Is John MacArthur Getting Crotchety?

October 11, 2011

Is John MacArthur getting crotchety in his old age?  I will leave that for you to decide.   My guess is opinions will vary. Some may even muse about the verb  “getting”.  But after watching a couple of brief videos he has me wondering.

Before commenting on the videos let me say that I think John MacArthur has earned respect.  He has labored to faithfully proclaim the Word of God, in depth, for decades.  He is a living example of someone who sees the message as sovereign and not the audience.  For that he should be applauded.  He will never be open to the accusation of “tickling the ears” of a fickle generation.  That said, I will confess that while I respect MacArthur I have long found him a bit polemic for my tastes.

In a relatively recent interview with Christianity.com MacArthur demonstrates why I both respect and am perplexed by him.  Below are two videos related to the discussion of the near future of the American Church. In particular is his prediction that the current Reformed Resurgence will reverse.

Beneath each video I will comment on what MacArthur says.

Whether the Reformed Doctrines of Grace will continue to carry the favor of rising generations is yet to be seen. No doubt in my mind that this is a relatively recent phenomena. But it is not the only trend occuring across the American landscape.  The “Me Church” seems to be doing quite well, at least if numbers are the primary gauge.  (MacArthur even alludes to this in the second video.)  But movements come and go.  God will work out all things according to his purposes.

But honestly this clip bothers me for a few reasons.

First, I have no idea what he means by “Arminian view of the Church”.  I understand the differences between Reformed and Arminian views on the doctrines of salvation.  I understand that there are at times inconsistencies between our doctrine and our practices – in this case doctrine of salvation and practices of evangelism.  But Arminian view of the Church? That’s a new one to me.

Second, I am disappointed by what appears to me to be very uncharitable attitudes toward respected Christian leaders. In particular he mentions John Piper, Rick Warren, and makes very thinly veiled references to Mark Driscoll.

I get the differences with Rick Warren.  I have some differences with him myself – as does John Piper.  But is there any question he has been used by God in amazing ways?  I fail to understand how Piper befriending Warren and seeking to discern if there are ways that their respective approach to ministry might be synergized to the benefit of all concerned, and to the advancement of the Kingdom, without it necessarily being considered a compromise.  It just seems to me some old prejudices are not only being held but carrying the day.  (See Piper’s explanation and the Interview)

More concerning is the apparent despise for Mark Driscoll, and others of his ilk. No question Driscoll has pushed the envelope – probably too far. Shoot, Driscoll admits as much.  But I find MacArthur’s personalizing of their philosophical (though not really theological) approaches to be very disheartening.  One can hold differences without demonizing the other.  This is not only possible, but consistent with the commands about how we are to relate to one another, especially when no fundamental principles of the gospel are at stake.  But it seems to me that MacArthur is unwilling to learn from John Piper’s example.

As much as I disagreed with MacArthur’s comments in the first video, in this second video I largely concur.  I agree with his assessments of what he labels “Flat-screened Churches” – especially since he later offers that attending the churches where these celebrity pulpiteers actually preach is a viable option.  While I am not presently jumping into the discussion about the missional benefits of such venues vs. the integrity of the local church body, I am sympathetic to the concern about the church becoming shaped more by culture than by the Holy Spirit through scripture.  I do believe that the church must be contextual but it should not become so conformed that it becomes synergistic with the world.  Whenver that happens the church loses it’s prophetic function in a society.

In short, MacArthur seems to do us a service in this interview by positively reminding us that we must always remain faithful, yet negatively demonstrating the ugliness of un-forgiveness.  I guess even with his well earned stature, John MacArthur is still an inconsistent man like me who is blessed to have a Redeemer who loves him despite himself.

6 Responses to “Is John MacArthur Getting Crotchety?”

  1. SLIMJIM Says:

    Thanks for this post, I can see you are conscious of being gracious in your critique of MacArthur. I’ve taken these videos as more that it’s MacArthur concerned and warning about possible directions of the state of this new interests of Reformed theology…I don’t want to be divisive or uncharitable towards you, but do you believe John MacArthur here is being unforgiven? Maybe there’s something I don’t know about. I just want to ask for clarity on that point and that’s it, and do not desire to start any “attack” or anything of that kind.

  2. Dennis Griffith Says:

    I agree that the motive behind MacArthur’s comments is probably a concern about the direction and substance of the Reformed branch of the church. But I did take his comments as reflecting unresolved tensions with Driscoll, and felt his comments about the Piper/Warren friendship are uncalled for. I do have to concede that all these men are in the public eye, and therefore any time they disagree there in an inferred division, but I would have been more comfortable if MacArthur had been more tempered in his examples, and charitable toward those named and implied.

    Do I think his comments rise to the level of scandal? Not at all.

    • SLIMJIM Says:

      Thank you brother for such a speedy response!

    • SLIMJIM Says:

      And thanks for putting up with my bad grammar, I just wrote the above in haste.

      • Dennis Griffith Says:

        No problem Jim. Thanks for posting. And BTW, I neglected to answer the simple questions you previously asked: Do I feel there is unforgiveness on MacArthur’s part?

        Honestly, I cannot say. He is far godlier than I am, so I would not presume to assume his heart. But if he is not wrestling with unforgiveness, it sure looks enough like it to make me uncomfortable.

  3. David Says:

    Wow ! I have always liked MacArthur Dennis, although I have oftern thought he was a bit too militant at times. Yes I agree he’s a bit crotchey in these videos especally in number 1. He makes some very sweepping gereralizations that I think are opinion driven only. I like your assessment !

    As far as “Flat Screen Churches”…..Praise God that He has provided the technology that we can reach more people with ! I wonder what “Church” looks like at times today. Is it a building or place or are we God’s Temple ?

    We can Worship in Homes, Small Groups, in traditional Churches and even “Flat Screen Churches”….. Most flat Screen Churches I know of have a very strong network of small groups and structures to Disciple people.

    Give me a break ! I think MacArthur could be expressing something other than concern here. Could be pride !


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