Posted in theology

John MacArthur isn’t dispensationalist, YOU’RE dispensationalist! Reaction to Shapiro/MacArthur interview pt 2

By Elizabeth Prata

I wrote yesterday that I had enjoyed the hour long interview conservative talk podcaster Ben Shapiro had conducted with pastor-teacher John MacArthur this past Sunday. I had never listened to Shapiro before (confession: I don’t really enjoy podcasts of any kind) but I tuned in because MacArthur is wise and always worth listening to. It was also exciting because many people listen to Shapiro who are likely not saved (as Shapiro himself isn’t) and we always get excited when the Gospel is presented to people, and on Sunday it certainly was.

I enjoyed that Shapiro asked a question and did not interrupt the answer. Also I liked that it was just the two of them, not a panel, so there was nobody else butting in or chomping at the bit to butt in. The topics covered were wide ranging, but centered squarely on Jesus and theology. Here is the link, I recommend listening to the interview. It’s really good.

Most people, no matter their flavor of theology, recognize that MacArthur’s ministry is a Spirit-filled, God-given, Jesus-centered ministry without moral blot or doctrinal failure. In this day and age, that is quite an achievement, especially for one as long lasting as MacArthur’s. He is weeks away from his 50th year of preaching at one church.

Yet this day and age also has its theological nitpickers. It seems that no matter how sterling the ministry, no matter how well the minister presented the Gospel, no matter how many people were blessed by hearing it, there will be some who take issue. This past Sunday was no exception.

One of the biggest criticisms I read about the interview were charges against MacArthur’s “dispensationalism.” One person wrote on social media that he had decided, in the end, to listen to the interview despite MacArthur’s “blatant dispensationalism.” Wow.

The definition of dispensationalism is

belief in a system of historical progression, as revealed in the Bible, consisting of a series of stages in God’s self-revelation and plan of salvation

Another explanation of dispensationalism from GotQuestions is

a theological system that emphasizes the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy, recognizes a distinction between Israel and the Church, and organizes the Bible into different dispensations or administrations.

When many Christians, especially male theologians, refer to dispensationalism, it’s uttered as a dirty word. It’s spoken of as if it’s something to either avoid, a cause to look upon that theologian as sketchy, or to dismiss him altogether.

That’s wrong. On so many levels, too.

But I’ll get to my editorializing in a moment.

Characterizing John MacArthur as a dispensationalist is to mischaracterize him. He calls himself a ‘leaky dispensationalist,’ if one must call him anything at all. He takes care to distance himself from the dispensationalist doctrines that are man-made and faulty.

Here is John MacArthur’s statement on what he believes regarding this term “dispensationalism”:

I try to distance myself from what most people think of as dispensationalism. You know, the seven different dispensations, new covenants, to the difference between kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God. … Those are convoluted kinds of things imposed on the text.

I simply believe, and this is the sum total of my quote-unquote “dispensationalism”, I simply believe that there is still a future for Israel the nation as an entity in the purposes of God. Because, that’s what’s promised in the Old Testament. And that’s it. … I take the Old Testament at face value and I’m unwilling to change my hermeneutics when it comes to those passages, and make promises made to Israel become promises to some other entity, including the Church.

In the 2-minute clip, MacArthur went on to say,

Everybody believes in dispensations. Everybody. We all understand pre-Fall/post-Fall, we understand pre-Law/post-Law, pre-Cross/post-Cross. We understand this age and the age to come. So we all understand that there are different economies in which God has operated. … It’s making sure that the distinctions are biblical distinctions and not some kind of external distinctions imposed on the text.

Based on his own declaration of what he believes, I think it is unfair to characterize MacArthur as dispensationalist. Based on what what the Bible says, and at root we’re all dispensationalists, one can just call him, and us, biblicists.

Now for my editorial. Everyone has their limits to what they can tolerate. I know lots of Christian brothers and sisters are tired of the negativity. I do OK with that, or did, up until the Social Media reaction to JMac’s interview with Shapiro. Naively, I thought that people would be so thrilled that the Gospel was going to be presented on a secular program, they’d be basking in joy. I thought, foolishly, that JMac as elder statesman with his wisdom and skill in presenting difficult theological concepts concisely and accurately while speaking extemporaneously, that the brethren would be tickled. Most were, to be sure. At the least, I thought that people would be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). I thought, ingenuously, that people would simply be happy about this.

I was wrong.

While I was disappointed with the nitpicking, and I thought the discussions would have better served the body to be held in private messaging, I was terribly upset at the name calling. Not harsh names, none of the Christians I saw called MacArthur anything bad. I’m talking about the pigeonholing kind of name calling. I’m tired of people hurling around titles as if they define a person. “He’s a dispensationalist”. “She’s a Calvinist.” “They’re amillennialists.” “He’s an Arminian.” “She’s Reformed.”

Do we have nothing to learn from Adrian Rogers, a conflicted Arminian-almost-Calvinist? Or RC Sproul, an Amillennialist ? Or MacArthur, charged with the crime of dispensationalism? Or Spurgeon, a Calvinist? Why define these men by these terms, all of which relate back to the Gospel anyway? Unless you believe a dispensationalist, Arminian, Calvinist, amillennialist is not saved. Then, don’t listen to them.

You know what? We’re all brothers and sisters. I am weary of the pigeonholing and of arguing from the pigeon’s holes. The only name we will call each other when the Kingdom finally comes, is family. What a day that will be.


Posted in theology

John MacArthur on Ben Shapiro Show: Reaction Part 1

By Elizabeth Prata

I was excited to watch John MacArthur’s interview with conservative talk show host (and Orthodox Jew) Ben Shapiro on Sunday. Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You (John MacArthur’s online ministry) has said John MacArthur is a Charles Spurgeon for this century, and I agree. John has a succinct way of stating the Gospel and applying it clearly. He has good insights on current culture, as well, yet always brings it back to God.

I enjoyed the beginning part of the interview about government, leaders’ morals, and how to assess a candidate for an election.

I also enjoyed the middle part about how to respond to people who say there are contradictions in parts of the Old Testament. I loved the part where John expounded Isaiah 53. When MacArthur concluded his verse-by-verse exposition through the New testament, he then went to Isaiah 53 and preached Christ from that chapter. It was a tremendous series, later formatted into the book The Gospel According to God.

And I enjoyed the end part where the two men discussed how Judaism and Christianity are alike, and different. The two men have belief systems that are complementary, but diametrically opposed. It’s a so close, yet so far situation.

It’s a great interview to watch not only for the theology. It’s a great piece to watch about how two men who disagree can remain listening to one another, and be affable and gracious.

Here’s the link, and it’s embedded below.

Above I mentioned that MacArthur is a Spurgeon for this century. That isn’t just a fangirl claim. I believed it to be so, but before I publicly make a claim like that, I do my diligence and research to see if it’s true. In 2015 I looked both Spurgeon and MacArthur’s service to the Lord. They are quite similar. See the chart at the end.

The Lord sends us honorable and trustworthy overseers, no matter the generation in which we live. He sent the early church fathers, the generation after the Apostles, many of them martyrs: Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement…and He has sent us men from then until now. I’d like to focus on the now and one of these trustworthy and honorable men: Dr. John F. MacArthur


John_F._MacArthur_Jr.Photo source Wikipedia

The Lord sends us honorable and trustworthy overseers, no matter the generation in which we live. He sent the early church fathers, the generation after the Apostles, many of them martyrs: Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement…and He has sent us men from then until now. I’d like to focus on the now and one of these trustworthy and honorable men: Dr. John F. MacArthur

Dr John Fullerton MacArthur was born on June 19, 1939, he is a few months away from 80 years of age. He has been serving as a pastor continuously since 1964. He is pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California, and at this writing is a few weeks shy of being the senior pastor-teacher there for 50 years.

He has preached 3300 sermons at grace Community Church and many others besides at various conferences. He has written over 150 books. He has authored innumerable essays. He is currently President of The Master’s University (though a plan is in place to step down) and The Master’s Seminary, the seminary he founded specifically to raise up men in the faith and strengthen them in solid doctrine. He has participated in countless conferences, one of which he founded, The Shepherds’ Conference, a gathering designed to minister to men.

From Grace Community Church website

To my knowledge MacArthur is the only preacher to have taught expositorily through the whole New Testament, and from one church no less. John Gill, who died in 1771, did it prior to MacArthur. Even more of a blessing, each and every one of those sermons are recorded and transcribed. And best of all, they are all available for free online for the edification of the body. Here is one man’s reaction to that accomplishment who was present for the milestone:

Sunday, June 05, 2011
John MacArthur – Unprecedented Preaching Achievement

In addition, there is solace in trusting a man who has continued to live a long life of holiness and is a leading example of godliness right before our eyes. We mourn but are also saddened and angry when authors, theologians, professors and pastors we had trusted fall, one after another. MacArthur hasn’t swerved either morally or doctrinally.

MacArthur with his wife Patricia on the day he completed
preaching the New Testament verse by verse. 43 years! Source

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)


Further Reading

Website, many resources: Grace To You

Church: Grace Community Church

John MacArthur’s Biography (and book list)