I was not looking forward to reading John McArthurs Hard to Believe when it was given to me by Sym, and it has proved to be quite a frustrating book to read. For numbers of reasons. But it also had numerous good points about it.
Reading this book I was reminded with a point from some Americans evangelising in New Zealand through campus crusade. This book is written to a particular audience and to a particular situation. It is written into a culture, particularly the America where going to church in many states equals a way of life. Particularly those who go along to church do it because it is part of the culture and they do not know what it means to be a true Christian. It is written also written as no-nonsense response to those who try to water down the gospel and make it more acceptable to society, and keep numbers of church attendance up. Those who teach that the if you have Jesus all will be well and good. The reality is much different. As a Christian you will be persecuted, you will be forced to live a life of self-denial and change how you live.
The awesome thing about John McArthur is his commitment to the Gospel and teaching the Gospel. He has amazing bible knowledge and that he contends for the gospel with such force. He is uncompromising in his approach, and believes that there is only one way to heaven. He knows so much, and is a great expositor of the bible. I have met few people who have knowledge of the bible like him and can explain what the bible meansin such an authorative way. John McArthur is right to say Christianity is a hard path. It costs much to be a Christian and to live passionately for Jesus Christ.
But I have a number of Issues with John McArthurs book…
Even though I believe that there is only one way to heaven through Jesus Christ. I think that John McArthur ‘narrow’ doorway into the Kingdom means that the eye of the needle has shrunk even smaller than what Jesus was talking about. He seems to have shrunk the eye of a needle to a pinprick. I think this results from the fact that it seems that he makes it sound like if you are still sinner than you cannot be a Christian. While he does not underestimate the total depravity of humanity, I sometimes think John McArthur underestimates total goodness and the grace of God. I found it very interesting in his example of John the Baptist he excluded the piece if the story in which the uncompromising man of God doubted that Jesus was the Lord he had been proclaiming throughout his ministry that the Messiah would come and declared that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus got a message from John saying "Are you the one we should be looking for? Or must we wait for someone else?" (Matt 11:3) John even though he had spent so much time declaring the message that the messiah had come had become discouraged in prison, he needed reassurance that Jesus was lord. Jesus gracefully replied and reassured him Jesus answered, "Go and tell John what you have heard and seen. The blind are now able to see, and the lame can walk. People with leprosy are being healed, and the deaf can hear.The dead are raised to life, and the poor are hearing the good news. God will bless everyone who doesn't reject me because of what I do." (Matt 11:4-5) John was a prophet and the greatest prophet in the scriptures, he had spent his life preaching and prophesying, but he was also human, and was prone to doubt. Even though it seems he was a very spirit filled and spirit led man. John’s humanity reveals that there are no superhumans, we all needs Gods grace as much as the other and rely on the saving love of God, no matter what.
I think that is what the book by John McArthur lacks, for all its worth, is grace. It talks a lot about the hard road of the Gospel, and this is important, as many people leave this part out, but talking about the struggle of faith and living as a Christian without talking about grace does a disservice to the bible. I think it is as bad as sugar-coating the Gospel. The Gospel has a whole other side that he does not talk about in this book. All the humans in the bible have their struggles with doubts and sin. All the men of faith had their limps, and things that they could look on and not be proud of in their Journeys through their lives. Look at Paul, the greatest missionary whoever lived and writer of many of the letters we find in the New Testament who said the he was the worst of all sinners (1 Tim 1:15). I would like to see John McArthur saying how he has struggled, and continues to struggle to get it right. Because I know I still sin, I hate it, and I struggle with it constantly. I still doubt, and have issues with my faith. But I know through the grace of God that I’m saved, and I live passionately to see his will done on earth. I want people to come to know God, and fall in love with him and follow his will on earth. I believe that Jesus is lord and I will contend for that passionately no matter the cost.
I want to end on a better note; this book is challenging and was making me think through the whole reading of it. It challenged me to know my bible, and to learn more scripture, and to spend more time with God. It challenged me to have a heart for the gospel and spreading it throughout the world and live passionately and see that Gods will is done on this earth. I just want to do it in a way that doesn't compromise the Gospel, shows compassion and is relevant to the situation I live in. I don't beleive that is a sin.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Posted by Nathanael Baker at 9:47 PM