15 August 2018

Responses to John MacArthur's "Social Injustice and the Gospel"

by Hohn Cho

"Racist." "Ignorant." "Fools." "Pope MacArthur." "Out of touch." "A pile of conservative ideological rubbish." "Old white evangelical Pastors." "He's got nothing. I can't get why all his followers are so excited. Cult of personality, I suppose." "Their heroes were slave masters." "Pope-like authoritarian leader." "Multimillionaire white man."

Such are some of the responses to John MacArthur's introductory article, Social Injustice and the Gospel, a piece so civil and rational and, well, biblical that I'm personally mystified at the shrill and hysterical nature of this type of reaction by some professing Christians.

One blogger, in a seeming attempt to rush out a "hot take" to MacArthur's article which he proceeded to spam in numerous places the article showed up, was so quick to speak per James 1:19 that he neglected to notice that he linked to a long-time conspiracy theorist with a plainly obvious axe to grind against MacArthur, as support for questioning of the extent and nature of MacArthur's involvement in Gospel ministry during the Civil Rights Movement! (When this was pointed out, he subsequently took the link down.) Regardless, all of this certainly appears to vindicate James White's prediction that "The Christian SJWs are going to be blowing up the net over the next couple of weeks. Mark my words."

I have long believed that Christians who have refused to buy into the viewpoint of many "social justice" advocates are and have always been more than willing to have a civil and rational discussion centered around the Bible with those who would disagree. And yet my perception has been that there is a distinct lack of interest in having such a discussion on the "social justice" side, in favor of mere declarations that their position is right, expectations that the orthodoxy of their position must not be challenged, and a dismissal or even vilification of people who attempt to do so.

This is often the case with socio-political movements, because they are typically too busy seeking to mobilize support, defeat opposition, and push forward some goal they deem to be desirable, to stop and consider for a moment whether or not their goals and positions are actually meritworthy. I can understand the reluctance to do this in the world, but in the church, if we are truly to be people of the Book who stand for the truth of the Word, we must take more than mere moments to discuss what the Bible says, understand what it means, and only then act according to our God-given consciences and calling and stewardship.

In having this discussion, I appreciated the words of Nate Pickowicz, calling for graciousness. My hope had been the same as Tim Challies, that after well over 50 years of faithful ministry-and nearly 50 of it at the same church-an older man who has been right about so many other issues over the decades would at least have "the credibility [to] gain a hearing." But even if that bare courtesy could not be extended, my prayer has been that people would at least heed 1 Timothy 5:1 and make respectful appeals rather than sharp rebukes... much less puerile and at times even ethnicity-based insults.

The initial signs are not particularly encouraging, but our God reigns, and we shall see where He would have us go. Finally, one final word to those who might be on my "side" of the debate, I can understand why some of us might be excited that the discussion many of us have desired to have could actually be happening, but let's also try to moderate and even restrain our impulses toward partisanship and cheerleading. I thought this word from Jacob Denhollander was both gracious and appropriate. And of course, let's also strive to maintain the highest possible standards of Spirit-filled speech, even as we engage in a vigorous debate about the Gospel, Christian orthopraxy, and individual consciences and convictions.

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KT said...

People are looking for reasons to be angry at what John says, and when someone expects to find fault, they usually will. In the world of social media, blocking & unfriending seem to be what people resort to instead of discussion. Where is the speech that is always with grace? Where is the love for each other that Christians are to be known for? If people want to accuse John of racism, perhaps they should visit Grace Community Church and see how ludicrous a charge that is.

Bobby Grow said...

I ultimately agree that racism is overcome by the Evangel. But I also think it is helpful to critically engage with how Race became a construct in the first place, and deconstruct where that becomes necessary. In other words, engaging with people on the "other side" intelligibly can go a long way towards building connections that otherwise remain unconnected thus leaving the Gospel and its power bereft for the people who need to hear it most. Not only that, but often times the Gospel itself can become conflated with various social constructs (i.e. it's not just the SJWs who have collapsed socio-cultural constructs onto the Gospel --- I think of something like the Moral Majority on the flip side or of the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism that has made so many inroads into the "Evangelical" churches or political theories like conservativsm and nationalism etc that has been conflated with the Gospel by large masses in the evangelical churches). So there needs to be critical work done on all sides here when exacting what in fact the Gospel entails and implicates ethically etc. There is a depth dimension to the reality of the Gospel that evangelicals need to press into, and allow that toil to bear the fruit necessary for providing the context of reconciliation that our nation of all "races" needs so desperately. A reconciliation with God primarily and then with the rest of humanity secondarily all realized in the mediating reality of Jesus Christ.

Debbie Kaufman said...

John MacArthur is not a victim here.

Hohn C said...

KT, amen, and I’d love to personally welcome and greet anyone who’d like to visit GCC (where John and Phil and I all minister).

Bobby, I agree with you about the construction of “race” and your concerns with the flip side of the “social justice” coin, including certain elements of nationalism and Moral Majority/GOP politics (subjects which both Phil and I have expressed concerns about previously).

Debbie, you’re the first person to say “victim” here. I wholeheartedly agree, John is no one’s victim. With that said, I will continue to resolutely call for biblical standards of speech, and confront clear violations of them as the Spirit moves me to do so. And that’s true in person and “even” on Twitter... some people seem to think Christians should effectively get a pass or a lower threshold on their speech when it comes to social media, and I think that view is nonsense.

Bobby Grow said...


Yes, that is an underlying concern that I think many of the so called SJWs see as a basic inconsistency when "conservatives" (like Mac et al) attempt to offer critique of so called "critical race theory" and the projects that erupt from that in application. I think if John MacArthur is prudent about his forthcoming postings that he will address this issue head on and allow that to become a critical touchstone wherein genuine dialogue might proceed. I realize that there are ideologues on either side of this (and in-between), but for those who seek sobriety of thought in these areas I think these conflations of ideologies with the Gospel in the name of the Gospel are what really need to be critically addressed and discerned. I submit that there is actually no way forward without acknowledging how significant this is; i.e. that the SJW side believes there is a broad superstructural and theological paradigm funding the "conservative" commitment to anti-social-justice constructs; a superstructure that blinds its adherents to the critique that SJ people think needs to be exposed in order for reconciliation through the Gospel to come to pass. In other words, it's the 'good ole' boys' thesis: viz. that the Gospel the conservatives assert as the Gospel has social accretions to it that actually quench its power and capaciousness to speak a Lordly Word over against its self-proclaimed adherents. I think they have a point, I just think that their point is a double-edged sword and that it cuts against the grain of their own ideology and the accretions they have allowed to build up around their own postulating and permutating around race and division.

I think that the only real answer to all of this is: repentance. Repentance in the sense that the churches would do well to critically call into question the various layerings that they have allowed to build up around the Gospel, that in fact are not the Gospel. It won't be until we can make a distinction between our voices and the voices of the living LORD that the reconciliation between the churches and the various nations, tribes, and tongues will come under the banner of the one faith delivered to the saints.

Unknown said...

Yes, JM is a victim here.