Friday, February 7, 2014

Jude & Postmodernism

a book review

We home educated through high school with the Charlotte Mason Educational philosophy-a liberal arts approach.  (See for more information).  We deliberately incorporated Christian studies, theology, philosophy, and worldview increasingly as part of our upper level studies.  The following is a brief, but fairly thorough book review on The Truth War by John MacArthur.  This is a must read for our senior high students.  It was intended to give a general understanding of the content, but is geared toward home educators using a similar approach to help determine when and how to include it as part of the curriculum readings.  I would recommend this an insightful study on the church and postmodern thought for adults or older teens with some worldview/philosophy background. 
Rating: 9/10
215 pgs. w/ 8 chs. + intro & appendix reading (should be included) – could be read in a term; we use this in freshman year as a read aloud & take 1 ½ terms ; as senior year reading, 1 or 2 terms, not as read aloud, would work fine.  Mid level reading/well written.  Discusses western culture & specifically American culture, but is applicable to all.  Could be polarizing in sections b/c he names names in the Emergent church & refutes their stances blatantly. Deals directly with postmodern thought as it applies to religion and a Christian worldview.  Fits well into a study of current times and cultures.
John MacArthur uses a direct writing style toward both secular arguments & churched audiences .  Most exhortation is directed toward the church and deals with modern cultural issues within the church.  His basis is directly from the book of Jude.  He is prolific with scriptural supports which he does not take out of context (I looked up the whole passages in many cases + I am familiar with his doctrinal stances).  He would be considered a fundamental evangelical by most – conservative w/o legalism, emphasis on salvation through grace alone & straight forward on scriptural truths and our lack of obedience.  He is logical in reasoning and support in his propositions and arguments. There is very definitely a structure & you will get to the “What of it?” personal response question by the end (see: How to Read a Book by Adler). Strong and opinionated (supported through scripture), so not a book if you want something emotional & touchy feely or don’t want to be convicted . This has been a must read before graduation in our home.  Again, this is a book directed toward the body of Christ in the modern age and is about contending for the truth within the church (against apostasy  - ‘Certain men have crept in unnoticed.’ Jude 4), what makes it needed (postmodern thought – no absolutes/no truth), and why it is important (historically & today).
·       Discusses the Emergent church movement (includes names) & the postmodern stance on truth – that it is unknowable, changes the Christian message to be deliberately ambiguous and tries to fit the culture & nurtures unbelief
“Yet rather than deal with those things [positives of – riches of salvation and joy and blessings; love for the Lord; His glory and grace – earlier pp] in a completely positive and nonpolemical way, I find myself compelled to echo the inspired words of Jude and exhort my readers who truly love Christ: you need to contend earnestly for the truth.  Truth is under heavy attack, and there are too few courageous warriors who are willing to fight.  When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, believers from this generation will not be able to justify their apathy by complaining that the strife of conflict over truth just seemed “too negative” for the kind of culture we lived in – or that the issues were “merely doctrinal” and therefore not worth the effort… As vital as it is for us to enlist in the Truth War and do battle for our faith, it is even more important to remember why we are fighting – not merely for the thrill of vanquishing some foe or winning some argument, but out of a genuine lobe for Christ, who is the living, breathing embodiment of all that we hold true and worth fighting for.” (p. xxvi)
Ch. 1 establishes the definition of truth and states that the biblical definition is supreme, all others are inadequate (philosophy).  Deals with reasoning & logic in this chapter. Beginning is reminiscent of CS Lewis arguments/reasoning.  Gives a basic premise of Christian worldview: “… the Bible is the touchstone to which all truth claims should be brought and by which all other truth must be finally measured.” (p. 4) He also discusses “knowledge” w/o God.
Ch. 2 clearly explains that the “war” is with principalities and is not carnal (2 Cor. 10:5) “the ultimate objective of the Truth War: “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The battlefield is the mind; the goal is the absolute triumph of truth; the priceless spoils of conquest are souls won out of the bondage of sin; the outcome is our willing submission to Christ; the highest prize is the honor given to Him as Lord; and the ultimate victory is completely His.” (p. 32)  Apostasy is a threat to this.
Ch. 3 moves directly from that idea into Jude & his letter. He gives and extensive history of apostasy in the church continuing through ch. 4, “Creeping Apostasy”, covering  the Judaizers, Gnostics & goes through present times.
Ch. 5, “Heresy’s subtlety”, discusses the verbiage issue – slight word meaning changes or emphasis.  More history – modalism (Sabellius), Arianism’s rise-fall-rise.
Ch. 6 deals with the biblical warnings about “False Teaching”.  MacArthur brings the issue full circle to the hope and certainty we have in the fact that “false teachers cannot thwart God’s sovereignty.” Reminds us that God permits evil but does not instigate or cause it (see James 1:13-14).  The next section softens to focus on GRACE & the GOSPEL; “honest disagreements between true brethren should never escalate into mortal combat [scripture support list].  Jude’s call to battle applies when there is a serious threat to “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” – the kind of false teaching that undermines the foundations of the gospel.  The error Jude has in mind does not stem from some slight misunderstanding about a difficult text.  He is talking about heresy that is ultimately rooted in willful unbelief – a denial of “the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).  He has in mind an error that corrupts the essential character of the gospel.” (p. 133)
Ch. 7 is about “the Assault on Devine Authority” and Christ as head of the church and the implications of that to the modern evangelical mindset.  The age of media and its influence on the church is reflected through “PR driven” churches, fad surfing, embracing today’s fashionable stance of unreliability or uncertainty of scripture vs. scriptural clarity.
Ch. 8 “How to Survive in an Age of Apostasy: Learning from the Lessons of History” – But I want to remind you, though you once knew this… (Jude 5): Living today not forgetting yesterday’s lessons and watching out for deception – spotting “off” ideas in the church.
·       Why discernment is out of fashion
·       The rise of extreme tolerance
·       A refusal to shun the world
·       A failure to interpret scripture carefully
·       The neglect of church discipline
·       A lack of spiritual maturity