Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JOTGES 2:2 (Autumn 89) p. 91
“How Faith Works,” S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Christianity Today, September 22, 1989, pp. 21–25.
The issue of Lordship Salvation continues to attract attention in a growing debate. To “analyze the issues and give guidance” to their readers Christianity Today enlisted the help of scholar S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., a Bible teacher at Believers Chapel in Dallas, Texas and a former professor of both Dallas Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
I think this popular magazine attained its goal only in the slightest measure.
Johnson correctly asserts that the definition of terms is crucial—yet largely neglected. Foremost of these is the nature of saving faith. He also surfaces some other crucial issues, such as the relation of justification to sanctification and the nature of repentance. Commendably, he has fingered the pulse of the debate.
The guidance promised, however, comes through loud and fuzzy. Readers of the Free Grace persuasion will cheer as Johnson moves in the right direction on several views, but sigh when real clarification is elusive or when subsequent statements seem to contradict. For example, to say “MacArthur overdoes the absolute commitment” (p. 25) implies that there is a degree of commitment of one’s life necessary to salvation.
However, the major flaw of the article lies in Johnson’s decision to use the Westminster Confession to evaluate views because he sees it as “a standard of reference that evangelicals as a whole will accept in the main” (p. 21). (Even this general acceptance’s doubtful at best.) Further, in the Lordship Salvation debate there is a screaming need for biblical clarification and illumination, not dogmatism or theology by majority vote. The Word of God is acceptable to all evangelicals and remains the only test of theological orthodoxy. It is sadly disappointing that Johnson’s article lacks the biblical analysis demanded by the issue.
Another weakness of the article is that the views of both Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges are taken from older works rather than their respective recent books (So Great Salvation; Absolutely Free!), whereas Johnson refers to MacArthur’s most recent book, The Gospel According to Jesus. Both Hodges and Ryrie have done much to clarify their views in their
JOTGES 2:2 (Autumn 89) p. 92
latest books, written partially in response to MacArthur. Whether this oversight was by Johnson or the editors, it is inexcusable in a debate that has already suffered much from misrepresentation.
A final comment must be made concerning an accompanying inset arti...
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