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Is Halloween a Guilty Pleasure?

October 22, 2009 1 comment

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.

Why Are We Losing the Kids?

October 11, 2009 5 comments

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.

The Hypocrisy of Contemporary “Conservative” Evangelicalism

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.

Romans 15:15-21

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?

The Instrumentality

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)

Categories: Brandenburg, Culture, Revival

Reacquiring a Christian Counterculture pt. 1

April 28, 2009 9 comments

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.

Christian Counterculture

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.

Cultural Collapse

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 youThey 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.

The Historic Christian Response of Presuppositionalism to Biblical Criticism: Classic Harmonization

April 22, 2009 8 comments

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

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.

A Follow-Up to Questions for Non-Revivalist Fundamentalism

April 15, 2009 2 comments

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.

Psychoanalysis

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.

Misrepresentation

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.

Evaluation

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.

Off Topic

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.

A Problem

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.

Something Missed

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.

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