John MacArthur is a well-known Christian pastor, teacher, and author. Leading Grace Community Church for decades, he has taught the Bible to millions of people. MacArthur is known for his commitment to biblical truth and is respected in evangelical circles. This makes many people wonder what he believes.
MacArthur believes in biblical inerrancy, affirming the Bible’s faultlessness. As a Calvinist, he champions God’s sovereignty in salvation. He supports cessationism, Lordship salvation, dispensationalism, and premillennialism, affirming Christ’s return before a literal 1,000-year reign.
What is inerrancy, and how does it contrast with other views of Scripture? How do Calvinism and Arminianism compare? Why are cessationism and Lordship salvation controversial topics? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
MacArthur Believes in Biblical Inerrancy
MacArthur is a staunch advocate of biblical inerrancy, believing the Bible to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God, the sole authoritative rule of faith and practice.
|Aspect||Doctrine of Inerrancy||Opposite View|
|Definition||The doctrine of inerrancy holds that the original manuscripts of the Bible are without error and entirely true in all they affirm, including matters of faith, practice, history, and science.||While spiritually authoritative in some sense, the Bible may contain errors or inconsistencies, especially in non-spiritual matters such as history or science.|
|Biblical Interpretation||Supporters of inerrancy typically interpret the Bible literally unless the text indicates otherwise. They believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God.||The Bible is more metaphorical or symbolical, especially for problematic passages. They may see the Bible as a human document inspired by God but not free from human error.|
|Authority of the Bible||Inerrancy asserts that the Bible’s authority is absolute, as it is the word of God. It is seen as the final authority for faith and practice.||Values tradition, reason, or experience alongside the Bible as authorities for faith and practice, especially in areas where they believe the Bible might be in error.|
|Handling of Difficult Passages||Inerrantists typically seek harmonizing explanations for apparent contradictions or difficulties in the Bible, maintaining its inerrancy.||Accepts apparent contradictions or difficulties as the result of human error or cultural influence in the Bible’s formation.|
|Science and the Bible||Inerrantists often believe that the Bible’s statements about the natural world are accurate and may conflict with certain scientific theories.||The Bible has errors in its statements about the natural world, reconciling it with current scientific understanding.|
MacArthur is a Calvinist (i.e., Reformed)
MacArthur aligns with Reformed theology, or Calvinism, which includes beliefs in total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints (TULIP).
|Total Depravity||Humans are so affected by the Fall that they can’t respond to the gospel without God’s grace.||Agrees with Total Depravity but asserts that God’s prevenient grace allows humans to respond to the gospel.|
|Unconditional Election||God has chosen from eternity those whom He will bring to Himself without reference to any merit in them.||God’s election is based on His foreknowledge about who would choose Him of their own free will.|
|Limited Atonement||Christ’s atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished, meant only for the elect.||Christ’s atonement is for all but only effective for those who accept it.|
|Irresistible Grace||The call of God effectively leads to salvation for the elect and cannot be resisted.||Prevenient grace allows humans a choice, they can resist God’s call.|
|Perseverance of the Saints||Those who are truly saved will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation.||Believers have the freedom to reject God after initial faith; they can lose their salvation.|
MacArthur Rejects Continuationism
MacArthur holds a cessationist view, believing that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, like speaking in tongues and prophecy, ceased with the apostolic age.
|Definition||The belief that certain miraculous spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing, ceased with the apostolic age.||The belief that all the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament are available to the Church and can be manifested today.|
|Purpose of Miraculous Gifts||Miraculous gifts were given for the foundation of the Church and to confirm the apostolic message. They are no longer needed today.||Miraculous gifts are given for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the Church. They continue to be needed and used by God today.|
|Biblical Basis||Cites verses that suggest a distinction between apostolic and post-apostolic periods (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, Ephesians 2:20).||Cites verses that suggest the ongoing nature of spiritual gifts until Christ’s return (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:7, Acts 2:17-18).|
|Experience and Tradition||Often argues from the perspective of historical theology, noting a decrease or absence of certain gifts in church history.||Often argues from experiential evidence, noting contemporary accounts of the manifestation of spiritual gifts.|
MacArthur Champions Lordship Salvation
MacArthur strongly advocates for “Lordship salvation,” asserting that true biblical faith in Jesus Christ entails submission to Him as Lord.
|Aspect||Lordship Salvation||Free Grace|
|Definition||The belief that true faith in Jesus Christ necessarily entails submission to His lordship and results in a transformed life.||The belief that a person can accept Jesus as Savior without necessarily acknowledging Him as Lord; salvation is received by faith alone and does not necessarily result in a changed life.|
|Faith and Works||Believes good works and obedience are the necessary evidence of genuine faith. Not that works earn salvation, but they are the fruit of true faith.||Emphasizes faith alone for salvation. Good works are encouraged but seen as not guaranteed in all believers.|
|Assurance of Salvation||Assurance is often based on the evidence of a transformed life, in addition to faith in Christ.||Assurance is often based solely on one’s faith in Christ and His promise of salvation, not on personal performance or transformation.|
|Handling of Difficult Passages||Passages that seem to warn believers about the danger of apostasy or false faith (e.g., James 2, Hebrews 6) are interpreted in light of genuine faith producing good works.||These passages are often interpreted as referring to the loss of rewards in heaven, not the loss of salvation.|
Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology
MacArthur is a dispensationalist, viewing biblical history as divided by God into distinct periods or “dispensations,” each with its own administrative principles.
|Definition||The belief that God’s dealings with humanity can be divided into different periods (dispensations), each with its own administrative principles.||The belief that God has one unified plan for human history, typically articulated in terms of covenants rather than dispensations.|
|God’s Plan||God’s plan unfolds in a series of “dispensations” or stages, culminating in the millennial kingdom.||God’s plan is consistent throughout history, administered through the covenant of works, covenant of grace, and covenant of redemption.|
|Israel and the Church||A strong distinction is maintained between Israel and the Church. Promises to Israel are fulfilled literally in the future.||The Church is the continuation of Israel, inheriting the promises of Israel, which are fulfilled in Christ.|
|Interpretation of Scripture||Tends to favor a literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly prophecy.||Employs a more typological or spiritual interpretation, especially in regard to prophecy.|
|Millennial Views||Generally adopts a premillennial position, often with a pre-tribulation rapture.||May hold to amillennial or postmillennial views, typically rejecting the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture.|
MacArthur believes that the rapture of the Church will occur before the Tribulation and that Christ’s second coming will inaugurate a literal thousand-year reign on earth.
|Definition||The belief that Christ will physically return to the earth before a literal 1,000-year period of peace and righteousness, during which He will reign with His saints.||The belief that the 1,000 years mentioned in Revelation 20 is symbolic, and Christ is currently reigning spiritually in the hearts of believers, with no future earthly millennium.|
|Second Coming of Christ||Christ’s return will precede the millennium. This will be a physical, visible return.||Christ’s return will occur after the symbolic millennium. His reign is spiritual and present now among the Church.|
|Resurrection and Judgment||Teaches a resurrection of the saints at the start of the millennium, and a later resurrection of the unsaved at its end.||All people will be resurrected simultaneously at the end of this present age for final judgement.|
|Nature of the Millennium||A future, literal 1,000-year period on earth with Christ reigning.||The millennium is symbolic and refers to the present reign of Christ in the hearts of believers.|
|Current Age||We are currently in the church age, which is distinct from the coming millennial kingdom.||We are currently in the millennium, understood symbolically as Christ’s reign over his Church.|