John MacArthur, the Calvinist teacher who previously argued Christian parents should turn their gay children “over to Satan,” has some new thoughts on who is in and who is out: and most Hispanics don’t make the cut.
In the lead up to a conference later this month in the Dominican Republic, John MacArthur has put out a video announcing that he’ll be unable to attend as he planned, but that he will still address the conference using technology.
In the recent video, MacArthur ends his announcement with a mind-numbing statement about why he is so supportive of this conference he’s not personally attending:
“I want to say also that I support that conference 100 percent. I’m deeply committed to the tremendous importance of proclaiming the true Gospel in the Spanish speaking world. We all understand that people in the Hispanic world know about Jesus Christ. They know about the Bible. They know about God. They know about salvation– at least, in some ways. They have biblical terminology because of the impact, historically, of the Roman Catholic church. But they don’t know Christ. And they don’t know the Gospel of grace. And they don’t know the full revelation of Scripture. So, this is a critical, God-ordained conference.” (Original video, here.)
Besides the racist, paternalistic nature of his statement, such blanket statements are universally untrue on the surface– always. One cannot make an absolute, universal statement about an entire group of people– especially a group of people that numbers in the millions– and have it be close to true.
In addition to such an ignorant generalization, the irony in this case is that the truth is the opposite of what MacArthur claims, and I don’t know of a single Missiologist, no matter how conservative, who would disagree.
While MacArthur has painted the Spanish speaking world as somehow being “unreached,” the facts are that the center of Christianity has shifted, and is continuing to shift, to the global south.
In the past, the vast majority of Christians in the world have been from Europe and North America. But today, that’s no longer the case: Christianity is now a predominantly African religion, with the Hispanic world not far behind, in terms of growth rates. The trends we expect to continue in my lifetime speak to even more dramatic shifts globally, including the expectation that China (where Christianity is horribly persecuted) is on pace to become the largest missionary sending country in the world.
Now, I’m going to be generous and assume MacArthur knows this, because I honestly don’t know anyone who argues against these data-driven facts. So here’s what I think is the deeper issue: the fastest growing form of Christianity in the Spanish speaking world is charismatic Christianity, and as you may remember, MacArthur was the force behind the Strange Fire conference a few years ago. At this conference, MacArthur made it clear that he doesn’t believe charismatic Christianity is really Christianity at all– and that’s what I believe this is ultimately about.
Charismatic Christianity is exploding across the Spanish speaking world, and its growth dramatically outpaces the traditionally dominant Roman Catholic tradition.
Thus, when MacArthur says Hispanics don’t know Christ, that they don’t know the Gospel, and that they don’t know Scripture, what he’s really saying is that they don’t know Calvin.
It’s Calvinism, not Christianity, that isn’t growing well in the Spanish speaking world.
This is a classic case of believing that Calvinism is the one, true, pure Christianity, and a failure to even pay mental assent to the diverse traditions of the Christian faith.
It reminds me of that old joke where St. Peter is giving a new person a tour of all the churches in heaven. When they walk by the Calvinist church, St. Peter turns and says, “Shhhhhhhh. Be very quiet.“
The individual asks Peter, “Why do we need to be quiet?“
St. Peter answers, “Because they think they’re the only ones here.“
The reality MacArthur would do well to realize is that Christianity is no longer a white, European or North American religion. It’s a religion deeply rooted in the global south, and now Asia.
And it’s not we North Americans who need to be sending missionaries to them. It’s not MacArthur who should be speaking at their conferences.
We should not be speaking, but listening.
We should not be sending missionaries, but receiving them.
For they are the new foundation of what it looks like to be Christian, and it’s time for folks like MacArthur to sit back and learn from them, instead of dismissing our Hispanic brothers and sisters in Christ as being some unreached people group.