How John MacArthur Might Sound if He Were a Reformed Protestant

Tim Challies enables (thanks to Aquila Report):

I don’t think, however, that this issue is unclear in Scripture. The fact that Christians disagree on what the Bible teaches does not mean that there is a lack of clarity in Scripture, but rather in Christians. The Word of God is our authoritative rule for faith and practice—meaning that it is perfectly sufficient for teaching sound doctrine and governing right living. Certainly, an orthodox pneumatology sacramental theology fits under that umbrella.

On the one hand, I would agree that this is a second-level doctrinal issue—meaning that someone can be either a Baptist continuationist or a Reformed Protestant cessationist and still be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. I have always maintained that position, and I reiterated that point several times during the conference. I have good friends who consider themselves continuationists Baptists, and I am confident that these men are fellow brothers in Christ. But that doesn’t excuse the seriousness of the error. In fact, I would appeal to my Baptist continuationist brethren to reconsider their views in light of what Scripture teaches.

On the other hand, I am firmly convinced that this secondary issue has the very real potential to taint a person’s understanding of the gospel itself. In such cases, it becomes a primary issue. For example, Baptist charismatic theology does corrupt the gospel when it expresses itself in the form of the prosperitya free-will gospel. Moreover, the global Baptist charismatic movement happily shelters other erroneous heretical movements—such as Southern Baptists Catholic Charismatics and American Baptists Oneness Pentecostals. Taken together, the number of Baptists charismatics who hold to a false form of the gospel (whether it is a gospel of revivalism and free will health and wealth or the Openness of God in some form a gospel of works righteousness) number in the hundreds of millions, which means they actually represent the majority of the global Baptist charismatic movement. That is why we took such a strong stand both at the conference and in the book.

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30 thoughts on “How John MacArthur Might Sound if He Were a Reformed Protestant

  1. DGH,

    You need to learn to play nicely and share the Reformed toys found in Scripture, like limited atonement and cessationism.

    And also learn why others refuse to play with your other toys, like sacramental theology, holding their noses firmly between fore-finger and thumb. It has do with source.

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  2. Ted Bigelow wrote: “And also learn why others refuse to play with your other toys, like sacramental theology, holding their noses firmly between fore-finger and thumb. It has do with source.”

    GW: I suspect that sometimes the reason why we Reformed (who are, by definition, paedobaptists in our sacramental theology) don’t always “play nice” with our Baptist brethren is because the Baptist position in effect unchurches and excommunicates paedobaptist believers and paedobaptists churches (which is to say, the vast majority of believers and the vast majority of professedly Christian churches throughout the vast majority of Christian history) from the visible church catholic.

    On Baptist sectarianism versus Reformed catholicity, see: http://lakeopc.net/2013/baptist-sectarianism-vs-reformed-catholicity/

    A case for infant baptism: http://lakeopc.net/2013/a-case-for-infant-baptism/

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  3. So funny. But I had to read it twice to work out what was going on.

    I begin by noting the irony that free-will theology originated among sprinklers of infants.

    I then note (per GW) that the baptist un-churching of congregations of sprinklers of infants is intentional and deliberate but much less systematic than it ought to be. As is the confessional Presbyterian commitment to any kind of emphasis on the sin of neglecting our baptism, which nicely returns the favour and evens the score.

    And I conclude by noting (per DGH) that unlike baptists, who misrepresent the gospel when they err into free-will-ism, presbyterians err when they stick to their confession and its supporting texts: remember that the Directory for Public Worship tells the minister to state that the child is a Christian, and federally holy, and THEREFORE is baptised.

    I’d like to know how many of the contributors to this blog believe that believers’ children are baptised BECAUSE THEY ARE ALREADY Christians?

    And finally I’d add that here in Ireland it’s the case that the majority of people who hold to revivalism and free-will-ism are Presbyterians of one sort or another. With a few other admirable exceptions, the handful of “Reformed” baptist outposts represent the last stand for orthodoxy on this island …

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  4. OOH! This looks like a fun game. I wanna play!

    “On the one hand, I would agree that this is a second-level doctrinal issue—meaning that someone can be either R2K or a Reformed Protestant and still be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. I have always maintained that position, and I reiterated that point several times during the conference. I have good friends who consider themselves “two kingdom,” and I am confident that these men are fellow brothers in Christ. But that doesn’t excuse the seriousness of the error. In fact, I would appeal to my R2K brethren to reconsider their views in light of what Scripture teaches.

    My problem with Hart specifically is that he seems to use Presbyterian distinctions as a stick to beat people with. Now, I agree Baptists aren’t Reformed. Yet I get the idea that Hart presents baptism like it is a wet yarmulke, a socio-religious marker that shows that Presbyterians are a special tribe above everyone else. In fact, I get the idea that he is driven more by a quest to escape the American Baptist subculture than a drive to see proper sacramentology explained.

    In short, I don’t want the Baptists to go away. I want them to convert! Let them confess the confessions and become Presbyterian! Of course, if that would happen, that would bring the riff raff into the church. Of course Hart was a cradle fundamentalist, so he is one of the very people he now seeks to avoid.

    Let me be clear: I’m not saying that Baptists as Baptists are “Reformed.” On that Hart is correct. But my approach is different. Baptists are like a mission field. We should teach them and convert them.

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  5. isn’t it a matter of who got there first? ie, if you go into a group that waters infants born to at least one parent professing to believe the gospel, and then you start questioning this, then this is a sectarian and anti-catholic thing to do? On the other hand, if you go in a baptist group that commits the sin of not watering the next generation (not the next after that) of children born in the covenant (with possibility of being cursed, excluded out, names erased, etc), and in good catholic concern, you point out this great sin, then in that place and in time, this also is a sectarian gesture?

    So what’s the solution? Paedos should stay in their own place, and if they come over here, that must mean that they have repented? And the other way around also—since they just copied all the good stuff in their confessions from us in the first place, we were here first, and if they come here that means they are now repenting. Or else, they are here to cause trouble. Not that we now cut off their ears, since the confessions have been revised, but as long as they don’t claim to be the same as us, then we shall go on claiming to do everything they can do (the watering of pagan converts, without a parent but only a grandparent) plus also the normative kind of water, which is not to be done if an infant has already been circumcised ( which is the same as water baptism).

    So you see, it’s not a two sided thing, since we are correct but also catholic and not intolerant (like they are). The baptists not only won’t do what we do, but on top of that, (and this is something different) on top of that, they are so sectarian they won’t even accept it after we do it. Can you imagine that–not only not doing it, but not even rejoicing in our having done it? I mean, that would be like a pacifist who won’t kill to show who’s sovereign, and then on top of that, that pacifist not even supporting the troops who will kill to show who’s sovereign, I mean the least they could do is be grateful to us for killing for them for their sake for their right to speak so why don’t they shut up? I mean, ok, they got these funny scruples about infant water, but if they were in the least catholic, they would accept the infant water, after all we didn’t do it, God did it, since we have the marks of the true chruch and they don’t, so why can’t the baptists at least accept infant water if they themselves won’t do it, just like we even accept the infant water the Romanists do …

    or perhaps religious liberty (“cafeteria” pluralism) is something different from “catholic tolerance”

    “New England Reformed tolerance” limited “conscience” to those who had been correctly instructed, and I can tell from their tone and attitude that these sectarians fall short in that department……. .

    “The fact that Christians disagree on what the Bible teaches does not mean that there is a lack of clarity in Scripture, but rather in Christians. “

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  6. Derek

    So teach them the Westminster Assembly’s gospel: tell them their children are already Christians and federally holy, and therefore they ought to baptise them.

    Tell them that the good news is that all their children are already Christians.

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  7. cg,

    I understand there are some Reformed Presbyterians in Belfast and around Northern Ireland that would take issue with free will theology. My RPCNA minister spent the summer there filling a pulpit..

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  8. cg, I appreciate your efforts to be boldly baptist, but I can’t agree with your confidence about the confidence about the gospel in the hands of “Reformed baptists”. From what I see and hear, most of the RB are just as much into “culture calvinism” and politics as Doug Wilson and Peter Lillback. Since the gospel is assumed but not taught, there is no reason to think they are any less Arminian than most Presbyterians. It’s a lot of “synagogue sermons”, preaching about how bad things are but not much attention to the person and work of Christ. But maybe RBs are different over where you live..

    Most evangelicals don’t see the Galatian heresy as ‘dangerous additions to the gospel’. They see the Galatian heresy as dangerous additions to the Law (ie rock music and the NBA should not be condemned). They are very happy with the Law!

    Catholics often claim to only be talking about “gospel” and not about ecclesiology, but to the extent they define their gospel in antithesis to “sectarianism”, they end up saying all manner of things about ecclesiology

    For starters, some catholics think that congregations should be completely non-separatist. They assume that anybody who is not as ecumenical about “the one church” as they are is some kind of legalist. Catholics always have trouble tolerating people who are so intolerant that these do not consent to go to the “one catholic church”.

    Some Catholics insist that no group of Christians is ever to separate from another group of Christians. To give a specific example, they would allow believer baptism , but they would condemn any church which restricts its membership only to those baptized as believers.

    Imagine the following situation. Two catholics settle down in a small town with only one church. To use the Anglican or Roman Catholic language, that church is the “parish”. It is therefore typical of the Magisterial Reformation. Though there is a distinction between church and state (which is and is not the 2 k distinction), the boundaries of the church coincide with the boundaries of the nation-state,

    Imagine more about the situation. Imagine that every adult in town is a Christian. Then this one church in town decides together to do some particular religious practice, take your pick—footwashing, seventh day Sabbath, conscientious objection to war, etc. Now what do Catholics do in this situation? They could say that those practices should be up to individuals to do or not do, but what do they do if everybody else in town decides to follow these practices together? Leave town? Start another universal church?

    Remember that catholics have said that they have no ecclesiology or that all ecclesiology is “merely religion”. They think of ecclesiology as somethiing in antihesis to the gospel So how could Catholics in good conscience separate from other Christians in town about such practices? If it’s only “religion”, why not go along with the rest for the sake of peace?

    I am reminded of Galatians 2. Paul reproaches Peter for separating from the Gentiles when others come from Jerusalem. But what happens if Paul has to separate from Peter because Peter has separated from the Gentiles. In either case, before or after, you still have two different groups of Christians.

    Either that, or you have one group saying that the other group puts their ecclesiology in place of the gospel. And then the other group can say the same thing, and on it goes. “They went out from us because they were not of us.” And, yes, that’s right, because they were only about “religion” and we ourselves are about the “gospel”. And on and on it goes, back and forth.

    I am reminded of the “Church of Christ” assemblies that come out of the Alexander Campbell (Robert Sandeman) groups. They began by condemning all denominationalism, but the result was that anybody outside “the Church of Christ” nondenominational denomination is condemned. Catholics will inevitably establish groups which exclude others who exclude, even when they think these “others” are Christians

    I imagine that the Catholics would deny responsibility for the situation in which they are forced to leave town or start a new church. They would say it was the sectarian church which was wrong in the first place to have such practices. Perhaps so.

    The New Testament does NOT assume that excommunication is only for apostates and unbelievers. II Corinthians 5 speaks of brothers and sisters being delivered over to Satan for the “destruction of the flesh” so that brothers and sisters will benefit from that discipline. But surely that should be limited to those who smoke crack and has nothing to do with those who sin in regard to water baptism…..

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  9. The difference here is that many Baptists who hold to TULIP self-identify as Reformed. Reformed Protestants don’t go around calling ourselves Baptists when we baptize adult converts.

    The danger that “Reformed” might become identified solely with TULIP is no longer a theory, it is a reality in much of the larger American Baptist world.

    Personally, I know MacArthur-influenced Baptists who identify as Reformed and yet are strongly opposed to the idea of a confession of faith, are credo-baptist, and don’t practice anything close to Reformed polity.

    And besides, no one should be surprised if a Reformed person pokes a little fun at Baptists. Do you really expect anything else from us?

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  10. Mad Hungarian, these are the very “few other admirable exceptions” to which I was referring.

    But even they don’t believe the theology of the Directory for Public Worship, and baptise babies on the basis that they are already Christians and federally holy.

    Does the RPCNA?

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  11. Derek Gilbert This looks like a fun game. I wanna play!… Hart presents baptism like it is a wet yarmulke, a socio-religious marker … In fact, I get the idea that he is driven more by a quest to escape the American Baptist subculture than a drive to see proper sacramentology explained…. I don’t want the Baptists to go away. I want them to convert!

    Stanley Hauerwas, A Better Hope, p 43–”Mark McCulley argued that my work is far too Catholic and thus incompatible with an Anabaptist perspective: ‘Hauerwas has a Constantinian fear of Christian liberty. He wants the clergy to tell us the story and the church to have the sanctions to enforce it.’ In his response Schlabach to this agreed that this is an accurate (although insufficiently nuanced) summary of my views but defended the position nevertheless.“

    In Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom , Peter Leithart believes that “infant baptism will save the world”. Caricaturing one side against the other, he calls John Yoder an “anti-realist”, then puts the Niebuhrs on the other end, and then Leithart sits himself in the middle. “In the end it all comes down to infant baptism.” p 341.

    When we ask how Constantine and infant baptism will save the world, Leithart commands us to stop being so impatient. Postmillennianlism takes time. Baptism has happened, and it will change the world.

    The ritualism of James Jordan has not changed Leithart’s concluding agenda that “the Old Testament is normative for politics”. (p 131). Leithart is quick to defend the good old days of the middle ages. The Jews were merely not allowed to proselytize, and besides, he is pro-Jewish because he thinks the OT is normative for politics. And he’s against all kinds of sectarian proselytizing, except of course his own proselytizing for one universal church.

    Leithart opposes the “John Locke Protestantism” in which “isolationists” (secularists who segregate, like Hart) “hold opinions that divide them from the general public”. Leithart reminds us that the cultural battle is not about a combination of church and state but about having one church (with bishops) which can stand up to the state. He quotes Rushdoony (p 181) in the conclusion that those who won’t support catholicism by killing heretics should be left with “invisible churches” and thus without the salvation given by the approved means of grace.

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  12. Mark: hello again! In my limited experience, the “R”bs in Ireland are mainly ok on these issues – quite influenced by Hart actually.

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  13. Those who pose as generous Catholics are simply indifferent to what baptists think they are saying and doing. They can’t be bothered. To pay attention to baptists only encourages them. This is why I have to like dgh so much.

    As for Macarthur, I am not a fan. I am not a zionist. I don’t teach justification and sanctification by works. (Macarthur has not learned much from Mike Horton’s good book of essays about Macarthur and the Lordship controversy). I certainly don’t approve of Macarthur’s paradoxical inflexibile dogma that God loves everybody but only saves some. Of course, that schizophrenia also exists in most of the Reformed world also.

    Macarthur alone is enough to make me appreciate dgh’s desire to distance himself from all that. Me too. If that’s what a baptist is, then don’t call me a baptist. If that’s what a “Calvinist” is, then most certainly I am not a Calvinist. But I do guess I will hold on to the “tulip” thing, since I think I still know what anti-Arminianism is, and on that score, Macarthur still doesn’t have a clue.

    The idea that Hart can’t be properly Reformed because he was born baptist is like saying that all baptists still have within them vestiges of dispensationalism. And thus the elder brother boasts—I was never a dispensationalist, nor were either of my parents. Is that kind of patronizing pride the inevitable corollary of the idea that infants are born in the covenant in which one parent has remained? I don’t think so. Will even Hart’s grandchildren still be regarded as over-compensating for having a baptist as ancestor?

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  14. Geoff: while some Reformed churches require confessional membership (that is, they require candidates for membership in the church to subscribe to the church’s confessional standards), churches like the OPC only require candidates for membership to make a credible profession of faith in order to be admitted into membership. What this means is that it is possible for someone with baptistic convictions to join as a member of the OPC, as long as that person makes a credible profession of faith in Christ as Lord and Savior and agrees to submit to the biblical government and discipline of the church. (Of course, one cannot serve as an ordained church officer in the OPC if one holds to baptistic convictions; but baptistic believers are welcome to become communicant members of the church, as long as they do not make their baptistic convictions a point of contention in the church.)

    mark: I don’t know how “gentle” my questions will be, but I want to ask what you think about those other pastors, all baptists, with you the only one not a baptist. I find this amusing and ironic, givenyour appeal for the sake of the great majority of Christians who have been paedos and would be “unchurched”

    It’s like me riding the subway in Philadelphia–being the only white guy lets you feel the minority status. But of course I could tell them about all the white people out there but not here and now.

    Surely the great majority of Christians who live in your area are paedos, are they not? Where are their clergy (ordained priests included) at your meetings? Have you guys decided to “unchurch” all the non-Bible-believing folks? How is it that the paedos in your group are a minority of one?

    Here’s the basic question, Geoff. Do you think these others pastors in your group are worshipping in “true churches”? i don’t ask if you would welcome them (and their offerings) at your Sunday morning (ecumenical) meeting. I ask if they have “true churches”. I don’t ask if you accept their water baptisms as “objectively valid”. I ask you bow you think they have the marks of a true church when they do not rightly “administer the sacraments”?

    Sure, all baptists are either “inconsistent” or stupid or “unchurch other Christians”. Sure, your baptist friends are both inconsistent and stupid if they ask you to preach in their churches (or sit in their counsels where they transmit the charisma by the laying on of hands), but since they don’t have real churches, what would be the problem with you going to their “non-church” meetings for the sake of evangelism? Or do you think these baptists have “real churches”?

    Second question. Don’t you stress the need for water baptism before the Lord’s Supper.?Or do you welcome unbaptized pagans to the table, as have some Reformed folk who think of the Supper as a “converting sacrament”? But if you agree that baptism comes before the Supper, and if the baptists say that baptism comes before the Supper, when they say “baptized because of professing gospel”, isn’t the disagreement still about…well, baptism.

    If on the occasion of the Supper, they said, come to the supper without baptism, would you join it? Or do you want a supper where every individual can stipulate whatever they want about water? As in, they say, come without baptism, and you say, i come, but whatever you may think, I come with baptism.

    Oh wait a minute, you already spoke for the opc–you don’t have confessional membership, so that’s what you are already doing in your own church at the Supper…

    thanks, geoff, for the testimony about the “three times water”. I would be interested in the number of members in the OPC who

    1. are still baptists, not so many I would think, they go pca

    2. were cradle baptists, so still have that stigma for their children to live down

    3. got off the true path, and got themselves an Arminian freewill water baptism

    4, got off the truth path, and got themselves a professing gospel water baptism, right on top of their objectively valid water baptism from Rome

    5. got off the true path, and got themselves a professing gospel water baptism right on top of their objectively valid reformed water baptism

    6. never got off the true path, watered as reformed infant and no more water

    7. never got off the true path, watered as opc infant and no more water

    I know there is no such thing as “Christian sociology”, but wouldn’t it be cool if there were an “opc college” and an “opc sociology”?

    maybe not

    thanks, geoff

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  15. DG (if I may), my issue is with the way that the so-called “Reformed” draw the lines. Of course.

    MacArthur thinks he’s Reformed. Of Course.

    Conservative Presbyterians who don’t insist on baptism are Reformed. Of course.

    Did the Reformers separate the gospel and church life from the sacraments? Of course not.

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  16. From John’s pen – does he call himself Reformed? – http://www.gty.org/Blog/B110829

    C Dubbs – Old Life is surely unity enough for you and your denom of 270, eh? What body of Christ?

    Geoff – ” the Baptist position in effect unchurches and excommunicates paedobaptist believers and paedobaptists churches…”

    Babtis autonomy, or Baptis ordnance? Can’t be both because the operative word is ecclesia, not presbuteros. Wanna wince – mirror time – see your affiliator Kent’s love for the brethren above.

    Darryl – When the cafeteria is run by NT apostles and prophets, then yes, I stuff myself.
    http://www.churchsonefoundation.com/built-on-the-apostles-and-prophets/

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  17. Ned, you are only off by a factor of more than 1000 denominationally. My local church building seats 270.

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  18. Ned, whether I’m happy about or not I’m in the PCA and we have 300,000 members. Get some rest and drink lots of fluids.

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  19. Dubbs, look me up. I’m real. That’s the problem with you online anons. You can’t discern what’s real or between a gravitar and gravitas.

    When confronted to act like a man, you hide behind cartoons and caricatures.

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  20. Calm down, Mr Real. Some of us have business or church leadership roles that dictate a certain detachment. This isn’t new. Ever heard of pen names? This reforming business is dangerous stuff.

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