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MacArthur on apologizing for the sins of others

The latest in John MacArthur’s treatment of the modern evangelical social justice movements:

And yet, as the issue of racial division has become more and more a focus in the secular academy and in the news media, evangelicals eager to engage the culture have taken up the issue. Unfortunately, many who have spoken on this issue have simply echoed the wisdom of this world rather than addressing the issue in a truly gospel-centered way. As a result, rancorous discourse over ethnic differences has eclipsed the gospel and divided the church—even among those evangelicals who might be most likely to self-describe as “gospel-centered Christians.”

It’s quite common these days for Christian leaders addressing this issue to call for people who have never harbored a racist thought to confess the guilt of racism because their ancestors may have been racists. Expressions of repentance have been demanded of white evangelicals for no actual transgression, but because they are perceived to have benefited from “white privilege.” Supposedly, their skin color automatically makes them culpable for the racism of the past. One influential evangelical leader, in an article titled “We Await Repentance for Assassinating Dr. King,” suggested that racial reconciliation in the church cannot even startuntil white Christians confess their parents’ and grandparents’ complicity in “murdering a man who only preached love and justice”(meaning Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).

So by this view of “social justice,” a person’s skin color might automatically require a public expression of repentance—not merely for the evils of his ancestors’ culture, but also for specific crimes he cannot possibly have been guilty of.

There’s nothing remotely “just” about that idea, and certainly nothing related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The answer to every evil in every heart is not repentance for what someone else may have done, but repentance for our own sins, including hatred, anger, bitterness, or any other sinful attitude or behavior.

As Christians committed to the authority of Scripture and the truth of the gospel, we have better answers than the world could ever give to the problems of racism, injustice, human cruelty, and every other societal evil. We have the cross of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit who grows and leads us in all love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180827

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Ten Mangled Words - "Equality"
Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

2 Responses to MacArthur on apologizing for the sins of others

  1. MacArthur, like many white men of a certain age, doesn’t seem to understand how what he’s saying actually reinforces the claims of “disconnect” from the folks he’s criticizing. MacArthur appears to minimize racism as being something overt and active, whereas authentic racism can be surprisingly latent, and something many of us whites have become adept at hiding in public. MacArthur also seems to misunderstand the broader meaning of “white privilege,” a concept from which he does indeed suffer, since he hasn’t had to jump through the social, economic, and political hoops many non-whites have to jump through to “achieve” a certain level of normalcy or equivalency in our country. In this series of his, MacArthur is unhelpful. He perpetuates fallacies that exacerbate what’s wrong with general social justice movement, and the credibility he hopes to lend to calls for Biblical racial accountability gets muted. I agree that we cannot repent of another’s sins, but I believe we honor Christ by publicly recognizing how our church’s forebears sinned racially. I believe part of loving our neighbor involves a demonstration of our own disgust at past sinful behaviors committed by people who claimed to be serving the same Christ we claim to love. Perhaps this is an area where what’s in our hearts matters more than what’s in our (sloppy) words. So I’m hoping MacArthur’s words are themselves mostly a sloppy representation of what’s truly in his heart.

  2. I think anyone who attended Bob Jones University should apologize to basically, well, everyone, for ever having attended there. That place is on the news all the time for basically living in the 50’s – the 1850’s.

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