20 April 2009

Preview

by Phil Johnson

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 is—because 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:)


Phil's signature

35 comments:

dan said...

phil this is awesome news! i am currently halfway through rereading this book as i think it is still super relevant to our times. to have a second edition come out means i'll need a new copy but no matter! it's one of the best books i've ever read, easily one of the best macarthur books written. thanks for working on this updated version. can't wait!

Noah D. Lee said...

Ashamed of the Gospel rocked my world when I read it as an assigned text in seminary (Theology of Worship Class). It reset the trajectory of my ministry. This book is in my short list of "5 Most Influential Books in my Life and Ministry."

And, it gave me a love and appreciation for Spurgeon too. I'm excited about the second edition.

Thank you Dr. MacArthur for writing it, Phil for editing it, and Crossway for publishing it.

christianlady said...

Never read the first one, but will be glad to read the second.

The thing that is terrible is I believe the antics in churches these days are going to cause persecution of Christians, and I fear it will be those who are "claiming Christ" that will go right along with it.

christianlady said...

Of course, we should expect persecution at some point anyway no matter who does it. I feel I've only been picked on at a distance unlike many brothers and sisters around the world.

Hope this doesn't seem off topic, in reading the exerpt I immediately thought of the role this false set of doctrines is playing and will play long term.

SolaMom said...

"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."

I appreciate bluntness over verbosity and this quote is spot-on. Zero wiggle room.

stratagem said...

Missional. Anyone who has been around people who use that word regularly, knows that it's just a Christian-sounding code word for left-wing politics.

takeheed said...

Great news Phil

Cecil - Northern Ireland

Baptist Theology said...

Excellent

Boerseuntjie said...

It is MUCH needed even amongst so called "reformed" circles and here in the UK we seriously need a REAL wake-up call about the side effects of Pragmatism within evangelical circles.

Even amongst those who have a hertigae from Lloyd-Jones (FIEC) and Spurgeon, many have become worshipers of the Pragmatic Idol and I hope that this second edition will go some way (Used of the Spirit of grace and truth), to confront that form of False Culture Worship that has taken the Body of Christ and immunised it againts the sufficiency of Scripture Alone as the only Authoritive means the Spirit is pleased to reveal the Gospel by, in our preaching.

I hope and pray that the TITLE WILL REMAIN AS HIGHLY VISIBLE as in the First edition. It MUST scream from the shelves to be read and re-read untill we get why there is a SOLA in the SOLA SCRIPTURA of the Reformation.

Thank you phil for diverting your energies end resources to combat this idolatary that is prevelent amongst the Body of Christ in our Churches today.

A slave of the Master of righteousness, our King and Redeemer Christ Jesus,
W

donsands said...

"(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."

That always seems to boil down to the bottom of the pot and we find a human-centered Christianity, and not a Christ-centered Christianity.

A "save the humans"-focused Christianity, and not a glorify God-focused Christianity.

If our whole being, as much as we can surrender, is surrendered to Christ, for Christ, and for the Gospel, then the heartfelt need to love people will be there in a more intense manner and degree then if we focused on helping to make this world a better place for humans, or simply trying to "tag
& bag" as many souls as we can for the kingdom.

I thank the Lord for John MacArthur and his integrity and compassion. And he has a good Gospel companion in Phil Johnson.

The Squirrel said...

Oooo, more books to buy. I first read the 1st edition just a few years ago, and found it eye-opening. Am now looking forward to the second edition updates.

:)

~Squirrel

~Mark said...

I never read the first one but I think the new edition will be on my buy list!

gringa said...

One of my favorite books!

Chris said...
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Rachael Starke said...

Re: the covers -

I'm really looking forward to seeing how Crossway applies their nice minimal approach to the cover art.

Have to confess, to me, a lot of John's bookcovers in the 80s and 90s kinda looked like the covers of Danielle Steele potboilers. It always made me wonder if the publisher was making a subtle joke - packaging John's books about not wrapping the gospel in gaudy, glittery wrapping by wrapping his books in gaudy, glittery wrapping.

This first ed.'s not quite that bad, although it did make me want to reach for my sunglasses. :)

Mr. Burton said...

There are lots of pastors and churches faithful to the Gospel and to Christ but few have the resources to publish. Thank the Lord the Dr. MacArthur has the courage to stand strong and say what needs to be said.

heath lloyd said...

A fantastic book - whose message will not go out of style -- because it tells the truth.

I appreciate Dr MacArthur's stand against the flow. Will he be ridiculed and mocked by others? Likely. But I don't think he really cares about winning the approval of man.

Thanks for the update.

Frank Turk said...

I'm giddy.

The Squirrel said...

Rachael-

And then there was the snake on the cover of Truth War.

Although I really like the cover of Truth Endures.

~Squirrel

greglong said...

Very much appreciated the first edition and still have it in my library; looking forward to the second.

Chris Poe said...

This preview is enough to get me to spring for the 2nd edition even though I perhaps wouldn't have otherwise.

If the new chapters come out swinging against contextualization, relevance, "culture making," or whatever the hip term is this week (interesting how some who keep saying it's about the gospel often also spew out these slogans right and left) the battles of the last week will continue unabated for some time. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a discussion we need to have.

Solameanie said...

I hope you're all ready for a new round of tongue-clucking and chiding from a few out there over "tone." And, more likely than not, rebukes for not being "loving" to others who might have different views.

I feel chastened already. Now, if you will all excuse me, I have to go sharpen my fangs.

David Kjos said...

Please tell me it's going to be a hardcover. I despise the fact that so many good books these days come out in first edition paperbacks.

Of course, I'll buy it anyway, but I'll be bitter.

Kent Brandenburg said...

This was a very good book.

Chris said...
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Boerseuntjie said...

donsands said:
"That always seems to boil down to the bottom of the pot and we find a human-centered Christianity, and not a Christ-centered Christianity."

A "save the humans"-focused Christianity, and not a glorify God-focused Christianity."

How often to we need to shout it from the roftops and in the inner chambers: Christocentric!!! For the glory of our Creator Alone.
It is the simplicity of Christ that is abandoned for all this huamn wisdom; as if we did not see the warning sign (1 Corinthians 1 & 2).

Solameanie said: said:
" And, more likely than not, rebukes for not being "loving" to others who might have different views."

If it was good enough for our LORD Jesus to do - well What Did Jesus SAY? Excellent point there brother.
IT IS BECAUSE THEIR "gospel" or "cultural fad" is of this earthly kingdom and our LORD said clearly that His Kingdom is not of this world.
If they have a DIFFERENT VIEW than Jesus, well so it shall be upon them as they desire in accordance with the desires of their hearts, so shall the LORD give it to them...
A WORDLY kingdom... Can they truly be satisfied with that LITTLE? The Deceiver is well at work amongst us, let us test these spirits and see if they measure up and square up with Scripture, let them keep rolling like a mudslide from the next fad to the next fad - Untill that Day.

They cannot on that Day say:
"Your word O' LORD and your true Israel, never did warn us of our Idolatry..."

Never disappointed in a son of man (Even me)- as our wicked and desperately wicked hearts mislead us; but always hopeful and grateful for grace to trust in THE Son of Man,
W

Gilbert said...

Any chance this could be released as an audio book?

bassicallymike said...

Look forward to reading this Phil!

Would it be too off topic to ask if the MacArthur ESV Study Bible is going to happen and when? I sent an inquiry email to the GTY contact line and recieved nada in reply. I know you folks are busy but inquiring minds want to know! Thanks!

tallskinnykiwi said...

i was well into Spurgeon a decade before this book.

i would be interested to read the new edition of Ashamed. i remember when the first one came out in the early nineties - i preached from it and out of it for a few Sundays. I really liked it, although i was also influenced somewhat by Warren and Hybels to some extent.

I think there is a part of ministry that "fits" in a contextual way in its shape and tone and texture and at the same time something of a circus-like, carnivalesque SPECTACLE of something different and unworldly that grabs peoples attention and points them to a new and living way, that of the uniqueness of Christ and his otherworldly kingdom.

I see both in Paul's sermon in Athens - the contextual appropriateness AND the jarring radical oppositional message that led them further into the truth of Christ. I see both in the confrontation with the woman at the well - the contextual appropriateness and timeliness of talking about spiritual water at the well, and the unusual spectacle of a man talking to a woman.

Both are needed.

The church is swamped by the American dream of success, security, land, houses, overflowing refrigerators, sensible beliefs and career pursuits that fight against the mission of God. Lets not be ashamed of the gospel that calls us to live a different way.

Frank Turk said...

Kiwi:

I'd like to do a blog interview with you about this post. I'm travelling and don't have time to start it this week, but we should see if we can work something out.

I think you and I are right and wrong about this sort of thing in equal measures on opposite sides of the fence, but with a central fixation on the Gospel above it all. I think it would be interesting to trade some talk about this in the next little bit.

ALL FOR ONCE/ ONCE FOR ALL said...

"I really liked it, although i was also influenced somewhat by Warren and Hybels to some extent."

TSK-Are you still influenced by them? If so why?

Ebeth said...

I too am looking forward to this edition.

tallskinnykiwi said...

traveling also - lisbon tomorrow. but would like to soon.

talk later.

Jeff and Abi said...

This is great! This book had a profound influence on my view of the church and ministry.

When I was a senior at TMC in 1998 I asked Dr. MacArthur a question in a Q & A chapel about "being all things to all men." His response was, "I wrote a chapter on that verse in my book Ashamed of the Gospel. Stop by my office and my secretary will give you a copy." Later that day I had no less than 12 copies in my mailbox from wisecracking friends.

But I read the book and gave copies to 11 friends, and we all benefitted. I can't wait for this new edition.

TAR said...

Phil,



It always amazing when pastors think there is something more than the word of God needed to bring a man to repentance.

We are told there is nothing new under the sun, but for some reason men refuse to believe that..


The word is true..

1Cr 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?


1Cr 3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.


1Cr 3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

The reeding the culture phase is nothing more than the old seeker friendly in reformed clothing..