Guest post by Jordan Wilson
In some additional fallout from the recent discussion between Ben Shapiro and John MacArthur, the effects of what could be called MacArthur’s truncated Christianity are apparent with those he’s reached.
As many of you know, late last week Shapiro, a Jew, and MacArthur had an hour long discussion on issues of religion, politics, social conscience and activism. I’ll not rehash that whole discussion as that has already been done effectively here.
Two days later, Ben Shapiro and public intellectual, Jordan Peterson, discussed these issues further on The Rubin Report. They discussed the difference between Christianity and Judaism as it relates to effecting positive change in the world, portending to human flourishing.
The Shapiro-Peterson exchange came to my attention because a MacArthur fan proclaimed it on social media triumphantly as some kind of victory for MacArthur, alleging Shapiro had “correctly regurgitated the gospel” to Jordan Peterson only two days after talking with MacArthur! Regurgitated is certainly an interesting word choice but we’ll leave that well enough alone.
Having actually watched the Shapiro-Peterson video, what becomes evidently clear is that after an hour-long discussion with John MacArthur about Christianity and the gospel, Shapiro now concludes that protestant, “faith-based” Christianity is relatively useless for the world in which we now live. Shapiro is now emboldened in this conclusion. He doubles down on the perspective that since Judaism requires one to “take responsibility for one’s own sin” and obliges each Jew to strive hard to make up for their sin and live better to earn God’s approval, Judaism (allegedly) has a stronger motivation for righteous action in the world, whereas Christianity psychologically absolves the Christian of striving to make this world better now because the fundamental problem is solved through the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of Christ and the removal of sin from our record. Hell is avoided, eternal security is procured. Peterson responded to Shapiro’s challenge with agreement that this psychological dynamic is a problem for Protestant Christianity (Eastern Orthodoxy and works-based Roman Catholicism get more of a pass).
Can you blame Shapiro? The gospel that was delivered to him by John MacArthur was described in such a truncated fashion as to communicate that the sole purpose of the Gospel was to save souls from hell for eternity—an “atonement only” gospel that sidelines a large part of the Kingdom of the Messiah and consigns that Kingdom to a future reality that has no bearing on the here and now.
Remember, MacArthur had over an hour to explain the Gospel. Nowhere in that interview did MacArthur explain how through the atonement we are redeemed to be faithful and obedient servants of God in the kingdom of God and that we can be restored to succeed in fulfilling God’s greater plan of fulfilling the dominion mandate to flourish in all the earth and to extend the justice of God to every nation. Nowhere was it explained that the propagation of Christianity and obedience to the Kingdom of God is the only thing that will bring about real positive change in the world—even though he was asked about these very things and was given opportunity. In fact, the opposite was communicated. We can’t even expect this to happen.
Certainly, if pressed, MacArthur would have been able to make the case that even if the Kingdom is not arrived in his dispensational premillennial conception, Christians should still seek peace with their neighbor, to do good and vote to that end. But we have to understand that the truncated Gospel of the atonement only, hell-fire-escape message actually does damage to the acceptance of the Gospel. God-haters are given vindication for their objection that Christianity does not include a fundamental component that has immediate relevance to neighborly justice and human flourishing on the earth in the here and now.
MacArthur told Shapiro that if Jesus Christ came to abolish evil in the world, then Christ failed. What does this say to Shapiro? That the Gospel is fundamentally and foundationally irrelevant to the realization of justice on the earth in the here and now. Of course, it is true Jesus Christ didn’t come to end all injustice immediately at the moment of his atonement and resurrection. But the advancing heavenly Kingdom that the Messiah brought, the authority over all the nations he inherited, and the commission to disciple the nations he set in motion guarantee that the kingdom will progressively bring justice upon the earth. That was always the promise of the Kingdom of the Messiah. This includes both eternal justice, procured by satisfying the righteous wrath of God through the atonement, and the redemption of sinners to a mission to “heavenize” the earth as the nations are footstooled. This is why we pray that God’s will would be done on the earth as it is in heaven.
Christians keep getting tricked into believing the misguided notion that the most effective gospel presentation is one where we convince the unbeliever that our message of good news won’t upset the present order of the world, but will help the unbeliever escape evil in the world to be whisked away to the mystical land of clouds and harps. We keep believing for some reason that this will allegedly remove obstacles to the acceptance of Christ. The idea is that the hope of the Christian church is to set our eyes on someone to rapture us out of the sinking ship while Christ then unilaterally does the work of setting up the kingdom, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit working through the church.
We forget that the image of God, however warped in the unbeliever, is still stamped upon them to produce the desire to see progress and human flourishing on the earth. The gospel has immediate relevance to this here and now, and the Image of God resonates with that as well. Sure, the unbeliever wants to achieve this flourishing in their Christless rebellion, but the innate desire to build, progress, and achieve is still part of what God designed for good in man. When we present a Kingdomless King, and when we forget what the word “Christ” actually means, we implicitly lie about God’s purpose for the world in the Gospel.
Just like the Apostle Paul, more people need to resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. But who is Christ? Jesus Christ is the Messiah. The Messiah is the promised King. The King has a kingdom. The Kingdom has a law. The law is the standard of justice for the earth and its good news. Knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified means that you know the totality of the revelation of this Christ, his atoning work and the Kingdom that he inherited and you are able to proclaim this to the world.
Sadly, Ben Shapiro now possesses and is transmitting to millions MacArthur’s own truncated Gospel which misguides the world about the blessing of Christianity in the here and now. The truth is that the Messiah is a warrior for justice in society, and that is very good news both now and forever.
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth!
In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust!
May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!
May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!
For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day!
May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!
May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!
The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended (Psa. 72).
For in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Christ to RECONCILE TO HIMSELF ALL THINGS, whether ON EARTH OR IN HEAVEN, making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:19–20).
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5)
Jordan Wilson is a nobody, pursuing the Great Commission with his wife and children, with a long-term postmillennial outlook. He is a contributer at DatPostmil, New City Times, and The American Vision. You can find his personal blog at www.thefloatingaxehead.com.