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Opinion: MacArthur vs. Moore: Whatever happened to grace?

I am not a member of the Baptist denomination and don’t belong to the Southern Baptist Convention. Still, as one who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, who preaches the Gospel of Christ, and who wants desperately to help build God’s kingdom here on earth, I have watched with sadness and mounting frustration the recent intra-faith skirmish between two prominent Christian figures and their followers.

My life has been enriched by the sound Bible teaching of John MacArthur on more than one occasion. His ability to exposit the Scriptures and provide deep and thorough explanations of theological issues is unique and a powerful tool that God has used for great good – in my life and in the lives of so many others. MacArthur is not above mistake or error. He’s human. But his public character reveals a heart that earnestly seeks to be a faithful servant of Jesus.

The lives of several women who are close to me have been equally enriched by the ministry, writings, and teachings of Beth Moore. Her love for Christ is ever-present on her lips, and she has inspired countless other women to trust Him with their marriages, their homes, and their very lives. Moore is not above mistake or error. She’s human. But her public character reveals a heart that earnestly seeks to be a faithful servant of Jesus.

That’s why when radio host Todd Friel played a word-association game with John MacArthur at a recent conference, throwing out the name of Beth Moore, I winced. Even before MacArthur gave his controversial two-word dismissal of Moore – “go home” – I was cringing because there was nothing Biblical nor beneficial about this kind of approach. I’m not sure why Friel pursued it, and I’m even less sure why MacArthur indulged it.

I’m certainly not feigning ignorance about the legitimate concerns MacArthur and others raise about Moore’s claims of direct personal revelation from Christ, and about her alleged disobedience to Scriptural counsel against women in the pulpit. While I maintain the highest respect for New Testament scholar NT Wright who argues that the full testimony of New Covenant Christianity supports women preaching and leading churches, Paul’s explicit statements in 1 Timothy and in Titus can’t be quickly dismissed by someone who believes all Scripture is God-breathed. Kevin DeYoung’s treatment of the subject, for example, is thorough and compelling.

Asking Moore to clarify where she stands on this topic is not inappropriate or misogynistic.  Moore markets her ministry towards women and has not pursued a full-time pulpit position, but she has unquestionably admitted preaching to mixed audiences in corporate worship on certain occasions (like Mothers’ Day). Assuming she doesn’t see such acts as disobedient to Scripture, asking her Biblical justification in light of Paul’s instruction is hardly offensive.

We believers should find Biblical examination, deliberation, and debate exhilarating and productive. Spurring one another on to a better appreciation and love for God’s Word is worthwhile and mutually edifying for all believers. But sadly, that’s not what happened here. Not even close.

This video, and the subsequent firestorm that was unleashed on social media, splashed the worst of JMac’s army and the “BethHive” all over the internet. A watching world of unbelievers learned from the former that Beth Moore is a tool of Satan, and they learned from the latter that JMac is a misogynist pig.  How is any of this helpful to the cause of Christ?

As I watched it all unfold, one question continued to surface in my mind: whatever happened to grace?

If Moore has violated the prohibitions God articulated in Scripture, it means she is in error and should repent. It does not mean she is outside of Christ. If MacArthur has spoken truth without love, and thus reduced himself to little more than a resounding gong on this issue, it means he is in error and should repent. It does not mean he is outside of Christ.

I’m reminded of the well-intentioned disciples of Jesus who protested that since the local man casting out demons in His name was outside their fellowship, he should be rebuked even in the performance of such a good deed. Jesus told them to focus elsewhere, reminding them “whoever is not against us, is for us.”

There are more than a few people who will line up to testify to the figurative (not literal) demons that the teaching and counsel of both John MacArthur and Beth Moore have driven from their lives, respectively. Given that reality, I guess I’m not inclined to agree with the notion that either of these two are “against” those of us who labor for Jesus.

I think Christendom would best be served by focusing on the real enemy who is.

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The views expressed in Disrn’s opinion pieces are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Disrn as an organization, or its leadership.