Three years ago, John MacArthur shocked many when he announced the reopening of his church in defiance of his prior longstanding position on Romans 13. It was an embrace of sphere sovereignty and the Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates and a shift away from pietism, especially as Grace Community Church took to court and won. This is the subject of The Essential Church, a documentary that his church has backed to tell this story.
In a recent interview on the Babylon Bee Podcast, John MacArthur reiterated his pietist views in light of his recent actions. Pietism emphasizes personal holiness at the expense of the world around the individual Christian. It’s in a tight Venn Diagram with Radical 2 Kingdom theology and Anabaptism. So while John MacArthur is theologically sound on areas within the local church, his engagement with the civil sphere of governance has been problematic going back decades specifically when he used his platform to attack pro-life protestors.
In the interview, John MacArthur claims Christians are never to take up arms against the government nor are they called to protest. However, neither of these are accurate within Christian history. The Bible features stories in Judges about Israel revolting against its oppressors. Moreover the English Civil War was caused by the anti-Calvinism and the illegal taxation of Charles I. History and law are complicated matters. Are Christians to comply with unlawful edicts like mask mandates? What if one civil magistrate opposes another? What side do Christians take? These are complicated questions that the Bible does not provide a blanket prescription to, but John MacArthur does.
As mentioned before, John MacArthur supported the arrest of Christian protestors. His statement on protests is also incorrect.
3 For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4 For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.
Matthew 14:3-5 NASB1995
John the Baptist was not living a “quiet and peaceable” life as a pietist would understand. Instead he was speaking the whole counsel of God in the public arena.
MacArthur presents a false dichotomy between the gospel leading to more biblical laws and biblical laws leading to the advance of the gospel. Christian history is rife with both of these things working in tandem. MacArthur also argues that things will only get worse, so the Christian has no reason to expect the laws to get better 15 years from now. This too is incorrect and quite easy to disprove. The overturn of Roe v Wade is quite literally a legal event that many thought impossible 15 years ago. MacArthur employs his dispensational premillennialism to came to this conclusion; however, most dispensationalist do not share this conclusion. This is the result of combining dispensationalism with pietism, not the eschatological viewpoint that a plurality of Evangelicals have.
Overall, MacArthur gave good insight in this interview; however, it’s disappointing yet unsurprising that he remains pietistic in his theology after all that transpired.