MacArthur: Grow Up. Settle Down. Keep Reforming. Advice for the Young, Restless, Reformed

It has been five years since Christianity Today published Collin Hansen’s article titled ‘Young, Restless, Reformed.’ Hansen later expanded the article into a book with the same title (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). …”

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

"In all candor, some of the ideas YRRs seem most obsessed with—starting with their standard methods for reaching the unchurched and “redeeming culture”—seem to be holdovers from the pragmatism that dominated their parents’ generation. If we profess theology that recognizes and honors the sovereignty, majesty, and holiness of God, our practice ought to be consistent with that."

Bob T.'s picture

John MacArthur has a reputation as a good man and with a ministry that has been blessed in many ways. However, this reply at the article website appears to offer a good observation and should not be easily dismissed:

4 Posted by Roger Smith | Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Quote:
The issue I would like to see addressed is the seemingly unending aggression that comes out of the reformed camp. I am a young pastor myself though I am not Calvinist. I am conservative Biblically just not a full blown 5 pointer. What I have found over and over is that young Calvinist theologians (and some older) are extremely aggressive in trying to force others to agree with their position. I have always believed that if they truly understood grace the way they say they do, then why aren't they more gracious to those who don't agree with them?

I have met too many Calvinist brethren who take pleasure in starting theological fights and being divisive in the name of the "truth." Theological browbeating and bullying seem to be a large part of the Calvinist M. O. Calvin himself approved the burning at the stake of those who disagreed with him which tells me that his understanding of Grace was not biblical in its practice.

I have mentioned this before on some threads at SI and some have taken it as just anti Calvinism. It is rather anti Neo (or new emergent) Calvinism as expressed in this movement. It has especially been observed in some of the graduates of Masters Seminary. It is often coupled with certain practices such as the Plural Eldership view which considers any congregational form of government not only unbiblical but sin. There appears to be a mission to correct all the theology and practices of the church that have gone before and an imperious attitude that promotes elitism. Even the phrase "doctrines of grace" infers an attitude that no one really has understood or participated in the grace of God unless they have been enlightened by the discovery of these special doctrines as taught by them. These doctrines involve the Reformed view of soteriology.
This is not your fathers Calvinism as taught in traditional Evangelical or some Fundamentalist churches and schools. It sometimes also involves an anti Dispensational view.

With the rising of the CJ Mahany controversy, I wonder if we are not seeing a major weakness in a movement tied together with a common advocacy of Reformed soteriology while having other substantial differences among the revered leaders and the followers. John Piper's dual final Justification is avoided. John MacArthur's ultra Lordship gospel is also accepted by most all movement followers without recognizing exaggerations and some confusing consequences. Followers ignore that even the IFCA, which he belongs to, felt it necessary to issue a corrective to his expression of the Lordship gospel (available on the IFCA website).

There is also the overlooking of the extremely high salaries and compensation paid to RC Sproul and family members by their organization.

It may also be that the reality is that the movement is not growing but stagnating while enthusiastic groupies bounce from gathering to gathering.

There certainly are good and well meaning men involved in this movement but we had better listen to some who express concerns. The rightness and goodness of all their teaching should not be assumed.

Charlie's picture

Oddly, I share many of the criticisms of certain conference groups (T4G, TGC, Shepard's), though I think that they are doing much more good than harm. Really, though, my problem is that these groups are not really that Reformed at all.

John MacArthur is not Reformed. I welcome his perspective, and his criticism, but most of the people to whom and about whom he is speaking are not Reformed either. Dispensationalism of any stripe is not Reformed. Lordship salvation is not Reformed.

John Piper, Mark Driscoll, CJ Mahaney and Wayne Grudem are not Reformed. Non-cessationists are not Reformed. People who believe that the sacraments (ordinances) are merely memorial, that they do not communicate grace, are not Reformed. People who do not hold to the regulative principle of worship, in some fashion, are not Reformed. People who do not baptize infants are, at best, peripherally Reformed.

I would say to such "Reformed-ish" people about the same thing Michael Horton has. Keep learning, keep reading; you may be on the entry ramp, but you haven't hit the highway yet.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Andrew Henderson's picture

Charlie,

You mentioned that Lordship salvation was not reformed. Although I cannot remember the name of it right now, did Michael Horton not write a book in favor of lordship salvation? I may be wrong. If that were so, would you consider Michael Horton not reformed?

Have a great Lord's Day.

Andrew Henderson

JohnBrian's picture

Bob T quoting Roger Smith wrote:
The issue I would like to see addressed is the seemingly unending aggression that comes out of the reformed camp.

Calvin himself approved the burning at the stake of those who disagreed with him which tells me that his understanding of Grace was not biblical in its practice.

Clearly Roger has an agenda. He wants the Calvinists to be less aggressive, while he continues his aggressiveness by misrepresenting Calvin! How exactly does that work?

Reminds me of a missionary acquaintance who used Facebook to rant against what he called Hyper Calvinists. When I challenged his post, he deleted all of my comments and unfriended me. He left up the comments though that responded to mine.

Fortunately I had saved most of my comments and http://canjamerican.blogspot.com/2010/06/facebook-theological-discussion... posted them to my blog.

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Charlie's picture

Andrew, Horton edited a book of essays entitled Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation. The thesis of the book is that both the two main participants in the Lordship controversy, MacArthur and Hodges, erred from the perspective of Reformation theology (the book includes at least one Lutheran). Undoubtedly, the authors come down much closer to MacArthur than to Hodges, but I find the correctives eminently worthwhile.

If you want to read some 200-proof liquid gold on the issues surrounding Lordship salvation, I would commend to you what I think is possibly the very best Christian book ever written: The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher, notes by Thomas Boston.

Here is a great blog that has been working through the Marrow for the last year or so: http://www.themarrow.org/

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Mike Durning's picture

Bob T. wrote:
John MacArthur has a reputation as a good man and with a ministry that has been blessed in many ways. However, this reply at the article website appears to offer a good observation and should not be easily dismissed:

4 Posted by Roger Smith | Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Quote:
The issue I would like to see addressed is the seemingly unending aggression that comes out of the reformed camp. I am a young pastor myself though I am not Calvinist. I am conservative Biblically just not a full blown 5 pointer. What I have found over and over is that young Calvinist theologians (and some older) are extremely aggressive in trying to force others to agree with their position. I have always believed that if they truly understood grace the way they say they do, then why aren't they more gracious to those who don't agree with them?

I have met too many Calvinist brethren who take pleasure in starting theological fights and being divisive in the name of the "truth." Theological browbeating and bullying seem to be a large part of the Calvinist M. O. Calvin himself approved the burning at the stake of those who disagreed with him which tells me that his understanding of Grace was not biblical in its practice.

I have mentioned this before on some threads at SI and some have taken it as just anti Calvinism. It is rather anti Neo (or new emergent) Calvinism as expressed in this movement. It has especially been observed in some of the graduates of Masters Seminary. It is often coupled with certain practices such as the Plural Eldership view which considers any congregational form of government not only unbiblical but sin. There appears to be a mission to correct all the theology and practices of the church that have gone before and an imperious attitude that promotes elitism. Even the phrase "doctrines of grace" infers an attitude that no one really has understood or participated in the grace of God unless they have been enlightened by the discovery of these special doctrines as taught by them. These doctrines involve the Reformed view of soteriology.
This is not your fathers Calvinism as taught in traditional Evangelical or some Fundamentalist churches and schools. It sometimes also involves an anti Dispensational view.

With the rising of the CJ Mahany controversy, I wonder if we are not seeing a major weakness in a movement tied together with a common advocacy of Reformed soteriology while having other substantial differences among the revered leaders and the followers. John Piper's dual final Justification is avoided. John MacArthur's ultra Lordship gospel is also accepted by most all movement followers without recognizing exaggerations and some confusing consequences. Followers ignore that even the IFCA, which he belongs to, felt it necessary to issue a corrective to his expression of the Lordship gospel (available on the IFCA website).

There is also the overlooking of the extremely high salaries and compensation paid to RC Sproul and family members by their organization.

It may also be that the reality is that the movement is not growing but stagnating while enthusiastic groupies bounce from gathering to gathering.

There certainly are good and well meaning men involved in this movement but we had better listen to some who express concerns. The rightness and goodness of all their teaching should not be assumed.

Well said, Bob. As much as I appreciate the ministries of some of these men, and have defended them in many ways, we all must remember that they are humans. They are part of movements. They all have the foibles and failures of all men and movements. In short, they are sinners, just like us. In the end, many of the characteristics that I have observed as negatives in Fundamentalism are endemic to all men and movements.

Your point about how pushy some of these guys can be is particularly appreciated. Frankly, I tire of EVERY discussion of any passage that can be remotely tied to one of the 5 points being turned into a test of "doctrinal purity" from a Calvinist perspective.

Mike Harding's picture

In Horton's "Gospel Driven Life" he argues for a soft Lordship position that is different from Mac. According to Horton the emphasis upon imputation of Christ's righteousness is very strong and forms the basis for acceptance and assurance as opposed to constant introspection of the quality of one's faith.

I appreciated Mac's article and Bob's comments. I think men are carelessly throwing the "reformed" label around very loosely because it has suddenly become "cool" to be "reformed". As a pro Lordship, four point, dispensational Baptist, I have not used the "reformed" label on account of all the baggage that goes with the label. I have no interest in opening up that luggage either. If men are going to take the reformed label, they had better understand what the content of that label entails as was mentioned previously.

Pastor Mike Harding

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I've always thought the word reformed was ill-defined in most people's minds. If I use the word at all, it is always as a modifier, as in holding to reformed soteriology.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Wayne Wilson's picture

Mike, you sound like my theological twin. Smile

Quote:
As a pro Lordship, four point, dispensational Baptist, I have not used the "reformed" label on account of all the baggage that goes with the label. I have no interest in opening up that luggage either. If men are going to take the reformed label, they had better understand what the content of that label entails as was mentioned previously.

I am challenged by your thoughts on using the word "Reformed"as a label. I think you are right. Reformed guys don't regard us as Reformed anyway.

And thanks for the recommendation of Horton's Gospel Driven Life. I had not heard about it, but years ago I thought his critique of John MacArthur's Lordship position in Christ the Lord was very helpful and correct. And there is a troubling emphasis on looking at the quality of one's faith as evidence of salvation in John's teaching. I have seen good brothers struggle with doubt and depression because of it. Ideas have consequences.

JobK's picture

Bob T. wrote:
The rightness and goodness of all their teaching should not be assumed.

So whose rightness and goodness should we assume?

Are not non-Calvinists aware that the problems that they identify in Calvinism also exist in their own circles? Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists need to look in the mirror. American evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity has been dominated by non-Calvinism for over 100 years. Clearly, Calvinism and Calvinists cannot be the source of all the problems. Or put another way ... if the problems with Calvinists are due to Calvinism, then why cannot the problems with non-Calvinists, who again constitute the vast majority in America, be attributed to non-Calvinism? The refusal to do so - or to even consider such as a possibility - is a real blind spot, a double standard.

Example:

"I wonder if we are not seeing a major weakness in a movement tied together with a common advocacy of Reformed soteriology while having other substantial differences ..."

What of those who have a common advocacy of non-Reformed soteriology while having other substantial differences? Let us see ... you have General Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, non-denominationals etc.

"I have mentioned this before on some threads at SI and some have taken it as just anti Calvinism."

Sorry, but being the target of double standards tends to do that to people.

There certainly are good and well meaning men involved in this movement but we had better listen to some who express concerns.

Are you going to say the same regarding your movement .... about how it has some good and well meaning men involved, but you had better start listening to others? If not, why not?

What I have found over and over is that young Calvinist theologians (and some older) are extremely aggressive in trying to force others to agree with their position ... I have met too many Calvinist brethren who take pleasure in starting theological fights and being divisive in the name of the "truth." Theological browbeating and bullying seem to be a large part of the Calvinist M. O. Calvin himself approved the burning at the stake of those who disagreed with him which tells me that his understanding of Grace was not biblical in its practice.

Excuse me, but you quote this comment, and then wonder why "some have taken it as anti-Calvinism"? How else are they supposed to take it?

However, this reply at the article website appears to offer a good observation and should not be easily dismissed:

You call Roger Smith's willfully vicious, malicious attack a "good observation that should not be easily dismissed" and then wonder why people "take it as anti-Calvinism"? I must ask of you ... what is responsible for the common idea among non-Calvinist that any railing accusation against a Calvinist is acceptable so long as a perfunctory "not that I have anything against Calvinists ... I consider them to be brothers in Christ" sort of comment is included with it? Is the offense taken by non-Calvinists at predestination and limited atonement so grievous that they feel that any and all statements in response to that offense are justified?

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Bob T.'s picture

To: jobk:

Perhaps you should step back, take a breath, and look at what you have written. Have you not just affirmed the very opinions of others that you are attacking?

There are those who do discuss the Calvinism of Calvin, the post Dort Calvinism, and the eventual evolved Reformed theology, with spiritual appreciation of each others position. They were often dogmatic in their position without being militant. Today we are dealing with some who display a spiritually immature and unreasonable militancy with regard to Reformed theology. And they do not handle differing opinion or criticism well.

There was just recently a fairly good discussion thread here on SI with regard to Reformed Arminianism and Reformed Calvinism. Such healthy discussion is beneficial. However, I personally find the fact that there are those in the younger generations making an over blown issue of this old European Japhetic discussion not healthy spiritually or biblically balanced.

Our easy access to communication on the internet has many advantages but can also be a hinderance to truly beneficial Christian discussion. Every novice who has just read their first book has equal access to expression and discussion with the well educated, qualified Elder who may have years of Pastoral and/or teaching experience. This does away with many barriers. There are good points to this level ground. I enjoy discussion with the younger. But it is also sometimes a waste of a lot of discussion among untrained and undisciplined minds who may also be very misinformed Christians of little or no spiritual maturity.

In the realm of ministry, unbalanced advocacy of a theological viewpoint can have serious consequences. I was recently asked to have a small part in a memorial service of a Pastor friend of mine. He was in the IFCA and faithfully Pastored a small church in a changing ethnic area for 28 years while earning a living as an Engineer with an Aerospace company. His ministry, and seeing some other old friends of ministry, reminded me of the tremendous changes taking place in our society and in churches. It also brought to the front some unnecessary problems some today bring to churches. Some younger men just out of seminary have made an issue of both Calvinism and non congregational Elder rule in churches. Having obtained a new Pastorate, they soon dogmatically move to make the teaching position of the church that which makes unconditional election, the hard Lordship Gospel, and Reformed soteriology implying regeneration before faith (salvation), part of the written standards of the church. Most Baptist and Bible type churches have in the past allowed for differences on such truth. These changes have not produced good results in many cases. Splits, people leaving, and hard feelings have often been a result. The man whose memorial service I attended was well trained theologically and considered himself a Calvinist. In his ministry he did not teach Calvinism. He taught Bible. In teaching Bible he may have at times touched on doctrines that would have been considered part of Calvinism. The IFCA Bible church that he pastored had a doctrinal statement that was strong and clear. However, it was unspecific on unconditional election, Lordship Gospel, and that regeneration came before ones Faith. This was the moderate Calvinism as most often expressed in most Evangelical and fundamentalist churches. The militancy of Neo Calvinism will often not allow for such disagreement. This is also the militancy being conveyed by many leaders of the YRR movement and their followers.

Bob T.'s picture

Mike Harding wrote:
In Horton's "Gospel Driven Life" he argues for a soft Lordship position that is different from Mac. According to Horton the emphasis upon imputation of Christ's righteousness is very strong and forms the basis for acceptance and assurance as opposed to constant introspection of the quality of one's faith.

I appreciated Mac's article and Bob's comments. I think men are carelessly throwing the "reformed" label around very loosely because it has suddenly become "cool" to be "reformed". As a pro Lordship, four point, dispensational Baptist, I have not used the "reformed" label on account of all the baggage that goes with the label. I have no interest in opening up that luggage either. If men are going to take the reformed label, they had better understand what the content of that label entails as was mentioned previously.

Mike, it was good to see your comment. I hope all is well with your church in Troy, Michigan. I read occasionally of the many problems in Michigan and the Detroit area.

We have had discussion in the past about the gospel and repentance. You have called yourself a 4 point Calvinist before and now. As I have stated before, my observation is that Dispensational theology moderates Calvinism as it does not place it within the Reformed covenant motif. I do agree with the Reformed definition of faith as brought forward in the book "Christ The Lord" edited by Michael Horton, and contrasted to John MacArthur. I do not consider this as part of a Lordship Gospel. To me it is the biblical definition of faith as connected to the only Gospel of grace. Now, I do not want to get this thread off base but I have some questions for you.

First, do you believe that regeneration precedes faith? You and I have both studied under McCune (I at Central Sem. and you at Detroit Baptist Sem.) In his Systematic Theology, it appears McCune does not advocate regeneration preceding faith. In volume 2, page 330 he states:

Quote:
"The life giving motif of regeneration must not must not exclude the subjective cleansing that is theologically prior to it. The new life is theologically preceded by a defilement removal that is preparatory to the actual impartation of spiritual energy and life. The two are correlative in the one act of regeneration."

This correlates with the act of initial salvation or conversion which has justification as simultaneous to regeneration. In the one God declares us righteous and in the other he begins to make us righteous.

In the Reformed view of soteriology, regeneration precedes faith and of a consequence one can advocate the submission to Christ's full Lordship as part of initial saving faith. I, and perhaps some others, see a pre salvation enlightenment and conviction work of the Holy spirit without which man would not believe but which man can also resist. I have found that some Dispensationalists who would describe themselves as 4 point Calvinists do not hold that regeneration precedes faith. Indeed, it appears McCune does not. That is the reason I raise this as a friendly question to you.

Also, John MacArthur appears to possibly hold to limited atonement now. That appears in his comments on 1 John 2:2 in his study Bible and in his commentary on First John. The reviewer of the commentary in Bib. Sac. stated that the author of the commentary was a five point Calvinist based on his comments. I found this interesting as John also appears to hold to the reformed view of Law and Gospel which sees the moral aspect of the Mosaic law as directly applying to NT believers (as do Seventh Day Adventists). This is not the normal dispensational position. As you know, McCune, and most all Dispensationalists, hold that the NT believer is not under the Mosaic Law in any way. So that is my second question. Do you hold that the NT believer is not under the law?

Also, do you know if McCune intends to publish a third volume to his Systematic Theology which would cover Ecclesiology, Eschatology etc.? If so, when?

These are friendly questions out of curiosity and not intended to open discussion or argument. I do hope that God is continuing to bless you, your family, and your ministry.

Jay's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
Your point about how pushy some of these guys can be is particularly appreciated. Frankly, I tire of EVERY discussion of any passage that can be remotely tied to one of the 5 points being turned into a test of "doctrinal purity" from a Calvinist perspective.

When I was at BJU, Calvinism was the 'hot topic' and the attitudes of a lot of the reformed calvinists really pushed me away from them and the theology they promoted. I don't think that it is an uncommon experience, either. Some Calvinist works that I chose to read for Systematic II were shocking in the level of vitriol slung at Arminians, and straw man arguments against non-Calvinists were rife. Even my professor agreed with me and a few others when I complained about it.

People may wonder why schools try to deliberately downplay the Calvinism debate, but I can totally understand it. I've seen friendships ended over Calvinism/Arminianism/4 or 5 or 7 points.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Andrew K.'s picture

While I agree that the term "Reformed" has been thrown about and often appropriated by what Horton has labeled "evangelical Calvinism," as one who holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession, I have no hesitation in taking the label "Reformed Baptist."

The Truly Reformed crowd likes to claim the label as a misnomer, as the term "Reformed" have historically been paedo. I don't deny the truth of the latter, but I still think it's a useful title. Someone (maybe R. Scott Clark?) said we should call ourselves "Particular Baptists," but while that term has historical merit, it would just create more confusion. Maybe we are corporately particular about orange carpets or something.

"Reformed Baptist" has a clearer meaning. One holds to Reformed theology, but is a (credo)Baptist.

神是爱

Jeff Brown's picture

Check out John MacArthur's second post. It is better yet, since he deals with specifics and the principle of maturity in a pastor. He is doing a service for the rest of us.

Jeff Brown

Shaynus's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
I've always thought the word reformed was ill-defined in most people's minds. If I use the word at all, it is always as a modifier, as in holding to reformed soteriology.

If someone asks me if I'm reformed. I almost never say "yes" or "no." I almost always ask "what do you mean by that?" If they have an agenda, they normally get frustrated at the question, because frankly not many people really know what it means, even to themselves.

Charlie's picture

I read the second article. To whom is he speaking? Where are all these immature, hipster pastors? That's a serious question. I don't follow much in the contemporary blogosphere. I haven't noticed this phenomenon in the PCA or the OPC (actual Reformed churches). None of the people with whom I went to seminary fit this description. I know a few people at Southern Seminary, RTS, and Covenant, and none of them fit this description. Maybe I just don't run in those circles.

So, is this really a young Reformed issue, or is it more of an issue with quasi-charismatic-baptistic-revivalist types who recently picked up unconditional election?

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Greg Long's picture

Charlie, if you would attend T4G or TGC Conference you'd see who he is talking about.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg Long's picture

Well, I should have read his second article before I responded to Charlie. I was primarily thinking of the hipster style of dress when I referred to the two conferences. As far as those who "are perfectly happy to give the world the impression that cage fighting, beer-drinking, cigar-smoking, hard-partying, and other forms of bad-boy-behavior are the distinguishing marks of their religion"...well, I don't personally know of many people like that myself. And even if they are out there in the YRR movement, are they a "sizable core" as MacArthur asserts?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Wayne Wilson's picture

Quote:
I read the second article. To whom is he speaking?

I think Mark Driscoll is certainly one person he is speaking about. He's a chest-pounding, rude and crude, mock the refined, bad-language is macho kind of guy.

Jay's picture

I think Wayne's onto it...MacArthur has never really been close with Driscoll as far as I know, and lately he's been coming out and speaking against Driscoll or his practices without specifically saying "Thou art the man!"

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells