John McArthur and the Terror of Truth

Right now I’m listening to a sermon by John MacArthur in which he lays out what be believes is at stake regarding how Evangelicals view Roman Catholics: Are they co-laborers in Christ or are they a mission field?

In his talk, MacArthur expresses his amazement that some Evangelicals think that merely by deciding Roman Catholics are Christians, they automatically become such. He scoffs at “self-appointed Evangelical spokespeople” who make such claims in the media. Somehow lost on him is his own self-appointed spokesperson status as well as the fact that he believes merely by deciding Roman Catholics aren’t Christians that they somehow lose their redeemed status.

Biting ironies aside, it was one of his opening comments that gave me pause. In his preamble, MacArthur acknowledges that what he is about to say will offend practicing Roman Catholics and any non-Catholic Christians who consider Catholics to be brothers and sisters in Christ. However, he justifies the potential offense by saying,

Nothing is more loving than the truth. To let someone perish in a false system isn’t loving at all. To rescue people out of a damning and false religion is the only loving thing to do.

I find this justification interesting, because on one level, who can disagree with it? For example, if a friend or relative had told me back in the early 1990s that they were going to join David Koresh’s Branch Davidian commune in Waco, I would have done everything in my power to talk him or her out of it. And I wouldn’t have cared one whit if they were offended by my views.

The question is, what makes that situation different from the one MacArthur is describing, i.e., being a Roman Catholic?

If I put that question to MacArthur, I’m willing to bet he would say, “Nothing.” Granted, it’s unlikely the Pope and his followers will ever take refuge in the Vatican and self-immolate themselves, so the level of imminent physical danger to Roman Catholics is not even remotely comparable. But in the end, in MacArthur’s eyes, both belief systems lie outside the Christian fold and, therefore, render believers in such systems worthy of eternity in hell.

Again, to be perfectly fair, if one of my children told me they were going off to join the Branch Davidians, I would feel perfectly justified in kidnapping them or otherwise restraining them from making such a self-destructive move. I’m sure the legal system would disagree with me, but I would rather suffer in prison than allow one of my children to destroy him or herself. Considering that the consequences MacArthur believes non-Christians will face after they die are much, much higher, it would seem that virtually any means can be justified in order to save people from such a fate. And if we have to tromp on their personal feelings in our efforts to save them from hell, so be it.

Interestingly, this is exactly the argument that Johnathan and Margie Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church used to justify their behavior when I confronted them during the making of Hellbound? As ugly and offensive as their words, actions and day-glo signs might appear, they insisted they were motivated by one thing only–love. After all, if you see someone about to drive off a cliff, so they said, the most loving thing to do is scream as loud as possible in order to warn them of the imminent disaster.

Ignoring the obvious glee the Westboro Baptists get from making their pronouncements, if we take a few steps back in history, this same logic can be seen in the writings of Augustine, who felt people who had drifted into error should be recalled to the faith by any means necessary.

Many must first be recalled to their Lord by the stripes of temporal scourging, like evil slaves, and in some degree like good-for-nothing fugitives.

Such thinking helped lay the groundwork for the Inquisition. And, taking a cue from their Catholic ancestors, many of the Reformers also regarded heresy as a crime worse than murder and believed heretics should be treated as such.

The contention that heretics should not be punished is as monstrous as the contention that patricides and matricides should not be put to death; for heretics are a thousandfold worse criminals than these. (John Calvin)

When heresy breaks forth… then the magistrate must punish not with less but with greater vigor than is employed against other evil-doers, robbers, murderers, thieves, and the like… (Urbanus Rhegius, an associate of Martin Luther)

As Thomas Talbott notes, if you believe in eternal torment in hell, virtually all forms of terror can be–and have been–justified in order to prevent this ultimate terror from being realized. All in the name of love. And let’s face it, who could be surprised that those who believe God is the Ultimate Terrorist would resort to terror themselves?

For those who think calling MacArthur’s god a terrorist is going too far, I’ll go one step further and say MacArthur’s god is worse than a terrorist, because he supposedly created billions of people for the sole purpose of terrorizing them. Forever! Why? To remind the select few he “saves” just how lucky they are. If you’d like a glimpse of what it will be like to experience such a “heaven,” imagine how the lone survivor of this scene in Kevin Smith’s Dogma feels.

So is John MacArthur a terrorist? (Uh oh, I just heard the NSA’s ears perk up.)

Perhaps not in a way that the Department of Homeland Security would recognize, but I believe MacArthur is a terrorist in the same way the Westboro Baptists are terrorists, because they have devoted their lives to sowing fear in order to persuade people to embrace their particular theological system. Unlike the Inquisitors and the early Reformers, however, MacArthur, the Westboro Baptists and other fear mongers (thankfully) lack the political power required to dissuade or punish heretics to the desired extent. But if they ever get it, you can rest assured they will eventually use it to that end, carefully cloaking their actions as a “necessary evil.” After all, non-religious institutions resort to this logic all the time.

Wow, it feels like we’ve come a LONG way from MacArthur’s opening, Catholic-bashing remarks. Now I have him in the White House nuking the Vatican. Where’s Denzel Washington when you need him?

So let me get back on point: Yes, it’s right and good to be concerned for the well being of others. And yes, certain belief systems are inherently destructive. And, as the Branch Davidians illustrate, we don’t have to wait until people die to observe the consequences. So we should do everything in our power to dissuade people from falling into such self-destructive lifestyles.

But (and yes, Emma Pavey, it’s a really big but) when our efforts to save people from hell–either temporal or eternal–cause us to inadvertently sow the seeds of hell on earth, we should pause and ask ourselves some serious questions, such as:

  • What makes us so confident we have the truth and those other guys don’t? (Hint: Jesus seems to indicate an ethical rather than a theological test.)
  • Since when did holding the correct views about some theological system become the definition of being saved? (See the Pope’s remarks on this.)
  • And, perhaps most importantly, if the consequences of not following our God are so irreversibly terrible, what does that say about the God we believe in?

After all, if what MacArthur says is true–if nothing is more loving than the truth, if letting someone perish in a false system isn’t loving at all, and if rescuing people out of a damning and false religion is the only loving thing to do–how could a loving God ever create a universe in which doing the most loving thing is finally and irrevocably impossible?

"If all violence led to eventual wishes for revenge, why is it possible for members ..."

Teach me how to treat you
"How about Stalin? How would you have fought him?"

Why violence is the perfect solution ..."
"I would say force is occasionally the least worse immediate response to a situation already ..."

Why violence is the perfect solution ..."
"I thought this was supposed to be a Catholic site."

Guest post: Why Hitler will (not) ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • magormissabib

    What a goofball. Comparing WBC to Augustine. WBC uses WORDS, moral suasion. You dont get to use any means necessary . God chose to save men from hell by one means only: the foolishness of preaching. Isa 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

  • magormissabib

    God chose ONE means to save men , not any means, the foolishness of preaching. If you sacrifice truth in the name of ‘love’ or water down the truth to spare peoples feeeeelings. you do not love. tolerance and silence aobut sin is hate. Catholics worship the goddess Ishtar queen of heaven. No idolators have a place in the kingdom of God.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

      > the goddess Ishtar

      So you won’t be celebrating Ishtar (Easter) this spring equinox season? It’s a great celebration, when the sun is resurrected, and 12:01 hours of light overcomes 11:59 hours of darkness, which is what your pagan dying-rising sungod represents.

  • magormissabib

    blahblah blah

    • Michael Hardin

      3rd grade education evidenced in that response.

      • magormissabib

        ” blah blah “is about as substantive comment as you made.

  • Guest

    You really care so little for your soul that you do not get to the bottom of these things. Do you not know that Satan was a created being. Look at this passage and figure it out.
    1Ki 22:20 And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.
    1Ki 22:21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.
    1Ki 22:22 And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
    1Ki 22:23 Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

      Tony, you care so little about intellectual honesty that you don’t get to the bottom of things. (!) Do you not know that “Satan” is a metaphor for slander? Like your slander. Which makes you satanic, k?

      The term “devil” is a development into English of the Greek word diabolos…Diablos was used to translate the Hebrew word satan…Diablos and its related words denoted something or someone “slanderous.” Socrates declared that the reason he had been condemned at trial was the “slanderers” (diabolai)….
      ·
      ~Gregory Riley (2001) The River of God: A New History of Christian Origins. Chapter 4: The Devil, the Demons, and the End of the World. HarperCollins. pp. 95-96.

      • magormissabib

        “You appear to have studied the matter superficially, and nevertheless you imagine that you can understand a book which has been the guide of past and present generations, when you for a moment withdraw from your lusts and appetites, and glance over its contents as if you were reading a historical work or some poetical composition.”

        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

          Quoting Moses Maimonides, without giving credit, is what is rather “superficial” here. And no, my study hasn’t been superficial. Try again.

          • magormissabib

            horse manure. You root thru the Bible like a pig rooting for truffles to find stuff to defend your stubborn rebellion and sin agaisnt God instead of looking there for perception into the nature of God and how to know him. Nothing special about that. Thats what the whole world does.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

            If you’re using third grade insults to spread the message of Jesus, you’re doing it all wrong. Woe unto you.

          • magormissabib

            That IS the message. Some people are pigs and will forever remain pigs. Mat 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine,

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

            You worship a false god. You’re obviously an Atheist, or rather a Daemonist.

            “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

          • magormissabib

            whatever pig

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

            Your type are the reason we have a monument in our nation dedicated to eternal hostility against the “schemes” your “lying” ilk.

            Keep proving why it is still relevant today.

            “The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me…” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800

          • magormissabib

            Still there: Deu 28:15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:
            Deu 28:16 Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

            Oh, then there is still no afterlife. No Greek “third heaven” magic show. No brother of Zeus (Hades) underworld magic show.

            “Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals.” ~Ecclesiastes 3

            (afterlife is rarely discussed in Jewish life)

          • magormissabib

            A blind man telling us there is no such thing as color. You have no excuse. seek and you shall find. fool.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

            Uh oh. You still don’t get it.

            “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of Gehenna.”

            Rather than sentencing you to Gehenna—now that it is a tourist attraction—Jesus would probably sentence you to some smoldering garbage pit in, say, Chennai, India, where it is rather obvious that he picked up quite a few of his teachings. jesusisbuddha.com

          • R Vogel

            You seem delightful and successful…..

  • magormissabib

    you dont have to believe in hell to go there. You can spit in John Adams face when you get there.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

      I won’t be going to hell. But thanks for revealing how sadistically psychopathic your belief system is. It is you, who in the original meaning of the word, is satanic.

      Jefferson observed your sort of behavior in his day, and rightly calls your type worshipers of Demonism.

      “I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, January, 8, 1789

      “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

      • magormissabib

        Isa 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!
        Obey and be blessed do not obey and be cursed. Thats the standard and you cant change it with a lot of words. Are you a depraved masochist that you continue to provoke God to your own hurt. Nice try but you dont get to blame God when he does as he promised. Keep kicking against that ptichfork.

        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

          Seems you have Satan and God mixed up, which makes you a worshiper of Demonism. You only think you’re a Christian. Jefferson noted your ilk’s beliefs in his day too.

          “I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, January, 8, 1789

          • magormissabib

            O wait. after you posted all of those words the 28 chapter of Deut magically disappeared. Oh wait . No. ‘Obey and be blessed, do not obey and be cursed’. Its still there.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

            You’ve got to learn to “pick out diamonds from dunghills.”

            “The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

          • magormissabib

            Obey and be blessed, do not obey and be cursed.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

            When you get rid of the corruptions, it’s pretty easy.

            “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, May 21, 1803

  • Michael Hardin

    Westboro Baptist Church is the epitome of exactly what the Bible calls the satanic: it is only about accusation. There is no good news in their gospel, it is bad news only. Who could possibly believe in this ne-Calvinist god who is sick, dysfunctional, has an anger management problem and looks nothing at all like Jesus in whom God was pleased to dwell and to reveal God’s self. One might say that the Westboro Baptist Church IS the Christian version of The Church of Satan.

    • magormissabib

      See how much discernment you lack. You are wrong about calvinsim as you are about this troll pretending to be Marge.

  • Guest

    “You appear to have studied the matter superficially, and nevertheless
    you imagine that you can understand a book which has been the guide of
    past and present generations, when you for a moment withdraw from your
    lusts and appetites, and glance over its contents as if you were reading
    a historical work or some poetical composition.” Moses Maimonides

  • magormissabib

    The Church is not outcome orientated. They tell the truth and what you do with it is on you. God provides the increase.

    • R Vogel

      *Yawn*

  • magormissabib

    “Hellfire theology is meant dehumanize and degrade people,” You cant get more degraded than “totally depraved” You dehumanize yourelf when you forsake right perceptions of God and follow after your lusts.