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AND Campaign President Explains ‘Why John MacArthur Is Wrong About MLK’ After Pastor Questions Civil Rights Leader’s Faith

When my grandfather died, a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. was hanging over his deathbed. His name was Bishop Thomas Lee Cooper, and he was part of the Black church’s now-fading civil rights generation, which King defined.

It’s no great mystery why he and millions of other Americans held King in such high regard. This confessing Christian leader literally sacrificed his life to exemplify love of neighbor. His prophetic dream was a clear application of the gospel, which gave his people reason to “keep on keeping on” while suffering under the sword of oppression. He modeled a tenacity and grace that challenged America’s wicked racial caste system without reciprocating the hatred or belligerence of those lynching his people. And King always pointed Black Americans’ hope toward Jesus Christ, not himself. It’s impossible to honestly honor him without acknowledging the role his Christian faith played in his social action.

Contrarily, in February comments more widely circulated this month, California pastor and theologian John MacArthur called King “not a Christian at all,” “a nonbeliever who misrepresented everything about Christ and the gospel.” He also called The Gospel Coalition (TGC) “woke” for honoring King in its MLK50 conference in 2018, implying this signaled the end of TGC’s faithfulness and orthodoxy.

MacArthur cast these condemnations casually, with an apparent air of self-righteousness that suggests his theological expertise is paired with an infantile understanding of neighborly love (Heb. 5:11–13). Deep knowledge of systematic theology, unfortunately, can exist alongside a desperate need for remedial instruction on the greatest commandments (Matt. 22:37–39) and a failure “to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14), including King’s good work of peace and justice informed by Scripture and motivated by the gospel.

I spoke at MLK50, and I don’t recall seeing any speakers who weren’t unambiguously orthodox. MacArthur’s accusations aren’t only too lightly made. They are plainly slanderous.

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FM Editors
FM Editors
Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.

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