04 February 2019

Five Decades of Faithfulness Will Inevitably Come under Attack

by Hohn Cho

Update: See the P.S. below for answers to some of the questions about John Perkins and John MacArthur.

his week at Grace Community Church and beyond, we are celebrating faithful ministry from the same pulpit by Pastor John MacArthur for the incredible period of 50 years. For many earnest Christians, it's an opportunity to thank the Lord for the work of His servant—or to use a better translation, His slave—who has been laboring joyfully for God's Kingdom and the benefit of His saints. Here's a great interview between MacArthur and Phil Johnson to mark the occasion.

And of course, it is inevitable that any Christian engaged in public ministry over five decades of faithfulness will come under attack. We can see this throughout church history, and also in Scripture, which warns in John 15:19 that precisely because God has chosen the faithful out of the world, the world will hate us. That's a theme the apostle John echoes in 1 John 2:15 and 1 John 3:13. And yet the Word also promises us in Psalm 34:19 that "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."

The latest "controversy" is brought to us by a website that even upon cursory inspection appears to be, shall we say, of questionable repute. In its "About" section it states plainly, "We don't claim to not have spin. Our biases are evident." And sprinkled throughout the website are stories labeled with the "Conspiracy Theory" tag and links to clickbait ads with lurid and tawdry titles. I'm not going to dignify the hit piece with a link, but the essence of the claim is that MacArthur lied about his associations and experiences during the Civil Rights Movement.

Johnson responds briefly but clearly here. I would only add that neuroscientific studies demonstrate that memory is a highly fallible and unreliable tool under even excellent circumstances, much less after you add multiple decades of intervening time and the rigors of increasing age. The term "fade to gist" (coined by Dr. Charles Brainerd of Cornell) seems particularly apt, and whether Charles Evers was actually present or merely on the phone after a call from his secretary, or James Earl Ray was standing on a toilet or a bathtub, or a trip to the crime scene took place hours or days after the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King, the underlying "gist" would seem to be the same, and generally in line with MacArthur's consistently-related accounts.

That the article author, as well as Charles Evers' "interviewer" (who comically attempted to conceal his voice, but in such a low-tech manner that a few moments of investigation with readily-available tools apparently exposed the ruse), would manufacture this fake "controversy" in their continuing, axe-grinding grudge against MacArthur is no surprise, given their incorrigibly vitriolic hostility toward him in recent years. The Word may have something to say to them in Proverbs 6:16-19 and 10:18. Neither is it surprising that certain WVW cronies and "watchblogs" and "discernment ministries" would give maximum exposure to this hit piece, because that's just their stock in trade.

It's both saddening and at least mildly surprising to me, however, that certain professing Christian "social justicians" would seize upon this thin reed and attempt to use it like a club against MacArthur. The seeming eagerness to pass along this false report in violation of Exodus 23:1 by some on Twitter has been something to see. Could it really be that simply because MacArthur has disagreed with them plainly and biblically on the topic nearest and dearest to their hearts, that they would actually be excited to see a faithful man of God be taken down, regardless of the motive of the accuser and even more, the validity of the accusation? That's an attitude more akin to someone bewitched by an idol, than a believer!

Anyone wishing, hoping, or preferring that MacArthur lied rather than the far more reasonable, understandable, and most of all charitable explanation of a misrecollection by one or more parties really ought to have his head (and even more, heart) examined.

You'd think that they'd gain a clue from watching the mainstream media over the past few weeks, as it's been burned leaping to conclusions forwarded by people with an agenda, whether it's the Buzzfeed report about the Mueller investigation that was refuted by Mueller's own team, or Nick Sandmann and the Covington Catholic kids who were unfairly excoriated by an American Indian Movement activist with a history of false statements.

Sadly, however, in one of the great ironies of the "social justice" movement, the mavens of so-called tolerance are hardly tolerant of others who decline to subscribe to their overzealous worldview. This movement which calls for charity and mercy toward the most vulnerable is actually among the most uncharitable and merciless for those who refuse to toe the party line. I shudder when I think of Matthew 7:2 and even more, James 2:13, from the famous passage on partiality, as applied to some of the most severe and unrelenting "social justice" commissars.

I'd urge Christian social justicians to pray and repent of any celebration of scurrilous attacks against faithful proclaimers of the saving Gospel. I'd urge them to tread very carefully in this regard, and to examine their own lack of forgiveness for matters like this, and even more, past wrongs of decades or even centuries ago, and current offenses of the microaggression variety. As my fellow elder, Mike Riccardi, said elegantly, "Woke theology teaches Christians to regard one another according to the flesh, to nurse bitterness, keep records of wrongs, and build walls that Christ has torn down. Gospel unity teaches Christians to regard one another in Christ alone, to forgive, absorb wrongs, and be at peace with all." I haven't yet found a better short biblical summary for what many of us who are in accord with the Statement on Social Justice find so wrong with the Christian "social justice" movement, and so I'll just leave it at that.

Hohn's signature



Paul said...

I would like to see a general account of how it came about that MacArthur had a relationship with these guys. What are the events that brought him together with these men as friends. How did they meet? etc.

Hohn C said...

Paul, there's a little bit of background in Murray's bio of MacArthur. I'd love to hear more as well, I think it's an amazing story.

Separately, so far my favorite comments on this kerfuffle have been from @PresbyPolemics:


SJWs like Bradley posting WVW and P&P sources.

It’s not the crossover twitter needs, but it’s the crossover twitter deserves.


Twitter legit brings people together.

Like when two groups that hate John MacArthur for exact opposite reasons collaborate.


Guys...possibly the biggest scandal to ever hit the church might have broke today.

A couple ~90 year old men might have misremembered an insignificant detail from 50 years ago.

We should all slander a man who’s had a VERY public, scandal free ministry for 50 years as a liar.

David Cho said...

Was the quote dated 2007 the first time John MacArthur told the story? Or are there quotes that predate the 2007 account?

If 2007 was the first time, then why did he wait 40 years since the assassination to tell the story? He witnessed a monumental historic event that made headlines around the world. In his 50 years of preaching ministry, shouldn't there be quotes dated perhaps as early as the late 60's when the event was still very much fresh in his memory? Can we hear those so we are no longer talking about "a couple of ~90 year old men" misremembering an insignificant detail 50 years ago?

Hohn C said...

Hi David, you may not be aware of this, but there's an insinuation in your comment (repeated on Twitter, I saw) that makes me wonder where you're going with this?

Regardless, whether and when and how a man chooses to speak about an intensely personal event is up to his own discretion and stewardship. I know many people who never speak about certain events like those, others only after much time for reflection. Knowing John, I'm sure there's a level of humility involved, perhaps he wanted to wait until the event was long past so that people wouldn't be caused to stumble into thinking wrongly that he was trying to talk himself up or something like that.

In any event, you're welcome to ask him some time, although if you have the opportunity and opt to spend it on a question like that, I'd honestly wonder about your priorities (which is how I feel generally about the whole "controversy").

Finally, here's confirmation from John Perkins himself that he was with John during the period of the events in question.


Hohn C said...

Because the only thing they have are personal attacks and innuendo, I've apparently joined the ranks of people attacked by Jeff "GK" Dornik, which I consider a badge of honor. But my conscience is clear, and a visit to the website in question via simple InPrivate or Incognito windows (on multiple machines) demonstrates the same type of lurid and tawdry clickbait ads, as of yesterday and today, anyway.

I'm actually quite familiar with the Internet advertising space, and even when using third parties and ad servers, there are ways that ad suppliers can limit the type of ads that are displayed on their websites. Of course, the flip side is that doing so almost always means less revenue.

Anyway, such is the nature of public commentary these days. The other thing I'm apparently guilty of is being a lawyer, and yes, I'll own that one. :)

SJ Camp said...

Great article! Lucid, straightforward, biblical and demonstrating the better part of wisdom and the noble expression of grace-filled charity. Thank you and well done!

Jeri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeri said...

Where were you when the planes hit the towers? Where were you when the Challenger exploded? Where were you when Martin Luther King was killed? These are questions that rely on vivid events creating a vivid memory in each of us. The fact that MacArthur has given an account of where he was, who was with him, and what followed that has been disputed by one of the men he said was present and includes inconsistencies does bear investigation.

And the solution is simple. All he has to do his correct his previous statements about who he was with, what he did, and where he went. Let him give a clear statement of what really happened. It's the fact that he's not doing that but is letting others post on his behalf that is increasing the weight of damage to his reputation. An elder is to be easily entreated. So he should make a public statement and apologize for any lapse in memory. He shouldn't need you or anybody to defend him. He should forthrightly make a public answer.

Hohn C said...

Hi Jeri, I'm going to believe the best and assume you're asking in good faith and with a persuadable mind, and so I'll try to answer you fairly, honestly, and completely.

I do remember where I was when the planes hit the towers and also where I was that night, but I couldn't tell you with any degree of certainty where I was or what I was doing that afternoon or any of the next few days. I actually don't remember where I was when Challenger exploded... I would surmise based on the time and day of the week that I was almost certainly in school, but I can't tell you firmly. My own wedding day is an incredibly sweet and personal memory, but my wife and I are both glad we had a video taken, because most of the events on that day ran together in a complete and total blur. I could tell you the places we visited on our honeymoon, but not the specific dates, or even the order in which we visited them, at least not unaided.

Regardless, MacArthur has given a statement, it's linked in my blog post and repasted below, he gave it to Phil within hours after the hit piece came out.

Since that time, people have easily discovered what the hit piece author either did not, or declined to share at publication:

- There's John Perkins' own testimony from his 1993 book Beyond Charity, that MacArthur was with him when MLK was killed (see the PS in my blog post).

- There's also the 2014 speech from MacArthur where he briefly relates the story, with Perkins sitting there in the front row, apparently smiling and nodding throughout the story (again, see the PS in my blog post, as well as the eyewitness account below).

- A very observant person found a newspaper article placing Evers in Jackson on the day of MLK's assassination, holding a meeting that overtly included Black leaders and ministers and John Pearce, a white AP reporter.
HT: https://twitter.com/Krazy_Cat_Katy/status/1092635929641025536

- I also understand that over the decades, Evers may have gone on record with as many as four different descriptions of what he was doing when MLK was killed. That isn't meant as any negative statement on Evers, by the way, but rather one of basic human fallibility, particularly pertaining to memory, as I related in my blog post.

- Another observant person discovered an account about a Life magazine photographer, "That fateful night, on hearing that King had been shot, the snapper, who was on a job in Alabama, dashed to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. There, unfeasibly, he was allowed free rein to shoot the hotel grounds, the area and Dr. King's room."
HT: https://twitter.com/SolaSisters/status/1093219124891799552


Hohn C said...

- Meanwhile, the hit piece author and the "interviewer" (who in a seemingly spliced and edited recording, had his voice masked, but apparently in such a comically amateurish way that he was exposed after about five minutes of work) have a history of overt and hostile opposition to MacArthur. So to say it plainly, I do not trust the author, the "interviewer," or the publication.

- One observer described it well, "This was an obvious hit piece. An 80? year old man [96 years old, actually] was bombarded with rapid fire questions and suggestive leading questions in an attempt to slander a lifelong servant of God. I can see many ways in which memories get jumbled, forgotten, combined, etc."

All that to say, the fundamental aspects of the story are established, and confirmed by both MacArthur and Perkins. I do not trust the "interview" given its provenance and the bias of the producers, but even if we take it at face value for the sake of argument, all it does is present one differing account of events, which should be placed alongside approximately three other accounts by that same person, as well as MacArthur's and Perkins' accounts.

Based on the responses I've seen, the vast, vast majority of reasonable people have been satisfied by all of the above, because this is a gigantic nothing burger. Certainly it fails to meet the Scriptural standard for an accusation against an elder. And any discrepancies that could possibly exist are easily explained by the passage of time and the rigors of age acting upon fallible human memories.

I'm sure there are some (most of whom are already slightly to extremely negatively disposed toward MacArthur) for whom this will not be enough... after all, there are still people who bring up this or that issue from decades ago relating to MacArthur and esoterica like the blood, or the Mark of the Beast, or whatever.

But if that's the case, then so be it. I'm honestly untroubled by the views of a tiny fraction of often biased onlookers who can't be entreated -- since you mentioned entreatability -- by basic logic, reason, and charity. I care most about the people in our church, from whom I haven't heard even a single concern or worry on this topic over the past few days.

Speaking of which, just in case you haven't heard, our church has been and will be very busy preparing to celebrate on Sunday God's faithfulness in providing such a dear and faithful servant for 50 years in the same pulpit. So to be clear, I haven't even talked to MacArthur about this nothingburger, as I wouldn't want to waste either my or his time.

The facts are the facts, the essential elements are established, recollections on insignificant details are fallible, and finally any speculations present in my blog post or above about what might possibly have happened over five decades ago are sheerly my own, and not an admission or acknowledgement by MacArthur of any kind. Honestly hope this helps.

Hohn C said...

Hello, anonymous new poster! My browsing history is completely open to my wife (and anyone and everyone else I care about in my life, should they show even the slightest interest, for that matter). Again, my conscience is clear on this, but the fact that some people are so desperate to smear and discredit MacArthur that they would throw shade at a person who has never said anything to or about them previously, for something they know absolutely nothing about, regarding a complete sidetrack detail, says far more about them, than me. The fact is, no outsider has or should have any clue about my browsing history, my ad and content protections, or whether I even allow for personalized ads, for that matter. If the haters want to assume the worst, well, that's both par for the course and their prerogative, I suppose.

By the way, day three of checks with screenshots from Chrome Incognito browsers at multiple locations show the same type of "lurid and tawdry" clickbait ads, so they definitely appear to be among the website's default displays, for desktops and laptops. One location showed fewer, so maybe they're making some progress, if they're working on it. Mobile ads (typically served via a different process and sometimes even provider) appear to be relatively innocuous, for the most part, so cheers to the website on that as well. A couple of people have made fun of my "lurid and tawdry" word choice, and that's totally fine... I'm certainly not the wordsmith that Phil is, so I can own that. :)

Phil Johnson said...

We aren't sticklers about commenters' points of view. We don't delete comments merely because we disagree with a commenter's point of view. But we have NEVER permitted profanity, blasphemy, deliberately libelous remarks, or insults aimed at the family or friends of our authors. Comments like that will be summarily deleted. Referto the right sidebar for a list of the rules we have enforced since day one.