John MacArthur on the American Revolution, Voting

Somehow, I got on the mailing list of a group called the Christian Worldview Network. I usually don’t read or listen to what it has to say, since, quite frankly, there’s a lot out there to read and listen to, and I only have so much time. But the topic today kind of grabbed me, so I made an exception.

Here’s a summary: “John MacArthur says he does not spend 5 seconds thinking about the fall 2008 election. John is not concerned at all about Obama winning. MacArthur has a view of the world that only involves the church. I think John has forgotten that God created family government, civil government and church government and Christians are to care about all three and all three are to be in harmony. Brannon’s name is brought up in an interview with MacArthur and John restates his view that America’s Founding Fathers sinned and violated New Testament principles when they founded America. John is a great theologian but a poor student of history. While we don’t disagree with MacArthur on much in this area we believe John is really embarrassing himself and damaging his credibility.” (Listen Online Now).

John MacArthur reminds me of my family members who don’t vote. They feel that the entire system is corrupt, so why bother? And, in a sense, they’re right. Virtually every politician is tied up with lobbyists in some way, shape, or form, and that makes them beholden to special interests rather than the American people.

I didn’t really like it when the Network castigated John MacArthur for not being a “worldview expert.” What exactly is a “worldview expert”? Have such “experts” actually studied how non-Christians view the world, or do they rely on hackneyed fundamentalist caricatures of non-fundamentalist positions? Quite frankly, I get a little sick of all this Christian emphasis on “worldviews.” Usually, the implication is that having a Christian “worldview” entails being a fundamentalist, right-wing Republican. Indeed, I tend to go the conservative route politically, but I can understand why there are Christian liberals. Many read the Bible and see tons of emphasis on social justice, and they think that’s a little more important than the two big issues of the Christian right: abortion and homosexuality.

On my Christian dating site, I once took this “worldview” quiz and scored less than 100%. You would’ve thought I was disagreeing with God himself! Someone asked me, “How do you feel about that?” My response was, “Look, I don’t think my worldview is unbiblical on the basis of some biased ‘test.'”

Also, as I listened to the Christian Worldview Network program, I felt that the hosts could only see one side of various issues. One of them said we need to prevent socialized medicine because that can lead to rationing, which is a slippery slope to the government euthanizing old people. I agree that this is a valid concern. But, sheesh, I’m not going to suggest for a second that the American health care system is perfect in this regard. How many people have died because American insurance companies have refused to cover operations–due to a so-called “pre-existing condition”? Government rationed health care and insurance company rationed health care both stink, in my humble opinion.

But I did develop a greater appreciation for Christian involvement in politics as I listened to the program. As one of the hosts noted, John MacArthur criticizes Christian political involvement, yet his ministry reaps the benefits of Christians struggling in that realm. Because Christians participated in the system, the FCC didn’t get to limit religious programming on Christian radio stations, which allowed John MacArthur to stay on the air. And the hosts mentioned quite a few bad things that are going on in modern-day America: California cracking down on home-schooling, even as its Senate voted to mandate pro-gay curricula in public schools (fortunately, the Governator vetoed the latter!). A homosexual is suing a Christian publishing company because one of its Bibles opposes the gay lifestyle (hopefully, all of them do). As far as these hosts are concerned, religious freedom in America is under attack! And I don’t think they’re wrong on that.

They also ripped into MacArthur because he claimed that the American Revolution was a sin. I once heard Ronald Dart of the Church of God, International say something similar: he speculated that the American Revolution violates Romans 13’s command for Christians to be subject to the governing authorities. MacArthur said that a war would be justified for the purpose of self-defense, but the British were not killing us. Plus, if we’re to revolt over taxes, why don’t we do so now? Americans are certainly over-taxed! The hosts ripped into MacArthur’s understanding of history, arguing that the British indeed did kill Americans prior to the revolution, and that we only pursued war as a last resort.

On both voting and the American Revolution, the problem is that there appears to be a difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is concerned about political issues, particularly social justice, since ancient Israel was a nation with a government. And it seems to be favorable to people who challenge and overthrow unjust rulers. Jotham opposes the tyrant Abimelech in Judges 9, Jeroboam leads Northern Israel to secede from the union over its high taxes (I Kings 11), and Judah’s religious leaders overthrow the wicked queen Athaliah (II Kings 11).

In the New Testament, however, Jesus and Paul do not seek to change the political structure. As Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36 NRSV). Jesus’ disciples were not leading a revolt against Rome, for Jesus didn’t intend to set up his kingdom in that way.

So should we vote? I Timothy 2:1-4 states:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Obviously, we’re supposed to care about government, since we as Christians want to lead quiet and peaceable lives. And the California government is hindering that when it declares that Christians can’t homeschool their children.

We’re supposed to pray, and we should remember that God wants our government officials to be saved. In the time of I Timothy, the Gospel went out into the world, so there was a chance that people in the Roman government could arrive at a knowledge of the truth. That’s one reason we should pray for our rulers: we want them to know God. Also, I wonder: maybe Jesus and Paul were not heavily involved in politics at that time because their political options were limited. We, however, have the right to vote. Shouldn’t we exercise that right to choose godly men as our leaders?

Hopefully so. The problem is that a lot of politicians are not godly. They may be fairly decent people, but they are soiled by the political process. Deuteronomy 16:19 forbids the rulers of Israel from favoring the rich over the poor in their decisions. But the American political system ensures that certain people have more influence than others, since politicians cater to the people with the big bucks.

I can vote for candidates who support life, religious liberty, and family values in their public policy positions. My dilemma is that I often find myself voting for scum just because I agree with their ideology. Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Candidates, John MacArthur, Politics, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to John MacArthur on the American Revolution, Voting

  1. Anonymous says:


    There’s a great article in the recent Harpers about Republicanism inside the beltway vis-a-vis hardworking families in Kansas.

    I’ve divorced myself to the Republican party. My interests were primarily economic; and believe me I was a card carrier. I still read the Journal and the Economist; I still read Sowell–but I can no longer trick myself into thinking that the GOP offers a more coherent and viable economic ideal.


    PS and as for my recent “welfare” comment–total government spending tops 5.1 trillion. Divide that number by 300 million, subtract the taxes you pay in gas, sales tax, etc…; and to be generous you can subtract 30% since your not in prison or committing crimes and you can determine whether you’re subsidized by wealthy patrons. (I personally think America offers you more than Stafford loans!–but maybe not as much as some politicians would like you to pay for. :))


  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Jake,

    Do you know the title of the article off-hand? It sounds like that book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?

    On how I’ve been benefitted by government, are you talking about things like roads, public schools–those sorts of things?


  3. Anonymous says:

    yes, in addition to our military, police protection, your neighbors house not spreading to yours, beggers not at your front door, etc…. everything.

    The article was something nefarious like “How Republicans stole” and talked a lot about Abramoff.



  4. James Pate says:

    But most conservatives love the military. Personally, I think there’s fat we can cut even from that.


  5. FT says:

    Hi James,

    At least Desmond Ford has a more humane outlook. He views Paul’s admonition to respect authority is not always aboslute and there is a right of revolution. I would dare to say for anyone to take Paul’s admonition as a pure absolute is a passive supporter of evil. Even the Israelite women in Egypt during the time of Moses disobeyed the decree to have their babies killed.


  6. FT says:


    I will agree with you about John MacArthur, a very brilliant theologan. A little bit legalistic for my taste. His late dad (Jack) though was a lot more hardline ultra-conservative than he is.


  7. James Pate says:

    Hi Felix.

    Yeah, probably the best New Testament example of disobedience to authority is Peter and John saying to the Jewish council, “Better to obey God than man.” I’ve not read MacArthur’s book on politics, but I heard he really limits the legitimacy of civil disobedience to a few cases–maybe spreading the Gospel is one of them. It seems as if the Old Testament takes a more active stance on opposing tyranny, on some level.


  8. Jeff says:


    I just got through listening to the audio on the Christian Worldview Network website, just before visiting your blog site and reading your article.

    This all began when someone by the screen name “Jonathan Rowe” left a comment on my blog article, John MacArthur on Biblical Authority where he stated, “Personally, I think MacArthur is much better than David Barton and Wallbuilders on this issue. And that’s precisely because MacArthur solidly teaches fundamental biblical Christianity with no compromise even when it achieves unpalatable results, such as that America’s Founders sinned by revolting against Great Britain.

    America’s key Founders were not “Christians” in a biblical, fundamental sense. And that’s an area where you get nothing but deception from Barton.”

    I disagree with this statement that the commenter made on my site.


  9. Jeff says:

    Oh, and in the comments on my blog site (see link in my last comment), I quote a paragraph from your article, and I left a link in that comment (on my site) to your article.


  10. Jonathan Rowe says:

    I am the “Jonathan Rowe” to which Jeff refers. You are all more than welcome to view and provide critical commentary on my American Creation group blog where I fervently defend my ideas with meticulous scholarship.


  11. Jonathan Rowe says:

    It’s also notable about the Worldview Weekend that John MacArthur wasn’t there to defend himself. I dare them to have on Dr. Gregg Frazer, who heads the political studies at MacArthur’s college (and who by the way defends Dr. M.’s position with meticulous scholarship and understanding of history).

    Unlike David Barton, Dr. Frazer actually has a PhD and from a reputable college, Claremont Graduate University [I have purchased his PhD thesis].

    Check out John Calvin, “On Civil Government,” Book IV, Chapter 20 of Institutes of the Christian Religion. You’ll see John MacArthur’s position on Romans 13.

    MacArthur’s position didn’t just come out of nowhere. To the contrary, before the age of Revolution, this was the traditional position in Christian orthodoxy.


  12. Jonathan Rowe says:

    I heard he really limits the legitimacy of civil disobedience to a few cases–maybe spreading the Gospel is one of them.

    This is exactly right. But MacArthur would point out that though they disobeyed government and obeyed God, they made no calls for revolt or political liberty, but rather SUBMITTED to the political tyranny and accepted the legitimacy of the civil punishment.


  13. James Pate says:

    Thanks for your comments, Jeff and Jonathan. I remember when I was at DePauw, I took a political science class, “Intro to Political Theory,” and the Professor read to us from Calvin’s Institutes. What I remember is that Calvin basically told people to put up with tyrants. And, of course, he wasn’t the only one, for Luther had that same sort of view.

    But subsequent Calvinists were more open to challenging civil authority. Cromwell comes to mind.


  14. Jonathan Rowe says:


    You remember correctly. Luther & Calvin had a position on Romans 13 that would have supported Tory England in the Revolutionary War. Yet subsequent Calvinists [no doubt motivated by experiences with bad kings] made some arguments that could be seen as justifying revolt [they probably wouldn't have used that word, but rather "resistance"] by playing Calvin's notion of "interposition" for all that it was worth.

    Rutherford of "Lex Rex" fame is the most commonly cited of these Calvinists.


  15. Scottya37 says:

    Hi James

    I just graduated from Liberty University, majored in Biblical Studies. I enjoyed your post. I really love MacArthur on most issues but I think your right about him really blowing it here, especially on the founders of America sinning!? Has he lost his mind? And your right about him on this issue being a poor student of history, the founders had a missionary mindset wanting to convert the heathen here in America. I don’t see how someone like him who places a big emphasis on missions can criticize their endeavor.

    I understand where he is coming from in not really caring if Obama wins or being overly concerned about it. But I think he goes too far. We have a responsibility as citizens to be salt in the society and make good choices. Good post though.



  16. James Pate says:

    Thanks Scott. Your founder always had my respect and admiration. I heard, however, that MacArthur has some Master’s seminary scholars who back up what he’s saying.


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