“The Truth War”- An excerpt from John MacArthur’s latest book

Last week was finals week here at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, so I didn’t have the chance to do much at all except study like crazy. During a study break, however, I read some of Pastor John MacArthur’s newest book, The Truth War. The following section that I read seemed particularly appropriate for Strange BaptistFire in light of the conversation currently taking place with Barry in the comment thread of Nathan’s recent post:

Many Christians today are weary of the long war over truth. They are uneasy about whether doctrinal disagreements and divisions are a blight on the spiritual unity of the church and therefore a poor testimony to the world. These and similar questions are constantly heard nowadays: “Isn’t it time to set aside our differences and love one another?” “Rather than battling people with whom we disagree over various points of doctrine, why not stage a cordial dialogue with them and listen to their ideas?” “Can’t we have a friendly conversation rather than a bitter clash?” “Shouldn’t we be congenial rather than contentious?” “Does the current generation really need to perpetuate the fight over beliefs and ideologies? Or can we at last declare peace and set aside all the debates over doctrine?”

Of course, there is a legitimate concern in the tone of such questions. Scripture commands us: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). “Pursue peace with all people” (Hebrews 12:14). “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Taken together, these passages make it clear that what the Scripture demands of us is the polar opposite of a cantankerous attitude. No one who exhibits the fruit of the Spirit can possible take delight in conflict. So it should be plain that the call to contend for the faith is not a license for pugnacious spirits to promote strife deliberately over insignificant matters. Even when conflict proves unavoidable, we are not to adopt a mean spirit.

But conflict is not always avoidable. That is Jude’s whole point in writing his epistle [see Jude 1]. To remain faithful to the truth, sometimes it is even necessary to wage “civil war” within the church [see Revelation 2:14-16]– especially when enemies of truth posing as brethren and believers are smuggling dangerous heresy in by stealth. (73-74)

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9 Comments on ““The Truth War”- An excerpt from John MacArthur’s latest book”

  1. Barry Says:

    Andrew,

    A thousand thanks for your insight.

    I am not apposed to conflict. But I think it should be used with caution.

    I served our country 38 years ago, in Asia, and I have some idea what our boys our going through in Iraq now. My own son-in-law served two tours in Iraq and was wounded twice. I think that I’m in a position to say that we need to get along with one another in all aspects of our lives whether we speak theologically or about Nascar. I’ve tried my level best to give honest answers. I haven’t tried to evade queries or people. I am flawed and I sin. But, I still try to get at the truth.

    I don’t mind taking a thumping from anybody. But, we need to understand that there are other movements out there and we can hate other people’s doctrines and dogmas all we want but that hate eventually gets turned back on us. We need to lose the hate, doctrinally and personally, if we are going to move forward with one another.

  2. andrew jones Says:

    things get intensified on the mission field, where believers of different stripes have to work and preach together. i wish the seminaries would increase their efforts on teaching a biblical theology of partnership and getting along.

    cant start wars all the time.

  3. Jon Says:

    Andrew,
    While increasing our efforts at getting along, at what point do we call truth, truth, and what point are we willing to say something is unbiblical (heresy)? Is the truth worth fighting in the sense of striving for the truth through all means short of armed physical struggle and dying for as the saints have done through the centuries?

    Is the “struggle” and cooperation to be shared with those of the Mormon faith, and the Universalists (who would deny the deity of Christ; and that all are bound for heaven?)? Where does the truth begin and end? If sharing the struggle means Baptists cooperating with Presbyterians, or Methodists, etc., so long as we find the common ground of our orthodox beliefs (keeping the essentials, essential and the non-essentials, non-essential).

    Also, where does this whole truth and cooperation argument fit into the post-modern paradigm that I have followed on your blog for so long? Just curious.
    soli deo gloria!
    jon


  4. Jon,

    Could you please explain what you mean by “post-modern paradigm”?

    -Andrew

  5. Jon Says:

    Andrew (Lindsey):
    I would offer this: that the “postmodern paradigm” is that which says that whatever path that you are on in your “faith walk” is okay so long as it is okay with you, and it offers you hope. The idea that truth to the postmodern (so far as I have been able to tell from my readings) is that there is no “absolute” truth, and those who dare to claim that truth is knowable are nothing better than boorish, modernists who are bent on controlling all thought.

    However, at what point can one say that truth cannot be known? There are postmodernists who will say that the Bible even cannot be trusted the way that we have always believed; but that now we need to deconstruct the Bible to re-interpret in light of a new generation, and not carry the baggage of previous generations, and not interpret it with through the lens of modernity. Thus, when we join with Pilate and say “What is truth”, we are leaving ourselves wide open to anything being acceptable in the sense of what passes for truth, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is a very short synopsis and overly broad obviously; and my intent is not to cast aspersions or too wide of a net to summarize my understanding of postmodernism, but there it is and to say that I am way off the mark would be wrong, though I would say that I may be off somewhat. Yet, to say it like we do in Texas – understanding postmodernism is like nailing Jello to the wall.

    sdg,
    jpt

  6. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Revelation 2:2-6. Anyone who has read these portions of Revelations and can deny that God demands that we also hate those whom he hates, cannot fully understand the rest of Revelation and the reason for the coming wrath. Note, God’s name is Jealous, Ex. 34.14, and he is the author of Paul’s stated claim that he was a jealous groomsman preparing the bride of Christ, a pure virgin, chaste and washed with the water by the Word of God.

    Ephesians does not command us not to be angry, rather it commands to be angry and sin not and not let the sun go down on our wrath. There is a gody jealousy and a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife deserves to be beat with many strokes and a husband’s fury is never quenched.

    It is fundamentally wrong headed, and double minded, not to own the anger of God. It is a precious gift given to his Church. Look at David and his prayers for the destruction of his enemies along with the admonitions to pray for them and to do good to them. The Lord hates an unequal balance! We do not do one without the other. Though we bless and curse not, we must render righteous judgement and appropriate discipline without discrimination. The admonition of Ephesians is to not let the issue pass, “do not let the sun go down.” To love properly, while speaking the truth, may require anger. Anger is healthy when it has been tempered by the wisdom of Truth. Knowing how to wield it is for the mature, for those who have learned to control their tongue and keep their body in check, there is no doubt, and Paul places it at the end of the process of maturity of the Body that he is talking about in Ephesians.

    No man, going into battle, dare put on the armor except that he is ready to kill. Sorry, if you do not like it, but hate is a necessary component of the warrior for him to be able to do what the commander orders, with sanity. As someone who has treated PTSD, the most pervasive reason for dissociative states, is because soldiers discount the humanity of those they had killed, or lose the reasoning for killing them. Some had even been instructed to not think of them as human at all. This disjointing of reality, of removing the cause for killing as being internal to the person killed, makes it impossible to process the experience. The disassociation of the reason from the person renders the target innocent. The result is pathology. A proper hate in defense of a just cause was removed from the Viet Nam veteran and those experiencing PTSD skyrocketed. Likewise, the body of Christ, must come to grips with the reality that hate is a godly gift. Jealousy for the truth is a gift. It is meant to be used. To deny it is to deny the Lord himself who is a Jealous God. Like any gift it can abused.

    “Zeal without knowledge is not a good thing.” So, it must be taught with due diligence as to its place in the life of a Christian. Unfortunately, we have made the “new man” merely a shell by negating the spirituality of the emotion called hate.

    Do not bite in to the modernist paradigm that says Jesus was a “femmy boy.” Though he was humble, it was in a balanced way. Which meant, that when appropriate, his anger was aroused. It is proper then, to be angry when the times dictate. Anger, if not expressed, only works to undo the message, and to undo the messenger. A rebuke cannot be rendered without anger. It is simply impossible to do so. Our problem in the post-modern church is that we have taken the “feminist” pill that the world offered. The sad fact is, we were the ones who developed their philosophy for them. It has emasculated the Gospel and painted a picture for the world of a of Christ who does not exist.

    The end product of declaring a truce with darkness is that it requires that the light be covered. I will stand with Christ who said, “What man, lighting a candle puts it under a basket. Rather, he puts it on the table, in the middle of the room, so that it gives light to everyone.” No, it is not good to hide the truth for the sake of peace. “Woe to those who say, peace, when there is none.” Unity is only available for those who agree, in truth. Truth, makes no compromise. And anger, in truth, is a necessary component of the whole man, matured in the fulness of the knowledge of Christ.

    Again, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” I would rather that we lose most of our missionaries rather than have compromise be the gospel that reaches the world. We it came to Christ’s final testimonies not even his disciples remained, but it did not persuade him to temper his message to secure the favor of his hearers. It cost him is home, his family, his friends, his life. He did not open his mouth to plead for peace but gave the good testimony: “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike me?” And, “You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above.” These are words of challenge towards those who would have Jesus compromise his message and recant, so that there might be peace. But, he was following his own words when he said, “I have not come to send peace, but a sword to cause division.”

    In all this I am not speaking of vengence, but a righteous anger. Vengence belongs to the Lord alone, he will repay. For it is his glory that we seek, not our own. If it were our own then it would be merely the anger of man. Until he does repay, we must make whips and drive the money changers from the temple. We must condemn false teaching, which means we must learn to speak as oracles of God not going beyond what is written. We must learn what those two swords were all about, as well as the other symbols of his justice. We must rebuke sin and at the same time leave the judgement of the souls of men to God. Without the proclaimation of the firey indignation of the Law and of the curse due to sin upon the human race, we can preach no Gospel. Law and promise must go hand in hand. Without anger, we cannot do justice, where there is no right judgement there is no means by which we might show mercy.

  7. Grant Says:

    There is a difference between having differing views on, for example, eschatology; and having differing views on, for another example, the deity of Jesus Christ.
    The first dissention is not grounds for breaking fellowship with someone, and the second is.
    When a person or church claiming to be Christian blatantly opposes Biblical teaching, the Bible is clear: “associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:11).
    John the Apostle, desiring to have fellowship with those he wrote to, wrote them a letter setting forth the principle that true Christian fellowship is based on God’s Truth. He said “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
    When someone is in agreement in belief and life with God’s Truth in Scripture, they are with us children of God in Jesus Christ.
    If they are contrary in anything, be it sexual morality, belief about God, or the Word of God, of the unique salvation that is in Christ alone, then we must kindly and firmly hold that they are outside of the true Church.

    • Amy Says:

      This is a huge concern for me as I have just recently left a church for two reasons (and joined an independent Baptist Church):

      – holding firmly to Calvinism and especially, the false doctrine of “election” and the other points

      – suing an ex-member for $500,000 because she posted a review online after being shunned, firing the director of evangelism outreach and failing to report a known sex offender having free access to children in the nursery (as a state mandated reporter no less).

      I have spoken to these ex-member (4 out of the 70-80 people who left) and they all agree that the pastor (who had his license revoked) is in serious errancy and needs to be openly rebuked. I do not and cannot say whether or not he’s a Christian but to preach these false doctrines for the last ten years is deeply troubling…

      I would think that preaching a different doctrine of Salvation is the same as refuting the essentials??

  8. Tim Says:

    Grant,

    I agree with your comments, except we might consider the Scofield type of eschatology, which is really an entirely different systemactic theology to be unorthodox and quite possibly be patient in teaching those who hold to it, while at the same time indicating it to be unbiblical.


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