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What Does John MacArthur Believe?

What Does John MacArthur Believe?


Calvinism in MacArthur’s Theology

John MacArthur, a prominent figure in evangelical Christianity, is known for his deep commitment to Calvinism, a theological framework rooted in the teachings of John Calvin. This perspective emphasizes the sovereignty of God in salvation, particularly in the doctrines of election and predestination. Ephesians 1:4-5 is often cited in this context, highlighting God’s predestined plan for believers. MacArthur’s Calvinism is further elucidated through the doctrines of grace, encapsulated in the acronym TULIP: Total Depravity (the belief that every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin, as seen in Romans 3:10-12), Unconditional Election (the concept that God’s choice of individuals for salvation is based on His will alone, exemplified in Romans 8:29-30), Limited Atonement (the teaching that Christ’s sacrificial death was intended specifically for the elect, as suggested in John 10:11), Irresistible Grace (the idea that those chosen by God will inevitably come to faith, supported by John 6:37), and Perseverance of the Saints (the belief that true believers will maintain their faith throughout their lives, as indicated in Philippians 1:6).

MacArthur’s teachings frequently emphasize the absolute authority and sovereignty of God (Psalm 115:3) and human inability to achieve salvation without divine grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). He argues that understanding and accepting these principles are crucial for a correct interpretation of the Christian faith. In his sermons and writings, MacArthur consistently points to Scripture as the definitive guide for understanding God’s plan for salvation and the nature of the Christian walk, advocating for a humble submission to God’s will as revealed in the Bible.


Cessationism and the Spiritual Gifts

Cessationism, the belief that certain spiritual gifts ceased with the apostolic age, is a central component of John MacArthur’s theological stance. This perspective is grounded in the view that miraculous gifts, such as speaking in tongues and prophecy, were primarily intended for the foundational period of the church. MacArthur interprets 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 as indicating the cessation of these gifts with the closure of the apostolic era. He argues that these gifts served to authenticate the apostles’ ministry (2 Corinthians 12:12) and to facilitate the revelation of new scripture (Hebrews 2:3-4), both of which were specific to the early church.

MacArthur emphasizes the completion of the biblical canon and the established nature of the church as reasons for the cessation of certain gifts. However, he acknowledges the ongoing role of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers, including the Spirit’s work in regeneration, sanctification, and equipping believers for ministry through other, non-miraculous gifts (Romans 12:6-8). His teachings often caution against the excesses and theological errors he perceives in the charismatic movement, advocating instead for a sober, scripturally grounded understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work in the contemporary church.

Premillennial Dispensationalism and “Leaky Dispensationalism”

John MacArthur, while identifying as a dispensationalist, adopts a unique stance he describes as “leaky dispensationalism.” In his works “The Gospel According to Jesus” and “The Gospel According to the Apostles,” MacArthur upholds the fundamental dispensational distinction between the Church and Israel but does not consistently apply this distinction in the same way as normative dispensationalists​​. He has criticized aspects of traditional dispensationalism, particularly its tendency to excessively compartmentalize biblical truths, creating unbiblical differentiations between concepts like the church and the kingdom, or faith and repentance​​.

MacArthur defines his version of dispensationalism as focusing primarily on the separation of the church and Israel, indicating a narrower scope than traditional dispensationalism, which encompasses broader theological concepts​​. His position has led him to align more closely with non-dispensationalists, particularly in matters of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), as he becomes more entrenched in Lordship Salvation, a view emphasizing the necessity of acknowledging Christ’s lordship as part of true faith​​.

In summary, MacArthur’s “leaky dispensationalism” represents a modified form of dispensationalism, primarily distinguishing between the church and Israel while critiquing and moving away from other traditional dispensationalist distinctions and interpretations.

Non-Adherence to Historic Confessions

John MacArthur, while deeply influenced by historic Protestant theology, does not align himself with traditional confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith or the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. His approach is characterized by a strong emphasis on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, as evidenced in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. MacArthur advocates for a direct engagement with the Bible, placing it above all human documents and creeds in guiding faith and practice.

This non-confessional stance does not imply a disregard for historical theology but rather a prioritization of biblical text in theological formulation. MacArthur encourages believers to emulate the Bereans (Acts 17:11), who were commended for diligently examining the Scriptures to verify the teachings they received. He believes that every doctrine and practice should be tested against the clear teaching of the Bible. This approach emphasizes personal study and understanding of Scripture, asserting its inerrancy and sufficiency in all matters of faith and life (Psalm 19:7-11). MacArthur’s stance reflects a commitment to a biblicentric faith, where tradition and confessions, while respected, are secondary to the authority of Scripture.


John MacArthur’s theological perspectives are marked by a firm commitment to the authority of Scripture and a focus on the sovereignty of God in salvation. His adherence to Calvinism, cessationism, premillennial dispensationalism, and a non-confessional approach, all underscore his dedication to a biblically grounded, evangelical faith.

Read More

  1. “The Gospel According to Jesus” by John MacArthur – This book offers a deep dive into MacArthur’s understanding of salvation and lordship, emphasizing the necessity of acknowledging Christ’s authority in conjunction with faith.
  2. “Strange Fire” by John MacArthur – In this book, MacArthur explores the theme of cessationism and critically examines the charismatic movement, grounding his arguments in scriptural analysis.

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