A conversation with John MacArthur

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, August 13th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Defying government orders.

A few weeks ago California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all places of worship in the state’s most populous counties to stop meeting indoors. While his new orders do allow for outdoor services, these must be carried out along strict new social distancing guidelines.

EICHER: In response, one of the state’s largest churches, Grace Community, released a statement announcing that it would no longer abide by government restrictions.

BASHAM: I spoke with Grace Community’s pastor, John MacArthur, to ask him about that decision. I also asked about a couple of other issues he’s been outspoken about in the recent past.

Pastor MacArthur, thanks so much for being with us.

MACARTHUR: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

BASHAM: Well, there have been a few direct responses from other Christian leaders and organizations on Grace Community’s statements, its choices. Now, the details of their arguments vary, but what they all seem to distill down to is that they believe civil disobedience isn’t the best option right now. To give you an example, an Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission spokesman tweeted out that they’re trying to partner and dialogue with California authorities. So, what’s your response to that?

MACARTHUR: It’s not a short answer, to be honest. But first thing we would say would be that they have no right to tell a church it can’t meet. That’s an unalienable right from God. So they’re violating the Constitution when they tell the church it can or can’t meet and how it can or can’t meet or where. But secondly, what people don’t understand is this: we have a list of the requirements for us to meet outdoors. They are so unreasonable and they are so vast and they are so complex as essentially to make that meeting impossible. 

For example, if a person is in the presence of another person, in less than six feet for over 15 minutes, they have to be quarantined for two weeks. That goes for children as well of different families. So this is just an absurdity. So we’ve tried to be sensible and say, Look, we’re going to be here, you’re adults. You decide if you want to come.

BASHAM: And to clarify, did I read correctly that Grace Community does have outdoor options? There is a social distancing section in the indoor option, is that correct?

MACARTHUR: Well, we have an outdoor tent. And it’s been up for a number of weeks and the chairs are a little further apart there. We have sanitizer around the campus. We have masks available for anybody who wants them. 

BASHAM: Well, you know, how about those who took the Grace elder statement as a word for all churches? Or how about those pastors who have said, we’re not cowards if we choose not to meet in the normal fashion?

MACARTHUR: Well, no, we didn’t want to indict anybody, but I get it. I can’t imagine the future when this particular society all of a sudden loves and tolerates the church. So, you may not want to fight at this particular point, but you may have to fight down the road. So we just decided to engage at the point that the society began to work to control the church. And we’re not going to allow that to happen. The limits that God puts on on the government are clear in the scripture and Christ is the head of the church and we obey Him rather than men when it comes to the spiritual realm.

BASHAM: Well, you know, I’d like to turn now to a couple other topics For what you’ve personally come under fire, and those are the MeToo and social justice movements. Now, as an example, political writer and well-known evangelical lawyer David French, claimed your criticism of the MeToo movement was reflexive. And I’m just going to read a bite of his argument here—just want to make that clear. He said, “There’s nothing inherently unchristian about a movement that has mainly exposed celebrity rapists and mainstream media lotharios. It has also exposed to abuse within the church.” So, what would you say it is about the MeToo movement and how it’s operating in the church that has had you concerned?

MACARTHUR: First of all, one thing Grace Community Church does is church discipline. When I came to this church 51 years ago, I’d never heard of any church in the nation doing church discipline where you actually follow our Lord’s instruction in the Gospel of Matthew and you confront sin and you take two or three witnesses, and if they don’t repent, you tell the entire church. 

We don’t want anyone to think for a moment that any kind of impenitence, any kind of perpetuated sin at any level, even to the top of the board of elders, would be tolerated in this church. We also know that that’s very different than getting caught up in a feminist ideological agenda, which smacks to me of what the MeToo movement is. And there’s so much danger when instead of dealing with sin, you’re dealing with everybody’s complaints. Because if you give an open forum for everyone’s complaints—and some of them may be legitimate, some of them may be invented—all of a sudden everybody becomes a victim. And when you turn everybody into a victim, you cut people off from real gospel ministry. 

The second thing that I’m concerned about is what are these evangelically angry people, what are they doing to their children? What are they teaching their children about? White supremacy, systemic racism, MeToo? What’s this next generation of kids raised in a family where there’s hostility, where there’s anger, what are they going to be like? They’re going to be exponentially more of what their parents were. And I know the Lord would want us as parents to teach love, and forgiveness, mercy, and look not on the things of others—on your own things, but the things of others and don’t consider yourselves better than anyone else. Humble yourselves before the Lord. Every believer has enough to do before God with his own sin and righteousness. 

And if they would love the way Christ loves sinners, it just reminds me of the parable our Lord gave of the man who owed the unpayable debt to the king. The king forgave him his debt and then he went out and strangled somebody who owed him a small amount. That’s what I see all of these movements doing. They’re strangling others for offenses when they have been forgiven an incalculable offense by the goodness and grace of God. They ought to be so grateful, so full of love, and so conscious to teach their children the love and forgiveness of Christ.

BASHAM: Shifting gears a bit, before we end for today, I don’t know how aware you are of the affectionate memes that have grown up around you on social media. If you’re familiar with the Babylon Bee, they frequently run, you know, funny fake news stories that feature John MacArthur as a sort of spiritual Chuck Norris. Do you ever get a chance to see that sort of thing?

MACARTHUR: Yes, I see those. Yeah, I don’t access social media myself, but yeah, no, I always get those sent to me and I take it as a compliment. It’s amazing how endearing the Word of God is and it spills over on me because, you know, I’m the guy I guess in a sense, the Romans 10, ‘Blessed are the feet of those who bring the good news.’ I think I’ve known the blessing that comes to one who faithfully brings the good news.

EICHER: We covered a lot more ground in our conversation and we’ll have part two of our Q & A with John MacArthur in a few weeks.

As with all our stories and interviews, you can find the full transcript at worldandeverything.org. You’ll also find something else there today: our occasional bonus feature we call One More Thing.

BASHAM: Yeah, several more things, but I narrowed it to one. John MacArthur had in a recent message made a passing remark about a soft drink and it led to some pretty amusing responses. So I asked him about it.  

Look for the One More Thing feature online at worldandeverything.org.

(Photo/Facebook, Grace Community Church) Pastor John MacArthur leads the congregation in prayer at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., on Sunday. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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3 comments on A conversation with John MacArthur

  1. Michelle W McCord says:

    It sounds like Pastor MacArthur has never been a victim (or been closely related to a victim). He might then have compassion for the powerlessness the victim feels. He might know how the abuser uses their position of power to control the victim, and lie to those in authority to keep control and continue their abusive behavior. He might understand how telling the victim her sin brought on her abuse heaps more condemnation on her head.
    It seems very arrogant to say sin and impenitence “would not be tolerated”. One need only read the headlines (Ministry Watch, Julie Roys) to find repeated examples of those in power in churches abusing others.
    What about the children of the angry shouting husband whose wife is told to stay because “he hasn’t hit you, has he?” Will they grow up to be like Mom or Dad? Every believer should stand up for the oppressed.
    Are there false accusations? Numerous examples suggest it happens (Brett Cavanaugh, Justice Clarence Thomas, Duke lacrosse team). Does real abuse occur by people in authority who think no one will find out? Every. Single. Day.

  2. Dana Anders says:

    John MacArthur is one of the few men truly following the biblical teachings of Christ, and not afraid to point out sin where it is. He’s an inspiration to me and many others and I am grateful for the truth coming from the Lord through him.

  3. Darrell Roberts says:

    No wonder John MacArthur and the leadership at his church have made, what I humbly consider, bad decisions regarding their response to covid-19. John has peddled false information twice now; earlier on CNN with Brianna Keilar, and yesterday on The World and Everything in it radio. He stated on each broadcast, and I quote, “if a person is in the presence of another person, in less than six feet for over 15 minutes, they have to be quarantined for two weeks. That goes for children as well of different families. So this is just an absurdity. So we’ve tried to be sensible and say, Look, we’re going to be here, you’re adults. You decide if you want to come.” However, the actual CDC quarantine guideline on its website states, “You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html
    CNN’s Brianna Keilar corrected John, by stating the quarantine requirement only applies when standing next to someone with covid-19 for 15 minutes. Yet, instead of researching for himself, he repeated the false information on the radio broadcast several days later. It goes without saying that if you’re using false information to make a decision, you’re decision is anything but informed. Furthermore, if you’re corrected with the factual information, and you continue to peddle the false information, you make yourself a tool of the devil, and lose credibility on pretty much anything you communicate. Which is why I can’t take John seriously when he criticizes others protesting the government and/or hierarchies, i.e. MeToo and anti-police brutality groups, while using Biblical arguments like forgiveness and obeying authority to support such criticism. However, he excuses his stance against the powers that be, while utilizing the same God given and Constitutional rights the protesters use. I know it’s hard to see our own hypocrisy, but that couldn’t be more blatant.
    I take serious the Scriptural requirement not to chastise elders, but with a heavy heart I felt I had to. I love John, and have learned more from him over the past 33 years, than any other pastor, my own pastor included. However, I’d hate to see John lose credibility with proclaiming the gospel because he’s buying into and peddling fake pandemic news used to divide and cause tremendous confusion. And given the tremendous global visibility of Grace Community Churches protests, I’d hate for the church at large to lose credibility. I’d hate having it said of the church that we can’t research simple information available to all, in order to make an informed decision; and/or that we’re hypocritical
    for doing the very thing John spoke against in the radio broadcast. That is, considering ourselves better than anyone else.
    John labelled other protesters as angry and hostile for protesting, not necessarily the sins of rape, incest, molestation, sexual harassment, white supremacy, police brutality, systematic racism, etc., but for protesting the the lack of judicial and/or corporate accountability of those who commit these sins, aka justice. God has indeed charged the Christian to fight for justice: “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause,” Is. 1:17. Abdicating this charge by labeling other’s protests as “social justice,” is not supported in the Bible. Injustice is injustice period. How can the “questionable” injustice against the church for gathering in the hundreds and thousands during pestilence, be seen as more important to the church, than the injustice of many people, including police officers, executives, clergy, and politicians, committing with impunity: molestation, rape, murder, beatings, racial discrimination, etc. with impunity? Has the church resisted the government unto blood, as have some of these other groups, both in terms of the perpetration of sinful acts and protesting the the impunity of said acts committed by the perpetrators? And why is the churches protests to defy law not seen as angry, hostile, or victim-hood, but those who lawfully protests are seen as such? Rioters are not protesters, the two are not one and the same, so save that retort for another topic. Protesters often outnumber rioters a hundred or a thousand to one, and many times protests don’t end in riots, but you’ll never know that from television coverage . In conclusion, the church as a whole may be seen as making itself better than others, and justifiably viewed as extremely hypocritical, thanks in no small part to the leadership at Grace Community Church. Again, I don’t communicate this lightly. It is my prayer that leadership muses upon it, and respond as God would have it. And if I am wrong in my views, approach, and intent, then may God forgive me of the error of my ways.

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