Example 24 – John MacArthur on Victimization: How He Defeats His Own Calvinism


Back to Chapter 11 – Examples of Calvinist Interpretive Incoherence


In a four part sermon series titled “Social Justice and the Gospel,” prominent Calvinist pastor and teacher John MacArthur critiques the victimhood mindset so pervasive in our culture today.  He states,

               “…I’m a victim of certain regional attitudes or gender attitudes, or sexual preference attitudes, or hate speech, or economics, or education. I’m just a victim of intersecting prejudice and oppression….

               Everybody’s offended me, people I don’t know. Dead people have offended me, living people have offended me. You offend me. I’m a victim of past injustice and inequity. [sic] and present rejection, discrimination, offense. And most of you don’t even know how much you offend me, it’s unconscious. And by the way, if you’re not a victim, then you’re a part of the oppressor group. You must repent. I’m not surprised that exists in the culture, because that’s what Adam said. I mean, that’s how fallen people react. They don’t take responsibility, they just blame somebody else; and they’re perfectly happy to blame God.” [1]

He adds,

               “Anyone who is offended by someone’s words or someone’s looks or someone’s actions or someone’s clothing or someone’s opinion can designate that offence as a microaggression, and they can claim that they’re being victimized by that microaggression, victimized by offensive words, which become labeled as hate speech. This dominates university campuses in a massive way. They whole culture is rushing into victim status. Everybody wants to find victim status in some way, because only victims are empowered in the culture, only victims have moral authority. If you’re not a victim you have no moral authority. So everybody’s got to find a victim status.

               Am I surprised at this? Not at all, not in the least. It is the most natural thing for sinners to designate themselves as victims. This is the default position of all fallen human beings. It’s the most natural thing for us to do, blame someone else for our condition, blame someone else for our issues, blame someone else for our troubles.”[2]

            Note that MacArthur points out that it is natural for sinful people to want to blame someone else for the situations or conditions of life they are experiencing.  People complain of being offended or victimized by historical circumstances, discrimination, inequities, economics, education and the attitudes of others, and instead of taking responsibility for themselves they blame others.  Indeed, they are also “perfectly happy to blame God.”

            MacArthur continues,

               “That’s what sinners do.  That is the default position of every sinful heart.  They don’t face their own sin.  They naturally will blame others, other generations, other influences – I’m basically a good person but I’ve been affected by bad people.  This is what sinners do.  And they hold tightly, by the way, to that deception.  They grip that delusion with a death grip.  Someone has messed up my life.  And ultimately it has to be God.  It has to be God.  And if you’re a Christian and you tell me the Christian God is the creator of everything, and the sovereign over everything, and the Christian God is the one who is in charge of every life and all of history, then the God that you call the true and living and sovereign God is the God who is behind my life’s mess.  So I’m not only a victim of all the people who have abused me, but I’m a victim of the God who’s supposed to be in control of everything and let me be abused like this, and then you tell that person that they should go to that same God and find salvation?  You just created an impossible situation.  Why would anybody go to the God that they believe has put them in the mess they’re in to get them back out of it?”[3]

            Precisely!  Given MacArthur’s Calvinist determinism this is absolutely the case.  “Someone has messed up my life.  And ultimately it has to be God.”  That is precisely what MacArthur’s universal divine causal determinism teaches.  MacArthur has walked right into a contradictory and scathing critique of his own Calvinist position.

            Let’s observe that MacArthur is condemning the victimhood mentality on the basis that it shifts personal responsibility for one’s actions onto someone else as if the “victim” could not be or do anything other than who they are and how they behave.  Sound familiar?  This is the reality of everyone’s life given the Calvinist’s deterministic doctrines of the eternal decree, divine sovereignty and unconditional election.  If Calvinism is a universal divine causal determinism, which I have demonstrated that it is, then MacArthur’s critique of the victim mentality can also be appropriately laid at the Calvinist’s doorstep.  MacArthur has just deconstructed his own Calvinist theology and soteriology.

            Note also that MacArthur states that sinners will point out that they are victims of “the Christian God” and refuse to take responsibility for their sin.  MacArthur states that this is a “deception” and a “delusion.”  How so given his theistic determinism?  Moreover, sinners hold onto that delusion with “a death grip.”  But again, MacArthur has indicted his own theology here.  He himself believes and teaches the very determinism these “sinners” are relying on as victims.  Someone else is to blame, and on Calvinism is certainly is God. 

            It is almost like MacArthur could not stop his rhetorical momentum and simply wandered into explaining the way he understands God’s sovereignty as a Calvinist in light of his subject of victimhood.  But at some point he must have realized that he ran smack into an incoherence with own soteriology and theology.  His argument against the victim mentality also indicted his own view of God’s sovereignty and his deterministic theology.  The victim mentality is predicated on people claiming they are not in control of their own circumstances and choices.  And MacArthur therefore says these sinners do not take responsibility for their attitudes and actions.  But according to MacArthur’s Calvinism, people are not in control of their own circumstances, desires, attitudes and actions.  It is God who has predetermined everything that we are and do, down to the most meticulous details.   Therefore, the victimhood mentality applies perfectly to the Calvinist worldview.  Calvinism, as a theistic determinism, just makes everyone some sort of “victim” of God’s will for them.  They are not in control of their circumstances, thoughts, desires, attitudes and actions.  Therefore, they cannot be held responsible for those thoughts, desires, attitudes and actions.  Calvinism logically produces the same personal results as the victim mentality that MacArthur is critiquing.

            So, if God has predetermined all things, has he also predetermined and caused the evil that people do to others, thus making them true victims?  And would not the victim ultimately be a victim of the God who caused the person to commit the evil act?  MacArthur continues,

               “We will never be able to divest God of the responsibility for the existence of evil.”[4]

               “He is the God who is incapable of doing anything evil.  He is holy, holy, holy.  But he is content to leave the responsibility for evil’s existence, and even its action, with himself.”[5]

            Certainly the Bible teaches that God brings to pass judgments that result in pain and death, but divine acts of just punishment are not the same of the victimhood MacArthur is talking about here.  But to hold that God is responsible and the direct cause of all the evils people do to others who suffer at their hands along with all the sin that is committed, especially that of unbelief and rejection of the gospel, is to fail to rightly discern the distinctions in these matters with respect to what the Bible teaches us about the character of God.  MacArthur states this himself when he says “He is holy, holy, holy.”

            By arguing against embracing the victim mentality, MacArthur speaks incoherent with his own Calvinist determinism   After all, who has determined that people would adopt the victimhood mentality.  According to MacArthur it is God himself.  Who then is he to argue with what God has determined?  Given his condemnation of a victimhood mentality that blames someone else for the circumstance one finds themselves in, MacArthur could do nothing to extricate himself from implicating his own theology.  His Calvinist God is the cause of the very things he is railing against in the cultural victimhood mentality.  In fact, on Calvinism, one is perfectly justified in passing off responsibility to God himself, for Calvinists believe that God has predetermined the minutest details of everyone’s existence to be what they are.  MacArthur states, “…it’s all God’s design. He made you exactly the way He wanted you to be to fit into His purposes for history.”  God predetermined and therefore is the cause of everyone’s every thought, desire, belief, attitude and action.  Therefore we are not truly responsible for our thoughts and actions.  We cannot do otherwise.  We are truly victims of the Calvinist God.  If there is anything that is blameworthy, the Calvinist God is ultimately to blame.  Given his Calvinism, MacArthur’s case against victimhood falls flat and backfires on his own theology.

            It is most important to note that the gospel has been hindered by MacArthur’s Calvinism.  Note carefully how MacArthur describes the victim’s complaint against God and MacArthur’s reflection on that complaint.

               “So I’m not only a victim of all the people who have abused me, but I’m a victim of the God who’s supposed to be in control of everything and let me be abused like this, and then you tell that person that they should go to that same God and find salvation?  You just created an impossible situation.  Why would anybody go to the God that they believe has put them in the mess they’re in to get them back out of it?” [6]

            Again, precisely!  Who is going to respond in love and trust in a God who predetermined and caused them to be abused and victimized as they have been?  Who is going to seek remedy, refuge and salvation in the God who predetermined and brought about “the mess they’re in?”  MacArthur is correct.  But ironically, his own theology has also “created an impossible situation.”  If the Calvinist God is “the sovereign over everything, and the Christian God is the one who is in charge of every life” and he is “in control of everything” in the sense of having predetermined everything, and is therefore the cause of “the mess” the objector finds himself in, what hope is there in coming to this God for help and salvation?  If “the God that you call the true and living and sovereign God is the God who is behind my life’s mess,” why would a person put their trust in, love or worship such a God?  Exactly!  The Calvinist’s god is not worthy of worship.

            Again MacArthur makes the point.

               “As long as people feel they have been victimized by history and you tell them God is the sovereign over history, you’ve put them in a position to not want to go near the God they need.  So the delusion is to pass your guilt onto someone else and feel you’re just inevitably under some inexorable divine law from a God who doesn’t even care about you.”[7]

            But ironically it is MacArthur who tells them “God is the sovereign over history” in the deterministic sense.  And that entails that they have no control over their lives and are therefore not responsible for what they become and do.  On Calvinism, that’s precisely the situation of every person ever created.  And it is MacArthur who holds to a doctrine of unconditional election which entails reprobation or the existence of a multitude of non-elect persons.  And these non-elect persons certainly fit the description MacArthur gives above about those who feel they have been victimized.  He states that they feel they are “just inevitably under some inexorable divine law from a God who doesn’t even care about you.”  According to Calvinism that is certainly an apt description of God’s attitude and his salvific will towards the non-elect.

            And he continues,

               “If God is the Creator, as Christians say, and if God is sovereign over everything, as Christians say and as the Bible says, if God is the author of history, if everything that happens in history is within the sovereign purpose of God, then God is to be blamed for my trouble. Don’t tell me God is good; look at this messed up world. Why would I go to that God for deliverance or salvation? I’m a victim of that God already.” [8]

            Again, this is precisely the problem Calvinism presents in its teachings.  “I’m a victim of that God already.”  We can sense by his repetition that MacArthur has trapped himself in a critique of his own theology.  He is struggling with having unwittingly indicted his own theology by his critique of the victim mentality.  And we also sense by his repetition that he cannot disentangle himself from this difficulty.

            Note that MacArthur is inconsistent here with his own theistic determinism when he has his hypothetical objector state, “…I’m a victim of the God who’s supposed to be in control of everything and let me be abused like this.”  According to MacArthur God is “in control of everything” in the sense that he predetermined everything to happen as it does.  But MacArthur puts the word “let” into the mouth of his objector when the objector raises the point about God’s role in causing “the mess” of his life.  But the word “let” presupposes something less than the deterministic definition of sovereignty that MacArthur believes in.  “Let” presupposes a free will that can act independently of God’s will.

            Calvinists will also use the words “allow” or “permit,” as in “God allows or permits evil to occur.”  But these words carry the idea that persons may act the basis of their own choices or decisions, which also presuppose the exercise of some degree of significant freedom of the will.  But instead of using the word “let,” to be consistent with his Calvinist soteriology MacArthur should have said “the God who’s supposed to be in control of everything and predetermined that I be abused like this.”  That is more consistent with the “Calvinist God” of MacArthur’s theology.  He should not have said “let me be abused like this” because to “let” or “allow” implies some sort of libertarian free will at work in the world which is incoherent with MacArthur’s theistic determinism.  On MacArthur’s universal divine causal determinism God does not “let” or “allow” or “permit” anything.

            With respect to the gospel MacArthur states,

            “Here’s the problem with letting sinners think that way. You’re aiding and abetting their disavowal of their sinfulness. This is why it assaults the gospel, because that’s the entry point of the gospel. You don’t come to the gospel until you have come to the full realization that you are the reason you have problems, that you are who you are, the race you are, the gender you are, and even the economic status you are, because God providentially put you there. And the reason you have problems there is because not only are there sinners all around you, but you’re a sinner of equal guilt.

               The problem with letting people redefine themselves as victims is they disavow responsibility for their own sins. People don’t come to true salvation. I say that again: they don’t come to true salvation until they realize that salvation is about being delivered from their sins.

               Now I understand that this generation of evangelicals has truncated the gospel in really serious ways by saying, “The gospel is designed to make you happy,” or, “The gospel is designed to make you feel better about yourself,” or, “The gospel is designed to give you purpose in your life.” No, the gospel is designed to save you from your sins, which will put you in hell forever. That’s what the gospel is designed to do. It is not designed to tweak your life and make you more successful or more prosperous; that is a lie. It is designed to rescue you from hell and to take you to heavenly glory.

               If we justify the idea that people are victims and then doubly justify their bitterness and anger over being victims, we are allowing them to push their sin away onto someone else. To do that is to agree with the sinner’s deluded comfort, that he or she is a victim, “Somebody did something to me,” or, “Some group did something to me,” or, “The government did something to me,” or, “My school did something to me,” or, “The world did something to me.” I’ve heard it so many times. “If that is true, and I’m not responsible for my sin, and God rules the worlds, then God got me in this mess. And why would I ever go to that God to get me out of it when He got me into it? If God is at all responsible for the mess that I’m in, then why would I go to Him? He’s already demonstrated His injustice. Why would I look to Him as a Savior?”

               So conceding to sinners that they are victims is a very dangerous thing to do. And I’m not saying that they aren’t, in a human sense, fighting in a very tough, fallen world; we all are. But when it comes down to sin, each of us is personally responsible for our sins and the complicated mess that they make out of our lives. The conversion of sinners depends on their recognition that they are not victims of someone else and they are not victims of an indifferent or hostile God. When you concede to sinners that they are victims of other people’s wrongs you put up a barrier to the necessary full responsibility for sin that drives the broken sinner to God for deliverance from sin and death and hell. The gospel doesn’t open up until the sinner takes full responsibility for his sin; that is where the gospel begins.”[9]

            So does MacArthur’s Calvinism promote the delusion of the disavowal of personal responsibility and personal guilt?  It certainly seems that it does.  How is it that MacArthur does not actually teach this delusion when he teaches a universal divine causal determinism within which human responsibility and personal guilt have no logical or moral place?  Only on the basis of some version of a free will theology can one take personal responsibility for their sin and come to God for deliverance.

            Note also that we have the suppression of the logical implications that MacArthur’s Calvinism generates when he states, “You can’t let them go there.  When you let them go there, they’re off the hook and God becomes the enemy.  They will ruin their own lives and rage against God.”  And again his inconsistency is glaring when he states, “God will not tolerate the delusion that disavows personal responsibility and personal guilt.”  He doesn’t forthrightly tell us that God has predetermined not only the mess people find themselves in but also their delusional victimhood mentality that disavows personal responsibility and personal guilt.  The very things God predetermines MacArthur tells us “God will not tolerate.”   And how does a people “ruin their own lives?”  Their lives are what they are by God’s decree.  He clearly states, “God providentially put you there.”  All this is just more of the incoherence of Calvinism.

            MacArthur states, “When you concede to sinners that they are victims of other people’s wrongs you put up a barrier to the necessary full responsibility for sin that drives the broken sinner to God for deliverance from sin and death and hell.”  But this is precisely what MacArthur would have to concede to sinners.  It is precisely the “barrier” that MacArthur’s Calvinism puts up.  People are “victims.”  Their every thought, desire, attitude, belief and action, being predetermined by God, entails that they cannot be responsible for what they do.  So “the broken sinner” is not driven to God for deliverance of sin and death and hell.”  Yet, MacArthur has linked this responsibility for sin to the gospel. 

               “…the gospel is designed to save you from your sins, which will put you in hell forever. That’s what the gospel is designed to do.”

               “But when it comes down to sin, each of us is personally responsible for our sins and the complicated mess that they make out of our lives. The conversion of sinners depends on their recognition that they are not victims of someone else and they are not victims of an indifferent or hostile God.”

               “The gospel doesn’t open up until the sinner takes full responsibility for his sin; that is where the gospel begins.”

            But this personal responsibility is just what Calvinism undermines by it universal divine causal determinism.  So it appears that Calvinism lacks the logical and moral grounds upon which the gospel can be coherently and consistently presented.  There is no “good news” in Calvinism.  Recall that MacArthur has already spun out the logical implications of his Calvinist determinism.  He said that “If…God rules the worlds, then God got me in this mess. And why would I ever go to that God to get me out of it when He got me into it? If God is at all responsible for the mess that I’m in, then why would I go to Him? He’s already demonstrated His injustice. Why would I look to Him as a Savior?”  Precisely.

            Note also that MacArthur never qualifies which of these broken sinners can come to God for deliverance from sin and death and hell.  He never mentions that given his soteriology only the elect have been predestined to this deliverance.  All others cannot and will not be saved.  MacArthur says, “The conversion of sinners depends on their recognition that they are not victims of someone else and they are not victims of an indifferent or hostile God.”  But MacArthur’s doctrines of predestination and reprobation cannot assure the sinner that they are not “victims of an indifferent and hostile God.”  That is precisely what the non-elect are.  The non-elect or reprobate are the negative corollary of unconditional election.  They were created specifically for sin, death and hell.  They cannot be saved.  God has not willed that they be saved.  They certainly are the “victims of an indifferent and hostile God.”

            So I wonder what “gospel” MacArthur is referring to when he says, “The gospel doesn’t open up until the sinner takes full responsibility for his sin; that is where the gospel begins.”   So what is the content of the message MacArthur referring to when he speaks of “the gospel?” Is it a message consistent with his own soteriology?  He states,

               “So I’m not arguing that people aren’t victims; they are, we all are to one degree or another, because it’s a fallen world. And I’m not arguing that we don’t have a responsibility to be kind, we do; and to give mercy and justice and love and compassion, even sacrificially, doing good to all men. What I’m saying is that while we show sympathy – and even God shows a measure of sympathy – don’t think for a moment that that is going to be transferred over to how God deals with a sinner who doesn’t repent and come to Him for forgiveness. Our message to the sinner is, “I want to do what I can to relieve your suffering, if that’s possible; but I’m much more concerned about the eternal suffering that is awaiting you. And God will not be merciful to you unless you have come to Him to receive forgiveness of sins. That only happens through the gospel through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

               So while so many evangelicals are happy to show sympathy and kindness toward those who feel like they are victims, there are many real victims and there are a lot of artificial victims; but while we want to show them kindness we have to remember God will show no mercy to any sinner who rejects Him and rejects His gospel and rejects His Son. And sooner or later in our acts of mercy we need to address the issue of sin and death and eternal judgment in hell. Whatever your circumstances are, whether you have lived above the fray, whether you have lived in prosperity and wealth, or whether you have lived in poverty and deprivation, the issue is the sins that you commit, the alienation of your entire being from God is going to send you to hell forever, unless you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are forgiven through faith in Him.”[10]

            So “even God shows a measure of sympathy” for those who are genuine victims because of our fallen world.  But this is confused because the God who shows “a measure of sympathy” for genuine victims is the same God who predestined that they be victims of the abuse of this fallen world; a world that he determined to be as evil as it.  MacArthur insists we “have a responsibility to be kind,…and to give mercy and justice and love and compassion, even sacrificially, doing good to all men.”  Yet God doesn’t do this for a large mass of humanity called the reprobate.  Indeed, he does just the opposite to them.  MacArthur states that sinners need to “repent and come to Him for forgiveness.”  Does this apply to all sinners?  MacArthur seems to lead us to believe it does.  Again, there is no qualification made here according to his fundamental theology and soteriological doctrine of unconditional election.  MacArthur is disingenuous here.  He should make clear his “gospel” according to what his soteriology requires.   

            MacArthur states, “Our message to the sinner is, “I want to do what I can to relieve your suffering, if that’s possible; but I’m much more concerned about the eternal suffering that is awaiting you. And God will not be merciful to you unless you have come to Him to receive forgiveness of sins. That only happens through the gospel through the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The “eternal suffering that is awaiting you” is unalterable for the non-elect.  Yet MacArthur speaks as if this is a contingent matter which is determined by a person’s decision in this life when he says, “God will not be merciful to you unless you have come to Him to receive forgiveness of sins.”  What is the meaning and sense of “unless?”  Is this forgiveness an open issue that depends upon what the sinner does or is this merely information MacArthur is providing to us about the external evidences that divide the elect from the non-elect?  The elect “come to Him to receive forgiveness of sins” and the non-elect do not.  And unless you come to Him – which only the elect will do – God will not be merciful to you.

            MacArthur also states, “God will show no mercy to any sinner who rejects Him and rejects His gospel and rejects His Son.”  Again, the word “rejects” sounds like a real warning to sinners as if they can exercise their free will in rejecting or accepting God, the gospel and Christ.  He makes it sound like the sinner’s eternal destiny is up to them.  The word “reject” and the warning that God will show no mercy to those who do reject him implies a freedom of will in the person to do either – reject or accept.  And again we have MacArthur giving what seems to be a genuine warning of a contingent nature – which is inconsistent with his own soteriology – when he says that “…God is going to send you to hell forever, unless you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are forgiven through faith in Him.”

            So for all that MacArthur points out in these sermons that are legitimate points, the issue of victimhood and the victim mentality presents serious problems for MacArthur as a Calvinist.  Given the nature of the subject he runs into incoherence with his fundamental theological determinism.  Here we have again the contradiction between human responsibility and “sovereignty” when it is defined by Calvinists as universal divine causal determinism.  MacArthur has cemented the point I have been claiming all along, that Calvinism cannot be put into the service of the gospel and evangelism.

MacArthur has so poignantly described the situation his own theology creates when he asks, “And why would I ever go to that God to get me out of [the mess] when He got me into it?  If God is at all responsible for the mess that I’m in, then why would I go to Him?  He’s already demonstrated His injustice.  Why would I look to Him as a Savior?”  The point being that MacArthur’s Calvinist determinism is antithetical to the work and message of the gospel, despite his inconsistent cavalier assertions such as, “when it comes down to sin, each of us is personally responsible for our sins and the complicated mess that they make out of our lives” and “they are not victims of an indifferent or hostile God.”  We are still left asking, “Why not?”

            On Calvinist determinism the objector is correct when he concludes “Why would I look to him as Savior?”  Yes, MacArthur is correct when he says “conceding to sinners that they are victims is a very dangerous thing to do.”  But that “that they are victims” is logically entailed by MacArthur’s Calvinist determinism.  So once again, the Calvinist cannot extricate himself from the contradiction his deterministic definition of “sovereignty” creates with human responsibility.

            Ultimately the sinner cannot go to the Calvinist God for salvation.  He is the God who ordained their sin and “mess.”  MacArthur is right.  Calvinism creates “an impossible situation.”  Indeed, “Why would anybody go to the God that they believe has put them in the mess they’re in to get them back out of it?”  They wouldn’t.  And that is the point.  Calvinism is a hopelessly confused theology and soteriology.[11]


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[1] John MacArthur, “Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 1,” Aug, 26, 2018.  Accessed on Nov. 13, 2018.  From the “Grace to You” website transcript which is not word-for-word from the sermon but seeks to communicate the substantive points made.  https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/81-21 

[2] John MacArthur, “Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 2,” Sept. 2, 2018.  Accessed Nov. 13, 2018.  From the “Grace to You” website transcript which is incomplete and somewhat altered from the exact words of the sermon.   https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/81-22/social-justice-and-the-gospel-part-2 

[3] John McArthur, “Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 2.” (17:25 – 18:57)

[4]   John MacArthur, “Why Does God Allow So Much Evil And Suffering?” “2008 West Coast Conference: Tough Questions Christians Face.”  May 12, 2015.  Accessed May 1, 2020.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LFzk1afiD8  (35:32 – 35:38)  

[5] Ibid. (25:17 – 25:32).

               Believing that divine sovereignty means that God has predetermined and causes all things to occur as they do, MacArthur has attempted to be doctrinally consistent by also stating that God is responsible for the existence of evil, and even evil actions.  He states, “God willed evil to exist.” (44:30 -44:32)  He even suggests that God created evil when he says, “There are people who have this metaphysical concept that there is a necessity of evil by virtue of the fact that there has to be something opposite good.  It isn’t created by God they would like to say.  No, it just exists…” (40:56 – 41:1).  But then inconsistent with this he the states, “He didn’t create it [evil].  That would be impossible for him, as it is impossible for him to do any evil, but he willed that it exists.” (44:34 – 44:50)  According to MacArthur’s determinism it must be that God willed evil in the active sense of making it happen.  That is, God willed all evils in the sense of his having preordained and is causing them to occur.  Therefore, logically and morally God is responsible for evil and all evil actions.  Recall above that MacArthur says, “he [God] is content to leave the responsibility for evil’s existence, and even its action, with himself.”  Why would he be responsible for something he did not do or cause to occur?  MacArthur then quotes the Westminster Confession which uses the word “ordained.”  It reads, “God form all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” (Ch. 3. Sect 3.1)  MacArthur states, “The reason God ordained evil is for his own glory.” (46:34 – 46:42)  All things come to pass as God, by his own will, has ordained them to come to pass.  MacArthur concludes that, “Therefore the existence of evil is in the end to the praise of his glory.”  (46:07 – 46:12)  He then states, “God is made infinitely more glorious because evil exists.  We praise him because of what he has done to overcome evil.”  (47:04 –  47:21)  So God ordains evil, and then we praise him for overcoming the evil he has ordained. That seems like nonsense.  It seems that the free will theodicy makes better sense of the Scriptural testimony to evil and reality as we experience it.

               Critiquing the free will theodicy, MacArthur states that, “This is the most popular way to answer this problem or it’s what keeps people in the dilemma the longest.  It is that you just can’t have a God who takes away our free will.  You can’t do that.  We’re Americans.  This is a democracy.  I’ll promise you this though…if you grew up in a totalitarian dictatorship, you wouldn’t be wrestling quite as much with human rights.  You would have a better understanding of unilateral power and sovereignty than you do.”  (41:51 – 42:45)  He continues, “Free will is more important to God than disallowing evil.  That’s an interesting concept.  Free will trumps evil on God’s value scale.  I am so committed to free will that it’s going to mean that I have to allow evil.  God prized human autonomy.  And to protect human autonomy he had to allow evil.  So evil backs in the door because free will trumps everything.  Humans have to have the self-determined freedom to act, and if God acted as the primary cause on them – if God decided and God coerced and God compelled, it would violate their will.  Again, you still have to answer the question as to why if God knew they would have free will and make stupid choices he made them capable of doing that.  It doesn’t help you.”  (42:54 – 43:57)

               According to his doctrine of deterministic sovereignty and previous statements that God created evil and is responsible for its existence, and his rejection of human free will, MacArthur goes on to inconsistently talk about man’s “rebellion” which presupposes free will.  He states that, “There is a sense in which evil is a deprivation.  It is not something God created.  It is something that reflects the rebellion against what God created and who God is.”  (41:34 – 41:47)  MacArthur also uses the word “allow” as in “God allowed evil.”  But this too is inconsistent with his determinism.

               MacArthur states, “To design a God, listen to this, who would rather have us do our will, than him do his will, is to design a God who is not in the Bible.” (44:05 – 44:17) And here is a false dichotomy.  Either free will or divine sovereignty, but not both in the sense that sovereignty need not be defined as theistic determinism.  For MacArthur it is not possible that God sovereignly decreed that man should be a substantially free being – to make his own decisions and be morally responsible for them.  God can’t remain sovereign while man is free.  MacArthur’s God is too small and not the God we see in the Bible.  For MacArthur “sovereignty” means determinism and that logically entails that God has ordained evil, is the author of evil and is evil himself.  MacArthur says, “Let God be God and worship him for the sovereign that he is.  Unfolding the glory of his own nature through wrath and mercy which necessitate evil.”   (1:02:07 – 1:02:25)

               There are numerous kinds of inconsistencies between what is logically and morally required by MacArthur’s deterministic theology and what he says throughout this sermon and the section above on victimhood.

[6] John MacArthur, “Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 2,” Sept. 2, 2018.  Accessed Nov. 13, 2018.  From the “Grace to You” website transcript which is not word for word from the sermon but seeks to communicate the substantive points made.  https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/81-22/social-justice-and-the-gospel-part-2

[7] John MacArthur, “Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 2.”

[8] John MacArthur, “Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 2.”

[9] John MacArthur, “Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 2.”

[10] John MacArthur, “Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 4,” Sept. 23, 2018. Accessed on Nov. 13, 2018.  From the “Grace to You” website transcript which is not a word-for-word transcription of the sermon but seeks to give the substantive content of the message throughout.  https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/81-24/social-justice-and-the-gospel-part-4

[11] See the critique by Dr. Leighton Flowers of MacArthur’s sermon on these points.  Dr. Leighton Flowers, “MacArthur’s Calvinism Promotes the Victimhood he Condemns,” Sept. 28, 2018.  Accessed Nov. 13, 2018 .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy9rA-oeIc4 

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