The Idolatry of John MacArthur

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Romans922, Oct 6, 2011.

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  1. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    The video is a reformed man publicly rebuking John MacArthur for breaking the 2nd commandment as it has to do with idolatry (purported images of Jesus).

    On a theological level, we should all be in agreement that purported images of Jesus Christ have no place in worship, teaching, etc. given that this is a Confessional board and WLC 109 states, "Q. 109. What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment? A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counselling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshipping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them, all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt,hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed."

    However, on a practical level, this is John MacArthur, a well-known and respected theologian. He has been publicly advocating his position for years. Is he in the wrong? Should we ignore this? What can we learn from this?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011
  2. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior

  3. AThornquist

    AThornquist Puritan Board Doctor

  4. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    You're kidding, right?
  5. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    This is a confessional board. This is perfectly in line with the Westminster Standards.

    So, no kidding with me...
  6. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

  7. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Thread reopened to allow Original Poster to edit first post.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011
  8. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Whether or not one agrees with MacArthur on the issue of making images, "idolatry" is too strong a word to use in rebuking him. "Idolatry" is commonly understood to include the direct worship of such images, which I can't imagine MacArthur advocates. Some other word would frame the issue more clearly and fairly.
  9. Weston Stoler

    Weston Stoler Puritan Board Sophomore

    Macarthur is a very respected man of God. Just because he does not cross every T and dot every I of perfect doctrine doesn't make him an idolater. It just makes him human.
  10. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Moderator Staff Member

  11. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Good question. Who is the guy in the video? And I agree folks like Dr. Sproul and Ken Gentry would seem to be more important to address (respectfully and as appropriate) since they attempt to contravene the original intent of the Westminster Divines and the import of LC 109.
  12. Weston Stoler

    Weston Stoler Puritan Board Sophomore

    HAHA agreed.
  13. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Put Sproul there, what do you say? It is a wide-reaching problem that needs to be addressed.

    The guy in the video is Matthew Lankford from
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011
  14. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    I have seen recently, in presbytery exams, candidates taking exceptions to Q. 109 of the WLC, specifically with regard to mental images. These are guys in different presbyteries with different backgrounds. It seems like an odd exception to take, but I am wondering if there is some common source for taking this exception (a book or a common seminary prof?).
  15. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    What do you think should and can be done that isn't being done already?
  16. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    R.C. sproul is on the reccord for disagreeing the the WCF of faith on this matter (in print). I do not know about y'all, but I'm grateful for SProul sr.
  17. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    If you attend a service at St. Andrews (the church where Sproul pastors), you will be struck by the half dozen or so gigantic banners hanging on the wall depicting the life of Christ.
  18. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Do those who form mental images of Jesus guilty of the same degree of idolatry as that of Hindus?
  19. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior

    If I said that there was a man who lived two thousand years ago who died for your sins and His name is Jesus you would have committed idolatry before finishing the end of this sentence. How can we not create a depiction of Jesus in our minds? He was made like us. We relate to Him. Well, um, He, uh, has hands like ours... but don't think about what He may have looked like in the face?!

    There are holes in the arguments that say we should not have ANY mental images of Jesus in our thoughts. Having a mental picture of Jesus walking to Jerusalem is not necessarily idolatry. Picturing His face when He spoke with the thief on the cross is not necessarily idolatry. And if it is not necessarily wrong to relate to the Gospel stories through mental images, then is it necessarily wrong to draw a picture of that mental image?

    I am still sorting through this issue myself and I am glad the topic was raised for us.
  20. regeneratedbobby

    regeneratedbobby Puritan Board Freshman

    B O R I N G! Let him who has no sin cast the first stone, or better yet, let him with the perfect theology pass the first judgment.
  21. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    For starters, I think the wording of the Larger Catechism is dealing with a context of worship (since it falls under the Second Commandment) and applies to that context (public and private devotions). It reads, in entirety:

    But with all due respect, some of these arguments against the application of the Ten Commandments do not strike me as being very sound (I am thinking mainly arguments I have heard from Presbyterians here). It is almost as if they wish to frame the Standards so that attaining perfection is a possibility. In other words, a "I can keep this part of it, but that's a little too difficult so I'll take an exception to it" seems to be what drives a lot of it. Would we accept that kind of argument if someone said the same think about adultery ("You can't look at a woman without having lustful thoughts") or coveting ("Boy, I wish my neighbor's new car were mine!"), using the argument that we can't help but think about these things. If our sinfulness makes us fall into sin, then we need to rightly recognize it as sin and not something to be tolerated or "excepted."
  22. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

  23. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Would this be your line of reasoning behind all the commandments? Say a theologian were guilty of murder or theft or ... Perhaps you should rethink your statement/position.
  24. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    We inevitably create mental images when we read a book or read the Gospels.

    But because we are not given a full description of Christ anywhere in Scripture, if these images are in line with Scripture they will necessarily be partial and inchoate.

    We have no description of Christ's face but we know from a passage in Isaiah that He had a beard.

    We have a more complete description of Christ in His exalted and glorified state in Revelation 1, but we can't go beyond that in our imagination either.

    Actually - although it doesn't touch on breaking the Second Commandment - our mental images of the physical characteristics of other biblical characters, as with Christ, will be inchoate and incomplete also.

    E.g. we have no description of Adam, except that he was a nude man, Noah, Moses, David, Peter or Paul.

    ---------- Post added at 12:29 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:19 AM ----------

    It seems highly unlikely.

    But we should always remember that we don't know what he looked like, apart from the fact He was a man and keep within the bounds of the description Scripture gives us, and it doesn't give us much by way of a physical description of our Lord.

    Where these feminised images of Jesus with long hair came from, I don't know. Why do they always give him long hair like a woman? Have any been turned away from Christ through these images?
  25. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    partiality of the image can't be the standing argument, because any and all mental images are necessarily partial - even mental images of those people we know well and see everyday. That's the nature of a mental image. Many who knew Jesus were forming mental images of him all the time and recalling what he looked like as they worshipped him. And all these images would have been partial.
  26. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    My mental image of you is much more complete than any mental image I could have of our Lord, because I've got a picture of you on the PB, but the Bible gives me very few details about our Lord, except that He was bearded, had scars in His hands, feet and side after His resurrection, and also the symbolical description of the glorified and exalted Christ in Revelation 1.

    Those who knew Christ while He was on earth had the living Word of God before them, and the Holy Spirit.

    We have the Holy Spirit working through the written Word.

    Christ is both God and the Image of God. That Image is revealed to His people by the Holy Spirit through the pages of Scripture. Anything that is not revealed there e.g. any image of the Image of God, Christ, will only come between us and Christ, the one Mediator between God and Man.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  27. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Amen. After quoting and expounding on various passages from Old Testament scripture, Hebrews 2:9 tells us we do see Jesus. The means is through that testimony:

    Gill elaborates:

    The eyes of the mind are not to dream up physical images, but an understanding of the full counsel of God regarding Lord Christ: his office, his person, his work, is stature, etc.
  28. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    This question only really impinges on Reformed people in the limited connection of children's picture Bibles and other books about the Gospels used by children and possibly the mentally disadvantaged.

    Adult Reformed people are unlikely to be making use of books with images of Jesus, or if they do have any, they know how to regard or disregard such images. Nor will they have images of Christ on their walls.
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