Reformed Baptist Fellowship

John MacArthur Predicts Reversal of the Reformed Revival

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Part 1


Part 2

  1. Excellent. MacArthur not only proclaims the truth but defends it. He has often been a lone voice on the wall. May God continue to give him voice and may others join his cause.

    “Don’t join a flat screen church.” Classic.

    Mike Waters
    Heritage Reformed Baptist Church

  2. The flat screen comment was classic, indeed.

    Rich B.

  3. This only increases my respect for MacArthur, whom I heard regularly on the radio growing up long before I knew what “Reformed” or even “Calvinism” was. I am very happy to hear him express the idea that Reformed means more than predestination, and to challenge pastors to consider its implications for their ecclesiology and evangelism.

  4. I respect John MacArthur….

    (and tend to agree with him on many things)

    But, in light of what he’s said about church and community and the way he’s criticized others, setting aside theory, I wonder how different it is for his church in practice?

    I have no personal experience other than knowing a few long-term active members of his church that have *never met him*.

    Granted, he’s not a flat screen John. But what % of the 6,000 or so attendees has he met? How many of the members has he met? How many of them does he know anything about them beyond their name? How many of them has he had lunch with or met informally with? How many would be missed by MacArthur if they were not there.

    I understand that there is a plurality of elders and its a really big church… but still, I think Dr. MacArthur could probably be more gracious to those he is criticizing and acknowledge that there are some broad overarching issues that apply to his situation too.

    I know someone who attended a church that some would classify within the YRR, or at least would have some close affinities with it. It’s a fairly large church and the pastor is very busy with a tight traveling/speaking schedule and many responsibilities. And yet, when that person had their parents visiting from out of town (they had only visited a couple times) the pastor made a point to say hello to them and greeted them *by name*.

    I am almost 100% sure MacArthur doesn’t know his flock anywhere near this way.

    The pastor I’m talking about is not a flat-screen pastor. But, in some people’s minds, he may be getting lumped into the same group by MacArthur’s broad strokes.

    Some of the large issues with eclessiology nowadays are due to celebrity pastors, an “empire-ish” conception of the local church, mega church setups, etc. And it seems to me that, while certainly theoretically better, in practice MacArthur may very well be on some of the same trajectories, albeit in a different cultural setting.

    I believe there are some within (or lumped together with) the YRR movement that actually have actually avoided many of these things, and actually have a more thoroughgoing eclessiology, in practice than MacArthur’s church. One might even say, perhaps, that MacArthur is “as a flat-screen pastor” compared to them.

    Anyways, just my thoughts…

  5. Hey Mark,

    I hope you don’t mind a few questions.

    1. I would be curious to know if these long-term active members ever took the initiative to go up to Dr. MacArthur during the 104 to 156 some odd annual opportunities over the years and introduce themselves or if they attempted to make an appointment to try to get in and visit with Dr. MacArthur.

    2. Why do you equate criticism with a lack of graciousness? Could the same be said about your assumptions and critique of Dr. MacArthur?

    3. Keep in mind that Dr. MacArthur started off with “Reformed Theology”.

    4. How can you say “I am almost 100% sure MacArthur doesn’t know his flock anywhere near this way.” and yet you stated originally, “I have no personal experience other than knowing a few long-term active members of his church that have *never met him*.” That is a mighty big boast for ‘no personal experience.’

    In your YRR Pastor example are you stating that this pastor knows everyone or a vast majority of his members by name? I’m just saying because you only gave one example and I am 100% sure that Dr. MacArthur knows the names of more than one family within his congregation.

    5. You say “broad overarching issues”. Can you be more specific?

    6. You say “large issues with ecclesiology”. Can you be more specific? Also, are you implying that Dr. MacArthur is a ‘celebrity’? And what ‘trajectories’ might he be on?

    7. You say: “Granted, he’s not a flat screen John” and then go on to say “One might even say, perhaps, that MacArthur is ‘as a flat-screen pastor” compared to them.” Well which is it? I know that you heard but did you listen to both videos? Did you listen to the last 1:30 of the second video where Dr. MacArthur talked about Grace Advance?

    It might be good to read the Pastoral Epistles again as well.

    In Christ Jesus Our Precious Lord and Savior!

    Michael Lawmaster

  6. He hit the nail right on the head. I have a great respect for this man who is not afraid to stand for truth even other great men are going down hill…

  7. I think R.C. Sproul weighs in on these questions really well. This is a great response both to MacArthur and the YRR.

  8. Brad,

    I believe the link you provided is from R.C. Sproul Jr. It seems to me to reflect the problem. That is, unwillingness to draw lines on certain issues; to speak against certain errors. This only confuses the issues and destroys unity. The issues addressed by MacArthur in these videos are not secondary issues. Frankly put, his words are both necessary and courageous.

  9. “It seems to me that the mood is that if you have a reformed soteriology, you get a pass on everything else. You can have an Arminian ecclesiology. You can have an Arminian view of evangelism. […] So because you hold the Calvinistic doctrine of salvation, it seems to me that you can be an Arminian everywhere else you want to be.”

    … says the dispensationalist.

  10. 1. Good point Mike.

    2. Unity is very important but not at the expense of truth. Biblical unity does not compromise nor twist biblical truth.

    In Christ Jesus Our Precious Lord and Savior!

    Michael Lawmaster

  11. I’m going to guess that my first comment (which was admittedly a little snarky, but true nonetheless) will not be approved. That’s okay.

    Either way… Dr. MacArthur levies some valid criticisms here, especially regarding what he calls “flat-screen churches” (better known as “video venues”), cults of personality that form around celebrity pastors, and the imperative for pastors to actually shepherd their flocks. Right on, J-Mac.

    Some of his other criticisms, however, seem (to me) to be colored by his own cultural preferences and have little-to-nothing to do with biblical command or conviction. Style of music. Use of alcohol as a beverage. Brands that people wear. Who cares? No, I’m not saying that these things have no consequence, but Dr. MacArthur is speaking of them as if they’re hallmarks of faithfulness to “Reformed” theology and practice.

    (Then there’s the question of whether or not J-Mac himself is consistently “reformed,” despite his holding to a Calvinistic soteriology. He is not, but that’s neither here nor there.)

    I pray that his valid points are heard by “those young guys.” The rest… not so much.

  12. Anecdotal evidence means very little — but here’s my story. I did recommend a gentleman whose wife had died to attend McArthur’s church a few years ago. He was the parent of one of our members, and occasionally took the drive to visit us (over an hour). This man lived lived very close to Grace. He ended up becoming good personal friends with John McArthur and growing tremendously in the Lord.

  13. How is Sproul Jr. advocating that lines in the sand not be drawn? I think hes making it quite clear that you draw lines in the sand, but that when you do, you don’t attempt to push those who are on the other side of the line off a cliff for heresy.

    How is wearing an AF shirt and a pair of jeans with holes in them making someone armenian? The assumption is that the person is wearing those things for the sole reason to reach the culture around them. Has it not occurred to anyone that they may prefer those clothes to a dress shirt and khakis?

    The video venue/multisite argument I agree totally with, but the argument against someones choice of clothing or things that aren’t JMac’s view of things is just ridiculous. I’m missional in my context on Sunday mornings, and that means that I dress LIKE Dr. MacArthur does. Sure, he shoots straight, but he is doing so without any recognition of the idea of Colossians 4 and the need to speak both clearly and have our words seasoned with salt.

    Also, why is hardcore rock and roll outside of the bounds of a church gathering? Who defines what music is worldly? My issue is that MacArthur seems to desire to promote his style of ministry, without actual scriptural basis for some of his arguments.

  14. Rae, I don’t think it was MacArhur’s intent to say that having a beer or wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt are marks of theological liberalism. I think his concern was whether it was those things themselves, rather than the gospel, that some preachers were starting to imagine made them relevant to a certain demographic. Likewise, Jacob, I really don’t believe that MacArthur was condemning hardcore rock n roll. He might like it, for all we know. I know I do. But in church, it tends to prevent a true intergenerational congregation from forming, and then it is a problem. It is also a problem when the singing becomes a performance. The bottom line is that these are methods of trying to woo people into the church, and the suppositions behind using methods like that are Arminian in nature. The way MacArthur connected holey jeans and A&F shirts to Arminianism was simply that Arminians believe they have to coax people into the Kingdom, rather than that the Word itself preached is effective, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to draw people to Jesus. The problem was not the outfit, but thinking that the outfit will help get people in and not scare them away, as if clothing had anything to do with people’s rejection of Christ. I understand that MacArthur himself is not fully Reformed, but I within these videos, I really can only see truth and I commend him for fighting this fight. He is very concerned with biblical pastoral ministry and biblical churches. I say, bravo.

  15. 1. God is the One Who regenerates and it does not depend upon man nor his fashion.

    2. I think the point is being missed here regarding fashion. I don’t think Dr. MacArthur is looking to become a critic for fashion week nor does he care if you wear A&F to dinner. Dr. MacArthur succinctly made the point in one of the videos regarding ‘the doctrines of grace as it relates to salvation’ that those pragmatic methods do not ‘somehow give one access to the lost.’ Capitulating to the culture will not a new creation make. Jesus Christ is not impotent that He needs men to utilize ‘culture’ as a crutch or bridge to the lost. Jesus Christ knows those who are His, given to Him by the Father, before the foundation of the earth. Simply put, the Gospel just needs to be proclaimed to all men and God will give the increase.

    3. In my blog I recently entered a short excerpt from an introduction to one of Charnock’s works. I am posting a portion of it below which may be beneficial:

    In this excerpt we can clearly see the empty course that lies ahead when man is pursued in light of the culture in which he lives in the name of Jesus Christ while at the same time; Jesus Christ, the cross, his finished work, and His glorious Gospel is diluted…even lost.

    “In adopting the style of the times, the preachers no doubt supposed that they could thereby recommend religion to the world, especially to the gay and fashionable classes, who had been repelled by the old manner, and might be won, it was alleged, by the new. The comment of the clerical satirist Witherspoon, in his ‘Characteristics,’ is very pertinent. After stating the allegation that the old system had driven most of the fashionable gentry from the churches, he says:

    ‘Now the only way to regain them to the church, is to accommodate the worship as much as may be their taste;’ and then remarks slily, ‘I confess there has sometimes been an ugly objection thrown up against this part of my argument, viz., that this desertion of public worship by those in high life seems in fact to be contemporary with, and to increase in a pretty exact proportion to, the attempts that have been made, and are made, to suit it to their taste.’

    Not that we have any right to condemn the preachers of the eighteenth century because they did not choose to follow the formalism of the seventeenth century. A much graver charge can be brought against them; that of diluting, some of the convincing and saving truths of Christianity. The minister of God’s Word, if he is not to make himself ridiculous, must wear the dress and accommodate himself to the innocent manners of his age; but he is never to forget that he is a minister of the word, prepared to declare the whole counsel of God, and he is not to imagine that he can deliver himself from the offense of the cross.

    The polite, the gay, and the refined admired the preaching of the eighteenth century, but never thought of allowing themselves to fall under the power of the religion recommended. The puritan preachers are still read and have power, ‘being dead they yet speak unto us;’ but who remembers the names of the admired pulpit orators of last century?”

  16. Jordan: Fair enough. I suppose I don’t understand where Dr. MacArthur is divining this information from. When I see someone wearing an A&F shirt, my assumption is that they like the A&F shirt, not that they’re somehow using it as a strategy point for coaxing someone into the Kingdom. Interesting.

    I wonder how that’s any different from, say, wearing a suit into the pulpit to give off an air of “success” or “gravity”.

  17. I think MacArthur comes off ignorantly arrogant in his needless umbrella-ing of these ‘young guys’ into the same group. He has no idea what all of these young guys are doing to shepherd their churches. He has no idea what their understanding of the church is. He just assumes that because they look different than he does and because they ‘do’ church different than he does that they are all pragmatic compromisers. He dares to bash on their demographics like the demographic in his church are absolutely perfect. I suppose when you have the Christianity market cornered in your own mind then this kind of nonsense is ok.

    The more he writes and talks the less respect I have for him.

  18. Trevor,

    …they ‘do’ church different than he does…

    His concerns where not that they do church different, but that they were not “doing church” but “having an event.” His concern is not about trifles but essentials. It both confuses and saddens me that a Reformed Baptist as your self would make the comments you have above. Have we really gone that far?

    Mike Waters
    Heritage Reformed Baptist Church

  19. Good comments on not becoming a “niche church” but trying to mirror the demographics of the place in which the church is located. I am glad MacArthur has such a mix at his church.

    Also, good comments about training up men so that they are ready to pastor a church. However, I would say, please don’t have them sitting around waiting for a church to pastor – send them to another part of the world where they will be over-worked and spreading themselves between 3 or 4 churches rather than waiting without an allocation in the West.

    With Peter Masters and John MacArthur, I believe their messages would be better received if their presentation seemed less strident and negative in tone. The Peter Masters article two years ago or so against the YRR crowd, in particular, was not so much a careful point-by-point plea but rather an over-the-top screed that lumped a great deal of men together and then called them all “worldy” and “charismatic” without distinction. Lots of heat thrown, but little light…. too polemical.

    MacArthur does better here and says many good things, especially about the need for a congregation to see the pastor and his family and have a personal link to them.

    This interview must have been done by laptop with Macarthur staring down and looking dour, which doesn’t help the way some might receive his message. Smile a little Johnny Mac, don’t let those smilin’ big-haired TBN preachers outdo us!

    The new upsurge in churches that are telecast to campuses or branches does, indeed, need to be addressed. I believe it is faulty ecclesiology if this is done as a long-term permanant practice.

    But I believe these assemblies could still fit the definition of a church if there are elders that are there together with the flock watching John Macarthur or John Piper on the flat screen and providing the more personal interaction and leder follow-up needed throughout the week. I think it is unfair to call all of these occurrences as “events” and deny them the title of church, because, in many cases the people are hungry to hear the Word exposited by Piper or Macarthur or whoever is the one being telecast, and so the focus is not on an event but on the teaching of the Word.

    Some solid Reformed Baptist Churches that I know might as well be flat-screen churches for their lack of personal counseling and pastoring of the people Monday through Friday. I know one pastor who claims to spend 30 hours per week preparing his 2 sermons on Sunday, and this cuts into his personal time with individual families during the week. So, in these cases where the leader of the church is only acting in his role as a “preacher” without being active also as a “pastor” or the flock, then having a flat screen preacher and faithful and more personal elder follow-up might be just as permissible. However, ideally, the pastor and elders should be weaving close personal relationships with their flock.

    p.s. it appears that this is a historical first, but there are actually two Trevors posting on this thread at once…that’s what I get for having such a commom name I guess…

  20. Trevor,

    Thanks for the clarification (concerning two Trevors). I should have known. Please forgive me. Your comments above are a blessing. Press forward dear brother. We are great sinners. Thanks be to God, for His indescribable gift!

    Mike Waters

  21. Pastor John MacArthur was the first Calvinistic writer I ever encountered. I bought His study Bible while in college and was quickly led into Calvinistic soteriology. I have benefited from his preaching for many years. Yet, the fact that he is a rather vocal Dispensationalist is not lost on me.

    Is John MacArthur, believer in two peoples of God, a secret Rapture, a future re-built/ restored Jewish temple complete with animal sacrifice, etc.., really the best advocate for ‘Reformed’ anything?

    He doesn’t subscribe to any of the Reformed Confessions. He should be careful accusing others of holding to Reformed theology in a sub-par fashion when He himself is not Reformed!

    To be clear, I agree with what he said concerning the YRR folks. He was right on the money! I just do not think that MacArthur, lacking Confessionally Reformed credentials, should be the de facto defender of a theological system to which has he chosen not to personally subscribe.

    MacArthur has every right to defend Calvinistic soteriology and biblical church ecclesiology. Again, I agree with the substance of his remarks. But he has little right to serve as gatekeeper for Reformed theology as a whole. How is it that MacArthur can call YRR folks to be more consistent Reformed Christians when He is not Reformed?

    In Christ,

    Jason Boothe
    Horizons Baptist Church
    Piketon, Ohio

  22. Jason: “…he has little right to serve as gatekeeper for Reformed theology as a whole.”

    Why does Reformed theology need a gatekeeper? Is it to keep the riffraff out? Jesus would have been out there with the riffraff. He detested religious people, but he loved the unpretentious.

  23. I thought Dr. R. Scott Clark was the gate-keeper of Reformed Theology and done locked us Baptists out!

  24. Sojourner: “Why does Reformed theology need a gatekeeper?”

    I wasn’t suggesting that we elect a “gatekeeper.” But if we were to have one (which I’m not advocating, trust me!) , MacArthur couldn’t be the guy. He doesn’t subscribe to ANY Reformed Confession! He is not Reformed! His first duty as gatekeeper would be to lock himself out!

    Sojourner: “He [Jesus] detested religious people, but he loved the unpretentious.”

    I don’t completely understand what you mean by your conclusion. I do not believe that Jesus detested people who held to right religion (God’s Sovereign Grace in Christ). He surely detested the preverted legalism of the Jewish religious leaders. But I do not think that I am advocating a return to Jewish religious legalism, so I’m not quite sure why you would imply that my questioning of MacArthur’s lack of Confessional subscription (which is a simple fact) somehow makes me guilty of advcating detestable religion.

    MacArthur made some good points in his video series. Like I said earlier, I agree with the substance of his comments. But MacArthur treads on thin ice when he starts questioning the Reformed credentials of others, considering his own incongruent Dispensational theology.

    Trevor: R.S. Clark wouldn’t need to think twice before throwing us both out of the Reformed Camp!

    In Christ,

    Jason Boothe
    Horizons Baptist Church
    Piketon, Ohio

  25. Sojourner claims that: “[Jesus] detested religious people, but he loved the unpretentious.”

    James who was inspired wrote:”Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

    Me thinks Jesus is the Head of the one true religion.

  26. I was kind of wondering how long MacArthur would be able to tolerate the worldly and compromising atmosphere of this movement. Why he almost sounds like Peter Masters in these statements! And I commend him for his statements, especially the challenging question “Are you a slave for Jesus?”, a question that needs be asked before considering whether or not we are free to smoke cigars, watch “R” rated movies, swig beer and serve mixed drinks at our Bible studies. I hope this means that he (MacArthur) is no longer going to have rock and rap concerts preceding his “Resolved” conferences. I also find it a refreshing drink of water to finally see someone within these circles in the reform camp deep six this constant fawning over John Piper and rightly censuring his actions regarding synchrotist-in-practice Rick Warren. It has been a year since he has had Warren at his conference and he still vehemently defends his promotion of Warren and continues to promote him to this day. Yet for some reason he is still given a pass by many RB preachers and theologians on this issue and other highly problematic (understatement) issues regarding the Fuller trained Piper and his theology. I hope and pray that the Lord will use these statements by Macarthur to crack open a floodgate of discernment regarding New Calvinism in the Reform Baptist camp.

  27. I think Jesus would sit down and talk with me if I asked Him. And He would answer my questions, no matter how long it took or how offensive to His holiness it was. You guys are too busy protecting yourselves from cigar smoke and rock music. And I know that you guys watch R rated movies, I know that many of your elders’ sons listen to rock music, and many of you secretly smoke. I’ve heard YRR admit they’re wrong about many things. I’ve never heard you guys admit you were wrong about anything.

    How come your “biblical” principles always come down to this: You guys are deserving of respect, honor and high esteem and the rest of us have to conform or be labelled as worldly, arrogant or, as recently in Driscoll’s case… demonic.

    Why is it that the way you do church is “normal” and the way we do it is calculated to make sinners feel comfortable in their sins? Which sins are you referring to?

    You’re covering things up. You’re covering a lot of things up. And I’ve seen people I love pay for it, and they still pay for it.

    How important is your tradition to you?

    Is your truth (meaning the “old-fashioned” avoident, dysfunctional, conciliatory, southern aristocratic tradition that you call “sound doctrine”) so important that it must be protected by a bodyguard of lies?

    Total depravity goes both ways.

  28. Dear sir (awkward Christianity),

    Smoking an occasional cigar or drinking an occasional beer is not the issue (I personally enjoy an occasional cold one with my barbecue). Receiving direct pornographic revelation from God is (1Thess.5:21). Denying Christians are to obey all Ten Commandments is (Matt.5:19). Maintaining that local churches are overseen by resident pastors is (Acts 20:28). Separating ourselves from doctrinally erring brethren is (2Thess.3:6). These are some of the issues involved here. These are not the traditions of men nor of Reformed Baptists. These are the teachings of Holy Scripture.

    Let us not confuse the issue.

    Mike W
    Heritage RBC

  29. Responding to Awkward Christianity,

    First , I address Reform Baptists because this is the corner of the Christian universe in which the Lord has seen fit to place me, and this is an RB blog. If it means anything, I do have warm, loving fellowship with brethren in other evangelical denominations, and therefore would certainly hope that the Lord would send a flood of discernment all through the evangelical camp.(Reformed or otherwise)To this I stand corrected.
    Second, I was not referring to brethren who smoke cigars and drink the occasional one. What they do they do unto the Lord and therefore the Lord is their judge, not me. I was referring to those who make it a priority to make sure that no “legalist” is gonna stomp on their right to party after they’ve been converted. Devoted bondservice unto Christ is the consistent result of God’s one-time act of justification in the believer. This doctrine has been heavily demphasized by the movement (New Calvinism), in general.
    Thirdly- As far as “my” tradition is concerned- If you want to define tradition as taking the biblical principles of modesty, temperance, non conformity to the world and the spirit of the age, and proving what is acceptable unto the Lord, guarding the ear-gate and the eye-gate and making universal application of these principles to the whole of life, then I stand convicted. Christian liberty is not just a broad liberty to eat, drink, and be entertained, it is also a liberty to be narrow. I’ve been set free from the smiles and frowns of men in general and the smiles and frowns of “cool”, “hip”, and “fresh” professing brethren. May the Lord preserve this great freedom, freedom to be holy.

  30. Frank,

    Thank you. You answered better than I could. Christian liberty is often misunderstood. As I understand it, it entails the freedom to love, enjoy, glorify, and obey God and His holy law. What blessed freedom indeed!

    And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts (Ps.119:45).

  31. I don’t understand how dressing according to the current styles and using modern music styles in order to gather a crowd or break the ice with others is somehow Arminian! Seems to me that God ordains the end (the salvation of His elect) as well as the means of obtaining that end. God chose to use men to execute his effective calling. And it seems that God used Paul to reach certain groups by becoming like them to some extent. This does not in some way manipulate a false profession, instead, it seems to be a means of God opening doors for the communication of His effectual calling.

    Or not?

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