Is John MacArthur dead?
Updated: Oct 26, 2019
When I was a young Christian and seminarian, I devoured the books of John MacArthur, the famous pastor of Grace Community Church and president of The Master's University and Seminary in California. For my fledgling theological mind and heart, MacArthur spoke truth to power in a way I observed few others doing at the time. I loved his message, and I admired him. Books of his such as Charismatic Chaos, Our Sufficiency in Christ, and Slave made deeply profound impressions on me.
As I've matured in my faith, though, I've come to see MacArthur in a completely different light. Though I still esteem him as a thoughtful, scholarly theologian; as a man who lives by his personal convictions; and as a successful businessperson, I no longer look to him for Truth or spiritual guidance. This is not because he lacks religious head knowledge. MacArthur is an avid student of the Bible and has spent a lifetime communicating his detailed expositions of Scripture to the world. His commentary series on the New Testament is impressive and has garnered much popularity over the years. In fact, I still have several volumes of it stored somewhere in my attic. He knows a lot about Scripture, church history, Greek language, and biblical interpretation...no doubt.
But I don't look to him any longer because he doesn't seem to live out his faith in a manner that represents Christ well. For instance, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in March 2019 that MacArthur and his Master's University administration demonstrate a “lack of leadership ethics and accountability . . . unmatched for members of [the regional accreditation] review team" (https://www.chronicle.com/article/Accreditor-Cites-Leadership/245853). The article goes on to state that MacArthur uses fear, intimidation, bullying, and other questionable leadership tactics to rule over his school with a heavy hand. Are these the actions of a man "sold out" for Christ? Naturally, each of us falls prey to his/her sinful nature at times, but when the sin becomes as overt, commonplace, and seemingly heartless as MacArthur's, one does begin to wonder about his level of commitment to living out the Word of God. The call on every believer's life is captured well in the Beatitudes, which clearly give primacy to meekness, purity of heart, and mercy over the machinations of dictatorship.
And there are many other examples of MacArthur's "head-over-heart" or "do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do" ministry/leadership style. However, his recent attack of Beth Moore really "takes the cake" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrF5scmMeRA and https://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/denison-forum/john-macarthur-tells-beth-moore-go-home-3-ways-to-disagree-better.html). Regardless of one's theological stance on women in pastoral ministry, Beth Moore has done more to bring the light of Christ and the Truth of the Gospel to our world than 99% of Christians today, be they men or women. So, when MacArthur recently stated that Moore should "go home" and leave pastoral teaching to men, he flippantly dismissed her bountiful ministry to women and abuse victims, personally and publicly insulted her instead of following the precepts of Matthew 18, and demonstrated a level of pomposity and arrogance unbefitting a pastor, gentleman, or child of God. On this latter point, Lane Sebring of preachingdonkey.com rightly asserts that such arrogance doesn't align well with New Testament passages such as John 13:35, which states, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (ESV). Beth Moore is a child of God and, consequently, MacArthur should demonstrate love toward her rather than disdain, hubris, and hatefulness. Even if he is right in his orthodoxy (which is highly debatable), he is decidedly wrong in his brand of orthopraxy.
At this point, then, you're probably wondering about my title. John MacArthur is obviously alive and well. But in my mind, and no doubt in the minds of many others, his positive influence in our world is dead or dying...or, worse, his influence may even be actively killing the church. That is to say, when a professed Christian treats other Christians the way MacArthur regularly does (Beth Moore is not his only victim), and when that Christian has MacArthur's level of notoriety, the message sent to both the believing and unbelieving communities is clear: "Get out! They eat their own!" Indeed, the irony of MacArthur's declaration to Moore is that she will not "go home" (she is a woman under divine conviction), but many others--the lost and hurting of our world--may very well stay home for good. Who wants to be part of a church in conflict--one headed by leaders such as MacArthur who hypocritically thumb their noses at the very canon they claim as authoritative?
I am a staunch proponent of defending biblical Truth. However, as my lovely mother used to say (and as many of your mothers no doubt said as well), "It's not what you say; it's how you say it." John, we appreciate your theological stance on women in pastoral ministry (even if many evangelicals disagree with it), we love your extensive Bible knowledge, and we respect your passion. But please, sir, start living by the Book you so ardently proclaim. Be meek, merciful, grace-filled, respectful, loving, kind, gentle, and peacemaking. Instead of pointing your judgmental finger at others, why not open your hands--palms upward--and receive the rest of us as your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all here to do God's work...we're on the same team, you know. Sure, we can and should discuss our theological differences, but let's do so with humility and a Body mindset.