A Defense of MacArthur’s Defense of the Gospel

This post is really not a specific defense of John MacArthur’s recent alarm-sounding posts regarding the encroachment of liberation theology (as I call it) into evangelical churches, especially, Southern Baptist churches. It is a direct response to Terrance Jones’ criticism of John MacArthur’s concerns.

To begin with, Jones engages in the unethical tactic of poisoning the from the very start of his criticism. He writes; However, the presence of true and real blessings does not mean the absence of some alarming realities. Unfortunately, people who can’t wrap their mind around the previous statement will struggle with the criticisms I levy in this post. They will only see the “heads” side of the coin, unable to comprehend that “tails” even exists. First, I am interested to understand what Jones classifies as alarming realities at TMUS. However, the fallacy exists in how he follows up his claim. If you end up disagreeing with Jones’ criticism, then that can only mean that you can’t wrap your mind around it. You are somehow defective unless you agree. This is a very questionable tactic and what makes it disturbing is that it seems to be universally employed by those on Jones’ side of the argument.

As one reads Jones article, it seems clear that he is a lot of pent-up anger. He has held his views on this subject for at least 11 years. And finally, for whatever reason, he feels like now is the time to speak the truth. I must confess that I find it difficult to respect men who know the truth, but find reasons for holding it in, not speaking it, not teaching it, for any reason. To be clear, there is no good reason for not telling people the truth in love. The primary reason we do not do this is the fear of man and a lack of the fear of God. To know God’s truth and not speak it is a practice no pastor or elder or teacher should ever engage in.

Jones levels a criticism against MacArthur that few men would dare to do; To hear Dr. MacArthur and Grace To You say/write narrow-minded, inconsiderate, and frankly unbiblical things about the intersection of the gospel and racism has had a profound effect on me. Now, as you read Jones’ article and this blog, you should be asking for specific examples. Will Jones quote MacArthur’s post and provide a specific example of why and how it is narrow-minded, inconsiderate, and unbiblical? Jones’ goes on to describe Phil Johnson and John MacArthur as having a cavalier attitude. He then says; Their comments/writings do nothing to consider the circumstances of anyone other than upper middle class, Republican-leaning white men (I’m neither republican nor democrat), and minorities who are accustomed to that culture. It seems pretty clear that Jones’ is a bitter young man whose rage is finally coming out. The problem is that Jones’ is a pastor. He is supposed to be a theologian. And when a theologian criticizes someone’s point of view, he should state the facts as fairly and plainly as he can and provide an argument rebutting the view. Up to this point in Jones’ post, all I see is anger and bitterness. I see no argument. I see no rebuttal. What I see is a man who is angry and who has decided to use his blog as a tool to vent. Jones’ post isn’t reinforcing the social justice claims and it certainly isn’t moving others to change their mind. It isn’t even helping John MacArthur or Phil Johnson see the error of their ways (if they were in fact in error to begin with and I don’t think they are).

Jones’ then moves to what he thinks is “proof” that something is terribly wrong at GTY. He points us to the academic probation recently enforced on TMUS. This is a red herring and a very unethical tactic on Jones’ part. Whatever the issues are at TMUS around their academic review, they have little to do with MacArthur’s post regarding liberation theology, the social justice movement, and the gospel. One thing that Jones’ fails to acknowledge is that worldly people who want to pretend to live in the Christian community will very frequently classify basic accountability as intimidation and bullying. So when that language shows up in a report such as this one, we would be wise not to jump to conclusions about what that language is actually describing. Not only that, but the entire model of not having a seminary that is responsible for training pastors to be run solely by the church is questionable on biblical principles. A strong case against the current seminary model can easily be made. The entire idea of accreditation in our system seems to fly in the face of sound biblical teaching regarding training men for ministry. But that is beside the point. Nevertheless, it does help one understand that Jones’ introduction of this situation doesn’t have the sting he thinks it does. To be sure, it seems like an attempt to discredit MacArthur so that the social justice, liberation theology folks can continue their advance with as little resistance as possible.

Jones then criticizes the TMUS curriculum for not having a single book authored by a black man. He then talks about the history of theology class not exploring any African theologians other than Athanasius, and that was briefly. One should note that Jones’ is operating from memory here and not actual documented facts. Why would Jones remember something like that? Is that an indication that he is proactively looking for melanin levels in others? Why can’t people see that the real problem here is that people should NOT be raising their children in such a way as to make things like melanin a basic cultural identifier to begin with? Why not teach the Irish Christians not to make so much out of being Irish and the Germans, the Indian, the Chinese, the Africans? It is okay to hang on to certain cultural traditions and practices. We do it this way or that way is the beauty of diversity. But to elevate our identity based on this kind of criteria in the Christian community is contrary to Christian unity. Not only that, but I am pretty sure that TMUS would have spent a good deal of time talking about that obscure theologian, Augustine, in a class on historical theology. Still, the bigger question is why does it matter if Augustine was African, or European, or Asian? If I read the New Testament correctly, it doesn’t. Not even a little. Any mention of the nations in the NT is to demonstrate that God was fulfilling his promise from the beginning that in Abraham, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And the emphasis there is on the fidelity of God, not the secondary issue of diversity. God does what he says he is going to do. That is the point.

Jones admits that he ranted many times to Dr. Paul Felix about his frustrations. And in this section of his post, he talks about his passionate desire to impact the African American community. Since when is a minister called to focus on a group of people based on melanin? As a minister of the gospel, shouldn’t you be interested in reaching everyone you can with the gospel without regard for their physical features or even their ethnicity? Why do we focus on specific people groups? The Apostles didn’t take that approach. They went everywhere preaching as they went. They had no regard for ethnicity or melanin or eye color or ear size. They broadcast the good news and trusted God to bring his own to Christ! So should we.

Jones then ends his post with the most amazing contradiction. He writes; It is hypocritical for Dr. MacArthur or anyone to say “just preach the gospel” thinking that will solve all issues. It doesn’t even work in his own church and the institutions he leads. It certainly will not work in your communities and churches. Hear me well. The true gospel is sufficient. This is like saying, ~A and then in the next breath saying, A. Jones says preaching the gospel won’t solve the issues and then he says the gospel is sufficient. I find this is all brands of movements that sneak into the church. The movement that wants to deny inspiration will say they affirm it. The inerrantists will use inerrancy language positively as if they really believe it. The language of conservative Christianity is used to import just the opposite ideas. It is typically a tactic employed to get people to lower their guard. I am not sure if Jones is actually doing that here or if his argument is just that sloppy.

Jones ends is post by returning to the lack of textbooks written by African theologians. Jones talks about MacArthur and Johnson being unbiblical and partial in this area. But Jones doesn’t bother to offer a biblical demonstration of why melanin or ethnicity ought to be a consideration for textbook selection in a seminary setting. What I want is the best thinkers textbooks in the classroom so that men can be trained with excellence. How prevalent is black liberation theology among black theologians? How many black theologians condemn MLK for his heresy and hypocrisy rather than give him a pass because of his civil rights accomplishments? How many black theologians are staunchly reformed in their theology? Someone recently asked Candice Owens why there were so many white people at her event. Her response was classic; only 13% of the population is black. What do you expect?

Terrence Jones has written an article about John MacArthur and Phil Johnson that failed to interact with a single thing MacArthur has written recently on the issue of social justice and the gospel. Worse than that, he has interacted with anything either man has written on the subject. Moreover, he treats both men as if they have never spoken out against the sin of racism. That is preposterous and slanderous. Jones made the decision to use the situation with TMUS to his advantage in an attempt to disparage the reputation of good men who have done more good for the kingdom than most in our generation. Why? Because TMUS doesn’t have any textbooks written by black theologians? Because MacArthur has refused to take his eyes off the true gospel and resist cultural trends to chase social causes that are not gospel issues? This isn’t about racism. Grace To You, John MacArthur, and Phil Johnson are all on record condemning racism as a sin and urging repentance. But for Terrence Jones and men of this ilk, that simply isn’t enough. The Apostle Paul wrote: For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2)

 

 

 

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