What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to
the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast
about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham
believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one
who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the
one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is
counted as righteousness ...
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Understanding John 3:16
Last Thursday, the host of the GES WebBoard, Donald Reiher, commented on one of John MacArthur's posts over on the Pulpit discussion of Lordship Salvation. Thought you'd like to see it if you happened to miss it ;) by Donald Reiher
I would hate to be in a position which holds that any one of the clear presentations of eternal life offered on the basis of faith alone in Christ alone, in John’s Gospel is really incomplete, easily misunderstood, or inadequate to lead even a child to faith in Christ.
I believe that the Bible is the powerful, inspired and inerrant Word of God, and that a basic, childlike understanding of the truth in John 3:16 is able to grant even a child eternal life, and 100% assurance of that fact. The full assurance would be based upon Christ’s promise, and not upon any works they will have to add to that faith . . . including repentance of any kind.
The Word of God, John 3:16 included, is powerful. It does not need the help of Systematic Theology, Philosophy, Church Fathers, Confessions or light from Dr. Hodges, Calvin or any other man to grant eternal life to someone as naive and unsophisticated as a child.
John, I think I can safely say that we in the FG movement appreciate your stance on the Bible such as literal hermeneutic, sound theology, and Bible Exposition through many years, and we applaud that track record. However, it appears of late, you are getting so entrenched in the Reformed/Lordship camp you are leading people towards eisegesis (i.e. reading theology into the text, quoting reformed works), rather encouraging exegesis and inductive study of the Scriptures.
On the other hand, in the FG movement, we encourage careful exegetical study (as L.S. Chafer encouraged), and direct inductive study to check out everything we say. Like the Bereans, we all need to confidently use that practice (carefully and prayerfully) to constantly make corrections to what we hear, no matter who we hear it from. . . even Hodges if necessary. Dr. Hodges would be GREATLY offended if ANYBODY took everything he said as Gospel truth without checking it out on our own. I am not just saying this. . . he and Dr. Wilkin is passionate about that. We don’t just quote. . . we are responsible to check out everything. I don’t hear those words from Reformed/Calvinistic speakers very often! Basically the Westminster Confession of Faith is as authoritative as the Scriptures when I read men like James White. They quote it side by side with Scripture. If you disagree with WCF, then you are wrong, no questions asked.
We will all stand before God some day, and be judged for what we believe, apply and teach. I would rather disagree with what the popular, Biblically illiterate Evangelical community teaches about repentance, and agree with what I find to be true from Spirit led, prayerful, careful, exegetical, inductive study of the Word of God. I am sure you would do the same.
20For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3)
Many Evangelicals have a tendency to complicate saving faith. They frequently assert that saving faith is more than simple 'intellectual assent'.
An important text on the subject of saving faith is John 20:29
John 20:29 'Jesus saith unto him, Thomas because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed.'
In this verse we have the belief of Thomas who saw with his senses and this is equated with that of all believers.
Thomas' belief was simply a passive recognition of what his eyes told him, and what his hands would have told him if he touched Jesus. Was this a cold intellectual faith? Of course not, because that distinction is irrelevant here. Thomas' belief was simply the passive apprehension of truth.
What is truth except a fact, a proposition? Truth is not a theory, it is not an ideal, it is not a whim, a wish or a hope.
The passage goes on to say:
'But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.'
If I read this and believe that it (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) is the truth, that this is a fact, then I shall be saved.
Does the passage explain how to believe it? No. Believing is as simple as my looking out the window and seeing that I am still in Worcester. I see with my eyes and believe this to be the truth, just as Thomas looked at His Lord and saw that He had risen.
Does it require me to search my consciousness to find out whether I am believing it in my soul or my emotions or only in my mind? No. I simply believe that this is the truth. If I believe, then I will be indwellt with the Holy Spirit who will deal with my emotions, provided I surrender them to the Lord. My salvation is in believing.
Thomas looked with His eyes and saw His risen Lord. I look with my eyes at the pages of God's Word and see that my Lord is risen, and thus I can know that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, the one who has granted me eternal life.
I think that some around here have subtly defined "faith" by what response and/or emotion that they deem must ensue.
That would be defining faith in light of its supposed fruit rather than by its constituency.
Now if faith is assurance/certainty, the passive "act" in response to being convinced/persuaded, then one can know if they have faith if they are certain (having been convinced) that a proposition it true.
I love what Gordon Clark says:
"To be sure, some beliefs stir the emotions, but the very sober belief that a man has five fingers on each hand is as much a belief as [being convinced of] some shattering news"
It is not helpful to define faith by its alleged fruits. This tends to obfuscate rather than to clarify.
I was talking to a woman whose 22 year old daughter had a baby with a man 12 years her senior. He turned out to be a real crazy person, and it is alleged that he has sexually absued the baby. If the news came out that this man died, or fell off the face of the earth, the mom of the daughter would experience an emotional reaction upon believing that news quite different than the mother of the father of the child.
Personality is widely subjective, and often our emotions and actions spring from it; have it as their foundation. When foreign elements to belief are imported into its conception, a subjectivity is introduced into it which can rob one of the certainty that is faith!
The only test to whether or not one believes something is if he is certain, having been convinced/persuaded as to the proposition. This is objective and will net results that are the same.
Are we going to say that a woman who is certain that mail will indeed come to her house the next day, yet troubled by it for she deems that most of it will be bills, nevertheless does not believe the proposition that mail will indeed be delivered to her house tomorrow?
I think that one of the reasons we have gone on this roundabout is a confusion between faith and trust.
For some reason the word "trust" is more preferable to some over the word "belief". It is interesting that John the Evangelist in his gospel uses the Greek words pistis/pisteuw (belief/believe) 99 times in his gospel written so that man may have eternal life, and uses the term "trust" only once, and not even in a soteriological aspect.
He did not consider the term "trust" be be superior to "belief".
Trust is specific belief into one or more propositions.
"I trust the airline pilot"
Can be broken up in this way:
I believe that the airline pilot is a professional, highly trained plane operator, skilled in flying, troubleshooting, emergency issues, flight safety, etc. I believe that he is able to conduct affairs sufficiently so that I will reach my destination.
"Trust" in the mind of many here has an added element to "faith" that makes it superior to bare "faith". This element is either an "emotion", a "volition", or a "commitment". Emotion, volition, and commitment may very well follow trust. But at the very moment you define trust by its alleged and supposed fruits, you have added those consequent fruits as a condition for 'faith' being genuine faith, and have destroyed the certainty that faith inherently consists of.
"Trust" is not a superior word to "faith," "belief," or "believe". Trust is a synonym to faith! Often times "trust" denotes faith in the reliability of an object, but it is nothing more!
The words pistis/pisteuw (belief/believe) are the operative words in salvific contexts. Why are we so ambivalent to use them? People know what it means to believe something, they know whether or not they are convinced as to something or not!
Further, I find that much confusion has ensued because of an ambiguity in the exact gospel proposition(s).
John 11:25-26 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Jesus asks Martha if she believes these propositions Jesus has stated concerning Himself. Her response to this is:
John 11:27 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God..."
Her answer directly parallels the thematic statement of the whole epistle:
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
To believe those propositions is to believe that Jesus is the Christ! If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, (in the sense as it has just been defined by John in his evangelistic treatise: that He is the Guarantor of eternal life and resurrection to the believer in Him) you have 'exercised' saving faith!
I frankly am baffled as to why some additional "personal" element is needed. The one who believes, IOW, the one who is certain of Christ's promise is believing Jesus Christ's saving gospel! The only personal element needed is inherent in the promise: "He who believes in Me (IOW what I am saying!)", "whoever... believes in Me". At the moment one believes Christ's promise, His propositions concerning Himself, IOW, is CERTAIN that what He is saying is absolutely true, it is sufficiently personalized, for the believer is included within the sphere of "he who" and "whoever".
Of course it is not wrong nor misleading to ask one who claims that they are certain of Christ's guarantee what they now have. If they do not respond with "eternal life" then it is certain that they do not believe Christ.
Nor is it wrong to "personalize" the message: "Do you believe Christ's promise that guarantees for you eternal life?" But it is not necessary.
The one who believes Christ's promise is certain that Christ guarantees "he who" and "whoever" eternal life, which obviously includes them, for they are believing Christ.
I cannot conceieve of someone saying "I believe Christ's promise, but I don't personally receive Christ's promise." They obviously do not understand the promise then and therefore cannot be believing Christ!
The offer is "believe and YOU HAVE". If you believe then you at that moment HAVE. It is not qualified by any other component; not commitment, not volition, not emotion.
So there are two problems: 1)the word "trust" is given preference over "believe" and 2) there is ambiguity over the proposition, due to inaccurate and misleading analogies.
Thought I’d republish Dr. MacArthur’s post from Pulpit Magazine. But I hope you don't comment here, and just goes over there to do so ;)I appreciated the reasonably peaceable tone with which he framed his comments, and his care in listing the page numbers from So Great a Salvation and Absolutely Free!. Notice his three lists: 9 points of agreement between FG and LS; 9 points where Ryrie disagrees with LS; and 9 where Hodges disagrees with LS. Then he refocuses the debate on faith.
Comparing the No-Lordship Views The 9 specific tenets of lordship salvation have already been outlined in a previous post. So what does the no-lordship camp espouse? They agree with lordship proponents that: (1) Christ’s death purchased eternal salvation; (2) the saved are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone; (3) sinners cannot earn divine favor; (4) God requires no preparatory works or pre-salvation reformation; (5) eternal life is a gift of God; (6) believers are saved before their faith ever produces any righteous works; and (7) Christians can and do sin, sometimes horribly.
But they disagree on other crucial soteriological points. For example, the no-lordship advocates teach that:
1. Repentance is simply a change of mind about Christ (Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 96, 99). In the context of the gospel invitation, repentance is just a synonym for faith (SGS 97–99). No turning from sin is required for salvation (SGS 99). 2. The whole of salvation, including faith, is a gift of God (SGS 96). But faith might not last. A true Christian can completely cease believing (SGS 141). 3. Saving faith is simply being convinced or giving credence to the truth of the gospel (SGS 156). It is confidence that Christ can remove guilt and give eternal life, not a personal commitment to Him (SGS 119). 4. Some spiritual fruit is inevitable in every Christian’s experience. The fruit, however, might not be visible to others (SGS 45). Christians can even lapse into a state of permanent spiritual barrenness (SGS 53–54). 5. Only the judicial aspects of salvation—such as justification, adoption, imputed righteousness, and positional sanctification—are guaranteed for believers in this life (SGS 150–52). Practical sanctification and growth in grace require a postconversion act of dedication. 6. Submission to Christ’s supreme authority as Lord is not germane to the saving transaction (SGS 71–76). Neither dedication nor willingness to be dedicated to Christ are issues in salvation (SGS 74). The news that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead is the complete gospel. Nothing else must be believed for salvation (SGS 40–41). 7. Christians may fall into a state of lifelong carnality. A whole category of “carnal Christians”—born-again people who continuously live like the unsaved—exists in the church (SGS 31, 59–66). 8. Disobedience and prolonged sin are no reason to doubt the reality of one’s faith (SGS 48). 9. A believer may utterly forsake Christ and come to the point of not believing. God has guaranteed that He will not disown those who thus abandon the faith (SGS 141). Those who have once believed are secure forever, even if they turn away (SGS 143).
Some of the more radical advocates of no-lordship doctrine do not stop there. The “Free-Grace” movement further stipulates:
1. Repentance is not essential to the gospel message. In no sense is repentance related to saving faith (Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free, 144–46). 2. Faith is a human act, not a gift from God (AF 219). It occurs in a decisive moment but does not necessarily continue (AF xiv, 107). True faith can be subverted, be overthrown, collapse, or even turn to unbelief (AF 111). 3. To “believe” unto salvation is to believe the facts of the gospel (AF 37–39). “Trusting Jesus” means believing the “saving facts” about Him (AF 39), and to believe those facts is to appropriate the gift of eternal life (AF 40). Those who add any suggestion of commitment have departed from the New Testament idea of salvation (AF 27). 4. Spiritual fruit is not guaranteed in the Christian life (AF 73–75, 119). Some Christians spend their lives in a barren wasteland of defeat, confusion, and every kind of evil (AF 119–25). 5. Heaven is guaranteed to believers (AF 112) but Christian victory is not (AF 118–19). One could even say “the saved” still need salvation (AF 195–99). Christ offers a whole range of postconversion deliverance experiences to supply what Christians lack (AF 196). But these other “salvations” all require the addition of human works, such as obedience, submission, and confession of Jesus as Lord (AF 74, 119, 124–25, 196). Thus God is dependent to some degree on human effort in achieving deliverance from sin in this life (AF 220). 6. Submission is not in any sense a condition for eternal life (AF 172). “Calling on the Lord” means appealing to Him, not submitting to Him (AF 193–95). 7. Nothing guarantees that a true Christian will love God (AF 130–31). Salvation does not necessarily even place the sinner in a right relationship of harmonious fellowship with God (AF 145–60). 8. If people are sure they believe, their faith must be genuine (AF 31). All who claim Christ by faith as Savior—even those involved in serious or prolonged sin—should be assured that they belong to God come what may (AF 32, 93–95). It is dangerous and destructive to question the salvation of professing Christians (AF 18–19, 91–99). The New Testament writers never questioned the reality of their readers’ faith (AF 98). 9. It is possible to experience a moment of faith that guarantees heaven for eternity (AF 107), then to turn away permanently and live a life that is utterly barren of any spiritual fruit (AF 118–19). Genuine believers might even cease to name the name of Christ or confess Christianity (AF 111).
What Is Really at the Heart of the Lordship Debate?
It should be obvious that these are real doctrinal differences; the lordship controversy is not a semantic disagreement. The participants in this debate hold widely differing perspectives. Nevertheless, the issues have often been obscured by semantic distractions, distorted interpretations of lordship teaching, mangled logic, and emotion-laden rhetoric. Often it is easier to misconstrue a point than answer it, and sadly that is the tack many have taken. All it has done is confuse the real issues.
But, to be clear, the lordship controversy is not a dispute about whether salvation is by faith only or by faith plus works. No true Christian would ever suggest that works need to be added to faith in order to secure salvation. No one who properly interprets Scripture would ever propose that human effort or fleshly works can be meritorious —worthy of honor or reward from God.
The lordship controversy is a disagreement over the nature of true faith. Those who want to eliminate Christ’s lordship from the gospel see faith as simple trust in a set of truths about Christ. Faith, as they describe it, is merely a personal appropriation of the promise of eternal life.
But Scripture describes faith as more than that—it is a wholehearted trust in Christ personally (e.g., Gal. 2:16 ; Phil. 3:9 ). Not merely faith about Him; faith in Him. Note the difference: If I say I believe some promise you have made, I am saying far less than if I say I trust you. Believing in a person necessarily involves some degree of commitment. Trusting Christ means placing oneself in His custody for both life and death. It means we rely on His counsel, trust in His goodness, and entrust ourselves for time and eternity to His guardianship. Real faith, saving faith, is all of me (mind, emotions, and will) embracing all of Him (Savior, Advocate, Provider, Sustainer, Counselor, and Lord God).
Those who have such faith will love Christ (Rom. 8:28 ; 1 Cor. 16:22 ; 1 John 4:19). They will therefore want to do His bidding. How could someone who truly believes in Christ continue to defy His authority and pursue what He hates? In this sense, then, the crucial issue for lordship salvation is not merely authority and submission, but the affections of the heart. Jesus as Lord is far more than just an authority figure; He’s also our highest treasure and most precious companion. We obey Him out of sheer delight.
So the gospel demands surrender, not only for authority’s sake, but also because surrender is the believer’s highest joy. Such surrender is not an extraneous adjunct to faith; it is the very essence of believing.
This is the introduction of an article Solifidian referred to in the comments. Dr. Bing wrote it for his newsletter Bible study, GraceNotes, which is also on his website.
There is every reason to think that those who have believed in Jesus Christ as Savior and are consequently born into God’s family will experience a changed life to some degree. Some would say that this changed life is evidenced by good works which proves they are saved. If that is true, then the converse is true: if there are no good works, then there is no salvation. In this view, good works (sometimes called “fruit” or evidence of a changed life) prove or disprove one’s eternal salvation.
Some passages are used to contend that works can prove or disprove one’s eternal salvation. Probably the most common are James 2:14-26, John 15:6, and Matthew 7:15-20. But James is writing to Christians about the usefulness of their faith, not its genuineness. Likewise, in John 15:6 Jesus is talking about fruitless believers and compares them to branches that are burned, in other words, not of much use. Matthew 7:15-20 warns against false prophets (not believers in general) who can be evaluated on the basis of their evil deeds or heretical teaching (not an absence of works in general).
There is no passage of Scripture that claims works can prove salvation. In fact, there are many problems with trying to use works to prove salvation, or the lack of works to disprove salvation.
That was the introduction but I thought the first point of his study was very insightful:
Good works can characterize non-Christians. Works in and of themselves can not prove that anyone is eternally saved because those who have not believed in Christ will often do good things. In fact, good deeds are essential to many non-Christian religions. Sometimes the outward morality of non-Christians exceeds that of established Christians. In Matthew 7:21-23 we see the possibility of those who do not know Christ doing great works, but their works are useless in demonstrating their salvation; they are not saved.
The controversy over "lordship salvation" reached high visibility in 1988 with the publication of John MacArthur's book, The Gospel According to Jesus. Since then the discussion has taken a significant turn. Increasingly the issue of assurance has come to the forefront of the debate.
MacArthur himself published a book on assurance (Saved Without a Doubt, 1992) and returned to the subject again in the volume Faith Works (1993; see pp. 157-73). His view of assurance can hardly be distinguished from the one that has been so prominent in the Puritan and Reformed traditions. In this view, the evidence of good works is an indispensable verification of saving faith. Without works there can be no certainty at all that one is saved.
For instance, MacArthur writes in Faith Works (pp. 171-72): "The evidence we seek through self-examination is nothing other than the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the proof that He resides within. It is on this testimony that our assurance is confirmed."
This way of stating the issue, however, is disingenuous. What would "unconfirmed assurance" be for MacArthur? The answer is that it would be false assurance (see Faith Works, pp. 172-73). The bottom line then is this: Any assurance we think we have could be fallacious unless it is verified by works. But false assurance can be more candidly described as a spiritual delusion. If at the moment of faith I cannot discriminate between true assurance and a spiritual delusion, then clearly works become the true basis for genuine assurance.
The logic of this is inescapable. Under this Puritan view, the man who "thinks" he has believed cannot be sure that he really has done so until he performs works.
From this perspective, the biblical promises that the believer in Christ has eternal life are stripped of their value. Verses like John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; etc. (or even Acts 16:31 or Rom 4:5) contain no adequate basis for assurance at all, for I cannot know if they apply to me unless I do good works. The transparent fallacy in this ought to be evident to all. Instead, by a devious piece of sophistry, we are told that we cannot know that we have truly believed these promises until we produce the fruit of good works.
What results from such a theology is a psychological absurdity. It amounts to this:
A. l think I believe John 3:16, but B. I won't know for sure that I do until I obey God's commands!
If anyone supposes that such ideas are really taught in Scripture, they need to think again. Of course, a person knows whether he believes something or not! When Jesus asked the former blind man, "Do you believe in the Son of God?" he replied quite positively, "Lord, I believe" (John 9:35, 37). And he had not yet done a single good work!
This problem has been glossed over by many evangelicals who ought to think about it more carefully.
In 1986, before I left Dallas Seminary where I had taught for 27 years, I conferred with the new president, Dr. Donald Campbell, in his office. When I was invited by him to express my theological concerns with the Seminary, I referred to Article XI on assurance in the Seminary's doctrinal statement, which reads as follows:
We believe it is the privilege, not only of some, but of all who are born again by the Spirit through faith in Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, to be assured of their salvation from the very day they take Him to be their Savior and that this assurance is not founded upon any fancied discovery of their own worthiness or fitness, but wholly upon the testimony of God in His written Word, exciting within His children filial love, gratitude, and obedience (Luke 10:20; 22:32; 2 Cor 5:1, 6-8; 2 Tim 1:12; Heb 10:22; 1 John 5:13).
In speaking to Dr. Campbell, I emphasized that if good works are an indispensable verification of saving faith, then the Seminary's doctrinal statement could not possibly be true. No one could possibly have real assurance on the very day they trusted Christ since their faith has not vet been "verified" by works. I also indicated to him that I was aware that things were being taught in the classroom that implicitly contradicted Article Xl.
I do not recall Dr. Campbell expressing his own convictions on the points I raised on that occasion. However, in a conversation over breakfast the other day, he made clear to me that he holds that good works are not an indispensable verification of saving faith. I am confident that Dr. Campbell's position on assurance, and that of GES, are the same.
Regrettably, some published materials written by DTS faculty members confirm my earlier concern. First there was Dr. Darrell Bock's review of MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus which showed significant confusion on the subject of assurance (see Bib Sac, Jan-Mar, 1989, pp. 21-40; see my review in the GES Journal, Spring 1989, pp. 79-83 and especially pp. 81-83). Darrell has told me both in person and in writing that his position is "soft lordship" salvation-a view that would have been rejected by the founder and first president of Dallas Seminary, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer.
Second there was Dr. Robert Pyne's recent review of MacArthur's book Faith Works (see Bib Sac, Oct-Dec 1993). In the review, Pyne explicitly agrees with MacArthur's call for both "subjective" (or, "moral"!) and "objective" (or, "doctrinal"!) grounds for assurance, the former being intended (in Pyne's words) "to answer the question, 'Is your faith real'?" Pyne then goes on to say that "MacArthur seems correct in arguing that assurance is not really complete without both elements" (pp. 498-99, italics added).
In our recent conversation, Dr. Campbell and I discussed Pyne's review of MacArthur's Faith Works. Dr. Robert Wilkin had previously critiqued Pyne's stated agreement with MacArthur on assurance in The GES News (Nov-Dec 1993) as being inconsistent with Article XI of the Seminary's doctrinal statement. Dr. Campbell passed on to me several pages from Pyne's notes in his class on soteriology (the theology of salvation). He felt those notes showed agreement with Article XI.
Despite my high personal regard for Dr. Campbell, I cannot agree with him on this. Instead, the notes seem to me to justify Bob Wilkin's criticism. One paragraph from the notes follows:
Ideally, assurance that is grounded in one's belief in the biblical promises is then strengthened by the legitimacy of one's Christian experience. If this is the case, it would not be possible to see either area of testimony as truly complete in the absence of the other. Those who claim to know God might invalidate that claim by their behavior (Titus 1:16), and those who hope for salvation on the basis of their behavior alone have no reason to be confident. The profession of faith is certainly primary (1 John 5:13), but it does not stand alone (James 2:17). [Italics added.]
This is far from clear. It is semantically illicit to call something "assurance" if it is not "truly complete" in the absence of good works and if it "does not stand alone." That would amount to only a tentative conclusion. A tentative conclusion that I am saved, based on God's promises alone, is not the same as assurance.
Further, if people possessing this so-called "assurance" can later "invalidate" it "by their behavior," we are back to square one. The original "assurance" was a delusion which could not be recognized as such apart from subsequent "behavior." Thus any presumed "assurance" at conversion might be delusional and works must become the true basis for knowing whether one's faith is real or not. This is MacArthur's position exactly.
Strictly speaking, Pyne only states that one can "invalidate" his "claim" to know God by subsequent behavior. But presumably Pyne must mean that this "claim" is based on the person's "assurance." If Pyne does not mean that, the confusion is compounded. A reference to a mere "claim" is totally out of place in a discussion on personal assurance.
How then does Pyne differ from MacArthur, with whom he says he agrees on assurance? As far as I can tell, hardly at all. The disclaimer in Pyne's review that "the apparent lack of fruit cannot provide conclusive evidence of an unregenerate position, as MacArthur seems to imply," does not really touch the issue of assurance at all. Could a person without "apparent fruit" possess real assurance on the basis of God's promises alone? If not, neither could he possess it on the day he trusts Christ.
Finally, it is not enough to call "good works" a "secondary" grounds for assurance. Under the pressure of the debate with the Free Grace movement, some Reformed writers are now doing exactly that. But the question at issue remains whether these "secondary" evidences are indispensable to genuine assurance. If someone insists that they are, biblical assurance is still subverted.
My point is this. The evangelical church is both confused and inconsistent in its discussion of the relationship between works and assurance. If such confusion can exist at Dallas Seminary with its crisp and perceptive doctrinal affirmation on assurance, it is no wonder that this confusion is pervasive in the modern church.
With regard to assurance and works, the evangelical community has experienced a theological trainwreck!