It’s been over a month since John MacArthur’s explosive comments. He was on stage at a church conference, and leaders were given names to respond to with short snippets. I question how wise the exercise itself, as it places the responder in a seat of judgement over those asked about, with limited time to provide proper context to their comments. It also makes the issue the person, rather than the idea.
Several things are in play, and MacArthur has only doubled down on his comments. I think the first is if it is appropriate to recognize, by name, false teachers. In 1 Timothy 1:19-20 Paul does name, Hymenaeus and Alexander, as being delivered over to Satan 2 Timothy 4:14, Paul also mentioned Alexander the coppersmith 2 Timothy 4:14. Overall we don’t see many named by name in the NT, but we do see many doctrines called out. The two call-outs from Paul both occur in letters to pastor, and mentee, and we do not have the context of what these individuals did. I would affirm that at times it is appropriate to name names, but it seems to be a rarity, and while I have my disagreements with Moore, I don’t think she earned the level of response she got, nor do I think scripture gives us grounds to engage in such an exercise based on names.
Scripture has far more to say about ideas, Specifically, Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (NASB) People aren’t enemies, demonic forces are. You know what else is? Bad IDEAS. 2 Corinthians 10:5 states, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” It’s by bad ideas that we are led astray. If we want to be the type of Christian that warns others about danger, we must warn about the dangerous ideas, it removes the personal factor, as well as keeps us on target. Those bad ideas can come from numerous sources and we want others to be able to recognize them, wherever they come from.
We are encouraged to admonish brothers and sisters in Christ, in an appropriate way. Matthew 18 lays out a process where we can go one on one first, and then ultimately, it’s the local church that’s deal with a sin. When it comes to disagreements over what the Bible teaches, we should be using persuasion, and treat brothers and sisters in Christ with love. Jesus died for them; shouldn’t we have a heart for those God would give His only begotten Son for? If we are to spend eternity together, shouldn’t we be able to get along now?
Rather than “Go Home,” I much prefer Matthew, 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I understand MacArthur’s stance on women in pastoral roles, it’s a common position, and the one I grew up with, in the next article I’d like to cover how my views have changed by understanding cultural context, and carefully examining more than just a single passage in regards to the issue, but for now, for the sake of argument, I want to temporarily go along with MacArthur. Even if MacArthur feels that a woman cannot be behind the pulpit, or serve in the roles of Elder, Deacon, etc., it shouldn’t follow she should, “Go Home!” Every Christian is given the great commission. It’s our standing orders, and in the Greek it’s clear that it is, “as you are going,” it’s an active call to make disciples as we are going about lives. Why MacArthur likely didn’t mean to imply Beth Moore should never leave the house, even if she wasn’t pastoring she has a ministry to do and can be a fruitful part of spreading the gospel to unbelievers, and discipling women, without ever violating MacArthur’s stance, which again, we will address the biblical stance, next month.
The content of the message may be distinct from the character of the messenger, but the flavor of the character determines how well it is received. We have a concept called “Tact” that MacArthur doesn’t seem familiar with. I’m a blunt guy, but I try not to forget I’m dealing with people. I also know if I want them to believe the truth, they must know I care, before they care what I know, or will listen. If I give them an excuse, they may write me off, so I want to remove any behavior that will be a stumbling block.
The Bible has a lot to say about people who stir up divisions in the body of Christ. Titus 3:10 instructs, “ Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,” (NASB) Jude warns heavily about them drawing comparisons with fallen angels and in a more positive light the early chapters of Acts focuses on unity before seeing tremendous growth through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Those are just referencing division and unity, and it’s clear if we are the body of Christ, that we should work together.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time John MacArthur has made explosive comments. His betrayal of Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa was heartbreaking, as he not so subtly insulted his study methods and equated Calvary Chapel with a gateway drug to nonsense. For more information about that, I’d refer to this article: https://calvarychapel.com/posts/strange-fire and a simple google search will result in plenty of videos so you can check for yourself, and see how after Smith’s death MacArthur’s tone radically shifted. Smith and Moore aren’t the only ones who have been his crosshairs. So I have to advise you to be careful when referring to MacArthur, and urge you not take up his divisive nature and tactics. There is a way to point out things to our brothers and sisters in love, and if our goal really is to see them turn from error, shouldn’t we do so in a manner in which they could receive it rather in a way that would push them away?
Moore has recognized John MacArthur as a brother in Christ, and so do I. So I can only pray that he would be persuasive and careful with those whom Jesus died for in the future. Let’s make bad ideas our enemies, the church has too many enemies out there to beat up on itself. I don’t want to see my children fighting and hurting one another, and neither does our heavenly father.
Additional articles in this series:
Part 2: Divorced Pastors
Part 3: How I changed my mind