Intro. Many readers will know that a blogstorm has been set off by John MacArthur's opening address at the 2007 Shepherd's Conference at his church. The title was something like "Why Every Self-respecting Calvinist is [not "should be"; I checked] a Premillennialist."
If you want to hear it, you'll have to buy it for $2.00. If you want to comment on his talk, I really think you should listen to it. You can purchase it, if you wish, at the link given above.
Mac and me. Because I have the blessing and privilege of blogging with my friend Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniacs, some have very understandably assumed that I work at (or at least attend) Grace Community Church. In fact, I think I've only walked through its doors once. Ironically, it was to attend a prophecy conference and hear Dr. Merrill Unger speak. Since Unger died in 1980, before some of you were born, you know that was hundreds of years ago.
So you know I don't work at or attend GCC. Still, you might assume that I am an unqualified admirer of MacArthur's. This is also not true. I am an admirer, but not an unqualified admirer. I could list off areas of difference or reservation. But that doesn't change the fact that I admire a great deal about him. I admire his unswerving position on the Word, I admire his emphatically Bible-teaching ministry, I admire his concept in starting the Master's College and Seminary. I can't think of many leaders whom I'm happier to see as a guest on (say) Larry King, knowing that not only will he not embarrass me as a Christian, but he'll give solid answers and take the conversation to the Gospel of Christ.
All that to say this: if you assume that I'm going to say something positive about his talk just because he's MacArthur, you've made a miscalculation.
Having said all that. John MacArthur has been okay with "Reformed" folks because he's an unapologetic five-pointer, he's popular, he stresses the Bible and does it well, and he's popular. However, he's known as a dispensationalist (cue scary music). Given that a lot of "Reformed" folks have adopted something more like Rome's approach to eschatology, and given that "Reformed" folks have very often actually characterized dispensationalism as cultic and evil, how is that okay with them?
Because MacArthur once said that he was a "leaky" dispensationalist.
I think many of them interpreted that as meaning that Mac was a bit embarrassed to be a dispensationalist. They thought it meant that he wasn't consistent about it, he wasn't insistent on it, and he wasn't confident of it. So Mac would never make a big thing about it, or embarrass them about their eschatology. So he was okay—just so long as he shut up about prophecy and ecclesiology. Maybe Mac's dispensational, but at least he's got the grace to be ashamed about it.
Now in this talk, "apologetic" and "embarrassed" and "tentative" are not words that one should apply to MacArthur's basic outlines of eschatology.
So I'm hoping that that is at least one good thing that will come out of this: Calvinists who like MacArthur will have to confront the misconception that he's timid and embarrassed about his dispensationalism. It sounds as if, on this one issue at least, MacArthur and I are of one mind: we are Calvinists for the same reason we are dispensationalists, and vice-versa.
Of course the better thing would be if it caused many "Reformed" folks actually to do the semper reformanda thing, take their hermeneutic back to the Bible, and lose the rest of the unhelpful Roman trappings left by Calvin, et al.
Not so far, though, judging by all the crying, chest-beating, and blustering one sees at some places. "That wasn't a shark, and we didn't jump it." All of the shouted insistences, clean-up operations, and table pounding may belie the core embarrassment they feel over their inconsistent hermeneutic. I suggest, you decide.
Confrontation always leaves two choices: change direction, or redouble efforts in the wrong direction. Again, you read it, and you decide which you think is going on.
Of course, Kim "What shark?" Riddlebarger has the answer.
MacArthur isn't really Reformed.
In fact, he's not even a Calvinist!
I. Am. Not. Kidding. If your hermeneutic is closer to Antioch than Rome, you're not Reformed. Read it for yourself, have a good chuckle, shake your head sadly, draw your own conclusions.