07 April 2010

The Preaching of John MacArthur

Special book excerpt
The following excerpt is from a brand-new volume by Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 7: Our Own Time, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 551-58. Dr. Old's series on preaching is a landmark achievement, and this sample is typical of his crisp writing style and careful, objective analysis. If you're interested in the history of preaching, you will love this series.

Buy it.




John MacArthur (1939-)
by Hughes Oliphant Old
Reprinted by permission of the publisher; all rights reserved.


hat one hears from [John MacArthur's] pulpit is a very straight Christian message—conservative, to be sure, but free from the wrangling, the defensiveness, and the bitterness of the fundamentalism of a generation or two ago. If one were to call MacArthur a fundamentalist, a label that, I gather, he would not reject, one would have to admit that his is a very impressive sort of fundamentalism. His expository sermons are instructive and edifying. Twice a Sunday he draws a very large congregation that sits attentively for an hour-long sermon . . . .

To get a feel for the way MacArthur handles the ministry of the Word, I ordered his ten sermons on the eighth and ninth chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. I chose this collection because I myself had tried to do a number of sermons on these two chapters and found them extremely difficult to preach. In the two chapters nine of the most spectacular miracle stories of the Gospel are recounted about healings, exorcisms, and the stilling of the storm. The preacher has to deal with some tough questions in these two chapters. I was curious how someone with a reputation for solid expository preaching, such as MacArthur has, might interpret these passages. Listening to these sermons was a rewarding experience, even if I have a number of reservations and hesitations about MacArthur's approach to preaching.

MacArthur fills these sermons with a wealth of factual material . . . . In the way of human interest stories one finds, on the other hand, very little. The illustrative material focuses on the biblical story. It is the passage of Scripture that is illuminated rather than a principle drawn out of the passage.



MacArthur also has an amazing ability to explain Scripture by Scripture. He spends a great deal of time studying the parallel passages in the other Gospels. Most of the material in Matthew 8 and 9 is also found in Mark, Luke, or John. The harmonizing of the different Gospel accounts is not excessive. A good example of his moderation as a harmonizer is found in the sermon on the exorcising of the Gadarene demoniac (Matt. 8:28-34). One Gospel tells us of two demon-possessed men while the other tells us of a single man.

Particularly illuminating is the way MacArthur emphasizes the similarity between Matthew and John on the one hand and Matthew and Paul on the other. This is in contrast to much twentieth-century New Testament scholarship, which tended to see Matthew and the Synoptic Gospels over against John. Often to make his point he will run through a list of five to ten examples. He spits it out machine-gun style so he does not overburden the sermon with material that only the more initiated members of his congregation can follow, but for the more serious listener these parallel passages make the sermon richly informative and mightily convincing. Again MacArthur gives a great deal of time to coordinating the message of the Gospel of Matthew with that of the epistles of Paul.

Realizing that a significant school of modern biblical scholarship has denied that Paul's elaborate theology was based on the simple gospel of Jesus, our preacher is careful to show the similarity between the two. It is very interesting to note that the polemic implied does not come to the surface. MacArthur simply shows how Paul preaches the same gospel as Matthew. One gets the impression that MacArthur is first of all an expositor and only after that a polemicist. This speaks enormously to his credit.

Having said this, however, one has to admit that our preacher has a very clear line of interpretation on these miracle stories in Matthew 8 and 9. As he sees it, these miracles are above all the proofs of Christ's divinity. They are not examples of what the power of faith can do. Much less are they the myths that symbolically express the devotion of the early Christians to their extraordinary teacher. One never gets the impression that this preacher has the least shadow of doubt but that these miracles took place exactly as they are recorded. But, again, there is never any argument that they could have taken place just as they are recorded. Defending the accuracy of the Bible seems to interest MacArthur not at all. He simply assumes it is all quite reliable. This basic assumption that the text of Scripture is reliable is part of the foundation of his effectiveness as an interpreter.

Difficulties arise when one assumes that these stories could not possibly have happened the way they are supposed to have. If they did not happen then they can't prove anything about Jesus. They may tell us what the early church believed about Jesus, but again if they didn't happen, that suggests that the faith of the early church was mistaken. So much of the New Testament interpretation of the last century was devoted to salvaging some kind of Christian faith for an age that cannot accept the miraculous. For the last couple of generations the idea that one should make the major theme of these two chapters that the miracles proved the divinity of Jesus was about the last thought an enlightened preacher would try to make. That, however, is just the point MacArthur does make. He makes the point very successfully. He shows from the structure of the text itself that this is what Matthew is trying to say. He supports it with parallel texts from both the Synoptic Gospels and the Johannine literature. What is surprising is that there is no vitriolic attack on the "higher critics" or the modernists."

The one direction in which MacArthur does let loose a moderate amount of polemic is toward the charismatics and faith healers. Charismatics take a very different tack in interpreting the healings and exorcisms of the Gospels . . . . Charismatics see miracles as an ordinance of the church. Like the sacraments, they should be a continuing part of the Christian churches' ministry. When MacArthur argues that the purpose of the miracles was to make it clear that Jesus was the Christ, he means we should not therefore expect this kind of healing ministry in the church today. It had its function in New Testament times but, since we have the inspired witness of Scripture today that is sufficient witness to establish both the true divinity and the true humanity of Christ, miracles are no longer necessary.

As I have mentioned, these sermons on Matthew 8 and 9 have a particular interest for me because I once tried to preach through these chapters and was very unhappy with how I did it. Where MacArthur succeeded and I did not may well be in his complete clarity on just how he stood on some of these issues. While I would insist that Jesus did perform miracles, I have to admit that the caveats of the Enlightenment still obscure my thoughts from time to time. I suppose I am troubled by a shadow of doubt, but then the same would be true of many in my congregation.

The place where I have always had the greatest trouble is the whole matter of exorcism. I really do not believe in Satan, demonic spirits, and demon possession. Maybe I ought to, but I don't. I am willing to agree that I may have been too strongly influenced by the intellectual world in which I was brought up to fully grasp the full teaching of Scripture, but that is the way it is. What is more than clear to me after listening to these sermons is that those who can take the text the way it is seem to make a lot more sense of it than those who are always trying to second-guess it. Surely one of the greatest strengths of MacArthur's preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text . . . .



Let us look for a brief moment at our preacher as an orator. One could evaluate his oratory very differently. My first impression is that he has little to offer from the standpoint of the art of oratory. Listening to the tapes, one has to say that he is the antithesis of Lloyd Ogilvie. Thinking about it a bit longer, however, I have to admit he does have techniques of getting people to listen that we should not overlook. The strength of his preaching is his content, but he has mastered some devices as well.

He seems to have a feel for the use of rhythm in his preaching. He uses a variety of rhythms. He will often deliver a whole series of phrases in the same rhythm almost as used in the Odes of Horace. Sometimes his rhythms are very rapid and sometimes very slow. Sometimes they are highly artificial. One is easily offended by his preacher's cant, but one wonders at times whether one does well to be offended. These pulpit rhythms, which we think of as being hopelessly old-fashioned, are being used by preachers today quite effectively. They somehow make it possible for the listener to absorb and retain quite a bit of material over a long period of time. Could this be why the epic poets told their long stories in rhythmic meters? MacArthur's rhetoric is terribly out of date, but maybe he knows something the rest of us don't.

Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools? How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged? Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm. Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging. No one would suggest that he is a master of the art of oratory. What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens.


82 comments:

LeeC said...

What a very nice assesment. Brilliant even if I may say so.

This paragraph made me terribly sad though.

"The place where I have always had the greatest trouble is the whole matter of exorcism. I really do not believe in Satan, demonic spirits, and demon possession. Maybe I ought to, but I don't. I am willing to agree that I may have been too strongly influenced by the intellectual world in which I was brought up to fully grasp the full teaching of Scripture, but that is the way it is. What is more than clear to me after listening to these sermons is that those who can take the text the way it is seem to make a lot more sense of it than those who are always trying to second-guess it. Surely one of the greatest strengths of MacArthur's preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text . . . ."

TruthStands said...

Wow.

Sad that the author how such a low view of Scripture. But good that he sees the effect of a high view of Scripture.

It is amazing that someone (the author) can be a preacher of Scripture but have so little confidence in it (how much of Scripture must you reject if you deny the existence of Satan and demons?). Praise God for the example that John MacArthur sets in his confidence and preaching!

truth mission said...

I agree with the previous two comments,LeeC and TruthStands. A shame the good dopctor has elevated his faulty reasoning above God's word.I posted on my blog recently about the verse in Luke 10 where Jesus rejoices that God reveals to babes and conceals from the wise and learned.A good example here (even as he rightly approves of JM's preaching/teaching)

Mike Riccardi said...

Encouraging, frustrating, and mind-boggling.

Doug McMasters said...

I think the same would have been said about the Apostle Paul.

The Bible Christian said...

I can say I have been mentored by this man in so many ways. I started to listen to him in the early 80’s but his sound biblical teaching had a profound effect on me shortly after 2001. This article articulates many of my reasons and feelings on Dr. MacArthur’s preaching and teaching… the over all reason for me is he brings the word of God week after week after week without compromising the truth… without pragmatic approaches, he preaches the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2) and Contends Earnestly for the Faith Jude 3-4

As Luther said “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error”

Zaphon said...

The first volume would have to feature Billy Graham, prince of New Evangelical, neo-Arminian preachers.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

In a weird sort of way, I think that man has some good advice for pastors:

"This basic assumption that the text of Scripture is reliable is part of the foundation of his effectiveness as an interpreter."


"...those who can take the text the way it is seem to make a lot more sense of it than those who are always trying to second-guess it."

"What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens."


(He would also do well to keep listening to MacArthur's preaching!)

love God... said...

I am so thankful for John MacArthur's teaching ministry. The Lord used him during my conversion. I am so thankful I had his study bible and his sermons to ground me in the truth from the start. In watching the rapid downgrade of truth that the church is experiencing and watching seemingly solid evangelical leaders starting on the downslide I am so thankful that John MacArthur stands still. He does not waver...He stands for the truth no matter what.

He is a man of conviction in a sea of consensus.

Jeff and Abi said...

I remember Ken Ramey telling me once while I was at TMC that he viewed Dr. MacArthur as the Spurgeon of our generation. He was trying to convince me to go to GCC and leave a church that I had been attending but where the preaching was weak. I took this as hyperbole at the time, but ended up going to GCC anyway and becoming a member. But Ken was right. Preachers like John MacArthur don't come along very often, and he has been sorely needed in our time.

Great article. God Bless John MacArthur and thse who follow in his footsteps.

Jeff and Abi said...

Phil, do you agree that Dr. MacArthur would not object to the label "fundamentalist," as Olds supposes?

Frank Turk said...

I have never read the phrase, "Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm," and seen the rich compliment there.

Awesome.

G. Kyle Essary said...

In case you didn't know, Hughes Oliphant Old is "reformed" in the sense that Karl Barth and the neo-orthodox considered themselves reformed. Thus, his view of Scripture is somewhat expected. In fact, I'm pretty sure that he studied under Barth/Cullmann and maybe even Bultmann. He studied at both Basel and Tubingen after getting his first D.Th.

I will say that it's surprising that he was the speaker at the E.Y. Mullins lectures at SBTS last year. Of course, Mullins himself probably would have agreed with Old's interpretations of Scripture. I believe it was Tom Nettles that called Mullins a "reluctant evangelical."

...me said...

I first heard John MacArthur on the radio back in the late 1970s. In retrospect it was an amazing thing because as a young mother who had little to no sophistication (discernment) with regard to who was who or what was what, I was drawn to MacArthur's teaching each day. In fact, I found it difficult to bear with the voices of most other teachers who were on the radio at the time. The thing that became imprinted in my mind through MacArthur's teaching was that the Word was living, active, eternal and unchanging, sufficient...
This was to become imprinted in my heart years later when God through his Word would rescue, deliver, discipline, heal, and lift me up from a period in which I had swerved and stumbled from obedience into sin. When the time came that God reached down and lifted me from the mire into which I had become firmly stuck, he called to my mind the truth regarding his Word and I ran to his Word remembering, knowing that it held everything I needed pertaining to life and godliness - it was the only thing I would take in for a number of years.
A couple of years later I once again "happened" upon MacArthur who was now on the internet and I was, to put it simply, overcome with amazement and gratitude to God as I realized that God had laid a foundation in my life years early through a voice that had spoken so faithfully, with conviction and without shame, of the Lord Jesus Christ, revealed to us in the Scriptures, who is able to save and turns away no one who calls on him in truth.
I thank God for his wonderful provision of men who love his Son and are faithful to his Word. John MacArthur is one of those men. God cover and bless him always...
Thank you, Pyros...keep the faith, preach the Word...
...Maranatha!

Matt said...

"For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him Crucified". I am truly grateful to Pastor John for his tireless dedication to preach only the Word of God. In the world we live in, I fear that what is deceiving many "claiming christians" is the lack of expository biblical preaching. Many today, I fear, are so shallow in their biblical knowledge that they are carried away by every wind of doctrine that sounds good to their itching ears. Thank you Pastor John and may the Lord's Grace ever be upon you!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

On balance, a really great, superb, and instructive article..

That being said, this part really stuck out for two reasons:

"The place where I have always had the greatest trouble is the whole matter of exorcism. I really do not believe in Satan, demonic spirits, and demon possession. Maybe I ought to, but I don't. I am willing to agree that I may have been too strongly influenced by the intellectual world in which I was brought up to fully grasp the full teaching of Scripture, but that is the way it is."

(1) Of course Hughes Oliphant Old had problems preaching this passage!!! He doesn't believe in Satan! How a (conservative)preaching pastor could not believe in Satan is beyond words. I really wonder whether he should be behind the pulpit.

(2) Although I could understand and justify Old's use of the word "intellectual" in the excerpt above, it almost seems like a snide putdown (albeit unintentionally perhaps). As if taking the Bible on its own terms as MacArthur does (and many others too) is unintellectual and deserving of the negative connotation associated with the term "fundamentalist."

mike said...

TUAD,
not just unintellectual, but anti-intellectual.
as if this level of belief was a suspension of honest thought.

truly sad.

Gabby said...

What an interesting article! Thank you so much for posting it. Just reading the author's assessment of MacArthur's preaching was edifying. I particularly enjoyed how he (the author) extolled MacArthur's belief in Scripture and used that to illustrate his authority in preaching the Word.

What baffles me is Oliphant's unbelief in Satan and demons. Why on earth would he ever think he could preach on Matthew 8 and leave not only himself, but his flock, baffled and confused, or in his own words, "unhappy". Well, yes, I suppose if one doesn't believe in the text itself that preaching on it would be highly unsatisfactory, among other things. Weird.

Perhaps his admiration of MacArthur's belief in all that the Word of God teaches is true will have some sort of long lasting effect on him and he will, someday, come to believe in ALL that the Bible teaches us. Until that day, I hope he stays away from the pulpit.

That said, this chapter of his book is well written and his thoughts on MacArthur's preaching and view of God is very, very edifying.

Brad Williams said...

Frank,

Sometimes you spook me out. I was just about to cut and paste the same quote and say the same thing.

DJP said...

...this product of all the wrong schools

As a graduate of the same school, I take umbrage.

Randy Talley said...

Quite an interesting excerpt. I won't rehash the great observations that have already been made. Besides those things, I thought "MacArthur's rhetoric is terribly out of date" was curious, especially considering the fact that he preached those sermons on Matthew 8 and 9 over 20 years ago.

So Dr. Old (a) denies the existence of Satan and demons, (b) questions the truthfulness of scripture or flatly denies it, given (a) above, (c) says essentially the same thing about MacArthur's presence and personality that the hot shots of II Corinthians said about Paul, and (d) is stunned that people would actually listen to someone so "unenlightened".

Phil - You want us to buy this book WHY?

Terry Rayburn said...

Can't help thinking about Mat. 7:28,29, "...the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."

True story: After I became a Christian in the '70's, I attended a church that grew from about 100 to about 1500 in just a couple of years, in a city already filled with deadish Reformed churches and deadish fundamental churches.

The youthful Pastor was known as a preacher who preached with the authority that comes from plainly assuming the Word of God is true, and in a very winsome way.

And virtually ALL of us who attended during those years GREW (you'd have to poll the other 1499 of us to confirm that, but take my word for it).

The rest of the story...

Sadly, this Pastor was shamed into resigning from the ministry and moving to another State, not over "typical" shameful things, but for this:

After lunch with this Pastor, an Assistant Pastor turned on the cassette player in the Pastor's car, and (to make a long story short) the Pastor was discovered to have been preaching JOHN MACARTHUR'S sermons WORD FOR WORD.

This "word-for-word" extended even to the point of saying things like, "A man came into my office the other day and asked...", etc.

Sidenote: He was preaching Ray Stedman's sermons on Romans in the evening service :)

I can smile now, since the Pastor has long since repented, become a fine preacher in his own right, and has fed many a sheep through all these years.

And of course, we all became big MacArthur fans through all these years as he unleashed the Word a verse at a time.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Terry Rayburn: "(to make a long story short) the Pastor was discovered to have been preaching JOHN MACARTHUR'S sermons WORD FOR WORD."

Wow.

Wow.

There's an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this much flattery ends up being, for lack of a better word, plagiarism.

Terry Rayburn said...

For the record, and to shield John's feelings in case he is simply devasted :) by the author's comment, I disagree that John "is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm." (Although I love Frank's comment).

Terry Rayburn said...

Another MacArthur story in my life, if I may.

I attended a Bible Institute (no, not that one) which was so Old-School Dispensationalist that they advised staying clear of this MacArthur fellow.

Why?

Because he was actually APPLYING Matt. 5,6 & 7 (The Sermon On The Mount) to the Church!

Didn't he understand, they said, that these passages were written to the future kingdom of Israel, and that we Christians in the Age of Grace were simply eavesdropping on someone else's private mail?

dcwash said...

, What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens.
,

I simply love John MacArthur and the paragraph above says it all. The only thing I would change is the notion that he "seems to have a witness to true authority" There aint no seem in it!!

misty said...

John MacArthur has a gift (I don't say that in the sweet, sentimental way...I do believe it is a real gift from the Holy Spirit) to explain even the most difficult, painful, or confusing passages of Scripture into nice, bite-sized pieces so even a Christian newbie like me can understand. And understanding God's Word is everything - when will preachers learn this?! No more sermons on self-esteem and sex techniques, please!

I agree with the author's assessment that MacArthur's strength is his complete, unwavering, unshakable, and unashamed trust in the authority, sufficiency, and infallablity of the Scriptures.

I pray that God will raise up more John MacArthurs because I know the man can't go on forever. God bless the person who had the foresight to tape his sermons!

The Seeking Disciple said...

As an Arminian, Dr. MacArthur and I have not always seen eye to eye but having said that, I appreciate his passion for the truth of God and standing firm for the inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures. The one thing that is true of Dr. MacArthur is that he stands and falls upon the Word of God and for that I appreciate him and his preaching very much.

Robert Warren said...

Zaphon:

"...would have to feature Billy Graham..."

Is that a declaration or a lament?

NoLongerBlind said...

@Terry R, you've reminded me of a funny story from one of "Johnny Mac's" sermons:
IIRC, he rec'd an email from a woman in East-jabip, Iowa, or something like that, from a small local church of under 100 people, that basically said that he should be ashamed of himself, because he was copying her pastor's sermons!

Cathy M. said...

I disagree. I think Dr. MacArthur has a plenty of personality, good looks, and charm. It was a nice assessment though.

Stefan said...

I appreciate Dr. Old's pointing out the ways that Pastor MacArthur lets Scripture interpret Scripture, particularly in the areas of harmonizing the Gospels and showing the parallels between Matthew, John, and Paul.

Those three men represent the three schools of authorship (under one Author—Synoptic, Johannine, and Pauline) that pose such a stumbling block to so many New Testament "scholars"—and once did to me—who see the three schools as irreconcilable polarities, rather than three facets of the same 66-carat diamond.

Stefan said...

"Dr Olds'," not "Dr Old's."

Frank Turk said...

Brad:

Holy Spirit. Don't be afraid.

the phantom of the bookstore said...

"The strength of his preaching is his content..."

May that be said of every teacher of God's Word!

However, I must disagree with the author in the stongest of terms on one point: Mac is ruggedly handsome...

Rachael Starke said...

Hmmm.

After I read this, I went and looked at the description of the whole series and this volume in particular, because I wasn't sure what the overall purpose of the series is, and how Old sees himself. He obviously doesn't view himself as objective, with his called-out disagreement with John over demonology and which schools are the "right" ones to attend. Yet at the same time, he refers to John as "our" preacher. Probably he does that with the others, but it still strikes me as odd nomenclature.

I wonder if anywhere in the series Old examines the various definitions of true preaching, as opposed to teaching, or even secular oratory. What elements in that definition have been consistent over the centuries, and what have changed? I know quite a few people who would consider John far more of a teacher than a preacher, at least in more recent decades. And another huge element that probably doesn't get addressed, but might be worth considering - what are the relative congregations who sit under these preachers known for? What does the preacher's preaching actually produce in the lives of his flock?

Also, I laughed with the rest at Olds' blunt description of John personality. But if I was a preacher, and read that someone had listened to an entire series I'd preached on a major text, and remained unconvinced of a central element of the themes in that text, that would have to sting pretty badly! Old listens to the sermons, follows John's logic very well, and yet is still comfortably unsure and unconvinced about the veracity or purpose of Jesus' miraculous removal of demons and calming storms. I'm sure I'd get around to remembering that it's the Holy Spirit who illumines a text, but still....ouch.

Beyond that, I thought the most interesting section was Old's assessment of John's oratory. John's style is definitely distinctive, and once again I wondered about the effect his style has had on other men. There is an entire generation of preachers who have modeled their own preaching after his, so much so that whenever I hear another preacher preach, I can peg those who have either studied at TMS, or view John as their preaching mentor, a mile away. I wonder sometimes whether too many of these good men believe that faithfulness to the same approach to content that John so obviously uses, necessarily requires that you use the same rhetorical style - three alliterated points, generous sprinklings of Greek, making a big deal about taking three months to go through one chapter, etc.

Sorry for the lengthy comment. I'm a fifth generation preacher's daughter myself (and my Dad definitely is a MacArthur "fan"), so I approached this piece more from the perspective of a very interested layperson, rather than a fellow preacher.

Zaphon said...

Robert Warren: "Is that a declaration or a lament?"

It's definitely lamentable.

Zaphon

Zaphon said...

and I should have said Volume 7 not the first volume.

misty said...

"What are the relative congregations who sit under these preachers known for? What does the preacher's preaching actually produce in the lives of his flock?"

Rachael, I love those questions! Any preacher can pack a building if he's good-looking, a great orator, trendy dresser, and scratching everyone where they itch. But what are the parishoners doing the rest of the week? A loving shepherd (not just a head-counting goat-herder) would care.

Stephen said...

Love it when the preacher doesn't make it about themselves. Good preaching seems to make the preacher disappear while magnifying the Lord. This is so unlike many high profile preaches of today. Even though some are gifted teachers, they somehow always make it about themselves.

Matthew M. Johnston said...

"Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm."

hehehe glory to God!

Jeanne said...

we don't realize the gem we have in this great pastor!

Johnny Dialectic said...

Zaphon, you'll get over that in Heaven, standing alongside a great cloud of witnesses to Dr. Graham's preaching.

Rick Potter said...

"While I would insist that Jesus did perform miracles, I have to admit that the caveats of the Enlightenment still obscure my thoughts from time to time. I suppose I am troubled by a shadow of doubt, but then the same would be true of many in my congregation."

This explains the downgrade in his thinking. God help our children and the future generations of preachers. Bless John MacArthur for his "Remnant" status.

Zaphon said...

Johnny Dialectic:

Mr.Graham will answer at the throne for his blatant compromise.

People used to tell me the same thing when I refused to get involved with the Billy Graham Crusade that came to my town...an ecumencial effort that included Roman Catholics. It was a purely pragmatic philosophy that wanted results at any cost.

Well, I'm not in heaven yet. I'm commanded to avoid the compromise here on earth. Whatever great praching he has done is marred by his error.

Be on guard.

Zaph

p.s. Since Phil Johnson's post was not about Graham but John MacArthur, I wish to state that Mr. Graham could learn from John MacArthur's uncompromising stand for the truth.It's a lesson in contrasts.

Andy said...

Having attended GCC for some time, I concur that people overlook the cadence of his speech at times as one of his most effective techniques behind the pulpit. Many young seminarians try to cram biblical references into their sermons and exegetical insights but fall on their face when doing so because their delivery is all over the place. I doubt Johnny Mac wants to be known at the end of the day for his oratory but I think his congregation and world-wide audience don't fully appreciate the quality of it at times.

Good summary and assessment.

Andy said...

I would encourage people to not be too harsh on Olds as some have in this thread of comments. First, the man is making a humble admission about his own shortcomings and how he has been edified by MacArthur. I don't think its the time or occassion to pounce on him. If a man came to our church or bible study who honestly struggled with believing some things from the Bible, I hope we would patiently instruct him rather than ridicule him for his low view of the Bible. There is such a thing as sincere Christians who are "weak in faith."

Johnny Dialectic said...

Right on, Zaphon. Glad you're certain about who will be answering for what at the throne. I'm sure your position is purer than Dr. Graham's. His terrible errors certainly compromise all the souls who are now, and will someday be with the Lord through his preaching. God is obviously displeased.

Phil said...

Andy,
The difference is that those brothers weak in the faith are not shepherding others. Old is going to get a much more strict judgment because he is a teacher influencing others, who clearly doesn't believe the fundamentals of scripture.

And further, we have to get serious about this stuff, this isn't some kids party where we can all have a good time and superficially keep the peace, this is the real deal, this is the church and souls at stake. Can you imagine a marine drill instructor sending out soldiers out to fight by convincing the recruits there was no enemy and they needed no gun?
Now the issue isn't "did he teach something that is leading them astray", but "what in him is causing him to reject clear Biblical statements, and how far does that rebellion really go?"
And that is serious stuff. Worth jumping on him about in some sense.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

John MacArthur is IMHO the best. I say this with great caution, we need to be very careful about setting these dear men of God on any sort of pedestal, lest they believe the hype and fall. But there is something intrinsically inherent in God’s Word, almost a failsafe mechanism, that makes it almost impossible for men to fall, who faithfully PREACH THE WORD.

If the focus is on God and His Word being highly exalted, then it naturally will humble men. You cannot miss with this combination.

Too many pastors become enamored in their particular genius, their theatrics, too, can become the dominating force, and then God becomes obscured, invisible and an after thought.

J Mac has an incredible balance. First he understands WHO God is, the great I Am, and then he understands who we are, totally depraved sinners, saved by God’s grace, and he operates from that reverential, humbling perspective.

God works in total harmony with this wonderful man, it is God’s Word ALONE that takes center stage, but it is John MacArthur’s skill, hard work and delivery that completes it. God uses people as a means to His end, and John MacArthur was definitely hand picked by God to be His mouthpiece. May God give us more men of his caliber, who are willing to give God all the praise and glory.

Euaggelion said...

Reading this I can’t help but to think that Charles Spurgeon’s contemporaries would have wrote a similar critique of him. Pastor John has been a huge influence in my Christian growth and understanding of scripture. I thank the Lord for his teachings

mike said...

Since it wasn't Zach who penned
"don't be too many teachers, as theirs is a greater judgement", i wonder why we are so defend as children those who willingly assume the role of adult?

Zach may not be better than Dr. Graham, but he is not the standard by which any of us will be held.

seems that the only thing more hateful that discernment, is actually coming to a conclusion by it.

mike said...

or Zaphon, either...

DJP said...

Johnny Dialectic His terrible errors certainly compromise all the souls who are now, and will someday be with the Lord through his preaching

So Johnny, I'm looking for an exact number.

How many people have to make professions of faith, even if false, under a man's ministry, for him to earn a lifetime Get Out Of Biblical Assessment card, such as the one you've issued Billy Graham?

Yours should be a short response. Exact number, please.

The Cordial Churchman said...

I'm surprised, too, that Dr. Old doesn't believe in the things the text says Jesus did battle with. At first I thought he meant that he didn't "believe" in them, practically, speaking--or with the existential belief with which an Asian or African Christian usually does.

Some advice based on personal experience: If you live in Princeton or Columbia, SC, become his friend. He'll take you out and buy you fish & chips and beer, and I'm sure he'd let you talk to him about the doctrine of scripture. The man is incredibly cordial, accessible, charitable, and generous. So is his wife.

Phil Johnson said...

Dr. Old read the blog comments and asked me to post this reply on his behalf:

Since this is my initiation to communicating by means of a computer blog, this may come off a bit clumsy, but here goes.

What I have written in these seven volumes is addressed to the run-of-the-mill American preacher who is faced with the job of preaching a sermon every Sunday morning. I imagine most of my readers are somewhere between the two poles commonly called liberalism and fundamentalism. My comments regarding my struggles to understand the passage are a recognition that every pastor has similar struggles trying to understand the passages of Scripture being studied week by week and month by month. Sometimes this wrestling with the passage is resolved and sometimes not. This does not diminish the authority of Scripture itself. Rather, it is a recognition that we will not fully understand all that is said in Scripture until the day when the Lord comes again. What I am saying is, this guy MacArthur may be very conservative, more conservative than most of my readers, but he is really very good. He is good not because he is handsome or witty, charming or literate, but simply because he preaches the Word of God. That, I figure, is the highest compliment. Most of you, I think, got my message.

Nothing could please me more than to hear Phil Johnson tell me that MacArthur himself figured I really did understand him. Furthermore, I am genuinely honored to have been reviewed by Pyromaniac. My remark about all the "wrong" seminaries ought to have made it clear that some of these seminaries are doing a good job.

Let me confess to one sore point about one of the entries I found. I did not study under either Barth or Cullman. Barth was dead before I got to Basel. Besides that, my book on baptism makes my differences with Barth quite clear. He has little to say about worship. As for Cullman, he is Lutheran, not German Reformed, and much too high church for me. Bultmann and I are worlds apart. As for Neo-orthodoxy, it passed into history long before my time.

Incidentally, you might find my studies of Chuck Swindoll, Jack Hayford, or Lloyd Ogilvie in the same volume of interest. I also treated Spurgeon in volume 6.

DJP said...

Furthermore, I am genuinely honored to have been reviewed by Pyromaniac[s]

It is a distinction shared by few.

mike said...

few reviewed, or few honored to have been so?

Johnny Dialectic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Dialectic said...

Dan, that answer is only going to be known in heaven, and I think speculations about it are not just pointless, but rather presumptuous.

mike said...

I for one have no certainty about Dr.Graham or anyone else, but you have to want to ignore the obvious not to have certainty about the actions and words he did and said. many are very good and some are not so much.
Why must any questionable action be ignored due to many offsetting goodness?

DJP said...

Johnny, then I take it you regret having spoken so inappropriately.

It would have been better to admit it more openly, and simply apologize to the person you wronged with your indefensible sarcasm.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I have no idea how you're getting what you're getting, Dan. Apologize for what? You often wield sarcasm it without apology, and that's fine with me so long as there is some meat in there somewhere.

Here it is straight then: I find the idea that Zaphon and you know with certainty that Graham is going to be "answering" for some "marred" record (based upon your theological assumptions) prideful in the extreme, especially when we know how many are in heaven through his preaching. Is God displeased with Graham? Or has he blessed him?

We'll all find out soon enough, won't we? And all the "records" will be compared. Are you ready for that?

DJP said...

Attempted-dodge fail.

Show me one thing Zaphon said about Graham that is not a matter of public record.

Or do you want to go on record yourself saying the Bible does not require assessment of ministries?

Or what I'm really beginning to wonder is whether you just don't, yourself, know anything about Billy Graham besides the popular image.

Clear enough? Apologize for, as I said — not for sarcasm, but — your indefensible sarcasm.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Objection.

Sustained.

You misread both my response and the issue. I'm not going to bend to your prosecutorial misconduct or spend any more time trying to explain it to you.

Next.

But lest we go too far afield, I did want to add that I also admire John MacArthur. I admire his dedication to the Word and preaching it without apology.

DJP said...

Overturned.

Graham is a public figure. A reader, who evidently knows him better than you, remarked on his many well-known (to others, if not you) compromises.

You didn't know what you were talking about, but faulted someone who did.

Bad hat.

If you have any desire to know what you apparently don't, read Iain Murray's Evangelicalism Divided.

Or, I'd suggest, stop speaking out of ignorance.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Appealed, to the only Court above the Supremes.

So we'll just have to wait and see. And I'm good with that.

Court costs will be assessed, BTW. Matt. 12:36

Doug Johnson said...

DJP,

I sincerely hope you are not a pastor. Your prideful arrogance and disregard for other persons is deplorable as is your desire to play God by determining which heavenly blessings will be handed out to Dr. Graham.

Please read Psalm 131. Quit with the stupid leagal references. IT doesn't work. We laugh.

DJP said...

Well, Doug, if it was important enough for you to create an account just to make that comment, I don't want to miss out on the opportunity to learn from your superior knowledge and sanctity. So:

1. Your prideful arrogance.... That sounds like mind-reading (or heart-accusing) to me. Isn't that what Matthew 7:1 actually forbids?

2. ... disregard for other persons.... Isn't that what James 2:1ff. condemns? I would have thought not bowing the knee before big names just because they're big names would be a virtue, not a vice. No?

3. ...is deplorable as is your desire to play God.... Oh my; sounds like more Matthew 7:1 to me.

4. ... by determining which heavenly blessings will be handed out to Dr. Graham. Please quote where I did that, or apologize for the false accusation.

5. Quit with the stupid leagal references. IT doesn't work. Um... I take it you meant that for Johnny, who appealed to the legal metaphor? I don't think you should be so harsh with him. It was clever.

6. Please quote what I actually did say about Billy Graham, and prove it to be erroneous. Or apologize for that false accusation.

Warning: you seem new to the blog, so I'll warn you — you won't be allowed to filibuster or evade.

Zaphon said...

I was not being "presumptuous" but I was being biblical when I said Billy Graham will answer for his New Evangelical errors. 1 Corinthian 3:10-15 was what I had in mind, (assuming Graham is truly saved).

And the doing of many great works in the Name of Jesus is no proof of God's approval...Matthew 7:21-23,and 2 Cor. 11:14-15.

Again, Phil's original article was an excerpt about John MacArthur, who I think is an excellent contrast to the Billy Graham's of our age.

Zaph

lee n. field said...

"I really do not believe in Satan, demonic spirits, and demon possession. Maybe I ought to, but I don't. " -Dr. Old

Hmm. Kind of sucks the air right out of the room.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Well, I personally have used up my snark quota for the day, and wish to point out that there are many more issues of agreement I have with TeamPyro than disagreement. And even though I've tangled with each one of the team, sometimes vigorously, I continue to find Pyro a stimulating place to be.

Mike Riccardi said...

I gotta say, it's exchanges like these that really compel my respect for the Pyromaniacs. I mean no disrespect to Johnny D at all, but it's encouraging that his comment wasn't allowed to fly. At other popular Christian blogs it would have been hailed as the epitome of charitableness and John 13:34-35 would have been quoted or referred to at least 13 times. Here? No go.

I'm benefited by that. Thanks guys.

james-01 said...

All the space you guys spend crucifying other ministries, and then you recommend a person who doesn't even believe in the existence of Satan?

DJP said...

That sort of comment is, to be sure, one alternative to thoughtful engagement with facts and substance.

james-01 said...

Then where was I wrong, Mr. Phillips? Doctrinal purity is a common theme in this blog. That is commendable, but how do you justify this endorsement of someone who point blank denies such an important doctrine?

DJP said...

1. Call me "Dan." I ain't nobody.

2. Find me where any of the authors of this blog issues an "endorsement of someone who point blank denies ... important doctrine," and perhaps one of us can interact.

3. Also, leaving aside the unnecessarily inflammatory expression "crucifying other ministries," find me a criticism by one of us that goes beyond facts we present in evidence, and then one of us could interact meaningfully.

4. Failing either, you might consider an apology for your unwarranted accusatory inference.

DJP said...

By the way, for those of you keeping score at home, that is my very best effort at emulating Johnsoninan maturity of tone. Such instances are few and far between. So enjoy it, as one is entertained when the monkey doffs his cap as the organ grinder does.

james-01 said...

OK, "Dan" Fair enough :-)

Maybe my "crucifying other ministers" remark was a bit over the top, and if it was, I do apologize. As I said earlier, I commend you guys for desiring doctrinal purity.

Its just that, from my perspective, I see too much "hurray for our side" bravado in pointing out other peoples' perceived errors. Wouldn't a bit more humility and recognition of our own fallibility be in order?

In light of that, though, my previous post was in response to Dr. Old's statement that "...I really do not believe in Satan, demonic spirits, and demon possession. Maybe I ought to, but I don't." If doctrinal purity is the goal, how can you promote a person with these kind of beliefs? How is this not heresy? Shouldn't these remarks be held to the same standard by which you evaluate other ministries?

Respectfully,
James

Phil Johnson said...

James-01: "too much 'hurray for our side' bravado . . . how can you promote a person with these kind of beliefs?"

Seriously? You have a long-standing beef with us because you think we "crucify" ministries, and THAT'S the point you want to make? You're annoyed that we recommended a book on the history of preaching (not a book on doctrine or church-growth philosophy, or the charismatic movement, but a survey of the history of preaching) by an author who doesn't believe in hell?

And you want to press the point and drag it out into a longer debate while you "apologize" for making accusations that are "a little bit [?] over the top"?

Here you see a sample of why Justin Taylor (and so many other heavily-read blogs) have closed their comments.

DJP said...

Again, please note the italics in my question. Where did anyone endorse the man? Do you honestly think that any regular reader (or even a literate, rational drive-by) would have warrant for thinking, "So I guess the Pyros don't think those are important doctrines?"

Kidner's commentary on Proverbs is absolutely terrific. He's dead-wrong about Solomonic authorship.

You have trouble seeing those two sentences sitting next to each other, holding hands? I don't.

Matt said...

Amazing. It is very sad when one can be a preacher/teacher and not even believe the words of the Bible. Satan is real. Demons are real. The Bibles says so.