Home Christian News John MacArthur’s Comments About Martin Luther King Jr.’s Faith Are ‘Plainly Slanderous,’...

John MacArthur’s Comments About Martin Luther King Jr.’s Faith Are ‘Plainly Slanderous,’ Says Justin Giboney

John MacArthur Justin Giboney
Left: IslandsEnd, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons; Right: Screengrab via YouTube / @AND Campaign

Christian leaders debated the theological beliefs of civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. with renewed passion over the weekend after an article defending King began circulating online on Friday (March 8). 

The question of whether King, who was an ordained Baptist minister, held to orthodox Christian teaching has long been disputed among Christians. However, the conversation sparked fresh interest in February, which is Black History Month, after California pastor John MacArthur declared during a Q&A session that King “wasn’t a Christian at all” and that his “life was immoral.”

MacArthur’s statement came in the context of his criticism of The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and Together for the Gospel (T4G), both of which honored King in 2018 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his assassination. 

In his comments, MacArthur recounted serving on a panel for T4G to honor the life and legacy of theologian R.C. Sproul following Sproul’s death in 2017. 

“The T4G guys wanted to honor him with a panel and we spent an hour, an hour and 15 minutes—it was just this beautiful tribute to R.C. from all of us who knew him so very, very well,” MacArthur said. “And the strange irony was a year later, they did the same thing for Martin Luther King, who was not a Christian at all, whose life was immoral.”

“I’m not saying [King] didn’t do some social good, and I’ve always been glad he was a pacifist or he could have started a real revolution,” MacArthur went on to say. “But you don’t honor a non-believer who misrepresented Christ and everything about the gospel in an organization alongside honoring someone like R.C. Sproul.”

Last week, Justin Giboney—an ordained minister, attorney, and the president of Christian civic organization AND Campaign—responded to MacArthur’s comments in an article titled “Why John MacArthur Is Wrong About MLK,” which was published by Christianity Today.

Notably, MacArthur had also criticized Christianity Today, a publication founded by famed evangelist Billy Graham, alongside TGC and T4G.

Of King, Giboney wrote, “It’s no great mystery why he and millions of other Americans held King in such high regard. This confessing Christian leader literally sacrificed his life to exemplify love of neighbor.”

“He modeled a tenacity and grace that challenged America’s wicked racial caste system without reciprocating the hatred or belligerence of those lynching his people,” Giboney wrote. “And King always pointed Black Americans’ hope toward Jesus Christ, not himself. It’s impossible to honestly honor him without acknowledging the role his Christian faith played in his social action.”

Giboney went on to argue that “MacArthur cast these condemnations casually, with an apparent air of self-righteousness that suggests his theological expertise is paired with an infantile understanding of neighborly love.”