Book Review: Follow Me: Christ’s Call, Our Response, by John MacArthur
This book was notable to me as a reader for two reasons. For one, this short book of only about 100 pages appears to owe a lot of its contents to the author’s previous work , particularly his work on the twelve apostles and twelve extraordinary women. There is nothing wrong with an author repackaging his writing and seeking to appeal to a different audience than usual, and I thought his comments on these believers was a nice touch. More shocking, I found the author had made a mistake which was corrected decades ago by C.S. Lewis in his writings, namely that he considers God and Christianity in the dock based on the behavior of believers (, and does not make plain to his readers that humanity is in the dock when it comes to God. Did I just out-Calvin a noted Calvinist, along with C.S. Lewis, a fairly notable Arminian? I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I found it striking that the author in his desire to make readers feel bad about their behavior as Christians made such a basic and fundamental error concerning who was really sitting in judgment of whom.
In terms of its content, this book is very light and conversational in tone. The first chapter looks at who can be a disciple, then the author spends a significant portion of time repackaging his earlier writings in looking at types of disciples, where he views the disciples as representing some sort of broader type of person–John is supposedly a sectarian, Philip a materialist, Thomas a pessimist, and so on. The author then moves, somewhat predictably, to those who failed to follow for one reason or another, before closing the book with three chapters on the cost of following, the promises to followers, and some reflections on following Christ. Personal stories are mixed with historical ones and overall the book is instructive and fairly enjoyable. That is not to say, as noted above, that the book is perfect or that the author’s approach is the best possible, but all the same this is a book that can be enjoyed more than some of the author’s more strident works. Those readers who approach the book with a sense of irony may find insight here that the author himself is unaware of, and that is always pleasing for this reader at least.
Specifically, there is a gap between the author’s statements and the author’s self-awareness. MacArthur seems to be a writer who takes himself particularly seriously, but he would probably be better off if he was able to recognize himself in what he cautioned against a bit more. For example, the author comments that someone once said of a believer that he saw spiritual growth because he talked about Jesus more and about himself less, and yet MacArthur in this (and other) works tends to talk a lot about himself. Now, I don’t think that spiritual growth is necessarily related to one’s references to oneself, especially as a writer, but someone who believes such had better make sure they do not use themselves as a model of belief when doing so indicates a self-absorption prejudicial to views of one’s spirituality. Likewise, throughout this book the author shows himself at least occasionally unable to differentiate between setting a good example and being overly preachy. Perhaps the author would be better off in a topic like this if he followed the example of Christ rather than considering himself a learned interpreter of scriptures. An ounce of obedience is often more effective than a pound of preaching. Even so, this is an enjoyable book, even if a considerable part of its enjoyment consists of criticism of the author himself for not seeing the gap between him and the biblical example.
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