Credalist Torch and Pitchfork Society

While the vast majority of the Beth Moore defenders were overcome with the vapors and collapsed on their fainting couches in response to John MacArthur’s comments, there was another side controversy with him that went unnoticed. During his opening message to the GTY Truth Matters conference, John cited the following Tweet that states,

MacArthur never mentioned the tweeter by name, but a number of folks demanded that he apologize forthwith to the man for slandering his character. One has to wonder what it is exactly he needs to apologize for seeing that he merely just read the guy’s tweet.

Never the less, the tweet represents a small number of Reformish folks who insist MacArthur’s position defending the Lordship of Christ in salvation is adding works to the Gospel. Now, anyone who is familiar with what it is he has taught over the years about the Lordship controversy is bumfuzzled by such a bizarre assertion. That was the smear that rose out of the fever swamps of independent fundamentalist Baptists who hated Calvinism. Why would those Reformish people claim such an absurd assertion against MacArthur?

I’m here to help, so let me break down the basic complaint.

Their charge against MacArthur emerges out of their idea that the Bible must be rigidly interpreted alongside one of the many historic creeds. In the case of the tweeter, the 39 Articles of Religion. The historic creeds, that can also include the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, as well as the early church creeds affirmed at Nicea and Chalcedon, are considered guard rails that prevent the misinterpretation of Scripture. The London Baptist Confession of 1689 is the exception because these Reformish types tend to believe Baptists are heterodox renegades.

MacArthur, of course, acknowledges the importance of those creeds in defining for the modern church the theological thought of Christianity throughout the centuries. He has never said church history or creeds are of no value for the church in understanding what it is Christians have believed and confirmed about Scripture. It’s that idea of the Bible MUST BE interpreted according to those creeds, that’s the sticking point. That sounds an awful lot like the Roman Catholic Magisterium handling of Scripture and their notion that the Bible is interpreted by church authorities. It’s like a Roman Catholic “sola scriptura.” MacArthur’s Reformish critics insist it’s not really, because it’s Protestant, which is okay, because it’s not Roman Catholic. BUT, if the biblical teaching from your church or denomination isn’t governed by one or more of those creeds, you’re all in danger of ignoring church history, and becoming “Bible Only” biblicists or a Dispensational. That’s like really bad.

Their Protestant magisterium application of the creeds and confessions brings them to nitpick over the semantics of theological terminology and concepts. Because MacArthur hasn’t used the credal precision in his preaching about soteriology and the Lordship of Christ as they insist he must, they accuse him of confusing law/Gospel distinctives and mixing up sanctification and justification, and being a dastardly Dispensationalist.

For those familiar with MacArthur’s views on Christ’s Lordship, he was originally responding to the spiritually disastrous teaching that was permeating all of evangelical Christianity in America at the time, that being, in order for a person to be saved all he ever has to do is pray a prayer telling Jesus he wants eternal life. That person is now saved, and even if his life never changes so as to conform to godly Christlikeness, and he continues to live worldly, he is saved, because he prayed what amounts to a Christianized mantra when an evangelist told him to raise his hand if he wanted salvation.

MacArthur then spent a lot of his time — like years! — preaching and writing against such easy-believism infecting the church. Salvation entails much more than just “praying a prayer” or “walking and aisle.” It involves repenting from sin and making Jesus Lord of your life. His sermons and books, like the Gospel According to Jesus and Hard to Believe, flesh all of that out. But again, because he doesn’t use credal terminology, the credal only Reformish insist he is confusing law, gospel, works and grace, and teaches justification by grace+works.

There are a number of individual articles, podcasts, and Youtube videos berating  MacArthur about this, for instance HERE (featuring our tweeter). His critics come from two extremes on the theological spectrum from R.Scott Clark (HERE) and of recent, Brannon Howse (see HERE).

So to recap:

The tweeter took note of MacArthur reading his tweet and responded to him by retweeting his original tweet (see above) and then expanding on his view against “Lordship salvation” under the thread. The responses he offered to inquirers asking why MacArthur’s Lordship view is works oriented were — to be charitable here — a tad misleading.

Consider his examples,

He cites from a couple of places in MacArthur’s seminal book on the topic, The Gospel According to Jesus. The examples provided has MacArthur saying that faith is humble, submissive, and encompasses obedience. The implication is that he is advocating that true faith somehow requires humility, submissiveness, and obedience from the sinner in order for it to be genuine. Meaning, the sinner musters those qualities FIRST so as to generate true faith. Thus, faith is not a divine work and considered alone with humility, submission, and obedience being the fruit that grows in the work of sanctification. The conclusion drawn by our critic is that MacArthur is saying that faith is an act of obedience on the part of the sinner and is so confusing justification with sanctification.

There are a couple of problems with these examples.

First, the citations are taken out of context, and that’s kind of big. Let me reproduce the paragraphs in their entirety. I will bold the quotes mentioned in the tweets.

This is taken from chapter 12, The Treasure of the Kingdom,

Obviously, a new believer does not fully understand all the ramifications of the Lordship of Jesus at the moment of conversion. But a true believer has a desire to surrender. This is what distinguishes true faith from a bogus profession. True faith is humble, submissive obedience. As spiritual understanding unfolds, that obedience grows deeper, and the genuine believer displays an eagerness to please Christ by abandoning everything to His lordship. This willingness to surrender to divine authority is a driving force in the heart of every true child of the kingdom. It is the inevitable expression of the new nature. [GATJ, 1st edition, 140].

In context, MacArthur is nowhere saying that obedience, or submissive humility, are necessary preconditions for saving faith. That charge is rather scurrilous to say the least.

Consider the second and third citations taken from pages 172 and 173,

This is taken from chapter 16, The True Nature of Saving Faith.

We have seen already that repentance is a critical element of genuine faith, and that repentance is granted by God; it is not a human work (Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25). Likewise, faith is a supernatural gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 is a familiar passage: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” [GATJ, 1st edition, 172).

The third citation is terrifically dishonest,

Again, taken from chapter 16,

The faith God begets includes both the volition and the ability to comply with his will (cf. Philippians 2:14). In other words, faith encompasses obedience. [Here the critic inserts ellipses, but in doing so robs MacArthur of his argument and making him say something he never did] Berkhof sees three elements to genuine faith: an intellectual element (notitia), which is the understanding of truth; and emotional element (assensus), which is the conviction and affirmation of truth; and a volitional element (fuducia), which is the determination of the will to obey truth. Modern popular theology tends to recognize notitia and often assensus but eliminate fiducia. Yet faith is not complete unless it is obedient. [GATJ, 1st edition, 173].

Put together in context, MacArthur is not confusing law/Gospel or sanctification with justification. He is clear that saving faith, and even repentance, are a supernatural, divine work of God. His point is that real faith is more than just a profession that never amounts to a changed life. Real faith is the fuducia kind mentioned by Berkhof that is a determination to willfully obey truth, not just the emotional acknowledgement of facts as true. Our tweeter (and the entire host of credal critics) have, I can only guess intentionally, misrepresented everything that MacArthur has taught on this topic.

But even worse, those critics are arguing with the first edition of the Gospel According to Jesus. The second edition contains some clarifying rewrites and an entirely new chapter on the topic of justification that was added for the purpose of addressing those sorts of dishonest criticisms. MacArthur writes this important paragraph in the preface of the second edition,

The original edition had no treatment of the doctrine of justification by faith. My goal in writing the book, of course, was not to set forth a systematic soteriology, but simply to expound the major evangelistic messages of our Lord. I rather assumed that evangelicals on both sides of the lordship question were in basic agreement on the matter of justification. Admittedly, this omission was unfortunate. It seems to have contributed to some reader’s [Insert here: pedant Reformish credal nitpickers] of my views. A few even imagined that I was explicitly repudiating the great Reformation emphasis on justification by faith alone. Of course, that was not at all the point I was making. [GATJ, 2nd edition, 13-14].

Peruse MacArthur’s catalog of sermons and books and it will be discovered that he affirms and teaches a forensic understanding of justification, that men are saved by faith alone in Christ alone by the grace of God. This is clearly seen in his sermon series on the book of Romans, specifically his study on chapters 3 and 4. I would also add his messages on the Doctrines of Grace, as well as his message specifically on the Gospel According to Jesus.

I would hope that going forward, the credalists would interact with John’s most recent thought on this topic, rather than cherry-picking selected highlights from an older work. Even still, the older work, when considered in full, doesn’t even come close to advocating what they claim it does.

Worldview Fail

Conspiracy provocateur and vitamin supplement grifter, Brannon Howse, continues his personal campaign of humiliating failure. His latest attempt was a blinding pyre of self-immolation that was wildly entertaining to behold.

In his pursuit to discredit the 50 year ministry of pastor John MacArthur, Howse manufactured a fake scandal that rivals the hacks at Buzzfeed News that involves him misleading Civil Rights icon, Charles Evers, in a phone interview and then dispatching one of his social media toadies to write up a deceptive report about it that was debunked within a matter of hours.

Stay with me, this is gonna be fun!

It went down like this:

Those who are familiar with pastor John MacArthur knows that before he pastored Grace Community Church, he was involved for a few years in the 1960s with revivals and ministry crusades in the segregated south with his friend John Perkins. During the week of Martin Luther King’s assassination, March 31st to April 6th, 1968, John was with Perkins helping with some crusades in Mississippi. While in Jackson, news broke of MLK’s assassination. Listen to John recall the events surrounding that day:

John has recounted that story a number of times over the years. In that particular video, he was with Perkins when he retold it. If there were any details amiss about his version of events, Perkins could have corrected them, because he was on the front row. If not there, at some later point. Moreover, John even asked him to clarify about Evers being the first black mayor in rural Fayette, MS.

Sometime last year, Brannon Howse was able to finagle a phone interview with Charles Evers. In that interview, Howse asked Evers, who is now 96 years old, if John was with him on the night of MLK’s murder. Evers answers that he does not know John, that he was alone when he received the news of MLK, and that whoever John is he needs to stop lying to people. The interview can be heard HERE.

The audio interview was added to a larger fake news report written up by one of Brannon’s social media sycophants and posted on an ad heavy screaming eagle patriot style website. The obvious take away from the entire article is that John MacArthur is a liar who made up his involvement with those men on that night. He is essentially like Ergun Caner, creating a bogus history about his early life.

Once that article went live, all of the woker-than-thou social justice scolds, and other various MacArthur haters from the survivor blogger fever swamps, breathlessly rushed to twitter to link it and grimly shake their heads at how awful John is. The celebrity pastor who was behind that terrible Statement on Social Justice inserted himself into a fraudulent narrative with key Civil Rights era leaders to boost his credibility as to speaking against social justice. This is certainly an explosive story. One that could ruin John’s legacy, that just so happens to have come to light right on the eve of him celebrating his 50th anniversary at Grace Community Church! How convenient! Will he respond?

Now this is where it gets really good

As soon as the web article was circulating and folks were listening to the interview with Evers, a number of people wondered if the interviewer was Howse. Even though the voice didn’t sound like his, the cadence and inflections sure did sound like him. The marvel of the internet is how immediately a story like this can be truly fact checked and then blown up. One resourceful fellow downloaded the audio and then adjusted the pitch to normal.

He discovered this,

Oh boy.

Of course the most obvious question that comes to mind is why did Howse mask his voice? What was the point? Typically when a person is interviewed, it is his or her voice that may be masked for personal protection. But masking the voice of the interviewer? Odd.

A doctored interview should immediately raise suspicions of journalistic fraud, but the website hosting the article believes it represents “well-researched journalism.” Seeing how the mainstream media has so tainted actual journalism by turning lies into truth, I understand why they are naive like that.

I can only guess Howse is a coward and preferred to have his toady thrown under the bus if the story backfired on him. I mean, it could be that his toady masked his voice and he was unaware of the change. Maybe. But seeing that he dropped a now deleted Facebook comment from November 9th, 2018 claiming to have “taped interview with personal friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” who essentially contradicts a “story told over & over by well-known pastor from pulpit,” the likely scenario is that he gave the writer the interview with his voice already masked.

Whatever the case, his explosive bombshell was a spectacular fail.

Now.

Rather than stepping back and acknowledging that this was a blatant hit-piece designed to smear MacArthur’s reputation, many folks were genuinely troubled by Charles Evers’ seemingly contradictory account as to where he was when he received the news of MLK’s assassination compared to where John said he was when he received the news. Evers insists in the interview he was alone, whereas John maintains that he was with Perkins and Evers in Evers’ office in Jackson.

Howse and his fake news friend, however, failed to mention that Evers has given at least three different versions of where he was when he received the news of MLK’s death. Putting aside the fact that the Watchman Wakes blog is maintained by a raging lunatic who believes Perkins, Evers, and MacArthur colluded to kill MLK on behalf of the Freemasons, if you can muscle your way through the rambling madness, he documents that there are at least three separate accounts where Evers said he was:

1) Driving highway 28 to Natchez when he heard the news on the radio,
2) Heading to a meeting in Fayette, and
3) In Indiana with Bobby Kennedy.

Now with the addition of Howse’s deceptive interview, Evers says he was in the car and received a phone call from his secretary. Weird seeing that portable phones in 1968 were rare, cost like 4,000 bucks, and would be virtually unusable in rural Mississippi, but I digress.

Fayette is on the way to Natchez so 1) and 2) are pretty much the same scenario and probably closer to what really happened. Evers saying he was in Indiana with Bobby Kennedy when he received the news is virtually impossible, and if one watches the interview in which he says that, he gives the impression that he was misremembering the details.

We do know, however, from an article in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger from April 5th, 1968, that Evers was in Jackson with a group of black leaders trying to restore peace to the black community,

We have at least four inconsistent retellings from Mr. Evers of the details surrounding the same event. I personally don’t believe he is lying. He is more than likely telescoping and conflating details from an event 51 years ago. I’ve known a number of 90 year olds in my life and their memories can be fuzzy about events from 20 years ago, let alone 50. Still, it is pathetic for the woker-than-thou scolds on social media to insist John is the only one required to give a response or clarifying statement. It’s John’s account called into question, not Evers.

This was nothing but a sleaze ball hit piece against the character of a good man. Brannon probably still has the bitters that John and GTY didn’t come to his defense when he was getting push back after his sleaze ball hit piece against James White back in the summer of 2017. The whole affair reeks of those sins Peter says we are to lay aside in 1 Peter 2:1. And shame on all the dopey woker-than-thou scolds who desperately wanted this story to be true and gleefully promoted it on social media. To my knowledge, none of them have issued one retraction for being duped by it.

One can only hope this slimy affair will marginalize Howse and his disreputable joke of a “discernment” ministry.

A Howse Divided Against Itself

I want to offer up some comments on a long, ranting screed Brannon Howse recently wrote against Phil Johnson. The one ironic aspect of it is that many of Brannon’s fans will not necessarily see it because it is posted at an obscure Facebook page. I think this is intentional deceit, as I will explain in a moment.

Now. Before I begin, it may be helpful to provide a little background for those readers not up to speed on the latest evangelical kerfuffle. Earlier in June, Brannon Howse, who hosts Worldview Weekend, a daily radio show heard on the VCY America network, launched a “discernment” crusade against James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. Brannon had two self-proclaimed Islamic experts on his program to critically discuss a dialog James had with Yasir Qadhi in Memphis this past January.

The dialog itself was two nights of informal discussion between James and Yasir as to the distinctions between Islam and Christianity. One was held at a church in the Memphis area, the second at a mosque also in the Memphis area. Both hour and a half discussions can be watched HERE and HERE.

Brannon and his two experts, however, smeared the discussions as an “interfaith dialog” of the compromising sort. They suggested that James was compromising the Christian faith in the same way one of those gummy bear evangelicals like Rick Warren embraces Roman Catholics, or any other false religion, in a Coexist fashion. Additionally, they questioned James’s motives in doing the dialog, giving the impression he was soft-peddling the Islamic agenda. They falsely labelled him a “dupe” and a “useful idiot” who was lied to by Yasir, because according to the two experts, he is really a terrorist sympathizing ISIS supporter who was playing James like a fiddle in order to make Islam more accepting among American evangelicals.

Brannon devoted three programs assailing James’s character and ministry. When he encountered strong push back from folks on social media, he spent another week of follow up episodes in which he dug in against his detractors. I’ll point readers to Phil Johnson’s public remarks summarizing the entire affair because they reflect what I think it about it as well. See HERE.

With that background in mind, let me lay down a second layer before addressing Brannon’s rant. The following week after his three programs attacking James White, Phil Johnson from Grace to You, the radio ministry of John MacArthur (and my big boss), tweeted out the following comment, “Is there any respectable Christian leader Brannon Howse HASN’T found fault with?”

Phil then followed that tweet up with another, recalling a program from 2008 on which Brannon went after John MacArthur for his views that said the Revolutionary War was biblically unjustified. On that program, Brannon had on Tim Wildmon from the AFA, and Marshall Foster from the American History Institute, to publicly scold John MacArthur and his so-called woefully ignorant position on the American Revolution.

It is at this point, after Phil’s second tweet, that Brannon’s campaign against James White becomes an even hotter dumpster fire than it was already.

The day before Phil tweeted about the radio program pillorying John MacArthur, Brannon had posted John’s opening general session from the 2010 Shepherd’s Conference on his Facebook page. The message John preached is called Separating from Unbelievers. Brannon links to the message and then adds this description, “Separating from Unbelievers by John MacArthur. Should we talk with a Muslim Imam in a church & find common ground?”

At first glance, his description gives the impression that John is going to address the idea of Christians talking with Muslim imams and finding common religious ground with them. However, the words “Muslim” or “imam” are no where mentioned in the talk. In fact, nothing John states in his message would condemn what James White did with that imam. John’s message was aimed at genuine theological compromise with unbelievers, something James never did when he spent two days interacting with Yasir.

In response to Phil’s tweet comments, Brannon left this obfuscating statement on Facebook. (He also read it on his Worldview Weekend program).

The reader will note a glaring omission. The one name he conspicuously left out of his statement: Phil Johnson. That raises an intriguing question, why?

I’ll venture an educated guess and say it is because he intentionally clouded who it was he was responding to. A lot of the folks who hear Grace to You also hear Brannon’s Worldview Weekend. It is uncomfortably awkward if the director at the ministry of the very pastor he cites in support of his position took him to task regarding his hamfisted accusations against James White.

But folks may pause here and say, “Fred, aren’t you being just a tad unfair? Maybe he wanted to protect his identity.” That brings me to Brannon’s long rant.

The weekend after Phil posted his final thoughts on Brannon’s ridiculous “James White’s Islamic Peril” (see my link above), he posted three audio files in which he interviewed Phil back in 2011 on the topic of dealing with false teachers in the church. He also wrote up his fuming tirade against Phil. He even brought up the stupid controversy he manufactured in February 2015 when he went after Todd Friel about how many people died during the Catholic Inquisitions. Without rehearsing that entire drama, I can just say that what Brannon presents is lopsided and only half-way accurate. In other words, he is intentionally misremembering what happened. I ought to know, because I was at the center of that entire storm.

So what does that all have to do with my accusation that Brannon is purposefully hiding his comments from his readers? Well, his withering screed is posted on Sam Shamoun’s Facebook page. See HERE. (Just in case it is removed, HERE’s the PDF)

Unless a person knows who Sam is, more than likely he isn’t gonna see it. Brannon’s fans are certainly not gonna see it. As of this writing, there are just 11 shares. I personally left a comment refuting Brannon’s claims, but of course Sam, probably out of ignorance of who I am, dismissed me as a buffoon. I left a second comment, but that got removed and now I am blocked from leaving any responses whatsoever. If Brannon was genuinely serious about responding to Phil, he’d do it on his website and his own personal Facebook page for all to see. He would not run to an obscure yes man who is simply using Brannon as a stick to beat James White.

Brannon’s clumsy, half-baked crusade to uncover imaginary collusion between a well-respected, rock solid Christian apologist with a 25 year track record of Gospel ministry and an accused Islamic terrorist sympathizer is bad enough. Compounding the problem is him mass blocking an entire online community of believers pleading with  him to step back and reevaluate the foolishness he has presented. Worse still is him hiding his dispute with a ministry that on the one hand he uses for his credibility, but on the other hand, disparages the men associated with that ministry. Such vacillating behavior reveals some troubling character issues that need to be addressed.