Truth War: Is the EC really the New Skid on the Jock?

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?

Blastingahead

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?

Really?

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?

Newskid

Read on.

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Here are a few skids that come up in Macarthur’s criticisms:

Truthwarcynical

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?

Truthwarrelativism-2

Relativism?

“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.

Truthwarfalseteachers

False teachers?

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!

Truthwarapathy

Apathy?

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?

Truthwarbadlanguage-2

Bad Language?

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.

Truthwarflawed-1

Flawed?

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.

Truthwargnosticism

Gnosticism?

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?

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

48 Comments

  • Andrew, I received a review copy a couple of months ago and wrote one of the first reviews on the blogosphere. I can just say amen, but would add the book is poorly written, poorly researched and without Macarthur’s name on the front, wouldn’t deserve any serious ink. Freshman level analysis.

  • Hi Michael.
    i read your entry and really liked your tone – respectful.
    i guess i would like a little processing to happen before we all come to a conclusion, even if it is the same conclusion you have arrived at.

  • TSK – thanks for the review. Thank you even more for the manner in which you’ve responded. I am reading The Truth War right now – and agree wholeheartedly with your take.

  • “The thing about the emerging church is there are no rules, there is no doctrine and no official connection. Right?”
    That sounds like a good description of my “mother” church…the good ole SBC.
    While I think cynicism may be a quality exhibited in the generations that are usually present around the EC, the few churches I have been a part of are actually celebrating that they have moved past cynicism.
    Macarthur’s book is naming more characteristics of the 18-34 generation than he is of the Emerging movement. I also think that he probably unfairly draws from mainly American sources, and doesn’t touch the European/Kiwi/Aussie contribution (which is huge).
    I agree with your statements involving the Trinitarianism of the EC. If anything, the EC is moving towards a more accurate creedal statement than the majority of “free” churches that are in the US have.
    Thanks for the review Andrew…I need to get a copy of this.

  • John is one of those authors that I either absolutely love or absolutely loathe!
    I have developed a method of reading his books. If it is on subjects he knows something about (N.T. studies, Reformed Theology, etc.), his books can be great. If the book is on subjects he is entirely confused about (charismatic issues, the emerging church, etc.), I simply chuckle.
    Of course, that is just me.

  • Andrew,
    Thanks for the review. As with your review of Carson a while back, I admire your generosity in hearing out and considering critiques which don’t seem to have been offered in the same spirit. Not having read the book yet, I don’t know the answer to this – did MacArthur take the time to attend any emerging churches or have conversations with emerging leaders? If he’s going to bring a public rebuke like this, it would seem that some private efforts at correction would be the bibilical thing to do.
    It’s ironic to me that he levels complaints about gnosticism and cynicism. Primarily because whether they are true in part or in whole, this may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. One could call MacArthur cynical about some of the more helpful and refreshing changes that the emerging church has introduced. Anyway, I don’t mean to blast him back – I just wish that someone with critical views like these would actually get to know the real people involved, and hear their hearts of love for God and the peoples he created. I’m guessing they wouldn’t be so quick to run their mouths.

  • great review…I’ll borrow it to read. I see much of the reaction from the likes of mcarthur and others as no surprise. new ways of being church (emergent, missional) that are birthed from a passion for missional engagement and the gospel serve at the same time as a critique to existing and often impotent structures….and people get defensive about that, especially when the deep ecclesiological, missiological and hermeneutic questions surface.

  • yeah. the reaction is similar among many people – which is why i am interested to understand the reasoning processes and miscommunications that are going on in many circles.
    i think it would be profitable to push it around a little.
    hey – i would really like some fundamentalists to jump in here and back up john macarthur – help us understand where he is coming from.

  • Thanks for this review, and your very well put response. In regards to what John has written I think most of his criticisms you can equally argue about in regards to IC. I think, as you wrote, we just have to have grace.
    Sorry, but I can’t jump in and back up John, I’d rather be a bit of poop! 🙂

  • Thank you for the review (and the ear-to-ear grin the word poopslide caused!)
    I think that Macarthur’s criticisms are valid to the degree that they are valid in all manifestations of the church, we will drift to them if we aren’t centered on Christ. We all have to be careful of these things – but it seems callous to lob these accusations exclusively at the EC.
    BTW, how is that Nike shirt flawed? It is fantastic! 🙂

  • nice thoughts andrew, i posted a brief intro to the book on my blog with the intention of writing a full review but kind of stalled in the book……….i still struggle with Macarthur, he is “up there somewhere” looking down in me when i read him, maybe im just stupid!! Anyway i do think a lot more of Carson’s book, he is less harsh for sure………..mmm maybe il think about that review!

  • yeah- i think more of carsons book also.
    and Tom, the Nike swoosh is a subliminal skid if you look at the shape of it. for him who has eyes to see.

  • It seems lately, I could care less what the hyper-right think anymore. The politial right threw out a tremendously painful rebuke at former pres. Jimmy Carter recently when they called him “increasingly irrelevant”….I disagree with that totally, but it seems to me that MaCarthur and the rest who keep hurling insults at something they know nothing about are themselves becoming “increasingly irrelevant”.
    There’s work to be done…if they don’t get it….who cares?!?!?! I’m moving forward, pressing on to what’s infront of me and forgetting what lies behind (hey…who said that?– oh right)
    next

  • Mc Arthur has some great commentaries, but as a commentator on the church, his ‘grace’ leaves a lot to be desired.
    Does Christ really want us to devote hours to critiquing each other, or would He prefer those hours to be spent on mission?

  • good point, mark. and people smarter than me tell me i should not waste too much time on this kind of thing.
    i am a little concerned about the fallout. when carson’s book came out, there was a lot of suspicion towards EC missionaries all over the world – some losing financial support – and quite unnecessarily so.
    but it seems that this book will not have the same impact.

  • It saddens me that a man I respect deeply has taken such a view of the EC. I am reminded of Christ’s words in Mark 9:38-41 For John to be so far off the mark in his critiscisms when he has been so helpful in other areas is a real mystery. I tend to think it won’t have much currency and concur with Mark E. Not sure there is much more that can be said that hasn’t been stated already. thanks Andrew for your review.

  • Thanks, Andrew, for your kind response to yet another attack (which I haven’t yet read). I’ve been blessed by the responses I’ve seen from you and Brian to brothers who need to manifest the grace of which they speak in greater amounts. As to “poopslide,” that’s an interesting translation….You’re right about the youth workers’ joy.
    I don’t know the Kiwi version of “Good on ya, Mate,” but that’s my word for you today.

  • AS someone who has read Macarthur and have learned immensely from him I understand his sentiments about the EC movement. For those that criticize him for making statements without talking privately to those in the EC, that argument is unfounded. He does not have to privately discuss public things that the EC or any movement is doing in the public sphere. He spoke on that which was written and has been presented in the public light.
    When the EC started and many of the leaders starting accusing the fundementalists of certain things, did any of the EC leaders go to them fundementalist leader in private and discuss their concerns and get their opinion on the matter? I am confident that many, if any, did that. So why do you place some standard on Macarthur that the EC movement itself has failed to live up to?
    Macarthur has spoken, like Carson, on publically available material and events. He is entitled to his own opinion and he has chosen to make them known publically. Some of what he says I disagree with but he is entitled to make his opinions known. If you disagree write a book, a journal article, letter, etc. to counter him and to engage in the dialogue that the EC preaches about. Let’s stop bashing the man for his views and engage him…I dare ya! 🙂
    Blessings,

  • Something that might shed some light on MacArthur’s presuppositions is the audio series you can listen to on the Master’s Seminary website. A year or so ago, they hosted an EC-bashing speaking series, which they recorded and podcasted. I listened to all of them, and the main piece of useful information to you all would probably be the fact that MacArthur et al. view the EC through the lens of primarily Brian McLaren and NT Wright. And for serious, “ungenerous” orthodox scholars, his objection to the New Perspective (which he sees as flourishing in the EC, among other of Wright’s writings, with which I happen to concur) is understandable.
    The other point I find interesting is that, in my understanding, the EC is, to put it simply, very postmodern. The confusion surrounding postmodernism’s definition and its various manifestations (economic, cultural, linguistic, philosophical) has resulted in a blanketing of postmodernism as a set of conclusions which some postmoderns have drawn from certain philosophers. What the po-mo critics do not see is the many ways in which postmodern thought and circumstance actually reinvigorate the Christian doctrine and community (I presented my case for this in a recent interview with some of the faculty at Trinity EDS).
    To make a long story short, there are strains of far-left liberalism in the EC (the same as there are such strains in global north mainline protestantism), as well as strains of moderate-conservativism. The big question is, Who are the EC critics viewing as the spokespeople for the EC? Who are the prominent authors identifying with EC? There is some speculation as to whether Driscoll and Acts 29 Network are even “emerging”. Also, the whole house church movement and new monasticism seems to be mostly under their radar, insofar as it is connected with the EC.

  • Andrew,
    Good response. Although being a non-reformed Pentecostal Emergent I’ve been slammed by this guy more than once, and I am less benificent than yourself. I pastored in Southern California for 14 years, and could spot a MacArthur disciple within a few paragraphs.
    For those who do not hold to his narrow doctrinal positions he has been far less than generous through the years. John Amstrong once taught beside MacArthur, and still remains a solid reformed theologian – this in itself shows the excessive narrowness of MacArthur’s views. I had a discussion with John Armstrong a couple weeks ago about the book. It was John Armstrong’s rejection of this extreme narrowness which has placed him as public enemy #1 in the book.
    I have yet to read the book, but I followed MacArthur’s blog writings a bit as the book was in development, and wrote about this at that time. I have seen a small rising in the tide of angry responses against Emergent, and this attitude is something the emergent conversation should strive against – lest we become like our enemies. But for myself, I have wondered (publicly) if we should reconsider a definition of heresy which includes behavioral activity in opposition to the Gospel of Christ. If so. perhaps MacArthur himself falls under the heretical banner as a consistent cause of division in the body of Christ.
    That’s my 2¢, and considering the dollar against the pound, and the fact that I’m Pent-Emergent it’s not worth much these days. 😉

  • Great post Andrew – we always giggled as little kids when the preacher would quote “we are but dust” (of course we always hear “butt dust”) – but never did we imagine in our wildest dreams that Jude held the keys to our adolescent gigglings!

  • ok – control yourself, heidi . ..
    Phil – i think the division part is troubling. and the fact there is no or little theology of partnership in working in teams that may believe differently.
    i know, from putting mission teams together, that there is a place to call off the “war” and work together for the gospel. otherwise, mission teams cannot stay or work together.

  • i have three things to say.
    ONE — of course he disagrees with the emerging church, if we all agreed with john macarthur, there would not need to be an emerging church.
    he has a list of things the faith needs to be defended from, part of the emergent conversation is wondering how cultural that list is.
    TWO — theology is not an exact science.
    to me, the fundamental question i was asking when i entered the conversation was this. “i KNOW what john macarthur says, and i can see what the fruit of what he says. i SUSPECT there may be other faithful readings and responses to the text than he finds. but the text says “judge the fruit”, so … what does it look like, when people are brave enough to disagree with john macarthur”
    i say the fruit is beautiful, and that deserves some consideration as we have theological mud fights.
    THREE – we all need to work really hard on our humility.
    we are actually wrong, from where john macarthur stands there is no other way to judge things. get used to this, it is never ever going to go away. since it is not going to go away, the only choice is, what effect will this constant tension have on the body of christ.

  • The differance bettween the “old church” or conservatives and Post Modern folk is that the Emergents want to start the conversation, Conservatives want to bash everyone that disagrees with them.

  • Andrew,
    A theology of partnership would be good starting point for a back door approach to combatting such divisive diatribes as this book presents. With our outreaches here in Salem we find ourselves working with New Mystic, Baptist, Emergent, Orthodox, and Pentecostal Christians, and all the while nervously navigating the intermingling of the whole troupe. If you find/develop a theology of partnership let me know!

  • yes – i read that about swindoll – he is my old pastor. we got married in his church. and now he is saying “crap” and “balls” and other words that used to be offensive in the old world.
    must blog on that soon.
    theology of partnership – in the missions community, this has been pursued for decades. coming from an evangelical background, i have found the Lausanne Covenant and its related papers to be very helpful in helping us move forward without starting mini-wars at every occasion.
    our ecumenicism is not based on theological compromise but on missional obedience to the One King who insisted we ALL follow Him into what he is doing and prayed that we might be ONE and love each other so that the world would know . . . and with CERTAINTY that God is in Christ reconciling all things to Himself.

  • Nate,
    As a conservative I take your comments to be unfair and ridiculous. Many websites that offer a chance for people to engage in the EC conversation have conservative commentators. Most of the bashing that myself and other conservatives have seen is coming from the EC movement, I mean come on read McLaren, Bell, etc..its full of vitrol hatred towards anything conservative.
    Your statement is off-base and not in any way based on reality.
    Thank you!

  • It seems to me that EC is quickly becoming “in vogue”, which signals to me that it is probably in the “vapor trail” of where the Holy Spirit is actually moving.
    Of course it is a valid threat to the traditional modern church of Macarthur et al.
    The current “conversation” reminds me of the “More” video linked to below.
    http://www.despair.com/watchmore.html

  • Ok…. now there is a new classification-
    Heretical Encorpresis!!!!!!! Yeah Andrew your gonna have to google that word… and you’ll get the pic. Just my medical side note. Have to say it bums me out a bit- Guess the fact that according to the Word… He is our rear guard…. should provide some protection.
    thanks for the review.. got a co-hort meeting tomorrow night.. i’ll be sure to bring it up.
    xoK8

  • As a conservative Christian who has actually taken the time to do enough reading to have a fair understanding of the EC. I have to say that I was extremely disappointed with MacArthur’s book. While there are many concerns I do have with certain aspects of the theology of the EC, “Truth War” was so poorly researched as to add little if anything useful to the conversation.
    I think where this became clearest to me is where in one paragraph he criticizes the EC for using “foul language”, citing Mark Driscoll as an example. Then, in the very next paragraph he goes on to criticize McLaren’s article on homosexuality from “Out of Ur” as an example of EC stance on the matter. Strangely though he neglects to mention Driscoll’s (who we’ve learned from the proceeding paragraph is part of the EC because he uses naughty words) response to it.
    That was the moment where it became clear to me that MacArthur had no interest in honestly presenting the EC in any sort of honest light, but was simply quote mining to make some predetermined list of charges.
    What I think saddened me the most though was how inept his criticism of the EC was when placed by side-by-side with his typically rigorous exposition of scripture. It was almost like the writings of two completely different people.

  • I’m curious if those of you who attack JMac contacted him personally before you criticized him. You didn’t? Wait, didn’t you criticize Carson for not trying to work things out with McLaren and Chalke. Bunch of whiners here, what? Go ahead mates, email me.

  • I should first start by saying that I am an undergrad theology student at Masters College-where JMac is the President. I have not yet read his book, but I have read Carson’s. I have also read McLaren, and Driscoll. The former I have deep disagreements with, and the latter I absolutely resonate with. He’d be my Pastor if I lived in Seattle. Both are considered to be part of the EC, which makes discussing the EC incredibly challenging. The EC river is so wide, and the movement/conversation still new enough and undefined enough (by definition) that for JMac to write a book in which he attempts address EC in it’s entirety…well, let’s just say it is going to be a hard sell.
    I have a lot of respect for JMac, and unlike some of the clones at school I do sometimes hold dissenting positions to him. From what I have heard about the book, I think that on this one he jumped the gun a little and at the very least is guilty of a little “straw-man” beating.

  • Historically, I have found MacArthur to helpful and detailed (excluding certain subjects).
    I’ve always had 2 things against JMac… He is a patriarchal dinosaur and he is scared witless of the Holy Spirit… and I am not even pentecostal or charismatic in the broad understanding of these words.
    In the last year or so, I’ve developed another dislike about JMac. He categorically misrepresents the emerging church.
    I’ve ordered the CD, but will not spend the money on the book. Thanks for the review.

  • I’m loving the book. critically so at points, but- being immersed in a liberal-theology enviroment for two years can make reading even [insert: conservative you ‘love to hate’] like a sweet breath of fresh air…… for a couple minutes atleast. 🙂
    This work is like a sermon series in a book, and one even on scripture! (Unheard of!) And, such a reading of Jude is highly due. (Maybe Jude’s just so far away from the books of Acts- 🙂
    Sarcasm aside, it is a very healthy addition to the church’s conversation on truth- so far. (I’m not done with it yet.) These days, folks are more intimately familar with how much “war is hell,” so we may be reasonably be inclined to….. gloss over scripture calls to fight the good fight. And, about truth, I think he’s right on. Pomo-epistomol need some pepto-bismol. (Maybe I shouldn’t have went there? Argh! I may have been a little crass, but hey I didn’t cuss!) 🙂
    God bless.
    “Love . . . does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.” – I Cor. 13:4-6, NASB

  • EC is just so much garbage. This stuff is “just” like my radical feminist philosophy course. Heretical doesn’t even begin to tell the story.

  • I’m one of the few dissenters here, but I read Macarthur’s book and my take is that he has identified some serious flaws in the EC movement. He uses their own words and evaluates against historic orthodox Christian belief as well as the plumbline of Scripture. I find it interesting that so many are offended by his response to EC when you have to admit that guys like Maclaren and Pagitt have said some pretty strange things. They have put their material out there in the public forum and thus, Macarthur has the right to slice and dice it…just as they would have that same righ to do with what he puts out. Frankly, I found the book to be cogent and convincing response to the confusion that emerged from the Emergent movement. I realize I in the minority here..but I would like to see someone give a seasoned and biblically sound rebuttal to what he has written as opposed to the whining and drivel I am reading here.

  • I am a post-form criticism, post-liberal, post-pseudo-intellectual, post-graduate of a post-Christian-context university. At post-49, I have come to enjoy the childlike wonder and awe of discovering more and more of God through an acceptance of and delight in the Truth of His Word. I have also been incredibly encouraged by many of the voices coming out of the EC, and do not understand why a mature follower of Christ would lash out in such an adversarial manner.
    My heart beats with Brian McLaren’s on more levels than not, but as I studied Generous Orthodoxy, many question marks did pop up for me. The largest one appears to be his views on atonement. My son says his treatment of the Cross is more clearly detailed in other writings, so I have more understanding to gain before I would presume to lash out with a diatribe. In the meantime, I affectionately refer to these question marks in conversation with my children and others as of the “B.M.” variety (forgive me, Brian, just being playful).
    Love truly is the more excellent way. I have just begun Truth War and am sincerely hoping to encounter something more of the gentleness and meekness indicative of truth spoken in love than what I have read thus far. We don’t battle with each other. That’s a no-no. When we do, we allow the enemy to attack our fellowship. NO WEDG(IE)S, PLEASE!

  • Andrew, thank you so much for this wonderful site. I finished Truth War some time ago and must say that for each of my agitated notations in the margins of Generous Orthodoxy, there are three in those of Truth War. I was deeply disappointed by JM’s treatment of this topic. The issues addressed have serious merit and are worthy of discussion, but I doubt that the adversarial approach taken here will have any success in reaching those John may see as most in need of an authentic encounter with The Truth, the Person, Jesus. On another level, I am gravely concerned about the divisive impact this book may have on those of my ilk (50’s up, something to offer in the conversation) who desire a multi-generational connection within the Body, but may be so hard-wired to John’s influence that assertion will eclipse reasoned dialogue (AKA “argument” if you just HAVE to have a term that sounds like “fight!”), and we know what benefit that is to relationship and mutual growth in Christ…
    What I am THANKFUL for is the search reading both McLaren and MacArthur has sent me on. I found in Rev. Sandlin’s response,”Dr. John MacArthur is Certainly Wrong” (linked above under “False Teachers?”) the FOREBEARANCE (where justice and mercy meet, “sweet reasonableness”)that I had hoped to discover in more than just the last couple pages of The Truth War. What rings particularly true is the statement that “readers deserve arguments, not assertions.” I was delighted to discover an authentically loving voice of critique and affirmation at the Act 3 site, some really fun discussion at Vanguard Church, and a treasure trove of observation, insight and discussion at Christianity Today and Leadership Journal. These look MUCH more like the kind of conversation within which iron can sharpen iron, and out of which participants can be “spurred on” to lives of service in Love as they follow Jesus more and more completely.
    Having said all this, I am still not persuaded that Brian is “spot on” in his theology, much less his words. If, as Rev. Sandlin stated, we are entitled to arguments, not assertions, couldn’t our conversation become better informed and characterized by a more genuine understanding if Brian were to allow even a few propositional (gasp) statements? I don’t (want to) believe that his postmodernity is so hard that the closest we can get to “clarity” is the bathwater a “possibly” virgin-born baby “might have” been bathed in, but I continue to find his writing just as sweet and unclear.
    I sincerely hope that further study will shed some 20/20 hindsight on this post, and I will find myself experiencing an “aha” moment like I’ve never had before. But today, as I continue to seek a more complete understanding by reading yet another of Brian’s books, The Secret Message of Jesus, I am finding his mode of communication (“I’m not saying this – I didn’t say that – you can believe either literally or mythically, but the truth is still there in the story somewhere, even if it’s a fabrication”) less and less a celebration of Divine mystery and more and more a sprinkling of seeds (and only seeds lest I be judged by my fruit) of doubt, or more to the point, unbelief. I do not want to go there. This is not who I am or want to be.
    Yes, much of what we as the Body of Christ have become needs to be “critiqued” and “destabilized” and “overthrown” in “nearly every concieveable way,” (p.31) but if you can’t identify at least a few or even one of the areas where the triune God has worked decisively (i.e., “once for all”) within the redemptive story of history, I can begin to understand how some (like MacArthur) might come to view Brian’s writings as a kind of Peretti-esque tapestry that attracts with its beauty, but is used as a net!
    Shocking, huh? But stating it in terms that can be understood conveys my understanding of their mindset, and hopefully provides the reader a “feel” for the irrational fear that can envelope those who are weak in their confidence in our God’s ability to lead us through some of these mucked up patches in the road. Absent some propositional clarity from Brian, they are consigned to this fear which springs from an undispellable (by design) ignorance!
    Time to wrap up. My heart yearns to be used as a voice of peace in the midst of all this discovery. We’re too quick to become positional, and yet, when it comes to reaching parents and grandparents of the emerging, how can I assuage their fears without reaching them where they are, in need of sweetly reasoned understanding, without clarity on something as central as the Cross?
    One thing I read helps: Emerging thought isn’t reduced to Brian McLaren, who isn’t reduced to “hard” Postmodernism. So if I can’t recommend JM or BM to understand the EM, is there any articulation of Emergent thought out there that could be fairly described as representative of the Emerging Movement?

  • Hi Ward. Thanks for your comment. I think you would appreciate Lesslie Newbigin’s “Proper Confidence” for a balance view and some good middle ground, while respecting the stregths of both sides.
    as for your question, the emerging movement is so diverse that no one can speak anymore on behalf of its theological stance with certainty. Which is why reading widely is a more accurate way to gauge what is going on.
    I have a hundred books from the emerging church on my shelf but i still think the best stuff is often online and available free.

  • Thanks, Andrew. Agreed. What a stimulating journey this is. My wife and I have enjoyed hours of conversation interacting around these perspectives. Thanks also for your incredible objectivity in making links available for us to check out the “healthy” voice of dissent. It was a real eye opener to find in Mark Driscoll’s talk at Convergent Conference the voice of someone who has actually walked with Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, and who is not casting aspersions based on a cursory glance at some out of context quote. Don’t know (yet) that I can say the same for his comments re. Rob Bell(ouch!). Nonetheless, this journey of discovery is so much more worthwhile than falling asleep in front of a DVD! Thanking God for your ministry (it’s redeeming my time!), Ward

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