A Response to the John MacArthur Controversy (I Can Hold My Tongue No Longer)

As most of my readers know, I am usually loathed to wade into the fray of hot-button topics. But this one…Oh, this one.

I would have broken my jaw had I continued to bite my tongue as hard as I did on this one. I couldn’t do it. I have to speak my mind here. My more conservative brothers can feel free to disagree with me on this one, but I can’t remain silent.

I ran across this video recently posted by John MacArthur on “How To Respond to a Homosexual Child”. Here’s the link:

Within this video, he tells the Christian parents of these adult children, especially if these children claim to be “of Christ” to…

Alienate them.

Separate them.

Isolate them.

Refuse to have a meal with them.

Turn them over to Satan.

Honestly, honestly, honestly parents, how many of you could do this? Would do this?

Yes, it’s biblical; drawn from Matthew 18 and, moreover, from 1 Corinthians 5, although the “sexual immorality” Paul was speaking of was actually “a man sleeping with his father’s wife”, but that’s splitting hairs.

…and context, but why should we need that.

In any case, Benjamin Corey, in his fine article on the subject, puts the argument much better than I:

Folks like MacArthur have lifted sexual immorality out of that passage while completely ignoring the rest of what Paul taught.

Why?

Because it would be horribly inconvenient to actually practice this verse. In it, Paul teaches that we are to have nothing to do with Christians who are… greedy.

Which in America, is a whole lot of us. I wonder if MacArthur would also suggest you shun an adult child who makes $200,000 a year but doesn’t tithe or give any of their money to charity? Somehow, I doubt it.

I wonder if MacArthur would teach that we should isolate, alienate, and turn over to Satan our children who struggle with over-eating? That can be a form of greed because it is taking more than you need.

Or, what about the idolators mentioned in that same passage? I know a boat load of Christians who are trusting in firearms for their safety instead of God– which is idolatry. According to Paul, they should be shunned as well.

And, don’t even get me started on the fact that Paul also mentions “abusive” people in that passage also. That’s a whole other can of worms that would require shunning a lot of Christians in leadership.

Paul goes on to also include drunks and swindlers… so let’s make the list of people we’re going to shun even longer.

I’m just glad that I worship Jesus– not MacArthur (or even Paul himself!).

Jesus is the one who religious conservatives hated because instead of shunning, he had meals with people.

The drunks.

The hookers.

The swindlers.

You know, the kind of people we’re supposed to shun.

This is precisely why we are to make Jesus– and nothing else– the center of our faith and practice.

One commenter below the MacArthur YouTube video says, “Homosexuality brings about the spirit of Suicide”, and, to me, this is a chicken-and-the-egg issue. Does being gay automatically bring about “the spirit of Suicide”? Or does the shredding of trust, the skewering of vulnerability, and the ostracization from a life-long, deeply personal relationship (one that should never, NEVER, go sideways by the way), lead to bringing about “the spirit of Suicide”…all because they trusted you with this admittedly shocking, sensitive, most likely long-held, secret?

And let me split more hairs with you.

The passage that Paul quotes in 1Corinthians 5:13, “Expel the wicked person from among you”, is taken from several passages, primarily in Deuteronomy (13:5, 17:7, etc.), many of which say the way to expel the wicked is by killing said wicked person.

Honestly, honestly, honestly parents, how many of you could, or would, do this?

Because this, too, is biblical.

Shall I continue?

One of the Deuteronomy passages using the “expel the wicked…” verbiage is Deuteronomy 19:19, which (in context) says:

16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deut. 19:16-21, NIV, emphasis mine)

Why then would Jesus expound on this very passage, as he does in Matthew 5, by saying:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41, NIV, emphasis mine)

I could see where, if an adult child were to come out to his conservative Christian parents, those parents could view it as “a slap in the face”.

Jesus says directly, “do not resist…turn to them the other…”

That, too, is biblical.

I am not Jewish, though I am a child of God, and therefore I am under Abrahamic and Mosaic covenant, I am also a Gentile. And I thank God, daily, for sending His Son, Jesus Christ, that I may live under His covenant; a covenant founded in mercy, in grace, and in forgiveness.

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20, NIV)

Or, “The God of Second Chances” as the wise sages of Veggietales have said.

And to these children, adult and young alike, who have been “turned out” by your bible-following parents. There’s always an extra room at my house. And you will be welcomed. And you will be loved. And, if you want to talk about it, I will listen.

Then, and only then, will I speak.

What will I say? I do not know. But it will likely be biblical. And we’ll walk through it together, you and I. Where we go, I have no idea; it’s not up to me, or you, it’s up to Him. And we’ll take it at your pace. I’ve got a lot of patience, but I know of a God who has even more.

Because we serve a big God.

And He loves you, too.

…for the bible tells me so…

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16 thoughts on “A Response to the John MacArthur Controversy (I Can Hold My Tongue No Longer)”

    1. It’s rare that I see you and Unkle agreeing. Now I’m scared!!

      Thanks for being one of the good ones
      Thanks, Nate. I can’t take the credit for where I’m at, but I think our discussions have been a big factor in wherever it is that I am. 🙂

  1. Aside from re-blogging this, I also wanted to share a little of why this stands out to me, too.
    I used to think like John MacArthur, pretty much hook, line, and sinker. However, several years ago my younger sister came out to me. I was the first person she told (outside of friends from college, of course). Her reason: “I know you are a person of grace and patience.” I knew I had to make a decision right there.
    She knew I would remind her of what the Bible says, and I reminded her that I was not happy about it, but I wanted her to know that I would always love her and pray for her.
    The news rocked the family, naturally, but I can thankfully say that my parents and their church were loving and grace-filled without compromising their faith, beliefs, or commitment to truth.
    Today, thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, I understand better what Paul and our Lord were trying to say when they said “Treat them like a sinner.” How do we do that? With love, grace, and the gospel.
    Thanks, Kent.
    Daniel

  2. I’m not American and I’m not part of the US christian scene, so perhaps my comment is based on ignorance. But I think the US evangelical push is in decline and the comments you have quoted show why. Evangelical Christendom is a long way from Jesus, methinks – perhaps even further than I am!!

    1. I think the US evangelical push is in decline…
      Honestly Eric, I would like to think so as well. Although…

      Evangelical Christendom is a long way from Jesus
      I’m not sure they’re a long way from Jesus but I, and many others who I suppose these Evangelicals would call “progressive”, think there is a better way is all. Growth of faith and belief is rarely painless, or done willingly.

  3. A couple of our children took my husband and I on some pretty rough rides during their teen years. We had to deal with things we never thought would happen in our family. Although homosexuality was not the issue, we had some pretty tough things going on with these two sons. We prayed for them often and we loved them. They worked their way through (after suffering the natural consequences for their actions) and both have come a long way. I cannot in my wildest imagination conceive of abandoning them. It was a real growth experience for me because my love was tested to the limits and I discovered that my love was greater than the bad choices they made, however heartbreaking the situation. If homosexuality was the issue, I would still love them and want to be with them. To shun them or to withdraw my love would be to deny my testimony of Jesus Christ. Anyone who would do such a thing does not yet truly know the Savior.

    1. I can’t imagine a situation where I would “turn them [my children] over to Satan” as MacArthur puts it. There may be times, as you have said, to let them see the consequences of their actions, this does not, nor ever should, call for abandonment. Even at my age, they’re still my mom and dad, and turning their backs would be just as painful. (The loss of my dad was painful enough). Aside from whether or not any of MacArthur’s listeners who would take such advice do or do not know their Savior, there can always be growth in that relationship, in faith, and in wisdom. Thanks as always for your comments, Maryann!

  4. I know I am going to be stepping into it, but can I help it? My jaw might break, also.

    First, I must say that I am very concerned with the glee and anticipation of evangelical Christianity falling by the wayside, fundamental or not. I tend to wonder what others consider the options to be? Is it only the legalists and the Pharisees that are being ushered off the cliff with rejoicing? Or, is there really a problem with proactive Christianity as a whole? Do I hear the voices of biblical grace, or is it simply the post-modern, pluralistic mindset calling all to dance at the funeral of dogma?

    Secondly, even though I do disagree with the suggestion of John MacArthur to alienate one’s gay children, the quote of Benjamin Corey does nothing to put 1 Corinthians in the proper context. All he does is water down, if not muddy what should have been perfectly clear: blatant, unrepentant sin cannot be allowed to run rampant, nor celebrated, within the church. Trying to relate how Jesus was hated because He was the one who actually ate with sinners is completely (1000%) off the mark, completely out of context. For that matter, Paul made it perfectly clear in 1 Cor. 5:10 that he was NOT talking about avoiding sinners, only unrepentant, out-in-the-open-with-their-sin people in the church claiming the name of Christ. Jesus loved and ate with sinners in order draw them to Himself, not leave them in their sin. However, He was very quick to dispatch one who claimed to be a God-follower but acted like the devil.

    Third, I don’t believe 1 Corinthians 5 should be used to try to justify shunning one’s own family member all because of his/her sin. That was not Paul’s point (The apostle Paul was primarily upset with the way the Corinthian church was celebrating their inclusiveness, thereby sending a message that what was taught to be sin was negotiable). In the context of all of Scripture, there is ample evidence to continue loving, not avoiding, family members living in sin. Did not Hosea seek after Gomer, even in her adultery?

    So, if I was unclear, I disagree with MacArthur on this one, also. However, there are other issues here that cause me much concern.

    1. Thank you for the response Anthony, you raise some great questions, and I can tell you are in the right place in calling into question some of these things. I feel some further clarification, on both sides, might be in order…

      I am not sure I fully understand your questioning of the first paragraph.

      First, I must say that I am very concerned with the glee and anticipation of evangelical Christianity falling by the wayside, fundamental or not. I tend to wonder what others consider the options to be?
      Are there no other options for the future of Christianity other than evangelic or fundamentalism? Do you not see any other options, thoughts, or ideas?

      Also, you use words like “glee”, “anticipation”, “rejoicing”, and “dancing at the funeral” about those who you deem as seeing an imminent end to the evangelic or fundamental mindset? Why?

      Though I grant you that a small percentage within the more progressive outlook would likely feel these emotions, I don’t know of any reasonable Christian, no matter their views, who would feel this way about anyone whose beliefs may differ even though those views may be losing hold on the majority opinion. If mine, or anyone else I have sited, now or in the past, have made it appear as if I am gleeful or rejoicing to see this more conservative thinking being called out, I apologize, though I do not retract the need to call these (in my humble opinion) antiquated opinions out; if for no other reason than for the sheer lack of grace, humility and mercy shown by those opinions. Whether or not this is the intention of those stating that opinion, I have no idea, but this is the way it tends to come across…especially to those about whom they are so callously speaking. This is not “speaking the truth in love” simply because you, the speaker, do not get to decide whether or not what is said is loving, the hearer does, simple as that. And if the hearer does not “feel the love”, maybe it is time we—all of us Christians—change our approach.

      I suppose this would be my own personal offering of “another option”.

      …the quote of Benjamin Corey does nothing to put 1 Corinthians in the proper context. All he does is water down, if not muddy what should have been perfectly clear: blatant, unrepentant sin cannot be allowed to run rampant, nor celebrated, within the church.
      Personally, I felt that this was exactly the point Corey brought forth: blatant, unrepentant sin cannot be allowed to run rampant—the entire laundry list, not just one.

      It’s rather easy to pull out one particular sin-du-jour, if for no other reason than it is currently socially acceptable to do so, while not giving equal due to any of the other sins Paul points up as well. Not to mention, speaking of context, the sexual immorality that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 5 has nothing to do with homosexuality.

      I do not state the previous sentences lightly, but it bears repeating; it is socially acceptable, in today’s conservative Christian circles, even demanded and applauded, to single out this one sin and therefore ostracize an entire group of people. This is not our job. This should not be.

      I suppose another “option” I would put forth is to, instead, invite people in—all people, regardless of sin nature or past history—make room in the pews, invite them to a communal meal, develop a meaningful, heartfelt relationship, and let the Holy Spirit do His work—on both of you. That’s His job, and He’s rather good at it if we, well intended Christians, would simply get out of the way and let Him work. If Christians are going to throw around phrases like “we’re all sinners”, and “every sin is equal in the sight of the Lord”, and “none of us are any ‘better’”, then this should be the practical interpretation of those phrases.

      Further, what do we know of anyone’s struggles, emotional or physical, and who are we to paint those struggles on a placard and hang it around the neck of someone with whom we disagree? And yes, I’m speaking to both sides of the proverbial fence here. We all wrestle with our own, often carefully hidden, sin habits. What if a well-meaning body of believers came together and cast you out after the seventh “failure” to turn away, unknowing that it would have been the eighth time that would have brought you “home”? How many times are we asked, by Jesus, to forgive? Seven times?

      Trying to relate how Jesus was hated because He was the one who actually ate with sinners is completely (1000%) off the mark, completely out of context.
      I would respectfully disagree here as well as pointed up in both Matthew 9 and Matthew 11. The Pharisees and teachers of the law may not have “hated” Jesus, but they certainly questioned his choice of company and methodology (which sounds eerily similar to the conservative/progressive debate today). And, what were the “sinners” he was dining with sins anyway? My own belief is that it doesn’t say because that’s not the point. The point was Jesus’ example as you have said, freely associating with the least of these (at least in society’s eyes) “in order draw them to Himself”, and here, you and I would be in agreement, which is in what I, too, said previously: invite them to a communal meal, develop a meaningful, heartfelt relationship, and let the Holy Spirit do His work. “…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed…”

      Thank you again, Anthony. I appreciate meaningful commentary that sends me on a quest of my own understandings and beliefs. You’re welcome here anytime!

      1. For the sake of time (because I am reading this on my iPhone and there is no way I could adequately respond in less than an hour – typing with a thumb), I will be brief (just not in the explanation for why I’m being brief).

        I’d love to explore this subject a little more, especially the “options” part. I’d also like to examine the “fundamentalist” label and try to come to a better understanding of how you define one. When it comes to the lack of grace and compassion associated with the more legalistic elements of Christianity, I am keenly aware of the dangers and destruction that is all too common. However, what I’m afraid of happening is the pluralization of the Church (John Hick-style) as a response to the negative aspects of the well-meaning, but graceless legalists and Pharisaical jerks.

        Wow, not bad for a thumb, huh?

        Anyway, I wish you the best on your journey with Christ. May we all come to a fuller understand of our Savior, and the cross we must carry as we follow in His steps.

        1. I’d love to explore this subject a little more, especially the “options” part. I’d also like to examine the “fundamentalist” label and try to come to a better understanding of how you define one.
          Would love to take part in that!

          …what I’m afraid of happening is the pluralization of the Church (John Hick-style) as a response to the negative aspects of the well-meaning, but graceless legalists and Pharisaical jerks.
          Very much agreed.

          As a side note, I’m planning on taking some of your questions, as well as my responses, and throwing them up on the blog site as a separate post, just to see if anyone else wants to weigh in on the conversation, probably Tuesday. Could be fun!

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