Supporting religious freedom is idolatry, according to Pastor John MacArthur.
Last week, MacArthur delivered a State of the Church Address in place of this year’s annual Shepherds Conference, which was postponed because of ongoing litigation and recent threats from the state. MacArthur urged evangelicals to stop creating alliances with non-Christian groups in pushing for religious freedom, arguing that it’s unnecessary.
“The gospel offends the sinner and seeks to break the sinner’s comfort and contentment by bringing him into the stark realization of the eternal judgment of God,” he said. “I told our congregation a few weeks ago that I could never really concern myself with religious freedom. I wouldn’t fight for religious freedom, because I won’t fight for idolatry. Why would I fight for the devil to have as many false religions as possible and all of them to be available to everyone?”
Despite religious freedom having wide support amongst Americans, MacArthur noted that Christians will continue to be targeted by “the hostility of sinners.”
“Well, people would say that’s a terrible thing to say,” he said. “What about Christianity? Christianity advances whether there is religious freedom or not. And there’ll always be religious freedom for all the lies.”
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The 81-year-old pastor and author explained that “every false religion is going to be free, because it’s linked to the kingdom of darkness that operates in the world. And Christians, whatever the label of religious freedom might be in its broadest sense, Christians are always the target even with religious freedom, of the hostility of sinners.”
To drive home his point about idolatry, MacArthur pointed to the Apostles who “turned the world up-side-down with no help from it. No social action. No alliances.”
“The evil kingdom of darkness hates what God loves and loves everything that God hates, and the kingdom of darkness is never a friend to the light,” he said. “Even rulers have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. They function under the liar Satan himself who is the liar and father of lies. There is absolutely no reason for us to make any alliance with him.”
Christian leaders are responding to the strange comments.
Shane Idleman, author and founder of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, Calif. says MacArthur is wrong.
In an op-ed responding to the idolatry comments, Idleman writes: “I wonder what Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Knox would say if asked the same question about religious freedom? They all pushed for it during the Reformation. What about Tyndale and Huss who were burned at the stake for simply declaring the truth? What would they say about having the freedom to worship God and read His Word?
The Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions, found in 2019 that a majority of Americans strongly support religious freedom even if the views expressed are deemed “discriminatory.”
The poll results and accompanying data in their Religious Freedom Index: American Perspectives on the First Amendment found that a majority of Americans support freedom to practice one’s religion at work or in life even if it creates an imposition or inconvenience for others.
Idelman went on to say that “We don’t have to compromise our principles to be involved in politics. What good is salt left in the shaker, or a light that is hidden? “Politics” is not a bad word. In simple terms, politics refers to governing or leading a group of people. I think God’s Word has a great deal to say about that. Silence is not an option.”
Becket attorney Luke Goodrich says MacArthur was trying to make a valid point: The church can advance even in the face of adversity. “But saying Christians should be indifferent to violations of religious freedom would be wrong” Goodrich says, noting that even the apostle Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen.
Of MacArthur and his idolatry comments, Goodrich says, “I think he’s being deliberatively provocative.”
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice