John MacArthur Jr. is Prime Example of a Confused Calvinist
Few Calvinists really know what Calvin believed. One of the best examples is the scholarly John MacArthur. In an article MacArthur wrote in 2014, he claims that sanctification is a paradox:
In Philippians 2:12–13, Paul presents the appropriate resolution between the two. He makes no effort to rationally harmonize the believer’s part and God’s part in sanctification. He is content with the paradox and simply states both truths, saying on the one hand, sanctification is of believers (Philippians 2:12), and on the other hand, it is of God (Philippians 2:13).
The truth is that sanctification is God’s work, but He performs it through the diligent self-discipline and righteous pursuits of His people, not in spite of them. God’s sovereign work does not absolve believers from the need for obedience; it means their obedience is itself a Spirit-empowered work of God.
John MacArthur Jr. ~ The Apparent Paradox of Sanctification: Wednesday, July 2, 2014
John Calvin believed no such thing. In fact, like Martin Luther, he believed that any merit given to man for works in sanctification amounted to a false gospel. So, in other words, while MacArthur proudly proclaims himself a Calvinist, Calvin would have deemed him unregenerate and the propagator of a false gospel. MacArthur is also a confused Protestant (as most are) because Luther would have attested to the same view of sanctification.
Both Luther and Calvin believed that sanctification is the progression of justification, so both (sanctification and justification) must be obtained by faith alone. A paradox view makes man a participant in some respect; Luther and Calvin both would have deemed that works salvation. While Calvinists are fond of accusing people of semipelagianism, this is what MacArthur would have been accused of by Calvin and Luther both. Calvin referred to salvation as “twofold” in regard to justification and sanctification (“twofold grace” or “double grace”). In his soteriology both are a part of the salvation process.
In order to present salvation as a twofold process, Luther presented the “believer” as a passive being; specifically, dead before and after salvation. Therefore, ALL acts performed by the “believer” are dead works according to Luther unless God acts and brings about a resurrection act in the life of the “believer” who is unable to distinguish between his own passive dead acts and God’s active acts. In this way, the Christian life was said to be “subjective.” The “believer” merely experiences the acts of God as if he/she is conducting them, but must believe that any good work experienced is of God and not ourselves. According to Luther, every act of people lost or saved can be forgiven if they believe every action by man is sinful. This is venial sin. But, the belief that one can do a good work is mortal sin and cannot be forgiven.
While Luther primarily framed all of this according to state of being, Calvin framed it in context of law. According to Calvin, perfect law-keeping defines justification, and it is impossible for anyone saved or otherwise to sufficiently obey any law at any time to the satisfaction of God. Calvin made this absolutely clear in 3.14.9-11 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. He begins 3.14.11 by stating that no believer has ever performed a work that falls short of God’s condemnation.
Paradox allows for the possibility of a believer to perform a work pleasing to God other than a confession that we can’t. That’s antithetical to Reformed ideology.
People who call themselves Calvinists should know what Calvin believed. But we shouldn’t expect such because most Protestants don’t even know what Protestantism is to begin with. Including John MacArthur.