John MacArthur (American pastor)

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John MacArthur
MacArthur in 2013
John Fullerton MacArthur Jr.

(1939-06-19) June 19, 1939 (age 84)
  • Pastor
  • televangelist
  • author
Patricia MacArthur
(m. 1963)
RelativesMacArthur family
Congregations served
Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California

John Fullerton MacArthur Jr. (born June 19, 1939) is an American pastor and author who hosts the national Christian radio and television program Grace to You.[1] He has been the pastor of Grace Community Church, a non-denominational church in Sun Valley, California since February 9, 1969.[2] He is currently the chancellor emeritus of The Master's University in Santa Clarita and The Master's Seminary.

MacArthur is a proponent of expository preaching, and has been acknowledged by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers of his time.[3] MacArthur has written or edited more than 150 books. His MacArthur Study Bible has sold more than one million copies, receiving a Gold Medallion Book Award.[4]

Early life and schooling[edit]

The grandson of Canadian Anglican minister Harry MacArthur (died 1950) and son of Baptist radio preacher Jack MacArthur (born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada)[5] and Irene Dockendorf, MacArthur was born in Los Angeles.[6] During a 1979 interview, Pastor MacArthur stated he is "distantly related to General Douglas MacArthur." He went on to say, "I understand that I’m a fifth cousin, and so it’s quite a distance but nonetheless we are related."[7][8] MacArthur followed in his father's footsteps to enroll at the fundamentalist Bob Jones College from 1957 to 1959. In 1960, after a year off, he was accepted to the Free Methodist Church’s Los Angeles Pacific College, where in his senior year he observed two games of football, going on field once for one play (see 1962 yearbook statistics).[9] In 1963, he was granted a Masters of Divinity from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles's new Talbot Theological Seminary, in La Mirada, California, with honors.


When at Bob Jones University in South Carolina, MacArthur’s father recruited him to the Voice of Calvary singing quartet, often broadcast on Christian radio in Southern California. From 1964 to 1966, MacArthur was hired by his father as associate pastor at the Harry MacArthur Memorial Bible Church (now Calvary Bible Church in Burbank, California), which his father Jack had planted and named after his own father.[10] From 1966 to 1969, MacArthur was hired as the faculty representative for Talbot Theological Seminary. On February 9, 1969, he was hired as the third and youngest pastor at the nondenominational Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, California.[11]

MacArthur's daily radio and television program, Grace to You was created by the Grace media team to publicize audio cassettes of sermons; in 1977, it was first broadcast in Baltimore, Maryland.[12] In 1985, MacArthur was made President of Los Angeles Baptist College, now The Master's University, a four-year Christian liberal-arts college.[13] In 1986, he was made President of the new Master's Seminary.[14]

A Milestone of 55 years after beginning in the pulpit of Grace Community, MacArthur completed one of his own life goals,[2] that of preaching through the entire New Testament on June 5, 2011.[15]

Theological positions[edit]

Authority of scripture[edit]

Central to MacArthur's theology is a very high view of scripture (the 66 books of the Protestant Bible).[16] He believes that scripture is inerrant and infallible because it is "the Word of God" and that God cannot lie.[16] Furthermore, he believes that Christians are obliged to render full submission to scripture above all else and that "[t]o mishandle the Word of God is to misrepresent the One who wrote it. To reject its claims is to call Him a liar. To ignore its message is to snub that which the Holy Spirit inspired."[16]


MacArthur is a cessationist, holding that the "sign gifts" (such as prophecy) described in the Bible were temporarily granted to the apostles to authenticate the origin and truth of the scriptures, and that at the close of the Apostolic Age these gifts had served their purpose and ceased to be granted.[17] He is one of the most prominent voices in American Christianity against the continuationist beliefs of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement, which assert that God continues to confer sign gifts today. MacArthur has written three books on the subject. In October 2013, his church hosted a conference called "Strange Fire" to mark the launch of a book of the same name.[18] The event featured a number of speakers who argued for cessationist theology and strongly critiqued the Charismatic Movement.[19][20]

MacArthur argues that modern "visions, revelations, voices from heaven... dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out-of-body experiences, trip to heaven, anointings, miracles [are] all false, all lies, all deceptions attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit." He has remarked that "[t]he Charismatic movement has stolen the Holy Spirit and created a golden calf, and they're dancing around the golden calf as if it were the Holy Spirit."[21][22]


In 1983, MacArthur first published his belief in the doctrine of "incarnational sonship." In 1989, after some criticism, he defended his views in a plenary session of the annual convention of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA). A decade later, he announced he had retracted this view via an article from Grace to You.[23]


MacArthur has stated that he opposes both "male chauvinist and feminist views."[24] He has a complementarian view on gender roles and considers that the Bible forbids women to preach to men or to exercise authority over men in churches, and he believes that the Biblical roles of elder and pastor are restricted to men. To this end he cites the biblical passages of 1 Timothy 2:11–12 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.[25][26][27]

Dispensational theology[edit]

MacArthur describes himself as a "leaky dispensationalist."[28] MacArthur holds to the dispensationalist school of premillennialism, a pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church, and a literal Millennium. He teaches a completely restored Israel shall inherit physical ownership of the land of Canaan on the earth.[29][30][31]

Lordship of Christ[edit]

MacArthur believes "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). This submission to Jesus as Lord when converting to faith in Jesus Christ became known to Arminians as the "Lordship salvation controversy" in the 1980s. MacArthur argues that confessing Jesus Christ as Lord is a necessary component of free grace theology. He states, "You must receive Jesus Christ for who He is, both Lord and Savior, to be truly saved (2 Peter 2:20)."[32] Regarding eternal security, he states, "It should never be presented merely as a matter of being once saved, always saved with no regard for what you believe or do. The writer of Hebrews 12:14 states frankly that only those who continue living holy lives will enter the Lord's presence." These views raised controversy within American evangelicalism and were challenged in print by Free Grace theologians such as Charles Ryrie and Zane C. Hodges, who argued that MacArthur's ministry was teaching a form of works-based salvation. MacArthur denied the charge, as attested on two tapes recorded in 1989 when he was asked to "reason together with the IFCA man."[33]

Young Earth creationism[edit]

MacArthur advocates Young Earth creationism in his book The Battle For the Beginning (2001), and in his sermons.[34] Speaking about evolutionary theory, he writes that Christians "ought to expose such lies for what they are and oppose them vigorously." He argues that "the battle for the beginning is ultimately a battle between two mutually exclusive faiths—faith in Scripture versus faith in anti-theistic hypotheses. It is not really a battle between science and the Bible."[35]

Views on gender and sexuality[edit]

MacArthur is a critic of same-sex marriage, the ordination of women, the Roman Catholic Church, and the social justice movement.[36] He has delivered multiple sermons where he discusses these issues.[37]

With respect to sexual orientation, he has asserted that "no one is gay" as "God didn't hardwire anybody"[38] to be gay any more than he "hardwires" individuals to be adulterers or bank robbers.[39] MacArthur compared the assertion that sexual orientation is a born trait to a hypothetical bank robber's protestation, "I keep robbing banks, but I'm a robber. I'm a bank robber. What am I gonna do? I'm a bank robber."[39]


MacArthur has received an honorary degree from Grace Graduate School in 1976 and from Talbot Theological Seminary (Doctor of Divinity, 1977).[40]

Controversies and disputes[edit]

Comments regarding Steven Furtick and Beth Moore[edit]

In 2012, at the annual Shepherd's Conference, MacArthur was participating in a word association questionnaire when the moderator gave the name "Steven Furtick." MacArthur responded "unqualified" and proceeded to argue that Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, was not qualified, by Biblical standards, to be a pastor.[41] Furtick responded to this comment in his 2016 book Unqualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things.

In 2019, at the Truth Matters Conference, during another word association questionnaire, MacArthur was given the prompt "Beth Moore". MacArthur responded, "Go home." Reiterating his stance on 1 Timothy 2:12, he went on to state, "There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of Discussion."[42] Moore responded to this stance by stating on her Twitter account, "I did not surrender to a calling of man when I was 18 years old. I surrendered to a calling of God. It never occurs to me for a second to not fulfill it."[43] Pastor Wade Burleson considered that MacArthur comment was misogynistic, contrary to the Bible and the character of Jesus Christ.[44]

Response to and matters surrounding COVID-19[edit]

In 2020 and 2021, during the COVID-19 global crisis, MacArthur contravened orders from Los Angeles County public health officials regarding services at Grace Community Church, and insisted that no one from the church had become seriously ill, despite reports to the contrary.[45] His major contention was that there was no justification for closing down churches over a disease with 94% survival rate according to misinterpreted data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[46][47] Los Angeles County sued the church over its refusal to close down, and the church counter-sued, claiming that the County was violating rights to freedom of religion.[47] In August 2021, MacArthur told congregants that "many people" had contracted COVID-19 while it "went through" the church in December 2020 and January 2021, including both him and his wife. Eventually, all lawsuits were settled out of court with the County of Los Angeles and the State of California paying $400,000 each to Grace Community Church.[48][49]

Accusations of using ghostwriters[edit]

In February 2022, Dennis Swanson, former vice president of Master's University and Master's Seminary, accused him of never having written any of his books and that they were allegedly written by ghost writers.[50]

Accusations of improper response to domestic abuse[edit]

In March 2022, The Roys Report published an investigation implicating Grace Community Church and John F. MacArthur. [51] Several women victims of domestic violence were reportedly asked to return to their husbands, under threat of excommunication. MacArthur associate pastor Carey Hardy allegedly told a victim to lead by example and “suffer for Jesus” by enduring her husband’s abuse. A church elder, Hohn Cho, allegedly urged MacArthur to reconsider the victim's request, who told him "forget it." The victim was humiliated twice, in May 2002 and August 2002, by MacArthur in front of the congregation for having finally divorced her husband. In 2005, the victim's husband was sentenced to 21 years in prison for aggravated child molestation, corporal injury to a child, and child abuse. After the publication of the affair by Christianity Today in February 2023, the pastoral council denounced “lies”.[52]

Personal life[edit]

MacArthur is married to his wife, Patricia.[53] They have four children, fifteen grandchildren, and had two great-grandsons by 2017.[54]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Twelve Extraordinary Women: God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with You (October 5, 2008)
  • Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You (May 8, 2006)
  • One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus (March 4, 2013)
  • Anxious for Nothing: God's Cure for the Cares of Your Soul (John Macarthur Study) (February 1, 2012)
  • Safe in the Arms of God: Truth from Heaven About the Death of a Child (July 8, 2003)
  • Saved Without A Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation (January 1, 2010)
  • The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective hardback (1978)
  • Fundamentals of the Faith: 13 Lessons to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ (February 24, 2009)
  • The Charismatic softback (1978)
  • Gospel According to Jesus (1989) ISBN 0-310-28651-4
  • Charismatic Chaos (1993) ISBN 0-310-57572-9
  • Our Sufficiency in Christ (1998) ISBN 1-58134-013-3
  • Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World (2001) ISBN 1-58134-288-8
  • Think Biblically!: Recovering a Christian Worldview (2003) ISBN 1-58134-412-0
  • Fool's Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error (2005) ISBN 1-58134-726-X
  • The Jesus You Can't Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ (2009) ISBN 1-4002-0206-X
  • Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (2013) ISBN 978-1-4002-0517-2
  • Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray: Finding Our Way Back to Biblical Truth (2017)
  • The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul's Teachings (2017)
  • Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (2017)
  • None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible (2017)
  • Worship: The Ultimate Priority (2012)
  • Parables (2015)


  1. ^ "'Grace to You' Television Program with John MacArthur Launches in Major U.S. Markets" (Press release). Christian News Wire. Retrieved November 1, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Theology and Ministry: An Interview with John MacArthur". January 16, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  3. ^ "The Top 25 Most Influential Preachers". Christianity Today. 2006. Archived from the original on February 1, 2006. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  4. ^ "1998 Gold Medallion Book Awards Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2008.
  5. ^ "Voice of Calvary Legacy - The Legacy - Page 3".
  6. ^ MacArthur, John F. (February 9, 2004). "John MacArthur's Life Testimony" (Interview). Interviewed by Phil Johnson. Retrieved February 6, 2019. I was born down in Los Angeles at St. Vincent's Hospital, which is still operating.
  7. ^ "When should a Christian fight for his country? - John MacArthur". Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  8. ^ "Personal Interview with John MacArthur". Grace to You. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
  9. ^ "Bible Questions and Answers, Part 47". Grace to You.
  10. ^ "Voice of Calvary Legacy - The Legacy - Page 3".
  11. ^ "John F. MacArthur - The Master's Seminary". Archived from the original on August 22, 2014.
  12. ^ "What's the history of Grace to You?". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved September 22, 2009.
  13. ^ Dart, John (April 9, 1985). "MacArthur Appointed Baptist College Gets New President, Name". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  14. ^ "History | The Master's Seminary". Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  15. ^ "A Historic Moment". June 16, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  16. ^ a b c "Why Does Sola Scriptura Still Matter?". Grace to You. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  17. ^ MacArthur, John. "The Temporary Sign Gifts, Part 3". Grace to You. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  18. ^ "Truth Matters 2013: Strange Fire". Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  19. ^ Menzie, Nicola (October 17, 2013). "'Strange Fire' Conference: John MacArthur Calls Out Charismatic Movement as 'Unfaithful'". The Christian Post. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  20. ^ MacArthu, John. "The Temporary Sign Gifts, Part 3". Grace to You. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  21. ^ "The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit". YouTube. Archived from the original on May 2, 2012.
  22. ^ MacArthur, John (October 23, 2011). "The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit". Grace to You. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  23. ^ MacArthur, John. "Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ". Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  24. ^ "The Loving Husband: A Portrait of Christ". Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  25. ^ Grace to You. "God's High Call for Women".
  26. ^ Grace to You. "Should Women Teach in Church?".
  27. ^ Grace to You. "Can Women Exercise Authority in the Church?".
  28. ^ MacArthur, John. "What is dispensationalism? And what is your position, from Scripture, on the subject?".
  29. ^ Mayhue, Richard. "Futuristic Premillennialism". Archived from the original on September 20, 2017.
  30. ^ Vlach, Michael. "New Covenant Theology Compared With Covenantalism". Archived from the original on September 20, 2017.
  31. ^ MacArthur, John. "Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist, Part 1".
  32. ^ MacArthur, John (1994). The Gospel According to Jesus. Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-39491-0.
  33. ^ "I.F.C.A. Meeting (6-26-89), Part 1". Grace to You.
  34. ^ John MacArthur (2001), The Battle For The Beginning, Nelson, archived from the original on July 6, 2011, retrieved May 18, 2011
  35. ^ "How Important Is Genesis 1-3?". Grace to you official website. August 27, 2009. Archived from the original on December 25, 2014. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  36. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Social Justice and the Gospel, Part 1". YouTube.
  37. ^ "Social Injustice and the Gospel". Grace to You.
  38. ^ Hartropp, Joseph (June 29, 2017). "Megapastor John MacArthur says 'no one is gay', compares homosexuality to adultery". Retrieved February 2, 2022.
  39. ^ a b Hartropp, Joseph (June 29, 2017). "Megapastor John MacArthur says 'no one is gay', compares homosexuality to adultery". Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  40. ^ Demy, Timothy J.; Shockley, Paul R. (September 21, 2017). Evangelical America: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Religious Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 265. ISBN 9781610697743. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  41. ^ Buttel, Cameron (May 9, 2016). "Unqualified, Not Unworthy". Grace To You. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  42. ^ MacArthur, John. "Go Home Beth Moore". YouTube. Archived from the original on October 30, 2019. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  43. ^ Moore, Beth. "Tweet from October 21, 2019".
  44. ^ Leonardo Blair, John MacArthur skewers Beth Moore, Paula White, evangelicals who support women preachers,, USA, October 21, 2019
  45. ^ Cosgrove, Jaclyn (November 8, 2020). "L.A. megachurch pastor mocks pandemic health orders, even as church members fall ill". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  46. ^ "Fact Check-CDC comorbidity figures presented in sermon do not undermine deadliness of COVID-19". Reuters. July 6, 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  47. ^ a b "L.A. megachurch pastor mocks pandemic health orders, even as church members fall ill". Los Angeles Times. November 9, 2020. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  48. ^ Cosgrove, Jaclyn (August 27, 2021). "L.A. County could pay $400,000 settlement to church that fought COVID-19 mandates". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  49. ^ "John MacArthur and Grace Community Church win $800,000 settlement from California and L.A. County". September 2021.
  50. ^ Julie Roys, Former Master’s Seminary VP Accuses John MacArthur of Plagiarism,, USA, February 7, 2022
  51. ^ Roys, Julie (March 8, 2022). "EXCLUSIVE: John MacArthur Shamed, Excommunicated Mother for Refusing to Take Back Child Abuser". The Roys Report.
  52. ^ Kate Shellnutt (February 9, 2023). "Grace Community Church Rejected Elder's Calls to 'Do Justice' in Abuse Case".
  53. ^ "Questions and Answers -- Patricia MacArthur". Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  54. ^ "John MacArthur". Retrieved August 10, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jones, Karen (November–December 2009). "John MacArthur: Unleashing God's Truth—One Verse at a Time". Bible Study Magazine. 2 (1): 10–14.
  • John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock, Iain H. Murray
  • Seven Leaders: Pastors and Teachers, by Iain H. Murray
  • John MacArthur: An Insider's Tribute, by Don Green

External links[edit]