MacArthur: Hispanics “do not know Christ.”

MacArthur: Hispanics “do not know Christ.”

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“We all understand that people in the Hispanic world know about Jesus Christ […] but they don’t know Christ. They don’t know the gospel of grace. And they don’t know the full revelation of Scripture.” This is what John MacArthur said in a video to the audience of Por su causa (For his cause), a mega conference in the Dominican Republic that seeks to emphasize the centrality of the gospel for the church.

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MacArthur felt free to make adventurous comments about the Christian faith in traditions that are foreign to his own. In this occasion, characterizing people in Latin America, a region with one of the largest Christian demographics in the world. He claimed that one of the reasons why he wanted to keep contributing to the conference is because Latin-Americans, even though they “know about Jesus” due to the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, they really “don’t know Christ”. Therefore, the forum of Por su causa is the beacon of light that finally came to illuminate the “gospel of grace”!

The issue is not Por su causa per se. Any space that promotes biblical and theological formation and the centrality of the gospel is necessary and we applaud it. This conference is a great platform.

Instead, the issue is the audacity in making claims that are historically and contextually uninformed. How do you determine if continental masses of people know or do not know the gospel? What are the criteria and who establishes them? That they become part of your theological tradition, adopt your idiosyncrasies or have your communications platform?

To some extent, these kinds of judgments are the result of ignorance of the history of Protestantism in Latin America and of the international evangelical movement. Unfortunately, it mirrors another duplication of a paternalistic and missionary colonialist attitude.

The perception that the Christian faith in Latin America is weaker, less biblical and less theological than in the North, reflects a generalized view amongst many white evangelicals in the USA. Because they don’t know the history of the evangelical movement in the Americas and don’t read Spanish, they think that if it is not read in English it doesn’t exist. Or, if it is not a translation in Spanish from the English it is not worth it (e.g., the “theological famine” according to The Gospel Coalition).

Let me provide an example. In order to see the history of evangelical Protestantism in Latin American we can look at the 70’s and the founding of the Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana (Latin American Theological Fellowship, FTL henceforth). The FTL was the result of an interdenominational and international effort to attend to the missional needs of the church in light of the proclamation of the gospel. The evangélicos are heirs of the Protestant Reformation with the theological distinctive of the 5 solas (sola fidei, sola gratia, solus christus, sola scriptura, soli deo gloria), sharing an emphasis on personal piety, conversion, and a strong inclination towards the social dimension of the gospel in the Methodist and Anabaptist traditions.

As a result, evangelicals since the 70’s, and still today, produce theological reflection in order to confront critical contextual concerns: marginalization of the masses, wars, impoverishment and corruption, secularism, and many more. What they don’t share with their brothers and sisters in the North is the political and cultural conservatism. In fact, one of the FTL’s contributions to international evangelicalism is the programmatic commitment to work towards more just societies as a necessary implication of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. The suggested nomenclature was called “misión integral” (integral mission) or holistic mission. This missional concept was developed by various thinkers like René Padilla, Samuel Escobar, and others -in its beginnings in dialogue with scholars from other latitudes like John R.W. Stott, Carl F. H. Henry y Leon Morris.

Today, the concept of “misión integral” (holistic mission) is a type of lingua franca in international Protestant missiology literature.
The voice of the church through the FTL has made significant contributions to Lausanne (I, II, III) World Congress of Evangelism. We can also mention the doctrinal and missional declarations of the various CLADEs I, II, III, IV, V (Latin American Congress of Evangelism) that reflect important interdenominational consensus, as well as, other interdenominational organizations like the century old CLAI (Latin-American Council of Churches).

The Christian church in the Majority World (Latin America, Asia, and Africa) needs the collaboration and partnership of the church in the Minority World (USA and western Europe). The church in the USA needs to learn from the testimony and theology of the Latin American church, and vice versa.

The “vice versa” is important. It needs it.

As long as Christian leaders in the North, and some in Latin America, keep perpetuating discursive paradigms that date back to an implicit missional and theological colonialism, the fracture in the Christian communion will continue.

Christians in Latin America do not know Christ fully.
Christians in the USA do not know Christ fully.

They need each other in order to know with greater fullness the beauty and depths of Jesus, so that they are able to communicate the gospel in a believable and livable way in Latin America.



Note: The title has been modified to reflect precision of the citation. From MacArthur: “Hispanics do not know Christ.” to MacArthur: Hispanics “do not know Christ.”.

6 thoughts on “MacArthur: Hispanics “do not know Christ.”

  1. Your headline states: “MacArther:’Hispanics do not know Christ.'”

    However, you provide the actual quote in your first paragraph, which demonstrates that MacArthur was referencing the dominance of Catholicism in Spanish speaking cultures.

    The headline bears false witness, please consider revising.

    1. James, thank you for reading the blog post and giving feedback. I see your concern. At the same time I consider that the accusation of the headline bearing false witness is extreme, because the referent of the pronoun “they” is “people in the Hispanic world” (a.k.a Hispanics). However, to reflect precision of the citation the title will be modified to MacArthur: Hispanics “do not know Christ.” I also want to say that MacArthur’s comment ignores Latin America’s Protestant and evangelical church heritage, its extraordinary growth, along with the significant contributions of many Latin American evangelical pastor-theologians to our understanding of the gospel of grace. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read the blog post and comment.

  2. John MacArthur has never been accused of mincing words or leaving people wondering what he believes. As far as I have observed, he has always been very straight forward in his views concerning all things biblical or christian. That being the case, sometimes he tends to say things that I think later he will look back and say to himself, “I should have worded that differently”. I really do not think he believes that just because someone is Hispanic then that means they do not know Christ. That would be counter to what he has preached and taught concerning the gospel for decades.

    1. Moore, thank you for taking the time to comment. I see your point. Dr. MacArthur can be very direct and blunt. His contributions and writing has benefited many, including me. My reaction is directed to an uninformed comment that has significant weight. He is a brother with a lot of influence, and many share his views. I don’t asume bad intentions on his part.

  3. Dear Post writer:

    I think you have failed to assessed the meaning of the message of MacArthur. Let me please take a few lines to explain:

    Your analysis is done extremely out of context, so you are arguing from erroneous categories. What MacArthur was trying to say, is that there is a huge difference (Hell-Heaven) between 1) knowing cognitively the historical Jesus and 2) being known by God in the union of the regenerated soul to Christ by grace through faith. Your analysis is very superficial and misleading.

    Latin Americans know Christ with their intellect, this is in the sense of (1) but they do not know Christ in the sense of (2), so to put it in a confessional way, the visible church in South America, I mean demographically Christians are majority as you said: “one of the largest” populations, but the invisible and real Church is very reduced.

    It is incredible how time after time the research efforts in Latin America are used primarily to analyze the cultural and social phenomena of the historical per-eminence of economic and social first world models over the ones over there. This, I think, has contributed to the ecumenical trend among any so-called christian movement. Not to mention the un-biblical economic communist structures that still exist in countries such as Venezuela and at lower degrees Ecuador and Bolivia.

    Christianity has to be ruled, lived and performed by what Scripture says, any cultural and social model has to submit to the moral principles found in scriptures, it is when we discern from what is written that we accurately assess the gospel needs, in this case, as MacArthur did for Latin America, and you this article has failed to do in my opinion.

    1. Nelson, thank you for taking the time to interact and for the pushback. A couple of thoughts. Stating that I “failed to asses the meaning of the message”, and that therefore my analysis is out of context, does not make it so. I stand by my obsertavation that Dr. MacArthur’s statement is an unfortunate over generalization that ignores the extraordinary growth and presence of Protestant evangelicals/pentecostals in the region. It is in context. That is what he said. If he “was trying to say something else”, he did not say it. I think that your assumption that he was simply “trying” to use the classical reformed categories of the visible and invisible church is just that: an assumption. Maybe he did, but he did not say that. In terms of the rest of your comments, well, I think it proves my point about generalizations. As to your concern that “Christianity has to be ruled, lived and performed by what Scripture says, any cultural and social model has to submit to the moral principles found in Scriptures”, I think we agree here more.

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