Updated: Aug 1, 2019
In my last post, I laid out the case for the need for Pastor John MacArthur to clarify his position on Interfaith Dialogues (IFD). I am not insinuating that White’s IFD was a type of liberal, ecumenical IFD. But I firmly believe that JMac needs to clarify to his followers (of which I consider myself) which IFDs are ok and which are not.
Phil Johnson and the Grace To You staff have stated contradicting statements that cause even more confusion when compared to the consistent Bible teaching of Pastor John MacArthur. Well, it just got even more confusing.
Phil Johnson, who is the Executive Director of Grace To You (which is Pastor John MacArthur’s teaching ministry), has been all over the place in his staunch defense of Mr. White.
Now, here’s the thing: Brannon Howse was the one who broke the story of the interfaith dialogue between James White and Yasir Qadhi. Brannon’s initial report was based on facts, and even said from day one that he appreciates much of the work of James White. However, when JW & Co could not refute him, they attacked him personally. The personal attacks against Brannon, especially by Phil Johnson, did nothing to refute any of Brannon’s claims, but was an attempt to discredit him without dealing with the issues.
Brannon has made it clear from the start that he was presenting from both the spiritual threat of IFDs and the national security threat. On the spiritual side, he interviewed by Usama Dakdok and Shahram Hadian. Usama grew up in Egypt, speaks Arabic, and has even translated the Koran from Arabic into English to expose Islam without the White-Washing. Shahram is a former Muslim from Iran who is now a Christian pastor. Brannon interviewed these experts for five radio shows and four TV shows, which included numerous clips from the first IFD of Mr. Qadhi and Mr. White, in context, for Usama and Shahram to refute.
Following this, Brannon discussed Scriptures from 2 John 9-11 & 2 Corinthians 6:14-17. Additionally, he included quotes from Pastor MacArthur breaking down 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 from a 2010 sermon entitled “Separating From Unbelievers.” While this sermon seemed pretty straight forward, this seemed to set off Phil Johnson for some unknown reason.
This gave everyone the impression that he was siding with Mr. White and that he felt that Brannon was wrong on the issue of IFD. He then continued the assault on Brannon with more attacking tweets.
In an email exchange between Phil and me, he explained that Brannon’s use of John MacArthur’s sermon was what caused him to enter this debate. However, he didn’t refute anything that Brannon was saying, but just made personal attacks, seemingly, to defend his buddy, James White. Was Brannon wrong to assume that 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 does not apply to the White-Qadhi IFD, in which James White said that he wanted to discuss “not only the differences, but the similarities” and that he wanted to create community with Muslims against secular society? He also stated that he wanted to co-author a book with the Imam to educate Christians about Islam, as well as have Qadhi make a video to show to Christians. Is that not what Pastor MacArthur would consider being “unequally yoked” or "entering into a spiritual enterprise"? Sadly, Phil Johnson has spent his time attacking Brannon Howse, a Christian man who has done years of research and homework on this issue.
“It has been a long-standing policy of mine that I don’t do formal debates with heretics and skeptics. I also would not participate in a public friendly dialogue with any gospel-denying religious leader. I don’t want to give equal time to false teachers or provide a platform that a purveyor of a false religion might use with the aim of proselytizing if there’s a risk I might not be able to answer definitively in the moment, or that people might be confused by it.”
“With regard to ‘dialogues,’ in all candor, I’m not really a fan of the softer, gentler style that dominates the typical friendly public confab between spokespersons for diverse religions. A friendly parley sacrifices the stark clarity you get in a vigorous debate.”
So here we are, with Phil seeming to agree with Brannon on his concerns over this IFD. So, if they share concerns, why did he have a problem with Brannon using a John MacArthur sermon to state the James White shouldn’t have participated in this sort of dialogue?
“As I said in answer to a question raised elsewhere, we would not sanction a public dialogue with a Muslim Imam (or any other person with an agenda to teach false religion) at Grace community Church. But neither are we sympathetic to the lynch-mob mentality that seems determined to use a disagreement such as this to discredit years of faithful ministry by Dr. White.”
I am unsure who is trying to discredit years of faithful ministry by Mr. White. I know that I’m not, and I have not seen any evidence of that in Brannon. Who is he referring to?
“This is, after all, a disagreement about strategy, not a dispute over the content of the gospel. It's quite true that the ends don't justify the means, but that is a truth that cuts both ways. Slander and exaggeration cannot serve the cause of truth. And to portray Dr. White as a wolf in sheep's clothing is a grotesque slander.”
Again, who is calling Mr. White a wolf in sheep’s clothing? I’ve not made that claim, and I have not heard Brannon make that claim. Am I missing something? There sure seems to be a lot of exaggerating and slanderous statements coming from someone who is claiming that Brannon is exaggerating and slandering.
When I shared my website on Twitter after my first two articles were posted, Pastor Johnson tweeted me the following:
Again, personal attacks instead of dealing with the issues. In this next tweet, Pastor Johnson states that IFDs are not "unbiblical."
In fact, not only are they not "unbiblical", but The Masters Seminary has participated in IFDs, according to fellow Grace To You worker Fred Butler.
Now comes the really confusing part:
Then, to add more confusion:
On one hand Phil states that he is not an advocate of "ecumenical" dialogue, but then follows that with a declaration that interfaith dialogue is mandated by Scripture, and exemplified by Jesus! I can clearly state that Jesus did not participate in the type of Interfaith Dialogue that James White participated in!
Then, to add to the confusion, the Internet Ministry Coordinator of Grace To You tweeted:
As you can see, Pastor Johnson has created a lot of confusion. In fact, with these last tweets, he has made the claim that Jesus Himself participated in IFDs! What started out as “I disagree with IFDs, but it’s not something I’m willing to criticize anyone over” has turned into “Jesus participated in IFDs.”
Now, just for clarification, I do not believe that Jesus participated in Interfaith Dialogues. At that time, the Jewish faith was the one true faith in the world. It was also the religion that Jesus was a part of. So how could Jesus have an INTERFAITH dialogue within His own faith? If anything, it was him confronting false teachers within the faith, not dialoguing with those outside of the faith!
Now, let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that Jesus was participating in Interfaith Dialogues. If Jesus participated in IFDs, don’t you think we should be, as well? Am I missing something, Pastor Johnson? How can you disagree with something that Jesus did? How can your church not be willing to participate in IFDs when you believe that Jesus set an example of IFDs? Again, there’s a lot of confusion coming out of the Executive Director of Grace To You.
This debate has been going on for over two months, now. The main reason it has been dragged out is because there’s new controversial statements coming from those defending Mr. White. I believe that it is way past due for Pastor MacArthur to release a statement clarifying his position on IFDs, as well as on whether he believes what Mr. White is doing with his dialogues are a biblical practice that we should follow. A statement by JMac would not have been needed if Mr. Johnson would not have interjected himself into this debate and created more confusion by not only contradicting JMac’s sermons, but also by contradicting himself. So now the question begs asking, “Has John MacArthur changed his position on IFD?"
People are confused about what is biblical and what is not, and Pastor Johnson has only made the matter worse. This needs clarification from John MacArthur, and I hope that he will do so in the near future. It is time for Pastor MacArthur to correct the confusion coming out of his own camp by the Executive Director of his Grace To You ministry.