I’ve liked John MacArthur since I first heard him on the radio back somewhere around 1971. I liked him because I had never heard such enthusiastic preaching, and I’d never heard expository preaching before, either. Why, the guy just made the scriptures come to life!
I got ahold of his book, “Charismatic Chaos” and read it through, then I got my own copy of “The Gospel According to Jesus” and devoured it. That book still has a great effect on my own theology.
But I’m a Methodist; I’m a life-long Methodist. You are probably thinking,”Isn’t MacArthur a Baptist?”
Well, officially he’s non-denominational. Grace Community Church is non-denominational. But I can see where you could get that idea. Much of what he says sounds very “Baptist”. And how could I, a Methodist, agree with what he says?
What makes one a Baptist, and what makes one a Methodist? Just how much difference is there, anyway? First of all, Baptists believe in what they call “believer’s baptism” only. That means the person being baptized has to be mature enough to understand what he’s doing, and understand at least some of the ramifications of that baptism. And that rules out infant baptism.
As a Methodist, I accept infant baptism as a tradition of the church down through the ages. I believe it may have even been practiced by the earliest church. I see it as an initiation rite into the church, but I can also see the symbolism involved, especially the joining with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.
John MacArthur doesn’t accommodate that view at all in his writings.
MacArthur holds to a pretribulational, premillennial eschatological position. United Methodists have traditionally held an amillennial position, and it generally believed that John Wesley himself was either amillennial or postmillennial.
MacArthur believes strongly in God’s sovereignty, to the point where he is clearly Calvinist. Methodism has a history of being clearly Arminian and very anti-Calvinist. (But see this link.) But John Wesley also claimed that his doctrine and Calvin’s doctrine differed by only a hairsbreadth.
MacArthur also believes strongly in the eternal security of the believer. Methodists traditionally believe that one can lose his salvation, that a person can turn his back on the Lord’s salvation and walk away.
So where do I stand? I’m with MacArthur on pretribulational premillennialism. The UMC is basically non-eschatological. I’ve never heard any Methodist pastor preach anything concerning the end times. I’ve basically learned my eschatology from MacArthur.
I’m sitting in between MacArthur and Wesley on the Calvinism thing. I’m definitely more Calvinistic than the typical Methodist of today. In fact, I believe that if he were alive today, John Wesley would be called a Calvinist by most of today’s Methodist theologians.
The eternal security thing is a little tougher, but I tend to lean towards MacArthur on that. There is scripture which tries to say a person could walk away from God and lose his salvation. So I have to go along with the possibility, however, I believe it would have to be a definite, heart-hardened turn away from the Faith, an intentional turning away. A person can’t just accidentally lose his salvation. It’s not an easy thing to do. If you’re saved, if you belong to the Lord, He’s not going to let go. If you drift away, He will be there to bring you back. Even if you try to leave, rest assured, the Lord will even try to drag you back. It would have to be a deliberate, hate-filled, heart-hardened, walk away from God for Him to let you go.
And there are probably a few other things where I might disagree with John MacArthur. But there’s one thing about MacArthur – he will faithfully tell you what he thinks. He won’t beat around the bush. And that’s a big reason his MacArthur Study Bible is so valuable: he’s not afraid to tackle the tough subjects and tell you what he thinks about them. He’s not afraid to offend people with the Gospel as he sees it. And there are precious few other scholars today who think more clearly and express their thoughts about the scriptures more clearly and effectively than John MacArthur. You may not always agree with him, but he tells you like it is.
And that’s why I, as a Methodist, can proudly carry a MacArthur Study Bible to church and Bible Study class.