17 September 2018

A Righteous Hatred of Ethnic Partiality

by Hohn Cho



I   was corresponding with a friend, and he suggested that it could be helpful if more people on the "priority of Gospel clarity and proclamation" side of the current "social justice" discussion were to declare clearly that they were opposed to ethnic partiality and hatred. I appreciated my friend's suggestion, although I also feel compelled to note that such declarations are clear and present and common, whether in many of the articles in John's concluded blog series on GTY, or his developing sermon series on this topic, or the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel itself, which clearly affirms "that racism is a sin rooted in pride and malice which must be condemned and renounced by all who would honor the image of God in all people" and denies "that treating people with sinful partiality or prejudice is consistent with biblical Christianity" and also denies "that the Bible can be legitimately used to foster or justify partiality, prejudice, or contempt toward other ethnicities."

Even so, I appreciated the suggestion because as we know from 2 Peter 1:12, reminders of basic truths can be helpful. On that note, I greatly appreciated this recent series (starting here) on The Cripplegate by Jesse Johnson, regarding the sinfulness of American slavery. Moreover, in an intense discussion where a charitable willingness to believe and hope all things per 1 Cor. 13:7 can often be in short supply, I think it is also helpful to reiterate points like these so that it's easier for all of us to remember that we have certain genuine convictions in common. This, in turn, may lead to a discussion environment that is hopefully different from the intense partisanship of the world, where everyone who makes the complex ethical calculation associated with voting and comes down a certain way is dismissed, or even derided and condemned, as a racist, a naïve vote wastrel, or an enabler of murderers.

Indeed, just as the "social justice" advocates don't seem to appreciate being labeled as cultural or even actual Marxists—something which I take great care not to do, by the way, although I think it is fair game to point out that some of the language and rhetoric and even goals can at times sound similar—I take exception to relatively regular claims that people like me are only winking at ethnic partiality and hatred, or merely citing our opposition to those things as a talisman to ward off criticism, or don't really hold earnest biblical convictions but instead are trying to "curry favor with whites" or similar nonsense.

The simple truth is that ethnic hatred and partiality—or to use a common term that I no longer prefer, racism—is sin. We see this clearly in verses such as Galatians 3:27-28, Colossians 3:11, 1 Peter 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:16, James 2:9, and Acts 10:34-35, among others. And when we see something called out clearly as sin in the Bible, it is appropriate and righteous to hate that sin. I will go a step further and say that from my point of view, ethnic hatred and partiality is sin so major, sin that is so disruptive to the unity of the Body of Christ, that clearly established and unrepentant sin of this nature would be appropriate in many cases for steps three and four of church discipline. Certainly God took this sin very seriously when he struck Miriam with leprosy for objecting to Moses' marriage to a Cushite woman in Numbers 12:1-10!

On that note, even today, we often see this sin manifest in objections to marriage or engagement to, or even dating of, a person of a different ethnicity. Having spent over 13 years in ministry primarily among and to single adults, I've seen this phenomenon quite a bit more than I'd like, and I'd sadly wager that the occurrence of it is perhaps more common in the conservative evangelical church than the world, owing in part to any conservative institution's natural suspicion of, and slowness to, change. Even more sadly, I've tended to witness objections to interethnic marriage arising out of Asian communities more often than any other, particularly among East Asian parents and grandparents (although a bit less often in second—and later—generation Japanese Americans, perhaps).

With that said, we have seen very positive movement over the decades, and approval of "interracial" marriages in the US has increased from 4% in 1958 to 87% in 2013, representing "one of the largest shifts of public opinion in Gallup history." Hopefully this approval trend continues, and although the pervasive reality of sin means this number will never go to 100%, if the Lord tarries, it's entirely possible the current obsession over issues of ethnicity may fade significantly as generations pass. After all, it ought to be quite a bit more difficult to sustain bigoted views of other ethnic groups when you yourself, and most of the people around you, might well have ancestors within that very ethnicity!



For those whose lingering prejudices or presuppositions cause them to lag behind both the US approval rate and the Bible, however, I've often found that asking heart questions on this topic can be far more revealing and convicting than any efforts to root out secret heart sin by either accusing entire groups of people or pressing disputed factual claims about implicit bias or socioeconomic factors. If you're single, how would you feel about marrying a person from a different or vastly different ethnicity? If you're married, how would you feel about your kids, or any younger single person you care for, marrying a person with differing types and amounts of melanin in their skin? Few questions are as viscerally helpful, I believe, in exposing people's hearts toward those of other ethnicities. And if even the thought causes revulsion to rise up within someone, that person might have to face the possibility that his or her response is something more dangerous and sinister than an innocent preference.

All of the people I know personally who have been engaging in the "social justice" discussion earnestly and utterly deplore and reject the sin of ethnic partiality and hatred. And yet my perception is that many people on the "social justice" side of the discussion tend to question or doubt that fact, simply because some of us might:

  • hold differing convictions regarding the role of the corporate church versus the role of individual Christians; or
  • prioritize the murder of the unborn—many of whom are ethnic minorities—over socioeconomic progress in an already wealthy nation like the US; or
  • cherish our Christian liberty and freedom of conscience to the extent that we refuse to have our consciences legalistically bound by what others think we need to be doing with our own time, money, and resources; or
  • insist that the sin of partiality is not unique to dominant or majority groups, as I attempted to show in my article criticizing modern affirmative action as unbiblical partiality; or
  • object to broad-brushed efforts to either speak for or indict entire groups of people; or
  • reject attempted heart—and mind—and motive—reading by many "social justice" advocates which we believe is in violation of 1 Corinthians 4:5 as well as chapter 13 on love; or
  • question or even dispute the implicit assumptions and assertions that are accepted as closed matters of fact by many "social justice" advocates despite the existence of studies, data, and evidence that often support contrary views; or
  • perhaps most importantly, urgently warn against the Gospel confusion and distraction that might arise whenever "social justice" advocates attempt to raise their issues to the level of a "Gospel issue" (and see this excellent article by Kevin DeYoung on this very topic, although to be candid, I think he was being polite to the "social justice" side of the discussion by saying "it depends" . . . note that he rejects all attempts to make social justice into a Gospel issue except perhaps for one very narrow slice that constitutes a small minority of "social justice" rhetoric).

My hope is that as we all process through the various aspects of this discussion, we do so in a way that honors the Lord and upholds biblical speech and conduct, even as we strive to believe the best of our brothers and sisters, and appreciate that although each of us may have earnest and genuine convictions, in the vast majority of cases, they don't suddenly turn our siblings into enemies.

Hohn's signature


16 September 2018

Delicate dilettantes disgusted

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon



The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 14, sermon number 831, "The altar."  
Image result for charles spurgeon

"The sin of this age is idolatry. The whole tendency of this generation  is towards the setting up of other than spiritual altars."

I must not forget, in speaking of the form of the altar, also that as the observer passed round it, he would be constantly struck with its bespattered appearance. Entertain not the notion the tabernacle and the temple must have been very pleasant places—we can scarcely imagine anything that must have been more awe inspiring, and even revolting to the mind of the observer, than the court of priests, when sacrificing was being carried on. 

It must on great occasions have resembled a butcher’s shambles, with the addition of smoke and fire. And this brazen altar was so frequently besmeared with blood, and so constantly were bowl-fulls of warm gore thrown at its base, that it must have presented a very ghastly appearance. 

This was all to teach the observer what a dreadful thing sin is, and how it can only be put away through suffering and death. The Lord did not study attractive aesthetics, he did not prepare a tabernacle that should delight men’s tastes; it was rich indeed, but so blood-stained as to be by no means beautiful. 

No staining of glass to charm the eye, but instead thereof the inwards of slaughtered bullocks. Such sights would disgust the delicate tastes of the fops of this present age. Blood, blood on every side; death, fire, smoke and ashes, varied with the bellowing of dying beasts, and the active exertions of men whose white garments were all crimson with the blood of victims. 

How clearly did the worshipers see the sternness and severity of the justice of God against human sin, and the intensity of the agony of the great Son of God who was in the fullness of time by his own
death to put away all the sins and transgressions of his people! 

By faith come ye, my brethren, and walk round that blood-stained altar, and as you mark its four-square form and its horns of strength, and see the sacrifices smoking thereon acceptable to God, look down and mark the blood with which its foundations are so completely saturated, and understand how all salvation and all acceptance rests on the atonement of the dying Son of God.


14 September 2018

Seven Questions With Phil Johnson

by Samuel Sey

Note from Phil: Samuel Sey is one of my favorite bloggers, writing—always with keen insights and pithy prose—at "Slow to Write." We've invited him to join the team here. He's weighing the opportunity, so be kind to him—at least until he commits. He recently interviewed me for his blog. I decided to mirror the interview here, because I liked his interview questions so much.



I   love listening to people. I love learning from people. And the most effective way to listen and learn better, is to ask questions. So today, I'm starting a new series called Seven Questions With. In this series, I will be interviewing some of the most interesting people who shape how we think of Christ, culture, and more.

Phil Johnson has been shaping how I think about Christ and culture for years. He is the Executive Director of Grace to You and he has edited John MacArthur's books since the 80s. He is an elder at Grace Community Church in California and is the founder of Spurgeon.org and the blog, Pyromaniacs.net. And I am thrilled to interview him today. I intended on asking him just seven questions, but that wasn't enough. Phil Johnson had too many interesting things to say, so I asked him four more.

Sir, you've been a consistent voice against false teaching within evangelicalism for many years. From the first time I read your blogs on Pyromaniacs in 2008 to your appearance at Wretched Radio earlier this week, you've been a strong critic of the emerging church, seeker sensitive movement and the prosperity gospel. Still, I was surprised to hear you say once that "the modern church needs a reformation more than the church of the middle ages."

What makes you believe that? And what would this reformation look like?


Luther's ire was ignited by Tetzel, a papal fund-raiser who plundered Germany's poor by selling indulgences (false promises of divine clemency). Tetzel was collecting cash to build St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, fleecing the poor just to add to the opulence of the Papal See.

And look where we are now. Protestant Christianity has dozens of Tetzels who appear on TBN nightly, bilking poor people out of money with the promise of financial prosperity, and TBN festoons all their studios in an even more tawdry style of opulence than that favored by medieval Rome.


One of the tools of Tetzel's double-dealing was a trite bit of doggerel: "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." Today's evangelicals have abandoned classic hymnology and psalmody in favor of generically romantic-sounding sentimental love songs that are just as false as (and much more banal than) Tetzel's little rhyme.

Evangelicals for the most part have abandoned their Protestant forebears' core doctrinal distinctives in favor of whatever happens to be popular at the moment—political causes, cultural phenomena, memes, movies, methodologies, and other values borrowed from the world. And yet the typical evangelical leader aggressively lobbies for more of this kind of "contextualization" while winking at (or cheerleading for) the dumbing down of our doctrine.


You are one of the authors of the Statement of Social Justice and The Gospel, what prompted the statement? Why is it necessary?

"Social justice" is well-known terminology borrowed from secular political discourse, with long-established implications. As such it opens the door wide for the ideology that was being promoted by those who coined the term. I'm not suggesting that every evangelical now talking about "social justice" would favor the redistribution of wealth or other Marxist values—or even old-school "Social Gospel" doctrines—but some do go that far and further. (I'm thinking, for example, of Sojourners, the radical remnant of the Emerging Church movement, and scores of angry evangelical "progressives" whose footprints are all over Twitter.)

I've always believed it is dangerous and foolhardy for Christians to let secular culture help shape our message and set our agenda. When that happens, it always pushes the gospel to the background while giving center stage to whatever the world is concerned with at the moment. In this case, loud voices are insistent that social justice is a gospel issue. Some have even said those of us who are not on board with the social justice movement don't have the gospel at all. What they then go on to emphasize seems to supplant the good news of the gospel—the promise of forgiveness— with demands, reproofs, and strictures imported from the law.

That's spiritually deadly. As I said in a recent blogpost, to treat social-justice activism as an essential tenet of gospel truth is a form of theological legalism. It is not fundamentally different from the teaching of those in the early church who insisted circumcision was a gospel issue.


The statement has produced strong reactions. What do you make of the reactions to the statement? What are some of the most encouraging things to come out of the statement? What are some of your new concerns, if any, after the release of the statement? Are there criticisms against the statement that you find helpful?

I expected a strong reaction to the statement, even though there's nothing in it that ought to be controversial to anyone who believes the Bible. And in his first response to the statement, Thabiti Anyabwile acknowledged that it contained nothing he could disagree with. I was encouraged by his candor.

But the fact that the statement doesn't affirm the rhetoric of the "social justice" movement is enough to make lots of influential people in that movement angry. I expected that. I was surprised, however, by the force of some of the angry reactions. And I was also somewhat caught off guard by the sheer number of people who vandalized the Statement website by pretending to sign the document with profanities and phony names (some of which were overtly racist). It seems some of the champions of "social justice" have a strange idea of what public justice (and obedience to the Second Great Commandment) is supposed to look like.

That brings to mind the one new concern I might voice in the wake of the statement's release—namely, that the ideology, rhetoric, and anger currently fueling certain evangelical social justice advocates has already reached an extreme I didn't anticipate. The most radical social justicians (to borrow a term from Darrell Harrison) seem to be predominantly grassroots voices, not people in positions of far-reaching influence. Nevertheless, I fear that such visceral anger (especially in response to a statement admittedly lacking anything terribly controversial) doesn't augur well for the future of the debate.



I've been encouraged, however, by the volume of feedback from people who say they are thankful that someone finally put into clear words the concerns that so many of us share.

I wouldn't characterize any of the criticisms I've seen as "helpful," except for several critics who have noted that some of the terminology under debate needs to be carefully defined. That's true for both sides. It's the one plea that if heeded well by both sides would help identify who is genuinely committed to biblical principles—and unmask those who might instead have an agenda reminiscent of the "social gospel" fiasco of the modernist era.


What do you think will be the outcome of this all? Is the social justice controversy going to be an ongoing issue within the church for a long time? Or is it going to become a non-issue soon?

I certainly don't think it will become a non-issue soon. I hope those who support the statement will be patient and hold their ground.

My prediction is that those on the social justice side whose commitment to biblical authority is tenuous will react to the Statement in a way that makes their radicalism more obvious. Over time, that will result in a loss of support and momentum for the movement. That's precisely what happened to the Emerging Church Movement in the first decade of the new millennium. And I see many parallels between the two movements.

Why do you think evangelicals embraced social justice so quickly? What fault within evangelicalism today made us accept social justice so easily? Was there a precursor to this?

What I'm suggesting in my reply to your previous question is that the all-but-dead Emerging Church Movement and the social justice movement have borrowed rhetoric, strategy, and jargon (including "social justice") from the same playbook. In 2010, when the Emerging Church movement seemed to be on its deathbed, I wrote: "With the meltdown of the visible movement, Emergent thinking is being dispersed like so many dandelion seeds into the broad evangelical movement, which was overrun with religious weeds in the first place."

The social justice movement is precisely the kind of development I had in mind. And some of the very same evangelical thought leaders and their followers who were angry about my criticisms of the Emergent movement thirteen years ago are now angry at the Statement.

I've been reading Charles Spurgeon's words from the Down-Grade Controversy recently, if Spurgeon was alive today, what do you think he would have said about the social justice issue? Are there any words from Spurgeon that relate?

Spurgeon and Charles Dickens were contemporaries, so the workhouses and other class disparities that Dickens lampooned in his novels were facts that Spurgeon witnessed up close and deplored. (He famously founded an orphanage to help with the problem.) He was a classical liberal—an advocate of equal rights for all classes. He was openly hostile to the Tory policies of his time that were designed to perpetuate class distinctions and make political hay off tensions between the classes.

Yet he strongly believed that Caesar should "mind his own things, and let the things of God alone," and that Christian ministers should tend to their high calling and not become entangled in public arguments about partisan politics. He described himself as "loath to touch politics at all," and when accused of being too political because he addressed certain moral issues, he issued this challenge: "Take the eighteen volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and see if you can find eighteen pages of matter which even look towards politics; nay, more, see if there be one solitary sentence concerning politics, which did not, to the preacher's mind, appear to arise out of his text, or to flow from the natural run of his subject."

He went on to say,


"For a Christian minister to be an active partisan of Whigs or Tories, busy in canvassing, and eloquent at public meetings for rival factions, would be of ill repute. For the Christian to forget his heavenly citizenship, and occupy himself about the objects of place-hunters, would be degrading to his high calling: but there are points of inevitable contact between the higher and the lower spheres, points where politics persist in coming into collision with our faith, and there we shall be traitors both to heaven and earth if we consult our comfort by slinking into the rear."

In keeping with that policy, Spurgeon actively opposed the chattel slavery of the American south. His outspoken stance cost him ministry opportunities (he never came to America, and Southern hostility to his anti-Slavery statements was one of the chief reasons.) It also cost his publisher sermon sales.

But there's no reason to think Spurgeon would affirm any position that treats "white privilege" as something to be repented of. He certainly would have abominated the notion that an entire ethnic group, economic class, or nationality of believers—people covered by the blood of Christ—nevertheless need to confess and repent for sins they themselves never committed, but their ancestors may or may not have been participants in. On the question of guilt for one's father's sins, he wrote,


"Is it any business of ours to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children? If any think so, we did not write these lines for them. We would not waste our time upon them. We regard them as eligible candidates for the hangman's post. . . ."

You are connected to John MacArthur and Charles Spurgeon, what about these men draw you to them? What are their similarities? What sets them apart?

I love the bold honesty of both men, and the fearless way they proclaim what Scripture says, without regard to opinion polls or political correctness. Spurgeon's war against modernism certainly fatigued him and arguably contributed to his early death, but he persisted even though practically every influential evangelical leader at that time tried to take a softer line against modernism than Spurgeon. Spurgeon predicted that he would be vindicated by history, and he was right.

In a similar way, John MacArthur has been a steadfast opponent of post-modernism. And though I know he hates the conflict, he loves the truth more than he cares for his own reputation. History will vindicate MacArthur just as it did Spurgeon.

Both men had long pulpit ministries in a single church for the entirety of their careers. That alone says something about their love for their flock, and vice versa. They share a birthday as well.


You've edited most of John MacArthur's books since the 80s, which of the books was your favourite to edit? Why?

Probably The Vanishing Conscience. That book introduced me to John Owen on The Mortification of Sin, and it helped purge my thinking of some latent ideas that I had retained from the days when I experimented with Keswick-style deeper-life doctrine as a college student.

I've walked into a bookstore that features all of John MacArthur's books, but I can only buy one. Which one should I buy?

That's the hardest question so far. I'm torn between Ashamed of the Gospel and The Gospel According to the Apostles. I might lean toward the latter, because it's not just a polemical refutation of Dallas-style antinomianism; it's also a decent systematic study of soteriology. Working on that book was, for me, an unprecedented immersion in gospel truth—the thing that first made me truly serious about doctrine and precision. And it introduced me to historical theology, which became an enduring subject of interest for me.

Ashamed of the Gospel was what provoked my interest in Spurgeon. That book conclusively refutes the stylish pragmatism that permeates postmodern evangelicalism. It's also the full-length answer to your question about what John MacArthur and Charles Spurgeon have in common.


In your article "A Gospel Issue?", you explained that social justice isn't a gospel issue. What then are gospel issues? How do we determine what gospel issues are?

"Gospel issue" is one of those terms that gets thrown around without careful definition—and I suspect that some of those who are most insistent that "social justice" is a gospel issue are purposely vague about what they mean by that, because they frequently equivocate.

All true evangelicals confess that the doctrine of justification by faith is a gospel issue. One of the central points Paul makes in his epistle to the Galatians is that if you deny justification by faith, you don't have the gospel at all. Elsewhere, Paul lists the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ "according to Scripture" as primary gospel issues—meaning, again, that if you deny or corrupt any of these, you don't have the gospel.

Normally, when we speak of something as a gospel issue, we are identifying truths intrinsic to the gospel message—points of truth you cannot get wrong or deny if you are truly faithful to the gospel. That's what I mean when I say something is a gospel issue—and it's what multitudes understand when they hear the expression. Some people casually apply the "gospel issue" label to just about any idea they think worth defending—and then they justify that usage by saying the idea they are defending is an implication of the gospel.


But every enduring truth is ultimately an implication of the gospel in one way or another. And if every truth is ultimately "a gospel issue, then there's nothing distinctive about the gospel—nothing that clearly distinguishes the gospel from the law. That has been precisely the impression people get from most of the evangelical social justice rhetoric. In the article you are referring to I recounted an incident that illustrates why that's such a serious problem. By playing with the expression like that, (by erasing the important distinctions between law and gospel) evangelical social justicians are eliminating a theological clarification without which you can't really even grasp the significance of the gospel.

It's hard to overstate how dangerous it is to play fast and loose with the gospel like that.

Do you have any questions for me?

Is Challies really as sweet-tempered as he pretends to be whenever he's around me?

Haha, yeah, he is. Whenever I read James 1:19, I think of Tim. He's the most gentle man I've ever met. When I finally grow up, I want to be like him.

12 September 2018

When the Sunday Sermon Is Really Demon Doctrine

by Colin Eakin



In my previous post, I introduced the topic of spiritual discernment and its appalling absence in the Church today. Despite God's explicit warning (1 Tim. 4:1) that, "in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons," many professing believers do just that. They proceed week to week exposed to noxious instruction that deftly yet decidedly unmoors them from the true Christian faith, blithely unaware of their predicament.

What are these "doctrines of demons," against which the Holy Spirit expressly warns? What is this toxic teaching that jeopardizes the faith of so many? The Apostle Paul provides a framework for its understanding in his critique to the church in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:4; italics added): "For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough."

That is the heart of the issue: a large swath of today's professing believers are regularly "putting up" with false teaching on Jesus, His Spirit, and His gospel, with nary a suspicion of harm, let alone any objection or pushback. They come expecting to be shown the narrow path to eternal life, when in fact they are being led down the wide road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). For this reason, 2 Corinthians 11:4 may be the most pertinent and yet underappreciated verse in the New Testament in our day, as the categories addressed by Paul remain the three key pillars of demonic doctrine plaguing the Church two millennia hence.

"Another Jesus"

Demonic doctrines all have at their core a faulty view of Christ. Oh, its proponents may make all the right claims about Jesus and His divinity—that He is indeed the Son of God, who died and rose again for the sins of the world. They may endorse and uphold all the confessional statements, and dutifully insist their Christology is fully orthodox. They will prominently feature the name of Jesus in their teaching, and oversee philanthropic church ministries designed and promoted as being Jesus' contemporary "hands and feet." Their Jesus welcomes all who come to Him, helps those in need, exemplifies the humility by which we are to live, brings love to the outcast and highlights mercy in response to wrongs—just as the Bible declares.



But here's the rub: false teachers who bring "another Jesus" will inevitably exclude those aspects of the Bible's Jesus that don't align with their concept of who He should be. In particular, they will abridge, revise or (most likely) completely omit Jesus' instruction regarding coming judgment. They will ignore Jesus' emphatic warning to fear God, because not only can He kill, but He can also cast whom He has killed into hell (Luke 12:5). Their Jesus does not bring a sword instead of peace (Matt. 10:34), require complete abandonment of all worldly relationships and affections as the price of salvation (Luke 14:26), and promise everlasting punishment to those who do not repent and believe (Luke 13:1-5; John 3:18; 8:24; Matt. 25:46). In no way is their Jesus One who returns, " . . . in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:8). In no sense would He ever supervise the eternal suffering of rebels in hell (Rev. 14:10).

"A Different Spirit"

When you get Jesus wrong, you inevitably get the Spirit wrong. Why is that? Because the Spirit to which Paul refers is the very Spirit of Christ, whose arrival was predicted by Jesus and timed with His Ascension (John 16:7). This is the same Spirit of Christ who inspired the perfect and inerrant Scriptures (1 Pet. 1:11). He is the Spirit who begat (Luke 1:35), led (Luke 4:1), and empowered Christ throughout His ministry (4:14). He is the very Spirit who regenerates and lives within those who repent and believe in Christ's atoning work (Ezek. 36:26-27; John 7:38-39; Rom. 8:9). And He is the Spirit who convicts the world "concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8).

A false Christ thus yields a false spirit—the spirit of the age—and all the attendant errors that reliance upon this spirit brings, including (and perhaps most importantly) invalid interpretation of Scripture. Don't miss this: the true Spirit of Christ is He who guides the believer into all truth (John 16:13). The Bible explicitly states that God's Spirit is necessary for one to know the "deep things of God," as found in His Word (1 Cor. 2:10-13). So when a false spirit is substituted, then all bets are off when it comes to proper biblical understanding. Without the real Spirit of Christ to decode God's Word, all forms of spiritual delusion—though dressed up as faithful biblical instruction—are guaranteed to ensue. Consequently, you will find those who represent demonic doctrines marked by continual reimagining of passages to suit their purposes (the theological term for this is eisegesis, as opposed to exegesis). These false teachers will eschew expository preaching as unhelpful or even as "too easy," and will consult and rely upon their spirit of the age to ensure that none of their pronouncements ever offend popular thinking.

"A Different Gospel"

Finally, those representing another Jesus and a different spirit will inevitably bring a different gospel. That such a false gospel can be foisted on those who have already believed and been saved astonished the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:6-8; 3:1) and should likewise astonish us. Why? Because the true gospel is the most important message of the Bible, and is not at all veiled or obscure. Paul's definition is both pithy and frank (Rom. 1:16): " . . . the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .." The true gospel is all about salvation that comes to every sinner who, by the power of God, believes. That could not be more simple or straightforward. Unfortunately, the gospel is under such tremendous assault from enemy forces today that its defense has never been more necessary—witness recent Pyromaniac posts on this subject by Phil Johnson and Hohn Cho (if you haven't time to keep up with their broadsides against the so-called "social gospel" in the latest controversy, here's a tip: when the gospel you are presented is one focused on present material conditions and earthly injustices, then you've found yourself exposed to "a different gospel").

The perpetual and distinguishing mark of any false gospel is the addition of human effort. This is the common denominator in all onslaughts against the true gospel. Just last year, one influential mega-church pastor and author conceded to his congregation that, yes, the gospel involves the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the redemption of the world—he'd grant that is true. But then, he added, that wasn't all. For him, as for many, the idea that God might save those who merely repent and trust in His Son's substitutionary atoning work is just too artless, insufficiently redemptive, and, frankly, unbelievable to be everything God requires for eternal life (he contemptuously caricatured repentant faith as some sort of "minimum entrance requirement," in response to which God is obliged to let one into heaven). No, he insisted, there's more to it than that, and went on to emphasize his own "gospel" addition as what we must do for God in response to what He has done for us.

But as Pastor John MacArthur has underscored throughout his teaching ministry, the one true gospel is always and only a gospel of divine accomplishment—nothing less and nothing more. Any variations adding some form of human achievement to the mix are fabricated facsimiles which ultimately derive from Satan. No matter the particulars, when human activity is presented as a necessary component of the gospel, it becomes demonic doctrine. The Apostle Paul writes (Gal. 5:4), "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace." Seek to add your own work to that which Christ has done to save you, and you are doomed. That was true when Paul wrote Galatians, and it remains true today.



What's Behind Demon Doctrines?

Ultimately, these assaults against God's Word—presenting another Jesus, a different Spirit, and a different gospel—are aimed at one target: undermining the truth of God's Word. Since Jesus is full of truth (John 1:14), came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37), and in fact is the Truth (14:6), since the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of truth (John 15:26), and since the gospel as found in God's Word is truth (John 17:17), what is clearly in the sights of Satan is truth. Truth is what matters most to God, which is why it is most assailed by His number one enemy. Why such a focused obsession? Because Satan knows if the truth of God's Word can be successfully undermined, then the only manner by which one might be saved (Rom. 10:17) can be thwarted. That has been Satan's strategy from the time his first temptation led to the first sin—"Did God really say?" (Gen. 3:1)—and it remains his modus operandi ever since.

Fortunately, God has promised that His truth will endure throughout the ages. As Psalm 119:160 declares, "The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." Meanwhile, knowing the final outcome is secure, true believers are entrenched in a battle with demon forces over God's truth. We are vying against the enemy's doctrines of demons and their core depictions—another Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel—with the Word of truth God has spoken and now illuminates to those who are His. May those who claim to be of this truth be made worthy by Him for such a task.

Dr. Colin L. Eakin
Pyromaniac

Dr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopædic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.

Acknowledgement: In preparing this article, I am indebted to the teaching of Pastor Mike Riccardi of Grace Community Church, and his sermon on 2 Corinthians 11:1-4: "The Minister's Jealously, Part 2," delivered 4/15/2018.

11 September 2018

The Broad Brush

by Phil Johnson



Answering a common complaint
Is it fair to criticize charismatic doctrine without exempting the Reformed (Type-R) Charismatics? Are you saying there is no safe zone within the charismatic movement?

(First posted at the GTY blog on Monday, October 28, 2013.)

Without question, the most common complaint I hear from my charismatic friends about the Strange Fire conference is, "You always paint with a broad brush!"

I hate being pedantic, but I can't resist pointing out that such a criticism itself is a fairly sweeping overstatement. It's true that some broad generalizations were made during the conference. Language without nuance can sometimes be useful to make one's meaning forcefully clear (Jesus often used hyperbole for emphasis).

But it can also have the opposite effect, especially in a hotly contested family dispute. This is one of the first lessons young husbands learn—sometimes the hard way.

For that very reason, I don't much like generalizations in a context like this. I therefore tried in my seminars to be very specific. For example, in a breakout session titled "Is There a Baby in the Charismatic Bathwater?" my main goal was to explain as precisely as possible why we don't believe there is a safe zone in the whole universe of charismatic conviction. I also wanted to explain why we believe some of the finest and best-known Reformed non-cessationists are unwittingly providing cover for aberrant people and movements in some of the most problematic districts of the charismatic community. I quoted, named, and documented a fair number of specifics.

So far no one has played any sound bite from my seminar and complained that I personally was guilty of broad brushing. The main grievance against me has been precisely the opposite. I was too specific. Did I really need to criticize certain leading Reformed continuationists by name?

Still, I am quite happy to agree wholeheartedly with our critics about one important thing: Broad-brush arguments alone are not a sufficient answer to the problem Strange Fire attempts to address. But I also want to challenge fair-minded people to look further than the sound bites you hear critics of the conference repeatedly citing. There certainly was more substance to the conference than a few cherry-picked sound bites. Once again, those who say all the arguments set forth in the conference were applied with an industrial-size roller are themselves making an unfair generalization.

Let me add this: It took a spectacular lack of self-awareness, blended with a stunning ignorance of the actual concerns we are raising (or a prodigious dose of chutzpah), for Michael Brown to coax from Sam Storms an effusive endorsement of Mike Bickle, just minutes after Brown played sound bites from other Strange Fire speakers and scolded me with the you-shouldn't-lump-us-all-together stanza of the broad-brush complaint. Dr. Storms boldly and emphatically held Bickle up as a spiritual model to follow, suggesting that Bickle is John Piper's equal in piety and gospel clarity.

There's your answer, in case you are still wondering why some of the speakers at Strange Fire refused to pause and draw a hard-line distinction every single time they mentioned Reformed continuationists. Why don't we automatically exempt our Reformed charismatic brethren from all the criticisms we aim at the lunatic mainstream in Third Wave, word-faith, drunken-glory, and holy-laughter fraternities? Why don't we portray mild continuationism as a perfectly safe middle road? Why don't we just shut up and let our charismatic brothers and sisters who are Reformed or conservative evangelicals follow after whatever miracle-claims and charismatic prophecies they like?

Well, let's review:



Sam Storms is one of the most frequently cited names whenever anyone lists the soundest theologians in the continuationist camp. Dr. Storms is a Calvinist in the tradition of S. Lewis Johnson. He's a gracious, likable, kindhearted, and usually well-spoken man who is supposed to be living proof that someone can be Reformed, charismatic, and biblically responsible all at once.

Mike Bickle is the founder of Kansas City's International House of Prayer (IHOP). Bickle is also the guy who admits with a grin that 80 percent of the phenomena in the thousands of charismatic meetings he has sponsored and participated in have been utterly false—phony, fraudulent, fleshly—totally and completely fake. Bickle insists that's not a problem. He is willing to "allow the false for the sake of the real."

Bickle and Storms worked together as mentors to the Kansas City Prophets during the prophets' rise to fame and fall into moral disgrace. The leading figures associated with that movement (and by most accounts the most gifted of the bunch) were Bob Jones and Paul Cain. Both of them suffered scandalous moral failures. Neither Bickle nor Storms (nor any of the self-styled prophets) saw it coming.

Another leading figure in the prophecy movement of those days was Rick Joyner, head of MorningStar ministries (home of the "Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey" and other worse nonsense). Joyner is frequently seen these days with Michael Brown discussing various topics ranging from politics to Pentecostal phenomena. Dr. Brown has given every indication that he is a close pal of Joyner's.

Joyner personally engineered the public restoration and return to ministry of Todd Bentley, the adulterous, biker-booted heretic who (in terms of fame and influence) is arguably the single most hideous corruption of "ministry" the charismatic movement has yet produced. Bentley is a living blasphemy and a walking reproach.

In other words, the Todd Bentley madness and the worst abuses of charismatic prophecy are much more closely connected to Michael Brown's circle of fellowship than Brown and Storms want to admit. There's really only one degree of separation between Michael Brown and Todd Bentley.

So Sam Storms gives fulsome praise to Mike Bickle; Michael Brown collaborates with Rick Joyner. They are like Aaron and Hur—holding up the arms of these prophets who freely admit to prophesying falsely. Meanwhile Bickle spreads havoc among naïve charismatics with phony phenomena and false prophecies. And Joyner aggressively promotes a wanton spiritual menace.

But note well where Brown and Storms aim their criticism. They both doggedly insist that the nuttiness of popular charismania is overblown by critics like me.

Dr. Brown says he is totally unaware of some of the most egregiously false prophecies and bizarre shenanigans we have specifically pointed out to him—even though these things are happening right under his nose. Yet he wants the critics (and me in particular) to trust him when he says he is confident that the charismatic movement worldwide consists mainly of people with sound faith and sober minds who are godly, biblically literate, informed believers. Sure, he'll admit that there are occasional "extremes and imbalances"—but Dr. Brown refuses to say that the prosperity gospel is a damnable false gospel, or that it's dangerous to follow the lead of unhinged charismatics like Bickle and Joyner.

Frankly, I don't own a brush broad enough to paint that mess. Is it reasonable to believe that the best and brightest charismatics are seriously concerned about what's biblical—while these men give Mike Bickle and the modern prophecy movement a ringing public endorsement and balk at acknowledging that the charismatic movement is beset with very serious problems?

Are they even capable of recognizing "extremes and imbalances" when they see them? Remember, Dr. Storms worked with, and affirmed the supposed gifting of, the charismatic movement's most famous prophets for years, and apparently none of them had enough genuine discernment to realize that their main prophetic guru (Paul Cain) was a drunkard, a homosexual, and a fraud. When it comes to discerning charismatic claims and distinguishing truth from make-believe, Dr. Storms is frighteningly naïve.

During the Brownsville Revival (a fiasco which Michael Brown insists was a mighty work of God, even though the host church was left as spiritually and financially desolate as Detroit), Dr. Brown was so adept at causing people to be "slain in the Spirit" that his nickname was "Knock ′em Down Brown."

These men have indeed seen and participated in the dark side of the charismatic movement. Perhaps readers will understand why I'm skeptical of their cheery optimism about the overall state of the movement.

The false doctrines and bad practices that dominate charismatic television are not confined to one corrupt branch on an otherwise good tree.  In reality, both historically and by direct line of descent, the whole movement stems from a rotten root. Error and delusion are the phloem and xylem of its central belief system.

I don't mean that as hyperbole. That's the point we are trying to make.

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Overdrafts impossible

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon



The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Till He Come, pages 124-125, Pilgrim Publications.  

Image result for charles spurgeon
"If thou wouldst enjoy communion with the Lord Jesus in the reception of His grace, endeavour to be always sensibly drawing supplies from Him."

Make thy needs public in the streets of thine heart, and when the supply is granted, let all the powers of thy soul be present at the reception of it. Let no mercy come into thine house unsung. Note in thy memory the list of thy Master’s benefits. 

Wherefore should the Lord’s bounties be hurried away in the dark, or buried in forgetfulness? Keep the gates of thy soul ever open, and sit thou by the wayside to watch the treasures of grace which God the Spirit hourly conveys into thy heart from Jehovah-Jesus, thy Lord.

Never let an hour pass without drawing upon the bank of heaven. If all thy wants seem satisfied, look steadfastly until the next moment brings another need, and then delay not, but with this warrant of necessity, hasten to thy treasury again. 

Thy necessities are so numerous that thou wilt never lack a reason for applying to the fulness of Jesus; but if ever such an occasion should arise, enlarge thine heart, and then there will be need of more love to fill the wider space. But do not allow any supposititious riches of thine own to suspend thy daily receivings from the Lord Jesus. You have constant need of Him. You need His intercession, His upholding, His sanctification; you need that He should work all your works in you, and that He should preserve you unto the day of His appearing. 

There is not one moment of your life in which you can do without Christ. Therefore be always at His door, and the wants which you bemoan shall be remembrances to turn your heart unto your Saviour. Thirst makes the heart pant for the water-brooks, and pain reminds man of the physician. Let your wants conduct you to Jesus, and may the blessed Spirit reveal Him unto you while He lovingly affords you the rich supplies of His love! 

Go, poor saint, let thy poverty be the cord to draw thee to thy rich Brother. Rejoice in the infirmity which makes room for grace to rest upon thee, and be glad that thou hast constant needs which compel thee perpetually to hold fellowship with thine adorable Redeemer.

Study thyself, seek out thy necessities, as the housewife searches for chambers where she may bestow her summer fruits. Regard thy wants as rooms to be filled with more of the grace of Jesus, and suffer no corner to be unoccupied. Pant after more of Jesus. Be covetous after Him. Let all the past incite thee to seek greater things. 

08 September 2018

God Has Spoken

by Darrell B. Harrison



hen it comes to the matter of "social justice"—a term I personally disavow but will use for the sake of this commentary—Lev. 19:15-18 is one of the most comprehensive passages in all of Scripture.

It reads:
You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
When properly understood, particularly against the seemingly ubiquitous backdrop of the current infringement of the "social gospel" on the evangelical church we, as believers in the one true God (Jn. 17:3), realize that there is no category of person, whether believer or an unbeliever, to which the precepts established in the above-mentioned passage do not apply with regard to the universal principle of the imago Dei (Gen. 1:27).

In other words, notwithstanding the ever-expanding vocabulary of hyphenated descriptors and subjective personal identifiers that permeate much of the language of social justicians today, those whose hearts and minds have been regenerated by the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16, 12:2; 1 Thess. 2:13) understand that such aesthetic qualifiers are wholly unnecessary, as every human being—by virtue of having been created in the image of God by God Himself (Jn. 1:3)—is inherently worthy of being treated equitably without regard to ethnicity, sex, or socio-economic station.

" . . .have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?" (Jas. 2:4).

But in observing the contemporary social gospel movement today, particularly within Protestant evangelicalism, I find it to be one that continues to evolve yet never matures.

Despite the seemingly incessant string of racial reconciliation and social justice conversations, roundtables, summits, and conferences being conducted and facilitated by various evangelical churches and entities, the fact is not much has changed in terms of their core objective: that sinful human beings consistently treat one another as God has commanded us in His Word (Ps. 106:3; Prov. 21:15; Zech. 7:9). But this begs the question: what part of "sinful" do these beloved brothers and sisters not understand?



Admittedly, I pose that question with just a hint of sarcasm, but only because it is believers who, more than anyone, should be ever-mindful that sin—our sin—permeates and encompasses every facet of our existence in this world, including our relationships and interactions with one another, but who seem to so quickly consign that reality to oblivion when confronted with the injustices and inequities this world presents, as if they were somehow behavioral anomalies (Jn. 16:33). Or, to state it differently, why should we, as Christians, expect anyone's behavior to change whose heart has not first been changed (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:11)?

In asking that question, I am reminded of the words of the 17th-century Puritan theologian, Thomas Watson who, in The Doctrine of Repentance, asks soberingly: "Is it not strange that two should live together, and eat and drink together, yet not know each other? Such is the case of a sinner. His body and soul live together, work together, yet he is unacquainted with himself. He knows not his own heart, nor what a hell he carries about him. Under a veil a deformed face is hid. Persons are veiled over with ignorance and self-love; therefore they see not what deformed souls they have."

In recent months, I have been privileged to have been asked to participate in several discussion forums on the topic of social justice. I have declined the vast majority of those invitations because, simply put, God has already spoken on the issue.

So what more is there to be said?

Do you want more laws enacted so sinful people can break those laws as well as the ones they're already breaking (Rom. 7:14-20)? Do you desire that unethical politicians resign or be impeached only to be replaced by other unethical politicians who will mimic their transgressions (Eccl. 5:8)? Do you want sinful police officers fired only so they can be replaced with other sinful police officers? Because we've all sinned (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23)?

My point is there is nothing you or I can say on the matter of "social justice" that would heighten or strengthen or make more authoritative what an omniscient, almighty, and sovereign God has not already declared. As the prophet Micah declared, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly before your God (Mic. 6:8)?

An interesting thing about Micah 6:8 is that it is a favorite text of many evangelical social justicians. They particularly regard the middle portion of that passage—"to do justice"—as being especially integral to their apologetic that social justice is in fact a "gospel issue" (whatever that means). But it is in the same spirit in which God spoke to His people through Micah regarding our practicing justice, kindness, and humility that He speaks to us today in other areas of our life.

Consider also that:
  • He has told you, O husband, that you are to love your wife: Eph. 5:25-33a; 1 Pet. 3:7.
  • He has told you, O wife, that you are to respect your husband: Eph. 5:33b; 1 Pet. 3:1-3.
  • He has told you, O child, that you are to honor and obey your parents: Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-3.
  • He has told you, O employee, how to conduct yourself on your job: Col. 3:23.
  • He has told you, O leader, how to guide others with humility: Matt. 20:25-28.
In other words, God has spoken.

He has spoken not only on matters of justice and injustice, but also on marriage, parenting, leadership, work, finances, abortion, and others. Yes, God has spoken. And since He has spoken, it is our responsibility as believers, as did the prophet Micah in his day, to proclaim His word to a sin-saturated world, knowing that, in God's sovereign providence, there will be those who, upon hearing the truth of the gospel, will respond in obedience and those who will not, for such is the nature of the human heart (Matt. 13:18-23; Mk. 7:17-23).

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances" (Ezek. 36:26-27, NASB)

Humbly in Christ,

05 September 2018

The Story of My Life

by Phil Johnson



Friends of mine at Ambassador Advertising Agency do a feature on people in ministries they work with, and they are long-time partners with Grace to You. They very kindly included an interview with me in last month's issue of their newsletter. Their questions asked for some details I have never before revealed on the blog, so I decided to post the unabridged version of their interview. Here it is

Tell us how you first learned about Jesus.

I     grew up going to a liberal church, so I heard a lot about Jesus from my earliest childhood, but I had never really been taught the gospel. About a month before I graduated from high school, I was sensing a great spiritual void in my life, so I picked up a Bible, opened it at random, and started reading. I don't think I'd ever carefully read more than a verse or two of Scripture at once. (I treated the Bible like a horoscope. Every now and then, I'd open at random, read a verse, and try to make some artificial connection to whatever was happening in my life.) That night it opened to the first page of 1 Corinthians, so I decided to try to read through the whole book.

1 Corinthians 1 is not where you'd send a high school student looking for the gospel, but the dawn of true understanding started for me with that chapter: Paul's condemnation of human wisdom, wealth, power, and arrogance in those opening chapters—combined with his elevation of the gospel as something that sounds uselessly unsophisticated to the worldly wise (a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks). Within a week, God providentially exposed me to clear presentations of the gospel three more times. It was as if everything in my life suddenly conspired to make the truth of Scripture clear to me. And by the end of that week, I had become a believer.

Your relationship with John MacArthur is a long one—how did that connection get made originally?

The first time I heard him was in 1977. I had never even heard his name, and I was pretty sure nothing good could come out of California. I was living in Wrigleyville, Chicago, working as an editor at Moody Press, and John was the speaker they invited that year for "Spiritual Emphasis Week." Moody Bible Institute would annually host some well-known speaker to preach in student chapel every day for a week. Because it was so special, employees could attend if they wanted to.

That year Moody distributed a publicity sheet introducing "John MacArthur, Jr., a fifth-generation preacher, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA," and it said on that Monday he was speaking about "God's Will for Your Life." The guy I shared an office with read the flyer aloud and asked if I planned to attend chapel.

I answered, "No way. I have a looming deadline. I don't have time to go hear someone whose claim to fame is he's someone's son speaking about God's will for my life. He's not going to say anything I haven't heard. Someone should tell 'Junior' that every speaker who ever comes to Moody speaks on God's will. I'm going to stay here and work." My co-worker mumbled something about my lousy mood and left.

About 90 seconds later, this cute girl who was our newest employee stuck her head in and said, "I'm going down to chapel. Were you planning to go?"

I said, "Yup. I was just coming."

That girl was Darlene, whom I married a year later. But although I went to that chapel service just because it was an opportunity to spend time with her, from the time John MacArthur began teaching, I was transfixed. The message wasn't just recycled platitudes that I'd heard before. He actually opened the Bible and taught from it. During that very first message, it occurred to me that John's material was so rich, he needed to be writing books.

When Darlene and I married the following year, we left Chicago and moved to St. Petersburg, FL to get involved with a local church there. The very first "Grace to You" radio broadcasts began about a week after we moved to Florida. Those original broadcasts were only aired in three cities: Tulsa (my hometown), Tampa (where I had just relocated) and Baltimore (which I have no connection to). But I began to schedule my day around those broadcasts. And every time I ever heard John preach, I'd always wish he had room on his staff for a book editor to help him craft his material for print. For the three and a half years we spent in Florida, if you'd asked me to design a perfect career for myself, I'd have told you without hesitation that I wished I could edit John MacArthur's material to help him get his teaching in print. It wasn't a goal I ever actively pursued, but I thought about it all the time.

Then one day Jerry Jenkins phoned me and asked me to return to Moody Press. He had no way of knowing about my respect for John MacArthur, but one of the things he excitedly told me was that Moody was negotiating with MacArthur for a complete set of commentaries on the New Testament. The timing was perfect, and Darlene and I moved back to Chicago, where I rejoined the Moody Press staff. I spent the next 18 months there, editing John MacArthur's sermons for a couple of Moody Press books. John must have liked my work, because he invited me to come to California and join the GTY staff.

That was 1983 and I've been here ever since. The thrill of it has never worn off. I have this deep sense that I'm doing exactly what I was born to do.

As you've been closely engaged in working with John's materials and writing for ministry, what do you most appreciate about the relationship?

His discipline and single-minded stamina still amaze me. I'm thankful for his mentorship, encouragement, and patience. For someone who is as steadfast and clear-cut as he is in the pulpit, his personal dealings with people are always profoundly gracious. I love him for that, and he is a joy to work with.

My previous pastor was Warren Wiersbe. He likewise took a personal interest in me, and I worked with him on a book project or two at Moody. Wiersbe is a bibliophile, a history buff, and an evangelical polymath. I learned a lot from him and treasure that relationship, too. Both men have left an indelible mark on how I think and how I have approached preaching in my own ministry. I've also been blessed to have lots of close friends who are more or less my peers and fellow laborers.

But John MacArthur has been a unique kind of model and mentor to me. I treasure his friendship. I'm grateful for all the opportunities he has given me. It would be impossible to put into words how much I appreciate the relationship with him.

You and Darlene have been married for 40 years. How did you meet?

We celebrated our 40th anniversary June 10. We met when she came to work at Moody Press, She was a recent graduate from Appalachian Bible Institute (as it was known then), a very conservative school, and that intrigued me right away. It really was a case of love at first sight. I invited her to a Cubs' game within 10 minutes of meeting her. That was our first date. There's a brick in the sidewalk at Wrigley with our names and the date and score of that first game we watched together. She's a fanatical Cubs fan to this day.

You now have three grown sons. What do you hope they learned best from your example as a dad?

Obviously, I hope they learned what it means to be devoted to Christ and His truth and to make that the center from which all their affections and all their convictions radiate. In practical, family terms, I hope they learned the same thing that was the best lesson I learned from my dad: How to love your wife.

And now you're also a grandfather—what do you love best about this season?

No question: Grandchildren. They're a thousand times more fun than having your own kids because you don't have the same responsibility to discipline and correct them. You can hand them back to their parents when they need that, and all you have to do is shower them with love and encouragement. It's tremendously fun. We're blessed in that all seven of our grandkids still live close by; they all still go to Grace Church, so we get to spend lots of time with them. It's impossible to state what a profound blessing they are. Psalm 128:6 speaks of grandchildren as the pinnacle of all earthly blessings. They make up for a lot of the pains and inconveniences that come with old age.

We're going to assume you might mention John MacArthur as a spiritual mentor but is there anyone else pivotal to your spiritual growth you'd want to name?

As I mentioned, Warren Wiersbe influenced me greatly. He was the first true bible expositor I ever heard. No one is better at outlining the logical flow of the text. He preached longer passages than John MacArthur typically tackles, and he didn't get into details with quite as much close study, but he excelled in the narrative passages, making both the story itself and its practical lessons crystal clear. I loved his gentle preaching style, too. Very different from John, but both have a valid place. Wiersbe whetted my appetite for Scripture; John MacArthur taught me the difference between the milk of God's Word and meat. His teaching has given me a craving for teaching that is truly nourishing and deeply satisfying, rather than the cotton candy so many evangelicals settle for.

And of course Spurgeon has been a hugely formative figure in my doctrine and thinking. I love Spurgeon for his boldness, his clarity, and his refusal to back away from a truth in order to stay in step with popular opinion or the styles and preferences of a new generation.

People sometimes tell me they think John MacArthur is the Spurgeon of our era. (I tend to think of Spurgeon as the John MacArthur of Victorian times.) Spurgeon and MacArthur have an amazing number of characteristics that they share in common—starting with the fact that they were both born on June 19; they both have suffered from gout; both are prolific preachers and authors who remained in the same church for their entire ministries; and of course they share a similar commitment to (and common understanding of) the truth of Scripture.

What's so great about Charles Spurgeon?

Spurgeon took the senior pastoral role in London's largest, most historic, and best-known Baptist church when he was still in his teens, and he stayed there, faithfully preaching at least three new sermons each week for the remainder of his life. At the peak of his ministry, one of his sermons was published each week and distributed to millions on both sides of the Atlantic. But by the end of his life he had fallen out of favor with the majority of English Baptists. They thought he was an ageing old crank and an alarmist for warning against the dangers of modernism. Time has fully vindicated Spurgeon, and more people are reading his sermons today than were reading him during his lifetime. He is one of those rare, enduring figures of church history whose influence is felt across centuries of time.

If you could invite three people—living or deceased (and not including Jesus or Spurgeon)—to dinner, who would get the green light?

All dead guys: Cotton Mather, Martin Luther, and Athanasius.

You're a serious student of the Word but is there anything else on the nightstand for reading right now?

I've just started reading a book recommended to me by my youngest son, who is an LAPD officer working in Hollywood at night. It's L. A. Noir, by John Buntin. It's a history of the relationship between Mickey Cohen (LA's most powerful underworld boss, who, oddly, has a role in Billy Graham's story) and William H. Parker, the LAPD's legendary chief. It's the true story of a time and a culture that became background for countless novels by Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and other authors in that genre.

Writers need a break now and then. What do you do that gives you a mental break from the load?

Every book editor I know who spends a lifetime doing that one thing has a nervous breakdown (or the equivalent) in his or her mid 50s. It's high-stress stuff, with endless deadlines, relentless pressure (and sometimes hostility) from people in the marketing side of the publishing business, monotony, headaches, critics, and more deadlines. With a book-length project it's hard (if not impossible) to shut down at night and think about other things. It's nothing like writing a column for the newspaper. Each book project typically takes a year or longer, and the editor can't fully release it from his mind and move on to the next thing until the book actually goes to the printer.

I don't have many hobbies, nor am I looking for one. I can't afford to squander my spare moments on "me time." But I've been blessed with a wide variety of duties that make my work anything but monotonous. Between book projects I get to travel, speak at conferences, and deal with a whole wonderful staff of people at Grace to You. Our grandkids add a whole new dimension of joy and activity to my life. And of course, I love spending time with Darlene. These days, I leave the office early as many days as I possibly can.

I'm now in my mid 60s and still thrilled to be doing all that I do. So I've managed to at least postpone my nervous breakdown.

You created a blog titled Pyromaniacs . . . why that name?

It's a reference to Jeremiah 23:29, where the Lord says, "Is not my word like fire?"

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