Analysis: John MacArthur Disqualified Others for Their Kids’ Behavior But Exempts Himself

The Roys Report [Chicago IL]

June 20, 2023

By Julie Roys

For decades, famed preacher John MacArthur has taught that pastors and elders with wayward children are disqualified from ministry, even if those children are adults.

Recently, I mentioned this standard in an article on MacArthur’s son, who’s embroiled in a $16 million investment scandal, and people pushed back.

“No parent can control the behavior of their fully grown adult child—even John Macarthur (sic),” one woman wrote.

“Kicking out an elder when their 30+ year old child becomes a criminal seems to not be the fault of the parent,” said another.

Yet, that is precisely what MacArthur has taught. In a sermon entitled, “The Required Character for a Pastor: Family Leadership,” MacArthur states:

So, a pastor, an elder, must be this kind of man, ‘above reproach’ . . . having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.’

‘Having children who believe’—that is literally what the Greek says, ‘teckna echōn pista’: ‘having children who believe.’  ‘Having’ is present tense; ‘children’ has no regard for age at all. In fact, it’s the same word used back in verse 4 to speak of Titus, ‘my true child,’ who was a grown man.  It simply means ‘sons and daughters, offspring.’ 

And generally speaking, the tone of this text assumes them to be adult.  You say, ‘Why do you say that?’  . . . (P)rimarily it’s associated with ‘not accused of dissipation or rebellion.’  That hardly refers to little children.  There aren’t too many dissipated, debauched little kids.  That is a term which would more accurately be reflective of an adult life.

MacArthur also clarified that when Paul says an elder’s children must “believe,” he means they must be “converted,” and have a life that “follows that belief, not being accused of anything that would scandalize the ministry.”

This places MacArthur in a very precarious position. As noted, John MacArthur’s son, Mark MacArthur, has been accused of defrauding clients in a $16 million investment scheme. And recently, Mark MacArthur agreed to pay more than $367,000 to the SEC to repay the money he netted in that scheme, as well as a civil penalty and interest.

Clearly, Mark MacArthur has been accused of something that “would scandalize” his father’s ministry. Violating securities laws and defrauding clients is a very serious transgression, both legally and morally.

So, judging by John MacArthur’s own standard, Pastor MacArthur is disqualified from ministry, based on Mark MacArthur’s behavior, and should step down.

I’m sure this notion is shocking to many. And the thought of disqualifying MacArthur, an 84-year-old man, due to the sin of his 50-something child seems absurd.

For the record, I don’t agree with John MacArthur’s interpretation. As even some in MacArthur’s Reformed camp have argued, “pistas” can mean “faithful.” So, Paul could mean that elders’ children, living at home, must be faithful or obedient. This would emphasize the elder’s ability to manage his household, not do the impossible—control the decisions of an adult child.

Also, other Scriptures seem to very clearly teach that fathers are not responsible for their children’s sin. Ezekiel 18:20 states, “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

Yet, MacArthur very clearly rejects this interpretation in his sermon on family leadership. And who am I to defy the “greatest pastor on planet earth” who’s “defined and modeled expository preaching for more than a half-century”?

Plus, Matthew 7:1-2 states that in “the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

For decades, MacArthur has used his harsh standard to remove several faithful men from leadership at Grace Community Church (GCC) and The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS).

According to former TMUS VP Dennis Swanson, those removed from the GCC elder board because of their adult children include former TMUS Executive VP Dick Mayhue, former GCC Associate Pastor Stuart Scott, and current TMUS Professor William Varner.

TRR reached out to Mayhue, Scott, and Varner for comment. Mayhue didn’t respond. Scott directed TRR “to ask Dr. MacArthur about his particular view of Titus 6.” Varner declined to comment.

TRR has also reached out to MacArthur multiple times for comment about this and other issues, but MacArthur has never responded.

However, another former TMUS professor, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed with TRR that Mayhue and Scott were removed from GCC’s elder board due to their adult children and added, “That’s (MacArthur’s) policy, 100%.”

TRR also spoke with former TMUS Professor Doug Bookman, who’s now professor of biblical exposition at Shepherd’s Theological Seminary.

Bookman told me that senior TMUS administrators made it clear that he was no longer welcome at TMUS around the same time Bookman’s daughter got pregnant out of wedlock, so Bookman resigned. But he said that soon afterward, a TMUS administrator offered him a part-time teaching job at the university but told Bookman he’d need to get MacArthur’s permission first.

Bookman said for two to three weeks, MacArthur wouldn’t take his calls, but then he saw MacArthur at a basketball game and asked him about the position. Bookman said MacArthur replied that Bookman’s daughter was “promiscuous,” and as a result, Bookman had become “an embarrassment.”

Bookman objected, telling MacArthur that his daughter had repented in front of the entire fellowship group Bookman led at GCC and was putting her life together. Bookman said MacArthur responded that he didn’t care if the rumors about Bookman’s daughter were true or not. It was the word on the street and Bookman would never be a part of TMUS’ faculty again, Bookman recalled MacArthur saying.

“Nobody out-Pharisees The Master’s construct, nobody,” Bookman added.

Yet not only is MacArthur’s behavior shockingly cruel, ungracious, and Pharisaical. It’s also inconsistent.

Several former TMUS professors told me that MacArthur employs a two-tier rule system. There’s one set of rules for “underlings he doesn’t find important enough to need their services,” and another set for MacArthur and those he deems important.

This would explain why GCC invited John Piper to speak at its recent Puritan Conference.

Piper’s son, Abraham Piper, is an unbeliever, who’s very openly mocked Christianity in TikTok videos that have gone viral. If anyone is disqualified from ministry based on an adult child, it’s Piper.

But MacArthur openly platformed John Piper.

And despite his son Mark’s scandalous behavior, MacArthur continues to platform himself.

This is rank hypocrisy. Yet, it’s what I’ve come to expect from John MacArthur. He has a pattern of calling out the imagined sins of others—whether it’s a mother who refuses to take back her child-abusing husband or a faithful shepherd who’s child has tragically rejected his father’s instruction.

MacArthur is precisely the Pharisee Jesus talks about in Matthew 23, who “tie(s) up heavy loads and put(s) them on men’s shoulders” but is “not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Yes, John MacArthur is disqualified from ministry—but not because of something his son did. MacArthur is disqualified because he’s shown again and again that he’s a hypocrite.