Who is John MacArthur?
John MacArthur, Jr. (1939-present) is an American Evangelical Christian pastor and author known for his internationally-syndicated radio program Grace to You. A popular author and conference speaker, he has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since February 9, 1969 and also currently serves as the president of The Master's College in Newhall, California and The Master's Seminary in Sun Valley, California.
Theologically, MacArthur is considered a Calvinist, and a strong proponent of expository preaching. He has been acknowledged by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers of his time, and was a frequent guest on Larry King Live as a representative of an evangelical Christian perspective.
MacArthur has authored or edited more than 150 books, most notably the MacArthur Study Bible, which has sold more than 1 million copies and received a Gold Medallion Book Award. Other best-selling books include his MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series (more than 1 million copies), Twelve Ordinary Men, (more than 500,000 copies), and the children's book A Faith to Grow On, which garnered an ECPA Christian Book Award.
The son of Jack MacArthur and fifth cousin of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, John MacArthur attended Bob Jones University before transferring to Los Angeles Pacific College (now Azusa Pacific University). He later obtained his Masters of Divinity from Biola University's Talbot Theological Seminary, in La Mirada, California.
He graduated with honors. From 1964 to 1966, he served as an associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church, in Burbank, California and, from 1966 to 1969, as a faculty representative for Talbot Theological Seminary. Then, in 1969, he became the third pastor in the then-short history of the nondenominational Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, California.
His daily radio program, Grace to You, which is now broadcast throughout much of the world, began as an audio recording ministry to provide cassettes of his sermons to listeners. They were first broadcast in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1977.
In 1985, MacArthur became the president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College), an accredited, four-year, liberal arts Christian college; and, in 1986, he founded The Master's Seminary. MacArthur also received an honorary doctorate from Talbot Theological Seminary and an honorary doctorate from Grace Graduate School.
Nearly 43 years after beginning in the pulpit of Grace Community, MacArthur completed one his own life goals of preaching through the entire New Testament on June 5, 2011, at the end of his projected target window, stated the previous January, to finish "some time in the summer." During the same interview, MacArthur projected he would complete his commentary series within another five years, some 35 years after beginning.
MacArthur is married to Patricia and they have four children and fifteen grandchildren.
Upon his appointment as president of The Master's College in 1985, the Los Angeles Times noted that "MacArthur has been among the leading fundamentalist ministers insistent on the preaching and teaching of an 'inerrant' Bible, within conservative Protestant circles."
MacArthur advocates young-earth creationism in his book, The Battle For the Beginning (2001), and in his sermons. Speaking about evolutionism, he writes that Christians "ought to expose such lies for what they are and oppose them vigorously."
MacArthur describes himself as a "leaky dispensationalist." While he holds to a premillennial and pre-tribulational rapture of the church and fulfillment of all the covenant promises made to the Jews at the end of the tribulation, he rejects some of the classic dispensational ideas, such as the Law having no application to the church.
Dispensationalism has been a frequent source of controversy; some critics claim that MacArthur's deviation from Reformed eschatology has led to an inconsistent Calvinism or self-contradiction suggesting two people groups of God, two roads to salvation, and the so-called, "Great parenthesis."
MacArthur was a key person in the Lordship salvation controversy in the 1980s, arguing against Free Grace theology. He states, "you must receive Jesus Christ for who He is, both Lord and Savior, to be truly saved (II Peter 2:20)."
Regarding eternal security, he states, "It should never be presented merely as a matter of being once saved, always saved--with no regard for what you believe or do. The writer of Hebrews 12:14 states frankly that only those who continue living holy lives will enter the Lord's presence."
MacArthur's views raised controversy within American Evangelicalism and were challenged in print by non-lordship dispensationalist theologians, Charles Ryrie and Zane C. Hodges, who argued that MacArthur was teaching a form of works-based salvation. MacArthur has denied their conclusion due to the disagreement over the nature of Christ's Lordship in relationship to Salvation.
In December 1989, the Bible Broadcasting Network terminated MacArthur's "Grace to You" program. In explaining that step, BBN president Lowell Davey referred to MacArthur's teachings on the blood of Christ, "Lordship Salvation," and, "Hyper-Calvinism." Davey called these teachings "confusing." In a letter dated January 15, 1990, Davey cited a, "....drift by Dr. MacArthur to a theological position that we could not adhere to," and said that MacArthur's sermon series on the theology of election "....convinced us that the direction of 'Grace to You' was toward Hyper-Calvinism...." MacArthur preaches "Salvation" by election of God's sovereignty.
However, the term "Hyper-Calvinism" is used by some to denote 5-point Calvinism or even any strong defense of Calvinism, rather than the historical "Hyper-Calvinism" position that only the "Elect" may be offered the Gospel (compare with the historical teaching of all Protestant denominations, including MacArthur, of the free offer of the gospel). This position does not seem to accurately reflect MacArthur's position in his sermons.
The controversy concerning the efficacy of the Christ's blood stems from MacArthur's statement that it is not the literal liquid blood of Christ that saves, but his sacrificial death on the Cross, a view that he espoused in an article titled, "Not His Bleeding, but His Dying," published in the May 1976 issue of the Grace to You family paper that is distributed to his church.
MacArthur himself, though, later clarified what was stated of him in the article, noting his position concerning Christ's blood and death in atonement, mentioning that the efficacy of Christ's blood is not some particular physical property of the blood itself, but the fact that He shed blood in dying, and his affirmation that Christ's blood in death was necessary to satisfy God's holy requirement for atonement.
In 1983, MacArthur first published his belief in the doctrine of "incarnational sonship." In 1989, after some criticism, he defended his views in a plenary session of the annual convention of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America. Subsequently, MacArthur has written that he has reversed this position and no longer regards Christ's sonship as a role he assumed in his incarnation.
MacArthur is a cessationist.
In his book: "Whose Money Is It, Anyway?" MacArthur summarizes Chapter 7: Tithing or Voluntary Giving? with "in spite of many believers' understanding to the contrary, our giving should derive voluntarily from the heart, not from a fixed, mandatory percentage."
He is also an advocate of Nouthetic Counseling, which stresses the Bible as a sufficient tool for counseling people with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. MacArthur does not reject all forms of psychological theories and techniques, though he considers some psychology and psychiatry as contrary to the Bible.
MacArthur has argued that "True psychology (i.e. "the study of the soul") can be done only by Christians, since only Christians have the resources for understanding and transforming the soul. The secular discipline of psychology is based on godless assumptions and evolutionary foundations and is capable of dealing with people only superficially and only on the temporal level... Psychology is no more a science than the atheistic evolutionary theory upon which it is based.
Like theistic evolution, Christian psychology is an attempt to harmonize two inherently contradictory systems of thought. Modern psychology and the Bible cannot be blended without serious compromise to or utter abandonment of the principle of Scripture's sufficiency.... "
His stance has caused several controversies, the most notable of which was the first time an employee of an evangelical church had ever been sued for malpractice. The case failed to come to trial because a judge ruled the case as having insufficient evidence.
Other Christian movements and other religions
His writings are critical of other modern Christian movements and ministers such as those who run "seeker-friendly" church services such as Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren.
He has criticized popular mega-church pastor Joel Osteen, whom he has spoken of as a quasi-pantheist. He has also been critical of Billy Graham, whom he claims has taught an unbiblical view of salvation; a type of Catholic Universalism where people outside of Christianity can go to heaven.
In May 2002, in the midst of significant media and public attention focused on Catholic sex abuse cases, MacArthur gave a message highly critical of the entire system of the Roman Catholic priesthood. MacArthur has referred to Catholicism in previous speeches as the "Kingdom of Satan" and holds to the confession that the pope is the antichrist. In addition he stated that the "theology of Islam is false."
- "John MacArthur" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.