Pastor John F. MacArthur's Ignorant Misrepresentation of Catholic Teaching

Evangelical Pastor John F. MacArthur's Ignorant Misrepresentation of Catholic Teaching
From posts by P and others on the Catholic Answers boards, December 2006

MacArthur is clearly wrong and ignorant

Sandusky << ...none of you can deliver on this final point, namely, that MacArthur has materially misrepresented the Catholic Church....No one has provided any factual misrepresentation made by MacArthur concerning the Catholic Church. >>

When MacArthur quotes the Catechism, the Council of Trent, or Vatican II documents, he is not misrepresenting the Catholic Church. When he goes on to say, "therefore the Catholic Church teaches X...." The X is where the misrepresentation comes in, whether we're talking Mary, the Pope, the priesthood, Justification and Salvation, or sacraments and grace, etc.

"If he believes his salvation is provided only through grace by faith in Jesus Christ, he could be saved. But, if he accepts the full sweep of Catholic dogma, there's no way. He has cluttered up the simplicity of salvation with a works/righteousness system."

"Works/righteousness" means salvation is earned. You won't find that in Trent or the Catechism which specifically rejects the idea salvation is earned. He also thinks no Catholic can be saved.

"We could talk about the idea that God is a tough guy, and if anybody wants grace out of God, it's only Jesus who could get it from Him; but you can't expect to go to Jesus because He's pretty tough himself, so you need to go to Mary, because nobody can resist his mother.... "

That's baloney too, you won't find that in the official sources of doctrine. If he would just stick with the official sources (Catechism, etc) but he does not. The above is a misrepresentation, a material misrepresentation of official Catholic teaching.

"We could talk a lot about those things; concepts of purgatory, concepts of the sinlessness of Mary, the virgin birth of Mary, a lot of things about Catholic theology..."

The virgin birth of Mary? Please give me the Catholic document that speaks of the "virgin birth of Mary." If he means the Immaculate Conception, fine, that is Catholic doctrine. If he means the Virgin Birth of Christ, fine, that is Catholic doctrine. But he doesn't say that. He says the "virgin birth of Mary." That is not Catholic doctrine, that is just ignorance.

"They also possess pastoral power, and the way they define that is quite interesting. In the Catholic dogma, it is refined as -- defined as legislative, judicial and punitive. Their idea of pastoral work is not comfort and care and compassion. It is legislative, judicial and punitive."

Show me the Catholic document (Catechism, etc) that says pastoral ministry does not involve comfort, care, and compassion.

"He never makes a mistake, and nothing he says, therefore, can ever be altered."

Show me the Catholic document (Vatican I, etc) that says papal infallibility means the Pope never makes a mistake and nothing he says can ever be altered.

After quoting a lot from the Council of Trent, MacArthur says:

"That is why in the history of the Catholic church, nothing ever changes. The church absorbs its dissidents. It absorbs its immoral. [?] It absorbs its heretics. It absorbs everybody, and perpetuates the system. The one thing the Catholic church cannot tolerate is any kind of schism. And so it just keeps absorbing the dissidents in the perpetration of the system. And, therefore, it is full of all wretched kinds of beliefs, all levels of immorality and all different kinds of disregard for Catholic law down through the laity."

That's nice, but you won't find any of that in the official sources: Catechism, Trent, Vatican II and the Councils, etc. When a person is excommunicated, he is not absorbed. Show me the official Catholic document that says heretics and schismatics are "absorbed." If you can't, that is a material misrepresentation of official Catholic doctrine. "Absorbed" is not a Catholic term, that is a MacArthur misrepresentation.

(The above from The Scandal of the Catholic Priesthood, 2002 by John MacArthur)

He also doesn't know anything about Church history when he suggests the Catholic Church was invented at the time of Constantine, or that the Catholic Church takes her doctrines from Babylonian paganism (i.e. The Two Babylons by Hislop), or that the Fathers have anything to do with his evangelical fundamentalist Protestant doctrines (he has quoted St. John Chrysostom by name on his GTY program). That shows a complete ignorance of early Church history, the Church Fathers, and the history of Christian doctrine. I suggest a good reading of

  • JND Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines or
  • Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition (volume 1)


More MacArthur ignorance

Oh, I'm not done yet. Try these on:

From The Scandal of the Catholic Priesthood

MacArthur: "In the eyes of the priesthood there is an inherent uncleanness in marriage and it's a hangover from that sort of Manichaean/Gnostic idea of the evil of the flesh. There's an uncleanness in romantic desire. There's an uncleanness in normal love. There's something shameful in that. And the desire for procreation is somehow the enemy of spiritual devotion."

Show me the official Catholic document (Catechism, etc) that there is an inherent uncleanness in marriage and we have a Manichean/Gnostic idea of the evil of the flesh, that the desire for procreation is the enemy of spiritual devotion. Where does he get that one?

Should be easy to do, right? Produce the Catholic teaching and official document on those (Catechism specifically).

MacArthur: "You know, I heart goes out to priests. They are...they are literally, I think they are literally in many cases sexual time bombs, it's only a question of when it's going to go. That group of people in themselves has such a warped view of marriage because they're so fixated on the sexual aspect of it. They think marriage is all about sex and procreating little Catholics."

Show me the official Catholic document that "marriage is all about sex and procreating little Catholics." Yes, in those exact words. Two books on the history of celibacy:

  • The Case for Clerical Celibacy: Its Historical Development and Theological Foundation by Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler (Ignatius Press, 1995)
  • The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by Christian Cochini (Ignatius Press, 1990)

From my Da Vinci Code article: The Bible states Jesus is spiritually married as the bridegroom to His Church, called "the Bride of Christ" (Eph 5:20-33; cf. Matt 25:1ff; Rev 21:2,9; 22:17). That is at least one good theological reason why Jesus remained single and celibate: He is married to His Church, and loves Her as a husband loves his wife. Other examples of single and celibate Jews and prophets include John the Baptist, Jeremiah the prophet, Moses probably after his encounter with God, the Essene community at Qumran, the great St. Paul the Apostle, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, according to Catholics and Orthodox Christians, etc. Jesus Himself said some become eunuchs (virgins or celibates) for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:10-12). St. Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 7 it is sometimes better to remain single as he himself was; in 1 Corinthians 9 he mentions other apostles having wives, but never mentions Jesus having a wife when it would have been greatly advantageous to his argument.

Jesus' celibacy is in fact the basis for the celibacy of the Catholic priesthood. MacArthur forgets that. Or does MacArthur (like Dan Brown) think Jesus was married?

Here's a nice one, same article again MacArthur: "There's the scandal of an aberrant, unbiblical bizarre pagan theology of the priesthood and the Mass. There's the scandal of the power and the grasping materialism of a satanic religious system that wants to engulf the earth."

That's nice. Yes this is a conclusion, not a statement of Catholic doctrine. But can you please show me where he gets the idea the priesthood and the Mass comes from paganisn and is satanic. Aside from The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, Jack Chick comic books, or Dave Hunt's Whore of Babylon nonsense, I don't know where you'd get that.

Again, read JND Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines, and Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition, and my article on the Eucharist.

MacArthur thinks, in the order I have provided them:

  • Catholic salvation is works/righteousness;
  • that no Catholic priest can be saved;
  • that God and Jesus are "tough guys" so we should go to Mary in prayer;
  • that we teach the "virgin birth of Mary";
  • that our teaching on "pastoral work is not comfort and care and compassion";
  • that papal infallibility means the Pope "never makes a mistake";
  • that heretics and schismatics and immoral people are "absorbed" (his term);
  • that there is "an inherent uncleanness" in marriage and we have a "Manichean/Gnostic idea of the evil of the flesh";
  • that "the desire for procreation is the enemy of spiritual devotion";
  • that we have a "warped view of marriage" and that we "think marriage is all about sex and procreating little Catholics";
  • that the priesthood and the Mass is "an aberrant, unbiblical bizarre pagan theology";
  • that Catholicism is a "satanic religious system."

These are from just two articles (JUST TWO!) here:

The Scandal of the Catholic Priesthood by John MacArthur (2002), version 1
The Scandal of the Catholic Priesthood by John MacArthur (2002), version 2 (does not contain the "virgin birth of Mary" they cleaned it up)
GTY tape, GC 1301-X, titled "Bible Questions and Answers" Part 26


Gottle of Geer

Re: Ever hear of John MacArthur? He is a particularly hostile Protestant.


I see Mr. Macarthur has been taken in by the myth that Catholicism is of Babylonian origin; like so many other preachers & sites. search for the name "Tammuz" here: 

No wonder he thinks we're benighted heathens. A sample: 

Quote: "Semiramis gave birth to a son, this is what was taught in these Babylonian religions. Semiramis gave birth to a son who was conceived by a sunbeam..."

There is no evidence at all for such a thing, since no such character existed. "Semiramis" seems to be a composite character, made up of an historical Assyrian queen, & a goddess or two. It would be interesting to know where that sunbeam detail comes from.

Statements about Babylonian religion can't be made without evidence - & there is no evidence of any such teaching in that religion. Perhaps because it was not a teaching religion, unlike Catholicism. If there is no reason to think a thing was taught - it cannot be said to have been taught. Since the Tammuz myth is very different from what is said here, those statements about Semiramis & Tammuz, Lent, etc., can be ignored, as it is a "cunningly devised myth".

Which means that the results said to be the historical results of this fiction, did not happen either. Which means that the argument of the anti-Catholic work behind Macarthur's account collapses in ruins.

Quote: "...had no father, what's that a counterfeit of the Virgin birth. The name of the son, by the way was Tammuz and Semiramis offered Tammuz as the worlds deliverer."

Quote: "When grown Tammuz was killed, according to the story by a wild boar, and slain and he was dead, for forty days Semiramis wept and fasted, and at the 40th day Tammuz rose from the dead. You know where Lent comes from? Not the Bible. That's where it comes from. The mishmash of Babylonian systems with Christianity." 

For something accurate about Tammuz [aka Dumuzi] instead, go here: Parallel Pagan Gods "Tammuz" (Dumuzi)

Since the Mass is sometimes explained as Babylonian, it is to MacArthur's credit that he does not copy this fable. He does seem to rely on Boettner's "Roman Catholicism" for some of his information & sources - which is better, though not a lot.


Michael ("Gottle of Geer")


I haven't read this entire thread but kudos to Gottle of Geer and to Phil Vaz for stepping up to the plate and meeting Sandusky's reasonable demand that one demonstrate where John MacArthur has made factual errors about RCC theology. I was not aware that MacArthur was so explicitly and expressly opposed to the RCC. When first I espied this thread, I rather expected to find that Catholics were being hypersensitive about the fact that MacArthur holds to different views about the Christian Faith than do Roman Catholics, without MacArthur's expressly or mindfully attacking Catholicism itself. I see I was mistaken in that, as a number of persons have posted what appear to be clear and explicit criticisms of the RCC by MacArthur. Having established that, it remains to be shown that MacArthur's critiques are based upon erroneous foundations.


Shut the eyes that flame and hush the heart that burns:
In quiet we may hear the old primeval cry:
God gives wisdom to the spirit that upturns:
Let us adore now, you and I.
G. W. Russell, "Prayer"

Church Militant

Re: Ever hear of John MacArthur? He is a particularly hostile Protestant.


Quote: Originally Posted by sandusky

"Again Phil, he does get it right; he argues and opines from his study of Catholic teaching, just as you argue from your study of MacArthur that he is ignorant, and also, you argue from your study of your 'average down-the-street Catholic' that he is ignorant as well. Your conclusion? The only ones who aren't ignorant, are those who agree with you. What wisdom, and what a way to understand the world...."

That is such a have seen clear evidence that he sets up straw man arguments and purports things to be Catholic teaching that are plainly not so, and Phil just buried you and your pastor in a huge pile of it and you continue to defend?!

I don't think you're even willing to be honest Sandusky, because to everyone else reading this thread you just lost all possible credibility, (just like your pastor.)

It's just like my buddy Mike discovered when he was doing his own homework to save his faith and his marriage, MacArthur misrepresents what we believe and then makes himself look like some sort of hotshot preacher by "biblically" condemning it. As I pointed out before, that's either ignorant or dishonest.

Doesn't this sort of destroy any semblance of his (or your) infalliblity? This bunk might fly on CARM or one of the other anti-Catholic forums, but not around here. You've wasted your time...

"For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:22)

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

sandusky -- Religion: Reformed (Former Catholic) 

Re: Ever hear of John MacArthur? He is a particularly hostile Protestant. 


Quote: Originally Posted by lak611 : "With all due respect, Sandusky, I think that P has already answered your question!"

Thank you for your post lak611. For me, it is the perfect note on which to wrap up this thread. Yes, Phil has claimed that he has met the challenge, but in response to some of his links I have shown that he did not, therefore, Phil is mistaken. By the wording of his posts, that should be evident to anyone who reads Phil's words with an unjaundiced eye. Phil uses such phrases as: 'after he quotes from Trent,' or 'after he quotes from the Catechism,' or 'after he quotes from,' whatever Catholic document Phil names, 'he then goes on and says X.'

Phil's lament is, 'if only he would stick to the Catholic teaching -- but he does not.'

Clearly, by the appreciated admission of Phil, and some others, MacArthur presents Catholic teaching, terms, etc, but, as Phil laments, 'he does not [stick to them].' All of that is true. When MacArthur leaves the Catholic teaching he has presented, and speaks against it, he is giving his conclusion, or his opinion, or his POV, concerning the Catholic teaching he previously presented. There is nothing wrong with that. Pay attention to your speech on this forum or outside of it, and pay attention to the number of times in a day that you do the very same thing.

None of you has shown anything other than that John MacArthur is, at times, an outspoken critic of the RCC. And again I say, that's life.

In closing, I want to thank you all for the exchanges with me on this thread. As always, my time on this forum adds to my insights on the RCC and its members, and there is never a dull moment. As always, I am,

Your lying, dishonest, ignorant, and credibility-lacking friend,


From posts on the Catholic Answers boards, December 2006

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