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.