Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. — Proverbs 16:18
I recall spending hours upon hours of my free time either consuming Left Behind books, second-guessing who Nikolai Carpathia was intending on killing next, or listening to Grace To You sermons and teachings. I was twenty or twenty-one, highly impressionable. I’m still impressionable today. You place bacon in front of me and I’ll eat it. It doesn’t take much to convince me. But things were different then. I had little to my name; not that I have much more now, but I was fine-tuned to be led somewhere by someone because I had nowhere to be and no one to go ‘there’ with. What does a religious-minded twenty-something do with his or her free time? There were no summer camps to attend. Some of them were far more expensive than I could afford and the nightlife did not suit me. I thought alcohol was an avoidable pitfall that needed forgetting so life became rather glib. Hard drugs were never an option either so I threw myself into learning more about God and the Bible. Little did I know, the man from whose biblical foundation I intended on learning from was a religious sycophant who belittled Christians, mocked Catholics, maligned Muslims, and disregarded the plight of the oppressed and disadvantaged for the sake of preaching heaven-onlyism to avoid confronting the issues of the world, and had a personal mission against homosexuals. An obsessive agenda against homosexuality to the point of auditory discomfort.
After years of listening to his teachings, I became like him. Not like Jesus, of course, because Christ was and is different. Christ ventures into murky waters to seek and save that which is lost. He does not distance himself from the filth of sin for the sake of clout. Jesus dives in headfirst to deliver. This man, on the other hand, seemed more willing to stand aloof, above it all, supercilious and unapologetic, deriding the failings of others, to the point of becoming famous in Christian circles for doing so. After listening to his teachings for as long as I had, I began to exhibit the same behaviors as a means to accomplish the same level of status and respect in my Christian circles.
My tone changed. I would go from curiosity about other religious groups and their teachings to showing contempt for them. I was no longer willing, in my heart, at least, to sit down with these wonderful unknown people and their concepts, philosophies, and ideas to discuss life, love, joy, and soccer. I wanted nothing to do with their ideas and the worldview that made them who they were because, I was taught, I was informed, I was trained to believe, without wavering, that to associate with them in peace and fellowship, absent my public and outspoken denigration of everything they believed, was a sin.
I was so incensed by this new desire for God, or so I thought it was God, that I went out of my way to seek more of this man’s teachings. I tuned in to his radio show on my way to work, I listened to his ministry’s podcast while I worked, and I looked up YouTube videos of him publicly confronting or shaming other public figures, Christians and non-Christians alike. I spent well over one hundred dollars on the purchase of a study bible he published (New American Standard Bible) with his notes along the bottom of each page. I craved his intellect on so many passages of scripture as if he were the only reliable source of biblical truth outside the bible and the Holy Spirit. I also bought his bible commentary, which espoused well over one thousand pages of his notes and thoughts on biblical knowledge. While at the register at the Christian bookstore, the clerk asked me why I was purchasing a bible with MacArthur’s notes and a commentary written by MacArthur since they’re essentially the same thing. I simply said why not? I was too ecstatic about the possibilities, the opportunities, the chances I would get to devour this bible teacher’s ideas and concepts so that I could regurgitate them to the Mary worshipping Catholic next door, the hellbent homosexual at work, or the satan oppressed Jehovah’s Witness from school, and the bomb-strapped radical Muslim who attended mosque every week. I couldn’t wait.
And I didn’t.
I went through my social media accounts spewing every which type of condemnation against just about anyone who believed differently from me, or rather, from MacArthur. I publicly condemned gay people and engaged possessed dissenters in the comment sections of my posts as if I were a crusader on a mission from God. I joined Meta (then Facebook) groups that espoused satanic ideas. What I didn’t know was that those Satanists in the group I joined were not the theistic kind of Satanists that American media and sensationalist Christian circles had taught me about. They were atheistic Satanists who only used the dark prince’s name or title as a means of philosophical rebellion against institutionalized religious and irreligious systems. I am not vouching for the concept, I’m simply stating that I was misguided about their intentions and their philosophy. I proselytized to these random faces and names on my screen as if I were the spawn of Billy Graham, wishing every which one of them a gospel-filled weekend, hoping that at least one would venture onto Christ’s path for my sake, or rather, their sake. Hubris, you see, had hijacked my intentions. Knowledge, however, crippled by hate and youthful zeal without guidance, had dominated my mind, and with it, corrupted my heart.
Perhaps my heart was already corrupt and I just so happened to find a medium through which I could disseminate my corruption further.
I met some lovely people in those groups. People who love gaming, metal, and movies. We argued a lot. I have private messages that could, with a bit of Hollywood glamour and TBN cringe, be turned into a classic Christian movie that would rival the unlovability of the God’s Not Dead movie series. I was living, in my mind and my social media life, the certified rottenness of Rotten Tomatoes movie rankings. I was living the life of a Christian superhero, damning one pagan to hell via Facebook at a time.
Damned was every person who challenged me. And I damned them. Laughing through it all, of course. Amicable, of course. Because I was taught to share the truth with people even if it meant leading them to existential suicide and philosophical implosion. I mean, didn’t Christ disrupt apostle Paul’s life in the same way by blinding the man on his way to Damascus? Who was I to present a different way? If I had to burn every bridge to tell someone that they were going to hell then I burnt the bridge with a smile on my face.
Granted, my fundamentalist upbringing within the Brazilian Assemblies of God (Bethlehem Ministry) did not help. Fundamentalism in any state, philosophy, political group, or ideology is problematic, and in many cases, deadly, so it did not help to listen to the likes of MacArthur, at all.
I mean, I consumed just about everything made by Grace Community Church, Grace to You, the Master’s Seminary, Strange Fire conferences, and Q&A sessions, and its partnerships with other churches, like that of the great late R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries. (Still fond of R.C.’s work)
By the way, there are 72 million registered Democrats in this country who have identified themselves with that party, and maybe they need to rethink that identification. I know from last week’s message that there was some response from people who said, “Why are you getting political?” Romans 1 is not politics. The Bible is not politics. This is nothing to do with politics; this has to do with speaking the Word of God to the culture in which we live. It has nothing to do with politics. It’s not about personalities. It’s about iniquity and judgment. And why do we say this? Because this must be recognized for what it is: sin — serious sin, damning sin, destructive sin.
You say, “Well, our society cultivates tolerance, and you’re giving hate speech.”
What I’m saying is not hate speech. What the Democratic Party is saying is hate speech because they must hate the homosexuals if they will allow them to go the direction they’re going, affirm that, knowing that it’ll take them to hell. That’s hate speech; this is love speech. You either warn them or you affirm them. And Romans 1 warns them. And any faithful Christian warns, “This is dangerous; this is deadly.” It’s better to warn them than to affirm them. You might be the nice guy to affirm them, but that’s not love speech; that’s hate speech.
I would listen to MacArthur for hours on the topics like the bible’s authority, inerrancy, sufficiency, primacy, and immutability as it relates to Divine revelation. I listened to him speak on creation, the Godhead, providence, sovereignty, Calvinism, baptism, glossolalia (or rather, his derision of anyone who practiced the gift of speaking in tongues), the crucifixion, and the virgin birth of Christ. I would spend eight-hour workdays, sometimes longer, listening to him speak on sexuality, single life, engagement, marriage, homosexuality, manhood, womanhood, and how to raise one’s children. He spoke authoritatively on the value and benefit of a family unit where the man of the house obeys Christ, the woman obeys the man, and the children obey their parents; but the man’s decisions ultimately trump the woman’s decision in any matter every single time. Always. Anything other than this God-given hierarchy of submission in the Christian household was considered demonic. Women were never allowed to speak over a man, and God help the church where a woman was allowed to teach and preach to men. It was likened to the devil’s work, MacArthur espoused. Anti-biblical heresy.
Nearly all the teachings distinctive to the Charismatic Movement are unadulterated mysticism, and nothing illustrates that more perfectly than the way charismatics themselves depict the gift of tongues. They usually describe this gift of speaking these ecstatic syllables that have no meaning as a sort of ecstatic experience that has no equal. They would tell us that it’s a way to experience an emotion and a feeling that is beyond anything else that you will ever experience.
Well, on the one hand, there really isn’t anything particularly evil or immoral about it. If you just disassociate it from the Bible and disassociate it from Christianity, and if you get some pleasure out of standing in a corner all by yourself, or sitting in your room alone and talking gibberish to yourself, and that does something for you, then I suppose in and of itself, from a psychological standpoint, that’s — it’s not a moral issue; it may be harmless. If something makes you feel good, or makes you feel somehow better in control of your life, or like you’ve had some warm experience, so be it. But don’t call it intimacy with God; don’t say it makes you spiritually stronger; don’t say it makes you delirious with spiritual joy.
I learned about angels, demons, and the devil, about dispensationalism at work, and how it was the only way I ought to teach eschatological events in scripture. Any other interpretation of end-times texts was heresy. Seldom were varying ideas discussed authentically. Mid-tribulation or post-tribulation teachings were never tackled honestly, nor were the adherents of those teachings, reliable teachers trained to discuss those interpretations in a professional setting, ever quoted within context. The hearer was simply taught to believe that dispensationalism was taught from the book of Daniel, through the gospels, through Revelations, and up to date. Whoever veered from this teaching was better off facing the Anti-Christ himself.
Regret lives in my heart over just how much contempt I held for Muslims and other Christian sects. I recall listening to MacArthur, in my mind conjuring the model of an archetypal Muslim in arms, ready for jihad, Qur’an in one hand, the decapitated head of a Christian in the other; Allah, the mysterious deity of the faith, ever distant and hate-filled, calling his servants into submission through fear and intimidation. I recall mocking Mohammed. I cannot recall whether I mocked him on social media or from the pulpit, but I spent so much time mocking him. I, of course, knew little to nothing about Islam other than what was taught to me by MacArthur and a select few other prominent figures, all Christian, of course. I couldn’t reconcile the hatred of Muslims I held with the select few Muslims I had met and befriended. They were amazing human beings, better than me, in many ways. But, without cause, illogically, I always suspected they were one step away from converting me or killing me. I mean, Islam was Christianity’s mortal enemy, was it not? I had no idea that the geopolitical structure of Islam in antiquity was not hostile to Christians but to Christendom. The two are radically different ideologies, but I was never taught that. Christendom sought to use Christ’s name to conquer the ancient world through violence. I was never taught the difference. I was never taught, well, MacArthur is no historian therefore he never ventured into contrasting biblical Christianity and the nefarious geopolitical nightmare that was the Holy Roman Empire and its colonialist grandchild, imperial Europe. But here I was, destined to win a war, by debate or martyrdom, against the Muslim girl on my friend’s list who had no idea I viewed her in that light, and the way she treated me as a friend instead of as a mortal enemy, made things more complicated than I wanted to admit.
Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the already ecumenical climate in America has reached new heights. In an effort to distinguish between the extremist Muslim terrorists and the mainstream Muslim population, the media has called for an even higher level of tolerance and acceptance of the religion of Islam than usual.
Sadly, the influence of this sentiment can be seen even in the church. In fact, in a relatively recent Christianity Today article, Wheaton College professor James Lewis recommends that Christians “seek Muslim prayer partners and together beseech the true, one and only God to have mercy on us” (“Does God Hear Muslims’ Prayers?” Christianity Today, February 4, 2002, p. 31).
When evangelicals capitulate and attempt to soften the offense of the gospel in this way, they blur the lines between the god of Islam and the God of the Bible. But now is not the time for blurring lines. Now is the time to draw lines-lines between truth and error, and between the one path to heaven and the many paths to hell.
It doesn’t make sense to me now but it sure as hell did back then.
MacArthur spoke with authority, an unchallenged and what seemed like divinely inspired attribution of homiletic anointing to do just what he did. He is the nephew of the great white American World War II general Douglas MacArthur who helped tilt the war in the Pacific against the Japanese in America’s favor. So the spirit of strength, grit, pride, and ‘nobody gone tell me nothing’ runs through his veins. And this astuteness would cost him, his listeners, myself included, greatly very soon.
He taught against charismatic movements, once saying he was forcibly removed from the pulpit at a charismatic church he was visiting for telling them that speaking in tongues was mumble-jumbo fool’s talk. Not sure if that ever really happened. Here’s why. He spoke about participating in Civil Rights marches and gatherings. Many people have called his accounts into question considering where he was, his age, and his sentiments toward the continual struggles for Civil Rights to this day. So if one story does not add up you begin to question the man and his integrity with it.
MacArthur maligned the emerging church, prosperity movements, seeker-sensitive church environments, word of faith movements, and the young, restless, and reformed craze that swept America in the 2000s. And I was there with him, condemning the living and breathing essence of everything around me if it didn’t match up with how I saw the world, through MacArthur’s lens.
Psychology, Mormons, Muslims, Catholics, Christmas, abortion, racism, feminism, crime, and just about anything you can think of, MacArthur covered it and I consumed it like a seminary student on Adderall. I was a disciple of Jesus but a graduate of MacArthur’s biblical interpretation school. Unapologetically so. Deplorably so.
I recall moving to Canada and befriending my boss at my first job in the Maple leaf country and experiencing an existential crisis. My boss was a Muslim fella, my age, just about, and one of the most down-to-earth personalities you will ever meet in your life. I mean, he was chill. Great family, wonderful wife, and now they have a beautiful little daughter and he has a sense of humor that rivals mine. We were meant to meet and annoy each other. And this friendship helped me better understand that a lot of what MacArthur had been saying about Muslims was in fact nonsense. It was white American folk religionist hysteria amplified by the presence of innocuous immigrants and brown people mixed with religious rhetoric, Jesus sayings sprinkled in between, and nationalist propaganda regurgitated as godly patriotism. I had generalized an entire faith and grouped an entire race of people, well, now looking back, I hadn’t realized that Muslims were white, black, brown, Asian, and Latino as active terrorists or terrorists in the making. Muslims were everywhere, in every facet of life, living and striving for a better life, just like me. But I hated them for existing… not entirely sure why.
The facade began to break but it hadn’t shattered entirely until 2019–2020. Listen, my religious fanaticism goes back a long time, and my newfound faith in Christ, aside from its flawed fundamentalist foundation, is rather new and recent. I was a slave to Christian fundamentalism of every stripe for a great deal of my life. I had learned to hate (not people, per se, but everything they believed) from my religious leaders, and that hatred shaped much of my interactions with people of other faiths and people who do not subscribe to any faith at all.
I was fortunate enough to have the personality of an amicable individual so I was blessed with the grace of maintaining so many of the friendships my fundamentalism worked hard to destroy. Atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, agnostics, Muslims, and more, all amazing people (not all, some were jerks, but that had little to do with their beliefs and more to do with their personalities) who I had met, befriended, cherished, and still converse with to this day. Many of them quite forgiving of my religious idiocy in its most fervent and damaging phase, whereas others were, rightly so, offended by my bigotry at work.
I regret it. I regret so much of what was said because it came from a place of ignorance, on my part. But little did I know then was that much of it came from a man, a man with an agenda, a religious empire, who used his platform to indoctrinate people into hate, suspicion, ignorance, and tribalism, all in the name of Jesus.
And listen, as to my Christianity? It is firm in the person of Jesus Christ. I am more confident in the work of Jesus today than I was then. Living in religious fear, want for control, want for religious dominance, believing I was sovereign enough to tip someone else’s eternal scales and my failure to do so would fall back on my head was a cyclical waking nightmare.
I’m not there anymore because I have come to the assured realization that Jesus has more knowledge, more power, more know-how, and a better grasp of how to convince someone of His love for them, in his own time, in his way… without the presence of a cantankerous fundamentalist to interrupt his beautiful process of inner transformation and redemption.
I am not Jesus. Thankfully.
Today, I can look back at MacArthur and see him for what he is:
A privileged old man, a white man, of wealth and prestige, who was smart enough to master a craft, use it for hubris and financial gain, and continues to deny the efficacious redemptive work of Jesus Christ in his life by refusing to repent of his many, many, many, many wrongs done as a pastor, bible teacher, counselor, and seminary president.
MacArthur is now in hot water because in the early 2000s he excommunicated a woman from his church, shaming her from the pulpit, quite publicly. After all, she refused to reconcile with her husband and refused to accept the man back into her and their children’s lives.
A woman at GCC was living in sin, MacArthur alleged. And though shaming her publicly was “sad,” MacArthur said it was necessary to maintain fidelity to God and His Word.
So, as men were distributing the elements for communion, MacArthur stated: “I want to mention a sad situation, a person who is unwilling to repent. And the church bears responsibility before God to be the instrument of discipline. . . . This is what the Lord wants. He wants discipline . . . to be put out of the church, to be publicly shamed, to be put away from fellowship. In this case it applies to Eileen Gray.”
The problem is that her husband was a prominent figure in the church who, for years, had abused his wife and also abused his children. Police reports were filed. Confessions were made. The man was eventually arrested for his criminal conduct and is now serving twenty-one years to life sentence for his violent behavior against his wife and kids. This same man is the man MacArthur and his staff wanted this woman to go back home to so that he would continue beating the living hell out of them. Her refusal to accept the man back unless he dealt with his issues professionally, was seen as a spiritual rebellion on her part and the church excommunicated her for it.
Grace Community Church paid for the abuser’s bail, and his legal fees and they continue to assist him, in many ways, even now as he is behind bars, a convicted felon who abused his wife and kids.
MacArthur also attempted to violate local health and safety state mandates by opening his church and maintaining the usual steady flow of programs and services in the middle of a global pandemic. His attitude toward the virus is that of a man who is unafraid and unaffected by the coronavirus. Members of his church were hospitalized, some possibly died, others were in critical conditions as a result of the virus, possibly acquired at his church, but MacArthur refused to adhere to measures that could have kept many in his congregation safe. Having one of the world’s most advanced television and online teaching networks, it would have been the easiest thing for MacArthur and their church to progress with their programs via online/virtual settings. But hubris keeps a man before his people because he feeds off of them. Not to mention the money made from it all.
“Our pastor and the conference team is committed to your health and safety at all the conferences we host,; consequently, we want to update you concerning the 90-year-old Shepherd’s Conference guest who recently passed away. The doctors confirmed that he passed away from COVID-19.” Shepherds’ Conference Confirms Conference Guest Died of COVID-19
MacArthur also contracted his son-in-law’s audio-visual firm to run his church’s AV team. This creates an aura of him and his church favoring family members in a setting where doing so only creates more problems. Financial and ethical problems for the church as a community and Grace Community Church as a business.
In 2017, the auditor highlighted as a “significant deficiency” that there were several instances of management overriding or circumventing controls that were in place to process payments or contracts outside established policies. Further, the report noted that there was the appearance of conflicts of interest with the President’s son-in-law supervising a contract from which he benefits, as well as institutional aid being awarded to related parties exceeding typical award amounts, but there was no evidence at the time of the visit that these concerns had been addressed in more than a cursory manner …
MacArthur told prominent bible teacher Beth Moore to “go home” because one, she was a woman; two, she was a bible teacher; and three, she was a female bible teacher willing to challenge the unbiblical teachings in the church that portray women as second-class Christians. His anti-women teachings, sentiments, and pride, (mind you, he said this in front of a packed conference auditorium) are more reasons that his idea of Christianity is shaped more by white American toxic masculinity than it is shaped by the proper biblical interpretation that honors members of both sexes instead of pitting them against each other with improperly interpreted texts from scripture.
He was speaking at an event meant to honor his 50 years of ministry called the “Truth Matters Conference,” but things took a turn when the panelists-including MacArthur-were asked to a play a sort of word association game. They would each be given “two words” to which they had to react to. The first words given to MacArthur were “Beth Moore.”
MacArthur responded, “Go home.” The audience laughed. Another man on the panel accused her of being a narcissist because of her preaching style.
MacArthur then launched into a diatribe about how “the church is caving in to women preachers.” He went on to compare her to a TV jewelry salesperson and then went on to criticize the #MeToo movement.
MacArthur admitted to failing to study for his many teachings, multiple times. Pride is evident in his speech, because, according to him, he is so comfortable with bible knowledge that he could stand in front of a crowd and preach on just about any topic for an hour without breaking a sweat. Not the fruits of a spirit-filled man whose reliance is on the Spirit of God but the fruits of a man who has perfected a craft for personal gain and clout.
News later came out from a former member of his bible commentary team that MacArthur never edited nor added much to the commentaries and books he landed his name on. In some meetings, he was seen entering, looking over notes other scholars put together, agreeing to the structure and content therein, and then taking all the credit for the entirety of the commentaries in question. The commentaries I spent all those dollars on wasn’t even put together and written by the man whose name was on the cover and that’s embarrassing.
Its a well known fact that John Macarthur’s books are not written by John Macarthur, but by Philip R. Johnson at GCC.
I don’t see anything wrong with having research assistants or with making a concerted effort at marketing a book, that’s fine. I have students proof read my own stuff, I ask friends and colleagues for feedback, and get advice from editors. I also work hard at promoting my work on the blog, you.tube, social media, and the like because I hope what I have to say will influence and help others. However, there should be limits.
If you’re name is on the cover, then it means you wrote it, not your staff, secretary, assistants, lieutenants, executive officer, or minions. If you had help in putting the book together, then at least acknowledge the hard working men and women who worked so hard to make you look good.
If you’re book gets on a best seller list, its because people other than you, your church, and your lackey’s actually went out a purchased a copy for themselves.
MacArthur also hired ghostwriters to write his books. Not all of them but some. This creates an idea that MacArthur is a pastor, teacher, president, counselor, and scholar who isn’t much of any of those things at all.
John MacArthur, the man who I had shaped my biblical formation around for years, nearly a decade of my life, was himself a ghost of something or someone else. Perhaps he is a victim of his own doing, a victim of his pride.
Or, he is as culpable as the rest of them, those who take from widows, orphans, abuse victims without remorse. Trample the weak, malign the immigrant, minority, and women. Who mock and deride theologians who hold to different interpretations of the same texts. Who belittles media personalities because they’re famous. He stands tall above the church to inform his congregants that to mask up, social distance, receive a life-saving vaccine, and attend virtual services is to give in to fear.
As if Christ did not inform the woman at the well that worship is done in the Spirit and in Truth, not in a temple or an edifice.
But hubris is a hellish thing and MacArthur thrives on it.
This isn’t necessarily a case against MacArthur because he is simply one of the more prominent figures in a line of men just like him. And his disciples are everywhere. I mean it. Unapologetic brute force in the name of Jesus is the strategy and damned be anyone who thinks different.
Had I not distanced myself from this man’s anti-Christ teachings and habits, I would have possibly lost my faith in the true Christ of scripture and tarnished the image and name of my Lord even further with my unabated, unrepentant, unapologetic, unexpected, and unnecessary religious fundamentalism, which, thanks to MacArthur’s teachings, was sharpened just enough to cut everyone out of my life.
Jesus saved me. No doubt. MacArthur’s teachings, however, helped amplify my fears and my ignorance, pushing me onto the path of destructive hate for people that God loves and cares for.
The hate you teach, MacArthur, is not of God.
And it’s not Godly, then it’s… well… I’m sure you know.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. — Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Featured Image pulled from Grace To You’s website.