We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

John MacArthur - and Other “Reformed” Teachers

A non-Calvinist reader of my blog questioned my favorable citation of John MacArthur and other “Reformed” teachers in various articles, especially since MacArthur has had some problematic teachings in the past.

Some points I want to start with:
1.  The Reformation was started by men before Calvin showed up, so I find the fact that Calvinists call their specific doctrine “Reformed” to be arrogant.  Calvin was a “johnny-come-lately” in the Reformation.  So Calvinists, quit ascribing that title to your TULIPS.

2.  I personally feel that Calvinism (more appropriately termed “Augustinism”), as summed up by the acronym “TULIP,” is one of the worst things that ever happened to the Church.  BUT, it is not an issue I care to discuss on this blog because it can run a million rabbit trails and take too much time - time which can be better used elsewhere.

3.  Some of my favorite teachers are Calvinists.  When Calvinism doesn’t come up as the subject matter, these people can have some really, really good teachings.

4.  I am a non-Calvinist.  This does not make me an Arminian, nor does it make me a semi-Pelagian, and it certainly doesn’t make me deny the complete sovereignty of God.  So any Calvinists who read this can keep those accusations to yourselves.  Nor do I believe Calvinism to be heretical - as Calvinists have called me for being a non-Calvinist.  (I believe Calvinism to be misguided and aberrational.)

5.  There are mature Christians, both non-Calvinists and Calvinists, who read this blog, neither of which I think will be likely to change their foundational belief system because of my blog.

6.  There are also recent converts and immature Christians who read this blog and probably have no idea what the Calvinism/non-Calvinism debate is about; and if THOSE readers are interested, they can e-mail me for an explanation as to why I consider Calvinism an erroneous belief system.

Now to specifics: 
I will continue to cite Calvinists when I feel there are good teachings expressed, but will never cite them teaching anything Calvinist.  Just beware that if the teacher is a Calvinist, and you aren’t, and you want to read other things by that author, you will have to watch for the Calvinist mines.  Even with non-Calvinists you also have to use discernment when reading their material; after all, no one will be right all the time!

About John MacArthur.  I understand that he had a teaching in the past, which he later recanted, about Jesus not always being the Son of God.  I have no problem with a teacher having a previous bad teaching for which he recants; I don’t hold it against him and will not use that as a reason to caution against him as a teacher.

However, MacArthur still teaches what is called “Lordship Salvation.”  My understanding when I first heard this term was that he was simply teaching that, if one is truly a Christian they will have works demonstrating that fact; i.e., they will have a change of life.  Sort of like what James 2:17-18 is talking about.  Of course it won't always be an instantaneous change, because God continues to sanctify us our whole lives.  However,  I have also read where MacArthur is teaching works-salvation with this subject.

I recently perused a site which had numerous quotes by MacArthur on the subject of “Lordship Salvation,” and, quite frankly, I found them to be a contradictory and confusing mess, and it’s really difficult to know exactly what he IS saying!

Overall, I think John MacArthur has some good teachings when Calvinism isn’t the subject.  I think he is especially strong when it comes to teaching about Christian worldview subjects, which were the context of my previous citations.

One last point to make:  I will never cite favorably any author who has heretical teachings or whose teachings are more bad than good.  I may, however, cite a teacher who has some bad teachings, but which are far outweighed by his good teachings - in my opinion.  This can be very subjective, of course.  The important thing is that I do not necessarily agree with everything taught by any teacher I cite!  And you may not necessarily agree with everything I teach!

We all must be Bereans, and check everything against the Word of God.


Yvonne said...

Thanks for this, Glenn! Would you be willing to send me the information you have on the error of Calvinism?

As you know my family is now at a PCA church and they are staunchly 'Reformed'. It is not my intention to change their theology, but I do want to understand it as best I can in order to stand against it.

I appreciate your points especially number 2. More and more I am coming to this conclusion.

Thanks again,

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Yvonne,

I would highly recommend a new book on the subject, which I think is the best for summing up the whole issue:
"Against Calvinism," by Roger E. Olson

Another good one is "Why I Am Not A Calvinist," by Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell

Both are paper backs of 200 pages.

Dave hunt has "What Love Is This?" but it's a tome.

An on-line resource is

I printed out that whole thing to read. Lots of repetition, but it was designed as a teaching outline.

Essentially Calvinism has that TULIP which can be refuted by many passages:
T for Total Depravity means we can't choose for ourselves whether to follow God
U for Unconditional Election - means God chose who he wanted to save before creation.
L is Limited atonement, meaning Christ did not die for the world, but only for those God chose from before Creation
I is Irresistible Grace- God chose you and you can't resist
P for perseverance - meaning you will know if you're chosen if you persevere to the end.

Ron Livesay said...


I especially like your statement, "Even with non-Calvinists you also have to use discernment when reading their material; after all, no one will be right all the time!" I would just turn it around and say, "Even with Calvinists you also have to use discernment when reading their material; after all, no one will be right all the time!"

We must always use discernment. As you said, "We all must be Bereans, and check everything against the Word of God."

Case in point: I love many of the things Caryl Matrisciana has published, both her books and on her website. I don't agree with the "Teaching Tool on Calvinism," but she still put an article I wrote on the book, "The Shack" on her site. She used to be in the Sunday school class I taught when we both attended the same church in Hemet, CA. We have never had a conflict, nor have we even had a reason to discuss "Calvinism" (not my favorite term for doctrine). It does not have to be divisive.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

HI Ron,

Ah, but I essentially DID say that about Calvinists, in that I said they are usually right when they aren't teaching Calvinism!

I agree that Calvinism/non-Calvinism should not be divisive, but in my personal experience it is the Calvinists who alway get in an uproar when they learn you aren't one. I'm sure people have had the reverse experience, but I have never witnessed it personally.

The Piper's Wife said...

I appreciate this

Ron Livesay said...


I know firsthand of a pastor who was dismissed from his church for preaching from Ephesians 1. The head deacon's words were, "We don't care what the Bible says, we don't believe that here." That is dangerous ground.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

WOW! That IS bad!

I believe every word of Ephesians 1 - but I just understand it different than a Calvinist.

duke winna said...

IHuldrych Zwingli, whose theology is considered the first expression of Reformed theology was appointed to ministry in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1519.He was influenced by Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus, which led him to study the New Testament and the early Church Fathers as well as to preach from the Bible. Zwingli was also aware of and influenced by the Wittenberg reformer Martin Luther, but he developed his theology independently and differed with him in several ways. Zwingli opposed any religious practice for which he could find no scriptural justification, such as the use of images, organs, and singing in worship while Luther actively opposed the destruction of images in churches. Zwingli's emphasis on strict adherence to God's command as found in his word also lead to greater moral activism in Zwinglian Reformation movements than in Lutheran ones.

Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Capito, John Oecolampadius, and Guillaume Farel were also influential figures in the development of Reformed theology. These reformers came from diverse academic backgrounds, but later distinctives of Reformed theology can already be detected in their thought, especially the priority of scripture as a source of authority. Scripture was also viewed as a unified whole, which led to a covenantal view of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper as visible signs of the covenant of grace. Another Reformed distinctive present in these theologians was their denial of the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's supper. Each of these theologians also understood salvation to be by grace alone, and affirmed a doctrine of particular election (the teaching that some people are chosen by God for salvation). Martin Luther and his successor Philipp Melanchthon were undoubtedly significant influences on these theologians, and to a larger extent later Reformed theologians. The doctrine of justification by faith alone was a direct inheritance from Luther.

Most Calvinist I've met are some of the most dedicated Christians I know. They certainly seem to know the Scriptures better than most Christians.

Anonymous said...

Zwingli, Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, as I understand, all of these men had some unbiblical errors that were significant - first, a belief in state-churches; second, clinging to infant baptism. The disastrous result of those two combined errors can be read about if one desires to know. It's a sad blot on the history of the Christian church.

That is why we are to follow no man, and to judge every preacher and everything we hear, whether of old, or from current times, by the written word of God.

That is also why the doctrine of justification by faith alone is a direct inheritance from the written word of God.