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74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not Pyrite, May 24, 2005
This review is from: Fool's Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error (Paperback)
It is rare these days to find a book on Christian discernment when everyone appears to be jumping on every band-wagon of the Evangelical church that comes along. MacArthur has assemblied an excellent set of essays by the staff of Grace Community Church, including several young men who are recent graduates of the Master's Seminary.

I found the most insightful chapters to be the ones in the middle of the book dealing with some of the hottest sellers in the Christian Bookstores (not to mention everywhere else). Nathan Busenitz' critique of "The Purpose Driven Life" is one of the best I have read. Although there are perhaps some redeeming features of the book, they are very few. It is a snapshot of just how shallow American Evangelicalism has become and the degree to which professing Christians are unable to tolerate serious engagement with a truly Biblical Worldview.

Daniel Gillespie's review of "Wild at Heart" was aslo excellent. John Eldredge has zeroed in a narrow and spurious definition of masculinity, the notion that men need to tap into our wild and carefree ambitions; a throw-back to our so-called primal instincts that can be renewed if we just get back to the untamed wilderness of nature and find ourselves again. Gillespie points out that Eldredge skews the Biblical evidence in favor of his own thesis and fails to deal with explicit texts of the Bible that deal directly with masculinity (namely, because they contratict his thesis).

Perhaps the most shocking expose of the book is Rick Holland's review of the new Bibzines, "Revole" and "Refuel"; New Testaments for teenagers designed to look like magazines (inside and out) for those who are afraid to carry traditional looking Bibles because they are too "freaky." The chapter focused on "Revolve" for girls. Inside the Bible is a colorful array of sidebars and boxes with opinions from guys who are 'hunks'; advice on self-esteem; beauty tips for making yourself as beautiful as the next girl; shop-til-you-drop tips so that you can be totally accessorized; and advertisements for other cool books by the publisher. Instead of focusing on what Jesus and the Apostles mean by what they say (as in other study Bibles), these cleverly packaged 'non-Bibles" are focused on the self. It is undiluted narcissism geared to the vulnerable youth of our churches. These Bibles are selling like hot cakes which, like "The Purpose Driven Life", is a sad commentary on the state of the American Church.

Other highlights of the book include the critique of 'altar calls' by Carey Hardy. Very little has been written on this venerable tradition in many Evangelical churches. This essay shows the theological and very practical dangers of the invitation system that reeks of evangelistic manipulation.

MacArthur's chapter, "Plexiglass Preaching" is an excellent 15 point summary of what is wrong with so much banal preaching today. This ought to spur many pastors to re-evalute their preaching ministry that is so central and crucial to the church's well-being.

Also MacArthur's chapter on Contemporary Worship Music is very insightful. He shows his preference for the classic hymns, namely because they exemplify a high view of God and truth. He points out that the shallowness of contemporary Praise Chorus' goes back a hundred years to the advent of gospel music. MacArthur is careful not to condemn musical style, but content. He believes there is much to be commended in both gospel songs and contemporary Praise songs and advocates a balance. Unfortunately a greater degree of discernment must be exercised when choosing modern worship songs that reflect a high view of God and the scriptures; songs that don't degenrate into trivial ditties that reduces worship to the near blasphemous, "God is my boyfriend/ girlfriend" type lryical sludge. The appendix to that chapter by Nathan Busenitz, a checklist to evaluate worship music and its content in the church, is a must for every pastor and worship leader (I wish he would have been more specific with criteria for the music itself though). The only critique I had for this chapter was MacArtur's lament that the classic hymns have been cast aside in the contemporary worship music craze. I think he is wrong. There has been a remarkable resurgence of the hymns recomposed with a contemporary flair that has been re-introduced by artists as wide-ranging as Fernando Ortega, Jars of Clay and Michael W. Smith. Many Contemporary Christian musicians have rediscovered the hymns and I think this is a positive sign away from so much of the banal stuff presently popular.

Kurt Gebhards' chapter "Choking on Choices" was a good companion to Holland's chapter on the "Revolve" Bible. It points out how pervasive our self-aborbed and consumeristic culture has shaped the philosophy of ministry so prevalent in Evangelicalism today. The church is choking on the cult of self and has forgotten the true nature of fellowship and ministry which is radically other-centered. The reason we have lost that perspective is because we have lost our Christ-centered focus.

I was dissappointed with Phil Johnson's 2 chapters, though mildly so. Johnson is a very thorough and articulate thinker and I was expecting more from him. His chapter on the 'New Perspective on Paul' is a neccessary engagement with the abondonment of the Biblical doctrine of Justification by many Evangelicals. Unfornately, I felt he spent too much time telling us what he was going to try to focus on in the chapter instead of getting right to the topic. His treatment was too cursory even bearing in mind the limited space. I was not impressed with his chapter on political involvement either. I thought there could have been a more careful examination what civic duties for the Christian ought to look like in light of the priority to evangelize our culture and not merely moralize it.

I was also dissapointed with Dan Dumas' chapter on "Hills to Die on." It outlined 3 broad categories of issues for which we can stand no compromise: a high view of Scricture, a high view of God and a high view of the gospel. I have no dispute with what he said, in fact it is crucial to the discussion. I was dissapointed in what he did not say. He began the chapter with Jonathan Edward's expulsion from his Northhampton church in 1750 over the infamous Lord's Supper issue. I thought a more thorough analysis of those issues would provide a fulcrum to develop a practical strategy for discerning what kinds of hills to die on which one's not to and how to go about doing so. The broad focus left me wondering about the many things that can divide a church or place the pastor in a position of uneccessary risk when delving into difficult issues. When a pastor enters a particular church enviornment, there may be a whole host of issues that must be addressed. If he is patient, those issues can be a cause to see a church grow tremendously in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. If he is impatient, he may become a bull in a china closest and do irrepairable damage. No principles were set forth as to how to patiently and loving deal with error in the church while maintaining unity. Such a topic would be useful in a fuller treatment, especially in light of the seemingly universal confusion resting over the professing church today. I am not aware of any such written resource, perhaps MacArthur could pursue a work of this kind.

These mild criticisms in no way undermine the strengh of those chapters nor of the book as a whole. I heartilty recommend this collaborative effort to both pastors and to all Christians as an excellent contribution to discerning certain trends of the times. We need to be constantly warned of those matters that impact the Church in a way that is at best less than biblical and in some cases outrightly unbiblical and even at times heretical.
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