Fool’s Gold?: Discerning Truth In An Age of Error

John MacArthur (editor)

224 pages

Crossway Books (2005)

Fool's Gold

Recommend: Yes

Genre: Christian Living/Evangelicalism/Cultural Issues


How are we to distinguish gold from “fool’s gold”? This is a question that perplexed many in the 1800’s with the “gold rush” that swept the many hopefuls that left all behind in search for fortune. In Fool’s Gold?, John MacArthur, along with other staff members from Grace Community Church, tackle a wide variety of trends in the evangelical world that seem to offer hope and answers, when in fact they might be a bit misleading. All that glitters is not gold.

Book Structure:

There are four parts to the book. In the first part, MacArthur unabashedly calls for discernment rooted in Scripture, offering three points from 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22. Having established a foundation for biblical discernment, he then presents the negative results of “watered-down” preaching which seems to pervade the contemporary Christian community today.

In the second part, four different popular books are addressed and critiqued from a biblical standpoint–in a way modeling for the reader what it looks like to employ biblical discernment: 1. Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life; 2. N.T. Wright’s What Saint Paul Really Said; 3. John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart; and 4. The Resolve New Testament Bible-zine for girls. The third part deals with very provocative issues such as contemporary Christian music, “altar calls” and invitations to “receive Christ into your heart,” the Christian’s approach to politics, and the consumeristic mind-set that many adopt within the church.

And the finally, the book concludes with a doctrinal and practical framework to implement as one seeks to discern which hills are worth dying on and to live a life much like the Bereans, who Luke tells us in Acts 17 were of “noble character” because they “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (v.11, emphasis added).

Notable Quotes:

  • “If the current current hunger for ecumenical compromise, pragmatic sanctification, and numerical success continues to gain a foothold within evangelicalism, it will result in an unmitigated spiritual disaster . . . . The church will never manifest its power in society until we regain a passionate love for truth and corollary hatred for error” (pp.14,15).
  • “. . .[W]orship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the mundane and simplistic. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s self-revelation” (p.38).
  • “So let the man who searches for true masculinity look no further than the pages of Scripture, for there he will find the truth about himself from the mouth of his Creator. Let his ears not be tickled by the whims of men, but let his mind be trained by the Word of God. And before any man looks for his battle to fight, his beauty to rescue, and his adventure to live, let him first look to his God to glorify” (p.95).
  • “Our only sure defense against false doctrine is to be discerning, to distrust our own emotions, to hold our own senses suspect, to examine all things, to test every truth-claim with the yardstick of Scripture, and to handle the Word of God with great care” (p.199).


I heartily endorse this book to any Christian who seeks honor God and show discernment in what he reads and what he meditates on. I wish the authors would have tackled a few more popular books like Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now and some of the emerging church books that seem to popping up everywhere. Overall, I think the authors did a great job in laying a foundation in the Word for discernment and then demonstrating what that looks like in some books (many of which I have read have benefited from). There a few minor criticisms I have of the book, but they in no way undermine the overall flow that makes this a great read as we can expect from John MacArthur.

If we lose the ability to discern, then we lose the ability to distinguish truth from error; when this occurs, our gospel becomes vulnerable to the onslaught of false speculations and lofty ideas that present themselves against the Truth. We then become confused and apathetic to the essentials of our faith, thinking it only a matter of preference.

May we all be known for our discernment as we test everything and hold on to the good (1 Thess. 4:21) and in so doing, God will receive the glory!