So my book arrived. The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, by John Macarthur. Just curious - did anyone receive copies for review? I sure didn't. But no regrets in purchasing it. I said i was going to discuss the book but it probably deserves a few more posts because it tackles so many topics. And if you cant afford the book, then order John's interview called "Whats So Dangerous About the Emerging Church" which contains some of the same arguments. And they will send it to you free if it is your first time ordering from Grace to You - which is nice of them. Start here.
Before I say anything, I have a lot of respect for John Macarthur. I have benefitted from many of his books over the years. He is a man of integrity. So just because i dont agree with him on his appraisal of the emerging church doesnt mean I dont think highly of him. Because I do.
In a nutshell, John Macarthur brings the harshest criticism that has ever been delivered to the emerging church. Much harsher than I expected and blogged about some months ago. Much harsher than Don Carson, who took the time and effort to mention the positive contributions of the emerging church. Unlike Carson, Macarthur offers no positives at all. He sees the movement as heretical, an assault on the certainty of Scripture, inherently flawed, riddled with gnosticism, and equivalent to a poopslide on the garment of Christ.
Its that poopslide thing thats stuck in my mind. One could argue that he doesn't use the phrase "poopslide" or its equivalent, and "emerging church" in the same paragraph but the connection seems intentional to me. John Macarthur appeals to the letter of Jude in dealing with heretics. On Jude's advice to ministering to the committed, he
"employs his strongest and most vivid language: "On some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh" (v. 23 NASB) . . .
. . . The expression Jude employs is shocking. It is as course as any expression in the Scripture. Jude uses a Greek word for "garment" that signifies underwear and a word for "polluted" that means "stained in a filthy manner; spotted and stained by bodily functions". He is comparing the defilement of false teaching to soiled underwear." (Truth War, page 181)
Now thats great! You mean there is a word in the Bible for an 'underwear skid'? A POOPSLIDE?
Why didnt anyone tell us? This is the stuff that inspires one to study Greek in seminary. This is the stuff that inspires bloggers to study the Bible for themselves. This is the stuff that creates youth pastors and gives them material for Friday night.
Hey, did you hear John MacArthur attacked the Emerging Church?
Yeah, he called them a poopslide!
Poopslide? Did he mean a Hersheys Kiss or a Cadbury Swirl?
He didn't say.
They must be pretty back-slidden for him to say that?
Oh yeah, splattered over Skid Row.
I guess you could say the Emerging Church is the New Skid on the Jock?
Yeah, thats why he BLASTED them in his brief!
Well, you wont find such frivilous chatter on this blog, in fact, I try to avoid such things. But the question remains. Is the emerging church even remotely related to the heretics of Judes warning. Are we the soiled garments?
Here are a few skids that come up in Macarthur's criticisms:
Are we Cynical?
"In some circles within the visible church, cynicism is now virtually regarded as the most splendid of all virtues.I begin this book with a prime example of that cynicism, as seen in the Emerging Church movement" (Truth War, page 16)
Well maybe thats true of many churches, and I am sure the EC is not immune to bouts of cynicism at times, but most of the emerging churches i come in contact with are in love with the body of Christ and are excited about how God is using them to impact their community. I just returned from a meeting in Frankfurt with leaders of emerging church movements in Germany - no cynicism there at all. But sometimes they can be critical, especially if spiritual or ecclesiastic abuse has happened.
Cynical of the Bible? No
Cynical of some people's insistence on the singular correctness and superiority of their first-world western view on the Bible? Maybe.
Cynical of televangelists? Sometimes
But then so is John Macarthur.
But lets not get too defensive here. Do you think Emerging Churches you have experienced are cynical?
“The thing about the emerging church is there are no rules, there is no doctrine and no official connection. Right? Its completely amorphous. Every guy does exactly what he wants to in his own eyes. And that is very, very dangerous.” John Macarthur, "Whats so Dangerous About the Emerging Church? "MP3
Well, actually .. . there are rules, doctrine and official connections. Are all those who do not hold to a modern Cartesian view of objective reality automatically suspect of relativisism? Its here that Lesslie Newbigin and John Macarthur clash. A reading of Lesslie Newbigin's "Proper Confidence" would be helpful.
Well there probably are a few floating around and I hope their false teaching gets exposed. There certainly are false teachers in every other movement and stream of Christianity. Their teachings are POOPSLIDES! Thats why we should be on guard. And John Macarthur's exposition on Jude is actually quite good and useful, We should examine ourselves and be open to correction. Macarthur names a few teachers that he feels are heretical. Some have made a defence. A friend of John Armstrong, Rev P. Andrew Sandlin, feels that Armstrong was misrepresented in Truth War and has written a response called Dr John Macarthur is Certainly Wrong. And Dan Kimball defends himself. I am still waiting to see the response from others in the book emerge online. John Franke, Rob Bell's wife, Brian MacLaren . . . Prince Charles. Yes . . Prince Charles!
Maybe sometimes. But we have no right to be. I would like to think we are challenging the believers of Christ to take his mandate seriously, to fully embrace the call of Christ for the world and to live under the cross. We are hopeful that God is reconciling all things to himself through Christ and we are thrilled that He is partnering with us in the gospel. We might be disappointed in the stagnation of the church in obeying God. But who has the right to be apathetic?
Well, its true there are words used in the emerging church that would have caused great offense in Spurgeon's church of the 19th century. Or even my mother's church. And certainly John Macarthur's church. But its equally true that words not considered offensive in the past are forbidden today. Language changes. Spurgeon, for example, would have not talked about "nigger entertainments" at an emerging church today without being rebuked and quoted Scripture. Mark Driscoll gets singled out in Macarthur's criticism but in Mark's defence, his choice of words are not offensive to his congregation. I have a theory on this but thats for another post.
Well, its not perfect. Yes, maybe it is flawed. But probably not in the way Macarthur describes. Macarthur says the "emerging church is inherently flawed" but he when he tries to describe what drives it, he says "The emerging Church began as a self-conscious effort to make Christianity more suitable to a postmodern culture" (page 17). Ahhhh . . NO . . . mindless accommodation to the world, whatever we call it, strips us of our prophetic message. I believe he misunderstands the goals and purposes of this movement. Our inherent flaws probably lie elsewhere but in the cases where syncretism and accommodation have happened, lets try to correct it.
If the Emerging Church really WAS guilty of gnosticism, then Macarthur would be justified in whipping out a can of JUDE from his back pocket . . . which is what he does in his book. But I have been scratching my head on this . . thinking to myself . . . how can we be accused of a deficient view of the humanity of Christ when we continually appeal to the incarnation of the Son of God as a primary motif of and motivation for mission in the emerging culture? As the Father has sent me, so I send you. He was fully God and fully man which is why we can wholeheartedly agree with the ancient ecumenical creeds and find a rigorous precedent in the Scriptures for godly participation in the emerging culture.
And regarding an incomplete view of the Trinity, it seems to me that emerging church emphasis towards a Trinitarian missiology is a corrective to a Trinitarianism assaulted by modernity's dismembering of the Godhead. Systematic theology, anyone? I have said before that at the heart of the emerging church is a trinitarian missiology. Alan Roxburgh writes of this. We have made some gains in this area away from gnosticism and towards a fuller understanding of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are not happy with the idea of the Holy Spirit as a retired author who now spends his time as the librarian for Jesus and PA for God the Father . . . when he is needed . . . which is not as often as the old days.
However, gnosticism in its many subtle forms is present in all churches so we should not say that it is absent. But is it MORE present in the emerging church than in other movements?
There are other criticisms and issues but I should start another post. But in case you were wondering . .. YOU ARE NOT POOP!! As new kinds of apostles in a new culture with a timeless story, emerging church missionaries are the dregs of the world and the scum of the earth and we share in the sufferings of Christ which includes being misunderstood. And although Macarthur's words below were not intended for the emerging church, and dont appear in the book, I see them as relevant here.
"Have you experienced animosity, hostility, rejection, bitterness, alienation, ostracism, prejudice, or outright persecution from representing and advocating what is right? If so, that’s a sign that you belong to One who suffered the same way for the same reason.
The fact is, to the worldly, you as a Christian “have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (1 Cor. 4:13). You’re a threat to their belief that this world is all that’s worth living for." John MacArthur, GracetoYou
Well, don't all jump on me AT ONCE!!! I don't expect this tiny blog post to solve any issues and I dont want to dismiss Macarthur's criticisms without a good look around. We should talk more on this. Which topic in particular do you think is worth pursing?