Lord and Christ, The Implications of Lordship for Faith and Life by Ernest C. Reisinger; Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1994. Reviewed by Steve Martin
As a new Christian in April of 1969. I was invited by the leader of a parachurch ministry at our campus in Indiana to attend a student gathering at the University of Illinois. The song leader/ master of ceremonies shocked me a few minutes into his “warm-up” by stating that though Jesus was his Savior, he had not yet made him Lord of his life. But he assured us that eventually, sometime in the future, he would do just that. I was both amazed and disgusted that he could be so brazen and flippant in admitting publicly that he was living a double life-that he was living for himself and this world but had forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven too! With what little I knew of the New Testament in 1969 it sounded cavalier-nothing more than a piously worded expression of rebellion. I was even more shocked years later when I discovered that noteworthy seminary professors, pastors, authors and parachurch ministries espoused this same theology while claiming that they were the guardians of the historic gospel!
But God has been gracious to His church since that time. In the 1980’s, pastor/commentator John MacArthur “dropped a bomb on the playground” (to borrow Karl Adam’s phrase) shared by dispensational theology, “easy believism” and the Keswick (“Victorious Life”, “Higher Life” and “Deeper Life”) brand of sanctification. MacArthur showed how the “non-lordship” view of salvation was the gospel of neither Jesus nor the apostles (see The Gospel According to Jesus and Faith Works). Then Mike Horton, Kenneth Gentry and Richard Belcher added their names to the list of biblical critics of the “non-lordship position.” Now Ernest Reisinger, a retired pastor and promoter of Christian literature for over forty years, has written the most gracious, yet frank, critique of that unbiblical teaching which has spoken “peace, peace” to many souls when there was, in fact, no peace. The errant theologies which Pastor Reisinger critiques have become the bane of North American Protestantisrn (second only to Liberalism), and through missionaries, spread to the mission stations of the world.
He has chosen to write on an important topic, affecting tens of thousands of professing Christians regarding the reality of their status before God. Over and over again Reisinger quotes with approval the recognition of Charles Ryrie, a leading proponent of the “non-lordship view of salvation”, that both views cannot be true. The gospel recovered at the Reformation and proclaimed by Luther and Calvin, then amplified later by the Puritans and the Protestant confessions and the leaders of the Great Awakening (Whitefield, Edwards) and the modern missionary movement (Carey, Judson, Rice) and the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention (Dagg, Boyce, Mell, Mercer, Broadus, et al) is not the same as that proclaimed by the descendants and disciples of Darby, Scofield, Chafer, and Ryrie. Their exegesis of Scripture shows different results. Both groups and both gospels cannot be right. We must listen to Ernest Reisinger and hear him out carefully.
Lord and Christ is an apt title, for in fourteen chapters the author shows how the person and work of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is inextricably linked; one cannot have Christ as Savior without bowing to Him as Lord. Chapter One charts the recent history of the controversy. Chapter Two carefully qualifies what is meant and not meant by the terms involved. Chapter Three traces the family lineage of “non-lordship” teaching back to dispensationalism. Chapter Four charts the origins of dispensational teaching in America in the last century and gives the essence of that theological system. He admits that at one time he too was immersed in the notes of the Scofield Study Bible and the systematic theology of Lewis Sperry Chafer. He writes of what he knows first hand.
Chapter Five is the crux of the matter. It analyzes “the nature of saving faith.” He shows that the Bible warns of false (non-saving) faith (cf. John 3:3047, especially noting vv. 30-31 and 42-47). He then delineates the differences between saving versus non-saving “faith.” Chapter Six covers “Regeneration and Lordship.” He rightly shows that “non-lordship” theology has a spurious view of the doctrine of regeneration and all that is connected to the miraculous work of God. The Arminian roots of dispensational theology contribute to its fundamental misunderstanding of regeneration and its results. Chapter Seven covers “Repentance and Lordship.” Dispensational theologians have followed the errors of the Dutchman, Arminius, and the Scot, Robert Sandeman, in making repentance something that man can do in his own strength (Arminius) and which is essentially intellectual (Sandeman). Chapter Eight treats “Justification and Sanctification,” showing how the two are inextricably linked. If you conflate the two (as in Roman Catholicism) you are left with “you save yourself with Jesus’ help; Jesus by Himself saves nobody.” If you confuse the two or ignore the differences between the two, you may wrongly try to earn your justification by your sanctification-and gain neither! Justification and sanctification can be distinguished but must never be separated. One cannot be a truly justified person and not be pursuing sanctification (Heb. 12:14, etc.).
Chapters Nine and Ten cover “The Carnal Christian” teaching. One sentence from the opening paragraphs will suffice to whet your appetite: “The ‘carnal Christian’ teaching was invented to accommodate all the supposed converts of modern evangelism.” Pastor Reisinger covers all the reasons why “carnal Christian” theology should be opposed, why it is based upon faulty exegesis of biblical texts, and the consequences of such teaching (Eph. 5:6). Chapter Eleven examines “Assurance of Grace and Salvation.” Modern evangelism (since Charles Finney) has been quick to give assurance to its supposed converts unlike biblical and historic preachers and teachers. The true biblical basis for assurance is spelled out and its counterfeit warned against. The chapter closes with two heart stirring examples of historic Protestantism: Hopeful and Christian’s conversation from The Pilgrim’s Progress and David Brainerd’s recounting of a work of grace in the hearts of the Indians along the Delaware River.
Chapter Twelve explains “Self-Examination: Duties and Dangers.” Modern believers cringe at any hint that they might not be true Christians. Preachers who even hint at this are chided as stealing the joy of God’s flock. But if modern professors cannot stand the questioning of puny men, how do they hope to stand before the thrice holy God on Judgment Day? Chapter Thirteen shows how good works are the fruit of true conversion. No fruits, no root! The concluding Chapter Fourteen is a recapitulation of the relationship between the law and the gospel in God’s method of grace, ending with a valuable bibliography on that subject.
Pastor Reisinger is to be commended for clarifying issues of great importance for evangelicals. Studying under dispensational and Keswick teachers, attending dispensational schools and imbibing the “easy believism” form of crowd manipulation have filled the churches with “tares and goats.” This book should be required reading for all pastors, church officers and seminary students. Many “tares and goats” will find themselves exposed and pointed to the true gospel of the Savior who saves sinners-even “gospel hypocrites” (as the Puritans called “professors” who were not “possessors”).
May God use this book (which J. I. Packer says is the best on the subject) to awaken many to their plight and save them to His everlasting praise. And may many preachers and teachers have their eyes opened so that they might “correctly handle the Word of truth.” And may those who have been ensnared by a false gospel be given great grace to repent and acknowledge their error before the mill stone of the Savior and Judge is tied around their neck (Jas. 3:1; Heb. 13:17). The stakes are too high to ignore this book!