Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Truth War

The Truth War: Fighting For Certainty in an Age of Deception by John MacArthur, 2007.

I, for one, am always excited to see a new John MacArthur book come out. He is a nice blend between thorough and knowledgeable AND readable. Yes, his books have footnotes, but they're written to be understood and comprehended. (Unlike some books where the only words you understand are "is" and "the." ) But I suppose you can say MacArthur's books are deep as well. They are always about important, relevant topics.

What is The Truth War about? In some ways it is about the "Emerging Church Movement." But in other ways it is just a generalized book about the ongoing fight for truth in a postmodern world. This world is full of compromises. The evangelical church shouldn't be full of compromises, but sometimes it is. Some churches have lost the point. Some have lost the gospel. And some Christians may not be aware of this fact. In their fight to be one with the world, to appear seeker-friendly, some churches have compromised to the point where they are unrecognizable as a true church of God. The Truth War is about recognizing false teachers and preachers from true ones. About discerning the true (and biblical) gospel message from the nicely-repackaged version for today's postmodern generation. So there is discussion about what the gospel is and about what truth is. And there is a discussion of the prophecies about false teachers found within Scriptures. This is a topic that both the gospels and epistles discuss often at great length. The book is about the need for discernment. The need to fight for the truth. The book of Jude is discussed a great deal within the book.

The idea that the Christian message should be kept pliable and ambiguous seems especially attractive to young people who are in tune with the culture and in love with the spirit of the age and can't stand to have authoritative biblical truth applied with precision as a corrective to worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behavior. And the poison of this perspective is being increasingly injected into the evangelical church body.
But that is not authentic Christianity. Not knowing what you believe (especially on a matter as essential to Christianity as the gospel) is by definition a kind of unbelief. Refusing to acknowledge and defend the revealed truth of God is a particularly stubborn and pernicious kind of unbelief. Advocating ambiguity, exalting uncertainty, or otherwise deliberately clouding the truth is a sinful way of nurturing unbelief. (xi)

Does anyone really imagine that many of the entertainment-hungry churchgoers who pack today's megachurches would be willing to give their lives for the truth? As a matter of fact, many of them are unwilling to take a bold stand for the truth even among other Christians in an environment where there is no serious threat against them and the worst effect of such a stand might be that someone's feelings get hurt. . . .The idea of actually fighting for doctrinal truth is the furthest thing from most churchgoers' thoughts. Contempory Christians are determined to get the world to like them--and of course in the process they also want to have as much fun as possible. They are so obsessed with making the church seem 'cool' to unbelievers that they can't be bothered with questions about whether another person's doctrine is sound or not. . . .Christians have bought into the notion that almost nothing is more 'uncool' in the world's eyes than when someone shows a sincere concern about the danger of heresy. After all, the world simply doesn't take spiritual truth that seriously, so they cannot fathom why anyone would. But Christians, of all people, ought to be most willing to live and die for the truth. Remember, we know the truth, and the truth has set us free. We should not be ashamed to say so boldly. (xiv, xv)

Truth is never determined by looking at God's Word and asking "What does this mean to me?" Whenever I hear someone talk like that, I'm inclined to ask, "What did the Bible mean before you existed? What does God mean by what He says?" Those are the proper questions to be asking. Truth and meaning are not determined by our intuition, experience, or desire. The true meaning of Scripture--or anything else for that matter--has already been determined and fixed by the mind of God. The task of an interpreter is to discern that meaning. And proper interpretation must precede application. The meaning of God's Word is neither as obscure nor as difficult to grasp as people today often pretend. Admittedly, some things in the Bible are hard to understand, but its central, essential truth is plain enough that no one need be confused by it. (xx, xxi)

Truth itself does not change just because our point of view does. As we mature in our ability to perceive truth, truth itself remains fixed. Our duty is to conform all our thoughts to the truth; we are not entitled to redefine 'truth' to fit our own personal viewpoints, preferences, or desires. We must not ignore or discard selected truths just because we might find them hard to receive or difficult to fathom. (xxi)

Chapter titles include: Can Truth Survive in a Postmodern Society?; Spiritual Warfare: Duty, Danger, and Guaranteed Triumph; Constrained into Conflict: Why We Must Fight for the Faith; Creeping Apostasy: How False Teachers Sneak In; Heresy's Subtlety: Why We Must Remain Vigilant; The Evil of False Teaching: How Error Turns Grace Into Licentiousness; The Assault on Divine Authority: Christ's Lordship Denied; How To Survive In An Age of Apostasy: Learning From the Lessons of History; and a bonus chapter, Why Discernment is Out of Fashion.

The book is great. Highly recommend it.