Promises and Secrets

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A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.

Reckless Faith


The problem is that John MacArthur's own Grace Community Church is, by the measure of his own words in the book, one of the churches with a leader that has a lack of discernment in some major areas of his faith. Let's look at some of the statements in his book that point the finger back at himself and his own church. I think you will see how easy it is to fall into the same trap.


John MacArthur has written a book called "Reckless Faith", subtitled, "When The Church Loses Its Will To Discern". This book makes an excellent written case against pastors who not only display an astonishing lack of discernment in extremely important parts of their message, but who also encourage their congregations to follow their pattern.


Once again, John MacArthur has done an excellent job of assessing the word of God and relaying His message to the rest of us.

His book, "Reckless Faith" (1994), starts right out in the Introduction making statements on page xi that identify very clearly the nature of his focus:

Did you know that faith can actually be seriously harmful? Some varieties of faith actually lead away from the true God - substituting superstition, falsehood, or faith itself in the place of truth. Such faith inevitably leads to spiritual disaster. It is reckless faith.

Reckless faith goes to two extremes. At one end of the spectrum it looks within - relying on feelings, inner voices, fantasy, or subjective sensations. At the other extreme, it fixes hope on some external human authority - the teachings of a supreme leader, religious tradition, magisterial dogma, or some other arbitrary canon. (emphasis in original)

He then goes on to give some examples of the two extremes. However, rather than just reprint his entire book here, just remember the phrases in the box above regarding the extremes. We will refer to them later. For the purposes of this page, be aware that I completely agree with his sentiment as expressed in the book. However, we have a separation of the ways when it comes to whether he or his church is living according to the views expressed in his book.

A few examples of what we are supposed to do

On the next page, xii of the Introduction, MacArthur gives a pointed argument about how reckless faith discards any intellectual approach to understanding Scripture while it should actually embrace the Word with the mind as well as the heart. He sums this up on page xiii with the following:

God holds us accountable for what we believe as well as how we think about the truth He has revealed. All Scripture testifies to the fact that God wants us to know and understand the truth. He wants us to be wise. (emphasis in original)

This makes perfect sense and the statement agrees with the word of God.

Learn and Understand

He follows this with some well-known verses about widsom, discernment, and knowledge (Psalm 51:6
6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

, Psalm 111:10
10The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
    To him belongs eternal praise.

, Psalm 119:66
66Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
    for I trust your commands.

, Proverbs 2:2-6
2turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding -
3indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
4and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
6For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

, Proverbs 4:7
7The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

, Colossians 1:9
9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,

, Colossians 2:3
3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

, 2 Timothy 3:16
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

). Note that these are from both the Old and New Testaments. So, in MacArthur's own words, we are to believe that we should take the word of God as it is written in both testaments, follow His precepts without fail and without change.

If this is the case, then how do we reconcile reading the word for what it actually says and acting against it at the same time? Still in the introduction, on page xv he says:

Authentic spiritual discernment must begin with Scripture - revealed truth.

So, if we read it in Scripture, we follow it because it is the truth, right?

Some examples of what we are not supposed to do

One thing God makes clear to us is that we are not to mix paganism in with our worship of Him:

30and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, "How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same." 31You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:30-31)

"Mix in a little paganism here..."

Christmas is not even in the Bible - we borrowed it from the pagans and called it holy. Now, we don't burn our sons and daughters at Christmas, but we do use all the pagan symbols and artifacts. That means that we are worshiping our God in their way - the very thing discouraged in these verses. Does Grace Community Church worship God by celebrating Christmas? Try a Google search for "GTY Christmas". You will see about 429,000 results about what a great time of year it is for Grace Community Church to do what God said not to do.

Remember those two "extremes" of Reckless Faith above?

This is where we refer back to the first of the two extremes MacArthur mentioned above - "feelings, inner voices, fantasy, or subjective sensations". Since there is no mention of Christmas in the Bible, God didn't start Christmas - people did that hundreds of years after Christ died (about 300 years as you will see). The only reason we keep it is evidently because we feel that we should do something at this time of year to teach the Gentiles.

"Teach" the pagans who taught us how to disobey God?

But how will that work, since they are the ones who gave us "Christmas" in the first place? One search result from Google gives this in response to "origin of December 25":

Not just the name, but the tree, holly, mistletoe, "Christmas" carols, Santa Claus, and the actual date of their Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the unconquered sun, that's "sun" as in "the Pagan Sun god Mithra"). This link sends us to Why Christmas, where we also find out that the first recorded "Christmas" celebration was in 336 A.D. a "mere" 300 years after the death of Christ. They then go on to give all the "reasons" why we celebrate the birth of Christ today, including the fact that no one even knows the right date.

Remember to be discerning

However, this is where Mr. MacArthur's words in his book apply - use good discernment when visiting sites such as that one. They give great reasons why we know that this is a pagan holiday, but then go on to explain why it is all right to ignore God's commands not to worship Him in their way.

But wait, there's more...

Want another shocker? See the word "Natalis" in the white box above? A quick search reveals how the "church fathers" have taken a word in the generic description of the birthday of a pagan god and adopted it to mean something specific about Christ:

"We don't know the day, so let's borrow one..."

Since our "church fathers" didn't even know which day, or even month, that Christ was born, and trashed God's holy Sabbath for Sunday as early as the second century A.D., they set the stage for joining the pagans in the way they worship their gods. That doesn't sound very discerning. So, many people "reason" today that it "must" be the perfect opportunity, because "the whole world is doing it." Yep, the whole world, whether or not they actually believe in Christ, is keeping the pagan date and all the trimmings.

"Mix in a little more paganism there..."

We do the same exact thing for Easter - it's not in the Bible, we chose a time, that is not always the right time of year, to celebrate the resurrection, which we were never rold to celebrate, and we borrowed the whole concept of Easter from the pagans with all symbols and practices intact. Grace Community Church celebrates it, claiming it is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

There is a reason to anticipate the Passover

Maybe it's wrong (grin), but aren't we to think of the first Sunday of the week following Passover as a celebration of the resurrection as a confirmation that we want the "angel of death" to "pass over" us, as he did with the Israelites in Egypt? Well, maybe that's just too Jewish for us - er, well, too Jewish for those who don't look at it that way. Have you thought about what it means if you don't look forward to being passed over in the final Passover?

Which day was that?

Yet Grace Community Church doesn't keep the Passover, which happened in the days right before the Resurrection and is inextricably linked to the resurrection. They keep the "idea" of the Passover meal (called "communion" or "The Lord's Supper"), and celebrate that as many times a year as they want, yet celebrate Easter with the pagans only once a year, as often as the Jews keep Passover.

When "Easter" and Passover do not coincide (as they did not in 2016 - Easter was March 27, Passover was April 22, with the resurrection day commemorated the following Sunday), the "Christian church" keeps the pagan date. The resurrection was on the first Sunday after the Passover, not the Spring equinox as much as a month earlier. The Bible never even mentions a celebration of the resurrection as a special day, but we made one up with all the pagan trimmings including the fertility symbols of eggs and bunnies.

"But, please be discerning when you mix it in..."

Finishing up just the introduction to Reckless Faith, on page xvi Macarthur says this:

This is a plea for discernment. It is a reminder that God's truth is a precious commodity that must be handled carefully - not diluted with whimsical beliefs or bound up in human traditions. When a church loses its will to discern between sound doctrine and error, between good and evil, between truth and lies, that church is doomed.

Wait, what was that conclusion? Paraphrasing, if a church is not careful and mixes paganism with Christianity, "that church is DOOMED!" (emphasis added)

"Do what I say, not as I do..."

So what are we to take away from this statement? How is their acceptance of pagan practices displaying discernment of any sort? Well, at least the pastor of Grace Community Church gives excellent written advice.

The second extreme of Reckless Faith

The second extreme that Reckless Faith uses, according to MacArthur, is "At the other extreme, it fixes hope on some external human authority - the teachings of a supreme leader, religious tradition, magisterial dogma, or some other arbitrary canon." Then he goes on to tell his readers how to cultivate discernment.

As written on page 86 of his book, all his readers have to do is to read the "distinguished" "writers from the nineteenth century" who "have left a rich legacy of written material to help us discern between truth and error". He lists writers like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. Gresham Machen, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, and earlier writers like Thomas Boston, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Calvin.

Isn't that a list of "external human authority", the second extreme of Reckless Faith?

Point to the Bible, but don't actually follow it...

Since he does point his readers to the Bible and to the Holy Spirit on page 87 as the true Discerner, why do we even need to read these other authors? Obviously, they have allowed him to walk a path different from that walked by Jesus, described by God and taught by the true Discerner. If these are the men who taught John MacArthur to discern, and he knows the talk but doesn't walk the walk, should we follow them? Following the lead of these men made him the Sabbath-breaking, pagan mixing, commandment-ignoring man that he is today. MacArthur's written advice on page 87 cautions:

Do not follow the leadership of people who are themselves "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). Find and follow leaders who display an ability to discern, to analyze and refute error, to teach the Scriptures clearly and accurately." (emphasis in original)

Well, he does the "teach the Scriptures" part correctly.

Our responsibility as Christians

After the consideration of all these deviations from the word of God, how does a Christian approach the issue? Well, Mr. MacArthur even gives us guidance on that issue. On page 60, he states:

If you see a brother sin, go to him. Confront him. Try to lift him up, build him up, strengthen him. Urge him to repent. If he refuses to repent, he must be ultimately be put out of the church. Paul said "not to even eat with such a one" (1 Cor. 5:11). This is not to suggest you should treat him like an enemy, but rather that you love him enough to seek his repentance by whatever means possible. Paul even instructed the Corinthians "to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (v. 5)

OK, let's try that

With that solution in mind, at the end of this page you will see evidence of another attempt to reason with Mr. MacArthur, not in unreasonable accusations, but in requests for Biblical explanations of his actions which seem to violate the word of God. While this approach can seem to be somewhat subjective, the same evidence given in the words of this page is presented to him as it is to all of you.

Without going further into the points made in the rest of the book, here is a list of the chapter titles:

1. The War Against Reason
2. The Rise Of Reckless Faith
3. The Biblical Formula For Discernment
4. What Are The Fundamentals Of Christianity
5. Evangelicals And Catholics Together
6. Laughing Until It Hurts
7. Looking For Truth In All The Wrong Places

Talk is cheap

While we can see the ideas behind the subjects of these chapters, it is not that we disagree with the author's written conclusions about some of the obviously radical churches that have lost the spirit of discernment. His points are direct, to the point, and essentially true. The problem is that by his own words, his church is among those following the guidance of those who do not rightly act on the discernment they show in writing. Their mixing of paganism and Christianity is the most condemning evidence, and their pastor is approving it.

Reading the Bible - or should we?

Throughout his book, Mr. MacArthur claims to carefully learn the word of God and explain it to those less fortunate and less studied. Evidence of that is clear in his writings. So, how can simple-minded sites like ours even consider questioning his actions which appear to contradict his written words? Well, on page 57 of Reckless Faith, he makes this statement:

Bible interpretation is a skill that requires rigorous training, understanding the meaning in the original languages, a working knowledge of grammar and logic, a grasp of historical settings, competence in theology, and a broad understanding of the whole of Scripture. Those who lack expertise in Greek and Hebrew must be all the more careful, checking commentaries, dictionaries, and other study helps to analyze the text as carefully as possible.

Leave it to the "brainiacs"?

So, of course we can see that in order to understand the Bible, especially when translated into English, we need to seek the help of studied men, pillars of righteousness, who would never misinterpret some passages obviously written for only those educated intellectuals to interpret and understand. Then, they can simplify the extraordinarily complex details and explain them to us masses of simple-minded individuals. Right? However, please note the lack of any Biblical references or quotes in his statement above.

"Go left, no, right, well, just ask and let me show you..."

Next, on page 110, far separated from the comment on page 57 above, speaking about identifying fundamental Christian artcles of faith in the Bible, he relates this gem:

The Fundamentals Are clear in Scripture

Second, if an article of faith is to be regarded as fundamental, it must be clearly set forth in Scripture. No "secret knowledge" or hidden truth-formula could ever qualify as a fundamental article of faith. No key is necessary to unlock the teaching of the Bible.

The truth of God is not aimed at learned intellectuals; it is simple enough for a child. "Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes" (Matt. 11:25). The Word of God is not a puzzle. It does not speak in riddles. It is not cryptic or mysterious. It is plain and obvious to those who have spiritual ears to hear. "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Ps. 19:7)


OK. My question is, which is it? Is the Bible straight-forward and easy enough for a child to understand, or so complicated that we have to leave it to the studied experts? Have you ever tried to speak out of both sides of your mouth at the same time? This kind of writing appears to make it look easy. Is the Bible clear or not clear? If you need to be a Greek and Hebrew language, history, and culture specialist, why are there no Biblical quotes in his first statement to show that? If it is written for the simple, and the Biblical references that he uses there show that it is, why do we have so many different pastors leading so many opposing faiths?

It appears that those who consider themselves the "final" authorities have all led their congregations down separate, and often opposing paths. If we have to choose between them, then we must make the decision about which "external human authority" to use, which we are told is one of the extremes of Reckless Faith. What should a good Christian do?

Just read what it says

As my wife and I began to see some time ago, reading the Bible for what it says, and not reading the "explanatory" notes in the study Bibles, gives a much clearer meaning to the Word. The only caveat is that any meaning taken should not contradict any other part of Scripture. If you think you have found a contradiction, the most likely explanation is that one of the interpretations is wrong.

That is when you need to seek outside help. However, when the help is offered, or found in your own research, be like the Bereans
11Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)

and check for a match with Scripture. The meaning is there to be understood without twisting or modification by some experts who are "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.


Taking a stand for the truth of God's word

Listen to your pastor in the sermon next Sunday, and see if you can spot any deviations from the word of God. Listen to see if the sermon speaks of "keeping the written word of God" exactly as written. Most preachers claim that this is what they do. Such a statement covers a lot of ground. While most preachers mean well, they usually cannot prove all their claims with Biblical references, or the ones they use are twisted to a new meaning.

If your pastor then speaks of the Christmas party, the Easter Egg hunt, or the BBQ Pork ribs at the church picnic, check with the Bible to see if you can find any references to those in there. If you do, it is certain that the references will be negative regarding the practice of God's people - unless, that is, you are not one of God's people. Are you trusting your pastor's discernment, or checking him out as the Bereans
11Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)

did with Paul?

Confronting the hypocrisy

As a final point, I have taken my major objections to the evident hypocrisy of the author and placed them in another email similar to those I have already written to the same organization in the past regarding other books by him. The mail was sent to Mr. MacArthur himself. As previous messages were routed to staff who made generic statements that encouraged me to do further research on the matters, I expect nothing less from this one. I will share the response, if there is any, on these pages. After all, I wouldn't want to be reckless about handling the issue.

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