MacArthur is Wrong
This is a summary of a much longer document I published a while ago. This summary is recommended for most people.
The much longer, more technical, original “MacArthur is Wrong” was one of the first documents published on this website.
(You could also take a look at the madness of calvinism in “Calvinism is madness itself“.)
MacArthur’s besotted followers can’t accept that he can ever be wrong!
It is apparent that MacArthur, along with other calvinist “teachers”, is guilty of intending to deliberately distort the truth of the Bible and thus knowingly teaches doctrines designed to deceive. Many of his besotted followers think that he just cannot be wrong, yet wrong he is, indeed. This deception involves the misuse of alleged “scholarship” in order to confuse those who may think that MacArthur just cannot be wrong, and therefore mistakenly believe everything he says.
MacArthur changes the meaning of foreknowledge to deny man’s free will to choose
Calvinists like MacArthur apparently have a great need to somehow “prove” that God’s foreknowledge is predetermined by God, thus allowing the false doctrines of unconditional election and limited atonement to appear to have Biblical doctrine status. For, a foreknowledge not dependent upon predetermination (or predestination, or fore-ordination) would permit the free will of man to choose this day whom he will serve, something that calvinists like MacArthur refuse to accept, even though the Bible does teach such free will consistently.
MacArthur twists Acts 2:23 to change meaning of “foreknow” in Romans 8:29
I was given (by a calvinist) a quote from MacArthur’s Study Bible in support of calvinist teachings. It appeared as a footnote to Romans 8:29 – For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
(cf. Acts 2:23—an inviolable rule of Greek grammar, called the Granville Sharp rule, equates [pre]determination and “foreknowledge”; see notes on 1 Pet. 1:1–2, and cf. with Rom. 1:20—the term must be interpreted the same in both verses.)
You see, MacArthur, like any strict calvinist, appears unable to accept that “foreknow” and “foreknowledge” actually have anything to do with God knowing the future! He desperately wants “foreknowledge” to mean “predetermined” because calvinism demands the lie. If foreknowledge means God’s perfect knowledge of the future, then it also means that man makes free-will choices regarding his salvation, and that God did not unconditionally predestinate man to either heaven or hell from the beginning.
God chooses His elect by foreknowledge of free will decisions for salvation
Calvinists hate the idea that foreknowledge actually means a knowledge of the future! For if it did, then 1 Peter 1:2 destroys their teaching that God has predetermined the eternal future of all mankind from the beginning without any free-will input by anyone. It is apparent that MacArthur won’t accept the clear teaching in 1 Peter 1:2 which says that God used His foreknowledge to choose His elect.
1 Peter 1:2a – Elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God the Father
Of course, that word “foreknowledge” is the Greek word prognosis (knowledge of the future before it happens) which is derived from proginosko (to have knowledge beforehand). God’s prognosis in salvation literally means God using His knowledge of the future to determine those who had called upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13), those whom He would then record in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 17:8), that is, the elect or chosen of God. For further information on the foreknowledge of God, please go to The Foreknowledge of Sovereign God.
But the Biblical use of foreknowledge uses man’s free will choice to accept the free gift of salvation offered in Christ (Romans 10:13), something calvinists refuse to accept (clearly by their free will too, no doubt). Therefore calvinists won’t accept that God uses foreknowledge to determine His elect (because calvinists deny man any option of free will to accept the salvation of Christ). Thus, they have to teach that foreknowledge means something else, in fact, anything else other than its proper meaning. However, because foreknowledge does mean simply the perfect knowledge that God has of the future, calvinists have to muddy the waters somewhat. So, if they can find some reasoning (however spurious) that sounds intellectual enough, then they’ll use it. It doesn’t matter if it is correct or not; the requirement is to at least introduce sufficient confusion to create some doubt in the minds of those Christians who haven’t the desire to “waste” time and energy testing all things for themselves.
So what is the Granville Sharp rule?
Granville Sharp (1735 – 1813) was an abolitionist (that is, against the slave trade). He was also a strong Trinitarian, that is, he believed very strongly in the Trinity of God, and thus opposed Unitarians (those who believed that only the Father was God and that Jesus was a lesser being created by God). A number of controversial verses (including Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; 1 Timothy 5:21; Ephesians 5:5) were interpreted either to mean that Jesus was God, or that He wasn’t God, depending upon how you interpreted the Greek grammar. And that, in turn, depended upon which side of the fence you were on, either Trinitarian or Unitarian. So, he formulated the following rule in support of Trinitarianism: (Note that it applies to “the same person“.)
“When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, if the article ho, or any of its cases (te, to), precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle.”
Trinitarian A. Bowser states it more simply: (Note again that it applies to “the same person“.)
“When the copulative `and’ connects two nouns of the same case, if the article precedes the first noun and is not repeated before the second noun, the latter always refers to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun.“
(What Every Jehovah’s Witness Should Know, Arthur M. Bowser)
“Basically, Granville Sharp’s rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word ‘and,’ and the first noun has the article (‘the’) while the second does not, both nouns are referring to the same person.” – (Granville Sharp’s Rule, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1, James White, calvinist) (Note once again it applies to “the same person“.)
Note that all the statements of this rule relate the nouns to the same person, not thing.
Eg Titus 2:13 – Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Take the phrase “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”. Unitarians (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses) teach that “the great God” and “our Saviour Jesus Christ” are two separate persons. But, if the Granville Sharp rule is applied, we get the following:
the (definite article tou) great God (1st noun) and (copulative kai) our Saviour Jesus Christ (2nd noun).
The rule then establishes that “the great God” and “our Saviour Jesus Christ” refer to the one and same person, thus supporting the Trinity of God. But while the two nouns apply to the same person, the two nouns themselves are not equivalent.
This same rule could be stretched to be applied to other relevant verses with similar construction, where the two nouns still refer to the same person.
Acts 2:23 – Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
where “determinate counsel” and “foreknowledge” are the two nouns with the definite article before the first noun (but not the second noun) and both joined by the copulative kai (= “and”), and both nouns refer to the same person, who is, in this case, God. Please note that the two nouns are not synonyms though. The Granville Sharp rule can never be used to make the two nouns mean the same thing but instead requires that they both refer to the same person, in this case, God.
MacArthur misquotes the Granville Sharp rule to support his false teachings
MacArthur misquotes this rule in the following from his commentary on Romans (Romans 8:29). (Note that MacArthur uses “plan” as a synonym for “determinate counsel”)
“Both words include the idea of willful intention. “Foreknowledge” is from the noun form of the verb translated foreknew in our text. According to what Greek scholars refer to as Granville Sharp’s rule, if two nouns of the same case (in this instance, “plan” and “foreknowledge”) are connected by kai (“and”) and have the definite article (the) before the first noun but not before the second, the nouns refer to the same thing (H.E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament [New York: Macmillan, 1927], p. 147). In other words, Peter equates God’s predetermined plan, or foreordination, and His foreknowledge.”
(Note that MacArthur has changed “the same person” to “the same thing“.)
That reference MacArthur “quoted” actually says: “The following rule by Granville Sharp of a century back still proves to be true: “When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, if the article ho or any of its cases precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle; i.e., it denotes a farther description of the first-named person.”” (P 147, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament – H E Dana & Julius R Mantey)
Note that it says “person” and not “thing”. MacArthur says that the nouns refer to “the same thing“, whereas his “quoted” reference says that “the latter always relates to the same person”. Note that even the reference MacArthur uses states that the rule applies to a “person”, so why has MacArthur changed “person” to “thing”?
For one thing, the two nouns of the same case (“determinate counsel” and “foreknowledge”) should refer to the same person (not “thing”) under the Granville Sharp rule, and, in this case, that means “God”. Even if they referred to the same thing as MacArthur says, then it still would not equate the two nouns but merely have them both refer to the same one thing (if not a person). However, the rule always requires that it refer to the same person. In either case, there is absolutely no justification for teaching that the two nouns become the same or similar in meaning! MacArthur is clearly wrong here!
MacArthur misuses this rule to “establish” a lie against God’s truth
It is apparent that MacArthur has misused the Granville Sharp rule in his notes on Romans 8:29 to “establish” an untruth, one that “equates [pre]determination (= KJV “determinate counsel”) and foreknowledge” (referring to Acts 2:23). That is, MacArthur is trying to establish that God’s “foreknowledge” is the same as God’s “determinate counsel”. If he can equate the two terms, then he can declare that God’s foreknowledge is basically predetermined, or fore-ordained, and thus cannot be understood as God using His perfect knowledge of future events for His sovereign purposes. This teaching from MacArthur, if true, would destroy the idea of God using foreknowledge to determine the future free will salvation choices of mankind, since MacArthur would have then established that such knowledge of said free will choices would already be known beforehand only because of God’s determinate counsel! (That is, God’s foreknowledge would become the equivalent of God’s determinate counsel.) And, thus, free will choices become irrelevant because God had already pre-ordained them from the beginning! And that would make the use of foreknowledge irrelevant for determining the future, according to calvinist teaching. This is unbiblical!
MacArthur’s efforts demonstrate that foreknowledge does not equal predetermination
Thus, MacArthur’s efforts to make “determinate counsel” and “foreknowledge” equivalent terms are incorrect and non-scriptural, and for whatever reason he has done this, he has established himself to be somewhat non-biblical in his teaching in this matter. If he has to resort to this to demonstrate something, then the truth is probably other than that which he seeks to teach here.
Therefore, through his unsuccessful efforts to demonstrate that “foreknowledge” means the same as “predeterminate counsel”, MacArthur has effectively demonstrated that God does indeed use foreknowledge to determine the future decisions of people to be saved.
If MacArthur is wrong here, then expect him to be wrong elsewhere
If MacArthur is not able to teach clearly and correctly on this, especially when he claims to be a teacher of the Bible, then there are likely to be other occasions when he makes mistakes. His mistake, as demonstrated above, concerning the Granville Sharp rule, should be unacceptable for an educated person, and seems to be somewhat uneducated instead. It is likely to be deliberate attempt to mislead God’s people. It does seem interesting that a person of allegedly such learning might make such a fundamental error in interpretation. Could this, perhaps, be how MacArthur might call himself a fundamentalist?
Further examples of MacArthur’s unbiblical teachings on the Granville Sharp rule
So, having demonstrated beyond any doubt that MacArthur’s use of the Granville Sharp rule is invalid, I did some further research on MacArthur’s use of this rule. His website says: Acts 2:23 says that Christ went to the cross, listen to this, “By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” …. Foreknowledge means in that passage — by virtue of an old Greek rule that some of you know, the Granville Sharp rule — foreknowledge in the passage Acts 2:23 means the same thing. So foreknowledge means determinate counsel.
(“The Progress of Salvation” Scripture: Romans 8:29-30 Code: 90-181)
In another document from MacArthur’s website he says:
In fact, I think it’s Dr. Wuest who says this is where one of the sort of traditional Greek language rules comes into play, what’s known as Granville Sharp’s law, that two nouns in the same case connected by kai, first with an article and second without, must, therefore, refer to the same thing. And so we could say that “foreknowledge” and “determinate counsel” mean the same thing.
(“The Ultimate Security of Our Salvation” Romans 8:29-30 Code: 45-66)
So “refer to the same thing” then becomes “mean the same thing”? Absolute rubbish! It is the height of illogical debate to say that two items that refer to the same thing must therefore mean the same thing!! I could say, for example, that the knife and fork both refer to the same setting at the table, yet it is sheer idiocy to assume that “knife” and “fork” then mean the same thing, that is, that they are synonyms! If you don’t understand this, just try holding some meat with your knife and then cut it with your fork!
MacArthur is not the only calvinist to twist facts to support his false teaching
Talking of synonyms and the Granville Sharp rule, here’s another calvinist explanation using (misusing!) that rule.
Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, … Acts 2:23
Here, determined purpose and foreknowledge are linked by a Greek grammatical form called the Granville-Sharp Rule. This makes the two nouns synonymous. It is used for emphasis, like saying right and good or evil and bad.
(“Does Foreknowledge Explain Election?” by Roger Smalling).
MacArthur also tries to define “foreknowledge” as not actually “foreknowledge”!
Also, in “The Progress of Salvation”, MacArthur talks about foreknowledge as an expression of love of God for his people. “It is a predetermined, foreordained, foreseen love relationship born in the eternal purpose of God. ….. For example, you go back in the book of Genesis and it says, “Cain knew his wife.” Now that means more than he knew who she was, or where she was, or what she was like because it follows it by saying, “Cain knew his wife and she bore a son.” The word “know” is used sort of like a euphemism in Scripture to express the most intimate expressions of love. ….. The concept of knowing then carries that beautiful, intimate love that brings two together. It has the idea of caring for someone. In Hosea, for example, 13:5, “I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought.””
The Hebrew word for “know” here is yada. See if it means what MacArthur says it does in Genesis 19:4-9: Vs 5 “that we may know (yada) them“; Vs 8 “that have not known (yada) men”.
And in Judges 19:20-30: “that we may know (yada) him” Vs 25 “they knew (yada) her … all the night”.
Do you really think these people wanted a “predetermined, foreordained, foreseen love relationship”? Were they “the most intimate expressions of love”? And if a doctor gives you a prognosis, does MacArthur’s definitions apply to him too?
In fact, MacArthur desperately wants “foreknowledge” to mean anything other than God’s perfect knowledge of the future. But foreknowledge (Greek prognosis) does mean simply God’s perfect knowledge of the future. Just as the doctor gives you his prognosis of your future health based on what he can understand of your future right now (and just as Hippocrates taught the use of prognosis around 400BC), foreknowledge (prognosis) should never be twisted to fit MacArthur’s false calvinist doctrines.
You be the judge: can anyone still claim that MacArthur is biblical?
If, after reading this, you still think MacArthur is completely Biblical in all his teachings, then you need to do some serious research to determine whether in fact you might actually be considering MacArthur to be an authority superior to even the Bible! No-one but God may dictate what is and what isn’t truth, and for that we must go to the Bible, not man-made doctrines (commandments) that are made to appear like the doctrines of God.
Matthew 15:9 – But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.
You might wish to check out my other recent posts:
Calvinism is madness itself
Calvinists are either mad, stupid or simply absolutely naïve! You see, calvinists have to agree with the following two statements:
(a) God is perfect and everything He does is perfect.
(b) All things in this world happen according to God’s sovereign will and ordination alone.
Therefore calvinists must believe that:
(a) All things in this world must be perfect, including sin and evil.
(b) Not one imperfect act may exist in a world where the calvinist God rules.
Otherwise, if they declare sin to be evil in any way, then they must accept that their God is not perfect or that his will is not the only will in the universe.
Why do calvinists believe lies?
What is it that makes calvinists think they have the truth when the Bible clearly demonstrates that they are actually believing lies? There has to be some big attraction that tempts them to want to believe, because it is certainly not biblical truth that leads to such lies. In fact, the attraction of calvinism appears to based upon a self-worth-building program. All those with low self-esteem should apply.
A woman has 5 children. She tells them all to eat their food. Only one child eats his food; the other four do not eat their food.
Calvinist interpretation: “The woman makes one child eat his food and makes the other four not eat their food. Because she never intended to feed them all, she only provided food for the one that she made to eat. She didn’t provide any food for the other four because she never intended feeding them in the first place, even though she told them all to eat their food.”
MacArthur says, “God did not intend to save everyone. He is God. He could have intended to save everyone. He could have saved everyone. He would have if that had been His intention. The atonement is limited.” (The Doctrine of Actual Atonement, Part 1)
Thus the woman never intended to feed them all. She is boss. She could have intended to feed them all. She could have fed them all. She would have if that had been her intention. The feeding is limited.
Those of you who oppose calvinism because of its non-biblical teachings may have noticed that the moment you try to use the Bible alone (sola scriptura) to discuss issues with a calvinist, he or she usually tries to avoid open and frank discussion. So I’m proposing some of the more common ways that calvinists use to avoid having to defend their heresies. After all, most calvinists know that they will lose any debate on calvinism using the Bible alone. And fear of losing drives them to avoid resorting to the truth of the Bible alone.
Calvinists believe that “bad” is simply “an evil good”, that evil is good and good is evil! Augustine, whose teachings are the basis for Calvin’s teachings, said (in his “Enchiridion”) “that since every being, in so far as it is a being, is good, if we then say that a defective thing is bad, it would seem to mean that we are saying that what is evil is good, that only what is good is ever evil and that there is no evil apart from something good. ….. Now, if a man is something good because he is an entity, what then, is a bad man except an evil good? ….. if there were no good in what is evil, then the evil simply could not be, since it can have no mode in which to exist ….“
Can any calvinist please explain what Augustine is talking about? How is it biblical? Is Augustine rational? This appears to be based on Augustine’s Manichean Gnostic roots where salvation depended upon man obtaining ultimate knowledge, both good and evil. It relates to occult Yin and Yang beliefs which teach that a necessary balance must exist between good and evil. Can any calvinists give any support for Augustine’s irrational thinking here (sola scriptura!)? Doesn’t it simply prove that in a calvinist world, evil has to be seen as good or else evil cannot exist??