Should we rely on others to defend our own reputations?

There’s a certain science to public relations. If you defend your reputation against every attack, you invite more scrutiny and attackers. If you respond to no attacks on your reputation, the public will assume guilt. There’s a certain balance to this, as it demands one chooses their battles wisely. Punching back at anonymous internet trolls is unwise and gives them disproportionate exposure. Not fighting back against people who hold sizable platforms is an invitation for trouble.

In the past, men of renown have had different approaches. George Washington was willing to sue for libel and slander back before slander laws were restricted to the ability to prove damages. In contrast, Thomas Jefferson preferred to let his reputation precede him when accused of siring a child with Sally Hemmings. This claim lacks credible evidence but nonetheless survives as common myth to this day.

But what I notice about John MacArthur is that he has a tendency to let Phil Johnson defend his reputation for him. And that is strange. It’s frustrating to watch or be more vested in defending someone’s reputation more than they are. In 2017, we saw this with Roy Moore. Accused of pederasty during a campaign for US Senate, Moore offered little defense against the Washington Post article that implicated him. Being a pederast for such a brief window of time when one otherwise has a record of being above reproach after numerous opportunities for this story to break in prior elections was enough to poke holes in the story. But Roy Moore did a terrible job of defending himself and lost because of it. In the end, he decided to not defend his reputation and suffered accordingly.

Brett Kavanaugh, a year later, was slandered for being a gang rapist after receiving the SCOTUS nomination. He relied on the process to see him through, naively thinking that the accusations were legal rather than political. Christine Blasey Ford was obviously lying through her teeth, but the Republicans has a special prosecutor question her before the committee and she did such an awful job that she had to publish report afterwards questioning Ford’s credibility. And then Kavanaugh went Hulk smash, which he later apologized for. I use these examples to emphasize that innocent people can be do this too.

It’s frustrating to watch, but ironically, I do not see any MacArthur fans frustrated with MacArthur’s insistence on having Phil Johnson defend his reputation for him from various attacks over the years. Justin Peters recently interviewed Johnson to respond to the Julie Roys article and major discrepancies in a couple of MacArthur’s stories. The latter is actually legitimate. I did not watch because I cannot get past the fact that MacArthur should be doing that interview, not Johnson. It’s one thing to ignore Julie Roys and her awful reporting on John MacArthur. But I find it incredibly odd to let Phil Johnson fight your battles for you if her claims are to be challenged.

So what say you?

Am I wrong for finding it weird that Phil Johnson will defend John MacArthur more than John MacArthur will defend John MacArthur?

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2 comments

  1. Are they good friends? My best friend was always stepping in to my defense before I had a chance to, and I just got used to letting him do it. I would wait for him to finish and fill in any holes or just nod in agreement. Kind of like Jay and silent Bob, haha.

    That said, I do think you’re correct in noting it’s a little unusual. I would bet theres more to the story about why they’re doing it that way.

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  2. Pastor John MacArthur has been an excellent Bible teacher, and I have appreciated his sermons and materials for years. I am very thankful to God for him. That being said…

    Regarding this issue, yeah I agree it’s probably time for MacArthur to address this himself. This back and forth between Roys and Johnson is keeping the stench of controversy in the air. Although, it looks like Roys is on this like the proverbial dog on a bone, and if she keeps digging things up, people leaking documents to her, etc., then this isn’t going away any time soon no matter what Johnson or MacArthur do.

    I’ve wondered for years how much money MacArthur may have earned, because he has sold an absolute ton of books in addition to his church and college roles. Are his earnings “too high?” Is the third house over the top? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. And we don’t know how much money he has given back to God out of his earnings. I’m much more bothered by the apparent nepotism that has been going on in that church. Family members on the board; at one point his son was the board treasurer; the son-in-law with an exclusive ongoing business deal to handle their AV services, etc. THAT is a controversy that needs to be addressed through actual changes, not words.

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