John MacArthur: Victims are Everywhere

Last Sunday, John MacArthur preached on social justice at his church. This is an extension of his recent blog posts which have ignited passionate responses from opponents and supporters alike.

In his Sunday sermon, MacArthur repeated many of the statements and themes from his blog posts. In this post, I want to touch on his definition of social justice and victimization.

Social Justice

MacArthur says

Social justice is a term that describes the idea that everyone has the right to equal upward mobility – everybody in a society: equal upward mobility, equal social privilege, equal finances or equal resources. And if you don’t have those rights and you don’t have those opportunities the society is, by nature, unjust.

Earlier in the sermon he claims social justice is a “part of classic socialism.” I can’t say with certainty but I doubt many social justice evangelicals mean this when they advocate for social justice. I know I don’t.

I will acknowledge that I haven’t seen a consistent definition of social justice. However, this simply doesn’t look right to me. Discussion about economic policy is a distraction here. Most justice minded Christians who are bothered by MacArthur’s views aren’t socialists. They simply believe Christians should advocate for what’s right when the status quo is unjust and wrong.

Victims are Everywhere

Rev. MacArthur doesn’t speak well of victims, except when he does. In a 2016 tweet, he seemed to call for social justice for a young girl in his congregation.

MacArthur called on people to sign a petition targeting 13 government officials in an effort to get a just result for a young child. I don’t know enough about the situation to give an opinion but I can understand why someone would advocate for this child to stay with the foster family. In my opinion, creating and signing a petition to attempt to bring awareness to a wrong is a great thing to do.

In contrast, in his sermon, he seems to mock people who have truly been harmed.

So we have a growing category of victims of all kinds of microaggressions. And these are the people that are demanding social justice, and by that they mean they want to stop being oppressed by all the oppressors in society. And the more victim categories someone is in, the more empowered that person is, the more important that person is, the more truthful that person is, the more authoritative that person is. If you’re in multiple groups this is a new idea called “intersectionality.” All the segments of victimization come together for you, and your multiple victim status makes you the most authoritative person, the one to be listened to. But if you are not in any victim group, you have nothing to say, “Shut up, and sit down.” That’s where we are. We have an ever-increasing belligerent mass of victims who are defining their lives by what other people have done to them.

At one point, he inexplicably highlights the #metoo movement.

All who die under the judgment of God die for their own sin and not somebody else’s. That is clear and unambiguous. But it is human nature to fight against it to say, “I’m a good person. I’m a good person. There’s just bad people around me who have done bad things to me,” sometimes two hundred years ago, sometimes two generations ago. Sometimes it’s just part of the dominate male chauvinistic culture. Or sometimes it’s just homophobia.

“All this has been done to me.” And so, hashtag, “Me too. I’m a victim.” “Me too, me too. I was abused, I was abused, I was abused.” “Somebody offended me. Somebody made a micro-aggression against me.”

So I’m a victim of certain regional attitudes or gender attitudes, or sexual preference attitudes, or hate speech, or economics, or education. I’m just a victim of intersecting prejudice and oppression, and I’m victim.” I’ve go so many categories I ought to be given a medal of honor for all my categories of victimization.

Everybody’s offended me, people I don’t know. Dead people have offended me, living people have offended me. You offend me. I’m a victim of past injustice and inequity. and present rejection, discrimination, offense. And most of you don’t even know how much you offend me, it’s unconscious. And by the way, if you’re not a victim, then you’re a part of the oppressor group. You must repent. I’m not surprised that exists in the culture, because that’s what Adam said. I mean, that’s how fallen people react. They don’t take responsibility, they just blame somebody else; and they’re perfectly happy to blame God.

When MacArthur makes light of the suffering of real people, it makes his assurances of concern for them ring hollow. Also in this sermon,  he said:

That is not to say that we’re not to love people and live justly, and care for them, and minister to the people who have been treated unfairly and unkindly and mercilessly; we are as Christians. Of course, we are. We are to be known by our love, love to one another and love to the whole world. And we are to be as Christ was to them, caring for them, meeting their needs, ministering to them, loving them. That is a result of salvation. The question is, “Is the social gospel a part of the saving gospel, or is caring for people a result of the gospel?”

I submit you can’t minister to people who have been treated unfairly if, at the same time, you dismiss them or make light of their situation. Part of living justly and treating people fairly is taking them seriously. Ridiculing, belittling, and minimizing the reality of their situation and status in society does not communicate love and concern.

In fact, there is no real conflict between the actual gospel and social justice. African-American pastor Terrance Jones certainly doesn’t believe there is. He attended The Master’s Seminary and is candid about what he experienced at the school. I will leave it to readers to determine the meaning of what Jones shared in his most recent post:

Placement is a unique hallmark of The Master’s Seminary. Not only do they train you to be a pastor, they also serve as a bridge between graduates and churches/ministries around the world. Churches can upload their information and available positions, while students can upload their résumé as they near graduation. When I was a student, the seminary boasted of having a 90% placement rate. This meant that within 6 months of graduating a student could expect to find a staff position within a church/ministry somewhere or enroll in another degree program. What wasn’t discussed with African American students was that we were a part of the 10% that could not be placed in a ministry position. I put my head together with faculty and admissions staff members to figure out the numbers. We determined that by the time I graduated in 2011 the school had only facilitated the placement of approximately 3 African American students in 25 years. According to people connected to TMS since 2011, not much has changed.

The rationale given to me as to why this problem existed was, “black churches don’t want sound doctrine.” What??? Black people do not have a monopoly on bad theology. I can think of several heretics of different ethnicities.

What is it that is keeping those placement rates depressed? Is it the gospel? Surely not! What else could it be?*

After all of this, let me advocate for intentional efforts to right wrongs when we see them. This shouldn’t be controversial or require a dissertation to justify it. When we see a wrong, we need to speak out about it, even if that wrong is being perpetrated or overlooked by people in our tribe, political or religious. Where we disagree about what’s wrong, let’s talk about it like we’re in this together, because whatever you think about the afterlife, we are here now.

*I asked Terrance Jones about how many black students attended the seminary during that time frame and he said about 50. He had reliable information that none had been placed from 2015-2018. Of course, if the school has an official statement on the subject, I would be happy to include it here.

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19 thoughts on “John MacArthur: Victims are Everywhere”

  1. I am sorry this happened to you. I am a white senior citizen female who uses a powerchair (I’m also a service-connected disabled veteran), but I was kicked out of the car of the man who organized John MacArthur’s 2013 “Strange Fire” conference (Travis Allen), who is now pastor of Grace (less) church in Greeley, CO, after he invited me to Easter dinner with his family, because I refused to deny that Jesus came to me in a glorious, amazing dream as I emerged from suffering severe trauma in my teens.
    Afterward, the widow of the church accused me of “digging up things on John MacArthur” when I informed her of the bullying, fear and intimidation I’d discovered happens at TMS (one man told me he was kicked in the shins by a counselor for wanting to leave), and for the nepotism I’d discovered, as well as the fact that everyone has to agree with JMac. However, she now has to eat her words, because TMS and TMUS are NOW on academic probation for those VERY issues. Nevertheless, it embarrasses me as a Christian that white churches don’t like black people in ministry, and you have my sympathy.

  2. It seems that this is more than just a sermon series. Apparently MacArthur is spearheading some new effort to tamp out social justice concerns once and for all in the evangelical church, issuing a statement that has garnered a few thousand signatures already. It’s this year’s Nashville Statement and every bit as misguided.


    They released this on September 4, and given the news from Washington I think it got buried.

  3. Why would it be hard to find an African American man a job pastoring in a white church if he truly cares about sound doctrine? Churches that teach sound doctrine shouldn’t care about the skin colour of their pastor, but the words that come out of his mouth.

    And if there is a lack of solid, bible teaching churches among the black community, perhaps some need to be planted. What an opportunity missed.

  4. One site reports that MacArthur is worth over $12 mil. We have inverted the real Gospel preached by Jesus Himself. Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to sell everything and give it to the poor and follow Him. Now we have many men who started out in life not being rich at all, but make themselves rich $elling their personal brand of “go$pel” with modern media and books. They claim they are all selling “the real gospel” but their actions are the opposite of what certain scriptures plainly state. The real Jesus spoke about how hard it is for any rich man to get into heaven. (Matt. 19:23-26) According to His own words it takes a miracle that only God could provide. If eternity is real and lasts forever and is a treasure worth selling everything in this life in order to obtain,(Matt. 13:44) then why would any Christian who has once read these scriptures want to put that in jeopardy by making it require a miracle for them to get in? This makes far less sense when the businessman has degrees from seminaries and is supposedly an expert on what Jesus taught. The thought of “blessing” these celebrities by buying their books and donating towards their mansions and fancy cars also makes no logical sense to me. It looks like we are actually cursing them for eternity by making it even harder for them to get in.

    1. I was devastated to learn that during the years I actually GAVE $100 on autopay to GTY, its staff built a $2 million dollar mansion glorifying John MacArthur, and featuring the first editions of his books. I also gave generously AND sacrificially to a man in “ministry” once, only to find out he had lived in a beautiful mansion, with spa, jacuzzi, heated floors and touchless faucets. Something died inside me then, but the lesson I learned was that God MEANT what He said in 1 John 4:1, “Do NOT believe every spirit, but TEST the spirits to see whether they are of God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

  5. “equal social privilege, equal finances or equal resources. And if you don’t have those rights and you don’t have those opportunities the society is, by nature, unjust.”
    John MacArthur is quite simply, lying about what comprises social justice. The term is a mirror for what Jesus implored his disciple to do for those they served, and lived with in their time.
    It’s a facile lie often told by conservatives, that social justice means taking away someone else’s money- just so someone (who doesn’t work for it) can get money. Not only does that strike fear into the hearts of those who already struggle- because their meager substance will be nabbed away- but the lie serves to divide one slightly less victimized person in the system from another more victimized person coping with an economy that by default is stacked against the needy, the elderly, the sick.
    No wonder MacArthur idolizes “Orange Leader”. The president* is , so far, masterful at turning one group against another- and diverting momentum toward justice into theocratic pursuit.

  6. “…MacArthur doesn’t speak well of victims, except when he does.”

    It seems that MacArthur wants to be the one to say who is a ‘real’ victim, and who is not. Further, it seems he wants to “love” and “be as Christ” to those he has chosen as worthy in a way that conveys his own magnanimity. At the risk of falling under his disapproval and ridicule, I’d say his approach smacks of a (white) saviour complex, rather than Christ-like care and compassion.

  7. The rationale given to me as to why this problem existed was, “black churches don’t want sound doctrine.” What??? Black people do not have a monopoly on bad theology. I can think of several heretics of different ethnicities.

    This is damning to me in another way, it implies that the only job for a black pastor is in a black church. That white people don’t want to hear about the lord from a person of color. That assumption (and possible truth) is incredibly damning of this brand of Christianity.

  8. Thank you Dr. Throckmorton. It is quite telling that in 2018 you have to spell out and spoon-feed the most elementary-level understanding of The Greatest Commandment to such a nationally prominent evangelical broadcaster, author, and seminary/college president.

    John MacArthur and his U.S. White Evangelical supporters are helpful in that they display the mirror opposite of what Jesus taught. MacArthur has only Bad News to offer the oppressed, the poor, the excluded, and erased.

  9. Micro-aggressions are real, and they can be extremely debilitating when they happen to you over and over again. I was just listening to NPR in the car, and they were interviewing two middle-aged black pastors who had broken down on their way home from a fishing trip. A cop pulled over while they were waiting for a tow truck, but instead of assisting them, he proceeded to act aggressive and suspicious, demand to see the passenger’s ID (not constitutional), and even stuck an abandoned vehicle sticker on their car.

    Now, nothing happened because the pastors kept their cool, but one can only imagine what could have happened if they had let themselves be provoked and gotten angry (and rightfully so). Actually, we don’t have to imagine, because it happens all the time — and people have died.

    The pastors raised a couple of recent examples — the black kid selling lemonade in a neighborhood getting the cops called on them, two kids on a campus tour getting the campus cops called on them, and so on.

    Sermon or not, MacArthur’s mockery is nothing more than typical right-wing hackery.

  10. To me, the subtext of the economic portion of this (and the message is strongly skewed toward economic resentment) is “social justice = socialism = horrors!” It is a lot of words meant to reinforce the anger at “takers” and moochers. And it’s one step removed from “they want it all without doing anything to earn it.” Which is BS, but it’s what a lot of his audience wants to believe, I’ll wager.

    All propagandists do this, of course. They willfully distort and misrepresent the position of people seeking justice in a manner calculated to assure the audience that they needn’t do anything, because these lazy moneygrubbers want their stuff. And it is profoundly racist in context.

    Bouncing around various progressive websites, I have yet to see anyone claiming that “social justice” means demanding “equal finances,” which is at the bottom of MacArthur’s message. (Almost the entire foundation of modern Republicanism is grounded in the pursuit of profit without accountability for equality of opportunity.) Religion in the form of the prosperity gospel becomes a rationalization for doing nothing about those less fortunate. “Don’t have money? God must not like you!”

    Nothing in what MacArthur is saying reflects any real insight whatsoever into the forces that still keep a permanent underclass in the country. Worse, nothing he says reflects the slightest desire to engage with them.

    “All who die under the judgment of God die for their own sin and not somebody else’s.” How is this different from “It’s not my fault”?

    1. Yeah, the “equal finances” remark is nothing more than typical dishonesty made by someone more interested in politics than the truth. Only full blown communists believe in such a thing, and they are a vanishing breed in the US, and have been for decades.

      Socialists are not communists, they at the left-end of the spectrum of social democracy. My parents are socialists, and have never advocated for “equal finances” and have always sought to improve their own lives and those of their children through hard work, sacrifice, and making smart choices, not through demands for government handouts. None of which is incompatible with believing that the system should give the disadvantaged a helping hand where necessary. They didn’t criticize me for getting a well paid job at a major corporation, and nor did they criticize my siblings for creating their own successful companies and making a lot of money as a result.

      1. There are a lot of people who rely on people like this not only for their ideology and theology, but also for their “facts.” Thus they come to believe such nonsense as Scandanavian countries being socialist “hellholes” under siege from swarthy invaders (i.e., Syrians, at the moment). Yet we don’t hear of widespread discontent from the citizens of those countries, who not only seem satisfied with their governmental systems but also with their level of economic security.

        Right now we have refugee crises seemingly everywhere: Venezuela, Syria, Bangladesh. To their credit, most European nations have accepted the burden of these influxes of foreigners. To be sure, there has been some resistance and grumbling, and a little violence. But on the whole, Europeans of nations like Norway, Denmark, the UK and France, to name just a few, understand that these people are just people, and their flight is not their fault. Their values trump their greed and resentment.

        Over here, it’s very much a “Hurray for me, and screw you Jack!” mentality which is the inevitable consequence of treasuring money and acquisition over human decency and charity.

        I thought they wanted a “Christian nation.” I guess redefinition comes first.

    2. A lot of this is argument by labels. You’re exactly right, he’s trying to equate social justice to socialism, which I’m sure he knows most of his audience probably already has a negative opinion about because it’s been demonized by the GOP for decades. It’s a favorite boogie man of theirs and much was made of Republicans of Obama being a scary socialist. And just to drive the point home for those not clued in, he has to poison the well by claiming socialists want to take all your hard earned money. Never mind that every Democracy *in the world* has elements of socialism in it.

      His definition of victimization is also insulting. Claiming that only “victim groups”, ie minorities, can speak and that the more minority boxes you check, the louder your voice. The implication, of course, is that poor white Christian men are being being marginalized. If only we could pray that they had some form of elected representation someday, perhaps one day even as much as 80% of Congress. Oh wait, that’s now.

      And it sounds like he’s saying, if you were a victim of “microaggression”, a term I would bet good money he doesn’t understand, then you just not say anything. Someone treats *you* like dirt, but you shouldn’t say anything because you wouldn’t want someone to think you are a “victim”. I think it’s clear which is worse in MacArthur’s mind, the victim or the aggressor. The other implication here is that these “victim groups” are hyper-sensitive so any victimization they describe must therefore be illusory. It’s not exactly clear how MacArthur thinks things will change if no one speaks up.

      1. It is a bundle of rationalizations for dismissing grievances, and assurances designed to communicate that “there’s nothing to see here” whenever an actual victim rears his or her head.

  11. What’s always struck me about ministries gathered around the name “Grace”, Grace Community Church, Grace To You, etc. is just how little Grace is shown and how oblivious to that fact JM seems to be.

    1. I call “Grace to You” (Grace to WHO?). But seriously, go on, and look up Grace church near Greeley CO, to read what one of John MacArthur’s “hench men” did to ME on Easter Sunday–this man is ALSO the man who organized John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. I’m no longer a Conservative Baptist, but rather a non-denominational Christian.

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