MacArthur at the Shepherd's Conference

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tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Based on the interaction with Joe Johnson in this thread I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the matter of John MacArthur’s address at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference.

Now at this point, I feel the vibe coming from those of you who are saying, “Oh no, we came to a pastors’ conference, and it’s turned into a Dispensational conference. Next thing he’s going to do is drag out Clarence Larkin charts, and we’re going to get a really nice leather-bound Scofield Bible, and then we’re all going to get the Left Behind series. Ah, we’re reduced to rapture fiction. Then he’s probably going to tell us there are seven Dispensations, two kingdoms, two new covenants, two ways of salvation. Relax. Forget Dispensationalism. I’m not talking about that, even though every one of you is a Dispensationalist. You are! You believe that God dealt with man one way before the fall, after the fall, before the Law, after the Law, before the Cross, after the Cross, now and in eternity, right? Okay, that’s what I thought. I confess. I reject the wacky world of newspaper exegesis. I reject the cartoon eschatology. The crazy interpretations like the locusts of Revelation 9 being helicopters and crazy things like that. If you preach that, take that out of the tape. And I don’t think that Henry Kissinger is the antichrist and that Hillary Clinton is the harlot of Babylon. I just…I can’t see that. Apparently you hadn’t heard that interpretation. But let me tell you something, folks, as wacky as that world of Dispensational eschatology is, it is no more wacky than the interpretation of many Amillennialists whose fictional eisegesis reads everything into 70 A.D., and I’ve read that kind of stuff and it’s just as crazy. You say, well, didn’t the Dispensationalists invent Premillennialism? Well, in the modern era two books really reintroduced Premillennial view--the biblical, the straightforward biblical view--neither of them written by a Dispensationalist. The first one was called The Premillennial Advent. It was written in 1815 by an Anglican named William Cunningham. The second one that reintroduced this into the more modern era was a publication in England in 1827 written by Emmanuel de Lacunza y Diaz, a Jesuit. So there is not a necessary connection between all that is strange in Dispensationalism and this clear understanding of the kingdom. When Frederick the Great asked his chaplain for proof of the truthfulness of the Bible, he said, “Give me a brief defense.” His chaplain replied, “I can do it in one word. Israel.” Israel. They exist. There they are. Israel, understood as a people preserved by God for an eschatological kingdom, has immense apologetic value. Immense. We have to get the whole counsel of God right. We have to give the world the truth about the end of history and the climactic glory of Christ and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and the Church.

MacArthur’s fundamental problem is that he never defines key terms that underlie his eschatology. In this particular example, the key term is “Israel”.

What exactly does MacArthur mean, or have in mind, when he says “Israel”?

Throughout his message MacArthur uses the following terms interchangeably; Israel, elect Israel, ethnic Israel, nation of Israel. Like most dispensationalists, MacArthur spends far more time in the OT trying to define “Israel” than he does in the new. For example, MacArthur never explains how “Israel” is to be understood in the context of 1 Peter 2:9,10. Or Romans 2:28,29. Or Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12 where the “heavenly Jerusalem” is described. Rather, MacArthur is content to trot out the tired old arguments that have been refuted by non-dispensationalists for almost 2 centuries now.



There are over 2000 references to Israel in Scripture. Not one of them means anything but Israel. Not one of them, including Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16, which are the only two passages that Amillennialists go to, to try to convince us that that cancels out the other 2000.

This is called begging the question. “Israel” always means “Israel”. Yes, true, but what does “Israel” always mean?

MacArthur’s seems content to rely on the obvious and use DNA tests to support his definition. For example, MacArthur never explains what we are to do with the many people who call themselves Jews who are not directly/racially descended from Abraham, but are converts to Judaism since the 1st century. These are “Jews” according to the traditions of the rabbis (e.g., via matrilineal descent), not according to the Bible. These are Jews who were made so according to the decayed and expired old covenant (Hebrews 8:13), not according to the only operative covenant, that made in the blood of Jesus Christ. This is a painful reality that MacArthur seems reluctant to face, preferring instead to live by useless phrases such as “Israel always means Israel”.

The real definition of “Israel” must be explained in terms of covenant, as Paul demonstrates in Romans 9:6.


Do you know that the Israeli Immigrant Bureau in the land of Israel requires DNA tests where Jewish ancestry is questioned, and they know what Jewish DNA looks like?

Jewish DNA? Did the servants of Abraham who were in his household and circumcised thus being identified with the covenant people have any “Jewish DNA”? Did Ruth and Rahab, both mentioned in the lineage of Jesus Christ, have any “Jewish DNA”? How much did their “Jewish DNA” help the Pharisees and other faithless leaders of Israel during the “days of vengeance” that fell upon that people (Luke 21:22)?

MacArthur never explains how in Scripture relationship to God is based on covenant not genetics. He never explains the promise made to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, and how the NT writers has this in the fulfillment of the Church, the bride of Christ, His body, made up of bother Jews and gentiles together in one people.

MacArthur, like most dispensationalists, is so infatuated with the radial distinction between Israel and the Church that they are forced to overlook much of the NT explanation on God’s ultimate covenant promise being fulfilled in the Church. This is partially to explain why MacArthur holds to the discredited view of a pre-tribulation rapture ala Darby and Scofield. William Cunningham, mentioned by MacArthur, was no pre-tribber. He did not share MacArthur’s Scofieldian views on the required radical separation of Israel and the Church.

We learned nothing new from MacArthur’s speech at the Shepherd’s Conference other than he was willing to question the integrity and Calvinism of some of his closest friends in a public forum. His arguments were the same, his misconceptions were the same, and his side-stepping key passages were the same as dispensationalism’s finest who have gone before him

He might have been worth listening to had he said something new.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
This is partially to explain why MacArthur holds to the discredited view of a pre-tribulation rapture ala Darby and Scofield.

Are you saying the Scofieldian pretrib view has been discredited by Historic Premils or by mid and post tribs in the Dispensational camp or both?
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
This is partially to explain why MacArthur holds to the discredited view of a pre-tribulation rapture ala Darby and Scofield.

Are you saying the Scofieldian pretrib view has been discredited by Historic Premils or by mid and post tribs in the Dispensational camp or both?

I believe the Scofieldian view has been discredited by all the major, non-dispensational views. in my opinion, mid-trib is merely a variation on the basic pre-trib theme. The pre- and mid-trib views are only required if you subscribe to the radical distinction between Israel and the Church ala Scofield, a future slaughter of countless millions of ethnics Jews during the Churches absence from earth, and a vision of renewed ceremonial laws during the future Jewish millennium.

Side question, can one be truly dispensational and not subscribe to the pre-trib rapture?
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
This is partially to explain why MacArthur holds to the discredited view of a pre-tribulation rapture ala Darby and Scofield.

Are you saying the Scofieldian pretrib view has been discredited by Historic Premils or by mid and post tribs in the Dispensational camp or both?

I believe the Scofieldian view has been discredited by all the major, non-dispensational views. in my opinion, mid-trib is merely a variation on the basic pre-trib theme. The pre- and mid-trib views are only required if you subscribe to the radical distinction between Israel and the Church ala Scofield, a future slaughter of countless millions of ethnics Jews during the Churches absence from earth, and a vision of renewed ceremonial laws during the future Jewish millennium.

What you are saying is that the issue boils down to this: Is there a complete distinction between Israel and the Church? Once it is established that there is no such complete distinction, then Dispensationalism in any of its tribulational flavors is 'discredited'.

Side question, can one be truly dispensational and not subscribe to the pre-trib rapture?

Is this question along the same lines as, "Can one be 'truly' reformed and not subscribe to paedobaptism?"
 

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
I'm amillennial and I don't believe everything was fulfilled in AD 70. Big Mac needs to clarify a litlle more in my opinion.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
What you are saying is that the issue boils down to this: Is there a complete distinction between Israel and the Church? Once it is established that there is no such complete distinction, then Dispensationalism in any of its tribulational flavors is 'discredited'.

I think that is accurate. A (the?) central thesis of the dispensational system is the radical distinction between (earthly) Israel and the (heavenly) Church. Two of the more unique interpretations of the dispensational system – the so-called “church age” gap (inserted between Dan. 9:26 and 27) and the pre-trib rapture (1 Thess. 4:17) – are necessary consequences of that system.

Certainly if one cannot discover the radical distinction between Israel and the Church then the need for such things as a pre-/mid-trib rapture all by vanishes


Side question, can one be truly dispensational and not subscribe to the pre-trib rapture?


Is this question along the same lines as, "Can one be 'truly' reformed and not subscribe to paedobaptism?"

Perhaps. Do you think one can be consistently dispensational and not be pre-/mid-trib?

Then again, it’s difficult to say who is a true dispensationalist. There is no Dispensationalist Confession of Faith. There are competing schools of theology with their sometime significant differences. Are the true dispensationalists only the ones carrying a Scofield Bible or Larkin’s Charts?
 

Calvibaptist

Dallas Cowboys' #1 Fan
I think that is accurate. A (the?) central thesis of the dispensational system is the radical distinction between (earthly) Israel and the (heavenly) Church.

Progressive Dispensationalism sees a slight problem with this "radical" distinction and tries to make it less radical. Ironically, I took a class in Progressive Dispensationalism at Dallas Theological and it was my first step away from Dispensationalism.

Two of the more unique interpretations of the dispensational system – the so-called “church age” gap (inserted between Dan. 9:26 and 27) and the pre-trib rapture (1 Thess. 4:17) – are necessary consequences of that system.

Speaking of the Daniel passage, having been indoctrinated in Dispensationalism for so long, I still find it hard to read that passage from any other view. I have read Calvin's commentary on it and he confused me when he got to that very point. Up until Christ being cut off, he would have been right in line with Ryrie, but then all of a sudden, the "weeks" weren't calculated the same or something. I need to go back a re-read that. Any advice on good commentaries that go into detail on that passage?

Do you think one can be consistently dispensational and not be pre-/mid-trib?

Then again, it’s difficult to say who is a true dispensationalist. There is no Dispensationalist Confession of Faith. There are competing schools of theology with their sometime significant differences. Are the true dispensationalists only the ones carrying a Scofield Bible or Larkin’s Charts?

Most of the popular dispensationalist would castigate you if you did not believe in a pre-trib rapture. Mid-trib is not even an option.
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
Robert H. Gundry is dispensational and holds to post-trib. He argues that there is no necessary and logical connection between the two in his book The Church and the Tribulation.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Perhaps. Do you think one can be consistently dispensational and not be pre-/mid-trib?

I see where you are going: a post-trib stance would be closer to historic premilleniumism than dispensationalism?

Then again, it’s difficult to say who is a true dispensationalist. There is no Dispensationalist Confession of Faith. There are competing schools of theology with their sometime significant differences. Are the true dispensationalists only the ones carrying a Scofield Bible or Larkin’s Charts?

THAT would make things a lot easier!
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Robert H. Gundry is dispensational and holds to post-trib. He argues that there is no necessary and logical connection between the two in his book The Church and the Tribulation.

I think he is right on that. I am wondering if you could be pre-trib and not hold to dispensationalism.
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
Robert H. Gundry is dispensational and holds to post-trib. He argues that there is no necessary and logical connection between the two in his book The Church and the Tribulation.

I think he is right on that. I am wondering if you could be pre-trib and not hold to dispensationalism.

James Montgomery Boice held to a pre-trib premillennial eschatology while remaining a Covenant Theologian. As far as I could tell from his works (commentary on Daniel, and Last and Future World, his book on eschatology, and reaffirmed in Foundations of the Christian Faith), his eschatology was indistinguishable from a dispensational view. Yet, he still used a covenantal framework.

Someone on this board has said that Boice changed his view to historic premil later, but that has never been affirmed in any of his published works.
 
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