John MacArthur. That name makes people angry; it causes certain Christians to lose their temper, but why? Why is John MacArthur the most controversial figure in the Church today, and why would I follow such a man? Let’s start with that last part, I follow him because he has faithfully served one church for over fifty years, has preached through the entire New Testament, and while he has his faults (like all of us), he has been faithful.
I don’t remember if I had heard of John MacArthur before the Strange Fire Conference in 2013, but my Facebook was filled with comments against this Macarthur guy. So, to YouTube, I went. I found myself in complete agreement with Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders that this MacArthur guy lacked the Holy Spirit and was in grave danger of Hell (I don’t believe that any longer). I thought MacArthur was a bad guy until I heard an interview between Dr. Michael Brown and Phil Johnson, the Executive Director of John MacArthur’s radio ministry; Dr. Brown was rude and continually cut off Phil Johnson. I didn’t think much more about it; I continued in the Word of Faith, but from that point, Dr. John MacArthur kept making appearances in my life, and I could never shake the feeling that Phil Johnson wasn’t treated fairly, so maybe Dr. MacArthur wasn’t either. Years later I finally watched the conference for myself and was deeply convicted. I bought an NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, signed up on the mailing list, and received Ashamed of the Gospel as a gift. I have been listening to and reading Dr. MacArthur ever since.
Even among his “camp” of fellow Calvinists, MacArthur’s premillennialism and “leaky dispensationalism” put him at odds with the “truly reformed” crowd. When the young, restless, and reformed movement became prevalent, he and others offered advice and correction that went unheeded by the popular preachers and put him on the outs. But, I will say, MacArthur was right, and many of those popular preachers have fallen in some way and have abandoned the preaching they once did for a more non-denominational ‘doctrine doesn’t matter’ kind of crowd.
In my view, people who should be in considerable agreement with MacArthur pick on him for dumb things. Like the reformed crowd swearing off his commentaries because he’s premillennial. Pentecostals and Charismatics ignore him because of his stance on spiritual gifts, and recently several Lutheran social media accounts have gone after him in some very hilariously dumb ways.
John MacArthur annoys all sides of the Church, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. He is a Calvinist but not Calvinist enough. He’s anti-charismatic but believes God still heals. MacArthur can’t seem to please any group inside the Church, that’s because he’s only trying to please one person, God.
I’m someone who has been told I idolize MacArthur. Some Christians have even said those who follow MacArthur are in a cult. The truth of the matter is, at least for me, I read and listen to MacArthur because of his consistency. As I have watched unrepentant prophets, preachers who are more about this life than eternity, and men I once saw as biblically solid bow the knee to social justice, I see Macarthur standing tall. I don’t idolize MacArthur, but I do admire him. I do want to follow his example like Paul told others to follow his example.
Recently, MacArthur was abandoned by longtime friends over his biblical stance against social justice and critical race theory. This past Sunday, he preached one of the best sermons I have ever heard on the necessity of conversion. In the midst of several recent “controversies,” Dr. Macarthur has stood tall, unwavering on Scripture. That’s why I’ve read his books on the gospel, and that’s why the Church needs him. We have too many leaders in the church right now bowing down to culture, sweeping sin under the rug, and caring more about popularity than the purity of the gospel message.
In the 1800s, the Baptist Union ignored Charles Spurgeon’s warnings of compromise. In Nazi Germany, Deitrich Bonhoeffer stood as a lone voice against the evils of Hitler. I often wonder what would have happened if more men had stood with Spurgeon in London and Bonhoeffer in Germany. The Church always needs strong leaders to stand against the downgrade of their generation, rally the Church and lead the charge.
I believe Dr. John MacArthur is such a leader for our time. I make no apologies for using his study Bible, reading his books, or listening to his sermons. Unfortunately, so many people have tried discouraging people from listening to MacArthur. People say he is too controversial, divisive, and many other things. Whether you are Pentecostal, Baptist, Church of Christ, or Non-Denominational, you need to listen to Dr. John MacArthur. You don’t need to agree with every point of doctrine, but we would be remiss not to recognize that God has raised up Dr. John MacArthur as a leader in our time and follow his example of bold gospel proclamation with a steel backbone.
I am thankful for the example of Dr. John MaCarthur. I want to read more of his books and learn as much as possible from him. He has defended the Lordship of Christ, the need for holiness, the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, and much more. We hear it from all corners; we need unity in the Church. Unity starts with truth, and there is no greater proclaimer of God’s truth in our generation than Dr. John F. MacArthur.
My favorite MacArthur resources:
Biography published in 2011 – John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock by Iain H. Murray