Wednesday, August 26, 2009

John MacArthur & Arminians

I want to start off by saying that I respect John MacArthur. I love that he has taught Lordship Salvation. I applaud him for defending the Christian faith on national TV in front of millions. Not only is MacArthur a higher caliber mind, but also one with class.

But, it shocks me that he misrepresents his Arminian brothers and comes close to slandering John Wesley at the 2008 Together for the Gospel (T4G) Conference. In addition to these statements, MacArthur goes against one of the 5 points of TULIP. Very interesting indeed. In the following, I will break it down and give links to not only his speech, but other sites with additional info.

1. MacArthur refers to John Wesley as a “messed up Calvinist” who believed that “there’s some residual good left in the sinner.” This can’t be farther from the truth. MacArthur did not have to look far to find Wesley’s thoughts on sin. Wesley held the classical/reformed Arminian view that man was totally depraved. Has MacArthur not read one of Wesley’s most famous sermons entitled “Original Sin?” Here is an eye opening quote from the same:
“But was there not good mingled with the evil? Was there not light intermixed with the darkness? No; none at all: “God saw that the whole imagination of the heart of man was only evil.” It cannot indeed be denied, but many of them, perhaps all, had good motions put into their hearts; for the Spirit of God did then also “strive with man,” if haply he might repent, more especially during that gracious reprieve, the hundred and twenty years, while the ark was preparing. But still “in his flesh dwelt no good thing;” all his nature was purely evil: It was wholly consistent with itself, and unmixed with anything of an opposite nature.”
This sure dosen’t sound like someone who believes that man contains residual good. For more of the same from Wesley, read the entire sermon.

2. MacArthur equates Semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism. Remember, the big difference is that Arminians believe that man has no way to reach God and Semi-Pelaginans believe that men do. MacArthur says, “As this progression came from Pelagianism to semi-Pelagianism, and then came down to some contemporary Arminianism.” Again, one does not have to read far to find that Jacobus Arminius DID believe in total depravity and so do modern Arminians. Here’s a quote from Arminius:

“In this state [man’s fallen condition], the Free Will of man toward the True God is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.”

So why does MacArthur think that Arminians believe man has good left in them? Obviously Arminian teaching does not agree. Just in case that is not enough, here is another quote from Arminius:

“Christ does not say, Without me ye can do but little; neither does He say, Without me ye cannot do any ardous thing; nor Without me ye can do it with difficulty: But He says Without me ye can do nothing! Nor does he, Without me ye cannot complete anything; but Without me ye can do nothing.”

Arminius speaks for himself. In the same T4G conference, R.C. Sproul affirms that Arminian teaching does contain total depravity.


  1. Well said. MacArthur should know better.

  2. Another way to state the difference between Calvinism and Wesley's theology on this matter is that Calvinists believe that at the Fall, the entire image of God was removed from mankind, that there is nothing left of the image of God in Adam's descendants. Wesley believed that while man was depraved, there was still a residual of that image left in man. From his theological work entitled "Original Sin" Wesley poses the question that while Adam was created in the image of God, after Adam's fall, does that image still exist in Adam's posterity? Wesley cites Gen. 9:6: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man." Then Wesley goes on to say :...that the image of God, 'wherein' man was 'at first created,' whereinsoever it consisted, was not utterly effaced in the time of Noah. Yea, so much of it will always remain in all men, as will justify the punishing of murderers with death. But we can in nowise infer from hence that the entire image of God, in which Adam was first created , now remains in all his posterity." (Baker edition of Wesley's works, v.9, p. 291) Yes, Wesley believed that man was totally depraved, yet there did remain some portion of that image with man. One of my professors at seminary said that if it were not so, then men and women could not respond to the grace that God offers them so that they might be saved. The only goodness in man is what is left of that image after the Fall. This passage in Wesley is probably the source of confusion. Some Calvinist theologian probably misread it, or distorted it, and Macarthur got his information from that source.

  3. You have to read more John Wesley and Arminius .... Do not be tricked by some of their messages, if you look at their final reflections on the doctrines you will see MacArthur's point of view. I did a study in Wesley and his life and you will be surprised to see everything he wrote... God bless!

  4. well said. you should also read Arminian theology by roger olsen. some Calvinists really make my blood boil as some regard believing the gospel as a work and therefore a self righteous act and leave the the person still in his sins. very sad, but glad you don't hold such a view brother.