I like John MacArthur. I really do. I can say without overstating the facts that the Lord used his teaching ministry in fair measure to get me back on the right path to God when I had gone astray a number of years ago. While I understand he’s taken a lot of heat of late from his own reformed camp with regard to his views on eschatology, that is not the reason for this post.
In a recent sermon, well, not so recent but one that I recently listened to, he colored N.T. Wright in a less than favorable light (a poet and don’t know it), saying that the famed bishop in the Church of England writes in such a way as to suggest that his explanations and apologetics for our faith are more accurate and convincing than the entire body of conservative Biblical writing up till now. Okay, that may be well and good. I know Wright should be on my list of reading, but I confess I am one of the (apparently) rare ministers who have never read from the good bishop. He may be a deceiver of the elect, I don’t know (somehow I don’t think so). I cannot answer to MacArthur’s quip.
And yet, at the close of his sermon, the Grace to You broadcast went immediately to commercial where Dr. MacArthur advertised a couple of solid resources for spiritual understanding and growth in the Christian Life. One was his very own study Bible. I have one and, I admit, got a lot out of it a few years ago when I used it for my personal time with God. I read every note, every chart, every line and gleaned much. Believe me, the man is a gifted teacher and student of scripture and I respect his place within the community of faith quite adoringly. So far the Pyromaniacs love me. Are you sensing a “but” here?
Well, yes, as a matter of fact, and now I am aware that if I meet some Pyros in a dark alley henceforth, I may get beaten to a pulp. But I’ll risk it. When the good Doctor spoke of his own study notes and New Testament commentaries, he used such glowing language you would think they were the lone resource for our edification and that he had it all figured out. Every doctrinal ‘t’ crossed and every hermeneutical ‘i’ dotted just so. One would also think he had come to the place, dare I say, of accumulating and disseminating all truth. Granted, his scholarship compared to mine is such that you probably should click off my site right about now, but I just think one should be careful so as to not give the impression that they are deserving of apostolic equivalence. Given his position on the charismata and the five-fold ministry gifts, I would think this would horrify him to no end.
And yet, when you think of it, my take-away from his own high praise advert is similar to his take-away from Wright’s writings: so is he the final and ultimate authority on all things scriptural? Has he plummeted the eternal depths of God’s revelatory word and because he has devoted his entire life’s ministry to discovering “all truth” that anyone who disagrees with him on any point is guilty of un-rightly dividing the Word of Truth?
Lest you think I am bashing this distinguished pastor, far from it. I am devouring one of his books now, have a library shelf full of his writings, will continue to read his stuff as well as listen in on him when the mood strikes. I just get jittery when I sense the man of God is putting himself out there for our consumption when it’s the Lord on whom we are to feast and His Spirit on whom we are to imbibe. Oooh, did that sound too charismatic?
Thank God for men like John MacArthur who cause us to want to hear from Heaven. But I’d still buy a commentary from a guy who said, “this is what I believe the Lord has shown me, but I also understand I do not have all truth. I can support all I say herein by scripture but readily admit there will always be a chance I may have misinterpreted something, but I remain ever teachable. Even if I hear something of God in a ‘N.T. Wright’.”
I could hang out with a guy like that. And knowing that I could set him straight when his ‘i’s’ don’t cross like mine is just the coolest thing ever!