what the Apostle wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is hard to miss.

Describing the book Dr. MacArthur writes that it “offers simple, clear, straightforward, unflinching biblical answers to some crucial questions that desperately need to be dealt with and settled.” (4) As the parts of this article progress I will explore if he does give these kinds of answers to the questions surrounding Lordship Salvation, or if something else altogether happens.

You may rightly guess that I was not converted to his way of thinking by my study of his work. The simple, and sad, answer to the question of if he provides the kind of answers that he himself describes, can be found by examining a quote from the same page. “...this book still expresses what I believe Jesus said about the gospel in the best way I know how to summarize it.” (5) Well, Dr. MacArthur's book offers a 282 page “summary” of the Lord's presentation of the Gospel when the Lord's entire life and ministry was recorded 4 times over in only 189 pages in my NASB Scofield III Study Bible which includes extensive notes. And in 155 pages in my Darby translation with limited translation notes included. It's clear that Dr. MacArthur's “summary” is much longer than everything God saw fit to write about the Lord's entire earthly ministry. That fact alone ought to lead a person to question the idea that his answers will be simple, straightforward, and biblical, but we'll well begin dealing with that in Part 2.

As I write this introduction I have just finished the first few installments, and I'm realizing that my review of Dr. MacArthur's work could easily get to be as long as his book. Somewhere between 10 and 15 installments. So, I believe I will end up covering much less than I intended to, but I'm going to leave this series of articles open so that I can keep building on it as long as is required. That means that I will be posting the beginning of this series long before it's completion. And that ought to make things interesting, if not down right complicated for me.

Important Notice!

I do not question Dr. MacArthur's Salvation and will not tolerate comments that do. Dr. MacArthur has drifted into serious error. I trust his intentions were honorable in the beginning and I realize but for the Grace of God there I would go also. I recognize the many good contributions that this man has made in Christendom. My intentions with this work is not to disparage the man but to rebuke theology that is in error.

I believe that the earnest reader of this series needs to purchase TGATJ. I will quote from his work to show his statements but it would be impossible, and illegal, for me to present all that the man writes. I do do not fear adding to the sales of this book by suggesting you purchase it. After all I purchased it myself and believe me it is a very popular book. The few sales my suggestion will add to it will not make much difference. The lack of sales that this review could result in would not be noticed. My intent is not to deny Dr. MacArthur profit for his work, it is to protect the Brethren from it.

I categorically and without apology state in the clearest possible way I can think of, that the Lordship Salvation gospel is no gospel at all and that it does not save. However, be sure of the Lord's Grace. If one were to receive what truth is presented by the Lordship Salvation gospel then God Himself will ensure further revelation is given until the true Gospel of Jesus of Christ is either received or rejected by the individual. It is my prayer that God would use this work for just that purpose.

Please go on to read Part 2 of The Gospel Delusion Not Just Hard, Impossible.


All references (unless otherwise stated) are from The Gospel According To Jesus: What is authentic faith? Revised & Expanded Anniversary Edition By John MacArthur Copyright 2008

1. Pg 9
2. Pg 11

3. Pg 11

4. Pg 11


Lou Martuneac said...


I have been looking forward to this series since you first told me of its coming. I will be reading it with genuine interest.

You wrote, "...if I just responded to that statement Mr MacArthur's followers would say that I didn't actually read his arguments... or that I am misrepresenting him or something..."

I can promise you that LS advocates are going to charge you with misunderstanding and/or misrepresentation no matter how faithfully you read and cite Dr. MacArthur's own writing.


Lou Martuneac said...


I also appreciate this clear statement, "I categorically and without apology state in the clearest possible way I can think of, that the Lordship Salvation gospel is no gospel at all and that it does not save."

I often refer to LS as a works based, non-saving message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).


Kevl said...

Thanks for your comments Lou. :)

I'm sure that I will face serious opposition as the series progresses.

Yes that verse about staying in the simplicity of the doctrine of Christ, 2 Cor 11:3, is very important for us to pay attention to. Ministries the world over would do well to camp on it and obey.


Kevl said...

Let's see if my pic works now.

Lou Martuneac said...


Just realized that I posted my first description short of one of its key elements. Here is the corrected version.

LS is a man-centered, works based, non-saving message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).


Kevl said...

Hey Lou,

The thing that surprised me the most after I started to study the Lordship Salvation (LS) position is just how man centered it is.

Thanks for completing your description because the fact that it is "man centered" is counter intuitive for those who only sort of know what the LS advocates preach.

When I first dug into all of this I thought these men at least wanted to exalt Jesus and ensure the Church was living holy lives so as to give Him glory.

But that's not what has become clear through my studies. I hope to show in this series how Lordship Salvation is a testimony of the sinner not the Christ.


Jonathan Perreault said...


Good intro. I will link to your series from my blog.


Kevl said...

Thanks JP!!!


Stephen said...

Hey, followed your link to here from part 5. I skimmed the first couple parts of this series a week or so ago, didn't know more was coming, so I'm goin' back now to read it more carefully.

Of course, tonight is LOST night for us (starts to record in 20 minutes!) so I probably won't have any deep thoughts until at least tomorrow, maybe later.