Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Disagreeing with John MacArthur

I know what the title leads you to expect, so let me say right off: I'm not saying whether I do or whether I don't. If you think you can read between the lines as to what my opinion is — please, don't. That really isn't what this is about.

As most of you will know by now, John MacArthur is issuing an edition of his Study Bible using the most recent NIV text. You can read the announcement here.

First, notice that the post is written by one of my very favorite non-related people in the entire world: Phil Johnson. Not by Frank, not by me. If you think that's silly to point out, I've already talked with folks who refer to that as the announcement "by the Pyro boys," or words to that effect.

Second — and sorry if you know this already, I keep thinking everyone knows it, and keep finding out that I'm wrong: of the Pyromaniacs bloggers, only Phil Johnson works at Grace Community Church. Frank and I have no business relationship with John MacArthur, and no immediate dog in this immediate hunt. Though if you think MacArthur's endorsing TWTG made me feel indebted for the rest of my natural life, you'd be right. It was incredibly gracious of him, he in no way had to do it, and that he'd trouble himself to give a boost to a book about the Gospel by a nobody sets him apart in my mind from many others.

Also be clear, I'm not saying that to distance myself from John MacArthur. It'd be an honor to be associated with him. I'm just not. I say it to make sure nobody blames me on him, not the reverse.

So I think I can speak fairly objectively, here.

Third, if you feel compelled to disagree with MacArthur's decision to do a MSB in the NIV, have at it. You're free. I know, you didn't need me telling you that; but for what I'm about to say, I just want to be crystal clear. I'm pretty sure MacArthur would say the same.


Fourth, don't forget that it's possible to disagree with a decision without putting on a turban and becoming a mind-reader and a heart-judger. The ability to search the hearts and minds is a Divine attribute (1 Chron. 28:9; Rom. 8:27; Heb. 4:12-13). Don't forget the distinction: He is Divine... and we are de branches. Union with Christ does not bestow omniscience.

All us fundy-types rain fire on the abuse of Matt. 7:1 to shield heresy and sin. But good heavens, don't forget that the verse means something, it precludes some sort of judgment. Isn't it the pretense of being able ultimately to judge others' hearts harshly that is precluded?


Fifth, it seems to me that there's plenty here to discuss (if you choose to) without getting within a light-year of impugning John MacArthur's character.

The Bayly brothers, whom I love and value dearly, leapt immediately to accusing John MacArthur of being motivated by greed. I don't think I've misunderstood them; I challenged them for "insinuating" this sin, and they responded "I'm not insinuating, dear brother. I'm stating." Which is doubling-down, not denial.

To my mind, that is 'way out of line.

Doesn't a man earn anything, anymore? How many decades of service has John MacArthur put in without blemish or blot on his character? Can you say the same?

Am I saying that puts him above criticism? See above; already answered that one. But why the immediate leap in assuming that there can only be one possible explanation for his action — the one that nothing else that we know about him suggests?

So, look: the news came out that MacArthur had decided to do a study Bible based on a translation you hate. I get that. I think that, on balance, I pretty much hate aspects of the new NIV, too. Just to pick one particular, I have read the attempted rationalizations for pluralizing singulars in the Hebrew and Greek text. "Unconvinced" is 'way too pale of a word for where they leave me. Scoffing and snorting in derision is probably closer.

But Phil lays out a rationale (linked above) that is similar to my own about preaching: to wit, I feel free to preach anywhere where they don't try to censor me, other things being equal. And I have, and am glad I did.

Is this arguably like that? Bringing the same bonuses, and vulnerable to the same objections? Arguably, yes.

So: you disagree with MacArthur's decision. Fine. Do it. No problem.

But you have two theoretical paths you could take:
  1. I think MacArthur made the wrong decision, and here's why that means his heart is given over to sin.
  2. I think MacArthur, a good man who deserves my respect, made the wrong decision, and here's why I think the decision was bad.
Obviously, I think the first is a big mistake, and the second is not.

I try to practice what I'm preaching to you. When I've written about (say) Driscoll and MacDonald and Jakes and all, I've found no need to mind-read. Don't need to, don't want to. Dealing with their words and their choices and the evaluation and implications of both kept me plenty busy, and gave plenty of fodder for fruitful discussion. In fact, just between you and me and God, I'm perfectly and blissfully happy not to imagine I have Mark Driscoll's purported home-entertainment-system-from-God running in my head. What I see in my own heart is plenty dismaying and plenty occupying.

(The obvious difference is that intimations about MacArthur's character fly in the face of decades of faithful, unblemished service. It isn't merely beyond available evidence, it's wildly contrary to available evidence.)

And I'd commend a similar orientation to my friends who feel moved to find fault with the NIVMSB.

UPDATE: Phil Johnson supplies more corroborating facts and specifics, pointing away from any suspicions about John MacArthur's motivations.

UPDATE (of sorts) 2: Kevin DeYoung writes a good word in Don't Assume, which could read as a companion-piece to my plea above about Matt. 7:1, to wit: "don't forget that the verse means something, it precludes some sort of judgment. Isn't it the pretense of being able ultimately to judge others' hearts harshly that is precluded?"


The Squirrel said...

When I first heard about the NIV MacArthur Study Bible, my initial reaction was, "Oh, no..."

But, upon further reflection, I find that I am now about 95% in support. There's still about a 5% reservation there, but I do think it is a good idea. Despite all its problems, the NIV is still the most popular English translation right now, & JMac's study notes are not going to hurt any of those NIV users one little bit.


Solameanie said...

My initial reaction is that it's a good thing, because he has the opportunity in the commentary/study notes section to straighten out any potential issues or misunderstandings of verses due to the NIV's translation faults. And since many people by intentional choice USE the NIV, John will have a path to influencing a much broader group of people if they elect to purchase one.

Now, that will not satisfy those who are ready to flay John alive for putting out an NIV-based study Bible. I particularly like the NASB, and I'm sure Gail Riplinger and Ruckman would like to burn me at the stake like a Roman Candle because of it. It's a "New Age" Bible, you see.

So, sorry to all those who will get nettled about this. I just can't join you in it.

LeeC said...

Well said.
There are several things that I do not agree with Pastor MacArthur on. That does not mean that I am not very thankful for him and how the Lord has used him.

I am certain that every day I do many things that the Lord disagrees with. Praise God for His grace, mercy and patience with me!

BTW, you are blowing it for me. I've spent much time trying to convince people that I AM a robot!

Jason Brown said...

I have stayed clear of this one for lack of much knowledge of the 2011 NIV, other that I don't like the removal of gender references etc., so I have never used it. I think you are taking a measured approach here, and I agree with your position.

DJP said...

Thank you for saying "measured" without adding "careful" or "nuanced."

My man-blogger-card is intact.

Tom Chantry said...

...the one that nothing else that we know about him suggests?

Those, I think, are the most important words of this post.

I, for one, am tired of those who say, "who are you to judge a man's heart" when there is a long history of bad decisions, when there is a large body of documentary evidence pointing to a particular weakness, and when there is a clear statement of purpose from the man in question.

So, for instance, if MacArthur had a history of increasingly frequent compromises over the last - say - five years, or if we had a number of written statements from him saying things like, "I only preach where the compensation is good" or "I switched publishers because the royalties were better," or if in this case he had said, "Look, I worked hard on those notes, why shouldn't I enjoy the financial blessings of that work...

...if any of that were true, you could reach the negative conclusion about his motives without being judgmental or uncharitable.

Of course, none of that is remotely true. If you think this was the worst decision in the course of MacArthur's ministry, fine. Sometimes good pastors make poor decisions. If you don't think that, and you assume that only nefarious motives could lead to a bad decision, then I strongly hope I never have to be your pastor.

Mike said...

When I first converted I started out reading the NIV and did so for quite some time. I've now switched over the ESV for various reasons, but I think MacArthur's notes can only help those who are using that translation and assist them when they encounter issues.

Family Blogs said...

My only bafflement in all of this is the sense in which many people feel that John MacArthur's notes can in some way 'redeem' the content of the translation on which they're commenting. That strikes me as a little patronising of the effort of the CBT to translate Scripture.

I've benefited greatly from John MacArthur's study bible notes over the years, and have also been richly blessed through the NIV1984 (I'm still working my way through the 2011).

The decision to combine both seems like a great thing to me, but I know he's also entering disputed territory from the Bible wars of a few years back. I think that the controversy around this is sad. The NIV is a translation of God's Word highly esteemed among many of us. John MacArthur is a Bible teacher esteemed highly among many of us. That his actions seem to represent the crossing of a sectarian divide to some, is a lamentable picture of contemporary evangelicalism.

Robert said...

Good post, Dan. I only wish more people would read and apply it.

Eric Rasmusen said...

I read the Bayly brothers as saying that money always is an influence, even if it isn't the decisive one. That's got to be true. If Pastor MacArthur was evenly balanced between doing teh study bible or not, and you offered him an extra $20,000, he'd do it, by definition of "evenly balanced".

By doing that study bible, tho, he is in effect endorsing the translation. His name is on the cover, right?

It is also true that there will be many people--- not most, perhaps, but many--- who will buy the NIV instead of the NASV or KJV because MacArthur's name is on it.

What would we think if he came out with The Macarthur Study Koran?

DJP said...

In the linked article above, I stood in a pulpit that had just been occupied by a Roman Catholic priest.

Was I endorsing him?

Lynda O said...

Well said, Dan. What happened was to be expected, as there always are people ready to pounce on and criticize MacArthur, those who love to find fault in the "celebrity" preachers.

I don't happen to like the decision, but in the category #2 above. Then again, I don't agree with 100% of the MSB study notes either (minor issues in a few specific texts, where I've studied the matter and come to a different conclusion). I hope that some of the people who prefer TNIV will choose this study Bible. Yet I'm inclined to think that generally, the people who are buying the TNIV in the first place will not be familiar with MacArthur's name -- since by choosing TNIV they are either unaware of or do not agree with the Reformed Evangelical viewpoint. So those who choose TNIV will be more inclined to listen to the name recommendations of their friends who had recommended that translation in the first place.

Aaron said...

I didn't post on this topic over at Pyro because I simply don't get as exercised about various Bible translations as do my some of my betters here.

This is getting out of hand now. First, money influences everything we do. If you say it doesn't, then please quit your job and live like a monk at the church. But the Bible doesn't say money is the root of all sin nor does it say we shouldn't make practical decisions based on financial considerations. And yes, sometimes we all make the wrong choice.

But MacArthur didn't say anything about a practical decision made because of financial considerations. He didn't say, I've decided to include my notes with the NIV because otherwise, I'd lose X,Y,Z and I'd rather add my notes to the NIV then lose X,Y or Z.

No, he gave us his rationale. So by saying MacArthur is affected by money is to state (a) you know something the rest of us don't: that MacArthur personally and financially benefits from the use of his study notes and (b) that MacArthur lied about this or fooled himself with a self styled rationalization thereby, concealing his true motivation which is personal wealth.

I mean isn't that the essence of the allegation? That MacArthur is going to increase his personal wealth by this decision and that is his true motivation whether conscious or not?

I'm sorry but that is a spurious, outrageous allegation.

Unknown said...


Thank you for such a careful and nuanced post about this issue.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Maybe I just think differently, but when I read the announcement, it never occurred to me that there might have been a nefarious motive (financial or otherwise) behind this decision. It is a way of having solid Bible teaching in the hands of more people, many of whom would be buying the new NIV with little or no knowledge of the issues surrounding its translation philosophy.

I really wish we could get past this way of thinking in our circles that (1) requires a person to provide a disclaimer for every quote cited, tweet tweeted, blog post posted, book read, blog followed, etc., in order to keep one's non-heretical status among the faithful orthodox and

(2) assumes the worst about our brothers and sisters in Christ unless there is the appropriate amount of (1) in the right tone with both "careful" and "nuanced" graciousness.

The amount of digital ink and disclaimers required to preface your post (which really could have been 1/3 of its current length) is an example of this. Apart from them, the comments would have been filled (and probably still will be) with people questioning your motives and assuming the worst about you for posting what you did post.

I'm tired of this comment already but HSAT, with regard to the new NIV, I didn't have to do too much poking around to discover that I cared not a bit for the new NIV, but then, I wasn't too big a fan of the old NIV (although I did enjoy the Psalms).

DJP said...

So I'm careful, nuanced, and long-winded.


Back to hiatus.

VcdeChagn said...

--sarcasm--It's just another example of MacArthur's greed.

Like making his entire sermon library (with transcripts!) available for free.--sarcasm--

Seriously, I don't know whether it's a good decision or a bad one. I don't particularly think it's a good one, but I'm about as wise as a tree stump, so what do I know. I hope the notes are exactly what they are in the ESV.

I'm waiting for @ChrchCurmudgeon's take on things to really form an opinion.

Sarcasm tags added for those who are "humor challenged."

DJP said...

That was also my first reaction to the greed accusation, Mike. Especially when the commenter sugg'd that Mac "show good faith" by giving it away or something. Yeah, because we don't know whether he's generous or not.

Unknown said...


To be clear, your post was only as long as it was because of all the obligatory disclaimers that are required to keep people from assuming the worst about you.

DJP said...

(That's kind of you; I wrote with a smile - it's all good. It was long)

Fred Butler said...

The Bayly brothers, whom I love and value dearly, leapt immediately to accusing John MacArthur of being motivated by greed. I don't think I've misunderstood them; I challenged them for "insinuating" this sin, and they responded "I'm not insinuating, dear brother. I'm stating." Which is doubling-down, not denial.

Seeing that I happen to work for the guy, and I know he would give away everything at his ministry for free if it weren't for the fact we had to pay for the building, and feed the staff and their families, the accusation of greed is patently absurd and I would add, libelous.

Freida said...

Anytime we profit from something we do, there should be scrutiny. And rightly so. As Christians we should follow the money trail. In this case, to Murdoch.

For Pastor MacArthur to do this study Bible is confusing at best. To say this is not a good translation and then to market it seems to rightly ask for criticism, including a financial motivation.

MSC said...

If I remember correctly (I may be wrong), MacArthur was invited to speak at a Promise Keeper's event some years ago. He would have agreed to do it but the elders at GCC thought it was not a good idea and so he turned the offer down. It seems to me that his rationale was that any time he had an opportunity to preach the truth he would do so. There appears to be the same rationale here.

I have mixed feelings. I understand and appreciate to some degree this rationale, but it seems to come at great risk. What is the risk? That he is endorsing the NIV 2011. Nobody has to buy the MSB-NIV. They just have to know that he did the MSB in that version and without any further knowledge of the situation will assume the following, "If the NIV 2011 is good enough for MacArthur, then it must be a good translation." They will have no knowledge of what he says about questionable verses, they will just marvel that he used the that version, therefore it must be okay. That is the risk and I wonder whether the benefits outweigh the risk. Only time will tell, but I am not a big risk taker so I think I would not have done it.

DJP said...

Freida, it's like you read the Bayly post, clicked to this blog, and went straight to "Post a Comment."

Tim Bayly said...

Dear Dan,

Don't trivialize our opposition to sex-neutered Bible translations. It has nothing to do with personal animus. Neither my brother nor I hate them, as you claim: "a translation you hate."

As I try to say again and again, this is a matter of principle. Also, I never said John's motive was greed. What I said is that money entered into the decision. You're good enough with words to know the difference and good enough with discernment to know it's ludicrous to claim anyone's above being influenced by money. Imagine trying to tell our Lord that our favorite pastor was in no danger of being motivated by greed. How do you think our Lord would respond?

It's telling that you won't call John out on this. It's a terrible blow to his reputation and should be corrected immediately, regardless of how much money is lost by scrapping the project.

I could respond more to your comments here, but I think I'll follow your example and take my response over to my own blog.

Much affection,

DJP said...

I never suggested nor imagined that you had personal animus towards MacArthur, Tim. I said you "hate" the translation. I said I probably hate it too, in the next sentence.

I sure get that impression, given that the mere fact that MacArthur's attaching his notes to it makes you denounce him so severely.

But if you say you don't hate the translation, we'll take your word for it. I'm not trying to judge your hearts; as you shouldn't try to judge MacArthur's.

It seems a little late to back off of that unless you want to (as I pled at the very start) retract your judgement of his heart. I said "I think your insinuating that John MacArthur is financially motivated — or whatever you're insinuating — is unwarranted and out of line," and you immediately responded "I'm not insinuating, dear brother. I'm stating."

Now you're saying it's not a bad thing to be financially motivated? Maybe I really don't understand you. It sure seemed clear that you were (A) "stating" what was in MacArthur's heart, and (B) saying it was a bad thing.

Tim Bayly said...

Dear Dan,

After posting the prior comment, I read the rest of the comments and was sad to see such vituperation against me, including that I'm ready to pounce on John. Ridiculous.

I've never criticized John although I've seen blots and blemishes on his ministry through the years. I have no heart for criticizing John because he's been a faithful defender of the Faith for so many years and against such broad dislike by mainstream Evangelicals.

So please note here that, again, it's John's selling his study notes with a bowdlerized text of Scripture that I'm criticizing.

And BTW, I think it's over the top to accuse a reader of your blog of not reading your post before commenting. Isn't this slander? Libel?

But of course, I jest...


DJP said...

Tim: sorry, still puzzling — how is saying you "hate" a neutered translation trivializing your opposition to sex-neutered translations? Truly, I had no intent to do so. I also oppose them; I have no problem saying I hate changing the Bible to accommodate an apostate culture's current fad. No trivialization whatever is intended.

Robert said...

I'm with Aaron on this. Talk about over the top...suggesting that MacArthur, who through Grace to You mailed away countless free copies of the ESVMSB, has financial motivation in his decisions as far as Bible translations are concerned is way over the top.

And the TNIV still presents the doesn't hide that we are sinners, God is holy, we can't make ourselves clean and sinless, Jesus is God and lived a perfect, sinless life to a mature age, He died on the cross and took the wrath of God the Father in order to save those whom God chose before the beginnning of time, and He will come again to judge the world and create a new world without sin.

All of the wisecracks about a MacArthur Qu'ran or New World Translation are way out of line.

Also, it isn't like he is adapting his notes to accept the translation itself.

Are some of you so blind so as to not see any benefit for the lost and immature Christians?

Dan Odom said...

Thanks Dan. Clear thoughts.
#2 please.

rwt said...

I would suggest that John MacArthur has a set of rules by which he makes a decision. I'm sure prayer would be included, as well as the potential impact on others, the response of his conscience, etc. I'm totally comfortable with his decision even though I might not fully understand it. He has earned my respect and I know that he is prepared to face his Lord to be examined. The Lord is the only one who is qualified to evaluate someone's motives and reach a proper judgment with respect to a particular action. The Lord's judgment will be right and not subject to any questions. For those of you who question his motives, who are you to judge another man's servant?

Freida said...

I read your post and all the comments before posting my own. I suppose you would assume otherwise because I was not defending Pastor MacArthur.

Promoting the sale of a poorly (and erroneously) translated Bible obviously would cause speculation on his motivation.

DJP said...

So let me clarify what I mean: "hate" in the sense that Jesus says He hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans. I don't mean it in the po-mo sense, in some existentialist sense of a mere visceral reaction, like the way I feel about squash or Glee. I am not meaning to trivialize Tim's opposition to translations like the NIV - which he has explained well and at length - by implying that it's that kind of merely emotional reaction.

Fred Butler said...

Tim writes,
Also, I never said John's motive was greed. What I said is that money entered into the decision.

Can you elaborate on that clarification? How exactly did "money enter into the decision?" I happen to know a little bit about this, and to my knowledge, insisting money entered into it is just flat out ignorant of the facts.

And I say that as someone who likes you.

Robert said...

This is the same John MacARthur who mailed out free copies of the ESVMSB to those on the Grace to You subscription list. It is free to get on the list and every month they send free resources (books/CDs). Definitely sounds like finances are impacting his decisions.

DJP said...

No Freida, I thought otherwise because you didn't actually interact with anything in the post. It's as if the post were titled "Fifty-seven reasons why translations should ditch LORD for 'Yahweh,'" and your comment was, "I think translations should keep using 'LORD' instead of 'Yahweh.'"

And then challenged, you simply said, "Yeah, I read the post."

jmb said...


You compared your sermon following that of the Catholic priest's with MacArthur's decision to let the TNIV use his notes, by saying:

"Is this arguably like that? Bringing the same bonuses, and vulnerable to the same objections? Arguably, yes."

With all due respect, I would argue no. You disapproved of what the priest said about Mary, and spoke the truth, specifically refuting him. MacArthur disapproves of the TNIV, but I highly doubt that his notes will specify all of his objections to it.

I think we should steer clear of what we disapprove and not cooperate with it for the sake of some hypothetical "good" that will result. I realize that this is often easier said than done, but we should try to do it nevertheless.

DJP said...

I'm chuckling at the thought of what the NIVDJP would look like.

You can judge by the notes in my BW9: "Once again, TNIV/NIV pluralizes to suit its agenda."

That'd be one thick study Bible.


Robert said...

MacArthur disapproves of the TNIV, but I highly doubt that his notes will specify all of his objections to it.

So do you know for a fact what it is going to look like? Or are you just assuming? I left the Baylys a comment suggesting they write an open letter to MacArhtur with their concerns so that they have some other basis than assumptions based upon their own dealings with publishing companies. Because until somebody lays out all of the facts and we see things in print, that is all we have: assumptions.

Stephen said...

I don't know, Dan, I thought MacArthur was greedy and veering from sound theology the first time he published a Study Bible two decades ago. :)

Aaron said...

Again, the post is not whether you disagree over the wisdom of MacArthur's decision to attach his study notes to the NIV 2011. The post is about certain assertions that MacArthur's motive for doing so is something other than what he said it was, more specifically, it was financially motivated.

So if his decision was financially motivated, instead of what he actually said it was, then he is either a liar or he has fooled himself (and presumably the elders at GCC) with a self rationalization.

I'm sorry, but you can play word games all you like but that's where you are when you make those assertions. And I find that accusation to be both presumptuous and defamatory. Unless you can provide some evidence other than general knowledge of the publishing business.

jmb said...


Every time I've seen the same notes in different translations, the only difference I've seen is that they refer to the words of the translation. Otherwise the notes remain the same.

As Dan indirectly implied (I think) in his 1:54 comment, it would be unlikely that MacArthur would point out every time he disagreed with the word choice in the TNIV. If he does do that, I will stand corrected.

Susan said...

My initial reaction upon reading the announcement at Pyro was something like, "He going to do what? Really??"

That is, until I read his explanation--and then it all made sense.

Anyone who's heard Pastor John's sermons over a period of time may hear him say that his personal hero is the apostle Paul. And no wonder--Paul rejoiced whenever the gospel was preached, whether for false motive or true. Likewise, I think Pastor John rejoices over the spreading of the gospel, whether via sub-par or good translation. I don't question his motives at all--and greed is the last thing with which I'd accuse him. His thankfulness toward the Lord's grace should be evident to all who enjoys his preaching--anyone who accuses him for being greedy simply hasn't bothered to really listen to him or read his works.

Old Paths Pilgrim said...

Thank you for your post. I am glad that you’ve given the option to respectfully disagree with Dr. MacArthur. I love him and consider him to be a man of utmost integrity. And my thoughts of Dr. MacArthur do NOT change because I do disagree with the decision to put out a MSBNIV version. (Nor do they change for Mr. Johnson whom I also greatly respect and appreciate; the same goes for all you gentlemen at Team Pyro).

My fear is that because Dr. MacArthur’s name is now associated with the updated neutered version of the NIV that people will think that the version is fine in and of itself. We have to admit that there is brand loyalty and Dr. MacArthur is in a way a “brand name”. Those with the older version of the NIV might even switch to the new version just to get Dr. MacArthur’s notes.

I also think of the potential confusion of looking at Dr. MacArthur’s notes that “correct” the translation. That has the very real potential of creating mistrust in the Word and putting more trust in a man. Even if the man were to be able to correct the translation it is the principle involved as to how we should view the Word (understanding that a translation is not infallible but that is another discussion).

And there is the money issue – I fear that if Zondervan makes money on this endeavor it will encourage them to continue to put forth translations that “please” the culture. Zondervan is not owned by Christians and hence the ultimate business decisions at the top of the ladder are less likely to be made with the thought of honoring Christ.

In my uneducated opinion, there are just too many drawbacks for Dr. MacArthur to work with such a translation. I would have hoped that those who wanted the scholarship of Dr. MacArthur would have switched to a different/better translation of the Word. I pray that God will use this situation in whatever way that brings Him the most glory.

That opinion does not change my respect for the men at Grace Church who day in and day out remain faithful to preach and teach the Truth from God’s Word.

Bev C.

Robert said...


He doesn't do it with the ESV, NKJV, or NASB, so why should it be different here? You need to be consistent if you're going to have a standard by which to judge the work. He wrote a book about English translations not using the word slave and plenty of people have mentioned the use of LORD in the place of Yahweh. So should we only preach, teach, and provide notes for Greek and Hebrew versions of the text? Do you think MacArthur's notes provide
any room for an egalitarian or feminist point of view?

DJP said...

Well, there y'go, Bev.

There is a certain degree of comfort in anonymity; even more in not being thought much of. You make a decision, few notice. If some who do notice don't agree, they shrug. They didn't expect that much, anyway.

Then there's John MacArthur, who has earned a reputation for integrity. What chagrins me is not that anyone would not love this decision. I'm ontologically certain that he, Phil and the rest knew that some wouldn't love the decision.

What chagrins me is the leap some (unlike you) seem willing to make. It is as if the only two options are "John MacArthur does everything exactly as I think he should and I approve of him," and "John MacArthur made a mistake so I now know the vile truth of his moth-eaten pathetic character."

Really? If that's it, God spare me prominence, ever.

For myself, I'd nuance the option I'd take if I disagreed in this situation to this: "I don't get this decision, I don't like it; but it doesn't change my respect for MacArthur, and that also means there's likely to be some positive aspects I'm just not seeing."

We call this "the benefit of the doubt." Someone who has earned it should get it.

And if MacArthur hasn't earned it, then all leaders need to give up, go home, and crank up the video games.

Robert said...

For myself, I'd nuance the option Looks like Frank influenced your writing. 8o)

"I don't get this decision, I don't like it; but it doesn't change my respect for MacArthur, and that also means there's likely to be some positive aspects I'm just not seeing."

You caught the essence of the problem there. Why can't people see any positive effects of this decision?

Also wanted to mention that Fred Butler has a post laying out Phil's reply to the is great. Sadly, the response from the Baylys seems to have them doubling down again (or maybe quadrupling down?) They are still demanding proof instead of accepting what Phil told them and others confirmed.

I can't help but to wonder if people ever think about whom it was that Paul was told he was persecuting. Was it the church? Was it particular pastors? No, he was persecuting Christ. May this give each of us pause and allow us to reflect before we decide to crusade against the efforts of any pastor or church.

Kerry James Allen said...

DJP has subtly whetted our appetites for his next project, the TSB, "Thick Study Bible" subtitled "For those who are dull of hearing." ;-}

Unknown said...

Dan, when you wrote, "We call this "the benefit of the doubt." Someone who has earned it should get it." you hit the nail on the head.

And so much of our squabbles (and I mean in local churches, not just on the internet) would not even happen if we could just do this with our brothers and sisters.

Instead, we have to give lengthy disclaimers, etc., etc.,

John said...

Thanks Dan.

While I don't think I could preach in a Roman Catholic church - ever - I'd do all I could to get accurate exegesis and interpretation of God's Holy Word in as many hands as possible.

PS - I'm sure I'm speaking for everyone - all 3,125.675 combined google/twitter/facebook carbon-based fans what can't wait for official release regarding your constant taunting and teasing of whatever (happy) teasing it is that you're teasing everyone about.

RT said...

It is a subtle (one is tempted to say "nuanced") argumentum ad hominem: "I disagree with your position and here are my reasons, but just to finish you off I also question your motives." The reality is that even if we assume a motive of conscious or unconscious greed (despite a litany of facts to the contrary) such assumptions add nothing whatever to the debate that matters - whether it is, or is not a responsible thing for a prominent Evangelical personality to publish a commentary on (and thereby seem to endorse) a dubious translation of the bible. Sadly, in the heated rhetoric that inevitably follows, whatever possiblity there was to persuade Dr. MacArthur of the error of his ways or to mitigate the damage he might do, simply gets lost in the unedifying scuffle.

Moon said...

When I first read the title at pyromaniacs I though oh nook not McArthur! But when I read the reasons why I agreed with it. I think it will have a positive outcome, with so many liberal churches and especially the gay/lesbian "churches" who would love to use a gender-neutral translation this could be a good way to get the gospel to them. Let's just pray that God will use this translation for his purposes.
And for the ones who are saying that he's going to change his notes did you not read the post at Pyromaniacs??? This is what Phil said:
"We submitted to Zondervan's editors a generous sampling of notes adapted to the NIV wording. We purposely chose notes that deal with some of the key problem passages. Zondervan and Nelson both have assured us they want to retain the full integrity of John MacArthur's explanation of the text, and the sample notes were all accepted as submitted"

jmb said...

Robert -

Phil Johnson wrote this:

"John MacArthur's preference for word-by-word exposition is well known. He also shares CBMW's conviction that the gender distinctions in Scripture are precise and deliberate and should be kept intact. Clearly, he would not support any effort to feminize the language of the Bible or adjust it for political correctness."

My position is very simple: Because MacArthur takes this position on the TNIV, he should not lend his notes to it. As far as I know, he does not take this strong a position against the other translations he has used. Yes, as he says, all translations have their flaws, but there is a qualitative difference, it seems to me, between a "word-for-word exposition" and a thought-for-thought one that tries to be politically correct to boot.

I have no doubt that MacArthur is being truthful when he says that he thinks many more people will be reached by using the TNIV. I personally don't think the ends justify the means. But I still greatly respect John MacArthur, and certainly don't think he's doing it for the money.

Robert said...


You need to go read "Slave" and see how strong his words are regarding how the word doulos has not been translated as slave in most English translations. He definitely isn't soft about how he handles it.

Eric Rasmusen said...

There's an easy way to see if money had absolutely zero influence on pastor MacArthur's decision: is he waiving any right to royalties from Zondervan? If money has no influence, and he just wants to reach more people, then he would want Zondervan's costs to be as low as possible, so they'll sell at a cheaper price. He could even tell them that if the will agree to a low enough price, he will waive royalties (scholars in my field sometimes agree to reduced royalties in exchange for a lower price that will encourage more people to buy their book).

This would be true not only of the NIV study Bible, but of all his works.

Of course, I expect he does take royalties, even if he perhaps gives away 90% of his income to the church. But if he does, then money is of some value to him, just as it is for everybody else.

I really would be curious, too, as to how much Zondervan is paying pastor MacArthur or any other party he has nominated to receive the royalties. Why is this not public information? What good motive could there be for keeping it secret?

DJP said...

I don't agree, Eric, and I think it's irrelevant and nobody's business. The workman is worthy of his hire.

Read the post. Talk about the merits or demerits of the decision. Don't try to mind-read and manufacture accusations.

The Funks said...

I happened to be poking around the web since I heard not too long ago the the MSB would be released in the NIV. At one point in my life I was very involved in debates like this. Then one day as I marched out to my car to head to church with my shiny new genuine leather ESV under my arm. The Bible that I was convinced was the "best" translation a thought occurred to me. Neither of the neighbors on either side of me know Christ! Even if I did win them for Christ wouldn't I give them a Bible that made sense to them??? (i.e. NIV) Take a second and think how much time it has taken to write, read and respond to all these posts!!! GO DO SOMETHING!! Make a difference for the Kingdom! Read a Bible you understand and use e-sword if your curious what the Greek of Hebrew mean. Love you all, just think you need to hear it!