Will Fundy leaders ever apologize to John MacArthur?

Comment: Interesting Discussion on Sharper Iron re John MacArthur

Background: here and here

The discussion:

Kevin Bauder:


If you wonder what kind of things I’m talking about, just Google “John MacArthur Blood.” That’s an episode that combines both of the above features: picking away (in this case, dishonestly) at conservative evangelicals while ignoring the public transgressions of Fundamentalists.
Don Johnson


How many years ago was that???

The example you give, however... when did it happen? The offending statement was in a MacArthur newsletter in 1976, the issue erupted in 1989, it was clarified by MacArthur in a later restatement, published by Phil Johnson on the internet in 2000. (See the Soteriology section of the Wikipedia article on MacArthur - I know, I know, it's Wikipedia, take it for what it's worth.)

Interestingly, the Wikipedia article mentions BBN, not fundamentalists as a major player in this conflict. I don't know if that is an accurate picture or not. But I do know that many fundamentalists "piled on" once the controversy came to light. I don't excuse the pack mentality with which we went after MacA at that point. But you will note that we are talking about something that is almost twenty-five years ago. I remember all the discussion about it during the early days of Sharper Iron. Phil Johnson was involved in some of it, if I recall correctly. During some of that discussion, it was mentioned that Dr. Bob III made some contact with MacArthur to make amends in some way for his part in the issue. I don't recall if it was a phone call or a letter, or what it was. The issue was an issue between the two of them, apparently it has been settled between them for some time. MacArthur isn't calling for further action on it, is he? He probably hardly ever thinks about it.

But whenever a list of the egregious fundamentalist lapses is trotted out, this one is often one of the first ones cited.
Kevin Bauder


Don, Evidently I touched a nerve by referencing the “blood” controversy.

You make it sound as if this controversy is something that occurred in a corner in the distant past, that was dealt with adequately at the time, and that could be resolved by a merely private exchange (though I don’t believe that anything approaching an apology was ever offered to MacArthur). Perhaps the reason that the blood controversy still comes up is because none of these things is true. It has never been dealt with, and it has not gone away.

If you take the trouble to Google® “John MacArthur Blood,” you’ll find that the accusations are still being repeated. You may search all you wish for any public retraction of the accusations: you’ll never find it because it was never done. In fact, the original accuser kept repeating his charges, at least in private. The last word that he said on the subject was, “I believe that the position [MacArthur] has taken in this matter is an heretical position, and all of the correspondence in the world is not going to affect my convictions on that point.” Furthermore, if you look at your old copies of the FBF News Bulletin, you’ll find that the FBF participated in advancing the accusations. Let me quote from the FBF News Bulletin of March, 1989.

The watershed of Fundamentalism is the doctrine of the Blood of Christ. The current imbroglio hinges on whether Christ’s blood was human or divine. A popular radio preacher initiated this recent controversy by stating expressions such as “Nothing in His human blood saves” [footnote to MacArthur]. This concept reflects the coeval thinking of New Evangelicalism. Liberalism has influenced New Evangelicalism in many doctrinal areas, even in the doctrine of the Blood of Christ. . . . If Christ’s blood was mere human blood it could not save sinners; however, it is unique and it does save sinners and cleanse Christians because it is Divine Blood. [page 4]

Here are more quotations from the FBF News Bulletin of May, 1990.

MacArthur creates an issue that doesn’t exist by seeking to separate the death of Christ from the blood of Christ. On page 237 of his commentary on Hebrews, MacArthur states that is [sic] is “not Jesus’ physical blood that saves us, but His dying on our behalf.” In a letter to Mr. Tim Weidlich, dated April 4, 1986, MacArthur writes, “Obviously, it was not the blood of Jesus that saves or He could have bled for us without dying . . . . Yes, the blood of Christ is precious—but as precious as it is—it could not save.” [page 7]

MacArthur reduces the blood of Christ to a mere symbol of death. In this same letter of Mr. Weidlich he writes, “I admit that because of some traditional hymns there is an emotional attachment to the blood—but that should not pose a problem when one is dealing with theological or textual specificity. I can sing hymns about the blood and rejoice in them—but I understand that reference to be a metonym for His death.” [page 7]

The Scriptures speak again and again about our salvation being accomplished through the shed blood of Christ. Verses such as Romans 5:9 could scarcely be more clear, “. . . being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” MacArthur is equally clear if we can take his words at face value: “Nothing in His human blood saves. His shed blood represents His sacrificial, physical and spiritual death for us.” (“Grace to You,” 1976) . . . The Scriptures and MacArthur cannot both be right. [page 7]

Do Fundamentalists need another reminder that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? The cost of compromise is the loss of God’s blessing on our ministries and the eventual removal of our candlesticks from their places of service in God’s work. Why toy with disaster by becoming enamored with a compromiser regardless of how charming he might be? We must fight with tenacity our tendencies to follow gifted and charismatic personalities. [page 8]

Let’s not play games with the precious doctrines of God’s Word. There are no good reasons to tamper with truth. I was saved by the blood of the Crucified One. We need no other message. [page 8]

This edition of the FBF News Bulletin was issued in the summer of 1990. That is fourteen years after MacArthur’s church bulletin printed his original comments about the blood. It is also four years after Bob Jones III told MacArthur, “John, let me assure you that neither I nor anyone else has any desire to misrepresent you or anyone else. We would shudder to think of participating in an effort to malign, gossip, or slander. That is just not the way we do things. I am sure Dad will be happy to print excerpts of your letter in order to let your statements speak for themselves. . . . We never want to shoot someone who is fighting in faithfulness on the same side we are.” (June 20, 1986)

About a year after the publication of the article in the FBF New Bulletin, Jones III wrote again to MacArthur, “We felt that yours was an extremely dangerous and liberal position; but once you published in your own paper an article stating that the blood was “efficacious and meritorious,” we have never said another word about it. The issue was resolved at that point; and it has been our joy to tell people who continue to be concerned that they can be at ease, and refer them to your own published statements as evidence.” (July3, 1991)

Evidently the FBF didn’t get the memo. It jumped on the bandwagon of those who were assaulting MacArthur over the blood of Christ. At the time, more than a few people were accusing MacArthur of being heretical and liberal. Not only did the FBF fail to defend MacArthur from those false accusations, it actually piled on and repeated them.

So let me ask you several questions.

Did the leadership of the FBF sin when it joined in the attack instead of defending MacArthur against false accusations?

When a member of your church transgresses in a very public way, how do you counsel that person? Does public transgression require public acknowledgement, or is private confession sufficient?

Has the FBF ever issued any public statement acknowledging that its attack upon MacArthur was sinful? Has it ever even publicly expressed regret that the attack took place?

Are any of the people who were board members or other leaders of the FBF in 1990 still in positions of respect and leadership within the FBFI?

Do you think that a statement from the FBFI would help to put to rest the continuing rumors and accusations that MacArthur takes a heretical view of the blood?

You’re right that John is not asking for an apology or even a retraction or clarification. He quit asking after 1987, because it had become embarrassingly clear that he was not going to get one. The last word on the subject was, “I believe that the position [MacArthur] has taken in this matter is an heretical position, and all of the correspondence in the world is not going to affect my convictions on that point.”

You’re right—you didn’t do these things. But you are now in a position of responsibility in at least one of the organizations that did. I agree that you can’t apologize for a sin you didn’t commit, but you can (1) distance yourself from the accusations by publicly acknowledging them to be false, (2) publicly acknowledge that it was a sin for the FBF to level these accusations in the first place, and (3) express regret to John MacArthur that the accusations were ever made.

If this has ever been done by the FBFI, I would love to hear about it. My respect would skyrocket.

If the FBFI leadership, acting in concert, would do these things, what would happen?

First, the episode would be taken off the table. While it would still be a matter of historical record, the FBFI could no longer be accused of covering up the sin.

Second, while MacArthur is not asking for an apology, I think that he would receive such an expression of acknowledgement and regret as a sweet breeze out of paradise. It would finally lay to rest an unnecessary and sinful cause of division.

Third, the FBFI would be more believable when it discussed the differences that still remain between it and MacArthur. People would have greater assurance that we weren’t just making it up, eh?

Fourth, this kind of humility would go far toward removing one of the perceived impediments that dampen the enthusiasm of young men for organizations like the FBFI.

Fifth, if my reading of the New Testament is anywhere near correct, then the Lord would be pleased.

So how about it?

Comments: Hurrah Kevin Bauder!

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