Links I like

How To Avoid a Cult of Personality

Zach Nielsen:

Just because you’re a strong and effective leader doesn’t mean you’ve built a cult of personality. That should be all of us. But the Oxford Dictionary helps us know what we are trying to avoid. It defines a cult of personality as a “misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.”
There is nothing wrong with your people admiring you as their pastor. The problem starts when the healthy admiration morphs into unreflective obedience, fearful retreat, or a messianic complex. Only our admiration of Jesus could never be misplaced or excessive. So perhaps the best way to avoid a cult of personality in your ministry is to actively pursue creating a cult of personality for someone else, namely Jesus.

John MacArthur: The Infographic

Tim Challies and Josh Byers have put together a pretty fantastic infographic on John MacArthur (who, if you hadn’t heard, will be speaking at T4G 2014).

The Historical Reality of Adam

Guy Waters:

“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” So begins the New England Primer, which taught generations of early Americans to read. In introducing our forefathers to the letter A, the primer was also administering a generous dose of biblical theology. As Paul puts it crisply in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Through Adam, sin and death entered into the world. By Christ, sin and death were conquered. Adam forfeited life by his disobedience. Christ achieved life by His obedience. These simple, basic truths, Paul tells the Corinthians, are the very structure and content of the gospel.

What Macklemore Got Wrong . . . and Right

Denny Burk:

The lyrics to Macklemore’s song took aim at Christians and their views on marriage. To be more precise, it takes aim at the God that Christians worship and offers another god in His place—a god that bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible. Nevertheless, these performers were obviously grasping for divine approval. All of the trappings of Christianity were invoked to bless “same love”—a stage decorated to look like a church, a “minister” presiding, and a gospel choir singing the words of 1 Corinthians 13. You might say that it had the form of godliness while denying its power (2 Tim. 3:5).

Young Pastor, Here’s What I Wish I’d Known

David Helm, Andy Davis and JD Greear share what they wish they’d known when they first entered the ministry:

Links I like

What is a sermon? A response to ‘Deadly, dull, and boring’

David Shead:

Language is a funny thing. We’re all expert users of it, but quite what language is and how it works remains a mystery to most of us.

That’s why an article like Phil Campbell’s ‘Deadly, dull, and boring’ is such a godsend.1 God’s word is a preacher’s core business, and therefore language is the preacher’s most basic tool. Anything that can help us understand a little more about how language functions and how we can use it better—particularly something that highlights the differences between spoken and written language so that we can preach better—is a great thing!

One second of priceless

HT: Steve McCoy

Stop Comparing Your Trials

Josh Blount:

How many times have you looked at someone else’s suffering and thought, “How on earth do they keep going? I wouldn’t survive a day in that job, or with those disabilities, or with that many kids!” Then, after marveling at their endurance, you look at your own life and feel like the most miserable, sniveling excuse for a Christian ever to disgrace the faith.

Stand for life 2014

A great (but lengthy) conversation between John Ensor, John Piper and Francis Chan:

Losing Privileges

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

Is this a Christian country? There are likely as many ways to answer the question as there are stripes on our flag. Yes, the country was populated at its beginning with Christians looking for a place to worship freely. But that was before we became a country. Yes, many of our founding fathers were sincere professing Christians. But many of them were not. Yes, we are Christian in the same sense as all of Europe is Christian—it is the faith tradition of the majority in our country. But no, we have rejected the faith of our fathers. Yes, our country’s laws, traditions, symbols, culture, were shaped by predominately Protestant notions. But no, we are living in times of great change. And therein lies the rub.

Those Dragons Underneath Our Beds

Matthew Westerholm:

How we approach a situation reveals what we expect to find.

Imagine it is 2 A.M. and I’m asleep. My wife taps my shoulder and says, “I heard something. I think there’s an intruder downstairs.” My mind immediately kicks into high-gear. I reach underneath my bed and grab a 7-iron — to protect the family — and slowly make my way to the kitchen where my wife heard the sound. Even though I live in a hundred-year-old house, I know exactly how to sneak down my staircase without making a creak. My heart pounds in the still night. My eyes search in the dark: the doors, the hallway mirror, the main-level windows that I know a person can squeeze through.

Meanwhile, my wife is upstairs with her phone. She has dialed “9” and “1,” and she has her finger waiting on that second “1.” She’s waiting for me to scream, or for someone else to scream after I yell, “Fore!”

See, my whole approach to this situation reveals what I expected to find.

(Audio)Book Review: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Title: Found: God’s Will (Find the Direction and Purpose God Wants for Your Life)
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: David C. Cook (Revised Edition: 1998)

“What is God’s will?” So many of us ask this question at various points in our lives. Searching for a new job. Considering marriage. Ministry opportunities. College.

But can we know for certain what is God’s will for our lives, specifically? Yes, says John MacArthur in Found: God’s Will. In fact, the answer will seem so shocking that you might need to “jump up out of your seat and shout!”

So what is God’s will for our lives? In this very short book, MacArthur carefully examines the Scriptures and reveals that God has made His will quite clear.

God’s will for us is that we are to be:

  1. Saved. God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9);
  2. Spirit-Filled. Our lives will be guided by the Holy Spirit as we are careful to study and listen to God’s Word and persist in prayer (see Acts 4:8, 13:9; Eph 5:18);
  3. Sanctified. God’s will for our lives is that we grow holiness, putting sin to death and growing in Christlike character (Romans 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3);
  4. Submissive. God’s will is that we obey the authorities He has placed over us, whether godly or ungodly. This is crucial to our witness as Christians in the world. The only time when we may disobey is when those authorities command us to do what God forbids, or to not do what God commands (see Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-25; Acts 4:19); and
  5. Suffering. God’s will for our lives is that as we follow Christ in this world we will suffer for Christ. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you,” said Jesus in John 15:18.

These five principles are crucial elements to God’s will for our lives. MacArthur handles the Scriptures with great care (as is to be expected). What impressed me though was MacArthur’s brevity. Found: God’s Will clocks in at a mere 64 pages. This is impressive on two fronts.

The first is that there are no wasted words. MacArthur stays on point and makes every illustration relevant. The second I’ll get to in a moment. [Read more...]

The Arrogance of Youth and the Subtle Danger of Experience

For most of the last week, a number of folks have been chiming on John MacArthur’s critique of Darrin Patrick’s book, Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission. If you’ve been following it at all, MacArthur says that he was shocked by the following passage:

The man who is experiencing head confirmation [of his calling to pastoral ministry] is thoughtful about his own philosophy of ministry, his own ministry style, his own theological beliefs, his own unique gifts, abilities and desire. In short, there is uniqueness to the way he wants to do ministry. Unlike many young men who know much about what they are against and little about what they are for, the man who is experiencing head confirmation thinks through very carefully and deliberately, What am I for with my life and ministry? What are my specific burdens for the church? How can I best serve the church in these areas? (Church Planter, page 37, emphasis in original)

MacArthur’s take on this section is that Patrick is suggesting that “everything about one’s ministry (Patrick expressly includes “his own theological beliefs“) needs to be self-styled and individualistic” (source). What he suggests is that what this paragraph (and indeed the whole book) is calling for is a radical individualism.

Having read both the book and MacArthur’s concerns, I believe that his take is uncharitable at best, but I can understand how one could make this conclusion. However, my point is not to defend the book, nor is it to criticize John MacArthur, who is a godly man and a great Bible teacher.

What concerns me is something that caught my attention in the follow-up post on the Grace to You blog.

After rightly calling out those who have been (perhaps) overzealous in their responses to MacArthur’s critique as needing to be a little more thick-skinned and to remember that Scripture is our authority, the author writes the following:

John has more than fifty years of preaching faithfully, more than forty years in the same pulpit—don’t you think you ought to listen? Don’t despise the older generation; don’t dismiss their wisdom; don’t ignore their criticisms of you. Proverbs is full of wisdom like that: “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (Prov. 15:31-32; cf. 10:17;12:1; 13:18; 15:5).

Now here’s where I agree entirely. John MacArthur has been in ministry for a long time. He has a great deal of wisdom to offer, much of which is well worth heeding. Older men who have been in ministry can an invaluable resource to younger men and we would be foolish not to give them our ear.

That said, one’s experience does not make a man infallible. We are all subject to error and we must be careful to recognize this, especially when we comment on what we perceive to be the errors of others lest we fall into pride.

This is why the Apostle Peter in addressing both older pastors and younger men:

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you… (1 Peter 5-6)

Pride is an equal opportunity sin. It doesn’t discriminate against youth or experience. Any of us, whether because of the arrogance of youth or through the subtle danger of experience, can easily be ensnared by our pride if we’re not watchful. And the result is we look and act like this:

I don’t want my contemporaries to fall into that trap. I don’t want it for myself. And I don’t want it for those who are ahead of us in the race. God, help us, please.

(Video HT: Z)

Book Review: Slave by John MacArthur

Title: Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 1:1). Over and over again, the New Testament’s writers refer to themselves by this one word—doulos. Typically, we see it translated in English as “servant” or “bondservant;” but is that most accurate way to translate it?

Does doulos really mean “servant?”

According to John MacArthur, it would be better translated as “slave.” In his latest book, Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, he examines the implications of what it means for each of us to be a slave of Christ.

MacArthur’s teaching gifts are on full display in Slave as he provides valuable insight into slavery in first century Rome, and illustrates how that understanding allows Christians today to better appreciate much of the language of Paul and the New Testament writers as they describe their relationship to Christ.

Against the historical backdrop of slavery, our Lord’s call to self-sacrifice becomes that much more vivid. A slave’s life was one of complete surrender, submission, and service to the master—and the people of Jesus’ day would have immediately recognized the parallel. Christ’s invitation to follow Him was an invitation to that same kind of life. (p. 43)

In reality, Slave isn’t simply about making readers see themselves as slaves of Christ. MacArthur, by focusing on the doctrines of grace—the total depravity of man, God’s unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints—gives readers a complete picture of who we are in Christ.

This ultimately culminates in MacArthur’s exposition of the doctrine of adoption. That is, all who put their faith in Christ are not merely slaves, we are also His sons and daughters adopted into God’s family with all the rights of a natural born child. [Read more...]

The True Spirit of Christmas

© Gareth Weeks

What is the spirit of Christmas?

Worship, in a word, worship…nothing more and nothing less.

And, you know, as you look back over the Christmases of the ages, and we do that every Christmas season, we go back through history. I’ll tell you how we do it. We do it when we sing the carols. Do you realize that we’ve sung carols from as far back as the fifth century that have gone through several translations and finally reached us? And we’ve sang carols from the fifteenth century, the eleventh century, the seventeenth, the eighteenth, the sixteenth…as well as the nineteenth. And as you go back through the history of the Christmases and you touch those Christmas carols, you touch the most brilliant poets and articulators of Christmas truth and their attitude is always worship, it’s always been worship.

Listen to some of the Christmas carols. . . . We know [Luther] for his great theological work, but sometimes forget his great poetic work. . . . On one Christmas season Martin Luther wanted to write a Christmas carol for his little son, Hans. This is what he wrote. “From heaven above to earth I come, to bear good news to every home, glad tidings of great joy I bring, where of I now will say and sing. To you this night is born a child of Mary, chosen mother mild, this little child of lowly birth shall be the joy of all the earth. Were earth a thousand times as fair, beset with gold and jewels rare, she yet were far too poor to be a narrow cradle, Lord to Thee.” And then he ends, “Ah dearest Jesus, holy child, make Thee a bed soft undefiled within my heart that it may be a quiet chamber kept for Thee.” That’s worship. Take up your place in my heart.

William Dix . . . wrote the words to, “What child is this?” which . . . ends, “So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come, peasant king to own Him, the King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him.” That’s worship…

Charles Wesley wrote six thousand hymns. Maybe the best you heard played this morning, “Hark the herald angels sing.” The last verse, “Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace, hail the Son of righteousness,” that means worship. “Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings, mild He lays His glory by,” that’s the incarnation, “born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King.” That’s worship.

One of my favorite poets of the nineteenth century is Christina Rosetti. . . . Through that life she wrote some of the most magnificent poetry, all of it a tribute to Christ. She wrote this poem and it was set to music twelve years after her death. “In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow in the bleak midwinter long ago. Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain. Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed, the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim throng the air, but His mother only in her maiden bliss worshiped the beloved with a kiss.” Then she ends with this great, great stanza, “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I’d give Him a lamb. If I were a wise man I’d do my part, but what can I give Him? Give my heart.” That’s worship.

And maybe it was John Francis Wade who died in 1786 who summed it all up in the simple words, “O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

John F. Macarthur Jr., The True Christmas Spirit (12/24/1995). © Grace to You.

Around the Interweb (11/07)

Don’t Use Email for Correction

C.J. Mahaney and James MacDonald discuss why email isn’t the best way to offer correction to a brother or sister:

HT: The Gospel Coalition Blog

In Other News

Prayer request: I’m preaching tonight as part of Harvest Bible Chapel London’s first service night at the Men’s Mission in town. Please pray for gospel fruit.

Health: Justin Taylor interviews Matt Chandler about how life has changed in the year since he learned he has cancer.

New Websites: The new Crossway.org and ESV.org have launched; go check them out.

Audio: This month’s free audio book at ChristianAudio.com is Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper.

Free Book: Grace to You is offering John MacArthur’s next book, Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, free in exchange for a bit of info. Here’s the book trailer:

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of John Sowers’ Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story.

The fear of man vs. the fear of God (vide0)

On Christians using the f-word (fundamentalist, that is).

Think Biblically: J. Gresham Machen on pragmatism and the (post) modern preacher

Book Review: The Jesus You Can’t Ignore by John MacArthur

Title: The Jesus You Can’t Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2009)

Who is Jesus Christ? Just about everyone has a different answer to this question. Some see Him as a great moral teacher and ultimately a really nice guy. “Gentle Jesus, meek & mild.” A Jesus who is, ultimately, easy to ignore.

But is that the Jesus of the Bible? According to pastor and author John MacArthur, the answer is an emphatic “no.”

And in The Jesus You Can’t Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ, MacArthur carefully examines the Scriptures to show readers the powerful and provocative character of Jesus of Nazareth.

As MacArthur leads his audience through a study of Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees, he reveals that every encounter was antagonistic—and instigated by Jesus Himself. So opposed was He to false religion, that, writes MacArthur, “[b]y today’s standards, Jesus’ words about the Pharisees and His treatment of them are breathtakingly severe.” (p. 21)

MacArthur’s examination of Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders of His day bring to light the author’s concern about the state of modern evangelicalism—that we’ve confused niceness for godliness, which has resulted in an anemic faith that has sacrificed a willingness to earnestly contend for the Truth for a willingness to accommodate virtually any and all viewpoints or perspectives, no matter how contrary they might be to biblical Christianity. [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (08/16)

Read the Gospels: JC is not PC

John MacArthur provided a brilliant editorial in the Washington Post this week abuot Jesus. Here’s the opening:

Let’s be brutally honest: most of Jesus’ teaching is completely out of sync with the mores that dominate our culture.

I’m talking, of course, about the Jesus we encounter in Scripture, not the always-gentle, never-stern, über-lenient coloring-book character who exists only in the popular imagination. The real Jesus was no domesticated clergyman with a starched collar and genteel manners; he was a bold, uncompromising Prophet who regularly challenged the canons of political correctness.

Read the whole thing here. Seriously, it’s fantastic!

Two-Kingdom Theology and Neo-Kuyperians

No, it’s not the plot of a new alien invasion film, it’s a post from Kevin DeYoung’s blog about the merits and dangers of two-kingdom theology and neo-Kuyperianism (of course!). Here’s an explanatory note from Kevin’s article:

In broad strokes, the two kingdom folks believe in a kingdom of this world and a kingdom of Christ. We have a dual citizenship as Christians. Further, the realm of nature should not be expected to function and look like the realm of grace. Living in the tension of two kingdoms we should stop trying to transform the culture of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and instead focus on the church being the church, led by it duly ordained officers and ministering through the ordinary means of grace.

On the other hand, neo-Kupyerianism (intellectual descendants of the Dutch theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper) argue that every square inch of this world belongs to Christ. Therefore, his Lordship should be felt and manifested in politics, in the arts, in education, in short, everywhere. Because the work of Christ was not just to save sinners but also to renew the whole cosmos, we should be at work to change the world and transform the culture.

There’s some extremely interesting points made in the article, so do read the whole thing, but I found this point particularly helpful:

Perhaps there is a–I can’t believe I’m going to say it–a middle ground. I say, let’s not lose the heart of the gospel, divine self-satisfaction through self-substitution. And let’s not apologize for challenging Christians to show this same kind of dying love to others. Let’s not be embarrassed by the doctrine of hell and the necessity of repentance and regeneration. And let’s not be afraid to do good to all people, especially to the household of faith. Let’s work against the injustices and suffering in our day, and let’s be realistic that the poor, as Jesus said, will always be among us. Bottom line: let’s work for change where God calls us and gifts us, but let’s not forget that the Great Commission is go into the world and make disciples, not go into the world and build the kingdom.

Alright, go read the article at Kevin’s blog. And when you’re done, you can read a response article from the fine folks at White Horse Inn.

Out of the Archives: Keeping the 10 Commandments

Keeping the 10 CommandmentsJ.I. Packer is one of modern Christianity’s greatest minds—the author of countless books, including Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Growing in Christ, and arguably his best-known work, Knowing God. There are few men who are more influential theologically on Evangelical Christianity than Packer. So when I saw Keeping the 10 Commandments at the bookstore, I had a hunch it would be a worthwhile read.

Sufficed to say, I was not disappointed.

By many, the 10 Commandments are seen as irrelevant; as “rules” that prevent us from having any fun. In this short work, an excerpt from Growing in Christ, Packer shows us that these commandments are not rules to be followed; they are commands to be lived to bring us joy…

Read the rest of this review.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Review: What’s He Really Thinking? A book that does the unthinkable: Encourages women to embrace men for being men.

Up the (Willow) Creek: Tim Keller Reflecting on Tim Keller’s session at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Leading People to the Prodigal God

Up the (Willow) Creek: Harvey Carey Harvey Carey wants the church to do more than sit on the sidelines. He wants it to get into the game.

Sunday Shorts (07/26)

Dug Down Deep: New book by Joshua Harris

3D.DugDownDeep%20copy.jpgThe other day, Joshua Harris (Pastor of Covenant Life Church and author of such books as I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Stop Dating the Church) has released some information on his latest book. From the back cover:

I know from experience that it’s possible to be a Christian but live life on the surface. The surface can be empty tradition. It can be emotionalism. It can be doctrine without application. I’ve done it all. I’ve spent my share of time on the sandy beaches of superficial Christianity.This book is the story of how I learned dig into truth and build my life on a real knowledge of God. How I first discovered that orthodoxy isn’t just for old men but for anyone who longs to know a God who is bigger and more real and more glorious than the human mind can imagine.
The irony of my story is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn’t understand that seemingly worn-out words like theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ.

They told the story of the Person I longed to know.

You can read Harris’ comments on the origin of the title at his blog, and you can preorder a copy at Amazon.

Gnosticism and Fundraising

Jonathan Dodson offers some thoughts on the often dualistic approach to fundraising and the work of the ministry over at his blog:

Some of us need to repent of our dualism, of seeing God as sovereign and concerned only with our piety and not with our pocketbook. Some of us need to redeem our view of money with an understanding that the Gospel redeems consumers to spend, not just “spiritually” but practically. Our money should be governed by the gospel and move towards mission. But that is uncomfortable. We would rather live with the comforts of unspiritual spending, than invest our whole lives into the mission of God. Our idols of comfort, clothing, and standard of living hide beneath our functional gnosticism. God is calling us to repent and believe that Jesus is Lord over our entire lives, finances included, to bring us into a life of joyful giving and worship.

Read the whole thing. It’s well worth it.

John MacArthur on Spurgeon & Worldly Preaching

HT: Evangelical Village

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: “God won’t give you more than you can handle” Exploring the question: does God really only give us what we can handle?

A Holy Terror Embracing a holy fear of the Lord

Timeless Truth: Mere Christianity Looking at an example of true wisdom that has only become more powerful since it’s writing 60 years ago.

Sunday Shorts (07/05)

Crazy Love: Free Audiobook of the Month

Francis Chan’s much talked about Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God is this month’s free audiobook at ChristianAudio.com.

Here’s the video introduction to the book:

Use the coupon code JUL2009 to get this audiobook for free.

Why Do the New Calvinists Insist on Complementarianism?

Kevin DeYoung recently took some time to respond to the question of why the “new” Calvinists insist on complemetarianism. Here’s a snippet:

I think you can be a Calvinist and an egalitarian. My denomination–the one I grew up in and have always been a part of–strongly supports egalitarianism. This is very problematic to me. I can understand why some would leave an egalitarian denomination, but I don’t think egalitarianism necessitates that one must leave. For the time being, I am content to work with, through, and in my denomination, where both views are at the table (though my view is usually put at a card table somewhere in the basement far away from the corridors of power).

But (you knew there was a “but” coming) I am glad that the network of “New Calvinist” organizations and conferences have made complementarianism a plank in their platform. I can live in a church environment without this doctrinal boundary, but I think it would be better to have it.

Read the rest at Kevin’s blog.

The Gospel Coalition Serves Pastors – C. J. Mahaney

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more about “The Gospel Coalition | The Gospel Coa…“, posted with vodpod

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Watchmen How does Ezekiel’s call to preach repentance to Israel apply to believers today?

Book Review: The Truth War Reviewing John MacArthur’s call to contend for the faith.

Reflections on the Old Testament What have I taken away from my brief study of the Old Testament? Anticipation.

Book Review: The Truth War

truth-war-macarthur

One of my favorite books of the New Testament is Jude. This very short letter, in many ways, shows just how much control the Holy Spirit had over the authors of Scripture, in that Jude wanted to write about one thing, but felt compelled to write about something entirely different. He says in v. 2-3, “although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Why do I bring this up? Because in writing The Truth War, John MacArthur seeks to carry out the command to contend for the faith.

As a Bible teacher, there are few that surpass MacArthur. He knows how to handle the Scriptures well and carefully. In reading the book, you can feel a deep love for doctrine, for the truth of the Word, and it’s a great thing—indeed, I think we would all do well to learn from his example in this regard.

But truth and sound doctrine aren’t things that are highly regarded or desired, according to MacArthur (and a quick perusal of iTunes and any bookstore’s “Christianity” section would agree with his assessment).

“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” (Introduction, xi).

There is an idea that you’re more mature and holy be being ambiguous or uncertain about what you believe, but, MacArthur rightly states, this is by definition a kind of unbelief, and “[r]efusing to acknowledge and defend the reveald truth of God is a particularly stubborn and pernicious kind of unbelief” (ibid).

MacArthur sets the stage for his critique of the Emerging/Emergent Church movement discussing the rise of postmodernism (which is really just repackaged existentialism), and its “tendency to dismiss the possibility of any sure and settled knowledge of the truth” (p. 10), because “the subjectivity of the human mind makes knowledge of objective truth impossible” (p. 11).  But Scripture disagrees with this idea, as Jesus said “I am…the Truth” (John 14:6).

As I read through the book, I found I could easily relate with most every critique and concern that was raised. The idea of looking at the Bible as a human product, as Rob Bell sees it, is terrifying and foolish. The idea that we’re to “search for a kind of truth” and that doctrinal distinctives are of “marginal” value, as Brian McLaren says in A Generous Orthodoxy, will surely lead to a shipwrecked faith. That the atoning death of Christ on the cross was an act of divine child abuse, as many, including McLaren, have written in the past is nothing short of blasphemous and damnable error.

But while I read, I also felt myself grating against his words. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s because I have never experienced pastors contending for the faith by speaking against error, or if it’s something else. One passage in particular hit me a bit close to home:

Sound doctrine? Too arcane for the average churchgoer. Biblical exposition? That alienates the ‘unchurched.’ Clear preaching on sin and redemption? Let’s be careful not to subvert the self-esteem of hurting people” (p. 150).

I read this and it stung, because I’ve heard very similar words from some people that I know well, who are in my prayers more frequently than ever.

While I think that MacArthur does a terrific job outlining his concerns, I have to wonder if his painting of all “contextualization” as worldliness is a bit too broad? Everything—from the Scriptures themselves, to our clothes, to our methodology in church—is contextualized. But using methods that make sense for 2009 doesn’t mean you have to compromise on doctrine. That speaking in everyday vernacular means you’re selling short the gospel. I have to wonder if maybe he’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater on this issue? I honestly don’t know, though. Perhaps I’m reading in something that’s not there.

Additionally, there are a couple of men addressed briefly in his critique—Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll—who at the very least are being implicitly labeled as false teachers, which is not a fair assessment of either man. The comments about Driscoll are based on his over-hyped reputation as “the cussing pastor” as described in Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Do I affirm everything that Mark Driscoll or Rick Warren does as good and right and true? Heck no! But it seems unwise and uncharitable to put them in the same category as some of the other gentlemen MacArthur critiques in this book.

Bottom line: Would I recommend The Truth War? Yes. The biblical principles espoused are rock solid and the message is sound: Contend for the faith. Where I would caution any reader is on his critique of other pastors and teachers. Do not build your entire opinion of any of these men solely on the opinions of MacArthur; do your homework and avoid straw-men.

Purchase a copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur

Driscoll, Piper and Chandler at Text & Context 2008

At the 2009 Basics Conference, John Piper was given the opportunity to respond to John MacArthur’s recent criticism of Mark Driscoll. I am grateful for godly men like Piper who are willing to speak about this issue with truth, wisdom and grace.

I originally had featured Piper’s audio, but it’s no longer available. Fortunately, Peter, one of our readers, was kind enough to transcribe it a few months back on behalf of a hearing impaired reader. That transcript follows:

Question: Thank you, Pastor John. Wanted to ask you, this is a pretty big subject in the church today, the idea of Pastors and lay leaders even, using perhaps more course language from the pulpit, kind of bringing things down a level and not being holy in their speech, and it seems to be a bit of a problem, and somebody may call us nitpickers for wanting the speech coming from the pulpit to actually be glorifying in every way, and I just wanted to get your opinions on that. There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet, bantering back and forth, back and forth and I just wanted to get your opinion on it, thank you.

John Piper: Oh I’m right in the thick of it. And the two people of course are John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll, right? I assume that’s where you’re going. And everybody knows that I’ve been friendly with Mark Driscoll, because he’s been at two of our conferences and I’ll be with him in two weeks. And I love John MacArthur with all my heart and I’m going to be with him – if he’ll still have me – in June. So, I love him, love him, what a grand, great, 40 years. So, amen!

So, he spent 4 blog posts criticising Mark Driscoll two weeks ago, and Mark has stuck him foot in his mouth quite a few times. I would encourage nobody to become course, filthy, ugly, trashy. I’ve had to repent… I could tell you the worse word I’ve ever used in a sermon but if I did I would get in trouble to say it. It isn’t a four-letter word, it’s … I forget how many letters it is… it’s like one of those.

So, I’ve been there, and I know how easy it is to create effect. And with a certain young crowd, it’s hip, it’s cool, it’s the way you feel. You know, you dress a certain way, and you watch certain movies, and you talk a certain way and then you’re hip, and thus attract a certain crowd. So I don’t think your mouth needs to be dirty in order to relate to 20-somethings in Seattle. And I think Mark knows that, I think Mark knows that. I assume he’ll hear this, probably, what I’m saying right now. I count him as a good friend. I spent an hour with him two weeks ago, at the Gospel Coalition, talking about these things.

Now he preached on Song of Solomon two years later, that was the 2007, at least a year later. I think what he did with his Church was way more mellow, and way more acceptable. Which simply says to me: Mark is growing. And he’s walking a very fine line, because he is rock-solid doctrinally, and he is accomplishing things in Seattle nobody else is accomplishing, in winning to Jesus Christ… they had 400 baptisms on Easter Sunday morning, this year! And these people, would.. just weird people.. coming to, coming to his church. People that… I mean look at me, look at this, this is so weird. They wouldn’t come hear me for anything. They wouldn’t go to my church, but they’ll go to his church. So, I’m cutting him a lot of slack because of the mission. So, it’s kind of a both end for me. You don’t need to go as far as you’ve gone sometimes with your language, but I understand what you’re doing, missiologically [I think] there and I have a lot of sympathy for it because I’d like to see those people saved. And yet I don’t want to see, either doctrine watered down – which he doesn’t at all – or, holiness watered down, which is John MacArthur’s big concern and I’m concerned with him…. That’s enough of that… unless you want to go further? I’ll just.. no I can’t say any more. Watch for more, on the Internet.

The difference between me and MacArthur at this point is: I’m not drawing the line that John [MacArthur] has drawn from the imperfections of Mark’s ministry to his unfitness for ministry. Because that’s where it seems John has gone, he says: “It’s over. Marks should resign. Nobody should go to his church. He’s unqualified for ministry” and I’m not going there. Not at this point anyway. I’m going to Mark directly. I’m getting in his face. I’m talking about… I’ve got more issues than just language, that I’m talking about, in his face, pleading with him: “look guy, you’ve got an influence that’s absolutely incredible”, and he knows that, [that's] part of the problem. “And I want you to be a good steward of this. I’m old enough to be your dad.” I am. I have a son older than Mark Driscoll, wait a minute, Mark Driscoll is 38 now I think, so my son is one year younger, so I’m old enough to be his dad. And he knows that, I’m in his face, ’cause I’m saying: “Look, come on. Just clean this up.”

Let’s get real specific for a minute, you ask how I’m dealing with this. When I was sent, by John MacArthur, the fated Song of Solomon, Edinburgh sermon that John critiqued two weeks ago online, I listened to it and thought it was horrible. I got on my Internet and wrote a three page single page letter to Mark Driscoll: “.. this is horrible…. and here are my 8 exogenical [i think] reasons … and then a few pastoral reasons ….. ” Within one hour that was off the Resurgents website, and an email had gone to Edinburgh and Glasgow to pull it down. That’s significant. That was a son-like response to this fatherly: “Come on! That’s over the top….don’t… that’s not the way to do it.”

HT Evangelical Village