Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Little Booklet on Lordship Salvation
Part 3

Here is the third of 7 major points from Dr. MacArthur's book and Dr. Pickering's review and comments on these points. (See my October 12 post for background on what I am posting here.)

Dr. Earnest Pickering sums up of MacArthur's points (large green italic #3) and offers comment: _______________________________________________________

3. The distinction commonly made between the carnal Christian and the spiritual Christian is invalid.

This is a familiar theme, particularly among Reformed theologians such as Lloyd-Jones, mentioned earlier. Their impression seems to be that if one admits to the existence of "carnal Christians" one is merely seeking to find a way to excuse the loose living of professing believers. MacArthur sees this distinction as intertwined with the teaching that there may be a difference between a person who is saved and a person who has decided to become a disciple. To him every believer is a "disciple."

In the first place, those who speak of "carnal" Christians are only employing the terminology of Scripture. Paul speaks of those believers who are "carnal" (fleshly, 1 Cor. 3:1) and speaks of the evidence of such a condition in the verses that follow. While brethren may deny the existence of such an individual, we would venture to say that a considerable number of examples could be found in their own churches! One is not going to make "carnal" Christians vanish simply by demanding that saving faith include surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Even if that were done it would not guaran­tee that the new convert would submit to the Lordship of Christ when confronted with a specific demand. If he did not do so, he would become a "carnal" Christian, walking according to the flesh and not the Spirit.In his zeal to defend his view, we believe our brother has made some extreme state­ments which do not describe properly the vast majority of fundamental gospel preachers of our acquaintance. "Anyone who says he has 'accepted Christ' is enthusi­astically received as a Christian, even if his supposed faith later gives way to a persistent pattern of disobedience, gross sin, or hostile unbelief" (p. 97). In his footnote explanation of I Corinthians 3:3 MacArthur does admit that the Corinthian believers were "behaving in a carnal way" (p. 97). Perhaps we have missed some subtle dis­tinction, but we fail to see the difference between "behaving in a carnal way" and being a "carnal Christian." _______________________________________________________

What do you think?
more to come ...


  • I agree.

    Benjamin Warfield objected to Chafer's teaching on this subject. He wrote:

    "He who believes in Jesus Christ is under grace, and his whole course in its process and in its issue alike, is determined by grace, and therefore, having been conformed to that image, God Himself seeing to it that he is not only called and justified but also glorified. You may find Christians at every stage of this process, for it is a process through which all must pass; but you will find none who will not in God's own good time and way, pass through every stage of it. There are not two kinds of Christians, although there are Christians at every stage of advancement towards the one goal to which all are bound and at which they shall arrive."

    Chafer replies:

    "Doubtles there are varying degrees of carnality as there are varying degrees of spirituality, but the positive denial of two well-defined classes of believers 'carnal' and 'spiritual'- would be better supported by conclusive exposition of a large body of Scripture in which this two-fold classification of Christians seems to be taught."

    L.S. Chafer 'He that is Spiritual' p.68

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/16/2006 10:31 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Dr. Pickering was kind to call those on the other side of this issue "brethren". I am thankful for that.

    Matthew quotes B.B. Warfield. I believe what Warfield said is representative of MacArthur's position, and mine. I believe the carnal stage is something all Christians pass through, though I am not sure that I have come out the other side yet. I am still very self-centered and apt to respond to enemies in my own wrath; but I do believe that God is in the process of conforming me, and all Christians into the image of His Son. That seems to be the end that He has in mind for the salvation experience. 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; Romans 8:29; Eph. 4:11-16.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/16/2006 11:30 AM  

  • I think MacArthur did a good service to the church when he brought up Lordship Salvation. He helped people think through how their faith practically applies to them.

    At the same time, I think he goes too far. I think his take on carnal Christians is what seperates most people from his thinking. I think he blows this one. For a guy who genuinely does study scripture, I don't get how he doesn't see carnal Christians as a reality.

    In fact, you are harder pressed to find a "believer" in the Bible who doesn't sin than finding one who does sin.

    By Blogger jeff, at 10/16/2006 11:35 AM  

  • Paul calls the Corinthian believers Carnal, therefore their are Carnal Christians. Shouldn't be an argument there. The Author of Hebrews also identifies the Hebrew believers with falling into the same symptomatic state yet from a differant angle. They were backsliding because of persecution but for the Corinthian Church it was idlness, sloth, pleasure and Teacher worship and Paul with his graciousness had become to weak for them. Hmmm.

    (oops I just did a hmmm.)

    The Hebrew church members were becoming dull of hearing and like babes drifting back into carnality whereas Corinth hadn't seemed to yet get off the ground properly.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/16/2006 2:35 PM  

  • I must admit I am seriously puzzled why anyone would deny the existence of carnal believers? It is as plain as the nose on your face and yet requires scholarly exegesis to obscure.

    What exactly would be the motivation?

    By Blogger Jim, at 10/16/2006 3:40 PM  

  • Jim,

    Trying to harmonize all of Puritan teaching and creeds with Scripture.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/16/2006 4:04 PM  

  • Brian, thanks for that. I guess my lack of puritanical knowledge would explain why I don't get it.

    Yes, trying to synergize incompatible interpretations can be rather difficult. It must be hard to admit that some of our brothers from the past could possibly be wrong in some of their assessments.

    By Blogger Jim, at 10/16/2006 7:01 PM  

  • Hi Matthew,
    I am glad you agree. I do too. I especially like this quote from the monograph:
    "In the first place, those who speak of "carnal" Christians are only employing the terminology of Scripture."
    I felt that way when we talked about the old man and the new man, the two natures.
    Hey, it is good to agree. ;~)
    Thanks for those quotes. There is a subtle difference between the two approaches, but an important one.

    Yes, I noticed that he said "our brother." That is how I feel about this issue too. I am certain in his heart of hearts, whether mis-stated or not, he has trusted fully on Christ and not on his own submission or anything else. I am really certain that all such are convinced of the utter lacking of anything we can offer to God in exchange for our salvation. We are all, at some place within ourselves, aware of our shortcomings in submission and obedience ...like you have shared here in your comment.
    What a drama it will be when transformation happens - at the translation or ressurection - no more sin!

    Hi Jeff,
    Is it harvest time? Is your tractor well-oiled? I think that is a really cool picture.
    Thanks for your thoughts on the issue. You make a good point.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/17/2006 8:32 AM  

  • Hi Brian,
    Good thoughts.

    Perhaps the motivation is to see more obedient Christians ... less embarrassing converts ... fewer carnal Christians. I just don't think fiddling around with the gospel is the way to encourage converts to be submissive to Christ's Lordship.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/17/2006 8:35 AM  

  • rose~, You got my interest here:"What a drama it will be when transformation happens - at the translation or ressurection - no more sin!"

    I wonder, given what Luke says in his recording of the Sermon on the Mount in Chapt. 6:40 "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" and compare that to what Jesus says in the Great Commission that we are to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He has commanded us. Couple these verses together with 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; Romans 8:29; Eph. 4:11-16.

    Now, what do you think the Lord has in mind as a goal for all Christians here? Is salvation an ends, or a means to an end?


    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/17/2006 9:24 AM  

  • "Now, what do you think the Lord has in mind as a goal for all Christians here? Is salvation an ends, or a means to an end?"

    Salvation is a means to an end.

    God is calling the Church to be a new kind of humanity, a New Man. A Celestial Aristocracy. A new order of beings.

    The Church is called to share in Christ's sovereign kingdom rule. That is why we are called to realise our heavenly calling in our walk and to abstain from fleshly lusts.

    And we show suitedness to be part of this Celestial Aristocracy by our service to Christ.

    Only those who exercise their responsiblity in service are fit for position in the Kingdom.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/17/2006 10:19 AM  

  • Now, what do you think the Lord has in mind as a goal for all Christians here?

    Glorification - complete and undeniable holiness.

    We shall be like him ... for we shall see him as he is.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/17/2006 10:46 AM  

  • Matthew, Thank you.

    rose~, You keep pointing to the future; what about on this side of the grave? Is conformity to Christ important on this side of the grave? Is the salvation experience a means to an end on this side of the grave? Roams 6:2,4,6-19,22.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/17/2006 11:27 AM  

  • Bluecollar,
    I don't want to argue with you. Your big muscles are scaring me. ;~)

    Of course it is important, Mark. Christ wants all of us to follow Him.

    What about the theif on the cross, Mark? Was the salvation experience a means to an end on this side of the grave for him?
    Yes, it was a means to an end. Salvation delivered Him to "paradise" ... to the presence of God. I think that conversation between him and Christ puts the means and the end in a perfectly simple nugget for us to chew on while we walk with Him, awaiting the hope.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/17/2006 11:43 AM  

  • Thanks,rose~, I guess. I won't argue anymore. Thanks for your time.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/17/2006 12:12 PM  

  • Mark,
    You are welcome to my time. Don't guess. I did answer you, did I not? I am sorry if something didn't sound nice in my comment.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/17/2006 12:35 PM  

  • I've never read a better dissmissal of this LS argument!

    Very deftly put, and concise.

    My Pastor has excalaimed with a big sigh, "Oh what it must be like to Pastor a church with no carnal Christians!"

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at 10/17/2006 1:11 PM  

  • Matthew,

    I love that coined phrase "Celestial Aristocracy". I have read a term similar if not the same in Frank D. Carmichael, "The Omega Reunion" published by Redencion Viva.


    By Blogger Antonio, at 10/17/2006 9:14 PM  

  • I am glad you like that.

    I love things that seem cultish while not really being cultish.

    What term did the author of that book use?

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/18/2006 3:50 AM  

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