[Editor's Note: "The Great Commission is not a marketing manifesto," wrote John MacArthur in "Ashamed of the Gospel." Seventeen years later, Crossway has re-issued this mostly unheeded prophetic book as an ever-relevant beacon to church leaders drowning in a quagmire of trends and fads. The following is adapted from the 2010 and 1993 prefaces of Ashamed of the Gospel, third edition.]
Sometime in the summer of 2007, I picked up a copy of Ashamed of the Gospel for the first time in fourteen years and started thumbing through it. Before I put the book down again, I had devoured eight chapters. I was pleased and amazed to see the enduring relevance of the book—especially since I wrote it to critique the notion that relevance is achieved by dragging the church from fad to fad in a vain effort to stay abreast of the times.
Of course, my passion for the message of this book has not diminished since I first proposed the idea to my publisher, but I was nevertheless surprised and encouraged to see how much of what I wrote in 1993 is expressed exactly as I would want to say it today. While I am disappointed by how accurately (and speedily) the predictions I made have been fulfilled, I am not disheartened, and I intend to keep sounding the warning as long as the Lord gives me breath. In fact, before putting the book down that day, I resolved to do my best to see it released again in a new, expanded edition.
Only rarely do I re-read my own books, especially those that were first published more than a decade ago. In this case, "more than a decade ago" was a different century! The world of 1993 was another time in many significant ways. That was a unique year, strikingly different from the rest of the twentieth century—but also nothing at all like the Internet era, which was just about to begin.
History will no doubt always remember the early 1990s as a pivotal time in human history. In 1992, conservative op-ed commentator George Will published a compilation of his newspaper columns written over the prior three years. He titled the anthology Suddenly, which perfectly captured the spirit of the day. Suddenly, confusingly, everything was in flux. Worldly fads and philosophies were changing faster than ever. The changes were global and profound, affecting everything from art to zoology. Ideological changes, societal changes, political changes, and moral changes were the order of the day. The shifting of so many opinions and boundaries all at once was both drastic and disorienting.
No wonder. Every important worldview built on "modern" thought was now utterly discredited. Some of the most basic presuppositions modern secular society had staked out as true and certain were left totally in tatters.
THE END OF THE COLD WAR
A major turning point had occurred on November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell literally overnight, signaling the failure of European Communism. The end of Lenin's legacy came very quickly—and so did other monumental changes, all with stunning speed. Gorbachev, Glasnost, and the Gulf War dominated the news at the start of the 90s, but the Gulf War ended in early 1991, and the Soviet Union collapsed in August of that same year. Boris Yeltsin boldly defied an attempted coup, took the reins of Russian power, and began the formal dissolution of the Soviet empire.
By 1993, the world was emphatically renouncing the values of the Cold War. We were watching our parents' concept of "modernity" quickly fade in the rearview mirror. The word postmodernism was just starting to be used here and there in popular discourse—but the set of ideas it stands for were already evident everywhere. Before most people even realized we had witnessed the end of the modern era, postmodern values had completely altered the way the world thinks and talks about truth.