Posts Tagged ‘John MacArthur’

Doug Pagitt: I would like a response.

Wow. Two posts in one day.

Have to post about this. Some of you who read here also read about this at Pyromanics. John MacArthur was on CNN a short while ago debating about whether Christians should engage in yoga with Doug Pagitt (apparently another pastor of note, I am not familiar with him).

MacArthur was crisp and straightforward, as usual, insisting on the sufficiency of Scripture and warning against mysticism as a means to godliness. Pagitt hemmed and hawed and insisted that Jesus didn’t say anything against yoga and that he could find no Scriptures specifically forbidding it. The segment was brief. Not much more was said.

Just after they went off camera, Pagitt spoke with the attendant, still on mic, wherever he was being put on camera. Padgitt himself put the audio on his podcast. He mocks John and insults him by apologizing for him and insults the sufficiency of Scripture.The Pyromaniacs put the audio up.

Listen to it here.

I personally felt compelled to ask him where he was coming from. I posted a comment on his blog. There were a few comments other than mine, along the same line, probably more sternly worded. I went back to see if there was any reply, and he had closed the comments entirely, removing them from view.

Doug Pagitt, if you are going to post that kind of material yourself, I think it’s the right thing to do not to hide from the inevitable criticism. You can have your theological and practical differences, but you took cheap shots at another pastor, behind his back.

I’d barely heard of you before now. No doubt you are influential in the emergent movement. I’m sure that’s why Headline News tapped you for the piece on yoga. What I understand of the emergent movement is that it moves the authority of Scripture out from center stage. Your comments confirmed this. I also understand that the movement puts such stress on authentic personal experience that it is ONLY personal and shies away from objective claims of truth. Your argument on Headline News confirms this. I further see the movement as rebelling against stodgy orthodoxy to the point of being flippant toward dissenting views. Your podcast underlines this as well.

Please feel free to respond to the comment I left on your blog.


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Yes, you read it correctly. In college I majored in psychology with a minor in applied statistics. I originally moved to Nebraska as a graduate student in counseling psychology. Shortly after I was born again, and immediately began seeing the conflicts between the humanism of psychology and the Bible’s testimony about human nature. After a short period of trying to find a way to follow my Biblical convictions and maintain working in my field of training, I decided that as a Christian I had to leave the field entirely.

The place of Christians in the field of psychology is another discussion for another time. I believe that behavioral fields of psychology, while overly complex, do a good job at organizing and describing behavior. Biological fields of psychology, though they reduce man to a sophisticated animal, does a good job of studying the brain and how it works. Really, the main problem with psychology (and a fatal problem at that) is not in describing or even predicting behavior, but in explaining it. Since psychology depends on the basic principle that man is good, all explanations of motive and thought processes must be wrong. Psychology does well with the outside, but fails with the inside because its assumptions about human nature are wrong.

My reason for bringing up my education is this: I have been gaining a much greater understanding lately of how the Bible describes the inner working of the mind. There have been several sources for my increased understanding, such as Jonathan Edwards and my exposure to Puritan thinking. I’ve always seen that while psychological models for behavior are too complex in their human foolishness, the Biblical model is simple.

But what is that model?

In a word (no…three words!): intellect, affections, and will.

Or, as we call them in the Fudge household: the knows-it, the wants-it, and the does-it.

The division of the human mind in this way is implied in Scripture. John MacArthur, in “The Gospel According to the Apostles (Faith Works)” breaks it down beautifully from Hebrews 11. I’ll get back to the subject soon to break it down in greater detail, but in short it goes as follows:

  1. The intellect is the rational mind that assesses things on the basis of truth. Intellect deals in information. Intellect identifies things we know to be right and wrong and submits its opinion to the will. The intellect can be deceived or over-ridden, but is always a participant.
  2. The affections are the emotional element of the mind. Affections respond to the information gathered by the intellect as generate desire or repulsion. Affections also place pressure on the will to seek out or to turn away.
  3. The will is that part of the mind that produces action. The bases its decision on the appeals of the intellect and the affections.

Normally, the intellect informs the affection, and the affections move the will. the intellect tells the Christian that something is sinful, and the affections drive us to avoid that thing.

However, sin short-circuits this process. For example, the intellect may inform the affections that lust is sinful, but the affections sinfully long after that object of lust and motivate the will to pursue the object, and adultery is the result.

This understanding of the mind is invaluable as we seek to mortify sin, especially the MANY ways that sin attempts to interrupt and hijack the process. I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts with you as I seek to understand myself more.


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An open letter to rancor.

Recently I’ve been reading some response on this here internet about John MacArthur’s message at this year’s Shepherd’s Conference, titled “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillenialist”. Most of it was pretty negative. I’ve been to two Shepherd’s Conferences (2004, 2005) and they’ve been awesome. I’d go every year if I could. There have been some great messages, but none so eyebrow raising as this one. A friend who attended called soon after to talk about it, as the response at the conference, apparently, was immediate.

I’ve since listened to the message myself. Now, I’m not one to say that no feathers should have been ruffled. It was a pointed message on an important topic delivered at an influential time. It was his “home court” and yet there were plenty of non-dispensational types in the crowd, including guest speakers. John did not dance around the point, and in addition to all the surrounding issues of theology, he drilled on the key issue of hermeneutics. i don’t know that I could ever have the guts to do it they way that he did it, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. In any case, he did it.

Let’s be clear on one point: John MacArthur doesn’t need me to defend him. and yet, seeing the nature of much of the criticism out there, I have been really disappointed by the reaction. In light of this, there are several points that I would like to underscore for my Reformed friends (and I do mean friends):

  1. Many respondents out there need to back away from the accusations of arrogance, John is absolutely confident, absolutely sure of himself on issues like these. Given his place in the public view, he has no choice. He cannot afford to go forward on theses issues if he isn’t 100% in. That goes for any teacher worth their salt in the public eye. I’ve seen several of his Reformed guests at the Shepherd’s Conference speak the same way on issues such as Arminianism, “4 point Calvinists” and post-modernism. People who have not met him, or an person, should be careful about making such personal attributions.
  2. We all need to remember that the very reason John has Reformed theologians like RC Sproul, Mark Dever, John Piper etc, is because of their common stance on the doctrines of sovereign grace like election and the rest of Calvin’s 5 points regarding salvation.
  3. As a dispensationalist, John (and my church) is in the minority in his stand for those doctrines of sovereign grace. He has allied himself with them because these doctrines have everything to do with the gospel, and THAT has led him to split with those who SHARE his eschatology.
  4. While many were upset at John for preaching his own eschatology at his own conference in front of Reformed guests and speakers, other speakers have preached prophetic passages themselves at John’s conference. In 2005, while I was attending, Al Mohler taught on the subject of revival in the church from Ezekiel 37 (“the dry bones live”). When dispensationalism is taught, that passage is looked to as a classic example of diverging interpretation. I was sitting there thinking “I wonder if John knew he was going to preach that passage?”. I don’t think that he did. He did before the next session, however, politely underscore the dispensational highlights from the passage.

People seriously need to relax. Too bad most of them won’t.

Personally, before I had actually taken the time to own eschatology for myself, I was intimidated by Reformed people that I met. I tried to make it into a gospel issue. I probably would have declined to do ministry with them. My resistance masked my own ignorance. Since then I have studied it and made my decision.

Something else that happened to me was that I got into reading church history, and saw the way that most dispensationalists had also abandoned the doctrines of sovereign grace. By emphasizing the shift from the dispensation of law, they have rejected the holistic nature of God’s work in salvation and divorced moral regeneration from the new birth. THAT is something I cannot abide. THAT is something I will contend for and divide over. THAT is something that makes my blood boil.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that the hermeneutics issue between Reformed eschatology and dispensationalism (I’m am not classically dispensational, I acknowledge a greater degree of continuity), is VERY important. It’s something I care to discuss, in person, from time to time. I just want to remind so many that we must take great care to maintain our theological friendships for the greater glory of Christ in His gospel.

Whew. That’s enough CAPS for one day.


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Some thoughts about the mortification of the flesh, gleaned from the book study hosted in my home with some of the students in the high school ministry. Many of the students were noting the extreme positions that people take in dealing with their sin. They tied some points of note in the Kris Lundgaard book “The Enemy Within” together with things they pulled from John MacArthur’s “The Gospel According to the Apostles”.

“The Enemy Within” is a modern day re-working of John Owen’s “Mortification of Sin”. “The Gospel According to the Apostles” deals with the issue of “Lordship Salvation”, that is, does salvation necessarily entail fruit, is repentance part of the gospel, can one take Jesus as Savior without taking Him as Lord? Both books, the students pointed out to my pleasure, run parallel on the issue of sanctification.

One one hand, MacArthur laments that many people who claim to be Christians believe that spiritual growth may never occur. They accept living in a state of total moral defeat without pausing to question their profession of faith. They are comforted by their professions of faith, undaunted by the lack of further evidence of salvation.

On the other hand, Lundgaard point out that the battle to mortify our flesh is never over, and our flesh comes after us even when we are at our best. Christians never rest. Regrettably, many Christians who do believe that saving faith is followed by fruit are in a state of denial about their flesh. They declare premature victory. They don’t take their sin as seriously as they should because they think they are supposed to pretend it isn’t there.

What I added to the student’s observations, is that most every theological issue in history is mostly populated on either extreme of that issue. It is like a swinging pendulum, and most people end up clustering on one far side or the other.

In the issue of personal holiness, the one extreme is to accept living in total defeat. The other extreme is living in willful ignorance of the battle. Both extremes are equally harmful.

I think that the ultimate example of how to approach the mortification of the flesh is found in Romans 7:15-25:

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

Here are a few points toward a balanced view of mortification:

  1. Humble yourself; you are a sinner and you sin.
  2. Don’t become comfortable with your sin.
  3. Don’t flag in your disgust with your sin even though the fight is lifelong.
  4. Work hard at the practice if resisting the flesh.
  5. Be assured that victory through the Spirit is assured.



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First of all, my back STILL hurts. I know many of you have been anxiously awaiting word on my physical condition. I don’t know what I did, but it’s definitely different than anything I’ve done before. I’m getting to be an expert. Here’s a checklist: pinched nerve, pulled muscle, slipped vertebrae, herniated disc. Any yes: I did take the needle once. I’m such a mess.

I’m inconvenienced but mostly functional, despite my charismatic aquaintance’s best effort to invoke the power of Jesus’ name. I’m starting to think that she should have invoked Jesus’ name to tell me to go see a chiropractor or a doctor, or take a muscle relaxer or something. She would have been met with the same result. Trust me.

All this talk about my near-miss unsolicited attempt at faith-healing has had me thinking about the nature of miracles, such as healing. I’m not going to lay out an argument for cessation (the belief that the miraculous gifts such as healing, tongues, and prophecy have stopped), but I do want to point out a few things from Scripture to help you out:

1.) Miracles in the Bible were always thorough, complete, and unmistakable. This was so much so that the Jesus’ political enemies only disputed the SOURCE of His power (Saying He was in league with Satan) , not the fact of His miracles (Matt 12:24). Blind men saw, the lame walked, demons were cast out, and so on. None of this business about back pain or neck aches. None of this business about seeing someone “out there” and then claiming responsibility for someone’s claim of being healed.

2.) Miracles drew attention to crucial points in God’s developing plan for humanity. Moses in the desert, Elijah, and Christ all worked at key times for the unveiling of God’s plan on the earth. A study of the distribution of miracles in the Bible reveals that those miracles came in intense and sporadic bursts, being a call to attention for God’s elect.

3.) The effectiveness of miraculous gifts do not rest upon the faith of the person who is to be healed. Faith healers will claim that failure to heal is the fault of the sick. When Jesus healed ten lepers (Luke 17), only one of the lepers demonstrated faith. In the book of Hebrews, the writer addresses many in chapter 6 who have fully experience the miraculous works of the apostolic age and yet are ready to fall away.

4.) Miracles are first and foremost done to glorify God and teach us about Him. Our benefit from miracles is secondary at best. Look at Matthew’s outlay of miracles in the first several chapters. Jesus shows his power over sickness, blindness, nature, and even demons. the message is the Jesus is Lord over all. Every miracle, like his manna0from-heaven discourse from John 6, is an object lesson about HIM.

There could be a lot more said about the nature of Biblical miracles. These are thought I have reflected on since my encounter last week. In timely fashion, I also listened to a message by John MacArthur about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He essentially says that while the charismatic movement claims to exalt the Holy Spirit, it actually quenches the Spirit. By placing emphasis on the outward power of the spirit, it neglects the inward ministry of the spirit in illuminating the Scriptures for believers (1 Cor 2:12-13), transforming us into the likeness of Christ (Rom 8), and interceding for us (Rom8:26).

What is especially ironic to me is the way that charismatics de-value the Scriptures, which the Holy Spirit illuminates for us, by denying the sufficiency of Scripture with their continuing prophecies. The Scriptures claim to be enough for believers to live on (2 Tim. 3:15-16) and yet charismatics seek more. The de-emphasis on Scripture results in chaotic church life, looking more like a roller coaster than a freight train.

That said, I will glorify God by struggling to rely on His Spirit for my sanctification, acknowledging my weakness and depending on Him. The ministry of His Spirit in me is obvious because of the work of sanctification He has done in me.

And my back STILL hurts!


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King Jesus the Deliberate

Lately, it seems as though every time I get the opportunity to study the life of Jesus, I end up even more impressed with Him than before. Mind you that I’ve looked at the gospels my fair share of time and been pretty much unmoved. I admit this to my shame. But lately this hasn’t been the case.

John MacArthur taught the Prodigal Son last year at the Shepherd’s conference. He digested a two month or so series into one night, and he nailed it. I’d often been uncertain about the true meaning of this parable, but now I will always remember. How incredible it was. Jesus taught about the nature of God, the nature of sinners, and the nature of the legalistic Pharisees with one beautiful, yet complex story.

My own pastor was going through Matt. 22 and I was again impressed with Jesus’ ability to fend of every attempt to trip Him up. He showed Himself to be the seat of Truth, sovereign and unshakable.

The other night I listened to a teaching of Matt. 14, famous for the feeding of the 5,000 and the account of Jesus walking on water, and Peter’s failure to do so. One thing that stood out to me was how deliberate Jesus was.

We should never take a single word in Scripture for granted, as easy as that is. One word we all tend to overlook as at the beginning; as in the FIRST word. In the NAS the first word is “immediately.” “Immediately looks back to the previous account in which the disciples do not anticipate Jesus’ ability to feed the 5,000. After this miracle, they still don’t reach the right conclusion. They should not have been surprised. they should have thought of it first, instead of obeying Jesus’ request. But they didn’t.

So right away (“Immediately”) Jesus tells them to get into a boat and put out to sea. Why did I never read this and simply ask, “Huh? Why did he do that? That seems strange.” Further, He then goes up the mountain to pray. Again, I don’t know why I never asked ‘Why?” before. What’s more, he left them there for at least 9 hours, during the middle of a raging storm!

Now, the angle every single preacher always takes with this is that “We should all be trying to step out of the boat like Peter!” It’s always made out to be about “stepping out in faith” whatever that means. I think that is a superficial reading of this passage. This account is not about trusting God when He asks us to take risks. Sure you can derive that lesson, but what is the primary purpose? Something else is going on here.

Jesus is deliberate. Noting their failure at the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus drives the point home to them that as the Messiah, He is the Son of God. He is Sovereign over the fish and bread, and He is sovereign over the waves. The disciples did not get that they were walking with God in human flesh. The whole gospel message would be meaningless if the foundational messengers did get this crucial truth. And boy did they get it. the worshipped Him, calling Him the “Son of God.”

Jesus accomplished this by designing a trial for this very purpose. He wasted no time. He primed them for learning by putting them is a situation which begged for explanation. He heightened their readiness to learn through the length of the ordeal, and then without even having to state His point the point was made.

That’s pretty incredible.

The smallest bits of Scripture are indeed often the critical part of interpreting correctly. As I study Jesus more, I see how deeply the Gospels are permeated with meaning. And the more I understand Jesus, the more I am compelled to humble myself and obey Him.


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The Irish Calvinist gets credit for guessing the latest riddle here at Ikonograph. To jog your memories, the riddle was ‘What are the only man-made objects in heaven?” The answer is “the holes in Christ’s hands and side.” Our beloved Irish Calvinist guessed “the nails” but he basically got it. This riddle is drawn from the fact that the resurrected Christ appears to his disciples in glorified form with His wounds from Calvary intact:

“Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:27)

Since He had these wounds in His eternal, glorified state, we can conclude that those wounds will be an eternal reminder of His great sacrifice as we rub shoulders with Him in heaven!

I want to give a shout to all our brothers who are attending the Shepherd’s Conference at Grace Community Church in California. The conference, put on by John MacArthur’s church is incredible. I have been twice and I describe it as a caffeine fueled sanctification rampage. There is so much to learn, but the teaching is so incredible that you gorge yourself on theology and cutting edge issues in the church. Not to mention the musical worship that is incredible.

Maybe the best thing about the conference for me is seeing that it isn’t just our church that holds such strong convictions about the commandments of the Scriptures. People have come from all over the world and managed to come to the same convictions. It is refreshing to know that we are not alone in the world.

It is also a reminder that sanctification is hard work, and that knowledge and wisdom, both, must be pursued aggressively. We have to go after the best teaching and devour it if we expect to make a significant difference for God. We must always be presenting ourselves to God’s armory, to see that our sword is sharp, and our breastplate and helmet are intact.

Praise God for the ministry of Grace Community church and for the ocean of faithful pastors who attend!

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