If you were granted ten minutes to speak with and interview John MacArthur, what would you ask? Would you inquire about the state of the church, or would you focus on doctrinal questions? Would you seize the opportunity to ask a question pertaining to your own personal situation, or would you ask his opinion on the latest antics of the Seeker-Driven crowd?
Recently, I was graciously afforded ten minutes with John MacArthur, and I found myself asking questions about a little bit of everything.
John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, author of numerous books and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. He is a husband, father and grandfather who has faithfully been preaching the truths of God’s Word for over 43 years, and who has been following the Lord for even longer. On 19 May 2012, Dr. MacArthur was speaking at the 6:4 Fellowship National Conference, and he generously agreed to a brief interview following his session.
Within the first few moments of speaking with him, I knew that I did not want to spend this brief time simply lobbing questions at him in the style of a typical interview. Rather, I wanted to have a conversation with this man who has dedicated his life and ministry to the proclamation of God’s Word. So, as we stood outside on an unusually warm May afternoon, John MacArthur sipped a soft drink, and I grabbed my digital recorder, ready to catch every word.
In the following transcription, for the sake of readability, I have edited my questions to be more concise than they actually were, and have refrained from including the few tangents that were embarked upon. The pertinent answers given by Dr. MacArthur, however, are unedited.
You spoke this morning about prayer. You clearly spoke against the prosperity “name it and claim it” model, and alluded to some of the mystical elements within that. Can you speak a bit more to the contemplative spirituality and mysticism that is invading the church today?
It’s very dangerous, the spiritual formation. It’s a pagan approach. It’s more like Hinduism than Christianity. It’s content-less, the mantra prayers, it’s a form of Hindu expression. It’s the kind of mysticism that makes people think they can create reality by thinking it, by meditating on it, by focusing on it, claiming it, declaring it to be so.
So how would you respond to the idea that is taught by those who promote spiritual formation and contemplative prayer that “prayer is really a conversation with God”? The idea that we must remain still and quiet, waiting to hear back from Him?
Here’s the problem with that: God can’t answer. He’s spoken only in His Word, so it’s not a conversation.
Last Fall, you began a sermon series at your church, teaching about the Holy Spirit. What prompted you to preach that series?
The abuse of the Holy Spirit that’s rampant in the church. One of the points I made was when God the Father’s honor is under attack, everybody rises to defend Him. When Open Theology came along…there was a massive response: people writing books and articles and blogging to shut down the attack on the nature of God and the attributes of God.
When Christ is attacked as to His deity or as to the nature of the cross, we get a movement like Confessing Evangelicals, we get documents responding to ECT [Evangelicals and Catholics Together] on the Gospel. We get T4G, The Gospel Coalition. We get everybody mounting a massive effort to protect the integtrity of the Gospel, Christ, the cross and His vicarious substitutionary atonement.
But the Holy Spirit is just being slaughtered everywhere and where is the outrage? That was the issue.
Jesus accused the Pharisees of attributing to Satan the works of the Spirit and I accuse these people of attributing to the Holy Spirit the works of Satan.
The issue of Lordship Salvation is one that I seem to come up against frequently—a resistance to it. Can you share some thoughts on this issue and why it is so opposed by certain groups?
When all the denominations went liberal (early 1900s), liberalism was running rampant. It was all works salvation, it was a social gospel, works salvation. There was a reaction, and reactions don’t always stop where they should, so it swings all the way to grace. And people were talking about, “It’s all grace, it’s all grace, it’s not works.” And they began to identify certain things that might intrude on grace: confessing Jesus as Lord, obedience, those kinds of things were articulated as works in this overreaction…
What we have today is still the residual of that in that area, but an even worse thing would be the sort of “rockstar” pastors’ disinterest in the Lordship of Christ without theology.
In other words, they don’t want to ask anything of anybody. Just superficial, name Jesus and rock and roll with us and you’re going to Heaven.
Like Steven Furtick?
Steven Furtick, Perry Noble. There’s nothing of theology to say nothing of the massive egotism. It’s epic.
And it’s so visible. I’ve found myself reporting on the mess of the Elephant Room 2 conference and the fallout of that…
…Either you respond righteously [and] humbly to valid criticism, or you become totally self-defensive, ramp up your hostility and start attacking, and you always hate to see that happen.
Some may consider CRN to be a “discernment ministry,” and while we do seek to expose false teaching with much of our content, we strive to bring everything back to Scripture. How can legitimate websites and ministries avoid being stereotyped alongside those that really are little more than a gossip rag?
The Apostle Paul named names all through the New Testament: good, bad and indifferent. There are times when the Church has to be warned when something is dangerous, that’s part of spiritual responsibility.
But more importantly, we need to lay down principles, because you can’t keep up with the names. You can’t catch them all. So what you want to always be doing is teaching people the Word of God so that they have this sub-structure of theology and sound doctrine to be able to do the discernment. I think there are times to name names. I have a rule about that and that is, I will respond to anyone who has published something, but nothing that is private. And that’s fair.
Dr. MacArthur, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time today.
Well, there you have it. Of course, I could have spoken to John MacArthur all day, and I told him as much. He was incredibly gracious, humble and kind. He clearly is as committed to his calling and to the Word of God outside the pulpit as he is when he stands behind it.
Perhaps that is the most refreshing observation of all. In a culture where “celebrity pastors” are more concerned with their wardrobe than they are with God’s Word, pastors like John MacArthur are a blessing. Whether a man has been given a church of 3,000 or 30, if he is faithfully opening the Scriptures each week, and is humbly caring for the sheep of his flock, then he is an increasing rarity. Christians ought to pray for, and thank the Lord for those pastors who seek to exalt and magnify Him rather than themselves.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Cor. 4:5–7, ESV