Last week I wrote a blog on the role of prayer in Bible interpretation (see here). I quoted three women who said in various ways that we should ask God to open our eyes to His Word. Yet at least two of the three, or more likely, all three, hold to Lordship Salvation. So far today I have questions from three different people about what I wrote:
1. While I agree with everything you have written, I find myself seriously perplexed by the apparent diversity of guidance which God gives to those who ask Him for it. If people from communities as diverse as Charismatic, Calvinist, Free Grace, Arminian (and many others) all ask the same God for the same guidance….well, what gives here? Surely, He is not guiding people into different directions. So then, why such disagreement over so many core issues? Where’s the guidance?
2. I enjoyed reading today’s blog post, The Role of Prayer in Bible Study. I agree that a person’s ability to comprehend the Scriptures is directly related to and entirely dependent on God’s opening of the person’s understanding. Thus, it seems to make sense that one should ask God to open his or her understanding of His Word, although the record in Luke 24 does not reflect that the disciples (who received such understanding) asked God to do so. Are you aware of any Scripture verses instructing believers to pray for such understanding? I would find such verses encouraging.
You stated that Kay Arthur said, “I begin with prayer, asking God to speak to me, to direct me to the book he wants me to study and to help me understand it” (p. 14). Beth Moore wrote, “I ask God to grant me a supernatural love for him and his word” (p. 16). Then of Elyse Fitzpatrick, you stated, “I love these words from her: ‘First, ask the Holy Spirit to illumine your heart to the truth that is there in that passage’ (p. 35).”
Ms. Arthur’s approach appears to be that of contemplative prayer. Are we instructed by Scripture to ask God to speak to us? Hasn’t He already done so in His Word? Her approach seems to put personal experience in the driver’s seat of determining truth.
Concerning Ms. Moore’s approach, rather than asking God for a “supernatural love for him and his word,” isn’t love for God developed in a believer as he or she obeys His Word and reads it regularly?
Lastly, concerning Ms. Fitzpatrick’s approach, I’m not aware that believers are instructed by Scripture to pray to the Holy Spirit.
3. Why is it that these women you quoted, even with their high regard for the importance of asking God in prayer to teach them truth (which I’m convinced they do with earnestness and fervor), still end up holding to the doctrines of Lordship Salvation, which you, I, and others consider to be unbiblical views of God’s way of salvation? This very same question would apply to all who adhere to and promote Lordship Salvation teachings, whether they are prominent, high profile individuals or not.
I believe that if one’s fervent and earnest prayers for God’s illumination is not coupled with a genuinely open mind and a willing and teachable spirit, (like the fair-minded Bereans who readily received the word of truth from Paul and Silas and searched the Scriptures for affirmation in Acts 17:10-11), the Holy Spirit’s provision of truth is subconsciously subverted. I also believe that one’s erroneous preconceptions and presumptions about salvation (which are not limited only to the Lordship Salvation error) can cloud and hinder the study and learning process of Biblical truth.
On the other hand, I also believe without question or doubt, that the Holy Spirit can overcome these hindrances. My question is this. If the genuineness and sincerity of one’s willingness and openness to be taught is the caveat for learning the truth, why doesn’t God take away the blindness and fogginess of anyone who is steeped in error? Are we to conclude that the high-profile ladies mentioned in your blog and others in the Lordship Salvation camp do not truly have a genuine and sincere desire to learn God’s truth?
I have some hesitations in believing that premise because of my experiences. In discussing and studying Free Grace (FG) tenets with some people whom I have known for decades in the Lordship Salvation (LS) camp, some have abandoned and rejected LS theology and have embraced FG teachings. However, there are also some that have rejected FG and have stayed steeped in their LS beliefs.
Wow. Great comments and questions.
First, I did some research and it does appear that Kay Arthur may embrace some aspects of contemplative spirituality. If so, what she wrote may not mean precisely what I took it to mean. I just don’t know enough about her theology to say.
Second, I think Beth Moore’s request was a genuine one. But I agree that love for God’s Word is not as simple as praying a prayer. We certainly must be open to what God says. Peter says we are to “long for the pure milk of the Word” (1 Pet 2:2). More about openness soon.
Third, we are neither commanded nor forbidden to pray directly to the Holy Spirit. See this article for more details. So, I really don’t have a problem with direct prayer to God the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, I think the answer is found in the remarks of person number 3 above. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). Lordship Salvation people misunderstand God’s Word on one of the most fundamental doctrines of the faith, justification by faith alone. Therefore, I would say that anyone who holds to Lordship Salvation is not open and teachable. They may become so in time. But while they are holding to it, they are closed and unteachable.
Remember that the Lord often said that Israel was stiff-necked. Those are people who will not listen. He also said that they need to circumcise their hearts, that is, the inner self which responds to God’s Word.
There are only two places in the NT where we read that people searched the Scriptures. One is the great example of the Bereans. See Acts 17:11. The other is the sad example of legalistic Jews during the ministry of Jesus. See John 5:39-40. There the Lord says, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you have life.”
While the situation with Lordship Salvation advocates is a bit different from the first century Jews who rejected Jesus in an outright manner, the Lordship Salvation folks suffer from the same disease. They believe that Jesus is the Christ, but only in their own mistaken understanding. They do not understand John 11:25-27 and John 20:31 which explain what “the Christ, the Son of God” means in a salvific sense.
They are not willing to come to Jesus as the One who guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it. To them that is easy believism and cheap grace. So, their searching of Scripture does not benefit them because they keep looking in Scripture for evidence that they are keeping the commandments well enough to prove that they are truly born again. Of course, that is essentially what the scribes and Pharisees did.
Please do not think that I am saying that all Lordship Salvation people, or even the three women I quoted, are unregenerate. Lordship Salvation people do not believe the saving message right now. But, many of them believed it in the past and hence are still born again. Perseverance in sound theology is not required to keep everlasting life (John 11:26). And some Lordship Salvation people will believe the promise of everlasting life in the future.
I agree with all three correspondents above that if anyone is genuinely open and teachable and seeking the truth, then God will reveal it to him or her, especially the promise of everlasting life to the believer.