It is clear from the Bible that the destruction and end of the world will not be man-made. No question about that. But why do influential Christian leaders, even like John F. MacArthur, think it is fine for 2 billion to be drowned, 2 billion losing their homes to rising seas, and another 2 billion surviving in misery?


2020: Why Does God Allow So Much Suffering?

“The elements shall melt with fervent heat and the whole earth will be burned up.” Okay? Yeah. But you're not going to do that with your hairspray. So, spray away. Walk on the grass. Kill a deer and drill for oil.

2008: The End of the Universe, Part 2

We need not repent of the way we have polluted, distorted and destroyed the Creator’s work.

  • 3
    That's a big claim that needs to be backed up with a quote.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 27 '20 at 3:06
  • Updated with some references. From the 2020 one: II Peter 3, “The elements shall melt with fervent heat and the whole earth will be burned up.” Okay? Yeah. But you're not going to do that with your hairspray. So, spray away. Walk on the grass. Kill a deer and drill for oil. It's fine to do those things, but the takeaway is: We need not repent of the way we have polluted, distorted and destroyed the Creator’s work. from his 2008 message.
    – Old Geezer
    Apr 27 '20 at 4:28
  • Okay, thanks for the quotes. Yes, they're pretty egregious. I don't know any Christians who'd defend MacArthur for such quotes. But you still haven't given any quote showing that he thinks it is fine that billions will drown.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 27 '20 at 4:32
  • @NigelJ Looks like the basis of a frame challenge style answer. Apr 30 '20 at 12:12
  • @KorvinStarmast I'm sorry, I don't understand the meaning of 'frame challenge style ...'. Could you kindly enlighten me, please ?
    – Nigel J
    Apr 30 '20 at 12:43

Warning: The views expressed below are not the author's own. They merely approximate what the author imagines John MacArthur and those who hold to these type of views might say in defense of their views. You are right to be disturbed by this view. God clearly created humans in Genesis 1 as stewards tasked with caring for the earth and animals, and James tells us that care for vulnerable parties is the pure essence of religion.

I had a theology professor who once said something almost identical on the first day of our Systematic Theology I class. He now teaches at MacArthur's The Master's Seminary so I feel there must be some kinship between them on this an other points. Here are four thoughts on this perspective:

  1. If you asked John MacArthur if drowning and displacing 2 billion people is okay, he most likely would not accept your premise. He would say (a) that is not going to happen because of what a single puny human does with his hair-spray and (b) if I was certain that my actions would cause the death of anyone I would genuinely reconsider my behavior. His behavior and words may be harmful, but we don't have to assume socio-pathic intentions.
  2. All such theology is grounded in a powerful Calvinistic emphasis on the sovereignty of God. Not only did God create the world, but he is the current ruler over it. Therefore (a) whatever I do will be of not effect unless God's plan coincides with the outcome, (b) his plan has always overpowered human effort (for good or ill) as the flood and coming apocalypse indicate, and (c) the job of humans to is use the resources and gifts God gives to produce wealth and enjoy the earth and fund the spread of the gospel. As Macarthur prays at the end of his message:

    Lord, over the sins of those who have misunderstood Your power in creation and Your purpose in it...Do what You will with this earth. You always have and You always will.

    For MacArthur, this plan includes the future destruction of the earth by God in judging the earth, something which we can neither prevent or cause. Environmentalism seems to him a pride-full attempt by humans to escape judgement much as occurred at the Tower of Babel.

  3. Christians have more important priorities than saving the environment, and properly understood, even than saving human lives or promoting better living standards. He might quote Luke 12:23 to devalue the importance of 'well-being' at the expense of 'spiritual' interests like the declaration of the gospel.

    "For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes." We have no power to thwart God's plan which according to MacArthur includes a system: [with] divinely designed renewable resources and benefits.

    He might say that Christians are not advocates of the social gospel, or what is quickly becoming the 'environmental gospel' but the gospel of Jesus Christ which saves sinful humans from death and judgement. Although we are stewards of the earth, we should emphasize not the Genesis 1 command to care for it, but the Genesis 8 command which permits us to kill animals and use up the resources of the earth in pursuit of the real purpose of humanity.

  4. Probably the strongest point in MacArthur's mind is that pre-occupation with the environment and our effects on it is an immense act of human pride. It is idolatrous-ly arrogant to think that we, creatures made of dust, could do anything to destroy the 'good' world that God has made. Unless that damage was by his plan and design as well. A properly worshipful attitude is expressed by the belief that:

    It is God’s responsibility to preserve it, not ours. Our responsibility is to exercise a good and reasonable stewardship, which I think through the centuries man has done, so that we can extract out of it everything that God has put into it for our benefit.

    Echoes of this view can be found in the hyper-capitalist message of Wayne Grudem's The Poverty of Nations.

Remember, this is not my view, just an attempt to read MacArthur charitably (in love).

  • Thanks for the answer. I agree that these would be their argument, but I find point 4 disturbing. Being unable to influence the end of the world doesn't mean we should do nothing to avoid damaging it badly. I think making the world habitable for all is as idolatrous as playing a friendly game of soccer.
    – Old Geezer
    Apr 29 '20 at 15:35
  • Agreed. This is one of the dangers of overly fatalistic views, which are often the result of overly rationalistic 'systems' views of God that have little place for genuine relationship.
    – ninthamigo
    Apr 29 '20 at 16:49
  • Wow, so they really teach only an extractive view of stewardship, with no preserving aspect? What about when they finish extracting? Or do they think the earth's resource reserves are far greater than what scientists tell us?
    – curiousdannii
    May 1 '20 at 0:05
  • @curiousdannii They seem to believe that God made the world to be good (i.e. self-sustaining) so that that will never ultimately happen. This means our measurements of current resources must be wrong, or that soon we will find alternative sources of energy.
    – ninthamigo
    May 1 '20 at 12:22

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