Calling "Men of Faith" to Account

Updated from a 2013 post. Because it has only gotten worse since then.

**

I once had a scheduled engagement on a podcast show that I had to shift because of planning problems. In the week prior to that, though, I had some emails from a Christian who expressed concern because the host had certain Catholic leanings.


I told the emailer that if he wanted to make a case to me, vague accusation was not enough; he had to prove his point, and also prove that there was a real problem with the doctrines the host accepted. Cordially, the writer replied asking if I would be willing to check out some material written by some “men of faith” on the subject.


Oh boy.


After this long (and to this day) I know well enough that “men of faith” tends to mean, “some loudmouth with inadequate credentials and a holier than thou attitude.” And I was right: The writer recommended works by Dave Hunt, John MacArthur, and James White.


My doings with White, and why I don’t consider him particularly reliable (compared to serious scholars, that is), are well known, and I will not reiterate them here. One thing I will add is that there is more I have learned lately about White’s inability to re-examine his prior conclusions which make me even less inclined to trust him.


It isn’t good to speak ill of the dead, so I’ll just say about Hunt for now that while Seduction of Christianity was okay, things went downhill from there, especially with reference to his end times material.


As for MacArthur…I am far from enamored with his scholarship. I now have even less reason to be. Back in 2013, I was "hired on” to put together a rebuttal to a rather execrable YouTube series called The FUEL Project: Know Your Enemy. It is ostensibly Christian, but promotes a lot of that paranoid New World Order/Catholic Church is the Antichrist nonsense, the latter of which is informed by the even more execrable book The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop. This book from the 19th century is the Christian version of Acharya S’ Christ Conspiracy, and contains just as much bad scholarship per page. FUEL's series consists, frankly, of one error after another, as the creator apparently did little more than copy and paste from conspiracy websites without checking their claims, in many cases I have found simply doing so word for word (without always crediting the source, either -- which is plagiarism).


Thanks to my work on that project, the email writer’s note got me thinking. I knew MacArthur had written some screeds against Catholicism before, and now I wondered if he had ever recommended The Two Babylons.  Here is the text of an interview with MacArthur for his Grace to You program, where a caller (also named John) dialed in.

JOHN: Hi, my name is John. I have this book on Babylon Mystery Religion by Ralph Woodrow and I just wanted to ask you what you thought of it and is Christmas derived from paganism and is the cross derived from paganism?

JOHN MACARTHUR: Well, I'm not sure, who published, what's the publisher of that book, John?

JOHN: He published it himself.

JOHN MACARTHUR: Okay. Basic principle: Be careful of books that are published by the guy who wrote them (laughter).

JOHN: Uh-huh.

JOHN MACARTHUR: You just have to be discerning. Usually, when a man publishes his own material, it is either because no one else will publish it or because it is...it is too volatile or argumentative or there's no audience for it or it's not right or something. Now, basically speaking, I believe that he's right on many of those issues. Much of modern Christendom is a result of paganism. There's no question about that.

After giving a list of supposed examples, MacArthur closes:

But, yes, there's no question about the fact that the systems of Babylon have been superimposed upon Christianity. There's no question about that so, insofar as he brings that issue. There's another book that's very helpful called The Two Babylons Hyslop, H-Y-S-L-O-P. Also, a very, very helpful book.

This interview result is hilarious for a few reasons, not the least of which is that MacArthur doesn’t even spell Hislop’s name right. A second amusement is the irony in the caller’s original question about Woodrow. Woodrow did indeed write such a book, which was essentially a précis using Hislop as a major source. But he later wrote a contrary book in which he disavowed his findings in Babylon Mystery Religion, having found that Hislop’s book was historically unreliable. Woodrow also wrote an article for the Christian Research Journal on the same subject. 

The third hilarity is the irony of MacArthur saying we have to be “discerning” when he ends up recommending garbage like The Two Babylons.

I’d like to say that MacArthur isn’t doing this anymore; this interview did apparently take place back in the 70s or so. But indications are he hasn’t learned. As late as 2001, in his book The God Who Loves, there is a footnote recommending The Two Babylons, saying it offers “abundant historical evidence that the Babylonian religion founded by Nimrod is the basis for virtually all subsequent false religious systems.” One can readily see him asking, as he did of Calvin and Spurgeon, “Who can improve on Hislop?”

I can only hope MacArthur has learned in his lesson about Hislop in the past several years. He probably hasn’t. But whether he has or not, it’s high time so-called “men of faith” were held to account for this sort of incompetence. If I had my way, MacArthur would have been stripped of his pastoral credentials and his media outlets back when he first recommended Hislop’s Slop, and would not have been allowed to get them back until he had 1) apologized in the same venues for recommending it and 2) taken remedial courses in church history. He then would have been barred from writing books on any serious subject for the duration, unless they had been fully vetted by a board of credentialed scholars. His recommend of Hislop shows that he can’t be trusted to do it on his own…and we can say the same of far too many “men of faith” publishing their nonsense today. (Another such example: Erwin Lutzer’s horrible book on Adolf Hitler.)


It’s a fair complaint that we need to get our own house in order before we straighten the furniture in others’ houses.

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