John MacArthur’s Closet Retraction (Did Phil Johnson Really Post This?)

I read these retractions this morning, allegedly from John MacArthur, concerning some teachings of his from earlier years. All of these retractions are in regard to MacArthur’s book “The Gospel According to Jesus”, and are claimed to have been posted by Phil Johnson years ago.

My question is, did Phil Johnson really post this? There’s only one person I know of who can answer that question. And if he did publish the following, why were such serious errors not made known widely public for the good of the Church who were reading this book?

On October 31, 2000, Phillip R. Johnson, aide and ghostwriter for John MacArthur, posted this notice to a small discussion group on the Internet:

“Several years ago I [John MacArthur] made some inaccurate statements that have unfortunately confused people about where I stand on the doctrine of justification by faith. While teaching a series on this crucial issue, I made the point that God does not justify anyone whom He does not also sanctify. That is true. Unfortunately, however, I also implied that God’s sanctifying work in us may in part provide the ground on which He declares us righteous. That is not true. I also suggested that God’s righteousness is infused into believers in a way that makes their justification something more than a forensic declaration. That is emphatically not true.

“This error was confined to a single series preached several years ago. But some of the misstatements were published in a study guide and in the first edition of my Romans commentary. When I realized my error, I withdrew the study guide from publication. It is no longer available. Furthermore, I immediately corrected the Romans commentary. Only a few relatively minor changes were necessary, and those revisions appear in later printings of the book.

“For the record, I have never believed that we can be justified because of anything good in us (Phil. 3:9). Scripture clearly teaches that God accepts us and declares us righteous only because of Christ’s perfect righteousness, which is imputed to us by faith alone (Rom. 4:1-6). God’s ongoing work of making us righteous is properly labeled sanctification–and should be carefully distinguished from justification. I hereby retract any earlier statements I ever made to the contrary.

-John MacArthur”

Although Mr. MacArthur does not mention “The Gospel According to Jesus” or other works criticized in this Review, nor has this statement ever been published in any of his books (at least MacArthur’s aide Phillip Johnson failed to provide us with a citation after repeated questioning), we are glad that MacArthur has made at least some attempt to acknowledge and correct the false ideas on justification he taught in tens of thousands of copies of “The Gospel According to Jesus,” his commentary on Romans, and other books and tapes. We only wish he had published this closet retraction as widely as he had published his errors.

John Robbins

Phil, did you post this? Enquiring minds want to know, and ___of thousands of people who read the book should know.

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