Posted by: The Simple Guy | May 1, 2010

Dangers of Sound Doctrine??

Bobby made a very good point in his post here.

I must admit that in my personal experience I have tended more toward this error than the error of the “emergents”

I grew up listening to John MacArthur, and have deep respect for him and his teaching.  I learned to study the bible systematically from his teaching and owe him a great debt.  (John recommended reading the same text in context every day, for months on end until you know what it says) This is how I study now and have since then.  I read 1 John in its entirety every day for 3 months.  Now it isn’t that I’m smart or anything, I just know what is in 1 John.  I read it 90 times!  (and have many times since)  I have done the same thing with Colossians, James, Ephesians, the list goes on.

This is the method I learned from John MacArthur’s ministry, and I am deeply grateful for that help.

However, there is a common thread I have noticed among those of us who have had a strong influence from John MacArthur.   Often when in conversation with each other I recognize that we are paying more attention to weighing the details of each thing that is said looking for the next error to correct.  We are poised and ready to pounce on the next mistake so we can correct the doctrinal error.  Once we correct the doctrinal error, we feel we have really helped that person.  In reality we may have crushed them.  I think we can have all of the doctrinal details correct and still be false teachers ourselves.  This is the danger I fear for myself.

The danger I have noticed is that of getting so distracted by being “right” that I miss the only One who is Right.  So my prayer as I deal with people is not so much that I can show them what is right, as it is that I can introduce them to the One who is Right.

He is correct, and I am to be corrected daily.

Paul Washer puts it this way:

What do you think?


I want to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship with His suffering.   To be like Him in His death, so that I can lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of.



  1. Amen!

    I “knew” you would quote that verse. 😉

    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    Love you!

  2. Craig-

    I’ve got to disagree with Bobby Grow. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we cautioned to not know too much. Instead, we read “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalms 1:1-2 NASB)

    While I agree that we are all prideful, and often just want to be right, when it would be better to discuss then to argue, the Bible does warn us that “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…” (2 Timothy 4:3a NASB)

    The church’s problem is much more a lack of sound doctrine then it is too much emphasis on sound doctrine.


  3. Squirrel,
    I love you brother and deeply enjoy our interaction. I have enjoyed your perspective on things, and find in you a kindred spirit, or fellowship.

    You said:

    “I’ve got to disagree with Bobby Grow. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we cautioned to not know too much.”

    Bobby didn’t say that.

    He did say:
    “. . Don’t get me wrong, sound doctrine is imperative for the Christian church (as Paul makes clear in both Titus and 1 and 2 Timothy); and without a doubt there is in fact a lack of sound doctrine being proclaimed from Christian pulpits all throughout America and the West (in fact there is a lack of any ‘Christian doctrine’ being proclaimed from American pulpits).”

    “If sound doctrine comes before Jesus, in a way that actually points away from establishing and cultivating relationship with Him; then it’s really not ‘sound’ after all, and is really only an idol (like a ‘golden calf’). I think we need ‘sound doctrine’, but Biblically sound doctrine woos us further and deeper into relationship with the Saviour.”

    My point, and I am pretty sure you agree with this, is that those of us who have strong John MacArthur influence in our lives probably need to guard more against theology as idolatry than against mushy doctrine.

    By the way, you have one citation here about links. 🙂

    Love ya man, still praying for your family.


  4. Ulp! I forgot your “no links” policy. :p (And that’s a painful video to watch, ain’t it?)

    One thing I noticed right off the bat is that Bobby didn’t give any examples of where MacArthur has made doctrine into an idol. None. Just a blanket statement that he had done so. What has MacArthur said or written that indicates that he has done this?

    Granted, all of the guys that I listen to & read on a regular basis (MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Al Mohler, Phil Johnson, S. Lewis Johnson, James R. White, J. N. Darby, John Calvin, just to name a few) stress sound doctrine over the current emotion-based stuff that passes for teaching in most churches these days. I firmly believe that I’ve grown closer to the Lord as I’ve grown in knowledge of the Lord. Knowledge is key to understanding. As Spurgeon said, “Until you understand the depth of your depravity you’ll never understand the breadth of God’s redemption.”

    I just don’t know that sound doctrine itself can be an idol. Certainly pride in being “right” can be an idol. Certainly, there are some who worship teachers more then they worship the One who is being, or should be being, taught about. Especially in the Celebrity Centered Church(tm) of today (witness the ongoing controversy about Ergun Caner.) Bobby wrote, “If sound doctrine comes before Jesus…” Well, Sound doctrine will always point towards Jesus. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t sound.

    Thank you so much for your friendship and your continued prayers.


  5. Craig,

    Thanks for the link, I’m glad this was something you could resonate with. I’m not sure how what I’ve said is anything different than what Washer says in the vid. Far be it from me to say that study and gaining knowledge of Jesus Christ is a bad thing — I’ve spent the last 13yrs of my life dedicated to this endeavor (both formally and not), and actually the last 33yrs of my life trying to know Jesus (through studying both scripture and theology).


    I didn’t think examples were necessary; the trajectory of MacArthur’s ministry is example enough (and those who follow in his steps). There is a hard-noseness that characterizes the MacArthurite style, exemplified by guys like the Pyromaniacs. Here’s an example, at my church in Bellflower California (former church) one of MacArthur’s “Master’s” guys was called to be the pastor. He began beating people from the pulpit, doctrinally, in the name of “Truth.” This eventually split the church, which is the philosophy that MacArthur is sending these young men out with. I.e. Get rid of the chaff, and start with a good foundation. (thankfully this young pastor was given the boot, but he took about a third of the church with him). I can repeat stories just like this one with Mac. graduates from Masters. What I’m saying is that there is a disconnect between “truth” and the person of Jesus. I don’t how else to illustrate this, Squirrel, if you don’t see it, you don’t see it.

    Here is an article from a friend that will help illustrate from the history of the church that will help identify and illustrate the problem further:

    If there is a premium placed on the intellect, at an anthropological paradigmatic level — as there is within the MacARthurite paradigm and tradition — then you’ll understand what I’m getting at. Making syntactical and grammatical connections is not all there is to preaching; and if the truth is communicated w/o love it means nothing (I Cor 13). This is the sense many many get when interacting with MacArthurites (that is unless you are one).

  6. I kind of thought the Washer video nicely complemented and helped underscore the point of Bobby’s post. But, that’s just me…

  7. Squirrel,
    I disabled the link. That was CREEPY.
    I have been “beat from the pulpit” too. Don’t care to go into the details at this point, because it is a public forum, because you aren’t part of the problem or the solution, so it would be gossip. (in this instance)

    However, I did feel it appropriate to say “there is a common thread I have noticed among those of us who have had a strong influence from John MacArthur . . we are paying more attention to weighing the details of each thing that is said looking for the next error to correct. We are poised and ready to pounce on the next mistake so we can correct the doctrinal error.”

    I, in other words, am another example if I am not careful. Just a tendency that can be in this particular style.

    Again, I highly respect John MacArthur and am deeply grateful for his influence in my life. But I have encountered those who seem to be clones of his preaching style but do not have his character or integrity. A good preaching style or hermeneutic does not a good teacher make.

    In 1 John we are introduced to 3 levels of growth. Children, young men, and fathers. Children are forgiven, young men have overcome the wicked one (I would loosely insert sound doctrine here) but fathers know God. They have not left sound doctrine, but they know Him who was from the beginning. This is where growth occurs, a father is a parent – that means children – that means the kingdom is advanced from this stage.

    links man, links! Don’t get in trouble here too! 🙂

    Praying for your cancer and for your peace of mind.


  8. Squirrel,

    What’s a nice rodent like you doing watching horrible stuff like that?

    I’d second Craig’s opinion, but would suggest substituting the word “demonic”.

    There is no denying the need for strong, sound, Christ-centered teaching from whatever pastors still value God’s truth. That’s for sure.

    Obviously, teaching that undermines the supremacy of Christ or tolerates gross immorality should be corrected or disciplined. Because we are all human, it is not easy to find a happy balance between standing firm on important details while still being patient and kind to those who don’t have exactly the same perspective.

    As true, regenerate souls, though, we all can come together as family in order to get share in worshiping and knowing Christ. I expect if this is the goal, He will not fail to enlighten and knock off whatever rough edges need to disappear.

  9. Heather,

    I viewed the video (and linked to it) as an example of the rampant error that is sweeping the “church” (“church” is in quotes because these people are not part of the church, but are false teachers. Of that I have no doubt.) Be glad I didn’t link you to the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey 🙂 (& no, I’m not kidding, it’s out there, Google it, if you dare.)


    We all can fall prey to pride, and a desire to be “right” at all costs. James White calls this the “cage stage” when a person’s doctrinal zeal overwhelms their wisdom resulting in them speaking the truth, but not in love. This is a true phenomenon, as we’ve all seen, and is one of the reasons why I believe that no new seminary graduate should ever be given the job of senior pastor right out of school. There should be churches, like wine cellars, with mature elders and deacons where new pastors can age and mellow before receiving the responsibility of overseeing a flock on their own. (Even then, I believe that all church’s should have a plurality of elders in leadership.)

    Sorry to hear about your bad experiences with churches. We’ve all had them.


    In the interest of full disclosure, I have had interactions with all 3 of the Pyromaniacs, and can often be seen in the comment thread over there. I am also friends with several Master’s grads, although I did not attend there.

    You have made assertions regarding Dr. MacArthur’s ministry that I believe to be in error, without providing any specific examples of what you are refering to (except the one church split, which I addressed below.) There’s no doubt that Dr. MacArthur is steadfast in defending the truth against the error of false doctrine, I do not see how that could lead you to conclude that he has made true doctrine into some sort of idol. Besides, how do you idolize the truth? Jesus said that He is the truth, so…

    You bring up your former church, and the problems associated with the church’s calling of a Master’s graduate. I certainly don’t know every Master’s grad, and I have no doubt that there is a percentage of bad apples in any bunch. However, this is not something that MacArthur did. (Nor do I know all the details of what happened at your former church. “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”~ Proverbs 18:17 ESV)

    I doubt that MacArthur would endorse every action of every Master’s graduate, nor is it fair to expect him to. Heck, I wouldn’t endorse every action I’ve ever engaged in, let alone the actions of everybody who has ever sat under my teaching.

    While I have no doubt that there are some who idolize their favorite teachers, and that there are many teachers who even seek such idolization, I know of absolutely no evidence that would bring me to conclude that Dr. MacArthur is one such as that.

    You wrote, “…many things are done in the name of ‘sound doctrine’ (like splitting churches)…” While the literal translation of “sound doctrine” would be “healthy teaching,” sound doctrine is probably best defined as “true teaching.” If the proclamation of the truth results in the church splitting, what does that say about the condition of the church? Could it be that the church just “desired to have their ears tickled,” as Paul warned Timothy would happen? I agree that “doctrine devides.” It devides truth from error, correct from incorrect, and wheat from tares.

    I was just reading, in USA Today, that, while 65% of 18 to 29 year-olds identify themselves as “Christian”, few agreed that Jesus was the only way to heaven. Of those who said that they believe they will go to heaven because they “have accepted Jesus Christ as savior: •68% did not mention faith, religion or spirituality when asked what was “really important in life.” •50% do not attend church at least weekly. •36% rarely or never read the Bible.” In light of that, I really don’t think too much sound doctrine leading to some sort of “over-intelectualism” is really a problem. In fact, just the opposite.

    You wrote, “Nevertheless, there are certain ministries, namely that of John MacArthur (don’t get me wrong, I think he says some good things too [Emphasis mine-Squirrel]), which, in my estimation have placed such a premium on ‘sound doctrine’ that it has become idolatrous.” Is there, perhaps, a particular doctrine which Dr. MacArthur espouses with which you disagree? Is that the real issue?

    Long comment. Sorry.


  10. &, yes, I’ve been called a MacArthurite more then once…


  11. Squirrel,

    No. My church wasn’t into “unsound doctrine” — but they weren’t staunch TULIPer’s either, only some — and this essentially was what split the church (a secondary issue being taught as “Gospel” truth). In that particular situation, MacArthur had full knowledge of what was going on, and in fact encouraged this young pastor to continue. This church certainly wasn’t a place where people wanted their ears tickled — the senior Pastor (prior to calling this Masters guy), now with the Lord, served for many years with J. Vernon McGee. No, he was out of line, and so was MacArthur. That’s the problem, Squirrel, MacArthur doesn’t get to decide who should be divided and who shouldn’t. He doesn’t get to decide what the essentials of the Gospel are and aren’t. The TULIP is in the category of the mechanics of salvation; and in no way, as far as I’m concerned, should be used as a hammer to divide churches. Anyway, the right thing happened and that youngster was fired; unfortunately he took some with him.

    Essentially what Washer says in the vid. were my points; I just applied them to MacArthur, because, IMO, he fits that bill quite easily. Sure he has his Greek and Hebrew down; I think his calvinism, and the attendant anthropology (which is too big of a point to develop here) contributes to his “harsh” approach (although I think he is sincere, and unfortunately believes that “his version of Calvinism” IS the Gospel; which it’s not). But the “real” issue is certainly a complex issue, it includes his version of Calvinism; but only because it (his Calvinism) historically defines man by placing a high premium on intellect and thinks of God in rather contractual terms (so the TULIP). To me I don’t sense much sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, or much compassion; but then I’ve never personally met MacArthur (this is just how most of those who surround MacArthur, as I can see, come off; and they’re getting this kind of attitude from somewhere — it’s rather sectarian).

    As far as my usage of ‘sound doctrine’, check my context, I was using it “ironically” to make my point.

    Since you’re a “MacArthurite” I don’t suppose I could give you any examples; but that wasn’t really the basis of my assertion, per se, it was more based on a “sense.” If you don’t get that, then I’m sorry, Squirrel.

    Btw, I can see Macs appeal in our culture; but I think there are better Bible teachers out there to learn from. I did a post on Mac here:

    Woops, another link, Craig 😉 ! Thanks for the cont. prayers, I need them!!!

    • Bobby,
      You’re not fighting fair here, no more links or I will have to whack you. In love of course

      • Alright, but it’s a space-saver; it’s better than copying and pasting one of my articles into the comment meta here, isn’t it? 😉

  12. Squirrel,

    I know 3 Masters grads, and you. If I lump you in the group, it comes up 50/50. Two who don’t seem to employ the same tactics or display the same attitude I was referencing (you are one of them), and 2 who do.

    I think Pyromaniacs website is a good example of what we are talking about as well. I do not know any of them personally, but I have had to stay away from their site. There is a meanness to their tone toward anyone who doesn’t see things their way that is not at all godly in my estimation. Now maybe it is tongue in cheek and I just don’t get it, but I have seen them treat people very badly for simple disagreements that are not heresy. They do not demonstrate Romans 14 very well in my opinion.

    Am I in a position to correct them? No, I don’t know them. But I do find their manner to be needlessly offensive and they seem to revel in that manner.

    I have had to tell Heather to stay off of their site, because they kept messing her up emotionally. The blog does not demonstrate a love for the sheep. Now maybe they love the sheep, I cannot say for sure. But Heather is not a flaming heretic, and she is diligently seeking Christ, yet they repeatedly crushed her. This is not Christ! I should be able to trust good shepherds to care for her, not beat her.

    I must say that it was hard for me to see until it happened to me at our last church. Now that I have been the recipient, I can indeed see the pattern. The most difficult part for me was recognizing that I was that way, too.

    Of course we must love the truth. But the truth is that Jesus has the heart of the Father in Luke 15. The father who went out to both sons, even though they didn’t deserve it.

    In closing – (I’m sounding like a preacher) – I do think Bobby painted with a pretty broad brush when he implicated John MacArthur’s ministry. I don’t have enough knowledge of his ministry to make that statement. I can see how that statement could be offensive, and it is not a statement I agree with. But how many times do you see Pyros do the same thing for their cheering throng? Have you seen the way they treat Bobby?

    If both sides are saved, there will one day be a reconciliation. We should be praying that it happens on this side, rather than on that one. Jesus died for both. We need to be careful not to destroy the brother for whom Christ died for the sake of disputable matters.

    Again, I appreciate you and hope I have not hurt you. It was not my intention. I am praying for your teaching tomorrow.


  13. Craig,

    I mean what I said about MacArthur; I think sometimes this medium lends itself to playing games and one-upsmanship, but if I wasn’t serious about the “idolatry” stuff I wouldn’t have said it — I said it before the LORD! I get more particular in that last post in linked to, about MacArthur and a couple of others. My primary example is most certainly a doctrinal problem, which then expresses itself in an expositional way from MacArthur’s pulpit (and it’s not just him, it’s a whole slough of pastors who are promoting versions of what the Puritan’s called experiemental predestinarianism — and that has to do with “knowing” if and/or proving if I am elect [they used to call the method of doing this the practical syllogism]). Again, this method of understanding God does not emphasize a Trinitarian understanding of God (not the metaphysics behind); and instead emphasizes God as the “Law-giver” who makes a contract with man (Covenant of Works — this is where MacArthurs’ Calvinism is thoroughly inconsistent).

    The arrogance that this approach stems from astounds, me, Craig; I’m talking about MacArthur’s appropriation of Calvinism. There is this notion put forward by him, and thus those who follow him, that they have simply come to their conclusions (i.e. the categories they think through) by simple doing straightforward exegesis of the text of Scripture; this is absolute nonsense. Anyone who has had even an introductory class to Reformation theology knows this is simply not the case; there is no vacuum to speak out of, and the form and categories that Classic Calvinism speaks out of has an informing philosophical framework that it speaks and interprets out of (Phil Johnson and others in this camp constantly appeal to this, and explicitly so when dealing with the problem of evil and God — they appeal to “secondary causation” which is pure and simple an Aristotelian philosophical category, nowhere to be found in scripture). And yet MacArthur (and Spurgeon) and the Pyros and everyone they influence assume the same thing. This is the most arrogant thing in the world. It is not careful, it assumes a certain “pedigree” w/o apparently wanting to understand the historical forces which shaped that pedigree (and thus elevating their position to that of Gospel truth, w/o question; therefore if anyone questions what they are saying, that person isn’t questioning anything else, but the Gospel itself). Here is what Phil Johnson has recently said in reference to Calvinism (just as Spurgeon said, the post I have up at my EVangelical Calvinist blog):

    Nothing is more biblical than these doctrines that are commonly labeled Calvinism. In a way, it is a shame they have been given an extrabiblical name. Because these truths are the very essence of what Scripture teaches.

    This captures a MacArthurite attitude, and this is the attitude that needs to be challenged; and that’s what I’m doing! I’ve asked the Pyros, since I can’t seem to get to MacArthur, to do some posts on the history of ideas and interpretation; to admit that they have these things. But I’ve come to realize that they are most likely willingly unaware of this reality. Like I’ve said before, they live in a rather insulated situation.

    I’ve said enough. Squirrel, my example is illustrated in what I just wrote to Craig. It is doctrinal in orientation; but then bleeds out into the pulpit and in a certain attitude (which I would say is sectarian).

    • Bobby,

      I realize that you mean what you said. I just have not verified what you say. Since I don’t know what you know, I cannot be emphatic like you are.
      Just acknowledging that your approach seems pretty harsh for those who do not know what you know, or have not experienced what you have.
      I know Squirrel, and he is another person who loves the Lord and has been through some difficult things as well.
      I still love and respect you, and am not trying to say that you are lying or something.


  14. Just sneaking back in with a thought.

    I do understand your intention concerning the video. I was just teasing a bit about the breaking of Craig’s rule. I think I’ll pass on the Hokey Pokey invite as I’ve already come across some of that kind of stuff before.

    You’re right, the widespread lack of serious interest in biblical truth is appalling and I think everyone in this discussion will agree that we need to hold up Scripture with the highest of regard. It is our Maker’s message to us concerning Who He is and our relationship to Him.


    You are aware I really know very little about the backgrounds which shape today’s Calvinist/reformed and semi-Calvinist systems, and I have to admit that my ignorance of the roots of certain frameworks has left me open to some serious anxiety over salvation as I began asking questions that took me beyond “because pastor XYZ says it’s true”.

    I’ve appreciated very much the ability to become familiar with the trinitarian perspective of God that somehow never really was a focus before.

    Because we’ve discussed a bit, I think I do have something of an understanding of why you are so passionate to state your case concerning certain teachings and their proponents. It is so, so important to be able to know that you’ve placed your faith in Jesus Christ and nothing less.

    When you’ve been deeply hurt and confused in the past and have now found true rest and peace, it is natural to want desperately to try to prevent others from being hurt in the same way, if possible.

    But it is very difficult for those who have not personally been hurt, or seen others get hurt, to understand what you are saying–especially when they themselves have benefited from personalized instruction from the people you have named as potentially harmful in their approach to ministry. What is meant by you to be an urgent call to carefully investigate one’s belief system may seem like an outright attack to the listener who does not fully understand where you’re coming from.

    I believe that knowing God’s truth is important to all of us and do hope that this discussion has not left any commenter feeling as though he is unwelcome here.

    In Christ we are family and need to remember to seek His wisdom and patience when dealing with one another.

  15. I appreciate what you’re saying, Heather. I don’t want someone feeling unwelcome — this isn’t even my blog after all 😉 — but I don’t know how else to be, but direct. Maybe I need to take some of my own advice; but I don’t want to beat around the bush either.

    To be honest I’m tired of this issue, but it’s always a reality in the sphere; maybe I just need to take a break from the blog (I will be anyway after this Thursday, my surg.). I think I will take a break, except for my “update blog.”

    In Christ.

    • Hey Bobby,

      For the record, I appreciate that you are direct. For as “wordy” as I can be, it is necessary for others to get to the point when trying to tell me something.

      I was only recalling that you had asked a while back why others don’t see what is so clear to you….

      From my position, it appears that perhaps the answer can be as simple as “They have not been placed in a position that requires that they ask the questions to which you are offering answers”. It complicates things, too when famous names pop up in discussion because the listener can become defensive on a personal level and miss the primary point concerning the teaching/handling of ministry itself.

      It can be a scary thing to have one’s beliefs challenged–particularly by someone you’ve not met–in a public forum. It’s especially scary these days, when it appears to be so easy to earn the label “heretic” from those who we want to respect as elder brothers and assume would know how to spot a heretic.

      Craig and I both appreciate that you have a heart to help others out from under the heavy burden that certain ways of thinking can place on believers. Not all feel as though they are burdened though, so your efforts can be misunderstood.

      Perhaps it is wise to take a bloggy break and just rest and enjoy your sweet family at this time—you’ve been through a lot these past several months. We are praying for you and your family, Bobby and are rejoicing with you over the removal of your tumor.

  16. And I still agree with the main point, here.

    The desire and effort to maintain pure doctrine needs to be properly balanced with godly humility and visible concern for those who are meant to benefit from the hearing of sound doctrine.


  17. Brothers, (and Heather) 🙂

    It was not my intention to moderate a debate about any one person or ministry. I do not feel qualified to critique John MacArthur. I fear that if God blessed my ministry as he has our brother MacArthur, there would be greater uglinesses than we have seen from his. I have yet to see a man step out in service of our Lord who has not had imperfections in his wake.

    Billy Graham, Bill Gothard, John Piper, the list goes on. I deeply appreciate each of these men, and look up to them. But they have made errors I would not like to repeat.

    Here lies the danger of following any man too closely on one hand, or picking him apart on the other. I believe the solution is to follow him ONLY as he follows Christ, and to bathe him and his ministry in prayer.

    Let me re-emphasize my original point. I find that I personally struggle more with “having to be right” than I do with fuzzy theology.

    Jesus did not come down here to win debates. He came down here to save sinners. I want to encourage those who struggle with similar things as me to remember the person. We don’t have to battle over every detail. We are to provoke one another unto love and good works.

    This reminds me of a startling realization I came to a while back. (may post about this later)
    If you do a study of “false teachers” in the New Testament, you will find that very little is said about what they teach. Much is said about how they conduct themselves. I will say again, it is possible to have the details right and still be a false teacher by how one acts. Those of us who have more MacArthur influence need to be careful of this error. There is a false sense of security in “sound doctrine” as though it will protect us from being a false teacher. This simply isn’t so. The only true teachers are those who FOLLOW CHRIST. Not just by what we think or teach, but with who we are.

    We need to be very careful. Especially if we hold positions of authority in the church. The ones Jesus opposed most vehemently when he was here actually had pretty sound doctrine. They had no love for the Shepherd, or the sheep. They used their “correctness” as a tool of power. They were using His name in vain. A blasphemy of correctness, if you will.

    My intention was not to categorize MacArthur, only to warn against BEING a false teacher. This can happen with correct teaching and a cold heart toward those for whom Christ died.


    • “The ones Jesus opposed most vehemently when he was here actually had pretty sound doctrine.”


      I’ve got to disagree. The Scribes and Pharisees were teaching tradition over scripture and works-based righteousness. They had no love for the Shepherd & there doctrine was unsound. They were messed up all over! 🙂


      • Jesus said this about their teaching:
        “Matthew 23:1-3 RSV
        (1) Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples,
        (2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;
        (3) so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”

        This is why I said:
        “The ones Jesus opposed most vehemently when he was here actually had pretty sound doctrine.”


      • Craig,

        Actually, I was thinking of the same chapter… All those “Woes”…



  18. Let me just close by saying:

    I don’t think it does anyone any favors to not mention “names” at point. I believe MacArthur’s soteriology to be highly defective; I believe the Master’s seminary philosophy of ministry (to divide the “wheat from the chaff” using “Calvinism” as the hammer) to be completely unbiblical (insofar that they believe Classic Calvinism=the Gospel). I’m going to challenge that!

    To just assert that C. Calvinism=Gospel truth w/o arguement is completely immature (or “naive” or “arrogant”). There is a history “behind” the development of all doctrines (even the Trinity); part of developing a healthy robust hermeneutic (and thus exegetical practice) is to acknowledge that development and understand how it impinges upon the text of Scripture. It’s one thing to come to scripture as if Calvinism has no “theological context” (or naively); but to set oneself up as a teacher, and not engage Scripture on its own terms (but instead through a prefabbed framework — is not to “right divide the Word which is truth”). Teachers, indeed set themselves up for a stricter judgement; to not be careful in the way of doctrine and imbue scripture with categories that undercut scriptures emphases (as the TULIP does) is dangerous practice — and has worse consequences for those who sit under such teaching (on their daily walk with the Lord).

    When folks, like MacARthur and Phil JOhnson, don’t want to deal with the “facts” and just say that C. Calvinism *is* the Gospel w/o arguement (except for a circular engagement i.e. they go to texts of scripture and interpret them through C. Calvinistic lenses and say “see Calvinism” is true) does not, in my mind, make someone a “good” teacher. I challenge such ministries because I believe they are in terrible error (using scripture as my standard); and that they are leading people astray.

    Anyway, as I have the strength I will keep speaking out against this stuff. MacArthur and camp actually forward a strange hybrided view of Calvinism; that theologically doesn’t make much sense (Federal or Covenant Calvinism actually makes sense both exegetically and theologically — in other words they are internally self consistent relative to their “system” — MacArthritism is not).

    I am blessed, Lord willing to be co-editing a book (we have a contract) which will be introducing “Evangelical Calvinism.” It is a multi-authored work with some very knowledgable scholars; I look forward to being able to pointing folks to this book someday. It will really be challenging Federal/Covenant Calvinism; but by implication will also challenge some of the assumptions of the MacArthurites.

    You guys take it easy. I’ll see you at my “update” blog in days to come; and I can’t wait to be able to report that I am cancer-free!!!

    • Bobby,

      Thank you for clarifying that your disagreement with John MacArthur centers on his Calvinist convictions. You started out by saying that MacArthur’s problem was an over-emphasis on sound doctrine, but now I am hearing you say that, in your opinion, MacArthur’s doctrine regarding soteriology isn’t sound at all.

      I also now have a much clearer idea as to what seems to have happened at your former church. They called as pastor a man who was doctrinally incompatible with the church as a whole. In my opinion, the blame must lie both with the pastor who was called and with the leadership of the church that called him. I could see the same thing happening in a conservative Bible-believing church calling a liberal “Jesus Seminar”-type pastor, a Reformed Baptist church calling a “Warren-ite — Purpose Driven” man to the pulpit, or a Dispensational church calling an amillennial pastor. I really can’t imagine any church anywhere changing its theology so radically without causing a huge upheaval.

      I witnessed it myself several years ago, when a majority-cessationist church in our association called a pastor of strong charismatic theological convictions. Fights erupted and people left in droves, all because due diligence was not practiced beforehand by the people charged with screening the pastoral candidates. I can’t speak to the details of your case, but in this case, there was a minority in the church who desired that the church become charismatic. (Why they didn’t just leave the church and go find a place more in line with their own theology, I’ll never understand. It’s not like there were no charismatic churches in the area.) They intentionally, working behind the scenes, mislead many in the church into supporting the call of this candidate. The candidate was also culpable, as he knew exactly what was going down. It was a huge mess, and the church ended up closing its doors and liquidating its property.

      All of us are going to stand firm for our theological convictions, and so we should. The leadership of any church needs to be very much aware of the theology and traditions of both the church and the pastor candidates being considered. If the church and the candidate do not match up on major points of doctrine & tradition, then that pastor isn’t a match for that church.


      • Squirrel,

        Ironically this is what happened at our church. There was a core group of elders who were MacArthurites; and the rest is history.

        I don’t see MacArthur’s style and his doctrine unrelated though; and apparently, knowing the situation, this young pastor continued to fleece the sheep — going as far as calling people out from the pulpit (Sunday morning no less). MacArthur’s not responsible for this guys actions; but he seemed to support this guys “attitude,” and approach of separating the “wheat” from the “chaff” (I know of another similar story with a Masters guy at another church in CA).

        Anyway, I don’t expect on convincing you of anything about MacArthur; but my concern involves more than just doctrine.

        Have a great Sunday!

  19. To All,

    I would only add what it all boils down to, “God forbid that I should glory save in Christ and Him crucified”

  20. […] offered a thought and video clip in response to Bobby Grow’s post concerning  how  it is possible  to […]

  21. There are a lot of comments here, and I don’t have the time to read them all. I apologize in advance if I am repeating another’s thoughts.

    I followed Heather over here. Can I take a minute and say, Craig, that your wife is a delight to get to know, even in the limited sphere onthe Internet? I’m looking for her in heaven, to be sure.

    As I was saying: reading this post, the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 immediately sprang to mind:

    …Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. (1 Cor. 8:1b-3)

    So knowledge is good, which is why we are admonished to study to show ourselves approved. But knowldege elevated above the love of God and people for whom He died is a dangerous thing.

    This is a passionate topic online, where every one seems to be concerned about sound doctrine. Of course, in the church at large, sound doctirne has been mostly tossed aside in the name of Christian liberty.

    It just occurred to me that I should also have watched the Washer video before commenting. Again, forgive me if my comment is out of context.

    Y’all have a wonderfully blessed day!

  22. Terry,
    Welcome! Heather enjoys your fellowship and I sure we will be looking for you in Heaven as well. 🙂
    I agree with your comment, and appreciate your input. You were not out of context at all, and I don’t believe you repeated anything either!
    1 Cor 8 is a very interesting context for this discussion, as it deals with Christian liberty, idolatry, misunderstandings regarding behavior, and love of our brother vs. knowledge of our freedom. As a matter of fact “knowledge” is a word that is emphasized in that passage. We should not let our knowledge allow us to abuse our freedom and destroy another’s conscience.

  23. […] Guy in what i believe, your thoughts. trackback In the comment section of my last post on the Dangers of Sound Doctrine, I suggested that a post might be in the works about false teachers.  However, I have blogged […]

  24. [I have to apologize in advance for my tone, if I come across as being harsh. I just left a church where the leadership was completely lattitudinarian, allowing heretical teaching to float around in the congregation and amongst the leadership in the name of not correcting people because they wanted to “love them.”]

    “Once we correct the doctrinal error, we feel we have really helped that person. In reality we may have crushed them. I think we can have all of the doctrinal details correct and still be false teachers ourselves.”

    I completely disagree with this, on the basis of Scripture. We should, of course, be sensitive to where a person is, so to speak, and address them accordingly. But this is only a further impetus for us to grow in the grace (in dealing with people “where they’re at”) and knowledge (dealing with doctrinal errors) of Christ.

    The problem is this: I had a friend who recently stopped by my blog – Heather can testify to this – who is in complete error, who went on and on trying to promote his heresy on my blog. To anyone watching the exchanges, it would’ve seemed that I was simply being mean and uncompromising in my beliefs (the post was on the five points of Calvinism in John 10:22-29 – I am a Calvinist and my friend isn’t).

    However, here’s the background story: My friend believes that he has been brought into good standing by the work of Christ, but that his entrance into heaven and his escape from hell is based upon his good works. [This isn’t my Calvinistic interpretation of his non-Calvinistic position; he literally told me: “We’re saved by grace but there are conditions to being saved from the wrath of God to come – good works, obedience, etc…”]This is damningly heretical (cf. Romans & Galatians). So we exchanged quite a few emails about his position. I tried and tried to patiently correct him, and he wound up calling me divisive, intolerant, and arrogant for telling him, very cautiously and lovingly, that his position was and is damningly heretical.

    Were his feelings hurt? You bet. But why?

    His feelings were hurt, but so were the Rich Young Ruler’s as the Lord showed him that salvation was not in any sense attainable by his own lawkeeping. My friend’s offense, the Rich Young Ruler’s offense, and the offense of many false teachers and professing believers who cling to and promulgate false teaching is not because they have been mistreated – it is because their pride has been wounded. I know, because I’ve been there.

    And I would much rather wound a man’s pride than allow him to persist in believing a false gospel and run around telling other people that his heretical version of the Gospel IS the gospel. A false gospel, even when it comes from the lips of a professing Christian who speaks kindly and does good things, is still a false Gospel – and it is our Duty to correct error in order to advance the Gospel.

    It is more of a sin to not correct false doctrine, than it is to correct false doctrine in a manner that is not sensitive to an individual’s personal needs, past experiences, etc. Peter had good reasons for playing the hypocrite, but Paul didn’t care much for them. Paul understood that what Peter was doing was sinful – and his concern was with the propagation of the Gospel not Peter’s feelings.

    Jesus did the same with Peter, the Scribe, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

    “So my prayer as I deal with people is not so much that I can show them what is right, as it is that I can introduce them to the One who is Right.”

    The One who is right is known in His Word. How else can you or anyone else know Him? Apart from reading and understanding His Word, you cannot know Christ. So, sound doctrine, indeed, knowing what is right, is foundational to proclaiming the Gospel.

    There is no divide between knowing sound Christological doctrine – i.e. teaching about Christ gleaned from the Bible – and knowing Christ Himself.

    If there were a divide, then why bother standing in opposition to Mormon, Jehvoah’s Witness, or New Age teaching about their version of Christ?


  25. One more thing.

    “The ones Jesus opposed most vehemently when he was here actually had pretty sound doctrine.”

    This isn’t the case, Craig. The Scribes denied the Deity of the Messiah. The Sadducees exercised judgment upon the canon of God’s Word by accepting only the Five Books of Moses as authoritative, and denied the reality of eternal life (or death, by implication) and the supernatural. The Pharisees denied the identity of Christ (in spite of having the Scriptures clearly fulfilled before their very eyes), were legalistic, and, although they held to the canon, manipulated the Law of God in order to create false doctrines to their own liking and impose them on other people (cf. Mark 7:5-13).

    They were all in serious doctrinal error – and Jesus corrected them publicly and, at times, harshly.

    A different example would be the woman at the well in John 4, who was also in doctrinal error. The Lord Jesus corrected her differently – i.e. not harshly but informatively – but He nonetheless corrected her.
    And He did so to reveal Himself to her. He was preaching salvation to her, and He found it necessary to clear up the air about who God is, where He is to be worshiped, and Who the Christ is…


  26. Hi Hiram,

    Craig can answer for himself. But he’s not home yet 😀

    I think the title here could have been somewhat misleading. There is no “danger” in having sound doctrine.

    The problems occur when the focus moves from “humbly striving to maintain doctrinal purity so listeners are given an accurate picture of Biblical truth” and runs into “the feeding of a sense of pride in having all the answers”. I think Paul Washer did a good job of explaining the potential issue, if you happened to see the vid.

    Craig wasn’t promoting the concept that it’s okay to hold to false teaching or ignore unsound doctrine in favor of “loving” people. He and I both believe it is very important to have one’s belief align with what scripture actually says, although it’s good to remember that not everyone is in exactly the same phase of maturity.

    It’s not loving to knowingly allow someone to believe lies.

    I think what Craig meant about “the one’s who had ‘good doctrine’ but were false teachers” is they had the Hebrew Scriptures, could read them in the original language, observed the shadow-picture feasts and rituals and had a lifetime of training, yet, as you pointed out, had no interest in the One to which everything pointed. They were busy building a following for themselves and did not have John the Baptist’s attitude of “I must decrease and He must increase”.

    In the Christian sphere, it is possible to hold to the most accurate translation of the Bible, go to the best seminary, be an articulate speaker and have a working knowledge of Greek and still be more interested in building a personal reputation than in serving Christ’s body. This can be evidenced in the way a man behaves toward other professing believers. I believe the book of 1 John emphasizes the need for both sound doctrine and visible love for the brethren.

    I think the “danger” here is that a skilled teacher/pastor can begin to see himself as the hub of a local body and feel threatened by anyone who might rival his position or try to hold him accountable in a personal area. He could be saying all the right things from the pulpit while quietly, systematically eliminating people he sees as a threat to his official position. There can be an element of abuse occurring just under the surface that goes unnoticed because of the right-sounding preaching on Sunday. Many of those who get run off believe it would be gossip to try to explain why they left, so it can be difficult to pinpoint what’s going wrong. (Please note, I am not making any statements about any individual’s public ministry as I do not know enough to personally address that)

    You seem to have had an opposite experience but this really does happen, I’m afraid.

    Rightly dividing of the Word and the faithful feeding of Christ’s sheep is scriptural and the men who do this well are to be given double honor.

    “So my prayer as I deal with people is not so much that I can show them what is right, as it is that I can introduce them to the One who is Right.”

    Craig was referring to the wrongness of arrogantly using scriptural accuracy in order to prove “I” am right. And there are those who will lock horns with pretty much anyone who does not agree with them on every single belief (including secondary doctrine and even non-essential stuff like specific order of service) to which they hold. It can even turn into a matter of “church discipline” over parishioners who are supposedly not properly submitting to authority.

    I think maybe the discussion went in too many different directions and allowed for some serious misunderstanding.

    For the record, I can understand your concern about what it looks like has been said here. And I did not feel you were being overly harsh on this thread or mean in your dealings with your friend.

    It can absolutely tear out your heart to have to say things that hurt people about whom you care deeply. Sometimes it cannot be avoided.

    Hopefully, that helps clarify and eases your mind some?


  27. Thanks for the clarification, Heather 🙂

    I guess I’m just so used to doctrinal precision being the object of attack in many mainline churches, rather than pride, deception, and perhaps even unsaved-ness as being the real problem, if you know what I mean…

    I can see what you’re saying, though. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and there are some men who are very prominent (some of them even professing to be CALVINISTS! lol) of whom I have had suspicions.

    I guess I’m still learning how and where it’s appropriate to leave a person in the hands of God (my friend is an example), without not addressing the important issues of doctrinal error.


  28. No worries, Hiram.

    I’ve haunted your site long enough to be able to recognize your passion for the Truth.

    I guess I’m still learning how and where it’s appropriate to leave a person in the hands of God (my friend is an example), without not addressing the important issues of doctrinal error.

    I think we’re all on this learning curve somewhere. Not sure what else to do but submit to the Lord’s direction while learning to speak the Truth in love. It is wise of you to acknowledge that, ultimately, it is God that enlightens and causes growth.

    Perhaps the best thing to do is hold up an errant individual in prayer, persistently asking the Lord to make him uncomfortable enough with his current understanding that he will be prompted to reassess his belief? I expect if your heart is on the things of the Lord, He will not fail to order your steps so that you will say the right things at the right time, if necessary.

  29. […] power, things i have learned, what i believe, your thoughts. trackback In the original Dangers of Sound Doctrine post I stirred up some controversy  So I thought perhaps I should […]

  30. […] fear, grace, growth, humility, suffering, things i have learned, video. trackback Last time I posted a section of this interview, I stirred things up a bit.  Not my intention, but definitely the […]

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