podcast 4: A Conversation About Lordship Salvation

Dax Swanson is a graduate of Princeton University, doctor, medical missionary to Africa, and former student body president at John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary, and is now pastor of Grace Church Bellingham. He counts it all rubbish with Jim McNeely as he discusses his amazing journey out of Lordship Salvation to become a gospel-centered radical grace advocate. Find Dax at practicalgrace.org or www.gracebellingham.org.

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  1. Wow… what an awesome podcast! I think you should do a follow up on the psychological effects of a person caught up in this teaching. Truthfully, I fear that many people can’t be honest with how things in their life are going because THAT would be an indication that they aren’t saved. I have been a part of groups like this enough to know that the leaders are more frightening to you than God. If I were part of a John MacArthur type church, the pastor would be the one I looked to for my assurance not Christ. I think, in my experience, the leaders and their teaching become God and you need those said leaders to constantly give you confirmation that the fruit in your life is genuine. In my own case, I rarely read the bible or prayed because I found going to my bible study leader a much more effective indicator of my eternal standing with God that week than what the bible had to say. It just became a pragmatic issue of it is easier to get the word of Mount Sinai from my bible study leader than search the scriptures because to this date I have yet to have an audible revelation from God. So, if I hadn’t succumbed to a particular sin that week, I was most assured of my eternal state because of my “good behavior.” I would also have weeks of assurance at a time when my bible study leader commented on some sort of new fruit being exhibited in my life. It is so screwed up now that I can see things more clearly. I know that not everyone thinks like this but, when this is introduced to you at the age of 18 a sort of co-dependancy can develop especially with certain types of personalities. I tend to obsess over most things anyway and my eternal fate was no exception.
    The threat of hell for not perfectly making Jesus your Lord is quite frightening for those that actually believe in eternal punishment. That one will keep you up at night. Then, when you SWEAR you have made him lord FINALLY, it’s kind of hard to go back three weeks later and say that you have committed the same sin over and over during the past three weeks. Where does this leave the sinner? It leaves them either faking it till they make it or finally concluding that they can’t be saved because clearly they aren’t the elect.
    I would love to know how different personality types cope with these burdensome teachings.
    Thanks for all you do Jim.

    • Robin,

      I really love you! In Jesus and all. That is a right-on comment. The judgment of how successfully you have “made Jesus Lord” is so vague and thus so easy to transgress psychologically that you would have to look to an earthly authority figure to interpret that for you, so they become the idol of your security and assurance. That is just horribly and even nauseatingly wrong.

      I actually think that the threat of hell is a present reality in the conscience of every living human being regardless of what they profess to believe. We are so driven to justify ourselves in small matters and great matters. It think our fear of death revolves around this – we just inherently know that somehow justice is really going to be served. If there is not an assurance of acceptance that persists beyond even my habitual sins and shame, I have no door out of them into healing and soundness of mind. That to me is when people start getting suicidal — because the ultimate hope of the Christian, despite a thousands of hours of teaching to the contrary, remains true at a visceral and conscience level in us: Christ has died for us, and thus we have eternal life. We can rest in that and truly let go of hoping in the perfection of our performance.

      I love when you comment Robin. I’m so glad we will be hanging out for eternity. You really get all of this. I pray you have open doors to tell all of this to tons of people. Blessings to you!

  2. Jim,

    These are discussions that need to be had in many churches today. I believe along with Dax–and you–that the issue behind it all is the meaning of the word repent. My good friend who I spent 7 years at Bible College and Seminary with studied the issue with me and we found that the “turn or burn” view of repentance is fundamentally Roman Catholic in essence. Anyway, Dax got honest with his exegesis and studied repentance in each instance used in the Bible and (like us) had to be honest and “change our mind” on what the term means. I believe MacArthur and others that hold to the “turn from sin” view commit an exegetical error called “illegitimate totality transfer” (D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies). Basically, a word study is done on a word and a theological definition is made from all the meanings of a word and thus this meaning is pressed back into all of them. But, Dax, points out that the word repent is fluid and the meaning should alway fit context. There is no way it can mean “turn from sin” in Acts 2:38. However, in Revelation, the word repent is used in reference to believers in churches and their attitude toward their sin.
    Honestly, I had to study the Scriptures in reference to repent because I was in absolute despair and actually told God that if He is this kind of God, like I had always been taught (LS Salvation), then I have to find another. In the process of studying the New Testament I realized that I was relying upon my performance and not Christ’s performance for me. I was not saved. Please do not ever underestimate the importance of this discussion. It is much more than getting theologians to “change their mind” on their theological views. The regular card carrying church goer cannot understand such a convoluted view of salvation, which produces cognitive dissonance, and thus get in a Christ plus view of salvation which is not salvation at all. Galatian error.
    J. Gresham Machen viewed Lordship Salvation in his day (1923) as the view of salvation of modern theological liberalism in his book Christianity & Liberalism. He wrote,”Very different is the conception of faith which prevails in the liberal church. According to modern liberalism, faith is essentially the same as ‘making Christ Master’ in one’s life; at least it is by making Christ Master in the life that the welfare of men is sought. But, that simply means that salvation is thought to be obtained by our obedience to the commands of Christ. Such teaching is just a sublimated form of legalism. Not the sacrifice of Christ, on this view, but our own obedience to God’s law, is the ground of hope.” P. 143
    MacArthur tries to wiggle out of this by saying because it is God producing the works in you that it is not ours. However, Romans 4:4-5 and 11:6 would suggest that even if God gave us the works to do it would violate salvation by grace.
    Gee Jim, your the blogger, why am I writing so much! Keep up the good work with Dax.


  3. If one has been born again, then he will have a changed life. Just because a changed life characterizes a Christian does not mean that eternal life is received by having a changed life. A changed life is not the basis upon which God declares a sinner righteous. God declares a sinner righteous on the basis of Christ’s atonement, Christ’s resurrection, and Christ’s righteousness credited to the believer’s account. Eternal life is received by depending upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Salvation is neither merited nor secured, in part or in whole, by any virtue or work of man.

    • This sounds good Curt. However, the rubber hits the road when one wants assurance of salvation. Does it come from looking at Christ’s work alone on one’s behalf for assurance or one’s post conversion works to prove one “really believed”?

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