10 February 2006

John MacArthur arrested in Mississippi

by Phil Johnson

OK, this is really old news, but I like the way Ligon Duncan tells the story.

He's in the jailhouse now.

In the years when conflict was rife over civil rights legislation in the deep south, John MacArthur was locked up by a gung-ho Mississippi sheriff for preaching the gospel. MacArthur was leading a group of young people on a summer missions trip, doing evangelistic work in some of Mississippi's most impoverished communities. At the time, MacArthur was working in partnership with John Perkins, a respected black Christian leader.

Compared to everything Perkins suffered in those years (see "The preacher and the Klansman" by reporter Jerry Mitchell), MacArthur's time in the clink was a short-lived and fairly mild ordeal. Perkins, on the other hand, was variously tortured, imprisoned, harassed, and threatened with murder by Klansmen and corrupt law-enforcement officials because of his evangelistic preaching in those years.

Anyway, the incident left a profound and lasting impact on MacArthur. He doesn't speak about it often. (In 25 years, I have heard him mention it only four or five times.) But it's clear this episode caused him to realize as a young minister that the task we are called to is deadly serious; the stakes are high in the battle for the gospel; and the preacher who ministers faithfully cannot expect to have the praise of men.


And on a completely different subject

The above video also reminded me of something I've been meaning to mention...

I've added an important new link in the lower right sidebar (look for the graphic just under the blogrules). It will take you to the "Together for the Gospel" website's registration page. The conference will be April 26–28, 2006 at the Galt House Hotel, Louisville, KY.

I'll be teaching at a conference in Sicily that week, so I can't attend. But if you can possibly make it, I highly recommend that you be there. It's going to be a fun, no-holds-barred plain-spoken festival of preaching and teaching featuring several important Christian leaders who (though they may disagree on a lot of secondary stuff) share a common passion for the gospel and a commitment to stand side by side in its defense. Watch the videos if you want a sample of the kind of interaction that happens when these guys get together.

Phil's signature


Patrick said...


It's obvious to many of us your closeness with John MacArthur -- are you going to be his biographer?

Phil Johnson said...


I'd love to do that, but:

1. He doesn't want a bio written while he's still alive.

2. I hope I don't outlive him.

I am, however, collecting stuff to make the job easier for someone else someday.

Castusfumus said...

MacArthur has got to go down as one of the most godly mentors of our day. What a privilige to serve our risen Savior in the same time frame!!

candy said...

I went to a conference years ago featuring John Perkins. He is still in pain due to the beatings he received way back in the days where he was arrested. He was beaten severely at the time, and forgave his tormentors.

I totally respect the Together for the Gospel team. They are a great example of standing up for the essential truth of the gospel, and kidding around about secondary issues, ummmm....not like so many of us bloggers.

FX Turk said...

I want to be John MacArthur's biographer.

marc said...

Phil I also linked to this on PURGATORIO, but created a bit more detailed graphic, feel free to download it and use it if you like...

Joe said...

I would NOT like to be John McArthur's biographer, but I would like to be ABLE to be if I wanted to be, but I am so unqualified. Trust me, he wouldn't want it either.

Gordon said...

I would like to see Dr. MacArthur publish his commentary on I John before it becomes necessary to publish his biography.

shadman said...

JOHN WILL BE THE BEST PREACHER OF OUR TIME. I have met him and love John and never had a sermon where he was off. John is the best there is and I have learned so much from the bible from Mac

SB said...

nice post i've been waiting for some more info on this

Kim said...

Why aren't there conferences like Together for the Gospel which are designed for women? I noticed that the registration is not open to women, which I don't have a problem with. Unfortunately, whenever conferences for women are held, they often lack some of the meatier aspects of what is offered for men.

Forgive me if I sound like a raging feminist; it's monday and I didn't sleep well last night.

LeeC said...


It reads s if perhaps you are taking ofense to this out of a sense of geographic/cultural pride. If Pastor MacArthurs views on the church and government were anything then like they are today I cannot believe that he was involved in rabble rousing protests as you seem to infer and is no whre else here implied.

I am certain that Peter was not locked up and beaten for preaching the Gospel in Acts either according to the record.

"Disturbing the peace" has been the accusation the world has given for locking up people who preach the truth since the first persecutions.

I find it a bit disengenuous to expect even someone who s intentionaly persecuting the chutch to say "I a arresting this person for teaching truth." no, they use euphemisms such as you have listed.

Scott Hill said...

There are a lot of ignorant people in the south who don't like Dr. MacArthur. I grew up there and I can't believe I have never heard this until now. The only thing his critics there ever brought out to me was the whole "incarnational sonship" thing, and that is so last century. I hope they don't find out.

Scott Hill said...

Vermigli, speaking from one who has heard 1000's of stories by former Klan family members, that sheriff could have arrested Dr. Macarthur for anything he wanted. If the Doc was hanging out with a black man and the sheriff didn't like it then he would have.

I lived and served in Mississippi for 28 years. Everyone in Mississippi "claims" to be Christian and they always have, but that don't make it so.

Just so you'll know I love Mississippi so I am not speaking out of destation.

Phil Johnson said...

FJ De Angelis: "No, something else was afoot than simply 'preaching the Gospel.'"

Well, yeah. Technically, what rankled the sheriff was not merely that MacArthur was preaching the gospel, but that he was doing in in tandem with a black preacher. That, by the sheriff's definition, unlawfully disturbed the peace.

Now, if you're implying that MacArthur must've been part of some kind of protest, political demonstration, or otherwise deliberately doing some civil-rights rabble-rousing, you simply don't know MacArthur very well.

As much as your "kinist" friends might hate to admit it, there really were places in the 1950s and early '60s where the mere sight of a white guy working under the oversight of a black preacher would be enough to provoke certain law-enforcement authorities to wield their authority unlawfully.

Phil Johnson said...

FJ De Angelis: "I am glad that the truth came to light that MacArthur was not arrested for preaching the Gospel in Mississippi. He was arrested for disturbing the peace, which charge you contest (which is fine); you claim he was religiously persecuted for preaching the Gospel."

Well, just in case there are other former law-school students, kinists, or snuff-spittle-drooling white supremacists out there who might have been as confused as Mr. De Angelis was by my original meaning, I hope that actually clarifies something important.

Momo said...

Phil, you owe me a cup of coffee.

Phil Johnson said...

FJ: You'll have to check in Mississippi to see if the sheriff's report is still available. I presume it is, but not only have I never been a law student, I am not now and have never been a county records clerk.

You are confused, BTW. You're acting as if I was trying to make a point about what actual charges might be listed on an arrest warrant somewhere. What I originally described was what MacArthur was actually doing when he was hauled into the county jail.

I do think most readers understood my verbal shorthand perfectly well despite the technical imprecision, even before you got agitated about it.

farmboy said...

Focusing on the legal form to the exclusion of the underlying substance can be a consequence of legal training. (At least this has been my experience in the area of taxation.) Be that as it may, Mr. De Angelis continuing to belabor his arcane, technical point aroused my curiousity. A Google search of Mr. De Angelis revealed his association with the following website:


My search also revealed that articles written by Mr. De Angelis were referenced favorably by


As follows:



My search also revealed that Mr. De Angelis was a contributor to the following website:


The first thing that one views when going to this website is a rendition of Mort Kunstler's Confederate Christmas.

This is at least interesting and potentially provides a basis for understanding Mr. De Angelis' comments regarding Mr. Johnson's post.

farmboy said...

Mr. De Angelis,

In your reply you note regarding my original comment: "Ad hominem, red herrings, guilt by association, bigotry and old fashioned stupidity are all that you have displayed."

Like my dad often said when I was growing up, "You can call me anything but 'late for supper.'" Fortunately, "late for supper" was missing from your list of descriptive traits, because those would have been fightin' words.

Now, I've got to log off, go home and watch John Wayne starring in "The Undefeated."

4given said...

Wow! No wonder you made this a team blog. Some of these people sound like... "blinded dupes in the fogs and bogs of uncertainty." Prating about nothingness just to be controversial critics... did you ever imagine such responses?

Scott Hill said...

Vermigli, in my little comment I was presupposing that the sheriff was a member of the klan.

And if you don't think you could be arrested for nothing back in that day then you don't know the South very well.

Scott Hill said...

Phil, they just want cut you any slack will they. You try and post an entertaining little piece of information most of us weren't privy to and somebody has to come and knit pic some arcane point about what Dr. MacArthur was actually arrested for. No wonder you turned Pyro into a group blog.

Phil Johnson said...

FJ De Angelis: "Lying and bearing of false witness seem to be a mainstay around here. It is sad and disappointing to watch you and some others do it with such casual ease."

That's an ironic statement, considering the bandwidth you have clogged today with innuendo and loaded words like "admitted," "conceded," etc., implying someone told a lie, and you've come here as the great champion of truth, defending an important point of fact.

Paul and silas were actually charged by anti-semites with disturbing the peace (Acts 16:19-20), and they were put in stocks and beaten. But in a true sense, they were beaten for the gospel's sake, and because of their preaching. If you tried to argue that they weren't really beaten for the gospel's sake because an incident report exists somewhere in a Roman archive claiming they were disturbing the peace, you'd be dead wrong.

You're wrong about this incident, too. Any sheriff who would harass a preacher or take him into custody for publicly associating with black people hates the truth of the gospel. No one ever suggested that the act was officially sanctioned by the state of Mississippi. Unfortunately, that doesn't alter the fact that it did happen.

You're not defending any great principle of truth, FJ. You're acting as a shill for your "kinist" (or, in non-technical laymen's terms, "racist") friends.

I don't have a lot of patience with that kind of thing, as you well know. I don't delete many comments from my blog, but I do routinely delete 1) profanity, and 2) comments from white supremacists and their fellow-travelers. So if you want to continue this dispute about words to no profit, please take it to Harry Seabrook's blog, where it belongs.