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John MacArthur's Romans 13 Problem

As we all know, Pastor John MacArthur has been taking a stand for religious liberty, taking on the Count of Los Angeles in court. LA has been attempting to shut down Grace Community Church, stripping away their Constitutional Rights. This expands beyond just this one church, as they are restricting all religious institutions from practicing their Constitutionally protected rights. Pastor MacArthur should be commended and applauded for taking this strong stand against governmental tyranny.

The question that a lot of people are not even considering, however, is why the sudden change? Up until right before Pastor MacArthur came out strongly against the government, he and his church had been preaching that churches need to submit to the government’s orders to close church, citing Romans 13. While I agree with Mac’s current position in resisting tyranny, I believe that it is imperative that he explain the theological change in his position.

Now, you might be asking, “Come on… show some grace! Stop ragging on the guy when he’s doing something good!” I’m not ragging on the guy, trust me. I’ve repeatedly been writing articles in support of Pastor MacArthur’s stand against Los Angeles. That does not change the fact that I believe it is the responsibility of Mac to explain theologically what has changed in his understanding of Romans 13 between April and now.

There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind! There’s nothing wrong with re-evaluating your position and shifting in your philosophy, theology or positions. We should always be taking a look at what we believe and see if there’s any area in which we need to change to align ourselves with God’s Will. With that said, when you are a prominent pastor with influences over thousands of churches across this country, it is imperative that he explain theologically what has changed in his understanding of God’s Word.

The problem with Pastor MacArthur and his ministry is that he rarely explains his changes in positions. I’ve pointed this out before, in his lack of explanation of Grace Community Church’s shifting in position on Interfaith Dialogue. This Romans 13 issue is an even more drastic example, however, because of how outspoken Mac has been on this issue, even just a couple months ago! The argument to submit to the government was always rooted in the exegetical understanding of Romans 13… so the question that he should be answering is what was wrong about his teaching before, what has changed in his understanding of that passage, what led to this new understanding. When your ministry is marketed as focusing exclusively on the Word of God, it is incumbent upon you to explain when your teaching changes on a particular issue.

I commend Pastor MacArthur for his newfound understanding of Romans 13. I support him in his stand against the County of Los Angeles demands to shut down church services. Kudos to JMac and Grace for FINALLY submitting to God rather than man.

However, because of his influence over churches around the world, he has a responsibility to point everyone back to Scripture for the purpose of properly understanding Romans 13. I pray that he’ll walk us through his theological shift in interpretation of this passage.


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