On August 3, I wrote a blog about 1 John 1:9 and Major Ian Thomas (MIT). See here. In that blog, I said that MIT said that 1 John 1:9 is a salvation verse, that believers are always in fellowship with God, and that there is a difference between faith in Christ and genuine faith in Christ.
After the blog was posted, I received a nice email from Charlie McCall, who is the Director of His Hill, a Torchbearers center in the Texas Hill Country.i He graciously corrected me regarding MIT’s view of 1 John 1:9. He wrote:
Starting with your second point, it was not responsible or accurate to equate Major’s view on confession and 1 John 1:9 with Bob George on the basis of a forward that Major Thomas wrote. I can tell you that Major Thomas was in such strong opposition to Bob’s views on that verse that he told Bob that if he didn’t stop teaching that Christians don’t need to confess their sin, he would disassociate with him. He made that stance public when he spoke at His Hill (the Torchbearer center that I direct). I am quite certain that you, nor anyone else, ever heard Major Thomas expressing agreement with Bob George on that point.
Furthermore, I know of no one in Torchbearers that would agree with BG on that point.
Additionally, I have no recollection of Major ever saying or writing that a Christian remains in unbroken fellowship with Christ. That would, in fact, be the antithesis of Major’s emphasis on the need to abide in Christ and that the Christian can live a life of abject carnality wherein he is himself the sole explanation of all his activity, precisely because he is not living in fellowship with Christ through dependence upon Him.
Correction Concerning MIT on 1 John 1:9
Since then, I’ve found only one reference to 1 John 1:9 in MIT’s writings. And that reference supports what McCall says. In The Saving Life of Christ (SLC), MIT wrote:
Sin should and must be confessed to God, and restitution made where the Spirit of God demands it, but “the blood of Jesus Christ (God’s) Son cleanseth us from all sin” and “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9) (SLC, p. 94).
In addition, as I read SLC, I found that MIT repeatedly called for Christians to allow Christ to live through them and to experience the fullness of life that He wishes for us. He strongly implies that believers are not always in fellowship with God.
My apologies to the family of MIT, including the Torchbearers family, for inadvertently misrepresenting MIT’s view on 1 John 1:9 and the confession of sins.
Follow-Up Concerning MIT on Genuine Faith
My first point in the August 3 blog was that MIT distinguished between faith and genuine faith and that by doing so, he was inadvertently causing people to doubt their salvation.
Regarding that point, McCall wrote:
Finally, as to your first point about genuine faith, what is the defining issue for you and GES (as I have observed) and therefore, an issue on which you endeavor to be extremely precise, did not, in my opinion, compel and motivate Major as it does you. That should not be interpreted to mean that he would have disagreed with you. Major was very clear that it is the object of our faith that saves. And that is Jesus, exclusively and absolutely.
The heart of the point that Major was making is that if you have been saved, your “subsequent attitude” does not change the fact that you have been irrevocably sealed. I would think that you would stand up and cheer at that statement. It is squarely in line with what you have so rightly emphasized over all the years that I have read your blogs and your books. Instead, you made a major point (no pun intended) of what was not the main point that Major Thomas was making.
Ian Thomas was not the Greek scholar or academic that you are. Very few people are. But he was crystal clear that faith alone in Christ alone is the only basis for salvation.
As I read through SLC, I did find many places in which he indicated that one’s “subsequent attitude” about Christ, as Major Thomas put it, did not mean that the person was unsaved. McCall’s point was well taken. I also found many places in which MIT endorsed the notion of faith alone in Christ alone as the only basis of salvation.
However, my point in the blog was not about MIT’s view regarding a person’s subsequent attitude after he believes in Jesus for everlasting life. My point was about his view of one’s attitude when he first believes in Jesus for his salvation.
I found several places where MIT made statements about saving faith that were confusing at best and promoting a mild form of Lordship Salvation at worst. Here is an example:
This is what makes the Gospel at once so urgent! Mental assent is not enough—a moral choice is imperative! Christ is God’s last word to man and God’s last word to you, and He demands an answer.
Your response to Jesus Christ will determine your condition in the sight of God—redeemed or condemned! (The Saving Life of Christ, [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961, p. 12]).
Another example of a statement by MIT that sounds like mild Lordship Salvation is this one:
The claim that you are in Christ Jesus and under no condemnation because you have been redeemed is only valid if it is vindicated by a walk that indicates your new relationship to God.
I know of no gospel in the Bible that offers you salvation from the condemnation of your sins that does not at the same time demand a radical change of walk! (SLC, p. 43).
I hope to study MIT’s writings more in the future.
i He gave permission to quote from his email.