Crucifying Our Straw Men (IBTR # 35)

We line them up like mannequins in a store window when it suits our purposes, and then promptly turn on them. What do I speak of? That old standby in arguments gone awry–straw men. They show up wherever arguments are made, they find prolific life in Christian circles, and we in the Independent Baptist world have dolled up several in their Sunday best.

One of the most horrid that retains life after many years when the shirt is still but stuffed with straw is the tale that John MacArthur believes the Blood of Christ is of no effect. I can’t tell you how many times I have had it quoted as fact, though I never once was provided with documentation. I did come across a few dubious articles where a few obscure quotes went a long way, but no proof. Then I stumbled over an article written by MacArthur himself where he reiterated his belief on the subject. After reading that response you realize he was crucified by some before the evidence was even considered.

The point is not the value of MacArthur’s teaching, or the lack thereof (you can make your own opinion there). No, the issue is that some could concoct such a story and get such great numbers of people to believe it and requote it. It is sad that such a farce could have him labeled a heretic and so many not even care enough to see if it were true. I actually know of several such straw man arguments that have been widely accepted.

Why do some offer these type of arguments? Some may be thoughtlessly repeating what they have heard. But if you go back to the originators of such arguments, you must figure deeper motives; such as:

1. Inability to handle the legitimate argument.

When you have no good answer for your opponent’s good answer, and admitting defeat will never be a possibility for you, then coming up with some ugly charge to divert attention from your weak arguments is always a temptation.

2. A desire to tear down another voice so that only yours remains.

If a radio teacher like MacArthur is enjoyed by some you preach to, could it be that tearing him down means you can have all the love to yourself? I fear this is often the issue.

We can’t stop others from offering straw men arguments, but we are in control of our responses.

Remember this about straw man arguments:

1. They are insulting.

As one article said, “To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.” So they only work if we are ignorant! We, then, should be more thoughtful about accepting arguments without checking the facts. We have all done it before, but don’t you feel embarrassed when you figure it out?

2. They can not spread without our help.

Were we to be more careful, these type of arguments would not thrive. In fact, it would throw the embarrassment back where it belongs–on the backs of the perpetrators of straw man arguments.

Let’s stop crucifying those blindsided in a straw man attack. Instead let’s stop being gullible and value accuracy as a matter of integrity. Were we to do so, the real issues could be profitably discussed.

Find all articles in the series here.


9 thoughts on “Crucifying Our Straw Men (IBTR # 35)

  1. I’m araid that straw men are something that haunts all of us. They aren’t always easy to discern, plus, all of us have things that we hold dear… unconsciously, therefore, we use straw man arguments to help bolster our thinking. It’s good to remind us of their negative influence and character, so we can remain honest with ourselves and keep striving to know the truth. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for raising this issue. I too have heard of this “blood” controversy and now having searched further into it, I see that Bro. MacArthur speaks the truth concerning the Word of God!

    • I remember that controversy. I was a student at the time, and the pastor of the campus church wrote MacArthur, and got an answer, which he copied and gave to the ministerial students who wanted one. I didn’t take one, because it was clear to me that the whole issue was overblown. I appreciated how my school handled controversy in those days–even-handed, and honestly searching for the truth–and not taking sides regardless. Even when the Hyles scandal broke loose, they stayed mum. Somewhere along the line, it seems folks forgot how to handle disagreements and controversy…

  3. Brother Reagan,

    I’ve heard straw men from pulpits and I’ve read examples of them in writing, but I’m not so sure this is a straw man. I never heard this issue from the pulpit, but I did read about it. Since it intrigued me, I started searching for things to see if this is true. Two of the main things that I found are a YouTube video (which is just audio) and an article on the Grace to You website that specifically addresses this issue.

    You can check out the YouTube video here:
    Additionally, the article from the Grace to You website can be found here:

    I encourage all of your readers to go to both locations and decide for themselves what John MacArthur believes or doesn’t believe.

    Here are some weird observations on this issue:
    1. He says things about the blood that I fully agree with because they are Biblical.
    2. In the same article, he says things about the blood that I don’t agree with because they are not Biblical.
    3. He seems to think that the blood is just a metaphor for the type of death that Christ died, and he says the blood is necessary to fulfill the Old Testament picture. With this thought, he contends that the death is more important than the blood. I believe that is a heretical thought. Jesus Christ had to die, yes, but it was his blood that is required. Just like in the Old Testament types, the animal died, but atonement was made when the blood was applied.
    4. He says in the YouTube video and in the article that the blood of Jesus Christ contained no saving power.

    As I stated, you can read through the article and find things that you agree with, I’m going to point out some things that Mr. MacArthur says from his own lips that no doubt adds fuel to any lingering debate about what he might believe or not believe.

    The following are actual words from John MacArthur’s mouth in the YouTube video:

    “You have to stop short of saying that we are saved by the blood of Jesus.”

    “We don’t want to get caught into this bizarre notion that somehow in the actual fluid that came out of the body of Jesus there is saving power or saving efficacy.”

    “There’s nothing in the fluid in His body that in any way in itself could save us. He could only save us by dying.”

    **In these last two quotes, when Mr. MacArthur uses the word fluid, he is speaking specifically about the blood of Jesus Christ.

    The following are actual words from John MacArthur copied from the article at the Grace to You website:

    “There are others who say that there’s something magical in the blood, something in the blood itself that washes sin away … there was nothing magic about that blood itself that could wash sin.”

    “And there’s no sense in getting teary-eyed and mystical about blood, and we sing hymns, “There’s power in the blood,” etc., and we don’t want to get preoccupied with blood. The only importance the blood of Jesus has is that it showed He died, there is no saving in that blood itself. We cannot say that the very blood of Jesus, His physical blood is what atones for sin…”

    “When Jesus paid the price for sin by shedding His blood, that blood became like a cleansing agent and washed our sins away. It isn’t that the blood itself had some quality, it is that the giving of His life paid the penalty for sin.”

    “There is nothing in the actual blood that is efficacious for sin. Did you get that? The Bible does not teach that blood of Christ itself has any efficacy for taking away sin. Not at all.”

    “And so when it says here we are communing with the blood of Christ, it does not mean the literal blood of Christ is efficacious, it does not mean the literal blood of Christ is involved, it means we enter into a genuine vital participation in His death. But it is not the blood, the blood is only the symbol of the poured-out life.”

    “Now obviously we were saved through His death. There was nothing in the chemistry of His blood to save us. We were saved in His dying…”

    I’m sure that many different verses about the blood where racing through your mind as you read these quotes, so I’ll spare you from repeating them here. Let me end by saying perhaps one of the revolutionary ideas that should be mentioned in this truth revolution is that we as individuals and as a group need to stop defending others. We don’t know what is in someones heart, so just as we shouldn’t spread rumors, we shouldn’t jump to their defense.

    Bro Reagan, thank you for allowing an open forum on your blog. I’ll close with one final word from John MacArthur.

    In a message Mr. MacArthur preached in June of 1975 from I John 5:6-12 (which is also in the article listed above), he stated the following:

    “Listen, people, any heresy that denies or deprives the death and the blood of Jesus of all of its efficacy for the sins of the world is satanic.”

    • I am glad for your comments to be here for others to ponder. I personally have no dog in the fight, but I must state he believes that the death of Christ with the mode of the shedding of blood. That is the essential truth. I can see how one might argue that the literal Blood is poetic, but I do not agree. I believe His body saw no corruption and His Blood was literally sprinkled on the mercy seat in Heaven. Still, I do not believe that disagreement on this point makes one a heretic. To say the Blood was worthless was never the point MacArthur was making.

  4. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

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