Influential evangelical John MacArthur doesn't believe the uprisings that are spreading across the Arab world will lead to the freedom that hundreds of thousands of protesters are demanding.
"I just think the upshot of all of this is more instability, more chaos," the longtime Southern California pastor told The Christian Post. "I don't think the future looks good."
Inspired by the December revolution in Tunisia, which led to the downfall of its dictator, populations in neighboring countries in North Africa and the Middle East have launched similar anti-government protests in hopes of achieving more freedom, democracy, and more opportunities.
The U.S. has responded by asking the governments to respect the people's right to assemble.
But from a biblical perspective, MacArthur maintained that the protesters are in violation of the biblical command to "submit to the powers that be because they're ordained of God."
"I would have wished the American government, which has a history of Christianity, would have risen up and said 'this is wrong, this is forbidden for people to do this, this is intolerable," he said.
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"I'm not saying Muammar Gaddafi is the best leader; I’m not saying that Mubarak is a great, benevolent and just leader, not when he’s got $70 billion in his own pockets at the expense of people," he clarified.
But, he stressed, believers are commanded to live orderly, peaceful lives, subjecting themselves to whatever the government would be.
He continued, "And the reason is, any form of government is better than anarchy. You get a little bit of a taste of what’s going on right now – people are dying, property is being destroyed. You can’t have this. And inevitably what’s going to come out of this is going to be less order, more chaos, and perhaps what will come out of less order and more chaos is a worse kind of control, more dominating power."
The 71-year-old pastor, who recently authored Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, contended that it is not likely that freedom would result from the massive protests.
"You'd like to think that nothing but freedom would come out of this. That's not what happened in Iran."
Again, speaking biblically, MacArthur said "the illusion is that these people are going to get freedom."
"But what we have to understand is that you’re either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ," he explained. "[N]o sinner is free; ... he’s only free to choose the course of his own damnation but he can’t do anything about it.
"This is another form of bondage. They’re going to end up in another form of bondage; they’re going to end up the same, sinful, corrupt, unsatisfied, unfulfilled people taking their same anxieties in a different direction. So it’s not a solution to anything."
His comments came just before Human Rights Watch reported that at least 233 demonstrators were killed by security forces in Libya. Meanwhile, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, said early Monday that if the anti-government protests continue, it could lead to a civil war. At the same time, he said if the protests died down, they could begin instituting a series of reforms and even begin discussions for a constitution, which is nonexistent.
Even if that could mean the possibility of more religious freedom for the tiny Christian minority, MacArthur doesn't see any huge gains, at least for the church, in that respect.
He pointed to countries like Japan and those in Western Europe that provide for freedom of religion, yet have few Christians or a dying church. In contrast, Christianity in China, where there are numerous reports of religious persecution and limited freedom, is exploding with tens of millions of believers.
"I don’t think religious freedom is even an issue in the advance of the church," MacArthur stated. "[D]emocracy, freedom of religion or persecution – if you had to pick your poison I think you might want to pick persecution because you get a purer church."
Ultimately, the Kingdom of God advances without regard for the government, he maintained. Everything with regard to the powers that are in place happens "within the purposes of God and God will rule through these things and overrule these things."
Thus, desiring freedoms is "not a justification for this kind of mass rioting and disobedience and overturning of governments."
"After all, who said democracy’s the best form of government?" he said. "No matter what the form of government is, the Bible doesn’t advocate anything but a theocracy. Any form of government is going to self destruct because you’re dealing with corrupt people, sinful people."