Customer Reviews: Fool's Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error
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on May 24, 2005
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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on April 28, 2005

I don't think I said the word aloud when I finished reading Fool's Gold, but it may have slipped out. John MacArthur is the general editor of this new book from Crossway, and contributing authors are several of his ministry associates.

The theme of the book is spiritual discernment; not set forth in a didactic way, but in a series of topical snapshots. Section one lays the foundation for the chapters to follow: a call for biblical discernment, and the consequences of a weak proclamation of Christianity. MacArthur makes the point that discernment is not just the responsibility of pastors and Christian leaders, but of every Christian. He covers the favorite verse of many in today's church: "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (Matthew 7:1) and compares that with 1 Thessalonians 5:21: "Test everything." In the second chapter he lists fifteen negative effects of superficial preaching, whittled down from an original list if sixty-one! My only reservation is with the twelfth point, and his comment about the difficulty of exercising church discipline where there is no commitment to the authority of God's Word. I'm not sure that very many churches even practice biblical church discipline, according to the teaching of Matthew 18:15-19. Perhaps a brief exposition of this passage, and an example of how this is practiced in his church is in order. The final two chapters of the book, "A Doctrinal Framework for Developing Discernment" and "A Practical Plan for Developing Personal Discernment" are excellent. I particularly appreciated the exhortation on page 201: "Discernment is not enough apart from obedience."

The rest of the book is a series of chapters looking at current doctrinal trends in the church and in Christian books. The contributors cover such things as altar calls, contemporary worship music, Wild at Heart and The Purpose Driven Life, as well as politics and consumerism. This is a must-read, written in a clear, straightforward style. I have already loaned out my copy to two people, and one of my pastors is referring to it in the college Bible study he teaches. I heartily commend it to you. - Pam Glass, Christian Book
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on April 7, 2005
This book is vintage MacArthur. It is concise, uncompromising and totally committed to a through exegisis of Scripture. I find it disturbing that books such as this are even needed today. But sadly, they are. Most profressing Christians are so biblically illierate that they don't know how to recognize truth, much less error and deception. Here again, I find myself wishing I could disagree with MacArthurs findings and teachings, but yet again, I can't. I have to say, the other contributers to this book are on the same caliber as MacArthur himself. Which isn't surprising, considering they all serve at MacArthur's church. I found this book very practical and very disturbing. It is also very convicting.

I have struggled with some of the very things addressed in this book. This book has shown me that my concerns are not unfounded. I truly believe that MacArthur is not overstating his case. Discernment is crucial today. The reader is encouraged to critique every sermon, book, song, teaching, movement and everything else that is labeled Christian through the grid of Scripture. This is a book that should be read and re-read. MacArthur has done a great service to the church by writing this book. Everyone who professes to know Christ would do well to take his message and his advice to heart.
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on May 16, 2005
I had heard about Fool's Gold shortly after its publiation and purchaced a copy as soon as I could.

This book is edited and partially written by Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in California. The topic at hand is Biblical Discernment. Is this discernment applied to other world religions? No. Cults? No. Worldly philosophies? No. This is a book about discernment within the Evangelical Christian community itself! There are movements and activities going on "under the radar" which, while not all outright heresy, should still be tested in light of God's word.

The book covers many areas such as popular Christian books, music, and church practices. Everything is subjected to the word of God. The book starts out with a general description of discernment and the case in favor of it and continues through various topics relevant to Evangelicism today. Among the topics discussed are:

1) The Purpose Driven Life

2) Wild At Heart

3) Worship Music

4) Political Activism

5) Altar Calls

The book then wraps up with guidelines for practicing discerment in your daily life.

All in all this book is excellent. The authors are not afraid to call to account many things that are very popular in Evangelical circles today. Many of these things sound very good on the surface but are called into serious question when subjected to the standards of Scripture.

I have had personal experiences with many of these issues and was left with a general feeling that something was not right. The authors of Fool's Gold articulated what I had been thinking and feeling. This book is not merely part of some "fued" within the Evangelical community. These are Godly men who are simply doing what the Bible commands. Holding all teaching up to the standard of truth: Scripture.

In my opinion this is must read for anyone in the Evangelical community today.
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All that glitters is not gold. This is a lesson many thousands of men learned in the 19th century when they stormed California seeking their fortunes. While there was treasure to be found, as evidenced by the wealth many gained from their mining ventures, there was also what came to be known as fool's gold. While this looked like gold, it was in reality valueless iron pyrite. For a miner to be successful he had to learn to discern the true gold from mere fool's gold. A man's livelihood depended on this. Because it was difficult to tell one from the other only by looking at it, miners develped some simple tests. One was the hardness test, where a miner could bite a rock in question. Fool's gold was hard while real gold was much softer. A broken tooth would prove the rock to be fool's gold. For a second test a miner would scrape the rock against a white stone. True gold would leave a yellowish streak while fool's gold would leave one that was greenish-black. This is the historical backdrop against which John MacArthur and the staff of Grace Community Church compare today's church. We are in a time where the church is filled with fool's gold and only godly discernment will show what is true treasure and what is trash.

Fool's Gold is divided into four sections. In the first John MacArthur provides a call for biblical discernment and examines the devastating consequences of a watered-down message to the church. The second section, entitled "Practicing Discernment in your Local Bookstore" examines four of the latest Christian bestsellers in the light of the Scripture. Nathan Busenitz reviews The Purpose Driven Life, Phil Johnson introduces the New Perspective on Paul through What Saint Paul Really Said, Daniel Gillespie evaluates Wild at Heart and Rick Holland looks at The Revolve New Testament Bible-zine. The third section provides pointers for "Practicing Discernment in your Local Church." Receiving attention are contemporary worship music, altar calls, the American-Christian approach to politics and the consumer mindset. The book wraps up with an examination of "hills to die on" - a doctrinal framework for developing discernment, and a practical plan for personal discernment.

As we have come to expect from MacArthur's books and ministry, this book is incisive, penetrating and inherently biblical. It cuts to the heart of the matters at hand. In fact, the authors' tasks were quite simple ones - they had to merely hold the church's fads and obsessions up to the light of Scripture and to examine them against God's unchanging standard. In many cases these fads were found wanting. The authors are careful to assign credit where credit is due and are consistently respectful to those whose teachings they oppose. At the same time, they are unapologetic in their defense of the truth and their desire to see God's standards held high.

My only disappointments with the book were that the authors did not discuss two of the most pressing issues in evangelicalism today - the Emergent Church (which received only one passing mention) and mysticism, which is gaining a firm hold in the church, in part through the very books the authors evaluate.

This book is an excellent introduction to the importance of biblical discernment and a penetrating analysis of how a lack of discernment has allowed error to infiltrate the church and prosper within. Only with a rediscovery of biblical discernment will the church be able to root out this fool's gold. This book will help any Christian develop a foundation for biblical discernment that will allow him to make the crucial distinctions between truth and error. I highly recommend this title, especially as a companion volume to Ashamed of the Gospel and Hard to Believe.
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VINE VOICEon August 27, 2005
FOOL'S GOLD is an excellent series of articles that come from the Shepherd's Conference held yearly at Grace Community Church of which John MacArthur is the pastor. The articles are essentially the notes and the talks given by the various teachers of the seminars.

The book itself is an eye-opener and calls the believer to discernment in an age of careless theology (and no theology at all in most churches). The book deals with nearly every hot issue of the evangelical church from Rick Warren's popular but misleading Purpose-Driven ministry to the modern feminist movement. The book deals with music issues, church discipline, and a host of other local ministry issues. Nothing is left untouched.

Dr. John MacArthur and his staff at Grace Community Church, The Master's College and Seminary, and Grace To You are to be commended for giving the Church this book. Truly, the modern Church is looking for God but finding fool's gold. Only by a return to the authority of Scripture will we truly find God's blessing.
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on August 19, 2005
Fool's Gold is a must read for all who are interested in truth. We are living in an age of error just like the Bible says that we would before the Lord returns. In an age of deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, discernment is to be top priority for those who have received the love of the truth so as to be saved. This book is an excellent resource for helping pastors and churches with equipping their people with a biblical mindset for discerning the truth.
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on August 2, 2007

How are we to distinguish gold from "fool's gold"? This is a question that perplexed many in the 1800's with the "gold rush" that swept the many hopefuls that left all behind in search for fortune. In Fool's Gold?, John MacArthur, along with other staff members from Grace Community Church, tackle a wide variety of trends in the evangelical world that seem to offer hope and answers, when in fact they might be a bit misleading. All that glitters is not gold.

Book Structure:

There are four parts to the book. In the first part, MacArthur unabashedly calls for discernment rooted in Scripture, offering three points from 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22. Having established a foundation for biblical discernment, he then presents the negative results of "watered-down" preaching which seems to pervade the contemporary Christian community today. In the second part, four different popular books are addressed and critiqued from a biblical standpoint-in a way modeling for the reader what it looks like to employ biblical discernment: 1. Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life; 2. N.T. Wright's What Saint Paul Really Said; 3. John Eldredge's Wild at Heart; and 4. The Resolve New Testament Bible-zine for girls. The third part deals with very provocative issues such as contemporary Christian music, "altar calls" and invitations to "receive Christ into your heart," the Christian's approach to politics, and the consumeristic mind-set that many adopt within the church. And the finally, the book concludes with a doctrinal and practical framework to implement as one seeks to discern which hills are worth dying on and to live a life much like the Bereans, who Luke tells us in Acts 17 were of "noble character" because they "received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (v.11, emphasis added).

Notable Quotes:

* "If the current current hunger for ecumenical compromise, pragmatic sanctification, and numerical success continues to gain a foothold within evangelicalism, it will result in an unmitigated spiritual disaster....The church will never manifest its power in society until we regain a passionate love for truth and corollary hatred for error" (pp.14,15).
* "...worship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the mundane and simplistic. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God's self-revelation" (p.38).
* "So let the man who searches for true masculinity look no further than the pages of Scripture, for there he will find the truth about himself from the mouth of his Creator. Let his ears not be tickled by the whims of men, but let his mind be trained by the Word of God. And before any man looks for his battle to fight, his beauty to rescue, and his adventure to live, let him first look to his God to glorify" (p.95).
* "Our only sure defense against false doctrine is to be discerning, to distrust our own emotions, to hold our own senses suspect, to examine all things, to test every truth-claim with the yardstick of Scripture, and to handle the Word of God with great care" (p.199).


I heartily endorse this book to any Christian who seeks honor God and show discernment in what he reads and what he meditates on. I wish the authors would have tackled a few more popular books like Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now and some of the emerging church books that seem to popping up everywhere. Overall, I think the authors did a great job in laying a foundation in the Word for discernment and then demonstrating what that looks like in some books (many of which I have read have benefited from). There a few minor criticisms I have of the book, but they in no way undermine the overall flow that makes this a great read as we can expect from John MacArthur.

If we lose the ability to discern, then we lose the ability to distinguish truth from error; when this occurs, our gospel becomes vulnerable to the onslaught of false speculations and lofty ideas that present themselves against the Truth. We then become confused and apathetic to the essentials of our faith, thinking it only a matter of preference.

May we all be known for our discernment as we test everything and hold on to the good (1 Thess. 4:21) and in so doing, God will receive the glory!
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on September 18, 2005
It is regretable that such a book is necessary for the church today. It seems though that every era in the church has its theological "sinkholes" that distact and divert the believer from truth and devotion to our Lord. In our era of the internet and the "marketed" church, error both new and old is packaged and bought into by believers not grounded in the Word. This work is very helpful in understanding the error of many movements that are, alarmingly, gaining popularity in many assemblies today.

I do wish that editors had seen fit to include a chapter devoted to an old error that is surfacing in the church today, that of "Christian" mysticism principally as espoused by the parachurch organization Renovare' and it's founder Richard Foster.
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on March 12, 2014
Just like fool's gold can be more appealing than the real thing, false teaching is as well. John MacArthur is one of the few solid teachers out there and I am always amazed in reading reviews of his other books, many without sound scripture to back them up, always trash his teaching. We live in an age where we live in fantasy more than in reality. One thing about truth is that it never changes. It is the same in every culture and in every time and we must always remember that is the weapon that the enemey uses against man-kind to bring us in a spiritual war against our creator.

There are four parts to this study- the first part is all that glitters. There are some dynamic teachers and books that have done very well, however, as Christians we are required to judge between truth and error. Abhor evil and hold fast to what is good. That is a judgement call that we are required to make. There is some truth in in teaching that is out of balance with rest of scripture and is therefore mixed dangerous. You do not have to look any further in the Old Testament when Israel combined other religions with their worship to God in a effort to have peace with their neighbors. This is a important lesson for us. Do be careful of Christianity that glitters.

Part two discusses The Wild at Heart Books, The Purpose Driven Life, some popular christian magazines for young people. How these books are appealing at best but lack real christian depth. You always need to ask yourself when reading or listening to any teaching, is the trancendence of God being proclaimed. When failing to establish a high view of scripture, a hig view of God and a proper view of man, we can easily become self-centered in receiving this teaching than God centered. We want to say as Isaiah woe is me. Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God almighty. John MacArthur gives many more good questions to ask our selves as we read and or listen to these popular trendy Christian celebraties.

Part three deals with worship, to music, to altar calls, to a Christian approach to politics to which I found very helpful. Also about consumerism in the church. Are we engaging our mind in worship or is all about our emotions. Altar calls can be very manuliputive with every good intention. I agree that there is no where in scripture about altar calls, so I think we have to be very careful when using Altar calls. Church camps are great but follow up is always needed. Church history has proven when personal holiness has been a concern, the church has grown. However, what is the purpose of our worship on Sunday mornings and the rest of the week. Is the church like the world where it glorifies power, dominion, force and physical strength or do we respond to what Jesus' blesses in humility, meekness, mercy, mourning, purity of heart and even persecution for righteousness' sake.

Last part is our doctrinal frame work. What are we willing to live and die for. Doctrine dictates those questions. That is why the disciples turned the world up-side down and we can as well.
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