Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Over the years, I’ve fought a number of polemical battles against ideas that threaten the gospel. This recent (and surprisingly sudden) detour in quest of ‘social justice’ is, I believe, the most subtle and dangerous threat so far.
John MacArthur has built a good reputation of being one of the most solid expositors of God's Word. He's accomplished this by his willingness to get into the fray, mix it up, and declare the truth in a chaotic world. Historically speaking, he’s always been willing to take a stand for truth, even at the expense of being labelled as divisive. No matter what issue you see confronting the church, we saw Pastor MacArthur preach from the Word of God, deciphering truth and error and explaining what God’s Word says about a particular topic. Whether it was tackling Catholicism, Word of Faith, Charismatics, evolution or any other number of topics, MacArthur was always the guy everyone looked at to be the final stand against error.
We saw this exemplified when the book Strange Fire was released, followed up by the Strange Fire Conference. While some say that he went too far, he was correct in his assessment of the WOF movement, and the need to separate from the promoters of this false Gospel. At that time, everyone was saying that the WOF is the greatest threat to the Gospel to date. The call was made for the good guys to stop lending their credibility to those compromising the Gospel. Stop sharing the stage. Stop going on their shows. Stop endorsing their books. Until they repent and come back to Biblical Christianity, stop lending your good name as credibility to continue to promote their false Gospel to the world.
This is why I shared my concerns about Pastor MacArthur preaching at the National Radio Broadcasters Convention. When you are featured on a poster alongside a blatant false teacher like Rick Warren and Catholic mystics Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, that’s definitely a concern! Now, to be fair, there is a small chance that he could stroll into the conference, walk right up on stage and lay into them all. Explain why they are false teachers promoting a false Gospel. Point out which pastors should and should not be listened to. The MacArthur supporters keep telling me that we don’t know what he’s going to do. We don’t know what he’s going to say. They say he has a track record that shows that we should give him the benefit of the doubt, as he’s taken numerous stands for truth.
That may be true, but there’s also a track record that we can be concerned with. We’ve seen Pastor MacArthur preach at the Together For The Gospel Conference over the years, alongside many men preaching Social Justice and Charismatic theology, such as John Piper, Matt Chandler and Thabiti Anyabwile. We’ve seen him preach at the Sing Conference, alongside Piper and the Social Justice Godfather Tim Keller. And the upcoming Sing! Conference lineup is no better. It's the most random collection of theological positions I've seen in a conference! John MacArthur, John Piper, Anne Graham Lotz, Jackie Hill Perry, Mark Dever, Trip Lee, HB Charles... and more!
Now, we are seeing him preach at the NRB Convention, which is featuring guys like Rick Warren, Roma Downey and many other false teachers. There was even the short-lived announcement where The Gospel Coalition was going to hold one of its big conferences at Grace Community Church and feature JMac as the main speaker, before there was a lot of outrage at the announced speakers and the elders finally made the right decision to cancel. There’s a track record here. And what makes this so concerning? Pastor MacArthur should know better.
Now we’ve come to an even more blatant decision: The Shepherds Conference Lineup. The lineup includes Social Justice promoters such as Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan and HB Charles. What’s the problem with this? How can the promoters of the Social Justice Statement claim that due to the social justice movement there's “an onslaught of dangerous and false teachings that threaten the gospel, misrepresent Scripture, and lead people away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ.” How can they be taking a stand against these compromises of the Gospel, and then turn around and invite the very men promoting this unbiblical belief system to INFLUENCE PASTORS at MacArthur’s annual pastors conference?
In the past, when concerns were raised regarding some of the conferences that Pastor MacArthur spoke at, the defense was that it’s not like he’s inviting them to speak at his own conference. You can’t hold him accountable for who someone else invites to speak at a conference. But now, here we are, AFTER MacArthur has taken his stand against the Social Justice Movement, he’s inviting these guys to preach at his own conference, which is designed to train pastors. This is extremely concerning.
Now, I’ve gotten a lot of blowback on my use of the term GOBC (Good Old Boys Club). I use this to show the mentality of particular pastors who are looking the other way when it comes to their friends, but wouldn't extend the same grace to someone not in their network. So, for example, at the Strange Fire Conference, Justin Peters made this statement about the “good guys” who share the stage with the WOF crowd:
It is a shame that prominent people, some of the supposed good guys are breaking metaphorical bread with the bad guys.
But isn’t the Shepherds Conference now breaking bread with the guys promoting Social Justice, which is “the most subtle and dangerous (threat to the Gospel) so far”?
So why do these pastors get a pass when they are huge Social Justice Warriors?
When Phil Johnson (the Executive Director of JMac’s teaching ministry Grace To You) was asked about why Pastor MacArthur doesn’t speak out against John Perkins, who is one of the most Social Justice minded pastors on the planet (maybe even more than Tim Keller?), the response given was:
I don’t think he’s said a word about Perkins’s current opinions. I do know that he has a deep, abiding (love) & respect for Perkins going back decades. And love covers a multitude of disagreements. Don’t look for JM to speak negatively about his longtime friend.
Never mind that Phil misquoted 1 Peter 4:8, which actually says that “love covers a multitude of sins” not “disagreements.” But the point is that, according to Phil, Pastor MacArthur is not willing to critique his longtime friend who is promoting Social Justice on steroids! He’s not willing to publicly confront serious theological attacks on the Gospel if it’s coming from a friend. This is literally the definition of GOBC. Now, I’m not saying that he has to trash Perkins, claim he’s a heretic and anathematize him. But with how prominent he’s been, as well as getting huge platforms with organizations like The Gospel Coalition, wouldn’t it be appropriate to share your concerns with his theology? Start out with something like, “I’ve been close friends with John Perkins for decades. I value his love for the Lord. But we must also be careful because some of his teachings are compromising the Gospel…” and then explain the concerns. Isn’t it more important to protect the church from dangerous threats to the Gospel?
Now, there’s another Grace To You staffer named Fred Butler. Fred was recently asked about the Shepherds Conference lineup. Here’s how he responded:
He’s not going to disinvite his friends. I mean, it’s people that he knows and has been personal friends with for years, and all of sudden he’s going to make some kind of big statement? You know, “You’re not going to come here because you have all this ‘Woke stuff.’"
This is the definition of GOBC behavior. It seems as if the argument is that John MacArthur and the Social Justice Statement guys will name names and talk a big game when it’s “those guys over there” that they have no relationship with, but as soon as it’s those within their own camp and their own friends in dangerous theological error, all of a sudden they can’t be expected to publicly share their concerns or name names. Just compare how strongly the Strange Fire guys (most of which are now Social Justice Statement guys) went after the Charismatics & Word of Faith leaders with how they are handling Social Justice. When it came to Strange Fire, they named names, separated from and publicly critiqued all of the prominent leaders of that movement. Why? There was virtually no relationship with those guys. But when it comes to Social Justice, there's none of the same critiques of the movement... why? Look at who is leading the way on Social Justice. Romans 16:16 tells us that we can't just stop at pointing out the bad theology, but we are to avoid those promoting the bad theology.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
If you are going to take a stand against what you call a “dangerous threat,” you have to be willing to warn the church about not only the false teachings, but also who is promoting this threat to the Gospel. If you are unwilling to do so, you never should have written the Social Justice Statement in the first place. Show us that you actually believe that Social Justice is dangerous. Put up or shut up.
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