Simon asks a great question:
Just wanted to know what our approach should be towards Lordship Salvationists. I feel they should be considered as brothers in Christ. It is sad to see Lordship Salvationists attacking Free Grace proponents, and vice versa. How do we reconcile both the views without attacking the other?
Simon essentially has three questions: 1) Are Lordship Salvation people brothers in Christ? 2) How can we reconcile with Lordship Salvation people? 3) How can we be honest in our differences, yet without attacking?
Question 1: While Simon suggests that “they should be considered as brothers in Christ,” I disagree. But my disagreement includes a disclaimer.
The believer is secure forever the moment he believes in Christ for everlasting life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35; 11:26). That is true even if he later stops believing in the free gift of everlasting life.
Many who hold to Lordship Salvation came to that view after having first believed in Jesus for everlasting life. Thus, they are brothers and sisters in Christ, even though they no longer believe in Jesus for everlasting life. Instead, they believe in Jesus plus their commitment, obedience, and hoped perseverance.
However, some if not many who hold to Lordship Salvation have not yet believed in Jesus for everlasting life. As a result, they would not be brothers and sisters in Christ.
Question 2: There can be no reconciliation unless Free Grace people cease being Free Grace or Lordship Salvation people cease holding to their position. There is no middle ground.
Of course, there are some who identify as Free Grace who are developing a middle ground. I believe they have to leave the Free Grace position to do so. But they retain the label, nonetheless.
How do they modify Free Grace to make it acceptable for Lordship Salvation people?
They adopt a view of assurance and of saving faith that is acceptable to Lordship Salvation.
Concerning assurance, they say that one need not believe in Jesus for everlasting life. One need not believe that his salvation is irrevocable. They agree with Lordship Salvation that we should not focus on John’s Gospel for the evangelistic message. They agree with them in saying that John’s Gospel is not written solely to unbelievers. They suggest that the other Gospels as well as some of the epistles have evangelistic purposes.i
Concerning saving faith, they say that it involves the intellect, the emotions, and the will.ii Since they bring in a willful commitment as part of saving faith,iii they are embracing a position of Lordship Salvation.
The problem here is that it is Free Grace that must change its belief, not Lordship Salvation. But then the label Free Grace ceases to be meaningful.
If I held to Lordship Salvation, I’d say that the only way to be reconciled with those who believe in Free Grace is for them to change their beliefs. That is the position of John MacArthur, for example. Since I hold to Free Grace, I say that the only way to be reconciled with Lordship Salvation people is for them to change their beliefs.iv
Question 3: How are we to be honest about our differences without attacking? Our approach is to be irenic in our refutation of false views. We try to avoid pejorative language and name calling. But we cannot simply ignore the differences. Paul certainly did not. Read the Book of Galatians.
i For the points mentioned in this paragraph, see GraceNotes 79, by Charlie Bing, available here. See also David Anderson, “Is Belief in Eternal Security Necessary for Justification?” CTS Journal (Spring 2008): 3-17, available here.
ii See, for example, A Defense of Free Grace Theology: With Respect to Saving Faith, Perseverance, and Assurance, ed. by Fred Chay (NP: Grace Theology Press, 2017), Chapter 3, “The Faith That Saves,” by David R. Anderson, pp. 67-87.
iii Ibid. Anderson says that the willful component of saving faith is “commit[ment] to the claims of Christ” (p. 70) and “the surrender of the soul as guilty and defiled to Christ” (p. 72). He does distinguish that commitment and surrender to Christ as different from “commit[ment] to obey Christ’s commands” (p. 73), which he says is not part of saving faith. That seems to be a distinction without a difference. He then seems to agree with Grudem (who holds to Lordship Salvation, though he does not like the label) that Jesus requires “less than total commitment” (p. 79). See also his introductory comment on Grudem’s view of saving faith: “Appreciated also is Dr. Grudem’s definition of faith, which goes beyond intellectual assent” (p. 69).
iv I happen to agree with John MacArthur and many Lordship Salvation advocates on a wide range of issues, including inerrancy, verse by verse Bible exposition, marriage and family, young earth creationism, and eternal conscious torment. However, the Lordship Salvation understanding of saving faith is contrary to the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus and is non-negotiable. There can be no middle ground on faith as simply persuasion, versus faith as commitment, obedience, and perseverance.