Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: Why One Way?

Why One Way?: Defending an Exclusive Claim in an Inclusive World. John MacArthur. 2002. Thomas Nelson. 96 pages.

Why do evangelicals try so desperately to court the world's favor? Churches plan their worship services to cater to the "unchurched." Christian performers ape every worldly fad in music and entertainment. Preachers are terrified that the offense of the gospel might turn someone against them; so they deliberately omit the parts of the message the world might not like. Evangelicalism seems to have been hijacked by legions of carnal spin-doctors, who are trying their best to convince the world that the church can be just as inclusive, pluralistic, and broad-minded as the most politically-correct worldling. The quest for the world's approval is nothing less than spiritual harlotry. 

I love this book. I just LOVE this book. It's a book that is always relevant. Perhaps because there are always believers trying to compromise God's revealed truth in order to fit in with the world, in order to make the message more friendly to unbelievers, in order to blend in and avoid unpleasantness. Some perhaps are just weak and fearful. Some perhaps are just following others blindly. Assuming that the trust they've placed in others is well-founded. That surely these scholars, these teachers, these preachers, these authors, these experts know best. Others may be a bit more deliberate in thinking that they know better than God. That what they think about God--how they feel God is, how they imagine him to be--is more important than what the Bible says about God. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, for example, reads, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (ESV)

I think this book is important for many reasons. One, to help readers understand that the truth is important. That it is necessary, it is wise, to be able to discern truth from error; fact from fiction. Two, it is grounded in the Bible. In each and every chapter the Bible is affirmed--it's true and authoritative--which serves as a reminder that believers should be reading and studying the Word, for how else can they be discerning? How can you know if that preacher or author is teaching the truth or a clever lie unless you're willing to investigate it yourself. Unless you hold the Bible to be absolute, the measure by which you judge or discern everything. You just can't say, well, that sounds good to me. Three, it helps challenge readers in their faith. Do you know the truth? Are you bold in proclaiming the truth? Or are you all too willing to make compromises? Are you serving the world more than you're serving Christ?

It's a short book; it's also reader-friendly. Even if the message itself isn't necessarily reader-friendly to every reader. Does this book have the potential to be offensive? I suppose. I mean it's proclaiming that the Bible is absolute truth, that what you believe does matter, that Jesus is the ONLY way, that all roads do NOT lead to God, that religions aren't equally true.

So the purpose of this one is to be "a reminder of the gospel's distinctiveness. That very narrowness sets Christianity apart from every other worldview. After all, the whole point of Jesus' best known sermon was to declare that the way to destruction is broad and well traveled, while the way of life is so narrow that few find it. (Matthew 7:14). Our task as ambassadors of God is to point to that very narrow way. Christ Himself is the one way to God, and to obscure that fact is, in effect, to deny Christ and to disavow the gospel itself." (x-xi)

My favorite quotes:

It is ironic that so many who are downplaying the exclusivity of Christ are doing it because they believe it is a barrier to relevance. Actually, Christianity is not relevant at all if it is merely one of many possible paths to God. The relevance of the gospel has always been its absolute exclusivity, summed up in the truth that Christ alone has atoned for sin and therefore Christ alone can provide reconciliation with God for those who believe only in Him. (ix-x)

Genuine faith in Christ entails a denial of every worldly value. Biblical truth contradicts all the world's religions. (2)

The word [tolerance] once meant respecting people and treating them kindly even when we believe they are wrong. The postmodern notion of tolerance means we must never regard anyone else's opinions as wrong. Biblical tolerance is for people; postmodern tolerance is for ideas. (14)

It is OK for postmodernists to be intolerant of those who claim they know the truth, particularly biblical Christians. In fact, those who fancy themselves the leading advocates of tolerance today are often the most outspoken opponents of evangelical Christianity. (15)

Authentic Christianity starts with the premise that there is a source of truth outside of us. Specifically, God's Word is truth. (Psalm 119:151; John 17:17). It is objectively true--meaning it is true whether it speaks subjectively to any given individual or not; it is true regardless of how anyone feels about it; it is true for everyone universally and without exception; it is absolutely true. (19)

Attend the typical evangelical home Bible study meeting and you will probably be invited to share your opinion about "what this verse means to me," as if the message of Scripture were unique to every individual. Rare is the teacher who is concerned with what Scripture means to God. (24)

Since His Word is objectively true and perfectly reliable in everything it teaches, Scripture should be both the starting point and the final test of truth in all our thinking. If Scripture is wholly true, then anything that contradicts Scripture is simply false, even if we're talking about the fundamental beliefs upon which the world's most popular ideologies are based. (31)

It's not as if we can make the words mean anything we want them to mean, so that whatever connotation we impose on the words becomes the Word of God. Only the true interpretation of the text is the authentic Word of God, and any other interpretation is simply not what God is saying. (34)

To speak boldly and declare that God has spoken with finality is neither stylish nor politically correct. But if we truly believe the Bible is the Word of God, how can we handle it any other way? (50)

Truth and error cannot be combined to yield something beneficial. They are as incompatible as light and darkness. (60)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


DebD said...

Wow, this does sound like a good book. The issues he is tackling are very similar to the ones I wrestled with many years ago. It ultimately caused me to leave Protestantism for the Eastern Orthodox Church. I'm glad to see respected authors taking this on - especially since the early church never "planned their services to cater to the unchurched" in fact there are parts of the liturgy where an unbaptized person had to leave (before the Creed and the Lord's prayer!). Anyway this whole topic of trying to be "relevant" is near to my heart (sorry to go on and on). I hate to see my Protestant friends becoming so discouraged by their churches precisely because of the issues sited in your intro. I hope more pastors will read this.

Kevin Dengel said...

Just finished this book last night! It's definitely a book that makes you think. It's too bad we don't act more like Jesus at all times.