(Read This First: MacArthur’s ministry had greatly shaped my spiritual growth in my undergraduate years, and I will always remain grateful for this blessing. I really don’t want to offend anyone. What I write below regarding his ministry’s stance and their effects are up to you to evaluate.)
Awhile ago, many of us were not happy with John MacArthur misrepresenting N.T. Wright and calling him a false teacher. Wright has been misunderstood in several occasions but hearing him being called a false teacher – wow, that’s new.
Long before this, MacArthur criticised many charismatic christians with a broad brush in his controversial Strange Fire conference. I was studying in L.A. at that time and relied heavily on his teaching, therefore the conference really turned my world and my definition of “grace” upside down.
Little did I know years before this conference, MacArthur gave a message titled “Every Self‐Respecting Calvinist Is a Premillennialist”(interestingly, GTY later revmoed the word “self-respecting” from their website) in which he said, “But bottom line here, of all people on the planet to be pre-millennialist it should be Calvinists; those who love sovereign election. Let’s leave amillennialism for the Arminians. It’s perfect! [laughter] It’s ideal. It’s a no-brainer. God elects nobody and preserves nobody. Perfect! Arminians make great amillennialists. It’s consistent. But not for those who live and breathe the rarified air of sovereign electing grace. That makes no sense. We can leave amillennialism to the process theologians”.
Upon reading this, I immediately thought of Sam Storms – a well-respected Calvinist pastor who stands for amillennialism (by the way, Storms wrote a worth-reading post titled Not All Cessationist are of MacArthur’s Spirit after the Strange Fire conference).
And yes, I am amillennial, too. God, give me some self-respect.
Anyways, as time goes by, I find many of the authors I read or teachers I follow hardly make it on the approved list of GTY. For example, they believe Hillsong is “sowing confusion and corruption into the next generation of the church”. Same to Bethel, Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle (basically any charismastic leaders), Rick Warren, Beth Moore, etc.
But these aren’t that surprising, in the end. What did shock me was their mockery of leaders that they used to associate with: Tim Keller, John Piper, and Francis Chan.
Some of the most fiery statements from Fred Butler from Grace To You:
“Can we finally admit that John Piper has no discernment, never had any discernment, and shouldn’t have any audience?”
“A recently discovered John Piper book manuscript named “I Know I Am Wasting My Life”. Not sure if he wanted it published though.”
“Francis Chan, maybe you shouldn’t make disciples.” (On Chan leaving institution churches for house churches)
“Part of Kingdom work is controlling liars when they lie against God’s people. Francis is lying against Gods people. So I am confronting”.
And from the famous Phil Johnson,
“Friends don’t let friends listen to Tim Keller.”
“I was mystified by the offertory at Tim Keller’s NYC church” (which is followed by his fan’s comment, ‘I was nauseated by the offertory at Tim Keller’s NYC church. Now my stomach is empty.’ “
These are some examples among the statements that they have proudly made on social media. In the elders meeting of GCC, too, Johnson had “expressed his concern over Tim Keller”.
Why are mockery-and-slander-committers still allowed to be elders, I have no comment. Johnson once writes about his passion for arguing, “Agree to disagree? How about we just argue until one of us actually refutes the other and we come to a common understanding of God’s Word?”. But I don’t. I love to “agree to disagree” and I think we should learn to speak well of one another in the Father’s grace. The leaders that I respect the most, are the ones marked with joy and humility.
Last story, and probably the best part: when I was studying in Los Angeles, the campus ministry that I was a part of had been under the attack for a long time by GTY. I knew little about it at that time, and funnily enough, in those years, these two ministries were the major fuel for my study in the Scripture. As said, please don’t misunderstand – I am very thankful.
With that being said, in Johnson’s website, the ministry that I was in was listed under the “Bad Theology” section. Sure, each ministry has its flaw. But unfortunately, I am not sure if Johnson has done enough research, because in my own journey, I have found these two ministries actually share many common theological beliefs (that are actually not shared by many others):
- Both are dispensationalist
- Both believe in a rapture that would been before the “tribulation”
- Both believe the harlot in Revelation is the Catholic Church
- Both believe in a personified Anti-Christ
By the way, I have never agreed with any single one of these doctrines, and I don’t think I will in the future.
They also have similar practices as well. For instance, both groups have their own study Bible with lots of commentaries attached, and both have their own Bible Schools.
Someone once commented that GTY is very much defined by what they are against and not what they are for – perhaps it is time for GTY to dig out the common ground that they share with their enemies in order to give grace.