Please, just say it

There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.

• John MacArthur

• • •

Last week, John MacArthur celebrated 50 years in the pastorate at a conference at his congregation Grace Community Church. During the event, MacArthur accused the Southern Baptist Convention of taking a “headlong plunge” toward allowing women preachers after women spoke at the SBC’s 2019 annual meeting.

That, he said, was a sign that the denomination no longer believed in biblical authority.

“When you literally overturn the teaching of Scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority,” said MacArthur.

A moderator also asked MacArthur and his fellow panelists to offer their gut reactions to one- or two-word phrases.

When the moderator said “Beth Moore,” MacArthur replied, “Go home.”

John MacArthur Is No Stranger to Controversy, CT

John MacArthur put his best fundamentalist face forward again recently during the 50th anniversary celebration of his pastoral ministry. No one should be surprised. I’m certainly not.

What I am surprised about is the softball treatment given Johnny Mac by Christianity Today.

First, I read Jen Pollock Michel’s piece, “A Message to John MacArthur: The Bible Calls Both Men and Women to ‘Go Home.'”

Completely ignoring a direct take on his words, Pollock tries to counter MacArthur’s curt and craven command for women to “go home” with a convoluted argument that emphasizes the historical background of “home” being a place where both men and women fulfilled their respective vocations.

Her piece represents a typical form of evangelical avoidance with which I am well familiar, having been a pretty regular practitioner of it myself for years. Don’t directly take a stand, especially against another believer in public. Instead, go to the Scriptures and figure out some other interpretation that will give you the satisfaction of feeling like you made a solid “biblical” case that sidesteps the controversy but helps you make what you think is an important, related point.

My dear Ms. Pollock, John MacArthur is paying no attention. You didn’t even begin to touch what he’s all about.

Then there is the discussion between Jonathan Holmes, Morgan Lee, and Mark Galli, which contains the excerpted quote above. As you read the article (which is a summary of the podcast), you can see another evangelical trait: I call it “analytical insiderism” — the tendency to be “nice,” to give the benefit of the doubt, to use reason and analysis to try and understand the “worldview” behind the words of a preacher like MacArthur, who may have noticeable flaws, but after all he’s one of our own. Especially when you have a long history with said preacher, as CT does with JM.

The impression I get from the discussion is that John MacArthur has many, many admirable qualities, but he can be a bit quirky, opinionated, and outspoken. The bottom line (with which I agree) of why he is like this is that MacArthur claims to hold a “high” view of Scripture and everything he says is filtered through the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture. Holmes rightly notes that the downside of this can be “this sense of we’re the ones who have it right because we can always default back to ‘this is what the Bible says.’ Somebody might have an opposing interpretation that they’ve gleaned from scripture and it would be invalidated.”

Ya think? Forget “invalidated.” To JM, you’re screwed. There’s a place for you next to Servetus.

In the discussion, Mark Galli is not afraid to say that John MacArthur is a fundamentalist. Holmes says that JM sees himself as “a warrior for biblical truth,” who takes as his trademark vocation “contending for the truth once delivered” (Jude 3). And Morgan Lee raises the issue of JM’s “tone,” especially the offensive way he dissed Beth Moore and the SBC. The three then kind of dance around how people like JM think they are being “loving” when they speak truth, but may have a blindspot in the way they express it. There’s a general agreement that JM may at times be harsh and come across as insensitive, but a hesitancy to lay down direct and unequivocal criticism and disapproval.

Why can’t people just say John MacArthur the preacher is an unkind, pharisaic, contentious ass?

One doesn’t need to point to events like his recent remarks on Beth Moore, women preachers, and the SBC. This man has a 50-year history of making pronouncements and denouncing others in the guise of an unsustainable view of the Bible and a sense of certainty about his own interpretations that appears entirely cocksure and questionless.

It’s time to just say it.

143 thoughts on “Please, just say it

  1. Too late to post?
    I have a kind of long, somewhat personal history with JM.
    Even as a youngster…couldn’t get on board.
    Perhaps to his credit he got kicked out of Bob Jones U!

    Just sayin’


  2. Don’t know about you, but “Warrior for Biblical Truth” sounds as pretentious as “Head Apostle”.


  3. Except it is no reform. Nothing really changes when all you are doing is inserting yourself as a gimmick into the otherwise largely unchanged system. It hasn’t solved any of the problems of the Epicsopal, Anglican, SBC, or any other church that has adopted female clergy–even if it hasn’t added a slew of new concerns. Eventually, she will just become like everyone else, assimilating into whatever flavor of borg she spent her energies breaking into.

    There is more to the priesthood or preaching than standing in front of everyone, being the center of attention, and having everyone call you “Reverend.” Looking to become the new “Joan MacArthur” does not address the true job description you may be called to. You want to reform the system, then be a priest or preach and skip the side-show up-front. It’s not the real problem.

    Unless what you’re really after IS the side-show up front.


  4. Stephen,

    I just don’t see the point in working up a lather to rationalize it to mean other than what it probably means. I just accept the limitations of the age in which it was written and reserve the right to reject it on that basis.

    I find this paragraph to be a mature and reasonable approach to scripture. It promotes discussion and openness to others’ views without the need to coerce, or prove who is right and who is wrong.


  5. Stephen wrote;

    “The truth is there are noxious ideas in the Bible. It’s ok to reject them purely on that basis. To think otherwise is to be a slave to outmoded ideas. Who cares what these ancient writers thought about gender relations?”

    This from Richard Rohr quoting Walter Wink;

    My deceased friend Walter Wink (1935–2012), a Methodist minister, biblical scholar, theologian, and nonviolent activist, put religion’s struggles with gender and sexuality into historical perspective as another opportunity for learning Jesus’ way of liberation—of both oppressed and oppressors.

    Where the Bible mentions [same-sex sexual] behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether the biblical judgment is correct. The Bible sanctioned slavery as well and nowhere attacked it as unjust. Are we prepared to argue today that slavery is biblically justified? [Over] one hundred and fifty years ago, when the debate over slavery was raging, the Bible seemed to be clearly on the slaveholders’ side. Abolitionists were hard-pressed to justify their opposition to slavery on biblical grounds. Yet today, if you were to ask Christians in the [U.S.] South whether the Bible sanctions slavery, virtually everyone would agree that it does not. In the same way, fifty years from now people will look back in wonder that the churches could be so obtuse and so resistant to the new thing the Holy Spirit was doing among us regarding [sexuality].

    What happened to bring about such a monumental shift on the issue of slavery was that the churches were finally driven to penetrate beyond the legal tenor of Scripture to an even deeper tenor, articulated by Israel out of the experience of the Exodus and the prophets and brought to sublime embodiment in Jesus’ identification with harlots, tax collectors, the diseased and maimed and outcast and poor. It is that God sides with the powerless. God liberates the oppressed. God suffers with the suffering and groans toward the reconciliation of all things. Therefore Jesus went out of his way to declare forgiven [or unconditionally loved], and to reintegrate into society in all details, those who were identified [by culture and religion, not God, I might add] as “sinners” by virtue of the accidents of birth, or biology, or economic desperation. In the light of that supernal compassion, whatever our position on gays, the gospel’s imperative to love, care for, and be identified with their sufferings is unmistakably clear. [And make no mistake, despite the secular culture’s celebration of LGBTQIA identities, there is still deep suffering in that community, most often at the hands of their own families and churches.]

    In the same way, women are pressing us to acknowledge the sexism and patriarchalism that pervades Scripture and has alienated so many women from the church. The way out, however, is not to deny the sexism in Scripture, but to develop an interpretive theory that judges even Scripture in the light of the revelation in Jesus. What Jesus gives us is a critique of domination in all its forms, a critique that can be turned on the Bible itself. The Bible thus contains the principles of its own correction. We are freed from bibliolatry, the worship of the Bible. It is restored to its proper place as witness to the Word of God. And that Word is a Person, not a book. [1]

    Richard again: We have moved in the direction of justice and equity on many issues that were seemingly acceptable when the Scriptures were compiled: slavery, of course, but also capital and corporal punishment, bigamy, child-rearing practices, inheritance, taking interest on loans, and commerce in general. It seems to me that we as Christians should be at the forefront of ending and healing the suffering that has been caused by rejecting LGBTQIA individuals, refusing them full inclusion in our churches, and denying them equal protection under the law.


  6. “Translators are traitors.”

    All translation involves cultural colonization.

    Our English translations are encumbered by translator’s culture and tradition.

    It is not possible to understand the Bible via a “plain reading” of the text.


  7. The 1 Cor. 14 section about “order” is problematic to the Fundamentalist interpretation in several ways;

    1. two groups are told to be “silent” (siago), prophets and women. The reasons for that “silencing” are situational. Neither group is told to be permanently silent.

    2. vs. 34-35 should be viewed as Paul quoting a question from the letter he received with a list of questions from the Corinth church. The tip off should be the phrase, “as in fact the law says.” What “law” and where? Paul’s response is an unqualified, “NO, Did the word of God begin with you, or did it come to you alone?”


  8. Late to the party, I see, but my only question is: given the recent history of Western Enlightenment Society’s interaction with contemporary Christian culture, why would any woman called to the vocation of priest or pulpit ministry seek to do so under the auspices of these “patriarchal” institutions so arrayed against her? I mean how hard is it to find a group more aligned with your thinking or file a 504-C3 and go rogue, so to speak?

    The only answer I can come up with has very little to do with following the Holy Spirit’s leading.


  9. I’m keeping the vigil candle lit tonight again . . . maybe soon it will all be over and people can get back to normal. You have my prayers for good to come soon, Dana.


  10. I’m keeping the vigil candle lit tonight again . . . maybe soon it will all be over and people can get back to normal. You have my prayers for good to come soon, Dana.


  11. Stephen, if the bible is our authority, how can a woman be in authority? It’s a moot point. Unless we don’t believe in sola scriptura.

    A woman reading or even preaching from the bible is no more in authority than a man doing the same thing. What’s MacArthur’s worry?


  12. HUG, I never told you this because I didn’t want to upset you, but…

    Remember Matthew from Australia? I emailed with him a few times after he broke with this blog (you may have had something to do with that) and he was headed to MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary, not too far from where you live. I should have told you. You could have had lunch. Last I heard he was pastoring a church in New Zealand.


  13. I would like to see this lot here wrestle with the entire idea of “authority” in the light of our common Christology.

    There seems to be an undercurrent here that it telling somebody to do something he or she doesn’t want to do (or prohibiting somebody from doing something he or she does want to do) is almost always illegitimate. Worse yet, using coercion (the threat of violence or confiscation or some other mechanism) to ensure compliance is doubly objectionable.

    I submit that this is almost certainly an unspoken assumption among (Anglo-)Americans but I don;t think it is as universal dichronically or synchronically as we believe it is.

    This would be a good discussion for another time.


  14. You’re right, I have not, but not for the reasons you think. I first became disenchanted in seminary, when I began to sit under real Bible scholars (all committed conservative evangelicals, mind you) who taught me to have a mind of my own and do real research, to have a broader and deeper view of scripture, and to exegete the text properly.

    In comparison, listening to MacArthur was like listening to someone read “Nave’s Topical Bible.” When you added his unyielding fundamentalist positions on a number of subjects along with his ungracious manner, my split from him was assured.

    I’ve said it a hundred times, and I’ll say it again. It is the Bible that led me to become a post-evangelical and to leave that world behind, along with its fundamentalist shadow world.


  15. But isn’t that rather due to the limitations of this medium? What you want is best accomplished in a long conversation over a beer, not here. I had a fairly standard late twentieth century theological/historical education and yes I drank deeply at the well of historical/textual criticism. (It freed me from the hardcore fundamentalist views I was taught as a rural southerner.) Interestingly (at least to me) I have come out of all that as a thorough going mystic although it’s rather embarrassing to call yourself that.

    I’m gratified you read my posts. I looked at your own site. You seem like an interesting person. I would enjoy the conversation and the beer.


  16. Many people here need to discuss this because they came out of this subculture or ones like it, and they still struggle with it internally. They need the mutual support. Looking up and down the comments, I’m not sure I see many who aren’t already out of those subcultures, either physically or psychologically; but there may be lurkers or infrequent commenters who also need encouragement as they work through the issues they must to leave those subcultures of bad religion. Posts like these are necessary for these two groups of people, to provide mutual support and encouragement.


  17. Bingo.

    Never cared for Vidal myself, but he was a master of the American vernacular in a way that Buckley the Tory never could be.


  18. I see our responses crossed in cyberspace.

    Let us start with “I do not permit” or as you rephrased it “I permit no”. The Greek is in the present tense. It is like me saying “I am not walking”. It does not mean “I never walk.” The present tense lends itself to an interpretation that this is a particular circumstance, rather than a general rule.


  19. Eeyore, my comment was about the wider culture, but also indirectly about the Christian subculture too. As Adam points out, recent data shows the quickly declining percentage of the population that is involved in institutional religion, especially among the young. The pool MacArthur and others dominate is getting smaller and smaller; so their direct influence over people is declining, because the “evangelic/fundament-ism” slice of the societal pie is shrinking. They may, however, continue to hold cultural influence by alliance with political dynamics in our society, that’s true. But their direct audience share is shrinking by the day.


  20. While I’m still drunk and my mind is clear…(in vino veritas)

    ,..and this is coming from a former hardcore fundamentalist….

    Paul said, “I suffer not a woman to teach,” etc.




    PAUL SAID “I”.

    If fundamentalists (and I know them well) believe every word of scripture is inspired, Paul did NOT say that EVERY CHRISTIAN WHO EVER LIVES IN THE MILLENNIA AFTER ME should never let women teach.

    And let us also take the word “usurp”, which in my KJV and Webster’s 1812 dictionary upbringing means something like “to take something when it’s not yours”, emphatically does NOT mean “to have authority given to do such and such”. So if a woman is GIVEN authority, she is not USURPING it.

    Fundamentalism would come back to bite fundamentalists in the fundament, if fundamentalists were remotely logical.

    Good thing God isn’t logical.

    Enough. Pardon my Ruckmanite capitalizations.

    Also also, iMonk probably has done more to minister to me even before I left fundamentalism than any place else. I haven’t commented here in ages, but I will never be able to repay Michael Spencer, Chaplain Mike, and many others (including Burro) for what they have done for me over last decade and more. God bless you all, and I mean that.


  21. Just wondering how much Greek you know Stephen. Having studied this passage in the Greek, I have my doubts.


  22. Well if you mean textual difficulties there are some. The word AUTHENTEIN (“authority”) in 2:12 is used for the only time in the NT. Some discussion there.

    I permit no woman/wife to teach or to have AUTHENTEIN over a man/husband; she is to keep silent.

    I have a certain facility but I do not claim to be a scholar. I welcome correction. But if you give all the translations over at the Bible Gateway a glance you aren’t going to see much variation. And if we look on the bright side and claim we’ve been misunderstanding it all along it has certainly been used consistently to justify suppression of women’s roles and authority in the church.

    I just don’t see the point in working up a lather to rationalize it to mean other than what it probably means. I just accept the limitations of the age in which it was written and reserve the right to reject it on that basis.


  23. OK, since you are willing to treat the New Testament as representing a changing view over time (and good for you for being wiling to do this!), then women preaching (and I am quite specifically not limiting this to citations in the Pauline epistles) is the earlier pattern: how the earliest Christian church, most immediately influenced by the life and words of Jesus, did things. The later pattern is the church beginning to accommodate itself to the culture around it, limiting the role of women as the culture demanded. (This is, incidentally, exactly what I think happened. Women in leadership roles was one scandal too many.)

    So going down this road, women preaching is the ideal. Keeping women silent is the accommodation to secular culture. So now, where women in leadership roles is no longer scandalous to the general culture, does it not follow that the church should be having women preaching, the better to recreate the early church? And while it may be that some corners of modern culture aren’t ready for this, and therefore the church serving those corners of modern culture might take it slowly, surely the church’s role should be to push, however gently, those corners of modern culture to better reflect the ideal of early Christianity. And surely to argue against women preaching as being ever permissible is downright perverse, working to prevent that Christian ideal.


  24. “Don’t assume you know what I think about anything.”

    Given your style of engagement, you’re right. I don’t. A lot of what you post seems to be 40 year old New Testament form criticism but you don’t name sources or influences. You post your arguments as if they all sprang from your brow as Athena did from Zeus’, and were self-evidently true anyway.


  25. Don’t despair Burro, Microsoft assures us that AI (artificial intelligence) will take care of everything.


  26. This. Could also be read as “she shall be saved by The Childbearing”, as in the Birth of Christ the Savior.



  27. And those verses, among others, have been used for a very long time to promote hatred of the Jews.


  28. Yes it would apply. That’s a good reason to consult traditional (as in the first few centuries) interpretation of Scripture. You have to reconcile your “liking” and “not liking” with how the earliest theologians thought, and what has been handed down from the earliest days. What I found when I went looking to those interpretations caused me to reject much of the Reformation interpretations.

    If you’re going to rely on only “what the Bible means to me” or “what my pastor says” or “what I like” alone, you will have trouble knowing what Scripture is trying to say, especially when it’s not perfectly clear. So of course you have to take into account what the ancient writers thought. But the average person in the pew won’t even know where to look for that kind of information – they will think it’s “plainly” stated in our English translations.

    I think, based on what I know of the Greek, Richard is correct about the “special case” interpretation of the 1Tim passage. It’s not a blanket restriction on all women teaching. In EO women are not prohibited from teaching, as Mule noted.

    Power still out.



  29. Don’t assume you know what I think about anything.

    My “bakerwomen”? I’m sorry I don’t understand the reference.

    ps The procession of the equinoxes is not a bad analogy actually. I’m a bit of a determinist.


  30. But I Timothy WAS the general case. It was Paul’s view in Galatians that was the special case. As soon as the feeling of the imminent kingdom began to subside and traditional cultural mores took over women’s roles were diminished in the church. The church became like society at large.

    There ARE contradictory passages.


  31. I wonder this about you, Stephen

    You speak of the “center of gravity of modern social ethics” has moved since the first century, but you fail to give any evidence that you understand, or even much care about, the mechanics of this movement. For all I know it could be akin to the procession of the equinoxes. I can only assume that if ham-fisted patriarchy ever wobbles its way back into fashion, and I have a theory that its dynamism once compared very favorably to a static and stultifying Neolithic matriarchy, you would defend it as vehemently as you now do your bakerwomen.

    Richard the Lutheran talks sense.


  32. Dana says the Greek scholars she’s read say it’s difficult. You say it’s clear. What are your arguments that you are correct and they are not?


  33. Oh, you were a fan of William F. Buckley, Jr., too? I never believed a word he said, but he did say it eloquently. i preferred Gore Vidal, ultimately, though.


  34. Burro you are a true conservative. But no matter what we might hope or wish for the future will be different from the past.


  35. I agree wholeheartedly with Chaplain Mike; but, Rick, I don’t think there’s Grace in anything John MacArthur serves.


  36. I gave one answer to your question in my comment: “Simply as a matter of logic, the 1 Timothy passage cannot be describing the general case. It can only be describing a special case.” For those who want to treat scripture as a legal code, you have your answer. If you want to cite 1 Timothy to shut a woman up, you need to demonstrate that the immediate situation matches the circumstances of the 1 Timothy special case.

    Being Lutheran, I have another tool. Luther wrote of the “canon within the canon” being that which points to Jesus, proclaiming his life and ministry. So when confronted by apparently contradictory passages, those which describe women proclaiming Jesus’ life and ministry, and the one that seems to tell women to sit down and be quiet, which better points to Jesus? This isn’t a trick question, and it really is not hard.


  37. Ok but wouldn’t that also apply to the parts you like?

    The truth is there are noxious ideas in the Bible. It’s ok to reject them purely on that basis. To think otherwise is to be a slave to outmoded ideas.

    Who cares what these ancient writers thought about gender relations?


  38. This is where the cynical hypocrisy and straightforward misogyny of MacArthur style fundangelicalism is laid bare. I don’t think the “Cathodox” ban on women in the priesthood is right, and I don’t think the vehemence in defence of it is entirely quit of misogyny itself, but they are quite consistent in their “we’ve always done it that way so we’re stuck with it” approach to tradition, and have arguably good reasons for it. Fundangelicals OTOH expressly deny the authority of tradition and declare themselves free to do whatever they want that the “plain reading” of the Bible justifies. They then pick and choose whatever interpretation of the Bible suits them, and justifies whatever their particular prejudices are, and then cry crocodile tears about how “the Bible made them do it” as they only to eagerly do whatever keeps their own privileges intact.


  39. Well the Greek is pretty clear actually. These folks lived in a patriarchal culture. If you’re going to claim we can’t properly decipher it then wouldn’t that apply to the rest of the text including the part you like?


  40. Precisely my question. What criteria are we using to decide we prefer one scripture over another other than the purely arbitrary one that it pleases our sensibilities (or offends them)?


  41. Would that Frankie were an EO fundamentalist. He’s pretty firmly ensconed within the Brookline ‘progressive’ wing of American Orthodoxy.

    But I know whereof you speak.


  42. true this

    there are fundamentalists in Christianity, in Judaism, and in Islam and likely in the other faiths which may have members who are very in need of ‘being in control of others’

    a rather sick lot, in my opinion, mean-spirited as all get-out


  43. But the question is specifically why CT doesn’t call him out?

    It is not as if authors in CT do not feel free to call people out, especially ‘outsiders’.

    The lack of calling out is nakedly selective.


  44. From a Cathodox [I am presuming on the Latins here] point of view, “women preachers” is not an issue. Preaching isn’t really all that important. Women can preach. During the liturgy. They can preach to men. Go right ahead.

    But they don’t have the right equipment to confect the Eucharist. It’s kind of a hoodoo thing that operates by different rules.

    In Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series in Volume 5 A Season Of You two lesbians and a witch followed the protagonist into Dream Country using lunar magick. A male-to-female transsexual was barred from following them. She couldn’t work the lunar magic because she had no “moon’s blood”, and the Moon wouldn’t let her.

    ‘Well, f*ck the moon”, was her response.

    Really, you should read the whole story. I’ve never seen traditional and modern concepts of sex and gender juxtaposed better in a story, without propagandizing.


  45. Or, if you prefer:
    “A woman who sits calmly and quietly may learn with all due obedience, but that is not my permission for a woman to teach or take over from man: she is to sit quietly. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman having been deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through the bearing of children, provided that they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”
    The verse is about a woman who is receiving instruction from a senior male teacher, and says nothing about a woman herself going on to teach once her instruction is completed. The conventional translation misses out the connecting “but” between verses 1 and 2 and wrongly translates a word that means something like “seizes control” as “exercises authority”. The Adam and Eve comparison also expressly states Adam is the woman’s elder, which is key to the verse. The “saved by bearing children” also has Eve, not women generally as the subject, and the point is that Eve’s sin is redeemed by our (her children’s) turning back to God.


  46. Rick Ro. I learned and believe it to be true that the above passages you cite show that man can never full fill the law and live up to the standards of the law. We can only be pure and perfect by accepting Christ as our Savior and not rely on ourselves. It is our sin to lust not the women who we (men) might think tempt us, we need to try to live right and trust the Lord knowing we will never be righteous enough nor do we have to be.

    I think the comments above alluding to the Catholic and EO teachings and views on women in leadership rolls are somewhat shallow. The prohibitions against women were placed there because the church Fathers believed that is what the Bible said and made clear. If it is not a Biblical mandate they change it but have not. In other words being “wrong” in todays world on the issue of women in leadership roles is ok if it is from tradition but JM is wrong because he had no tradition. Is that right?


  47. I don’t know what the solution is.

    Orthodoxy, or Catholicism, would be a good start. I know several strong tradCath families with a lot of children.

    I think traditional Christianity would be a better ideological foundation for cultivating the kind of sustainable patterns of culture that the next few centuries are likely to require than either free market Trumpite protestantism or the ascetism-for-thee-but-not-for-me socialism promoted by the new woke Komissariat.


  48. According to actual Greek scholars, that 1Tim passage is notoriously difficult even in Greek. Translation offers the possibility of mangling it in a different language…or translating in such a way that, while technically may be within the semantic range, slants a particular way. There’s an old aphorism: Translator, traitor. The roots of both words in both Latin & Greek are the same.



  49. Let’s get even more real, folks.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

    – Matthew 5:27-30.

    This passage has had the authority of scripture for two millennia. But seeing that John MacArthur has both his eyes (unless one is glass) and both hands (unless on is a very realistic prosthetic), he has either:

    1) Never lusted.
    2) Chosen to ignore this scripture passage.

    So again this gets down to his picking and choosing which he wants to tout as inerrant and TRUTH, and which ones he decides to look the other way.


  50. –> “But perhaps within the possibility of a Spirit-filled female.”

    This statement makes me consider…

    But why, when Spirit-filled males have been so good at doing this church thing? (note sarcasm)


  51. +1.

    I’m careful, as a semi-leader/teacher, to not get too religious on people. Those “woe to you”-s are directed at the likes of me, so I need to be careful to be Good News, not a burden.


  52. Fundamentalism is an attitude that can attach itself to ANY belief system. And switch from system to system with little effort.


  53. But perhaps more to the point you might have been trying to make… Jesus always punched *up*, and helped *down*. He loved heretics (i.e. Samaritans) and secularists (i.e. Gentiles), and had no troubles calling out powerful, “theologically correct” pastors and Bible teachers (Pharisees and Scribes). Pretty much the opposite pattern of JMac and his pals. come to think of it…


  54. Indeed they are. Which is one reason why I am no longer heartbroken about not having become a theologian. Because those guys tend to get the brunt of His criticism.


  55. Except from recent converts to EO from evangelicalism – Franky Schaeffer leaps to mind. Which says more about where they came from than where they ended up.


  56. The Plain Reading of SCRIPTURE(TM), just like Hal Lindsay.

    What CM once called “A Spiritual Engineering Handbook and Checklist”.


  57. I have also heard he is HyperCalvinist AND Dispensational.
    Two of the worst aspects of Christianity gone sour, combined into one.


  58. “Those apostolic institutions” have a historical track record.
    Not so these myriads of One True Ways all claiming “Founded by Jesus Christ in 33 AD”.

    And these guys to NOT hang out together. Like Highlander and Game of Thrones, “There Can Be Only One”.


  59. Do consider, when making a plea for “Jesus shaped spirituality” the the verses above are a part of it.


  60. these folks rely on their own interpretation and treat it as infallible

    Not interpretation.

    Only thing is, every one of them has a totally different Plain Reading(TM) and the Universe cannot have two centers.


  61. Sometimes these guys just get off on being the last man standing.

    i.e. The Only Real True CHRISTIAN! who hath not Bent the Knee to Baal or Taken the Mark of The Beast.

    The Real True Church of One, like A.W.Pink.


  62. “Grace” in the name of a ministry is like “People’s Democratic” in the name of a Third World country.

    “The more adjectives about Democracy there are in a country’s official name, the nastier a dictatorship it is.”
    — TV Tropes, “People’s Republic of Tyranny”


  63. It’s not so much what Jesus said, but how he said it. Dryly

    37 When Jesus finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him home for a meal. Jesus went and sat down to eat.[a] 38 The Pharisee was surprised that he did not wash his hands[b] before eating. 39 So the Lord said to him:

    You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes, but on the inside you are greedy and evil. 40 You fools! Didn’t God make both the outside and the inside?[c] 41 If you would only give what you have to the poor, everything you do would please God.

    42 You Pharisees are in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your gardens, such as mint and rue. But you cheat people, and you don’t love God. You should be fair and kind to others and still give a tenth to God.

    43 You Pharisees are in for trouble! You love the front seats in the meeting places, and you like to be greeted with honor in the market. 44 But you are in for trouble! You are like unmarked graves[d] that people walk on without even knowing it.

    45 A teacher of the Law of Moses spoke up, “Teacher, you said cruel things about us.”

    46 Jesus replied:

    You teachers are also in for trouble! You load people down with heavy burdens, but you won’t lift a finger to help them carry the loads. 47 Yes, you are really in for trouble. You build monuments to honor the prophets your own people murdered long ago. 48 You must think that was the right thing for your people to do, or else you would not have built monuments for the prophets they murdered.

    49 Because of your evil deeds, the Wisdom of God said, “I will send prophets and apostles to you. But you will murder some and mistreat others.” 50 You people living today will be punished for all the prophets who have been murdered since the beginning of the world. 51 This includes every prophet from the time of Abel to the time of Zechariah,[e] who was murdered between the altar and the temple. You people will certainly be punished for all of this.

    52 You teachers of the Law of Moses are really in for trouble! You carry the keys to the door of knowledge about God. But you never go in, and you keep others from going in.


  64. I need to revise my statement: While MacArthur will pass away in the relatively near future; assuming we continue to have electricity he’ll be on the airways/internet for years to come


    Let’s says this C.M., you haven’t been a fan for a number of years. Would that be true?


  65. All off which assumes that a text can be read in its English transliteration with complete trust that the translators ported over the words and concepts correctly, and that original linguistic and cultural context means absolutely nothing. If that’s your view of how God communicates, fine, but just to be clear, not very many of us here agree with it. And, I would add, that method of exegesis is not even “biblical”.


  66. Sometimes, if you listen carefully, the truth slips through how they name things. One of their catch phrases is “unleashing the truth.”


  67. As bad as JMac is (and he is awful), he is a symptom. He has followers, admirers, adherents. He’s in a minority, but certainly not alone. I listened to audio of when he said this. There was a lot of laughter, and not the healthy kind. And the one or two word response format was custom made for the kind of contemptuously cruel statements we saw. They had to know this when they set it up.

    As for why so few people call him out directly for this nastiness, just follow the money and power.

    I have a family member who has been a JMac adherent for over a decade now, so I have seen first-hand how this changes people, and not for the better.


  68. He is a great example of what caused this type blog site in the first place. Well-known preacher, runs a seminary, has a study bible that is read by many, etc… He is very influential in those type (fundamentalist) circles, and those circles are the ones many here have been trying to get out of and are pushing back against.


  69. Sure. And there also are passages identifying women in prominent, decidedly non-silent roles. Women were the first to announce the resurrection. There are numerous prophetesses mentioned in the New Testament. Then there is Phoebe the deacon and Junia the apostle. So why does that passage from 1 Timothy count, while all those other passages do not? Simply as a matter of logic, the 1 Timothy passage cannot be describing the general case. It can only be describing a special case.

    When I see someone citing the 1 Timothy passage while discreetly pretending the others don’t exist, I do not see a “high view of scripture.”


  70. The mystery of why churches die in some placed, such as the Maghreb, when they survive and even flourish in other places just as inhospitable, such as Egypt is not one that is easily untied, at least by me,

    At any rate, the hemorrhaging of people away from the Church will not be stanched by turning the message of the Church into the message of the Democratic party sprinkled with a little God-talk lifted from MLK Jr and the NCC.

    Funny thing, I’ve spent the required time among the post-Christians in Europe and Britain where the hemorrhaging is all but complete, and the feeling of spiritual exhaustion is ubiquitous. The birth rates of these proud moderns are plummeting, and their replacements are increasingly named Muhammed, Hussein, and Ali. That’s OK, say the modern Gnostics, we traffic in ideas, not DNA, you filthy Nazi.

    True, the memes of modernity still have immense vitality, especially when accompanied by fast cars, bare tiddies, and creature comforts. But be not deceived. Those who adopt them are as effectively contrracepted by them as are the Europeans, and soon, the Anglo-Americans.


  71. “Why can’t people just say John MacArthur the preacher is an unkind, pharisaic, contentious ass?”
    I want to address this question and offer an observation, Chaplain. It seems your question is asking why fundamentalists like JM are not called out. Well, that’s seems to be the very nature of fundamentalists – calling people out, based on the truth of scripture. I wonder if the lack of calling out that you speak of is because people are trying NOT to appear as fundamentalists themselves.?.? I also wonder if there is also a latent fear of hypocrisy in calling others out, when we ourselves are guilty of similar traits? I have found that evident in my own life. It’s akin to the principle of “don’t judge, lest you be judged”, even though we can nuance and dance around what that means.

    What do you think?


  72. > And using it like a club.

    This. The Tone is part of the Message; dismissing the tone of someone’s message because you like the message is dishonest.


  73. > how it should conduct itself

    Mules’s church conducts itself quite respectfully.

    I’ve never seen an EO equivalent to JC’s callousness.


  74. The fundamentalist church is afraid of women. I’m not sure why a female would want to lower herself to be a fundy preacher. How do you even go about loving such a church? Facing a church full of hostile legalists would require a measure of grace that’s beyond me. But perhaps within the possibility of a Spirit-filled female.


  75. Also: TONE MATTERS! Tone is part of the message.

    MC’s frat boy attitude and the guffawing of his crowd aren’t ancillary to the situation.

    There is a difference between disagreement and mockery. That difference cannot be hand-waved away as “well, that’s not theological”


  76. –> “John MacArthur is just following what it says.”

    And using it like a club.

    To maintain Male authority and suppress women.

    No thanks.


  77. Iain, your comment makes me wonder if the gospel according to MacArthur (and other like him) can really be considered “Good News.” I mean, who does this train of thinking and theology really serve? It is so tribal, self righteous and self serving.

    People can call progressive Christians whatever they want (too tolerant, too emotional, too focused on justice, weak Biblical basics), but at least they are portraying God and Jesus as Good News for the masses who need Him. It’s “grace to you” for real, not “grace to you only if you believe as I do.”


  78. Macarthur has no monopoly on arrogance and hypocrisy, although there is a particular stench when arrogance and hypocrisy are allied with stoopid.

    Even I have a fondness for hypocrisy and arrogance when it is coupled with erudition.


  79. Burro, as I tried to express in my comments below, you certainly have the force of tradition and Holy Writ on your side. But this is also why, at least in the West, people are leaving the Church in droves. It would be disingenuous of me to give your church advice on how it should conduct itself but there are consequences to its decisions.


  80. Mule, you have a point, but at least those apostolic institutions can invoke the weight of tradition and have more sacramental and Christological reasons for the limits they place. JM and others have only their idiosyncratic interpretations of the Book. Which, as Richard said, is most certainly subject to other interpretations.


  81. Ok let’s get real folks.

    “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

    -I Timothy 2:11-15

    This passage has had the authority of scripture for two millennia. John MacArthur is just following what it says. He’s not the innovator here. This is another case where the default point, the center of gravity of modern social ethics has bypassed the thinking of the First Century. The NT implicitly supports the institution of slavery yet we praise the Abolitionists. We don’t condemn them for not following scripture.


  82. Speaking as an outsider, Burro, I think the problem lies in the fact that whereas Rome and the East make no apologies for relying on tradition, wrong or right, these folks rely on their own interpretation and treat it as infallible, while reviling others who have a belief in a Pope that at times my speak ex cathedral (for example). I have a suspicion that it is the arrogance and hypocrisy that is most grating.


  83. Johnny Mac is Reformed Baptist. In all my experience with RB’s, it appears that they took the worst aspects of 2 traditions and combined them. The Calvinists of my youth (Dutch Reformed) were much more generous, and, as a matter of fact, much better read in theology, scripture etc etc. I have known generous and kind Baptists (well, maybe 1 or 2 🙂 ). RB’s are neither. The quickest people to “cut you off”. You are not RB? Might as well be a leper…


  84. +1.
    In the past, I bought several of his study guides to use for leading Bible studies. Much of their content was (and remains) really good.

    But the more I came to know him and his leaning toward inneracny and “The Word Uber Alles,” the more I began to shy away from “all things John MacArthur.

    He has his fanboys though. Lots of them. I sometimes find myself struggling in their company now.


  85. “When you literally overturn the teaching of Scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority,” said MacArthur.”

    Woe to you who are poor
    for the Kingdom of biblical authority is not yours.
    Woe to you who hunger,
    for biblical authority says you must never be satisfied.
    Woe to you weep,
    for biblical authority says you must never laugh.

    Blessed are you who are rich,
    for biblical authority says you will keep your comfort.
    Blessed are you who are well fed now,
    for biblical authority says you must never go hungry.
    Blessed are you who laugh now,
    for biblical authority says you will never mourn or weep.
    Blessed are you when everyone speaks well of you,
    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

    Empowering the powerless is Christianity. I weep for Christianity that such people as MacArthur are not ashamed to call themselves “Christian”.


  86. Still, still, still

    The elephants in the room are the two-and-a-half apostolic fellowships who maintain the allegiance of at least 70% of the world’s Christians. Despite the uproar surrounding the recent (and for my part lamented) Amazonian Synod among the Latins, priestesses are not waiting in the wings to take pulpits among them, among we Easterners, nor among the Copts.

    Sometimes I get the feeling you progressives give us a pass because we aren’t, strictly speaking, fundamentalists. However, there is the sense of the inevitability of capitulation among you all that matches the sense of “historical necessity” among the Marxists.

    ‘But in any case,’ said Glorfindel, ‘to send the Ring to [Bombadil] would only postpone the day of evil…even if we could, soon or late the Lord of the Rings would learn of its hiding place and would bend all his power towards it. Could that power be defied by Bombadil alone? I think not. I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then Night will come.’


  87. “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.”

    Remind me: Is MacArthur supposed to be one of the smart ones? Because sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting “La la la I’m not listening!” is not a good look in a purported intellectual. You can make an argument that the Biblical argument for a woman preacher is weaker than the Biblical argument against, but pretending that the argument simply does not exist puts you in the “lying, stupid, or crazy?” category. I have come to realize over the years that the distinction rarely matters.


  88. > Sometimes these guys just get off on being the last man standing


    People Down Down, everyone does it, at least for awhile. It’s human.

    And then there are those who go full-on neutron star crunch.


  89. I went to a ‘broadly evangelical’ seminary where that ethos was practiced. There was latitude in doctrinal matters, even among the faculty, and a generous spirit (on most issues). In fact, some of the faculty have written books together explaining their different understandings on those issues. So there IS still a generous orthodoxy out there.

    However, i think two issues make is less obvious. The first is pragmatism. When the average pastor leaves seminary and goes to his (or her) first growth-oriented church, anything that might be controversial or disruptive probably gets downplayed (I’ve seen this many times) in favor of ‘getting things done’. And a ‘generous orthodoxy’ can be a source of controversy. Creationism and eschatology are avoided for obvious reasons.

    The second is that the vast majority of evangelical church members don’t have a clue what ‘generous orthodoxy’ is, or even care (and many don’t seem to even know what orthodoxy is!). They got their folk religion, informed by their favorite radio preacher (like JM) and that’s all they need. What is seems to have come down to is apathy and ignorance – which leads to a practical fundamentalism for most.

    Generous orthodoxy is for the academy. Practical fundamentalism is for the pulpits and pews.


  90. Ah, but you’re wrong, Seneca. I’ve been familiar with JM since the early-mid 1970s, and at times was somewhat of a fan of his expository preaching. I also followed his style of teaching in my own ministry for quite awhile.

    I gradually came to see him for what he is — a fundamentalist who really isn’t very good with the Bible after all, just with his own limited views and interpretations.


  91. I’m reminded of Mike the Geologist’s recent posting. I feel placed into the total liberal, progressive category when standing next to McArthur. Whatever conservatism I hold on to and even though I may seem conservative to some friends….wow. This makes me realize how far I’ve stepped away. Sometimes these guys just get off on being the last man standing. Certainly a young earth creationist I would guess. Women should probably have their heads covered I’m guessing. I’ve been there with similar passion. Or you might call it angst.


  92. HERE’S my serious statement.

    This blog is “Post Evangelical” which means it ALWAYS disagreed with John McArthur.

    If I may use C.M. as my example, Mike didn’t like J.M to begin with. So for Mike, nothings really changed has it?

    As for Johnny Mac, he’s never been in agreement with the secular culture. There’s been no changes.

    But take heart I-monkers: He’s 80 – age will silence him in the next few years.


  93. > which the evangelical spirit is supposed to be characterized by

    Very Respectfully: Can we “just say it” about this claim, after the last 3 – 4 decades?

    The delineation between Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism is BS. At best it is a historical annotation.


  94. Of course, you’re right. My bigger point, and the point about which I’m most disappointed, is that evangelicals, including CT, should oppose fundamentalism vigorously. It is directly counter to the ethos of a more generous orthodoxy, which the evangelical spirit is supposed to be characterized by.


  95. It is an example of how deep down the rabbit whole this entire [sub]culture is:

    “””they passed resolution 9, and they said intersectionality and critical theory are useful tools in interpreting the Bible,”””

    Ok, it is good kinda that there was a resolution verifying two pretty darn basic ways of examining communications. On the other hand,…. there was the felt-need to pass a resolution about his…. that says something in itself. Are these institutions salvageable? Is it even worth trying?


  96. Outside the widely, and recently, document decline of religious affiliation, especially among those under 40? Christianity fell 12 points in a decade among American Adults. At 1.2 points a year that’s a solid trend line.

    Johnny is only stoking the boiler for this trend. If you are a young man standing behind Johnny means greatly diminishing your pool of potential mates – – – which, IMNSHO, is one of the biggest drivers behind cultural trend lines.


  97. > More contending for an interpretation he thinks is once delivered

    He could do that without being an ass. Watching the video of this event he clearly plays this for laughs, which is an extra kind of gross.

    But, year, JM doesn’t believe in “interpretation”. That is stated at the event: culture should not be permitted to influence one’s reading. . . . . Yeah. By the end it is hard to think of him as a scholar, however obnoxious. He’s a run of the mill partisan.


  98. “Why can’t people just say John MacArthur the preacher is an unkind, pharisaic, contentious ass?”

    And he surrounds himself with unkind, pharisaic, contentious asses. Remember Pyromaniacs and Phil Johnson, anyone? Remember what they did to IMonk?


  99. Mike, I don’t mind that you said it.

    Do you think others are simply letting MacArthur’s own words speak for or against him? I know some people who are encouraged by his legalism and his opposition to women preaching—but to others, it’s a challenge to expose the weakness of his argument.

    Slogan of MacArthur’s The Master’s Seminary: “We train men as if lives depended on it.” Women can wait outside.


  100. He’s still a big fish in a small pond. Grace to You is on practically every Christian radio station in the country. And evangelicals are nothing if not firmly snuggled in their media bubble…


  101. He’s never been big on differentiating between his interpretations and “the Truth once delivered”…


  102. “What I am surprised about is the softball treatment given Johnny Mac by Christianity Today.”

    MacArthur is a big fish in evangelical media – he has a long-standing radio program, and sells lots of books. Of course CT is going to treat him with kid gloves.


  103. He’s not really contending for truth once delivered, is he? More contending for an interpretation he thinks is once delivered, & that would not be known by most Christians through the ages.


  104. A large and growing segment of the American public ask: “Who is John MacArthur? Who is Beth Moore? Should I know these names?”


  105. –> “Why can’t people just say John MacArthur the preacher is an unkind, pharisaic, contentious ass?”

    He’s all about “Grace to you” served with a club.


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