Like John Harper

The Truth About the Lordship of Christ by John MacArthur

It is my presumption that I was not the intended audience for this volume in the Truth About trilogy of books. Each page presents a nugget of truth with a single text that is meant to support the idea. For a new Christian, it would serve as an excellent  primer. Perhaps for the more mature Christian, the book would be useful as a reminder of once-grasped ideas. For me, it was a disappointment.

Closing the last page left me wondering if Dr. MacArthur had reviewed the galleys before sending it to print. The book offers nothing new as it is constructed from material already published in a number of his other books. I believe it is this packaging that makes the book such a difficult read. There is a lack of coherence between the thoughts. What the reader is presented with is a proof-text (in whichever translation best coheres to MacArthur’s doctrine) and a handful of paragraphs in support.

The small thought units by themselves are excellent, as I would expect from Dr. MacArthur. He is unabashed in his Hyper-Calvinism and it is on full display in the introductory pages of the book. Though it may be unintentional, the inconsistencies of this theological system are on full display as it does not lend itself to a sound-bite format.

The Truth About the Lordship of Christ should be put into the hands of young Christians, if only to generate questions for conversation. The small, tightly focused sections offer just enough information for someone new to following Christ to begin the process. As the Spirit develops greater interest, Dr. MacArthur’s full-length works are waiting in the wings.

I am grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this book for review.

Eternal Security: The Beginning

The Author, Grantor, and Securer of eternal life, promised that His followers would be the recipients of that gift…

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30)

While the Apostles warned against the possibility of loss and that there may be a conditional nature to this security…

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (Heb 6:4-6)

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. (Col 1:21-23a)

perseverance Countless words have been written discussing the ways in which Christians believe that they have come to receive the gift of salvation. The moment of justification marks a huge turn in a human existence and people are only too happy to mark it and give voice to the joy that it brings. When talk to turns to the possibility of losing that righteous status, the volume of the conversation tends to diminish. ‘Once saved, always saved.’ is the theological ideal offered by many but, when pressed to source their belief, many are unable to point to the root of that confidence.

The discussion of perseverance goes far beyond scholastic theological wrangling, it has practical purpose in the life of the Christian. We must ask whether or not the believer who has been regenerated, justified, adopted as a Son (or daughter) of God, and united with the Savior in relationship will persist in that relationship. In other words, will the Christian persevere until his or her moment of glory or is there a risk of the loss of one’s salvation?   One end of this discussion is anchored by the ‘P’ in the TULIP – Perseverance of the Saints, in which there is no risk of apostasy extending to the far end of the thread in which apostatizing is a daily and imminent possibility in the life of an anxiety-ridden Christian. Depending on where you locate yourself on the spectrum you make look to the other as naively putting themselves at risk.

It would be foolish to introduce this topic by drawing a distinction between the two major schools of Protestant theological thought, Calvinist and Arminian, and stating that there are but a pair of positions to explore. In fact, there are a number of nuances in the views along this spectrum from one to the other. To narrow the topic down to a manageable size, I am going to organize the posts that follow into four segments that allow positions from guaranteed security to the permanence of apostasy. As with all Christian discussion (actually, any intellectual endeavor), there is an important practice of which we must be cognizant: one should not simply argue their position without engaging the facts presented by the other side. So many times we find theological debate reduced to caricature of the opposing position that is brought about either by a surfeit of knowledge of that position or the unwillingness to consider that your understanding of things may be flawed.