MacArthur Part One


John MacArthur was interviewed by Christianity.com about his views on the Reformed revival of the last fifteen years; what is often called the Young, Restless and Reformed movement (YRR). He has some strong misgivings about a number of things that he’s seen and predicts that there will be a reversal of the movement in the future. He has a number of good points, the foremost being his stress on ecclesiology. His concern is that many YRR have a shallow ecclesiology; all style, no substance. He is right, if Calvinists think that because they’ve got their soteriology down that they get a hall-pass on everything else, the YRR will implode. Any gospel-oriented movement, like the Reformation of the sixteenth century, must be deeply grounded in the church. Otherwise, it is floating on air and will go wherever the wind blows.

If I may, respectfully (that’s not a mere sentiment), interject a request: I would like to ask Dr. MacArthur to be more specific in his critique. I know that he has had some strong criticisms of Mark Driscoll in the past, and I suspect that it is Driscoll and Acts 29 that MacArthur is thinking of especially. But, at least in my understanding, based on those covered in Collin Hansen’s Young, Restless, and Reformed book, the YRR movement is much larger than Acts 29 and the emerging church blend of Reformed theology. When MacArthur uses the term, does he include other young Reformed leaders like Kevin DeYoung, Tim Challies, Owen Strachan, Denny Burk, the Reformed Forum guys or Justin Taylor? It strikes me that these guys are catalysts for this movement, but all have a fuller orbed understanding of theology than just soteriology. And what of some of the older men who have worked so closely with YRR that, aside from age, they are virtually indistinguishable from it like Don Carson, Tim Keller, James White, Ligon Duncan, R. C. Sproul, John Piper (though he gets a critical nod), Mark Dever, Carl Trueman, Russ Moore, Mike Horton, Doug Wilson and even John MacArthur. This latter group are a huge reason for YRR and share some of the same cultural sentiments as the movement, some even drink. Are they also included in the terminology?

It would be great if MacArthur could be clearer. I think it would help those of us who have been unnecessarily lumped in with what he sees as a theologically immature crowd. Maybe we could come up with a name to distinguish them from us. If it is just Acts 29/Driscoll, maybe it would be better just to deal with them specifically. I definitely don’t feel as though MacArthur describes me, my theology or my practice in his critiques. I agree with his warning (though the tone is off-putting) and would hope that I don’t fall into the trap he sees awaiting YRR. If he named names, so that those of us watching could have specific examples of problem areas, and those who are named would know that it was them that had the problem, all of us involved would have greater clarity on how to move forward. These generalities aren’t as helpful.

I look forward to the second part of this interview.

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4 Comments

Filed under interviews, john macarthur, video, yrr

4 responses to “MacArthur Part One

  1. I respect John MacArthur…. (and tend to agree with him on many things)

    But, in light of what he’s said about church and community and the way he’s criticized others, setting aside theory, I wonder how different it is for his church in practice?

    I have no personal experience other than knowing a few long-term active members of his church that have *never met him*.

    Granted, he’s not a flat screen John. But what % of the 6,000 or so attendees has he met? How many of the members has he met? How many of them does he know anything about them beyond their name? How many of them has he had lunch with or met informally with? How many would be missed by MacArthur if they were not there?

    I’d be curious to know.

    I understand that there is a plurality of elders and its a really big church… but still, I think Dr. MacArthur could probably be more gracious to those he is criticizing and acknowledge that there are some broad overarching issues that apply to his situation too.

    Some of the large issues with eclessiology nowadays are due to celebrity pastors, an “empire-ish” conception of the local church, mega church setups, etc. And it seems to me that, wperhaps theoretically better, in practice MacArthur may very well be on some of the same trajectories, albeit in a different cultural setting.

    I believe there are some within (or lumped together with) the YRR movement that actually have actually avoided many of these things, and actually have a more thoroughgoing eclessiology, in practice than MacArthur’s church. One might even say, perhaps, that MacArthur is “as a flat-screen pastor” compared to them.

  2. (my comment may be more based on part II)

  3. I would love to know in what sense Mark Driscoll’s ecclesiology is Arminian. So, ripped jeans = Arminianism? It’s odd as I doubt that missionaries from Grace Church to Africa wear three piece suits.

    • Keith, I think from his comments about pragmatism, he sees the style over substance issue to be akin to Warren’s seeker-sensitivity. That’s why he calls it “Arminian.” And he’s right, if people are taking cultural sensitivity–which is a good thing–to the level of making that the draw of the gospel–which is bad–then that’s bad. But if you dress casually for church because it’s a reflection of your community and to wear a suit means to stick out like a sore thumb and communicate a holier-than-thou attitude, then I don’t see the problem. It’s definitely not Arminian.
      As I said in the blogpost, if was more specific in his critiques, I think we’d all be less offended.

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