John MacArthur: his wealthy and important trustees should all be fired
(Note added February 20, 2021: John MacArthur’s longtime right hand man, Phil Johnson, went to one of John’s friends to defend John about a number of things that have come out recently as a result of The Masters University and Seminary being put on probation by its accrediting agency (see below). One of Phil’s statements referred back to our own 2012 post. Please see below for this recent YouTube defense of John by Phil, and then my response.)
Nine years ago, on February 17, 2012, John MacArthur’s marketers at Grace to You announced MacArthur had struck a deal to release his MacArthur Study Bible notes using the text of the best-selling New International Version 2011. Previously, John had publicly opposed this neutered version of God’s Word, but now he had signed a contract with the Bible’s publisher, Zondervan, and would be receiving royalties for sales of this feminist revision of Scripture.
It was a shocker. I had preached at The Master’s Seminary and both David and I had benefited from listening to some of John’s Bible teachings, so as we said at the time, we were “gobsmacked” to see his about-face on neutered Bibles.
Asking ourselves why John did it, it was clear it was money.
We called on John to reverse his decision. But more importantly, we went to work looking at John’s finances and there we discovered a story that needed to be told. We researched and documented the facts, warning the church the damage money was doing to John’s reputation and ministry.
This brought out John’s attack dogs, but there was a silver lining. Within a few days of publishing the IRS records on John’s money, I got a call from a member of The Master’s University and Seminary board of trustees politely asking if we wouldn’t please cool our jets? The man was a real gentleman, but I explained we were convinced everyone in a governance position there at MacArthur’s empire needed to prepare for worse. The signs of fiscal improprieties were too glaring and they involved too large numbers to be simple oversights which could be solved by any modulation of present practices. The rot was at the core and it would only grow, so no, we would keep publishing and hoped he understood.
We made a friend that day and the friendship has continued to the present.
Remember, this was back in 2012.
What has happened since 2012?
In 2018 The Master’s University and Seminary were placed on probation by their accreditation agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
This probation was in response to John and his trustees’ refusal to correct financial and governance failures WSCUC had brought to their attention—specifically including the sweetheart deal John’s son-in-law, Kory Welch, had with TMUS. (We had noted this back in 2012 when TMUS was paying Welch’s company $750,000 per year.)
The WSCUC Team expressed their concern:
The team notes with concern a pattern of operational irregularities, including the 2017 auditor’s specific finding on appearance of conflicts of interest with the President’s son-in-law supervising a contract from which he benefits, as well as institutional aid being awarded to related parties exceeding typical award amounts. The lack of response to this finding six months after it was identified as an auditor “significant finding” adds to the concerns of leadership willingness to promptly align with accreditation and financial audit standards.
In late 2018, The Chronicle of Higher Education did a lengthy piece on the scandal titled “Who Is the Master at Master’s University and Seminary“? The article called particular attention to MacArthur’s explanation given to the TMUS community concerning WSCUC’s motives in placing them under suspension:
During an hourlong address, the Rev. John F. MacArthur warned seminarians that the accreditor’s action was the result of an attack “orchestrated, if not by any humans, by Satan himself.” The Chronicle has obtained a recording of the speech, which was delivered in late August.
Talk to those who have worked most closely with MacArthur and they say John considers all criticism to be persecution. So no, John didn’t learn, and things continued to deteriorate.
Eleven months ago, on February 13, 2020, MacArthur’s son, Mark MacArthur, was charged by The Securities and Exchange Commission with securities fraud in the amount of $16,000,000. At the time, Mark sat on the Board of MacArthur’s Grace to You radio business.
No surprise, for several years now, John’s governance boards have been embroiled in internal controversies. So far, MarArthur has been able to intimidate people into silence. Will it continue?
Dad used to say, “Truth and time walk hand in hand.”
Now then, here we are today in February 2021 and another article is making the rounds just now. It’s nine years later and none of the essentials have changed. Instead, things have grown worse. More money and property for John and his family.
But keep in mind: for quite a few years now, the issue has no longer been money. They issue is the refusal of those men holding governance positions over John and his kingdom to exercise their authority for the protection of the Name of Christ. They are responsible for this scandal and they should resign.
But of course, they won’t. Too many of them have close friends and family members dependent upon John for their positions and income.
So, as usual, the pagans of the world do the dirty work Christian men are too fearful to do themselves—for the honor of Christ’s Name and the protection of His sheep.
Note added to this post on February 20, 2021: A couple days ago, Justin Peters (a friend of John and Phil) did a YouTube interview of Phil Johnson for the purpose of Phil defending John against some of the failures the TMUS accrediting agency noted in placing TMUS on probation. During the interview, Phil defended John’s first class air travel. Here is what Phil said in this interview this past week, followed by what we wrote nine years ago. (Phil refers to our 2012 post as “noisy claims that were made by a certain angry blogger a few years ago.”)
From 2012, here is what we said:
The IRS requires nonprofits to file Form 990 answering a whole host of questions the government believes should inform the giving of those inclined to support these ministries [including] “Do you use your nonprofit’s money to buy first class airline tickets?”
[The] IRS requires these men to divulge whether they fly first class (MacArthur does) and whether they have their own relatives on their governance boards (MacArthur does) and whether their organization pays a relative money as a business transaction (MacArthur pays his son-in-law $650,000 per year for video work) and how much they get paid by their non-profit ministry (MacArthur’s non-profits pay him just about $500,000 per year, and this amount doesn’t include his church pay or royalties).
Here then is Phil’s description of the above text:
Contrary to other noisy claims that were made by a certain angry blogger a few years ago, MacArthur doesn’t ALWAYS fly 1st class, but since he almost died of pulmonary embolism a few years ago, it’s not good for him to be immobilized in a middle seat on a long flight. So when we at GTY make his reservations for flights more than 3 hours, we do put him in business class whenever we can so that he can move around and stretch more easily. He’s in his eighties and often has to preach multiple sessions immediately after arrival on an overseas flight. It’s hardly an unreasonable expenditure.
In his defenses of John, Phil habitually misrepresents John’s critics. He has carefully misrepresented us, above. Compare his description of our post to our actual words. We were not angry. It wasn’t “a few years,” but nine years ago. We never said John “ALWAYS” flies first class, but simply reported John’s organization answering the IRS question in the affirmative.
We didn’t say anything about “Business Class.” What the IRS asked about was “First Class” and that’s what we reported. We would never have the slightest objection to John flying Business Class anywhere for any reason, as Phil knows full well. The IRS doesn’t ask about Business Class. Rather, they ask about First Class, and this for very good reason. Phil deceives his listeners when he speaks as if we were opposed to John using Business Class.
Phil Johnson regularly uses straw men arguments in his defenses of John. Whether John approves of Phil’s dishonesty is a question that should be asked of John, himself.
Beginning nine years ago, here in chronological order are our posts on John MacArthur’s decision to promote and profit from the neutered NIV2011. It is a most basic example of a man’s greed corrupting his doctrine.
February 20, 2012
MacArthur Study Bible goes for it…
by David and Tim Bayly on February 20, 2012 – 1:34pm
(TB: Since posting this, I’ve changed the last word of the title from ‘gold’ to ‘it’ and changed a couple other places to tone things down slightly. I’m sorry I was too flippant the first time around.)
Keeping a stiff upper lip, the guys at Pyro announced the release of the MacArthur Study Bible notes joined to the text of the neutered NIV2011. Triumphantly they tell us Zondervan is going to let them keep their notes just as they are. The Words of God are gone–deleted, that is–but the words of man are intact. Chalk one up for man…
Listen brothers, you needn’t have “discussed” this for “a year.” Two minutes should have been sufficient unless there was influence and sales and money involved.
Aaargh! So many friends would stay friendly if only I were ignorant of the hordes of filthy lucre that drives Christian publishing. No one’s above it. And if you think it matters that John MacArthur himself doesn’t collect all the royalties, you don’t understand how the system works.
February 22, 2012
Further thoughts on the NIV2011 MacArthur Study Bible…
by David and Tim Bayly on February 22, 2012 – 7:54pm
NOTE FROM TB: I wrote the text below and was ready to post it this afternoon but other things intervened and I didn’t get to it until late this evening. So I wrote this without having seen Phil Johnson’s response to our previous posts, nor my brother David’s response to Phil. Just an FYI.
* * *
Let me clarify my thoughts concerning the publication of the MacArthur Study Bible in the text of the New International Version 2011.
At the outset I should make clear that no one has called or written threatening me with being tarred and feathered. The simple fact is that David and I respect the men at Pyromaniacs and are grateful for their criticisms and requests for clarification. And because of our respect, we are predisposed to respond positively to their requests. Just now I finished a phone call with one of them which I initiated and the conversation was fruitful. From that brother’s criticisms, I want to say the following.
First, I have never thought that John MacArthur is a money-grubber. I’m sorry I implied this. I was careless and should not have been so flippant. I’ve corrected this at the top of the original post, but I want to call attention to it here, also. Like David, I have been to John’s church. I’ve preached in the Masters Seminary chapel service and, during that visit, saw nothing about the offices or buildings or work that smelled of greed or materialism. Just the opposite.
Second, the decision to publish the MacArthur Study Bible in the text of the New International Version 2011 was not a purely spiritual decision. Zondervan did not donate their NIV2011 copyright license to the MacArthur Study Bible folks and the MacArthur Study Bible folks did not donate their copyright to Zondervan. Both sides made a business decision and both sides were motivated by a desire to see the Word of God more broadly distributed and to profit from that distribution. Whether that profit is individual or organizational, large or small, direct or indirect is immaterial to my larger point.
Third, I have great respect for John MacArthur. Brother David speaks for both of us in his blog post earlier this afternoon and this decision has not caused us to lose our respect for him, nor for any of the Pyro men. We only wish John had not taken this step and we regret the gain in respect and trust his imprimatur will give a Bible translation that is categorically—not simply incidentally—harmful to the souls reading it.
February 24, 2012
An open appeal to John MacArthur to reverse his decision…
by David and Tim Bayly on February 24, 2012 – 2:21am
We all were shocked by John MacArthur’s announced promotion of the NIV2011. Gobsmacked.
Here is a man who has spent his life working his rod and staff in protection of the flock of God. Then this.
John’s not been afraid to beat off wolves from the inside. His Gospel According to Jesus was a wonderful encouragement in defending the Gospel of grace against Dallas Theological Seminary and Grace Theological Seminary men who thought they must deny Christ as Lord to embrace Him as Savior. And like many of you, I praised God for the man as I read that book.
It was no aberration, as I’m sure Iain Murray makes clear through his autobiography of John recently released. And there’s that, also: likely the man David and I have benefitted from more across our life’s work than any other—Iain Murray—showed his commendation of John by giving himself to John’s biography. Honestly, there could be little higher commendation for us this side of Heaven than Iain choosing to do this work.
Feminists aren’t on the inside of John’s world and church so why has he gone and made common cause with them at this late date? Has he grown weary? Has he changed his mind on sex-neutered Bible translation? Does he want to make nice as he ages?
Right there I’m sure many find themselves angry, again. How dare I accuse John of growing weary? Of changing his mind? The very idea of John deciding to change course and “make nice” is ludicrous. John is not interested in making nice. His only commitment is fighting the good fight and finishing the course in a way that pleases his Master.
Alright then, why? Why has John allowed his name to be used to promote a Bible that systematically repudiates the Fatherhood of God writ large over man? Why has he decided to sell a Bible that deletes the name “adam” God gave the race? Why is he promoting a Bible that obscures the federal headship of Adam over that race? That hides the wonderful truth of Scripture that all die in that “one man” Adam? We didn’t die in both Adam and Eve, nor did we die in that first eater of the fruit, Eve.
When we stop to count the doctrines attacked by the systematic destruction of the Holy Spirit’s name for the race used throughout Sacred Scripture, we pinch ourselves and ask, again, why would John do such a thing? What is his motivation? Is he really so naive as to think calling the NIV2011 the “MacArthur Study Bible” is not misleading of the sheep who look to him for safe pasture? Can he be oblivious to the power of marketing and sales? To the ignorance of consumers—”Well, John MacArthur’s name is on it so it must be OK.”
Actually, this is what I think and I’d be happy for someone to prove me wrong. Deep down inside where a man ruminates over such decisions and makes them, John came to the conclusion that neutering the sex markings of Scripture is no big deal. He concluded that the doctrine of God’s name for the race is fine to leave behind because no other doctrine hangs on it. And added to these conclusions, he felt it important that his life’s work residing in his notes have the broadest possible distribution, even at the expense of endorsing what he sees as only a slightly imperfect Bible translation. As he’s pointed out justifying his decision, all Bible translations are slightly imperfect.
Anyhow, we’re left with the fact of John’s name and work promoting an ideological attack upon the Word and Words of God and it’s left us flabbergasted. We’ve loved John and trusted his work. We’ve commended his work to many. I’ll never forget listening to his sermons on Timothy back in my first pastorate out of seminary. What strength those sermons gave me for my work! I’ve been grateful for them (and him) throughout my ministry. How many times I’ve recollected them and been strengthened to do what’s right.
Others may be so close to John that they don’t feel able to question his decision or to ask him to reverse it. Being Presbyterians, David and I have that freedom.
John, for the sake of the Gospel according to Jesus Christ, reverse this decision. God will give you the distribution of your study notes that He wants without you promoting an ideological feminist abuse of His Word. Go for depth and leave the breadth to Him.
Write Zondervan and Nelson and tell them you’ve changed your mind. Please, dear brother. It’s not a matter of picking sides between conservatives and liberals. It’s a matter of obeying the God Who warns us:
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18, 19)
In my own MacArthur Study Bible fifteen years old, now, I find your comment on this text above:
These are not the first such warnings (cf. Deut. 4:2, 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Jer. 26:2). These warnings against altering the biblical text represent the close of the NT canon. Anyone who tampers with the truth by attempting to falsify, mitigate, alter, or misinterpret it will incur the judgments described in these verses.
Save one last sentence, these words above are the conclusion of your study notes for Scripture. Listen to them, dear brother.
Your own MacArthur Study Bible will tamper with the truth by falsifying, mitigating, and altering the very text of Scripture. And while you didn’t do the translation yourself, you will be selling the translation with your own name and work.
Don’t do it. We love you and want to see you end well. We appeal to you as a father.
A faithful shepherd doesn’t mislead God’s sheep.
March 11, 2012
Sin and Christian leaders…
by David and Tim Bayly on March 11, 2012 – 11:44am
The recent debate on this site with members of the Pyromaniacs team over the inclusion of John MacArthur’s study notes in the inclusive-language NIV 2011 seems to have concluded in a breach between Tim and me and the members of the Pyro team. Phil Johnson took down the Pyromaniacs link to Baylyblog shortly after commenting here and we’ve had no contact with him since.
Now that the dust of debate has settled, a few observations might be made, the most important of which is the dangerous tendency of shepherds of God’s flock to become hardened to the convicting work of God’s Spirit as they advance in age.
If there’s one point of Calvinism’s TULIP that those who claim to be Reformed tend to jettison over time, it’s the “T” of total depravity. Yet despite being just one of the letters of TULIP, on “T” hinges all of Reformed theology and life.
Tim and I believe no characteristic is more important in those who serve as shepherds of the flock of Jesus Christ than a growing lifelong awareness of personal sinfulness. And not just sin as a condition, but sins in particular, actual sins. We’re convinced Paul was stating a theme the Spirit intends as the heartbeat of shepherds’ ministries when he wrote, “I am the chief of sinners.”
Unfortunately, age (and often success) tends to diminish our consciousness of personal depravity…
As we age we grow inured to our hidden and internal sins. Externally, we become less willing to admit weakness and more protective of our public persona. We fear the appearance of sin upsetting the apple cart of our success so we pursue a sterling reputation, becoming safe men whose hope is not to end life fighting, but coasting—gliding sleekly, richly and smoothly into the gilded harbor of Evangelical success.
Worst of all, we come to believe our own press releases. We listen so closely to the cheers of our boosters that we become deaf to discordant notes. We grow to fear the appearance of sin more than sin itself. We shun risk to avoid criticism. Somehow, along the way in our passage into middle age we come to believe that we are less-than-totally depraved; we begin to justify actual sin on the basis of our publicly impeccable status. And then things really begin to fall apart… We’re sinning visibly by this point, leaving behind wives of our youth, pursuing fame and fortune, sending rebellious, godless children into adulthood, writing our names in the stars, and ultimately compromising the Word both in teaching and by deed—but, hey, it’s all good because we’re not like other men; we’re stainless, we’ve achieved an impeccable and unimpeachable brand.
Really, how much difference is there between the Pope and many Evangelical leaders other than size of followings? Both are viewed by followers as infallible. Neither seeks actively to counter such acclaim. If anything, advantage in the comparison must go to Roman Catholicism which openly admits that its leader sins, requiring him to make confession and do penance alongside the sheep he serves.
But even as the pope makes confession, Evangelical leaders on the other side of the Atlantic assume postures of impeccability. None of us are like Moses who sinned grievously late in life by failing to hold God up as holy. There’s not a David in our midst who would commit sin after sin in pursuit of middle-aged lust. There’s no Peter who faltered in the Gospel out of fear of the Jews, years after Pentecost. No super-apostles here—no preaching out of envy. No self-pitying prophets who think they’re alone in following God. No Jonah who refuses to declare God’s message of judgment. No doubting Thomas.
We think admission of sin weakens our authority, diminishing the effectiveness of our ministry—an idea which makes sense only if spiritual authority is vested in the man. But spiritual authority does not rest in the man. Authority lies in the Word of God, the call of the pastor, and the indwelling Spirit of God. Together, these things work to cloak individual men in authority, but an authority that is extrinsic rather than intrinsic.
Tim and I are far from guiltless in this. We know well the temptation to cloak our sin by pretending to possess an authority and holiness that belong to God alone, and we have not always resisted it. This is why we’ve erected certain safeguards around our lives. We challenge each other, calling each other to task for actual sin and error. We invite the leaders in our churches to challenge us. I tell elders at Christ the Word that I know I’m a sinner and that I need their help to identify and fight my sin. I invite them to call me to task for sin. And Tim and I both seek to avoid compromising areas: because the love of money is a huge temptation for all men, Tim routinely publishes his salary. I’ve asked the elders at Christ the Word to publicize my own–and though they’ve chosen not to, adults in the congregation are able to obtain my salary information from any elder (for what it’s worth, my salary is almost identical to Tim’s).
Not only in areas of financial temptation; but elsewhere, as well, we’re fighting sin. Right now I’m in the initial stages of a year-long vow not to use a computer for any purpose of personal entertainment–no games, no surfing the internet on my browser, no movies or Youtube or FlipBook. Why? Isn’t it obvious? Because I’ve sinned by allowing the idols of this world to enter my life through my computer. I’m an idolater. Personally. Me, may God forgive me.
I strive to face my own sin. I make confession a central part of my daily prayer. So does Tim. So do the men in leadership around us. Together we promote confession and repentance in our churches. We cultivate awareness of personal depravity at Christ the Word by kneeling in confession at the very start of worship. We incorporate confession into the fabric of our Pathway home groups, encouraging those who worship in these mini-congregations to confess specific sins in separate male and female prayer times. We have a ministry to men in our church struggling with the idolatry of pornography. We call men to confess their idols as part of this ministry.
We don’t do this just to serve as examples to the world. We do this because it’s the need of our own hearts. We do this because we’re sinners shepherding obstinate, sinful sheep. If there’s one thing above all I seek personally from God, now that I’m past the age of fifty, it’s that He keeps me more and more aware of the truth of the T in TULIP. Show me my sin, God. If you do, I will love Jesus more, I will serve Him more faithfully, and my children will be preserved from my wickedness.
This is the confounding thing about our recent disagreement with the Pyromaniac team: they are perplexed and outraged that we suggest John MacArthur isn’t just a sinner in theory—but in specific and definable ways.
Is it sin to teach falsehood? Of course. Even John MacArthur would say so.
Is it sin to ally ourselves to false teaching? Again, of course.
Can a version of the Bible be sinful? Certainly. Is anyone familiar with the Jehovah’s Witness version of Scripture which mutes Christ’s deity?
Would it be wrong for me as a pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ to ally myself with a version of Scripture specifically produced to promote false teaching—even if I personally oppose it? I suspect there’d be no disagreement with the Pyromaniacs on this point, as long as the issue were my name and my notes inside a Watchtower version of the Bible.
Does the muting of God’s Word by those who prefer earthly wisdom constitute serious sin? Tim and I believe so and have said so for years. John MacArthur agrees, going so far as to say that inclusive-language bibles constitute an “attack on the Bible.” Should it then surprise anyone that we believe John to be in error for placing his name upon such a singularly sinful and defective version of God’s Word?
Is John capable of sin? In theory, yes: everyone knows this has to be the answer. But actually? Real sin? Sin even in his work as a pastor?
Is John above being taken to task for the motives behind his public actions? The men at Pyromaniacs were especially incensed that Tim and I suggested finances might play a role in John’s alliance with the NIV 2011. Yet it seems obvious to us that when the act is sinful the motives behind it can’t be pure…
Suggesting the deed was the product of impersonal financial considerations was a mark of respect for John MacArthur. The other options are mostly far worse.
If John has sinned by allying himself with a version of Scripture he himself describes as “distinguished by its deference to the feminist movement,” a version that he himself says “has altered the Word of God, changed the Word of God to make it compatible with the contemporary feminist egalitarian movement,” are we wrong to deduce base motives behind his doing so? Is it possible for pure and holy motives to produce sinful actions?
John’s stamp of approval on this version of Scripture promotes the error of the version itself. And please, don’t tell me that the “John MacArthur” logo emblazoned across the NIV 2011 doesn’t constitute endorsement. Nor will claims of “non-endorsement” make much sense to those who buy this version on the basis of the MacArthur logo….
If the act is wrong in itself, the motives behind it must be equally wrong. This is the crux of the issue between Tim and me and those defending John’s actions at Pyromaniacs. We believe it’s possible for great men of God to sin. We believe men of God who sin are better served by friends who challenge them in their actions than by spokesmen who assert their leader’s impeccable credentials. We believe that the wounds of a friend are faithful, and we call on the Pyro team to admit this personally; but also to admit it of the man they defend—a man we also respect.
Finally, we hope at some point in the future to be reconciled to the men at Pyromaniacs. But if this happens, it will be the product of the work of the Holy Spirit producing humility on both sides. (DB)
March 12, 2012
Wealth’s deceitfulness is deceitful…
by David and Tim Bayly on March 12, 2012 – 10:35am
For the sake of putting it to rest, let us one last time work to clarify why we raised the subject of money in our opposition to John MacArthur’s New International Version 2011 Study Bible.
A wise brother put it this way. All financial motives aren’t those of Silas Marner and Scrooge McDuck. When men build their ministries, they may well not be a Scrooge McDuck and yet kingdom and money and legacy are interrelated and money helps keep score. We’re not concerned that publishing his life’s work of study notes on the Bible provides John MacArthur the means to buy fancy suits and fast cars. We’re sure John wears old suits and drives slow cars. If anyone thought our point was so shallow, we apologize.
What we have been trying to say is that money and sales and royalties are one of the principal ways non-profit businesses keep score and provide for the future. There are men shallow enough to be owned by crystal cathedrals while others are enticed by seeing their life’s work assured future distribution. Keep in mind that the NIV2011 is the modern version of Scripture at the top of all the best selling lists in the English speaking world.
And thus we’ve hammered home the point that no man is beyond being deceived by wealth, particularly the sort of wealth that builds kingdoms and legacies.
Over the years, David and I have often warned against the corruption of the Church by the non-profit kingdom-building that is fueled by speakers fees and salaries and royalties. We have said the best thing to do with what the Christian Booksellers Association (now renamed the Association for Christian Retail) has become would be to take a few hammers and whips to their annual convention and clean the place out. It makes the moneychangers in the Temple look tame by comparison.
And over the years I’ve made the above suggestion personally, to some of the more successful men in the world of Evangelical publishing—men who are my relatives and David’s and my friends. Each time I ended the proposal with this statement: “If you’ll join me, I’ll do it. We’ll have to suffer a little jail time, but everyone in Evangelical publishing will breathe a huge sigh of relief and say, ‘It was a nasty job, but somebody had to do it.'”
They all smiled.
(TB & DB)
March 12, 2012
The words of man and the words of God…
by David and Tim Bayly on March 12, 2012 – 1:19pm
At the beginning of our initial post two weeks ago were these words: “The Words of God are gone–deleted, that is–but the words of man are intact.” So, to repeat ourselves, the MacArthur NIV 2011 Study Bible is two things: the Word of God and the words of man explaining the Word of God. Which one is more important? Which one should be guarded most carefully?
Before John MacArthur made the decision to yoke his study notes with the NIV 2011, he submitted his notes to the publisher for approval and was pleased they kept his words intact. Thus this announcement:
We submitted to Zondervan’s editors a generous sampling of notes adapted to the (NIV 2011) wording. We purposely chose notes that deal with some of the key problem passages. Zondervan and Nelson both have assured us they want to retain the full integrity of John MacArthur’s explanation of the text, and the sample notes were all accepted as submitted.
It seems apparent that John’s final decision hinged on his notes being kept intact. Not until they assured him they wouldn’t alter his words did he agree to the new line of Bible products.
But men, think about what has just been said: “Zondervan and Nelson both have assured us they want to retain the full integrity of John MacArthur’s explanation of the text.”
How have we gotten to the point that the deal-breaker would have been not “retain(ing) the full integrity of John MacArthur’s explanation of the text” rather than the full integrity of the text of the Holy Spirit Himself?
It seems clear John MacArthur believes that, in the final analysis, his own words matter more than the words of God. The words of God can be altered as long as the words of John MacArthur are kept intact to clean things up.
Or are we missing something, here?
(TB & DB)
May 19, 2012
You cannot serve God and wealth…
by David and Tim Bayly on May 19, 2012 – 2:53pm
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. – Luke 16:13
Recently we’ve spent time on Guidestar downloading and reviewing IRS 990s filed by various Evangelical ministries including Ligonier, Grace to You, Grace to You/Masters College and Seminary, Insight for Living, and Desiring God.
Like accountants, our Internal Revenue Service holds to a high doctrine of original sin—much higher than today’s Reformed pastors and congregants. Taking money and conflict of interest seriously, the IRS requires nonprofits to file Form 990 answering a whole host of questions the government believes should inform the giving of those inclined to support these ministries. Then the information collected through the 990 is made a matter of public record. Here are some of the questions they ask:
- Briefly describe the organization’s mission:
- Did the organization report a total of more than $15,000 of expenses for professional fundraising services…
- Was the organization a party to a business transaction with one of the following parties: a current or former officer, director, trustee, or key employee; a family member of a current or former officer, director, trustee, or key employee? If there are business transactions involving interested persons (relatives, for instance), provide name of interested person, relationship between interested person and the organization, amount of transaction, description of transaction…
- Enter the number of voting members of the governing body…
- Did any officer, director, trustee, or key employee have a family relationship or a business relationship with any other officer, director, trustee, or key employee?
- List the organization’s five current highest compensated employees who received reportable compensation of more than $100,000 from the organization and any related organization. (fill in number of hours they work per week, total salary, total other income, etc.)
- Check the appropriate box(es) if the organization provided (first class or charter travel) for a person listed…
The IRS makes this information public and it’s clear they’re right to do so. We should be accountable for our use of gifts given in good faith for the work of the Kingdom of God—and often solicited from widows.
- What is your salary?
- What do you pay your wife through your nonprofit?
- What do you pay your son or son-in-law’s business through your nonprofit?
- Do you use your nonprofit’s money to buy first class airline tickets?
- To charter airplanes?
- How much do you pay your public relations man (spokesman)?
- Does your nonprofit pay you royalties on your books they sell for you?
- Does your nonprofit pay you royalties on your sermons they broadcast and/or sell for you?
- How much does your nonprofit pay your professional fundraiser?
- How much money does your professional fundraiser make for you over and beyond what you pay him to write appeals and count and deposit receipts?
- Who are the people who control your nonprofit and how many of them are your relatives?
If you support one of these ministries, you would do well to examine its IRS Form 990 carefully to see what they spend your gifts on and whether their answers to such questions give you confidence in their Godly use of that money. For your convenience, at the bottom of this post we’ve provided the 990s for the ministries owned by better-known personalities of the Evangelical world. And although Guidestar doesn’t have Clearnote’s own 990 up and running yet, I’ve put a PDF copy of it for you to download, also. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the duckling.
Here’s a few of the things we’ve found.
Most of these men live handsomely on the gifts given to their ministries. We’d guess most have a household income of more than $400,000 per year; and in some cases, much more. We can’t say precisely how much more, but if you provide yourself $200,000 per year in salary from your nonprofit, you vote yourself $45,000 from another of your nonprofits, you get a church salary of $200,000 (churches don’t have to disclose pastor’s salaries, but this is a very conservative estimate of what these men are paid by their congregations), your travel expenses are paid by your nonprofit (including first class and charter), and you’re paid advances and royalties of $100,000 to $400,000 per year on your ministry books (again this is a conservative estimate for what best-selling Evangelicals make from their books each year), we’re up to over $500,000 per year.
Keep in mind that this amount pours in year after year (in four years you’ve taken in $2,000,000), and that it doesn’t include the money you pay your best friends, in-laws, and relatives, nor the speakers fees and honoraria you command for all your itineration.
The Apostle Paul reminded the New Testament church that the Old Testament command, “You shall not muzzle the ox” (Deuteronomy 25:4) applied to pastors (1Corinthians 9:6-11). Which prompted Samuel Johnson to make the observation, “It might as well be said, ‘Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.'”
The business of Evangelicalism is quite lucrative—particularly publishing—and this is why Rupert Murdoch has bought over 50 % of the Evangelical publishing market. This means the majority of Evangelical publishing is now a division of Murdoch’s News Corporation.
That said, we single out John Piper for commendation.
John votes himself no salary from his nonprofit, Desiring God Ministries.
In fact, unlike the others, John Piper doesn’t own his nonprofit; his church does. Each year Bethlehem Baptist Church appoints the leadership of Desiring God Ministries. We challenge any of these other men to follow John’s lead and place their nonprofit under the authority of their elders board. What an excellent example John is on this.
Then because Desiring God Ministries is under the authority of Bethlehem Baptist Church and John is an employee of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Desiring God Ministries has to put into the public record of their Form 990 how much money John is paid by Bethlehem Baptist each year. We see that John’s 2010 church salary was $120,000.
Brothers, two things to note about this: first, it’s unheard of that any of these men would allow their church salaries to be known, publicly; and second, this amount John receives is very, very low for a senior pastor of his position. But of course, John still has his royalties to live high on the hog from, right?
Next to Desiring God Ministries in Guidestars list of nonprofits is a foundation titled Desiring God Foundation. It has three officers: John Piper, Terry Kurschner, and Noel Piper and they don’t pay themselves a penny from the foundation. They simply give money away.
How much and to whom? In 2010, Desiring God Foundation made the following grants:
- $205,000 to Desiring God Ministries
- $70,000 to Bethlehem Baptist Church
- $75,000 to Bethlehem College and Seminary
- $30,000 to Training Leaders International
Where did this money come from? Well, add it up and you’ll find these gifts total $380,000 and the Pipers’ foundation received income from John’s advances and royalties during 2010 of $391,000.
Learn this lesson well, brothers and sisters in Christ: as John said recently in a Sunday evening sermon, he knows his own heart and he disciplines himself financially. Think about it: John and Noel use their royalties to fund a foundation that provides their church most of the salary they are paid each year. Then John turns around and gives his elders board the authority to govern Desiring God Ministries.
May God bless John and Noel Piper, as well as all their employees who are content to be paid as humbly as John and Noel are.
* * *
(DB & TB, w/thanks to the IRS)
January 30, 2014
John MacArthur revisited…
by Tim Bayly on January 30, 2014 – 2:46pm
[NOTE: This post has been edited to correct a mistake concerning chronology.]
Today, I decided to check to see what happened to John MacArthur’s compensation by Grace to You and Masters College and Seminary as reported in the 2012 IRS 990s? The 2012 990s (reporting on 2011) are the next year of figures that have been made available since the last time we wrote here on Baylyblog. Again, the IRS requires MacArthur to reveal these numbers. Thus the numbers here that are not estimates are public records.
Here then are the more recent 2011 figures compared to our previous 2010 figures…
2010 2011 John MacArthur’s Income
$47,000 $103,000 (108% one-year increase) 40 hrs p/week at Masters College
$222,000 $402,000 (81% one-year increase) 20 hrs p/week at Grace to You
Add to the above John MacArthur’s other personal income, speaker’s fees, etc.:
$200,000 $200,000 conservative estimate of Grace Community Church salary
$200,000 $200,000 conservative estimate of royalties
$669,000 $905,000 TOTAL ANNUAL INCOME (projected)
Then consider this increase in the annual contract John (GTY) pays to his son-in-law:
$658,000 $694,000 Grace to You paid The Welch Group for video work (an example)
The figures above are reprehensible, but we’re so attached to celebrity culture, we feel no shame.
February 24, 2014
Post on John MacArthur’s money: answering objections…
by Tim Bayly on February 24, 2014 – 1:35pm
Back on January 30th, we ran a post updating readers on the latest IRS Forms 990 filed by John MacArthur’s non-profit companies and what they show about his annual income. Since the post, several commenters have questioned whether MacArthur really had any say over his study notes being packaged with the neutered New International Version, whether we’re saying MacArthur’s income is sinful; and if so, what specific sin we’re accusing him of? Here are some responses to those questions and challenges:
I’ve been out of the loop for a while. I appreciate others who have responded to some of the more recent objections to this post. Now, a couple responses of my own.
First, John MacArthur himself had absolute control over whether or not to package and sell his MacArthur Study Bible notes with the neutered Bible now sold under the name New International Version. It was his decision and he alone is the man who could have stopped it. His elders board did not make the decision. Zondervan doesn’t control MacArthur’s study notes. John MacArthur controls John MacArthur’s study notes. This is how publishing works.
John decided he didn’t want to lose out on one of the largest Bible markets in the English-speaking world, so after negotiating royalties (which unlike John Piper’s royalties, remain a secret), he signed an agreement with Zondervan to sell his own study notes in the text of a Bible that everyone knows has gagged God’s words for the sake of pacifying the feminists.
There’s no debating these simple facts. Readers may differ concerning the reason MacArthur did this, but it’s certain he made the decision to sell the neutered Bible he had previously opposed because of its unfaithfulness to the text of Scripture.
Second, the Bible commands us to exclude men from ministry who are greedy:
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1Timothy 3:1-7)
Each prohibition above must be discussed in connection with pastors and elders. We must make a sincere effort to judge whether Tim Bayly is greedy or not? Pugnacious or not? Controls his household well or not? Hospitable or not? Gentle or not? And so on.
Normally, these discussions happen in session meetings prior to the nomination of a certain man for the office of pastor or elder. Over the years, though, these criteria need to continue to be applied. A man who is gentle may be elected an elder but, after many years of faithful service, he may become violent. A man who, when elected an elder, does not love alcohol may, after many years, become enslaved by alcohol. A man who starts out poor and humble and not loving money may, after many years of faithful service, become rich and proud and greedy. Evaluation of pastors and elders is not a once-and-done.
Most commonly, these evaluations are done by fellow elders and the moderator of the elders board. Healthy elders boards exhort and rebuke and admonish one another all the time, although it happens in the context of their work and thus is not as embarrassing as when the man is vetted originally for possible election to the session.
But what about a super-rich and super-famous man whose living mostly comes from selling his work to others outside his church under the claim that it’s a non-profit work?
That man functions as a bishop or archbishop or cardinal or pope over many outside his geographical area and thus he is accountable to other pastors and elders outside his own geographical area. He is teaching and preaching our flocks and our flocks pay him for his teaching and preaching. The national source of their non-profit’s profit is the reason our IRS requires these men to divulge whether they fly first class (MacArthur does) and whether they have their own relatives on their governance boards (MacArthur does) and whether their organization pays a relative money as a business transaction (MacArthur pays his son-in-law $650,000 per year for video work) and how much they get paid by their non-profit ministry (MacArthur’s non-profits pay him just about $500,000 per year, and this amount doesn’t include his church pay or royalties).
My father-in-law had books providing royalties that dwarf John MacArthur’s books and royalties, plus he and his wife owned Tyndale House Publishers. Yet Ken Taylor was never accused of being greedy. He gave all his money away and everyone knew it because everyone was the recipient of his gifts. Tyndale House’s 990s are there for all the world to see and they could not possibly be more different from John MacArthur’s. John Piper’s 990s are there for all the world to see and they could not be more different from John MacArthur’s. (And yes, I’m aware John Piper would ask me not to make this comparison.)
It seems beyond argument that John MacArthur’s annual income from peddling God’s Word is something around $1,000,000 per year. His organizations and his personal contracts with publishing companies pay him this money. It’s my conviction this is good evidence of the love of money and MacArthur’s boards and elders should admonish him and appoint a blue-ribbon committee to take over control of his organizations and royalties, scale his income back to around $200,000, do open bidding on his organization’s video work, and stop paying for his first class tickets.
John MacArthur’s accountability is as wide as the scope of the sales of his epistles.
February 28, 2014
Closing out the discussion of money and John MacArthur…
by Tim Bayly on February 28, 2014 – 4:39pm
As we’ve said before, we’re fans of John MacArthur and don’t want our questions concerning money to detract from God’s people looking to him for leadership and wisdom. It’s often the case that particularities of our leadership can scandalize sheep who like to think of their pastors as perfect fathers, unlike their own. This is how the celebrity business works and different commenters under these posts have noted the tendency of individual Christians to compare their own local pastors to national celebrities to the detriment of their trust of their local pastors. After all, the sins of their own pastors are obvious whereas the sins of their pastoral heroes are not.
We hope to make it clear that no pastor is above criticism. As Dad used to say (and we doubt it was original with him), “Christians grow best in the manure of criticism.” Some sins are public, others more private, and others secret awaiting God’s Throne.
Doug Wilson, Lig Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, and John Piper, are men with feet of clay. Those who live with famous pastors day by day know the ways all pastors fail, and many of our failures are sin. Unfamous pastors the same; David and I have regular opportunities to ask our own wives, families, sessions, and members of our congregations to forgive us.
So, with that said, two final things: first, please understand that God could have sent angels to preach to and shepherd us. Calvin makes this point over and over, reminding us that it’s good for us to be fed and cared for by sinful men because it humbles us to have to learn from and submit to our “inferiors.” David and I are your inferiors, but please don’t let that scandalize you. God set it up this way.
Second, we’re going to conclude this post with an excerpt from a 1986 sermon preached by John MacArthur concerning the danger money poses to all pastors. With that excerpt, this discussion will be closed. (We’ve shut down comments under all posts on this subject.)
We’ve heard from friends of John MacArthur that we are wrong in our concerns. We may be. We wish God’s blessing on John’s ministry and commend him to each of you as a faithful servant of God.
From MacArthur’s 1986 sermon:
And then finally in verse 3, “not covetous,” aphilarguros, the two‑part word, three‑part word really with an alphaprimitive makes it a negative, but the two main parts mean to love silver, not be a lover of silver. What a corruption that is in the ministry to love money. And you see people as means to getting money, everybody you look at becomes simply an avenue for you to get rich. That is such a temptation. And that’s why in 1 Timothy 6 Paul says in verse 6 to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, Timothy.” We brought nothing into the world, it’s certain we’re going to do…what?…take nothing out. That’s why I’m always so happy when they get that casket in the funeral home and everybody leaves the room and the guy starts taking off all the jewelry. I don’t see why they want…some people want to leave it all on the guy. I mean, he’s not going anywhere with it. Take nothing out.
“If you have food and raiment, be content, but the people who pursue riches fall into temptations, snares, foolish hurtful lusts that drown men in destruction and perdition.” Why? Because the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people have coveted after money, they have erred from the faith, they have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
I remember an evangelist that came to the valley years ago when I first came to Grace. He was all over the valley preaching crusades and evangelism and, boy, everybody was hoopla‑ing this guy and people were giving me his tapes. And it was a few years later that I saw him on television and they were doing a special on him, I think it was “60 Minutes,” and his shirt was unbuttoned to his stomach and he had gold chains hanging around his neck and gold rings on his fingers and he said, “I’m out of that business, I’m into riches.” By the way, someone told me last week he’s back in evangelism now, so maybe he got tired of his money, but…that’s the kind of thing that is such a prostitution and such a temptation, very often.
Just to give you close to home. A few weeks ago I got a letter from someone that said, “I’d like you to speak at a banquet we’re having.” I said, “I can’t do that.” We wrote back and thanked him very kindly and said I wouldn’t be able to do that. Wrote me back again and said, “We’d like you to come and be our speaker and I’ll give you a $5000 honorarium.” Well I’ve never ever had a $5000 honorarium or anything remotely related to that. And so I realized I was in a very difficult position, right? If I say yes, the guy knows that I will speak for money. If I say no, I’m nuts. I mean, it was only across town, too, see. So, I’m saying to the Lord, “Now how do I do this.” And so I wrote him and said if you would allow me the privilege of taking the money and giving it to someone other than myself, then I’d be happy to do that because I can think of some areas of ministry where there’s some great need and it would be a joy for me to be able to know that that was provided for those ministries. So I said I’ll do it on that basis. But you have to guard yourself very much, very cautiously.
Anyone of you who was offered $5000 for a 40 minute message could probably think of something to say. And it would be a very small problem for me to come up with something. And so it’s easy to get tempted and those things are tests of where your heart is. One of the things I’ve done in my own life, I write a lot of books and so publishers would want me to write a book and you can get into a negotiating situation with royalties on books and things like that. I’ve always had a simple policy and that is I never negotiate a contract. If I want to write a book and I feel the publisher’s committed to publishing it, I’ll accept whatever they offer. It doesn’t matter what it is. If I don’t seek it then I can accept it from the Lord. As soon as I get into the negotiation, then I’m in the struggle to see how much money I can get. So that’s something I will never do, have never done and I’ve told the publishers I work with that, that’s probably why I get such low royalties. But that’s all right. I don’t want it to be any different because I feel that as one who serves the Lord Jesus Christ and whose needs are met by the church and by your gracious and kind generosity to me, I never want to get into a situation where I am trying my best to get certain amounts of money. I don’t want to do that. That’s not something that I am interested in. I want to keep myself clean from that kind of involvement. But that kind of temptation can be there.
There’s a simple principle I’ve used and that is this, if you seek for nothing you can take whatever comes as from the Lord. So I don’t ever seek…people say, “How much do you charge for this?” I don’t charge anything for anything. That’s something that’s up to the ministry, if they want to give me something fine, if they don’t, fine, it doesn’t matter to me. But when you go out and pursue money, you corrupt everything. And if you can sit back and say whatever the Lord gives I’ll take and it’s up to Him, you know. If someone gives you something and you didn’t seek it, then it comes from the Lord and you can say thank you and you become a steward of it. As soon as you start to pursue it, then it’s something that you’ve grasped after and you’ve got it but you don’t know whether its yours because it’s what you wanted or yours because God gave it to you. So it’s very simple for me in the ministry to just draw the line at the bottom and say I don’t seek anything. Whatever the Lord provides, I thank Him and praise Him and He’s been very generous.
Free from the love of money. This is the kind of person morally who’s qualified to serve in the leadership of the church of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t have any earthbound desires. You see, earthbound desires and a covetous spirit clip the wings of faith, clip the wings of love and clip the wings of power, believe me. He’s not greedy, he’s not stingy, he’s not indulgent, he’s not ambitious. That’s the sum of verses 2 and 3, the moral character of the man who leads the church.
My prayer is that God will give us such men, that God will make us such men because we’re not all we ought to be. And we thank God that in His grace He’s allowed us to lead in His church who are still pursuing the fulfillment of all those things. You pray for us and for the church around the world. Let me say in closing, I believe it is becoming increasingly more difficult in our culture to find people like this because our culture is so insidiously corrupting. To find men so qualified becomes more and more difficult. What a challenge. Well, let’s bow in prayer.
[From John MacArthur’s sermon on 1 Tim. 3:3, “The Call to Lead the Church–Elders, Part 5” (May 11, 1986)]
[Also of interest: Pastor John MacArthur’s Two Most Serious Errors.]