Theologically Sound. Culturally Relevant.

John MacArthur

Yes John MacArthur Is Still A Pietist

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.

For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 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. 

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2 Responses

  1. When the law requires support for abominable sin, then we cannot be model citizens. At this point, we must either defy the law or defy the Lord. Therefore we have no choice but to defy the law. Justification of wickedness and condemnation of righteousness are both also abominable sins.

    I understand the concern is how would you do it. How would you turn the United States into a Christian nation? Even if you were able to find enough candidates to run for office and do it peacefully through elections, there would still be a part of the population that would very likely start actual kinetic war to fight against it. And even after it were implemented, you’d still have a portion of the people who refused to comply. Then what would you do?

    On the other hand, reasoning that follows through to full-blown pacifism isn’t correct either. Logically, if there is never a valid reason to fight against your own government, then there is never a valid reason to fight against any other government either. Which would mean Christians shouldn’t join the military, and should never fight at all. It makes no sense to say we should fight against other governments that get out of line, but never against our own when it gets out of line just the same. If there is such a thing as just war, then the possibility that such war could happen within the borders also exists.

    John the Baptist did protest and publicly rebuked Herod for his adultery, because Herod, as a Jew, claimed the name of God, and was under God’s law. Romans at the time did far worse. And of course, Herod was a model Roman citizen, but not a good Jewish citizen. But John the Baptist had enough of a following to have easily raised an army to overthrow Herod, yet he didn’t. And he was ultimately beheaded. But what good would it have done? Rome would’ve just replaced Herod with another puppet who was just as bad.

    I don’t know the answers. These are just some thoughts and things to consider. I believe there are examples in scripture of times when God told His people to fight, and other times when He told them not to fight. But the concern is not as much the what as it is the how. How would you get from A to B, and do so in a righteous manner that honored the Lord …

    Of course, if we refuse to go along with secular law when it conflicts with God’s law, and those who despise us become angry enough to start something, the “how” could end up being decided for us. It’s ultimately up to them – how far are they willing to go in order to force us. If the current judgement is leading to the final judgement, then we know the answer to that question – they’ll go all the way to the point of killing us all.

  2. Christian history is NO authority. Christians are to submit to BIBLICAL authority and nowhere in Scripture is there any permission given (or mandate) to take up arms against THE very authorities which have been established by God and still remain under his sovereign control. God uses tyrannical governments to punish sinners (christians also are sinners) and to wage physical war against them is literally to fight against God. Not wise. Prayer and repentance by the corporate Body of believers is what’s needed today and the only remedy for an out-of-control magistrate.

    Speaking out is one thing, getting physical is sin and demonstrates a lack of faith since He is sovereign and “when disaster strikes a city, has not the LORD done it??”

    He has told us that If we would but listen to Him (exalt Scripture once again and expel all liberalism), turn and walk in His ways He would “QUICKLY subdue our enemies” and that means both foreign and domestic.

    P.S. The modern church is WAY too sloppy with and divided doctrinally (Arminianism vs. Calvinism) to usher in any kind of 1000 year utopia apart from the LORD doing it Himself. Not gonna happen.

    The professing church flat out does not believe the WHOLE Bible. It wants to pick and choose what is true. When it says salvation is NOT a human decision because NO MAN seeks after God the church scoffs and mocks so as a result God has raised up an enemy to oppose us (government). Not surprising. Arminianism (free will) is poison! It’s a different gospel.

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