Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: John MacArthur (Page 1 of 2)

John MacArthur: How Can We Rescue the Family?

I appreciated this insight from John MacArthur, dealing with the evangelical obsession with the nuclear family.

With all the material available to help families, why are so many Christian families in trouble?

May I suggest that our preoccupation may be part of the problem? We have become so engrossed in the family itself that we are losing our perspective on why the family is important to God and where it really fits in His kingdom plan.

… not all teaching that claims to be pro-family is genuinely biblical. In fact, some of the popular ideas that have attached themselves to Christian pro-family movements are clearly a threat to the true purpose God designed for families.

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The Faithfulness Fallacy

Some Background

A little while ago John MacArthur did a series of posts critiquing the ‘Young, Restless, and Reformed’ movement. Needless to say, it created quite a stir.

Those who disagreed with MacArthur argued that he was using sweeping generalizations that were unhelpful and uncharitable and that his tone was unloving and combative. We felt scolded as if by an absentee father who hadn’t invested in us, but stopped by to spank us anyway.

The response from those who sided with MacArthur was, by and large, ‘He has pastored faithfully for 40 years, you need to listen to him.’ To be sure, the response was more than that, and included biblical justification of gaining wisdom from elders, etc. In the end, I argued that the responsibility remains on the younger ones of us to make sure we’re listening, even if we’re not being addressed as we’d like.

History Repeats

Isn’t it interesting how history seems to repeat itself? Recently James MacDonald came under fire for his public schmoozing with TD Jakes. One of the responses to the criticism that I’ve heard has been this: ‘James has faithfully pastored for 30 years, has led Harvest, sent out church planters, and people have been saved! Let’s show some respect!’

Both times (with MacArthur and MacDonald) the defenders of these public figures appealed to past faithfulness as a defence for present action. That’s worth noting.

Ad Hominem by Any Other Name

In logic an ad hominem attack is when you criticize a person rather than their idea. What I find fascinating in both of the above cases is that the defence being used is actually ad hominem. In other words, rather than defending the actions or ideas of the person which have drawn the scrutiny, the defenders of these individuals have resorted to speaking about the men themselves. But who the men are and what they have done in the past was never the issue.

On Balance

We need to attempt to avoid extremes. On the one hand, wisdom acknowledges the experience of the aged and proven faithful:

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendour of old men is their gray hair (Prov 20.29)

Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old (Prov 23.22)

And we must ‘walk’ with those who have a proven track record of faithfully displaying wisdom:

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Prov 13.20)

That being said, we must not pre-judge a matter based on past faithfulness or wisdom alone. Whether it is MacArthur, MacDonald, Don Carson or Tim Keller — or any of the heroes of that faith for that matter — we must hear a matter out fully, weigh the opposing views in the balance and prayerfully seek wisdom.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Prov 18.13)

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him (Prov 18.17)

And let’s not forget that it was the youngest witness of Job’s sufferings who had heard all the others speak first, who finally answered with wisdom.

Berean Honour

While we must honour those who have laboured before us and for us, the simple truth is that we do not biblically honour them if we do not weigh the wisdom of their words and actions against God’s word. No matter how faithful a man has been in the past, he is still a man, and still in need of ongoing correcting and perfecting this side of eternity. We must show them love, respect, and the benefit of the doubt, but we must never turn a blind eye to present unfaithfulness simply because we’ve witnessed past faithfulness.

I hope the people of Grace Fellowship Church would honour me and honour God in this same Berean way.

To Drink or Not to Drink

It was not too long ago that some pretty harsh and unfair words were flying around the blogosphere regarding the Young Restless Reformed movement and their stance on drinking. Reading between the lines, many people wondered if it was Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29 group of pastors & church planters who were actually being criticized. Though Driscoll was not named, I’m happy that he did not respond in the moment, nor in kind, but rather has offered a historical, biblical, and practical defence of his position on the consumption of alcohol.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article, which I highly recommend for your consideration:

Regarding alcohol, perhaps it is best to start with the obvious. All Bible believing Christians agree that drunkenness is a sin.

The Bible is abundantly clear that drunkenness is a sin (Deuteronomy 21:20; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Matthew 24:29; Luke 12:45; 21:34; Romans 13:13; I Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18; I Peter 4:3).

Christians should avoid causing an actual person to actually stumble, but to seek to avoid causing a hypothetical person to hypothetically stumble is unreasonable, if not impossible when applied to every single issue.

For example, if a skinny person eats dessert in front of a dieting, obese glutton, they could tempt them to sin by also eating dessert. So, in love they should forego it. But, to tell the skinny person to never eat dessert again, even at home alone with only his or her skinny spouse, because someone, somewhere, who eats cakes by the sheet instead of the slice, may hear about this dessert consumption and be thrown into a frosting frenzy, is unreasonable.

It would certainly appear that Driscoll, at least on this issue, has Scripture, Christian history, and the balance of wisdom on his side.

Just as a side-note, I wanted to include this for no other reason than that it is so typically Luther: ‘Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women’

Read Driscoll: ‘FAQ: What’s Your Stance on Alcohol?’

Two Great Fears, One Great Hope

The whole of the blog world has been abuzz lately for a number of issues surrounding the new Calvinist movement amongst evangelicals. First was news of CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries going through some serious trials. Then John MacArthur and Co. have launched an all-out assault on the ‘Young, Restless, Reformed’ movement. It’s not just John, of course, it’s his internet / media people, as well as Phil Johnson and the Cripplegate bloggers and many others as they take on Driscoll and others of his ilk with unprovoked attacks and uninvited criticism.

Critics are everywhere and responses are just as numerous. And many criticisms–on both sides–are valid to some degree or another.

My First Fear

My first fear in all of this is division: the creation of schisms in a movement that has until now been rooted in the gospel and sought to be ‘together’ despite differences on secondary issues. Here’s the thing: the new Calvinism is awesome. It’s awesome because it’s a return to the gospel-centrality of the New Testament. It’s a return to the vision of the transcendent and immanent God who works all things mysteriously yet wondrously for his own glory and for the good of his people. Inasmuch as we have recovered a biblical emphasis on the gospel and the God of the gospel, this movement rocks. And it is changing things. Even TIME magazine recognized it.

But that’s kind of the problem: If the world recognizes it, Satan does too. And Satan, who loves to sow discord and divide Christians, will do his best to divide this movement so that he can keep it as small and ineffective as possible. Division is his work. My first fear is that this baby-of-a-movement will have its growth stunted and strength limited if we become divided and lose our focus on the centrality of the gospel.

My Second Fear

My second fear for our movement is that some of the past criticisms may prove true now. Not the criticisms that have been levelled by John MacArthur & Team, but the criticisms we have heard since the very first T4G Conference: That we are a movement that makes too much of people, that we are worldly in our following of ‘celebrity Christians.’

What is God doing right now? With the issues surrounding CJ, the self-discreditation of John MacArthur, the rampant attacks on Driscoll for all his uniqueness … what is God doing? Maybe he is giving us as a movement an opportunity to show that while we are eternally thankful for our leaders, we have not deified them. Not one of them is without sin. Not one of them is any more justified than any of us. So what if they are full of mistakes and sin? Will we lose faith? Will we give up? Will we move on to the next fad in evangelicalism and the next big celebrity Christian? My second fear is that these criticisms of our idolizing of men would be proven true as some of our heroes in the faith are brought down from their pedestals… even just a little bit.

My One Great Hope

My one great hope is that in all of this we would follow the one man who is actually worthy of complete emulation–our Lord Jesus. He was falsely accused and misunderstood. He was wrongly mocked. But he still loved. He faithfully entrusted himself to God who alone judges justly.

Jesus knew that if he entrusted his cause to God, he would not be abandoned. He knew that only God searches hearts, and that it is before his own master each servant stands or falls.

Here’s my hope and prayer: That we, as a collective movement, we be so compelled by the example of the humble Saviour that we would follow his lead, through slander, distraction, misunderstanding, betrayal, and whatever else comes our way. I pray that we would not be like previous generations who were so quickly distracted from the gospel to side issues (like dress or drink), that we would–for the sake of the protection of our gospel unity and witness–refuse to defend ourselves.

I pray that we would now, like never before, prove the critics wrong: Not through our great arguments or air-tight self-defences, but through our meakness, humility, and rock-solid commitment to unity in Christ. I pray that we would prove them wrong by looking to Jesus and taking our lead from the one who deserves celebrity status.

My great hope is that we would not let this be a tool of Satan to divide and distract, but that we would see it as the hand of God giving us opportunity to display the centrality of the gospel in action.

Five Thoughts & a White Flag: Now Time to Listen

Dr John MacArthur

Five quick wrap-up thoughts before I wave the white flag, pull up a chair, and receive the rest of the series from Dr. MacArthur on how the ‘Young, Restless, Reformed’ movement needs to ‘grow up.’

1. After observing the comments I’ve seen that MacArthur was right.

There is a real part of our movement who simply aren’t willing to move past feeling misunderstood to genuinely learn from John MacArthur, an older man. We need to do that. That was the point of my first post. Though it’s hard, we need to listen.

2. After observing the comments I’ve seen that I was more right than I thought.

John MacArthur’s sometimes harsh tone has created a movement of people, some of whom (note: definitely not all), are also characterized by a harsh tone. In their minds MacArthur has earned the right to speak the way he has and they are in agreement with him, so now they get to speak to the rest of us in harsh tones. We can never be too careful about the things we get excited about as leaders, because those will invariably be the things our followers get excited about. Some of the vitriol from the rabid MacArthur supporters has actually served to prove my point, and the arrogance of some of the commenters who say they are with MacArthur actually makes it harder to listen to the man himself.

Nevertheless, we  all—especially me—need to fight the urge to defend ourselves. We need to swallow our pride and listen to MacArthur. I want to actually hear the man, not be distracted by some of the misguided enthusiasm of some of his followers.

3. While the biblical standard is the younger receiving counsel from the older, the Scriptures are replete with examples to the contrary. Only a foolish person closes his ear completely.

I don’t know Dr. MacArthur personally, but in conversation with someone who has worked closely with MacArthur I’ve learned that he actually does receive and process criticism. Praise God! I’m greatly encouraged to hear that! I hope that he continues to hear us as we continue to hear him. We can both, then, let the ‘clean sea breeze’ of the generations clear our minds and refresh our thinking so that all in the body may be served and blessed by each other. My concern in this point, then, isn’t so much for Dr. MacArthur as for many of his followers who might be tempted to think they have nothing to learn from those outside their camp.

4. A final appeal to Dr. MacArthur (but especially to his team): Please, we want to hear you; don’t treat us like the enemy.

Mocking isn’t cool. It doesn’t help. Don’t make this an ‘us’ and ‘them’ thing. We’re on the same team. Don’t tell us ‘listen like men’ as if we’re all immature sissies. Some of us are doing really hard things for Jesus (I’m speaking of others here, not myself). Yeah, we need to be corrected, but we need to be corrected in love. And just speaking truth doesn’t make it loving. Tone, posture, and approach  all matter too.

And by the way, there are more than just men in our movement. I tend to think women are pretty adept at theological conversation as well. Don’t remove them from the equation so quickly.

5. After all is said and done, I’m more eager than ever to try to hear MacArthur.

Being misunderstood by many of the commenters in my previous post has renewed my conviction to be a careful and discerning listener, weighing what is said, and taking into account from whom I’m hearing it (2 Tim 3). Dr. MacArthur is a proven faithful preacher and exegete. I’m not. So I want to listen to him—and listen in such a way as to learn; even if it’s hard.

You Just Don’t Get Me…

Scoldings are hard to hear. Especially when you feel misunderstood.

I’m really having a hard time obeying Tim Challies. He told us that we need to listen to John MacArthur. MacArthur has begun a series critiquing the ‘Young, Restless, and Reformed’ movement and Tim says we need to listen to him because he’s older, wiser, and proven. He has perspective and experience that we do not. He has seen more, lived more, and earned the right to speak.

I agree. But man, it’s hard to hear.

I talked to Tim about it. The best analogy I could give him (ironically enough) is that of a young adult being scolded by a parent. When I read MacArthur’s post I can’t help but feel that he’s the dad who is disappointed in how I’ve turned out (i.e. I’m not like him) and I’m the son who thinks, ‘My father just doesn’t get me.’

MacArthur’s opening comments about the positive things in the movement feel condescending — you know he is about to lower the boom. And then he does. And it’s so predictable. When Tim first mentioned to me that MacArthur would be doing this series the first thing that came into my mind was this: ‘He’s going to tell us to dress in suits.’ And then I thought, ‘Don’t be so harsh. Go in with an open mind. Be ready to hear.’ So I read. And this is what I read:

But for heaven’s sake don’t dress for hardball. HCo. clothes and hipster hair are essential tools of contextualization. The more casual, the better. Distressed, grunge-patterned T-shirts and ripped jeans are perfect. You would not want anyone to think you take worship as seriously as, say, a wedding or a court appearance. Be cool. Which means (of course) that you mustn’t be perceived as punctilious about matters of doctrine or hermeneutics. But whatever you do, donot fail to pay careful attention to Abercrombie & Fitch.

And yes, the italics are his. The one paragraph italicized and set apart from the rest. And it’s about clothes. Really? And then he adds this:

I sometimes think no group is more fashion-conscious than the current crop of hipster church planters—except perhaps teenage girls.

Was that really necessary? Is that really going to win a hearing with the crowd he’s ‘admonishing’? Or is it merely a dig so that all the MacArthurites around the world can rejoice that they’ve struck down another foe?

I feel like he doesn’t get me. It seems like he’s so angry at Mark Driscoll that he hasn’t taken the time to get to know me. Like the father who thinks his son is the same as the rock stars on MTV. That’s Driscoll, not me.

Sure, for some fashion may be a thing. But it’s not for me. I just don’t care about clothes, as long as things are done decently and in order. Even his analogies fall short. A lot of people in our generation don’t wear suits to weddings or to court. Or to funerals for that matter. It’s not that I pay careful attention to Abercrombie; it’s just that I don’t think what I wear to church is nearly so crucial to the gospel as you.

This series seemed to me like it could be a really good thing. I honestly was looking forward to reading it, once I preached some truth to my heart. But this tone and these opening observations make it hard. Very, very hard.

But now here’s the most frustrating part for me. When a wise parent scolds, the wise child listens. Even when the child feels self-assured. In life I’ve seen this. Things that older parents and older Christians have told me — though I didn’t believe them when I was younger — have proven to be true as I’ve grown up. And I’m sure, in some senses, even though I may hate what MacArthur says now, I need to grin and bear it. I know we need to grow up as a movement. I know I need to grow up as a man. And if a proven man like MacArthur can’t scold me, then who can?

If I listen only to those who agree with me, is that to my credit? Even the pharisees do that…

Saving a People as an ‘Aside’

John MacArthur’s comments on all good Calvinists being pre-millennial has got me thinking again. But I definitely don’t agree.

Historic Dispensationalism stated outright that God’s plan to save the Gentiles now–in an age of grace–is an aside from God’s plans to save Israel and establish them as God’s people. Contemporary Dispensationalism, of course, would never use such crass terms, but to put forward the notion that God will return somehow to dealing with one nation again, after giving his gospel–which is the fulfilment of all the revelation given to Israel, and which is given in order to bring about the obedience of the nations–really is to suggest the same thing in perhaps more friendly terms.

I would suggest, however, that a simple reading of Galatians and Paul’s view of redemptive-history given there would suggest otherwise. From Adam to Abraham, God dealt with the nations. From Abraham on God dealt primarily with Abraham’s seed–a particular people group–but this seed was specifically prophesied as the one who will bring God’s blessing to all nations.

A little while later, God continues to deal with Israel alone and gives the Law, which they must obey; this Law is the standard by which they must live and be judged, it is what makes Israel distinct as God’s people. This Law, however, as Paul says, is fulfilled (as are the promises to Abraham) in Christ.

Why in the world, then, would we expect for God to go back to dealing with one nation alone? Wouldn’t that be to reverse of the working out of his plan in salvation-history?

Though I would never put it in these terms (tongue planted firmly in cheek), if we must view the saving of a particular people in salvation-history as an ‘aside’, wouldn’t it be Israel? If God’s original plan with Adam and then subsequently with Abraham (and I think it could be easily shown through Israel as well) is for ‘the whole world’, then why would he go back to dealing specifically with a covenant-people whose covenant has been rendered obsolete?

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