Second Response To “Faith According To The Apostle James” By John F. Macarthur, Jr. -- By: Robert L. Saucy

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:1 (Mar 1990)
Article: Second Response To “Faith According To The Apostle James” By John F. Macarthur, Jr.
Author: Robert L. Saucy

Second Response To “Faith According To The Apostle James” By John F. Macarthur, Jr.

Robert L. Saucy*

We would like to begin by stating that we are in basic agreement with the thesis of MacArthur’s paper. We understand this thesis to be that genuine faith is obedient faith that is inevitably effective in producing evidential works of faith in the believer’s life. Although primarily expositional of certain portions of James, the paper seems intended as a contribution to the current debate among evangelicals concerning what is usually described as the “lordship salvation” question. Our response will therefore focus primarily on that issue.

Before turning to that, however, we would like to refer randomly to a few questionable points in the paper. First, in relation to the nature of faith it was argued against some of the advocates of nonlordship salvation that the nature of faith in Christ for salvation is “substantially different in character from everyday varieties of faith.” Without denying some difference, the distinctions noted in the paper—namely, that saving faith deals with “spiritual reality invisible to the eye of flesh” and, secondly, it requires divine enablement—do not seem to point to a real, essential difference in the nature of faith itself. It could be argued that the examples of faith proposed by some of the nonlordship advocates as analogous to saving faith—for example, faith in the integrity of the President or trust in the quality of the water we drink—do in fact involve belief or trust in reality “invisible to the eye of flesh,” and even “spiritual reality” in some instances. The source of enablement of faith also does not seem to necessitate a change in its very nature. Saying that saving faith is only through the empowerment of the Spirit certainly says something about its difficulty or its natural impossibility, but it does not in itself say anything about the essential nature of the faith itself. In our opinion the distinctions noted may point to some difference in degree, but more evidence would be needed to show a substantial difference.

A second point deals with the reference to Michael Cocoris’ discussion of faith involving action. Cocoris is cited as explaining genuine saving faith with illustrations such as the truck driver’s faith in the safety of a bridge, which is said to be not genuine belief in the Biblical sense until he

* Robert Saucy is professor of systematic theology at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

drives onto the bridge. These kinds of illustrations are used to argue that even advocates of the nonlordship position find it difficult to explain faith without work...

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