John MacArthur's False Logic to Prove All Are Closet Calvinists
Updated: Sep 20
John MacArthur, who has a cult of personality obsession comparable to the Papists, claimed in a sermon few years back that everyone is a “closet Calvinist.” In the sermon he asks the rhetorical question:
“And if anybody is saved, who do you thank?” After observing a moment of silence, he answers: “I see you are all closet Calvinists.”
The GCC congregation responds in laughter.
Since no celebrity is immune from rebuke, correction, or critique, knowing whatsoever they post online is open game, I will proceed to dissect what he said, like a mortician.
He—like so often happens among Calvinists—presents a classic but false form of argumentation, a logical fallacy called a false dilemma. A false dilemma argues you must be in either one of two camps, removing all other plausibilities, thus forcing you to choose between two only options. It forces people to join either camp. According to MacArthur you are either a closet Calvinist or someone that congratulates himself over his salvation, or as many times put in other words, a Calvinist or an Arminian. This ignores a continuous series of possibilities between two extremes presented. It removes all other ground, and most importantly, the Biblical ground, where true Biblicists actually stand.
Here is the context of what he said in the sermon:
“Now even some of you that are still a little bit squeamish about this doctrine still, I understand that … it takes time to work this through and when we get done you’ll see it differently. Even you are that having a little tough time with this, do you ever congratulate yourself on your salvation? Have you ever done that? Have you ever just looked up to heaven and said, ‘God you must be really proud of me, the choices I made, the way I decided to turn from sin, and believe the gospel.’ I mean did that thought ever enter your mind? “Have you ever thought look at all these stupid people around me, who reject the gospel, I am smart enough to see for what it is. I buy the whole thing. What do you say to someone that you love that is outside of Christ? Do you say c’mon man get smart. C’mon reach down deep man, use your faculties. You don’t talk like that. What do you do when you want to see someone saved? You pray. Why? Oh you are hoping that God while choose them if they choose Him? And when anybody is saved, who do you thank? I see you are all closet Calvinists.”
Everything MacArthur says here is absolutely absurd. There is not a true born again Christian on this earth that believes the things what he just said. According to Scripture itself, there is no true born again Christian that would say anything besides “Salvation is of the LORD” since they would know that salvation is only of the Lord, and everything that occurred to bring them to salvation was of the Lord. Therefore, by default, they must all be “closet calvinists” since this concept is unheard of among truly regenerate believers. Therefore they need to apparently come out of their closet of erroneous doctrine and just say, I am a Calvinist.
If you are truly saved, have you ever looked up to heaven and said, ‘God I am so electable.’ Or looked at the unsaved and said, ‘Poor people, they aren’t elect to heaven, but I am. Sadly they are elect to eternal reprobation.’ Have you said that to your children? Or said, ‘God you are so smart to choose me.’ Or to someone, ‘Don’t call upon the name of the Lord, let God call on you.’ Have you ever shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost soul and called on them to repent and believe, but then told them, actually don’t do that because you just might mess it all up. Of course not. If a Calvinists calls upon someone to repent and believe in the Jesus, does that make him an Arminian?
Why did MacArthur say we ought to pray if we like someone to be saved? I would flip that argument and ask MacArthur, ‘why do you pray if they’ve already been chosen by God to be saved and nothing can stop that work of God in their heart.’ ‘Can you change or stop the will of God? Clearly MacArthur must be an Arminianist if he thinks you’re prayers are going to alter the mind of God. Isn’t God sovereign over all? What happens when someone gives their testimony and says such things like, ‘I called upon the name of the Lord,’ ‘I turned from my sin,’ ‘I believed the gospel of Jesus,’ ‘I knew what the preachers was saying was true, I knew my sin was ever before me.’
Isn’t there to much ‘I’ in their testimonies? To much reliance on self? Surely their salvation cannot then be of God. Maybe that is why so many “testimonies” of Calvinists aren’t actually Biblical testimonies at all. When they give a “testimony,” it must be so given in attempt to avoid entering their own snare. The truth is you are all closet Arminianist. You are closet non-Calvinists. Surely it would be unacceptable for me to conclude such things based upon this argumentation. The heart of the argument between Calvinism and Arminianism (which I am neither) or Calvinism or non-Calvinism doesn’t hinge upon the things that have been mentioned here in MacArthurs argument.
MacArthur goes on to give a series of illustrations to show all saved people are closet Calvinists:
“You said you were drowning and he saved you. You were dead and He gave you life. You were blind and He gave you sight. You were dead and He gave you hearing. You understand that? That is why Titus 3:5 says, He saved us. By His power. By His will.”
These illustrations he uses is an attempt to prove man does not exercise his free will in salvation. Though these are good examples of salvation, and what happens in salvation, they do not prove that man doesn’t exercise his free will for salvation, and they certainly don’t prove that non-calvinist saved people are “closet Calvinists.” Don’t drowning men exercise their free will to live or die, and when they choose the former, they call out for help for someone to save them? Didn’t Jesus say that those who didn’t choose to hear, see and understand did so wilfully (Mt 13)? Did God force the blind, sick and diseased to come to Jesus for healing? How about the lost sick lady who exercised her free will and touched the helm of Jesus’s garment? Jesus saved her physically and spiritually at that moment when she came forth and confessed, “fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth,” all out of her own free will (Mk 5:33-34). Wasn’t the blind man exercising his free will when he “cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” (Lk 18:38)? Jesus healed him both physically and spiritually as well, and he followed Him, “glorifying God” (Lk 18:42-43). How about Mary when she came to Simon the Lepers house and washed Jesus’s feet with the tears and hairs of her head, didn’t she exercise her free will in godly sorrow and repentance of her sin (Lk 7:36-50)? Did any of these conclude that they healed themselves? No! They gave all the glory to God knowing they were healed by His power, but that doesn’t exclude their exercising of their own free will in coming to Him for healing and salvation. The Bible is literally loaded with examples like this.
To use the example we are dead and He brought us to life, only stretches the illustration further than what the Scriptures actually teach. The Bible teaches that as born again believers we “are dead indeed unto sin” (Rom 6:11) — does this then mean that the believer can no longer choose sin? Or that the believer therefore cannot sin because he is dead to sin? No, though sin has no more dominion over the believer, it is absurd to think such a thing. So the use of these illustrations only prove the fact he is twisting the scriptures and bringing us to a point to make us feel we are closet Calvinists. It is both devious and duplicitous.
“that He choose you, He saved you, but not apart from the Holy Spirit activating all those true spiritual responses. Penitence, humility, love, hunger for righteousness. No you chose Him because He chose you.”
The duplicity continues, since he is not presenting any differences between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. Saved non-Calvinists believe what he said here but that doesn’t make them a “closet Calvinist.” The Bible is clear God draws, saves, activates everything that occurs in the sinner to bring salvation to past, the sinners will influenced by the Holy Spirit. Believing these things does not make you a “closet Calvinist” but simply a Bible believing Christian.
Embracing Calvinism requires faith in the five points of the TULIP. First, the sinner is unable to repent and trust in Jesus Christ because he is totally dead in trespasses and sins to the point he is unable to respond to the gospel. And this necessitates the pre-birth (i.e. regeneration) before the new birth. Cornelius however according to Scripture was dead in his sins and trespasses but was able to respond to the gospel (Acts 10-11) without first being regenerated. Secondly, you must believe that God’s electing choice is entirely random according to the good pleasure of His will, and that He has loved some more than others, and elected some to eternal reprobation regardless of their faith (cf. Jn 3:15-16; 2 Pet 3:9). The Bible however teaches that when it comes to individual relations He has loved all equally, there is no respect of persons with Him, and His election is based entirely upon man’s willful response to gospel preaching (Lk 13:34; Rom 1:18; 2 Th 2:13; Heb 6:4-6). Thirdly, you must believe Jesus died only for the sins of the elect and not for the sins of the world, so when Jesus tasted death for every man, it wasn’t literally every man but for every elect man. The Lord however according to Scripture died and shed His blood for all (1 Jn 2:2; 1 Tim 2:6), even for heretics and false teachers (2 Pet 2:1; Ju 1:4; 1 Jn 2:1). Fourthly, you must believe the effectual call of the Holy Spirit is so irresistible that it’s impossible to resist. God’s grace however according to Scripture is very resistible (Pr 1:20-31; Is 1:18-20; Ac 7:51; Matt 23:37). Stephen preached, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, YE DO ALWAYS RESIST THE HOLY GHOST: AS YOUR FATHERS DID, SO DO YE.” (Ac 7:51).
MacArthur fallaciously claims,
“You wouldn’t pray like this, ‘Lord its gotta be their deal, its gotta be their deal. So don’t you be messing around with them. They got do it from their own heart.’ That is absurd. You know no sinner is going to do that, unless the Spirit moves.”
This is another false argumentation, a straw man. MacArthur is being absurd. A truly saved non-Calvinist does not pray in any such fashion. Indeed the Holy Spirit moves, convicts, reproves, draws, etc, but man is still responsible to respond by repentance and faith.
What we see here is an exercise of false argumentation, trickery and man’s wisdom by Johnny, which contradicts the behaviour of true ministers of God, who
“have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor 4:1-2).
False ministers have not, and to them the gospel is hid, and,
“if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor 4:3-4).