We the people must take the offensive against the Bigotry Against the Bible that is being Executed on the citizens of the United States Legally by its government, all three branches, legislative, judicial, and executive. We’ve got the constitution, history, and, of course, God and the Bible on our side. The former don’t matter so much in light of the latter, but we shouldn’t stand by without at least being heard. I believe there is a basis in Scripture to take a public stand on these social or cultural issues, namely that God designates for destruction (Ezekiel 9) those who will not stand against these violations of Him.
Babel represents the world system, the Satanic offensive against God and His way. The homosexuals and their advocates say we’re the bigots for opposing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but who really are the bigots? Are the bigots those who stand against perversion of nature, of creation, and of obedience to the Bible? Or are the genuine bigots those who force their own immoral desires upon the majority of Americans? Our government should not be executing the will of bigots against the biblical beliefs of its own citizens.
I know there are many of the readers of this blog who don’t agree with some or even much of what I write here, but this may be something with which you agree with me. So I am asking everyone that does, join me, unify with me in a campaign against Babel, the spreading bigotry against the Bible, which is being executed legally. We shouldn’t have to tolerate evil. We should not be forced to live and serve side by side in the defense of our country with blatant perverts. This is not fellowship. This is not biblical unity. This is public and democratic. This is We the People.
It’s enough that our country allows the practice of sodomy, let alone the endorsement of it by executing laws that require acceptance of it. Stand with me against BABEL. Join the campaign starting here and today.
What does the Campaign against BABEL require from you? It requires public opposition to BABEL. That’s it. Bloggers, today join with me in the campaign against BABEL. Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not the only evidence of bigotry against the Bible executed legally. However, for me it is a kind of final straw. The camel’s back is broken.
I want to redefine bigotry in our society. Bigotry is not a stand for the Bible. Bigotry is support for unbiblical behavior, practice, laws, or standards. I will not join BABEL through my silence and neither should you. Those endorsing, supporting, and joining the execution of these attacks on biblical belief and practice should receive the bigot label.
Joseph Lieberman, Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, Linda Murkowski, George Voinovich, and Mark Kirk are bigots, bigots against biblical belief and practice. They are bigots against those who believe and practice the Bible. Today they have showed their hatred of Bible belief and practice—hate speech, hate legislation—and forced their hatred of the Bible on all citizens of this nation. They have protected and propagated their bigotry everywhere.
Join me in the Campaign against BABEL.
Two evangelical or fundamentalist churches could be nearly identical in their doctrinal statements but still be quite different, as much distinct in their view of spirituality as are the disparate understandings of “belief in Christ” terminology for a Mormon and a conservative evangelical. Yes, I believe there’s that much noncomformity. This undiscriminating approach to spirituality, I believe, may be the most damaging, though ignored, situation in the church today. One finds its reality in varying degrees of subjective experience, while the other looks to an objective faith, yet both, again, with the same theological creed. The similarity of the latter provides cover for the contrast of the former, the diversity explained as a matter of preference or taste.
Church members, professing believers, wish for an authentic spiritual experience in their church attendance. They judge authenticity by excitement and emotion, even enthusiasm, which might manifest itself in several varied ways. It’s not that feelings would be their chief criteria if they were asked to mark a box on a checklist. These same people don’t believe they are being guided by their feelings or that their emotions are being swayed by external factors to produce a false sense of spirituality. Their feelings, however, are what are telling them that their experience is authentic, especially in their “worship.”
Scripture shows that true spirituality is judged by God’s Word, by the truth. The two types of churches I’m talking about would both agree with that. However, that is not how the individuals often judge whether spirituality has been attained. They might ascertain the spiritual condition by means of release of emotion, shouting, tears, swaying, giddiness, head bobbing, jumping, toe-tapping, or hand waving, all possible indications of something happening in the realm of genuine spirituality. It also might show up with signs of power, that is, hands raised or movement toward the front at an invitation. What might not be considered is that all or some of these spiritual barometers might be caused or initiated by human manipulation of some kind, either through the rhythm of the music, the rise and fall of someone’s voice, a story, the lighting, clapping, or by the suggestion of the speaker to a wanting audience. The shared experience of the crowd further validates the authenticity. Something good must have happened.
Certain symptoms of legitimacy accompany the concoction of fraudulent spirituality—tightly closed eyes, head tilted heavenward, certain hushed tones, or the Clintonesque biting of the bottom lip. This is assembly line authenticity, Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can realism. A trembling, purposefully scratchy voice, cries out a plaintiff wail with all the gusto that fake authenticity can muster.
The shared emotions of a church galvanize the people like some chant in the pregame ritual of a football team. This does have a sort of power. Many may think of this as heavenly power as they undergo its effects, persuaded that they must have connected with God. They may even mistake it for love between one another because of the shared warmth. It has the power to succeed at attracting or keeping people who wish for something more or different than faith. Churches not aligning themselves with these ways feel a pressure to use the same methods of provocation.
Many who choreograph these types of experiences, that replace true spirituality with the fake, know what they are doing. They know what certain rhythms do. They want the lighting in the building and the cadence of the speaking and the chords and the speed of the music to have their effect on a crowd. They manufacture the feelings with fleshly means and then call it spirituality. Some of the purveyors of these schemes are modern Calvinists, who, while trumpeting the sovereignty of God and bewailing the new measures of Arminianism, whip their own brand of religious ecstacy.
The faux spirituality conforms to a perverted view of Divine immanence, God’s relatedness, stemming from a post-enlightenment evacuation of Divine transcendence. The new emphasis on God’s immanence corresponds to a cultural shift in focus from God to man. Sin is less a concern in its offense of God as its psychological implications for men. The spirit engendered in a church service has the power to overcome a broken relationship or downcast countenance, providing the desired therapy.
Church music, and even all music, reflects the new view of spirituality. Man’s taste has become preeminent in musical composition and performance, both style and words. I believe the music has had a more detiorating effect on the perversion of spirituality than even the substance of the lyrics in church hymnody. Professing Christians have watered down the doctrinal content of hymns, but that has followed the use of popular tunes, which are popular because they lure where luring occurs—the flesh. Man’s flesh isn’t drawn away by his spirit, but by his flesh, and enticed.
Not only have churches been fooled in this particular false spirituality, but also an imposter in the realm of something perhaps even more wicked, that is, mysticism, a secret spirituality found in eastern religions and felt in the their music and worship. They produce natural, whispery, repetitious sounds that our culture has now accepted as something in touch with God. It sometimes takes on the calmness of the surface of a mountain lake or the lapping of the waves on the seashore. The connection isn’t with the God, Almighty God, the Lord of Hosts, but the god of this world, who is also the god of pantheism. These rhythms and sounds are now incorporated into modern worship music, again fooling people with a counterfeit spirituality.
In the 1960s, the Jesus movement portrayed itself as authentic Christianity, tapping into the counter-culture sweeping the United States and then the world. The emotions and even rebellion young people felt in their relations to traditional family and government structure and authority was revealed through their music. These feelings were real. The music itself became, to them, an expression of their inner yearnings. The people involved put on no airs—in their dress, with their hair, with their physical touch. They didn’t hold back, just let it hang loose, elucidating the kind of liberty they felt in Christ. They also talked “like so sincere.” The Jesus people took that music and incorporated it into Christian worship. The music itself became associated with authenticity and genuine spirituality. Other forms were stilted, repressive, and against the feeling of the movement. The music not only reflected the emotions, but produced or proliferated them. They were accepted as evidence of spirituality. This movement has bridged the gap for all forms of the world’s music as true expressions of man’s relationship with God.
Not every church takes the tactics to their furthest end. Don’t think that because someone is worse than you that you get a pass on these techniques and this warping of true spirituality. Many churches have stirred up their own unique stew of varied strengths and styles.
This attack on the meaning of spirituality is an attack on the truth. There is true spirituality defined by Scripture. Genuine spirituality is sanctified by God’s Word, not by people’s feelings.
I think that what we have here is equal to the perversion of false doctrine. We have dumbed down or altered spirituality and then many other theological concepts necessary for true worship and obedience to God, including love and the nature of God Himself. God does not receive the affection of which He is worthy. And many men through this deceit are further tangled in a web of pseudo-spirituality from which for many there is no escape.
You’ve probably noticed regular new labels and terms popping up. One of these, I’ve seen, is “cultural conservative.” I don’t know when that terminology was first used, but I know it differentiates certain conservatives from the “fiscal conservatives.” Whether you would have the “cultural conservative” label or the “fiscal conservative” one probably depends on why you vote for who you do. The latter would vote with his so-called “pocketbook.” Fiscal concerns may bring people together that do not see eye-to-eye on the culture. The two terms, culture and fiscal, divide conservatism.
What Is Cultural Fundamentalism
I believe that this division in conservatism between cultural and fiscal has now become the basis for a new division that I have read only in the last few years, that is, the cultural fundamentalists and the theological or doctrinal fundamentalists. With just a little looking, I have found that “cultural fundamentalism” has been around for awhile as a technical terminology for something entirely different than how Christian fundamentalists have used it. “Cultural fundamentalism” has referred to a usually violent antipathy to a change of culture. That label is often hung on the jihad of Islamic countries who desire one Islamic culture. So “cultural fundamentalism” has been around for awhile, but only recently has it been used, mainly as a pejorative, to color a certain brand of Christian fundamentalism.
In 1999 a professor at the University of Wisconsin, William P. Tishler, referred to “cultural fundamentalism” existing in the U. S. in the 1920s. He described it like this:
The 1920s was a time when many adherents of “Cultural Fundamentalism” attempted to ensure that all Americans followed the right patterns of thought: quest for certainty and predictability in social relationships; an order in human affairs that was at once familiar, comfortable, and unthreatening; and nostalgia for the idealized, non-industrial society of their parents.
Tishler’s syllabus reads like sheer propaganda, assigning motives to people without evidence. David G. Bromley in his 1984 book, New Christian Politics, calls the “new religious right” (NRR) “cultural fundamentalism.” He, like Tishler, would say that “cultural fundamentalism” supports things like right to life and male headship.
The first “cultural fundamentalism” struck me as an identifiable label was when I read what Tim Jordan said at the latest GARBC national conference. He warned:
If we produce ‘biblical’ reasons for cultural fundamentalism, they [the young Fundamentalists] know you are lying. And why do they know you are lying? It’s because you are!
So you see his usage of “cultural fundamentalism,” differentiating himself from that. I started looking for other usages and I read this from Bob Bixby on his blog in January 2008:
These first-generation Calvinists embrace Calvinism in order to embrace what they really want: contemporary worship, a swig of beer, or the sheer pride of life that gratifies the egos of those who, embittered because of everything they could not have in cultural fundamentalism on the basis of dumb argumentation, now have an indisputably better biblical argument for anything they want.
I don’t know exactly who Ben Wright is talking about at 9 Marks in Mar-April 2008 when he says cultural fundamentalists are atheological fundamentalists. He writes:
In addition, the theological Fundamentalism of Bauder and Doran represents a matured strain of Fundamentalism that intends to expose and disassociate from the atheological (sometimes called cultural) Fundamentalism that has dominated many segments of separatist Fundamentalism in recent decades.
Here’s how someone named Charlie defined “cultural fundamentalism” at SharperIron:
I have heard the term “cultural Fundamentalism” applied to those described as hyper-Fundamentalists. I like this term at least somewhat better, because it communicates that the real areas of controversy are not “doctrinal” in the sense of disputes about systematic categories (which some cultural Fundamentalists wouldn’t even be able to explicate), but rather cultural in the sense of affecting the look, feel, and function of church life. For example, you can sing vapid songs, but not CCM songs. You can murder the meaning of a Bible passage, but you have to have the correct initials on the binding. You can preach all sorts of bizarre allegory, but you need to be in coat and tie when you do it.
Kevin Bauder dealt with this way back in 2005 in his essay “A Fundamentalism Worth Saving,” especially in these two paragraphs:
This, I think, highlights the limited usefulness of a distinction between “historic” and “cultural” fundamentalism. Biblical obedience is never acultural for the simple reason that human beings are never acultural. We must always obey God at a particular time, in a particular place, situated in a particular culture. We do not really care whether George Carlin’s words were obscenities in 1560, nor whether their cognates are obscene in German or Norwegian. We care about what they mean in English at the beginning of the 21st Century.
In short, the only way to be a historic, biblical fundamentalist is to be a cultural fundamentalist. The only alternatives are, first, to say that cultures are beyond the Bible’s ability to critique and correct, or second, to argue that fundamentalism is concerned only with doctrine and not with obedience. I doubt that any of us really wants to take either of those steps.
It’s interesting to consider that Ben Wright says that Bauder is not a cultural fundamentalist, and wants to distinguish him from one, when Bauder himself says that a historic fundamentalist must be a cultural fundamentalist. I think I’ll go with what Bauder says about himself rather than what Wright says about Bauder to help his article along. It would do Ben well to also check out a certain paper produced by Mark Snoeberger, who teaches at Detroit, Doran’s seminary, and his words about cultural fundamentalism:
It is often suggested that there are two kinds of fundamentalism—doctrinal fundamentalism and cultural fundamentalism. The former is to be embraced as a defense of the orthodox core; the latter to be eschewed as a counter-cultural set of archaic, arcane, and even pharisaical traditions some of which are downright silly. There is some validity to this distinction. At the same time, since theology always informs our view of culture, it is impossible to completely divorce the two.
We have already noted above that in the specific issue of evangelism, fundamentalists have typically eschewed both the ―Christ of culture‖ approach (practiced broadly by liberalism and new evangelicalism) and also the holistic ―Christ transforming culture‖ approach (practiced in Kuyperian Reformed circles). I would suggest that this understanding has extended beyond evangelism to a whole plethora of cultural issues.
Snoeberger says you can’t divorce the theological fundamentalism from the cultural.
Why are doctrinal and cultural fundamentalism being divided? I believe there are those who want to hang on to the doctrine of separation. They think it’s in the Bible. But they only want to separate over certain theological issues. They want to allow much more room to maneuver on the so-called cultural issues. Therefore, if there exists doctrinal fundamentalism, they can still be a fundamentalist without associating with the fundamentalists who disassociate over violations of the right cultural practices.
Why I’m Not a Cultural Fundamentalist
I really do identify with these people who don’t mind being and being called “cultural fundamentalists.” But I’m not one. Most would make me a poster boy for cultural fundamentalism. I refuse it. I reject it. Don’t lay that label on me. However, I also don’t like that this division is occurring in fundamentalism. I see what it is, and it’s not good for fundamentalism in my opinion, really for the same reasons Bauder states in his “Fundamentalism Worth Saving” article.
But again, I’m not a cultural fundamentalist because, first, I’m not a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism is a movement that gets along and gets together based upon agreement on a short list of doctrines. I don’t see that as scriptural unity or biblical separation. To obey the Bible, I can’t be a fundamentalist.
I add to the above first reason that I’m not a cultural fundamentalist because I don’t separate based upon culture. I don’t unify based on culture. I refuse that designation by others. I will not allow that to stick. The name “cultural fundamentalist” is just being used to discredit a biblical belief and practice. It is sliding that scriptural doctrine and practice to something that is just cultural, really only opinion. That isn’t the case. I don’t believe and practice opinions. I am sanctified by the truth. My church will be sanctified by God’s Word to every good work.
Male headship isn’t cultural. It is biblical. Heterosexuality isn’t cultural. It’s scriptural. Gender designed distinctions in appearance isn’t cultural. They are biblical. Modesty isn’t cultural. It’s in God’s Word. Complementarianism isn’t cultural. It’s in the Bible. Spiritual, sacred worship isn’t cultural. It is scriptural. Dress that is distinct from the world isn’t cultural. It’s biblical. Patriarchy isn’t cultural. It is Scripture. I’m to preach the whole counsel of God’s Word. I’m to teach the saints whatever God has said in His Word. I’m not going to have those teachings diminished for the convenience of those who prefer to fit into an unbiblical way of life. Take the world, but give me Jesus.
The Bible is lived in the real world. The Bible reacts to culture. The Bible guides how we will live. The Bible tells us what is the right music, the right art, the right marriage, the right fashion, and the right family.
This last week I was out evangelizing with quite a few others from our church and I came to the door of the jr-high pastor of one of the local Rick-Warren-Purpose-Driven types of churches. I was with two teenagers. The man’s wife answered the door-bell and she seemed happy we were there once she knew we were out preaching the gospel (not JWs). She said her husband was the jr-high pastor at that particular church, which I know well. A first thought for me was what does a jr. high pastor do all day, but I refrained from asking that question, although I was really curious. I considered the oiling of the skateboard wheels and the proper wrinkling of the urban chic t-shirts. But I digress. I talked to her for awhile about the gospel to find out what they believed the gospel was. I had about finished with her thinking, which wasn’t quite developed enough for me to conclude, when her husband arrived. I spotted her husband before she did. As much as people stereotype fundamentalists, evangelicals might be easier to identify in their desperate desire to blend. Information: stop trying so hard. You blend like a Chinese tourist at Dollywood. Next.
The wife had to leave, so jr. high man and I talked first about the gospel. I was a little surprised to hear that he was a Calvinist. The senior pastor is a Dallas graduate. He didn’t disagree with most of what I said there on the basics, although I’m hard pressed to have even an LDS contradict me up to a certain point. It’s become all how you define the terms. Maybe that’s always been it. A big one is: Who is Jesus? A lot of different viewpoints there all under the banner of Jesus. But I moved on to worship. I kinda see that as the next thing. In a certain sense, I see the gospel and worship categorically as the same (see John 4:23-24). My question is: do you worship God in your church? Just because worship is happening doesn’t mean that it is actually happening. What people think is worship relates to Who they think God is. I already knew that at this church the worship was a matter of one’s taste. Those were almost the exact words I heard from their senior pastor when I had a previous conversation with him. I will say that talking to the jr. high pastor was a little like talking to a jr. higher. The arguments were similar to jr. high ones. I made a note that he needed to get out of the jr. high department a little more—pooled ignorance was happening.
Jr. high guy asked what music was appropriate for worship. I’m fine answering that question, and I knew it was a trap to offer the name of a particular style, but I did name some I did not believe were acceptable to God for worship, namely rap, hip-hop, grunge, and rock, among others. Upon listing those, his eyes lit up and he fired off a derogatory question as an answer: “So you’re saying that God can’t take rap music and redeem it for his worship?” The answer to that question is, of course, “N0,” but that is not how you answer. The key word in his question, I believe, was “redeem.” How he used that word says a lot about his view of the world and his understanding of God, of Christ, of worship, and of the Incarnation.
I believe this man’s concept of “redeeming the culture” is quite popular today. It is also new. It is not a historic understanding of either “redemption” or “culture.” The phraseology is an invention, designed to justify worldliness. What is most diabolical is that the phrase, “redeeming the culture,” is used to categorize a wicked activity into some sort of sanctified one. You should be able to conclude what damage this would do to the cause of biblical discernment.
Earlier I said the man carried on a jr. high type of approach. What did I mean? He used questions as a form of mockery. For instance, he asked, “So you’re saying that individual notes are evil or something?” He also leaned on the time-honored, “So any kind of song that is upbeat, I guess, is wrong then?” Who said anything about “individual notes being evil” or “upbeat songs being wrong”? No one. And he asked them with a kind of accusatory and incredulous tone, as if he was shocked.
To get the right idea of what God will redeem, we should consider 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, which says that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and that we can glorify God with our body. The body itself is not evil, despite what the Gnostics might say. It is how one uses the body. Paul explains that in Romans 6 when he says that the body can either be used for righteousness or unrighteousness depending upon what it serves. Letters and notes are about the same. They can be either used for evil or for good. Cloth is the same way. The material that turns into immodest clothing is not itself evil. What is evil is what the cloth is turned into, how it is used. Letters can be turned into foul language. Paint can become wicked or profane art. Notes can be formed into godless, pagan music, just like they can be made into sacred music.
However, someone can’t take pornography and redeem it for God. I explained this obvious point to jr. high man. I illustrated it by asking if naked women on the streets of a Marine base could be redeemed by handing out tracts. The Marines would show more interest. More tracts would be taken. The contents of the tracts was holy. Does the message justify the medium? Of course, he said no. The beauty of the illustration is that it makes it simple even for a jr. higher.
At a root level, this wrong idea about redemption relates to a perversion of Christ’s incarnation. It is very much a Gnostic understanding of the Incarnation. The logic of it goes like the following. Jesus became a man. Men are sinful. Jesus became a man so that He could relate with sinners. This takes His condescension right into the sewer. Jesus was a man, but He was a sinless, righteous man. He was tempted like men were, but without sin. Jesus didn’t relate to men. There was nothing wrong about the body. A body isn’t wrong. Jesus took a body. That wasn’t wrong. Jesus wasn’t redeeming the thing of having a body. He didn’t take a body to relate with what sinful men do with their bodies. He took on a body to die for us. That’s how Jesus redeemed. Jesus didn’t take a body to be like men; He took a body so that men could be like Him. These “redeeming the culture” people turn this right around. We Christians are not to take on the characteristics of the world, become like the world. That isn’t incarnational. We should be turning the world upside down, not the world turning us upside down.
To go a little further, we can also see an attack on the atonement in this idea. Jesus redeemed by dying in His body, and shedding real, physical blood in His body. He did not redeem the whole thing of sinful men having sinful bodies by taking a body Himself. This borders on a moral example theory of atonement, as if Jesus showed to sinful men how to have a body through his moral example in and with His body.
Here’s what the “redeeming the culture” people take out of this. If Jesus could take a body to do His work, then we can take rock music to do our worship. Just like Jesus accomplished what He did with a body, we can accomplish what we need to with modern art. This is incarnational to them, redeeming like Jesus redeemed. We redeem these things, making good use of them, sanctifying them, like Jesus made good use of a body.
What should be sad to anyone reading this, and really anyone period, is how that this brand of so-called Christianity destroys scriptural concepts and just about makes it impossible to follow Jesus for these people. The people of their churches think that their feelings, that are really orchestrated by sensual passions, are actually love. They are convinced of it. They are told that it is true, and in so doing, they are deceived. And now the most conservative of evangelicals and most fundamentalists would say that we can’t judge that to be wrong. Sure we can. Those feelings are not love. They are not love for God. Ironically, they are love for self, fooling someone into thinking they are love for God. Rather than redeem anything, they have taken something already redeemed, love, and have perverted it as a result. And God requires His own to love Him. You can see what this does to Christianity.
Professing Christians should just stop using the “redeeming the culture” language. They have it all wrong. They’re just excusing their love for the world and their desire to fit in with the world. You don’t take a profane or sinful activity and “redeem it.” The letters can be used for God. The notes can be used for God. A body can be used for God. But a wrong use of letters, notes, a body, or cloth is not redeemable. Whether any of those will be used for God will depend on what to which they are yielded. If they are yielded to God based upon biblical principles, therefore, acceptable to God, then culture is being redeemed. And only then is culture being redeemed.
Culture is a way of life. If one’s way of life smacks of this world system, the spirit of this age, it is not redeemed. Only a way of life surrendered to the way of God will God redeem.
The term “legalism” isn’t in the Bible, so it is off to a bad start as a scriptural discussion. And, yes, I know “Trinity” isn’t in there either. It is kind of ironic that someone could get in trouble for something that isn’t in the Bible to start with, and in trouble for something that says we’re in trouble for adding to the Bible. Nevertheless, “legalism” is a term we’re forced to discuss and deal with today.
Modern society relegates moral and religious concerns to matters private and personal. They’re nobodies’ business. You have the utter independence of the individual, offering freedom from all moral restraint or bounds. On the other hand, legalism becomes the suppression of the individual to majority or authority rule. The authority imposes standards which might elevate appearances to greater importance. Someone might look the part without really meaning it. Is there a scriptural place to regulate the lives of individuals by outward authority or law?
The laws themselves, as long as they’re scriptural, are not the problem. Having less of them won’t solve insincerity. We’re a nation of laws. God is a God of law. He provides standards by which to follow Him. Jesus said that if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments. We can keep His commandments and not love Him, but we can’t love Him if we don’t. Reducing the commandments, the words, or the sayings to a manageable number, an amount we can keep, doesn’t make the living more about love. The one falling short of obeying the commandments loves less.
Paul saw Galatians, who professed justification by grace alone, moving from the “faith alone” column to the “plus works” one. This wasn’t the church having rules or standards. These individuals weren’t shaking apostate Judaism. They were still earning their salvation no matter what Jesus had done. As a result, Christ was made “of no effect unto” them (Gal 5:4). This mindset propagated by false teachers also effected already saved, truly converted believers. They, who had “begun in the Spirit” “by the hearing of faith,” were influenced to “perfect” themselves “by the flesh” (Gal 3:2-3). God accepts the fulfillment of Scriptural standards produced by the Spirit through the life of the believer. The reduction of standards does not vindicate the acts of obedience any more than the addition of them. The key for acceptable obedience isn’t the minimization of the rules but the grace by which they are accomplished.
The modern obsession with lessening restrictions, reflected in evangelicalism today, doesn’t reveal God’s grace or His glory. It manifests rebellious hearts and corrupt consciences. God’s grace is a dynamic force of God that secures our working for Him. Grace looks to obey the precepts and principles of Scripture.
Often evangelicals flash the term “legalism” to make room for a questionable behavior or habit. I started part one of this two part series when a popular evangelical blog author attempted to defend a post about a popular television show (Lost) with another one against legalism. The author said one of the forms of legalism is the pharisaism of adding to scripture. Adding to the Bible is pharisaical and Pharisees are legalists. However, legalism of the Galatian variety isn’t adding to God’s Word. Actual scripture does just fine for Galatian legalism.
The evangelical charge of either legalism or adding to Scripture relates to the lasciviousness of evangelicalism today. I want to use one obvious issue as an example—women wearing pants. Why avoid it? I agree that the Bible doesn’t prohibit women from wearing pants. Case closed, right? Wrong. Deuteronomy 22:5 prohibits women from wearing the male garment. Pants are the male garment. So I’m coming from the Bible on this one. And a woman wearing the male garment is an abomination to God, so this is a moral issue. God is displeased by disobeying the prohibition.
Now this is where some say Christians have liberty because we have here one of these “doubtful disputations” of Romans 14:1. We are not to reject someone in doubtful disputations. Deuteronomy 22:5 hasn’t been doubtful until just recently when society decided they would overturn the symbols of God’s design of the two genders. And if we’re going to still keep obeying Deuteronomy 22:5, we’ve got replace the male symbol, the male garment. I get no answers, total silence, or a joke, from every person I ask to name the male symbol or garment that has replaced pants. Evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t want women to be prohibited from wearing pants, so they say that grace, God’s grace, permits their pant wearing. And since it is God’s grace that gives permission, it must be legalism now that prohibits. This circuitous line of reasoning makes “the commandment of God of none effect” (Mt 15:6), another kind of pharisaism.
I read with interest some of the arguments of the “lovers of grace” for justifying the night time soap opera. Here is one from one of the contributors there, Frank Turk:
Now, before stuff gets a little out of control, there is nothing that happened in the course of the 6 seasons of LOST which is anywhere near as gritty and frankly carnal as what happened to Er, Tamar, Onan, and Judah and his son Perez.
Frank argues that the content of biblical narratives justifies watching some sex scenes on television. His argument says that if it’s OK to read the Bible, and it is, then it’s also OK to watch something equal to or less sinful. I’m not going to provide opposition to this justification in this post, but I wanted you aware of what they’re saying. Phil Johnson adds this:
But it’s not really necessary to portray Rob and Laura Petrie sleeping in separate beds in order to preserve the purity of the viewing audience, and it’s not inherently sinful to be exposed to a story in which someone commits adultery–or even worse.
I think Phil is staying a little purposefully ambiguous, but he’s creating space for watching acts of adultery committed on television. It’s along the same lines of the Frank argument above. And overall, those who question this line of reasoning, they say, are “legalists.” And Phil would add that this kind of “legalism,” the type that questions this type of viewership based upon moral grounds, is more dangerous than emergent or emerging types of license. And this is coming from those who claim to be conservative evangelicals.
Was Job a tad legalistic when he followed that whole “covenant with his eyes” standard (Job 31:1)? I guess Job was just trying to rack up merit points. Either that, or he thought that having the right thought life would help him please God. And He did love God. We’re commanded by Paul, “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2a). But how can we follow that requisite for presenting our bodies a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1b)? Well, it’s by being transformed “by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2b). And how are our minds renewed? They are renewed by what we fill them with. Garbage in, garbage out. Clean in, clean out. Christian leaders shouldn’t be encouraging their listeners to belly-up to the garbage trough. What do you think?
Now I say that these boy-who-cried-wolf type of accusations of “legalism” destroy. They encourage lasciviousness and license. They sear and suave the conscience. They encourage false worship. They impede holy living. They excuse sin.
In the last week someone wrote that these “legalists” require lists of rules for their adherents in order to compensate for personal insecurities. And then as a way of reaching unattainable spiritual heights, made impossible by the sheer magnitude of the regulations, the followers obtain special relics to overcome their spiritual shortfalls. Mark Farnham says these fundamentalist relics were objects associated with fundamentalist saints, like the signature of a well-known preacher or the car of John R. Rice or Jack Hyles’ ring. Interesting theory. I wonder if a heavy collection of C. H. Spurgeon memorabilia would count as spiritual relics as well. Or perhaps treks to the meccas of Together for the Gospel in Louisville or Shepherd’s Conference in Southern California might result in some pure spirituality that someone might otherwise be missing.
Following Farnham’s line of reasoning, I see evangelicals and fundamentalists also reaching for an abounding grace formerly unreachable without the relic of the worship team, the contemporary chorus, the goatee beard, the powerpoint screen medium, and the casual polo shirt. Some mixture of these ingredients effuse Christians with a grace elixir capable of bringing them to a different spiritual dimension. Grace is available to those hungry enough to release the ball and chain of an old version of Scripture, a stifling shirt and tie, and a constraining television standard. Nothing says grace quite like your best Sunday t-shirt and a Jars of Clay logo on the bottom of your skateboard.
Nobody is really neutral. Paul writes in Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The word “hold” means “suppress.” Whoever does not receive the truth suppresses the truth. Everyone starts from a position of knowing the truth. Paul elaborates a little further in v. 25 by saying that these truth suppressors “change the truth into a lie.”
You might be thinking, “well, they suppress the truth about God, but they don’t suppress all the truth.” Wrong. When you suppress the truth about God, you have also suppressed all the truth. Why? Without God there is no absolute truth, no objective truth. Without God, everything is random and haphazard. Someone may say that he believes the truth about something, but he cannot qualify it as truth without some standard of truthfulness, a standard that does not exist without God.
Now you might be thinking, “well, someone can say that an object is the color red without God.” Wrong again. There would have to be the idea of color, and someone can’t know there is color and that a color is red unless an idea can exist and that someone could think. Without God, everything is essentially molecules indiscriminately meeting and bouncing off of one another. Why is that color? And how could it be red? Without God, everything is subjective. What’s happening on earth is of no more consequence than what is occurring on Neptune. Chemical processes and colliding matter can’t think or make value judgments. They’re just accidents moving toward ultimate entropy.
So for all truth, we start with God. And everybody knows that even if they do suppress it. Since God began everything, He defines everything, and He determines reality. We know God and we know because of God. We don’t really know without Him, so what we know, including what is true, beautiful, and good, is based on Who He is. And there is no neutrality. We all begin with God. It’s just that one admits it and the other suppresses it.
Evangelicalism and fundamentalism, however, have embraced neutrality. This is a trick of Satan, a shell game that he plays with men, so that they will begin to look at life on his terms. He would like men to think, in contradiction to God’s Word, that everyone starts out on even ground or with a blank slate in the development of his beliefs and the determination of what is true or false. With neutrality, revelation is personal so theological knowledge is ambiguous, requiring a response to evidence.
WHERE WE SEE AN EMBRACE OF NEUTRALITY IN EVANGELICALISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM
This embrace of neutrality is seen in the evangelical and fundamentalist explanation of beauty. Beauty has been reduced to a mere mechanical response to sensory input. This neutrality denies intrinsic or inherent beauty or any absolute standard of beauty outside of man’s personal choice. While once Christianity accepted an objective standard of beauty that started with God, evangelicalism has fallen prey to the world view espousing man as the arbiter of beauty. This is manifested today in the evangelical embrace and fundamentalist acceptance of anything-goes in music. Objective beauty, sacred and unprofaned, has been sacrificed on an altar of modern and post-modern culture.
I expect evangelicals to deny this, which, of course, they’ll especially have the right to do in their contemporary realities, dogmatic in their tolerance. Modernism broke down traditional institutions through secularization and urbanization, giving numerous opportunities of pleasure and self-fulfillment. Men then looked at life on their terms. Instead of concentrating on what God expects, churches focused on what people thought or felt they were missing. As modernity stripped life of meaning, which begins and ends with God, men have turned to self to explain. The individual became the ultimate adjudicator of what is beautiful. Evangelicals have accepted this.
In many ways conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists have objected to doctrinal relativism. They have held the line to a certain degree at certain fundamental truths. They seem to be proud of this. However, they have embraced neutrality in relationship to aesthetic values—what is beautiful—and all absolute truth to maintain their credibility in a post modern world. This embrace of neutrality is seen in the rampant subjectivity in music for worship both personal and corporate, in the casual and coarse, often immodest, apparel, the vast slippage in the realm of entertainment values, and in the wide-ranging acceptance of doctrinal ambiguity, which includes a shunning of the doctrine and practice of separation. God has been marginalized by having far less importance in man’s actual life.
When you watch evangelicals and fundamentalists talk about doctrine, you hear the damage that their own embrace of neutrality has caused. They pander post-modernity with their theological reductionism, relegating truth to essentials and non-essentials. This plays right into the attack on meaning and the self-autonomy of interpretation. Men are on a quest for knowledge, whose progress is slowed by the oppressiveness of unequivocal and authoritative conviction. Certainty violates personal viewpoint and self as source of meaning. This has reduced the church to a shop for religious consumers. The message must be contextualized to the shopper for accomplishment of mission.
With a conformity to post-modern culture, unity has become the highest value of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. You hear this narrative in today’s political speech, the era of post-partisanship. Political operatives vie for the admiration of the independent voters, a mass of humanity in the ambiguous middle, who are proud for not having made up their minds. Uncertainty is elevated to a sacramental place in American culture with few exceptions, such as food and celebrity. Evangelicals and fundamentalists won’t hold your differing belief and practice against you. You can join in by agreeing to disagree and all getting along based on the supreme injunction of unity in the body; well, with the exception of a few essentials that even in those it’s probably just going to be a matter of interpretation. The embrace of neutrality is witnessed in the compliance to this view of unity.
THE RESULTS OF THE EMBRACE OF NEUTRALITY IN EVANGELICALISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM
Evangelicals and fundamentalists proclaim the supremacy of the gospel. I don’t mind an emphasis on the gospel. But the point of the gospel, the worship of God, is often lost with this embrace of neutrality. God is seeking for true worshipers (John 4:23-24). The profane, desecrated music that evangelicals especially, but also fundamentalists, offer as worship results from their aesthetic neutrality. They have forsaken an objective beauty and worship is the casualty. God doesn’t accept the ugliness they have decided is acceptable to Him because they have forsaken an absolute standard of beauty.
Evangelicals and fundamentalists have devalued aesthetics, resulting in heteropathy. And as they relate to God, they can’t separate doctrine and practice from affections. Without the proper affections, our relationship to the Lord can’t be right, even if we happen to be doctrinally and practically orthodox. The imitation affections, actually passions, desires mistaken for love, are more blasphemous to God than if He had received nothing, no affection, no passion, no nothing.
The product that is devised and delivered by churches today and called worship blasphemes God by its deviation from beauty. It is often profaned by its fleshly stimulation, its banality, or its kitsch. Like animals churches have become driven by their desires, needs, and appetites, and have treated God and worship itself as an instrument to fulfill those things. God is to be the end in itself of worship, the worship to be governed by devotion to Him and not those things that are the means to us. In his book, Beauty, Roger Scruton has called this profanation that he has seen the “Disneyfication of faith.” He has also written, and I agree (pp. 176, 182):
Desecration is a kind of defence against the sacred, an attempt to destroy its claims. In the presence of sacred things our lives are judged and in order to escape the judgment we destroy the thing that seems to accuse. . . . One cure for the pain of desecration is the move towards total profanation: in other words, to wipe out all vestiges of sanctity for the once worshipped object, to make it merely a thing of the world, and not just a thing in the world, something that is nothing over and above the substitutes that can at any time replace it.
What people really love is themselves and the world. They know that’s not right. Their true love they profess is about God is really still about them.
Almost all evangelicals and fundamentalists would say they love the truth. But truth can’t survive their embrace of neutrality. Some truth, sure, but truth as a whole won’t make it with the accession to modern and post modern culture. It does start with certainty about the Words of God. Evangelicals and fundamentalists can’t know that because they have elevated reason above faith in line with modernism. And then meaning of Scripture comes crashing down close behind, because how can we know what words mean if we aren’t sure what they are.
The next victim of the embrace of neutrality is discernment. With the forsaking of objective beauty, what is goodness and true must also necessarily fall by the wayside as well. The certainty here all comes from the same source. When you change the basis of your conclusion to make way for your own opinion, you lose the ability to decide with any authority. Various factions of evangelicalism and fundamentalism stand at various stages of deterioration, but none will survive their embrace of neutrality.
In the end, perhaps what is lost more than anything is obedience to God. God is not pleased. His truth is not respected. His ways are not kept. And the churches are not so concerned.
If your whole life has been lived in a bunker, it will be hard to see the world with any other perspective than the bunker in which you live. That’s what will make this essay hard to accept for evangelicals and fundamentalists. Most will likely never understand because they will refuse to separate themselves from the bunker. If they hear this in a post-modern way, influenced by the world and the Satan’s work to that extent, they will hear this about how Bill Clinton listened to Ken Starr during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I’ll be the villain like him for attempting to impose my oppressive and narrow moral narrative on their unity and their freedom. I’m pretty sure I’ll be thought to be kooky right wing fringe who attempts to dictate my personal preferences to others.
The barbarians are not standing at the gate any longer. In many ways, we’ve become the barbarians. We have allowed the Philistines to have their way. Churches have lost their will to contend. We’re at a very serious time for the truth, for Scripture, for obedience to God, for true worship, for what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful. Please do not dismiss this. Do not take it lightly. Don’t marginalize it. Don’t be fooled. I ask that you consider whether it’s me or it’s you.
8:30-9:30 p.m., March, 27, 2010. Pagan Hour.
If it’s already 9:30 p.m. for you, it’s too late. Sorry. For the rest of you, turn your lights ON between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. TONIGHT. Why on? Because you love God and are jealous for his glory and worship.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
Maybe I won’t explain myself well enough, but I’m going to make a defense for reckless waste during this one hour of the year.
When God created the earth and man, he gave man responsibility for it and we, therefore, are to be stewards of the whole world. For this reason, I conserve my resources everyday of my life. God has given to me bountifully and as his steward, I strive to keep good care of his gifts. I try to save money and resources all the time because all my money and resources are not really mine–they’re on loan from God.
The World (and it’s ideologies) wants me to make a statement tonight that I’m concerned about the earth and the crisis we are in globally. Are we in a global climate crisis? The Word tells me that God is in control and that He is the one that will destroy it someday. For it to be here for Him to destroy, it will have to stick around until He’s ready to do that. Also, the World tells me that I should surrender the responsibility God has given me and do what my “Mother Earth” wants. If I do that, I’m rebelling against God. If I cave in to the pagan idea of “gaia,” I’m joining the heathen in their worship of the earth. I want to stand in STARK contrast with pagan-heathenism. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
So I’m turning every light on I can think of: and to revel in the bountiful goodness that God has created the earth with, and allowed me to steward, I’m also turning on every electric device I can think of, and leaving plugged in every appliance I can think of, and if I think of anything else, I’m turning that on too.
Tonight at 8:30 p.m. is NOT the time any Christian should be “off the grid.” Consume all the energy you can to the glory of God! (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Every year at about this time, I find myself re-amazed at the amount of money and effort people in Utah put into decorating for Halloween. But this year especially, I am beyond re-amazed. In a bad economy, as people lose their shirts and undershirts to the stock market, as businesses fold, and as unemployment rates spike, Halloween Stores are popping up all over town, filling every vacant store they can find.
Is there really that much demand for Styrofoam gravestones and inflatable monsters? As I drive around, I find that yes in fact, there is that much demand for it. Utah has several cultural oddities, but Utah’s fetish with all things Halloween just might be the most glaring obsession of all. What gives with that?
As Christians, we must remember that men become what they worship. People who worship a god that has eyes but see not, that have ears but hear not, that have mouths but speak not, become just like that — sightless eyes, speechless mouths, just like their gods of stone (see Psalm 115 and 135). Only in this case, we are confronted with a god who is the brother of Satan, and who demands from his worshippers, not groveling at the feet of a stone god, but rather a strict adherence to a very rigid set of “traditional values.”
In their system, righteousness comes by the law. And, since righteousness by the law is an impossibility (Galatians 2:16; Acts 13:38-39), it can never produce redemption or rest. The only thing that “traditional values” can possibly produce is guilt (Romans 3:20; James 2:10). What we have then, among the practitioners of the local religion, is a religion that is laden with guilt. One pastor rightly compared it to the Salt Lake — an enormous dead sea of guilt. It is their “traditional values,” their commitment to righteousness by the law that generates this Salt Lake of guilt. Their “values” produce such a weight, such a burden of standards that the load of guilt crushes them.
So, what do we make of Halloween in Utah? Why is it celebrated so furiously? Besides the fact that they are celebrating their lord’s next-of-kin, we can also say that this is their way of dealing with their guilt. I suppose that we could make the same comparison to slavery — men find odd ways to put a positive spin on their condition. Even in slavery, men still found a way to be happy. A man who is enslaved by guilt soon finds a way to enjoy it, even to make it seem like this is the way it is supposed to be.
Bobby Mitchell, pastor of Mid-Coast Baptist Church, Brunswick, Maine, sent me an email in which he and his father chronicled the reasons why churches and their Christian families are losing their children to the world. He was asked by someone doing research for a book to give his explanation. I thought they were bullseye at diagnosing the problem, so I asked Pastor Mitchell if we could publish it here or at my blog, What Is Truth. Here is the answer that was authored by his dad and him
1. Many are not genuinely converted because of the watered down Gospel presentations that are so prevalent. They are told to acknowledge a few facts, they are led in a prayer, then they are told to never doubt their experience. Of course, over time, if they are never genuinely converted then they either continue on trying to “fit the mold” of their church, or they just walk away from it when they are able.
2. Many are told what to do, but not taught why to do it, or what not to do, but not why. They have been told that baptism is by immersion only, that the KJV is the Word of God in English, that women should be modest, etc. But, these things are not taught to them from the Scriptures. They grow up just thinking that these are merely the rules of life for independent Baptists. So, they are not really convinced, or convicted, and it is easy for them to slip into other doctrines and practices.
3. Many grow up in homes that are plagued with inconsistency. The standards change based on who the family is around. The family Bible time is hit-and-miss or non-existent. Discipline is not consistent. There is an open or even silent disagreement with what is taught by the church concerning entertainment, dress, roles in the home, etc. The inconsistency relates to young people that the parents are not really set on doing things the Biblical way. They become unstable and are easy prey for the world.
4. Many hear their parents criticize the pastor and other strong Christians in the church. This can result in confusion.
5. Many times when the pastor is seeing the young people really embrace the truth and Biblical living the parents become obstacles. It seems the parents are bothered by their children surpassing them in the things of the Lord. The parents pull them back and some even express jealousy concerning the influence the pastor has concerning their children.
6. Many times the parents get their children wrapped up in the things of this world. The parents are concerned about their children loving the Lord and walking in the light, but they are just as concerned with their kids playing organized sports, becoming popular, being fashionable, seeing the latest movies, making a lot of money, having the newest video game systems, acquiring every type of technology without proper accountability regarding those “toys,” etc. Through it all the dad and mom seem to be sowing thorns that choke the seed of the Word of God. This is especially true when the sports, fun, and such ever come before any of the aspects of New Testament ministry.
7. Many times the young people are not really involved in the ministry of the church until they are pressed to do so in their late teens. Too many are just observers and not participators. All that is expected of them is to sit and be entertained instead of training and serving. They are not taught that we exist to glorify God. Practically, they are being taught that the ministry exists to make sure that they are having fun. They are not taught to “buy in” to the work of the ministry. Eventually, they realize that the world’s entertainment is better and they look for fulfillment in getting involved in worldly groups and activities.
8. Many Christian young people are not taught to pray, study the Bible, meditate on the Word, memorize the Scriptures and appropriate them practically in real-life situations. Real life then comes along and they don’t respond Biblically.
9. Many times young people grow up knowing of all sorts of sin in the church that is not dealt with Scripturally. Of course, they also see young people leaving the church and that not being dealt with Biblically. They don’t realize how wicked this is and they have no fear of God concerning it.
10. The bar is set too low for so many young people. They are treated as if they are expected to be “silly teens.” As long as they don’t do a few really bad things and as long as they do a few good things they are treated as if they are Godly. So many of the young people in churches that I have been familiar with are good (in the commonly used sense of the word) but they are not Godly! Good kids will eventually get devoured by the world, but truly spiritual ones will develop into mature Christians. Too many are treated according to the worldly concept of “teenager hood.” The Bible speaks of infants, children, young men, young women, and older men, and older women. I think that a lack of teens understanding that they should be Godly young men and young ladies is hurting many.
11. Many young people have heard very little of the “fear of God.” They have a warped image of God that magnifies his love and mercy while almost completely ignoring his holiness, majesty, and wrath. Subsequently, they walk in pride and rebellion.
12. Too often the preaching to young people is just fluffy and light, and often-times it is just motivational speaking. Too many young people do not grow up really learning sound doctrine and being taught through books of the Bible. Too many preachers that are youth-focused are trying to be “cool” and “hip.”
13. Many kids from good homes and churches graduate high school and are pushed into the Christian college environment. Sadly, most (prayerfully, not all) of the Bible colleges are anemic in their teaching and practice. There is almost an idolatry of fun and good times at many schools. One college has even been heavily promoting a water park with a wave pool and a place for the young ladies to tan (as if that is so important). When I visited that same school I was awestruck with the amount of money and time put into “fun.” The young adults are, in a great way, withdrawn from their parents, church, and pastor. What little time they have with godly teachers and staff is outweighed by the influence of so many worldly students in the dorm rooms and activities. There is a mixture of doctrinal persuasions among many of the student bodies. Their parents and pastors are compared to those of the others and often the lowest common denominator is embraced in matters of holiness. The dating game is played. Endless debates rage among peers. The “pillar and ground of the truth,” the local NT church, is downplayed.
14. The local New Testament church is treated by many parents as optional instead of vital to spiritual growth and New Testament Christianity. The same goes for the pastor.
The Hypocrisy of Contemporary “Conservative” Evangelicalism pt. 2: Dovetailing with ‘Reacquiring a Christian Counterculture, pt. 2′
Not too long ago I had written the first part of an essay entitled “Reacquiring a Christian Counterculture.” It was only part one, but we moved on to another topic here. I post-scripted it with: “I will be continuing this next week, Lord-willing. I want to talk about the way that the scriptural understanding of holiness was forsaken for pragmatic purposes. I will get into the point of reclaiming a Christian culture.” That short paragraph fit nicely with what I was writing at the end of the first of this multi-part post.
I began breaking down Romans 15:15-21 as a choice passage to expose the hypocrisy of conservative evangelicalism. I believe that fundamentalists are also hypocritical as it relates to conservative evangelicals. Someone has mentioned that in the comment section here. How so? They complain about segments of fundamentalism that are revivalistic and man-centered, and yet they seem to turn a blind eye toward the conservative evangelicals who participate in revivalism and man-centeredness. In this regard, I like the comment Art Dunham wrote:
I believe the time has come for us to be independent MEN of God and state the truth whatever the consequence to any affiliation, friendship, or Bible College.
Bravo Art. That’s what we need. We don’t need to move from one big, bad example to another big, bad example. It reminds me of the historic Baptist martyr, Balthasar Hubmaier: “Truth is immortal.”
Back to Romans 15
There are many truths to flesh out of this text in Romans 15, but the first we called to your attention was “instrumentality.” I drew your attention especially to the end of v. 17, the teaching here being that Christ is glorified or worshiped only “in those things which pertain to God.” Paul was ministering as an Old Testament priest, who presented to God his sanctified sacrifices, and he wanted these Gentile converts to be acceptable offerings to the Lord. For this to occur, all of His service must be found within the confines of those things which pertain to God. Things which pertain to men won’t fulfill the goal of glorifying Christ. They are not the instrumentality that God will bless with that result.
I think we should be able to understand how that the things that we use to accomplish the noble goals of glorifying Christ and offering up acceptable sacrifices to God must be those things which pertain to God. It is very much akin to the use of carnal weaponry to attain spiritual ends in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Paul didn’t war after the flesh. In the end, that warring wouldn’t even work. As I have read from many different sources through the years, “You will keep them with what you get them.” Carnal weapons can’t succeed in spiritual warfare.
Here’s what happens today. Hard packed, stony, and thorny hearts today don’t want the incorruptible, life-giving seed. The idea is that if we could package that seed in something that those hearts do want or love (zoom to 2:25 on the link), then we could make the seed work. The seed needs a little help. It needs music. It needs entertainment. It needs stage lights or a night club environment. It needs to look like a theater. It needs a trap set. Maybe even some tattoos. It needs syncopation and driving drum beats. It needs the enticement of some hormonally charged boy-girl interaction. It needs the license of personal expression in the hip-hop cap, soul patch, or oversized shirt. It needs stylin’. It needs “dude.” It needs the emotionalism of some rhythm induced hand-waving. It needs the hip, ghetto, graffiti font on the decaying, urban brick background. It needs youtube ads that mimic the twittering hand-held production values of the Blair Witch Project (this defines authenticity). It needs sensuality and things conforming to the world and its fashion (play numbers one and two, you’ll get enough of a sample). These are all things that hard, stony, and thorny ground might be able to relate to or with. Today we might call this missiological or contextualization, you know, just to make it sound like it is spiritual, when it isn’t. The adherents know everything they are doing and the meaning of everything they do, and yet they’ll often say that it is meaningless and can’t be judged. It smacks of the spirit of this age. It pertains to man.
Holiness Pertains to God
To comprehend this more, we should unpack the theological understanding of “those things which pertain to God.” Those things which pertain to God are holy. Holiness is not just moral purity. It is God’s majestic transcendence, His otherness, His non-contingency. Holiness is sacredness, which means it is not common or profane. It is distinct, unique to the attributes and character of God.
The Old Testament term kadesh or the adjective form, qadesh, translated “holy,” is not used just for that which pertains to God. It is used to describe, for instance, the temple prostitutes of pagan religion of strange nations (Deuteronomy 23:17). That means that those prostitutes had qualities that were unique to their gods. The root of the word means “to cut,” that is, “to separate.” Holines is related to consecration. When an item was holy, it was devoted for and only for the worship of the Lord. Items associated with pagan and defiled concepts could not be used in the worship of the Lord. Something that is holy is designated as sacred and was distinct from the profane or common.
The Christian does not look to the world to find worship forms. He looks to scripture. He sees certain qualities of this world system—sensual, carnal, of the spirit of the age, making provision for the flesh. A basic element of Israelite worship was the maintenance of an inviolable distinction between the sacred and the common. They guarded against the sacred being treated as common. While the realm of the holy was conceptually distinct from the world with its imperfections, it could nevertheless operate within the world as long as its integrity was strictly maintained.
Holiness was not and has not been just a separateness from sin. It is a maintaining of distinctions between those things consecrated to God and those that are common. The common may not be sinful, but it is not sacred. God’s name and His worship should not be treated lightly. They should not be brought into association with that characterized by earthliness. Certain aspects of the world are not redeemable as sacred. They were invented by men for men’s passions, to touch his will through the body to influence affections inordinately.
Opponents to holiness today say that worldliness is only a matter of the heart, only an attitude. They fall far short of what scripture says about worldliness. Romans 12:2 commands, “Be not conformed to this world.” “Conformed” is not internal. It is external. 1 Peter 1:14-15 reads:
14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
“Fashioning” is external.” “All manner” includes internal and external. Sure, being a friend of the world is internal (James 4:4), but the external manifestations also anger God. That’s why God said through Zephaniah (1:8):
And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.
He would punish those clothed with strange apparel. In other words, they were appearing like the world, associating themselves in their externals with pagan culture. God didn’t want them fitting in with the world. He wanted a sacred Israel. He wanted to keep a difference between the sacred and the profane.
I believe that the redefining and the dumbing down of holiness comes because of professing believers, maybe unconverted, who want to fit in with the world. They know how to do it. Almost everybody does. The philosophies of the world can be seen in dress, music, art, and more. We can know on the outside what message a particular form is communicating. We know when a man is acting effeminate. We know when a woman is acting masculine. We know a foul word. We know a term, an appearance, and a composition that carries ungodly associations. The conservative evangelicals are using these to reach their desired ends. When they succeed, they say that God was responsible. God was also responsible for giving water to Moses when he struck the rock. That end did not justify the means. And men who drank became carcasses in the wilderness.
Hollywood knows what it is doing with styles. It knows how to play something sensual or sexual. It knows how to target certain human emotions (emotionalism) and carnal passions. Conservative evangelicals imitate them. They offer their adherents the same thing as the world with some Christianity mixed in. This is called syncretism—”worshiping” God and using worldly means. It blurs the dinstinction between the sacred and the common, between God and the world, between the Divine and the worldly.
Limitation to Scriptural Parameters
To accomplish the glory of Christ and an acceptable offering to God, Paul limited himself to Scripture—he would only regulate his audience according to a Divine message (vv. 18-19). To make the Gentiles obedient,” in either “word or deed,” he would not “dare to speak” anything but that which was given Him by Christ. Those were all that were authoritative and authenticated by means of “mighty signs and wonders.”
The Bible wasn’t given to us to read between the lines. Certain actions aren’t forbidden in God’s Word. That doesn’t mean they become our means of accomplishment or a strategy for success. God gave His Word as sufficient to regulate any area of our lives. Even if our own ideas aren’t sinful, they aren’t what He said. Only what He said, when obeyed, will give glory to God.
Conservative evangelicals often expose scripture. However, they are just as guilty as revivalist fundamentalists at looking for non-scriptural techniques to influence believers toward what they believe will be salvation and spiritual growth. Even if they “worked,” they wouldn’t give glory to Christ or be acceptable to God. They would not require faith and so they couldn’t please God. Paul kept just preaching the gospel. He limited himself to the activity God endowed to fulfill His work. We must limit our means if we will glorify Christ and send up that acceptable offering to God.
Reacquiring a Christian Counterculture
We’re to be regulated by Scriptural precept and example. We’re to be distinct from the world. We should have a unique Christian culture. Culture itself isn’t amoral. Many ways that a culture expresses itself are filled with meaning. Some of those expressions may honor God and others may not. God laid out some very detailed laws to distinguish Israel from the rest of the nations on earth. He wants us to be different.
If we’re going to reacquire a Christian counterculture that separates from the world’s culture, however it is expressing itself, we must get a grasp on scriptural holiness. We must understand it, let it influence our affections above indifference, and then choose to be holy as God is holy. Our music, dress, and other cultural expressions will change. They will become distinct from the philosophies of the world and from the spirit of this age. The change will not allow us to fit into the world. The world will also know that we’re different–not just in matters of righteousness versus sinfulness, but in those of sacredness versus profanity.
A Bonus (a comment I wrote under a blog post about Peter Master’s recent article about worldliness).
In the Bible, not once is music directed to men. Never is it said to be for evangelism. Preaching is for evangelism—not music. At the most, unbelievers “see” the worship of believers (Ps 40) and fear. They don’t sway and laugh it up because it is the same stuff they’re accustomed to. As a byproduct the music can teach and admonish, but we would assume that it does so only when it is pleasing to God. And it is more than the words, because of what we see in the psalms again and again, Ps 150 for instance, and then in Col 3:16 (psallo–making melody, which is literally “to pluck on a string”).
Men talk about rich theological content. Let’s just say that we all agree with scriptural content that is befitting of the worship God shows He wants in the psalms. This can’t be an either/or—neither the music or the content justifies the other. The Word of God should regulate the words and the music. When we present it to God using a worldly, fleshly medium, this is the syncretism that Masters is talking about. And the medium truly is the message. The vehicle for conveying the message, the music, must also fit with God’s character.
What we seem to be really talking about here is whether music itself can be worldly, fleshly, make provision for the flesh, relativistic, conform to the world, or be unholy, that is, profane. The world knows what it is doing with music. The world uses certain aspects of the music to communicate all of the above that I listed earlier in this paragraph. The world talks about it in its own descriptions of its music. And we can catch the philosophy behind the music itself in the history of the music.
Jonathan Edwards described genuine Christianity as involving religious affections and not men’s passions. He distinguished the real from the counterfeit by differentiating between affections and passions. Affections differ than passions in that they start with the mind and then feed the will. Passions, on the other hand, begin with the body. Not only are passions not genuine affection but they also harm discernment. What is thought to be something spiritual is actually a feeling that has been choreographed in the flesh.
This is a second premise scriptural argument. It is akin to applying Eph 4:29, which commands believers not to have corrupt communication proceed out of their mouth. Based on some of the comments I’ve read here, certain foul language could not be wrong, because the English words aren’t found in the Bible. This, I believe, is part of the attack on truth part of postmodernism. We can ascertain truth in the real world. We can judge corrupt words. We too can judge when music conforms to the world, fashions itself after our former lusts. We can know when it is that passions are being manipulated by music, that it isn’t joy, but a fleshly feeling that impersonates happiness. It is actually fleshly self gratification.
Much, much more could be said about the relationship of externals and internals in the matter of worldliness. The four books by David Wells could be referred to for those who would want to understand. Evangelicals seem not to recognize the danger of accepting the means pagan culture expresses itself. We blaspheme a holy God, profaning His name, by associating it with these worldly, fleshly forms.
Many young fundamentalists vocalize their hatred for the errors of fundamentalism, especially concentrating on Jack Hyles, bad preaching, shallow evangelism, political bullying, and standards pushed with little to no exegetical basis. They also decry the excesses and abuses of revivalistic practices. Of course, at the top they spew venom against the exclusive use of the King James Version. They are angry and they’re not going to put up with it anymore.
One repercussion of the above mentioned items is the pendulum swing over to the “conservative evangelicals” by these young or youngish fundamentalists. Certain evangelicals provide a perfect shelter for runaway fundamentalists. They provide an almost perfect checklist for youngfundamentalist-matchmade.com. And the fundamentalist will defend his new asylum with the fervor of a revivalist.
Why the Loyalty to “Conservative Evangelicals”?
I believe that much of the new loyalty to these evangelicals is fueled by the fundamentalist seminaries. The seminary professors there aren’t as critical of the evangelicals as they are of fundamentalism. They see, I believe, violations of their own principles or at least preferences to a much greater degree among fundamentalists than they do among the so-called conservative evangelicals. They feel more comfortable with evangelicals than they do fundamentalists. You catch this mood by the way these fundamentalist professors and presidents talk about these evangelicals and the great respectfulness they talk to them.
By the way, what conservative evangelical, who young fundamentalists love, has a small church? Interesting. They are drawn to those with earthly success. Success isn’t justified by numbers, right? That’s one thing we hate, right? The numbers game. But they like the guys that got big. How did they get big? What did they do to get that way? This is all tell-tale in what is happening within this movement.
There is now underway a movement toward giving a new label to conservative evangelicals. They’re now paleofundamentalists. They are fundamentalists of the old stripe of fundamentalism, who fought mainly for the fundamentals, and we’re talking now 75 to 100 years ago. These historic fundamentalists supposedly remained indifferent to anything that fell below a major doctrine (the fundamentals). And I’m just reporting what I’m reading.
The feelings of the refugees from fundamentalism also are stirred by the published authorship of the conservative evangelicals. They pump out books. The fundamentalist fugitives read and study their books in seminary classes. They then think: “if we are so impressed with their books, then why is it that we don’t just join them.” The lists of recommended reading are almost entirely evangelical—hardly anything of fundamentalism. I recognize fundamentalists haven’t written much, but it’s still an elephant in the fundamentalist seminary class room.
Disapproval of “Conservative Evangelicals”
Very little critical is said of the conservative evangelicals. Only recently has any popular evangelical been the target of any fundamentalist denunciation—the one guy is Mark Driscoll. Driscoll had been constantly beloved in fundamentalist writings, only with minor disclaimer for potential future deniability. John MacArthur and Phil Johnson granted permission to fundamentalists to join the opprobrium of Driscoll. He had broken MacArthur’s and Johnson’s rules of decorum, so everyone was now welcome to start shelling Driscoll with them. MacArthur and Driscoll started pummeling Driscoll a few months ago and now it is open season on Driscoll. Even John Piper has come out in vintage Piperesque fashion to talk about the good spanking he was going to give Driscoll while they remained in fellowship together. (I believe that this is an example of how evangelicals separate. They write essays and make statements.)
I would like to begin to illustrate to you the hypocrisy of this crowd of people, the conservative evangelicals. Beyond Driscoll, the fundamentalists can’t seem to see the hypocrisy. That is a kind of hypocrisy in itself. There’s also the hypocrisy of seeing all the foibles in most of fundamentalism with very little about evangelicalism. But before I start exposing this problem, I’d like to expose some Scripture that applies to the problem. I want us to think together about a segment of Romans 15.
Here’s the text so you won’t need to look it up:
15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, 16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. 17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, 19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: 21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
I recognize that with a passage of scripture like this in an essay, there’s a tendency for your eyes to avert the passage and go to what I’m saying about it, even evangelicals and young fundamentalists who are reading. Let’s make sure to read through the text. I mean, you want to, right? At least to check me out, to see if I’m treating the text correctly?
The “grace of God” had a certain effect on Paul (v. 15). And we see in v. 16 that the grace was available to him to minister the gospel of God to the Gentiles, and not just in any way. The grace of God worked toward the result of these Gentiles being an acceptable offering up to God. And then he goes to elaborate on that in the next few verses.
This is what the young fundamentalists miss about the conservative evangelicals. The conservative evangelicals like to talk about the grace of God, but they are as guilty as the Hyles’ people and the revivalists at manipulation in order to get their results. The reason they’re big is not the grace of God. The grace of God operates in a different way than what we see with them. If it is the grace of God, then it will look like what we see Paul describe in Romans 15. What does characterize a work of God?
In v. 17, Paul says that Jesus is glorified “in those things which pertain to God.” The instrument of the glory of Jesus Christ is something that is God. Paul wanted a result that he could give God as an offering (v. 16). The second “ministering” in v. 16 is a word that applies to the sacrificial service of the priest, speaking of priestly offerings. The word “sanctified” is a form of the word “holy.”
Jesus is glorified in a work, when it pertains to God. Works that don’t pertain to God, but pertain to human techniques and strategies, these are by nature unholy. They’re profane or common—they don’t pertain to God. The work produces sacredness in its adherents because it is sacred itself.
We see constant man-made, worldly techniques in the work of John Piper. A recent Calvinist publication reveals this with a review by Peter Masters (you’ve got to read this whole article), the pastor of Spurgeon’s church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle:
The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book – large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.
We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, ‘Christian’ hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.
Masters does more than report what is happening, when he diagnoses:
Indeed, a far better quality Calvinism still flourishes in very many churches, where souls are won and lives sanctified, and where Truth and practice are both under the rule of Scripture. Such churches have no sympathy at all with reporter Collin Hansen’s worldly-worship variety, who seek to build churches using exactly the same entertainment methods as most charismatics and the Arminian Calvary Chapel movement.
The new Calvinists constantly extol the Puritans, but they do not want to worship or live as they did. One of the vaunted new conferences is called Resolved, after Jonathan Edwards’ famous youthful Resolutions (seventy searching undertakings). But the culture of this conference would unquestionably have met with the outright condemnation of that great theologian.
Masters doesn’t leave it alone to Piper. He goes after another fundamentalist icon, John MacArthur, with this further criticism:
Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)
I’ve been talking about this for awhile, engendering hatred from younger and even older fundamentalists. They don’t want to hear it. Their guy exposits well. He doesn’t use the King James Version. They show a high degree of shallowness and an almost complete lack of discernment in their evaluation of Piper and MacArthur. They might listen now that Masters has said something, but they have been extolling them despite these things and have pushed Piper and MacArthur. It will come across as disingenuous now—Johnny come lately. Jesus is not glorified.
Piper and MacArthur like to connect themselves to the Puritans, but they are so far away from much of what the Puritans wrote. They work in those things which “pertain to men,” that “pertain to sinful culture,” that “pertain to worldliness.” It doesn’t produce something different than the world. It produces a more conservative version of the world, but not something separate. Piper and MacArthur neither preach separation. They don’t practice separation. They don’t produce separatists, that is, they don’t produce sanctification through the Spirit.
If you read Johnson carefully over at his blog Pyromaniacs, you will hear him say that how good men are in the pulpit, speaking of their communication skills and ability to connect through their speech, being what yields success. It’s blatant revivalism. The other Pyromaniacs glory in their rock music and their knowledge of contemporary culture. They don’t like the degree that Driscoll gets to, but they do movie reviews and often quote rock music lyrics from godless pagans who hate God. Much more could be said and be given in example, but Jesus is glorified with things that pertain to God. Those things do not pertain to God.
Pastor Peter Masters doesn’t even leave out Together for the Gospel, when he writes:
A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.
True Calvinism and worldliness are opposites. Preparation of heart is needed if we would search the wonders and plumb the depths of sovereign grace.
We have to have Peter Masters write these things because fundamentalists won’t. You don’t hear Kevin Bauder or Dave Doran or anyone of the separatist fundamentalists. When you do hear a few men saying things in their midst, small church pastors, they are savaged. It’s a sad time when the things which pertain to man are acceptable to us, especially since they aren’t approved by God.
Extra: Others, including myself, have been saying the same thing as Masters for awhile. We see Peter Masters’ review article is linked at Scott Aniol’s Religious Affections and then at SharperIron. I’m interested in hearing how they’ll react with someone saying exactly what myself and others of the supposed lunatic fringe have been saying. Maybe it will be “right” now. I’m pointing out the political nature of fundamentalism—in so many cases it isn’t WHAT is being said, but WHO is saying it. Truth is truth.
Extra #2: Phil Johnson gave Greg Linscott a quote over at SharperIron in response to Peter Masters’ article. Here’s my take on Phil’s comment. He starts with introductory words of respect for Peter Masters. By the time he’s done, writing on and on, the words of respect are lost. His comment, in my opinion, is condescending to Masters. I noticed two other aspects. First, he makes reference to Greg Linscott’s note to him and says he agrees that NO ONE is saying the things that Masters is saying (which, of course, means that he has a private interpretation of matters—anyone can see he is saying this—this is where he starts tearing apart Masters’ article, while feigning that he isn’t). Second, the respect he does have for Masters is based on his success, his numbers, that the auditorium is full. Here are the exact words:
[H]e took a historic but nearly-dead congregation and shepherded it through a season of growth and fruitful evangelism, so that it is now full every Sunday, I think he is entitled to speak his mind on the worship issue.
This smacks of new measure Finneyism. It is a perfect example of what I’ve talked about regarding these evangelicals. They talk against revivalism, but they deal like revivalists.
(to be continued)
Massive cultural changes came about in the 1960s in the United States. During this era, many Americans went away from standards of behavior that once characterized them, brought about by feminism, freedom of expression, environmentalism, recreational drug use, and civil disobedience. The Bible and prayer were taken out of the public school system and the nation began a very rapid alteration of its former life and character, leading to a point where several states today (2009) are legalizing homosexual marriage. Evangelicalism hasn’t slowed down this change. In many ways, evangelicalism contributed to the slide to where we’ve now arrived.
This social revolution that climaxed in the 60s in this country had started earlier with the advent of the industrial revolution from 1880 to 1920. Families and then communities conducted themselves based on traditions handed down from the past. The industrial revolution brought the onset of modernity in at least two ways. First, it transformed America from a rural to an urban culture because of manufacturing. People lived closer together. Dads worked away from home, spending less time with kids. The school system moved from small rural schools to larger urban ones. This packed together immature young people all day, every day, every week, spreading their influence one to another. Second, it brought the invention of new technological advances. The ones in transportation and communication especially made a huge difference in the lives of Americans. Of course, all of this combined spread false ideas and practices much more rapidly, introducing people to lifestyles with which they weren’t familiar, but gradually made them acceptable.
Often churches and preachers stood against these changes. This is the Christian counterculture. Christian counterculture differs from the world. The world bucks scriptural, God-ordained aspects of culture. Christianity is repulsed by what the world offers. This is very much like we read from Jesus in Matthew 6:32-33:
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
The Gentiles, the world, seek different things than what believers seek. Believers seek to submit to their King, Jesus Christ.
The pastors, the preachers, the men of God stood up against cultural changes. Some called this moralism, but it was preaching against sin and worldliness. All of evangelicalism did this as the United States modernized. They preached against entertainment, immodesty, and booze. Every step of the way, the godly stood up against the adverse changes in the culture—not as a means of salvation or as a replacement for the gospel, but because the gospel wasn’t compatible with this new conduct.
Churches Conforming to the World’s Culture
However, Christianity, churches, began making changes that conformed to the culture that had been created by the world system in the United States. Preachers took on characteristics of showmen to manipulate an audience. Evangelism became an event where a charismatic figure would hold the crowd’s attention with fiery rhetoric. This was preceded by a new kind of music that no longer centered on God and His worship, but to draw a crowd and to infuse the people with strong emotions and passions. It was the new evangelistic or gospel music that utilized the kind of composition that possessed characteristics familiar to what the audience, mainly lost, would hear in the world.
Of course, compared today all this that Christians and churches did between 1920 and 1950 was very tame. The preaching was scriptural and substantive compared to what one might hear today. At that time there was still a general respect for a preaching gathering and for things related to God. People would dress respectfully out of honor of the occasion, despite the sometimes sweltering heat.
A nation won’t preserve its traditions just because they are passed down from a previous generation. There must be more. There must be a scriptural basis for counter cultural behavior, for being different than the world. Still, the United States clung to much of its cherished ways of life, including those values related to marriage and child-rearing. However, young people will chafe under baseless traditions, and they did. They must be provided an authoritative foundation, a scriptural one, one that changes a person from the inside out, if a unique culture is to be preserved. For the most part, this doctrinal and practical basis was not nurtured in America’s young people. Instead, they became more enamored with what they heard and then saw on radio and television. Whatever their parents told them, they were hearing something different from the night time DJ, their music, and their friends at school.
Most of what was left of the former values was propped up by tradition itself, a false-front city with nothing behind. It looked right on the outside, but something vital was missing. Those walls collapsed in the 1960s in the United States, exacerbated as well by multiple circumstances, including the explosion of rock music, the assassination of the nation’s youthful president, growing dissatisfaction with the present civil arrangement, and a war beginning in Southeast Asia. Many young people began searching for something real, for answers, for what could really satisfy them. It was something akin to what happened in 18th century France, when the people there became angry with their current social structure. It was a bomb ready to go off.
During that time, society as a whole changed radically. Men with long hair. Women with pants and short, short skirts. Rebellion against authority. Refusal of military service. Music, art, and fashion took giant leaps away from where they once were. Many kinds of behavior became acceptable too. Divorces multiplied. Drugs. Fornication. How people talked changed too. A culture that at large had been held up by tradition had popped.
What did Christians do? With these massive changes in the culture, Christians would stick out more than ever as different. Men grew their hair long as part of the rebellion. Christians kept theirs short. I remember that time. I had teachers with long hair in a family where this was considered female or effeminate. I had a difficult time inside with respect for a man with long hair. Because of this sudden transition, it looked like Christians were simply trying to preserve an era—the 1950s—before things collapsed.
What Did Churches Do?
In many cases, churches kept a separate culture from the world. However, a faster cultural erosion was occurring in Christianity. Young people growing up in an increasingly different culture knew they weren’t fitting in. It didn’t feel comfortable. They didn’t like it. At the same time, whole movements of evangelical churches just capitulated to the culture. They would not impede the profanity all around. There became a growing contrast between evangelicals and fundamentalists. The fundamentalists kept a distinct culture and the evangelicals gave in.
The evangelicals had “reasons.” For hair length it was “how long is long.” “You don’t want to change people on the outside, when we know that God looks on the heart.” “The emphasis on the outside is just legalism.” “These people that dress so different and want us to do that are just Pharisees and legalists; they love the 1950s.” And so on. They never preached against cultural issues. Cultural issues became non-moral and preferential. Worship itself became a matter of men’s taste.
The Jesus Movement
On the West Coast, especially in California, a new movement was growing. The Jesus movement. I remember them as “the Jesus freaks.” In California, you had the most protesting, drug use, and hippies in the United States. In California especially, you had massive break up of the family and kids who grew up empty and searching. At that time, the Jesus movement was there to fill that vacuum. The Jesus movement was not counter-cultural at all. Their music was the same. Their appearance was the same. They looked like everyone else except they had this relationship with Jesus that had them so happy. Their methods were also very much with the spirit of the age. They sat down cross-legged in the grass like the hippies. They played some Beatles-like rock music on their guitars, sung like Joan Baez and other folk-rock singers, except with Christian words, and they just talked about Jesus and what He could do for their hearts. They made a point of not being different.
Part of the explosive growth of the Jesus movement was the drastic needs of West Coast youth with a hopelessness and despair, and that was met by an approach that was entirely non-judgmental. The leaders just talked to you in a kind of non-authoritative way. They had on their casual clothes, just like you. They played the same kind of music as you. There was a tremendous amount of good feeling and companionship and family that was missing at home. Guys and girls hung out together and played on their guitars and talked about Jesus. Certain things dropped out—-drugs, fornication, and hate for authority—but the cultural aspects remained entirely the same. When you got baptized, you headed down to the beach to do it. You spent time around a camp fire, singing folk-like rock tunes with Christian words, and then you along with dozens of others were put under the surf.
The churches that came out of these efforts were the same. The services were very emotional with the Christian rock and folk singing. You came as you were. Except for the Budweiser t-shirt, you looked no different than the world. The men had long hair and beards like the hippies. The woman appeared in the native peace-protester garb. The promotion was done in the psychedelic sixties font with the big pastel flower petals. There was the swaying and hand raising and hand holding something like you’d find at the sixties rock concert, minus the drugs.
A lot of large evangelical churches started and expanded during this time with this kind of cultural compatibility. The culture moved against a clean-cut image with the long beards, sideburns, and facial hair. Much of it was for the purpose of making the lost feel more comfortable, to contextualize the church to their cultural sensibilities. This methodology spread to evangelical churches all over the country. Those churches were growing and others imitated what they were doing.
Where Did This Go?
Evangelical churches did not practice personal and ecclesiastical separation. That was not only not emphasized, but it was repudiated in most cases. The goal was a non-judgmental environment, especially on cultural issues, making people feel comfortable that were in the world. A particular theology of grace came right along with it. Churches would not give themselves denominational names, because in so doing it would offer doctrinal distinctions that could cause disunity. Their idea of love, which was very tolerant, surpassed all values.
Evangelical churches have continued like that for the decades since the 1960s, leading up to today. They have moved right with the world on these cultural issues. Some fundamentalist churches have grown their ranks, desirous to see the same type of numerical growth they have. The world’s culture has continued its slide, very much not being impeded by this type of Christianity that uses grace as an occasion of the flesh. However, not only has the world veered further away culturally, but so have the churches. The kind of contextualization accepted by these evangelicals has been taken one step further by today’s emerging/ent churches with their grunge look and music, modern art, piercings, tattoos, and street appearance.
Recently, one way that fundamentalists have sought to move along with these culturally compatible evangelicals is by accepting a snapshot of fundamentalism that they believe existed before these cultural issues became an issue in fundamentalism. They wish for fundamentalism to be a coalition of evangelicals who will separate over a false gospel. Other factors would not be considered as a basis of fellowship, would even be viewed as a problematic cause of disunity, even heretics. As a part of this, gone would be the issues of dress, music, and in many cases, alcoholic beverages. Churches would be fundamental that would simply agree on a very minimal doctrinal statement that was especially clear on the minimal doctrinal aspects of the gospel. Social issues could be left out.
On the other hand, some evangelicals think now that many evangelicals have slid too far on cultural issues and contextualization. Those who have moved past their comfort level are now worldly. Even certain evangelical speech has crossed the line in its casualness, entering the realm of the profane, dishonoring to God, even not worthy of the gospel. Some are now saying that the gospel must be adorned with certain type of behavior that isn’t specifically laid out in scripture. In other words, things have gotten even too worldly for them. When the hippies in the sixties were coming with their rock music and their rebellious dress, they didn’t say anything. Of course, then they were benefiting from that influx of new people, and that was then. What we’re seeing, of course, is the complete deterioration of our culture with the contribution of these evangelicals and now fundamentalists who have capitulated to it for the sake of numerical success, false love, and fake unity.
I will be continuing this next week, Lord-willing. I want to talk about the way that the scriptural understanding of holiness was forsaken for pragmatic purposes. I will get into the point of reclaiming a Christian culture.
Over at my blog, I have been writing a series of posts (a four part series: part one, part two, part three, part four) about the faulty epistemology of multiple version onlyism. I hope that doesn’t stop you from reading this post. Epistemology is in essence how we know what we know. The two major categories I have considered are presuppositional epistemology and evidential epistemology. We should be presuppositional and I tell you why, especially applying this to the issue of the preservation of Scripture, in those four posts. You should read them. I’ve made it easy with the links. My last post over there, which I uploaded on April 21, 2009, Tuesday, has been linked to by a couple of sites (here and here) that deal with textual criticism.
This entree would probably be my fifth in this series and I’ll probably retitle it and post it over there. I don’t want to do that yet, because I want that article to run a fuller gamot before I post over it.
I introduced the last in the epistemology series with an article that came out in USA Today in its opinion section called Fightin’ Words, which was a positive review of Bart Ehrman’s book, Jesus Interrupted. In the book, it seems that Ehrman uses the typical techniques of biblical criticism to undermine the authority of scripture, primarily by attempting to make the Bible look like it contradicts itself. The point, of course, is that if the Bible does do that, then it isn’t inspired or divine. The author of the USA Today article mentions that James White makes a personal attack against Ehrman by speaking of Ehrman’s unbelieving bias, to which he, Tom Krattenmaker retorts:
If criticisms of Ehrman veer toward the personal it’s because his evidence — the Bible’s own text — is what it is. And there is no denying the inconsistencies he surfaces between the various Gospels and letters that form the New Testament.
Bart Ehrman, the chairman of the Bible department at the University of North Carolina, is a significant liberal to deal with. To start, Ehrman himself is a one time “born-again” evangelical who attended Moody, then Wheaton, and finally Princeton when he said goodbye to his faith. Then much of the attack on scripture that you might hear used by atheistic scientists and from anti-Christian Islamics comes from the pen of Bart Ehrman.
What Ehrman has done, and in a way of marketing genius, is taken the very old, academic arguments against God and the Bible and written them in very simple, story-like terms, attempting to get graduate school material into comic book form and to make dusty, theological material very accessible to the average person. As I have gone door-to-door out here in California, I have many times heard points made that I knew came from Ehrman. Ehrman’s books often become NY Times bestsellers and are featured at the front of mainstream bookstores. They provide talking points to those who have or wish to push the eject button on Christianity.
From a human standpoint, it is to Ehrman’s credit that he has not just written the books and then hid out in his little hovel in Chapel Hill. He has traveled around, very much like Christopher Hitchens has done after writing God Is Not Great, and debated those on the other side who oppose his view. Part of Ehrman’s schtick is his ability to talk in everyman language and to appear to have no harmful agenda. If you listen to him closely, it’s easy to see that he’s actually dishonest. He presents content that cannot rise above the level of speculation and yet makes it sound like it is the most likely scenario. Some of that is seen in this part of the USA Today column:
If the Bible is the literal word of God, Ehrman asks, how could it be inconsistent on so many details large and small? Let’s start with an example appropriate to the just-concluded Easter season marking the Savior’s death and resurrection: As Jesus was dying on the cross, was he in agony, questioning why God had forsaken him? Or was he serene, praying for his executioners? It depends, Ehrman points out, on whether you’re reading the Gospel of Mark or Luke. Regarding Jesus’ birthplace of Bethlehem, had his parents traveled there for a census (Luke’s version) or is it where they happened to live (Matthew’s version)? Did Jesus speak of himself as God? (Yes, in John; no, in Matthew).
What about that paragraph? Ehrman presumes that the gospel accounts contradict one another in the sections on His death and birth accounts and that the words of Jesus on the cross are contradictory. What do we say about what Ehrman expresses as apparent inconsistencies? If you are reading this, it isn’t difficult to answer these biblical criticisms. Knowing the nature of Christ, it is easy for us to believe Jesus questioned God (in fulfillment of prophecy, by the way) about forsaking Him and prayed for His executioners. They both happened. Neither of the accounts contradict each other.
Each gospel has a unique, eyewitness point of view. Each has a particular theme. Altogether they don’t contradict, but present a full, panoramic, textured picture of the life of Christ. Matthew doesn’t say that Joseph and Mary were living in Bethlehem. Matthew also presents Jesus as God and he believed Jesus was God as much as John did. We call this answer “harmonization.” The various accounts do harmonize without contradiction, which is the nature of eyewitness accounts. If they were exactly the same, we would have a bigger problem, because then we might think that the witnesses just plagiarized one another.
Biblical criticism has been around since the books of Scripture were inspired by God. The present form that Ehrman is attempting to popularize is another mainly post-enlightenment invention. Wikipedia gives a fine synopsis:
Biblical criticism, defined as the treatment of biblical texts as natural rather than supernatural artifacts, grew out of the rationalism of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century it was divided between the Higher Criticism, the study of the composition and history of biblical texts, and lower criticsm, the close examination of the text to establish their original or “correct” readings.
During the Enlightenment, the role of reason was held above Scripture. Reason was then used to analyze Scripture because the Enlightenment philosophers believed that reason was more trustworthy. This is the basic presupposition that evangelicals and fundamentalists should not agree with but is found at the basis of all critical methods. The modern academy has not stopped at the threshold of reason. New forms of reader-response criticism allow any ideology to critique Scripture. As a result a person is able to find whatever he wants in Scripture.
Some of the famous names of higher criticism, which did what Ehrman does in Jesus Interrupted, are Thomas Hobbes, Benedict Spinoza, Julius Wellhausen, David Strauss, Karl Barth, and Rudolf Bultmann. The modern day Jesus Seminar is a recent example of this ongoing pursuit of de-supernaturalizing the Bible and turning Jesus into a regular person. One sure byproduct of these efforts will be the disappearance of the institutions from which they gain their paychecks. There will be no longer any use in studying such an impostor, what Jesus will have become once they’re through with Him and their writings about Him.
What Is the Difference Between the Biblical Critics and Us?
We both operate with different presuppositions. Of course, they say that they are dealing with the evidence, allowing it to lead them to the truth. But our presupposition is that the Bible is inspired, God’s Word, and that Jesus is God, Lord, and Savior of the world. Their presupposition is that the Bible is one of many ancient texts written by men.
I recognize that most evangelicals and fundamentalists attempt to create at least in perception a great distance between higher and lower criticism. However, Ehrman doesn’t see the great gulf between them. He shifts back and forth between lower and higher very comfortably. In one book, he attacks the text of Scripture (Misquoting Jesus) and then he smoothly shifts over to his disection of the content of Scripture (Jesus Interrupted). He has the same presuppositions and uses the same methodology with both.
What we do with the varied accounts of the gospels again is called harmonization. We harmonize the text based upon our presuppositions. We have a high view of God, of Scripture, and of inspiration. We choose not to see contradictions because we know that God does not deny Himself (2 Tim 2:11-13). So to recap: we harmonize differing accounts based upon our scriptural and theological presuppositions. This is how Christians have operated historically.
Because God is always true and every man a liar (Rom 3:4), we also harmonize what we see outside of the Bible with the Bible. We don’t harmonize the Bible with what we see outside of the Bible. The Bible is the final arbiter of truth, so every truth claim is tested by the yardstick of scripture. In other words, we aren’t integrationists. Biblical critics, because of the unbelieving presuppositions, place their own reason above the Bible and so rather than questioning their own opinons and conclusions, they question scripture.
Examples of Biblical Criticism in Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism
I’m going to give two examples where post-enlightenment, unbelieving rationalism has influenced evangelicalism and even fundamentalism toward biblical criticism. This is also the replacement of presuppositional epistemology with evidential epistemology. Fundamentalism was by definition to be hostile to biblical criticism in any form. Here are the two.
1. Despite the fact that God promised to preserve every Word and make it available to every generation of believers, so that there is only one Bible, evangelicals and fundamentalists have subjected the Bible to lower criticism to produce multiple Bibles, all of which contain errors.
This was not the position of pre-enlightenment Christianity. Sure they knew there were errors in copies, but they believed that God had preserved every Word and that they were all available to believers of every generation. When that was mixed with rationalism and science, that changed. Evangelicals and fundamentalists stopped harmonizing and started submitting to evidentialism, giving up presuppositional epistemology. I recognize that fundamentalists would say that they are not biblical critics as textual critics. That’s not the same conclusion that an objective outside source would make. Harriet A. Harris in Fundamentalism and Evangelicals writes:
Fundamentalism in fact accords with evangelicalism which, according to McGrath, ‘accepts the principle of biblical criticism (although insisting that it be applied responsibly).’ The difference between the two positions becomes a matter of what sorts of biblical criticism are accepted, and how its responsible application is defined. Here we will discover no hard-and-fast distinctions between fundamentalism and evangelicalism, but varying degrees of acceptance of different forms of criticism.
2. Despite the fact that the biblical account is a literal twenty-four hour day, seven day creation, and a young earth, biblical criticism in cahoots with secular science has influenced evangelicals and fundamentalists to accept a subjective, day-age, old earth explanation of creation.
This bow to rationalism or Darwinism submits God’s Word to external “evidence” as superior and final arbiter in this matter. Even fundamentalists have implied that this is acceptable.
So, just to review. Historically believers have harmonized their interpretation of the evidence with scripture, not vice-versa. They have also harmonized apparent biblical contradictions. They have done this based upon their high view of God, scripture, and inspiration. They have presupposed the Bible as the sole authority for all faith and practice.
The grass gets tall this time of year in Northern California. It is the end of rainy season. When I cut the tall grass, two things often happen. One, some of the grass doesn’t get completely clipped. Two, you’ve got to mow again really quickly just to keep up. I went back and forth with my mower in no special pattern to get the job done. Some of the long grass needs another run. The yard, of course, in this instance is non-revivalist fundamentalism (NRF). I made a pass over NRF several days ago with some random sweeps of my mower, that is, questions for NRF. I got some answers, but I would like to follow-up because of the eclectic nature of my interrogation.
In some good fundamentalist fashion, people read into me and my column. Some of that was due to how I mowed the grass the first time. I had a few lines in there that could have provoked some young Freuds to get me on their couch. Because of the link over at SharperIron, the nature of the comments seemed as though I may have written a column about SharperIron, when that was just one of my questions. As a result of that, some speculated that I must be trying to become a member again. Others assumed that I was pouting over a lack of attention.
I was in fundamentalism for a lengthy time. The point of fundamentalism I agree with, that is, purity of doctrine. If that is the major idea of fundamentalism, I like it and have sympathy with fundamentalism and fundamentalists on that. I also think I have now lived a little so that I can judge history a little better, so I wrote the first post. I would prefer to keep this all to the actual lines I typed, although the psychoanalysis was interesting.
I read comments that misrepresent what I wrote. They verge on more psychoanalysis. For instance, I haven’t said anything about stifling discussion on issues or “blocking out other views.” We should prove everything, hold fast to that which is good. Regarding SharperIron (SI), I’m saying only that I see it left-leaning on the fundamentalist (right)-evangelical (left) scale.
I think where the “stifling discussion” point segues with the essential-non-essential issue is that, I believe, evangelicals have been those who talk most about ranking doctrines. They do this to avoid separation. The truth is that the fundamentalism I grew up with wanted to talk about everything that might be scriptural. I find it is the evangelical side that “blocks out views.” They don’t want to talk about cultural issues unless it suits their fancy (“smutty pulpit speech”—see Phil Johnson and John MacArthur). This isn’t anything that I had heard in fundamentalism, while I was in it. Everything in scripture was important in the fundamentalism I knew. Maybe that’s what McCune and I have in common—he and I are old school in this way.
Hopefully you, like I, have a biblical grid that screens all that you read and hear. If we do have one of those, we should all leave it in the “on” position, evaluating everything in light of scripture. I’m curious at least when professing fundamentalists don’t use the Bible to judge. Perhaps it is what I should expect today. I don’t think I read any comment here or in the filings thread at SI that exposed my post to God’s Word. The only valid criticism of fundamentalistic positions should be biblical, shining light on error.
Someone wrote this:
But are there not degrees of separation, just as there are degrees of agreement and degrees of practical importance? (cf. Mohler’s triage) Brandenburg’s (and McCune’s it seems) view of pan-importance is true in one sense, but I don’t believe that we ought to be separating over baptism in the same way that we separate over the virgin birth. Haven’t some evangelicals been a little more discerning – and hence a little more biblical – in their application of separation when they have paused to identify the exact level of disagreement?
The answer to this should come from scripture. Some, it seems, think that asking the question qualifies as an argument. Or, someone should be shamed by even bringing up the topic. Or, that the question alone shows the lack of common sense involved in taking a different view. I’ve never thought of these tactics as replacing biblical authority. You still need “thus saith the Lord.” And I don’t think anyone should trust common sense.
I haven’t found evangelicals will separate at all. I don’t even hear them talk about separation. It is as if it has dropped out of scripture. By the way, where is that criticism of evangelicalism and this dearth of biblical teaching at SI? Show one good dealing with separation by an evangelical, when they are supposed to be the master exegetes of scripture. Young fundamentalists don’t like some of the positions of older fundamentalism and their criticism of fundamentalism, even saying that evangelicals are “more biblical” than fundamentalism. It really is a matter of personal comfort on where the line is drawn; it isn’t a matter of trying to find out what the Bible says about why and how to separate.
Keep on your biblical thinking caps. Consider this again that Joel Tetreau writes: “We could get more accomplished because our partnerships would be larger.” Where do you get a scriptural basis for “larger partnerships” as a motive for what we do as Christians? How are we guaranteed at all through this pragmatic approach in getting “more accomplished” either? I see scripture teach the opposite. Think Egypt. You think you’re safer, but not only is it wrong and it doesn’t trust God, it doesn’t end in more being accomplished.
This statement made in response to my post is typical of a fundamentalist argument today:
That camp makes little distinction (beyond lip service) between the fundamentals and rural, turn of the century American culture. . . . The real force of true fundamentalism is a loyalty to the Word of God, not a canonization of any particular culture or era of time. If it is otherwise, I want nothing to do with it.
This has already been standard fare for evangelicals. To start, it is incredibly simplistic on the matter of culture. Second, it is no argument or at least an illogical one. Third, it is dangerous and ignorant (1 John 2:15; Rom 12:2).
What Issues Are Important to God
Some talked about the issues that are important to God. We don’t have to guess on that. We can go to scripture and see how God operates with regards to what He said. He wants us to take seriously everything that He said. Now I can hear the response: “No one is saying we shouldn’t.” It is what I read from fundamentalists and evangelicals now.
Joel Tetreau wrote:
Well for starters Brandenburg would separate from all of us….oh yeah he’s already done that….my bad, I forgot. Sorry Kent! What would that do for fundamentalism’s MO?
I’m not a fundamentalist. It’s true. Greg Linscott got it right. It’s because fundamentalism is too ecumenical, that is, it is ungodly in this way. However, what I’d like to point out here is the last statement. Look at it. I believe that sentence is tell-tale. It really does explain the biggest issue: what will other people think of us? Oh my! It should be: what does God know about us? We’re not walking by faith when we’re concerned with how the evangelicals view us. There are reasons they are more popular and get published by major publishers, and we shouldn’t admire them for it.
Some of the discussion about my first point veered off topic regarding my beliefs. One person said that my beliefs were rejected by most of fundamentalism a long time ago. I don’t think that fundamentalism takes the time to consider an exegetical defense of biblical ecclesiology. I also believe they haven’t sorted through historic bibliology, which is why, I believe, we have a mutating doctrine of inerrancy today in addition to major attacks on meaning, interpretation, and application of scripture that has eroded the authority of God’s Word.
Like God is Truth, God is perfect in the unity of His attributes, all in an irreducible and unseparable whole. He isn’t holy at the loss of love or loving to the detriment of holiness. Joel Tetreau writes this:
Fundamentalism because it has become fixated on “separation first” instead of “unity first” has become….well, ill. . . . (Don’t you think Biblical evidence suggests we start with unity first, and then separate instead of starting with separation? I don’t think this should be that hard. I mean count up the times the NT writers speak to unity and then count up the times they mention separation.).
Both separation and unity are taught in the NT. Both should be obeyed, neither to the exclusion of the other. Since God cannot deny Himself, we can practice both according to Scripture. Our position is correct only if we can be consistent in obedience to both unity and separation. Something JG wrote at SI sheds light:
Seems to me that if unity is first, rather than holiness, you’ve got a major problem. Unity is always within the confines of truth, or it is not real unity.
A major part of my first post was about a wrong evaluation of fundamentalism. To give a proper view of fundamentalism, you have to consider it in its cultural and historic setting. People say accurately that fundamentalism isn’t monolithic. That’s true, but it also applies to the setting for the various eras of fundamentalism. It isn’t like early 20th century fundamentalism has some grand stamp of approval from God. We see it for what it is.
I’m not a fundamentalist because I can’t justify fellowship with disobedient brethren anywhere in Scripture. I believe infant sprinkling constitutes that. However, I am a fundamentalist in spirit and by dictionary definition. I adhere strictly to a standard. I believe that we love God and others by battling for that which is of the greatest benefit: the truth. I believe there is an idea of fundamentalism that is worth saving.
I don’t see a valid historic argument to beg for a paleo-fundamentalism that includes conservative evangelicals. I know we don’t have a biblical basis for fellowship with them. However, we are judging fundamentalism at the time of a more singular American culture. Not only has fundamentalism changed, but so has evangelicalism. The issues have changed since that time. There is a lot more toleration of false doctrine and practice now than there was then. The culture has eroded. We would do well to keep this in mind in this discussion.
This talk of unity is more in common with the onset of new-evangelicalism than the oldest brand fundamentalism. I get the idea of “looking for unity.” I don’t see it in scripture. I’ve found that you don’t have to look for unity. You find it and it’s based on what you believe and practice. Unity happens with people and churches with the same positions and application of those positions. The way to find unity that you might be looking for is through reconciliation. Reconciliation, however, only occurs based upon scripture. We aren’t right to “reconcile” by ignoring the truth. We attempt to reconcile by preaching the truth, very much like someone who is reconciled to God. That occurs when the nature of a lost person is converted to line up with God, not when God approves of something less than Who He is.
Based on the terms for reconciliation that I mentioned in the last paragraph, I think that I work at unity more than fundamentalists and evangelicals. Rather than give up on evangelicals or fundamentalists, I am often talking to them with the purpose of helping us come to the same doctrine and practice. This is love. We ought to be patient. We ought to take some grief along the way. At some point we may need to determine that future contact will not be the right way to go. I don’t think we get unity by ignoring our differences in the matter of fellowship. We honor God by taking seriously what He says.
New-evangelicals were the ones who denigrated militancy and favored getting together. They were more concerned with how they were perceived by the world, its academic institutions and its scholarship. We should have one goal: the pleasure of God. Our labor is not in vain in Him.
The goal in mowing the lawn is to get all the grass cut. If it gets long and grown over with weeds, sometimes the cutting becomes a little random. This post will be like mowing an over-grown lawn. It reminds me a little of the problem for the mosquito at the nudist colony: “Where do I begin?” I don’t want to try to figure out where to begin. I just want to get the grass cut, so this might go all over the place. I’ve got some things in my mind, but they’re not organized so I’ll write about them in the order I think of them until I think this has gone on long enough. Some of the questions are going to be a series of questions all on the same subject. Then I’ll comment on the questions. I’m not even going to number them, just bullet point. Here goes.
- Are fundamentalists reverting to the origins of fundamentalism to make room for conservative evangelicals (new-evangelicals)? Should militancy over the gospel be the only criteria for being a fundamentalist (even if it were true that fundamentalists were militant over it)?
The original fundamentalists (the guys who wrote “The Fundamentals”) apparently did not separate over dress, music, the Charismatic movement, or complementarianism, so neither should fundamentalists. After all, neither did they, it seems, separate over the “bigger” issues of church government, mode of baptism, versions, or Calvinism versus Arminianism, so fundamentalists today shouldn’t fuss over those “smaller” things. Conservative evangelicals point this out. They add to that the observation that fundamentalists were little on big issues like “justification.” And fundamentalists haven’t contributed in the defense of the “important” doctrines of scripture by writing any substantial books.
That first paragraph is the basis for many young fundamentalists shifting to new-evangelicalism. You might bring up something about their fellowship with Billy Graham. They’ll bring up your fellowship with easy-believism and no-repentance factions of fundamentalism. You might bring up Charismatics. They’ll bring up infant sprinkling. It goes like that tit for tat. They’ll argue that certain evangelicals are more militant about the gospel than actual fundamentalists, which, they will argue, was the original point of the fundamentalism. On top of that, they’ll argue that the preaching is more substantive among conservative evangelicals than the fundamentalists, that there has been more care for the Bible among the conservative evangelicals than the fundamentalists. You point out the cultural compromise and the worldliness, and they’ll point out that these weren’t issues with original fundamentalism and that you’re adding this criteria.
Are they right? Are true fundamentalists actually paleo-evangelicals? That’s what some young fundamentalists contend and what Phil Johnson says. I think this manifests the problem of being a fundamentalist. What difference does it make if you’re a fundamentalist if you are disobedient to Scripture? I contend that culturally today almost all non-revivalist fundamentalists would be a good deal to the left of the original fundamentalists culturally and that those original fundamentalists would separate over the cultural issues that they see today—they would gasp at the pants on women, the nudity in the way of mixed swimming and shorts on women, and they would go bonkers over the music.
I don’t hear ANYONE talking about this, except me, but at the recent Shepherd’s Conference in Southern California, Phil Johnson, as one of the main speakers, officially opened up far more than the gospel into the separating factors for conservative evangelicals. They don’t separate, but he sure did bring that into the equation. His message was an expositional (Titus 1-2) expose of smutty pulpit speech. He said that conduct that does not adorn the gospel is a gospel issue. That opens up the door for separation over a lot of practices, doesn’t it? So where do we stop in the determination of what wrong practices actually do adorn the gospel? Sounds like everythingism to me.
- How is SharperIron still fundamentalist? How is it that real fundamentalists still associate with SharperIron?
This is curious to me. I am not intending to offend anyone, by the way. I know I will, but I’m not intending to. Why don’t fundamentalists themselves point this out? They push and endorse a tremendous amount of new-evangelicalism on that blog. They don’t practice separation. On their blogroll they have the Southern Baptist Ben Wright, who is in Mark Dever’s church. They have the new-evangelical, Andy Naselli, the assistant to D. A. Carson, who attends a new-evangelical church. When you read the rest of their blogroll, including Joe Fleener, The World From our Window, and the Jay Adams blog now, they either constantly endorse new-evangelicals, or in the case of Jay Adams, he is one. On Joe Fleener’s blog, he had links to Psalms set to blatant rock music. I commented to point that out. He didn’t say a word to me; just deleted the comment. SharperIron is infatuated with, and I mean in the way of loving, conservative evangelicals. They rarely bash an evangelical and are always smacking fundamentalists. I sense a disdain for the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship there. How is it a fundamentalist blog?
SharperIron still gets the kind participation and endorsement of big name non-revivalist fundamentalists—Mike Harding, Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, and Mike Sproul. I know that the internet has changed things relating to associations, but I would think that SharperIron would have been off-limits to me when I was in college and grad school. Yet, many of the major Bible colleges in fundamentalism advertise on there. They advertise on a site that smacks them around. Are all these people afraid of SharperIron?
- Where did fundamentalists learn the cold-shoulder method of separation and why do they use that method?
This isn’t every fundamentalist, but it is common. They would rather take a cheap shot from a distance than confront someone face on and deal with an issue. The only major figure that I know isn’t this way is Dave Doran. I have to applaud him for this. I can’t call it courage, because what is there to be afraid of? But he will talk right to you about issues. If you point out an error, they’ll either ignore you, delete you, say a smart personal comment, or ban you. They seem to be too afraid to comment here or at our blogs. I know they read us. I think there is fear among them to engage here. They will easily associate with new-evangelicals though, engage in “dialogue” with them.
- Is the King James Version issue the most unifying factor for contemporary fundamentalism? Why?
KJVO often gets raised as something as serious as a false gospel by fundamentalists. Separating from a KJVO has been elevated to the level of an essential with many fundamentalists. I recognize that we separate over it too, but that is how we operate. They don’t—not in their stated objectives. Let me give you a for instance. Let’s say that Calvary in Lansdale was KJVO. What would their national leadership conference look like? Would they have Detroit and Central and Maranatha and BJU show up? Not a chance. However, they do get together despite differences on how they view the gospel and the doctrine of sanctification, among many others. Look at Ambassador, a KJVO school. See how they are treated by non-revivalist fundamentalism. By observation, I see KJVO as the most signficant factor of unity for non-revivalist fundamentalism.
- Why do non-revivalists fundamentalists go back to the 1920s or perhaps only to the 1890s with Warfield at Princeton to get their history of bibliology? In other words, why do they ignore history on the doctrine of preservation and then say that they have some kind of tradition they’re defending?
I added this after I posted this whole article, because of reading someone about conservative Christianity depending on a tradition that has been passed on. The multiple versions, several Bible, position is brand new historically. Post-enlightenment based upon evidentialism or empiricism. They fully trust man’s sin warped faculties to interpret external data to extrapolate a text of scripture, a position that has no tradition and no history. They should just admit that they’ve got a brand new position that they’re comfortable with, even though it clashes with how Christians have believed and practiced through history. Of course, they’d have to say that there was a total apostasy of the correct position for centuries, but at least it would be honest.
- Has anyone noticed that the long time systematic theology instructor at Detroit and I both have the same position on ranking doctrines? Does that mean my position is “in” now with fundamentalists? Or will he be “out”?
It doesn’t seem to me that one could be in and another could be out. It seems that we must both be out or both be in. Read this from Rolland McCune.
Essentials and non-essentials pose a monumental difficulty from the human perspective. One of the basics of theology is the pervasive Creator-creature distinction, i.e., nothing exists in man as it does in God. Confusing this principle via human autonomy is the fundamental basis of sin (to worship the creature rather than the Creator, Rom 1:25); it is a controlling rubric of all thinking about God and truth. This distinction between the Creator and the creature puts the two in totally unmixed categories. The chasm between them can be bridged only by the Creator, from the top down, and thankfully has been crossed, for example, in the incarnation of the God-man and the divine message of the Bible in purely human languages
That being the case, a two-tiered approach is mandated for all the difficulties of theology that involve the compatibility of the infinite and the finite, the eternal and the temporal, including the essential and non-essential. On the one hand, there is no non-essential proposition, datum, or doctrine in God’s mind. Being omniscient, for example, all truth in God is infinitely exhaustive and interlocking, and anything lacking or in any way diminished therefrom denies the person of God, especially His simplicity as well as His “intellectual attributes.” God does not have attributes as such; He is what His attributes are. In that case there are no non-essentials in the Bible and theology.
On the other (human) hand, I do not like to venture into the essential/non-essential briar patch. Part of the problem with this is how does one determine what is essential or non-essential to what? David’s mighty man who killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day (2 Sam 23:20) may be deemed by some as a non-essential, but to what, and why? Certainly not to God. If it is in the Bible, I must believe that everything there is essential or it wouldn’t have been put there by God via inspiration. Such a proposition or datum may well be ultimately incomprehensible to a finite mind—even forever, but it is necessary nonetheless. Which is all to say, I don’t believe finite humans have the necessary criteria or propaedeutic to declare with any certainty on this issue and others like it. This is not to say that 2 Sam 23:20 should be an article of saving faith, so in that sense would not be as essential to the kerygma in our minds, but since it is in the Word of God it must be ultimately essential and is something that the God of infinite and exhaustive truth, knowledge, wisdom, purpose, et al. cannot do without.
He uses, albeit with some loftier rhetoric, the same arguments we used in our recent months to attack the ranking doctrines position. I get attacked all over, even to the point of ridicule, on my defense of no non-essentials. By the way, as of this writing, in the comment section where this was posted—no criticism of the no non-essential position. Zero. Zilch. Well, Roland McCune and I. Here we are. Two peas in a pod on this subject. Has he been reading Jackhammer and What Is Truth?