Leighton Flowers Accuses MacArthur of Inclusivism…Phil Johnson Responds

Leighton Flowers, defending Billy Graham’s assertion that people can be saved without knowing Jesus, has made the waters of Synergism even muddier. Flowers himself espoused the idea that it was possible to be saved without having heard of or believing in Jesus or the Gospel. He said…

Would God show Cornelius grace even prior to when Peter showed up with the Gospel? Of course…why…of course He would. He obviously showed him enough grace to send him the Gospel. Why wouldn’t He show him enough grace to save him if he perished prior to hearing the specifics of Jesus’ work? Again, I don’t think that’s unreasonable and that’s not beyond orthodoxy to hold to that worldview.

We provided the video, pertinent timestamps, and verbatim quotations from Flowers in post 1 on this topic (linked below).

Flowers then posted a video accusing us of lying (we quoted him…that’s it) and saying that we needed to be sued for defamation. In that video, he doubled-down on the idea that one could be saved without faith in Jesus. He butchered the Gospel in the video, saying…

I wanted to give some clarity because people are asking a few honest questions about that, how do you explain those things with regard to those who don’t hear the specific news about Jesus Christ, his death, burial and resurrection. Some people have called that, in itself, the Gospel. Now, the Gospel is more generally speaking the news that God is good, and that he desires mercy over justice, that he desires to show mercy, that he’s a good God, and that if you believe in the Lord, you will be saved. That’s the basis of the Gospel.

Flowers also claimed that God has already given every person the necessary knowledge to be saved through general revelation (timestamp 23:00). For the first post on this topic click here and for the second post on this topic click here. At those links you’ll find all the video, excerpts with timestamps, and in-context quotations.

Flowers, still in damage control, did another lengthy video trying to put distance between the directness of his original claims and his continued, more-nuanced insistence that it’s possible to be saved without faith in Jesus. To do so, he invoked a 38 year-old sermon from John MacArthur, alleging that MacArthur similarly believes it’s possible to be saved without ever hearing the Good News. You can find his video below.

We communicated with Phil Johnson about the claim that MacArthur teaches what Flowers calls inclusivism, and he responded as follows…

“[Flowers] twists John MacArthur’s words as badly as he twists Scripture. Flowers uses a headline that is purposefully misleading. He imposes his own denial of total depravity on John MacArthur. He twists the meaning of MacArthur’s words accordingly. He peppers his commentary with stupid questions and non-sequiturs. And then he pretends that he hasn’t a clue what John MacArthur means by, ‘a prepared heart.'”

Johnson continued, “Flowers admits he knows facts about John MacArthur’s doctrinal position that would explain this excerpt (‘in between the lines’) in a sense Flowers could not affirm. That doesn’t stop him from putting his own spin on MacArthur’s words and injecting claims and ideas he knows MacArthur would reject. He furthermore knows Calvinists reject the claim that responsibility implies ability, and yet he implies repeatedly that since John MacArthur says the heathen are ‘responsible’ for what they do with the light God has given them, John MacArthur is acknowledging human ability. Note: NOT “universalism.”

Johnson argued, “Indeed nothing in anything John MacArthur says has anything remotely to do with ‘universalism.’ Flowers throws that term gratuitously into his title in order to sensationalize the video. It’s a deliberate bait-and-switch lie.

“This is a devious, dishonest treatment of John MacArthur. If I’m not mistaken, I had a Twitter exchange with Flowers about the statement, ‘God will send more light,’ showing why that in no way supports any Arminian claim. Indeed, while it might not be the clearest or most elegant way of making the point John MacArthur intends to make (this is a 40 year-old sermon), it contains a tacit agreement that God is the one who sovereignly sends or withholds the light from the heathen.”

“Flowers is off his rocker,” Johnson added.

Johnson said, “By the way, along the way he repeatedly makes clear that he hates the very idea of discernment. He mocks not just abusive critics, but discernment itself.”

“One other thing,” Johnson continued, “he seems to have no room in his system for any work of divine grace prior to regeneration. He cannot process the concept of an unregnerate soul being drawn by God to Christ and to salvation. So he incorrectly presumes that if Cornelius was a God-fearer, he must have either been already regenerate or else he was responding to God in his own raw carnal power and ‘free will.’ That’s an illogical presupposition.

“Many of Flowers’ silly questions,” Johnson concluded, “would be answered if he simply understood that sometimes the process is a long one by which people are drawn to Christ.”