MacArthur: “It’s very easy to be hard to understand”

From an interview of John MacArthur on “expository leadership” (watch from 11:45 to 12:35):

The money quote:

It’s very easy to be hard to understand. It only requires that you not know what you’re talking about. And if you don’t know what you’re talking about, nobody else will either.

It’s very hard to be crystal-clear because in order to be crystal-clear you have to have mastered the text.

The statement attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes comes to mind: “I do not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity.”


  1. Top 10 Tips for Being Clearer
  2. The 2 Issues I Most Frequently Address When Copy-Editing
  3. Omit Needless Words
  4. Why It’s Important to Understand Direct vs. Mitigated Speech


After I drafted this blog post, I watched the rest of the above interview and was sad to hear how John MacArthur critiques John Piper (~36:16 to 39:07). He basically argues that Piper focuses on desiring God rather than Christ. For starters, see this and this and this as well as resources under the heading “Jesus Christ.”


  1. Ben Edwards says

    FWIW, I didn’t get the impression that MacArthur was criticizing Piper for focusing on desiring God rather than Christ. At most, he was simply saying we need to focus on Christ in particular, not God in general. I think he was actually commending Piper while trying to make the point about desiring Christ, but as an off-the-cuff comment he is not clear in his meaning.. (i.e., “Piper is doing well in his emphasis. We need to make sure we desire Christ.” not “Piper has failed. We need to make sure we desire Christ.”)

    However, I’m not sure I’m getting the distinction he makes between God and Christ. If we desire God we desire Christ. If we don’t desire Christ we don’t desire God. (I don’t know if that means I’m just not sharp enough to follow his point or he didn’t know enough of what he was talking about to be clear :)

  2. Matt Armstrong says

    I imagine that Piper’s retweeting of the link to this post is an agreement with what the video is saying, not sure though.

    I think MacArthur’s point is to not simply desire God because it results in a generic state of mind. When you parse God out into the triune God in three persons of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit, they each have a different role and different attributes. He’s saying focus on the centrality of Christ because of the Gospel. In no way is he minimizing the rest of the trinity or God as a whole. It’s only that if you come to the table simply desiring God and going no deeper, it’s an ambiguous, emotional trail. Christ is the source of our redemption and the target of our gratitude. I think that is what he may be trying to say.

  3. Michael Boyd says

    MacArthur wrote the forward to the edition of Piper’s book Desiring God that was out before the current edition. If I remember correctly, he said some really good things about Piper’s theology of Christian Hedonism in that forward.

  4. Elijah Layfield says

    I went to seminary at Bethlehem Baptist. I’ve heard JP address this. When he picked the title Desiring God, he was piggy-backing off other titles of the time like Knowing God. Since 9-11, Piper has increasingly began talking about being more Christ-explicit in talk and not just God-explicit. Even Muslims can be “god”-centered. It was around that time that the mission statement at BBC added “through Jesus Christ” to the end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *