The Point of Contention Pt.1 – The Truth War

4 10 2007

This evening I finished reading The Truth War by John MacArthur. Since I first read one of his paperbacks twelve or thirteen years ago, I have found myself repeatedly challenged by MacArthur’s strict adherence to the Word of God and bold public defense of its truths. The Truth War finds him in stirring form, writing passionately and powerfully about the need for the contemporary Christian to stand up for truth amidst a postmodern, emergent, prevaricating culture – both within and without the church.

The basis for the book is the New Testament epistle of Jude, with its urgent call to Christians to ‘contend for the faith’ in the face of widespread apostasy and unbelief. MacArthur’s focus is at once expository (considering the threats of which Jude was writing), ideological (thinking through the means and methods by which Satan uses false teaching to undermine the church generally) and practical (suggesting ways in which believers might arm themselves for the ‘Truth War’). Much of his application is directed against the ‘Emerging Church’ movement, and he spares no blows when dealing with some of the statements made by Brian McLaren and Rob Bell on issues of orthodoxy and truth.

I imagine that some reviewers of this book in days to come will make much of MacArthur’s militant language, and accuse him of being ungracious, uncouth and unloving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Time and again the author emphasises that he is not advocating sectarianism or divisiveness, and argues strongly in the final chapter that love should characterise every engagement with those who undermine gospel truth – even when dealing with those who are propagating and teaching error. Anyone who accuses MacArthur of an unloving stance simply hasn’t read this book closely enough, nor understood the urgency of the issues with which he deals.

In many sections MacArthur’s earnest love for, and defense of, truth are on clear display. Here’s a sample:

‘My heart resonates with Jude’s concern for the church, his love for the gospel, and his passion for the truth. I too would prefer to write about something positive – concerning such things as the riches of salvation and all the joy and blessings that belong to all who are truly in Christ; our love for the Lord; and especially His grace and glory. In fact, this book is ultimately about those things and how to safeguard them, because they are precisely the points of truth that are ultimately at stake in the Truth War.’ [xxvi]

One other clever aspect of the book is its use of episodes from church history to illustrate the need to stand for truth. As I read these sections it brought out something which has risen to the forefront of my thoughts over the past few months as I have worked my way through the biographies of great men in church history: namely how many were called to wage war and contend for the truth of the gospel. MacArthur writes:

‘The handful of vignettes from church history we have examined together in this book are only a brief introduction to how the Truth War has been fought over the past two millennia. I hope what we have examined here will provoke you to pursue the study further on your own. Look at any period of church history and you will discover this significant fact: Whenever the people of God have sought peace with the world or made alliances with false religions, it has meant a period of serious spritual decline, even to the point where at times the truth seemed almost to be in total eclipse. But whenever Christians have contended earnestly for the faith, the church has grown and the cause of truth has prospered. May it be so in our time.’ [184]

Over the next while I hope to follow this counsel and post some thoughts on contention from my biographical readings, and from ‘The Truth War’, drawing out the difference that contention has made for the truth of the gospel and the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. It will be a sporadic series over the next number of months, Lord willing.

Finally, I heartily commend this book to all. As with any publication there are elements with which I am not entirely comfortable. His use of metaphors from America’s ‘War on Terror’ leave me a little uneasy at times, and a slight tendency to sweep all those who are propounding various errors into the emergent camp is somewhat offputting. But these are minor concerns to say the least.

If you’re interested in reading The Truth War for yourself, or in the issues with which it deals, Pyromaniacs are hosting a discussion post sometime this month which will be interesting, provocative, and well worth looking out for.