John MacArthur Says Some Evangelicals Are Ensnared by Desire to Please Culture

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(Photo: Grace Community Church)Pastor John MacArthur announced during the Shepherd’s Conference held earlier this month that next year’s conference will include a summit on biblical inerrancy. Photo taken March 7, 2014.

After fielding flak for branding the social justice movement a threat to the Gospel, Pastor John MacArthur further contended that embracing the movement reflects a church “completely ensnared in efforts to please the culture.”

“‘Social justice’ (in the world’s usage of that term) entails political ideas that are deemed sophisticated — namely, identity politics, critical race theory, the redistribution of wealth, and other radical or socialist policies. Those ideas were first popularized and propagated in the secular academy, where they are now regarded as received wisdom and have become a dominating part of popular culture. Evangelicals who are chasing the culture are latecomers to the party of those who advocate ‘social justice,'” MacArthur wrote in a new post on his Grace to You Ministry website Wednesday.

MacArthur, who is leader of Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, California, and president of The Master’s College and Seminary, began tackling the notion of “social justice” in a two-week series earlier this month.

In his post on Wednesday, MacArthur said that he’s being forced to defend the Gospel because “evangelicals as a group have shown an unsettling willingness to compromise or unnecessarily obfuscate all kinds of issues where Scripture has spoken plainly and without ambiguity.”

He then touched on several hot button issues in the culture such as the role of women in ministry and the embrace of alternative sexual lifestyles outside biblical marriage.

“For example, despite the clarity of 1 Timothy 2:12 (‘I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man’), leading evangelicals have been debating for several years whether women qualify to be elders or pastors in the church. Many capitulate to cultural preference rather than submitting to biblical authority on this and other similar issues. Some have tried to redefine the role and proper functioning of the family. Others seem to want to deconstruct — or simply ignore — what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage,” MacArthur explained.

He then added that it’s because of cultural compromises that some groups of evangelicals have such a difficult time honoring Scripture.

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“It’s the next logical step for a church that is completely ensnared in efforts to please the culture. For decades the popular notion has been that if the church was going to reach the culture it first needed to connect with the style and methods of secular pop culture or academic fads. To that end, the church surrendered its historic forms of worship,” MacArthur wrote. 

“In many cases, everything that once constituted a traditional worship service disappeared altogether, giving way to rock-concert formats and everything else the church could borrow from the entertainment industry.

“Craving acceptance in the broader culture, the church carelessly copied the world’s style preferences and fleeting fads,” he added. “… at this very moment there is a burgeoning campaign to reconsider and abandon the church’s historic stance on LGBT issues under the banner of ‘social justice.'”

MacArthur also singled out other issues such as the church’s “embrace of psychotherapy” as a drift away from Protestant principles by evangelicals who do not want to appear “unsophisticated.”

“I’m convinced the dominant motives are pragmatic,” he said while noting that the church cannot measure itself by secular values.

“In ministry, success cannot be measured numerically or by popular opinion. ‘It is required of stewards that they be found faithful’ (1 Corinthians 4:2, ESV) — not ‘famous,’ ‘fashionable,’ ‘filthy rich,’ or whatever. If attendance figures are someone’s gauge of effectiveness, there’s literally no end to the crazy schemes that person will try to legitimize — as long as the schemes are successful in drawing appreciative crowds. That idea has been injecting poison directly into the evangelical mainstream for decades,” MacArthur noted.

While McArthur’s criticism of the social justice movement has been praised by some like Grace Community Church Pastor Mike Riccardi for his tenacity in contending for biblical norms, others like Anthony Bradley, chairman of the program in religious and theological studies and associate professor of religious studies at King’s College in New York City, have dismissed MacArthur’s analysis.

“This. John MacArthur face plants in a pile of ideological conservative rubbish. If evangelicalism is going to have a future that reflects the Bible’s teachings, nearly everything about this post must be in its past. Terrible,” Bradley argued in a tweet about MacArthur’s claim that social justice represented a threat to the Gospel.

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