Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘John MacArthur’


I just finished Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology after laboring over it far too long.  I just haven’t had as much time to read as I like (this may shock some of you who think I read too much).  It is a collection of messages from one the Together for the Gospel conferences (sample pages).

I found it to be a very uneven book.  There was a great disparity in the length of the chapters, as though some speakers were given far more time than others.  Some of the shortest chapters were from those I most wanted to hear.  Yet, some of those (while good) sounded an awful lot like other messages they’ve done.  Since I don’t preach on the conference circuit, I am probably expecting too much for them to come up with a new message to fit the occasion.  When I was ‘only’ doing pulpit supply during my transition, I would preach the same text a few times, tweaking it depending on the congregation.  But no one travels hundreds, or thousands, of miles to hear me speak.  This was a tad disappointing.

The book kicks off with a rather long chapter on Sound Theology by Ligon Duncan.  He defends systematic theology as necessary for the life of the church.  It is popular today (and most days) to decry systems, but we should be able to summarize doctrine to promote understanding of the whole.  Preaching and teaching should be both expositional and theological, and Duncan notes.   This is, in part, because our theology must be biblical.  Yet, you don’t build a doctrine on only one text.  That is a HOV line to heresy.

“Systematic theology is tied to exegesis.”  John Murray

Duncan notes some problematic views that have popped up.  His charity is on display in that he doesn’t name names.  His goal is not to stigmatize anyone, but point out flaws in certain positions which tend to be anti-theological.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


A web site I visit had mention of the new book by John MacArthur, Slave, based on his sermon series on the topic.  Grace To You has a free offer, if you join their mailing list.  Here is the trailer.

It always concerns me when someone thinks there is a ‘hidden’ word or some sort of conspiracy.  I’m not sure why it took him so long to realize ‘doulos’ means ‘slave’ not servant.  I agree that we need to reckon with this since it is Scripture.  Paul, at times, called himself a slave, to emphasize the reality that he had no rights.  Iain Duguid in his book on Abraham, calls a covenant a relationship marked by submission in which one party surrenders their rights.  That would be us, not God.

We also need to remember that in Philippians Jesus became a slave, obedient unto death to deliver us from slavery to sin (see, you are a slave to something as Bob Dylan sorta sang).

But it obviously is not the only identity we have (as MacArthur mentions in the trailer).  We don’t stop being ‘slaves’ though we are ‘sons’, as the trailer seems to imply.  We are both (like we are both righteous and sinners at the same time, just not in the same sense).

Richard Pratt used to tell us you need to go the the biblical medicine cabinet and choose the right medicine for the personal problems people have.  This requires discernment.  Is it a justification issue?  Don’t talk about sanctification issues, or they will end up legalists.  Sanctification issue?  Don’t address it as a justification issue or they will become antinomians.  Paul does this in the Scriputres.  If people are acting entitled (for instance making too much of their Roman citizenship, or suffering from an over-realized eschatology) he takes out the ‘slave’ pill so they know this is part of their identity.  If they are wrestling with a sense of worthlessness and abandonment, he breaks out the ‘son’ pill so they know and experience the freedom and acceptance of God’s adopted children.

I fear that a popular book like this tends to polarize things.  This should transform some people’s experience because they have a strong sense of entitlement.  They don’t grasp that whole obedience thing.  They think Christianity sets them free from all obligation to pursue all their desires.  This is a huge problem here in the land of the televangelists and consumerism.  But many of the people who would be drawn to a book by MacArthur would have the opposite problem.  I suspect they would need to know of God’s love and acceptance because they are prone to a legalistic spirit.

All this to say, know to whom you recommend this book.  It could be a helpful medicine to their sin-sick soul.  Or it could be deadly, because it is the wrong biblical medicine

Read Full Post »


When I was offered the opportunity to read and review Christianish by Mark Steele, it looked very interesting to me.  The subtitle is “What if we’re not really following Jesus?”  I am not familiar with Mark Steele, but the subject interested me.

Here are the positives:

  • Mark Steele is a pretty funny guy who can tell a story.  In many ways this is similar to Donald Miller’s best work (in my opinion, Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What).  He uses rather lengthy stories to introduce the topic of the chapter.
  • He has some important things to say.  There are a number great thoughts for the American church to consider.  There are many ways in which we truly are not following Jesus, and Mark identifies a great deal of them.

These things make the book accessible to broad evangelicalism.

The problem is that Mark never really gets to the core issue.  He never even really defines Christianish, but leaves it as fairly obvious.  Each chapter addresses one aspect of what he thinks is Christianish and how we should be instead, but he never gets around to defining the problem of what I call nominal Christianity, or cultural Christianity.  Some great thinkers like Jonathan Edwards (Charity and Its Fruits) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship).  In those books, Edwards calls the problem counterfeit grace and Bonhoeffer cheap grace.  Steele’s perspective would have been deepened from spending time with these men, applying their thoughts to our generation.  This, in fact, is what seems to separate Donald Miller from Mark Steele.  Miller subtly comes off as well read.

Since Mark does not adequately identify the problem, he completely misses the cure.  It basically sounds like try harder, try differently.  It could be imagined that he is talking about repentance without clearly talking about repentance.  You get a sense similar to what I thought of MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus after talking about it in class with Jerry Bridges.  Much of what John MacArthur says is true, but he neglects the doctrine of regeneration which gets to the core of the issue.

John Piper’s recent book, Finally Alive, is essentially addressing the same issues as Mark Steele’s.  Not as hip, to be certain.  But he gets to the core problem & cure: lack of regeneration & believing (and savoring) the gospel.  I think this is part of the problem with broadly evangelical books- they lack a depth of theology and saturation with Scripture.

I am aware that this sounds harsh.  I enjoyed reading Mark Steele’s book.  I just didn’t find it helpful in combating the remnants of Christianish in me, or others.  And address it we must.

Read Full Post »


Travers, as our friends call him, is a long-suffering Mets & Knicks fan.  He is able to rejoice that his Giants won the Super Bowl.  We met in the early 90’s at an SBC church with a pastor who espoused Reformed Theology.  We were both transplanted Yankees.  He has had quite the winding pilgrimage, as some of us do.  He was wiser than I, and left that church sooner than I did.  Imagine our surprise when we saw each other again at a local PCA church.  I’ve crashed at his home during week-long classes, and had many a debate with him.  They could get loud, but we remain friends despite our theological differences (I cannot disabuse him of dispensationalism 🙂 ).  He has since moved to Texas, hoping to get a theology degree one of these days.

  1. What was the first book you read that introduced you to Reformed Theology?   Foundations of the Christian Faith by James Montgomery Boice 
  2. Besides the Bible, list the five most influential books in your Reformed theological journey.  Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks, Anyone of the MacArthur Books I own, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought by John Frame 
  3. List three preachers and/or teachers who were most influential in your journey.  Warren Wiresbe, John MacArthur and it’s a tie with Steve Brown & Steve Cavallaro 🙂 
  4. If you could give one book to someone interested in Reformed theology, what book would you give them?  Calvin’s Institutes (Go to the Source first then read the commentators) 
  5. What doctrine would you say distinguishes Reformed Theology?  Soverignty of God, especilly in regards to salvation. 

Read Full Post »


With no apologies to Rev. MacArthur by the way.  I promised myself I’d tackle this baby, but made sure I didn’t just jot something down while I was still annoyed.  One of those little things you learn as a pastor- don’t respond immediately because you tend to make things worse. 

Here is an excerpt from THE Live-Blogging Machine that is Tim Challies:

“MacArthur made the point that those who most celebrate the sovereign grace of election regarding the church and its place in God’s purpose and those who defend the truth of promise and fulfillment and believe in election being divine, unashamedly deny the same for elect Israel. This is a strange division. “It’s too late for Calvin,” he said,” but it’s not too late for the rest of you. If Calvin were here he would join our movement.”

“The thrust of the message was simple: Of all people to be pre-millennialist it should be the Calvinist–those who believe in sovereign election. A-millennialism is ideal for Arminians because according to their theology God elects nobody and preserves nobody. A-millennialism is consistent with Arminianism. Yet it is inconsistent with Reformed theology and its emphasis on God’s electing grace.

“For those who “get it” that God is sovereign and the only one who can determine who will be saved and when they will be saved and is the only one who can save them, A-millennialism makes no sense because it says that Israel, on their own, forfeited the promises. The central argument went like this: If you get Israel right, you will get eschatology right. If you don’t get Israel right, you will never get eschatology right and you’ll drift forever from view-to-view. You get Israel right when you get the Old Testament promises and covenants right and you get these when you get the interpretation right which you get right when you use a proper hermeneutic (Did you get all that?). Essentially, you move from a proper hermeneutic to a proper interpretation to a proper view of the covenant and Old Testament promises and then you get Israel right. And then, of course, your eschatology is right. If you go wrong at the base, and set aside proper methods of hermeneutics, you have no chance to get anything else right.”

Okay…. I will make some comments about the summary and then spend some time in Romans 9-11 to flesh some of this issue out.  I guess I’m stumbling over the question of “elect Israel”.  As a nation, they were chosen for some specific tasks.  As individuals, many were chosen for salvation.  But the nation as a whole was not chosen for salvation, for salvation has always been by grace thru faith.  As a Calvinist and biblicist, I recognize BOTH types of election in Scripture (unlike some Arminians who only recognize the former, and John who seems to have forgotten the former).  To say God has some as yet unfulfilled promises to the nation of Israel is a function of his dispensational hermeneutic- one which was initially devised in the 1800’s by John Nelson Darby which has some serious issues in dealing with biblical data (IMO).  So, John MacArthur is confusing/conflating the 2 types of election but says we are inconsistent regarding election unto salvation.  That is not a sound premise.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts