John MacArthur continues to astound me. Maintaining an audience from those in many denominations, having the gift of writing clearly, and possessing an unyielding determination to convey the truth of Scripture, a book on Paul (from him) sounds like something we may need. But I’m afraid John MacArthur’s newest release falls flat, and for someone as seasoned as MacArthur, the standard is set high. The Gospel According to Paul offers nothing new but rather regurgitates what we already know: MacArthur is Reformed, MacArthur is right, and all others are wrong. And that he hates seeker-sensitive churches as well as charismatics/Pentecostals. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s what I liked about The Gospel According to Paul.
It’s Full of “Tweetable” Lines
Many phrases contained within really can ‘preach.’ There’s an abundance of “quotalicious” (a word I’ve just been introduced to) material within.
A Un-wavered Commitment to What the Bible Says
A particular section I did enjoy can be found in the the Appendix section where MacArthur “takes on” open theists and their views on atonement.
MacArthur is relentless in trying to let Scripture speak for itself. I don’t agree with all the exegesis provided, but his spirit in this regard is admirable; all Christians should take it upon themselves (I think) to become biblically literate, and allow texts room to “breathe” rather than suffocating texts into subordination under us.
Now here’s what I don’t like…
My biggest beef with this new release is how MacArthur is in attack mode throughout its entirety, so much so that he remarks of C.S. Lewis that he “was no theologian” (p. 151) and writes of how miracles don’t happen since there is never any documentation (he would do well to read the fairly recent and fully-documented two volume Miracles by NT scholar Craig Keener).
There were times when MacArthur would go from exegeting a text to critiquing a type of Christian when no real connection between the two was even established. This, to me, evidences that it is ingrained in MacArthur to criticize certain “types” of Christians no matter the conversation! If someone is talking to MacArthur about the sky being sunny, I’m sure he won’t blurt out “Pentecostals are heretics!” and then carry on with the conversation as if somehow a sunny sky and Pentecostals are related. And yet that’s what happens (strangely) on a few pages here.
MacArthur shouldn’t bend over backwards to tell us which groups of Christian he cannot stand simply because the world already knows how MacArthur feels about certain groups of Christians; he’s made himself abundantly clear. He has “invested” (I would say wasted) far too much money on conferences through which he informs us that those who speak in tongues are occultic weirdos, may be demon-possessed, don’t contribute to the world’s well-being in any way, shape, or form, and are likely not even Christians. I had hopes that perhaps this new book wouldn’t continue in the ridiculous spirit now associated with MacArthur of unfairness based on illogical conclusions. But I’m afraid that’s not at all the case.
If you’re a MacArthur fan then you may enjoy the book. It will tell you what you can already access from his interviews and strange theology evidenced in his Strange Fire conference. It will tell some what they want to hear and will at times attack others from camps even when the conversation is unrelated. It will glorify Reformed thought above other streams of Christians thought. If you’re not a MacArthur fan then this book may irritate you. If you’re not Reformed, even more so.
For me, MacArthur here proves to be far too one-sided, out to get non-Reformed folks, bias, dogmatic, and the list can go on. I had really hoped this not be the case as we need another book on Paul from someone like MacArthur who knows his Bible, is a capable exegete, writes accessibly, and is highly influential. And yet John MacArthur seems to be his own stumbling block. As has been noted by others, for having a ministry called Grace To You , it’s ironic that through the years John MacArthur is becoming more and more grace-less.
On a side note, I was disappointed by the lack of footnotes. (Perhaps to some this is a relief.) At the same time, there are three Appendixes where MacArthur goes a little further in depth on some key issues.
*I received my copy from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest assessment