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John F. MacArthur

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John F. MacArthur

John F. MacArthur
Born John Fullerton MacArthur, Jr.
(1939-06-19) June 19, 1939
Los Angeles, California, US
Residence Sun Valley, Los Angeles
California, US
Nationality American
Education Los Angeles Pacific College (B.A.)
Talbot Theological Seminary (M.Div.)
Occupation Minister, Writer, Broadcaster, Seminary & College President
Known for Clergymen, Relative of Douglas MacArthur
Religion Evangelical Christianity
Spouse(s) Patricia MacArthur
Children 4

John Fullerton MacArthur, Jr. (born June 19, 1939) is an American pastor and author known for his internationally syndicated radio program Grace to You. He has been the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California since February 9, 1969[1] and also currently is the president of The Master's College in Newhall, California and The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles, California.

Theologically, MacArthur is considered a Calvinist, and a strong proponent of expository preaching.[2] He has been acknowledged by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers of his time,[3] and was a frequent guest on Larry King Live as a representative of an evangelical Christian perspective.[4]

MacArthur has authored or edited more than 150 books, most notably the MacArthur Study Bible, which has sold more than 1 million copies and received a Gold Medallion Book Award.[5] Other best-selling books include his MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series (more than 1 million copies), Twelve Ordinary Men, (more than 500,000 copies),[6] and the children's book A Faith to Grow On, which garnered an ECPA Christian Book Award.[7]


  • Biography 1
  • Theological views 2
    • Creationism 2.1
    • Dispensationalism 2.2
    • Soteriology 2.3
    • Christology 2.4
    • Cessationism 2.5
    • Complementarianism 2.6
    • Psychology 2.7
    • Other Christian movements and other religions 2.8
  • Selected publications 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


The son of Jack MacArthur and fifth cousin of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur,[8] John MacArthur attended Bob Jones University before transferring to Los Angeles Pacific College (now Azusa Pacific University). He later obtained his Masters of Divinity from Biola University's Talbot Theological Seminary, in La Mirada, California. He graduated with honors. From 1964 to 1966, he served as an associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church, in Burbank, California and, from 1966 to 1969, as a faculty representative for Talbot Theological Seminary. Then, in 1969, he became the third pastor in the then-short history of the nondenominational Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, California.[9]

His daily radio program, Grace to You, which is now broadcast throughout much of the world, began as an audio recording ministry to provide audio cassettes of his sermons to listeners. They were first broadcast in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1977.[10]

In 1985, MacArthur became the president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College), an accredited, four-year, liberal arts Christian college;[11] and, in 1986, he founded The Master's Seminary. MacArthur also received an honorary doctorate from Talbot Theological Seminary[12] and an honorary doctorate from Grace Graduate School.[13]

Nearly 43 years after beginning in the pulpit of Grace Community, MacArthur completed one his own life goals[1] of preaching through the entire New Testament on June 5, 2011,[14] at the end of his projected target window, stated the previous January, to finish "some time in the summer."[1] In 2015, the MacArthur New Testament Commentary series was completed.[15] MacArthur is married to Patricia and they have four children and fifteen grandchildren.

Theological views


MacArthur advocates young-earth creationism in his book, The Battle For the Beginning (2001), and in his sermons.[16] Speaking about evolutionism, he writes that Christians "ought to expose such lies for what they are and oppose them vigorously." He argues that 'the battle for the beginning is ultimately a battle between two mutually exclusive faiths - faith in Scripture versus faith in anti-theistic hypotheses. It is not really a battle between science and the Bible.'[17]


MacArthur describes himself as a "leaky dispensationalist."[18] While he holds to a premillennial and pre-tribulational rapture of the church and fulfillment of all the covenant promises made to the Jews at the end of the tribulation, he rejects some of the classic dispensational ideas, such as the Law having no application to the church.


MacArthur was a key person in the Lordship salvation controversy in the 1980s, arguing against Free Grace theology. He states, "you must receive Jesus Christ for who He is, both Lord and Savior, to be truly saved (II Peter 2:20)."[19] Regarding eternal security, he states, "It should never be presented merely as a matter of being once saved, always saved--with no regard for what you believe or do. The writer of Hebrews 12:14 states frankly that only those who continue living holy lives will enter the Lord's presence." MacArthur's views raised controversy within American Evangelicalism and were challenged in print by non-lordship dispensationalist theologians, Charles Ryrie and Zane C. Hodges, who argued that MacArthur was teaching a form of works-based salvation. MacArthur has denied their conclusion due to the disagreement over the nature of Christ's Lordship in relationship to Salvation.

In December 1989, the Bible Broadcasting Network terminated MacArthur's "Grace to You" program. In explaining that step, BBN president Lowell Davey referred to MacArthur's teachings on the blood of Christ, and "Lordship Salvation." Davey called these teachings "confusing." In a letter dated January 15, 1990, Davey cited a, "....drift by Dr. MacArthur to a theological position that we could not adhere to," and said that MacArthur's sermon series on the theology of election "....convinced us that the direction of 'Grace to You' was toward Hyper-Calvinism...." MacArthur preaches "Salvation" by election of God's sovereignty.[20] However, the term "Hyper-Calvinism" is used by some to denote 5-point Calvinism or even any strong defense of Calvinism, rather than the historical "Hyper-Calvinism" position that only the "Elect" may be offered the Gospel (compare with the historical teaching of all Protestant denominations, including MacArthur, of the free offer of the gospel). This position does not seem to accurately reflect MacArthur's position in his sermons. The controversy concerning the efficacy of the Christ's blood stems from MacArthur's statement that it is not the literal liquid blood of Christ that saves, but his sacrificial death on The Cross, a view that he espoused in an article titled, "Not His Bleeding, but His Dying," published in the May 1976 issue of the Grace to You family paper that is distributed to his church. MacArthur himself, though, later clarified what was stated of him in the article, noting his position concerning Christ's blood and death in atonement, mentioning that the efficacy of Christ's blood is not some particular physical property of the blood itself, but the fact that He shed blood in dying, and his affirmation that Christ's blood in death was necessary to satisfy God's holy requirement for atonement.[21]


In 1983, MacArthur first published his belief in the doctrine of "incarnational sonship." In 1989, after some criticism, he defended his views in a plenary session of the annual convention of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America. In an article on MacArthur’s web site Grace to You entitled “Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ,” he retraces his views from 1983 onward, concluding, “I want to state publicly that I have abandoned the doctrine of 'incarnational sonship.' Careful study and reflection have brought me to understand that Scripture does indeed present the relationship between God the Father and Christ the Son as an eternal Father-Son relationship. I no longer regard Christ's sonship as a role He assumed in His incarnation.”[22]


MacArthur is a cessationist, and is one of the most prominent voices in the church against the continuationist beliefs of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. He has written three books in support of his position: The Charismatics (1978), Charismatic Chaos (1993), and Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (2013). In October 2013, MacArthur hosted a conference called "Strange Fire" at his church, to mark the launch of his book of the same name. The event featured a number of speakers who argued for a cessationist theology and strongly critiqued the Charismatic Movement.[23] In his opening remarks, MacArthur stated, Watching the behavior of some Hindus who belong to the Kundalini cult. Their body movements are almost identical to that of people in the charismatic movement, the extreme behavior of pagans. This is the work of Satan, it is the work of darkness, and not to be attributed to the Holy Spirit." And that, "The Charismatic movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine..It detracts and confuses." "It has only produced distortion, confusion, and error." "Have people truly been saved in Charismatic churches? Yes. But nothing coming from that movement has been the reason they were saved." "Evangelicalism has thrown its arms open and has welcomed the Trojan horse of the charismatic movement into the city of God. Its troops have taken over and placed an idol in the city of God."[24]

He broadly calls modern "visions, revelations, voices from heaven...dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out-of-body experiences, trip to heaven, anointings, miracles – all false, all lies, all deceptions – attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit." And that "The Charismatic movement has stolen the Holy Spirit and created a golden calf, and they’re dancing around the golden calf as if it were the Holy Spirit."[25][26] He has made a list of Gifts of the Spirit, mostly from 1 Cor. 12-14, but holds that "once the New Testament was finished, those sign gifts ceased to have a function", and ended with the conclusion of the Apostolic Age, around 100 AD.[27]

In a subsequent teaching, "What has happened after the 'Strange Fire' Conference" (2013), MacArthur allowed that within the Charismatic movement there were those who believed in the authority of Scripture, honored the Lord, and pursued Godly living, and that the movement retained enough gospel truth so that souls could be saved within it. However, he saw its interdenominational presence as being "a testimony to the absence of any theology." He further criticized the modern Charismatic movement, stating that in 1967 "a bunch of Jesus freak people.. go to Calvary Chapel...and for the first time...that I know of in history, the church lets the very defined subculture dictate what it will be," citing "the hippie culture, communal coming out of drugs and free sex, and all that" as displacing "all the normal and formal things," and typifying the charismatic church, with the movement becoming Calvary Chapel.[28] In the past (1991) however, MacArthur commended Chuck Smith (1927 – 2013), founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, for writing "a straight forward critique of charismatic extremism," and stated that "there are many like him who have taken their stand and I thank God for their courage and their desire to be Biblical."[29] In response to MacArthur's “Strange Fire” conference, Calvary Chapel expresses a fundamental disagreement with MacArthur's understanding of spiritual gifts among God's people today, but affirms "charisma, not charismania," and commends Chuck Smith’s book "Charisma versus Charismania" as being one of the best short, popular works on the subject.[30]

Three books have been written in response to the Strange Fire book and conference, arguing for the continuationist position: Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire by Michael Brown; Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit's Work in Our Lives by R.T. Kendall and The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit: God's Miraculous Gifts At Work Today by Dr. Randy Clark. Addressing the “Strange Fire” conference, continuationist Calvinist Baptist John Piper concurs that there are many abuses in the charismatic church, however he adds that "we really need to keep in mind that every charismatic abuse has its mirror image in non-charismatic abuses...In some of these cases, the non-charismatic church is more guilty than the charismatic," such as, "the absence of emotion, which is probably more deadly than the excesses."[31]


MacArthur takes a complementarian biblical view on gender roles as opposed to the worldly feminist view and considers that the Bible does not allow women to teach men or exercise authority in churches. He therefore believes that the roles of elder and pastor are restricted to men only.[32][33][34]


He is also an advocate of Nouthetic Counseling, which stresses the Bible as a sufficient tool for counseling people with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. MacArthur does not reject all forms of psychological theories and techniques, though he considers some psychology and psychiatry as contrary to the Bible.[35]

MacArthur has argued that "True psychology (i.e. "the study of the soul") can be done only by Christians, since only Christians have the resources for understanding and transforming the soul. The secular discipline of psychology is based on godless assumptions and evolutionary foundations and is capable of dealing with people only superficially and only on the temporal level... Psychology is no more a science than the atheistic evolutionary theory upon which it is based. Like theistic evolution, Christian psychology is an attempt to harmonize two inherently contradictory systems of thought. Modern psychology and the Bible cannot be blended without serious compromise to or utter abandonment of the principle of Scripture's sufficiency.... "[36]

His stance has caused several controversies, the most notable of which was the first time an employee of an evangelical church had ever been sued for malpractice. The case failed to come to trial because a judge ruled the case as having insufficient evidence.[37][38][39][40]

Other Christian movements and other religions

His writings disapprove of other modern Christian movements and ministers such as those who run unbiblical "seeker-friendly" church services such as Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren.[41]

He has criticized popular Word of Faith pastor Joel Osteen, whom he has spoken of as a quasi-pantheist.[42] He disagrees with Billy Graham, who in an interview with Robert Schuller in the hour of prayer program stated that Salvation is open to all people whether they believe in Jesus or not. [43]

In May 2002, in the midst of significant media and public attention focused on Catholic sex abuse cases, MacArthur gave a message highly critical of the entire system of the Roman Catholic priesthood.[44] MacArthur has referred to Catholicism in as the "Kingdom of Satan,"[45] and holds to the confession that the pope is anti-christ,[46] but which he said "applies to anyone who positions himself against or in place of Christ."[47]

MacArthur unequivocally states that a person who truly believes what Roman Catholicism teaches is not saved because the Roman Catholic way of salvation is works based and is a "twisted system of satanic lies" presided over by the Pope.[48] In addition he stated that the "theology of Islam is false."[49]

Selected publications

  • Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with You by John F. MacArthur (Oct 5, 2008)
  • Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You by John F. MacArthur (May 8, 2006)
  • One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus by John F. MacArthur (Mar 4, 2013)
  • Anxious for Nothing: God's Cure for the Cares of Your Soul (John Macarthur Study) by MacArthur, Jr., John (Feb 1, 2012)
  • Safe in the Arms of God: Truth from Heaven About the Death of a Child by John F. MacArthur (Jul 8, 2003)
  • Saved Without A Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation (John MacArthur Study) by MacArthur, Jr., John (Jan 1, 2010)
  • The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective Hardback (1978)
  • Fundamentals of the Faith: 13 Lessons to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur (Feb 24, 2009)
  • The Charismatics Softback (1978)
  • Gospel According to Jesus (1989) ISBN 0-310-28651-4
  • Charismatic Chaos (1993) ISBN 0-310-57572-9
  • Our Sufficiency in Christ (1998) ISBN 1-58134-013-3
  • Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World (2001) ISBN 1-58134-288-8
  • Think Biblically!: Recovering a Christian Worldview (2003) ISBN 1-58134-412-0
  • Fool's Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error (2005) ISBN 1-58134-726-X
  • The Jesus You Can't Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ (2009) ISBN 1-4002-0206-X
  • Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (2013) ISBN 978-1-4002-0517-2


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Further reading

  • John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock, Iain H. Murray
  • John Macarthur: Mainstreaming Paganism in the Church (Critical review)

External links

  • John – 40th anniversary legacy site presented by Grace Community Church
  • resources page – all of MacArthur's sermons (audio and text) available for download
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