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John MacArthur Denies Mental Illness: Says ‘There Is No Such Thing’ as PTSD, OCD & ADHD

By Josh Shepherd and Julie Roys
john macarthur PTSD
On April 20, 2024, John MacArthur speaks at a conference hosted by Grace Church of the Valley in Kingsburg, California. (Video screengrab) 

Speaking recently at a church conference, popular author and pastor-teacher John MacArthur told attendees that mental illness doesn’t exist. He also implied that children who take medications due to mental health diagnoses are turned into “a potential drug addict” or “potential criminal.” 

“The major noble lie is that there’s such a thing as mental illness,” said MacArthur during a Q&A session at a conference on April 20 at Grace Church of the Valley in Kingsburg, California. “Now this isn’t new. You have Thomas Szasz back in the 1950s, who was a psychiatrist, writing a book on ‘The Myth of Mental Illness.’” (Szasz’s book was first published in 1961.)

MacArthur continued: “There’s no such thing as PTSD. There’s no such thing as OCD. There’s no such thing as ADHD. Those are noble lies to basically give the excuse, in the end of the day, to medicate people. And Big Pharma is in charge of a lot of that.” 

MacArthur’s comments came after Grace Church of the Valley Pastor Scott Ardavanis asked MacArthur why he wrote “The War on Children.”

“The War on Children” was originally slated to be published by Thomas Nelson. However, after The Roys Report (TRR) published exposés, revealing that MacArthur failed to protect child abuse victims, and excommunicated a mother for refusing to allow her abusive husband back into her home, that agreement apparently fell through. Other Christian publishers also refused the book, so in March, MacArthur self-published the book through his ministry. 

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The 84-year-old pastor spoke briefly about the “sin nature” of children and how the entertainment industry has “targeted children.” Then he referenced a book, “A Profession Without Reason” by Bruce Levine. “It’s a book that shows basically – this is pretty shocking to some of you – that psychology and psychiatry are finally admitting the noble lies that they’ve been telling for the last hundred years.” 

MacArthur, whose honorary doctorate is in theology, discussed post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which public health officials report is more common in military veterans than the general population. 

“Take PTSD, for example,” said MacArthur. “What that really is, is grief. You are fighting a war. You lost your buddies. You have a certain amount of survival guilt because you made it back (and) they didn’t. How do you deal with grief? Grief is a real thing. But grief is part of life.” 

In a statement to TRR, clinical psychologist Philip Monroe, challenged MacArthur’s statements.

monroe
Dr. Philip Monroe (Photo: Lee Furney)

“This is an old argument that says since you cannot see PTSD on a slide, then it doesn’t exist,” Monroe stated. “And yet he wants to call PTSD grief. Well, show me grief on a slide? You can’t. In both cases, you can show clusters of symptoms.” 

MacArthur added: “If you can’t navigate grief, you can’t live life. But if you clinically define that you can give them a pill, a series of medications, and they end up in L.A., homeless on the sidewalk.” 

Dr. Monroe countered these assertions. “(MacArthur) suggests the only reason to get the diagnosis is to take a medication,” Monroe told TRR. “Yes, sometimes a medication can help. But the vast majority of people with these diagnoses do not take medications in great amounts.”

‘Alarming’ advice to parents, says psychologist

MacArthur circled back to children, the subject of his book. He said: 

“The most deadly thing that’s been unleashed on children (is) medication. We’re trying to make clear to parents that behavior is essentially the result of choices that kids make. And if you parent them properly, they’ll make right choices. 

But if you blame it on some something other than their choices, and you identify them as having something they can’t do anything about but medicate it – you literally are turning your child into a potential well, not only a potential drug addict, but maybe a potential criminal because they never learned how to navigate life in a socially acceptable way.”

After watching MacArthur’s remarks, Dr. Monroe called the pastor’s analysis “alarming.” 

“It’s nearly criminal that he says children taking meds turns them into criminals or drug addicts,” said Monroe. “Surely, he can back that up with evidence, right? Or that taking meds makes you homeless. The lack of logic and statistics is alarming.”

John MacArthur shaming
John MacArthur (Video screengrab)

X user Shaun Jones stated that MacArthur’s parenting perspective most concerned him. In the same clip that included MacArthur’s statement about mental illness, he also claimed, “If you parent (children) properly they’ll make right choices.”

Jones likened MacArthur’s claim to the prosperity gospel. “Obviously parents should strive to train their children well, but this guarantee of ‘do A+B to get C’ is bs.” 

As reported earlier by TRR, MacArthur has disqualified elders from ministry due to wayward children.

Yet, last year, when MacArthur’s son, Mark MacArthur, was charged with defrauding clients in a $16 million investment scheme and agreed to pay more than $367,000 to the SEC, MacArthur did not disqualify himself.

‘Zero understanding’

Christian leaders and authors have widely condemned John MacArthur’s remarks. 

Reformed pastor Steve Camp posted on X, “I love my brother John MacArthur . . . but his conclusions here are stunningly unwise, misinformed and lacking biblical footing.” 

Alan Noble, a Christian author and professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, stated: “This is a denial of reality, dangerous, arrogant, and destructive. And shameful. Christians who believe in Truth shouldn’t be spreading falsehood.” 

Abby Johnson, a pro-life conservative activist who famously left her past role at Planned Parenthood, spoke from her experience recently earning a doctorate. “John MacArthur just publicly proclaimed that he has zero understanding of PTSD or any other mental health disorder.”

She added: “I have my doctorate in Christian counseling and anyone reading this who is struggling, this is NOT truth. This is NOT what Jesus wants for you. He wants health and wholeness for your mind, body and spirit. That often includes therapy and sometimes medication. And that’s OKAY . . . Seeking help is the courageous thing to do.” 

beth moore
Beth Moore (RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks)

Best-selling author Beth Moore referenced “aging” in replying to a video clip shared online.

“I’ve had several very serious conversations with my daughters and my board concerning my public voice in my aging when filters naturally thin and we’re at greater risk of saying more than we should,” she said. “Please love and respect him enough to sift what should and shouldn’t be publicized.”

She noted her family’s experience with these issues: “There is simply no way he could know, for example, what my husband has endured over being in a fire with his brother when he was a toddler and watching him burn and not acknowledge the reality of PTSD.”

MacArthur associate defends MacArthur 

However, Phil Johnson, executive director of MacArthur’s Grace To You Ministries and an elder at MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, defended his boss. 

“John MacArthur has a long, Long, LONG history of ultimately being vindicated when he has taken positions contrary to the popular narrative,” said Johnson.

Phil Johnson
GTY Executive Director Phil Johnson

He continued: “MacArthur’s positition (sic) is NOT that angst, mental distress, confusion, grief, etc. don’t exist, but that it is not helping anything by acronym-labeling these as ‘illnesses’ and pretending they are curable by drugs or psychotherapy.”

Johnson concluded: “MacArthur doesn’t hold this view alone or without reason. JM’s opinion is not materially different from the view psychiatrist Thomas Szasz laid out in detail in his 60-year-old classic, ‘The Myth of Mental Illness.’” 

Several replies called out Johnson’s defense as inadequate. 

Mark West, a minister in Batesville, Arkansas, said: “As a Christian, SBC pastor who also serves the Mental Health community I can say factually that this teaching is neither Scriptural nor helpful to the body.”

“It’s the equivalent of an eye saying it doesn’t need hands. It’s ill-informed and divisive.”

Pattern of harming the vulnerable

In the early 1980s, GCC was sued by the parents of someone who committed suicide after receiving biblical counseling at GCC. The case was eventually dismissed. But at the time, GCC leaders said the church would change its counseling training programs. 

Yet, just last year, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) removed a pastor at MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (GCC) as an approved ACBC counselor.

The pastor, Bill Shannon, oversees the biblical counseling ministry at GCC. And the move by ACBC came after numerous victims of abuse said GCC had a dangerous pattern of protecting abusers and harming victims.

It also came after TRR reported that MacArthur had publicly excommunicated a former member, Eileen Gray, for refusing to take back her child-abusing husband, David Gray.

grace community church macarthur whacker
Author and radio evangelist John MacArthur is senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. (Video screengrab / Courtesy Photo)

A follow-up story by TRR revealed that even after David Gray was convicted in 2005 of sexually molesting his children, MacArthur and GCC continued to shun Eileen and support David.

TRR also published an exclusive story about Paul Guay, a former pastor at GCC. According to an eyewitness, Guay confessed to MacArthur in 1979 that he had molested his daughter, Wendy Guay. Yet MacArthur retained Paul Guay at GCC, calling him “a faithful part of our staff” in a letter obtained by TRR

Decades later, Wendy Guay wrote to MacArthur, pleading with him to help her expose her father, who was still pastoring, as a serial pedophile. MacArthur refused and replied in an email, “I’m not sure why all this has become an obsession for you after so many years.”

MacArthur has not responded to repeated requests for comment by TRR about his handling of the Paul Guay or David Gray cases.

In addition, MacArthur’s The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS) has videos posted on its YouTube channel in which John Street, chair of the graduate program of biblical counseling at TMUS, teaches that a spouse should endure abuse like a missionary endures persecution.

“The abused victim is the key player in reaching and changing the abuser,” said Street in the lecture.

This article has been corrected to clarify that MacArthur has an honorary doctorate.

Josh Shepherd is a reporter and production editor. Julie Roys is the founder and editor of The Roys Report.

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96 Responses

  1. Has he met anyone with Schizophrenia? How about a child with no self preservation instinct?
    I have and it is real.
    One can be concerned about little boys being active and impulsive being diagnosed and medicated, without denying the reality of mental and emotional disorders.

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