The Truth War
I’m not real familiar with John MacArthur. Really all I know about him is that Doug Pagitt called his theology “dangerous”, or something like that. But I was in Mardel a few weeks ago and The Truth War was on sale for $11. How could I pass that up?
If you poke around my archives you’ll find that I’m no fan of the Emergent Village or the movement that it has spawned. I don’t like the theology of McLaren, Pagitt, or Jones. I keep reading them, though; mainly because I hope for the sake of the church that I’ve been misunderstanding them. I don’t think I have been, but I’ll keep checking.
The subtitle of MacArthur’s book is “Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception”, which is very fitting. The main focus is on rooting out apostasy and heresy. He looks back historically at several instances of this, including Sabellianism, Arianism, and the Judaizers. He looks thoroughly at the theological issues, and the ways that these leaders succeeded in deceiving so many into believing falsely.
He then brings it into the our time by examining Modernity, postmodernity, and the emerging church. He points out the desire of many leading the charge into postmodernity to make truth “pliable”.
One dominant theme pervades…in the Emerging Church movement, truth (to whatever degree such a concept is even recognized ) is assumed to be inherently hazy, indistinct, and uncertain – perhaps even ultimately unknowable. ((John MacArthur, The Truth War; pg. x))
His personal beef during the time of writing seems to be Brian McLaren. He references him dozens of times, including 17 quotes in an 8 chapter affair. This of course doesn’t bother me. McLaren is the de facto leader of the emergent movement, being the most respected of the EV leadership. He is leading the charge, with Jones and Pagitt and many others at his side, to a theology and orthodoxy in which everything is changeable, nothing is debatable, and “orthopraxy (practical righeousness) [is] what really matters most ((pg. 35)).”
McLaren acknowledges that an ever-changing message does not bring anyone any closer to “getting it right,” and he is not the least bit troubled by that. In the final analysis he says, “‘getting it right’ is beside the point: the point is ‘being and doing good’ as followers of Jesus in our unique time and place, fitting in with the ongoing story of God’s saving love for the planet Earth ((pg. 36)).”
I’ll be the first to say that we probably don’t have all the details nailed down when it comes to our understanding of Christ, the Trinity, and our relationship to the Almighty. But there are some things that are certain. I remember reading (though I can’t find the article now, so take this with a grain of salt) that at an EV conference one of the leaders was asked if even things like the doctrines of the divinity of Christ and the resurrection need to be open to change, and he said that, though he didn’t want to see it happen, it might be necessary. Scripture makes it clear that we have to get some things right. If you can deny that, are you really even talking about Christianity anymore?
MacArthur moves on to talk about why we need to “fight for truth”, and I agree with his analysis. There seem to be too many people who say that we should just focus on good teaching without pointing out bad teaching. Think about when Mark Driscoll got drilled by progressives after his speech at the Convergent Conference. But are we really glorifying Christ if we allow false teachers to run through the church unabated? I think not.
The book includes some clear and reasoned ways to recognize false teaching and bad theology, including some examples from the current and previous generation. This part was especially helpful for me because it put into words a number of thoughts that I haven’t been able to verbalize. He talks about the postmodern aversions to truth, certainty, and authority, among other things.
If you can find this one on sale, pick it up, or get it at the library. It’s a good read, but you could find most of the same info and commentary online if you searched for a couple hours.