MacArthur, MacArthur Everywhere!


John MacArthurOne of the phenomena I’ve encountered in the portion of the blogosphere I regularly visit is an absolute mania for all things John MacArthur. In my post about Jack Hayford, I noticed that I, too, uttered the name that crops up everywhere I turn.

Now John MacArthur seems to be a nice man who honestly loves the Lord, a solid preacher, and a prolific author with some good books, but I have to wonder, What is the obsession with him that I see on blog after blog after blog? Is it just that so much of the message we are getting today from other sources is so ridiculously poor that MacArthur’s receives adulation for merely being good?

Here’s my dirty, little secret: I’ve heard him speak on his “Grace to You” radio program and read a few of his books, yet I’m left curiously unmoved. Never once has his radio program or his writing driven me to my knees or made me want to lift my hands in spontaneous worship. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been happy with his cessationist views or the fact that he took on the fringes of the charismania out there and painted it as the rational middle, gutting the whole of it in the process. Nor do I support his dispensationalist eschat0logy. Still, there are preachers I disagree with far more whom I resonate with more than I do MacArthur.

So I don’t get it. I’m glad we have him out there, but he barely registers in my library or in my listening. As for me, I’ll stick with Tozer, Ravenhill, Lloyd-Jones and their like. In fact, just the other day I saw a Ravenhill video that has still got me all scrambled up inside trying to work through the depth of it. I’m not sure the entire collected works of MacArthur could do the same for me.

Readers, please tell me why so many can’t stop talking about MacArthur because I feel like I must be failing to understand something that everyone else knows intrinsically.

26 thoughts on “MacArthur, MacArthur Everywhere!

  1. Gaddabout

    I was waiting for this conflict to come to a head with Adrian having breakfast with Phil, but apparently they’re mature Christians and didn’t beat each other over the head with steel Starbucks cups. =) God bless them both.

    John MacArthur is not a dazzling speaker, but he represents a large group of Christians who feel underpresented in the media. One friend told me he felt that camp had turned the Trinity into “God, Son, and Holy Bible.” While somewhat amusing in private and it might have a hint of truth, I am at least thankful there remain Christians dedicated to the Word. I don’t want to begrudge them, even though when I read Phil’s blog, James White’s blog, Steve Camp’s blog, I am not appreciative of a sometimes elitist tone or rigid theology. I know we agree on the right things, and I believe the Spirit is often leading them to speak, even if they may not fully agree with how the Spirit operates. And I think it’s really funny they hold Wayne Grudem in high esteem, so at least I know their hearts are not hardened to people beyond their own theology. =)

  2. Wayne Grudem is a curious sort of guy. I guess he fills in for James White for me, but I strongly disagree with his Systematic Theology on the issue of bipartite versus tripartite nature of Man. I firmly come down in the latter.

    Ironically, I mentioned I’d been spiritually ransacked while at Wheaton by the anti-charismatic crowd, well I managed to get at least one prof to ease up when I started quoting Grudem back to him.

  3. I don’t get the whole MacArthur thing, either. He doesn’t resonate with me on any level. I have tried to read some of his books and never finished them. I have tried to listen to his sermons online and never finished one. I know many others like him, but I just can’t get into his groove.

    Side note, I would be interested to hear what you mean about the tripartite nature of Man sometime.

  4. Doug,

    Good, I’m not crazy or backslidden, then!

    Tripartite nature of Man simply means that Man is Body, Soul, and Spirit. The Bipartites say that the Spirit and Soul are the same thing. I strongly disagree and for many reasons, though I’m not ready to get into a massive exposition on the topic.

    Coinicidentally, my pastor is in the middle of a fabulous series about this very thing and I am considering converting the tapes for this into MP3s and post them on the Web for everyone—they’re that good.

  5. Julana

    I have seen this man on Larry King, and he seems like a very nice man. He also has gravitas, and I feel comfortable with him representing the Christian faith. I did not feel comfortable with Rick Warren or Joyce Meyer in the same seat.
    I cannot get into his books, either. They do not stimulate my imagination. I do respect him, partly because (if memory serves me right) he pastors the church where Joni Eareckson attends, and I have such high regard for her.

  6. You know what, Dan? Amazingly enough, somehow I’ve managed to get through life without ever having paid even the least bit of attention to John MacArthur. Other than hearing his name now and then, honestly speaking I know nothing about the fellow. Nor do I feel any particular desire to find out.

    In fact, as far as I can recall, I’ve never paid much attention to the whoever happened to be on the top-seller list.

  7. I’ve determined that one of the reasons we hear so much about MacArthur is that there is an overrepresentation in the Christian blogosphere of hardcore Calvinists. (Note to hardcore Calvinists: THIS IS NOT A SLAM ON YOU, so don’t take it that way.)

    Part of this is that your PCA-style Presbyterians, American Baptists, and the like are probably better off financially and better educated than folks who come from charismatic, Pentecostal, AoG, and lesser Evangelical circles. They understand computers better and are less likely to put up a Web site with eight thousand animated GIF files of flying doves and Jesus casting Satan into the lake of fire. Their savviness in this regard put them into the blogosphere first and they’ve setup a kingdom there. Let’s face it, the big Christian blogs have mostly been around for a few years gathering readers. The people new to the scene have to fight off the other 8 million who decided in the last year to get on board the blogmania.

    I know there’s a charismatic Reformed blogroll (and I suspect C.J. Mahaney is their MacArthur) and a Vineyard blogroll (not sure just whom they’re lauding since Wimber’s been dead for six years), but for folks outside of that, forget it. Sure, Joe Carter has an Evangelical blogroll, but if you look at it, it’s largely populated by the folks in those Reformed/Calvinist blogrolls. In fact, I’ve thought about starting a non-Vineyard, non-Reformed-charismatic blogroll just to get some other voices out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m highly sympathetic to both of those blogrolls, but still. There’s about six major Reformed/Calvinist blogrolls out there and that makes for big waves in Google if you can get on more than two of them. The Web presence created by those half dozen blogrolls provides a disproportionate leaning toward the views of the folks on those blogrolls. Honestly, I don’t know a single purely Pentecostal blogger of any reknown and that’s not right.

  8. Dan: “I don’t know a single purely Pentecostal blogger of any reknown and that’s not right.”

    Well, I’m Pentecostal and a computer literate blogger, but I guess what I lack is a little renown. Oh, well, that’s okay. I don’t particularly care about it anymore. If I were to become “renown”, I’d just end up with a dozen or so web sites specializing in attacking me for various reasons.

    But I do wish to pay you a complement, Dan. Even though I do read the “EO”, increasingly I find Cerulean Sanctum a more compelling “must read”, and more interesting too. In fact, it’s been probably about the most encouraging place to visit for me personally.

  9. I may be in the reformed camp, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s a good thing. What I’m getting at, is that there’s a zillion blogs out there, many with the exact same message. Blogs like this one stand out by their uniqueness. This isn’t the same reheated message, and presents a different look at Christianity.

    In the reformed branch of the blogdom, you have to either be the first to say something (which is nigh near impossible) or you have to present it in an original way.

    When I look at the posts of mine that I most appreciate, they are almost always the ones that any Christian would appreciate, not just the defenses of the TULIP.

    It’s kinda like the MacArthur deal. If what you say doesn’t resonate with the quiet apathetic readers, what’s the point?

    That’s where this blog stands out. The message is not the same thing I’ve seen in a dozen other places and it resonates. That’s why SC is on my blogroll.

  10. Robbymac

    It’s only been recently that I’ve discovered that there’s so many hardcore Calvinists blogging. Somehow, I missed them these past six or seven years.

    I’m with you on MacArthur. I liked but didn’t finish his “Gospel According to Jesus” when it first came out, but after his butchery on the Vineyard in “Charismatic Chaos”, I began to suspect that his research methods were something less than admirable.

    Once I noticed that, I began to see it was a pattern in his writing throughout the 90’s (and probably beyond, I stopped keeping track); Frank Peretti was once asked in an interview what he thought about MacArthur’s attacks on his fictional books, and Peretti answered, “MacArthur roasts everyone.”

    He may have some good things to say, but his methodology and mannerisms in his attacks on other Christians have soured my interest. He tends to exaggerate his “opponent’s” beliefs and then over-utilize the dreaded “straw man” attack method.

    Which is why I avoid the majority of hardcore Calvinist blogs as well — they use MacArthur’s methods and therefore lack credibility.

    P.S. Grudem’s “Systemic Theology” is great!

  11. thx

    I always liked listening to MacArthur, and learned a lot from him as a new Christian. My main beef with him is his love of Jay Adams and everything anti-psychology. His school, The Master�s College, offers a degree in �biblical counseling� instead of clinical psychology. I think this anti-psychology, anti-psychiatric medications attitude is dangerous for the Church.

  12. Doug & Oengus,

    I was blessed this morning by both of you saying that Cerulean Sanctum is unique and a must-read. Some days I don’t know if blogging is worth it in the greater scheme of things, but for me now it’s my ministry outlet as I try to determine my next step in service to the Lord.

    Thanks for making my day a little nicer!

  13. Robbymac,

    I’ve been accused of roasting everyone, too; I hope that I do not lessen anyone’s beliefs but instead spur us on to greater things. That’s a hard walk to master and too few people do it well. I know I fail in it more often than not.

  14. thx


    Sorry. I just read your �Psychology�A pseudo-science?� post. I didn�t mean to blast MacArthur on a subject you both agree on. 🙂

  15. thx,

    I was wondering how long it would take for you to find that post! 😉

    It’s okay if you disagree with me. Feel free. I hope that doesn’t send you away. I saw that you are a grad student in psychology and I knew that the “pseudo-science” post would make you unhappy.

    I understand that there is genuine science involved in psychology, only I don’t believe that psychology can answer the fundamental issues of the soul and spirit; that’s where the “pseudo-” part comes in—psychology believes it can. And that’s my beef with psychology. To me, only Jesus provides those answers.

    If you would like to talk about this more, maybe you can drop me an e-mail or take this over to that psychology thread.

    Hope I didn’t ruin your day!

  16. thx


    Not at all. I don�t think psychology can answer the fundamental, eternal issues of the soul and spirit, either�no science can, pseudo or otherwise. I do think that psychotherapy and psychiatric medication can help people get to the place where they can receive and obey the word of God, though. I�d love to talk more, maybe by email. I don�t want to stir up a hornet�s nest, and I respect all the Christians who think psychology is unbiblical.

    As for worldviews, I agree with you to some extent, but I think that the worldview of the individual therapist is more important than the worldview of the founder of a psychological theory. However, there are non-Christian therapists who do a better job than some Christian therapists of utilizing a client�s Christian faith as a strength for healing. It really depends on the therapist. That�s the problem with generalizing about the field as a whole.

    So much for not stirring up the hornets. Gotta go

  17. Robbymac

    Yes Dan, you have “roasted” a number of issues and movements, BUT from my observation, you’ve done your homework and have been fair in reporting what others have actually said and believe.

    That puts you in an entirely different category than MacArthur.

    Which is why I prefer to read your writings, and not Dr. John’s. 🙂

  18. Brian Colmery

    As someone who is quite close to MacArthur, at least in terms of location and schooling, I think I have the answer as to why everyone talks about him (or at least why Larry King has such an affinity for him): he is very, very, very, very, extremely, clear. He knows what he believes, and presents it in a way in which everyone who hears him knows what he believes. Today, it seems, that’s really difficult to come by – especially in someone who is really well-known. He doesn’t so much roast people as be extremely explicit with how and why they don’t line up with what he believes to be true. Again, rare today when there are more qualifiers than criticisms in most treatments of theology. Not to say I haven’t been rubbed wrong by the lack of leeway given to other people at times, because I definitely have…

    I tend to line up with him theologically, but I’ve never really been ecstatic about any of his books either. I’ve had to read some for seminary, and they’ve often been my least favorite (though his book on parenting-sorry, the name escapes me-was quite good). The great thing about John, from someone who’s actually spent some time with him, is that he’s really a normal guy. He loves sports, he makes a lot of jokes, and they tend to be pretty funny. He smiles a lot, he’ll mess with you on occassion, and he really enjoys life. A lot of the reputation he receives I’ve found isn’t a result of his character but of the character of the people that surround him in his church. There’s a tendency to stifle the fun-loving side of the guy, and it’s really too bad.

  19. Frank Martens

    As he has said in a few sermons “It’s easier to show love in person, as apposed to reading it through a book” 🙂

    My facinations with MacArthur lines up with what Brian states. It all has to do with his firm stance on what he believes is right. I find more and more, that the more I read his stuff and line it up with scripture a lot of it is more accurate then I expect sometimes.

    I also appreciate what he has to say about his views on the EC (as you put it Dan) and Psycology. Considering I go to a church that’s more of an EC than anything else, it’s really encouraging to hear words from someone who is stuck on teaching from the Bible and using it as the only means for teaching (regardless of whether or not he’s right on every detail).

    And I agree with you Dan, part of the reason you are seeing so much MacArthur is because there’s a lot of Hardcore Calvanists out there.


  20. Anonymous

    Dan, This is just how it works. When you are on God’s side doing God’s will God’s way. John is not all over, it’s who John speaks for and represents that makes his stand controversial.

  21. Rafael Sison

    Dan, This is just how it works. When you are on God’s side doing God’s will God’s way.
    John is not everywhere, God is. It is who John speaks for and represents that makes him stand out and makes him controversial.
    Unfortunately that’s just how the world is. Allow me to refer you to this Bible verse, 1Cor2:14
    Lastly, let me tel you Dan, God’s love was meant for you too.
    Rafael Sison

  22. Tom

    Wow! Happened here by “accident” (for you non-hardcore Calvinists). From a hardcore Calvinist, I am baffled by your lack of understanding of just how supremely important and GOOD MacArthur’s impact has been in the last 30 years of evangelical Christianity. Even as you describe yourself as “all scrambled up inside” you reveal why it is that you find him “merely good”. I’ll take MacArthur’s “merely good” over Vineyard and the chaos that is associated with the Brownsville Revivals and the Toronto Blessings ANYTIME! One look at these two blips on the radar screen in comparison to MacArthur’s far reaching consistent “merely good” God centered, Christ exalting Bible teaching, says it all. Your lack of discernment is baffling. I think you are letting his strong teaching against the excesses of the Charismatic movement influence your assessment. What books of his have you read? What types of books do you read? If you are looking for an intense emotional experience, you probably will not find it in his writings. I imagine you won’t find a “lift my hands in spontaneous worship” in Paul’s writings either, but the fault is not Paul’s I assure you. Ever read Rom 9 and fallen on your knees? I thought not. I had to come to the the defense of this gift of God to His church. No man in the last 30 years has had a more a sanctifying influence on the Bride of Christ than John.

    Why is he the constant subject of many blogs?

    1. His commitment to Scripture.
    2. His love for the purity of the Church.
    3. His expository verse by verse preaching of the whole counsel of God.
    4. His God-centered clear presentation of the Gospel.
    5. His humble leadership.
    6. His heroic leadership.
    7. His commitment to proclaiming the sovereignty of God in everything (yes, even salvation!).
    8. His consistency.
    9. His ablility to discern the “errors” that creep into the Church “unawares”.
    10. His boldness, conviction and clarity in correcting error and proclaiming truth.

    You’ll either love him, or despise him. And lets be truthful, you really don’t care very much for him. You might think him a “nice man”, but what is that? You do not think him to be a very important (in a good way) Bible teacher. I understand. He is a verse by verse teacher. And the best I know of.

    From a hardcore Calvinist, which is to say a Biblicist, a Paulist, etc.

    By His grace and for His glory,


  23. Tom,

    Please don’t paint me into a corner here by saying I either love MacArthur or I despise him. Did I say that in my post? What I said is that I find him okay. I’m glad he’s out there because he’s firm in his stances and we need that today, but he doesn’t stir me as much as he must stir all those who reference him all the time.

    I’ll be honest when I say that I do not read many contemporary Christian authors. Most of my library is filled with dead guys. I’ve read MacArthur’s books, though I don’t own any anymore.

    All I can tell you is that when I hear him preach or read his books, they don’t grab me and shake me around like some other authors do. I never get the big “ah-hah” with MacArthur that I get from others. The books I have listed in my sidebar are all books that touched something in my soul and spirit. None of those books are by MacArthur.

    Am I allowed to like other folks besides MacArthur? My post is based on the fact that I’m not exactly sure why so many people fawn over MacArthur. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s still alive and appeals to the Calvinist bloggers who dominate the Godblogosphere. Yes, he’s biblical, but shouldn’t we be reading doctrinally-solid books anyway

    If you want me to give equal time here, I don’t get whipped into a frenzy by Wayne Grudem or C.J. Mahaney, either, but they’re not quite as omnipresent as MacArthur on other blogs I read.

    Now I will say that since I wrote this, there’s been a lessening of the MacArthur-mania from a few months ago, and more people seem to be blogging about the dead guys I like to read, so take this post for what it was at the time it was. I wouldn’t try to wring more out of it than what is there.

  24. Tom

    Fair enough. Certainly I’m not advocating reading “only” MacArthur. I admit that he is no Spurgeon. But, I can’t think of his modern equal. If you know of a Pastor Teacher who has positively impacted Christianity in more so than John, I’d love to know. I’ll add him to my reading list. It just seems like “bashing”, even though it was “nicer” than the normal bashing he receives. I’m sure it is not the case, but it seems like jealousy to some degree.

    I must admit that my library is filled with a lot of dead guys as well. But, there are plenty of good theologians and teachers alive today that can bolster our libraries. Piper and Sproul are musts. Have you ever heard of or read anything by Mark Dever? He is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I just bought his latest book, “The Deliberate Church”. It looks good. Should be edifying.

    Sorry for painting you into a corner. But, saying MacArthur is “o.k.” to someone who recognizes him as God’s greatest gift to His church in the last 30 years, is like saying eating and drinking are “o.k.”.


  25. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been doing a little research on this.

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