by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Phil back in March 2010. Phil offered his thoughts on the warning Paul gives in 1 Cor 16:13.

As usual, the comments are closed.
“Be watchful” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

 

That's a single word in the Greek text, γρηγορέω. It's a common New Testament word with doctrinal, practical, and eschatalogical overtones, and Paul clearly has all those things in mind in his message to the Corinthians: Stay on guard. Enemies of the truth are already in your midst. You need to “strengthen what remains and is about to die.” And the Lord is coming. (That's the exact meaning of Maranatha in verse 22.)

The mass of modern and postmodern evangelicals simply ignore this command. I'm tempted to say they rebel against it. Many are simply too arrogant to think they need an admonition like this. They carelessly think they are skilled enough and knowledgeable enough to recognize any and every error at its very first appearance, so they have let down their guard.

Mostly, though, evangelicals simply have no stomach for the duty—and they won't tolerate it if anyone else tries to interrupt the evangelical frat party with shrill alarms—even while the frat house is engulfed in flames.

We don't mind reading about Spurgeon's courage and foresight in the Down-Grade Controversy; we just don't want anyone today to exercise that kind of discernment. In fact, listen to what Spurgeon said about that very same phenomenon in his era:

    It is very pretty, is it not, to read of Luther and his brave deeds? Of course, everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want any one else to do the same to-day. When you go to the [zoo] you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering loose about the street? You tell me that it would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right.

    So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are a sort of bear-pit or iron cage for him; but such a man to-day is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine [if] in those ages past, Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, and their compeers had said, “The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row, and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.” Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on.

The need for vigilance today is greater, not less, than it has been in times past.

When before our very eyes we can see “evil people and impostors [going] from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived”—it is more important than ever to stay alert and on guard against false teaching and against personal temptations. And it's more important than ever to make ourselves ready for the return of the Savior.

That's what Paul was telling the Corinthians: “Be watchful”—first of all over yourselves—your hearts, your passions, your words, and your whole way of life. Be watchful over one another, lest you fall into sin and temptation. Be on guard against Satan, “so that we would not be outwitted by [him]; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Likewise, be on guard against false teachers, who lie in wait to deceive and who have already begun to sow their deception in your midst. Be on guard against the world, with all its snares and seductions. Also, watch unto prayer, and prepare yourselves for the Lord's return.

All of that is packed into this one-word admonition: “Watch.”


I sometimes find myself grumbling a little bit about the state of publishing today, and especially the state of Christian publishing. Many of the big publishers have been gobbled up by corporations whose primary concern is not the glory of God but the health of the bottom line. Some of the medium-sized publishers seem to collect any and every rambling word of the popular pastors and personalities so they can slap those words on paper. Many of the smallest publishers are churning out books that simply do not deserve to be printed. New tools for self-publishing allow anyone with an idea to commit it to paper and distribute it as widely as they can. And that’s not all that is concerning or annoying. There are the thousands of truly awful, unbiblical books being published each year, and the fact that the bestseller lists are inevitably dominated by titles that are not only bad, but often downright dangerous.

And yet, when I stop and consider the state of Christian publishing, I can’t help but think that we are in a golden age. A strange age, to be sure, but a golden one nonetheless. Christians today are extraordinarily blessed by a vast number of excellent, Christ-centered, God-glorifying books.

I see evidence for this golden age in so many different ways.

I see it in Christian-owned and Christian-operated publishers who believe their mission is to publish books that are doctrinally-rich, biblically-sound, and skillfully-written. Many of these publishers have existed for decades and have maintained their mission and focus for generations. I am grateful for the work of P&R (serving us since 1930), Crossway (serving us since 1938), Christian Focus (serving us since the early 1970’s), and so many others.

I see it in the dedicated men and women who work for publishers formerly owned by Christians that have since been purchased by giant multinational corporations. While the corporations may be answerable to their shareholders, there are sincere people within these organizations are who committed to publishing excellent and God-glorifying books. In that vein I am grateful for so many dedicated Christians who labor behind-the-scenes at Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Multnomah, and others.

I see this golden age in new and promising strategic partnerships between ministries and publishers, where publishers are joining with gospel-loving ministries to extend the reach of those ministries through the printed word. The Gospel Coalition is partnering with Crossway, 9Marks is partnering with B&H (and several others), while many other partnerships are only just taking shape; as they do that, they will bring us even more good books.

I see it in publishers that are committed to publishing Bible commentaries that, though they may sell far fewer copies than the popular-level books, serve new generations of pastors by better equipping them to understand, explain and apply God’s Word to their lives and their congregations. InterVarsity Press has been doing this very thing for many years, as have Eerdmans, Baker, Moody, Evangelical Press and many others.

I see it in publishers that focus on academic works that, like commentaries, sell in lower volumes than those Christian living books we so love. These academic works allow scholars to continue to examine the deep things of Scripture and allow them to respond to those who take dissenting or even outright heretical perspectives. These are usually the same publishers who are producing commentaries, though most publishers serve us here to at least some extent.

I see it in publishers that look to the great books published in the past, seeking to draw from the best of the authors who lived many years ago. These publishers mine the voluminous writings of the Reformers and Puritans and other theologians of church history to make those old but brilliants works accessible. We owe a debt of gratitude to Banner of Truth, Reformation Heritage and others like them.

I see it in publishers that produce material specifically for devotional purposes and material that will help us raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. These publishers provide fine books that can guide us as we study God’s Word and as we teach it to our children. The Good Book Company excels here, as do New Growth Press, Matthias Media, Shepherd Press and B&H.

I see in in newer publishers that have been inspired by the mission of those publishers that have served us so well and for so many years. They have founded new companies to address specific issues, to serve specific demographics, or to fill specific niches. I thank God for 10ofThose and am blessed to have been involved in the founding of Cruciform Press, as just a couple of examples.

In all these ways, and so many more, today’s Christian readers are well served and greatly blessed. I believe that in the future we will look back on this time and see it for what it is: a golden age in Christian publishing.