CultureWatch

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A review of The Truth War. By John MacArthur.

Mar 19, 2009

Thomas Nelson, 2007. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)

That the Bible puts a very high premium on truth is indisputable. But sadly, the church today has largely downplayed and abandoned truth, content to follow the spirit of the age. That spirit is comprised of postmodernism, relativism, emotionalism and subjectivism. Truth cannot flourish in such poisoned soil.

John MacArthur’s new book tackles this head on. He simply reminds us what Scripture has always taught: truth is vitally important, and we dare not allow falsehood and error to overtake truth.

Image of The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception by John MacArthur Amazon logo

Using as his key text Jude 3 (“contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”), MacArthur reminds us that truth is under attack big time today, and basic Christian beliefs must be defended and promoted.

Many evangelicals, especially those in the emerging church movement, have recently declared that doubt, uncertainty, mystery and questions are superior to certainty, belief, faith and conviction. This seems to stand in marked contrast to the affirmations of Scripture. Consider a remark made by John Stott some 40 years ago in Christ the Controversialist:

“In those things which are clearly revealed in Scripture, Christians should not be doubtful or apologetic. The corridors of the New Testament reverberate with dogmatic affirmations beginning ‘We know’, ‘We are sure’, ‘We are confident’. If you question this, read the First Epistle of John in which verbs meaning ‘to know’ occur about forty times. They strike a note of joyful assurance which is sadly missing from many parts of the church today and which needs to be recaptured.”

Today many church leaders are glorying in doubt and uncertainty, and are telling us that having firm convictions and strong beliefs is arrogant and somehow un-Christlike. But as MacArthur reminds us, “this is not authentic Christianity”. To refuse to embrace and defend the revealed truth of God “is a particularly stubborn and pernicious form of unbelief”.

Scripture commands us to know and love the truth. We are set free by the truth. We are sanctified by the truth. On and on go the biblical affirmations about truth and its importance. Yet today we want to throw it all away and embrace the trendy beliefs which say we can have no certain knowledge of anything.

Truth and doctrine are everywhere championed in Scripture, yet very few believers today are willing to stand up and defend these things. But the battle for truth has always been part of the Christian job description. In every generation this battle has been unavoidable, because “the enemies of truth are relentless”.

From the very earliest days of the Christian church the disciples had to defend the gospel against falsehood, deception and heresy. Indeed, as MacArthur reminds us, the fight over truth goes back to the earliest days, when the tempter asked Eve, “Has God indeed said?”

In the days immediately following the resurrection of Christ, the church was embroiled in battles with false doctrine and teaching. “Virtually all the major epistles in the New Testament address the problem in one way or another.”

Of course MacArthur is fully aware that one can have plenty of orthodoxy and little or no orthopraxis. But the two must go hand in hand. Both right belief and right living must be the hallmark of the Christian witness. We must not force a false distinction between them, but fully affirm and embrace both.

MacArthur reminds us that much of the assault against truth comes from within the church, not without. Sure, there are plenty of unbelievers and enemies of the faith, but the most worrying forms of deception are those which arise within the body of Christ.

Paul had warned about “savage wolves” who would come into the churches and not spare the flock. The dangers of false teachers and apostasy are warned about throughout the New Testament.

The book of Jude speaks directly to this problem. Indeed, it is the “only book in the Bible solely devoted to the subject” of apostasy and stealth heresy. It forcefully commands us to contend for the faith in the face of these destructive challenges.

Truth is so important, MacArthur reminds us, because “truth is the only thing that can liberate people from the bondage of sin and give them eternal life (John 8:32; 14:6)”. That is why apostasy in Scripture is “always portrayed as a deadly danger”.

And he also reminds us that we of course are only commanded to fight over the important things: “the faith once delivered to the saints”. Romans 14:1 and other passages clearly instruct us not to go about picking fights over secondary issues.

This is a book with a strong message. While somewhat more academic and scholarly treatments of this theme have appeared recently (such as David Wells’ No Place for Truth), this is a good popular-level discussion of the issue. It is a helpful and much-needed antidote to the truth decay which is plaguing the contemporary church.

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12 Responses to A review of The Truth War. By John MacArthur.

  • “truth decay” – I like that 🙂

    Yes, absolutely spot on. The church has increasingly bought into the ‘greyness’ of the World where ‘if it doesn’t hurt anyone then it’s OK’, and ‘we must be true to ourselves’ being another way of saying that if we are not following our feelings and emotions as our guide we are lying to ourselves – basically and excuse to give in to our carnal lusts, while excusing it all because we are in an ‘age of grace’.

    In my previous church we were constantly reminded by the pastors that ‘knowledge puffs up’, I guess as a warning against theological discussion or probing questions, because it was certainly not encouraged. However I read about the Bereans who were enthusiastic and eager in spending much time listening to and learning from the Apostle Paul, and yet they also we very careful to study the word diligently to ensure that everything he said lined up with the scriptures – a perfect example of what a congregation who is hungry for God and His Truth looks like.

    Garth Penglase

  • Thanks Garth

    Yes Acts 17:11 is a key text here.

    As to ‘truth decay’, I sadly cannot take credit for it. It goes back at least to the title of a 2000 book on postmodernism by Douglas Groothuis (IVP).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • When John MacArthur wrote this book, little did he know how important the additional words on the book cover would be:

    “Fighting for certainty in an age of deception.”

    Deception is all around us in the terrible lies that abound in our current political atmosphere here in the United States.

    I loved this book. Thanks for your excellent review. You have inspired me to read it again!

    P.S. Inside the book jacket, MacArthur writes, “this book is not friendly fire.” That is certainly a literary shot across the bow of the liberal, seeker-sensitive “don’t talk about the need to repent” churches that keep their congregations in bondage to sin – all the while making them think they are saved.

    Christine Watson

  • It is all too true!! Working in a Non-denominational capacity for the last 30 years, I have been shocked at the ignorance of many church leaders and the rubbish they swallow. The result is that the general public, and many hristians, don’t know what Christianity is really about. This is something I am trying to address in my local area. This is the reason church attendance continues to fall.
    Tom Wise

  • While I agree with all that is said above may I introduce a ‘higher’ truth into the discussion. An eternal spiritual dimension of truth.

    Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus is The Spirit of Truth who is not bound by time or history or the phases of man’s mind.

    The question that has resounded through the centuries is the wrong question. The correct question is ‘Who is Truth’? He, who intercedes with Christ Jesus and reveals the will and purposes of Father Yahweh. He, who dwells within by His presence – Holy Spirit.

    Ray Robinson

  • Christians are often accused of trying to impose their truth on the rest of the population and that we should instead live and let live. But we have moved beyond that so-called neutral period, or vacuum of tolerance, towards another kind of truth that will relentlessly impose godless and evil laws on its citizens. We have moved from amorality towards positive evil.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Great review Bill,
    I have quoted and pointed to it from my blog
    http://thechristianworldview.blogspot.com/2009/04/truth-in-whatever-world.html
    God Bless
    Gary Wearne, NSW

  • Dear Bill
    In your review of “The Shack” you mentioned a possibility of further discussion on “Perichoresis” and the writings of Baxter Kruger. Some would think that to be relevant to this thread. Any Comments?
    Kind regards
    Robert Munton

  • Thanks Robert

    Yes it is an important issue, and it is still on my to-do list. Life is busy! But hopefully I can get to it soonish.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Do you have any more information on Baxter Kruger? He is getting a lot of attention at Grace Communion International and they are promoting his teachings. He has now become my father-in-laws favorite theologian. I’m worried about Kruger’s seemingly faulty theology.
    Michele Kissman

  • Thanks Michele

    I discuss him a bit further in the comments under this article: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/02/21/a-review-of-the-truth-of-the-cross-by-rc-sproul/

    But I still need to devote more attention to him. Thanks for the reminder.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Well-here it is Aug. 20–2018–and yesterday Mayor Rudy Guliani said—“No, no, it isn’t truth,” Giuliani said. “Truth isn’t truth.”“Mr. Mayor, the truth is the truth, ”Todd repeats. “This is going to be a bad meme.”“Don’t do this to me,” Giuliani says, as he grabs his forehead. ” This book review was done in 2009 and today we hear a Mayor say-“Truth isn’t Truth!” I have not read the book “The Truth War” but perhaps I should!!

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