Message 4, Questions & Answers with Lawson, MacArthur, Mohler, and Sproul:
A questions and answers session with Drs. Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler and R.C. Sproul.
- Dr. MacArthur, can you tell us about the Shepherds Conference? (1:09)
- How do you explain the term “Reformed” to a someone unfamiliar to Reformed teaching? (2:34)
- Is our still heart deceitfully wicked after we are born again? (4:47)
- How should I share the gospel when it could cost me my job? (7:08)
- Is it biblical to say God “loves you” to believers and nonbelievers alike? (9:32)
- What does it mean when we confess that Jesus has a reasonable soul? (13:05)
- Dr. MacArthur, you spoke at 2016 Shepherds Conference about clergy malpractice. What did you mean by that? (17:08)
- How can I best prepare students to live their faith out in public schools? (19:17)
- How do I counsel a Reformed mother who is married to a Roman Catholic? (22:25)
- With the rise of seeker-sensitive churches, how do we understand biblically ‘seeking’ God? (25:02)
- How do you define a false teacher? How much error is needed before they are considered false? (32:23)
- How is the current cultural climate forcing the “mushy middle” out of the church? (35:55)
- Giving the failure of ecumenical movements, how do you promote unity in doctrine? (37:59)
Note: Answers given during Panel Discussions reflect the views of the individual speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dr. R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries. Here is our Statement of Faith.
LARSON: Well, the Q&A time is something — particularly for you first-time attendees — that we really enjoy doing with all of our guest speakers, our teachers, that have gathered here. And, it’s an informal time of discussion and back and forth. These are questions that you’ve written and submitted. There is no way that we can get to all that you’ve provided to us, but we try and be as judicious as possible with the time allotted to us. And would you join me in welcoming first-time to the platform today, Dr. Sproul, Dr. MacArthur, and Dr. Mohler, and Dr. Lawson.
We’ll, we’re going to jump right in, but Dr. Sproul, Dr. Mohler, Dr. Lawson, Dr. MacArthur, it’s so good for you all to be here with us. I’m very grateful for you making this journey. Dr. MacArthur, we know that you had a wonderful conference last week at the Shepherds’ Conference. Can you tell, just the folks there, just, tell them a little bit about how many people came and from how many different countries?
MACARTHUR: Thank you, Chris. We had about 5,000 plus about 1,100 of our church volunteers, so 6,000 or so people running around campus from about 70 nations of the world. It was amazing. It was being translated on campus as well as livestream into multiple languages, because there were different language speakers on the campus. Just a tremendous opportunity.
The theme was ‘We Preach Christ.’ There were, by the time we hit Sunday, 17 separate preaching services, and every one of them exalted Christ. It was just a — we all felt like we had gone to the Mount of Transfiguration, and we wanted to build booths and live there.
LARSON: So you’ve gone from glory to glory now, at Ligonier. Right? Yes.
MACARTHUR: Glory to glory, yeah. No, no, this is just — this is the lateral move.
LARSON: Alright. We’re going to jump right in. Not directed to any one particular teacher today, but, “How do you explain the term ‘Reformed’ to a person unfamiliar with Reformed teaching?”
LAWSON: Well, I think when we say ‘Reformed’ we simply mean biblical. That we have come back to the Bible, and allow the Bible to frame our doctrine, and, of course, Dr. Sproul has an entire book on what is Reformed theology, and he has five hallmarks of Reformed theology.
I would say certainly the foundation is the authority of Scripture alone and the highest pinnacle is the glory of God above all things, and it was a recovery — or Reformed truth is the purity of the gospel: How sinful man can be right with holy God. And, as well as, as what we heard today earlier from Dr. Ferguson, a restoration of the purity of worship in spirit and in truth.
Certainly the five ‘solas’ and the five points of the doctrines of grace are certainly in that mix as well. So when I think of Reformed, in essence, God formed the truth, and then the truth became deformed by false teachers, or tradition and ecclesiastical hierarchy became the authority and Reformed is to simply bring it back to where God formed it. So, man, by his failure to properly teach the Bible deformed it and the Reformers simply put it back to the form as God had originally given it.
LARSON: “Is our heart still deceitful above all things and desperately sick after we are born again?” Referencing Jeremiah 17:9?
MOHLER: I think the answer has to be yes and no. I mean, first of all we understand immediately why the unregenerate heart is desperately wicked and beyond our understanding. That’s how we can understand and interpret the headlines around us. Frankly, that’s how we can understand the mirror in front of us.
It is the knowledge of a depravity, the heart as the seat of sin. And so we can thoroughly understand that in terms of the unregenerate heart. It has to be affirmed comprehensively. Desperately wicked. Who can understand it? Deceitful.
But even as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ — and remember a part of the new covenant is being promised a new heart. So, in one sense the answer is no. It’s not the same heart. This is a heart that has been converted. It’s a heart that is regenerated. It’s new. It’s a new heart. But sanctification’s a process. Justification’s punctiliar. Sanctification is a process and sanctification’s not an end unto itself. Our sanctification’s only completed in our glorification and that is yet to come.
It’s accomplished in Christ, as Paul makes clear in Romans chapter 8, but applied to us it’s something for which we are still waiting, and so our heart can still deceive us, and we as Christians, perhaps as a sign of maturity, not of immaturity, understand, that at times we can’t explain our own heart.
But those who have a new heart in Christ know that we are to guard against our heart leading us astray and instead to lean into Jesus and to obey Christ and to obey His Word. So there’s a distinction, but I think, in some sense, the answer to that has to be yes and no, but thanks be to God the final verdict is no.
LARSON: “How should I share the gospel when it could cost me my job?”
MACARTHUR: Well, I can jump in while they’re just kind of giving me a little pause here. I think you want to honor God. You want to be faithful to the gospel, but you don’t want to be foolish. You want to be responsible. You want to take the long view and not the short view. You have a responsibility to provide for your family. If you don’t do that you’re worse than an infidel.
You also have a responsibility, and this is explicit both in Colossians and Ephesians, that you submit yourself to your master, whoever your boss is, whoever is over you. You don’t overturn that submission. You don’t run roughshod over that submission in some ill-conceived effort to fulfill the Great Commission.
I think you want to be as wise as you can be, and as submissive as you can be. And I would just encourage you to make those kinds of opportunities sort of dependent on the Lord opening a door for you on a personal level. If you ask the Lord to give you opportunity, I’m sure that that opportunity may arise, but I think it’s irresponsible for you to overthrow your other Christian responsibilities and duties as somebody who’s employed by someone, gainfully employed, taking their money and their resources with the expectation that you’re going to perform according to the, you know, whatever the standard of that organization is, and reserve the opportunity to communicate the gospel for those times when it’s right and the door is sensibly opened.
And again, you should be helped along with this by realizing that the Lord again will draw His own. He will draw His own to Him and He will find someone to communicate the gospel to them. You just want to be the one ready and eager when that door is opened in a responsible and gracious way to exercise that privilege.
LARSON: “Often I hear the phrase, ‘God loves you,’ proclaimed to a group of people, which may include both Christians and non-Christians. Is this biblical to say that phrase to just anyone?”
SPROUL: Well, when we look at the concept of the love of God in Scripture we see distinctions that have to be made. Historically and theologically we distinguish among three types of divine love. There is the love of benevolence, where God has a kind spirit to the whole world and His benevolent will, His benevolent love falls on everybody.
But there’s also the sense in which the Bible — the love of God is defined in terms of God’s beneficence. That is, that’s not just simply what His attitude is towards the world, but how He displays that goodness universally. The rain falls upon the just, as well as on the unjust, and so that universal dimension of the love of God is manifest.
But usually when we’re talking about the love of God in popular language, what really is — what we’re talking about is what we call God’s love of complacency. And that term, ‘the love of complacency,’ is not used in the way in which we use the term complacency in our age, in our culture. Our term of complacency means smugness, self-satisfaction. That sort of thing. But rather when the Scriptures indicate the love of complacency, it’s that special love that God has for His Son and all of those who are in His Son and who are adopted into His family.
And if we talk about the love of God and His terms of the love of complacency, and talk about it universally, that’s blasphemy, because God does not love the whole world in the love of complacency. The fact the Scriptures tell us that there are many ways in which God is at enmity with the world. He hates the world. He hates those who are swift to shed blood, and we have to take that into account.
When I hear preachers stand up and say that God loves everybody unconditionally, I want to scream and say, “Wait a minute, then why does He call us to repent? Why does He call us to come to the cross? Why does He call us to come to Christ? If God loves everybody unconditionally then you can do whatever you want and believe whatever you think, and — but that’s just not true, that God loves us — He’s placed an absolute condition by which He requires.
He doesn’t just invite people to come to His Son, He commands all men everywhere to repent of their sins and to come to Christ, and if you want to enjoy the love of complacency, you have to be in Christ.
LARSON: “What does it mean when we confess that Jesus has a reasonable soul?”
SPROUL: When we say that Jesus has a reasonable we simply mean by that that touching His human nature He is a duality. He’s body and soul as all human beings are, and that that soul is rational and that — and when we talk about — in that sense the term ‘soul’ is virtually interchangeable with the word ‘mind,’ and God has created us in our image. God Himself is a rational being, and God has planted within the soul or mind of every creature that He has made the capacity for reasonable discourse and thinking.
And I know we live in a time that is one of the most anti-rational and anti-intellectual periods of the history of the church.
Not that people are opposed to academics or science — people love academic pursuits and investigation, scientific inquiry. But it’s anti the mind. Anti being rational.
People think that Aristotle, for example, invented logic. Aristotle didn’t invent logic. God did, and that what Aristotle, I mean, Aristotle no more invented logic than Columbus invented America. He discovered it. He found it. And you know, the late Christian philosopher — not Van Til, but the other one, Gordon Clark. When he exegetes John 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,” and so on. It’s “En arche, ein ho logos.”
And actually Gordon Clark interpreted that, or translated it. “In the beginning was logic, and logic was with God, and logic was God, in the sense that the — that rationality has it’s foundation in the divine mind itself, and that that rationality is a communicable attribute of God that in His creatures we also have the capacity for reasonable thinking.
MACARTHUR: But don’t you think also that it’s also trying to say that He was not a human shell with only a divine mind?
SPROUL: He had a human mind.
MACARTHUR: He had a human mind.
SPROUL: Right, with the all the limitations of human thinking.
MACARTHUR: Right, right.
SPROUL: That in touching His human nature He was not omniscient. Touching His divine nature He was absolutely omniscient, but we can’t separate those, but we must distinguish them or all kinds of mischief takes place.
MACARTHUR: Fully God, fully man, with all the reasonableness of man.
SPROUL: Well, I prefer truly God and truly man, because it can be confused, and when you say that Jesus was fully God and fully man, if you mean by that, that that one person was absolutely, totally God, and that’s all, then you’d be denying His own humanity. Or if you say He was fully man, then there’s no room for His deity. That’s why we like to say ‘Vera Homo, Vera Deus.’ Truly God, truly man. You’re with me on that.
MACARTHUR: That’s what I meant. That’s what I meant.
SPROUL: I knew that’s what you meant. Why, Johnny Mac, do you always make me have to define what you meant?
LAWSON: John, he’s corrected me in a Q&A on this very point before, so I —
LARSON: Dr. MacArthur, you spoke in your 2016 Shepherds’ Conference message about clergy malpractice. Can you tell us what you meant by that?
MACARTHUR: What year is this?
Yeah, any failure on the part of a pastor, an under-shepherd of Christ to lead His church in a way that is not sound in doctrine and practice, is in itself a form of clergy malpractice.
Clergy malpractice. I went through a clergy malpractice lawsuit that lasted 10 years. Ended up in the United States Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court ruled in our favor. That was a legal experience of what the courts called clergy malpractice, and they exonerated us from the accusation that we had committed clergy malpractice, by preaching about sin and judgment, which they said — the plaintiff said, had exacerbated someone’s precondition to feeling guilty that led to that person’s suicide, so that we were responsible for his suicide.
The lawsuit went for ten years. It went through all kinds of courts. I gave testimony on the stand and courts, it went to appellate courts. It went all the way to the US Supreme Court.
That is the opposite of clergy malpractice. That is doing what you must do which is to declare the truth in preaching and in practice. That you have to be faithful to the Word of God, and, I mean, where would you even begin to catalog all of the clergy malpractice going on all over the place today. Bad theology and bad practice combined together, it is pandemic.
LARSON: This person writes in and says, “I’m an eighth grade teacher in Christian school. How can I best prepare students as they head to public schools to defend and live their faith out, 1 Peter 3:15?”
MOHLER: That is a really sweet question, and there has to be a special crown for anyone teaching 13-year olds in the school. That’s just magnificent, and for a teacher to have this godly concern about how to prepare those students, knowing they’re on the threshold of something really big. Aristotle’s been quoted once. I’ll go back to him.
Aristotle, I’ll paraphrase here, basically said there’re two points. He’s speaking of men, who are the boys who are his students. He said there’re two times to get a boys’ attention and that is between the ages of one to five, and then between the ages of fifteen to twenty. After that he’s a lost cause, said Aristotle.
But you understand that those are two very formative periods. You know, the period from one to five is when a child learns his or her place in the world. Identity and leaves with the world picture. A world picture. The Germans were good at making these words very clear. But when a child leaves high school, he or she has a worldview. Those are two different things.
The difference is the complex analytical capacity that comes in adolescence. The ability to understand one mind among other minds. To understand that what this child has received from mom and dad is not exactly what everyone else receives from their mom and dad. What they receive from the preacher is not what others are hearing. There are alternative worldviews.
So, I would simply say that there’s an offensive and a defensive play here. Both of them are very important.
Offensively, we need to help students when they’re 13 to understand how to judge other truth claims and worldviews, because they’re going to be inundated with them by the unchanging authority of God’s Word. Build in them in so far as there is your possibility and instinct to turn to the Word of God and to trust the Word of God. There’s no way you can comprehensively prepare them for all the intellectual challenges they’re going to face, but you can at least model for them what it means to trust in Scripture and to know that there is a way of understanding all truth that is accountable to God.
And then defensive, it’s very important. Their hearts. It’s not just their minds, it’s their hearts, and you know, to talk to a 13 year-old, and let them know a battle for their minds in ensuing but also a battle for their hearts. And, so the defensive play is not only as you pray for them and not only is you teach them, but also just to help them to understand your joy in Christ, because there’re all kinds of competing affections that are going to be presented to them very, very quickly. Let your affection for Christ be something that they remember.
LARSON: “How would you counsel a wife of Reformed faith married to a staunch Roman Catholic, particularly as it relates to teaching their two children the true Word of God and raising them to know, love, and serve God?”
MACARTHUR: Well, I guess I live in that world a lot, because Southern California’s so many Hispanic people there, and it’s very common. And even some people from Asia, who have been raised as Catholics — we see a spouse coming to Christ, and that is a very, very common kind of experience.
And it takes all kinds of forms. Sometimes they shut them out of the church. They won’t allow them to come. They won’t allow them to read the Bible in the house. They won’t allow them to communicate the gospel openly to the kids. In other cases, they’re indifferent, and that takes different form in just about every single case that you work with.
But again, the balance is, you know, 1 Peter, you win your unbelieving husband by being a submissive wife, but at the same time, you also have a higher standard than that, as the apostles said, when they told them to stop preaching, “Who do we obey, you or God?” You know, I have to — I must obey God, but you’ve got to demonstrate, I think, as a spouse that your obedience to God makes you a better wife to him in every area and every way, and a better mother in every way. I think that’s what has to be demonstrated. Not that you’re some kind of an antagonist in the family, and that’s the balance, and that takes some of the gentleness of the Holy Spirit to do.
At the same time that you give honor to the husband, and teach your children to respect the husband, because that’s an ordered home and that’s necessary if they’re going to any place in life and the future that provides any kind of success for them. But at the same time, behind that you’ve got to communicate the need to pray for this unconverted husband, because the issue here is, you know, we love daddy, but he needs Jesus Christ, and while he may resist the wife’s pleas, I think that the pleas of the children, and the prayers of the children are pretty powerful influences.
So that’s kind of the general instruction that we would give to people in that situation, although they’re very different in each case.
LARSON: “Act 17:27 refers to mankind seeking God and finding Him, but other passages state that man cannot seek God. With the rise of seeker churches, how should we understand biblically ‘seeking God?’”
SPROUL: Well, when you talk about Acts 17 and Paul at the Areopagus, and he talks about quoting some of the pagan poets and everything, and talks about people groping after God. They have the statute to the unknown god, and in one sense they’re seeking Him.
On the other sense, when you’re talking didactically when the apostle spells it out specifically, what the natural human condition is, quoting the psalm, and adding to with the fullness of it, the Apostle Paul makes it very clear that no one — that’s a universal negative — no one in their natural state seeks after God.
Now, Thomas Aquinas had to answer this question centuries ago. “Why is it that it seems to us that people all around us who are not believers in Christ or not Christians, seem to be seeking after God, when the Apostle says so clearly that no man seeks after God?” And Aquinas answered the question this way, which I think was a correct answer, he said, “What we observe is people seeking things that only God can give them.”
From our perspective we know that the only way they’re ever going to feel relief from their guilt, is if they come to Christ. We know that if they’re ever going to find peace ultimately, it’s going to be in Christ. We know that if they’re ever going to find meaning and significance for their existence, it’s only going to be in Christ. Without Christ they’re without hope. But they are looking all over the place for the things that only God can give them. That is, the benefits that God gives, while at the very same time are fleeing with all of their strength and might from Him. From the being of God.
So, if you want to have a seeker-sensitive church, that what that means, biblically, is that you organize and structure your worship and your church and your program for Christians, because the reason why churches exist in the first place are not for evangelism.
They’re for worship and for the gathering together of the saints, to apply themselves to the study of the Word of God, to prayer, and to fellowship, and the Lord’s Supper, and that sort of thing. Now, the whole church is responsible to do evangelism, but the purpose of the church itself, in terms of worship, and the gathering together on the Lord’s Day is not to do evangelism.
Now, I use evangelism all the time in the congregation, because I’m very much well aware that there are people who are there that aren’t believers, and so I preach the gospel to them, but if I tailor the program for the unbeliever, that’s totally antithetical to what the New Testament teaches, and what the Word of God teaches.
So, this whole movement of seeker sensitivity is a pernicious distortion of what God commands and expects. And what it is, is Jim Boice used to say where the church is trying to be the church — do the Lord’s work in the world’s way. And it works. It works, I mean, as far as people will come in droves if you entertain them, and if you make them feel comfortable and all of that.
So, when you talk about seeker sensitivity — and what that means historically is that you design consciously, worship for the unbeliever; that’s crazy.
MACARTHUR: Just a footnote. Probably the most dramatic illustration of this is in the book of Acts. The church was born on the day of Pentecost. 3,000 believers are added to the 120 in the upper room, and they gave themselves to the apostles’ doctrine, the breaking of bread, prayers and fellowship — that’s the church, and the Lord added daily to the church those that were being saved.
They were doing miracles. They were doing miracles, rapid-fire miracles. The healing of the lame man, and other miracles, and that attracted the people. That was attracting the people to the church. You might say that’s a good thing.
No, the Lord had to halt to that. The Lord Himself had to stop unbelievers from rushing into the miracle-producing church, so what He did was kill two people at the offering. He literally killed publicly Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias there were — that morning he dropped dead because he lied to the Holy Spirit about how much money he actually gave off the sale of a piece of land. Three hours later when his wife showed up — I have ambivalence about that.
I like a three-hour church service, but I don’t know what she was doing for those three hours. Anyway, when she shows up, the people come — the young boys coming in from burying the husband pick her up and bury her. And it says in Acts 5, “None dared join himself to them.” The Lord shut the door in the book of Acts on unbelievers rushing into the church for the signs and wonders by frightening them about the holiness of that place.
When the church recovers its transcendent understanding of worship, and when the church becomes devoted to the glory and honor of God and pursues holiness, it makes the statement that our Lord wants it to make to the world, and the Lord then will add to the church those that His sovereign will calls.
SPROUL: I’m going to just say that that’s my theme for my final message, God-willing, on Saturday, on what the goal of reformation is, and the purpose of reformation is, and so maybe I shouldn’t even bother to — you’re going to leave before that but I — you could just preach the thing.
MACRTHUR: I’m just glad you agree with me on that answer.
LARSON: “How would you define a false teacher, and how much error is allowed before they are considered false?”
SPROUL: Vesta’s going to be really after me after this talk — Q&A, because every time you ask a question I have to ask Al what it is you said. The one thing I have in common with my mentor is he was deaf as a doornail and I’m getting there quickly, but my hearing aids interfere with my breathing, and I have to choose between hearing and breathing.
When is a false teacher a false teacher is when he teaches falsehood.
MOHLER: I would just add to that, “Amen.” But I think there is in the New Testament a clear reservation of that not just to one who teaches falsely, but who is uncorrectable, who resists correction. I mean, Apollos was a false teacher, but when he was corrected, when he was taught how to preach a better way, how to be more faithful to Scripture, he was corrected.
So there’s a difference between a false teaching, because just about any preacher starting out, especially, is going to teach something that’s false. That’s quite different than being, I think, a false teacher, uncorrected and uncorrectable. And —
SPROUL: And the chief characteristic of his teaching is falsehood.
MOHLER: That’s right.
SPROUL: We all err, make — Calvin said no theologian is ever more than 80 percent right, and the problem was we don’t know which that 20 percent is of — and then some of us it’s 50 percent.
MACARTHUR: But I think we need to say that there are some absolutely non-negotiable truths that you are false if you deny the Trinity. If you deny the deity of Christ. If you deny His sinless life, substitutionary death, salvation by grace through faith, the gospel. I mean, that’s the drivetrain of truth. Saving truth. Those are not negotiable. You can misunderstand baptism or something like that, and —
SPROUL: Those we call errors, not heresies. I mean there’s a difference between error and heresy. Heresy is something that strikes at the very heart of the gospel and of the truth. Yeah.
LARSON: Should I just end this before it gets nasty?
SPROUL: This is not fair. I’m outnumbered here. It’s hard to be a true teacher.
MOHLER: I know what’s behind that screen.
LARSON: Trying to bring it back in.
“In what ways — in what ways is our current cultural climate forcing the mushy middle out of the church?”
MOHLER: Yeah, that’s a great question, and it kind of goes back to the seeker-sensitive question. We all wanted in on that one, because that’s where we live. But one of the interesting things to note is that there aren’t many new seeker-sensitive churches, because that fit a certain cultural moment when people were saying to unbelievers, “You can gain a bit of social capital by coming to join with us. You can — there’s some value added to your life if you come and join with us. If you just come and be with us, we’ll add meaning and spirituality to your life in a non-threatening way.”
But in the hardening secularization that we’re now experiencing, people are going to pay social capital to hang around with anyone who believes the gospel of Jesus Christ. They’re going to forfeit social capital. They’re going to run a risk for being members of our churches.
There once was a time when — especially someone, let’s say, a southern town, he wanted to come and he wanted to — he had his family. He wanted to be able to raise his children. He wanted to be able to sell life insurance. He had to have credibility. Join credibility by — that is, add credibility by joining the First Baptist Church. First Presbyterian Church. That was just what people did in an age of cultural Christianity.
Well, now you may fail to become a partner in your law firm, because you’re a member of a Bible-believing, gospel-teaching church. The mushy middle is disappearing because in a time of hardening — I’m not going to use the word persecution — but in a time of hardening opposition (could well turn into persecution), people are running a risk to hang around with the likes of us, and the mushy middle is going to disappear in a hurry because the pressures on both sides are coming real hard.
LARSON: “Given the failure of many ecumenical movements, what can the church do to promote unity without compromising doctrine?”
LAWSON: I think it goes back to what Dr. MacArthur just said on the essentials of the faith. I mean there is common ground in believing and affirming the Trinity, the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, present enthronement, His soon return, the final judgment, eternality of heaven and hell.
I mean, if you can’t come together and agree on that, then you’re really outside the faith. You’re not inside. You’re outside the faith, and we in a true catholicity, I mean, we come together in agreement on these gospel truths, and these are things that we would be willing to die for, and if you’re not willing to die for these things, then there’s some question, do you really believe these things that are truly essential.
And all — everything in the Bible is important and everything in the Bible is true, yet there are some things that rise to a higher level of importance, and every “Truly, truly I say unto you,” introduces some of those. And Paul would say, “I delivered to you of first importance.” Those are the things that we can come together as believers in Christ, but if you can’t affirm these, then what Dr. MacArthur’s going to preach on tonight (Galatians 1) — then the curse of God is upon you.
So to me that’s where we come together, is in these fundamental essentials of Christianity that are non-negotiable. I mean, we can’t give up one inch on this.
MOHLER: Absolutely and thus you follow though the history of the Christian church, and those moments like Nicaea, let’s remember Nicaea didn’t say, “Here’s a good Christology, and here’s a bad Christology.” Nicaea said, “Here’s Christianity and here is ‘Let there be anathema’” – “Let them be anathema.” This is to be identified as heresy.
But as you follow that through, I just want to add to what Steve said, very quickly, that by the time you get to the Reformation we also learn that we’ve got to put justification by faith alone in that top tier, such that without the affirmation — Luther said the article by which the church stands or falls — without justification by faith alone there is no Christianity. There is no gospel.
SPROUL: I believe — I believe the first question, if I’m not mistaken, was something about what is Reformed theology. What does it mean to be Reformed?
And anybody who is Reformed is first of all catholic, namely that we embrace the classic ecumenical truths of the ecumenical councils, the Council of Nicea, the Council of Chalcedon, and so on, so that we all share that same basic structure of Christianity. And you move to the sixteenth century, and you have the emergence of the concept of evangelicalism, which takes its word from the — meaning from the word evangel, or the gospel, and so that was a rallying around the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
So anyone who is Reformed, is also evangelical, and anyone who is evangelical, is also catholic, but at the time of the Reformation there were many kinds and brands and varieties of evangelicals. Lutherans, Reformed in Switzerland, and so on. Episcopalian in England, and you had all these different branches of Protestantism.
But though they had differences among themselves, they had certain core beliefs: the catholic truths, and then also the two primary affirmations of which all historic evangelicals agreed on, was one: Justification by faith alone, Sola Fide. And two: The authority — absolute authority of sacred Scriptures, Sola Scriptura. And it’s only in recent decades that that consensus among so-called evangelicals has collapsed, where you can’t assume now that if somebody calls themselves an evangelical believes in justification by faith alone, or believes in Sola Scriptura.
But when you go beyond the broader term evangelical and even broader term catholic, then you get to the narrow distinctives of Reformed theology, which, we embrace all of the catholic truths, the evangelical truths. But there’s more to that. There’re also specific things, like you mentioned the doctrines of grace and so on.
MACARTHUR: Just to — where I think people get confused on this is John 17, Jesus’ prayer that they may be one, they assume that’s a prayer that hasn’t been answered. That is not. That prayer is answered in the forming of the body of Christ. That is a prayer that all believers would be one and it’s the same list of things as praying believers into heaven, so that is a done — that is a reality. We are one. We are the body of Christ. That prayer is answered.
That’s different then how do Christians get along with one another. Then you go to Philippians 2 and you talk about — come on, you need to get along better with each other by not looking on your own things, but on the things of others. Don’t consider yourself better than anybody else. That’s a whole different issue.
There’s nothing in the Bible that assumes that true believers are going to get along well with fake believers. That’s not going to happen. The true church is one in Christ. We need to do a better job of loving each other in the process, but we will never be one with those who hold a false form of Christianity.
LARSON: Well, that was our last question for this particular Q&A, and before we adjourn, Dr. MacArthur is going to leave and go to his book signing in just a minute, but the teaching fellows and Dr. Sproul have a special announcement, but would you thank our panelists this afternoon?