Wednesday, December 23, 2009

WorldNetDaily Takes On MacArthur

Dave Welch at WorldNet Daily has taken on John MacArthur, and those who would agree with MacArthur, about their opposition to the Manhattan declaration. Read the article here. Having read the article, I am wondering where the substance is. In fact, I am wonder if he even read the reasons MacArthur opposes the Declaration, and if he did, is he going to try to interact with them anywhere? If so, it certainly is not in this article. He concludes the article by saying,
I am thankful beyond measure that clergy like MacArthur were outnumbered by the "Black Regiment" of patriot pastors not only of our founding era but through the ages. His position of disengagement against tyrants, perpetrators of injustice and amoral agents bent on destroying God's created order, is, I humbly assert, a denial of the full Gospel that redeems everything a true believer touches.
Ummmm, what does this have to do with the current declaration? Mr. Welch seems to miss the obvious. Standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbor in doing what is right is not the same thing as declaring Rome's Gospel to be Christian? This is a massive confusion of the two kingdoms. (Institution verses individual counter argument below)

False accusation:
The tragic truth is that if the Christian church in this country were actually carrying out the Great Commission in the form of the early church, from Apostles to martyrs through the ages (including many Catholic priests and missionaries, by the way), our nation would be spiritually, morally, culturally and politically reflective of the righteous fruits of the Spirit. We are clearly not.
To accuse John MacArthur of not producing godly disciples along with the average evangelical church is to tragically miss the mark. I can't even begin to understand this kind of non-argument.

False accusation:

I would concur heartily with Dr. MacArthur that the above has always been and must be the first order of business

for the institution of the church – but not the only business. Using his logic, the early church should have left the unwanted babies to die in the fields, the Reformers should have stayed silent against heresy, and men like Wilberforce were out of line fighting for the dignity and freedom of the slaves.

Are we really going to accuse John MacArthur as teaching disengagement simply because he recognizes a false ecumenical movement when he sees it? Do we really think that John MacArthur would stand against William Wilberforce? Mr Welch, please provide some kind of evidence to support such a claim.

Common Faith?
The Manhattan Declaration is a statement of common faith and First Principles by individuals, not by institutions, and I challenge John MacArthur to personally prove that any or all of the signers are not followers of Jesus Christ. I don't believe he is that arrogant.
All signers of heretical institutions are Christians? I would like to know how Mr. Welch knows this. I think it is completely arrogant to say anyone who claims to believe in the Gospel while ascribing to institutions that explicitly reject the Gospel is arrogance of the worst kind. It is to say you know what they believe personally as opposed to what is stated in their confessions.

By this poor argument, if he were to be consistent, then why not allow Mormons to sign this document. As he states earlier in the article,
However, time and time again over the past 20 years I have stood side by side with Catholics – and Mormons – who shamed the evangelical church by the level to which they put their money and their time where their faith is in standing for life and marriage. According to a California Proposition 8 insider, over three-fourths of the money and volunteers for that effort came from those two religious groups – again.
So hey, if this is merely about individuals, and if being a member of a certain heretical institution is not determinative of whether or not one is confessionally Christian, then change the statement in the Declaration to involve Mormons.

Mr. Welch seems to miss the substance in his response to John MacArthur. In fact, I am wondering to what exactly he is responding.

Who would disagree with this statement?
I can speak with the authority of a quarter century experience in the pro-life, pro-family evangelical grass-roots and "grass-tops" trenches that I don't know one Christian activist or leader I have ever interacted with who did not believe, as Dr. D. James Kennedy asserted, "There is no reformation without redemption"; that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the starting point for all personal and corporate renewal.
As a Christian Van Tillian presuppositionalist, I believe the Christian must start with the Trinity and the Gospel and God's revelation to man. It is with this starting point that we engage the unbeliever and our communities. This, the Manhattan Declaration confuses at best and abandons completely at worst the two-kingdom model and the Gospel. For example,
I do not and will not assert that I agree with the doctrines of the Catholic or Orthodox churches any more than I agree with all the doctrines of the Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist Convention, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Episcopalian and over 20,000 other denominations in the United States.
Mr. Welch does not really believe this. For he states a couple of paragraphs earlier that he believes in the "Solas" of the Reformation. Yet it is here he makes his confusion. Rome is not just another denomination. To compare them as such is to make MacArthur's case and prove his point.

In conclusion,
"MacArthur's primary objection is that "The Gospel is barely mentioned in the Declaration." He is also opposed because, "Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Declaration obscures both the importance of the Gospel and the very substance of the Gospel message."

I must state why I believe he has missed the point of the Declaration..."
No, it is Mr. Welch who has missed the point. Never once does he deal MacArthur's charge that the Gospel is obscured. In fact, he demonstrates MacArthur's observation that it does just that.

If we are going to start with the Gospel as the center, then it must be properly defined. The Manhattan Declaration does not do this in any way, shape or form. As far as I can see, it is Mr. Welch, who is wrong on this one.


RichardS said...

Mr. Welch said: "The tragic truth is that if the Christian church in this country were actually carrying out the Great Commission in the form of the early church, from Apostles to martyrs through the ages (including many Catholic priests and missionaries, by the way)"

RS: It is no wonder that Mr. Welch thinks that John Mac (new McDonalds burger) is wrong if he really believes that many Catholic priests and missionaries carried out the Great Commission. Of course he may mean that the early Catholics were not the same thing as Roman Catholics, which they were not. Perhaps his real issue is over the Gospel itself and he does not believe that the document confuses the Gospel. In that case his argument against John Mac is simply another point he did not state very well. Welch's article is something like a person that gets very angry over something and then yells at someone over something and then cannot remember quite what it was that he was so angry about. Those listening are also unsure what the person is angry at, but the person that has yelled thinks he feels better because he ventilated. Maybe Mr. Welch feels better, and we know he disagrees with something, but we simply are not sure what he is really ventilating about. If we ask him what it is he disagrees with, we fear he might do the same thing again.

Howard Fisher said...

Thanks for the comment Rich.

I keep rereading the editorial, and I can only conclude that some form of theonomy is in his thinking.

He says,

"His position of disengagement against tyrants, perpetrators of injustice and amoral agents bent on destroying God's created order, is, I humbly assert, a denial of the full Gospel that redeems everything a true believer touches."

Basically, the church seems to be charged with rebellion against tyrants. The entire document seems to call "Christians" to rebel against tyrants. All of this seems to assume some kind of idea that Jesus' kingdom is this world. It is as if we must advance the Kingdom through worldly means. Of course I am sure he would reject such a notion by keeping the separation of church and state argument. But isn't that the point?

Now I agree in some sense it is. It is wherever the Gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered and church discipline takes place. In other words, the church is the form in which we see the invisible kingdom in this world.

We also see its effects when men speak prophetically to this present evil age. Christians should be engaged in the culture wars, but only as concerned citizens who are informed by God's revelation.

It is no wonder the world sees us as trying to make everyone Christians when they are not.

If pastors were truly making disciples instead of trying to save the culture, then the very thing Mr. Welch is concerned about would naturally take place.

I am sick and tired of hearing how the church failed to do this and that and this and that. It is always the church's fault that something in the culture goes wrong.

In the end, your observation is right. He never answers the question MacArthur has. He simply assumes the Gospel. This is Michael Horton's point in his book Christless Christianity. That book may very well be the most relevant book I have read in quite some time.