Monday, 16 January 2017

John MacArthur versus the emergent church

I recently read the transcript of an old interview Phil Johnson did with John MacArthur, the interview was entitled ‘What’s So Dangerous About the Emerging Church?’ The discussion itself could be summarized in MacArthur’s concern that post-modernism denies the truthfulness of scripture or at least that it can be understood with any degree of certainty. Despite the arrogance that oozed off of the pages much, though certainly not all, of what was said I would probably have to agree with.

However I am not overly concerned as to the actual topic of discussion that was had on the show, I am neither a Calvinist nor part of the emergent tribe. I will provide a link at the bottom of this article for those who want to go and read the particulars of that discussion for themselves. But the reason I have drawn attention to the interview is because it sort of confirmed some things about the NeoReformed crowd that I have long feared. That is that they often sound more like Bible-worshipers than Christ-followers. Yes, I do believe that one can actually make an idol out of the Bible.

Before reading the article, I decided to do a little experiment and jot down how often some key-words were mentioned. The word ‘Bible’ for example came up 47 times, ‘scripture’ 54 times, the ‘word of God’ 22 times, ‘New Testament’ was mentioned 4 times and ‘Old Testament’ 11. In total, 138 times Phil and John referred to the Bible, how much they love it, how it is the foundation of our faith, how it is central to our faith, how it is the truth, how committed too and anchored in it they were and how supreme it is over everything else.

Now I love reading scripture as well, it is the testimony of the prophets and apostles pointing to our Lord Jesus Christ. And we can and should be encouraging Christians to read it, to study it and to test what they have being told about it. It is good to do so, provided that we are using it as a tool to move people toward Jesus. This however is not what I see from the New Calvinists, in this lengthy interview Jesus was only mentioned 10 times and none of those occurrences had anything to do with His supremacy and centrality in all things. He was mentioned from a book title and in a quote from the book which they were condemning. He was mentioned in a couple of scriptural references to belittle two other men and the rest of the time He was mentioned only to validate their point regarding the supremacy and centrality of the Bible.

While I do believe that both Phil and John's  intentions are good and that they mean to lead others to God. I fear that the message they are sharing is unhealthy. The Bible is NOT central to our faith, Jesus is. The Bible is NOT the foundation on which we build, Jesus is (1 Corinthians 3:11). The Bible is not even the Word of God; I know that because the Bible tells me that Jesus is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13). Using Jesus to elevate the written word is like lifting a horse on your back and taking it for a ride, it’s all backwards.

“You search the scriptures because in them you think that you have eternal life but these are they which testify of me” – John 5:39.

If Jesus is only getting 5% the amount of attention as ANYTHING else does in your messages then something is wrong. And I do believe that this same experiment done over again with their writings as well as with like-minded preachers and teachers would yield similar results. When I read the New Testament, I see a bunch of guys who were constantly quoting from scripture with the intention of seeing Christ in it and pointing others to Him, what a man speaks most of is probably a fair reflection of what is dearest to him. Regardless of your tribe, I would encourage you to take the words below to heart.

Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. – Hebrews 12:2.

Post referred to - , October 19, 2006 GTY107


  1. That's very interesting statistics. They may not be a definite statement on what these guys think, but they may be some indication.

    1. Thanks UnkleE. There were other interesting stats as well which I never mentioned. For example, despite mentioning the Bible 130 plus times they only actually quoted from it 4 times. There was no attempt at engaging in any discussion at all, just an assumption that they already had all of the answers. It is quite the opposite problem but just as dangerous as the one that they were accusing the other side of.