Did John MacArthur Change His Views on Christians and Government?

John MacArthur preaching to a reduced congregation after lock down, March 15, 2020

I want to dispel a particular myth that has taken root across social media. It is the claim that the legal battles with the state of California and the county of Los Angeles during the corona virus pandemic has brought John MacArthur to change his fundamental views of Romans 13 and the responsibility Christians have toward the government. That of course is ridiculously untrue. John has been consistent in his position, and anyone claiming he changed it demonstrates a deep unfamiliarity with what John teaches and has taught on the subject of Christians and government.

What Has John Taught?

If a person were to review John’s sermons on the topic of Christians and government, specifically the ones that were expositions of the relevant passages like Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13 ff., he will find that John has always maintained that Christians must submit to the authority of the governments where they live. That would include those governments that are hostile to religious faith and may engage in oppressive tyranny. So that we are clear, John isn’t saying that Christians should roll over and allow themselves to be killed by hateful governing authorities. He means that Christians should live peaceable lives, seeking the welfare of the city. The Christian Church should not have a reputation of subversion and political agitation. Believers shouldn’t be out in the streets leading protests fomenting rebellion to overthrow the state.

Take for example his comments from a sermon on 1 Peter 2:13 that was preached in 1989. John states,

The command is simple, "submit yourselves," from the Greek word hupotassō. It literally is a military term meaning to arrange in military fashion under the commander.  It's talking about being subject.  The best translation would be, "Put yourselves in an attitude of submission.” “Put yourselves in an attitude of submission."  By the way, that is distinctively Christian because attitudes of submission and humility in ancient times were looked upon as those things which characterized cowards and weaklings.  And no man of strength would ever think of submitting himself or being humble. So God's people were to live in a humble, submissive way in the midst of a hostile, godless, Christ-less, sinful, wicked, accusing, slandering society.  In fact, God's people had often been accused of insurrection, would continue to be accused of insurrection but were never called by God to engage in it, never.

He goes in the same sermon to say,

Frankly, I believe it is sad to see Christians who set the example of public civil disobedience, Christians who set the example of the violation of law, Christians who harass the police, because if we are the righteous then what will the unrighteous feel that they should do?  If we are the virtuous of society, if we are the righteous who serve the God who ordained government, how can we defy the very God and the very government He has ordained?  And if we set the example who are the righteous, then what will the unrighteous do?

Consider his sermons from Romans 13. Those messages were given in 1985, and there he teaches the exact some thing. In the opening message to his series “The Christian’s Responsibility to Government,” John provides some reasons for why the Church should not be leading the way on political activism, the more notable being that God has not called Christians to that duty, and the Church can swiftly become compromised with both the secular state and other groups of false religionists who may advocate for the same goals.

He states,

Seems to me that the church needs to use all of its power and all of its resources, and all of its energy and forces to convert men and women to Jesus Christ.  And that's what God has called us to do.  The Scripture speaks not at all about Christians engaging in politics.  It has nothing to say about it.  Other than the fact that we're to be model citizens, it says nothing. It speaks not at all about Christians engaging in civil change.  That is not our priority.  It doesn't mean we're not to be involved as citizens where we can be.  It's a question of priority.[emphasis mine]

I highlight that one sentence because there will be choruses of critics saying John is hypocritical. He says the Christian Church shouldn’t be involved in politics, but then he said Christians should vote for Donald Trump. But it is not “political activism” to encourage people to vote for one particular candidate over another. That’s doing our part as citizens in our American system, which is totally acceptable. But I digress…

That One Exception

The ONLY exception for the Church’s duty in submitting to the authority of the government is if the government imposes orders for Christians to disobey God and the commands of Scripture. John says as much in the conclusion of his first sermon on Romans 13,

Now you say, "Wait a minute.  You mean we're to submit to everything?  Everything, everything without limitation?"  No, there's one limitation.  There's one limitation.  And we'll deal with that and conclude our study tonight. ... The one time we have a right to disobey the authority and the government is when the government commands us not to do something God commanded us to do.  Or when the government commands us to do something God commanded us not to do.  Okay?  When it invades that domain. For example, if all of these laws that are supposed to be being made for the rights of homosexuals come to the point where they make demands on Grace Community Church to hire homosexuals, that's where we say sorry, you have just told us to do what God forbids us to do.  We will not do that.  Those are the only places where we have justification.  And I hope, if it comes to that, we have the opportunity to speak loudly and clearly as to why we stand with the truth of God. [emphasis mine]

John has been clear since the time he taught through Romans in 1985 and later in 1 Peter in 1989: It is the duty of God’s Church to submit to the governing authorities, either good or bad, and to seek the civil peace with those authorities. The only time those duties are overridden as it were, is when the government imposes laws or commands that cause the Church to VIOLATE God’s will for His people as revealed in Scripture. That has been John’s consistent position throughout his ministry and it is still reflected in the commentaries adapted from those messages, as well as other printed material, like his book, Why Government Can’t Save You.

Did Corona Virus and Government Lock Downs Change Any of That?

A week after the 2020 Shepherd’s Conference at Grace Community Church, California governor, Gavin Newsom, issued a lock down of the entire state that was to last three weeks. The goal of the lock down was to slow the spread of Covid-19, preventing the state’s healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed by the then prediction of hundreds of thousands of people succumbing to the choking horror of the virus.

The Thursday before the lock downs were to go into effect, the elders of Grace Community Church met to decide how they would move forward handling the mandate. At that time, due to the unknowns regarding the virus and the urgency from state and local health officials for preventing its spread, the elders decided to defer to government authorities and suspend services at GCC for three Sundays.

That of course is an entirely reasonable decision. It was never sinful for GCC, or any congregation for that matter, to cancel services for three weeks in compliance with a state health mandate that helps the general welfare of the city. Again, at that time, it was prudent given the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Yet, immediately after GCC chose to suspend services, John and the elders came under scrutinizing criticism from other believers for “bowing to Caesar” by allowing the STATE to dictate their services. The bulk of those criticisms, though, came from individuals who attended small congregations in rural areas of the United States, or in locations that were favorable to churches staying open. They were not navigating a 5,000 member congregation at a high profile church in a major city in California.

Those critics overlooked the fact that the elders of GCC had determined at their initial meeting that IF the state began abusing it’s authority by preventing churches assembling together for worship and fellowship, they would have to reconsider their obedience to that mandate. Phil Johnson stated in an article at his blog addressing that very issue. He writes,

How long until the government-ordered quarantine is undeniably excessive, or we conclude that it's targeted persecution against our worship and therefore an illegal attempt to make us disobey Hebrews 10:25? That time may come, and when it does, we may have to implement the principle of Acts 5:29. The question of whether we have already passed that point is another subjective issue, but it's clear that among believers—in the church itself—there is not yet consensus on whether the quarantine has gone too far.

That consensus on whether the quarantine has gone too far is, as Phil states, subjective. That means the leadership in various congregations must have the liberty to make those decisions they believe are best for their members, not placating the finger-wagging of online scolds.

On April 19th, John did a Q&A on a Sunday evening. Keep in mind this is just over a month since the lock down mandate went into effect and had since been extended past the three week mark. A question was asked about churches who were defying the various state mandates and what John thought of that. He responded,

Yeah, let me make very clear this question because it keeps coming up. If the government told us not to meet because Christianity was against the law, if the government told us not to meet because we would be punished, fined for our religion and our religious convictions, we would have no option but to meet anyway. And that takes you to the fifth chapter of Acts where the leaders of Israel said to the apostles, “Stop preaching.” And Peter’s response was very simple. He said, “You judge whether we obey God or men,” then he went right out and preached. 

If the government tells us to stop worshiping, stop preaching, stop communicating the gospel, we don’t stop. We obey God rather than men. We don’t start a revolution about that; the apostles didn’t do that. If they put us in jail, we go to jail and we have a jail ministry. Like the apostle Paul said, “My being in jail has fallen out to the furtherance of the gospel.” So we don’t rebel, we don’t protest. You don’t ever see Christians doing that in the book of Acts. If they were persecuted, they were faithful to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ even if it took them to jail; and that’s been the pattern of true Christianity through all the centuries. 

But this is not that. Might become that in the future. Might be overtones of that with some politicians. But this is the government saying, “Please do this for the protection of this society.” This is for greater societal good, that’s their objective. This is not the persecution of Christianity. This is saying, “Behave this way so that people don’t become ill and die.” [emphasis mine]

He goes on to say in his answer that the church doesn’t want to come across as defiant at the expense of hurting those vulnerable to the disease, and so at the moment, it is best to obey the authorities. But, as I emphasize in that answer, a response of defiance against government “might become that in the future.” He left open the possibility that such may happen.

And that is exactly what did happen. As the pandemic plodded onward, it became increasingly clear that the virus was not as severe as was originally claimed. In fact, the absurd over reaction to the virus with lock downs and stay at home orders was creating more catastrophic devastation to people than the virus itself. The state of CA and the county of LA continued their draconian overreach infringing not only on the rights of the general society, but the Church’s duty to gather for worship and ministers to each other. It was quickly coming to a place that an Acts 5 approach would be necessary. That decision with John and the elders was solidified during the summer riots, when the same politicians and health officials who had upended society with their medical police state mandates, tossed them all away to excuse the outrageous looting and mayhem caused by “protesters.” It was at that point GCC’s compliance and obedience to the lock down came to an end.

So the elders issued a statement on July 24th, and the following Sunday, John preached a message explaining the decision they made. In it he states,

“We must obey God rather than men.” Does this mean we have no responsibility to our leaders? Not at all. God has ordained human government for the peace and well-being of temporal society. Romans 13, “We are to recognize the authorities are designed by God. We are to submit to them in the sphere in which God has designed them to operate.” We’re to do more than that. We’re to honor them, show them respect. Through the years we’ve done that here. We continue to do that with the authorities in our city every opportunity we have. We render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. We even have been called, 1 Timothy 2, to pray for their salvation, as I did this morning. When orders come, however, to us that contradict the orders of our King, we have to obey God rather than men.[emphasis mine]

I believe there is a false perception that John changed his views because this was perhaps the first time in the history of his ministry and the life of GCC that what was taught from the pulpit regarding the Church’s responsibility to government was put into actual practice. The critics are either entirely unaware of what John genuinely believes on this subject, or they have some differing take on the relevant passages than what he does. So, when they see him genuinely apply his convictions in real time, they falsely conclude: “He changed his position!” That is hardly the case.

A couple of other articles that may be of interest along these lines is a time line of events from the beginning of the lock downs to the legal victory GCC had over LA County. And Phil Johnson’s article that was written last year, but was just published officially detailing the medical fascism of health procedures as dictated by the LA County health department.

About that lying “prophet” that rebuked John MacArthur

prophetIf you run in my social media circles, you know that Sunday, August 16th, a self-appoint, spiritual narcissist, by the name of John O’Neill, jumped up on the platform at Grace Community Church when John MacArthur was greeting the congregation and telling about his summer. I was so totally bummed that I was out of town and had to miss it.

Once he got on the platform, the prophetic crusader loudly shouted for John MacArthur to repent from his cessationist views. He himself was proof that cessationism is heresy, because He was a living prophet of God! or some such nonsense before security dragged him away.

Now we are in LA. We have our share of wack-a-doodles visiting our church. There are epic stories. From the guy brandishing a spear in John’s office to Mark Driscoll crashing a conference. There has always been times when folks are protesting out in front of our church, or wandering about the campus causing scenes in a Sunday school class, and on occasion, attempting to commandeer the pulpit. So the stunt our prophet crank pulled isn’t too unusual.

However, in our day and age, when lone wackos have shot people, including members of a church, what O’Neill did sort of put folks on edge. Being clad all in black and wearing a backpack also didn’t help convey his prophetic message to the congregation, either. Hence the reason there was all this nervous laughing from the audience after John made a crack about Scotland with an attempt to ease the tension in the worship center. His stunt displayed an woeful lack of self-awareness and overall discernment.

In spite of what really amounted to an embarrassingly stupid thing to do, in the last week or so, there have been genuine people defending this guy, likening him to a 21st century version of Jeremiah crying out against the religious establishment.

The first odd ball article came from a confused woman who praised the faux prophet for doing what he did and even suggesting it was the only way someone as big time as MacArthur could ever hear the truth about his heretical views of cessationism.

I say confused and odd ball, because last year the same lady rebuked the Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll protesters as ones disobeying the Word of God for attacking a pastor. They needed to heed Scripture’s admonition to touch not the Lord’s anointed. Disconnection much.

Then, Michael Brown chimed in with an editorial for Charisma News Online that wondered if God really sent a prophet to John MacArthur to tell him the truth and confront him for his divisive rhetoric against charismatics.

It’s amazingly unbelievable. But par for the course from charismatic lunacy that masquerades as “filled with the spirit.”

I happen to personally know John O’Neill wasn’t a prophet, because God’s prophets do not lie or misrepresent their true intentions and that is exactly what he did.

You see, I met him back in early June and had an extended conversation with him.

It was on a Sunday evening. The children’s ministries were hosting a plaza fellowship for the families of Grace Church. My wife and I were popping popcorn when he came strolling along with his backpack. We started chatting and immediately recognized he was Scottish. I asked if he was here to go to seminary. He said no; but that he was an open air preacher who had come to LA to evangelize. I asked if he knew about our church. He said yes he did, and get this, he told me HE LIKED JOHN MACARTHUR AND APPRECIATED HIS MINISTRY!

What was that? Yep, he emphatically stated he liked our pastor and his preaching ministry.

We spoke for nearly 30 minutes. Though I got weird vibes off him because he talked about God calling or telling him thus and such, never once did he mention anything about cessationism or that John was teaching heresy for saying the apostolic sign gifts had ceased.

In fact, he hung around Grace Church for the summer attending on Sundays. A lot of friends also met him and they never once had a conversation with him about cessationism or the sign gifts. Tony Miano, who does real street preaching, also went on visitation with him. He also didn’t hear any negatives against MacArthur when they were together.

But then on the 16th, when John returns from his summer sabbatical, he jumps up on stage and goes unhinged.

The guy was a deceptive liar, especially if he believed John MacArthur taught heresy. There are no double-minded prophets. A true prophet of God doesn’t ingratiate himself to a friendly church, telling everyone he likes the pastor in order to wait like a Trojan Horse that opens up to spring a trap. That is a lying spirit that does such things.

My take. I think he miscalculated his visit. He wasn’t expecting John to be gone so long during the summer. From what I understand, O’Neill’s visa ended the Tuesday following, so he barely made it.

Whatever the case, I know one thing for sure out of all this. John Oneill’s enabling cheerleaders again displays how sober-minded discernment is totally absent within charismatic circles. Makes me wonder if God has given them over to a deceiving spirit.

Shepherd’s Conference 2015 Recap

kalavinThis years Shepherd’s Conference was called the Inerrancy Summit, and it centered around the theme of reaffirming the doctrines of Scripture’s inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy. Sixteen keynote speakers and several breakout sessions presented messages and lectures confirming those timeless truths.

All of the session audio/video will be online at the TMS website. The Vimeo versions of the keynote speaker addresses are available now.

All of the key sessions were good, but a few did stand out to me. Steve Lawson’s breakout lecture which was a biographical sketch of William Tyndale was truly moving, and Carl Trueman’s talk on the historical doctrine of inerrancy was a fine debunking to those who claim “inerrancy” is a modern concept and was never believed by the Christian church. Others to consider would be Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, and Mark Dever reading the entire 119th Psalm; and the Q&A on the background to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was also insightful.

The real highlight for me was meeting up with dear saints I know chiefly from social media and spending time with them in real person. I made a special effort to shake Carl Trueman’s hand, which he recounted at his blog. Many of The #15 were there, including Squirrel, Matt Rollings, and JD Hall himself, who made the trip driving down from Montana to LA with his family.

I also had the blessed privilege to spend extended time with No Compromise radio host, Mike Abendroth, and his faithful side kick, Steve “Tuesday Guy” Cooley. I also talked with David Wheaton and his brother, and I met up with Jimmy Li who runs the Domain for Truth blog. We ate lunch with Robert McCabe, who teaches Hebrew and OT studies at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

There were some young pastors who encouraged me, including Nate Pickowicz who pastors Harvest Bible Church in Gilmanton, NH, and Rick Cowan, who pastors Calvary Baptist in Windsor, Canada. His story is truly amazing as he recounted how he and his church are leaving wild-eyed, barking at the moon independent fundamentalism to sound, biblical orthodoxy and practice. I was truly blessed by his story.

We had our first “protester” in a long, long time. He was an angry anti-Kalvanist. Kalvan, according to this guy, was is a heritic from Jeneva. And apparently, I was also embroiled in seething internet controversy with the theonomy folks for my article last week on the debate between JD Hall and Joel McDurmon and with Brannon Howse of Worldview Weekend fame and his ridiculous faux-outrage at Todd Friel. However, the crushing number of attendees overwhelmed the network system to the point I couldn’t follow any of it, so I remained blissfully unaware of any trouble I was stirring up.

The thing with Brannon Howse insisting the number of people who died during the Inquisitions was 50 million almost seemed to be manufactured for the sole purpose of getting Todd Friel. The few individuals I spoke with during the conference who were aware of his multiple broadcasts addressing the subject, couldn’t understand why he wasn’t backing down after several corrections of factual error. No one spoke of it in positive terms and believed it only served to besmirch his reputation. But oh well.

That was the Shepherd’s Conference to end all conferences, so I’ll be surprised to see what will be tackled next. Of course, I am holding out for a Strange Flesh conference that reaffirms biblical sexuality and marriage, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

 

Hunting Benny Hinn

A commenter under this post writes,

Here’s a suggestion, why don’t Fred, Dan, and others refute the best proponents of the opposing position? Like Grudem and Fee (among others), for instance, and stop gunning for the Hinns of the world?

HinnThat’s a common question we cessationist, “MacArthurite” types receive a lot, especially in recent months as the Strange Fire conference approaches in October.

The objection to our view is that John MacArthur and other like-minded cessationists – which I guess would include Dan Phillips and myself – hunt the easy targets. Like shotgun blasting baby ducks in a pond.

Everyone agrees folks like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, and the entire wretched hive of scum and villainy paraded before our eyes on TBN are fakers and charlatans. However, they don’t represent the best of the continuationists. We need to consider the sound arguments made by continuationist/charismatics like DA Carson, John Piper, Craig Keener, and Wayne Grudem.

My commenter seems to think no one from our “camp” has offered any meaningful critique. Though if one were to do a simple search you could find a number of articles.

For example.

Wayne Grudem: HERE, HERE, and HERE

DA Carson: HERE and HERE

Gordon Fee: HERE

Those who identify with Grudem-Carson-Piper-Keener consider themselves to be “open, but cautious.”  I honestly never understood that description. Either spiritual gifts as described in the NT documents function among Christians in today’s church or they don’t. It’s that simple.

The very description, “open” implies you believe spiritual gifts function in today’s church just like in the NT, but the addition of “cautious” means you are not so sure. In fact, if you think about it, the two terms cancel each other out. To say you are “cautious” puts you in the same camp as me, the spirit-quenching MacArthurite cessationist.  The term “cautious” means you’re skeptical about the so-called healing or whatever supernatural manifestation may have taken place, at least until you can evaluate the authenticity of such a claim. Indeed, if you are are skeptical, by Steve Hays’s standards, you’re thinking like Richard Dawkins and other new atheists.

Certainly it doesn’t mean an “open, but cautious” person is “open” to, or even “cautious” about, Benny Hinn whipping alleged deaf people with his suit coat. He’s automatically discounted at the outset of this discussion per my commenter’s comment.

So. Are the “open, but cautious” then saying they are cautious about those claims of healing coming from among the proponents of the “open, but cautious”? If that is the case, then what exactly is the criteria that makes a claim of healing genuine? Or perhaps I should ask, what is lacking in the testimony about the claim of healing that would make an “open, but cautious” proponent cautious of the claim?

If the claim is dubious, and the “open, but cautious” person is skeptically cautious of the claim, then why doesn’t that dubious claim place that person making it along side Benny Hinn? Additionally, what if a like-minded “open, but cautious” friend believes the claim is genuine, but you are still cautious? How would we determine which person is right? One could say Scripture is the final arbiter in those cases, but each person can equally appeal to Scripture.

That subjectivity would be especially true in regards to alleged prophetic announcements. At least according to Grudem’s paradigm, a prophecy can be fallible. If we have “conflicting” prophecies that aren’t unbiblical or odd, do we just sort of wait around to see which one is confirmed and then declare fallibility or infallibility?

For instance, I have a friend who once attended an “open, but cautious” church. A time during the service was provided that allowed for people to “give a word from the Lord.” One person stood up and explained how God wanted to announce thus and so concerning His work in this church.

A little bit later, an entirely different person stood up and announced thus and so concerning God’s work in this church, but that prophet’s announcement contradicted the first “prophet.”  Neither “prophecy” was necessarily unbiblical. So who is right?

Now perhaps one will say that the others in the congregation with the gift of prophecy are to make that determination per 1 Corinthians 14 :31,32, but what if there is a division between them? Are we to conclude the infallibility of a prophecy is determined by majority rule?

Contrary to what many readers may believe about us MacArthurite cessationists, we do not deny the supernatural work of the Spirit.  All that we are insisting is that the exercise of spiritual gifts be according to what we find in the biblical record.

Checking the biblical record, I see no case of tongues being nonsensical gibberish done either in public or private. It was a genuine human language that operated according to the normal rules of linguistic grammar that the person speaking that language had never learned.

The reality is that 100 percent of the “tongues” practiced among Christians in churches or in private, even among the “open, but cautious” is fake. Perhaps I am being over the top to say 100 percent. Maybe 98.92 percent; but I have yet to come across that fraction of a percent.

When people were healed, it was an undeniable, extraordinary work of the Spirit healing an individual (Acts 4:16). Something the “Amazing” Randi could not deny. Think Iraqi war veterans getting their limbs back completely whole or the late Christopher Reeves having his spinal cord injury reversed.

When we MacArthurite cessationists ask for evidence of such occurrences, it is not because we deny God can heal. It is that the track record for such testimonies has been consistently tarnished with the exaggerations of eager enthusiasts or outright fabricated all together by flim-flam artists. The reality is that none of those kind of miracles are happening, because if they were, everyone would certainly know about it, including the most militant critics of Christianity.

David Dancing Before the LORD

daviddancedIs criticizing the modern charismatic movement the same as Michal rebuking David’s dancing before the ark?

As a number of my readers are aware, Grace to You, the radio ministry where I work, will be hosting a Truth Matters conference in October 2013 entitled “Strange Fire.”  The focus of the conference will be to center our attention upon the charismatic movement within the church and what the Bible says about spiritual gifts.

We are of the conviction, as many of the speakers will demonstrate in their messages, that God had a purpose for spectacular, supernatural gifts that has been fulfilled.  According to the whole counsel of Scripture, particularly what is revealed in the NT, those spectacular gifts are no longer functioning in the modern church in the same way they did in the first century. They were for the purpose of establishing the NT church and the authority of the apostles, and once that was accomplished, those gift ceased, hence the reason those in our camp refer to themselves as “cessationists.”

Looking forward to our conference, the GTY blog has been posting a series of articles highlighting various subjects that will be addressed by the speakers, as well as some of the main criticisms cessationists have with modern-day charismatics.

Obviously, such posts will gather naysayers who claim we are quenching the work of the Spirit. We have been interacting with a number of them in the comments, so if you are interested in reading a bit of the back and forth, don’t miss them.

One of the repeated arguments I have read from commenters, especially under a recent post critical of Rodney Howlin’ Brown, is that we cessationists who criticize charismatics are like Saul’s daughter, Michal, who criticized David for “dancing before the ark.” Just as God gave her over to dishonor, so too will these critical cessationists be given over to dishonor.

I have encountered that charge in the past, and now that I have run across it again, I thought I would write up a response.

Let me begin by citing the relevant text,

Now as the ark of the LORD came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart…

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself.

So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD and I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight.  But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.” Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (2 Samuel 6:16, 20-23).

In order to provide a response to our charismatic detractors, it is important to build a context.

If you recall, Saul, who was Michal’s father, was Israel’s first king. However, he wasn’t a God-fearing King. His blatant disobedience exposed him as a spiritual fraud and God removed Saul from his position. David, who is described as a man after God’s own heart in 1 Samuel 16, is anointed as king instead.

But David was not made king immediately. In fact, he was pursued nearly 10 years by Saul and his army as a rebel looking to usurp Saul’s throne.  Saul eventually kills himself after a disastrous battle against the Philistines, leaving David the freedom to finally take his rightful place as Israel’s king.

The opening chapters of 2 Samuel record David’s ascension to the throne. One of the first things David wanted to do as king is bring the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle to Jerusalem where He maintained the seat of Israel’s government.

After repenting from the foolish attempt of moving the ark that resulted in Uzzah losing his life (2 Samuel 6:7,8), the ark is finally brought to Jerusalem. During the triumphal procession that accompanied the coming of the ark, David joins with the worshipers praising the LORD. It was at that time Michal, his wife and daughter of Saul, saw him and despised what he was doing.

Now, with that background in mind, we can make some observations of the text that provide us a clearer picture of what is going on.

First, one will notice that it says Michal “despised him in her heart” when she saw David dancing in the streets. Did she “despise” him because he was worshiping God as a faithful, covenant-keeping Jew, which would be the accusation suggested by charismatics against cessationists when they question the validity of their “faithful, spirit-filled worship”? Or did she “despise” him for another reason? I think it is for another reason that David even reveals when Michal confronts him in 2 Samuel 6:20, 21. She was bitter about David being made ruler and her father being judged.

Remember her story: Michal was given to David as a wife by her father after David killed Goliath.  She certainly wasn’t forced to marry David as 1 Samuel 18:20 does record for us that Michal did indeed love him and was pleased with her father’s choice of a husband.  However, as their life moved along with David as a fugitive and him being a serial “wife” collector while he was on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 25:42,43), her love for him perhaps began to wane a bit. Moreover, Michal’s father then gave her to another man to spite David and as an “official” way of cutting him off from the royal family (1 Samuel 25:44).

After David became the king, he had Michal taken from the other man and brought back to him. Even though David was perhaps in the right to severe that marriage and bring Michal back to himself, that move did not sit well with her. It is quite understandable that she would be bitter about her circumstances.

Second. It is important to note that the “worship” David offered to the LORD was the traditional, Jewish expression of worship. He was doing nothing on the level that is witnessed in many of the Pentecostal/charismatic churches we see in our modern-day.  To equate the criticisms cessationists like myself have with people who say their “worship” is rolling on the floor, babbling in tongues, barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, and behaving foolishly in a number of bizarre ways, with MIchal criticizing David’s worship, displays a profound lack of discernment.

What was “scandalous” for Michal was not that David “danced before the LORD” in worship, but the fact that David laid aside his royal garments, took upon himself a linen ephod, and participated in the worship with the common folks.  She saw him as acting in an undignified manner that was unbecoming of the royal king of Israel.

There isn’t any genuine comparison between the biblical induced criticisms non-charismatics have of modern charismatics with Michal attacking David for his sincere worship. In a way, David’s act of laying aside his royal garments and identifying with the people as an equal worshiper of God is similar to Christ laying aside his “royal garments” to walk among the people He came to save. A much better case can be made of this incident with Michal being more of an illustration of people attacking Christ’s incarnation than critical remarks against the charismatic movement.

And one footnote. Second Samuel 6:23 records that “Michal had no children until the day of her death.” Whether that was due in part to God preventing her from having children, or the fact David no longer had any intimate relationship with her is unclear. Perhaps it’s a combination of both situations.  Whatever the case, we do know that it was a direct fulfillment of God’s judgment against Saul’s house as stated in 1 Samuel 15.

However, 2 Samuel 21:8 records that Michal “bore” five sons for Adriel. The comment seems to contradict the words of 2 Samuel 6:23. Various English translations switch Michal for her sister, Merab, in 2 Samuel 21:8.  According to 1 Samuel 18:18, 19, it was Merab who married Adriel and hence she had to have been the one who bore him 5 sons.  But the name Michal is recorded there in 2 Samuel 21:8, so what gives? My guess is that Merab either died and Michal “adopted” the five sons so as to raise them, or Michal, being childless, was given the opportunity to help raise them with her sister.

IFB Dishonesty

A pastor acquaintance I recently met at Shepherd’s Conference this past year exposes a couple of instances of Fundamentalist tale bearing.

Of particular interest is the second one in which my pastor acquaintance uncovers the dishonest exaggerations of Kent Bradenburg.

Kent’s an occasional commenter under any of my posts pertaining to John MacArthur and my church. Most recently are his comments under this post.  As my pastor acquaintance notes in his report, Kent, who didn’t even attend the Shepherd’s Conference and only listened to a little bit of the on-line streaming, didn’t like the music that was used to lead worship at the conference. That’s all well and good, because people have different preferences when it comes to music, but he practically likens it to a rock and roll concert.  That of course is a lie and my pastor acquaintance, who did attend the conference and even video recorded many of the sessions, exposes his falsehood.

Even if one disagrees with what we do, at least be an honorable person that doesn’t lie against detractors.

What A Fellowship!

pipermacI wanted to address some comments Kent Brandenburg made a few weeks ago. Writing on the cherished Fundamentalist practice of separation, he states,

Alright, so Charismatic doctrine is unbiblical.  I run into Charismatics all the time going door-to-door (I’ve written a very helpful tract to give them too, that we hand them), and they are not only contradictory to the doctrine of our church, but also the doctrine of the church period.  The young evangelical I referenced chose to call it an “odd ball view.”  Odd ball view?  It’s false doctrine.  It contradicts scripture.  That’s bad enough. We could stop there, but it does far more damage then that, and John MacArthur himself, this young man’s pastor, has written a scathing book against the odd ball views.  It was one of MacArthur’s early books, that went into a second printing, and he makes it look very bad and dangerous and hurtful.  He’s correct on all fronts.  Bravo John MacArthur in your true exposure of these false doctrines!

Writing a book is fine.  But what does Romans 16:17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6 tell us to do?  It says “mark and avoid” and “withdraw ourselves” from these.  I’m not nitpicking.  I’m talking about applying what God commanded us to do.  Talk to God about it.  He’s the one that said it.  Are we nitpicking if we report what God said?  If so, well, then I guess I’ll be nitpicking.  And then he implies that we lack discernment, and that’s why we can’t have guys like Piper preach for us.  If he came, we’d get all confused and not know what we believe.  Right.  No, it really is wanting to obey passages of Scripture—that black stuff on white paper, those words.  That’s how we’re sanctified, is by the truth.  It’s in those pages we see the face of Jesus, which changes us into His glory.  Are we changed into His glory when we don’t do what He said?  No.

First off, I appreciate being called young. I was actually flattered a bit; especially seeing that I am probably older than Kent. It’s like that time a couple of Christmases ago when I went into the grocery store to get a bottle of wine for some recipe my wife was making and the lady at the register carded me by asking for my driver’s license. I was befuddled. “Really?” I exclaimed, “I’ve never been carded before in my life! You just made my day, mam!”

But moving along to the point at hand.

Kent was troubled by this post I wrote. Even more so with the comments I left to an individual underneath it regarding John MacArthur’s relationship with the Resolved Conferences, John Piper, and I guess by extension, C.J. Mahaney; but mostly Piper.

Kent represents a vocal group of Fundamentalist finger-wagging gatekeepers who have always been critical of John and his “affiliations” with alleged problematic individuals like Piper and Mahaney.  John’s relationship with them is viewed as an insidious form of compromise. As my commenter noted, for John to write a hard-hitting book against charismatics and then embrace a charismatic like Mahaney is confusing to folks.

Let me respond with a number of thoughts. Oh, I should add this one note: I do not speak in any official capacity here. These items reflect my own personal take.

First. Do Kent and his friends genuinely believe John is blissfully unaware of Piper and Mahaney’s “issues”? Or perhaps they think he doesn’t care? Believe me: John knows and he cares. The difference is that he understands the value of what they say on those areas of biblical importance, and when that comes to the Resolved Conferences, those areas are the Gospel message, the glory of God, the life of Christ, etc. Charismatic issues were never at the forefront at those conference. Any “confusing” questions about those issues can be dealt with at other points when they arise.

Second. John and John have been friends and acquaintances for sometime. Long before the popularity of “conferences.” Piper has come a few times over the years to speak at TMS and the TMC. The first time I heard him speak was back in the mid-90s for a TMS morning chapel and it was Piper at his best speaking on the glory of God in preaching.  Rather than throwing him under the bus, MacArthur graciously looks past those problem areas and emphasizes those profitable things Piper has to offer Christians as a whole.

Third. That does not mean MacArthur has “no opinion” about Piper or Mahaney. If you would ask him what he thinks of their problematic areas, MacArthur would not hesitate to tell you, all the while doing his best to be gracious toward them. Additionally, I know for a fact MacArthur has spoken with Piper on these things personally, though I am not privy to all that was discussed.

Fourth. Piper has been asked to speak at conferences with MacArthur, not necessarily his church. Though Piper has been in the pulpit at Grace on a few occasions, most of the venues under scrutiny by Kent and his friends are conferences.  There is a different tone, feel, and purpose with conferences than worship at a church. Though I am sure Kent will wrinkle his nose at this, I hold who speaks and what is said at a conference more loosely than who preaches and what is preached in a church pulpit. They are in two separate arenas for my discernment filter.

The reason being is that speakers can show up unexpectedly last-minute at a conference or say something off the wall that may not reflect what the conference is about specifically, or the conviction of the other conference participants particularly.

Additionally, planners for conferences may not, if ever, solicit the opinion of the other conference members about who it is they are inviting and who will speak with them. Hence. Just because MacArthur is on a platform with Piper or Mahaney does not mean he endorses either directly or by the so-called “platform association” the unspoken “problem” areas of their theology.

And yes, I know my detractors will say: “But you are inviting them!” Indeed we are, but again, it’s a conference not church.

Fifth. Because I make that distinction between conferences and church, if Piper was invited frequently to preach at our church, and his odd-ball beliefs – (which by the way go beyond any charismatic tendencies like his inviting Rick Warren to speak at his Desiring God conference and his embracing of Mark Driscoll) –  were to be taught from our pulpit and encouraged by the leadership at our church, then I think Kent could have reason to be concerned and write the criticisms he has. Because that is hardly the case, so I think his critique is petty and misdirected.

Sixth. After reading a series of posts that Kent wrote up, I am often left wondering if those individuals of a Fundamentalist stripe have ever learned any ability to genuinely discern. Do all our “associations” without exception have to fall in line under our stated theological convictions? Or is there any room for disagreement or covering over of those areas where our association may be “off”?

Take for instance a relatively unknown association MacArthur has been involved with for a good number of years. Back in the early 90s, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the doors opened to the West, Russian Baptist leadership began to seek out John to get more exposure to his teaching. That led to the planting of seminaries modeled after TMS and led by TMS grads, as well as a number of speaking engagements and Russian pastor conferences like what we have here in the U.S.

Those Baptist leaders who early on sought out John are for the most part Arminian in their theology. Moreover, they have weird traditions, like the notion that women can be literally saved by the number of children she has. Certainly there could have been Reformed folks who would nit-pick about John’s “association” with hardshell Arminians, and I guess one could say there were other issues of concern with those dear Russian saints. But rather than avoiding any involvement with them at all, John cautiously took the initiative and so began a tremendous partnership that has had amazing impact for the Gospel in Russia.

Seventh. The “separation” passages Kent uses to prove his point are woefully taking out of context. I’ll break them down for you:

Romans 16:17 says, Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

Kent writes that no one wants to obey those words and it is not “nitpicking” to demand that we do so. However, in the next post in his series, Kent writes, It’s not plain that Romans 16 is talking about people outside of the church.  It seems like he’s talking about people in the church, people who call themselves brothers, because they cause division.

Is that what those little black words say? In the following verses, Paul writes,

18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.
20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Rom 16:18-20)

There are a few characteristics of those so-called “brothers.” They are distinguished from the “brethren” mentioned in verse 17. They “do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” They intentionally deceive. It is implied they are not obedient in contrast to the “obedience” of the “brethren.” The “brethren” are exhorted to be wise in what is good as opposed to that which is “evil.” And Paul seems to imply that those who are to be separated from are identified with Satan in verse 20.

Nothing suggests that they are genuine Christians, because of these characteristics. Additionally, if they were genuine believers, why would Paul NOT offer correctives to their divisiveness? Is that implying that they were doctrinally sound in faith and practice in other areas of their life, but their “divisive behavior” just puts them on a banned list for all the other Christians?  I don’t think so. What Paul is saying here suggests a purging of unbelievers by the means of church discipline.

What about 2 Thessalonians 3:6 which states,  But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.

That is another verse that isn’t a stand alone comment from Paul. It is part of a greater context that extends to nearly the end of the chapter. That being, Paul’s exhortation to separate from individuals who no longer worked and were acting like gossipy busy-bodies as Paul describes them in verse 11.  More than likely, they were individuals who were of a “survivalist” cult-like mentality.  They were no longer “working,” but had given up the real life to sit around in the desert and wait for Jesus to show up. In a manner of speaking, the original Family Radio/Campingites.

The situation Paul recommends is to place them in church discipline in which they are admonished (vs. 18).

Now. As far as I am concerned, Piper is a Christian. Hopefully Kent isn’t saying Piper is a lying, false brother who is deceiving the simple minded.  And, I don’t think Piper has ever set a date about Jesus coming back to the point he created some wacky survivalist cult.

Does he have problem areas in his theology and practice? Certainly. But the Resolved Conferences are no longer and to my knowledge MacArthur isn’t involved with Piper in a conference anytime soon.

So let’s have a bit of perspective. Do you all seriously think John has compromised 40 years of faithful ministry to the point of disrepair because he had John Piper speak at a Resolve Conferences? Are Fundamentalist so feeble-minded when it comes to practical discernment within ministry that they have to twist and turn Scripture in order to concoct artificial “qualifications” so as to identify various lines of demarcation for whom to separate from?  Honestly, that mind-set can be just a serious a problem as Piper and Mahaney’s alleged issues.

Theological Resources

Probably a lot of my regular visitors have been made aware of a new website endeavor put together by the key ministries of our pastor and church: The Master’s College, The Master’s Seminary, Grace Community Church, and Grace to You. It is a massive resource hub that combines all of the on-line media content and other theological resources at one location under the simple title,

Theological Resources

The site has been active for a few weeks now, but John officially plugged it this past Sunday morning during the announcements and so I thought I would draw folks attention to it.

There are a number of particularly awesome things with this site. First is the fact you can access 40 plus years of John MacArthur’s preaching from Grace to You in audio format for FREE! Of course, you all probably knew that already.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

You can also access the numerous chapel messages of not only the Master’s Seminary, but also the the Master’s College. The college chapel is especially cool because on many occasions a number of well-known speakers will preach like recently Doug Wilson and Sinclair Ferguson.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!,

In addition to the audio messages, the Master’s Seminary is doing what a number of other seminaries have started and is video recording all the seminary lectures and slowly adding them to the site.  John’s vision (not that new agey “vision casting” vision that nutters like Bob Johnson accuse John of practicing) is to have a major on-line seminary level resource that can be accessed anywhere in the world by students, pastors, and churches who otherwise do not have the ability to leave their country and move all the way to California.

The great thing is that all of that content is available for anyone to access, not just students, so hopefully you all will avail yourselves of it.

Standing for Scripture

Yesterday, our church bulletin highlighted Ross Anderson, a professor in the science department at Master’s College. I know Dr. Anderson primarily from our area Bible Science Association, where he serves as the director of the group.

The article was a brief testimony of his “conversion” from being a theistic evolutionist to a Bible-believing creationist. Seeing that outfits like Biologos retell garment rending stories of so-called, former YEC who supposedly couldn’t deny the crushing weight of evidence against their views, I thought I would share a more positive experience.

——-

In 1997, Dr. Ross Anderson, who is now a professor in the Biological and Physical Sciences Department at The Master’s College, did the unthinkable in realm of secular higher education.

He took a stand for the Genesis account of creation.
That stand cost him his job.

At the time, Anderson was a faculty member at Lamar University near Houston, Texas. He didn’t begin his time at Lamar as a young Earth creationist, but with God’s help, that’s where he ended. “I was a theistic evolutionist,” Anderson says. “That’s the only way I could combine my formal education with my church education. Obviously, my church education wasn’t much, particularly in that area.”

When students asked how he fit evolution into his Christian beliefs, he gave the answer he had been trained to give—that evolution is what God used in creation. The answer was good enough for his students, but it never really sat well with Anderson.

“I was unsatisfied with my answer,” he says. “I started thinking, ‘I am the teacher now.’ All those verses about being accountable applied to me. I didn’t want to be a stumbling block. So I asked God to reveal the truth to me on this issue.”

Anderson sought that truth on the pages of Scripture. He also began to scrutinize the “science” behind evolution. That study revealed what Anderson calls his “lack of solid knowledge of the Bible” and his “lack of knowledge about what evolution was.”

His doubts and suspicions about evolution were confirmed. He realized that you couldn’t reconcile evolution and creation, that only one could be true.
It wasn’t a difficult choice.

“I couldn’t teach evolution because it was a lie,” Anderson says. “I started telling my students what was true in the privacy of my office. Then I’d leave them with questions in class like, ‘Do you really think all of this happened by accident?’”

Anderson’s unabashed commitment to Scripture found no welcome in the supposed bastion of “free thought.” Faculty members would listen to his lectures from outside his classroom door and then report him to the department chair, who then went to the academic dean.

“I was naïve about freedom in education,” Anderson says. “I thought they were going to let me teach. I got a letter from the dean saying they weren’t going to invite me back. It said I was undermining the faculty and generating confusion in the minds of the students. That was right. I was confusing them—by telling them the truth. Truth is always confusing to those who have never heard it.”

Because of the timing of the letter, and because the school needed teachers, Anderson was able to continue at Lamar for another year, which he used to challenge his students and influence members of the faculty. At the end of that year, God brought him to The Master’s College.

“It was a breath of fresh air,” Anderson says, “When I talked Standing for Scripture about Christ and the Bible in class, I started to stop myself, and then I remembered, ‘Wait, this is a Christian institution; they hired me to do this.”

Sadly, most Christian institutions don’t affirm the biblical account of a young Earth and a six‐day creation. At the Bible’s very foundation, they equivocate. And if you question the Bible’s veracity at that point, how can you affirm its truth anywhere else?

In his book, The Battle for the Beginning, our pastor rightly states that “If the biblical creation account is in any way unreliable, the rest of Scripture stands on a shaky foundation. But the foundation is not shaky” (pg. 27).

This is a critical issue when it comes to higher education. “People who send their kids to ’Christian’ colleges need to look at this particular issue because it sheds a lot of light regarding if their children are going to get a real Christian education,” Anderson says. “If one department says this and another department says that, students come out more confused than when they came in.”

At The Master’s College, students are taught that evolution is a worldview, not a science. It is a theory that began as a philosophy. This approach applies to other areas of science as well.

“My experience has been invaluable in developing my biblical worldview of the sciences,” says TMC pre‐med student Christian Dove. “While creation is an important topic in our worldview, many don’t realize that our faculty address many other critical issues—things like abortion, stem‐cell research, and the definition of life, among others. All of these topics have severe implications in our world today. The science department upholds a commitment to prepare us as scientists and independent thinkers who may critically evaluate issues such as these through the lens of Scripture.”

According to Anderson, Dove’s experience isn’t unique—and it isn’t accidental. “Whether it’s in the field of genetics or chemistry, we see what the textbook says. Then we dissect the science,” Anderson says. “What is the claim? What is the basis? The Master’s College is unique in that.”

It is unique because it affirms the Bible. It stands for Scripture. In the realm of “Christian” institutions, it is indeed Christian.