ixteen years ago Crossway released John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel. That book has never gone out of print. It was a critique of Willow Creek- and Saddleback-style quests for "relevance."
Things are different now. For one thing, virtually everything that seemed so breathtakingly fresh and relevant in the world of seeker-sensitivity sixteen years ago is now out of fashion. Some of it has even become fodder for post-evangelical scorn and mockery. Bill Hybels finally seems to have stopped talking about "unchurched Harry." Rick Warren has broadened his schtick and is trying hard to tie his name to some of Hollywood's pet political causes. (So much for "felt needs.") Other terms that were in vogue back then (like seeker-sensitive and user-friendly) aren't quite as popular today as they were sixteen years ago, either.
But the pragmatic philosophy underlying those terms is still the driving force in the wide, wide world of evangelical and Emerging religion. Advocates of religious pragmatism nowadays generally call what they do "missional." (That's not to suggest that everything called "missional" is bad. It's not.) But let's face it: the champions of missional ministry haven't done a very good job clearly distinguishing their philosophy from old-style pragmatism, and there are hordes of mere-pragmatists who have sneaked in and staked out a claim under the "missional" banner.
Anyway, while the specific trends and gimmicks that were so cutting edge in 1993 are no longer relevant at all, MacArthur's book still isbecause it is a critique of that underlying philosophy.
So Crossway thought it was a good time to release a Second Edition of the book. I'm thrilled that they did. I helped edit the original, and it would surely rank as one of the three best books I have ever been privileged to have a hand in editing in 35 years of publishing. Here's a trivia item about it: Ashamed of the Gospel is the book that first sparked my interest in Spurgeon. (I had never read more than isolated quotes and quips from Spurgeon before MacArthur chronicled the Down-Grade Controversy in this book.) Naturally, I lunged at the opportunity to help edit the second edition, even though everyone knows I am burned out on books and deadlines.
So that's what I have been editing for the past several weeks. Crossway will have the complete new manuscript in house later this week, after John MacArthur has had a chance to approve the final edits. I don't want to spill the beans completely, but here's a very short sample from one of the new chapters:
Several decades of nonstop talk and strategizing about relevance, contextualization, and clever methods for engaging the culture have had no perceptible positive spiritual effect on the world we live in. The influence of the church within our culture continues to diminish; our society has grown steadily darker; and the message the church is now giving to the world is more confused and confusing than perhaps any time since the Dark Ages. . .
To be blunt: the church has become a laughingstock with no moral authority to stand before the world and confront sin, declare Christ's lordship, and speak with any credibility about sin, righteousness, or judgment.
It goes on in that vein for several paragraphs. I can't wait to see the finished product.
(This is the first-edition cover:)