John MacArthur, Pope Benedict, and Karl Keating

For quite some time I have received Karl Keating’s e-letter. I guess it is easier than a blog (it is only once a week or so). Sometimes there are a few things that mildly interesting. He still takes shots at Bart Brewer every once in a while, though why he would do so is difficult to understand. In any case, today Keating decided to blow a gasket in John MacArthur’s direction. Now, given that Mr. Keating can not hold a candle to Dr. MacArthur’s ministry and writings, I found his attack petty and cheap, especially since it played the “convert card” as well. Evidently one of Keating’s staff people was once a member of John’s church. Of course, hundreds, if not thousands, of those who have come to know Christ through Grace to You and Grace Community Church are former Roman Catholics, so one has to wonder at the relevance of Keating’s argument at that point. Be that as it may, MacArthur made a number of the same comments about John Paul II’s death that I did at the time, and Keating evidently did not like what he had to say. He cites from MacArthur,

   “What I cannot understand,” continued MacArthur, “is the response of some Evangelicals to what matters most about the pope: his beliefs about God and the gospel. … Influential leaders embraced the deceased pope as a brother in Christ and the Catholic church as just another Christian denomination. …
   “During the Reformation, countless men and women died rather than deny the biblical truths of salvation. Countless others today are giving their lives as missionaries to people lost in the darkness and guilt of Catholicism.”
   MacArthur goes on to write about the “damning error” that is Catholicism and notes that he has released a new 90-minute lecture called “Unmasking the Pope and the Catholic System.” He says that “the church I pastor is loaded with people who were saved out of the Catholic church. … A longtime Grace to You board member and dear friend of mine is a former Catholic. He speaks with great emotion about the bondage he and his wife lived under.”

Obviously, MacArthur is expressing the views common to Bible-believing evangelicals. Nothing new or exciting here. Will we get a closely reasoned, strongly exegetical response from Karl Keating? Well, you already know the answer to that.

   How many times have we heard these claims before? “The Catholic Church is not really Christian.” “Catholics believe you ‘earn’ your salvation through good works.” “Catholicism is based on guilt, not truth.” “People are in ‘bondage’ to Catholicism–and we need to save them.”
   Each Sunday 7,000 people attend MacArthur’s church. This is what he tells them about an institution that was around for nineteen centuries before he was born and that is now headed by a man who shows not a hint of MacArthur’s arrogance.

Keating is preaching to the choir. Why not refute the allegations in a meaningful fashion? Why not explain how such doctrines as purgatory and indulgences and the idea of mortal sin destroying the grace of justification do not, in fact, result in fear, uncertainty, and the epidemic Marian idolatry that we see all around the globe? And though we have often caught Keating in historical errors (which he continues to repeat without even noting the refuation of his claims, here is an example), he continues to present the myth that Rome is two millennia old. Tell us, Karl–can you name a single member of the Council of Nicea who believed and professed what you believe about the Papacy, Mary, purgatory, indulgences, transubstantiation, etc.? If not, how can you throw out these easy, yet false, statements?

Now, I am only an acquaintance of John MacArthur. We’ve spoken a few times and had lunch. I do not know him the way many others do, but I do know this: John MacArthur would recoil in horror if someone bowed to him and tried to kiss his ring. He would rightly rebuke anyone who addressed him in terms proper only for deity (such as “Holy Father” or “Vicar of Christ”). He does not enter the pulpit in flowing velvet clothes and gold-fringed robes. He is a humble minister of the Word of God, not the traditions of men. For someone to defend the grandiose, unbiblical traditions and claims of the Papacy in Rome in contrast to a warm-hearted, shepherding, exegetically-minded minister of the gospel is the height of absurdity. Perhaps Keating needs to visit Grace Community and compare its simplicity and focus upon the ministry of preaching with the gold-encrusted marble hallways of St. Peter’s. To miss that contrast is to say much about one’s own blindness to one’s traditions. But Keating has only begun:

   It is MacArthur who claims a divine commission: “I do have a mandate from God to compare what others teach to the gospel of the Bible.” He says, “‘Does the pope teach the gospel?’ is a valid question.”
   Rosalind Moss left John MacArthur’s church because she realized that, yes, the pope really does teach the gospel–and that John MacArthur does not.
   The Grace to You ministry’s letterhead has this slogan at the bottom: “The Bible Teaching of John MacArthur.” Benedict XVI is more modest in his claims. His letterhead does not have at the bottom “The Bible Teaching of Benedict XVI” because the Pope is not trying to push his own agenda.

Please! Can you imagine trying to contrast the pretentious claims of Rome’s papacy–the fawning of crowds over a man who holds an unbiblical office and accepts the most incredibly non-Christian adoration and man-worship–with “The Bible Teaching of John MacArthur”—it is simply beyond belief! Benedict XVI is called “Pontifex Maximus” and “Vicar of Christ” and that is somehow more humble than “The Bible Teaching of John MacArthur”? Hello? Is anyone else as utterly amazed at such a statement as I?

Keating says MacArthur is not preaching the gospel. MacArthur says Boniface (and by extension, Keating) is not. So who do you think can prove their point exegetically, from the Word of God? Read Keating’s Catholicism and Fundamentalism and compare and contrast it with John’s work. There is no comparison. Yugo vs. Jaguar. Hawks vs. Spurs. Royals vs. Cardinals. Internet Monk vs. Pyromaniac. No contest.