The Q&A session was moderated by Dr. R.C. Sproul with Dr. Horton and Dr. MacArthur serving as the participants.
With regards to the assurance of salvation – Calvin said that all struggle. You, John, suggested that a lack of assurance might be related to a lack of looking forward to heaven.
MACARTHUR: Yes, all doubt. But Peter was saying that the testing of faith generates assurance, because then you know that your faith is real. Tested faith grows stronger and strengthens assurance.
Abraham was asked to slay his son. How does that make sense?
HORTON: Problem of evil. God cannot do that which is contrary to His nature. In the cross, we see what the almost–sacrifice of Isaac was pointing to.
SPROUL: The natural law of God is distinguished from the purposive law of God. The former extends from God’s nature, the latter are utilized by God for a season for a specific purpose.
MACARTHUR: We don’t have an inherent right to keep living. God in His judgment sanctioned killing Canaanites.
Please comment on the idea of being "seeker-sensitive". Who seeks who in the manner of salvation?
MACARTHUR: God is the true seeker. “No one seeks after God.” God seeks those whom He has chosen as a love gift to His son. People are seeking after the goodies that are connected to the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. The sinner does not seek the true and living God.
SPROUL: The sinner wants the benefits of God (forgiveness, peace) apart from God Himself. We’re running from God, but all the while wanting His benefits.
The purpose of worship is to glorify God with the saints. We ought not to design worship services primarily for unbelievers.
You (Dr. Horton) mentioned the names of some well-known people in our society who were raised in fundamentalist or evangelical homes, but now they are anti-God. Why does this happen so often?
HORTON: Some people have truly been hurt. But for many, it is the downplaying of doctrine from their earliest days. Even among those who grew up in the church, many did not grow up in a true doctrinally rich community. They go from the nursery to the youth group and then to Intervarsity or some other campus ministry, but they never had any sense of belonging to a church. They were “attending” a church building, but never really in the life of the communion of the saints.
SPROUL: Many, even from solid homes, are just never converted. We must remember that nobody is born a Christian.
MACARTHUR: Young people are particularly critical of hypocrisy. Many grow up without a sense of the greatness and holiness of God. However, if the holiness and greatness of God is preached and revered by a church, that’s a big plus. Then, if someone does leave the church, it is much harder for that person to criticize the God they’ve learned about. Nevertheless, they leave because they were never of us (I John 2:19).
What do you think of all this emphasis on “spiritual formation”?
MACARTHUR: It is not uncommon for the Christian language to be there in such circles, but no real understanding. Intuition, deeper-life, mystery, experientialism – not rooted in anything. (But yes, there are departments at Christian colleges on “spiritual formation”.)
HORTON: You don’t read the Bible by yourself. You read it in community. Many of these folks are Quakers, or Anabaptists, and are closer to a medieval, spiritual approach.
We hear, “Millions are dying apart from Christ. We must reach them.” How is that consistent with John 6 “only those whom the Father gives to Me shall come?
MACARTHUR: It is not our job to figure out who is elect and who is not. We go and preach, and that’s how we find out who God is calling to Himself.
Can we take at least some of the methods of the world without developing and promoting secular belief systems?
HORTON: No. One breeds the other. If you believe the power is in the gospel, and that it has to be taught and expounded, it is impossible to take the methods of the church-growth movement and seek to use those means to accomplish God’s ends.
MACARTHUR: We’re told to go sow seed. The kingdom of God is like one who scattered seed, and then it went into the ground, and it came up as a crop, and we ourselves do not know how it happened (see Mark 4:26-29).
SPROUL: We cannot improve on God’s means. But we can depart from it. God put the power in the gospel itself, not in our own methods.
Can God regret certain things that have happened, or even that He has done?
SPROUL: We have anthropomorphisms throughout the Bible. “God has a strong right arm.” This language is used to communicate with us in human terms. But ultimately God is not able to repent, because God cannot do anything wrong. He does, however, use human ways to express feelings of sorrow over certain events that transpire.
HORTON: Of Saul, we read that God “regretted” making him a king (I Sam. 15:11). But the context gives clarity, because about fifteen verses later the text reveals that “God is not a man that He should regret” (I Sam. 15:29).
MACARTHUR: Of Judas, we read that “it would have been better had he never been born” (Mark 14:21). This language expresses disappointment. But God is not winding his way through circumstances and seeking to redo or undo them.
If God loves everyone, when does he start hating people?
MACARTHUR: We do read that God is angry with the wicked every day. But there is an abundance of common grace for non-Christians. And yet at some point if there is no repentance, then a divine, just hatred takes over.
If you are in a position of leadership in a church that preaches a man-centered gospel, is it OK to leave?
MACARTHUR: Look at your options. If there are problems/issues, but you don’t have good alternatives, then seek to do good where you are. But if you have options, go where the church is really functioning in a biblical way. But prior to that, do go to the leadership and express your concerns respectfully to them. Don’t leave the church in a way that would violate the principles you are trying to represent.
As a Christian, you are responsible for your spiritual growth. You need to be in a place where that can maximally happen.
Many, on the other hand, leave churches for trivial reasons. And others have no concept of church membership at all. But church membership is important, because that’s how pastors know who are under your care.
What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?
MACARTHUR: To pray in accordance with the purposes of God. In accordance with what he is trying to accomplish in the world.