John MacArthur, a wildly popular evangelical preacher, recently appeared on Ben Shapiro’s program, a wildly popular podcast host and conservative pundit. I am fans of both. When I heard Shapiro was going to host JMAC on his weekend special show, I almost had a coronary from the excitement. The following is my review.
I admit it. I have fantasies.
I’m a grown man. I’m a pastor, and I can’t help having fantasies. They go something like this:
I’m traveling down the road, and I see a black Lincoln Towncar (do they still make those?) on the side of the highway and I stop to help. When I do, the driver – now outside the car, looking at a flat tire -seems exasperated at his inability to figure out how to service the vehicle and get moving again. As I approach the car with a tire tool in hand from my pickup, the back tinted window of the Towncar rolls down and I see a little man with a Yamaka. It’s Ben Shapiro. I reach out and shake his hand and tell him I love the program.
After I successfully change his tire (this is my fantasy, I can do whatever I want), we have time to talk.
From there I say something like, “Say, Mr. Shapiro, would you consider yourself a good person?” And then, basically, my inner Ray Comfort takes over. I throw in some line from Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and other Messianic passages from the Old Testament. I explain to Shapiro how Jesus has Tabernacled among men, how he is the manna of life, how he’s the light of the world and living water, and other things from the Jewish cultic religion that Shapiro would recognize. I would explain the justification of faith belonging to Abraham and that Jesus was – and is – the best Jew who has ever lived. I would explain that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. I would explain that God basically took all hope away from Judaism when the Temple was destroyed, and now their bloodless, priestless, temple-less religion is just meaningless types and shadows and that Jesus is the real faith of Abraham. I explain that Jesus spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, how it was Jesus who led Israel through the wilderness as a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. I explain that Abraham paid tithes to Jesus. I explain that Jacob wrestled with Jesus. I explain that Jesus stood in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
And then, in my fantasy, we make fun of liberals and call some Democrat (as Shapiro likes to say) a “garbage human” and then I baptize him in the Yellowstone River.
Usually, this daydream and imaginary conversation with Shapiro takes place during or after listening to his daily podcast, that is when he’s not on Sabbath for any one of the 139 (I’m rounding up) Jewish holidays that seem to come up and postpone the show. At this point, I’ve listened to Shapiro so much that I’m reaching the point I’m about to stop listening. I know where Shapiro stands on almost everything, and I’m already in agreement. The man is brilliant, cutting, and his attempts at humor are genuinely humorous. Shapiro is the kid who got wedgies and swirlies in High School, who told the bullies that he’d own all their world one day and who, low and behold, goes out and actually does it. The conservative political world is Shapiro’s oyster, and he deserves it. Those swirlies have to count for something.
Ben Shapiro is the nerdy kid who’s the smartest guy in the room. I’d give a nickel to be that little man’s bodyguard for a day, just to hang out with him.
My MacArthur fantasies are mostly gone at this point. I’ve met the man, stood in his office, and spoke with him. I really don’t like talking much more about that experience, because it’s too special to just blab about on a website. But, I’ve been able to have my conversation with the elder statesman. And although I know where MacArthur stands on almost everything, I probably will never get to the point I stop listening to him. He’s not givng his political opinions each week, but the words of life. That never gets old.
Shapiro started bringing on weekend guests to discuss topics at large (like Joe Rogan does, but without the profanity marathon) several months ago and I’ve listened to most of them. MacArthur joined him on Sunday’s podcast.
Here’s the review, in the form of five things that stood out to me (in no particular order).
5. MacArthur gave the clearest presentation of the Gospel imaginable to one of the largest broadcast audiences imaginable.
As Shapiro regularly says, “The Ben Shapiro Show is the largest and fastest-growing conservative podcast in America.” Fans of MacArthur already view him as a giant. Who doesn’t know John MacArthur, after all? He’s epic. He’s a legend in his own time. He’s Johnny Mac, JMAC, J MAC DADDY, the Fourteenth Apostle, the Sultan of Soteriology, the…okay, the last few I just made up. The point is, MacArthur is yuuuge.
But then we must stop to consider that the conservative evangelical world is really small. Mainstream evangelical figures like Greg Laurie, Ravi Zacharias, and Rick Warren (none of whom will be known one-hundred years from now; but future generations will know John MacArthur) no doubt have a bigger media footprint than MacArthur. By this, I mean by virtue of their self-promotion, publicity and appearances. Over the course of a lifetime, MacArthur still puts these men to shame, but my point is that the “typical” American either has a copy of The Purpose Driven Life or seen it on the shelf at Walmart. That’s not necessarily the case with MacArthur’s latest books.
But truth-be-told, MacArthur is not a household name among your typical Trumpkins, your average politicos, your regular owners of the Leftist Tears Tumbler. It is absolutely awesome that MacArthur got on the program to discuss the substance of the Gospel.
4. Shapiro knew exactly where to go to have an intelligent conversation about spiritual things.
This is as commendable to Shapiro as it is MacArthur. While Steven Furtick titled his book, Unqualified, as a “dig” toward John MacArthur, let’s face it… Nobody is going to call up Steven Furtick to have a serious conversation about Christianity and Judaism. Shapiro is known for his intellectualism, and there’s a reason he didn’t turn to any number of fancy-pants, skinny-jeans, steroid-ripped hipster pastors out there to discuss the issue. Could you imagine Shapiro trying to have a conversation on the Bible with Carl Lentz? That’s hilarious (I am actually laughing so hard right now, just thinking about Shapiro trying to have an intelligent conservation with Carl Lentz, I had to pause typing for about 5 minutes). I mean, to think of Shapiro trying to sit across from Andy “Unhitch the Old Testament from Christian Faith” Stanley like some kind of intellectual equal or cognitive peer is (hold on, laughter break…). Okay, I’m back.
The thought of Shapiro even attempting a rational discourse with someone from the Passion Conference is hilarious.
No, when Shapiro and his staffers wanted to have an interesting, compelling conversation about faith and the Bible they knew where to go. It was straight to our elder statesman, who is considered far too serious-minded by the latte mafia, but who fit well with Shapiro’s giant brain.
Furthermore, could you imagine Ben Shapiro trying to have a conversation about such things with Tim Keller? Keller would be like nailing Jello to the wall on any given subject, speak in riddles, say some nonsensical rubbish that sounds like one of Jack Handy’s Deep Thoughts but without the humor and Shapiro would just shout, “Cut!” and walk off the stage disgusted.
No, JMAC was the man for this.
3. MacArthur shared the Gospel for a really long time, while Shapiro was mostly silent.
Yeah. Shapiro, silent. Who knew that was possible? I presume the reason for that is that MacArthur carries himself with gravitas. I mean, if John MacArthur is talking, why would anybody talk over him? That would seem dumb, and Shapiro’s not dumb.
Also, it’s likely that Shapiro was just trying to be a good podcast host. But my hope is that Shapiro found MacArthur’s commentary to be compelling, meaningful and thoughtful. I don’t just hope Shapiro was silent. I hope Shapiro was listening. May God give him ears to hear.
2. MacArthur clearly articulated the difference between Judaism and Christianity.
I didn’t really have “fear,” so to speak, but my first trepidation about MacArthur going on Shapiro’s program was that MacArthur wouldn’t spend time clarifying to Shapiro that Jews need Jesus too, or (more likely) it would be edited out of the final production. Instead, MacArthur spoke extensively about Shapiro’s (and everybody else’s) need for Jesus. MacArthur made some of the same points from the Old Testament that I’ve made in my one-sided fantasy conversations with Shapiro.
Furthermore, there wasn’t a hint of hesitation in MacArthur’s voice to confront Shapiro or the listening/viewing audience with their sin. There was absolutely no wishy-washiness with MacArthur whatsoever. And that, frankly, shouldn’t surprise any of us.
My favorite line of the night, by the way, was from MacArthur: “It’s my goal to offend everybody.” Classic. And you could hear Shapiro chuckling at that in the background. Double classic.
1. MacArthur kept pushing back to the Gospel.
I think virtually all of us thought that MacArthur would speak more about Social Justice and political conservatism. Shapiro certainly tried to steer it there. But every time the conversation drifted away from the Gospel, MacArthur would politely lend his opinion on the subject (from ungodly political leaders to the Enlightenment) and then **BAM** back to the Gospel again. Gospel. Gospel. Gospel.
MacArthur was absolutely relentless in turning it back to the Good News. And man, that’s why we love him.
Finally, what stood out to me is that Shapiro expressed genuine surprise and was impressed that so many people (ostensibly, his staffers) were waiting outside to meet him and shake his hand. Really? These are politicos. Here’s John MacArthur who wrote, Politics Can’t Save You, and has never been overtly political. And yet, these mostly young people had so much respect they wanted to shake his hand and meet him, even though they regularly see political celebrities come through those doors.
It kind of makes you wonder how much influence a pastor-preacher can have politically just by sticking to the Bible.
[Editor’s Note: Contributed by JD Hall]