Though I’m currently on a reduced blogging schedule, I got tagged in for something special.
On July 19th, John MacArthur preached a sermon entitled We Will Not Bow.
It got no small notice online and has been posted all around the internet (and ‘the internet’ means ‘Facebook, Twitter, and WeChat’). I listened to the sermon a few days ago and, like many, found it to be a biblical breath of fresh air in what is quickly becoming an unsettling age.
MacArthur placed the recent supreme court decision in the light of spiritual reality. He commented on how Satan is behind the attack against the family in all its fronts (feminism, the sexual revolution, abortion, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, etc.). He reminded Christians that what they’re seeing is neither new nor abnormal. He went through several sections of the Old Testament and commented on how all the issues that we see today were all issues in Israel: homosexuality, transvestism, etc. He talked at length about various sexual issues as they were addressed in both the Old and New Testaments, and then commented on how those same issues have arisen to the forefront of public affairs in the last few decades. He quickly walked through Romans 1 and then, when he got to Romans 1:32, he stated that the reprobate mind is taking over our culture and will demand compliance. Before moving on to preach from 2 Thessalonians 1, MacArthur gave examples of Romans 1:32 that are already occurring or coming soon: churches losing their tax exempt status, Christian colleges losing their accreditation for not accepting the new morality, etc.
His sermon shocked everyone who listened.
Okay. I tell a lie.
It didn’t shock anyone. It agitated everyone.
Okay. I tell a lie.
It agitated one person. Shockingly, it was Joel McDurmon over at American Vision.
Okay. I tell a lie.
I’m not shocked at all. Someone at American Vision tends to get upset every time John MacArthur says anything. MacArthur breathes too premillennially.
McDurmon recorded his thoughts in an article over at American Vision. I’ll summarize the article for you:
1. McDurmon opened by summarizing the sermon as being “about social decline in general over the past decades” and went after MacArthur’s “worldview of premillennial defeat and pessimism in history”.
2. McDurmon suggested that MacArthur’s defeatism and pessimism comes as “a consequent belief of the premillennial worldview” where Satan reigns on earth and Jesus doesn’t reign, at least “in any significant way”, until the Millennium.
3. McDurmon corrected MacArthur’s theological puerility, saying “First, Satan does not hold this world in his hands, and he does not rule the world.” McDurmon’s reason was that Jesus said he had all power in Matthew 28:18 and also because Jesus said that Satan was going to be cast out in John 12:31. In other words, MacArthur has some basic facts about Satan dead wrong.
4. McDurmon further proved that Satan doesn’t rule the world by pointing to an article he wrote on ISIS (where his main refutation of conspiracy theorists is quoting Calvin’s Institutes 1.14.17–18). He then quoted Calvin’s Institutes 1.14.17–18 and quoted his own writing about the Calvin quote (from the ISIS article) for good measure.
5. McDurmon then pronounced this judgment:
For this reason, and I will say this only in passing, I do not believe that premillennial dispensationalists can truly bear the labels of Calvinist or Reformed. Aside from other issues of baptism or ecclesiology which could be debated, the assumption of Satan’s current sovereignty in this world alone conflicts with the basic presupposition of Christ’s current sovereignty with [sic] underlies Calvinism or Reformed theology. Thus, this position is not Reformed.
6. Following that, McDurmon jumped on MacArthur for not having “a clear understanding of the mandate for us to construct our society according to God’s Law in light of the great antithesis between God’s people and the waning kingdom of darkness.” He agreed with MacArthur on the role of the family, but he suggested that MacArthur is inconsistent because he “leaves open public schools as an option for the Christian.”
7. McDurmon closed off by implying that MacArthur doesn’t preach the whole great commission. He urged Christians to “not rest in our duty to shape law, government, and social ethics to conform to His word, let alone retreat from that duty.”
So, let’s respond to his response. I’ll ignore the theonomy hobby horse since I don’t want to plunge the Cripplegate into that battle. I’ll also ignore his whole “I do not believe that premillennial dispensationalists can truly bear the labels of Calvinist or Reformed.”
Okay. I tell a lie.
I’ll simply let the Bard express my thoughts:
I will address his two main objections: Satan’s rule and Public Schooling.
First I’ll look at his ideas about Satan:
1.Matt. 28:18 and MacArthur’s quote.
MacArthur said, “The Bible says Satan holds the whole world in his hands; the whole world lies in the lap of the evil one.“
McDurmon said, “Satan does not hold this world in his hands, and he does not rule the world.”
MacArthur was quoting 1 John 5:19, which says “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.“
Generally speaking as a rule of exegetical practice, the clear text interprets the unclear text. The passage that directly addresses the question at hand is the “clear text” and the passage that indirectly addresses the question at hand is the “unclear text.” Matthew 28:18 says nothing directly about Satan’s sphere of influence whereas 1 John 5:19 does. This doesn’t mean that 1 John 5:19 ‘trumps’ Matt. 28:18, but rather that 1 John 5:19 answers the issue at hand whereas Matt. 28:18 doesn’t.
2. John 12:31 and Satan’s casting out.
John 12:31 is a far better text, and one that is harder to deal with, but not impossible.
In a direct statement that appears to be in contradiction to a latter statement by the same author (1 John 5:19), one needs to ask some questions of the text to see whether the contradiction is apparent or actual (and here’s a hint: with the Bible the contradictions are always apparent).
2a. To what is the phrase “judgment of this world” referring?
Was the final judgment of the world what happened in John 12:31? Of course not.
So, what sort of judgment is implied?
I’d suggest that if it wasn’t the final judgment, then it was either some form of the final judgment or a precursor to the final judgment.
I’d also suggest that the second clause explains the first clause. The judgment of the world is in the casting out of “the ruler of this world.”
2b. So was the Satan, the ruler of the world, cast out of the world in John 12:31?
Not according to the apostle John.
John talks about Satan two other times in the book of John.
In John 14:30-31, Jesus says to his disciples “…the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father…“
Then, in John 16, Jesus speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit. He attempts to comfort the sorrowful hearts of his disciples and makes an interesting statement about what the Holy Spirit will do when he arrives. In John 16:8-11, Jesus says,
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.“
That seems to suggest that Satan would still be “the ruler of this world” after the ascension, but he would also be judged (1 John 5:19 also applies to this point).
2c. So when did the judgment of Satan occur?
Colossians 2:13-15 suggests an answer to that question:
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.“
I’d suggest that the “rulers and authorities” includes all the rulers and authorities, both human and otherwise.
That would also make sense with regards to the idea of what was being addressed John 12:31 and John 14:30-31 (namely Christ’s coming crucifixion).
2d. Is that judgment finished?
Well, Revelation 20:10-15 suggests that the final judgment is still a future event.
2e. So how was Satan “cast out” then in John 12:31?
I’d suggest that Satan was still active and powerful long after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Years after the event of the ascension, he was still active on earth, deceiving the unregenerate and causing trouble for believers (i.e. Acts 26:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2-3, 6:10, 1 Pet. 5:8, Rev. 12:9-12 etc.). Satan was, and is, still running the “world of men.” That being said, he also stands as already judged and his sentence is simply waiting to be carried out.
2f. How in the world does that makes sense? Does Satan have a kingdom on earth as well as Jesus or what?
Matt. 13:36-43 gives a little indication as to how the idea of Satan’s rule can be reconciled with what Christ says in Matt. 28:18. There are two forces at play on the same planet; two kingdoms represented. One kingdom is primarily manifest right now where as the other is far less so, but in the Millennium the tables will completely turn and Satan will be bound (his kingdom will still be somewhat present in the residual presence of sin, albeit in an almost undetectable way, until the end when he is released).
3. Calvin’s Quote.
I would suspect that MacArthur would fully agree with Calvin. Satan is under the power of God; he only does what the Lord allows him to do. It’s not like John MacArthur hasn’t spoken up about the topic over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
This all means that McDurmon’s first objection goes up in smoke, and his statement about premil dispies not being able to “truly bear the labels of Calvinist or Reformed” suffers a similar fate.
Second, I’ll look at his objection regarding public schooling:
1. Did MacArthur even mention public schools in the sermon in question?
2. What is McDurmon mad about then?
McDurmon’s complaint is that MacArthur has said “it’s acceptable for Christians to hand over their children to an unbelieving education system” in other places, like this. To quote MacArthur:
Is it wrong to put your children in a public school? Not necessarily. Is it right to put your children only in Christian schools—or home-school them? Not necessarily.
Remember that the ultimate responsibility for the proper education of your children rests upon you—the parents—not the school or the church (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4). Those two institutions are vital to a child’s overall development, but standards, convictions, and moral strength should be implemented at home.
Not everything is necessarily good or high quality because it is called “Christian,” nor is everything bad just because it is under the umbrella of public education. Parents need to be especially wise and discerning in that important area.
So, McDurmon is seizing the sermon as an opportunity to go after John MacArthur for things he said elsewhere. MacArthur’s big sin is that “MacArthur is a proponent of public schools”.
Is sending your kid to public school wise?
Is it sin?
Is MacArthur a proponent of Public schools?
No. Grace Community Church ran a Christian school for decades and supports other local Christian schools.
Is MacArthur’s encouragement for parents to be wise and discerning on all education fronts some sort of capitulation to Caesar?
Give me a break.
McDurmon’s second objection seems no more successful than his first.
After this all, it seems pretty clear what’s happening here.
John MacArthur had the audacity to say something loosely related to someone’s hobby horse (unknowingly, of course). This time, the theologically pettifogging party was Joel McDurmon. His intractable abhorrence for all the issues that MacArthur didn’t talk about (dispensationalism, premillennialism, public schooling) couldn’t be restrained, so he seized the opportunity to take whatever potshots he could under the guise of responding to a sermon.
Was McDurmon wrong in his accusations?
Will he admit any error at all or offer up any corrective measures?
I’ll hold my breath.
I’m also going to go eat some nachos. Phil. 4:13.