Monday, October 10, 2011

Matthew Lankford: "The Idolatry of John MacArthur"

My friend Matthew Lankford has posted a new video in which he addresses John MacArthur's position on images.

One thing I like is that while Matthew responds firmly to MacArthur's position, he also shows (quoting from MacArthur himself) that this should be a matter of consistency for MacArthur, rather than being a matter of a fundamental change.

-TurretinFan

57 comments:

Steve Drake said...

TurretinFan,
I'm not sure what your friend Matthew Lankford is hoping to accomplish here. A public rebuke of MacArthur's supposed position on the 2nd commandment, or a self-aggrandisement of his (Lankford's) strict intepretation of how this is played out in the 21st century? I don't begrudge Lankford's right to call out an inconsistency he sees in another Christian; we should all be happy to receive the loving arrows of 'loved ones' in the faith, but whether there is true merit here for his rebuke.

Steve Drake said...

TurretinFan,
Lankford is calling MacArthur, in Lankford's own words to an, "exhortation to repentance', and further states MacArthur is in 'very serious error'. Pretty heady stuff, don't you think?

Francis Turretin said...

I agree with Lankford that MacArthur is in error on this point.

Francis Turretin said...

I think we should probably take Lankford at his word. He's trying to get MacArthur to be consistent and Biblical.

Steve Drake said...

Are you sure Lankford understands MacArthur's complete position on this? I'm not one for saying that youth can't question the old and gray, but the video does not give any qualifications for Lankford, (has he been to seminary, what are his qualifications?), and yet MacArthur has years of Biblical exegesis, published works that are amenable to scrutiny, and long years of study and preaching in the pulpit. What does Lankford have?

Francis Turretin said...

1) Yes, if it comes down to who has better credentials, I guess MacArthur wins.

2) Of course, that's not really how we Christians settle doctrinal issues.

3) MacArthur and his numerous fans are welcome to try to clarify MacArthur's position if Lankford has misrepresented it.

4) Lankford has, however, provided evidence of having carefully considered MacArthur's position on this subject. He cites the evidence he relies on. You know this, I suppose, since you watched the video.

Steve Drake said...

I did watch the video. 3 times. I notice you didn't answer my question about Lankford and whether he's been to seminary or what his credentials are? I guess since you refuse to answer me I can 'google' him. Again, I'm not questioning his right to make his accusation, but really, can you not find someone of MacArthur's credentials to criticize MacArthur?

Francis Turretin said...

Mr. Drake,

I tried to address your ad hominem tangent with (1) and (2) above. Perhaps you didn't understand where I was going with that. Lankford's credentials aren't really a matter that should enter into the conversation.

Nevertheless, if they should, note the credentials of those whom Lankford cited. If you won't listen to Lankford, listen to them instead (if it's really just a matter of credentials).

- TurretinFan

Steve Drake said...

TF,
I can understand you wanting to stick up for your friend. You're correct, credentials should really not play a role in the conversation. It's just that any Tom, Dick, and Harry can make a video today, claiming this, that and the other thing, supposedly claiming they know the truth, and can interpret Scripture aright, blasting the position of someone else, with no consequence. It's protected free speech. Who's gonna moniter YouTube, anyway?

Francis Turretin said...

What "consequences" would you like to see for people who criticize others?

Steve Drake said...

Wrong question.

Francis Turretin said...

What's the right question?

Steve Drake said...

Why should we trust Lankford's interpretation of Exodus 20: 4-6 versus MacArthur's interpretation of Exodus 20: 4-6?

Francis Turretin said...

The merits of their argument, I hope.

Steve Drake said...

okay, good. TF, I'm sorry, I don't know how else to address you. I guess we simply disagree then on the merits of Lankford's argument for the interpretation of Exodus 20:4-6 versus MacArthur's argument for the interpretation of Exodus 20:4-6. We're back to where we started. How do we resolve whose correct?

Steve Drake said...

correction. 'How do we resolve who's correct'?

Francis Turretin said...

The way this is normally done is that each side sets forth its case from Scripture and attempts to persuade the other from it. That's where the focus should be, on Scripture.

Steve Drake said...

Indeed brother, I like your answer. that is exactly why I come back to your blog, your focus on Scripture. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you, but may your borders continue to be enlarged as you do just that and continue to keep Scripture in the forefront of your ministry.

Natamllc said...

Steve,

pardon my intrusion? Why not you explain the issue then? How do you define the Commandment?

Exo 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Exo 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Exo 20:6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Coram Deo said...

Well done. Hopefully Dr. MacArthur will prayerfully consider Mr. Lankford's thoughtful and loving brotherly admonition.

In Christ,
CD

Fred Butler said...

Goodness. My blog subjects never end. A post is forth coming this week.

Francis Turretin said...

Oh? This should be interesting. I hope it will be a chance for us to dig deeper into the Scriptures.

Natamllc said...

Oh, by the way, for those interested. I have discovered that using your IPhone to look at this blog, when the answers narrow as they do with this new commenting box, they don't on the IPhone.

Is there another way to expand the answers out so you can read them in here when they narrow as they do in here now with this new combox process, TF?

Joshua Hicks said...

While I agree that Dr. MacArthur is in error in regards to this, I really am unsure as to why he chose Dr. MacArthur, a confessed dispensationalist and, thereby, having a much weaker view of the Law than the Westminster Confession (and LBCF 1689). I'd be more interested in someone confronting (with charity and due respect) someone like R.C. Sproul (Sr.) who intimates that purported images of Christ are acceptable, and even implies that the Westminster Standards would agree with that (which is clearly untrue, as evidenced by LC 109). The Second Commandment has certainly been left behind, I regret to say, even in professing Reformed & Presbyterian circles.

Coram Deo said...

Of course the whole argument hinges on whether or not it is sinful and wrong to depict Jesus Christ in art to begin with.

The usual argument is that such would violate the first and second commandment, to which I would ask, how exactly does it? Jesus was an historical figure. The first and second commandment have specific prohibitions in mind: the making of graven images in order to worship the image or make it a visual reputation of what it is a person worships. No one is "worshiping" such an image.

I would further ask why the decorations commanded by God to be part of the furnishings of the Tabernacle aren't a violation of the 1st and 2nd commandments if any cartoon of Jesus is.
-Fred Butler

FerronBrimstone said...

Exodus 20:2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself can idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me." (NAS)


Deutoronomy 5:8 "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath for in the water under the earth. 9 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (NAS)

The Ten Commandments clearly restrict the making and worshiping of idols but I do not see anything restricting art work. Could someone explain how you would exegete that from the text? It seems to me that if you use these texts to restrict the use of Christ's supposed image on a book or painting then you would have to restrict all art work since the commandment is to "not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath for in the water under the earth". That pretty much covers any image of anything doesn't it?

FerronBrimstone said...

I am looking for an answer from scripture. The accusation against Dr. MacArthur was idolatry. A charge as serious as this against a theologian of Dr. MacArthur's influence and stature should be made from scripture not by quoting other theologians.

Coram Deo said...

If you're seeking a prooftext that states "John MacArthur is guilty of idolatry", then I can't help you. If, however, you want to study to show yourself approved then you'll examine the articles I linked with an open Bible.

In the scheme of things Johnny (Mac) has come lately, but this is an ancient issue.

In Christ,
CD

FerronBrimstone said...

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."

I am pretty sure "the word of truth" is referring to scripture. Also take note of the word "accurately".

The Roman Catholic Church placed their traditions and forefathers above scripture, and persecuted the Saints. Don't make the same mistakes.


1 Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone")
2 Sola fide ("by faith alone")
3 Sola gratia ("by grace alone")
4 Solus Christus or Solo Christo ("Christ alone" or "through Christ alone")
5 Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone")

Francis Turretin said...

Appeals to Dr. MacArthur's influence and stature naturally call for responsive appeals to the influence and stature of much more eminent theologians like Calvin who disagree with him.

Francis Turretin said...

You've mischaracterized the argument. The argument is not that all artwork is illicit, but that all artwork purporting to be a representation of God is illicit. It's a much narrower claim and corresponds to the "making" of idols, as distinct from the worship of those idols.

Francis Turretin said...

Perhaps Mr. Lankford will provide a similar video regarding R.C. Sproul (Sr.).

FerronBrimstone said...

My characterization was of what scripture says, not what the argument is.

My argument is that you are making an accusation against a brother in Christ based on opinion and tradition rather than scripture. If you cannot backup what you are saying from scripture then his opinion and tradition is just as valid as yours and you are making a false charge against a fellow laborer in Christ. If you can make the case from scripture then your accusation deserves an answer. Opinion and tradition are subjective only scripture is objective.

Francis Turretin said...

This comment from you looks like a characterization of the argument: "if you use these texts to restrict the use of Christ's supposed image on a book or painting then you would have to restrict all art work since the commandment is to "not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath for in the water under the earth". That pretty much covers any image of anything doesn't it? "

The Scripture, however, is not directed against all images absolutely, but only against those that purport to be of God. We can deduce that from the fact that the art included representations of angels.

Joshua said...

Excellent. :) I do not say that gleefully, however, as if I'm "out for blood." Sproul seems to be one of the more popular gateway teachers from evangelical fluffdom to some Calvinistic soteriology; for that, I'm thankful. It's troubling, though, when popular teachers try to recast the WCF Framers as something they weren't (some more egregious examples being, FVists, PaedoCommunionists, etc.) I know the PCA, despite affirming the American Westminster Confession and Catechisms, doesn't make a big-to-do about purported images, but with Dr. Sproul writing publications such as "The Truths We Confess," there has to be some accountability somewhere. Not only for the good of those who read him often, but for his own good too.

FerronBrimstone said...

You can line up your Theologians, I can line up mine and we can argue about who has the best but our final appeal has to be to scripture. What happened to "Sola scriptura"?

FerronBrimstone said...

Francis Turretin,

Deutoronomy 5:8-10 (NAS)

"You shall not make for yourself an idol," (something to be worshiped)

"or any likeness of what is in heaven above" (God, Angels, sun, moon etc.)

" or on the earth beneath" (people, animals, plants etc.)

"or in the water under the earth." (Fish, sea mammals, plankton etc.)

"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me"

My point is that if you use the 2nd commandment to say Dr. MacArthur is commiting idolatry because he of the pictures on his books or the art he supports then all art is idolatry because all art contains the likeness of something in the heaven above or on the earth or in the water.

The restriction is against idols not images.

I didn't understand the reference to angels. If you are saying we cannot make images of angels, how would you view Exodus 25:18-20? The images were commanded by God, but if someone were seen worshiping them they would have been put to death.

I would agree that we should not make images of God in heaven, but I base that on God's holiness, not on this passage. I would not apply that to Jesus in human flesh because his flesh was man not God, even though Jesus was God in flesh.

Coram Deo said...

Have you read Fred Butler's post yet, TF?

In Christ,
CD

Francis Turretin said...

If you would send me the text of the post by email, I'd appreciate it. I saw that the post itself begins with an idol, and rapidly lost interest.

Coram Deo said...

Done.

ChaferDTS said...

His dispensationalism is irrelevent to the core issue here. Dispensationalist hold that 9 of the 10 commandments are reintroduced under the law of Christ. The sabbath not being restated. The disagreement is limited to the exact interpretation of the 2nd commandment itself. Dispensationalism does not have a weaker view of the law. It is a matter of how we define it through it's different forms in human history as it relates to the issue of continuity and discontinuity. That specific issue is dealt with in the book Five Views On Law And Grace that was edited by Stanley N. Gundry. There is no " single " view on the Law from the Reformed perspective with regard to it's interpretation of the WCF. The Reformed view on law is divided between the non-theonomic Reformed view and the theonomic Reformed view. All leading dispensationalist from the past and the present hold that the 2nd commandment is alive and well under the law of Moses, the law of Christ and the law of the Kingdom.

ChaferDTS said...

Hi TF. I have been very busy the past 2 weeks and I am now trying to catch up with what is going on in your blog with regard to Dr. John Mac Arthur. It appears to be related to his interpretation of Ex. 20:4 -6. In the Mac Arthur Study Bible his note on Ex. 20:46- reads The mode or fashion of worship appropriate to only one Lord forbids any attempt to represent or caricature Him by use of anything He has made. Total censure of artistic expression was not the issue; the absolute censure of idolatry and false worship was the issue. Violation would seriously affect succedding generations because the Lord demanded full and exclusive devotion, i.e. , He is a jealous God ( cf. 34:14; Deut 4:24, 5:9 ) . The worship of man-made representations was nothing less than hatred of the true God.

The question would be the following to help me understand what is going on with respect to this issue.

1. Is the image of Jesus being used in a religious context by John Mac Arthur ?
2 . Is this image of Jesus being used to worship God through being done by John Mac Arthur ?
3. Are prayers and bowing down to that image being made to Jesus through the use of that image being encouraged or done by John Mac Arthur ?

I am personally againist the use of images due to the danger of gross abuse that can be done and has been done in the past. The most extreme form of this is seen in Roman Catholicism. The danger is very real on this.

Coram Deo said...

ChaferDTS,

In response to your first question, it's virtually impossible for an image of Jesus not to be "used in a religious context". After all, what interest would Christians have in making images of Jesus were He not the Christ?

In reply to your second and third questions I would say, probably not intentionally, although it's possible that it is occurring unintentionally. Here's something to ponder (the following line of thinking is not original to me, but I’ve it adapted to this context):

1) Does an image purport to represent Jesus?
2) Is Jesus God?
3) The text of the Second Commandment forbids not only the worshiping of God by images, buheals the making of images purporting to be of God.

But for the sake of argument even granting that point #3 is incorrect, and the premise that images must be accompanied by some form of "worship" in order for a breach of the Second Commandment is correct…

4) Does one consider it religiously offensive if someone urinated/defecated upon, or otherwise committed some act of sacrilege, with an image purporting to be of “Jesus”? If so, how is one not tacitly treating said image as an object worthy of reverence/respect/honor, etc., even if one is not actually lighting candles, bowing down, or kissing it like the Romanists?

In such cases one is actually employing an image for religious purposes (imputing pious feelings/reverence/respect/honor, etc. to it), even if one is not doing it in precisely the same way a Romanist would. Therefore, even if we grant that the Second Commandment only relates to images that are “used for worship”, we’re not off the hook. Why? Because in such cases the purported “Jesus” image is still found to evoke pious feelings/reverence/respect/honor, etc. (i.e. forms of worship) in the heart, thus we still have the same basic heart problem of idolatry as the Israelites and Rominists, with the only difference being the outworkings. But as they say, “The devil is in the details!”

In Christ,
CD

Coram Deo said...

"buheals" above should have been "but also"...auto-correct, thy name be vexation!

Francis Turretin said...

As to (1), yes. It's not a secular context. We're not talking about a class photo of the class of A.D. 14 or whatever.

As to (3), no. As far as I know, MacArthur is opposed to this.

As to (2), I guess there is some ambiguity. There is no overt worship act explicitly associated with the pictures (as burning candles to it, placing it behind an altar, or the like), yet they are clearly for religious purposes. Isn't that worship as well?

Francis Turretin said...

9/10 is still weaker than 10/10 but that's really a tangent.

The point of the comment from Joshua is that we expect more from someone like Sproul.

Francis Turretin said...

I should also add that there are various views of the law in Reformed circles, but there is primarily one view of the law found in the Reformed (subordinate) standards. And specifically on this topic, there is only one Reformed view with respect to the standards.

Joshua said...

Dear ChaferDTS,

With respect to there being no "single" view on the Law from the Reformed perspective, I might say that the Westminster view is single, as the Commandments are drawn out and extrapolated in quite detail in the Westminster Larger Catechism, including LC 109. Further, the theonomic reformed view, I would argue, is not the view of the Westminster Framers, if you're referring to modern day Theonomists. The framers held a view that the judicial laws expired, excepting the use being made of the general equity of those laws (i.e. using the moral principles found in those laws). This is different from both the non-theonomic Reformed view, as well as the theonomic reformed view.

Natamllc said...

CD,

that is an excellent point! I suppose you might be referring to the artist who put a Catholic symbol in a jar and urinated in it as a way of protesting the reality that the Church is against his homosexuality?

The piety issue is a strong argument here for that reason alone, it seems to me, argues for the abolition of all religious symbols that purport to represent the views of the Living God and morality?

In the real world where the Church is the sojourner, it seems silence in this case seems to be the best argument against such piety?

ChaferDTS said...

I am well aware of the Reformed position . :) I would agree that the theonomist view is not found in the WCF but they claim it is allowed in it and appeal to unclear parts in it. But usually disregard the historical context of when it was written. My point was is the differences between those views that are presently held within those who are Reformed.

ChaferDTS said...

I agree with you TF.

ChaferDTS said...

As to # 1 I am still trying to decide on that. I am uneasy from a personal stand point of images of Jesus and of saints of God being made on anything due to my former Roman Catholic beliefs. Either way I may still have an issue on it because while Mac Arthur may have no problems with it , it will still be offensive or make those of a former Roman Catholic back ground feel very uneasy about it. And could cause a hinderance possibly. As a PastorMac Arthur should see how this is impact someone. I would see him doing something similiar to what Peter did and got rebuked by Paul for.

As to # 3 I would agree with you that Mac Arthur is opposed to it.

As to # 2 it is hard call on it being worship or not. In one book of mine there is a picture of John Calvin on it and on another a picture of John Walvoord and on another Charles Hodge without thinking much of it. But if there is a picture of Jesus there can be some question there. Since we have no real pictures of Jesus and we have no idea of what he physically looks like since we have no real paintings of him or photos. The danger of using a picture that represents Jesus does allow the possibility of dulia to take place with it. We do not know the heart of John Mac Arthur on how he exactly thinks or feels in what he has done. That is a point where Mac Arthur should say something about. I dont think he uses it to worship God or venerate it. But it could give the appearance of it which is still a problem. I still am trying to catch up with what is going on. I think I will have to watch the video several times more as I think about it. I am trying to be fair to both sides on this. I am not defending Mac Arhur but trying to find out what is going on.

Linda said...

I'm an amateur and not as well learned as the rest of you and reluctant to speak on forums where people are recondite with their comments. However I just wanted to say for what it's worth as a sister in Jesus Christ that the true evil is not really out there with pictures or symbols, it's in people's hearts-(Mat.15:19)-The Lord Jesus said so.

A picture is just a picture, an image is just an image and a symbol is just a symbol. If Christians get highly upset over images and pictures then they’ve reduced our faith.

Do not get me wrong, it's horrible and I'm totally against people bowing down to statues, images, pictures etc. Yet, isn't that really a reflection of what is inside their heart?

What kind of message are we actually sending people if we Christians were to make a stink about images and pictures anyways? That our FAITH is in those outer symbols? I should hope not but that our FAITH is in our Living dynamic Savior Jesus Christ..

Our life, our faith and our clear and precise TESTIMONY is tied to our LIVING SAVIOR "Christ IN ME the hope of glory".

How are we going to LIVE so we can point the world to the true and lasting hope that lives IN us? I believe this just sends a powerful message to the world and to other Christians who are our brothers and sisters in Christ a division that should not be. if we do reduce our faith to such trivial matters that THIS is all Christianity is about-an image a picture I ask how are we any different than Muslims being so upset by the burning of their Quran?

. What’s the difference? Muslim’s faith is reduced to outer things and all Christians who are in an uproar about another brother or sister committing Idolatry because they have a picture or image of Jesus is reducing our faith to outer things. Our faith is in a living person inside us.

Thanks for letting me post my view of concern in hopes that most importantly we would be restored to the right fellowship and relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

turretinfan said...

Linda: The second commandment, which forbids such pictures was written in stone by the very finger of God. With respect to this commandment God doesn't just say that he is "highly upset" but that he visits the inquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that him. Perhaps you should reconsider placing charges like "reduced our faith" when you realize against whom you are (unwittingly) placing them. Jesus himself said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." If you try to remove the commandments or treat them as unimportant, then you show the kind of love you have for Jesus. If all you are writing to say is that there are even bigger problems than this sin, then I certainly agree. If all you are writing to say is to emphasize the importance of faith, I agree it is important. As to your question about the Qur'an, the biggest and most crucial difference is truth. The Muslims are angry because their false god has been offended. How much more full of righteous indignation should be when the living and true God is offended? -TurretinFan

Jehovah_mekoddishkem7 said...

"With respect to this commandment God doesn't just say that he is "highly upset" but that he visits the inquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that him. Perhaps you should reconsider placing charges like "reduced our faith" when you realize against whom you are (unwittingly) placing them"

You misunderstood me and that's my fault. So I take the responsibility and blame. Forgive me of not being clear.

We do NOT by any means mitigate God's commands and our love for him. It is VERY true that when a person is born again by God that they WILL keep his commands because they DO love him. It's is by God's grace that we are saved through faith. God changes our hearts and gives us new desires that long to please him contrary to what we have before we are born again.

What I was saying with "reducing our faith" was the picture or image (in and of itself) is not wrong. God looks at our hearts and when I said people are getting all upset over pictures or images I meant that the emphasis is being placed in the wrong place. The photo, the image, the picture the statue in and of itself is not wrong. It's what we make of it in our hearts. Jesus talked about this clearly in the New Testament with the sermon on the mount. It's the attitude of our hearts. Sin is committed in our hearts and Jesus Christ raised the BAR with sin not lower it. If we "reduce" our faith in emphasizing "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"-Col.2:21 then we have FAILED to point to the HOPE of Christ IN ME the hope of glory. All we are doing at that point is teaching sinners to remain in their sins cleaned up on the outside all the way to hell. And all this does for the Christian is needlessly separate him from his relationship with his brothers and sisters which Jesus commands that we love. Jhn 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.


Col 2:21 "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?
Col 2:22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.
Col 2:23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence

That's what the Pharisees were guilty of. outward performance. They thought that being so pious on the outside was what pleased God. Yet their hearts were full of dead man's bones

So for people to get so upset over issues such as whether a person should have a photo or picture of "Jesus" is not true piety towards God.

1Cr 8:2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.
1Cr 8:3 But the man who loves God is known by God.
1 Cor.8:4b We know that an idol is (nothing at all) in the world and that there is no God but one. emphasis mine

turretinfan said...

There is an important distinction between God saying "thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth" and humans saying "do not taste [wine or whatever]."

The former is a divine ordinance, the latter is a human ordinance.

Yes, the heart attitude is very important, I agree with you about that. Also, the outward acts we do are important. We should not make images purporting to be of God, because God has told us not to.

Remember that John warns us to keep ourselves from idols. Paul's point in the verse you quoted is not the the making or using of idols is not sin, but that the idols are powerless in themselves. Paul doesn't contradict John.

-TurretinFan

Linda said...

Thanks for your kindness and letting me post on your blog.. You have a wonderful day Sir