Perhaps the most disgusting portion of the NAR dominionist, anti-government arguments was the claim of persecution and MacArthur fell in line with this nonsense as well. There is real persecution in this world beloved. Christians in China have to meet underground and face severe consequences if caught practicing Christianity. Believers in the Middle East are beheaded for refusing to denounce Christ. That is persecution. The government saying you cannot hold services with large crowds for the fear of people getting sick is not persecution. It is common sense. Mind you, the church was never asked to close. They simply could not hold services with large crowds - as no one could! Not just the church! The victim mentality sold by the NAR was quickly adopted by MacArthur. He attempted many tortured and unbiblical defenses of this position but at the end of the day they all fall short of the truth. John MacArthur was wrong then and remains wrong today. These are not matters for debate. These are proven facts. His scientific statements were stupid and ignorant, and his biblical defenses were so vacuous and self-serving that he probably would have rebuked them just a few years ago.
Nonetheless, John MacArthur must be feeling some deep conviction because now he feels the need to continue to defend what he did. To that end, he is releasing a movie entitled The Essential Church. This is a not so clever play on the statement from the state that non-essential functions needed to close during the pandemic. The NAR and now Johnny Mac have seized on this poor wording to make it sound as if the state was maligning the church as non-essential. Do not fall for this beloved as what was non-essential was the corporate gathering each week where 5000 people jammed into a confined space with a deadly pandemic spreading all around them. If you are still arguing that this was essential then you are too thoughtless to discuss this. The church is essential for God's plan but the shining city on a hill has absolutely nothing to do with meeting on Sundays. The church can still be the church and I would argue is far more essential in other ways. The opportunity lost during the pandemic for the church to step into the gap is staggering as people like MacArthur fell for the NAR propaganda. Now, he is making propaganda of his own.
The Essential Church reviews times during history when the church suffered persecution. The problem is this is presented solely to add the COVID, self-perpetuated drama to that list. This is categorically absurd and inaccurate. I do not know how simpler this can be. There was a pandemic spreading across the globe that to date has killed seven million people. Several state governments, who are charged with protecting the public safety, decided that large public gatherings needed to be placed on hold. They did not decide this in a vacuum as they listened to the brightest scientists and doctors in this field. A few months into the virus, many churches that sided with the NAR dominionist theology realized they could use this horrific situation to score cheap political points. They realized that their purpose driven models of church growth relied upon the tithe and that was all but vanishing without the main event of a Sunday service. So, they rebelled against their governmental authority. This is despite the clear instruction of scripture found in the key verses today. MacArthur realized his stance violated these scriptures so he tried this tortured logic to defend himself:
"Some will think such a firm statement is inexorably in conflict with the command to be subject to governing authorities laid out in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Scripture does mandate careful, conscientious obedience to all governing authority, including kings, governors, employers, and their agents (in Peter's words, "not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable" [1 Peter 2:18]). Insofar as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God's law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not. In other words, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 still bind the consciences of individual Christians. We are to obey our civil authorities as powers that God Himself has ordained. However, while civil government is invested with divine authority to rule the state, neither of those texts (nor any other) grants civic rulers jurisdiction over the church." - John MacArthur
He made many other ridiculous arguments but let's just focus on these. This notion that Romans 13 hinges upon whether the government attempts to exercise ecclesiastic authority is from the mind and deceitful heart of John MacArthur, not scripture. Do you see this anywhere in the key verses? No. The notion that the state cannot issue orders that forbid our obedience to the law is equally moronic. Being asked to temporarily not gather in large groups is not forbidding us to obey the law. Mac's argument here is that the modern-day Sunday church service is somehow compatible with the Mosaic Law and that not going is somehow sin. If missing Sunday service was a sin then we are all going to hell. This transparent ploy also forgets that the law was nailed to the cross, except the moral law. So is MacArthur making the argument that attending his church on Sundays was a moral imperative? The jurisdictional argument falls flat because the ask was not for the church to not be the church but just not to jam 5000 people into a confined space while a lethal virus was loose. Never lose sight also that the reasoning from the state was public health. It does not matter what John MacArthur's opinion about this was. He is not a doctor.
So, MacArthur is now releasing a movie that compares this asinine, insensitive and potentially deadly stance he took against his own sheep, to periods in church history of great persecution. That is propaganda of the highest order. I said so yesterday in response to a post on Facebook and the blowback was swift. The defenses offered however were based on personality not scripture. There is no scriptural defense for what John MacArthur did and producing a movie lying about what he did is not going to change that. If you are prepared to defend this doesn't it give you pause that Charisma News is backing him? That he thinks nothing of sharing a platform with them? I will close with one more nugget from Mac's own defense:
"Politicians may manipulate statistics and the media can cover up or camouflage inconvenient truths. So a discerning church cannot passively or automatically comply if the government orders a shutdown of congregational meetings--even if the reason given is a concern for public health and safety." - John MacArthur
I love my pastor but I am not taking virology advice from him any time soon. Note here that politicians MAY manipulate stats which the media MAY cover up, but that conspiratorial nonsense goes both ways. Either way, to present the mere possibility as a rationale for this action is beyond stupid. His arrogant statement here that the church cannot obey Romans 13 because of the possibility of deception is such a self-serving argument. He just dismisses public health out of hand. Remember - seven million people are dead! If you want to see this fluff piece of NAR conspiracy marketing, knock yourself out. It does not change history. It does not change facts. It does not change the bible. Johnny Mac should have known better and deep down I think he does but he is now all in on the NAR dominionist side. Deified or otherwise, John MacArthur is to be marked and avoided.