Thursday, November 08, 2007

John MacArthur's Truth War


I picked up The Truth War by John MacArthur on CD. So far I've only gotten through the first of three CDs. For the folks who think MacArthur is somehow mean and unloving maybe listening to him read his book will change your mind.

For that matter, just listening to his sermons should help understand his demeanor. I think sometimes when people write things we don't like or agree with that we develop a certain tone in how we read to ourselves in these instances. My understanding is that John MacArthur is not writing out of hate with a tone of nastiness, rather, he's writing out of concern and love. Concern and love for how God has revealed Himself to us in Scripture and for his fellow man that they might not be drawn into or will leave apostasy.

Should MacArthur be concerned? I believe he should and hearing some of the quotes from folks like Brian McLaren gives good reason. The whole position about truth or more specifically propositional truth just puzzles me. MacArthur is reacting to people like McClaren who have been influential in presenting their views of Christianity. McLaren isn't just presenting his views in a vacuum, but is reacting against those who hold to a propositional truth. So in one sense MacArthur is just defending himself and the many who agree with him. Yet, it's MacArthur who is charged with attacking and not vice versa. How loving.

Furthering the point of propositional truth in these disagreements is something I found ironic. If McLaren and his ilk claim MacArthur is wrong in his critique and positions from where are they arguing? Is MacArthur wrong just because you say so? There has got to be something that grounds one's beliefs which would be a propositional truth. If one believes the true God is the Triune God of the Bible that is a definitive propositional truth position. It's a starting point. Now from there if that same person believes that the rest of what we know of God is virtually unknowable and we are all left to seek God through our own experience then all positions that start here should essentially be accepted. So why the argument from the non-propositional truth folks? In other words, if the truth of God is so unknowable then why write books, articles and tell others they are wrong?

So if we can't really know certain things about God then every position should essentially be accepted. Why even accept the Trinity and that salvation is through Jesus Christ? If Christianity should really be understood through the lens of church practice above doctrine what informs this practice? From where does the instruction come that we should even understand Christianity this way? Isn't church practice itself a doctrine? When we abandon propositional truth we are left with no truth at all. We might as well argue with ourselves and agree to disagree.

Ramble off...



Anonymous said...

"For the folks who think MacArthur is somehow mean and unloving maybe listening to him read his book will change your mind."

It's not MacArthur himself per se that is mean and unloving, and I doubt anyone thinks he is personally such. Rather meanness and unlovingness is imputed (in the Calvinistic sense) justly to him by his participation in the mean and unloving system that is Calvinism. His reading of a book can never erase that fact--only his conversion to true Christianity can do that.

James Swan said...

It is true, MacArthur has a particular delivery that is not for everyone. In the past, I've joked that when MacArthur is about to come on the radio, I get ready to be yelled at. But, it's just his passion for the truth that makes him intense.

James Swan said...

...his participation in the mean and unloving system that is Calvinism

...Weren't you one of the guys that deserted Jesus as recorded in John 6? Why you must be about 2000 years old at this point.

Anonymous said...

Are you claiming that "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" means unless you won a dice roll in eternity past you have no life in you? But seriously, the fact that many left Jesus on that occasion is a problem for Calvinists. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:" apparently doesn't mean what Calvinists think it means or else these guys who came to Jesus at one point (and thus clearly were drawn by the Father) could not have left. Of necessity, a consistent Calvinist (a non-existent mythical figure) would have to argue that every single one of these people later returned to Jesus--otherwise, the P of tulip wilts. So, if you are right in claiming that I am one of the guys who left back there, if you will be consistent, you must say that I came back or will come back.

David Waltz said...

Hello JohnMark,

A very interesting blog post. I cannot help but wonder though if it is the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture that is the most basic problem at hand, rather than one of “prepositional truth”. John MacArthur attempts to defend perspicuity in a series of 5 articles, beginning with “Brian McLaren and the Clarity of Scripture, Part 1”. Here is an extract from “Part 1”:

“The doctrine of the clarity (or perspicuity) of Scripture (that the central message of the Bible is clear and understandable, and that the Bible itself can be properly interpreted in a normal, literal sense) has been a cornerstone of evangelical belief ever since the Reformation.

The dominant Roman Catholic idea had been that the Bible was obscure and difficult to understand. But the Reformers disagreed, arguing instead that anyone who could read could understand biblical teaching. Rather than limiting biblical interpretation to the clergy or the Magisterium, the Reformers encouraged lay Christians to study and interpret God's Word on their own. All of this was premised on the Reformed belief that the Bible itself was inherently clear, and that God had been able to communicate His message to men in an understandable fashion. As Luther explained to Erasmus:

But, if many things still remain abstruse to many, this does not arise from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from [our] own blindness or want [i.e. lack] of understanding, who do not go the way to see the all-perfect clearness of truth.... Let, therefore, wretched men cease to impute, with blasphemous perverseness, the darkness and obscurity of their own heart to the all-clear scriptures of God.... If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one iota in the Scriptures but he that hath the Spirit of God.... If you speak of the external clearness, nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world. (Bondage of the Will, 25-29)

While such an understanding, as Luther openly admits, did not demand complete agreement among Protestants on every secondary doctrine, it did establish an important principle: That the Word of God was revealed in an understandable way, that its central message is clear, and that (because it is clear) all men are fully accountable to its message.” (John MacArthur - Brian McLaren and the Clarity of Scripture .)

IMHO, McLaren’s position is the inevitable outcome of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, and as such, one would think it would give cause for some serious reflection on the doctrine.

Some of my personal thoughts on this issue can be found HERE .

Grace and peace,


johnMark said...


Maybe I have a problem of the perspicuity of my post here. :) I wasn't speaking for MacArthur, but giving some thoughts of my own.

Here's the problem with your proposal, if we put McLaren in Rome he would still be unable to solidly define a position, IMO. What would he teach as the necessity of the faith for the Roman Catholic?


Randy said...

I loved John MacArthur. I started listening to him about 15 years ago. I even went on a trip to Isreal with him. He is a strong teacher of scripture. If you disagree with him he can be quite annoying. Now that I have become Catholic I disagree a lot more than I used to but I still listen.

I have several siblings who are protestant pastors. They love McLaren. Modern Christianity has to deal with the huge differences of opinion out there. John 17 says the world will know Jesus because his followers are one. That either means becoming one church which I have concluded and hence become Catholic. Or it can mean embracing a lesser oneness. McLaren tries to do that. I think it is ultimately inadequate but he tries to make it work.

MacArthur needs to deal with the divergent opinions in some way other than just saying my way is biblical and yours isn't. He is good at fighting his corner but he does not claim to be the ultimate authority. Still he declares scripture to be clear and he will tell you what it means. The difference seems pretty hard to discern.

David Waltz said...

Hi JohnMark,

You posted:

>> Here's the problem with your proposal, if we put McLaren in Rome he would still be unable to solidly define a position, IMO. What would he teach as the necessity of the faith for the Roman Catholic?>>

For McLaren to convert to Catholicism he would have to affirm/accept many clearly defined doctrines; some of which are either/or propositions, accepted by Catholics as infallible developments. In theory, as a Protestant, McLaren has no such restraints.

Now, with that said, I do not wish to deny that many doctrines are still in a developmental phase, and are in need of greater clarification; this is a fact that must be acknowledged, while at the same time, in no sense diminishing the dogmas that HAVE been clearly defined.

Grace and peace,


Nicole said...
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