Macarthurism is another very young cult birthed in America like the Mormons, Jehovah's Witness etc and has spread throughout the world into most western countries. Few people in Christendom know much about Macarthurism or its founder John F MacArthur but it is fast becoming a distinct force of division among traditional Christian churches.
A young John MacArthur sat under his father as assistant pastor to their family church in Burbank, California. MacArthur moved out from under his father's supervision and took control of a former house-church in Sun Valley, Ca. as the pastor. This somewhat new church had begun only 13 years earlier and was led by Dr. Don Householder then Dr Rich Elvee. It is generally accepted that the Householder group was a genuine church. It regarded itself as non-denominational and stated that its emphasis was on the basics of Christianity. MacArthur took control in 1969 and using his persuasive powers he succeeded in doubling his converts every two years. The main U.S. headquarters now entices upward of 5000 on any one Sunday.
MacArthur's former schooling was at Bob Jones University, Los Angeles Pacific College and Talbot Theological Seminary. BJU later denounced him for heresy over his repeated denial of the efficacy of the literal blood of Jesus Christ to wash way sin. He has stirred up more than controversy and gained fame by taking non-traditional positions on the blood of Christ, lordship salvation, anti-Semitism and the eternal sonship of Christ. High profile Christian radio stations refused to air his teachings. He appears to delight in purporting to know more than the historic theologians on these questions and expects his disciples to do the same.
MacArthurism is the system of theology and beliefs devised and taught by John F. MacArthur. To assist in his inculcating he has published millions of books, distributed countless tapes and even written his own version of the bible by adding his personal beliefs as commentaries. Known as the John MacArthur Study Bible it has rewarded the publisher with great profits in sales revenues. The key front piece to the public is his Grace Community Church. This is a registered corporation with its principal offices in Sun Valley, California. An enormous digital image of MacArthur has been projected in satellite churches around the world while his devotees sit under his image and must face it to watch him.
MacArthurism is fraught with contradictions and hypocrisy. MacArthur has been described as a doubled tongued man or one who speaks easily from both sides of his mouth. A simple example is found in MacArthur's church Articles of Incorporation lodged with the State of California. Article IV states that the corporation is to have no members but Article V sect. 1 details the application for membership and sects. 5 and 6 contains instructions on denial of membership and admission of applicants. The cult places extreme emphasis on obedience to its leadership - a sure indication that it is a cult. And also legislates severe disciplinary measures should the leaders find out that members have not followed the registered by-laws of Grace Church. For example: while the cult's rules give only 27 words to 'Responsibilities' they have six separate sections over numerous pages to cover church 'Discipline' procedures.
Not withstanding the secular contradictions of his rule book, MacArthur's most demanding role appears to be his attempt to redefine traditional Christianity in his terms. His personal testimony (available on audio tape) offers no real explanation of true salvation, by repentance and faith, and has led many to suggest that MacArthur is not only unsaved but has no teaching ability to save others either. A most damaging heresy of Macathurism is his belief that the gospel is not for children. Much of what identifies MacArthurism apart from mainstream, is excessive rationalism and academicism and thus the difficulty to accept matters of doctrine by faith. MacArthur says, "The blood of Christ is a metonym for His death." and "The blood of Jesus could not save" Here we see the combination of rationalistic MacArthur confessing that he is unable to understand, by faith, that Jesus' blood can save and then involves a linguistic academic argument to suggest to his disciples that Christ's blood is simply a replacement word meaning death. Consequently, one identifies that MacArthur teaches a works-based religion and claims that, "Living a holy life will give you boldness before God." But the scriptures clearly teach otherwise. "Brethren, we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." Heb 10:19, and not by any 'holy' living that we might do. MacArthur's revisionism in Christianity is not new but remains unhelpful to the genuine student of the scriptures.
MacArthur, in his young formative years, sat under the teaching of and subsequently followed in the footsteps of Robert. B. Thieme Jr., a notable heretic on the blood of Christ. Both of these men believe that Jesus' blood simply soaked into the ground at Calvary and that the literal precious blood of Jesus achieved nothing toward salvation. Read John MacArthur's study Bible on the blood.
Some Heresies of MacArthurism
Jesus' literal blood does NOT wash away sin
The gospel is not for children
The Holy Spirit diminished operating sometime at the end of the first century
Jews cannot attend their own churches
Salvation requires human effort
Teachings that reduce Jesus Christ to a being less than equal with God
Apparent substitution of the Holy Spirit by the MacArthur Study Bible
All of these heresies can be found in MacArthur's teachings. However, when questioned personally he seems to cleverly wordsmith his way around the topic by wresting scripture or confusing the questioner with linguistic gymnastics. He will even outright deny that he believes the above, but teaches it nonetheless. More often, nowadays he employs one of his loyal disciples, such as Phil Johnson, to do his bidding for him or one may receive no reply at all.
The Masters Seminary, where John MacArthur is the master, is the principal training center for the cult. In the early 1980's TMS sent out trainers throughout the world to host large conferences that introduced the doctrines of MacArthurism. Australasia, in particular, was seen as an important mission ground. The greater organization uses a technique nothing short of hi-jacking to further their doctrinal empire. It has been observed that the cult's primary mode of operating is to target the young men from churches with aging congregations and little or no corporate leadership. Over the last twenty years many young men from Australia and New Zealand were persuaded to attend MacArthur's Seminary. Graduates steadily flowed back from the training center and returned to their sending church. Within only a short period MacArthur's graduates took control of the church. They would arrange to be appointed as head pastor and begin paying themselves a salary, even when the church had never needed to do so before. Before long the TMS graduate would have his friends as elders and the power base was completed. Most of the church buildings are too small for idealistic 'big church' MacArthurism. Within time the building will be sold and a large development will be bought or built as a mirror image of the U.S. model. Anyone in the original congregation who refuses to follow the new ways is likely termed 'divisive' and is usually 'dismissed' quickly. MacArthurism has advanced by re-infiltration of an existing bone fide church, altering its structure from within, thus reducing it to a cult group with isolationist ideas. MacArthurism continues to prosper by this divisive technique.
MacArthurism has long held to anti-Semitic principles. Leading Jewish Christians have continually battled against a torrent of literature emanating from MacArthur HQ. Any group that overtly seems to hate Jewish people or discriminate against them by asserting that Jews deserve less than white Americans is not acceptable to the beliefs of conventional thinkers. Leading theologian and Jewish believer in Jesus, Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum finds MacArthurism most troubling. He writes, "So troubling to me, is that, to be blunt, it smacks of anti-Semitism. This is not merely a Jewish reaction ... it is also the conclusion of some Gentile readers of the same paper. The elders of Grace Community Church will allow Korean churches, Chinese churches, and Italian churches, but the Jews are NOT allowed to have a church!" The Hitler-controlled church in Nazi Germany also adopted this position. There must be not even a hint of anti-Semitism in the church.
The difficulty of knowing whether a group is MacArthurite or not is often hard to determine on first examination. Some questions to ask would be: Have any in leadership been to TMS? Is there an unusual amount of MacArthur literature, books, tapes etc? Do MacArthur teachers visit from the U.S. headquarters? Is the MacArthur Study Bible the preferred version? Do any of the leaders use this version? Is there a MacArthur book and tape library? Is your church a sales point for MacArthur's 'Grace To You' book and tape publishing company? Do leaders regularly return to the U.S. HQ for training? If so, be warned that MacArthurism is surrounding you. It is further identified by being harsh and legalistic. See WARNINGS on the navigation bar.
If you or any loved one is involved in a MacArthurite cult then you are strongly encouraged to brake away before you are hurt. The cult's methodology and practices seem to suppress the truth, eject the Holy Spirit and rob people of their joy and fulfilment. It also appears to create an unloving and uncompassionate attitude among many who follow it. Jesus Christ would surely not be pleased with this form of religion.