Friday, March 07, 2008

I Don't Understand John MacArthur

MacArthur just plain misses it on this one.

I read these notes from John MacArthur's opening address to this year's Shepherd's Conference and I simply don't understand how he can say the following:

Whether the gospel was preached to Jews or to Gentiles, the message did not change. And all those whom God had chosen, responded to that message in faith.

The apostles went out for absolute disdain for contextualization. The modern drive for cultural contextualization is a curse, because people are wasting their time trying to figure out clever ways to draw in the elect. Contextualization is “zip-code ministry.” The message of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is transcendent. It goes beyond its immediate culture or sub-culture. It crosses the world, and ignores the nuances of culture. It never descends to clothing or musical style, as if that had anything to do with the message of the Gospel.

Does your message ignore the trends and superficial icons of culture, and bring heaven down in its transcendent reality? Can you take your sermons and preach them anywhere?

I have some questions: Read More.


Rusty said...

I don't know MacArthur's intentions but, from listening to him pretty regularly, I would bet it has to do with those that would alter their message, and their presentation of the message, in the hopes of not "scaring" people away. Essentially, it's the same mentality that concludes sermons must be relevant to the needs of parishioners - or else - they won't want to set foot inside the church. Matt's questions seem to presuppose that cultural contextualization, in the here and now, is being done in the manner it was in the NT (e.g., Paul). But is that really the case? When Paul adjusted his presentation it was still in the context of mankind being fallen, and Jesus being our Savior - therefore, repent. There is no indication, that I'm aware of, that Paul contextualized his presentation based on popular styles, likes, or dislikes. Yet we seem to think that our changing clothing or musical styles, in presenting the Gospel, is akin to Paul's attempt to present ideas in a manner that different cultures would understand.

Of course, I think John MacArthur can be quite bull-headed. But I'm left wondering if setting up a church, geared towards a particular demographic, is really what Paul (and the other apostles) was doing?

Ron Ballew said...

I think there is a major difference on having services targeted towards non-believers and what happens in those Churches once they become Chritians.

There is nothing wrong with contexualization, and the message does indeed remain the same. How we present it does have to change.

I have some issues with some of the emergents, but there is no "emergent" doctrine, it is a very loose group.

Sermon's don't have to be relevant? I guess, but you can get those types of sermons at your neighborhood mainline denom anytime you want. If Christ through a Church isn't speaking to the younger generation, something is wrong. We don't water sown the message, but it has to impact their lives in the day to day.

BTW, MacArthur wouldn't care for me anyway, since I am one of the heretical Pentecostals!

Rusty said...

Hi Ron,

By "relevant sermons" I don't mean relevance in terms of presenting the true Gospel. Certainly that is the relevance we need to present. What I mean is the tailoring of a sermon to meet the "what's in it for me?" attitude people can have. Take just about any hip church mailer sent out to local neighborhoods and note the special emphasis you find on: 1) what you can wear to church, 2) the upbeat (and always positive) music that you'll hear in worship, and 3) the fact that the message (never "sermon") will be relevant to your needs (i.e., it will help you deal with what you perceive to be the issues that are stressing you out). So... how far will a typical pastor get if he speaks about our inherent sinful nature, the fact that we are lost, and that God commands us to repentance?

I sometimes wonder... if the Bible truly is the Word of God, then why don't pastors simply preach from it? Why go to all the trouble of tailoring messages to entice listeners?

Yeah, I have certain issues with MacArthur as well. My favorite teachers are RC Sproul and Greg Koukl.