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Archive for July 14th, 2011

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

The author Iain Murray, a wonderful Christian biographer, has taken up the task of writing a biography of the preacher John MacArthur. Even at the very beginning of the book, Murray makes it clear that the work is intended to be just a sketch of MacArthur…’s life and that a full complete biography evaluating his life and contribution is probably best done after MacArthur’s passing. Coming at 240 pages, this “sketch” reminds me of William White’s biography of the great apologist Cornelius Van Til while he was alive; the more critical biography that evaluates everything after all is said and done came later. One thing I did appreciate of Murray’s biography of MacArthur here is that while Murray is appreciative of MacArthur’s ministry, the work is not just about hero worship of this preacher. In fact, Murray in the book gently questioned MacArthur’s dispensationalism (the author is Covenantal in his theology), and wished that MacArthur would have addressed styles of worship more (the author favors more congregational singing without instrumental accompaniment). Given the rift between Covenantal and Dispensational camp, the fact that this work was by one who lean Covenantal in his theology is intriguing to me. Murray’s biography was overall charitable and saw the admirable thing about MacArthur was his high devotion to the Word and preaching the Word accurately. One thing I did like about this book is that it gave the background and a more complete story beyond just rumors and hearsay behind several important events that MacArthur was involved with (the famous Supreme court case concerning the “clergy malpractice,” the response to Packer and the ECT, Lordship controversy, Charistmatic Chaos, etc). One further appreciate MacArthur as an Evangelical leader from these snippets in the book. The other thing I appreciated about this book is that the book is as much about John MacArthur as it is about the men of God and family behind John MacArthur that made his ministry what it is. The author’s discussion of important and humble helpers throughout his life should remind the reader that MacArthur’s status as an Evangelical leader was not the result of a one man celebrity show. In fact, reading the biography one can’t help but to note how normal much of MacArthur’s life is at times. Here is where the readers need to acknowledge that whatever success MacArthur has in his in his ministry is really the result of God’s blessing. The wise men who are MacArthur’s advisers, editor, fellow elders and day to day men and women of his church with the hunger of God’s Word and sharing God’s Word used his materials and shared the products of his work to their friends and eventually all across the world. Many people around the world still benefit from his free sermons online and hearing him on the radio as the book make it clear going over several letters sent to the Grace to You program. I know this to be true in my own life as well, when as a fifteen year old unchurched atheist in a buddhist household, I started reading the Bible for the first time and listening to MacArthur and many other preachers on the radio that the LORD eventually used to save me a sinner, who now trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior from my sins. That is not to say that I can’t wait for a biography that’s more critical in it’s full evaluation years down the road when MacArthur is at home with the Lord (what are we to make of the Driscoll affair? should MacArthur throw down the gauntlet that every self-respecting calvinist should be premillennial? etc), something that is like John Muether’s biography evaluating Cornelius Van Til decades after his death. But this should not take away the legacy of this preacher and what he has contributed to the kingdom of God for all of eternity. I imagine that when MacArthur finally passes away, we will still be amazed at how many people have gotten saved, grown, discipled and challenged by this preacher and author. I know I am one of them. Read this book…don’t worship a man, but thank the Lord for a servant of His Word and flock.

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