A Return To Rome: Lordship Salvation’s Doctrine Of Faith -- By: Paul Holloway

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 04:2 (Autumn 1991)
Article: A Return To Rome: Lordship Salvation’s Doctrine Of Faith
Author: Paul Holloway

A Return To Rome:
Lordship Salvation’s Doctrine Of Faith

Paul Holloway

Pastor, Candlelight Bible Church
Part-time Instructor of Theology
University of St. Thomas
Houston, Texas

I. Introduction

John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus has rekindled the debate long smoldering in Evangelical circles over Lordship Salvation.1 At the center of this debate is the question of the nature of saving faith: whether it entails a response of the human will to the lordship of Christ. Dr. MacArthur has become the leading proponent of the Lordship position.

At the same time, however, he has taken the Lordship account of faith a significant step further. Traditionally, Lordship advocates have extended faith to include commitment, but not obedience, which for them is faith’s sure fruit. But MacArthur, in a chapter entitled “The Nature of True Faith,” repeatedly speaks of obedience itself as constitutive of faith.2 For MacArthur good works are no longer merely the product of saving faith. They are an integral part of it.

This is a significant development. But it is also a serious departure from Evangelical Protestant doctrine. In fact, MacArthur’s proposal is virtually an invitation to return to the Medieval Roman Catholic understanding of “formed faith” (fides formata), the very notion that Luther repeatedly attacked in his famous 1535 commentary on Galatians.

II. MacArthur’s Account of Faith

There is an initial ambiguity, if not contradiction, in MacArthur’s account of faith.3 At times he describes the relationship between faith and works in the traditional terminology of cause and effect (works being the effect of saving faith). At other times he treats the relationship as one of a whole to its parts (works being a part of saving faith). But it is clearly the latter model that takes precedence for him.

MacArthur writes that faith “encompasses obedience,”4 and that obedience is “an integral part of saving faith.”5 Indeed, obedience is bound up in the very “definition of faith, “6 being a constitutive element in what it means to believe.”7 Thus any “concept of faith that excludes obedience”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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