Saturday, November 27, 2010

Testing The Test - Part 3 Conclusion

Maybe assurance should be tested for
using a 'Bell Curve'? 
Here's the conclusion to this three part series discussing the reliability, and therefore the validity of the John MacArthur organization's test of a person's salvation. This test can be found at his Grace To You website.

In Part 1 I made the applicable introduction to the subject and found some of the test, the objective part of it, was actually valid and trustworthy. In Part 2 I began to look at the subjective portion of the test. There's an important note about subjective testing in that part - just because a test is subjective doesn't mean it is invalid or unreliable. However, reliability decreases with any increase in subjectivity.

This time I'll pick up where I left off in Part 2, and cover the rest of the MacArthur test - questions 3 through 7. I will then offer a conclusion and a closing thought.

Just as before, each individual test question will be evaluated by three standards that it must meet in order to be trustworthy:


  1. Be in accordance with the Scriptures. If it does not explicitly come from the Scriptures then it is man’s wisdom and cannot be relied upon, and is therefore invalid.
  1. Be passable by every single saved person, at every moment, in any situation. If it could give a false indication of an unsaved state to a person who actually is saved then the test is invalid.
  1. Be impossible to pass for every single non-saved person, at every moment, in any situation. If it could give a false indication of salvation to an unsaved person then the test is invalid.

NOTE: Unless otherwise noted MacArthur is referencing chapters and verses from the book of 1st John.

Question 3 reads:
  • True believers keep His commandments (2:3-4; 5:2-3). The term here refers to a watchful, observant obedience. Here the believer desires to obey truths he deems precious. It involves a proactive approach to obedience-the Christian studies Scripture in order to understand and obey it.
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO.  Mature believers keep His commandments. Hereby we know that we experience Him deeply – ginosko -  Not that we know we are saved. This is well explained in ‘But’ Theology series. However, it is also clear from the passage. 1Jn 2:5 in particular. Being “in Him” is not in the Pauline usage of being baptised into Christ, but in the Johannine usage of “abiding in” Christ, as we see in 1Jn 2:6.  The “test question” falls apart dramatically when the second cited passage is examined. 1Jn 5:2-3 follows after 1Jn 5:1 (as though this needs to be explained…) The test question is invalidated by 1Jn 5:1 where we find that everyone who believes is saved. Then we see that additionally those who love Him, will love other saved people. This is again, birth and then maturity.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. The immature, many of whom John wrote to in 1Jn, and those who are failing in their walk or who have simply not come to maturity yet, such as illustrated in 2Peter 1:5-9 will not pass this test. Yet as Peter states, they have had their sins cleansed.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO. Many will say “Lord, Lord….” And will have done mighty works… and yet not be saved. Though they will believe they have been obediently following His commandments. 
Question 3 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
Question 4 reads:
  • True believers love the brethren (2:9-11; 3:10, 14-15; 5:2). Ask yourself the question, "Do I love God's people and desire to be around them?"
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO. While there are things in this question which come from Scripture, as we have seen in the last question, this is about being in fellowship and maturing not simply if you are saved or not. 2Peter 1:5-9 shows that brotherly love is a fairly high point of maturity. However, the Lord did say that the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for each other. In this way, our maturity and our following are made “manifest” to the world. Not that we are saved so much, as we are maturing followers of Him. Careful examination of 1Jn 3 shows more than a simple test of Salvation. He who does not love His brother abides in death. The person who does not do all the things listed in 1Peter 1:5-9 will abide in death - that is they will be dwelling in darkness and not experiencing the abundant life of Christ. 
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. Immature Believers may struggle with this. Every Believer may go through periods where they don’t want to be around other people, for various reasons.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO. Many people following various religions of the world love the people that also follow their own religions. They see their religion as from God and the other followers as “God’s people.”
Question 4 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
Question 5 reads:
  • True believers affirm sound doctrine (2:20-23; 4:2,6). John here teaches that no true believer will fall into any serious, Christ-denying error or heresy.
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO.  Though 1Jn 2:20-23 is cited as support, it speaks those who deny Jesus is the Christ – not ‘falling into serious error’. The language used in the question is objectionable because it is unclear. The intent of the question is to bring other “errors” into what John wrote under the guise of being a “Christ-denying error” but John is talking about denying Jesus is the Christ – not some related error. Further 1Jn 4:2,6 are also cited in support. However, 1Jn 4:1 is clear that John is writing to saved people, instructing them not to believe every spirit but to test them. Obviously true believers may believe false doctrine.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. The Corinthians were taught that there was no resurrection to be expected, long after they had believed the Gospel and had been saved. Acts 18:5-8. They had to be reminded of what they had believed, and have it explained to them all over again. 1Cor 15:1-58. The Galatians were taught that they had to obey Mosaic Law and other things in order to be saved after they had believed the Gospel and received the Spirit by the hearing of faith. They also would have failed this test before they were corrected by Paul, though they were indeed saved.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO.  Many unsaved people believe true doctrines, and are ignorant of false doctrines. Depending on the questions asked it is very easy for an unsaved person to pass this test.
Question 5 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
Question 6 reads:
  • True believers follow after holiness (2:29; 3:3-4, 6-9). These verses certainly aren't talking about sinless perfection, or even the frequency or duration of sin. The term sin in these verses describes one who lives an immoral, ungodly, unrighteous life as a matter of continual practice, and carries the attitude of hardened hate for God's righteousness.
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO. The author of the test imagines what these verses mean. These tell us that as we walk in the Spirit (or abide in Christ in the Johannine sense) we will not sin. Gal 5:16 also explains how this happens.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO.  Most obviously every assembly of Believers written to in the NT (including any who read these letters today) are taught and discipled into living holy lives with varying degrees of success.  
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO.  Many followers of false religions “follow after holiness.”
Question 6 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
Question 7 reads;
  • True believers have the Holy Spirit (4:13; 5:10-11). This is an over-arching test summing up all the others. Is there evidence that the fruit of the Spirit is present in your life (Galatians 5:22-23)?
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO. While it is true that Believers have the Holy Spirit, the author of the test leaves out very valuable information from Galatians 5. Gal 5:16 being the proposed solution to the problem stated in Gal 5:17. Paul’s exhortation is not that those who do not bare the fruits of the Spirit are not saved (or that they don't have the Spirit) – but that those who do not walk in the Spirit – though they LIVE in the Spirit – are being exhorted TO walk in the spirit. Gal 5:25. Most obviously if one believes they DO have the Spirit; Who is our guarantee of future resurrection. 2Cor 1:22, 5:5 and Eph 1:14 However, using our walk as a subjective test is not at all helpful. Because though we have the Spirit we don't always walk in the Spirit. Instead we ought to trust that the Spirit will bare witness to our spirit. Rom 8:16
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. Those who, like the ones Paul was correcting in Galatians, are not walking in the Spirit will not be displaying the fruits of the Spirit.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO. Many followers of false religions have these characteristics at times, some of them for their whole lives.
Question 7 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
The MacArthur test closes with the following paragraph:
In summary, one's assurance of salvation does not need to be based on a past decision or an experience. It should rest first of all on one's faith in the objective truth of God's Word, Jesus Christ, and the gospel. Secondly, it should rest on the reality of a changed life marked by obedience, a love for Christ and His righteousness, and a hatred for sin. Take heart if these things are true in your life, and trust God to continue to work out His salvation in your life.
If God cannot lie, if He is not like a man that He should lie and go back on His word, if He is faithful and just – then we ought to have assurance in His promise alone. There is nothing higher we can hang our assurance on. There is nothing lower worthy of our trust.

Faith alone in Christ alone; anything other than this gives only false assurance. 

10 comments:

Jan said...

In summary, one's assurance of salvation does not need to be based on a past decision or an experience. It should rest first of all on one's faith in the objective truth of God's Word, Jesus Christ, and the gospel. Secondly, it should rest on the reality of a changed life marked by obedience, a love for Christ and His righteousness, and a hatred for sin. Take heart if these things are true in your life, and trust God to continue to work out His salvation in your life.

I think maybe there was a time in my Christian life where I would have agreed with MacArthur on this. But I find as I grow older that the subjective tests have less and less value. I think what I don't like in the paragraph above is the phrase, "Secondly, it should rest on the reality of a changed life..."

It's not that I don't have a changed life as a result of being a Christian, but I find there is no need for my assurance to rest there at all. That is completely incidental as far as my assurance goes. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit's favorite place to confirm assurance to me is in the word of God alone. The fruit, etc. seems to be for everyone else to assess me by. I am often not even aware that it is there at all.

I remember a conversation not too long ago with an unbeliever in which I told him I was trusting God for something. He said he could see that that was true. I was completely unaware of there being any outward indication of it at all. As far as I knew (until he spoke), though I was indeed trusting the Lord, I sounded like an idiot, especially to an unbeliever, and the trust was only real to me inside. I had no awareness of any fruit at all. But he did.

JanH

Kevl said...

Interesting thoughts Jan!

It's not that I don't have a changed life as a result of being a Christian, but I find there is no need for my assurance to rest there at all.

That's my thinking too. I share the same experience.

I've often heard people talking about preaching the Gospel because they "desire to see lives transformed." As much as I want to see people set free from the bondage of sin(s) so they can live "transformed lives" and enjoy Eternal Life right now - as much as I do desire this, it is not at all why I preach the Gospel. These benefits are "incidental" (like you say about how they relate to assurance). They are "benefits" to the most amazing thing - reconciliation with God.

I preach the Gospel because I know the terror of the Lord and so I reason with men as though God were pleading through me for them to be reconciled to Him.

I desire to see souls reconciled to God!! The rest is icing on the cake! God is glorified by preaching Christ crucified much more than He is glorified by preaching man's service.

Kev

Nolan said...

Kev,

In your theological scheme you say that there are disciples and believers.

(q) Which one are you?

(q) How do you know?

Nolan


Nolan

blessed said...

Hey Kev,

I see alot of 1 John contrasting the lives of those who believe vs those who do not. (Is that what you see as well?)
I think naturally the reader will identify themselves with the liar or the the one walking in truth. If a person is doubting their salvation I would point them to Christ....to the Word and that includes 1 John.
Its not so much a test that is set up but the truth that is given.

I do not like the test given on the website although I am not opposed to a believer comparing their life to scripture.

That said, there are a couple of things that I would like to ask about.
You said that non believers can love the brethren bc they are loving those that they consider to be the brethren. That means that they do not love the real brethren. Its like saying they love God when really they love a god of their own making. They dont get to define the brethren and most assuredly they would not love the brethren bc the brethren would not be embracing them as believers.

You also may have misunderstood what J Mac said concerning question 5.
He said that a christian cannot fall into a serious Christ denying error or heresy (read Christ denying heresy) and you said that he said a christian cannot fall into a serious error....I am just wondering if you misread what he wrote? When I read your comment I agreed with you bc a believer CAN fall into error but he didnt say a Christ denying OR a serious error, just a Christ denying serious one and scripture says they CANNOT fall into that....

I also do not understand how you get that MATURE believers are those that keep His commands when scripture says those that KNOW Him will keep them? The word Know used here is the same word that is used when Christ says "depart from me I never KNEW you"...wouldn't that mean in a salvific way? Those who savingly KNOW Him being the same as those whom He savingly Knows? So where would you get the understanding that it means mature?

I am not so sure about non believers following after holiness bc its not true holiness unless its Gods holiness but I get what you are saying, it can masquerade as holiness...I did have a question about the fact that you say the test has be passable in every instance, at all times: the first test is about belief but then you said that believers can stop believing so then the test wouldnt work for belief bc there could be a time that they arent believing or they coud be doubting what they know to be true....kinda like I believe/Lord help my unbelief? So how can the test have to be true in every instance and at all times?

Kevl said...

Nolan,

You've been asking questions without much explanation of how they may relate to the article. I don't have a "Theological Scheme" and while I understand how limited the printed word can be especially when coupled with haste - I don't appreciate the language you used here.

To answer your question - I'm both. How do I know? I know I am a Believer because I have believed the Gospel - really? was that an actual question?

I know I'm a Disciple because I am following after, abiding in and growing in Christ and I love the Brethren.

Kev

Kevl said...

Hi Blessed,

You asked I see alot of 1 John contrasting the lives of those who believe vs those who do not. (Is that what you see as well?)

No I see a lot of things... some of which include - the results of abiding in Christ and the results of abiding in death/darkness. I see the source of righteousness and the source of sin.

I see the terrible fear of those who see themselves as they are being quelled by being shown Who Christ is and what He has done and what He continues to do.

There is of course much more.

I do not like the test given on the website although I am not opposed to a believer comparing their life to scripture.

Me too. - however that evaluation of one's life (how you behave/walk) is about fellowship and order - not to determine if one is saved or not.

You said that non believers can love the brethren bc they are loving those that they consider to be the brethren. That means that they do not love the real brethren.

That's not actually proper deduction.

He said that a christian cannot fall into a serious Christ denying error or heresy (read Christ denying heresy) and you said that he said a christian cannot fall into a serious error....I am just wondering if you misread what he wrote?

Re-read that section. His wording was problematic. His intent is to include other errors into the question under the guise of them being "Christ denying error" and not just "denying Christ" - which was the Apostle's intent.

The Apostle said "denying Christ" and John MacArthur said any "Christ denying error" - which could include many doctrines which the MacArthur organization might see as "Christ denying."

I also do not understand how you get that MATURE believers are those that keep His commands when scripture says those that KNOW Him will keep them?

You read the BUT theology series... same answer. Knowing Him is more than just being saved.... you experience something you live with.


MORE IN NEXT COMMENT

Kev

Kevl said...

Blessed - to CONTINUE


The word Know used here is the same word that is used when Christ says "depart from me I never KNEW you"...wouldn't that mean in a salvific way?

1097. ginw¿skw ginosko, ghin-oce´-ko; a prolonged form of a primary verb; to “know” (absolutely) in a great variety of applications and with many implications (as follow, with others not thus clearly expressed): — allow, be aware (of), feel, (have) know(-ledge), perceived, be resolved, can speak, be sure, understand.

To equate me experiencing Christ with Christ experiencing me as the same is not practicing good hermeneutics. I see why it would seem to make sense but it doesn't. Sorry.... no easy way to say that.

I means mature because of the context of it's usage and the rest of the passage. It is speaking of things that is shown as growth and maturity elsewhere.

Here's an example -

No one tests to see if a baby is really a human by asking it to write poetry.

If you want to know if a person is a poet, you ask them to write poet - you will know the poet by his fruit. Not whether he is a person or was a baby but whether he is a poet.

You can know a baby is a baby because it was born of a mother. - you can know a person is a Christian because they received the Gospel and God is faithful to save all who believe.

You can know if a person is mature if they act mature, but if they don't act mature that doesn't mean they are not a person.

Their lack of maturity may well be a result of never having "known" or experienced deeply discpline and empowering growth.

People who think they are seeking after true holiness will pass the test... it's subjective and this is their subjectivity. Don't forget the purpose of the test, it is so that one may evaluate himself to find out if one is saved or not.

the first test is about belief but then you said that believers can stop believing so then the test wouldnt work for belief

Have they received the Gospel? Yes, they are saved. Have they not received/believed the Gospel? No they are not saved. That test will work at all times.

I didn't say the test was about continuing to believe - MacArthur did.

One may forget that their sins have been cleansed - but if they believed the Gospel they are still saved.

Why must a test like this be valid at all times in all situations? Because it CAN, and because it is about the most important thing a person must know. I don't have any room for grey on the subject - that is my personal conviction and have found no reason in Scripture to have any other.

Kev

blessed said...

Hi Kevl,


No I see a lot of things...

So, this is why we are understanding what we are reading differently. I see John telling the believers about the false teachers (antichrist spirit) and what they believe and teach vs what a believer will believe and teach.
The contrast betweem the lie and the truth/ death and life/light and darkness...........


That's not actually proper deduction

Oh..............

Re-read that section.

OK

I means mature because of the context of it's usage and the rest of the passage

I guess I took the context as being the contrast of true teaching vs false teachers

In thinking thru the things written here and on other posts I remember wondering if you see the Holy Spirit working in someones life in spite of teaching/discipling, even in the case of immature believers? (If I am understanding correctly you see a difference in a believer and a disciple, of course I do not)
In other words, even if a person is not being taught/discipled, there will some change in them (the desire to confess, repent, the conviction of sin, the chastening of the Lord)just bc the Holy Spirit of God dwells in them? We are to bear the fruit that the Spirit produces...so He is working in us regardless of what we are doing or not doing and if there is no work of the Holy Spirit in your life then there would be cause to wonder if you have put your faith and trust in Christ. I am thinking of the covenant talked of in Jer and Hebrews about God putting His law in their minds and He will write it on their hearts...so He does things in salvation

I see two types of people: lost and saved.....there are characteristics of each group. So when I read the letters concerning false teaching and rebuking what is wrong I see this is what a believer is to be and this what a lost man will be and teach. Whereas you read this letter and you see it dealing with immature vs mature believers....so that would explain why we do not agree on the meaning of the texts. (in other books as well)
I read your blog a while back (Tripping Tulips, my screen name was lordstrophy which I changed bc there were a couple of people that thought it was terrible) My husband reads Lous blog and in turn he came to yours as well. I have read alot (and discussed alot) on the Lordship issue and that is what kept me here reading your blog. Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions that I had. It did help me to think thru alot of things and to get a better understanding of how people percieve this teaching. I understand how very differently we come to scripture so I am not sure how fruitful anymore conversation would be and I dont want to be reading your posts just to pick out what I do not agree with. :) and of course if Nolan is not here reading your posts then I am sure my time here will diminish as well.
Blessings,
Melissa
PS just so you know, I thought if you looked at my profile you would see that Nolan and I were married or in some way related, not trying to pretend as if we weren't..

Lou Martuneac said...

Kev:

Little late here, but here is what I see in that page from GTY. Just as for how LS conditions salvation/justification on a promise of behavior that is expected of a Christian, they base one's salvation on how they perform, how they behave. A then there is of course their view that behavior is what guarantees “final salvation,” glorification.

Bottom-line, LS is based on behavior- start, middle and finish. “Believe” is only lip-service for what they truly call for from the lost, which is behave.


Lou

Kevl said...

Well said Lou!

Kev