17 September 2007

I Blinked and Missed the Summer

by Phil Johnson

edit books. It's not the most prominent or impressive-sounding detail in my job description, but it's undoubtedly the most important and (I hope) enduring aspect of my work. I take John MacArthur's sermon transcripts and assemble from 10 to 15 chapter-sized helpings, then work with him on that material to refine it until it's ready to submit to the publisher in book form.

This summer we have been working on A Tale of Two Sons, the book-length edition of Pastor MacArthur's famous exposition of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The manuscript was originally due more than two months ago, but as you may recall, this summer began for me with a catastrophic computer crash, and after that, I never really did regain my normal rhythm.

Well, I finally finished my work on that book last week, and it's a massive weight off my shoulders. It has eaten up my summer, including a week of vacation I had planned but never took. At the moment, however, I'm busier than ever. I'll be teaching at a couple of conferences in the weeks to come. It'll also take me some time to get caught up with all the lesser duties I have pushed to the side all summer. And I desperately need to get several of those things done before launching into anything too serious here on the blog. But I haven't forgotten a few dangling threads I still need to tie off.

For example, I still intend to write at least one follow-up post on Dan Kimball's contribution to Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches and the problem of doctrinal reductionism in the right wing of the Emerging Church movement. Before year's end, I may also attempt to write that long-promised critique of Henry Blackaby's mystical ideas about communion with God.

But first, as soon as I get three days unburdened by urgent or overdue tasks, I'm planning to make a single post (Lord willing, sometime in the next month) where I'll invite readers to discuss The Truth War. I'll temporarily suspend Rule 4 (see right sidebar), and those who are dying to discuss or critique John MacArthur's stance on the Emerging Church movement will have their opportunity. It'll be a post in the same vein as the one we did last year on "Lordship Salvation." In other words, I'll try to answer all questions and critical comments for about three or four days, in that one comment-thread only, and when the thread is closed, Rule 4 will be back in force.

So call your friends and neighbors and tell them to watch for this post sometime before the end of October. (When I'm fairly sure which day the post will be made, I'll try to give a couple days' notice.)

These will be the rules:

  1. You must have read The Truth War in order to comment.
  2. Comments (especially critical ones) must deal with material in the book.
  3. No generalizations. If you're going to disagree with something in the book, you must quote verbatim whatever you are referring to and cite a page number.
  4. Comments are not to exceed 200 words, not counting any material quoted from the book.
  5. All other rules, especially those about civility and clean language, still apply.
  6. If I answer your comment, you must interact with (or at the very least acknowledge) my reply before you can respond with a whole new argument.
If you have been itching to discuss John MacArthur's material on the Emerging Church here on this blog, this will be your best opportunity. If you haven't yet read his book, now is the time to start.

Phil's signature


the postmortem said...

Wow...I think this post alone has just made me determined to buy that book.


Thank you for all you do. I owe you a huge debt. Your behind-the-scenes work has allowed me to experience so much more of God's truth than I would have otherwise. God has worked on my heart so much, even just because of this blog. May he strengthen you as you press on.


Kim said...

Being the homeschool mother that I am, Phil, I think you should make everyone provide a book report proving that they have read The Truth War.

I think I will have to re-read it so I can understand the comments!

DJP said...

Well, Frank, there goes our 1067-comment record.

David A. Carlson said...

Have you been taking marketing lessons from Frank?

All addicted commentors will have to go buy the book now.


donsands said...

"If you have been itching to discuss John MacArthur's material on the Emerging Church here on this blog, this will be your best opportunity."

Sounds good.

One of the things I love about Pastor MacArthur is his love and devotion to the Holy Writ.

Carla Rolfe said...

wiggling in her desk and wildly waving her hand at Kim

Mrs. Shay, I did my book report! It's right here.

I loved the book. So did my pastor.

wordsmith said...

Wish my local library carried the book :(

Stephen Garrett said...

I pray the Lord blesses you brother Phil.

James Scott Bell said...

Oh, this will be good. I got The Truth War as soon as I could, and read the whole thing in a couple of days. You really contributed a lot to it, Phil.

I don't know why, but I get this feeling that the "Emergent" brand is waning. What was exciting a few years ago hasn't coalesced into anything lasting. I think the reason may be this very "Truth" thing. People are wired for it (Pomo protestations to the contrary notwithstanding) and so whatever this "movement" is it works against itself at the foundational level.

IOW, it CAN'T last because the foundation always has to be Truth. Capital T. The Truth War helps make that case.

DJP said...

Hey. I just realized I won't be able to comment!

Hm... maybe I'll do a thread where you have to have read my Master's thesis on Proverbs to comment....

(Shortest. Meta. Ever.)

Mike Riccardi said...

1. What's TIWIARN?

2. Does it count if we've listened to the whole book in its audio version, as read by John MacArthur?

3. If it does count, can we respond to comments/ideas about the book from others without actually discussing any other portion of the book than the idea originally brought up by the commenter?

DJP said...

This Is Where I Am Right Now

(It's Phil tweaking Frank; long backstory.)

Kay said...

johnny dialectic, that's it, isn't it? It's the ultimate self-refuting argument.

LeeC said...

I sense a great disturbance in the blogosphere...

Unknown said...

I read the book however I am studying abroad now, so I did not bring it with me. However there was one thing I didn`t like about the book. Its a small thing, but I just have to say it. McArthur was vague when talking about Athanasius and he mentioned the creed. I wish McArthur would have stated very specifically that the common consent by all schollars and historians (liberal and evangelical and secular) is that he did not write the creed. Though theologically the creed is good, he did not write it. Alot of people I know who read the Trut War got that impression. I know, not the biggest thing, but truth matters.
P.S. Curt Daniel is my pastor and he says hi.

... said...

When will there be a post when rule #5 is temporarily suspended?

Solameanie said...

Oh, dear. Katie, bar the door!

As much as I'd love to get involved in this one, I might well take a vacation from the computer during this particular post and comment opportunity.

I fully expect the EC to respond with seminar vengeance now that this heads-up has been given. Two things will result from this. First, Phil, Dan and Frank will probably spend a lot of time hitting the "zap" key.

Second, I know my limitations. I've noted a growing impatience with pomo arguments of late, and the temptation for me to respond with some asperity would be too great for me to resist.

Solameanie said...

Sorry..I wasn't clear on that last paragraph. I meant my own growing impatience with pomo arguments. I'm getting prematurely old and crotchety.

steve said...

DJP wrote: Well, Frank, there goes our 1067-comment record.

My same thought exactly when I read Phil's post.

Phil wrote: I Blinked and Missed the Summer

Been there...many times. Editorial deadlines are cruel in that regard.

Phil, it's great to know about John's next book on the prodigal. I sure hope consideration is given to do a book on the Doctrines of Grace series, which I'm listening to with great enthusiasm right now (along with reading Lawson's book Foundations of Grace).

Anonymous said...

Speaking of books...

I just ordered Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by MLJ.

Any opinions?

Unknown said...

I'd like to bring the requirements to post up to a perfect 7 with the following:

7. Your IQ must meet or exceed normal room temperature.

This should weed out some of the normal posters.

Randy said...

1) I have been waiting for a long time to hear about the Tale of Two Sons book. I heard him give the prodigal sermon at Moody Bible Institute in February and he mentioned a possible book in the works.

2) I read Truth War (Grace to You even sent me a free copy!), but I might reread it to prepare myself for the onslaught.

3) Seriously though, what does TIWIARN stand for?

DJP said...

So, Randy, did you think that in my comment of 6:56 AM, September 17, 2007, I was just musing aloud, disconnectedly?

Anonymous said...


This Is Where I Am Right Now?

DJP said...

< to myself > Maybe only I can read my comments today. Maybe it's a browser thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Dan...

Did you say something?

Even though you posted, I didn't read. So, technically I can still pat myself on the back for figuring it out.

Now...you may get on my cloud!

DJP said...

<< I'm sorry Dan...

Did you say something? >>

Evidently not. If a Calvidispiebaptogelical comments on his own teamblog and nobody reads...?

Anonymous said...

Do you have to look up how you spell that everytime?

Cindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FX Turk said...

What other blog on the web throws red meat out to its dissenting readers like this?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

DJP said...

Well, there's one that throws it out...and then closes comments. Isn't there?

FX Turk said...

At least one.

Stefan Ewing said...

Wow, I'll totally be off the hook for Phil's promised post, since I haven't read the book! Nor will I be able to, since a few of us at church started on a "read the Bible in 90 days" program yesterday. (I need to do it. I've been itching to do it since the day the Lord saved me—now that it all makes sense and fits into place!).

Phil, let me just say that I really enjoyed Our Sufficiency in Christ, which I just finished a couple of weeks ago.

FX Turk said...

FWIW, I think the thread for that post will become the Truth War.

Stefan Ewing said...

Cindy: I would suggest considering what we read of Jacob, Job, Moses, David, Peter, or Paul in their encounters or relationships with God, and the way they applied that to their lives...then compare that to the mysticism (and seeking God out, rather than being sought by Him) of Theresa of Avila or the monks of Mount Athos.

Stefan Ewing said...

But since I haven't read Blackaby's book—much less heard of it—I'll wait until Phil posts something on it.

Savage Baptist said...

If I answer your comment, you must interact with (or at the very least acknowledge) my reply before you can respond with a whole new argument.

Oh, sure, just go ahead and take all the fun out this...

Unknown said...

Where can I Get this book? I have check ed GTY and they have the audio. It was very exciting to hear Johnny Mac teach this during Shep's Conf. a few years back.

Solameanie said...


Is it throwing out red meat or chumming the water, ala Jaws?

Oh, wait. That was red meat, wasn't it? Or red fish?

Cindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Mark said...

I hadn't realized there were issues with Henry Blackaby either. I read the "Experiencing God" book and did the workbook. It was back in 99/2000, and I haven't re-read it, but I don't remember any glaring problems.

Phil Johnson said...

Greg Koukl's critique of Experiencing God is a fair summary of some of the same problems that trouble me about Blackaby's too subjective ideas about how we experience God, how He speaks to us, and how we ought to make decisions.

FX Turk said...


As a fair warning, let's be careful about how we refer to Dr. MacArthur. The expression "Johnny Mac" in refering to him is, at least, overly-familiar, and has caused a stir before.

Fair is fair. Being excited about the book is one thing, and going over the top is another.

FX Turk said...

Wow. Objecting to aspects of Blackaby's book is being equated with objecting to women wearing pants?

Dr. Koukl's review is spot-on, and somebody should read it. But let me add this: he's clearly objecting to charismatic experientialism. So don't be surprised when you click the link and you find him saying this:

First-person private revelation is a communication from God that is not directly available to other people, even in principle. If you get information from a dream, a vision, or an inner communication from God, that is first-person private. If you get information from a book, like the Bible, that is third-person public. I can read the same book you are reading. Prophecy given in the church is third-person public, even though it is miraculous. Angels appearing to the apostles is third-person public. Even though it also is miraculous, everyone has equal access to it. It's public.

Whether or not you are wearing pants, btw.

James Scott Bell said...

Cindy, I would say Tozer's "The Pursuit of God" is right up your alley. Anybody's alley, FTM.

Cindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Gumm said...

Excellent! I better move that to the top of my reading list.

étrangère said...

Would people please stop commenting about women (or anyone) wearing pants? Some of us are British, here!

Phil Johnson said...

For the culturally-challenged:

étrangère's remark refers to the fact that on the left side of the Atlantic, "pants" refers to something much daintier than "slacks" or "jeans" or "trousers," which is what our American commenters have in mind. No one is being deliberately crude here.

Still, I wonder how this thread got from the subject matter in the post itself to the issue of women's wardrobes.

Cindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy said...


I typed my comment a while before your and riccardi's comments. But, I didn't submit it until later when I got back to my computer. I guess my mouse missed the publish button and I was careless just to publish it later, even knowing the frequency of comments here @ Pyro.

Save the harshness for the pomo's, not this first-timer! (Well, second-time commenter now).

Phil Johnson said...


Dan wasn't being harsh; he was making a joke. Sorry if he sounded severe.

On behalf of all TeamPyro, welcome to our combox. Hang around and you'll see our sense of humor tends to be more like Three-Stooges-style hammer-gonks, and less in the flavor of "My Little Pony" cartoons. We apologize for that. It's a besetting sin, and we do try to be careful with first-time commenters, but sometimes—especially when we really, really like someone—we accidentally slip a buzzer in the handshake.


The problem I see with Blackaby isn't about worshiping a different God. It's about attributing to God things He has never said, and following His "leading" in directions where He is not headed.

Randy said...

Thanks Phil. I understand. I have seen the hammer/buzzer before, but I didn't like the feeling on my head/hand the first time.

Also, name any Three Stooges title and I'll give you the plot (if one existed) from memory. They're my peeps.

Stefan Ewing said...

Phil, thanks for the link to Dr. Koukl's article.

Cindy: We should absolutely walk in intimate daily communion with God. But what does that mean? We should seek God, but on the terms set out by Him, by studying His word, by pondering it day and night, and by learning to be His servants—by taking up our crosses and following Him.

What Blackaby is talking about (according to Koukl) is something else. He's saying that we as Christians should expect God to talk to us in the same way He talked to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Moses, and that we should do what we can to hear His voice. There is a lot of wonder, beauty, and majesty in God's appearance to Moses, or His speech out of the whirlwind to Job, or the still small voice in the tempest that Elijah hears. But don't we trivialize God's special revelation if we turn it into something that should be a routine part of every Christian's life—especially when there's no Scriptural warrant for treating it as anything less than special?

Well, if He wants to talk to us like He did to them, He has the power to talk to us in a way that is unmistakable and unavoidable, regardless of whether we've been cultivating the ability to hear God's voice or not. He has the power to do anything He will. After all, Moses was not trying to Hear God's voice, but he heard it anyhow. (Indeed, when he did hear it, it seems that he wished that he hadn't heard it!)

Stefan Ewing said...

Oh, and if God has spoken to you—in a way that is unmistakably, discernibly from Him and conforms to the teachings of Scripture—then all praise be to Him, and all blessings be upon you. I don't think many people here would deny the possibility that God can and has spoken to people (especially that He has, since it says so in Scripture). The issue is how we should treat and regard something so special and precious, and whether there's any Biblical warrant for expecting that God speaks to all of us as He did to His prophets.

Sharon said...

Thus saith Phil: The problem I see with Blackaby isn't about worshiping a different God. It's about attributing to God things He has never said, and following His "leading" in directions where He is not headed.

Two words: Bill Gothard

~Mark said...


thanks very much for posting the link to that critique of "Experiencing God". It was well done and honest.

I FINALLY understand why so many Christian teachers say "God doesn't talk to us personally". I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that they aren't saying God doesn't communicate with us personally, but are assuming that the listener/reader knows that they mean a very specific type of communication, which I honestly rarely realized because they didn't spell it out.

I have been blessed to have 4 specific instances where God put something so clearly on my spirit that it was almost like an audible voice. None of it violated Scripture and in an effort to keep myself checked, I immediately told my pastor, our elders and several other trusted Christians what I believed God had said to me.

In 30 of the four God did exactly what I told others He said He would, and in ways that I could not have contrived. The fourth is a command I have yet to complete. (In progress!)

This was one of the things that led me to think every Christian should be able to "hear" directly from God for the lives of those around them as well as for their own service to God. Something else keeps me convinced that every Christian can know direct leading by the Holy Spirit.

(I'm not saying audible voice, I'm not saying a burning bush, but I'm not ruling those out. I'm saying clear leading by God for that person specifically.)

God is portrayed as a loving Father. While the Word DEFINITELY gives us specific and general principle for every situation fo life, a loving Father in personal relationship with His child can be expected to have some sort of personal...communication...with that child, no?

Also, since His Spirit dwells in us, making Him able to "talk to Himself" within us at any time and probably all the time, it doesn't seem logical (to me) that with such a perfect line of communication in place that it would never be used as a direct access link to the child He loves so much.

I know that most of the time when I hear people say "God told me" it turns out to be less than convincing or worse a completely unbiblical command, and therefore the pulpit warnings against saying "God told me" are a good idea, but I think that they should be balanced with solid instruction about how God does communicate with His children.

Here's a quote from the article that does a good job of putting things into perspective:
The main thesis of Experiencing God is that this kind of special revelation isn't unique, but meant to be an ordinary part of every Christian's life. That's what it means to "experience God"--receiving first-person private, unique, and special revelation from God on a regular basis. If you are not regularly getting revelation like this from God, then you are not experiencing God in the sense that Blackaby has in mind. And since experiencing God in this sense is "the core of the Christian life" (Blackaby's phrase), if you are not "hearing the voice of God" the way Jesus, Moses, and the apostles heard it (Blackaby's examples), then you are not living the Christian life. You may be saved, but you are not living the Christian life.[/quote]

The fact that the author clearly emphasizes that he is referring to the sense in which Blackaby means "experience" is encouraging in that he, unlike so many, doesn't rule out God's speaking altogether.

While I didn't come away from the course feeling like if I didn't hear God's voice everyday I wasn't living the Christian life, I can certainly see how other might, and thus the problem.

Live and grow! :)

P.S. To be clear, I'm not about special revelation that's like... "go get divorced" or "the Hindus are ok after all" or anything like that. I don't mean anything that in anyway contradicts the Word. If what I believe I hear at some point is in opposition to the Word, then Scripture wins and I know that thing I heard was not from God.

Believe it or not I don't go to a Charismatic church! ;)

donsands said...

"if you are not "hearing the voice of God" the way Jesus, Moses, and the apostles heard it"

Amazing examples here.

God says I don't talk with other like I do Moses. I talk with him face to face.

The Apostles walked with Christ; enough said.

And I think it's wrong to include our Lord in this same statement. There's no comparison of how Jesus heard from His Father.

I used to be in this camp. I listened to voices. They were basically telling me good stuff, and it usually disagreed with my wife's opinion's, and strife was the fruit of my voices.

I learned that the Lord speaks to us through His Word.

He spoke to me one day and said, "Husbands love your wives". And that included Don Sands loving Patricia Sands. And He said, "As Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for Her".

If others hear God, hey, that's fine with me. We'll find out one day if it was God. For me, it's the Bible all the way from now on.

And believe it or not, I have incredible affection for my Father, and my Lord and Savior.
There are times when I weep before Him. Times when the joy overwhelms my heart, and moments of intense love for Jesus.

JackW said...

I’ve read several Blackaby books, Experiencing God, Experiencing God workbook, taken online courses with Richard and Norman Blackaby, and I have to say … I have no idea how Mr. Koukl comes to the conclusions that he does. I’ll admit that they have some unique ways of using terminology and lack clarity sometimes, but I never got “personal first person revelation” out of any of their teachings. I’ve found that they have a high view of God’s sovereignty and Scripture. That the Blackaby’s teachings can easily be misunderstood and therefore cause people to be misled does concern me though. I’ll be an interested reader.

Jim Crigler said...

Re: I may also attempt to write that long-promised critique of Henry Blackaby's mystical ideas about communion with God.

Woo hoo!!!!!! But don't forget to throw in comments and examples about the Big Red Notebook as well (if you can and have time). I'm looking forward to this!

James Joyce said...

The Truth War? I'll have to reread my copy. My wife's reading it now. I got my copy by accident(?) I actually ordered a copy of "Truth Matters" from the GTY Canada website (it was on sale) and got this instead. I wasn't even through the introduction when I said to myself "I was meant to get this book." It will make for an interesting "conversation".