Is John MacArthur Right About Social Justice? (Part 5 of 6)
We don’t have two gospels. We don’t have a spiritual gospel and a social gospel, or a salvation gospel and a social justice gospel. . . Jesus binds the spiritual and social into a seamless fabric that shouldn’t be torn in two. Donald Kraybill
We ignore social sin because we can. We ignore it because the only gospel we know is individualistic, and this does not address social sin. We do not know the gospel that confronts broken social systems—or systemic evil—with the good news of God’s redemption. Tim Suttle
We’re nearing the finish line now in our critique of John MacArthur’s sermon series, “Social Justice and the Gospel”
If you haven’t already, you might find it beneficial to read some or all of the previous four parts to my argument. I’ll say again that my beef is not with Mr. Mac per se, but with his shortsightedness in this particular area, which is as diplomatic a description as I can muster.
I don’t just go around, like some self-appointed judge of everyone’s theology but mine. I made an exception here because of how potentially harmful are Mr. Mac’s faulty ideas on this particular subject.
If you’ve listened to or read his series you’ll know it is based on his application of the preaching of the prophet Ezekiel. He proposes––more like pontificates––that Ezekiel’s message is an example of how preachers today ought to preach to the unbelieving world and not pause for even a moment to relate to the suffering of the oppressed.
I suggest, that learning how to preach the gospel from the book of Ezekiel is like studying brain surgery by going target practicing at the gun range! Ezekiel had a Spirit-initiated assignment of his own, to be sure, but good news preaching wasn’t really his thing.
Bro Mac says some very helpful things about the need for prefacing the good news with the bad news, but he never seems to get around to saying anything about the good news of the grace of God in Jesus, at least not in this series. Since the name of his ministry is “Grace to You,” I suspect that at other times and places he’s given hundreds of hours and thousands of pages to the wonderful themes of grace, mercy, and the love of God. That said, in addition to taking issue with his use of the flaming prophet Ezekiel to be our model gospel preacher, I see no grace, mercy, or love in this whole series.
Read for yourself a couple of Brother Mac’s most derisive statements:
“Does he [the prophet] say, ‘Yeah, that’s right. You’ve been abused, you know, you’ve been treated unjustly. We sympathize; we see that. We want to embrace all that. We want to have a conference to make LGBTQ people feel welcome in the church. We want to start elevating women, make more women preachers. Yeah, we’re sorry you feel bad.’”
For the moment, I’m going to overlook his hyper-conservative views on women and gays, and ask, “Does the spirit of what he says here sound anything at all like Jesus to you?” To be honest, it doesn’t fit in my brain how after all his years of pouring over the words of Jesus, he could make such heartless and unkind remarks. He goes on to say:
“Is that what a preacher does? Or does a preacher warn that person [the victim of abuse], that wherever you are in this world and whoever you are, you are here within the purpose of God’s sovereignty, and the only thing that you need to be concerned about is your own sin? That message is the absolute foundation reality of the gospel.”
His claim that the preacher’s only responsibility is to call out sin (exclusively of the personal variety and not the social) without compassion for the abused and overlooked, is not only ignorant, it’s cruel! He’s saying to the abandoned and oppressed that they are there because God in his sovereignty willed it! The idea that injustice and man’s inhumanity to man is willed by God, is not even in the same universe as the message of Scripture.
“It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God’s will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent,” says Thomas Merton. “But if you want them to believe you––try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God’s will for yourself!”
Rather than delve further into this theme here, I recommend this…
Of course everyone needs to look at their sin in order to come to God, but what Brother Mac overlooks is that sometimes the malignancies from relentless abuse metastasize throughout all the cells in their souls and loom so large inside them that they can’t even begin to process their own sinfulness. That is not to say that the Spirit is unable to bring conviction and reveal Jesus to even the most damaged soul, but he often communicates his understanding whisper through compassionate witnesses like you and me, and not always through Ezekiel-like fire and brimstone preaching.
I realize that Brother Mac is trying to protect the integrity of the gospel message by confronting people’s excuses for their sin, but his punitive rhetoric goes way too far to make that point, and insults the suffering and oppressed, and anyone with a compassionate conscience.
In our final post of the series, in contrast to Mr. Mac’s opinion, we’ll talk about the biblical role of the witness to the good news of Jesus. In the meantime, I’d be happy to hear what you think about these things…