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Wednesday
Mar072007

With All Due Respect to Dr. MacArthur . . .

John MacArthur.jpgAll of a sudden I started getting emails . . .  Lots of emails . . .

"Did you hear what John MacArthur said about amillennialism at the Shepherd's Conference?"  "He said Amillennialism was intrinsically Arminian, and that every self-respecting Calvinist should be premillennial!"  "He even said that Calvin would be premillennial were he alive today!"  On and on it goes.

This barrage of email was precipitated by Tim Challies "live-blogging" report on Dr. MacArthur's lecture (Click here: Challies Dot Com: Shepherd's Conference (I).  You might want to take a look at this if you haven't.

All I can say is, "calm down."  OK, MacArthur fired a shot across the bow.  But until I've read the transcript of his talk, I won't respond to any specific points, other than to say, if (and that's a big "if") he's been accurately quoted, then it really is too bad that someone of his stature would say the ill-informed things that he did. 

From what Tim Challies reports, I don't recognize my own position in MacArthur's critique.  I am certainly self-respecting (to a fault), and I am a Calvinist, who is well-known for my advocacy and defense of the Reformed faith.  I am also amillennial and think dispensational premillennialism defaults at a number of points.

If you wish to be "fair and balanced" about these things, then I'd plead with you to first read Horton's God of Promise (Click here: Amazon.com: God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology: Books: Michael Horton), Hoekema's Bible and the Future (Click here: Amazon.com: The Bible and the Future: Books: Anthony A. Hoekema), and my A Case for Amillennialism (Click here: Amazon.com: A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times: Books: Kim Riddlebarger), and then see if MacArthur's arguments still hold water.  It would be a shame if he gave such a talk and yet was not at all conversant with the major (Calvinistic) writers who set forth and defend the other side!  Sounds like he is not.

More on this to come, I am sure!

Reader Comments (207)

One thing that running in reformed circles has taught me is not to listen to any gossip and as you point out about easily published reports-ad fontes. Amillenialism Arminian? I'll give Dr. Macarthur the benefit of the doubt until I myself read the transcript. Someone out there has a fertile imagination.
March 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCraig Phelps
Amillennialism.
March 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCraig Phelps
I think he meant Arminialliism, isn't that where are the carnal christians get to hang out outside the city gates effectiuvely in purgatory?

Obviously I am being playfull here given that is the Hodges, Stanley position and Mcarthur is its antithesis in the Lordship/ free grace debacle.
March 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterR.K. Brumbelow
Since when is MacArthur Reformed? If this is accurate, it never ceases to amaze me that predestinarian, fundamentalist, baptist, sectarians are telling us what we Reformed, confessional, historical, catholics ought to believe...give me a break.
March 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDanny Hyde
But he is a Calvinist and everyone knows that the only thing that makes one reformed is TULIP ...


Sorry my sarcasm is slightly peeking out when it comes to JM
March 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterR.K. Brumbelow

Reformed Baptists never make it out of the cage phase, which is why they're Reformed Baptists.

To what shall I compare them?

I will compare them to someone who doesn't know Greek, but loves to look up words in his Strong's and correct the translation. Just enough to be dangerous.

I will compare them to an Iraqi citizen, who has recently been liberated from his oppressor - and just can't help but loot the museum. Understandable. I was right there with them in my heart.

I will compare them to a child who has just begun to utilize logic at about age 7. But Daddy, you said... Annoying.

They are self made experts, because that is the real expertise, that which you taught yourself.
They are the intelligent and thoughtful, who have just barely had a taste of education.
They are the man who fights over the definition of a word at the annual congregational meeting, stretching it out for 2 hours longer than it need be.

They are the ones who have not yet let go of their old beliefs. They have tasted the truth, but they cling tightly to dispensationalism and their hyper-literal (univocal) hermeneutic and proof texting. They are slow to admit that they were ever wrong about anything, and insist that they now are wrong about nothing.

And they are truly the weaker brother.

What is the cure for the weaker brother?

Perhaps an analogy can be drawn. What is the cure for the one who uses his Strong's to correct the translation, committing all sorts of fallacies, such as blending definitions, picking whatever definition makes him happy, or insisting that meaning is governed by etymology? The cure for one like that is to show him how difficult Greek really is, to explain to him a little bit about linguistics, and prove to him that he has no idea what he's talking about.

How does that get applied to a reformed baptist? I don't know.

How do you convince someone that tongues has ceased, or that infants should be baptized, when they insist on a proof text, and think that anything gleaned from implication and argumentation is eisogesis?

I don't know. As long as they're setting the terms of the game a priori, you can't help them.

But at the end of the day, all of us have the same a priori presupposition: "I know what I'm doing."

E
March 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEcho_ohcE
Hi Craig,

It's not a case of a *fertile imagination* at all. You will be able to hear the sermon, Lord willing, tomorrow at;
http://www.shepherdsconference.org
In all Christian charity, sometimes we need to call a spade a spade.
Grace and Peace,
Walter
1689.com
March 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWalter Ortiz
Hello "E",

I'm sorry you are Reformed enough to give us your real name. I'm Reformed Baptist, and you have wrongly called John MacArthur a *Reformed Baptist*. If all you can do is rant about a strawman, then you are simply being silly. Have some integrity and know what a true Reformed Baptist is and believes before you expose yourself to the world like you just did above.
By Grace Alone,
Walter, a Reformed Baptist
1689.com
March 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWalter Ortiz
Dear E
I am sorry to have read your post - it was really unnecessary and condescending to your brothers in Christ. I hope to see some some sort of retraction.
A hurt brother in Christ.
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commentergracevet
As an historic Particular Baptist (1689 Confession, G.S. Articles, etc.) let me agree that 'E' has not the slightest idea what he is talking about. While our confessions are silent about the timing of the millenium, they are in no wise Dispensational. Most of the Reformed Baptists I know are amil, in fact, although I know some premil (non dispensational) and some postmil.
What never ceases to amaze me (though maybe it should) is the 'Reformed' who seem to blow up at the very THOUGHT of Reformed Baptists. Sirs, at least have the common courtesy to research our position before you blast us. You will find that we have a long pedigree, back to the English Puritans. Do not, brethren, confuse us with the Anabaptists, or with the English General Baptists. And please, we are NOT fudamentalists. We have been around since the 17th Century and our theology will be found in our confessions and books such as those of Dr. John Gill (who knew more about the Hebrew language than anyone else in his day), the sermons of J.C. Philpot, and others.

Our doctrine is that of the Westminster Confession (on which our 1689 Confession is modelled, deliberately to show our substantial agreement with the rest of the English Puritan tradition). Will you therefore cast us out and anathematize us for our difference on Baptism?
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThe Highland Host
PS. I, along with many of the Puritans, Scottish Reformed theologians and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that it is necessary to be pre-mil to believe in a literal restoration of Israel.
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThe Highland Host
>All I can say is, "calm down."

Really. Give it a rest for a week, then buy the mp3 and hear what he's got to say. Then see if the great preacher JM has an accurate understanding of the amil position.
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
#1 JM is not a Reformed Baptist. John Piper is not a Reformed Baptist. Most SBC calvinists are not Reformed Baptists.

#2 From personal observation, most Reformed Baptists (like myself) are amillennial.

#3 The confusion of "Reformed Baptists" with "Calvinistic Baptists" is common but incorrect.

#4 Reformed Baptists are 1. Covenantal, 2. Sabbatarian, 3. practice the Reg. Princ. of Worship, 4. Non-dispensational (regarding Israel/Church, the uses of the Law, the doctrines of grace, the nature of sanctification, etc.), 5. Non-charismatic

Dr. R., thanks for your "hold-yer-horses" post!
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commentershane
My husband and I still consider ourselves to be in the “cage phase” - even though it’s been almost a year since the Lord was pleased to reveal to us His doctrines of grace. We were taught early on that understanding TULIP was not the be all and end all of being ‘Reformed’ – rather - being reformed and confessional encompassed an entire worldview. Therefore, we were methodical about learning as much as we could since we had never before been exposed to real historical Christianity even though we had been exposed to ‘contemporary’ Christianity of the Arminian kind for years.

Consider our first foray into church history. Imagine never having been exposed to the records of Augustine v. Pelagius, Luther v. Erasmus (the whole Protestant Reformation for that sake, the 95 theses, the Diet of Worms, etc.) and Calvin v. Arminius. We were absolutely dumbstruck! This was all new to us, and it’s very humbling and incredibly embarrassing to admit such ignorance. How had we ever considered ourselves Christians when we had no conception of sound doctrine let alone heresy? We still shake our heads often and simply can’t believe that we didn’t know what we didn’t know!

Naturally, when you start rethinking everything you’d ever be taught (or thought you knew) you fall upon the whole dispensational thing. (We weren’t even aware that the whole pre-millennial, rapture, left behind position had a name). Thankfully, the reasoned teaching of Dr. Riddlebarger (and the WHI) made eschatology within reach of understanding. Realizing there were categories (such as: this age and the age to come, the already and the not yet) was absolutely mind-blowing. We’d never had categories before! I know that may sound ridiculous, but it’s the truth. Hearing that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament was a profound revelation to us!

Sorry it took so long to make this point. After reading The Man of Sin and The God of Promise, we read an article by the late Edmund P. Clowney, past president of Westminster Theological Seminary, [http://www.edmundclowney.com/] called ‘The Final Temple’ [http://www.beginningwithmoses.org/articles/finaltemple.htm] – and WE FINALLY, REALLY GOT IT!

Christ is indeed the final temple! The one and only true and satisfactory sacrifice for sins for all time (according to the book of Hebrews) – thus the Bible could NOT be teaching that there would be a seven year tribulation where the Jews in Israel should be rebuilding a temple and returning to animal sacrifices. That would completely negate the person and work of Christ.

Hope this helps someone as much as it helped us.
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMaryBeth
I was there. He not only said what has been reported here but more. Go to http://fide-o.blogspot.com to read more of my report.
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJason Robertson
Why Calvinism Necessitates Premillennialism

In the opening session of the Shepherds’ Conference, John MacArthur challenged the men to take eschatology seriously, noting that the end of the story matters. He further asserted that, of all people, Calvinists should be the most enthusiastic about premillennialism — because they take the doctrine of election and the biblical covenants so seriously. If God’s calling and covenants are irrevocable, then Israel necessarily has a future based on the Old Testament promises.


http://www.sfpulpit.com/
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPam
"We were taught early on that understanding TULIP was not the be all and end all of being ‘Reformed’ – rather - being reformed and confessional encompassed an entire worldview."

there ya go, say it, sista!

calvinism, while without a doubt is the true witness of holy writ, is but a subset of much richer and involved POV.

echo, i fail miserably to see how my *words* at albino's place were somehow more jarring than yours here and necessitated not a defense of *what i said* but lecture about my supposed *"tone and tenor*." indeed, your words here sure seem in another league than mine were at al's altogether. and it seems i may have been around enough PREF'ism to speak to it than you have "reformed baptists." but, then again, i readily admit i don't know much about this former phenom.

zrim
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
I hate it when I arrive late like this.

MaryBeth: Great Post!

Judging from all the links provided here - sadly, it all appears to be true.

From a post at Fide-O (from someone who was there): “[MacArthur] claimed that an Amiller will be unsuccessful in witnessing to Jews because Jews are wanting their land and wealth and physical blessings -- and only dispy/premilers can promise them that.”

So in MacArthur’s view the cross is insufficient for some and there are two peoples of God. He’s telling us that we need to witness to Jews dangling earthly restoration in front of them? We can’t just give them the blood and righteousness of Christ but– we have to tell them that their earthly order will be restored? We can’t tell them that Christ is the fulfillment of the temple; we have to tell them that they’ll get their earthly temple back?

A return to the beggarly elements is not Cavinistic.
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRick B.
This may be "jumping the gun" on my part, since I have yet to read MacArthur's remarks first-hand. However, based on what I've seen here and elsewhere, I'd offer the following initial comments:

1) I would agree with MacArthur if all he were saying amounted to the notion that God's sovereign, unconditional and irrevocable election ensures not only the eternal glory of all those who are chosen for salvation (per, e.g., Rom. 8:29f) but also a future for Israel. I think, for example, that Romans 11 (esp. vv. 11-32) indicates a bright future for Israel (per Riddlebarger, and contra, e.g., the "Dutch" view that Israel's salvation is simply the salvation of Gentiles [or Jews] during the course of this age).

2) However, I would contend that the idea that a high view of election leads inevitably and invariably to premillennialism (to say nothing of dispensational premillennialism) is an absolute and utter non sequitur. Surely one can agree that "all Israel will be saved" (per Rom. 11:26), and yet debate such matters as the time, nature and extent of such a salvation - including whether or not there is a national future for Israel. Romans 11 is no proof text for premil theory! Not by a long shot!

3) I would argue that the very same sane and straightforward exegesis of Scripture that leads to a Calvinistic understanding of salvation also results in an amillennial understanding of eschatology - along the lines outlined by people like Riddlebarger, Hoekema, Venema, Strimple, et al. It was a consideration of the biblical texts themselves that (in my understanding) demand that the return of Christ, the resurrection and judgment of the dead, and the renovation of cosmos all occur simultaneously that led me out of the quagmire of dispensationalism to my present and refreshing amil position. It was, in fact, a closer look at Rev. 20 that confirmed the amil view for me.

4) In point of fact, I would go so far as to say that an amil view of the Riddlebarger/Hoekema type does a superior job to premil theory in its understanding of the ultimate fulfillment of God's promises. How else can perfection and eternality (which most certainly are not true of any reading of the millennium of Rev. 20) refer to anything but the new heavens and earth? I think Poythress hit the nail on the head when he remarked that amils do more justice to God's promises than premils. The millennium of Rev. 20 sure looks to me like the current interadvent age, and tons of prophecies that speak of the glories of eternity (and which premils dump into a millennium and nothing more) sure look to me like the perfect and eternal age to come that will follow the return of Christ.

5) Finally, I concur with those who point out that much premil argumentation involves nothing short of a ridiculous caricature of the amil position. (In this regard amillennialism, like Calvinism, gets a bad rap.) One only needs to look at Walvoord's "Millennial Kingdom" to see how frequently the straw-man tactic is employed. It's like politicians throwing dirt and hoping it sticks. The whole notion that amil eschatology leads, inexorably, to spiritualization or liberalism or Arminianism or a denial of the inspriation/inerrancy of the Bible, etc., etc., etc., though parroted incessantly by dispys, is absurd. I know one thing: I embrace the amil system with enthusiasm for one reason only: the force of Scripture.

6) Ah, yes. "One more thing..." (as Columbo says!): I'm personally of the persuasion that Sam Storms has some wise things to say about Israel's future at his "Enjoying God" Web site (cf. his discussion of "Replacement Theology"). Although he and John Piper are on opposite sides of the amil/premil debate, it's refreshing to see that there really are people who can try their best to do justice to what Scripture says about the role of Israel in God's prophetic plan, and even concur on much of what that means (!) ... without resorting to the silly, unsubstantiated and erroneous charges that keep being leveled by many from the classic dispensational perspective. If that's all the better dispy premils can do, their position is indeed in dire straits. Premils who engage in such nonsense need to read books like "The Bible and the Future" (Hoekema), "A Case for Amillennialism" (Riddlebarger), etc.

(Thoughts from a former dispensationalist)
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
Hi Pam,

You have good zeal. You wrote;
"If God’s calling and covenants are irrevocable, then Israel necessarily has a future based on the Old Testament promises."

Well, your argument is partially false. The Scriptures teach that God's calling is irrevocable, not that His covenants are irrevocable. You'd be hard pressed to find one verse that says that. For your consideration, look at Matthew 21:43. Jesus makes it very clear that the kingdom has been taken away from National Israel and given to another *nation*. Just *what kind* of nation did Jesus give His kingdom to? The answer is in 1 Peter 2:9 - elect Jews and Gentiles, or what we call spiritual Israel. There's no way to exegete your way around that.
Also, Hebrews teaches us that the first covenant has been replaced, made obsolete; Hebrews 7:22; 8:6-8,13; 10:9-10,20. Notice that in 8:8, the author quotes Jeremiah 31:31 (a classic passage), and applies its fulfillment to *them* - elect Jews and Gentiles who are the fulfillment of that phrase "house of Israel and house of Judah", and note some *future* group of people. Naturally, the reference in verse 13 is to the Lord's Supper with the Apostles where He declared to them that *He* is the New Covenant. Therefore, the old covenant has been "made obsolete" by Jesus Christ.
By Grace Alone,
Walter
1689.com
March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWalter Ortiz

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