MacArthur redefines fiducia by turning the volitional component of justifying faith into something other than child like receiving and resting in Christ for salvation. For MacArthur fiducia is not the disposition of trust in Christ (or to believe into Christ) but rather the work of bringing our righteous to Christ in deeds of forsaking, commitment and surrender.
In this post I addressed the aberrant view that justifying faith is assent alone apart from trusting in Christ. Therein I made a passing reference to another extreme view of faith – the “Lordship Salvation” gospel whose advocates not only define justifying faith without reference to the Reformed view of trust, but also add forsaking oneself, commitment of life and surrender to justifying faith, which in turn eclipses the gospel by confusing how one might appropriate Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel.
It is notable that John MacArthur, the most significant proponent of this view, does not subscribe to historical Reformed theology. In that respect, MacArthur is unchecked with respect to confessional theology in the Reformed tradition. Aside from having a baptistic ecclesiology and a dispensational view of the covenants, MacArthur has gotten the doctrines of justification and justifying faith wrong. I address those errors here.
Saving Faith According to John MacArthur:
Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion; it is the sine qua non of saving faith. (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 142)
By “saving faith” MacArthur means justifying faith. We may infer this because he is speaking of the faith that is tied to conversion. Accordingly, sanctifying or persevering faith is not in view. What is also noteworthy is MacArthur cites “forsaking oneself” as an essential element of justifying faith, which is radically different than how the Reformed tradition defines justifying faith:
Justifying faith is a saving grace wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation. Westminster Larger Catechism, #72 What is justifying faith?
The most significant Confession in the history of the Protestant tradition defines the faith that justifies differently than MacArthur. At the heart of justifying faith is receiving and resting upon Christ, which is absent in MacArthur’s ordo salutis. Worse more, to add forsaking one’s life to the simplicity of faith is another gospel because it adds works to justifying faith. But not only does MacArthur add forsaking one’s life to faith, he also asserts that personal commitment is essential to justifying faith.
Commitment is the disputed element of faith around which the lordship controversy swirls. No-lordship theology denies that believing in Christ involves any element of personal commitment to Him. (Faith Works, The Gospel According To The Apostles, p. 43-44)
MacArthur contends that justifying faith, the faith that appropriates the benefits of Christ, entails “forsaking oneself” and “commitment.” It is not MacArthur but the Westminster Shorter Catechism that has it right when it states:
Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, he is offered in the gospel.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, #86 What is faith in Jesus Christ?)
It escapes MacArthur that personal commitment and forsaking one’s life are works of righteousness, which if done in faith are fruits of sanctification and not elements (or principal acts) of justifying faith. MacArthur seems to miss that justifying faith is merely an instrument by which the unrighteous lay hold of Christ’s righteousness. (Westminster Shorter Catechism #73)