Pastor John MacArthur's two most serious errors

(Tim Bayly) #21

Polity is beside the point. As I pointed out in the post, also showing Calvin’s affirmation of it, the Scripture’s declare we are to submit to church officers. Who they are and how they function is messing around with the deck chairs on the Titanic when we stop and survey the rebellion and abdication everywhere in the Church today.

Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Congregational polities each have officers and those officers we are commanded by God to submit to, and obey.

John MacArthur says repeatedly he as a pastor has no authority. Again again he says this. Where is our condemnation of his words? Where is our repentance of our own abdication perfectly matching his as pastors, elders, husbands, and fathers? Where is our admission that it is the abdication of pastors and elders like Pastor MacArthur, and the rebellion of our congregations, wives, and children which leave flocks and souls today without benefit of their authorities’ protection? Which leave wolves free to devour our sheep?

This is the point of the post, but we’re discussing where and how excommunication should be done given this or that polity?

So let me hammer the point home more firmly.

The day after the previous Q&A session, there was another in which Pastor MacArthur was asked by the same woman, “How much authority does a husband have in the life of his wife?”

He answered:

Um none. No authority. Your husband has no authority in your life, personally. His experience doesn’t give him any authority. His knowledge doesn’t give him any authority. His education doesn’t give him any authority. Um, he has no authority.

His position doesn’t give him any authority. His title doesn’t give him any authority. Only the Word of God has authority. Christ is the Head of the home, and He mediates His rule in the home through His Word.

Husbands have no authority. Husbands don’t have authority beyond the Scripture. Husbands can never exceed what is written—First Corinthians 4:6. To do that is to become, Paul says, arrogant, and to regard himself as superior. Husbands have nothing to say to you that puts any demand on you if it isn’t from the Word of God.

And and I, you’re you’re probably talking out of some experience where you felt that some undue authority was exercised over you or somebody you know by a husband. We need to be reminded as husbands even though the Lord has lifted us up and has given us this kind of responsibility, we possess no personal authority.

Uh, if your husband is telling you what God has said in His Word, that has authority, right? But a husband cannot exceed what is written. Your husband can’t tell you about your life. He he can give you wisdom if you ask, but he may have no more wisdom than somebody else. Uh, you as a wife would get more wisdom on many many issues out of your beloved mother on things than you would get out of your husband. But your mother is not your husband. Still your mother has spiritual insight and spiritual wisdom. And if you ask for advice or wisdom, in many cases your mother’s would exceed your husband’s.

So the husband in himself has no authority. Listen to what Paul says, who is Paul, who is Apollos, who is Cephas? We’re nothing. It’s all of Christ. It’s all of the Holy Spirit. It’s all of the Scripture. Okay?

Conniving, I say. Shall I repeat the exercise with a fifteen-year-old son asking Pastor MacArthur what authority a father has?


PS: Just read this to dear Mary Lee and she responded, 'well, if John MacArthur gave that answer to wives about their husbands, a lot of people would agree with it."

PPS: BTW, thank you Jason and Lucas for your excellent contributions.

(John Trocke) #22

I’ll be the first to admit I buck at the idea of submitting to elders. Chalk it up to American Individualism. However, I think the scriptures do clearly state that a greater authority (and expectation) is placed upon Elders. If not, what do you make of Peter’s exhortation to Elders in 1 Peter 5:3 that they not “lord it over those entrusted” to them? It seems odd to think he meant this with the sense in which you are using authority - that they shouldn’t preach the Word too harshly. No… fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately) Elders have been appointed real power over the flocks entrusted to them.

(Ken Lamb) #23

That answer pretty much settled the matter for me. No offense to the other men and their helpful exegesis, but this point here seems to boil it down into its simplest and essential terms.

Ironically some pastors, violate this notion both positively and negatively. The don’t bring scripture to bear on a sheep’s most challenging life issues, but also bully and threaten to compel a particular course of action. So glad to be out from under that authority.

(Chris Gatihi) #25

@jander thank you for your sincere questions, brother. I’m not part of a congregational church, actually. We are a non-denominational elder-ruled congregation. From my perspective, I think on a spectrum our leaders lean more toward the “distant officers who manage and execute the liturgy, and oversee the administration of the church programs and finances” (well put) though I do believe they are trying to move toward greater involvement in the lives of the actual people. Part of the problem, I think, is that there simply aren’t enough of them for the size of the community and so they by default will begin to focus on “keeping the machine well-oiled.”

There’s another local church in my area that I’m somewhat familiar with through relationship with their leaders, some of the current members, and others who have left. My intuition (which is totally fallible) through various interactions with the aforementioned parties is that the leaders there are a bit overbearing in their exercise of authority.

So on a spectrum of exercising no authority and being overbearing in exercise of authority, the first church described (my church) leans one way and the second church seems to lean the other way.

I’m not making assertions on the basis of my experience, especially since I don’t believe any church is going to be perfectly in the middle on this spectrum. I’m just trying to make sense of what I see in the New Testament and then seeking to figure out how that should look in church life today.

@John, thanks for your input, brother. I appreciate the pointer to 1 Peter 5:3 because it’s biblical texts alone that bind my conscience. You ask what do I make of it? Well, the closest thing to “real power” I see in the passage is 5:5 which uses a form of hypotasso to charge “you who are under” to submit to elders in a sense which certainly appears to convey “real power.” But I don’t see this “real power” in 5:3.

A couple of points to make:

  1. The opposite of “not lording it over” that Peter gives is to “be an example”. To me this actually makes the contrary point to the one you are making. Elders are in a position of leadership and this naturally lends itself to commanding authority. But it seems to me that Peter’s point is that elders should understand their role as overseers not primarily one of commanding authority but as one of being an example that people will want to follow because they see the fruit of your life, essentially what Hebrews 13:7 says.
  2. Regarding the charge to exercise oversight in 1 Peter 5:2, it’s the same charge given to all the saints in Hebrews 12:

See to it (episkopeo) that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (Hebrews 12:15-16, ESV)

All the saints are to exercise this watch-care over each other. So how are the elders distinct? They are the ones who exemplify for the rest of the saints what this watch-care should look like. Key word: exemplify. In what way are elders leaders? I don’t believe from the NT (open to being convinced otherwise) it’s because they have commanding authority, but rather because they are to be the ones that stand in front of others as models/examples (Philippians 3:17).

Please let me know where you see otherwise not in a confession or catechism or theological work, but in the New Testament.

(Daniel Meyer) #26

Dear Chris,

I’d start with reading the pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) and see what the Apostle commands pastors Timothy and Titus to do.


(Jesse Tiersma) #27

I think the best response to that is one of the names that the NT uses for elders, one which you used yourself, overseer. An overseer exercises oversight, meaning he guides, corrects, commands,and has responsibility for. Hebrews 13:17 is really the money verse, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” It requires obedience and submission to those who who are responsible for the people under their care, i.e. elders/overseers.

This is certainly part of it. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:1 calls on the Corinthian Christians to imitate him. This doesn’t negate Paul’s real authority though, as he is also able to give numerous commands, including the one to imitate him. My children probably learn more from my example than anything else I may teach them, (which is more than a little scary), but I still have real authority in there lives.

All saints are to keep watch over their brothers, we are our brother’s keepers. Elders are distinct in the responsibility God has laid on them, and all that comes with that responsibility.

(Chris Gatihi) #33

[admin note: This post was moved here from another topic.]

@tbbayly, as usual, thank you, brother.

Please help me with something. This seems to be a passage you come to again and again on this idea of elders having commanding authority:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17, ESV)

But the Greek word for “obey” there is peitho, which in this verse I believe is more literally translated as “let yourself be convinced by” or “let yourself be persuaded by”. To me, by definition, if I’m letting someone persuade or convince me, this is inherently not commanding authority. If this party had commanding authority, then a command is what is needed, not persuading or convincing. The word for “submit” is hypeiko which I believe is a hapax legomena in the NT so hard to really pin down. It can be translated as “yield” or “submit”. As “yield” it seems to make better sense of the context. In other words, if you respectfully dialogue with your leaders and after some time there appears to be a stalemate, yield and let yourself finally be persuaded by your leaders and follow them. I think “submit” is fine in this case as long as we understand that “submit” in the English language has a broad range of meaning that doesn’t always mean obey authority.

To me, this is fundamentally different from how wives are instructed to relate to their husbands:

Wives, submit to (inferred from hypotasso in 5:21 – no, Ephesians 5:21 does NOT teach mutual submission) your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits (hypotasso) to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22–24, ESV)

As exemplified by Sarah:

as Sarah obeyed (hypakouo) Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:6, ESV)

With all due respect, what am I missing?

Marriage (2): a warning from John MacArthur
(Michael Collins) #34

Maybe Sound of Sanity can get Phil Johnson of Grace to You for an interview on this issue. Obviously, we’re dealing with an inter-denominational doctrinal conflict here.

(Lucas Weeks) #36

But why would you listen to me, if you’re not going to listen to John Calvin or Bannerman or any other one of the church fathers? Why are you soliciting our responses to your question if you declare, from the outset, that we can’t use any of the old dead guys to try and convince you? Certainly you’d agree that Bannerman has thought more about this than I have, right?

I’m trying to get you to see that the outworking of your position is that you should go into a room by yourself and just read the Bible alone with the door shut.

(Tim Bayly) #37

I had just said the same to my wife, Mary Lee; this pains me so much. Love,

(Joseph Bayly) #38

1 Peter 5:1–5 (NAS): Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,
2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;
3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Titus 2:1–15 (NASB95PARA): But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Brother Chris, I urge you to be sensible. The word for “authority” in this final verse is literally “command.”

Here are some of the other places it is used:

Elder Daniel is right. You need to study the pastoral epistles.

(John Trocke) #39

Chris, would you agree that the New Testament is clear in James 3:1 that Church Elders are going to be held to a higher accountability than the rest of the flock? If so, how is it that God can hold them to a higher accountability if he has given them no authority?

(Ryan) #40

The council in Jerusalem made up of both Apostles & Elders, and chaired by (bishop :smiley:) James said:

“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” Acts 15:28-29

(Chris Gatihi) #41

Brothers, thank you all so very much. This dialogue we’re having is so helpful for my human-approval-seeking flesh. I’m grateful to God for how He’s sanctifying me through it. And I’m grateful for your loving endeavors to persuade me which, as I’ve suggested, is what elders particularly are to be engaged in.

So many things to respond to and I wouldn’t appreciate it if I asked something or proposed a challenge that was left ignored in a dialogue. It’s actually one of my pet peeves. So I’d like to try to love you as I love myself.

@danielmeyer, thank you for pointing me to 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, brother. I will plan to go back and re-read them. But one of my challenges with those letters is that I don’t believe Timothy and Titus are pastors per se. Do they have a pastoral function? Without a doubt. But I think they are more apostolic delegates who serve a temporary apostolic function in the role Paul writes to them in, a role not dissimilar to the role Paul had as an apostle who planted, strengthened, corrected, etc several churches. I think the operative question is how much continuity is there/should there be between what such apostles do and what elders are to do? I think we typically understand that whatever apostles did, elders are to do. But I don’t think we should just assume that so I’m not convinced of it, though I’m open to being shown that we see such total continuity in the NT.

@Jesse, thank you for weighing in, brother. Of course elders are distinct in the responsibility God has laid on them to keep watch over souls. That’s actually the point I was making. Where we seem to disagree is in the nature of this distinction. I’m saying their distinction is in being the ones who do most of the teaching and who are the models for the rest of the saints in what it looks like to provide this watch care. I believe you (and others here) are saying the distinction is in a command-type of authority. It just seems to me that this command-type of authority is more inferred than explicitly demonstrated as attributed to elders anywhere in the NT. Here’s an interesting verse that ties in to the distinction I lean toward making between elders and apostles:

[15] For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15, ESV)

I mention it because it ties in with your analogy of you as a father commanding your children. I think Paul as an apostle had a unique authority that was different than elders. I would tend toward seeing elders as among the guides Paul speaks of. Which is why Paul can write to Corinth with a kind of command-authority, as he does Philippi and other churches. We know overseers are mentioned in Philippians (Philippians 1:1). Are they just not exercising authority properly in Philippi? If not, why wouldn’t Paul specifically rebuke them for that and call them to exercise it? Unless possibly they don’t carry the same kind of authority.

@ldweeks, thanks for the challenge. But, with all due respect, I don’t think your conclusion regarding the logical outcome of my position is fair, brother. I’m asking you guys to show me because when I read Calvin or whoever I can’t have a conversation with them the way I can with you. It’s more of a monologue to read those guys, which is why I’ve often had much writing in my book margins filled with exclamation points and question marks, which makes me want to at times pull my hair out because Calvin or whoever can’t help me with my questions/pushback. But, to come at it from another angle, the reason I’m telling you to show me in the NT is I hope the same reason you’ve trained your congregation to expect you to show you in the NT where you get your conclusions when you are trying to teach NT doctrine from the pulpit. Do you think they should embrace what you teach from the pulpit if you were to point them to Calvin or Bannerman or whoever as one who makes an irrefutable case for a doctrine? Would you tell your congregation from the pulpit that you can’t convince them but Calvin or Bannerman can? Brother, I really hope not. Because if so, with love, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to sit under that teaching. You first show them in the text so that it is undeniably clear and then point them elsewhere for further reading. But if you can’t make it clear, I doubt those guys will make it clearer but rather will multiply pages upon pages in muddying the waters.

@jtbayly, thank you for the challenge and for pointing me to Titus 2:15 in particular. This gets to what I was saying above regarding how much continuity there is between apostles and elders which I concede is something that isn’t clear to me. I do believe that apostles have a kind of command-authority. And Titus is such an apostolic representative, not a pastor per se (though he definitely did things that are pastoral in nature). He’s in Crete doing the kind of work that Paul did as a church planter. What I’m not convinced of is that all of the functions that apostles fulfilled are continuous to elders in that the latter fulfill all the same functions.

@John, thanks for the pointer to James 3:1. Good question, brother. I agree from this passage that teachers are held to a higher accountability. But, based on context, it seems to me that this is tied in with the responsibility that comes with speaking (the whole context of 3:1-12 pertains to what we do with our mouths), as Jesus taught that we will give an account for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36). Exegetically, I think this responsibility of teachers is tied to speaking. And this makes sense since, as I mentioned above, I think the greater authority that teachers have is that they are teaching the Word of God more than others in the community and thus they are speaking more than others! I don’t believe exegetically that this text bears out a command-type authority that is distinct from authority other saints have. Or do you see otherwise in the text?

@ascryans, thanks for another text, brother. I think the important question is who the “us” is in 15:28? I think 15:22 makes clear that the “us” includes the whole church, which corresponds with the authority that I see Jesus giving to the whole church as a corporate whole in Matthew 18.

I hope you don’t grow exasperated with me brothers. I really am not trying to be contentious and hope you sincerely believe me. I welcome continued dialogue but understand that 1) this might already feel like beating a dead horse and 2) you all have responsibilities that are a higher priority than this. So if the conversation ends here, I’m grateful for the time you all have taken to try to help me.

And if we do continue the discussion, may God help us keep at the forefront of such disagreements as we week to persuade others who we believe to be in error:

[24] And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, [25] correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, [26] and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24–26, ESV)

I know I have to remind myself constantly.

Not that we are opponents in the fullest sense of the word or that anyone here is necessarily in the snare of the devil, though I suppose you might think I am, which wouldn’t be necessarily wrong for you to think.
But it seems the charge would apply all the more in that case! :slight_smile:

Grace be with you brothers.

(Daniel Meyer) #42

I don’t believe Timothy and Titus are pastors

Chris, don’t be stupid now. You’re missing the point. Before you speak more, read the first chapter of Titus, focusing on verses 7-11, about the overseer.


(Jason Andersen) #43

I don’t think this is a helpful tone to bring to this discussion.

Chris is bringing questions to this discussion in a spirit of sincerity and humility, without quarrel or pretense, and I think we owe him better than this.

Maybe he is stupid. He has shown himself to be humbly admitting to that possibility. But I think we can do better to address his objections with more patience.

(Ken Lamb) #44

Indeed, if it is ignorance we should bear with one another in patience. So far I don’t thinks he’s been unruly, testing sure, and there are limits. But let’s not let the medium exhaust our limits of patience.

(John Trocke) #45

Dear Chris, if the extent of a pastor’s greater authority is simply that he gets to teach, it seems odd to me that one of the qualifications for the position is having proved oneself able to teach. In other words, the qualification for the job would apparently include already having the job. This thinking could be extended to all of the other pastoral qualifications as well.

Also, I wonder why you think Elders are given the special protections as seen in 1 Timothy 5:19. The implication of the passage is that Elders are susceptible to being the target of deceitful accusations. If pastors are these passive example/teachers you seem to think they are, why would anyone go after them using deceit? They are no threat!

(Jonathan Adams) #46

Dear @cgatihi,
I am coming out of a non denominational church of Christ to becoming more Presbyterian in my thinking (Still not sure about infant baptism).

What do you make of the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3 specifically when it says that an elder must be a man who ruled his own house well? Paul treats the home as the training ground for a man to prepare for church leadership. Men will be elders poorly and sinfully just like they will be husbands and father’s poorly and sinfully. The solution then is not to lessen the burden of leadership for men but to honor it and pray for those called into that office.

1 Timothy 3:1-7
This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

(Jesse Tiersma) #47

@cgatihi Thank you for your kind words and irenic spirit. One more point I should have made in my first comment, then I’ll leave the discussion to wiser men. “Not lording it over” in 1 Peter 5:3 is referring to an abuse of authority, not absence of it. You can’t abuse authority if you don’t have any.