Saturday, April 9, 2011

I Dream of John MacArthur?!

I had a strange yet intriguing dream. Well, part of one, anyway. I was in the huge imagined lobby of Grace Community Church. It wasn't a worship service time but people were around. I was searching the lobby for an information station that told me the worship service schedule so I could attend Sunday morning.

Even in my dream I was aware that John MacArthur and his church hold significant differences of theological opinion from me. (He/they are Calvinists and I am a Wesleyan. He/they are dispensational premillennial and I am an amillennial. He/they are cessationists concerning "miraculous" spiritual gifts while I am, to use Wayne Grudem's phrase, "open but cautious." But I am extremely skeptical about the nature of what many people claim today to be the gift of tongues.) I was even aware of how I would answer if someone asked me why I would come: Because many Wesleyan churches are hyper-Arminian (is that a word?).

I am a staunch Wesleyan, an Arminian and I do hold to free will. However, I also hold great theological belief in the sovereignty of God. While not a fatalist I do believe God controls this world far more directly than many people of my persuasion accept.

John Wesley, himself, said he was but a hair's breadth from Calvinism. (One of the sermons in his collected work is The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes where it is declared that they are punishment for sin.) Of course, many Calvinists—including George Whitefield of old—may passionately beg to differ about how small that hair's breadth was.

The Apostle Paul said God controls human history:
And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27a ESV)
I believe God's sovereignty and man's free will and responsibility are joined in this passage. Paul is clear that God is the cause for the rise and fall of every nation yet the apostle also declares that people may (or may not) seek God.

I do respect MacArthur's tenacity and loyalty to call it as he sees it even if I don't accept all of his theological conclusions. He certainly isn't afraid to jump into the fray of polemics. Though he has stated that he does not enjoy entering doctrinal disputes it must be said that anyone who writes books like The Gospel According to Jesus and Ashamed of the Gospel knows how to mix it up.