John MacArthur’s Story About MLK Jr.’s Assassination and Evil Insinuations

For many years, John MacArthur has told a story about the night Martin Luther King, Jr. died. Although the details vary slightly with the telling, the summary is that he, John Perkins and some other civil rights leaders traveled from Jackson, MS to Memphis, TN the night MLK was murdered. They went to the Lorraine Motel and stood where King was killed. They also went to the nearby boarding house where James Earl Ray carried out the shooting.

A February 2019 investigative report filed in the online NOQ Reports questioned MacArthur’s story via the testimony of civil rights leader Charles Evers. MacArthur named Evers as one of the civil rights leaders present in Jackson that night and implied that Evers went with the group to Memphis. Evers denied knowing MacArthur and denied going to Memphis with him or anyone the night King was murdered. In fact, news accounts of the day make it improbable that Evers could have made that trip.

One crucial eyewitness who has remained silent is civil rights icon John Perkins. Perkins was with MacArthur in Mississippi that night and MacArthur has indicated that they were together for the trip. Perkins did not speak on the record for the NOQ Reports article and declined to speak directly to me. However, he did authorize his daughter Deborah Perkins to speak for his Foundation about the issue. Deborah Perkins told me in a March phone interview that Charles Evers’ denial of MacArthur’s story was correct. I also interviewed Evers who told me that he didn’t go to Memphis that night. My summary of those two interviews was as follows:

In summary, when John Perkins’ representative had the chance to confirm John MacArthur’s story, she declined to comment; then she spontaneously affirmed the accuracy of the person who said it wasn’t true. This is what I can offer at this time. What it means is surely in the eye of the beholder.

Now comes Brent Detwiler who has taken just about everything written on this subject and compiled it into a lengthy article which he says is the most important one he’s ever written. If interested in this subject, it is worth reviewing since it brings together what has been written and adds some new correspondence.

Did I Make Effort to Talk to Perkins?

My point with this post is to comment on one small aspect of that correspondence from Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, the ministry of John MacArthur. Johnson appears to act as MacArthur’s public voice. At least on this matter, Johnson has been doing that. In an email attributed to Johnson, Johnson says the following to Detwiler:

My original challenge to Mr. Throckmorton stands for you: If you seriously want to investigate John MacArthur’s account, you need to ask John Perkins one simple question—namely, “Is it true that you went with John MacArthur to the Lorraine Motel in the wake of the MLK assassination?”  Throckmorton made no attempt to get an answer to that question, but published a piece full of evil insinuations anyway—to his own embarrassment.

Here is the background for this paragraph. In prior correspondence, Johnson suggested that I contact Perkins with the question: “Is it true that you went with John MacArthur to the Lorraine Motel in the wake of the MLK assassination?” I told him at that time that I had already contacted John Perkins through Perkins’ website. I wanted to ask Perkins this exact question. Knowing that MacArthur and Perkins were friends, I asked Johnson if he had more direct contact information. I did not get a reply to this question.

And so Johnson’s assertion to Detwiler is not true. I asked Perkins via his Foundation if he had accompanied John MacArthur to Memphis in the wake of MLK’s assassination. Perkins himself did not reply, but a representative from his foundation did and said that someone from the foundation would reply after they talked to Dr. Perkins following his return from a business trip. In addition, they wanted me to submit examples of articles that I had published in the past. I then heard from a representative that Perkins Foundation co-president Deborah Perkins would talk to me after her father returned. The results of that interview are reported here.

In fact, I made significant efforts to get an answer to that question and Johnson knows it because we discussed it via email. Despite the fact that Deborah Perkins is John Perkins’ daughter, the co-president of the Foundation, and spoke as a representative of the Perkins Foundation, Johnson called Deborah Perkins’ answer “hearsay.”

Furthermore, my article contained very little in the way of insinuation, evil or otherwise. I wrote:

I asked for response or comment from Johnson and Rev. MacArthur (through Johnson) but they didn’t response by the time I published this. I will be happy to add any response they offer.

Without a lengthier interview with Dr. Perkins, I still don’t know in detail what happened that night or if there was ever a trip to Memphis (within a week, a month?). Perhaps everybody involved has a fuzzy memory for the events of the time.

In summary, when John Perkins’ representative had the chance to confirm John MacArthur’s story, she declined to comment; then she spontaneously affirmed the accuracy of the person who said it wasn’t true. This is what I can offer at this time. What it means is surely in the eye of the beholder.

It is perplexing to me how Mr. Johnson can get an “evil insinuation” out of this. It is also simply wrong — and I believe Mr. Johnson should correct his statement now that it is public — that I made no effort to contact Perkins. I did, and I still hope to hear Dr. Perkins personal statement about what he did the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I believe his daughter spoke officially and with the authority given to her by her father, but there are those who will only heed something from Dr. Perkins himself.

39 thoughts on “John MacArthur’s Story About MLK Jr.’s Assassination and Evil Insinuations”

  1. John MacArthur is one exceedingly greedy, lying, self-serving enemy of the Holy Spirit! He and his false profit here Mr. Johnson are just of the same attitude and spirit as the deluded Sons of the Devil that Jesus called out with the Pharisees. They are religious hypocrites extraordinaire. These white washed septic tanks who claim to represent the living Jesus while living a lifestyle that is just the opposite of Jesus are certainly as much destined for hell as their biblical counterparts were. Being rich and popular are not things that Jesus ever said were good. Just the opposite. I expect to see absolutely zero “Christian” self-made millionaires who made their money off of their “charities” that they created in heaven. Their father is a liar and they represent Jesus absolutely not at all!

      1. John MacArthur and Phil Johnson are entirely responsible for their own self-serving, deplorable theology. Mr Jesperson is not to blame, and your failed attempt to derail is noted.

        1. They are responsible for their theology. Whether or not it is self-serving and deplorable can only be judged by comparing it to Scripture. However, that was not the point at all. The point is that Mr Jesperson’s is responsible for his judgmental fundamentalism and attacks on other people.

          1. Yes, blame the mirror for reflecting something that makes you uncomfortable. Sure, it’s all the mirror’s fault…

          2. Huh? I am not uncomfortable in the least. I have no idea what this comment is even about.

          3. Yes, blame the mirror for reflecting something that makes you uncomfortable. Sure, it’s all the mirror’s fault…

      2. I guess Jesus was too! This is what he said about men who use God to enrich themselves and are pure hypocrites,

        “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi[b] by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.[c] And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

        “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.[d] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell[e] as yourselves.

        “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

        “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

        “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

        “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

        “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,[f] whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

        Lament over Jerusalem

        “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

        You refer to the scriptures below as if you actually believe all of them. We live in an age of post-modern philosophy which does logical card-stacking to warp Jesus into who we want Him to be, instead of who He is. There is no defending what these greedy liars actually do. I am including Mr. Johnson here because he lied about Warren actually has said. This is a trait of the Evil One, not anything related to the real Jesus. The real Jesus despised men like these and, because God does not change, still does.

        1. I am not defending what they do. You can tell that from what I said. As I said, we can judge them by the Scriptures. My point was about your judgmentalism. You see, typically, folks like you accuse people like MacArthur of being too narrow minded and judgmental. As it (almost always) turns out, folks like you are just as judgmental and hateful. You just don’t see it because you (like they) think you are right.

          You see most people don’t mind judgmentalism at all. They just think it should be their judgment.

          So you completely missed the point.

          1. Jesus made a point of going after the religious leaders of the day for the burdens they placed on the poor and disadvantage. He wasn’t out harassing prostitutes, tax collectors and other notorious sinners. Instead, Jesus showed them compassion as he encouraged them to follow a better way of “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” John MacArthur, and the thousands of men who fill pulpits in his (MacArthur’s) image don’t follow Jesus in this. Instead, they protect their preacher buddies from all sorts of heinous deeds while harassing pew peons for being wretched sinners and not living up to *their* high standards. It’s a complete reversal of what Jesus did.

            And, frankly, if people are doing heinous things, like covering up rapes at Master’s University or telling women in the pews at Grace Community Church that they can’t divorce their physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive husbands (yes, MacArthur does this), then yeah, calling them out is a good thing. Because MacArthur is doing what Jesus criticized his religious leaders for, see Matthew 23. He is *scathing*.

          2. As I said, both Jesus and the Prophets were judgmental from your perspective. We are order by the Scriptures to judge with righteous judgment. (Duet. 16:18, John 7:24, John 8:15, Luke 12:57) Your blanket condemnation of judgment is much more directed at the likes of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist then me. They called these people “snakes” and I gladly will imitate Jesus by calling them snakes too. Your logic is inconsistent for you are surely judging me in what you say every bit as much as you claim I am wickedly calling them out. I suggest you go look in the mirror at yourself. A Christlike attitude is not what I see, but rather an attitude that forbids all forms of righteous judgment from anyone else, except you and your judgment which is very unChristlike. There is no excuse for their behavior and lies, and we are called to watch for false teachers. We will know them by their fruits like greed and lying.

          3. It’s a rare occasion, but I have to agree with you. If it is a case of judging someone by their own beliefs, then LT fails. Then again, his entire discourse here has a foundation of passive-aggressiveness, which is basically just hatred presented under deception.

          4. No, I have never said anything of the sort. I am not bothered by judgment. We have to judge in order to be obedient. I am perfectly fine with it. We have to judge by a proper standard–righteous judgment–and we have to be willing to be judged by the same standard that we judge others. But there is nothing wrong with judgment in principle. But I said nothing about any of that.

            I was pointing out the humor and irony of your post: You seem the type who is bothered by the fundamentalistic judgment of MacArthur and yet, like so many who complain about it, you have no problem doing it.

            I think it is fine to do it, though I am not sure your judgment is righteous. But that wasn’t my point at all. My point is the humor that so many who hate judgmental fundamentalists are judgmental fundamentatlists. They simply have different fundamentals. But the mindset is the same.

          5. Again, you ignore the scriptures and Jesus Himself and are simply doing what you are claiming me to be doing. You are every bit as judgmental as anyone else. By your logic, you should be laughing at yourself and questioning the righteousness of what you are writing. I am certainly willing to be judged by Jesus’ standard. I have not lied nor have I attempted to rip off sheep for monetary gain. Again, you would be the one laughing at Jesus for the words I posted because He has such questionable judgment. You have the markings of someone who cannot look at the mirror to see a hypocrite looking back and that is troubling…

          6. What have I ignored in the Scriptures? I agree with the words of Jesus. False teachers should be judged publicly and strong words are no problem. Perhaps you have simply misread.

            Yes I have judged you. As I said, I don’t have a problem with judgment. We have to to be obedient. I don’t know if you have lied. I think what you have said here is misleading, but that’s not a lie necessarily. You could simply be wrong. Being wrong and lying are not the same thing.

            I don’t know that you have not ripped off sheep for monetary gain. I have no reason to think you have, nor any reason to think MacArthur has. I don’t know that that charge has ever been credibly leveled against him, but perhaps it has. I would have to see some sort of argument for that.

            You will find me to be a honest conversation partner who picks words carefully even if we disagree. So please use my actual words to demonstrate your point. Don’t assume things. Many have done that here and found out it doesn’t work with me.

  2. published a piece full of evil insinuations…

    Apparently profiting from a lie is fine, but calling attention to the fact is evil. Oh the irony of MacArthur having a ministry named “Grace to You.” And only slightly OT, but is it not disturbing for anyone to become filthy rich from their work in ministry? It seems a fundamental conflict of interest at the very least. It is one thing to oversee large amounts of money being used for the good of the needy, but quite another to amass huge personal wealth. If you want to do that, build a better widget – don’t preach the Gospel.

    1. This is a keeper: It is one thing to oversee large amounts of money being used for the good of the needy, but quite another to amass huge personal wealth. If you want to do that, build a better widget – don’t preach the Gospel.

      1. Thanks. The real tragedy is that we don’t even have public accountability anymore to know clearly which they are doing. A healthy, truly Christlike Church in this country would be an incredibly positive thing. What we have now is worthy of a mention in the book of Revelation – an incredibly negative thing.

  3. Warren,

    In your questions, did you ask of either Perkins or Evers:

    “did you ever visit the Lorraine Motel? and if so, was MacArthur there?”

  4. Poor Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, searching for “evil insinuations” where they are nowhere to be found.

    The only embarrassment here is Phil Johnson. Unsurprising that he would attempt to defend John MacArthur who was just forced to step down as President of Master’s University, as the institution he founded remains on probation and close to losing its accreditation due to blatant mismanagement, naked cronyism, complete lack of transparency (and honesty), academic bullying, and other forms of workplace misconduct.

  5. So the most important article Brent has ever written is about a 50+ year old story that may have been inaccurately represented by a man with 50 years of faithful preaching and ministering? Clearly Brent doesn’t have much of a life. If he thinks this is anywhere close to SGM and the events there, he is an indication of just how little evangelicalism cares about the importance of sexual abuse. It boggles the mind of any thinking person that these two (SGM sex abuse scandal and Storytime with Pastor John) are even remotely close in significance. To use this to call for MacArthur’s disgraceful exit from ministry is the worst kind of fundamentalism and power plays.

    I think MacArthur is using the story to gain “street cred” which he doesn’t need. It is a dumb story to tell, particularly for someone who has spent years preaching the Bible. He should stick with that. He has done it just fine.

    1. Nope. John MacArthur is using the story to bolster the credibility of his racist, sexist and anti-LGBTQ “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.” If John MacArthur is teaching the Gospel, count me out. I’d rather stick with Jesus and “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

      1. I haven’t seen any argue that the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel is any of those things. But that’s irrelevant. The point was Brent Detwiler’s claim that seriously downplays the sex abuse in SGM. This is a nonstory compared to that .

        MacArthur is teaching the gospel, so if you are counted out, that won’t end well for you. The mindset today that there is only one way to address race is the fundamentalist mindset that so many rejected. “My way or the highway” is a bad way unless you have verses of Scripture to back it up.

        There is more than one way to address race and racial problems. The sooner we acknowledge that, the sooner we can have a robust discussion about what the relative advantages and disadvantages are of each way.

        1. You claim there is more than one way to address race and racial problems, yet you appear to be entirely unaware that there is more than one way to understand and teach the gospel. Isn’t the gospel whatever each person reads into it?

          1. I don’t think you want to beat your head against that particular brick wall of doctrine with him.

          2. I am unclear what you mean by “understand” and “teach” so there might be more than one way to teach it (e.g., public message, private conversation, book, letter, email, etc.). There is more than one way to understand it, though that is a rather unfortunate and awkward way to put it. It is better to talk perhaps of facets of the gospel (e.g., redemption, expiation, propitiation).

            But the gospel is most certainly not whatever each person reads into it. It is the good news that God became man, lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death, rose again, was seen by over 500 people, and is returning in glory as a victorious king to destroy evil and reign in righteousness. There are many implications of that, but only one understanding of it.

            But none of that applies here. Surely we can all agree there is a race problem while disagreeing about the exact nature of it, cause of it, and solution for it.

      2. Thank you for the helpful corrective to LT’s (willful?) misunderstanding. MacArthur alone is responsible for MacArthur’s disgraceful theology. No amount of attempted obfuscation will obscure what is true.

        1. What is the misunderstanding? I think we agree that MacArthur is responsible for his teaching. Whether or not it is disgraceful can only be determined by comparing it to Scripture. But that discussion would have to be had. You probably understand why we don’t just take your word for it, right?

    2. MacArthur lies about street cred, which is insignificant, but he was a truth teller of the bible for 50 years. Weird how he would lie over something so dumb when he was supposedly such a man above reproach. Or maybe he is a typical old famous preacher who has gotten away with selling bs to people for decades and he can’t help himself by making it seem that he did something that he didn’t to get more worship from his followers.

  6. There are a couple of things I find interesting about MacArthur’s assertions regarding MLK Jr.’s assassination.

    1) Brent Detwiler says that MacArthur only started talking about this in 2007, which is 39 years after King was assassinated. Why?

    2) The other thing I find interesting about this is how MacArthur is using his alleged closeness to King to push his “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.” I’m going to be honest–I find a lot of the affirmations and denials in the statement to be repellent. This is because I do not see the Bible as the end all and be all of life, the universe and everything. (However, to be clear, I take the texts that make up the Bible VERY seriously. It’s hard not to when someone’s thwacking you over the head with said texts.

    Just as a side note, I would point out that one of the initial signers of the statement is one James White, who is head of an apologetics ministry and recently installed as a pastor/elder at a church near my house (*conflict of interest statement*-I picket the church every Sunday because they teach their children that women should be executed for getting abortions.) Mr. White posted what can only be described *at best* as a completely clueless statement about black women and abortion a week ago, one that indicates to me that the guy is a stone racist. Especially since he’s doubled and tripled down on it. *shrug* I’ll take it up with him tomorrow. Here’s the link…one that I can’t look at because White blocked me years ago claiming I was a “totalitarian.” Again, *shrug*.

    Here’s another Twitter link where White goes off on California telling employers they can’t discriminate against “natural” hair. Again James White demonstrates what I would call racism by failing to understand that black women have been told their natural hair isn’t good enough and that in order to be employed or go to the right elementary and high schools, they have to use treatments and straightening to make their hair like that of white people.

    1. John MacArthur and his defenders, in their bubble of U.S. White Evangelicalism, don’t pause to consider that they have no legitimacy among African Americans today. MacArthur could simply turn to African American faculty & students at Master’s University and account for their own experiences now, in the present. But he does not, as such experiences contradict MacArthur’s delusional gospel of self-worship.

    2. So in other words, MacArthur is exploiting a relationship he didn’t have to give credence to the rightly controversial Social Justice statement that could only have been written by white men. Thanks, mirele! I couldn’t see where he was going with the story and now I feel almost blinded by the light.

    3. I am constantly amazed by the ignorance of the comments suggesting that the only injury to African Americans was ended 160 years ago. As if abject slavery weren’t enough, we used institutional social ostracism, the law and personal violence to oppress them en mass for over a century after slavery was ended. To this day we have plenty who try to maintain the spirit, if not the reality of those days. I heard a couple of people babbling about this in public just the other day. Their attitude towards African Americans would have fit nicely 100 years ago.

      It is convenient for the oppressor to be able to think that all is in the past, but for the oppressed that is just one more injury. Perhaps it is also the last straw.

Comments are closed.