Appreciation for John MacArthur, warts and all...
(DB) In the 1980s I couldn't take John MacArthur. Every time his voice came on WMBI in Chicago, I turned it off. My mother would say to me that he was a better man than I thought. I didn't care. Something snide and self-assured seemed to emanate from from the radio when he was preaching.
And then in 1985-86, I spent a year in Fullerton, CA, as a pastoral intern under Paul Sailhamer at the Fullerton Evangelical Free Church while Chuck Swindoll was senior pastor there. As part of the year, Paul took the two interns to visit significant California churches. We did a trip to San Diego (on which Chuck accompanied us) and a northern trip to the Bay area.
We also went to visit Grace Community Church, where Paul, Dave Butler and I had breakfast with John MacArthur.
During breakfast I asked John if he was willing to preach on abortion. I had a private interest in the question: I had been trying to convince friends at Fullerton that Chuck should preach on abortion, something he hadn't yet done (he did the following year). Fullerton was willing to have then-surgeon-general C. Everett Koop preach on abortion, but not Chuck. So I secretly scored a point when John answered emphatically, "Yes, I'm willing. I've already preached two series on it."
I loved him for it. In a tour of the campus following breakfast John stopped by a little building outside the sanctuary and called to the ladies manning the counter inside, "Do you have any of my sermons on abortion?" I remember him tossing me two double-cassette packages and saying, "There you go. Proof I've preached on abortion."
Over the years I've come to appreciate John's certainty, to regard it as a sign of his integrity and the glory of his calling. I no longer find him snide, instead, I appreciate his certainty.
That said, I can't agree with the decision to go with the NIV2011 as the text for his study notes. Nor do I think anything we do in life is so pure that it can't be influenced by money. Do I think John is seeking to feather his own personal nest? No. I suspect he's made more than enough from his writing that this isn't a significant personal issue.
But, like it or not, John is getting older. His ministry has handlers now. There are legacy issues to consider. The financial future of a MacArthur-less GTY, Master's College and Seminary, etc. is being weighed. And are we really to believe that finances play no role in such decisions at GTY? Really?
I'm not sure that it wouldn't actually benefit John in the court of public opinion to admit the existence of such considerations.
That said, Tim and I deeply respect John. It's a matter of loyalty to us to stand by a man who has borne the marks of Christ during his years as a minister. Our disagreement with him on this matter is couched in respect, even love. We would rather stand with John, despite our disagreement with him on this matter, than stand against him. And let me add, John MacArthur doesn't pay our salaries, add numbers to our churches, publish our books or do much at all to benefit us other than faithfully preach the Word of God.
John is worthy of respect. He stands as an example of faithful ministry. I disagree with him, yes. But I also honor him.