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Why John MacArthur Is Not "Reformed"

Richard Muller.jpgJohn MacArthur's opening lecture at the Shepherd's Conference created two main points of contention.  The first has to do with the on-going debate over eschatology (specifically the millennial question).  MacArthur--who is an ardent dispensationalist--stated and defended his position.  That's OK and no one is surprised or upset about that.  But people are upset because MacArthur so badly misrepresented amillennialism, and because he defined "premillennialism" as though it were dispensationalism.  Not true.  The loud howls of protest to MacArthur's dispensationalism coming from historical premillennarians is proof.  We'll talk more about this matter in the coming days.

The second point of contention is MacArthur's questionable attempt to co-opt "Calvinism" from amillenniarians and claim it for the dispensationalists.  This is seen in MacArthur's remarkable claim that amillennialism is inherently "Arminian." 

As I thought about drafting a response to this claim, it occured to me that it has already been done.  In 1993, Richard Muller--who was my Ph.D. dissertation advisor and acknowledged by all as the leading authority on Reformed scholasticism and Calvin (Click here: The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition (Oxford Studies in His)--published a short essay entitled, "How Many Points?"

In this essay, Muller demonstrates why people like MacArthur are not Reformed.  MacArthur may hold to the "five points", but Muller shows why MacArthur is not "Reformed" nor a "Calvinist" in any meaningful or historical sense of those terms.

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 specific issue Muller tackles is "who is Reformed?"  And John MacArthur is not.


How Many Points?

By Richard A. Muller (and published here with his kind permission) 

I once met a minister who introduced himself to me as a "five-point Calvinist." I later learned that, in addition to being a self-confessed five-point Calvinist, he was also an anti-paedobaptist who assumed that the church was a voluntary association of adult believers, that the sacraments were not means of grace but were merely "ordinances" of the church, that there was more than one covenant offering salvation in the time between the Fall and the eschaton, and that the church could expect a thousand-year reign on earth after Christ's Second Coming but before the ultimate end of the world. He recognized no creeds or confessions of the church as binding in any way. I also found out that he regularly preached the "five points" in such a way as to indicate the difficulty of finding assurance of salvation: He often taught his congregation that they had to examine their repentance continually in order to determine whether they had exerted themselves enough in renouncing the world and in "accepting" Christ. This view of Christian life was totally in accord with his conception of the church as a visible, voluntary association of "born again" adults who had "a personal relationship with Jesus."

In retrospect, I recognize that I should not have been terribly surprised at the doctrinal context or at the practical application of the famous five points by this minister — although at the time I was astonished. After all, here was a person, proud to be a five-point Calvinist, whose doctrines would have been repudiated by Calvin. In fact, his 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. Perhaps more to the point, his beliefs stood outside of the theological limits presented by the great confessions of the Reformed churches—whether the Second Helvetic Confession of the Swiss Reformed church or the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism of the Dutch Reformed churches or the Westminster standards of the Presbyterian churches. He was, in short, an American evangelical.

To read the rest of this essay, Click here: Riddleblog - "How Many Points?"

References (1)

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Reader Comments (207)

Scottie F.

I think it's safe to say that MacArthur could not unreservedly subscribe to the LBC.

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTurretinFan
I am of the (what I hope to be of the most humble) opinion that most students of the bible are not surprised over scholastic debates among the great theological proponderants of our day. It is crystal clear that on this level one's credibility and acceptance into this elite community is predicated on being identified within a certain camp (Calvinist, Dispensationalist etc.)and if this is the case it is no wonder millions of websites are more than willing to overwhelm me with one author's response to another author. As a brother that just wants love the Lord and His people (I know that is not to scholastic) it baffles me immensely why we idolize the camps. It proves the point that we may have been regenerated but there are still "remnants" of degeneration in us and that we all "see through a glass darkly" (some glass are darker than others). We are in alliance with a movement and not our Master. I understand that even Paul and Barnabas separated because of differences (neither were reformed, covenant or dispensationalist), however the difference is they separated over something meaningful (like how to restore a weak brother to ministry and not over a theological camp) and not something that has no direct impact over a believers (80 percent of believers have not a clue about these camps and their rifts other than the simplicity of the gospel is all that matters to them) life. I for one sees it as consistent with scripture that the so-called five points are valid and indeed biblical. I also see it as consistent with scriptire that there is a distinction between the church and Israel and that God does have a future for His chosen people, but I refuse to let the scholastic elitist place me in a camp. Would I write articles confusing the minds of many Christ loving believers who are inudated with all kinds of information. I know theologians core existence is to bring clarity to the Holy Writ, however most bring confusion. I am suggesting that this is their aim (if I were I would be questioning their motives and I would in fact be in the wrong? No! But I do question their judgement As one great professor once said "Calvin was not a Calvinist". With that said, my prayer is that we adhere to the commands of great apostle in 1 Cor. 3 and quit dividing the body. Love God, His Word and His people soon enough as in the words of my ancestors " in that great gettin up mornin we will understand it better by and by".
May 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Johnson
The problem with Macarthur's eschatology is the same as with infant "baptism": It's not whether it is "Reformed" or not; it's that it just isn't Biblical.

Infant baptism maybe "Reformed" in the Biblical sense of the word but not in the literal. The paedobaptists failed to reform what was a Romanist innovation based on misunderstanding of the gospel (i.e. baptismal regeneration). Rather than reforming it they covered it over with a so-called covenant theology. There is a true Biblical covenant theology: that God made a covenant with His people, the elect, whom He chose based on His grace only -- not because they're born to Christian parents.

I was disappointed in Mr. Johnson's post. He apparently wants to deny us the use of nouns. And, by the way, God's chosen people are the elect, not a group of people based on birth. The dispensationalist and the baby-baptizers have a misunderstanding in common. They haven't been sufficiently Biblically "reformed".
June 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

MacArthur says, "I believe in volition (free will). I believe, anybody who wants to anytime, can come to Jesus Christ and receive Him as Saviour" (Tapes- GC 2001; GC 45-73). The reader should bear in mind that MacArthur is not an ignorant or misguided preacher who preaches heresy for a lack of instruction. No, no. MacArthur is a well read hypocrite who constantly quotes from faithful Calvinist and Puritan writers ( though he is not worthy to unfasten their shoes ) whenever it suits his purpose. But like his father the devil, he hates the doctrines of grace and the absolute sovereignty of God and has therefore corrupted the word of God and changed the truth of God into a lie. Even when a certain Pastor Darwin Fish confronted him regarding his errors and failure to expose false prophets, MacArthur would have none of it, but true to the Master's word turned again and rent him [ see Matt. 7:6 ].
Man’s Total depravity is an ugly concept that divides the church as no other doctrinal teaching, in regards to salvation. The most erroneous views are held concerning the nature and power of man’s will, even by many of God’s children. The popular idea now prevailing, and which is taught from the great majority of pulpits, is that man has a "free will", and that salvation comes to the sinner through his will co-operating with the Holy Spirit. To deny the "free will" of man, is to bring one into disfavour, even before most of those who profess to be orthodox. And yet Scripture emphatically says, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" [Rom. 9:16]. Which shall we believe: God, or the preachers?
In matters pertaining to salvation, the unregenerate man is not at liberty to choose between good and evil, but only to choose between greater and lesser evil, which is not properly free will.
When preaching to the unsaved, Arminians often draw an analogy between God’s sending of the Gospel to the sinner, and a sick man in bed, with some healing medicine on a table by his side: all he needs to do is to reach forth his hand and take it. It is interesting to note that John MacArthur, as a true Arminian uses this very analogy in trying to prove that God has done all that He can and now it is up to mankind to appropriate it and be saved. [GC 54-13]. However, in order for this illustration to be in anywise true to the picture which Scripture gives us of the fallen and depraved sinner, the sick man in bed must be described as one who is blind [Eph. 4:18] so that he cannot see the medicine, his hand paralysed [Rom. 5:6] so that he is unable to reach forth for it, and his heart not only devoid of all confidence in the medicine but filled with hatred against the physician himself [Jn. 15:18]. That is not all. The sick man loves his disease [Jn.3:19] and has a strong aversion to the remedy. O what superficial views of man’s desperate plight are now entertained! Christ came here not to help those who were willing to help themselves, but to do for His people what they were incapable of doing for themselves: "To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" [Isa. 42:7].
MacArthur teaches that fallen sinful man who is dead in trespasses and sins has the potency or ability whereby he can comply to the demands of God. Listen to his own words : "The God of the Bible is not a God who makes demands on impotent people who are unable to comply and then crushing them because of their non-compliance." [GC 50-21]. Beloved, this is the great Arminian heresy. It directly repudiates the doctrine of Total Depravity and the Bible which teaches that "the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [Rom. 8: 7]." And again "They that are in the flesh cannot please God" [Rom 8: 8].

The Doctrine of Free Will – A Damnable Heresy!
J.C. Ryle in his classic book ‘Warnings to the Churches’ wrote "Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with,—a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin." No matter how sincerely MacArthur may teach that salvation is by grace alone, in reality he holds and teaches the damnable heresy of salvation by grace plus works!
Concerning the teaching on Total Depravity, the Roman Catholic Church warns—"If anyone shall affirm, that since the fall of Adam, man’s free-will is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing titular, yea a name, without a thing, and a fiction introduced by Satan into the church; let such an one be accursed"! Hence we see, though MacArthur avows to dissent from the teachings of Rome, at least in this aspect he walks hand in hand with them.


MacArthur pretends to hold and teach unconditional election, but he only uses this doctrine whenever it suits him and does not believe it in the biblical way. The election he teaches is not an unconditional election but a conditional one. It is based on the condition that men choose God. His own words are "God does not save them whether they like it or not, He will not save them against their will. He does not universally save all men, because he does not violate their choice". (GC: 54-13).
MacArthur’s view of election is nothing but God choosing those who choose Him, which is not properly election. If man’s will is the ultimate factor in his choice between believing and not believing in Jesus, then it is rather absurd to go on talking about unconditional election. However, some people do, indeed, indulge in such absurdity. According to them election is nothing but God’s choice of those whom He foresaw would believe. This is a contradiction of terms, for if God chooses those who choose Him, it is not God’s election of man but man’s election of God. So the question comes to be simply this: Does election mean God choosing man or man choosing God? It cannot mean both.
Christ explicitly declared to His disciples, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you," [Jn. 15:16], by which He made God’s choice primary and man’s choice only secondary and a result of the former. The Arminian, however, in making salvation depend upon man’s choice to use or abuse proffered grace, reverses this order and makes man’s choice the primary and decisive one. There is no place in the Scriptures for an election, which is carefully adjusted to the foreseen actions of the creature. The divine will is never made dependent on the creaturely will for its determinations. It is God who chooses the person and causes him to approach unto Him [see Ps. 65:4]. Arminianism takes this choice out of the hands of God and places it in the hands of man. Any system that substitutes a man-made election falls below Scripture teaching on this subject.
The Bible explicitly teaches election in both the old and the new testaments and those who fail to see it are either men who are spiritually blind who must be born again or rebellious men who willfully reject the teaching of God’s word because it is not agreeable to their feelings and plausible to their understanding. Every Christian must believe in some kind of election, for while the Scriptures leave unexplained many things about the doctrine of Election, they make very plain the FACT that there has been an election.
The Scriptures represent election as occurring in past time, irrespective of personal merit, and altogether sovereign,—"The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau have I hated" The decree is not on their posterity, (as MacArthur erroneously teaches in his commentary on Romans) but on them personally. [Rom. 9:11,12]. Now if the doctrine of election is not true, we may safely challenge any man to tell us what the apostle means by such language. "We are pointed illustratively to the sovereign acceptance of Isaac and rejection of Ishmael, and to the choice of Jacob and not of Esau before their birth and therefore before either had done good or bad; we are explicitly told that in the matter of salvation it is not of him that wills, or of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy, and that He has mercy on whom He will and on whom He will He hardens; we are pointedly directed to behold in God the potter who makes the vessels which proceed from His hand each for an end of His appointment, that He may work out His will upon them. It is safe to say that language cannot be chosen better adapted to teach predestination at its height." (Warfield, Biblical Doctrines, p.50).

The Bible teaches the doctrine of double predestination. Calvin wrote in his "Institutes" -- "Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny: but, eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or death".
The Bible explicitly teaches an election unto damnation as surely as it teaches an election unto salvation. Sadly, even many professing Calvinists who fervently uphold and teach the doctrine of election either ignore or outrightly deny the doctrine of Reprobation.
John MacArthur, Jr., not only ignores the doctrine of reprobation but at times outrightly denies it. To quote his own words "You’ll never find any place in the Bible that God sends people to hell, you’ll never find any place in the Bible that God damns people. If men choose to go to hell, they go there because they pronounce their own sentence in rejecting Jesus Christ" (Tape GC 1746). Well, that is true, but it is only a part of the truth. It is the truth from the human side. But there is a divine side too, and this side of the truth needs to be stressed or God will be robbed of His glory.
"There can be no election without its opposite, reprobation" (Calvin). The very terms "elect" and "Election" imply the terms "non-elect" and "Reprobation". Every choice, evidently and necessarily implies a refusal, for where there is no leaving out there can be no choice. If there be some whom God has elected unto salvation [II Thess. 2:13], there must be others who are not elected unto salvation. If there be some who are not appointed unto wrath [I Thess. 5:9], there must be others who areappointed to wrath. The Scripture speaks of those who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed [I Pet. 2:8].
For Calvin, reprobation, like the decree of election, concerns specific individuals; election and reprobation are specific and particular. The decree of reprobation does not refer to a general intention of God; it is not limited in its reference to a class of people, as the later Arminians contended. The general definitions of Predestination quoted above make this clear; so also do the specific references to Esau in distinction from Jacob. It is interesting to note that MacArthur in line with his Arminian counterparts teaches that the decree of reprobation on Esau was not particular, but general i.e., on his posterity. (see MacArthur’s New Testament Commentaries on Romans 9:13)


MacArthur outrightly rejects and refutes this doctrine. He flatly states "I believe in an unlimited atonement" (Tape GC1514). And again "Jesus Christ in His death purposed to die as a substitute for every man" (Tape GC 1606).
J.C. Ryle in his ‘Warnings to the Churches’ exhorts ministers to examine their preaching by asking themselves a few searching questions. "Do we ever handle the Word of God deceitfully? Is there any text in God’s Word, which we shrink from expounding? Is there any statement in the Bible, which we avoid speaking about to our people, not because we do not understand it, but because it contradicts some pet notion of ours as to what is truth? If it be so, let us ask our consciences whether this be not very, like handling the Word of God deceitfully".
It grieves us to say that MacArthur has handled the Word of God deceitfully. There are portions of Scripture which he has drawn back from expounding and giving their true sense [Neh. 8:8]. There are doctrines in the Bible which he avoids teaching the people, not because he does not understand them, but because they contradict his pet notions and the pet notions of those who hear him. Doctrines that are harsh such as Total Depravity, Reprobation, Limited Atonement etc., he skillfully mangles, mutilates and dismembers or worse still cunningly qualifies (limits the meaning) and at times cleverly avoids them.
The reason he does all this is quite obvious to those who have thoroughly examined his teaching. According to him, if a minister does not have an impact on the people or fails to be effective, it is proof positive that such a minister has not been called to the ministry. (Tape GC 55-23). So, in order to have this ‘effective’ ministry he preaches in a manner that does not offend the majority, so the masses can continue to play ‘Church’ and give him the satisfaction that he has been ‘called’. Beloved, the Bible does not teach that the proof of one’s calling is in the effectiveness of one’s ministry, nor did God promise that His ministers would have an impact. For the most part, the Word we preach is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, but to the few who are called it is the power and wisdom of God [I Cor.1: 23,24]. Yes, the Lord Jesus promised that we would have an impact, in fact he said that we would have such an impact that they would throw us out of the Synagogues and whosoever killed us would think he offered God service [Jn. 16:2]. And as far as effectiveness goes, Scripture tells us that the time will come (alas! has come) when men will not endure sound doctrine but will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. The late William Parks B.A. of Openshaw said it well "Where "the Word" is faithfully preached, no crowds or masses will be found".
Again, speaking of refined Arminians (such as MacArthur) he says "It was saying of the late Sir Richard Hill, of blessed memory, "Whenever the Gospel is so hashed and cooked up that it becomes palatable to the taste of human wisdom, it ceases to be that gospel that Paul preached." Now I am deeply convinced of this. I believe that if the Gospel does not startle, terrify and amaze a man in the first instance, it is no Gospel at all, and this is one reason why I believe that Arminianism never came from God. It amazes nobody, it shocks nobody’s carnal notions, but just suits the taste of the proud, self-conceited and impudent Pharisee. I am bold enough to say, as somebody has said of Popery, "It is Satan’s masterpiece," for it is so well and adroitly adapted to carnal piety and worldly wisdom ("not too like God or too like the devil ") that an all-holy and a Sovereign Being could not have been its author".
And again "But as I was about to observe, what are those teachers calling themselves "Evangelicals" doing but, "hashing and cooking the Gospel" to suit the taste of their hearers? What are those gentlemen about who make such a muddle of their preaching that no man with common sense can tell what they are driving at – saying and unsaying, asserting and contradicting, building up and pulling down, in the short space of half an hour of every Sunday? What do those men mean who will tell us in the drawing –room they are Calvinists and in their pulpits declare themselves Arminians? If a man is conscientiously an Arminian, let him be manly enough to tell us, but let him not insult our understandings by saying he believes what we believe, whilst he preaches the direct opposite”.
Having rejected the Biblical teaching of Limited Atonement, MacArthur has no choice left but to hold and teach erroneous views of the Atonement. According to him "Jesus Christ made a sufficient sacrifice to cover every sin of everyone who believes. Out of all humanity, only those who believe will be saved" (The MacArthur Study Bible, Commentary on Titus 2:11). And again, "(Jesus Christ) tasted death for everyone – everyone who believes that is" (The MacArthur Study Bible, Commentary on Heb. 2:9). All through his teaching MacArthur sickeningly substitutes the word ‘believer’ where the word ‘elect’ or ‘called’ ought to be used, and such manipulation is employed in order to remove the offense of the Gospel. For ‘believer’ implies any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ who believes of his own so-called free will, where as ‘elect’ means only those whom God hath chosen as opposed to the majority He hath not chosen i.e., the ‘non elect’. But plainly speaking his theology of the Atonement is reduced to this. "If the sinner believes, then Christ died for him; if the sinner does not believe, then Christ did not die for him; thus the sinner’s act is made the cause of its own object, as though his believing would make that to be which otherwise was not. To such insane absurdities are the opposers of grace driven.
For whom did Christ die? It surely does not need arguing that the Father had an express purpose in giving Him to die, or that God the Son had a definite design before Him in laying down His life"—"Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" [Acts 15:18]. What then was the purpose of Father and the design of the Son? We answer, Christ died for "God’s elect". To quote the words of Jonathan Edwards a faithful defender of reformed orthodoxy, "Christ did not intend to save those He knew He would not save. If He intended to save any it was those He knew would be saved. Christ has died for them (the elect) and not for the world. It was the elect that Christ came to save. Since God eternally decreed not to save others Christ would not be engaged in a fools errand."
Against all this MacArthur teaches that “Jesus Christ in His death purposed to die as a substitute for every man.” (Tape GC 1606). And again, “Since Christ gave His life a ransom for all men, and God wants all men saved, we need to pray for all men.” (Tape GC 54-11).


According to Martin Luther, the man who has not yet practically and experimentally learned the bondage of his will in sin (Total Depravity) has not yet comprehended any part of the gospel; for this is the ‘hinge on which all turns’, and the ground on which the gospel rests. ‘Free-will’ was no academic question to him; the whole of the grace of God, he held, was bound up with it, and stood or fell according to the way one decided it.
MacArthur is so thoroughly convinced on the doctrine of Free will, that it pervades and influences every aspect of his theology. He denies that there is any persuasion from God in the salvation of sinners. He says "God does not save them whether they like it or not, He will not save them against their will". Again "He does not save universally all men, because he does not violate their choice". And again "Some people are judged and go to hell because, God’s desire, for men to be saved is not always man’s desire, and God will not ignore the volition of man" (Tape GC: 54 -13)
MacArthur's theology "presents a very willing but powerless Jesus that would ever be pleased to save the sinner, but is incapable to do so unless the sinner gives his consent. The "whosoever will may come" is presented as meaning: "All men can will to come whenever they please." And instead of the truth of the gospel that no man can come to Christ unless the Father draw him, we now hear; "No Christ can come to the sinner, unless the sinner permit Him!" here is a fair example of it: "God is ready, God is willing, God is eager, God is anxious, God is pleading for the privilege of washing away the sins of every soul in the precious blood of His Son and heir. But His hands are tied, His power is limited, His grace is constrained by you. If you want to be saved, God is willing to save you. If you don’t want to be saved, there isn't anything that even God can do to rescue you from that pit of eternal burning." That is what becomes of the preaching of the gospel when the truth of God's sovereign grace is either forgotten or denied. Call it the gospel, if you like; to me it is nothing short of blasphemy of the name of the living God! An anxious and pleading God, whose power is limited, and whose hands may be tied by the proud and stubborn sinner, who is less than dust of the balance, is no God, but a miserable idol!" (Herman Hoeksema)
Against these erroneous views of Arminianism, Calvinists have held and taught that the new birth is solely the work of God the Spirit and man has no part or lot in it. This from the very nature of the case. Birth altogether excludes the idea of any effort or work on the part of the one who is born. Personally we have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth. The new birth is a spiritual resurrection, a "passing from death unto life" [Jn. 5:24] and clearly, resurrection is altogether outside of man’s province. No corpse can re-animate itself. Hence it is written, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing [Jn. 6:63]. So, contrary to MacArthur’s teaching that "Our human will had a part in our salvation" (See MacArthur’s New Testament Commentaries on Romans 9:19 p.37), The Bible teaches that "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" [Rom. 9:16]. And again speaking of those who receive Christ and are born again it says "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn. 1:13) (See also James 1:18). Therefore we see that ultimately, our wills have nothing to do with salvation. When we respond to the Gospel, what we may think is an action of our wills, is simply the fact that God has imposed His will upon us and is irresistibly drawing us to Himself.
Regeneration is a sovereign gift of God, graciously bestowed on those whom He has chosen; and for this great re-creative work God alone is competent. It cannot be granted on the foresight of anything good in the subjects of this saving change, for in their unrenewed nature they are incapable of acts with right motives toward God; hence none could possibly be foreseen. In his unregenerate state man never adequately realizes his utterly helpless condition. He imagines that he is able to reform himself and turn to God if he chooses. MacArthur erroneously teaches “I believe anybody who wants to anytime can come to Jesus Christ and receive Him as Saviour” [Tape GC 45-73]. In saying this he directly contradicts the words of our Lord who said “no man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw Him” [Jn. 6:44]. The Father is not only sovereign in choosing who should be saved [Psa. 65:4], but also when they should be saved. No man can choose to come to Christ as and when he pleases, for Scripture teaches that it is only in the day of His power that His people will be willing . [Psa. 110:3].

If, as Arminians say, God is earnestly trying to convert every person,32 He is making a great failure of His work; for among the adult population of the world up to the present time, where He has succeeded in saving one He has let perhaps twenty-five fall into hell. MacArthur says “The greatest single proof that God wanted to save all men was the death on Jesus Christ on behalf of all men.” (Tape GC 54-13). Such a view sheds little glory on the Divine Majesty. Concerning the Arminian doctrine of resistible grace Toplady says that it is "a doctrine, which represents Omnipotence itself as wishing and trying and striving to no purpose. According to this tenet, God, in endeavoring (for it seems that it is only an endeavor) to convert sinners, may, by sinners, be foiled, defeated, and disappointed; He may lay close and long siege to the soul, and that soul can, from the citadel of impregnable free will, hang out a flag of defiance to God Himself, and by a continued obstinancy of defence, and a few vigorous sallies of free will compel Him to raise the siege. In a word, the Holy Spirit, after having for years perhaps, danced attendance on the free will of man, may at length, like a discomfited general, or an unsuccessful politician, be either put to ignominious flight, or contemptuously dismissed, re infecta, without accomplishing the end for which He was sent."


Unlike his Arminian counterparts MacArthur holds and teaches the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. This would have been commendable had he faithfully preached all the five points of the Reformed Faith as they are taught in the Word of God rather than preach what seemed more agreeable to his feelings and plausible to his understanding. In modifying and denying the harsher and controversial doctrines of Calvinism he has developed a theology that is inconsistent and contradictory. Having denied the doctrine of ‘Total Depravity’ and ‘Limited Atonement’ his illustrious and profound teachings on the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ amounts to nothing but sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
It is a contradiction to contend for the free-will of fallen man and yet at the same time the eternal security of the believer. They both cannot be true. Jesus taught that our will is determined by our nature. He said "Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" [Mt 7:17,18]. The tree is not free to produce good or bad fruit at random but is governed by its nature. But, if according to the Arminian, the fallen, depraved sinner is free to choose God and holiness against his nature, then there can be no guarantee that the believer who has partaken of the Divine nature will cease to choose that which is evil in the life to come. In fact a person whose will is "free" would be a dangerous associate even in heaven; for his acts would be irrational and we would have no way of knowing what he might do under any conditions. That which guarantees the permanence of the states of the saved and the lost in the next world, is the fact that volition’s are a true expression of the person’s nature. The born-again child of God will forever continue to choose that which is holy and good because his nature (heart) has been changed and God has made as it were the tree good and its fruit good’ [Matt.12:33]. Whereas the wicked, after the restraining influences of the Holy Spirit are withdrawn, become bold, defiant, blasphemous, and sin with an irremediable obstinacy. "Only the Calvinistic principle that the will is determined by the nature of the person and the inducements presented, reaches a conclusion in harmony with that of Scripture which affirms that "there is a great gulf fixed", so that none can pass over, -- that the states of the saved and the lost alike are permanent."33
Again, it is a contradiction to speak of an Unlimited Atonement saying, "Jesus Christ in His death purposed to die as a substitute for everyman" ( Tape GC 1606) and at the same time contend for the eternal security of the believer. For if Christ is the propitiation for those that are lost equally as much as for those that are saved, then what assurance have we that believers too may not be lost? If Christ is the propitiation for those now in hell, what guarantee have I that I may not end in hell? The blood-shedding of the incarnate Son of God is the only thing that can keep anyone out of hell, and if many for whom that precious blood made propitiation are now in that awful place of the damned, then may not that blood prove inefficacious for me! Away with such a God-dishonoring thought!!
MacArthur who has done a commendable job in reconciling the discrepancies in regard to the deity of Christ and the Charismatic issues, has miserably failed in matters of salvation. He affirms that in regards to salvation, God is sovereign but man has a ‘free-will’ also. He claims that the Bible teaches both sovereignty and free will. So he makes no attempt to reconcile the verses which seemingly teach free will with those that establish human depravity, but disgustingly labours to establish free will and exhorts other preachers to do the same. In a sermon on expository preaching [ Tape GC 2001] MacArthur confesses that He firmly believes that the Bible teaches free will, that a man can choose to be saved.
MacArthur’s deliberate Scripture twisting.
"Jacob have I loved Esau have I hated" [Rom. 9:13].
There are some portions of scripture which the Holy Ghost penned through the apostle Paul which are hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. [II Pet. 3:15,16]. As we have seen through these pages, MacArthur is neither learned (taught of the Lord [Isa. 54:13]) nor stable, and so accordingly twists and perverts this portion of scripture and gives an interpretation which appeals to the carnal mind.
Consider his commentary on this verse: "With regard to Esau, I say, nowhere in Genesis does it say that God hated Esau, it doesn’t say anywhere that he hated Esau. It was only after Esau had chosen sin and abandoned God, for many many years, over a thousand years, before God would look back and say "Esau have I hated". By that time it was clear to all where Esau stood. So once the sinner is inexorably, and finally identified with his sin, then the sinner feels the hatred of God.( Tape -70-11).
This perversion of God's truth regarding reprobation fully satisfies the unregenerate multitudes who gather around MacArthur's teaching, for there is nothing offensive about God hating a man after he has lived out his sinful life. But the scriptures under consideration do not teach that God hated Esau after he had chosen sin and abandoned God. But what saith it? "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth" [Rom. 9:11]. Beloved, this is one of the most offensive and hated truths revealed in the Word of God i.e. that God loves or hates a man before he comes into the world. And because this truth of God's sovereignty in regards to election and reprobation are so offensive to the carnal mind, the Holy Ghost through the apostle has heaped one expression upon another throughout Romans 9 to establish this truth. The whole ground of preference in regards to election or reprobation is not in man, but in Him who of the same (unfallen) lump maketh one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor; and hath mercy on whom He will and hardeneth whom He will.
The scriptures affirm that God hates men without any regard to their actual sin, for He views them in Adam as sinners, just as He loves the elect without any regard to their good deeds because he views them in Christ as righteous. While MacArthur preaches the latter, he subtly avoids preaching the former, and what's worse he perverts the truth of God's sovereign reprobation by making it dependent on the creatures acts. In other words according to MacArthur, original sin is not sufficient enough for a man to feel the hatred of God. Beloved this a perversion of one of the basic truths taught in the Bible i.e. We are by nature the children of wrath [Eph. 2:3], we are shapen in iniquity and brought forth in sin [Ps. 51:5] and we are estranged from the womb [Ps. 58:3], yea, transgressors from the womb and rightfully the objects of God's hatred. Strictly speaking the wrath of God abides on every infant who is born into the world even before it reaches the so-called 'age of accountability'. But a false prophet like MacArthur cannot afford to teach this because it is too offensive to the carnal mind and he would wind up 'loosing too many people'. And this he cannot afford.
Further more to say that God hated Esau only after he had chosen sin is to ascribe variableness and mutability to the immutable Jehovah, who hath said "I am the LORD, I change not" [Mal. 3:6]. It is to say that He does not hate today what He will hate tomorrow. Whereas the scriptures affirm that what God does in time is only what He purposed in eternity—His own will being the sole cause of all His acts and works. His providence's are but the manifestations of His decrees. Those whom God loves, He has loved them from eternity—"I have loved thee with an everlasting love" [Jer. 31:3]. And those whom He hates He hath hated from eternity—"I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity." [Matt. 7:23]
MacArthur’s double talk
When Erasmus an Arminian accused Martin Luther of double talk, Luther wrote back saying, "I do not tolerate the insinuation that I am hypocrite enough to write one thing and believe another, nor have I been carried by the heat of battle (as you write of me) to the point where I now deny ‘free will’ for the first time, having previously ascribed something to it. I know that you will not be able to point to such an ascription anywhere in my books. There are in existence expositions and discussions of mine in which I have constantly asserted, upto this very hour, that ‘free will’ is a nonentity, a thing (I have used that word) consisting of a name alone." Would MacArthur be able to say the same? Certainly not! For there is a lot of double talk in MacArthur’s preaching. He says one thing in a sermon and exactly the opposite in his written commentaries. For example, in his sermon on ‘Expository preaching’ (Tape GC 2001) he bluntly says ‘I believe in volition and the Bible teaches free will’ whereas in his Study Bible commenting on John 6:44 he has written "Scripture indicates that no "free will" exists in man’s nature, for man is enslaved to sin (Total Depravity) and unable to believe apart from God’s empowerment." In another place, commenting on John1:11 he says, "He didn’t come to save the whole world, He came to save some didn’t He? He came to call out a little flock." [Tape GC 1502-S2]. Yet on a sermon on evangelistic preaching he repeats again and again, "God wants all men saved, since Christ gave His life a ransom for all men." The reason for such double talk becomes obvious for those who are familiar with the Lord’s words who said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" [Matt. 12:34]. In other words when MacArthur is preaching, he is honestly confessing what he really believes, but while he is putting it on paper he is very cautious to say what ought to be said though he does not believe it one bit. And since he longs to be regarded as a reformed theologian, it is not surprising to find a few places where his comments are that of a Calvinist, but in his preaching he is a thorough Arminian. But this is being double minded and a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways! [James 1:8].
April 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Jeshurun
Who knows, maybe John (Reformedispy) MacArthur is right and the greatest Greek scholars (Google "Famous Rapture Watchers"), who uniformly said that Rev. 3:10 means PRESERVATION THROUGH, were wrong. But John has a conflict. On the one hand, since he knows that all Christian theology and organized churches before 1830 believed the church would be on earth during the tribulation, he would like to be seen as one who stands with the great Reformers. On the other hand, if you have a warehouse of unsold pretrib rapture material, and if you want to have "security" for your retirement years and hope that the big California quake won't louse up your plans, you have a decided conflict of interest - right, John? Maybe the Lord will have to help strip off the layers of his seared conscience which have grown for years in order to please his parents and his supporters - who knows? One thing is for sure: pretrib is truly a house of cards and is so fragile that if a person removes just one card from the TOP of the pile, the whole thing can collapse. Which is why pretrib teachers don't dare to even suggest they could be wrong on even one little subpoint! Don't you feel sorry for the straitjacket they are in? While you're mulling all this over, Google "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" for a rare behind-the-scenes look at the same 179-year-old fantasy.
February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor
Who cares if MacArthur is reformed? "Is he right?" is a better question. Is this article written with the assumption that the "reformed" group is not off in their doctrine anywhere?
September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBibliocentric
I have to admit that I just do not take any eschatological position besides Amillennialism seriously. Anything else is cat's-pewling. I just cannot be bothered with that kind of childishness and mumbo-jumbo. However, Premillennial and Dispensationalist views undermine Law and Gospel and that DOES bother me greatly. So, give a good thological spanking (or flogging, as needed) to these heresy-mongers and, if they do not reform, expel them. They are a pestilence and standing danger to God's Flock!
March 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Parker

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