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Book Review - Fool's Gold
March 26, 2005
All that glitters is not gold. This is a lesson many thousands of men learned in the 19th century when they stormed California seeking their fortunes. While there was treasure to be found, as evidenced by the wealth many gained from their mining ventures, there was also what came to be known as fool’s gold. While this looked like gold, it was in reality valueless iron pyrite. For a miner to be successful he had to learn to discern the true gold from mere fool’s gold. A man’s livelihood depended on this. Because it was difficult to tell one from the other only by looking at it, miners develped some simple tests. One was the hardness test, where a miner could bite a rock in question. Fool’s gold was hard while real gold was much softer. A broken tooth would prove the rock to be fool’s gold. For a second test a miner would scrape the rock against a white stone. True gold would leave a yellowish streak while fool’s gold would leave one that was greenish-black. This is the historical backdrop against which John MacArthur and the staff of Grace Community Church compare today’s church. We are in a time where the church is filled with fool’s gold and only godly discernment will show what is true treasure and what is trash.
Fool’s Gold is divided into four sections. In the first John MacArthur provides a call for biblical discernment and examines the devastating consequences of a watered-down message to the church. The second section, entitled “Practicing Discernment in your Local Bookstore” examines four of the latest Christian bestsellers in the light of the Scripture. Nathan Busenitz reviews The Purpose Driven Life, Phil Johnson introduces the New Perspective on Paul through What Saint Paul Really Said, Daniel Gillespie evaluates Wild at Heart and Rick Holland looks at The Revolve New Testament Bible-zine. The third section provides pointers for “Practicing Discernment in your Local Church.” Receiving attention are contemporary worship music, altar calls, the American-Christian approach to politics and the consumer mindset. The book wraps up with an examination of “hills to die on” - a doctrinal framework for developing discernment, and a practical plan for personal discernment.
As we have come to expect from MacArthur’s books and ministry, this book is incisive, penetrating and inherently biblical. It cuts to the heart of the matters at hand. In fact, the authors’ tasks were quite simple ones - they had to merely hold the church’s fads and obsessions up to the light of Scripture and to examine them against God’s unchanging standard. In many cases these fads were found wanting. The authors are careful to assign credit where credit is due and are consistently respectful to those whose teachings they oppose. At the same time, they are unapologetic in their defense of the truth and their desire to see God’s standards held high.
My only disappointments with the book were that the authors did not discuss two of the most pressing issues in evangelicalism today - the Emergent Church (which received only one passing mention) and mysticism, which is gaining a firm hold in the church, in part through the very books the authors evaluate.
This book is an excellent introduction to the importance of biblical discernment and a penetrating analysis of how a lack of discernment has allowed error to infiltrate the church and prosper within. Only with a rediscovery of biblical discernment will the church be able to root out this fool’s gold. This book will help any Christian develop a foundation for biblical discernment that will allow him to make the crucial distinctions between truth and error. I highly recommend this title, especially as a companion volume to Ashamed of the Gospel and Hard to Believe.