Hughes Old on the preaching of John MacArthur

The latest volume in Hughes Oliphant Old’s series The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures has been released as volume 7: Our Own Time. Probably of interest to our readers, Phil Johnson has published the section on “The Preaching of John MacArthur” (read the entire passage here). I have greatly enjoyed Old’s magisterial history of preaching even if his Barthian perspective shows itself at times. There is, quite frankly, nothing else like it. It is light years beyond E. C. Dargan’s history (also John Broadus and T. Harwood Pattison’s works are smaller, less detailed). O. C. Edwards is too brief and his narrow focus reveals that he has a neo-orthodox axe to grind.

Old is not entirely committed to the same theological persuasion as MacArthur yet makes an interesting observation:

What is more than clear to me after listening to these sermons is that those who can take the text the way it is seem to make a lot more sense of it than those who are always trying to second-guess it. Surely one of the greatest strengths of MacArthur’s preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text . . . .

Also this:

Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools? How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged? Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm. Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging. No one would suggest that he is a master of the art of oratory. What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Scott Christensen on April 7, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Those description’s of John’s preaching hits the nail on the head. They are very perceptive.

    Paul, are you familiar with David L. Larsen’s “The Company of Preachers”? It is a nearly 900 page tome published by Kregel (1998). It covers OT and NT preaching and then moves thru history to the present although he only covers those in the 20th century who have died already (no living preachers). He does talk about the development of preaching thru the years, but mainly it is a series of biographical sketches of key preachers. Larsen taught Preaching at Trinity in Deerfield for many years. I don’t know if he is still there. In either case, I found this history to very edifying and enjoyable to read.

  2. Yes Scott, I would classify Larsen as a survey, it is a more conservative version of O. C. Edwards. I think it is helpful to read one of those first (or Dargan) and then move to the detailed analysis of Hughes Old. You’ll have a hard time, for example, finding anyone else discuss the preaching of the Syriac church in the early centuries or the “pre-reformers” who were preaching the Bible expositionally in the Catholic Church. Thanks for mentioning Larsen, I should have included his with the others.


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