First, I want to recommend Molly's post here about defending "the truth." You know it's a good one when you see the number of comments.
In that post she says, somewhat as an aside (and she is talking about a Banty rooster), " I get such a kick out of watching the little guy. He is so small (and so easy to catch), but he doesn’t know it. He thinks he’s an amazing stud, ever eager to take on any and everything that gets near *his* hens...swaggering around with his wings spread low and his head up high, and we all good-naturedly put up with it, because, well, we have to. He can’t help himself. He has no idea we giggle at his crowing and strutting..." And speaking of a few bloody ankles, she adds, "His puffing, with all its littleness, has a bite. The...truth defenders are much the same. They would be funny, if they weren’t sometimes so harmful, particularly harmful to the very faith that they think they’re defending. All that puffing and snorting does little to attract anyone to grace or truth. It feels good and meaningful to the one doing the puffing (and their supporters), but that’s about all the good that it does."
She is speaking of truth defenders on the 'net, but it takes me back to a radio program I tuned in to recently. I was driving on a boring stretch of road and surfing radio stations. I stopped when I heard a well-modulated, reasonable and educated-sounding preacher.
It took me a few moments to realize what he was really speaking about. He was encouraging his church congregation to be wary of heretics. After some derogatory comments about church leaders who "strut about in robes," he cited alarming quotes, bashed mainline churches, and generally strutted, in a verbal sort of way. Who are these dangerous heretics?
It is those "emerging church" people, that's who. All of 'em.
The speaker said some alarming things and some arrogant things. He said them in such a reasonable way that it was frightening. The congregation was appreciate, laughing at the "right" times, offering affirmation and--I fear--never noticing the implications of what their pastor was saying. Those things included:
We should not respect people of other religions.
We should not engage in dialog with non-Christians, except for the purpose of converting them.
We should not listen to anyone who is not a fundamentalist (he did not use that word, but he might as well have).
The emerging church is extremely dangerous. Heretics, in fact, who have perverted the truth.
Jesus rebuked the self-righteous religious leaders. He would, if he were here, soundly rebuke these religious leaders too.
He quoted at least two men, one "a prominent emergent church leader" and the other "the leading spokesman for the emerging church movement" without ever naming either one. I suspect the quotes were taken out of context, but I can't read and find out for myself, since he did not name any of the heretical leaders. He seemed unaware that the "emerging church" is not a cohesive, coherent body, not a denomination, and not even a united group.
I have to admit that I agreed with a tiny fraction of what the speaker said. But I have been pondering the possible effects on his hearers. I am all too aware that people in a congregation or an audience only hear a small part of what is spoken from a platform. And they can misconstrue things in amazing ways.
So what might some people do who hear John MacArthur say that they should not respect, not engage in dialog, in fact should rebuke and correct those who have beliefs unlike their own? I shudder to think!
If you want to read the sermon you can find it at Grace Community Church online.
However, as Molly said, all that puffing does little to bring anyone to grace or truth. Perhaps he (and all of us) should take note of the facts that clearly point to some serious trouble in the evangelical camp as well. We have plenty of work to do to clean our own "houses," seems to me.