It seems unusual, does it not, that at a time when the church is in such dire need of discernment, there are few books to be found that address this critical issue. Or perhaps it is this dearth of books dealing with discernment that have contributed to the problem. Regardless, at a time when the shelves at Christian bookstores are groaning under the weight of the tens of thousands of books published each year, it is exceedingly difficult to find one that deals with discernment. A survey of several of my friends, avid readers all, yielded a grand total of one suggestion: John MacArthur’s Reckless Faith, which is out of print.
We are fortunate, I suppose, to live at a time when even books that are out of print are not terribly difficult to acquire. I was grateful to see that Amazon and other companies selling used books have many of this title available. I quickly purchased one and am glad that I did. Reckless Faith, in classic John MacArthur style, began as a series of sermons. MacArthur argues for the importance of reason in the Christian faith, proving first that a reason-based faith has largely been abandoned within the evangelical world. In its place has arisen a faith based on feelings and, humans being what they are, a faith that feels good. It is this faith, faith that bypasses and ignores the mind rather than being built upon it, that MacArthur terms restless. Opposed to reckless faith is true biblical ministry. “We must take an unmovable stance on all issues where the Bible speaks plainly. What if people don’t like such dogmatism? It is necessary anyway. Sound doctrine divides, it confronts, it seperates, it judges, it convicts, it reproves, it rebukes, it exhorts, it refutes error. None of those things is very highly esteemed in modern thought. But the health of the church depends on our holding firmly to the truth, for where strong convictions are not tolerated, discernment cannot survive.” Later MacArthur teaches that discernment cannot survive in an atmosphere of doctrinal confusion and will not survive where relativism is tolerated. “It cannot survive if we compromise with the world.”
The heart of the book is “The Biblical Formula for Discernment.” Expositing 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, MacArthur teaches the three requirements of a discerning mind. First, we must judge everything. Paul sets this exhortation in the context of some very basic commands for the Christian life, showing that it is not an extraordinary duty, but a part of what He expects of every Christian. Having judged all doctrine, we are to cling to what is good. We need to cultivate our love for truth and have a faithfulness to sound doctrine. And finally, we must shun all that is evil. We are not given permission in Scripture to expose ourselves to evil or to tamper with it. We are to flee evil doctrine as we flee sins such as sexual immorality.
The final chapters of the book deal with specific issues where the church has failed in its discernment. MacArthur first provides some teaching on the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and then points to the ecumenical movement and the Word Faith movement as examples of the church failing to judge doctrine and flee from what is unbiblical. The chapter dealing with Evangelicals and Catholics Together is particularly useful as a brief examination and refutation of that dangerous document.
When I began this book I thought it was the only book available dealing with spiritual discernment. I was glad to see that MacArthur often referenced a book written by Jay Adams also dealing with the topic. A quick Internet search shows that this book is also out of print, but like Reckless Faith is widely available from used bookstores. I ordered it immediately.
Reckless Faith is an excellent book and one that ought not to be out of print. I hope that, like other MacArthur titles, Crossway will see fit to publish it again. Rarely has the church needed this type of teaching more than it does today.