John MacArthur and Cultural Liberalism

Updated November 6, 2013 (first published January 24, 2012) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org) -

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This is a warning about the dangerous waters of evangelicalism and the fact that many fundamental Baptists are building bridges to these waters.

Recently I received an e-mail from a father who said that his church has begun using John MacArthur’s material for Sunday School. He asked, “Should a parent like myself be concerned?”

I replied:

“I would be extremely concerned if a church started using MacArthur's material. Not only is he a staunch Calvinist who believes that one must be born again in order to believe, but he is a worldly rock & roll evangelical.”

In spite of the many good things in MacArthur’s teaching and his gift in exposition, Bible-believing parents should be deeply concerned about building bridges to him.

The first part of the following report is from the Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, Connecticut (no date), http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/separate/macrock.htm

John MacArthur hosts a youth conference which is called the "Resolved Conference." Thousands of young people attend and listen to Christian lyrics sung to the heavy drum beat of rock music. There is no question that rock music is accepted and approved by John MacArthur and his church. This can be verified by going to the "Resolved" website [http://www.resolved.org/].

Peter Masters, Pastor of London’s famous Metropolitan Tabernacle where Spurgeon preached, wrote an article entitled, "The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness."  An excerpt from this article follows:

“When I was a youngster and newly saved, it seemed as if the chief goal of all zealous Christians, whether Calvinistic or Arminian, was consecration. Sermons, books and conferences stressed this in the spirit of Romans 12.1-2, where the beseeching apostle calls believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice, and not to be conformed to this world. The heart was challenged and stirred. Christ was to be Lord of one’s life, and self must be surrendered on the altar of service for him.

“But now, it appears, there is a new Calvinism, with new Calvinists, which has swept the old objectives aside. A recent book, Young, Restless, Reformed, by Collin Hansen tells the story of how a so-called Calvinistic resurgence has captured the imaginations of thousands of young people in the USA, and this book has been reviewed with great enthusiasm in well-known magazines in the UK, such as Banner of Truth, Evangelical Times, and Reformation Today. This writer, however, was very deeply saddened to read it, because it describes a seriously distorted Calvinism falling far, far short of an authentic life of obedience to a sovereign God. If this kind of Calvinism prospers, then genuine biblical piety will be under attack as never before. The author of the book is a young man (around 26 when he wrote it) who grew up in a Christian family and trained in secular journalism. We are indebted to him for the readable and wide-reaching survey he gives of this new phenomenon, but the scene is certainly not a happy one.

“The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book – large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.

“We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, ‘Christian’ hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture. Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment.’ (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, show business atmosphere created by the organizers.)

“Truly proclaimed, the sovereignty of God must include consecration, reverence, sincere obedience to his will, and separation from the world. You cannot have Puritan soteriology without Puritan sanctification. You should not entice people to Calvinistic (or any) preaching by using worldly bait. We hope that young people in this movement will grasp the implications of the doctrines better than their teachers, and come away from the compromises. But there is a looming disaster in promoting this new form of Calvinism” (Peter Masters, "The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness").

MacArthur’s use of rock music in his own church is puzzling in light of the excellent statements he has made in the past against rock music, such as the following:

“Our music cannot be like the music of the world, because our God is not like their gods. Most of the world's music reflects the world's ways, the world's standards, the world's attitudes, the world's gods. To attempt to use such music to reach the world is to lower the gospel in order to spread the gospel. If the world hears that our music is not much different from theirs, it will also be inclined to believe that the Christian way of life is not much different from theirs” (
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (1986), see discussion of Ephesians 5:20, p. 260).

“The association of hard rock with violence, blasphemy, sadomasochism, sexual immorality and perversion, alcohol and drugs, and Eastern mysticism and the occult are not accidental. they are fed from the same ungodly stream. A leading rock singer once said, ‘Rock has always been the devil's music. It lets in the baser elements.’ Putting a Christian message in such a musical form [rock style] does not elevate the form but degrades the message to the level already established in the culture by that form” (
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, see discussion of Ephesians 5:20, p. 261).

“It should be noted that the many contemporary entertainers who think they are using their rock–style music to evangelize the lost are often doing nothing more than contributing to the weakening of the church. Evangelizing with contemporary music has many serious flaws. It tends to create pride in the musicians rather than humility. It makes the gospel a matter of entertainment when there is not one thing in it that is at all entertaining. It makes the public proclaimers of Christianity those who are popular and talented in the world’s eyes, rather than those who are godly and gifted teachers of God’s truth. In using the world’s genres of music, it blurs the gap between worldly Satanic values and divine ones. It tends to deny the power of the simple gospel and the sovereign saving work of the Holy Spirit. It creates a wide generation gap in the church, thus contributing to the disunity and lack of intimacy in the fellowship of all believers. It leads to the propagation of bad or weak theology and drags the name of the Lord down to the level of the world. The music of the gospel is certainly not a legitimate means for making money or seeking fame, and it must never be allowed to cheapen what is priceless, or trivialize what is profound” (
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, see discussion of Ephesians 5:19, p. 257).

“Rock music, with its bombastic atonality and dissonance, is the musical mirror of the hopeless, standardless, purposeless philosophy that rejects both God and reason and floats without orientation in a sea of relativity and unrestrained self–expression. The music has no logical progression because it comes from a philosophy that renounces logic. It violates the brain because its philosophy violates reason. It violates the spirit, because its philosophy violates truth and goodness. And it violates God, because its philosophy violates all authority outside of self” (
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, see discussion of Ephesians 5:19-20, p. 261).

“It [rock music] does this by catering to pride, by being grounded in emotion, by appealing to the flesh, by watering down the message, by sending a false impression of the nature of the gospel, and by cheapening the Christian life.” See
http://data.bereanwife.com/ccm_pdf.pdf

“Now I believe that basically speaking, rock music in and of itself is problematic—period. And I believe that for many reasons. One is: rock music is a product of a disoriented, despairing, drug-related sex-mad generation. There’s no question about that. The first big rock singer was Elvis Presley, who killed himself with drugs and who went through women, you know, continuously. And he gave rise to the whole rock generation. He was the first, and his whole act was sexual, sensual, you know; it was terrible. Nowadays we think he was comical because we’ve come so far. But the vernacular of rock music at this particular point represents a generation that I have real trouble identifying with. And what happens is if you put a Christian message in that vernacular, I think Christianity suffers immensely because I don’t think you can take that kind of medium and use it to propagate a Christian message” [Transcribed from the tape, GC 1301-R, titled "Bible Questions and Answers Part 20." All Rights Reserved.]

We fully agree with these strong statements against rock music by John MacArthur. However, by tolerating and allowing rock music in his own church, MacArthur either does not practice what he preaches or he has changed his position on music, and no longer believes what he once preached.

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CONCLUSION BY BROTHER CLOUD

Indeed, John MacArthur is facing two ways in regard to the heresy of “cultural liberalism.” On one hand he reproves the emerging “new Calvinists” for their worldliness, while on the other hand he engages in that very thing.

In an interview with Alex Crain of Christianity.com, which was posted on YouTube, Aug. 18, 2011, MacArthur said:

“The fear is that the power of the world’s attraction is going to suck these guys and every generation after them, more and more into the culture, and we’re going to see a reversal of the Reformed revival. ... My fear is that the further this thing goes in trying to accommodate the culture, the less it’s going to be able to hang on to that core doctrine” (“MacArthur Predicts Reversal of the Reformed Revival - Part 1,” http://youtu.be/xYhmo5gabQU).

MacArthur, who rightly warns that the heresy of cultural liberalism puts the next generation at risk, is referring to the popular philosophy which was enunciated by Mark Driscoll as the combination of “theological conservatism with cultural liberalism,” which is not new but has always been a major element of New Evangelicalism. It entails such things as Christian rock, drinking, champagne dance parties, beer brewing lessons, gambling nights, hula “worship,” analyzing R-rated movies for “edification,” and performing secular rock in the context of “worship.”

What MacArthur says about the danger of cultural liberalism is true, but his condemnation of it is grossly ineffective and hypocritical because he is guilty of it.

Camp Regeneration, a youth camp hosted by MacArthur for “churches throughout the nation each July,” is rife with cultural liberalism.

High school boys and girls dress immodestly, engage in questionable activities (such as girls getting covered with wet mud in the presence of boys) and rock out to rap music performed by ear-ringed, tattooed hip-hop artists in an atmosphere of darkened auditoriums, flashing lights, and smoke.

The Master’s College, which is headed by MacArthur, hosted a hip-hop concert in December 2011 featuring Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tadashii, Sho Baraka, DJ Official, and THI’SL. The Master’s College students produce pop/rap/country rock videos with full blown dance routines and covers of secular rock songs. They host a Fall Thing event that is extremely worldly. In 2011 the theme was “Unrestricted Reality,” and the students donned costumes imitating characters from Star Wars, sci-fi fantasy, super heroes, and the pop culture in general. This plays right into the hands of the culture’s fascination with fantasy and the devil’s use of it to corrupt men’s minds. The young people wouldn’t want to dress up this way unless their minds and hearts were already infatuated with Hollywood.

The Master’s College’s annual Week of Welcome features beach activities and pool parties complete with girls in tight and very skimpy bathing suits. (All of this is evident from the photos placed at the Flickr pages owned by the camp and school and from YouTube clips. See http://www.pccmonroe.org/2011/10.htm.)

Can someone tell me how MacArthur is leading the way against the adaptation of the sensual pop culture and why he is a safe “conservative” to follow? He was correct in observing that cultural liberalism will ruin the youth and eventually destroy sound doctrine, and his own flock will be the proof of it, as will those of every foolish pastor that follows in his footsteps.

Many fundamental Baptists are on the same destructive path, as we have documented in the free eBook “Biblical Separatism and Its Collapse Among Fundamental Baptists.” See
www.wayoflife.org/free_ebooks/.
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