John Macarthur vs. the Reformed Confessions

After purchasing a new book on Reformed Theology, one pastor friend looked at me warily and said, “Brod, be careful ha.” He was a John Macarthur follower. In fact, when I say that he is a Macarthur follower, I think I’m understating.  We call him actually, Pastor Perry Macarthur (not his real name of course).  To him, the measure of truth is John Macarthur and his teachings.  Whatever John Macarthur believes and teaches, he believes and teaches. He even translates Macarthur sermons in Filipino and preaches them regularly in his church.  His devotion to John Macarthur is to that extent. (And yes, and I have not even started yet.)

Now let me be clear: I have great respects for Pastor John F. Macarthur, Jr. In fact, a long-term agnostic like me was called back to the faith by the Lord thru the radio ministry of Grace To You. God used that radio ministry to call me from my disillusionment while I was a student in UP. Last 2000, I had the opportunity to go to California and one of the first things that I prioritized was visiting Grace Community Church.  I shook John’s hand personally and thanked him because his program was used by God to convert me to Christ.

I told him about this and it was my impression he held a sob in his throat as I was relating my story. Maybe I was in a emotional fit too. I was perhaps overreading but nonetheless, I was incredibly blessed to have met such a humble man.

And then because of the path that John Macarthur has helped carve in my life, I was led to Calvinistic doctrines (which I didn’t know are Calvinistic because John does not really cite Calvin that frequently as I remember).  And when you’re a Calvinist, one of the addictions you develop is the love for theology books.

I guess I could say I have read some. Not that many, I must admit. But let me say that I have gathered a library with at least 5,000 titles of Calvinistic books and commentaries. There are too many books and too little time. Most of the time, I just skim thru them, so please don’t quiz me. I’m just an armchair Calvinist.

But I guess that too has led me to part ways with Pastor Perry. I didn’t part with him. He parted from me. When a John Macarthurite (his term, not mine) like him meets someone who reads the Westminster Confession of Faith, somewhere there would be an explosion of sorts. And I could say, he was not just contented to forget about our friendship. He even resorted to tell others of my warts and all (idiomatically speaking). For example, he was even angry with me for believing that a divorce is at times necessary and biblical as the WCF says. In Section 24 of the WCF, it states:

Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. (Matt. 1:18–20) In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce. (Matt. 5:31–32) and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead. (Matt. 19:9, Rom. 7:2–3)⁠1

He did not agree with this. According to him and (of course, originally I suppose) according to the speakers of the sessions of the Shepherds’ Conference (which Pastor Perry supplied me before the age of downloads), there would be no divorce if there is forgiveness from the offended party.  “The book of Malachi says, God hates divorce, so it’s not allowable.” At one time, he added, “Only the hard-hearted do divorce! That’s according to Matthew.”

Of course he did not listen when I told him that in the case of adultery, the guilty party is the only one hard-hearted and not the innocent one. He counters, “When the innocent party decides to divorce, he/she in turn becomes hard-hearted, that’s why he/she seeks divorce.”

If there is genuine forgiveness, there would be no divorce. Tough.

Very Roman Catholic. To my opinion, very much unlike the Lord Jesus Christ’s exception on adultery as an OPTIONAL (but not necessarily an automatic) grounds of divorce. For Christians to forgive their spouses is expected. But just like the WCF says, I believe that the act of adultery gives the option to the innocent party to seek divorce. We must forgive because we have been forgiven. But forgiveness is not sine qua non to keeping the marriage.

I think what really angered Pastor Perry was when I cited R.C. Sproul’s line: “God hates divorce, sure! But God hates adultery all the more, that’s why He allowed divorce.” In biblical times, if you committed adultery, you would be stoned to death, which frankly is worse than being divorced. On answering a query about the forgiveness issue, RC even has a better example: “If you are a Church Treasurer and you stole the Church money, I will forgive you but please don’t expect me if I would not help you be Church Treasurer again.” I agree. Adultery is a breach of trust more sacred than a Church fund.

After a number of disagreements, Pastor Perry chose to part ways with me. That was almost five years ago. I didn’t want to but I guess for him, there is too much at stake when you are friends with someone who does not really agree with all the interpretations he makes on Macarthur’s teachings. I say his interpretations because I am not even entirely sure Macarthur is as angry as he is about this issue of divorce that he would leave his friendships with his fellow pastors like RC Sproul if they disagreed with him.

I think we call this ugly thing, fanaticism.  Some can go to that extent and it’s sad. I pray for Pastor Perry. I love him and sometimes I must admit, I miss him. But, he would not just forgive me for disagreeing with John Macarthur (IF John Macarthur’s stand is really that there should absolutely be no divorce, which I don’t think is, to be honest about it). Divorce is an absolute no. Pastor Perry believes that. And for him, that is also the never-changing infallible teaching of God: NO DIVORCE, NO EXCEPTIONS.

Now, please don’t make the mistake that I’m espousing divorce, period. I believe that there are exceptions though that makes divorce valid. (And besides, I’m happily married.) I’m sad for Pastor Perry though. I think he has gone to the extent where it is unhealthy spiritually speaking. I don’t think he even gets Macarthur on this issue. Nonetheless, he would die on every hill, especially if he believes that hill was stepped on by John Macarthur.

Now, what reminded me of him recently was because of a discussion I had in a group. I’m a member of a Reformed Forum in which one thread of discussion went like this: John Macarthur belongs to a false church because his church does not satisfy the ‘marks of the true Church’ in the Belgic Confession. According to some in this forum, one of the marks that makes John Macarthur’s church false is that it does not practice infant baptism. The Belgic Confession in Article 29 states:

The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in chastening of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself.⁠2

Now, I can accept that John Macarthur’s church is not a true Reformed church given the leanings of the Reformed confessions. But to say that John Mac’s church is a false church all in one-go, is too much. Even for the sake of discussion, if hypothetically I agree that infants should be baptized, I could not say to a Credobaptist that he belongs to a false church just because he does not baptize infants. And in fairness, the Belgic Confession does not say, “If a church does not practice infant baptism, it is a false church.” Granted, that the Belgic Confession says that the true church, “maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ” as opposed to the false church, the Credobaptist can just as much the same say, “It is the Paedobaptists that do not maintain the sacraments as instituted by Christ.” This has been the debate for centuries.  And mind you, the debate has not been resolved by having the Reformed people calling the Credobaptists, belonging to the ‘false church’ because they do not baptize infants.

Instead, I am elated when parties on the opposite sides of the fence, agree to celebrate what the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is, in spite of their differences. (Please tune the, where they do not forget what their confessions say but they do exchange their differences winsomely without cruel talk, without calling themselves belonging to the true and the false. One is a Lutheran, one is a Baptist, and two are Reformed Professors.) It’s one of the rare places on earth where the great King is the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of their confessional differences. They do disagree, and I believe they must, but they don’t call each other belonging to the ‘false church’ because they differ.

Should we also say, "If it's not Belgic, it ain't Church?"

It’s one thing to use and even believe that the King James Version is the only Bible translation inspired by the Almighty Lord God, but it’s another thing to denigrate and call all others as ‘false translations’ publicly and openly just because they don’t fit your learned criteria.

In the same note, I believe that to be generalizing and to be jingoistic of those who do not share John Macarthur’s teachings is wrong. Pastor Perry does no ‘fellowship’ with the Reformed folks. I think if we reach the point where Pastor Perry has went, that’s already fanaticism. But I think I could say that too for some in the Reformed Confessions. To be jingoistic and generalizing about those who do not share the Reformed teachings to the extent that you say John Macarthur’s church is a false church is wrong too.  It’s very much like Pastor’s Perry’s fanaticism. It’s ugly. It’s sad but true: there are Pastor Perrys on every side of the fench. Yes, even on the side that calls itself Reformed.


1 The Westminster confession of faith. 1996 (Chapter XXIV, 5). Oak Harbor, WA:

2 Historic Creeds and Confessions. 1997  (Article 12). Oak Harbor:

A World Stuck on Feelings

Slowly but surely for so many times now, I’m realizing the truth of something  warned by the books I read: We have become a culture that puts priority on feelings. Truth is secondary. People are secondary. Virtues are secondary. What is all-important is feelings. Feelings generate money.

I remember a marketing guru, who asked, “Do you want to sell a product? Then, be ready to create demand.” It’s not necessary if the demand is real. At least it must be perceived. Whether true or not is secondary. “And then what really would sell it is the feeling of exclusivity, of the superiority of owning it….THAT would sell the product.”

This may be an effect of entertainment. Yesterday, I saw a program in TV detailing the life of a matinee idol who was riding a Jaguar attending to his restaurant businesses. He came from a poor family. It’s a blessing to see a rags-to-riches story. But I wonder how many rags can accomplish a story like his? And then when you think deeper, his business success was fueled by his role as an actor. Entertainment! The money maker of today. What buys a Jaguar? Businesses that pay commercial spots on soap operas, sports, films, and TV programs that stimulate our feelings.

I remember reading a book by Neil Postman long time ago titled, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

It might have been decades since I read that, but I remember him saying in effect: TV has made an entire world dumber.

Which is very sobering because, we all know it: when we are dumb, our refuge are our feelings.

And as if that is not enough, now there is Facebook. It makes us dumb and dumber as a lot of articles say.

We have become narcissists; loving all that is inside of us. Feelings, thoughts, image. Mostly, feelings. That is why Facebook is successful. That is why I have my facebook page.  I too, am in love with myself. In all my years of reading, I have come to the conclusion that the enemy of man is himself. That deep within us is a drive to destroy ourselves. To kick the goads. Never mind if it wounds me, as long as it feels good. In the medical circles, we call that masochism. Everybody does it. Sometimes though, the good news is, some people wake up from it. But as far as me observing the world, all of us are in a stupor. We revert into it most often. We are, most of the time professional sleepwalkers.

Sometimes even, I’ve been asked to speak about Christ and Christianity, there is still residual rebellion to the idea that my life is not really mine. I mean, just from stating the idea alone: My life is not mine, is like an oxymoron. But you know, when you believe there is a God, you have to accept that He created you and being a created being, the Creator must have a purpose. And this hurts: Sometimes His purpose is not what you really want.

Most of our society’s impulse is to believe we are made to enjoy the world. That is in a way true. The first article in the Westminster Confession ask: What is the chief end of man? And it answers: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. One way to enjoy God is to enjoy His creation – enjoy nature, enjoy the company of creation, enjoy the taste of food and enjoy the opposite sex as a partner. And then with a thankfulness, we eventually love the Lord all the more. What happened is that we stopped at the point of enjoying creation and its produce. God is left in a cathedral waiting for us every Sunday. We even have corrupted our enjoyments. We have become excessive. And as if that is not enough, we have come to the point of perverting even how nature should be appreciated by us. (It has come to the point even that saying two males should never cross their swords in bed is considered politically incorrect.)

And this is all because we don’t want to have our enjoyments meddled by a God with whom we should be accountable. We just want the ride, man. Forget about buying the ticket. We don’t want a God who wants to be King. We don’t want a God who will say, What I want should happen, not yours turkey. We want a God who respects us. Who gives us want we want. We don’t exactly want a Santa Claus, we want a Butler Santa Claus. One who would make us feel good, not do good. To do His bidding, and not the other way around.

And all of us would prefer dozing off. Entertainment pumps our adrenalin but it soporifizes (to put to sleep, ooohh I love highlighting my first use of it) thinking.

Oh, I better stop. This doesn’t feel good at all.