Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Pot and the Kettle: MacArthur and Driscoll

John MacArthur, popular radio speaker, Christian author, and pastor of the Grace Church in Southern California, along with his associate Phil Johnson, have written a series of enlightening articles at their online magazine, Pulpit Live, on the "emerging church movement" (ECM). The latest article features a sharp criticism of Mark Driscoll (I would link him, but his website is too much garbage), a leading figure in the ECM. I agree with everything that MacArthur says in his expose. I'm not even going to quote him. However, I will say that he takes a stand against worldliness and references James 4:4. I applaud stands against worldliness.

I wonder this though: What about the worldliness of John MacArthur and Grace Church? He has long disrespected men who preached and took stands of personal separation. I talked to a pastor who went to a MacArthur meeting in Michigan. Right before MacArthur stood to preach on the holiness of God, an ensemble from his Master's College publically swayed to the seductive rhythm of their contemporary music. I ask you to consider what MacArthur says and then view this trailer for their upcoming youth conference, called Resolved (click on the link for the trailer to watch). John Piper, the featured speaker at the beginning of this trailer, just prominently endorsed Mark Driscoll at his own church in a national conference. Doesn't it seem clear, plainly evident, that these guys are clueless on the doctrine of separation? Where is the discernment? MacArthur warns about Driscoll but he has Piper who endorses Driscoll. Hmmmm. They aren't really that serious about helping people against worldliness, in part because a church like Grace Church got where they are through compromise.

And then you look at the trailer itself. Teens watch this. Lots of guys and girls getting together in the dark, a movie-theater-like environment; the very fuzzy, LSD trip camera shots on the rock guitar and trap set. The low, rumbling rock bass, like something at the beginning of a grunge concert. Here are two concepts that came to my mind: youth culture and drug culture. It is all, to use MacArthur's word---faddish. He dresses everything up just like the world. Young people know this. The trailer finds a common denominator with the world. It says "straddle the fence" all over it, blurring dangerously the lines between theology and self-gratification. If he wants to motivate with godliness and preaching and the Word of God, why does he do it the way he does? Carnal weaponry! Of course, all of this is the pot and kettle metaphor.

MacArthur has written a lot against pragmatism---preached tons against it---from Ashamed of the Gospel to Our Sufficiency in Christ to Reckless Faith. He opines to everybody in several volumes about this kind of stuff, but he won't give it up himself. He himself seems enslaved to it. What's the difference? In his case, he has "liberty," of course, but Driscoll crosses the line into antinomianism. What line? MacArthur's line. This kind of inconsistency in practice results in reckless faith and a lack of discernment, as well as a defiled conscience, things MacArthur regularly goes on and on about (and rightly so---they're good topics....for a separatist). Separation becomes completely subjective, guided by feelings, in MacArthur's world. It all comes across like Driscoll goes beyond MacArthur's comfort zone; that's all. MacArthur is the older school pragmatist, the pot, putting down Driscoll, the newer school pragmatist, the kettle.

I'm interested in your comments.


Unknown said...

"And Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear." (Exo. 32:17-18)

It could very well be that a majority of the Israelites had no problem with syncretic worship (the worship of Jehovah mixed with calf worship which is pagan) because they were not saved.

It could very well be that the reason many people today have no problem with mixing worldliness and worship is because they are not saved.

I certainly do not want to judge anyone's salvation (because ultimately I couldn’t anyway) BUT it seems that from what I can see, people don't want strong Bible doctrine and preaching, they want entertainment.

Is that too strong an assessment?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Lack of separation is the problem. I do think lack of conversion in many instances, if not most, is the reason. However, with these two guys, and especially MacArthur, it isn't doctrinal weakness. He's deep in Scripture; however, compromising in personal separation and his associations. The disconnect is in practice.

Ryan Martin said...

They blaspheme God's sovereignty by trying to make it trendy, something, by the very definition of the doctrine, it is most certainly is not.

Lou Martuneac said...

MacArthur and Piper are wrong in their practice of separation.

Separation is a Bible doctrine. This means they are off-base doctrinally on separation.

I watched the Resolved trailer. I was not saved until I was 23 and by that time attended many rock concerts. What I saw on the Resolved stage did not look any different than the rock stages I sat in front of. The music in the trailer was muted, but I think the sounds may not be much different either.

It had all the look of the world.

Biblical separation is one of the defining characteristics of Fundamentalism. Both Piper and MacArthur have serious practical problems in this area.

Why do so many Fundamentalists continue to endorse and promote these men and their doctrine?


Anonymous said...

When our music sounds like the world's music - our videos look like the world's videos, etc. then we have become guilty of being like the world. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (Tit 2:12) We are to be different because we are new creatures. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor 5:17)

Anonymous said...

Kent, you're right on target. Doctrinal orthodoxy is not enough. Separation must be real, defined and practiced. Billy Graham preached good messages for many years but his lack of separation produced a continual drift toward the world. BTW, check out the link on SI for the rift in the Graham family. At the end of the article, I found it ironic that Billy could not make a firm decision and seal the breach. IMHO, he's overly concerned about offending anyone but that seems the mindset of modern religion in America--well, except they don't mind blasting and offending Fundamentalists.

Anonymous said...

Should we not look at our brothers, let me say again, our brothers and be grateful that they are working to spread the gospel? Are seperatists really that ignorant that they think they can reach the world by themselves? These men have by no means cheapened the gospel, they simply proclaim it in different ways than you do...and the result is that God's kingdom is greater than me, you, them, or any movement.

Kent Brandenburg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks for all of your comments. I agree with all of you on these things. I am glad to see that others agree on SI too. I figured that Mike Harding, Scott Aniol, and Greg Linscott would agree. I agree with Ryan that the Resolve trailer is blasphemous. I like the word "trendy." It profanes the sacred, making it common place. This fundamentaly contradicts holiness. If the motive is not to draw in worldly people with the style and mood, then what is it? Saying that you disagree with a Rick Warren and then using Rick Warren style methodology smacks of something foul.

Someone on SI said that my writing, LSD trip type graphics was off base. How? That's what it looked like. Did you notice the fuzzy edges, everything not quite, interestingly enough, resolved, unclear, blurry?

Don Johnson said...

Well, well, Phil Johnson wrote in on the SI blog giving his take on this subject. I was in the midst of composing a post in reply, but as I attempted to publish it, I got notice of a PM from JJ. Unfortunately, I was unable to access it, due to some foul up with Firefox, but the gist of it is pretty obvious, I, too, have been banned! I wondered how long it would take!

I did make a comment in another thread that was over the top. It was true, mind you, but it was over the top. JJ could have deleted it or simply asked me to edit it, but I think he has been laying for me.

So, here is what I was saying in response to Phil Johnson's remarks on this topic at SI:

Phil Johnson said
4. Of course, Driscoll's language wasn't really the point of the concern MacArthur was raising. He was decrying the practice of those who deliberately immerse themselves in the cesspool of a decaying culture's fads.
Phil Johnson also said
5. You don't know or understand MacArthur if you imagine that he is immersed in any aspect of pop culture or music, or that he has some pragmatic motive for speaking at a conference where contemporary music is played—as if he thought pop music can break through some spiritual, cultural, or generational barrier that God's Word couldn't otherwise penetrate.

Phil -- so is the issue then a matter of degree? If one is willing to so wholly immerse one's self into the cesspool of a decaying culture's fads as Driscoll is, then that's wrong, BUT if MacArthur is only willing to wade in, say "ankle deep", by speaking at a conference that FEATURES "pop music", well that's OK?

Perhaps some have questioned motives (not that I think that is necessarily the great evil that so many here do) but I haven't really seen that in the back and forth on this thread. The question is: Is it a legitimate PRACTICE to only wade in the cesspool up to your ankles (or so, you pick your depth) but if you totally immerse yourself, then that's BAD BAD BAD.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jon from Bucksport said...

I am a bit perplexed by your reference to the "doctrine of separation." I believe there are principles of separation that are spelled out in the Word of God but is not the term doctrine going a bit too far?

Anonymous said...

MacArthur is a hypocrite who has an electric guitar shaped beam in his own eye.

BJ Nordgren

Anonymous said...


Welcome to the club. I consider it a badge of honour to be banned from the clique of SI. It represents a movement that is like a ship made of cardboard with toilet-paper sales. Young Fundamentalism is a disaster waiting to happen. I would be seriously concerned if I was accepted and embraced by it. That is not to say that everyone at SI is a mess. Most of them simply hang on there because they don't really say what they believe.

BTW, Kent, I noticed that the thread there contains another instance of women rebuking men. Some things never change! Feminized Fundamentalism!

Glad to be outside of the SI camp,


Kent Brandenburg said...

I am amazed how MacArthur's assistant, Phil Johnson, argues and the perhaps even more so, gets away with it over at SI in the discussion about this post. I'm going to break it down in an entire post later, but I draw your attention to three now:
1. MORAL EQUIVALENCE BY PHIL JOHNSON---"On my one visit to the BJU bookstore, the music playing on the loudspeakers in the background was Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." Now, I'm not the least bit offended by that, but it's awfully hard to reconcile with most of the reasons fundamentalists give for regarding contemporary popular music as sinful. If some element of style, dissonance, syncopation, or evil associations are what make certain kinds of music "worldly," then "Rite of Spring," I should think, would be the worldliest music of all. If you doubt me, you should read up on what happened at the premier of that work in Paris." What does what BJU does have anything to do with what MacArthur does? He DEFLECTS from the problem by getting attention on Igor Stravinsky. Do you think there is a lot of Stravinsky bad influence on our culture? No way. The things in the Resolve trailer video are problems, however, which I will also detail, since Phil Johnson says he really wants to know.
2. MISREPRESENTATION BY PHIL JOHNSON.---"But the section quoted here is more confusing than necessary because of the way it has been modified by Mike or someone else before he posted it. The parenthetical words ("contemporary music") are not in the original, and they aren't accurate. The antecedent of the pronoun "it" (both here and in the sentences that follow) is actually the gerund phrase "Evangelizing with contemporary music" at the start of the second sentence. The context makes the meaning clear. MacArthur is criticizing the notion that CCM concerts and popular hits by CCM artists are a better means of evangelism than preaching and personal witnessing, and he is objecting to the claim that popular CCM artists are more strategic instruments for reaching the lost than pastors and teachers." He misrepresents the quote of MacArthur by Mike Harding. In that exact quote, listen to this MacArthur sentence: " 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 truth. In using the world's genres of music, it blurs the gap between worldly Satanic values and Divine ones." PHIL JUST IGNORED THAT AND MISREPRESENTS BY GOING AFTER PASTOR HARDING'S ADDITION TO THE QUOTE. Do you see what MacArthur is saying in this? He is saying that these contemporary musicians are popular in the world's eyes. Yes. They are worldly. And then he says they use the world's genres of music. Genres. That isn't the words. That is the music. As a result the gap is blurred between worldly Satanic values and God's ones. YES!!! That is exactly what this Resolved trailer does. It blurs, blurs, blurs. YES!!!
Topic A is under discussion. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A). Topic A is abandoned.
Andy Efting: "And let's not pretend we don't know what the Resolved music will be like."
"Well, I'm not pretending. I haven't been to any of the conferences. I really don't know. I'm just pointing out that the instruments shown in the video are not themselves sinful, and it's not possible to discern from the instruments themselves very much about the style—and nothing about the lyrics or doctrinal content—of the music that will be sung at the conference." No one said they had a problem with a guitar and drums. That is assuming way too much. It was the whole package, but he picks out that one item out of context and argues with that.

Don Johnson said...

Hi guys

Well, the YF problem is one that is the result of way too many young people adopting the mind of the culture around us. This is a result of the failure of many fundamental churches to make disciples of their members. We are too much evangelical wannabes, pursuing the materialism of the age. God help us.

Don't you find it ironic that this particular discussion picked up on SI as a result of linking to Kent's article? This is the second time in the last few weeks Kent has been linked. I was watching the thread to see if anyone really jumped on Kent, given that he is on the outs with SI and unable to directly rebut anything that comes his way over there. It seems to me that there is something of a division in the leadership there.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Anonymous said...

You are not talking about the doctrine of separation. You are saying that these men aren't consistent with your standard of separation.

Because these men can't be poured into your mold, you pen them as liberal. You have attributed your preferences and desires to Godliness. Paul told the Colossians to do they exact opposite.

My friend, I do not know you. But, I believe you have become a worshipper of methodology instead of God.

Don Johnson said...

Mr Anonymous, I don't think anyone is saying that MacA et al are liberals. And of course they aren't consistent with our standard of separation, but that is not the issue in this post, as I undestand it.

The point here is that MacA is not consistent with his own standards. We are observing that and mystified by it.

Now, I have used collective pronouns here, and I don't speak for Kent and the others, but I think what I said describes the general consensus of what has been said in the comments. Personally, I can't support MacA's philosophy although he does say good things from time to time.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Andy Efting said...


Concerning JM's standards, the surprising thing to me in all this is that he is actually in print advocating standards in this area. Mike Harding said something in the SI thread about JM's practice moving away from his stated standards. Having grown up in SoCal and having a brother that actually graduated from TMC in the early 90's, I would say that his practice has been to allow the use of CCM from the start. If anything, I think he is becoming more vocal about the downside/error of that practice. So, the inconsistency is new, I think, but not in the direction that most people think it is. The ironic thing is that the YF's hero is doing something most are loathe to do and that is apply Biblical principles to the area of music and culture.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Don. You're right.

Andy, I knew that JMac was worse before. I don't believe Harding is correct to say He has gotten worse. I think he sees the destruction the stuff is having on 1) worship, 2) the gospel, 3) the conscience, 4) linear thought and therefore the knowledge of Christ, and 5) More, so he is hitting it in his later years hopefully to have a little impact where he has been silent. It is a slight desperation mode. He missed this one along the way, actually feeding the monster himself with his own methodology. Now he is saying things and it does come across hypocritical now because it is all around him. He is doing a kind of reverse frog in the kettle. He is trying to turn the heat down; problem---he already killed the frog.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Mr. Anonymous says that I worship methodology. That is begging the question, ad hominem, really no argument, just an unsubstantiated statement. Here's what I am, Mr. Anonymous, I'm someone who:
1) Sees that worship is giving God what He wants, not what WE want,
2) Sees that worship is mutually inclusive from self-gratification, oh, except with the antichrist,
3) Knows that what you give God effects what people think of Him,
4) Preaches that grace teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lust and that the soul is vexed that does not abstain from fleshly lust,
5) Believes that by conforming to the world we cannot present ourselves a living sacrifice,
6) Not judging these things ruins the conscience and discernment, and there is a huge lack of discernment seen both at SI and in the MacArthur circles because of this. Look how Phil Johnson argues and you can see that.
And More.

The Bible doesn't just teach What and Who, but also How. Worship is ruined by first not worshiping God like He wants. Worldliness is not the way of holiness and God said, Be ye holy. It also profanes the sacred. So Anonymous, that should give you something to chew on.

OH, and those who do not think that SEPARATION is a doctrine, you should get into a Bible reading program because it is found in every single epistle and through the OT. In the Gospels, Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword. You are sadly duped.

Lastly, if you don't think that separation applies to cultural issues, then you better get on John MacArthur, because he too says it does.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Tom (Mr. Anonymous?),

When Romans 12:2 says be not conformed to this world, what is on that video is what that means?

What is interesting about your post, and I'm not attempting to smack you, Tom, is that you easily prove my point. You do. You say this: "You seem to be saying that if there is anything remotely appealing to someone in their teens or twenties at a conference then it must be unholy and profane." Ouch. I thought that the Sovereignty of God was what was appealing to that conference. You mean they tried to appeal to the youth culture on that video. I agree with what you are saying, Tom. Good observation.

Having the sovereignty of God in a video that drags God down into the faddish, common, profane, worldly culture does not HOLD UP the sovereignty of God, Tom.

I am going to go bit by bit through this Tom if the Lord tarries, and soon, but I wanted to give us a breather. Plus I'm leaving on Tuesday somewhere and I preach twice tomorrow among many other things. Here was one neat observation in the "advertisement" or "marketing" for the "youth" conference. By the way, aren't we supposed to be trying to get youth to act like adults, so why not treat them like adults and cut out this kind of surface, shallow mood creation? I saw a young man walk by indoors with a stocking cap on. Is the air-conditioning up too high at the conference center? If I come, will I need a stocking cap too? Just asking.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Here's a thought...

A lot of people are asking how you can say the video is bad when all it does is uphold the sovereignty of God. How about this question? Why do you need a video to uphold the sovereignty of God? Couldn't that be done with just words? Printed or spoken? I believe there is more being communicated than just the sovereignty of God by using the video medium. And really, as Postman says, the medium has overtaken the message so that you need to look past the visual effects to find the sovereignty of God.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps some time reflecting on other contemporary issues would give each of us pause - which is the standard? We will not tolerate the elevation of a translation as THE standard by which all others fall short. Should we also consider if we've elevated a form of music as THE standard by which all others falls short? Blasphemy and heresy are terms that should be used only for the most extreme cases of those reviling Christ Himself.

Joe VonDoloski said...

I would have to agree with what you guys are saying. I mean, even in the Bible we have David dancing almost completely naked through the streets and God CLEARLY denounces this as blasphemy doesn't he? Doesn't he?

I am not in favor of contemporary music either but will you guys PUH LEASE not be so quick to call everything blasphemous?

Dr. MacArthur and John Piper have been used more of God than all of you combined! What they need is not your rank criticisms and critiques but your prayers and support.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I detected the note of sarcasm, but David wasn't naked; he was without his royal apparel, which makes that a moot point. As far as Dr. MacArthur and John Piper (I think Dr. MacArthur has an honorary and John Piper an earned Dr., so I don't know how Piper got the short end of your honor) being MORE used of God, I can't judge that. God also used the Babylonians to judge Judah. I do thank you for your reminder to pray for them. I will make sure to do that. However, their fame makes them even more important to criticize. If you read the blog, you know that it was about a criticism from Dr. MacArthur about someone who many would say has done even more than him.

People need to understand what these men, who reach into many homes by means of their internet and radio work, including those of our church people, are doing and be warned.

Lou Martuneac said...

Hi Kent:

Just a follow-up to the Resolved Conference (preaching & music). I did an article for SI and my blog on some of the preaching at Resolved. I found the Lordship Salvation message was as unsound as I have heard in years. You can see some samples at my site.

Anyway, in the thread I started on Resolved at SI I posted a follow-up on the music issue with links to two photos that may tell a story. I did ask if there is anyway one can hear a sample of the music played at Resolved, but no luck on that yet.

The link to the pics are at SI in the thread. Copy and past the link to go to the SI thread on Resolved...


By the way, I skimmed your comments above on Phil Johnson's appearance at SI. Phil's primary role at GTY is to act as chief apologist for JM and run interference when JM’s methods or doctrine are called into question.

I thought it humorous how he behaved at SI when he tried to take on Mike Harding and others, when he (Phil) had his facts wrong and was confronted with clear incontrovertible evidence of JM’s incosistencies. Phil was not able to bully them the way he does others at Pyro. Then he said he would speak to JM about some legitimate concerns that were raised. Of course, Phil never did get back to anyone and I highly doubt he had any intention of speaking to JM in the first place.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys should separate yourselves from the Internet. It's used for all kinds of evil. As is the shade of blue on your webpage. It's a blasphemous blue. You should really use all white.

So if "the world" started wearing three-piece polyester suits, playing organs, calling everyone and everything blasphemous that didn't fit their preferences, etc..., would you then stop doing those things yourself?

Sorry for the sarcasm, just following your lead.