Friday, April 23, 2010
~~article and commentary
by James Fire
It is my distinct pleasure and honor to bring to you today, my own personal commentary for a book that has so blessed and encouraged me, that upon reading its mere introduction, I knew that I would have to publish an article on TTUF about it!
Just to whet your appetite for this work that is “wholly valiant for the truth” check out these quotes (and these are just from the introduction!):
“The church’s duty has always been to confront such skepticism and answer it by clearly proclaiming the truth God has revealed in His Word. We have been given a clear message for the purpose of confronting the world’s unbelief. That is what we are called, commanded, and commissioned to do (1 Cor. 1:17-31). Faithfulness to Christ demands it. The honor of God requires it. We cannot sit by and do nothing while worldly, revisionist, and skeptical attitudes about truth are infiltrating the church. We must not embrace such confusion in the name of charity, collegiality or unity. We have to stand and fight for the truth – and be prepared to die for it – as faithful Christians always have.” Pg. xvii
“But in every generation the battle for the truth has proven ultimately unavoidable, because the enemies of truth are relentless. Truth is always under assault. And it is actually a sin not to fight when vital truths are under attack. That is true even though fighting sometimes results in conflict within the visible community of professing Christians. In fact, whenever the enemies of gospel truth succeed in infiltrating the church, faithful believers are obliged to take the battle to them even there. That is certainly the case today, as it has been in apostolic times.” Pg. xxiv
“. . . I find myself compelled to echo the inspired words of Jude and exhort my readers who truly love Christ: you need to contend earnestly for the faith. Truth is under heavy attack, and there are too few courageous warriors who are willing to fight. When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, believers from this generation will not be able to justify their apathy by complaining that the strife of conflict over truth just seemed ‘too negative’ for the kind of culture we lived in – or that the issues were ‘merely doctrinal’ and therefore not worth the effort.” Pg. xxvi
So are you ready to leap out of your house and run to your nearest Christian book store to buy your own copy of this book yet? You might find that this book isn’t there; apparently this book is too ‘hard core’ for most peoples taste. For me, this book tastes like a spiritual gourmet meal! Every page, every sentence I’ve relished with a shared conviction of our brother John MacArthur’s heart. In fact, this book, in a nut shell sums up the very heart of The TRUTH Under FIRE’s web site!
In some ways, on a spiritual spectrum as it were, John MacArthur and his statements in this book are on the extreme opposite end of some of the things other pastors, like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and others are saying.
Whoever is resolutely determined to teach and divide the Word correctly is the one that I want to stand with! What about you? If you can say “AMEN” then come with me as we examine what this pastor has to say. MacArthur, in the book, stated that he wants to start a “revolution in the church”, a revolution for the TRUTH that will no longer tolerate compromise, false teachings, seductive dogma that tickles the ear, and gratifies the flesh rather than the spirit. We must be valiant for the Truth in opposition to the assaults that the church today is plagued with!
So let’s start by taking a look at the opening chapter:
A BIBLICAL DEFINITION of The Truth –
“So what is truth? Here is a simple definition drawn from what the Bible teaches: truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory and being of God. Even more to the point: truth is the [S]elf-expression of God.”
“Truth is also ontological – which is a fancy way of saying it is the way things really are. Reality is what it is because God declared it so and made it so. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.”
MacArthur states that God in the Old Testament is a “God of TRUTH” and so named in such passages as Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16). Jesus of course declared that He is the Truth (John 14:6) and thereby made a profound claim about His own deity. He made it clear that all truth must ultimately be defined in terms of God and His eternal glory. Jesus is according to scripture “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3). “He is truth incarnate – the perfect expression of God and therefore the absolute embodiment of all that is true.” Pg. 2
And according to Jesus, the written Word, the Holy Scriptures are also an embodiment of the Truth which cannot be broken and abides forever. (John 17:17; 10:35; 1 Peter 1:23). There is no discord between the expressions of Truth, MacArthur says, between the Word Incarnate, that is, the LORD Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3), and the Word inscribed (the Holy Bible). The scriptures, he states, are referred to in Colossians 3:16 as “the word of Christ”. “It is His message, His Self-expression. In other words, the truth of Christ and the truth of the Bible are of the very same character. They are in perfect agreement in every respect. Both are equally true. God has revealed Himself to humanity through Scripture and through His Son. Both perfectly embody the essence of what truth is.” Pg. 3
THE GREAT “PARADIGM SHIFT” –
“Lately, many unbelieving intellectuals have admitted the chain [the philosophic search for truth from generation to generation and its associative philosophers who have endeavored to uncover it] is broken and have decided the culprit is the absurdity of any quest for truth. In effect, they have given up that pursuit as something wholly futile. The world of human ideas is therefore currently in a serious state of flux. On almost every level of society, we are witnessing a profoundly radical paradigm shift – a wholesale overhaul in the way people think about truth itself.
MacArthur then comments on the 20th century trends in philosophy, academia and world religions (and I might add big business, industrial-military complex and various secret orders) is being “totally revamped and the vocabulary of human knowledge redefined”.
MacArthur defines the term “Modernity” as “the belief that truth exists and that the scientific method is the only reliable way to determine that truth. In the so-called modern era, most academic disciplines (philosophy, science, literature and education) were driven primarily by rationalistic presuppositions (human reason as the final arbiter of what is true). These presuppositions brought forth Darwinism, and as a result of this, came various humanistic ideas and worldviews (atheism, rationalism, utopian philosophies like Marxism, fascism, socialism, communism and theological liberalism).
Yet as the author points out, Modernism failed to come up with some universal truth that would apply to every one at all times, while leaving the ‘truth of God’ out of the picture. Indeed in today’s prevailing worldview Modernism is outdated and discredited in intellectual and academic circles which has led to the Post-Modern Movement.
Post-modernism is a term used since the 1980s but it’s hard to define as its proponents perceive it to be to one degree or another, indefinable! Primarily Post-Modernists tend to “dismiss the possibility of nay sure and settled knowledge of the truth. If objective truth exists, it can’t be known objectively or with any degree of certainty, due to the subjective nature of the human mind which makes knowledge of objective truth impossible. Objectivity is an illusion, nothing is certain, the thoughtful person will never speak with too much conviction about anything, strong convictions about any point of truth are judged supremely arrogant and hopelessly naïve. Everyone is entitled to [their] own truth.”
MacArthur boils Post-Modernism down to this: “The rejection of every expression of certainty” which is “inherently arrogant, elitist, intolerant, oppressive – and therefore always wrong.” It rejects truth and exalts skepticism, thus absolutes are spurned and truth, if it exists at all, is made “infinitely pliable and ultimately unknowable in any objective sense.” Pg. 13
On a personal observation, may I interject by saying that the above view of Post-Modernism is self-contradictory because while on the one hand, any expression that claims certitude is, in the mind of the Post-Modernist, “always wrong” and yet on the other hand rejects any notion of absolute truth. How can one claim anything as “always wrong” unless there was some absolute truth by which it’s been measured and then determined to be ‘always wrong’?
Thus relativism reigns supreme on the landscape today. This obviously will have, and already has had, a profound influence in the church, and on how the world perceives the church, that is, that facet of the church that still esteems the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.
GETTING PROPOSITIONS OFF THE PREMISES –
“Post-Modernists are generally suspicious of rational and logical forms. They especially don’t like to discuss truth in plain propositional (‘an idea framed as a logical statement that affirms or denies something, and it is expressed in such a way that it must be either true or false’ or put another way, ‘the simplest expressions of truth value used to express the substance of what we believe’) terms.”
“Rationality (the right use of sanctified reason through sound logic) is never condemned in scripture. Faith is not irrational. Authentic biblical truth demands that we employ logic and clear, sensible thinking.”
As the book points out: “Truth is never self-contradictory or nonsensical . . . it is not rationalism to insist that coherence is a necessary quality of all truth. Christ is truth incarnate, and He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). Self-denying truth is an absolute contradiction in terms. “No lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21).”
Post-Modernists reject propositional forms and even argue how such a thing is impossible in expressing truth, yet in order to make such an argument, propositions would have to be made (emphasis mine)!Arguing against propositional truth is self-defeating!
Authentic faith employs more than mere propositional truth however, it must have a personal element as well, for, as MacArthur states, “[Jesus] declared Himself Truth incarnate. Scripture also teaches that faith means receiving Christ for all that He is – knowing him in a real and personal sense and being indwelt by Him – not merely assenting to a short list of disembodied truths about Him (Matthew 7:21-23) . . . it is quite true that faith cannot be reduced to a mere assent to a finite set of propositions (James 2:19). Saving faith is more than a mere intellectual nod of approval to the bare facts of a minimalist gospel outline. Authentic faith in Christ involves love for His Person and willingness to surrender to His authority. The human heart, will, and intellect all consent in the act of faith. In that sense, it is certainly correct, even necessary, to acknowledge that mere propositions can’t do full justice to all the dimensions of truth.
Post-Modernists are uncomfortable with propositions for an obvious reason: they don’t like clarity and inflexibility that’s required to deal with truth in propositional form (case in point, pastor of Mars Hill, Rob Bell refers to biblical Christianity in derogatory manner as “brickianity” because of its inflexibility). They have a contempt for all truth claims, and the ‘fuzzy logic’ of ideas told in story form sounds so much more elastic, even though its really not.
Uncertainty is THE NEW TRUTH [In Post-Modernism and the Emergent Church] –
“Postmodernity is a major theme in the literature of the Emerging Church movement. Several leading voices in the movement have suggested that post-modernism is something the church should embrace and adopt. Others might be more tentative about endorsing post-modernism dialect if we want to reach a postmodern generation. That, they say, will require a retooling of the message we bring to the world, not to mention a revamping of the means by which we deliver it. Some in the movement have openly questioned whether there is even any legitimate role for preaching in a postmodern culture. “Dialogue” is the preferred method of communication. Accordingly, some Emerging-style congregations have done away with pastors altogether and replaced them with ‘narrators’. Others have replaced the sermon with a free-ranging dialogue in which no one takes any leading role. For obvious reasons, an authoritative ‘thus saith the Lord’ is not welcome in such a setting.” Pg. 17
This sentiment is entirely in line with the idea that truth is either unknowable or so subjective that it’s splintered into meaninglessness. The Bible speaks about such confusion and uncertainty in the pages of scripture:
James 3:10-18 Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
This text reveals that there can be a duality of influences, but that the essential influence that governs any particular individual will determine who and what sort of person they are. Just as you can’t get olive berries from a fig tree or figs from a grape vine, neither can you get both salt water and fresh from the same source… nor is it appropriate that two different forms of wisdom come from the same source.
Either the wisdom we exemplify is from above and is holy and righteous, pure and peaceable, without hypocrisy or it’s the earthly, sensual, devilish (that is adversarial to the divine) sort of wisdom. The envying and strife could easily be referenced to the rivalry of God’s wisdom as opposed to the devilish. In such a case, this strife and confusion leads to every evil work.
Such is the sensual wisdom of post-modernists, emergents, and globalist religious advocates, and these promote and endorse confusion and every evil work, quite frankly because they are opposed to God’s most Holy Word as conveyed in the scriptures.
MacArthur continues: “Of course, the first casualty of that way of thinking is every kind of certainty. The central propositions and bedrock convictions of Biblical Christianity – such as firm belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, a sound understanding of the true gospel, full assurance of salvation, settled confidence in the lordship of Christ, and the narrow exclusivity of Christ as the only way of salvation – do not reconcile well with postmodernism’s contempt for clear, authoritative truth claims. The medium of post- modern dialogue thereby instantly and automatically changes the message. And the rhetoric of the Emerging Church movement itself reflects that.
“Listen for example, to how Brian McLaren sums up his views on orthodoxy, certainty, and the question of whether the truths of Christianity are sound and reliable in the first place:
‘How ironic that I am writing about orthodoxy, which implies to many a final capturing of the truth about God, which is the glory of God. Sit down here next to me in this little restaurant and ask me if Christianity (my version, yours, the Popes, whoever’s) is orthodox, meaning true, and here is my honest answer: a little, but not yet. Assuming by Christianity you mean the Christian understanding of the world and God, Christian opinions on soul, text and culture . . . I’d have to say that we probably have a couple of things right, but a lot of things wrong.’
“McLaren suggests that clarity itself is of dubious value. He clearly prefers ambiguity and equivocation, and his books are therefore full of deliberate double-speak. In his introduction to A Generous Orthodoxy, he admits, ‘I have gone out of my way to be provocative, mischievous and unclear, reflecting my belief that clarity is sometimes overrated, and that shock, obscurity, playfulness, and intrigue (carefully articulated) often stimulate more thought than clarity.’ A common theme that runs throughout most of McLaren’s writings is the idea that ‘there is great danger in the quest to be right.’
Grenz and Franke, authors of the book Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Post-Modern Context, published 2001, made a significant impact in the evangelical academic community, and stated: “Christian theology therefore needs to be rethought, revised, and adapted in order to keep in step and remain relevant in these changing times.” These authors argue that the Spirit of God speaks through scripture, tradition, and culture and theologians must hear the voice of the Spirit in each one. Moreover, since culture is constantly in flux, they say, it’s right and fitting for Christian theology to be in a perpetual state of transition and ferment too. No issue should ever be regarded as finally settled.
However, God and Truth in scripture are often portrayed as a rock, something solid, immoveable and unalterable; something that can’t be revised or adapted . . .
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
For I am the LORD, I change not . . .
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
God is also eternal, knowing the end from the beginning as Someone who stands outside of the confines of temporal existence:
But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
Grenz and Franke made the assertion that theology must be “rethought, revised and adapted in order to keep in step and remain relevant in these changing times.”
Yet the Word states that God is everlasting, He is one who knows all things, who declares the end from the beginning. He knows the entire history of our world and could recite it like we would recite the events that took place on a serial episode on television; even better in fact, not missing a single detail and noting every point of relevance that would require address. Since He is a God of omniscience (knowing all things) and also a God of omnipotence (possessing all power) and a God of all love and truth, could He not include in the entirety of scripture those provisions of truth which would be needed in any culture throughout time or in an environment of paradigm shifts, having perfect knowledge of ‘changing times’? Obviously! So, did He? Of course! The Word declares that God made such provisions for all things that pertain to life and godliness:
2 Pet 1:3
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
“. . . through the knowledge of Him” that is Christ Jesus, and we receive such knowledge of the Word Incarnate by the Word Inspired, the scriptures. Not through tradition, as Grenz and Franke suggest, nor through culture! There is no precedence in scripture to indicate Divine revelation through tradition and, or culture!
And since when was it the responsibility of theologians ONLY to ‘hear the Spirit’ and not the entirety of the body of Christ, men, women and children who understand the Word of God and hear the voice of the Blessed Shepherd? To suggest that theologians alone are able to ‘hear the Spirit’ resembles the dogma of Roman Catholicism and a priesthood that stands between God and the church!
‘Rethinking, and revising and adapting’ Christian theology (if its truly based on the pure doctrine of the Word) is as unnecessary as it would be to re-invent Jesus Christ; to do so is to claim that God is insufficient in His provision of Truth and doctrine necessary in order to answer any and all questions and concerns in all ages of humanity. Further, for fallible man to raise his corrupt hand in order to chisel off chunks of the LORD our ROCK in order to make Him and His Word more appealing to a world that finds Truth and Authority objectionable or even offensive is tantamount to puny man demanding that God change Himself in order to suit mankind’s own whims, even lusts.
THERE IS NOTHING TO RE-THINK, REVISE or ADAPT! God is GOD, and one doesn’t arbitrarily decide to throw parts of God’s Truth into the garbage heap simply because it’s politically incorrect, or can’t coexist with contemporary heresies or corrupt humanism (glorification of the human spirit)!!!
If anything needs to be re-thought or revised, it’s the revisionist mentality of those who would seek to altar the Word of God, and the doctrines, beliefs and conduct of any church of biblical integrity! IF a revision is necessary, it’s in the passive, careless attitude in the church that allows such blasphemous statements as those of McLaren’s, Grenz’, and Frankes’ to go unchallenged!
As Macarthur stated on pages 22 & 23:
”By such means, the ages-old war against the truth has moved right into the Christian community and the church itself has already become a battleground – and ominously, precious few in the church today are prepared for the fight.”
WAR in the CHURCH –
As MacArthur points out, “Battles over truth were raging inside the Christian community even in apostolic times, when the church was just beginning. In fact, the record of Scripture indicates that false teachers in the church immediately became a significant and wide spread problem wherever the gospel went. Virtually all the major epistles in the New Testament address the problem in one way or another. The apostle Paul was constantly engaged in battle against the lies of “false apostles [and] deceitful workers [who transformed] themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). Paul said that was to be expected. It is, after all, one of the favorite strategies of the eivl one: “No wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministries also transform themselves into the ministers of righteousness” (vv. 14-15).” Pg. 23
This masquerade is taking place today as well, but as MacArthur says, “on a massive scale”. Now, the need is even greater for Christians to be on guard, alert and sober minded, heralding the truth of God’s Word and pass it on to the next generation, for them to likewise cherish and keep the faith (1 Tim. 6:20-21). This Truth war is nothing new; every generation has had to contend with the lies of this world, as promoted by the father of lies, Satan. What’s different in today’s world is that the preponderance of the church at large is ratifying rather than rejecting these dogmas of deceit!
MacArthur validly points out: “In one narrow respect, the driving idea behind the Emerging Church movement is correct: the current climate of postmodernism does represent a wonderful window of opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ. The arrogant rationalism that dominated the modern era is already in its death throes. Most of the world is caught up in disillusionment and confusion. People are unsure about virtually everything and do not know where to turn for the truth.
“However the absolute worst strategy for ministering the gospel in a climate like this is for Christians to imitate the uncertainty or echo the cynicism of the postmodern perspective – and in effect drag the Bible and the gospel into it. Instead, we need to affirm against the spirit of the age that God has spoken with the utmost clarity, authority, and finality through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). And we have the infallible record of that message in Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21).”
Postmodernism, says MacArthur, is simply unbelief dressed in robes of feigned humility and virtue, but in fact, its body is that of proud rebellion against God’s Word. Whereas the Postmodernists weigh the scriptures with no small amount of skepticism, we the church can have absolute confidence and boldness in the inerrant Word; therefore let’s not be timid to proclaim the definitive and distinct message that’s been delivered to us! We are ambassadors who seek for the lost and have them reconcile with their God and Maker, yet we are also soldiers charged with the pulling down of strongholds and casting down the lies and deception spawned by the forces of evil (2 Cor. 10:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:3-4). Pg. 25
Here ends chapter One of John MacArthur’s The TRUTH War; I pray that this has been an encouragement to you as it has been for me. I would like to continue this article for another chapter (2 - Spiritual Warfare: Duty, Danger, and Guaranteed Triumph) of this book for our mutual edification.
I thought it would be a good idea to post two video clips where John MacArthur explains the heart of his book, and the issues at hand regarding The TRUTH War:
The TRUTH War Part One
The TRUTH War Part Two
Until then, it’s my sincerest prayer that the LORD keep all of us in His love, grace, peace and truth!
Posted by A.M. Kisly at 12:35 PM