Lies Abound in Liberal Christianity Today’s Rehashed Smear Piece on John MacArthur

Another Shepherds Conference, another run at trying to destroy John MacArthur.

Personal baggage, threats, and long-disproven claims drive the tabloid salaciousness of Christianity Today’s rehash of the 20+ year-old Eileen and David Gray saga. The most damning evidence: Contrary to the narrative forwarded in Kate Shellnutt’s article, Grace Community Church elders did NOT commission disgruntled former elder Hohn Cho to investigate the church’s conduct in relation to the 20-year-old case of Eileen and David Gray.

It’s like it’s March 2022 all over again, and we find ourselves repeating the same exculpatory evidence as last year regarding the sordid 2002-2005 affair of Eileen and David Gray, encouraging the same folks who fell for it last year to calm down. Fool you once, shame on them. Fool you twice, you need to read polemics/discernment websites more regularly.

This time the “journalism outlet” taking a run at discrediting John MacArthur and Grace Community Church is Russell Moore-captained Christianity Today, which on Thursday published what was basically a rehash of a roundly discredited Julie Roys 2022 piece entitled, “John MacArthur Shamed, Excommunicated Mother for Refusing to Take Back Child Abuser” – only this time with a former Grace Community Church elder and self-appointed Abuse Investigator endorsing Roys’ twisted conclusions.

The 2023 retelling, written by Kate Shellnutt (CT’s go-to #churchtoo writer who called Bart Barber’s defeat of Tom Ascol at SBC ’22 a “win for abuse reform”), reads like a People Magazine profile on former GCC elder Hohn Cho and is structured with the exact same gaslit emotionality as the original Roys hit piece that hoodwinked Cho last March.

Shellnutt starts by noting that it “turned out” that Eileen Gray’s fears proved true, then insinuated the same foundational thesis employed by Roys: A church’s lack of clairvoyance renders it culpable for whatever secret sin is revealed in the future. In other words, believe all women no matter what the evidence indicates, because the guy might still be awful.

To refresh: Despite her admitted sin and culpability in the matter, Eileen Gray has now been exonerated in the court of public opinion for what “turned out” to be true. Her refusal to pursue reconciliation with her husband was not on the basis of what was known at the time of her refusal, but on the basis of years-later revelations elicited during her children’s counseling. As the only real addition to last year’s story is Cho’s disagreement with the GCC elders and the claims of multiple anonymous and unchallengeable accusers, these new “revelations” will be the focus of this article. Anyone unfamiliar with the timeline or details of the case can read our analysis from last year here and here.

Investigator Hohn

The CT article claims that “as a lawyer and one of four officers on the elder board at Grace Community Church (GCC), Cho was asked to study the case” (Cho’s office was as recording secretary). Readers would be forgiven for concluding that he was chosen by the other elders to commission a fresh investigation because of some special legal expertise (a conclusion supported by his friend Rachel Denhollander).

In reality, Cho (an entertainment attorney turned transacional/M&A lawyer for a biotech company), was asked personally and informally to summarize the available court documents from David Gray’s 2004-2005 criminal case, as alluded to by GCC elder Phil Johnson back in March of 2022. No Cho-lead investigation into the church’s involvement with the Grays was ever requested by the GCC elders. The elder board – which included several men with intimate and personal knowledge of the 2002 case – was in unanimous agreement that given everything they knew and could have known at the time, the Gray situation had been handled as biblically as possible. The only holdout was Hohn Cho.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the board, Cho started his own personal investigation, which reportedly did not include talking to any of the people involved (like Protestia did) nor reviewing any evidence of the Gray’s counseling at GCC. Instead, the yet-to-be-released memo was reportedly Cho’s combination of an inspection of publicly available court documents with Julie Roys’ spin.

This 20-page memo was passed around to several elders, demanding GCC ‘do justice’ in response to what Cho was now convinced happened. His conclusion was reportedly roundly criticized by his fellow elders for its inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and for relying on indefensible assumptions not supported by the available evidence. Cho was reportedly asked to correct his faulty conclusions, including his assumption that David Gray’s yet-to-be-discovered sin meant that Eileen Gray was justified in refusing marital reconciliation. Instead, Cho and his wife resigned their church membership to the cheers of their friend Rachel Denhollander.

The Denhollander Spell

Hohn Cho has been an avid supporter/follower of fellow lawyer Rachel Denhollander since at least March 2018, when the “trained attorney” (a redundant descriptor Cho assigned her in a fawning 2019 blog post) published an 8000-word Facebook response to Sovereign Grace Church’s defense of its handling of an early 1980’s sex abuse case (among other claims of abuse mishandling).

Denhollander called for SGC to submit to an additional third-party investigation in part because the independent investigation previously conducted by the church (called the Thaler-Liebeler report) was done by “a firm and an attorney with no known or recorded experience in criminal law or investigative work” (curiously, she has expressed no concern for this standard being applied to Cho’s investigation of GCC). Cho weighed in on Denhollander’s 2018 Facebook post:

Read this last night and was blown away. Re-read it this morning and am still blown away. When I read CJM/SG’s response a few weeks ago, I shook my head because it was such a bad response, on so many levels. But this reply is powerful, comprehensive, and devastating. Praying for you!!!

Upon the publishing of the CT article on Cho, he claimed in a Facebook post that Shellnutt had “reached out to [him] for comment” in December 2022 for “a story she was working on.” While it isn’t clear exactly when Shellnutt’s story turned into a profile on Cho, the connection between his departure from GCC and the Gray case was revealed by Denhollander in April 2022, when she called his “courageous choice” to leave the church “redemptive” and “the true gospel.” She responded to criticism a couple of weeks later over her “true gospel” claim by doubling down and reiterating that one’s response to “those who have been harmed” is indeed the Gospel of Christ.

Cho didn’t reveal the reason he and his wife left the church in his April 2022 resignation email, choosing instead to stay largely silent about his concerns with GCC until (according to his Facebook post) he was contacted out of the blue by Shellnutt, the long-time Denhollander ally and recently named CT Editorial Director of News under ex-Baptist Russell Moore. In the same post, Cho hinted at “other GCC matters that have come to [his] attention,” and issued a coy threat that he may or may not go public with them depending on “the nature and extent of the response (if any) from GCC and its allies.”

Christianity Astray

Shellnutt’s article plays many of the same word games Roys used in 2022, leading the uninitiated reader to draw falsely negative conclusions about Grace Community Church’s knowledge and culpability. For instance, Shellnutt describes GCC pastor John MacArthur’s May 2002 public discipline of Eileen, then leaps forward in time, writing (emphasis mine) “David Gray, once a teacher on staff at the church, went on to be sentenced for his crimes in 2005: aggravated child molestation, corporal injury to a child, and child abuse.”

This deceptive skip makes it seem like Eileen Gray (and probably John MacArthur) was aware of the most serious accusations against David Gray at the time discipline was being exercised. In truth, these accusations didn’t materialize until over a year later.

The article seems entirely unphased by the possibility that both spouses can be guilty of sin, and acting in opposition to clear biblical teaching is not validated on the basis of the future revelation of sin any more than deciding to steal can be justified if later you find out that the goods already belonged to you. Your thievery would still be a sin against God, and your church would be right to address it as such.

Shellnutt’s article downplays the Bible’s teaching on divorce, and characterizes pastors relaying clear passages of scripture on things like forgiveness and love as damaging, especially when counseling women who “feared for their safety.”

Testimonies of eight anonymous women are presented with no critical analysis. Police involvement and legal proceedings are characterized as veritable proof of misdeeds – not of the husbands of course, but the church. The clear target of all of this one-sided, anonymous testimony is not the women’s husbands (as much as they might all be dirtbags), it is Grace Community Church, John MacArthur, and by extension the Bible’s prioritizing of marital reconciliation and clear teaching on marriage.

Common sense would indicate that even when a wife (or husband) facing abuse is given perfect counsel, there is no guarantee that things will work out as desired. Yet the article attempts to leave the reader with the distinct impression that GCC is cold-heartedly and knowingly forcing battered women and children back into the arms of abusive husbands. Careful examination of the evidence (or lack thereof) does not actually demonstrate this, however, and emotional hyperbole like Cho’s claim that “congregants who [he] still love[s] could effectively be playing Russian roulette if they ever needed counseling at GCC” and apart from him “call[ing] out a warning” the “blood of the people would be on [his] head” is shameless emotional manipulation.

More Questions

It is very sad to see a seemingly solid elder tread this path. By all accounts, Hohn Cho had a track record of faithful teaching and discernment. Yet his decision to partner with the woefully compromised and often anti-church Christianity Today – with this reliance on a bevy of anonymous accusations, Cho’s yet-to-be-released investigation memo, and the filthy manipulation published by MacArthur-obsessed Julie Roys – betrays a man with troublesome intent rather than simple ignorance.

His claim that the CT article contains “hard evidence” and “testimony from a multitude of witnesses” rather than the unchallengeable tabloid gossip it actually contains is the opposite of the personal integrity he claims motivated him, as is his gossipy reference to the “several other GCC matters” and his thinly-veiled threat to not let things rest if GCC or its allies do not respond to his liking.

Did the elders’ rejection of his memo create personal rifts that could not be repaired? Was his pal Rachel Denhollander pressuring him to be a “whistleblower,” and suggested go-to abuse writer Kate Shellnutt as the allied writer to drop this year’s pre-ShepCon October surprise? How did a disagreement over a 20-year-old case move Cho from being an “ardent and public supporter of GCC” to someone willing to partner with those actively seeking the destruction of his church? Why does Cho bear no responsibility for his time on the elder board during which all of this abuser-supportive counseling took place?

Is this case anything other than yet another church leader succumbing to the siren song of the “believe all women,” “feelings determine truth,” “biblical marriage is tyranny” woke subjectivism that defines the #churchtoo movement and enriches its most visible advocates?

Note: We reached out to Hohn Cho, but he had not responded at the time of publication. We will provide an update if he responds to our inquiries.

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22 thoughts on “Lies Abound in Liberal Christianity Today’s Rehashed Smear Piece on John MacArthur

  1. It is a little strange that we have such an aversion to slavery because historically there have been abuses. There have been abuses in marriage. We don’t have an aversion to marriage particularly because there have been abuses. There are parents who abuse their children. We don’t have an aversion to having children because some parents have been abusive. … To throw out slavery as a concept simply because there have been abuses, I think, is to miss the point … . There can also be benefits. For many people, poor people, perhaps people who weren’t educated, perhaps people who had no other opportunity, working for a gentle, caring, loving master was the best of all possible worlds. … So we have to go back and take a more honest look at slavery and understand that God has, in a sense, legitimized it when it’s handled correctly. … Slavery is not objectionable if you have the right master. It’s the perfect scenario.

    1. We get it, you don’t like John MacArthur and you’re taking quotes of his out of context for shock value. If you are a Christian, you need to repent.

    2. You do realize the slavery he is referring to is not the kind in which Africans kidnapped their own people and sold them off to the Dutch. He is referring to those who are in debt and is serving as a bond servant. This was what Paul referred to in the New Testament. It’s Bible 101, I think I learned it in Sunday School when I was 6.

    3. If by “slavery” Mr. MacArthur is referring to indentured servitude (voluntary) and not chattel slavery (involuntary), it would help if he clarified which type(s) of servitude he meant. Because, his analogy of parenting and procreation seems to be taken from RL Dabney – a 19th century theologian who was clearly a proponent of chattel slavery, see link below.

      And yes, Mr. MacArthur is very familiar with Dabney., hence my response:

      First, chattel slavery or indentured servitude notwithstanding, Mr. MacArthur makes what is called a false analogy. Who ordained marriage (male-female union) and children? God (Genesis 1:28, 2:24). Procreation and parenting are a God-ordained part of nature. Now, where did servitude or slavery come from? Was it God ordained or a result of fallen humanity (sin)? Abused or not, mankind and nature need procreation and parenting to survive and sustain. IMO thinking that conflates what God has ordained from what is man-perpetrated is troublesome.

      Second, the Bible stands firmly against chattel slavery. starting with Jesus’ words (Matthew 7:12). As a believer, if I would not like to be kidnapped and enslaved against my will, then what does it say about me buying or owning a person procured in such a fashion? Paul specifically calls out “kidnappers” or “slave traders” (1 Timothy 1:10) as not inheriting the kingdom. If Philemon (Onesimus’ master) were a “kidnapper”, would Paul have considered him a “fellow laborer” (Philemon 1:1)? Now, what does the Mosaic Law /Old Testament) say about kidnapping and enslaving a person or being found owning a stolen person (Exodus 21:16)? Here is God’s Fugitive Slave Clause (Deuteronomy 23:15-16). Just for grins, compare that with what was enacted in the US Constitution 3,300 years later:'Citizen'%5D

      Third, doesn’t Reformed Theology teach the total depravity of man? If slavery was a construct of unregenerate man, then shouldn’t it be considered uniformly evil? Regardless of there being good masters or not.

      Fourth, how about educating the uneducated? Also, educated or not, back in the day people worked for themselves or an employer. So, what is specific about an uneducated person and a “master”? Is Mr. MacArthur implying a master-slave relationship as in chattel slavery? That is, different from a employee-employer relationship.

      PS: Protestia, whether this note is censored or published, I’m okay, because what we do to others will be done to us.

  2. I took the biblical counseling course at grace church and was taught under Bill Shannon and not once were we taught to try and keep wives with abusive husbands. We were told we would have to report such abuse to the authorities to protect the wives and children. As a member of grace and a wife, I know my church and elders would care and protect me if I was in such a situation.

    1. Churches have always been a great place for victims of abuse. You’d be hard pressed to find one counter example.

    1. So we have to go back and take a more honest look at slavery and understand that God has, in a sense, legitimized it when it’s handled correctly. … Slavery is not objectionable if you have the right master. It’s the perfect scenario.

    2. Where did you find information that Twist Bioscience does research on fetal material? From what I understand, that is not correct.

      1. The clarification was that their technology was used to do experiments with fetal tissue from abortions. I found where the technology was used by other institutions to do more experiments with fetal material. It’s possible they obtained the technology through a 3rd party, but it’s more likely that Twist is selling the technology directly to these institutions. Given the profile (woke, ESG, LGBTQ, etc.) of the company, I’m confident they see no moral issues with doing so. That being said, one of their recent acquisitions does experiments in vivo with humanized mice. Another does a bunch of stuff with IVF (which leads to the destruction or freezing of embryos, i.e. babies. I also found information on their own website about them using the HEK-293 fetal cell line (cell line taken from aborted baby in the 70’s).

          1. Yep, read that before even I responded to you. I did my own research and that’s how I found out the info I shared with you above.

        1. fake Johnny Mac-I wasn’t referring to the previous source. I was referring to others that I had found yesterday morning. You obviously didn’t follow the flow of conversation between Cheryl and I.

    1. I’m done with this particular topic, but I’ll give you necessary names and things you can search for if you want to find the info for yourself:

      company names: Abveris, iGenomeX, ABX Biologics, Inc., Twist Bioscience
      terms to search for: HEK 293, IVF, embryos, humanized mice, in vivo

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