John MacArthur and Dallas Willard – Two Contemplating Calvinists
Lighthouse trails published the below article pointing out that John MacArthur favorably quotes Dallas Willard a Contemplative Spiritualist. It is important to note that Dallas Willad was a Southern Baptist and his theology was Calvinistic. He says,
“If you were to get to the bottom of my theology you would find me pretty Calvinistic” — http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=92
John MacArthur Broadcast Favorably Quotes Dallas Willard – Why This is a Bad Move
This past weekend, Lighthouse Trails received the following letter from one of our readers:
To Lighthouse Trails: Please listen to the sermon dated August 21st [at Grace to You]. I was shocked when John MacArthur promoted Dallas Willard. Has anyone else contacted you concerning this endorsement?
After receiving this letter, we found the Faith Through the Fire. by John MacArthur, where MacArthur favorably quotes contemplative pioneer Dallas Willard (who passed away earlier this year). While researching this situation, we learned that this sermon was first aired in 1989. However, Grace to You (MacArthur’s ministry) has been presenting it for a number of years as part of a series called
While MacArthur’s original citing of Willard in this sermon took place many years ago, the fact that it is still being offered at Grace to You in a sermon series and is being broadcast currently is cause for concern and is the reason we are writing this report. It is hard for us to understand why Grace to You would continue using this particular sermon, knowing how pervasive the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement is today in the evangelical Protestant church; and as we will show below, even John MacArthur acknowledges that Dallas Willard is a key figure in that movement.
We are well aware that many Christians have a strong sense of devotion toward John MacArthur and trust his opinions and teachings. It is not our intention to discredit him; however, as we have consistently done now for 11 years, we are compelled to issue a warning to believers and a challenge to Christian leaders. Are we suggesting that John MacArthur is a contemplative prayer advocate or part of the emerging church? Certainly not! [DTW note: Yes we are, because John MacArthur preaches the false doctrine of Calvinism, and all doctrines created by Rome will ultimately lead back to Rome and Roman Catholicism: Calvinism’s Roman Catholic Connection] Are we saying it is wrong to use a broadcast today where Dallas Willard is quoted in a positive manner, giving credence to the man and the movement? Yes, we are saying that is wrong. Willard is largely responsible, along with Richard Foster, for bringing the contemplative prayer movement to the forefront of evangelical Christianity.
Those reading this who wish to defend MacArthur and Grace to You, saying that there is no issue here because the original sermon was so long ago need to understand that if this sermon were sitting in some obscure archive, stored away for no one to see, we wouldn’t be writing this today. But that is not the case. Grace to You is continuing to use a sermon that should have been discarded years ago , and it must be treated as if it were new material because that is how it is going to be looked at by those who heard the recent broadcast and also by those who buy the Faith Through Fire series.
The section of the August 21st sermon begins at about the 17:35 minute mark of the broadcast. MacArthur begins by talking about the spiritual disciplines and how they are important for the believer’s life to battle crises and hard times in our lives. He then quotes Willard and says the quote is from Willard’s 1988 book The Spirit of the Disciplines.
While the section that MacArthur quoted from that book does not promote contemplative mystical practices, the point MacArthur is trying to make is actually the same point that contemplatives are trying to make: i.e., that we cannot truly be christlike without the spiritual disciplines in our lives. Certainly, MacArthur wouldn’t include the discipline of the silence like Willard does. For those who may not be able to access the August 21st sermon, here is the section of The Spirit of the Disciplines that MacArthur quoted:
The “on the spot” episodes [crises] are not the place where we can, even by the grace of God, redirect unchristlike but ingrained tendencies of action toward sudden Christlikeness. Our efforts to take control at that moment will fail so uniformly and so ingloriously that the whole project of following Christ will appear ridiculous to the watching world. We’ve all seen this happen.
Some decades ago there appeared a very successful Christian novel called In His Steps. The plot tells of a chain of tragic events that brings the minister of a prosperous church to realize how unlike Christ’s life his own life had become. The minister then leads his congregation in a vow not to do anything without first asking themselves the question, “What would Jesus do in this case?” As the content of the book makes clear, the author took this vow to be the same thing as intending to follow Jesus- to walk precisely “in his steps.” It is, of course, a novel, but even in real life we would count on significant changes in the lives of earnest Christians who took such a vow- just as it happens in that book. But there is a flaw in this thinking. . . [MacArthur skips a few paragraphs]
Asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?” when suddenly in the face of an important situation simply is not an adequate discipline or preparation to enable one to live as he lived. It no doubt will do some good and is certainly better than nothing at all, but that act alone is not sufficient to see us boldly and confidently through a crisis, and we could easily find ourselves driven to despair over the powerless tension it will put us through. (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 7-9)
MacArthur then tells his audience:
The secret of being ready for the crisis of having the yoke be easy and the burden be light is to learn how to live the Christian life all the time so that we have developed the habits, the resources, the responses, the timing, the strengths, the memory, the faith, the spiritual courage to handle it. That’s the issue. To behave like Jesus Christ is our goal. But to be able to do that is not the result of wishing. It’s the result of daily spiritual discipline.
In this article, we are not going to focus on the present-day Spiritual Formation theology of becoming “Christlike” through “spiritual disciplines” except to point to two chapters in Colossians:
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel . . . to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: . . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:21-23,25-28, emphasis added)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2: 8-10, emphasis added)
Paul concludes chapter 2 with a description of spiritual disciplines that were being used in that day (vs. 20-22), only to say that such things “have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body” (vs 23), but only serve to make men proud.
It is Christ in us (the born-again Christian believer) that perfects us, forms us, and changes us, not the spiritual disciplines of Dallas Willard, Thomas Merton, and Richard Foster! And bear in mind, when Willard (like Foster and Merton) speaks of the disciplines, he is including the “silence.” This silence that the contemplatives speak of is more than just an outer silence or quietness; it is meaning to silence the mind (put it in neutral so there are no thoughts). Willard states in The Spirit of the Disciplines:
In silence we close off our souls from “sounds,” whether those sounds be noise, music, or words. . . . Many people have never experienced silence and do not even know that they do not know what it is. . . . It is a powerful and essential discipline. Only silence will allow us life-transforming concentration upon God. (bold added, 1991, First HarperCollins Paperback Edition, p. 163-164).
Please continue reading here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=13006 then come back and comment as you can’t comment at LHT.