Saturday, October 27, 2012

John MacArthur - The Love of God

A few years ago I wrote a commentary on John MacArthur's book, The Love of God - He Will Do Whatever It Takes To Make Us Holy. This book is riddled with contradictory statements such that I could not possibly recommend it as a guide to understanding the love of God. Indeed, why on earth would someone promote a book that purports to help a man understand the love of God, when the book itself rests on irrationalism? That is a very straightforward indictment. So much so that it may at once raise the hackles of any MacArthurite. As always, we would ask that one examine our analysis of MacArthur's teaching in light of the scriptures before coming to any conclusion.

MacArthur's book sets out to reconcile the following "biblical" precepts:
  1. God loves all men.
  2. Salvation is based on the love of God.
  3. The saving love of God cannot fail.
  4. Salvation is all of God.
  5. God hates the wicked.
  6. God must punish sin.
  7. Hell is a reality and some people end up there.
It does not take much examination to conclude that these precepts cannot be logically reconciled with one another.  To draw that problem out explicitly:

IF God's love covers all men, cannot fail, and is the basis of salvation,
THEN all will be saved, and no one will end up in hell.

MacArthur's proposed solution to this dilemma is to posit that God has two kids of love:
  1. Saving Love for the Elect - this is the love which provides salvation for his chosen people.  It is limited to the elect family of God only, and ensures that they will live in glory with God.

  2. Non-Saving Love for All of Humanity - this is the love that God has for every member of the human race.  It is not a saving love.
The following matrix demonstrates some of the attributes that MacArthur ascribes to each of these two loves of God:

Those accepting the premise of this book should be made to see an unavoidable logical consequence of this teaching.  Namely that MacArthur's "two loves" theology undermines the well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity upon which his entire ministry finds its unsound footing.  Consider the following:
  1. Can a love defined by the attributes in the second column EVER form the basis of a well meant offer of salvation to all of humanity?  Clearly not.  While MacArthur's universal love extends to all of mankind, this love is not a saving love and any offer of salvation extended on the basis of an admittedly non-saving love is the very height of insincerity.

  2. To what extent does any man's salvation depend on the love defined by the attributes of column two?  To no extent whatsoever.  The love of column two does not save and thus no man's salvation is dependent upon it.

  3. Can a love defined by the attributes in the first column EVER form the basis of a well meant offer of salvation to all of humanity?  Clearly not.  While this love provides saving efficacy, it does not cover all of humanity, and thus any offer of salvation extended outside the elect family of God is insincere.

  4. Which of these two loves fits MacArthur's description of a love that "will do whatever it takes to make us holy?" Only the love of God for his elect.  
It follows that MacArthur's "universal love of God" has absolutely nothing to do with the salvation of God's people. After having gone a long way around the block to describe a God that loves everybody, and attempting to make this rational by positing two types of love, MacArthur ends up hog-tied by his own definitions which neither support his beloved well-meant offer nor his soteriology.  Far from reconciling the "difficult issue" of the love of God, MacArthur actually defeats his own Well-Meant-Offer-ism by the very definitions he provides.  

MacArthur's "two-loves of God" theology will not even support the claims made in the book's title.  If the love of God "will do whatever it takes to make us holy" and God loves everybody, then everybody will be made holy and all will be saved.  Clearly this is not the case because the love of God does NOT do whatever it takes to make all men holy (Matthew 25:41). We would recommend the following more accurate titles for MacArthur's work:
  • God Loves You: But God Sends a Lot of People He Loves to Hell.
  • The Two Loves of God:  The Saving Kind and the Burning Kind.
  • The Love of God:  He Will Do Whatever It Takes to Make Us Holy, unless whatever it takes is loving us all with the saving kind of love, he won't do that.
The NeoCalvinists are quite fond of stating that "the atonement is sufficient for all but efficient for the elect," and MacArthur's tome is no doubt some attempt at supporting that common, irrational mantra.  We feel however that it is important to underscore that if the atonement of Christ is the result of God's love, and is the sole basis of salvation, and some are not saved, then the atonement is NOT sufficient for all, for want of saving love. We would invite all those who have openly embraced "sufficient-but-efficient," Calminian theology to consider the abject irrationalism of the MacArthurite position.

The truth be known, God does not love all of humanity.
  • He hated Esau. (Romans 9:16)
  • He hates the foolish and all workers of iniquity. (Psalm 5:5)
  • He hates the wicked and him that loveth violence. (Psalm 11:5)
To this many will say, "But all have sinned!  If you believe that, you believe that God hates everybody!" To which we can only reply, "Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." (Psalm 32:2) Thankfully, God's people have a PERFECT intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ, who took our punishment, who imputes his righteousness to us, who perfected us before God's throne by his one offering (Hebrews 10:14), who obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12), who made us righteous before the throne of God by his one obedience (Romans 5:19). 

And so the gospel is most certainly NOT a well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity - neither could it be by MacArthur's own definitions. Rather, the gospel tells the elect family of God about the perfect intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf wherein they can find peace with God and rest for their souls.  

The love of God is love for the sheep.

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