Truth or Friends? What are the Consequences?
Things are moving fast. In a world where truth has become subjective, formerly faithful men of God are capitulating to the culture, bowing to worldly pressure to conform or be subject to loneliness or loss of all friendships held dear. This was, at least, the sentiment of John MacArthur during a Q & A session at the recent Shepherds' Conference where he spoke up to add comment to the controversial topic of social justice. The problem? Many (including me) were very concerned about the inclusion of three "social justice warriors" in the lineup of this conference.
Here's his response:
“I don’t think there’s any difference theologically with where we all stand. We’ve navigated that together on every possible platform in every situation. Um, how we respond to the culture around us and the pressures that come on us from the culture—how we navigate those relationships that face us. Um, I get a lot of, and even with this Shepherds’ Conference coming up, I got a lot of heat from people on the internet who I — I don’t—somebody has to show it to me ‘cuz I don’t go there – but that you (Mohler, Duncan) were going to be here, 'cuz you may have expressed yourself differently on the issue of social justice, or whatever other issue it might have been—that seems to be the buzz button anyway. And I said, ‘look, um, these are my friends, these are men I love, these are men who serve Christ, who have given their life to Him.’ God has given each of you guys a formidable place in the Kingdom and you’ve all had an impact on my life. I’ll fight error, but I don’t fight my friends. Why would I do that? I don’t want to become an island.”
Pastor MacArthur would fight error, but he doesn't fight his friends?? And what if they're in error? Would he still refuse to fight them?? To hear this from a man I used to follow very closely and looked up to is absolutely horrendous. Outrageous. How can a shepherd, at his own "Shepherds' Conference," proclaim to thousands and thousands that he holds his friendships above truth??
I've moved beyond hoping and praying this was a misstep, an accidental burst of emotion in the heat of a very uncomfortable moment. Why? Because it has become a pattern. We all watched as he spoke out in a bold and succinct manner on the topic of social justice in a series of blog posts last fall. We also observed the moment he became a primary signatory on the Dallas Statement (Social Justice statement) soon after. And then, with
jaws dropped open, many of us witnessed MacArthur speaking at the Getty "Sing 2018" conference the day after
along with Tim Keller, one of the biggest proponents of social justice ever to hit evangelicalism. So, to be clear, it shouldn't surprise us when his brutally honest admission in the video above expressed how he feels about his friendships with proponents of "the most subtle and dangerous threat so far" (his words) to hit evangelicalism. The admission logically follows the pattern.
And if he signed the Dallas statement, which says the social justice movement endangers Christians with “an onslaught of dangerous & false teachings that threaten the gospel, misrepresent Scripture, & lead people away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ," why isn't he more alarmed with his friends who promote it? If this really is one of the biggest polemical battles he has faced, why on earth would he subject five thousand pastors (and others) to the shepherding by these wolves on his own platform? This is careless at best, and deceitful at worst.
This historic moment at his Shepherds' conference on March 6, 2019 has blatantly marked an unfortunate, but expected downgrade. So what could be the consequences of thousands of young, naïve pastors who might have inadvertently made MacArthur an idol, or at least someone of whom to aspire to, who now have heard him elevate friendship above truth? Could they start to justify the inclusion of social justice within their own ministries since MacArthur, in a matter of 77 seconds, effectively cancelled out the message of the Dallas Statement along with his stronger verbage contending against social justice in his blogs? Absolutely! We are watching the culture steadily seep into the church. We are watching formerly faithful preachers capitulate to Satan's schemes as the end is growing near. And we are watching a massive amount of believers fall in line and blindly accept the new norm as if nothing ever happened.
What should be our response? I believe Scripture is clear. According to Jude, we are to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints because certain people have crept in unnoticed. Matthew calls them wolves and says to "beware." Peter warns false teachers will secretly bring in destructive heresies. Timothy predicted a time coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. Are we here? If we aren't, I hate to see what's next....
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
2 Peter 2:1-2
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.