Why John MacArthur Is Not "Reformed"

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Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
Kim Riddlebarger has an essential point to make on the Riddleblog, taking his lead from Richard Muller. Unless and until we can get back to an objective definition of terms, the modern resurgence of interest in so-called "Reformed" Theology will disappear like any other fad.

I have many Baptist friends whom I love dearly (used to be one myself!), and I can respect John MacArthur as a Christian and acknowledge the many ways he has helped other Christians, but Muller is right:

[MacArthur's] doctrines would have gotten him tossed out of Geneva had he arrived there with his brand of "Calvinism" at any time during the late sixteenth or the seventeenth century.
 

No Longer A Libertine

Puritan Board Senior
I disagree, this man is not ashamed of the gospel, in his own words and i believe him.

He is very Spurgeon like in his presentations and adheres to the doctrines of grace, i suspect the Dispensational in him will work itself out in due time but he understands grace and that is frankly what matters above all else.

Dispensationalism may have been tossed out of Geneva but MacArthur is a gospel preacher inspite of this error in his end times certainty.
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
No disagreement there at all. Nobody is saying that MacArthur is not preaching the gospel, or that he is ashamed of it. The article addresses the fact that he's not really "Reformed". The article is about truth in advertizing. I highly recommend you read it ;)
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Philip, Drs. Muller and Riddlebarger are correct. John MacArthur is not Reformed by definition though he does have many excellent things to say and teaches many truths which are sorely lacking in the church.

As the Dr. Riddlebarger notes:

Before you read Muller's essay, please remember that the issue he's tackling is not whether those outside the Reformed churches are truly Christians (they are, if they are trusting in Christ). Muller is not saying that they have nothing good to contribute to the cause of Christ, nor any other such thing.

The issue is not solely about what 'Reformed' means either. It also has to do with what constitutes a true church. Furthermore, let us not bow to ecumenical pressures to make a lowest common denominator church and jettison our Reformed heritage which is greater and vaster than 'The Five Points of Calvinism'. Otherwise we are just Reformed 'fundamentalists' instead of preachers and followers of the 'whole counsel of God'. (Acts 20:27)
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I don't believe MacArthur considers himself Reformed, in the Geneva sense of the word. This seems to be a discussion among those who are trying to define MacArthur and those similar to him.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
For what it's worth, I don't consider myself Reformed according to the Geneva definition. I am Reformed-friendly.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Dispensationalism may have been tossed out of Geneva but MacArthur is a gospel preacher inspite of this error in his end times certainty.

If 'getting tossed out of Geneva' is the definition of 'non-reformed', then I would agree that myself and none of my Baptist brethren are 'reformed'.

Oh, well... :(
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Good article. I'll take the phrase "amillennial" all orthodox millennial positions.

As a son of Westminster, I can rest comfortably in the knowledge that postmillennialism is well within the boundaries of Reformed confessional orthodoxy.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
If 'getting tossed out of Geneva' is the definition of 'non-reformed', then I would agree that myself and none of my Baptist brethren are 'reformed'.

Oh, well... :(

Hey, I'm not ashamed to say that I am not a Genevaite. I am pleased to be a Baptist. I am also pleased to learn and fellowship with my Reformed brethren.
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
(Maybe I should change my sig to reflect "Reformed friendly" :D )

We could have a revival service, and y'all can lay down your "Reformed" nametags along with your smokes!

But I'd still have a beer with any baptist who knew what he was! :cheers2:
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
...i suspect the Dispensational in him will work itself out in due time...

Well, John's going to be 68 in June. I think that if the dispensationalism in him were going to work itself out, it would have done so by now. Besides, as he himself has said, he's a dispensationalist in the sense that he believes in distinctions between Israel and the Church, but he's not a dispensationalist in the sense that he adhere's to the whole system of multiple dispensations through history, which he rejects. He calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist".
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
"MacArthur calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist"--meaning he rejects any and all "dispensational" soteriological innovations, holding to classic Reformed (i.e., Protestant, not "covenantal") soteriology. MacArthur's "dispensationalism" is eschatological and ecclesiological only. And given the fact that soteriology is central to our whole understanding of Christianity, whereas eschatology and ecclesiology deal primarily with secondary doctrines, it would be my assessment that MacArthur has far less in common with Ryrie than he would have with anyone who believes 1) that God's grace is efficacious for regeneration and sanctification as well as for justification, and 2) that God graciously guarantees the perseverance of all true believers." - Phil Johnson


http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/bio/macarthur.html
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Just finished reading Richard Muller's 1993 article "How Many Points?" In the article, he strongly implies that, to be true to the entire warp and weave of Reformed theology, one must adhere to amillennialism, thus further implying that premillennialism and postmillennialism are to be rejected.

Historic premils and postmils would, naturally, disagree.

Is Muller right?
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
"MacArthur calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist"--meaning he rejects any and all "dispensational" soteriological innovations, holding to classic Reformed (i.e., Protestant, not "covenantal") soteriology.... - Phil Johnson[/url]

Johnson doesn't get to define terms for himself. A soteriology without the means of grace (word and sacrament) and outside of the sphere of the covenant is by definition not classic Reformed soteriology.

A few years ago, someone wrote an article (that Phil Johnson promoted) called "are you sure you like Spurgeon?". The author was trying to make the point that Spurgeon held to the so called "five points", and that Arminians needed to come to terms with Spurgeon's historical identity. So MacArthur et al need to be asked "are you sure you like Calvin?" The same Calvin who said that no man can have God for his Father who didn't have the visible church for his mother. How many "Calvinistic" Baptists have read Calvin's (and every other Reformed theologian's) denouncements of all who oppose infant baptism? Baptists need to come to terms with the historical identity of Calvin and the rest of the Reformers.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Just finished reading Richard Muller's 1993 article "How Many Points?" In the article, he strongly implies that, to be true to the entire warp and weave of Reformed theology, one must adhere to amillennialism, thus further implying that premillennialism and postmillennialism are to be rejected.

Historic premils and postmils would, naturally, disagree.

Is Muller right?

No. This too is unreformed. Though it may be true that Amillennialism is generally the view of the Reformed, it is more strictly the view of the Reformed that it not dictate in any way what is a matter of liberty of conscience. So, though mainly Amil, it would never disparage against the other two. It is not in the equation of what defines Reformed.:2cents:
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
How many "Calvinistic" Baptists have read Calvin's (and every other Reformed theologian's) denouncements of all who oppose infant baptism? Baptists need to come to terms with the historical identity of Calvin and the rest of the Reformers.

As a Baptist, I am well aware of Calvin's harsh tone towards those who oppose paedobaptism. I have no problem with it. I simply reject it. I cling to the truth of the doctrine of sovereign grace because I believe it to be scriptural. The term "Calvinist" only has meaning to me to the extent that it represents a correct soteriology.

As far as "coming to grips" with the rest of the Reformers....why? I'm not claiming to be a Genevaite. I consider myself Reformed in my soteriology. I'm not a "wannabe" Presbyterian.
 

BlackCalvinist

Puritan Board Senior
Good article. I'll take the phrase "amillennial" all orthodox millennial positions.

As a son of Westminster, I can rest comfortably in the knowledge that postmillennialism is well within the boundaries of Reformed confessional orthodoxy.

Last I checked, all 3 views were present at Westminster.

I can probably dig it up from the old board....and I just saw another post on it recently around here. Are you insinuating that premillennialism is outside the bounds of confessional orthodoxy ?
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Which of the three millennial views to hold to is not in the WCF; the guarantee of liberty of conscience is. All three are stated as within the Reformed setting. It is impossible to have three different doctrines about the same thing. They are only liberties of conscience, because three different views are allowed. Holding to their own views is not the problem; imposing them on the church or on others is.

If you're going to hold MacArthur up to whether or not he is Amil, then why not Gentry too? And if these two, then why not Muller also?
 

Ivan

Pastor
As a Baptist, I am well aware of Calvin's harsh tone towards those who oppose paedobaptism. I have no problem with it. I simply reject it. I cling to the truth of the doctrine of sovereign grace because I believe it to be scriptural. The term "Calvinist" only has meaning to me to the extent that it represents a correct soteriology.

As far as "coming to grips" with the rest of the Reformers....why? I'm not claiming to be a Genevaite. I consider myself Reformed in my soteriology. I'm not a "wannabe" Presbyterian.


:agree:
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Last I checked, all 3 views were present at Westminster.

I can probably dig it up from the old board....and I just saw another post on it recently around here. Are you insinuating that premillennialism is outside the bounds of confessional orthodoxy ?

Not necessarily. What I would contend is that there is a tendency, even within Reformed circles, to confuse historic premillennialism with dispensationalism. And thus it is easy for dispensational notions to creep into the thinking of premillenarians.

Writing on the history of the formation of the OPC, Hart and Muether state:

Other debates accompanied the definition of spiritual succession. One of them had to do with premillennialism. When John Murray and R. B. Kuiper took on the errors of dispensationalism, they were shocked at the ministers who rose to their defense-including McIntire, who refused to distinguish between dispensationalism and premillennialism.

For his part, McIntire warned that the new church, like the old church, was in danger of being overtaken by an "unpresbyterian machine." That machine was located primarily at Westminster Seminary, whose faculty, including Murray, Kuiper, Ned B. Stonehouse, and Van Til (a Scotsman and three Dutchmen), was out of touch with the American Presbyterian tradition and unable to lead a continuing American Presbyterian church. The charge was pointedly made by Professor Allan A. MacRae. When he resigned from the Westminster faculty, he described his former colleagues as "a small alien group without American Presbyterian background."

There was a sense in which the fundamentalists were right. After all, premillennialism had been part of the American Presbyterian heritage, and had been represented at Princeton Seminary at least since 1905, when Charles Erdman joined the faculty. Van Til especially struggled to understand how premillennialism could command a following in a self-consciously Reformed church. "This is not the historical attitude of the Reformed churches," he wrote to his friend John DeWaard. "In the Dutch tradition at least those holding the premillennial view were merely geduld [tolerated]."

My sense is that the (narrow) rise of premillennialism within American Presbyterian circles owes more to the fundamentalist controversy of the late 19th/early 20th century than to well-reasoned convictions about premillennialism per se. The fundamentalist Presbyterians aligned themselves with other notable fundamentalist dispensationalists, and their aberrant theology started to rub off.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
My sense is that the (narrow) rise of premillennialism within American Presbyterian circles owes more to the fundamentalist controversy of the late 19th/early 20th century than to well-reasoned convictions about premillennialism per se. The fundamentalist Presbyterians aligned themselves with other notable fundamentalist dispensationalists, and their aberrant theology started to rub off.

Great point. The founding of Westminster and the OPC is really interesting. The fundamentalist controversy made for some strange bedfellows.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Great point. The founding of Westminster and the OPC is really interesting. The fundamentalist controversy made for some strange bedfellows.

I would also note that, in my opinion, the original form of the Westminster Standards allows for only a view of the millennium which agrees with the notion of a general resurrection and general judgment.

At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever. (WCF 32:2)

God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil. (WCF 33:1)

The premillenarian is forced to spread the resurrection and judgment over a period of 1000 literal years.

Thus accommodations had to be made to the American Confession to either allow some wiggle room for premils, or, as in the case of the BPC, the Confession was amended to be explicitly premil. I.e.,

God has appointed a day (which word in Scripture in reference to the last things may represent a period of time including the thousand years following the visible, personal and pre-millennial return of Christ), ...
 
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