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I Disagree With John MacArthur’s Statements On Christianity And War

Posted by Job on July 20, 2008

I find his statements on the matter disappointing to the point of being disturbing.


21 Responses to “I Disagree With John MacArthur’s Statements On Christianity And War”

  1. A nation going to war if the cause is just is a good thing. (The details of a “just cause” are the real sticking point for debate.)

    John MacArthur used all the wrong citations from scripture, to try and support his viewpoint though. (If the Roman Catholics actually read the Bible, they could have eaten John’s lunch with the verses he cited. And honestly John’s effort at exegesis was really bad eisegesis.) Romans 13 authorizes government use of the sword for a just cause in removing evil.

  2. Coram Deo said


    Could you explain which “statements on the matter” that you find to be “disappointing to the point of being disturbing”? Maybe it should be obvious to me, but unfortunately it isn’t.

    Please understand that I’m by no means trolling for trouble, on the contrary I’m genuinely puzzled by MacArthur’s comments in the video above in light of his comments on the allegedly sinful nature of the American Revolutionary War which you can listen to here.

    The sound byte comments under discussion in the audio linked above are evidently taken from and expounded upon in more detail in his book “A Tale of Two Brothers” which I’ve not read.

    Now I think John MacArthur is a fine theologian and one of the most godly and thorough Bible expositors living today, but at the end of the day men are still men so we shouldn’t be surprised if we discover personal foibles that we disagree upon from time to time.

    I’ve been personally shocked in the last day or so over comments from John Piper claiming that Jesus Christ was damned on the cross so maybe I’m not too put off by the incomparably less controversial comments made by MacArthur.

    In Christ,

  3. Job said

    Coram Deo:

    The truth is that I find no New Testament justification for warfare whatsoever. Scripture quite honestly does not speak to the matter. (That is why though I do not agree with pacifism, I generally do not give them a hard time.) So, Christians have to tread very lightly and carefully when building the case for war, and except for MAYBE in generalities, try to keep theistic arguments out of it. The best definition I have ever heard for war is “war is politics by other means.” In general terms, wars are secular activities whose goals and effects are not to advance the kingdom of heaven save for the fact that God uses them in His divine providence. That really is the only way to apply any consistent standard … to pretend as if there is any spiritual difference between a modern war fought by heavily Christian America and a long forgotten conflict fought between two animist South American or African tribes that probably do not even exist anymore in the 1200s. We are in fact in the world even though we are not of it, so we do have to take part in secular activities, with the most prominent example being our having to work and participate in an economy and advance the goals of our respective workplaces in order to earn a living for our families and support our ministries (and yes where we work is a part of God’s providence).

    We can perhaps use ethics, values, etc. derived from Christianity to lend support to certain conflicts. However, we CAN and SHOULD ALSO use those same ethics, values, etc. to DENY support to certain conflicts INCLUDING when our government engages in them! But that is it. The use of scripture in doing so – even Old Testament scripture – will inevitably mean taking scripture out of its intended context and distorting its meaning. That was why IC, who disagrees with me quite often on the warfare issue, stated “John MacArthur used all the wrong citations from scripture, to try and support his viewpoint though.”

  4. Job said


    John MacArthur used all the wrong citations from scripture, to try and support his viewpoint though.”

    As you can tell from my reply to Coram Deo and our previous conversations on the subject, I honestly doubt that there are better scriptures that can be used to make his point. Warfare is a state issue, and Christianity was never intended to be used to govern state affairs. Nor does the advancement of any particular state advance the kingdom of heaven. Christianity – and all scripture pertaining to it – governs the church. This is not to say that a Christian president, general, soldier, etc. cannot obey the Bible in the course of deciding to take and executing military action. A country can defend itself if attacked, and I agree with stepping in to prevent genocide (though we have to admit that our government NEVER does so unless there are ulterior motives on the line as there were in both World War II and Bosnia) but apart from that I do not see the justification, and even in those two cases I would be extremely hesitant to quote scripture as part of my case. Taking the essentially libertarian viewpoint that war is just another tool of the state used to achieve and advance the purposes of the state makes most military conflicts – along with most other government actions beyond providing law and order – difficult to defend from a Biblical standpoint. Doing otherwise would have the effect of “Christianizing” a secular state and actions that will naturally reflect the fallen character of a worldly institution in a world governed by Satan and has rejected and is in open defiance against Jesus Christ and will have to be judged, defeated, subdued, and ruled by this same Christ with a rod of iron upon His return.

  5. Coram Deo said


    I don’t find myself in disagreement with your general sentiments – in fact I posted a fairly lengthy article on the subject of secular government and Christianity over at Absolute Dominion last June called Just Passing Through. I’m currently contemplating a piece with the working title “Christian Nationalism” that will explore how the sinfully corrupted American culture has infiltrated and stained the garments of the broader professing church which ought to be separated from the world.

    If you have any spare time I’d appreciate it if you might consider reading through the piece linked above and offering your feedback. The same goes for you, IC.

    In Him,

  6. Devon said

    I have to agree that MacArther didn’t do a good job here either…but hey..we all have off days…

    On this particular issue, defending the Iraq war from a Secular or Sacred pov is tough….I can see why Christians are on both sides of the issue…..

    Fighting against Hitler and Stalin and Slavery are absolutely Just causes so that from a Christian pov is easily defensible….the Iraq war….well there is a lotta of grey here to say the least…tough call to be sure.

  7. Coram Deo,

    Regarding the American Revolutionary war. The little spoken of historical secret, is that the Revolutionary war was not actually about “Religious Freedom”. They were already allowed to colonize in America for such and were not being intruded upon in regards to their religious beliefs. The American Revolutionary war was really about MONEY. The kind of war warned about in James 4. George Washington and others were up to their necks in debt, to the English for the various goods they enjoyed buying from Europe. Their credit was running way higher than they could repay. (Even with their little subsidy, to supposedly lower the cost of labor, SLAVERY.) War was a perfect means to eliminate their debts. All the “freedom” talk was spun in, to gain support for the war. It really was a war waged by men up to their necks in debt, who realized the same system of CREDIT THAT WE USE TODAY IN AMERICA drains the people dry! (Those founding fathers were very much against the methods of credit at crazy interest rates used today in America.) Why do you think they got so ticked over a new TAX on tea, but you don’t see record of riots about being forced to attend a certain church? A good book, that is a bit more honest than most, His Excellency: George Washington. You know most of the “founding fathers” were not really firm believing Christians, their motives were not in regards to any claim of faith, but you’ve got to politicize war in a manner that gains the most support from the masses.

    Regarding Piper saying Jesus was “damned”, perhaps he was speaking in the following context, given he did clearly say the damnation occurred at the cross?

    2 Corinthians 5:21 (New American Standard Bible)

    21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    Christ did cry out about the Father having to forsake him for a moment.

    Matthew 27:46 (New American Standard Bible)

    46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

    And also keep in mind the following:

    Galatians 3:13 (New American Standard Bible)

    13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”–

    If Piper said “perfectly cursed” instead of “perfectly damned” would that be a problem? We were to be cursed and Christ took our place, can you better explain for me the issue of concern with Piper using the term “damned”, when we deserved to be? Perhaps there is something I’m missing here. I’m asking you in sincerity.

  8. Oh and Devon, if George Washington had enough military left after the Revolutionary War, taking over Canada was NEXT. If not for the expense in money and manpower in fighting the British, they would have headed to your neck of the woods once they finished off the red coats. Same book I mentioned above is a good reference.

    Oh yea, they wanted Canada to have that supposed “religious freedom” too 😆 ….

    But hey, I know most people don’t know these things, so I understand when some talk about this stuff not knowing the “rest of the story”.

  9. Devon said

    Quite frankly IC, a lotta of Westerners out here in Canada would prefer an American takeover just so we could get away from much hated Ottawa and its socialist stupidity…

    Trust me..if the day ever arrives and American troops march into the oil rich province of Alberta, a good portion of Albertans will be cheering you on and the other half will be to lazy and apathetic to care…

    Seriously, as long as any invading force doesn’t mess with our Hockey TV and the deliver of Molson, most Canadians couldn’t care a less…that speaks sadly to our lack of decent priorties in our dangerously increasingly secular nation!!

    Anyways…keep up these history posts for me…incredibly as it seems as for one like myself that is so Pro American, I have never committed myself to a deep study of your nation…I mean, I know about all the bad stuff..Jim Crow, Segregation down south, the treatement of the average black person , the treatment of the natives and some hispanics…but that is only a small part of the American experience…their is so much more for me learn!

    Take care

  10. I sometimes wonder if an approach of “in the world not of the world” is the best approach when it comes to war. WWII for example was a case when the United States was indeed fighting evil in Germany and Japan and as a Christian I would have served if drafted (as I would do today). But my basis would not be that I believe one war is a just war and the other is not. What is the criteria for determining this division? I would just serve because of Romans 13 and that is it.

  11. Seeking Disciple,

    If something is unjust and we knowingly participate, that would not be a good thing.

    Just war – An outside nation is trying to destroy your nation’s population. Something of this sort is in line with Romans 13 and addressing evil by the sword.

    Unjust war – Christians are not supposed to engage in wars for greed.

    James 4:1-2 (New American Standard Bible)

    1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

    2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.

    Interestingly enough, that spins back to a bit of American history. The Christian Quakers were pure pacifists. They refused to fight in the American Revolutionary war, not because of any awareness of the profit motives involved, but because they simply didn’t fight. Those same Christian Quakers went on to press against slavery, pressing George Washington and others after him to end the practice. Then they got involved with the Republican Party and we know the rest. (Slavery ended later, after a very bloody war. A war in which Lincoln was trying NOT to use it as a means to end slavery and ended up having to as a military tactic.)

  12. Job said


    “Unjust war – Christians are not supposed to engage in wars for greed.”

    Money is not everything. I also believe that Christians are not to engage in wars to spread – or defend – a particular political system or worldview. Seriously, whether we are talking about capitalism, socialism, democracy, monarchy, republic, etc. these are all just systems created by fallen man to govern himself, and usually even the order that these systems provide are primarily for the purposes of protecting and defending capital rather than human life. (Why? Because capital generates tax revenue that the government needs.)

    So, the Christians that justified and supported our wars because “they spread and promote democracy and freedom” don’t have a leg to stand on.

    Seeking Disciple:

    The “I will fight if drafted” thing … that is really a tough area. If you reject being drafted, then you are breaking the law. If you accept being drafted but desert or are insubordinate, that is even worse. So in order to help make the Romans 13 choice for Christians clearer, we HAVE to oppose the draft. Even if there were a draft by the way … would you fight in the anti – Christ’s army? Even if you aren’t wrapping the cross in the flag, this issue is still a very tough one.

  13. Job,

    So, the Christians that justified and supported our wars because “they spread and promote democracy and freedom” don’t have a leg to stand on.

    We agree. And unfortunately it was a lesson some of us learned after a recent attempt at such. Although in Iraq, there was a sort of genocide issue. There were about 5000 a month dying while Saddam mishandled any money he received, including the money he scammed. (an article from 1998)

    Up to 5,000 children dying a month

    Mr Halliday said it was correct to draw attention to the “4,000 to 5,000 children dying unnecessarily every month due to the impact of sanctions because of the breakdown of water and sanitation, inadequate diet and the bad internal health situation”.

    While there are many deaths in Iraq even now, actually the number is way lower.

    Honestly, I’m not trying to debate if the latest Iraq war is/was good or bad, but just wanted to point out various views of what was going on.

  14. Devon said

    Well IC and is good to see that we do all agree their are wars in which a Christian can fight…a truely Just War such as fighting a Stalin or Hitler or Slavery..

    Personally, I still think we should be in the Sudan to end the Islamic Slavery there…and I think that would be a just war…also Mugube in Zimbawbe is a murdering tyrant..I would have no problem if an alliance of armies were to overthrow that scoundral…

    But certainly if we are just invading for money, no thanks…..or for other questionable causes…

  15. While invading Sudan or Zimbabwe has its merits, no commander engages in war without counting the costs. And wars such as Sudan or Zimbabwe have no definitive end game. I mean it’s not like Western forces have not assumed rule in African nations in the past and even then there was plenty of unrest.

  16. Devon said

    I know….but in these particular cases you would have the masses on your side ….certainly in the South Sudan and certainly a vast majority of Zimbawbians…..You really have to feel for these people…

    Though, like Iran, I have a feeling eventually the people themselves will rise up…that is the best solution and then we don’t have to get involved……

  17. Coram Deo said


    Thanks for the behind the scenes info on the nature of the Revolutionary War. I’ve heard similar lines of reasoning before, but to be quite frank with you I’ve never taken the time to seriously investigate the matter since I generally take a skeptical view of any of the “official” position taken by the government on any subject – mainly because it can’t be trusted to anything but destroy everything it touches.

    Regarding your comments and inquiry about John Piper’s choice of words may I gently direct you to Steve Camp’s incisive and Biblically reasoned expose on this subject over at his blog?

    Between his main post and the very thoughtful and well reasoned exchanges that take place within the comment thread I think Steve’s post represents a refreshing balance of Christian discernment and Christian charity. I walked away satisfied that “cursed” is a scriptural description of the LORD and “damned” isn’t and that there’s enough Biblical evidence that the twain are theologically as east and west simply don’t meet in the Person or atoning work of Christ Jesus.

    What may at first blush seem to be a subtle issue of parsing words I found to be – in the light of inspired scripture – a true quantum leap into the abyss theologically speaking.

    In Christ,

  18. Devon,

    I know….but in these particular cases you would have the masses on your side ….certainly in the South Sudan and certainly a vast majority of Zimbawbians…..You really have to feel for these people…

    Again, I’ll mention such a military action has it’s merits in terms of being justifiable. However, the claim were that we’d have overwhelming support in Iraq too. I don’t know if you know much about the “Blackhawk down” incident, but in that case US troops found out first hand that overwhelmingly everybody was mostly against them. Sad, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. We can say it’s because of evil brainwashing by the dictator or whatever, but the masses were against our guys and supporting Aidid. With the Sudan, the Muslims took over during the course of decades and the former government was crying for help way back then, when they really did have the greater numbers. Now its more of a Muslim stronghold. With Zimbabwe, the polls are so rigged and the people so frightened, I honestly can’t say WHAT would happen. And Mugabe got into power because of a former British hold on the area, that he led the effort to remove. Neither case has a clear end game.

    I’m not saying I “don’t” desire to see something done, I’m just saying it really could be a bigger mess than anybody knows.

  19. Coram Deo, I see your point now and agree with you. To use the term “damned” does cross a line that should not be crossed. Damnation carries with it an eternity of punishment and torment, while that’s not necessarily the case in terms of a “curse”. Christ certainly did not as heretics such as KC Price claim “suffer in hell”, so we can’t claim He was “damned”.

    I do think the author of that last link you posted (SJ Camp) goes a bit too far in one respect though. When they claim Christ was not cursed, that goes outside the context of Galatians 3:13.

  20. jesse said

    Yeah after following a Freemasons to war (Bush and his team), 1 million innocent deaths laters, that SURELY was a very christian thing to do, supporting war.

    That’s the most PATHETIC thing I ever seen, christians supporting war.

  21. jesse said

    Would you all vote for the Anti-Christ because it’s for a “noble cause” ?
    Yeah, the Anti-Christ will unite the world in peace, that’s good politics don’t you agree ?

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