Soteriology, Lordship Salvation, and Michael Horton's book

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by J. Dean, Feb 15, 2012.

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  1. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Had a question about this book and the whole "Lordship Salvation" soteriology argument. Christ the Lord (9781606083680): Michael Scott Horton: Books

    Is Horton's take on the matter decent? I've read MacArthur's "The Gospel According to Jesus" and thought it was a good, fair take on the controversy, but I'm not quite sure how Horton finds a "middle ground" between MacArthur and Hodges.

    If any of you have read the book and are better acquainted with the debate than I am, please feel free to weigh in. Thank you.
  2. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

    I haven't read those, but John Owen has a section in his book on justification that seemed to prefigure the recent debates. If I recall, the gist of it is that faith in Christ looks primarily to Him as Savior, but He can only be our Savior as He is Lord. Anyway, it's interesting to read. One can find many recent controversies reflected in books from the 17th century. There is nothing new under the sun.
  3. Irish Presbyterian

    Irish Presbyterian Puritan Board Freshman

    I have only read a few sections of the book and found them most helpful. Here is the preface to the volume that Horton wrote to explain why the book was written:

    The purpose of this volume is not to provide an exhaustive defense of what we would regard as the biblical position on the 'lordship salvation' debate. Indeed both leading spokesmen on either side, Zane Hodges and John MacArthur, Jr., have offered some reason for discomfort over the terms lordship/no-lordship salvation. As James Boice, J.I. Packer, and others have argued in their works, no respected, mainstream Christian thinker, writer, or preacher has ever held such extreme and unusual views concerning the nature of the gospel and saving grace as Zane Hodges. In this book, there is no doubt that we are taking a firm stand against what I would rather label the "no-effective-grace" position. While Hodges insists that he is only following the Bible, apart from any theological system, it is clear that he is missing the point of the gospel itself--to make enemies friends, to reconcile sinners to God, to break the power of sin's dominion, and to bring new and lasting life to those who before were "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1).

    It is, in part, because of that tendency, sometimes evidenced on both sides in this debate, to pretend that one is reading the Bible without any theological influences or biases, that motivated us to get involved in this sensitive and emotional issue. Both Hodges and MacArthur claim the Reformers for support. In our estimation, there is not the slightest support for Hodges and Ryrie to claim the Reformers' favor for their novel views. The antinomians (that is, those who denied the necessity of Christian obedience) of the Puritan era so pressed the Reformers' defense of justification to the the point where there was no place left for sanctification. However, the modern antinomianism, represented by Ryrie and Hodges chiefly, appears not to be motivated by an unbalanced fear that any talk of human responsibility will take away from God's glory, but by fear that any talk of the effectiveness of grace will erode confidence in human responsibility and choice. In other words, the antinomians since the Reformation have erred by denying human cooperation to the point where every divine operation is while dependent on human willing and running, contrary to the words of the apostle Paul (Rom 9:16).

    Nevertheless, this book is not merely an endorsement of John MacArthur's position, either. We will argue that MacArthur at certain points risks confusion on some fundamental evangelical convictions, particularly, between justification and sanctification. It must be said, however, that MacArthur has been most gracious in considering our concerns and we have been in dialogue with him for some time now. Significant changes have been made, as he has fine-tuned his definitions and applied a more specific theological framework to his exegesis. Revisions will appear in forthcoming editions of The Gospel According to Jesus and we are grateful for MacArthur's eagerness to discuss these issues. While other differences remain, there is a great deal of discussion taking place and there is every reason to believe that the chief differences lie in the realm of definitions and pastoral practice rather than substance. MacArthur's humility has been a lesson to us and we hope that we will be able to show our critics the openness he has shown us.

    Nevertheless since we are reviewing a position, and not a person, and most readers of this volume will have read the earlier edition of The Gospel According to Jesus, we have retained our criticisms on these points for the reader's benefit, noting MacArthur's revisions at the appropriate places. Let me also say that John has graciously allowed me to read the draft of his book, The Gospel According to the Apostles, which should be released about the same time as this volume. The sequel is clear, precise, and cautious, and it ought to correct the misunderstandings not only of those like Hodges, who have misrepresented MacArthur's position through caricature and hyperbole, but even perhaps the misguided zeal of some "lordship salvation" disciples as well.

    It is because both positions claim to be echoes of the Reformation that we thought the debate was in need of a more historical treatment. For that reason, one will not find in Christ the Lord a comprehensive exegetical treatment. While there are chapters devoted to covering the biblical material (which is, after all, our "only rule of faith and practice"), the book has a decidedly historical tone to it. It is offered unabashedly as a "Reformation response" to the positions thus far presented, not because the Reformers and their successors were infallible, but because evangelical Protestantism owes a debt of gratitude to them for digging the gold out of the rich spiritual veins through the centuries so that we could learn from those who have gone before us. Theology, preaching, teaching, counseling, and pastoral care are not done in a vacuum; we are all influenced and shaped by our own traditions, upbringing, seminary education, and church curricula, and these are all shaped by certain theological systems. It is the goal of this book to help rub the sleep from our eyes, to drive away the naive assumption that we can just be "Bible teachers" without careful theological reflection from a particular systematic point of view.

    The Reformers were certainly not infallible--they would be the last to say they were--but they were wise, wiser than any of us around these days. And we would be poor stewards of the inheritance God has given us through them if we did not at least attempt to gain their counsel on these important debates.

    Hope you find this helpful.
  4. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Looks like I'll be checking this book out! Thank you!
  5. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I've read Horton's book (and much of MacArthur's) and thought Horton's critique of MacArthur was mostly helpful. This is not to say MacArthur doesn't make many, many good points. But I think Horton helped refine those where MacArthur may have gotten a bit carried away.

    To like Horton's book you have to enjoy the fine points of theological debate and discussing the history of Reformed thought. Much of it is Horton defending what is and is not properly considered "Reformed," historically. That makes it quite different from Horton's more popular books where he looks at contemporary evangelical culture and critiques it biblically.
  6. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    The problem is that I am currently do not trust Horton to be the correct on what is properly considered Reformed.

  7. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    I have had the experience of knowing a man sold out on Hodges' theology. He was extremely zealous to share the message and even seperated from attending church to hold family church at home. I have no idea if this is typical, just found it interesting. I was given a book by Hodges and did read it. I found his theology rediculous and quite typically his exegesis was atrocious. I don't know why but it is amazing to read work by men trained in biblical interpretation leave all their senses and use proof texts that are obviously being distorted.(I was struck by this in Geisler too in his work on freedom of the will) This can be detected by anyone with even little training in interpretation. Anyway Hodges is dangerous and it is worthy work for these men to pursue and expose his error.
  8. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman's properly written "All your base are belong to us".
  9. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Like I say, if debates over what is and isn't properly considered "Reformed" is something you enjoy, you'll probably like Horton's book. If nothing else, the past year has shown once again (on a different issue) Horton's willingness to wade into such debates. For myself, I found his arguments concerning Lordship Salvation to be generally convincing and handled graciously, but the stuff about what is and isn't truly Reformed got tedious. Not that I disagreed with him; those sorts of arguments over the "Reformed" label just aren't my cup of tea.
  10. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Senior

    Is the Lordship Salvation debate still going on? It's been a long time since I've encountered any of Hodges' defenders. Does Campus Crusade still talk about the carnal Christian?
  11. GulfCoast Presbyterian

    GulfCoast Presbyterian Puritan Board Junior

    I thought that was part and parcel, or it least it was in the late 1980's.
  12. baron

    baron Puritan Board Graduate

    Lordship Salvation, and Michael Horton's book. This is one of my all time favorites. It helped me greatly seeing how I was in the Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges camp.

    I try and reread it yearly. I still know quite a few people (Baptist) who still believe that you have to make Christ the Lord of your life. Instead of Christ being Lord. you can be carnal all you life. Plus Lewis Sperry Chafer still has a large following in our area.

    Not to derail the thread but what is wrong with Horton?
  13. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Good question. I know a fairly influential ministry leader who still thinks in terms of the carnal Christian concept. But I don't hear it often, though I admit I also don't travel in the right circles to hear it much if it is out there.

    I the other side, I do know several people who, due to MacArthur, can't stand to hear someone mention something as non-threatening as, say, "grace alone" without feeling a need to interject that you better not think you can be saved if you don't obey. They're still debating that issue with a passion, though against whom, I do not know.

    I get a sense that MacArthur largely won that debate. The only quibbling I regularly hear these days is the occasional question among Reformed folks of whether or not MacArthur went a tad too far and ended up with a sort of works righteousness, as Horton contended. But they're nowhere close to arguing Hodges' side.

    ---------- Post added at 08:06 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:52 PM ----------

    I don't think anything's wrong with Horton on the Lordship Salvation issue. But he's a hot topic lately due to the bickering between Westminster West and Westminster East over the place of justification in the ordo salutis. People wiser than me point to huge differences on that issue but, frankly, when I listen to both sides I can barely see it. I mostly see a difference of emphasis and pastoral application, but not of affirmed doctrine. Of course, maybe I'm slow. Or not judgmental enough.
  14. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    The mixture of MacArthur and my nth degree conscience led to the volatile train wreck of my young faith for 15 years. What a miserable time that was...I'm so glad I finally met John Owen and Luther!

  15. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

  16. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I believe the technical term for it is "who-hearing".
  17. baron

    baron Puritan Board Graduate

    Well that is good news!

    ---------- Post added at 11:48 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:47 PM ----------

    "who-hearing" what?
  18. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    I got it!
  19. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Now see, I've heard this brought up before, and the impression I got was that the Ordo salutis issue Horton is addressing is more academic than practical in relevance.

    ---------- Post added at 06:16 AM ---------- Previous post was at 06:14 AM ----------

    You'll have to explain this one sometime, because from what I know of MacArthur he's quite fond of both Owen and Luther. :)
  20. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think Ruben made a funny (it did actually make me spit a little coffee). He was referencing, Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss.
  21. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    Thanks for explaining! I was totally mystified :)
  22. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    I think the problem with MacArthur, as Horton sees it and as I see it, is that in some of his works, he seems to think that you protect against easy-believism by making the gospel invitation more difficult, so that only those who are REALLY serious will respond. I'm not going to look up all the quotes right now, but I know his original definition of faith seemed to fold works into it under the volitional aspect. (Perhaps, in Westminster speak, I might say that he didn't seem to distinguish well between faith in general and the "principal acts of saving faith.") Also, his gospel appeals included lines like, "Turn from everything you know that displeases God." On the one hand I can see that, but on the other, gee, have I really turned from everything I know that displeases God? And he's telling someone that that is something they must do in order to BECOME saved? On the whole, it seems to make the character of saving faith more about what I do than about "extraspectively" looking to Christ.

    I also have seen a lot of damage done by MacArthur in the actual Fundamentalist and quasi-Fundamentalist crowd he runs in. Many MacArthur-influenced preachers made it a personal mission to undermine the assurance of every person in the room. MacArthur also makes statements to the effect that if you "got saved" when you were 12, but then your life was a mess for a while and now you want to turn your life around, you probably didn't really get saved when you were 12. Well, ok, maybe, but MacArthur gives the impression that he can pretty much tell, based on scant evidence, who is really saved. He even gives list of signs that people are deceived.

    I think the overall approach is unhealthy. It wounds weak consciences. It turns Christians into "fruit detectors," always demanding that everyone around them PROVE their salvation. It makes pastoral counseling difficult, because the stock response to someone struggling with sin is, "Well, this indicates you might not really be saved." I think MacArthur commits a basic theological error; he thinks that if he just preached the gospel exactly right, there would be no false conversions. Quality control on the front end. (In some ways I think this is a radicalization of the Baptist pure church perspective.) But that's not the way it happens. Church discipline in the context of faithful preaching and body life is the method for sorting out wheat and tares.
  23. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    Charlie pretty much summed it up in his post above. Hey, Charlie, were you in my church all those years or something, or just in my conscience taking notes? Great insight!

  24. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Funny you mention this, because MacArthur just went through a series on his radio program about "taking the Salvation test."

    So it leads to a question related to this: what's the balance point? Obviously we don't want a works-righteousness salvation impression given, but it's just as dangerous to lean in the antinomian direction. Where does the principle of "making your calling and election sure" fit into preaching the gospel?

    (BTW, I am aware that Martin Lloyd-Jones once said that a good gospel presentation should be accused of being antinomian, but that can be carried too far as well, and I'm sure Lloyd-Jones would be the first to state this.)
  25. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    I'm lean more towards the side of letting the wheat and the tares grow together, so that we don't pluck up the wheat while trying to remove the tares. It was probably predictable that I would feel more inclined this way...

  26. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Good thoughts. Summarizes where the Lordship Salvation movement (though born of good intentions) has in spots gone too far.
  27. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Right, but shouldn't the distinction between wheat and tares be proclaimed from the pulpit as well?
  28. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would say yes, in Biblical balance. There is far too much "boot strap" theology preached at every occasion in many churches.
  29. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    In my opinion, yes, but with great delicacy, so as to not break a bruised reed, or snuff out a smoldering wick. I would tend to be sensitive to always bring the sermon back to the good news of the gospel of grace, so as to not leave fragile consciences to despair.

  30. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Oh, no argument there. You should have heard the horrendous sermon about love that I heard last Sunday. Not that the command to love shouldn't be proclaimed, but when you command to love without laying the gospel foundation for that love, it's just nice sounding legalism.

    I liked what our Bible study leader said last night: "The imperative follows the indicative, and the process is not reversible."
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