Why John MacArthur Is Not "Reformed"

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Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
Do you read MacArthur?

Whenever possible, I avoid it :lol:

But yes, I have read him, and listened to a number of his lectures. Everything I have heard from him on the subject would indicate that he is opposed to the Reformed understanding of the means of grace, historically and confessionally defined. A good indication of that would be that he would oppose the use of the word "sacrament", if I am not mistaken.

...The term "Calvinist" only has meaning to me to the extent that it represents a correct soteriology.

That's the point of the article and this discussion, though, that redefining terms that already have an historically objective definition by "what it means to me" is highly problematic. I mean, if that's the case, I could say that "Reformed" to me means that we may only sing "Bananaphone" acapella in worship, and that everything else is verbotten! :banana:

...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.

I have no quibble with you, then, good brother! The argument is against those who want to redefine terms, and claim to be "Reformed" or "Calvinist" when they in fact are radically opposed to the bulk of Reformed doctrine. Since you don't, we're all good! :up: In the context of this discussion, there are lots of folks out there saying that MacArthur is Reformed (even though he to my knowledge doesn't make the claim). That's what this is about.
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
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 ?

I think tcalbrecht is right on the money in response to this. I'd be wary of anyone who advocates a distinctively American strain of Presbyterianism too.

I think that the problem here is that there are two differing ways to categorize eschatological views. Calvin speaks in terms of chiliasm and non-chiliasm, i.e., those who believe in a literal 1,000 year period in the future, and those who see the millennium of Revelation 20 non-literally as the period between the advents of Christ. This taxonomy doesn't fit perfectly with the modern three-view categorization, because some post-mills are chiliasts, and some aren't.

As I read Muller, he is speaking in the older sense of chiliasm vs. non-chiliasm (using the terms millennial and amillennial), and stating that chiliasm is foreign to Reformed theology. This would eliminate some modern post-mills, but from my understanding, most of them are still non-chiliasts. Someone with a little more insight and familiarity with Muller could probably clarify this for us.
 

Magma2

Puritan Board Sophomore
At least MacArthur got "5" things right about Christian Theology.

I'm not sure this is correct either. Last I checked, and after getting into a long discussion (debate) with Mac's ghost writer, Phillip Johnson, some years ago, he was of the opinion that God desires the salvation of everyone and not just those for whom Christ died.

Wouldn't that make Mac a 4 pointer since he views the atonement as essentially unlimited? At the very least, his position makes the 5th point incoherent, so perhaps "4" things right might be more accurate.
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm not sure this is correct either. Last I checked, and after getting into a long discussion (debate) with Mac's ghost writer, Phillip Johnson, some years ago, he was of the opinion that God desires the salvation of everyone and not just those for whom Christ died.

Wouldn't that make Mac a 4 pointer since he views the atonement as essentially unlimited? At the very least, his position makes the 5th point incoherent, so perhaps "4" things right might be more accurate.

I heard JM affirm "L" at a conference at The Master's College in January of '03. Then again, with his ability to redefine terms, he could be saying that Limited Atonement means what you quote above.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I mean, if that's the case, I could say that "Reformed" to me means that we may only sing "Bananaphone" acapella in worship, and that everything else is verbotten! :banana:

I have heard of that doctrine! Isn't that called Exclusive 'Raffi'-dy? :sing:
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
Here's more on the issue under discussion, and it's particularly helpful with respect to what the confessional Reformed view of the Millennium is:

What Would Calvin Say?

Then again, what does this guy know about Calvin and Reformed theology? ;)
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Yes indeed! My cell phone reminds me of this pet doctrine of mine every time it ring, ring, rings!

You probably have a lot of time to listen to your cell phone as you make the drive from Ridgecrest to Apple Valley every Lord's Day! Wouldn't it have been easier to just remain a baptist? :lol:
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Here's more on the issue under discussion, and it's particularly helpful with respect to what the confessional Reformed view of the Millennium is:

What Would Calvin Say?

Then again, what does this guy know about Calvin and Reformed theology? ;)

... since the thousand years there mentioned refer not to the eternal blessedness of the Church, but only to the various troubles which await the Church militant in this world.

Sounds like Calvin was a pessimistic postmil. :D

There is still another way in which God reigns; and that is, when he overthrows his enemies, and compels them, with Satan their head, to yield a reluctant subjection to his authority, "till they all be made his footstools" (Hebrews 10:13.) The substance of this prayer is, that God would enlighten the world by the light of his Word, -- would form the hearts of men, by the influences of his Spirit, to obey his justice, and would restore to order, by the gracious exercise of his power, all the disorder that exists in the world. Now, he commences his reign by subduing the desires of our flesh. Again, as the kingdom of God is continually growing and advancing to the end of the world, we must pray every day that it may come: for to whatever extent iniquity abounds in the world, to such an extent the kingdom of God, which brings along with it perfect righteousness, is not yet come. (Calvin's Commentary on Matthew 6:10)
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Here's more on the issue under discussion, and it's particularly helpful with respect to what the confessional Reformed view of the Millennium is:

What Would Calvin Say?

Then again, what does this guy know about Calvin and Reformed theology? ;)

Some guy wrote:

Those of us who actually read Calvin and historic Calvinist theology and who are confessing ministers and members of Calvinist churches were not a little surprised about this breakthrough in Calvin studies coming from the San Fernando Valley.

:rofl:
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Philip A wrote:
That's the point of the article and this discussion, though, that redefining terms that already have an historically objective definition by "what it means to me" is highly problematic. I mean, if that's the case, I could say that "Reformed" to me means that we may only sing "Bananaphone" acapella in worship, and that everything else is verbotten!

I don't view it as problematic at all. I am not the one adopting the term Calvinist. The term Calvinist has come to define all those who hold to T.U.L.I.P. Maybe we should be called Dordtites? I'm not hung up on terms, but they aren't going away anytime soon.



I have no quibble with you, then, good brother! The argument is against those who want to redefine terms, and claim to be "Reformed" or "Calvinist" when they in fact are radically opposed to the bulk of Reformed doctrine. Since you don't, we're all good! :up: In the context of this discussion, there are lots of folks out there saying that MacArthur is Reformed (even though he to my knowledge doesn't make the claim). That's what this is about.

Who "owns" the right to define what is Reformed and what isn't? I am not trying to be smug, but I haven't seen a church yet that has a copyright on the word "Reformed." I would consider myself (along with many other of my brethren) a Reformed Baptist. Why? Because I embrace a theology that has more in common with the Reformation than semi-Pelagianism or Finneyism. Being a Reformed Baptist does not mean I am a Genevaite. I am not seeking to be.

MacArthur? He is what he is. One enduring legacy he will leave is that he embraced the doctrine of sovereign grace. He will be hated and loved because of that. If you ask him, I suppose he would tell you he would want to be known as a man who walked in obedience and was faithful to scripture.
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
You probably have a lot of time to listen to your cell phone as you make the drive from Ridgecrest to Apple Valley every Lord's Day! Wouldn't it have been easier to just remain a baptist? :lol:

Sadly, no; if I had remained a confessional 1689'er, I'd have to make the drive to Palmdale every Lord's Day :down:
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
...the 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.

This may be true, in the American historical context. But I think we need to keep hammering away at two ideas: (1) that premillennialism antedates dispensationalism by many centuries (heck, William Twisse, one of the head guys at the Westminster Assembly, was a premil); and, especially, (2) that premillennialism is not the same thing as dispensationalism.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
This may be true, in the American historical context. But I think we need to keep hammering away at two ideas: (1) that premillennialism antedates dispensationalism by many centuries (heck, William Twisse, one of the head guys at the Westminster Assembly, was a premil); and, especially, (2) that premillennialism is not the same thing as dispensationalism.

I agree, but I'm afraid that, at least in America, it is virtually impossible to separate the two.

My experience is that your average Christian, even in Reformed churches, does not know the difference. In fact I would venture to guess that most premils in Reformed churches are "leaky dispensationalists" like MacArthur. They probably believe in the pretrib rapture (a purely dispensational notion based entirely on the church/israel dichotomy). I think they also tend to be pessimistic wrt the future influence of the gospel and the Church in the world.

Also, my experience has been that most former dispensationalists become either postmils or amils, not historic premils. I think it's less confusing to toss out the chiliast eschatology whole hog.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
I agree, but I'm afraid that, at least in America, it is virtually impossible to separate the two.

My experience is that your average Christian, even in Reformed churches, does not know the difference. In fact I would venture to guess that most premils in Reformed churches are "leaky dispensationalists" like MacArthur. They probably believe in the pretrib rapture (a purely dispensational notion based entirely on the church/israel dichotomy). I think they also tend to be pessimistic wrt the future influence of the gospel and the Church in the world.

Also, my experience has been that most former dispensationalists become either postmils or amils, not historic premils. I think it's less confusing to toss out the chiliast eschatology whole hog.

I've been saying for years that some historic premil scholar needs to write a book - or at least a longish article - that lays out the historic premil position, while keeping dispensationalism completely out of it. Your post is a good demonstration of why this needs to be done.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
As a Baptist I don't see the need to use the word "Reformed" in front of "Baptist." Particular is fine with me.

j
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
As a Baptist I don't see the need to use the word "Reformed" in front of "Baptist." Particular is fine with me.

j

Jason - to each his own. My church uses neither term. We simply identify ourselves as Baptist. In the US you will find the term "Reformed Baptist" more prevalent than "Particular Baptist." I wouldn't get my undies in a twist over it.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
Jason - to each his own. My church uses neither term. We simply identify ourselves as Baptist. In the US you will find the term "Reformed Baptist" more prevalent than "Particular Baptist." I wouldn't get my undies in a twist over it.

Agreed. My undies will remained un-twisted.

:up:
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
In case nobody has seen it yet, this is worth a read:

Phil Johnson clarifys some things.....

Okay. Fine. John's premil, but that isn't really the issue is it, unless Phil and John assume that whatever John says Calvin a priori must have said. I think that such is not the case is pretty evident from even a cursory read of Calvin on chiliasm.

Second, the notion that the DPP view of the restoration of the national covenant with Israel is the most consistent relation between the doctrine of divine sovereignty and eschatology is very strange.

Third, Amillennialists are not those who teach that Jesus offered to establish an earthly kingdom, was rejected and thus made the ingrafting of the gentiles into a sort of redemptive-historical, eschatological plan B as at least some DPPs do. I'm not imputing this idea to John, but citing its prevalence in DPP circles as reason for thinking that DPPism is not the most obvious eschatology for predestinarians.

Fourth, Reformed Amillennialism (see Kim Riddlebarger's two books, Anthony Hoekema's book or Cornel Venema's book -- I've checked the OPAC at TMS, they have these vols in their collection) holds that God promised to redeem his elect from all eternity, he revealed that promise immediately after the fall, and has been fulfilling that promise without fail since and shall continue to do until the consummation. We hold that Jesus sovereignly rules the church and the world by his power and providence and that, at his ascension, he entered into his glorious reign as Messiah. We're not waiting for some glorious earthly millennium for Jesus to come into his own, as it were. He's reigning now. I have heard DPPs say that "If Jesus is reigning now, he's doing a poor job." I haven't heard Amil folk say that. We hold that Christ is executing his decrees now. He's saving his elect now. How is this not thoroughly predestinarian and consistent with the Reformed and biblical doctrine of divine sovereignty? One wonders if John hasn't simply erected a caricature and made a series of deductions from it? It certainly seems that way.

Fifth, I've seen a verbatim transcript of the sermon/lecture. It's a remarkable collection of non-sequiturs, assumptions, and leaps of logic that would make superman blush.

No one who actually knows anything about Reformed theology thinks of John as "Reformed." He doesn't confess the Reformed faith. He doesn't pastor a Reformed church and he doesn't, so far as I know, claim to be "Reformed" except insofar as he is predestinarian. The problem is that lots of folk, even in Reformed circles, think of him as such and it's not surprising since he speaks frequently at Reformed conferences -- further confusing things.

The question is whether the claims John made about Calvin, the nature of amillennialism, and divine sovereignty are true?

rsc

ps. there is a brief account of amillennialism here. There is a defense of an amil hermeneutic in the latest number of Modern Reformation.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
No one who actually knows anything about Reformed theology thinks of John as "Reformed." He doesn't confess the Reformed faith. He doesn't pastor a Reformed church and he doesn't, so far as I know, claim to be "Reformed" except insofar as he is predestinarian.

John's ordination is through the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA, aka "I Fight Christians Anywhere"). Interestingly though, his church is not an IFCA church; it's completely independent. He's IFCA, but the church is not.

What's frustrating for me about MacArthur is that, being a very intelligent man, it's too bad he didn't come from a Reformed background. If he had, can you imagine what a thoroughly wonderful Reformed witness he would be? Sometimes I think he would like to be Reformed (beyond his soteriology), but his "independent fundy" background (inherited from his late father, Jack MacArthur) is what's holding him back. Early life influences, and all that...
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
John's ordination is through the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA, aka "I Fight Christians Anywhere"). Interestingly though, his church is not an IFCA church; it's completely independent. He's IFCA, but the church is not.

That sounds a lot like Dr. Sproul's current situation - still being ordained by the PCA (I think), yet having an independent congregation.
 

BlackCalvinist

Puritan Board Senior
John's ordination is through the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA, aka "I Fight Christians Anywhere"). Interestingly though, his church is not an IFCA church; it's completely independent. He's IFCA, but the church is not.

What's frustrating for me about MacArthur is that, being a very intelligent man, it's too bad he didn't come from a Reformed background. If he had, can you imagine what a thoroughly wonderful Reformed witness he would be? Sometimes I think he would like to be Reformed (beyond his soteriology), but his "independent fundy" background (inherited from his late father, Jack MacArthur) is what's holding him back. Early life influences, and all that...

But you know.... it may be that those early influences are what spur him on to take hardline positions on important issues (i.e.- Lordship salvation and when he gets on Larry King Live, he won't choke when asked the hard questions on the gospel like Joel Osteen did). And the church needs that.

I think there's a reason a lot of the reformed community are only just starting to get noticed in the media (i.e.- Mohler) and outside of our narrow reformed circles. A lot of 'us' have become very insular (or rather, became insular during the late 40's - 70's) and as a result, much of the culture went to hades while we stayed inside our doors, arguing infra vs supra amongst ourselves.

We opened the doors in the 80's to let some fresh air in and saw the world had gone to heck in our absence... with a few notable exceptions (i.e.- Council on Biblical Inerrancy).

I believe there's a certain boldness and zeal much of the reformed in America do not have that is made up for by their non-reformed brethren. :) And that's a good thing. Notable exceptions are the Paul Manatas of the world. :)

Now if we can get the rest of the reformed world to not be complacent and get out there like him........
 
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