This is a wonderful expose’ of “Lordship Salvation,” by my friend Bruce Bauer. He exposes the lie and strips the false teaching down to its barren roots. [Excerpt]: “Some Christians live in a constant state of tension and dread, always ill at ease, restless, uncertain, never knowing when they’ve done enough; they’re never quite able to get a grasp on assurance.” Read on and be enlightened.
By: Bruce Bauer, Lancaster, CA
Recently I attended the funeral of an elderly Mormon lady, a dear friend of mine and of my family’s for several decades. I’ll refer to her as “Jane.” In one of the eulogies given the speaker commented that in her dying days Jane had expressed fears that her church tithes might not have been paid up to date. As I pondered what had just been said, I thought, how tragic, how sad that a person should have to live in such bondage, doubt and fear right up to the point of death. I silently felt grateful to God that at least we, as evangelical Christians, don’t have to live our lives in such enslavement to duty shrouded by panic and uncertainty of salvation. My thoughts raced to John 10:27-30: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” [NIV as are all refs.][i] I rejoiced in the warm snuggling grasp of our Lord’s hands, saving and preserving each and every person who comes to salvation by faith in Christ alone. But, I reflected, don’t many Christians live out their lives under precisely the same cloud of insecurity, apprehension and angst experienced by Jane? Do all evangelicals really act so differently than she?
What, then, is the defining distinctive hallmark that sets evangelical Christianity apart from Mormonism, the JWs, Roman Catholicism, and indeed, every other religious belief system? Free Grace theology states it best: “We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Every other religious structure has a works-based salvation plan at its core. But aren’t many evangelical writers and pastors guilty of promoting a similar type of works-for-salvation system of their own? Certainly, proponents of Lordship Salvation have been accused of teaching just such a salvation plan despite their vehement denials. Much has been written on this debate. I will not rehash it here; however, this paper will describe some of the pernicious fallout of Lordship Salvation teaching on the lives of believers especially and on some unbelievers as well. For additional study of the Lordship debate, I refer the reader to some of the best works that I have read on the subject: 1. Charles C. Bing, Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response, GraceLife Edition (Burleson, TX: GraceLife Ministries, 1992, 1997). 2. Fred Chay and John P. Correia, The Faith that Saves: The Nature of Faith in the New Testament (Phoenix, AZ: Grace Line, Inc., 2008). 3. Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation (Chicago: Moody Press, SP Publications, 1989, 1997). 4. Fred R. Lybrand, Back to Faith: Reclaiming Gospel Clarity in an Age of Incongruence (San Antonio, TX: Fred R. Lybrand, Xulon Press, 2009). 5. Thomas M. Cucuzza, Secure Forever! God’s Promise or Our Perseverance? (St. Cloud, MN: Thomas M. Cucuzza, Xulon Press, 2007). 6. Lou Martuneac, In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation (LaVergne, TN: Lou Martuneac, Xulon Press, 2006, 2010).
The Fallout of Lordship Faith Teaching
Battered! The Father Serra Syndrome
Father Junipero Serra was an 18th century Franciscan priest who is famous for founding the Roman Catholic mission system throughout western Mexico and California. He is known to have been a flagelist, that is, one who would regularly pummel himself with a whip in order to exorcise his personal demons (sinful thoughts and attitudes). In a California history course in college, I learned that on more than one occasion Father Serra had to be physically restrained by his assistants to prevent him from flogging himself to death.
Do some Christians today beat themselves up as Father Serra did? Oh, maybe they don’t do so physically, but do they torment themselves mentally and emotionally over their struggles with sin? Listen to the following composite of one who is caught up in such a pattern of conflicted self-deprecating thinking: “James is a young man with a different set of problems, the greatest one being lust. Though he has never actually committed fornication, James struggles continually with impure thoughts. He lives in dread that his Christian friends will discover what is happening inside his brain. Attached to this mental impurity is a sense of deep shame, a shame that permeates his feelings about himself and his position before God.”[ii] James desperately needs a regular healthy dosage of the preaching of God’s abundant awesome gift of grace in the believer’s life. He also would benefit tremendously by the warm understanding embrace of fellow Christian brothers and sisters.
The teaching and preaching of Lordship Salvation can foster a tremendous state of anxiety and doubt for some believers because its precepts demand a high level of purity of thought and lifestyle undergirded by the constant threat of not having been blameless enough or virtuous enough to merit salvation. Recently I witnessed a heart-wrenching testimony from a young Christian man whose assurance of salvation was decimated by the reading of a best-selling book which promulgates a very condemning form of Lordship Salvation doctrine. Out of respect for the young man I’ll share just a brief portion of what he said without giving his name: “there is no hope for most of us to ever be like the one who is not lukewarm. There is no hope for me anymore, for I thought I was a Christian for over 15 years, but I am according to the scriptures ‘lukewarm’ and will not be accepted into heaven . . . . May God have mercy on us all . . . .” Hearing a sad profession such as this reminds me of why it is so crucial for Free Grace teachers and writers to proclaim strongly the message of God’s grace and to counter the harmful repercussions of Lordship Faith preaching. I wonder if any of these popular Lordship pastors and writers ever pause to consider the fallout, the damage and pain that they might potentially inflict through preaching and publishing their judgmental diatribes. Who will pick up the broken pieces of shattered lives?
Driven! When is Enough Enough?
Some Christians live in a constant state of tension and dread, always ill at ease, restless, uncertain, never knowing when they’ve done enough; they’re never quite able to get a grasp on assurance. One of the consistent marks of Lordship Faith teaching is that it sets very lofty (some would say unattainable) standards of normative Christian achievement. After all, their teachers might say, didn’t Jesus establish the ideals for us in the Sermon on the Mount? Pity the average churchgoer who may not appear to be very dedicated to God or to be very active in serving him. She might find herself listed among the ranks of the half-hearted or, dare I say, the “lukewarm”; if so, certain Lordship Faith leaders would almost certainly brand her as unsaved. But who sets the criteria for Christian attainment and who gauges the hearts and motivations of the congregation? How many years must one actively serve God? Ten, twenty, thirty, fifty? Must good works be obvious to men or can they be quietly noticeable before God? Are any periods of failing allowed? For how long? Is working in a secular job acceptable or must one quit her job and go to the mission field? Do true “on-fire” believers have to sell their fancy cars and houses and live like paupers? The questions are endless and the answers are few. And, one of the saddest questions of all is, how many unbelievers are put off by Lordship teachers’ unreasonable up-front demands of commitment, surrender and change of lifestyle in order for one to be allowed into the kingdom? Rather, shouldn’t Christians be giving them the good news, the grace news of John 3:16, Acts 16:30-31 and Ephesians 2:8-9?
Listen to the story of a driven believer: “Betty is as reliable as Mother Teresa, as dedicated to Christ as one can be. . . . But no matter how much Betty does, she always feels she’s not doing enough, because she also feels that somehow she isn’t quite pleasing God. This haunting sense of God’s disapproval drives her from Bible study to prayer group, from buying each ‘New and Improved System for Personal Devotions’ at her local Christian bookstore and joining every church outreach program to standing at every opportunity to recommit her life to Christ. In spite of her ‘gold-medal performance’ as a Christian, Betty continues to feel that God considers her a failure.”[iii] Is this really the way that God wants Christians to live? Wouldn’t God want us to live lives characterized by confidence, freedom and grace?….