Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? Galatians 4:16
There is a certainty about truth that many who claim to love it do not like. And that is that the TRUTH makes enemies. In the age of tolerance we live in (which also affects Christianity and independent Baptists), making enemies is about the worst sin a person can commit. Now, I’m not here promoting the making of enemies. The Word says that when a man’s ways please God, even his enemies will be at peace with him. But the Word also states that some who are told the truth will esteem the truth-tellers to be enemies. From this I gather that love of truth must come before love of friendship or fellowship. If we love the truth and speak it in love, and those who hear it count us as enemies, we must love truth more than friends. In this verse, Paul continues to speak to and try to help those who counted him as an enemy. But he did not change his message or water it down. He did not leave some truth out that was not important or not essential. Because all TRUTH is important and essential.
So love the truth; love people; and don’t be afraid to make some enemies.
You can buy Oxy 10 (strong zit cream) now that performs two tasks—dries up the pimple and covers it with a flesh tone coloring. It’s both a medicine and a make-up. Teenagers, no more need for those unsightly bandaids waiting for a bad blemish to heal. This essay will also multi-task by delivering my break-down of the Fugate-Schaap fight and finish up the actual topic of the month—Ranking Doctrines. The first will surely bring the largest crowd (fitting for Fugate and Schaap) and the latter will draw the most commentary. This month our blog has had more readers in its bathroom than other blogs have had in their auditoriums. Jeff Fugate and Jack Schaap are google gold.
Fugate and Schaap
I still get The Church Bus News, once printed by Wally “Mr. Bus” Beebe, and since his death, the domain of Jeffrey Fugate of Lexington, KY. I get the major mailings, including The Voice, from First Baptist in Hammond, now headquarters for Jack Schaap. Like most of you, first I received the special edition of the Fugate magazine (23 pp) and a little later Schaap’s answer (16 pp). The same day as Schaap’s reply to Fugate, I got the surreal letter to Jack Hyles written by Russell Anderson. I’ve never been in the Fugate/Schaap loop, but I was happy to have them tell me what they thought about the doctrine of preservation and the King James Version.
Fugate and Schaap represent the Hyles’ branch of fundamentalism. Schaap took the mantle from Hyles. He refers to the moment on p. 2:
On his (father-in-law, Jack Hyles) deathbed he took my hand and stated pointedly, ‘I love many people, but I don’t trust them all.’ He paused, squeezed my hand, and continued, ‘I trust you, Jack, with everything I have.’ It was a holy and sacred moment for me.
Schaap has done a phenomenal job in keeping the Hyles’ circus going. I would not have thought anyone could do it. He has. Fugate had to settle, it seems, for getting Russell Anderson, which is a feather in his Hyles cap, but he is a simple Hyles’ grad with a Hyles honorary doctorate, which can’t compare to being in Hyles’ family and getting the Hyles’ death bed handshake.
For those who haven’t seen the mailings, let me start with the Fugate one. Around a huge, half page picture of himself, Fugate explained and justified his mailing on pp. 2-3. On pp. 4-5 he presented quotes from Jack Hyles on the subject from Hyles’ book, The Need for an Every-Word Bible. Fugate printed a chapter from a recent Ms. Gail Riplinger book from p. 6 to p. 12. Fugate wrote a chapter called “The Inspired, Preserved Word” from pp. 13-17, and then reproduced his “Open Letter to Dr. Schaap” from p. 18 to p. 23.
On the top fold of the newsprint style Special Pastor’s Edition of The Voice read in giant red letters, “Dr. Jack Schaap Speaks on Inspiration and the King James Bible.” On the top 1/3 of the first page, but numbered p. 2, in about 25 pt. font, Schaap stated what he believes, and after that an open letter to no pastor in particular, p. 3 an answer to eight different questions that he said he had received from various people, pp. 4-5 his Jack Hyles pages, quoted for his own defense, pp. 6-7 excerpts from two different booklets in which he deals with this subject—Why Stand against the King James Bible? and Dr. Jack Schaap Answers, p. 8 the doctrinal statements of seventeen different Baptist schools to support his position, and pp. 9-11 letters from deacons, staff, Charles Colsten, Wendell Evans, and Ray Young in full support of Schaap. The last three pages were miscellaneous defenses of the Schaap position—one the letter to the readers by the KJV translators, dictionary definitions of “inspiration,” lexiconal entries for theopneustos, and ending with observations and conclusion.
Both of them quote Hyles for their own purposes. Ironically, I believe that it was possible to defend more than one position with Hyles’ words. Hyles would say that he always took the same position, but if you read his early Revelation commentary, you’d see that he commonly corrected the KJV in that book. Then later he turned to the position that said someone could not be converted except through the KJV. In between there, he made many varied and contradictory statements on the subject, so much so that men with different positions both use him to defend themselves.
Fugate and Schaap make convoluted or inaccurate statements. In the large font on p. 2 Schaap wrote what is his official position:
I believe the King James Version of the Bible is the divinely preserved translation of the inspired Word of God for English speaking peoples.
What’s wrong with that? It isn’t easy to understand. I can’t tell what he believes about the underlying Greek and Hebrew text by that statement. I don’t know what he believes about inspiration or preservation from the statement. Someone asked Schaap this question: “If we believe in divine preservation, don’t we then believe that the inspired words were preserved in their inspired state?” As part of his answer, he made this statement: “We have copies of an English translation that came from copies of other translations, etc., etc.” By the time he was done, I couldn’t tell what he believed.
When you read the official position of the church and college, you find the same indecipherable type of statement (p. 9):
Furthermore, we believe the Scriptures were translated, copied, and preserved under the watchful care of divine providence and that the English speaking peoples of today have in the King James Version of the Scriptures an accurate, reliable, divinely preserved translation of the Scriptures.
It says the Scriptures were translated, copied, then preserved. Isn’t copying the way they were preserved? Wasn’t the copying or preservation of Scriptures done before they were translated? Nothing else that was written by Schaap or any others from Hyles-Anderson cleared this up.
Gail Riplinger took up the bulk of the space for Fugate, carrying the doctrinal water for him. She wrote on p. 6:
The actual ‘originals’ have not been the recipient of the promise of preservation, as they have long since dissolved.
I haven’t read anything that Riplinger has written until this paper. She made the above inane statement in the second sentence of her presentation. She said there was no “promise of preservation” of the ‘originals’ because they have long since “dissolved.” How does a promise of preservation relate to whether we still possess the originals or not? The absence of originals doesn’t change what Scripture promises or doesn’t promise. And how do the “originals” receive a promise anyway? God wrote promises to people, not to manuscripts of the Bible. The next sentence brings confusion to what she even means by “originals”:
As is demonstrated in detail in the previous chapters of Greek and Hebrew Study Dangers, all currently printed Greek and Hebrew editions contain errors.
From that statement you can see where we’re headed with Riplinger, but you can also see that when she says “originals,” she doesn’t mean “original manuscripts” but “original languages.” So she is saying that Scripture doesn’t promise original language preservation. So what does it promise about preservation? We’ll get there.
On top of that, how does Riplinger know that every Hebrew and Greek text has errors? She doesn’t possess the original manuscripts, so she doesn’t know that. She can’t compare any of the editions of the Hebrew and Greek text of Scripture with their original manuscripts, so she can’t even come to that conclusion. What she should conclude, based upon a biblical view of inspiration and preservation found in God’s promises in His Word, is that we do have all of the Words without error in the Hebrew and Greek text of Scripture.
But that isn’t where Ms. Riplinger is headed as she teaches us her bibliology. She claims to know that we don’t have a perfect original language Bible, but what we do have is a perfect translation of the Bible. So a perfect translation came from a corrupt text. And she based that upon what?
The answer to the question, ‘Where is the living word of God’ lies in God’ s promise given to Isaiah 28 and fulfilled in Acts 2. “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak . . . saith the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:21) [bold hers].
What do you think of that exegesis? She concludes that God is telling us in 1 Corinthians 14:21 that His Word would come with men of other tongues—not Hebrew and Greek ones—and we know now that they are English ones. We’re supposed to read that out of that verse from Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 (I wish she had read a little further down to 1 Cor 14:29-35 and practiced that instead).
She has many more errors, crazy ones, as you continue to read her. Her writing should be respected by no one. What you can see that she believes is that we didn’t have a perfect Bible from the moment those original manuscripts “dissolved” until we got the King James Version (1611 or 1769?). She is a living example of why women shouldn’t be teaching doctrine to men (1 Timothy 2:9-15). When Schaap challenged Fugate on the phone about learning theology from a woman, Fugate’s comeback was (p. 23):
Gail Riplinger is a woman who holds an honorary doctorate from Hyles-Anderson college for her work on the KJB.
Somebody should tell her that her career in doctrinal mangling is over.
What kind of respect does Fugate hold for Riplinger? This really shows you the caliber of these types of men. Not only is half his presentation a chapter from her book, but then he writes his section and plagiarizes paragraphs of her from the very chapter that he printed. Some editor should have stopped chewing his bazooka and informed him of this. On p. 15 in the first column and on p. 16 at the bottom of the first column and top of the second, Fugate plagiarizes almost word-for-word two paragraphs of Riplinger’s chapter located at the bottom of the last paragraph on p. 6 and then the last paragraph on p. 7.
Trying to be the diplomat, Schaap wrote this on the back page of his paper:
I don’t think any one of us could slide a piece of paper between our differences.
I want to go on record to say that there is far more than paper-thin differences between the scriptural position and what most of the Hylots have written. Try a boulder.
As an aside, the new filing director at Sharper Iron, Greg Linscott, linked to Dave’s last article on Schaap-Fugate. It is presently the most visited thread of their filing section and heavily commented. One of their moderators, a “Larry,” wrote this about Dave:
The irony of this article is that someone who does not have a biblical doctrine of preservation is complaining that someone else who doesn’t have a biblical doctrine of preservation doesn’t have a biblical doctrine of preservation.
That’s all he said. Clever, huh? He didn’t say how it was unscriptural, just that it was. It’s throwing raw meat to the MVO (multiple version only) crowd. He knows it. Classic fundamentalism. What is truly ironic is a person with no biblical doctrine of preservation, Larry, saying that Dave doesn’t have one. I’ve never ever heard an MVO advocate, someone like Larry, ever start with the Bible to come to his position on preservation. As a matter of fact, they believe that you start with textual criticism and then restrain your doctrine from keeping the “evidence” from leading you to the “truth.” Larry’s view of preservation is the new post-enlightenment position that all of the doctrines of scripture have been preserved, not the words. You won’t find it in the Bible.
Final Comments about Ranking Doctrines
In the previous three posts of mine about reducing scripture to essentials and non-essentials, I haven’t presented much of a scriptural argument against that position and practice. In my first installment, I linked to a five part series that I had already written, that did give a biblical basis for an every teaching is essential approach. I also argued against the defense mounted by the other side. I would like to spend a little time dealing with their main arguments. I contend that their main point isn’t in the Bible at all and it is invented only to maintain a type of fake unity between all believers. However, here are some of the passages to which they refer to state their case.
1 Corinthians 15:3
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
Those who rank doctrines see this verse as inferring this practice. They understand “first” (protos) as “first in importance.” They explain that Paul is saying that the gospel is foremost of all the doctrines, based on this text. This is how the New American Standard and the English Standard Versions translate protos. Protos more often means “first in time.” If it does mean “first in importance,” then Paul could be saying that the gospel is foremost in this chapter. With such relative ambiguity, we shouldn’t base a doctrine on the understanding of this one word. Even if it does mean “most important,” then it is an even further stretch to say that it is the only doctrine or one of the few doctrines worth separating over.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Essential or non-essential people infer their practice from the use of the word “weightier” (barus). The Pharisees paid tithe on certain small herbs, but didn’t accomplish the “weightier” matters of the law, like mercy, etc. What are “weightier matters?” Barus carries with it the understanding of “difficulty.” The Pharisees chose to do the easier things, tithing their little herbs. Jesus is refuting the ranking of doctrines. They had voided certain practices and replaced them with other easier ones. Why? The easier ones they could do on their own. This is a major reason why men will rank doctrines–because they don’t see how they can keep everything that God said. They’re right. They can’t do it, which is why they need justification by faith.
1 Corinthians 16:22
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
Certain violations come with severe punishment. Those ranking doctrines say that this indicates that these issues are essential, rated ahead of other doctrines or practices. If someone doesn’t love Jesus, then he isn’t saved. That’s why he is cursed. It is ironic that people who do love the Lord Jesus will keep everything that He says (John 14:21-24). In other words, “Anathema Maranatha” if you won’t do everything that Jesus says to do.
1 Corinthians 3:11-13
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
Jesus is foundational to everything. No one is arguing with that. We must believe in Jesus Christ or all other doctrine or practice won’t matter to someone’s life and eternity. In 2 Peter 1, believers will add virtue to faith and knowledge to virtue. That doesn’t mean that faith is more important than virtue.
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Romans 14 applies to non-scriptural issues. Colossians 2:16 says that we shouldn’t judge one day above another because they are merely shadows of Christ. 1 Corinthians 5:7 says that Christ is our passover. Days are not a doctrinal issue. You can’t apply this to scriptural doctrine and practice.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
This verse has been used for ranking doctrines. It isn’t remotely about that. What is the “same mind” that Paul wanted the Philippians to have with him? It was the same mind or attitude of this pursuit of Christlikeness that he just talked about in the context. Paul uses sarcasm with the term “perfect,” because he himself had just said that nobody had reached perfection until they reach Christ. If they weren’t going to have that mindset of pursuing Christlikeness, then his hope was that God would expose this wrong way of thinking and help them change it.
I’ve already made arguments for not having the essential/non-essential teaching over at my blog in a five part series. I’ve only dealt with the other side here. I’ve found that this is all they’ve got to offer.
Defining What Fellowship Is
In the comment section, one brother asked me about fellowship, to define what it was. I thought it would be worth doing here. I’m not fellowshiping with someone at the park with whom I’m playing pick-up basketball. I might take an unsaved person out to lunch. That isn’t fellowship if I have the purpose of evangelism. I’m on the board of two orchestras. That isn’t fellowship, even though there are other Christians on one of the boards. Winning an election and joining Congress isn’t fellowship.
Fellowship is an association with a common spiritual purpose and goal. I may talk to another professing believer who believes differently than me. We can sit down for coffee or a meal with the attitude that we are attempting to be in fellowship if possible. This may take many visits. I know that these two paragraphs don’t deal with every situation.
Sometimes the word “core” is used. I see it spreading. Core values. And then fancy words like triage, which puts people in such a daze that they refuse to keep thinking about it. Taxonomy is another one. None of these are taught in Scripture. “Fundamental” is very much like “foundational.” I have no doubt that certain doctrines are “foundational.” For instance, who cares if you practice complementarianism when you are not saved. Being saved is foundational. It could also be fundamental in that sense.
But let’s be clear. We know why “core” and all these exciting new theological terms are being used. Men want to be able to water down belief and practice and not be punished for it. The world loves minimizing and reducing, so these same churches will be more popular with the world. And then all the churches that love being popular will also be popular with each other. It’s like a big peace treaty that we could hand out a Christian version of the Nobel Peace prize. We can all smile at each other and get along while we disobey what God said. Then you’ve got a guy that says everything is important, and that’s, you know, an attack on unity. It’s a fake unity like what people have at a family reunion. Real unity is based on what God said.
We are seeing the fulfillment of Paul’s prophecy in our desire to rank doctrine. Every young preacher boy is taught Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
In the next verse, Paul gives a reason for this instruction, making the instruction all the more important.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
That time has come. We have lost our taste for sound doctrine. We teach after our lusts the message we want to teach, with a desire only to have a text for the sake of the audience which demands one. The natural result is that we have turned away the ears of many from the truth, and in many cases the truth has been turned into fables.
Of course, as an Independent Baptist, I want to blame the neo’s for this. They are, after all, the most convenient target, sorta like TV and MTV is the easiest of the cultural targets. But it would not be entirely accurate to blame the neo’s. In fact, in the Independent Baptist circles, we find a frequent disregard for God’s Word in our understanding of doctrine. We ‘preach,’ sure. We ‘preach’ in the sense that we rail, snort, stomp, slap our thighs, wave our hankies, wave our Bibles, wave our shoes, wag our heads, shake our fingers, and wag our tongues. We preach in the sense that we have a message, a main point, an outline, and a verse, which the congregation dutifully opened their Bibles up to. But do we follow Paul’s instructions? Do we preach the Word? My experience says that we do not. We preach our message. We get a text for it too. But we don’t preach the Word.
I have been taking advantage of current events in the Hyles camp. I admit it. I have been shamelessly riding the wave of interest in Fugate’s beef with Schaap in order to boost our ratings and draw readers to our blog. I confess.
But my purpose in this has not been entirely for personal gain. I really do think that the whole issue fits well with our topic for February. Kent has been dealing with it from the left end, where men defend their licentious fellowship practices. I intend to deal with the right end of the issue, where men defend their pet doctrines, and turn a deaf ear to the other. The former is a purposeful ranking of doctrine on the basis of the opinion of the many. They determine importance on the basis of fellowship. They set up standards for the sake of unity with others, making that the basis for distinguishing between essential and non-essential. The latter, on the other hand, work in sort of the opposite direction. They determine importance on the basis of tradition. The set up standards on the basis of distinction and independence. They set up standards for the sake of conformity to their Pope, making that the basis of essential and non-essential.
One reason we think it acceptable to rank doctrines has been that we have been doing it in a practical sense for decades now. We have finally gotten around to defending the practice, but we did it long before we felt the need to defend it. Traditionally, Independent Baptists have decided what they thought important from the Word (or not from the Word), and have insisted on those traditions regardless of whether it is Biblical or not.
We have ourselves to blame for the current state of affairs. It began way back when we decided that our preaching did not need to be directly from the Word. It began when we thought that the message to be preached was more important than the Word of God. It began when we stopped preaching the whole counsel of God. It began when we elevated topical preaching above any sort of exposition, when we decided that our topic trumped the text and context. It began when we set our standards first, and then found a basis for them in Scripture.
By our blatant disregard for God’s Word, we set the new standard. We de-valued doctrine for the sake of traditions and pragmatic practices. Success became our priority, and doctrines were important inasmuch as they brought us success. No, there was no official doctrine ranking ceremony. They were ranked by default. Dr. Big Britches had great success, and if you wanted to be successful like him, you needed to do what he did. The doctrines that were important to him no doubt played a role in his wonderful achievements, and you too would need to stress them if you wanted similar success. And thus began a tradition of judging the doctrines of God. Your garden variety Doctrinal Statement was birthed out of this need to identify with the traditions of the powerful and successful. Growth became faithfulness, and externals measured everything.
Now, today, we have little concern about whether or not we are getting our doctrine from Scripture. We have every concern about whether or not we have all the doctrines off the list of “important ones” as listed by the Guru of Church Growth. Our credentials come, not from the Word, but from traditions and how we line up with them. We ignore the doctrines that don’t make us grow, and that don’t matter to Dr. Fancy Pants with the sexy college. The others we make sure we get right, down to the commas and semi-colons.
Years and years ago, Jack Hyles made himself the judge and determiner of which doctrines “mattered.” And now, in our day, we have this fight erupting between the various factions of Hylotry. Jeffery Fugate says that Jack Schaap is unfaithful to the doctrines that Jack Hyles upheld. Jack Schaap says that he is in fact faithful to Jack Hyles’ doctrines. But who wants to judge a man by his faithfulness to the teaching of the Word?
The push to rank doctrines is nothing new. On the one side, we have those who ignore Scripture in order to promote their agenda. On the other side, we have those who attempt to give a Scriptural basis for tolerating blatant disobedience to Scripture. Does the fact that one side is more conservative excuse them from their practice of ignoring Scripture? I think not.
What’s This, Tag Team?
Now, with all of that in mind, I intend to give an opinion – my opinion – of the Schaap/Fugate matter. I do so because I believe it provides us with a wonderful illustration of the results of deriving doctrine from Tradition rather than from the Word. Consider:
Tuesday was an interesting day, at least for my mailbox. I received my very own copy of “The Voice” — the official publication of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. Emblazoned across the front of the paper is the headline “Dr. Jack Schaap Speaks on Inspiration and the King James Bible…” I also received, in that very same mailbox, a letter from Dr. Russell Anderson (The Anderson half of Hyles Anderson). Anderson’s letter was addressed to “Dr. Jack Schaap, Dr. Jack Hyles, Students, Graduates, & Faculty of Hyles-Anderson College.”
My interest was piqued. Interestingly enough, the letter was mainly addressed to Dr. Hyles, who has been dead (last time I checked) for more than seven years. But talking to the dead is, apparently, one of those really important doctrines that Hyles held. He, after all, was frequently heard to talk to his mama after she was dead, sometimes even from the pulpit. If Jack did it, then it must be okay (or at least, so reasons Russell). Russell Anderson writes this letter to the very dead Jack Hyles, and the letter is about Hyles’ other famous son (in-law), Jack Schaap.
Russell Anderson wants us all to know that Jack Hyles taught him the doctrine that the King James Bible was the inspired, preserved Word of God. And Russell still believes it. In fact, Russell believes that God blessed and used him and Hyles because of this doctrine. And, in case you were wondering just how God blessed and used Russell Anderson, Russell Anderson wants you to know. He said (and I quote),
As of December 31, 2008, ten million three hundred thousand (10,300,000) people have been saved, mostly through the works of Hyles Anderson College graduates Dr. Rick Martin in the Philippines and Dr. Kevin Wynne in Mexico City. (note – Russell also tells us that he supports these and other personal soul winners with about $500,000 per year).
But that is not all. Anderson continues…
I have helped build ten Bible Colleges.
I have helped build 900 churches.
I have given over thirty-five million dollars ($35,000,000.00)
I appreciated the way Russell wrote out the dollar amounts both numerically and in English, so that I could feel the full impact of those numbers. And I’ll have you to know that I did search the letter diligently, but did not find anywhere in it a statement like “I have become like the most high.” In case you were concerned.
Anyhow, Russell is upset with Schaap, who was just a teenager when WE started HAC (says Anderson). Russell wants to know, did Dr. Hyles know that Schaap is now preaching that the King James Bible is not inspired in the college WE have started, which I gave over TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS to? (emphasis is mine). Obviously, the dollar amount donated by Russell is relevant to the issue at hand. ”It seems,” says Dr. A, “that Brother Schaap thinks he knows more about the Bible than you did.” To which we all emit a collective “ouch!”
So, Russell Anderson is upset with Jack Schaap. He (Anderson) is the brother that Jack Hyles never had, and so he wants Jack to know that he is still defending the King James Bible. The same King James Bible that both he and Jack believe is the inspired, preserved word of God. Or, at least, Anderson assumes that Jack Hyles believes that still. I didn’t find any place in the letter where Anderson said whether or not Jack Hyles had contacted him since he left the building.
Schaap, meanwhile, in his paper “The Voice” has provided us with 16 pages of material, all designed to assure us, the reader, that he is still faithful to all of Jack Hyles’ teaching.
Now, in fairness, I have to say that in this controversy, I think that Schaap is in the right. Or perhaps I should say that I think Fugate and Anderson have done him wrong. Ever since ascending to the throne of First Baptist Church, Schaap has had to re-affirm his credentials as a true, card-carrying Hylot. And, as far as that goes, he really is. Perhaps the problem for men like Jeffery Fugate and Tom Neal is that they don’t like the real Jack Hyles. They had a different image erected in their minds, a less accurate version. In a sense, Jack Schaap is the King James Version of Jack Hyles. Men like Fugate and Neal were looking for a newer version… they wanted Schaap to be more like a New King James, or perhaps a New International Version of Hyles. But he isn’t. He’s the real deal. Hyles with Hair to Spray.
And they don’t like it. Short of Schaap doing a hatchet job on the writings and works of Jack Hyles (and that isn’t very likely — a hatchet job on Scripture, perhaps, but not on Hyles), Jack Schaap has fully demonstrated that he is simply repeating exactly what Jack Hyles taught about the Bible. He demonstrates it multiple times, and in multiple ways, by quoting Jack Hyles directly.
And that really is the problem We have a position on the Inspiration and Preservation of Scripture that really doesn’t come from Scripture at all. Yes, it is what Jack Hyles taught, but it isn’t what God said. You see, Fugate thought that Hyles meant that God directly inspired the King James. Schaap understood Hyles to be teaching that God (only) preserved His inspired Words in the King James. Who cares, really, what God Himself actually said about it. What we need is more quibbling about what Jack Hyles meant.
Some questions that I have asked of our English Preservationist friends (one that has yet to be answered) are these: when did God decide to stop preserving His Word in Greek and Hebrew (the languages in which they were given), and switch preservation to English? And how do we know that God decided to do this? And, if God decided to switch to English, which edition of the King James did He decide would be the final edition?
Jeffery Fugate twists Scripture terribly to arrive at his position. I quoted him in last week’s article, highlighting the most blatant of those examples. Certainly, every copy of the Word is called Scripture. That does not mean that God directly inspired each and every copy. What Fugate does is to lower the definition of inspiration to a level that could include our U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and a major part of the works of William Shakespeare.
Do I like Schaap’s position better? He at least gets it that inspiration and preservation are two different doctrines in Scripture. He believes that God has preserved His Word. I’m glad for that. But, he also insists that there is no preserved word in Greek (a position which the majority of English Preservationists take as well), and that the King James Bible is the place where God is preserving His Word. He demonstrates that he does not understand the true TR position of preservation. And in general, he shows that he needs to study the issue a little more.
I am not attempting to restate our position on preservation. That has already been done, and you can read our Biblically sound defense of perfect preservation in this section of our blog. (You might find this article helpful). God promised to preserve His Words… every jot and every tittle. Those, by the way, are not English. God gave the Word in Hebrew and in Greek. God preserved the very words that He gave. It bothers me greatly to hear those who will claim that in 1611, God started preserving His Word in English also claim that there is not a single edition of the Textus Receptus that is or can be called the Preserved Word of God. If there is a 1500 year gap between the giving of the Canon and its preservation, then God didn’t keep His Word.
As I see it, we really have to get this issue settled once and for all. Preservation is a Scriptural doctrine, not merely a traditional doctrine. God promises to preserve His Word, as the Westminster Divines said, “by His singular care and providence.” The Bible tells us how God would do it… through His church, the pillar and ground of the truth. Until we get back to taking our positions on Scriptural, rather than on traditional grounds, we will continue to wallow in confusion and contention. We must, then, get back to a reverence for the Word of God, to holding all doctrine to be equally important.
Most conservative Bible teachers and preachers agree that the Bible teaches separation, that we must separate even from other believers for violations of doctrine and practice. Yet, does Scripture teach that some teachings in the Bible are worth separating over and some are not? Does God’s Word say anywhere that certain doctrine and practice are not issues of separation but others are? You hear this stated again and again by men as if it is what the Bible teaches. Here the Neo-fundamentalist comments:
Basically, we will have to establish some form of a hierarchy of issues that are separation offenses. It may be helpful to throw out those commands or principles that are “unclear,” but then we all will have a slightly different take on which ones are clear, or perhaps we should act based upon those areas where all true believers should be in agreement?
Andy Milliken, on behalf of the Christian Research Institute, contends:
There are five core doctrines that we do separate over if they are not being taught or demonstrated.
Someone at Cogitate Theology writes about this in pretty typical fashion:
We all need to understand that there are different levels of commitment when we talk about theology. Some things are more important than others. For instance, many folks will bitterly argue over things that aren’t central to Christianity (Eschatology, for example). While there is a place for debate in public discourse over such items, they are not worth division and making enemies over.
Pat Brown writes:
A Christian body has to decide the number of ‘essential’ truths that are worth dividing over and which issues are secondary and not worth dividing over.
If we want to find out about how God wants us to separate, then we look at what the Scripture itself says about separation. When we see what it says, then we do what it says. We shouldn’t find out that it says something different than what we are practicing and then adjust our interpretation of the Bible to fit our present practice. We should adjust our practice to fit what God’s Word says. I believe that when we look at what the Bible does say about separation, that it doesn’t give any impression that we separate only over essentials.
The Bible about Separating
You will find separation in every New Testament book. What do the primary separation passages say about what we separate over? Jesus taught that church members should separate from one of their own based upon any unrepentant trespass (Mt 18:15-17). It is no jump in logic to assume that believers are to separate from those of another church who would participate without repentance in the same trespass as the one had in their own body.
Of course, perversion of the gospel is a basis of separation. In Galatians 1:6-9 Paul said that anyone that would corrupt the gospel should be accursed. That passage doesn’t say anything about separation but separation is surely inferred. A place with similar teaching is 2 John 9-10 where John uses the imperative mode to command believers not to fellowship with those who teach false doctrine about the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian should not allow one of these into his house nor even give him any kind of verbal encouragement.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, Paul admonished the Corinthian church not to company with someone called a brother who is a fornicator, covetous, idolater, railer, drunkard, extortioner, and one who is involved in other such sinful activities. This text assumes the same loss of company with any that practice them in or outside one’s own body.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15, Paul commands the church at Thessalonica to withdraw from or break fellowship with every brother that walks disorderly, deviating from what he had taught them, disobedient to his epistle to them, and to have no company with him for the purpose of shaming him.
Without repentance, if a man within the church were to continue being factious, causing division over the doctrine, practice, and leadership of the church, he is to be put out of the church (Titus 3:10-11). This man is the heretic of the New Testament, the one who won’t fit into the church, but instigates division in the church against the unity of the Spirit.
Paul instructs Timothy that he and any other believer should withdraw themselves from those who will not consent to the Words of the Lord, describing it as purging oneself from corruption (1 Timothy 3:3-5). This object of separation will not give his assent to something taught in scripture.
In Romans 16:17, the Apostle Paul adds to this teaching, giving more instruction as to what separation entails. He begs the Roman church to scope out men who would cause dissension and stumbling over anything that he had taught them and to avoid those men.
In none of the above texts are certain non-essentials singled out as non-separating. The separation passages include any false doctrine or practice as worthy of separation.
The Bible about Not Separating
Paul deals with not separating in Romans 14. In the first verse, he writes:
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
That first sentence makes a big difference in how we understand Romans 14. First we determine who is weak in faith. Evangelicals and now many fundamentalists have hijacked the identity of the weak in v. 1 by misusing the example that Paul uses in vv. 2-3.
For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
In Paul’s example the weak person has more scruples than the strong person. The strong person eats anything. The weak person eats only vegetables. He won’t eat meat, maybe because of still following Old Testament dietary restrictions or because he once ate meat offered unto idols, so he’s overreacting to that.
Paul commands the Romans to receive the “weak in the faith.” It doesn’t say “weak in faith” but “weak in the faith.” “The faith” is the body of truth as found in Scripture. ” The faith” is biblical beliefs. The weak doesn’t know the Bible well enough as of yet, so that he would know what is scriptural and what is not. Because he is still weak in his understanding of the truth, he may still be either adding to it or taking away from it. In Paul’s example, he adds to it, but that doesn’t mean that he also might not take away from it. Both the adders and the taker-awayers are weak in the faith.
Romans 14 deals with non-scriptural issues. In an area that someone takes a position that is non-scriptural, don’t fight with him over it. That’s the point of the last part of v. 1, “not to doubtful disputations.” It means, “without arguing with him over it.” Don’t get bent all out of shape when someone takes an extra-scriptural position that does not violate scripture. Just get along with him. Receive him.
So we get some instruction about separation in Romans 14. We are not to separate over non-scriptural issues. Some practices are preferences, ones that we hold dear and that have helped us individually or as a church, but preferences. We aren’t to divide over things that are beyond the scope of scripture and yet still not sinful.
Who Determines What Scripture Says?
The meaning of Scripture is clear enough that a child can know it (2 Timothy 3:15). Some of it is hard to be understood (2 Peter 3:16), but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be understood. This is where the unity of the Spirit comes in. God has the church to judge spiritual matters in the age in which we live (1 Corinthians 6:1-5). It is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
A church agrees on what Scripture teaches. Christ walks in the midst of the church and He will use agreement between them, one mind, to know what the Bible teaches (Matthew 18:18). The “spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). When a man is preaching, those in the church are judging. They despise not prophesyings (1 Thess 5:20), but they also “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess 5:21). In doing so, the church abstains from every kind of evil (1 Thess 5:22), not just essential evil but every evil—evil doctrine (heterodoxy), evil practice (heteropraxy), and evil affections (heteropathy).
The “unity of the Spirit” is kept in the “one body” around the “one faith” (Eph 4:3-4). Unity comes because there is “one Spirit” (Eph 4:4). The same Holy Spirit Who moved upon holy men of God in inspiration of Scripture also illuminates the meaning of Scripture (2 Pet 1:20-21; 1 Cor 2:13). The members of the body come together as one through one Spirit (1 Cor 12; Rom 12). The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16). Paul said that the church at Corinth was the temple of the Spirit of God, Who indwells them (“ye”—plural). Since everybody in the church has the same Spirit, He will be telling each of them the same thing with an emphasis here on the most spiritually mature in the church. The latter are less likely to be quenching the Spirit.
It isn’t one man who is the pillar and ground of the truth. It isn’t a caste of scholars. It is the church. The church separates based upon the faith that has been given it. It practices separation towards the unrepentant within it and without it for purposes of glorifying God, purifying the church, preserving sound doctrine and practice, and instructing saints out of love.
What Does the Separation Look Like?
Churches are different to the degree that each follows Christ with obedience (Revelation 2 and 3). Even though unity in a church is the persistent goal, even in the church men will believe and practice differently. Each church member won’t even stay the same in his belief and practice. He is to add to his faith (2 Pet 1). He is to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Pet 3). The individual believer will struggle to do good (Rom 7:21). Even when he would do good, he does not do good. He disciplines himself and other members discipline him. The church communes at the table for unity, examining itself again and again.
During this progress in sanctification, conforming to the image of the Son, church members are to be patient with one another, strengthening and supporting (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15). Pastors preach the Word with all longsuffering (2 Tim 4:2). We restore the sinning with meekness, considering ourselves and our own temptations (Gal 6:1-2). None of this means that we put up with the violation of so-called “non-essentials.” It means that Christians will be weak in the faith and will struggle to grow. They will get stronger—little children, young and then old men (1 John 2). We are patient with everyone, allowing them time. Even the Jezebel at Thyatira (Rev. 2:20), Jesus gave “space to repent.” Paul warned at Ephesus night and day. All of this is a messy process that doesn’t look clean-cut.
Does this mean that we have essentials and non-essentials? No. It means that we give men time to learn and grow. If we expect that of our own church, then certainly we should allow it for other churches with whom we will fellowship. The standard, as I see it, in Scripture is: “Are they willing to learn?” Or: “Will they be humble and willing to listen, not divisive?”
This standard, I believe, comes out of the warning against those who would cause dissension and a stumbling for others (Rom 16:17). These are the same people or at least attitudes in 1 Timothy 6—”proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings. . .” These are those we withdraw from. The teaching of the church can’t be sidetracked by scorners. Proverbs 22:10 says, “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.” You can’t work with someone who scorns. There is too much at stake. One of these little ones might be offended. Jesus said it would be better to tie a mammoth rock around your neck (a millstone) and jump into deep water than to cause one of them to stumble.
“Heresy” is teaching that goes against what the church is teaching (Titus 3:10-11). The Holy Spirit through the church tests the orthodoxy. If someone wants to cause division away from the practice, teaching, affections, and worship of the church, he must be rejected. He’s a problem. The whole church is bigger than he is, so he should fit in to it. Jesus said that to those even in the minority in the churches of Asia (Rev 2, 3). He told them to revive what was remaining and hold fast. Our first responsibility is to try to help. When an individual will not hear or no one will listen anymore, then we separate.
A church that is against divorce doesn’t present a problem for our church’s belief of no-divorce and no-remarriage. A church that doesn’t listen to teaching on it or encourages divorce will cause people to stumble. Our church has to make that decision. We believe that pants on women is an abomination to God. It takes some a while to learn that even in our own church. As long as they aren’t causing division, we give them time. Other men don’t have the same conviction. Neither did I for the first eight to ten years of our ministry until I preached a series through Deuteronomy. It took me that long. Others will have different beliefs and practices than me, but I won’t separate from them immediately (what I call “cutting them off”), because we all need time to learn and grow. Since the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, each church makes its own decision. Only a church has the machinery—Lord’s Supper, Pastors, Discipline—to maintain that unity Christ prayed for in John 17.
The codification of doctrine and practice in associations and denominations today makes the matter of separation clearer in those instances. The churches in these conventions and fellowship may openly oppose a doctrine or practice our church believes. They give notice that they aren’t budging on a particular point. Fellowship will likely never begin with those churches. Separation is maintained for the stated scriptural purposes, love being prominent among them.
None of what I’ve said here means that certain teachings are essentials and non-essentials. It does mean that we will have to show discernment about what will be a problem for our church and whether we are dealing with a scorner or not. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul gave different ways of dealing with different people. The weak and feebleminded you strengthen and support, but you warn the unruly. The unruly get a different treatment. We approach other churches and other pastors the same way.
The Advantage of this Teaching on Separation and Ranking Doctrines
This teaching on separation and ranking doctrines relies on scripture for the position. It doesn’t invent a new doctrine of essentials and non-essentials in order to maintain a fake unity. It cares about every teaching of Christ like Jesus Himself does. It values every doctrine and practice of the Bible. It looks for unity. It separates for the right purpose. It respects the truth.
Have you considered that something as good and honorable as the truth could be dangerous? That’s the truth, actually. You see, Paul teaches us in Romans that indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish come upon every soul that disobeys the truth.
But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; (Romans 2:8-9)
These are the consequences of disobeying the truth. Here again, the definite article designates truth as an all encompassing whole. It makes us acknowledge that we should strive to obey all the truth. And it makes the rhetorical question, “Which truths can be disobeyed?” quite powerful.
If it’s dangerous to disobey the truth, we should want to know and obey all truth. There’s no middle ground with the truth. Obey it and be blessed, disobey and have anguish.
Our theme for the month is on the issue of truth, in particular on the subject of ranking doctrines. And, one reason that this issue has achieved the rank of “controversy” is because of inconsistencies within our worldviews. If we believe that God is the truth, that truth exists because God truly exists, and that all truth proceeds from God as both flowing from His very nature and as absolutely known by Him, then we have no choice but to say that all truth is equally essential. We can know the truth because God has revealed it to us, and whatsoever God has revealed is essential to us. And never is this more true than in the realm of God’s Special Revelation, as found in the pages of Scripture.
A Biblical, Trinitarian worldview demands that we acknowledge the sufficiency of every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. Mankind is morally obligated to accept every word as it is in truth, the very Word and Words of God. And furthermore, mankind is morally bound to seek a full understanding of every Word, and to seek to fully apply that meaning to every area of life. This obligation excludes any sort of “cafeteria approach” to Scripture, whereby a man determines for himself what is essential and what is non-essential, or perhaps more accurately, what is more to his liking and what is less to his liking. The reason should be plain enough: when I shop the pages of Scripture the way a housewife shops the Pop Tart section of the grocery store, choosing this flavor and that one, and none of the others, I make myself the master and judge of Scripture, of what is important to me, and what isn’t. I become the judge. And if I am the judge of Scripture, then I will not be judged by Scripture.
In all of this, we see the necessity of a Trinitarian Worldview as the basis and foundation for all thinking, including all thinking about God’s Word and God’s People. A right approach to Scripture is defined, not by what the current big-shots in Fundamentalism and/or Evangelicalism say it is. It is not defined by what the Blog-o-Maniacs say it is. A right approach to Scripture is defined by God, and we must receive that instruction, or we will be judged by that instruction.
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Scripture is very clear on this, that every word is essential. We get our doctrines, our standards, our convictions, and our practices from God’s Word, then. Scripture is sufficient. And while there will be controversies until the day when Christ sets all things right, we must strive to draw all our theological and doctrinal boundaries Scripturally. Will there be some fuzzy boundaries? The fuzziness is not because Scripture is not clear. Fog is the result of sin, and our fogginess about Scriptural boundaries is the effect of fallen men interpreting the infallible Word of God.
To Separate or Not to Separate
Nevertheless, while there certainly will be disagreement, we still find that in every case, the line where confusion becomes blatant disobedience is clearly marked. Our churches must labor to identify those lines, and then to apply them in the realm of fellowship. When a church is clearly disobeying Scripture, we must separate. The Bible teaches this plainly in Romans 16:17, in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 and 14, in 1 Timothy 6:3-5, in 2 Timothy 3:5, and in Titus 3:10. This separation principle applies both personally and from church-to-church. It is the duty of every God-fearing New Testament church to clearly identify where those lines are, and to seek to apply the separation principle, found so frequently throughout Scripture, within their church and surrounding community.
But, that being said, this does not mean that churches have a Scriptural right to separate for “light and transient reasons.” Unfortunately, much of the separation practiced by churches in this day and age is over trivialities, personalities, and so forth. One glaring example of this comes from the Evangelical side of things, in particular from the kinds of churches represented by men like Frank Turk of Pyro-Maniacs, and Phil Johnson of the same. These men, who openly ridicule the kind of separation principles held by those in the more Fundamentalist-oriented circles, practice a kind of separation of their own choosing. They don’t separate on Scriptural grounds, that is for sure. But they do separate on personal grounds, as has been well-documented already by Kent, and has been punctuated by their public separation from Kent. Make no mistake about it — these men practice separation. They separate from every brother who does not follow their “big-tent” philosophy.
Similarly, we find this kind of separation, on a practical level, being practiced by those in the broader movement known as the Fundamentalist Movement. It is a separation that consists, not in convictions and standards set by Scripture, but by Camps and Circles. “I am of Bob Jones,” says one. “I am of the Sword of the Lord,” says another. “I am of Jack Hyles,” says still a third. “I am Unaffiliated,” says still another. And thus the lines are drawn.
I will not tire, any time soon at least, of pointing out that we are not following Scripture in all of this. What is the standard? What determines right and wrong? Who gets to draw the lines of separation? If not God, then who? We are not a law unto ourselves, drawing our own lines and marking who we will be avoiding and who we won’t. Unity is a church doctrine, but 1 John also requires God’s people to love all those whom God has saved. If God loved them enough to forgive their sins, we are to love them. But, if they walk in a way that is disobedient to the plain teaching of Scripture, we are to mark them and avoid them, to have no fellowship with them.
Get Your Own Ditch
The recent controversy between Jack Schaap and Jeffery Fugate illustrates this point very nicely. In the January/February, 2009 edition of the Church Bus News, Jeffery Fugate very publicly announced that he is separating from Jack Schaap. Or at least, that he will not be speaking at Pastor’s School 2009. Now, I will not be speaking at Pastor’s School 2009 either — just in case any of you were wondering. I won’t be speaking at Pastor’s School 2010 either. But I don’t feel a need to take out an ad in the Sword of the Lord, or publish my own magazine for the sake of announcing that little tidbit of information to an anxiously awaiting world. But Fugate needs to inform all of us who are fortunate enough to be on his mailing list that he will not be speaking at Pastor’s School — that, in essence, he is separating from Schaap. Fugate says,
Until Dr. Schaap makes plain the fact that he believes that the King James Bible is the Inspired Preserved Word of God and stops sowing doubts about it I will not speak at Pastor’s School or in any ministry of First Baptist Church. I will not send my preacher boys nor recommend any others to HAC. The Church Bus News will no longer give bus scholarships to HAC.
So, he is separating from Schaap, and doing so in a very public way.
Now, this blog has been fairly vocal on the issue of Jack Schaap and Jack Hyles. And, I for one am not at all surprised by any of this on the Schaap end of things. In case you don’t recall the earlier series we did on the Hyles issue, I would remind you of something we said in our post, “What You’ll Find Beneath Peach Trees:”
Schaap, in my not so humble opinion, preaches heresy for the same reason Hyles did. Sure, he twists a different set of texts than Hyles did. But he does not bend texts for the sake of bending texts. Rather, he does this to force us to make a choice about him. Are we with him, or are we against him. Which one? Make your choice. Take your stand. Fall to the right of him, fall to the left of him, or stand with him. Those are your choices.
I still say that Jack Schaap is all about having a following. He wants to be the Rick Warren of IFBXdom… The Church Growth Guru of Fundamentalism. And, I have long predicted that he would lead the First Baptist Church of Hammond into a more neo position. In fact, I believe that, considering how enamored Schaap is with the Charismatic movement, and the historical position that FBC Hammond has taken on the Holy Spirit, Schaap will likely lead that church into some kind of hybrid “Fundamentalist/Charismatic” movement. I won’t be surprised.
But is Jeffery Fugate separating from Schaap because he has violated Scripture? One has to wonder, on the basis of the published material in the January/February 2009 issue of the Church Bus News. For one thing, the magazine features a prominent article on what Jack Hyles taught about the King James Bible — and have no doubt, that is as close to being inspired material in the minds of Hyles’ followers as Scripture itself. The magazine also features an article by Gail Riplinger, “7 Infallible Proofs,” and then an article by Fugate, “The Inspired, Preserved Word.”
Having read through each of these articles, it is very apparent that Fugate, like Riplinger, is an English Preservationist. The Riplinger article is abridged from her upcoming book, Greek and Hebrew Study Dangers: The Voice of Strangers, The Men Behind the Smokescreen, Burning Bibles Word by Word. Riplinger offers a somewhat disjointed proof that the English Bible is equally inspired with the originals — for example, since the Ethiopian eunuch was reading a translation of Isaiah, and since the book of Acts calls this translation Scripture, and since 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, therefore “vernacular editions are given ‘by inspiration’.” She further argues that John Wycliffe and Miles Coverdale say that God, not them, was the author.
Fugate adds these thoughts:
Let me go a step further. Breath is tangible, which means you can feel it, smell it, etc. Spirit is non-tangible. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance – all are non-tangibles. Do you see the difference between breath and spirit? It’s important to understand because some conclude that the Bible was God-breathed, or the words were spoken and only when they were spoken were they inspired. However, the Bible says inspiration means His words are given by His spirit. I had someone tell me recently that there is no way the English version could be inspired because God doesn’t speak English. He spoke Hebrew and Greek. I wanted to tell the young man, “Maybe when you get to Heaven you can teach Him English, and He’ll appreciate that.” God is not limited by language!
He says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” I want you to understand something that is very important. It is not just the Originals that are inspired. Deuteronomy 17:18 says, “…he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites.“ Joshua 8:32 speaks of writing a copy. Proverbs 25:1 says, “These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.“ If only the Originals are inspired then what happened to the copies. Don’t believe the statement that says, “Only the Originals are inspired.” If I didn’t believe that I had a copy of the inspired, living, preserved Word of God I would quit. God promised He would preserve His inspired words. I believe if God can create and sustain the world, He can give and preserve His Bible.
The word “scripture” or the usage of the word “scripture” in the New Testament never refers to an Original. The word “scripture” simply refers to copies of the Word of God. Acts 17:11 says the Bereans searched the Scriptures daily. Did they have the originals? No, they didn’t have them. They were reading copies of the Word of God. Acts 18:28 says Apollos was showing the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. Matthew 21:42 has Jesus asking the question, “Did ye never read in the scriptures?” In Matthew 22:29 Jesus rebuked, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.“ If the scriptures were only accessible in the Originals then why would he chide them for not know(sic) something that wasn’t available. Do a study of the word “scripture” in the New Testament and see how many times it appears.
And here is the point of quoting all this. Fugate takes a wrong position on preservation. There is no Scriptural warrant for placing a translation on the same level as what was inspired by God. Nor does Fugate give any. Nor does Riplinger. Instead, they both play Gumby with texts and words in order to force their position on the Scriptural doctrine of preservation. I feel very sure (having had this discussion with more than one English Preservationist) that Fugate would deny that we have the very words that God spoke in the very language (Hebrew and Greek) in which they were spoken. The promise of preservation only works after 1611.
Fugate exemplifies the modern-day practice of taking a position because it “makes sense” and then separating from all those who disagree. Schaap has, apparently, joined the ranks of those who deny that we have a preserved Word today because we don’t have the originals. But then again, the Hyles camp has never attempted to take a Scriptural position on this. I found it ironic that Fugate made the statement that
“Admittedly, there are some that have had a wrong disposition in their defense of the King James Bible. There are also those that have taken a stand that goes to the right – such as saying that you must be saved by the King James Bible or you are a two-fold child of Hell.”
Actually, didn’t Jack Hyles say that?
But I digress. My point in all of this is two-fold. First, what we have here is an example of two men who have yet to identify a Scriptural position on the issue of preservation, and as a result, both stumble into the ditch. But Fugate has now determined not to be in the same ditch as Schaap, has announced to the world that he is leaving the Schaap ditch and going to the ditch on his own side.
And secondly, we have two men who have never made an effort to identify what the grounds would be for separation. At what point should we separate on the issue of Preservation? No Scriptural warrant is given for why this should be a separating issue between Fugate and Schaap. Although indeed, among the English Preservationists, there is no sin like the sin of not being an English Preservationist.
The doctrine of perfect preservation is an important issue. But one of the reasons that we can’t even have a rational debate about it is because the English Preservationists have never attempted to get their position from Scripture. As a result, our opponents on the Critical Text side of the issue have gone the same route. On the English Preservationist side, we have fideism — they believe what God says, and they could care less what history shows. But on the other side, we have evidentialism. James White might be a presuppositionalist in other matters. But when it comes to the textual issue, he is most certainly an evidentialist. He and his side looks at the history as more weighty than the promises. So, on the one side we have those who hold to the promises, and ignore the evidence. On the other hand, we have those who hold to the evidence and ignore the promises.
And this is why we can’t even conduct a rational debate on the issue. When we get back to taking a stand on Biblical grounds on this issue, we might once again see the pure Words of God preached with power and effect. We pray for such a day to come again.
Where does Scripture tell us that only a limited number of its teachings are worth separating over? Answer: Nowhere. You can’t find that anywhere in the Bible. Phil Johnson says it’s just common sense for us to rank doctrines and bemoans the loss of common sense since post-modernism. C. H. Spurgeon came along before post-modernism and perhaps even modernism, so based on Johnson’s standard for common sense, I wonder where Spurgeon’s is, when I read this quote from his 1856 sermon, Zion’s Prosperity:
I believe that we ought not to say that any truth is non-essential; it may be non-essential to salvation, but it is essential for something else. Why! you might as well take one of the jewels out of the Queen’s crown, and say it is non-essential, but she will be Queen all the same! Will anyone dare to tell God that any doctrine is non-essential?
He lacked the “common sense” that Johnson claims in many other sermons he preached as well. Johnson must retreat to the 17th century to find anyone expounding on essentials and non-essentials and really to only two volumes, one of which was Herman Witsius’ Sacred Dissertations on the Apostle’s Creed. Witsius argues that essential doctrines are only those necessary to salvation. One of Witsius’ life goals was reconciliation between the reigning orthodoxy of his time with the new covenant theology. His doctrinal taxonomy would help bridge the gap between those two. We must consider that objective when we read Witsius’ arguments as well as to understand that he’s unpacking the Apostle’s Creed, which on its own is a monumental contraction of doctrine that among the few things that it states as essential, it includes: “I believe in the . . . holy catholic church; the communion of saints. . . .”
The Point of Ranking Doctrines
Witsius revealed his point of ranking doctrines—the holy catholic church and the communion of saints. He believed that all believers made up the true church, the holy catholic one, and that unity was required, the communion of the saints. I agree with total church unity. Paul admonishes the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 12:25 “that there should be no schism in the body.” Of course, two verses later (v. 27) he also calls the Corinthian church the body of Christ.
Scripture doesn’t teach the communion of the saints. 1 Corinthians 10:16 teaches “the communion of the body of Christ,” but the “body of Christ” and “the saints” are two different terms and two different concepts. “Saints” is a soteriological term. It means “saved people” in essence. “Body of Christ” is an ecclesiological term. It is speaking of the church, local only, which is why Paul said to the church at Corinth, excluding himself, in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Ye are the body of Christ.”
You can clearly see “saints” and “church” are different in 1 Corinthians 14:33, where Paul mentions “all the churches of the saints.” “Saints” and “churches” are differentiated from one another in their usage. The church is an assembly of saints in a particular location, and it is in the church where unity can be found, because a church has the means provided by the Lord Jesus Christ to maintain unity: church discipline, the Lord’s Supper, and the church officers, among other tools not given to all the saints in general. The church, local only, is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” God gave churches the capacity to protect and propagate the truth and nothing more than churches. A church can keep factions out of itself (Titus 3:10-11). It can do that by means of church discipline.
It is no wonder that Phil Johnson says that ranking doctrines is common sense. It’s the only way that he sees that all believers could get along. There’s way too much diversity even on a plain subject like baptism for “the communion of the saints.” Yet, how far do they reduce the doctrines to get down to the essentials? Ironically, almost everyone disagrees on what is essential, so that they even divide over what to divide over.
Even if these evangelicals make the gospel the one non-negotiable, they do not consistently separate over that either. There is a huge divergence in the gospel understanding of Billy Graham and Albert Mohler, but that did not stop them from coming together in a “gospel” endeavor in 2001. Graham preaches universalism. John MacArthur understands very clearly what Graham told Robert Schuller in 1997. But then Mohler and MacArthur are in very close fellowship. Mohler’s doctrinal triage is the means that he wants to bring the Southern Baptist Convention together, he and Graham both being Southern Baptists. As a part of Together for the Gospel, MacArthur and Mohler also both join with the Charismatic C. J. Mahaney. MacArthur has written scathing material against Charismatic doctrine, but that doesn’t keep him from fellowship with Mahaney. In other words, these men who believe that the true church is all believers use ranking doctrines as a means to unify everyone. What we can see by their practice is that they unify whether they believe the same gospel or not. Instead of calling themselves “Together for the Gospel” (T4G), they should label themselves “Together for the sake of Getting Together.”
Johnson and MacArthur and their evangelical guys aren’t the only one who believe this. We also have the fundamentalists as represented by Kevin Bauder and his indifferentism and everythingism teaching, and as exemplified by the 2009 Bible Conference at Bob Jones University. Of course, they’re a lot less diverse than the evangelicals, but the diversity that’s there comes because of a kind of theological triage they also possess. I’m sure that Paisley is a Calvinist. I’m sure that Ollila is not, especially in light of the reported statement that he is a “no-point Calvinist,” that is, “there’s no point in discussing it.” In Paisley and Sexton we have King James Only. Among some of the other speakers are multiple versionists. Sexton markets himself as with Spurgeon in most of his publications, but on the Crown College campus he has a building named after Curtis Hutson, one of the fathers of the modern no-repentance-for-salvation doctrine, and has the image of Jack Hyles hanging in his preachers hall of fame.
Scripture must be consistent because God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). God can’t tell us to have no schism in the body on one hand (1 Corinthians 12:25) and then to separate from believers on the other hand (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15) if the body of Christ is all believers. Those two teachings would contradict one another. The unity must be based upon doctrine and found only in the church, which is local only. If churches choose to fellowship, they will do so based upon doctrine and practice. However, we are together for more than just the gospel.
Ranking doctrines was invented for the point of a fake unity that is based upon degrading the teachings of God’s Word. Unity trumps all other doctrines in this scheme. Earlier Baptists were tortured and died over mode and recipient of baptism, but now baptism is a doctrine to overlook in order to get together and to get along. With so much doctrinal disagreement, instead of separating, men unify based upon a lower common denominator, reducing the teachings of the Bible into essentials and non-essentials. It encourages disobedience to Scripture.
The Presumptuousness of Ranking Doctrines
Jesus told the religious leaders that they left the weightier matters of the law undone. He also said that there was a greatest commandment. Paul said that certain doctrines were foundational. From those teachings, one is presumptuous to think that he can choose certain doctrines to deemphasize in order to stay in fellowship with another professing believer. Those verses don’t say anything about that. The ones who do the ranking are guilty of the Pharisaic practice that Jesus confronted in Matthew 15:6:
Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
Ranking doctrines is tradition. It isn’t taught in the Bible. This tradition, however, has led to the fall of many a man by making the commandment of God of none effect. Sure, they might recognize the commandment of God—so did the Pharisees—but it isn’t necessary to practice, because they’ll suffer no loss of fellowship for disobeying it.
Uzzah presumed on God and touched the ark of the covenant. God killed him. Nadab and Abihu presumed on God in the matter of the recipe for the incense to burn at the altar of incense. They offered strange fire unto the Lord. God killed them. Ananias and Sapphira presumed upon God in holding back certain money they had promised from the sale of their land. God killed them. Adam and Eve presumed about one piece of fruit on one tree in the Garden. They died the day they ate thereof.
In the form of a serpent in the garden of Eden, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to presume upon God. Certain things that God said weren’t essential. They just weren’t as important as other things. Jesus, however, never presumed upon the Father. He always did the will of the Father, who sent Him. And he said that the greatest in His kingdom is the one who does the least of His commandments.
Folks, I had to deal with some unplanned school activities for several hours yesterday. Hence, my tardiness and brevity. But consider today the relationship between the Word of God and the Truth. Jesus said along the way in His high priestly prayer, “Thy word is truth.” When He did that, he stated an equivalence between them. I believe that ranking doctrine is related to ranking Scripture. If we can or have to determine which scriptures are more important, i.e. really truth, then we feel that we can or have to determine which doctrines are also more important. Is seems that one’s belief about preservation affects his view of doctrine. Which only makes sense (or maybe it’s circular). He doesn’t think preservation is a primary doctrine. Maybe that is a root problem!
Maybe some of you can develop these thoughts in the comments…
I hate to cause any diversion from the great topic at hand, and I certainly have no desire to take away from the tremendous first two posts on this issue. But, I also have some unfinished business that really must be taken care of, and so, without further delay…
During the last month that we blogged, we did a sort of biographical month. Jeff gave us all questions to answer… really deep, probing questions, too. I was sorta embarrassed by a few of them. But, I answered anyway. Then, Kent gave his perspective on Jeff and I — I really blushed when I read those. And finally, I made fun of Jeff. I’m sure that if he ever gets it, he’ll be blushing. But we’ll have to wait for him to think it over.
But, I never got to Kent. And I have wanted to. I need to, really. I started to, back at the end of December. But some very pressing duties combined with my rather foggy brain, hung-over as it was with cookies, candy, and Christmas vacation, simply prevented my completing the process. In fact, those very same pressing duties have prevented me from even touching a blog over the past 4-5 weeks. Today is my first day back at “Blog Central” (the place in my office where I do all this wonderful blogging), and so I want to dedicate today’s piece to my friend Kent.
Kent has already told you the story of our first meeting. Whatever he says about it, I will admit that I didn’t even notice him being there (when it is time to preach, I get a bad case of tunnel vision anyway), until during the lunch time afterwards. As I recall, his youngest sat in a high chair next to my oldest (also in a high chair), and we had a very nice time at the table. I suppose that if I had realized that the balding guy with the baby was THE Kent Brandenburg, I probably would have acted differently at the time, but I didn’t know half the people at that meeting, and I’m not an outgoing guy. Not at all. So, I just enjoyed the talk. Whatever Kent might have seen, I looked across that table, and I saw a friend.
And that is exactly what Kent has been to me throughout these years since then. When Pastor Short died, Kent flew here for the funeral. He couldn’t stop crying long enough to talk much then. Later, he flew out here again to preach for me, and we enjoyed sitting up late discussing, debating, and in general growing acquainted. And, Kent was a friend. Many, many times, too many times really, I have picked up the phone to dial his number. Sometimes it was important. Sometimes I needed advice in a desparate way. Other times, it was less urgent, but still important to me. Always, Kent is there to give the help, the nudge, the encouragement, and even, at times, the kick in the pants, the cuff upside the head, or the stinging rebuke that was needed.
No doubt there are readers of this blog who see Kent as a theologue. No doubt some consider him to be a braniac. Probably we have a reader or three who think of him as a crank. To some, he is an extremist. To others, a hard-liner. I would be surprised if some of our readers didn’t associate him very closely with the mascot for our President’s party. Kent is a strong man, a godly man, a true pastor, an expert exegete, a faithful preacher, a father and a husband and a brother in Christ. But all who read this post should understand that above all else, Kent is a friend.
Will he always say what you want to hear? Emphatically not. Will you always like the “friendship” he extends your way? No, not really. Will you feel warm and fuzzy feelings towards him all the time? I think not. Kent is not the kind of friend that you make on MySpace or on Facebook. He’s not a friend for the Socially Unfulfilled. He’s no make-believe friend. He won’t be leaving comments on your wall to the tune of “you’re so kewl.” Kent is not a virtual friend. He is a real-life friend. The kind that will cry because you are suffering. The kind that will rejoice because you are rejoicing. The kind that will listen when you call, will help you when you stumble, will rebuke you when you need it most, and will extend a helping hand when you need that too.
I have stayed in Kent’s home. I have observed his family. I have been in his church. I know his staff. Kent understands and practices the grace of hospitality. He is a good host. He has a very gracious wife, and a couple of the best kids you’ll ever meet (at least in the daughter department). His home is well-run, his children well-mannered. I watched as his kids woke up early and started practicing their music. For the first two hours of the morning, the Brandenburg house sounds like Carnegie hall ten minutes before the Symphony. Kent has established a well-ordered home.
In this day and age, it seems like most pastors are either doctrinally sound or manly, but never both. Not so with Kent. He’ll run you over on the basketball court, and then call the foul on you. He’s a man’s man when it comes to athletics. He throws his whole heart and soul into whatever he is doing. But he isn’t just a man on the athletic field. He understands that manliness is spiritual, and he is spiritual in a manly way. He takes a strong stand, and never apologizes until he sees that he was wrong. I like that about Kent.
There have been plenty of times that Kent and I have disagreed. Publicly, in fact. Often, we have done so on purpose. We both hold our convictions very strongly, and yet, we have a mutual respect for one another. I suppose that if you are looking for a connection between this post and the month’s theme, this is it. We both strive to take our stands on defensible ground, with a strong Scriptural basis for all our beliefs and practices. There are times when we take very different stands. One of the goals of this blog has been to model a Biblical approach to doctrinal debate. We desire to show the world that these issues can be debated, and debated passionately, without there being a wounded friendship in the end. We hope that we are succeeding in this.
But that brings up another point about Kent. Like iron, Kent sharpens those around him. Anyone who has debated Kent understands the need to “bring your A-game.” That is why Phil Johnson won’t touch him. I still remember that promise, made so very long ago, that Phil made to Kent — I’m gonna debate you (said Phil), and when I do, you’ll need to bring your A-game. That’s what Phil said. Somehow, I’m thinking that in the ensuing days, Phil realized that Kent only brings his A-game. And, maybe, Phil decided that his own A-game had “left the building.” Who knows?
Kent is a tough debater. As one who has gone more than a few rounds with Kent, I should know. Kent doesn’t shadow box. He never heard of 50%. Kent is a model of Biblical tenacity. And, as a result, Kent has gotten himself banned. Banned at Sharper Iron. Banned by Frank Turk. Banned at PyroMeaniacs. Banned in Blogdom. I understand their strategy. If you can’t beat Kent, silence him. They have put him out of their Synagogues. They think they have done God a service. They can’t bear to debate him, and so they gag him instead. And, if you have no other reason to admire Kent, that should be reason enough.
If you are in touch with contemporary theology, then you know the emphasis today in theological circles on ranking doctrines. In case you don’t understand, let me explain. Evangelical teachers say that some doctrine and practice is worth separating or fighting over and some is not. They rank certain doctrines as primary or essential and others as secondary or non-essential. Ironically, there’s a lot of conflict among them about which doctrines are important and which ones are not. For instance, is mode of baptism worth separating over?
Who Is Talking About This?
I said that people are talking about it. Who?
Nick Duke, pastor of Campus Church at the The University of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ, wrote a three part series outlining his thoughts on the ranking of doctrines (beginning here).
The GARBC published a pamphlet written by a pastor, David Nettleton, which was against the dividing of doctrine into essentials and non-essentials.
Miles J. Stanford writes that the separation of doctrine into these types of categories was a characteristic of new evangelicalism: “Concession has been the course of Neo-evangelicalism. Its interdenominational [and nondenominational] approach has caused it to divide the Bible into essentials, and non-essentials.”
Oh, and then me. I finished a series at my blog specifically on this subject (part one, two, three, four, five, and then here) [One young blogger commented]. My position, of course, contrasts with Johnson, MacArthur, Bauder, and Mohler. Kevin Bauder might call me an “everythingist,”or at least a modified everythingist, which he would look at with disrepute.
Overview of the Discussion
One side says that Scripture ranks doctrines according to importance and that this provides a basis for separation. Most of the truth rankers agree that the gospel is the one doctrine over which we are to separate as Christians. Everything else is tertiary or non-essential. A major phrase I’ve heard on this position is: Essentials unity, non-essentials liberty, all things charity. They say that some doctrines are more important than others—those are primary or fundamental—and those are the ones that are worth separating from another person or institution. This is the means by which we maintain unity between believers. In order to get along, we have to reduce the teachings or issues over which we will separate to a manageable number.
My position is that every doctrine in Scripture is essential. We don’t have one example in Scripture of something God said being dispensable. The non-essential doctrines are those that are non-scriptural. Non-biblical issues are not a basis of separation. Anything that God did say in His Word is primary and fundamental. We aren’t taught in the Bible anywhere this essential and non-essential, primary and secondary or tertiary doctrine. We are not given liberty in the Bible to disobey God or to believe differently than what Scripture says.
Phil Johnson gives five scriptural reasons in his online series on this subject, but he admits:
It seems to me that the distinction between primary and secondary doctrines is implicit rather than explicit in Scripture.
He says the teaching is implicit. And yet, it is a major teaching for evangelicals and many fundamentalists. These are the same men who often chafe at dogma arrived from implications. And this is major dogma with them. In my five part series linked above, I cover several of his arguments by implication.
I’ve found in person that the main arguments for the essential/non-essential teaching are experiential. The typical attack is rhetorical, something like this: “So you’re saying that baptism is as important as salvation in Scripture?” Or, “So you think that Jephthah’s daughter and the sons of god in Genesis 6 are as important as the doctrine of justification?” If you say yes to either of these questions, then they say something like: “That’s just crazy!” Or, “You gotta be kiddin me (laughter)!” The indifferentist crosses his arms with smug satisfaction. With those questions, he has just won this debate. If you won’t separate over every teaching of Scripture, then you may as well fellowship with everyone no matter what their beliefs.
Once I started looking into this issue again in preparation for this series, I read some that saw it like I did. Leland M. Haines, albeit a Mennonite, here writes an article that I believe reflects a biblical view. He concludes: “In Biblical issues, unity. In non-Biblical issues, liberty. In all things, love.”
As we look at Scripture, do we see God take the same attitude as us about all of his teachings? Do we take the same attitude when the restaurant missed our special order? “I said no onions on my Whopper!” Our position should reflect the will of God as revealed in His Word. We don’t have liberty to cobble together a new doctrine based upon our struggles to get along with one another.
You will find men discuss this topic in history. Herman Witsius, 17th century Puritan, discusses it from pp. 16-33 in his Sacred Dissertations: On What Is Commonly Called the Apostles Creed. He barely refers to Scripture to make His point, but this issue was being discussed. John MacArthur’s three part series (linked above) essentially uses the outline of Witsius from these pages, except MacArthur attaches verses to what Witsius wrote. This article says that Wesley took some type of this essential/non-essential position. Francis Turretin in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, in volume 1 deals with what is fundamental and non-fundamental under his fourteenth question, which is “Are some theological topics fundamental, others not; and how can they be mutually distinguished?” Turretin uses 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and Philippians 3:15 as his basis and that’s it. You will be hard-pressed to find any kind of ranking of doctrines in those two texts. Tell-tale is Turretin’s opinion of the Lutheran view of doctrinal taxonomy: “the more strict Lutherans who extend fundamentals more widely than is just.” In this we see the peril of taking scripture and reducing it to what we think is important—people who have a longer list of important doctrines than us are considered “too strict.”
Spurgeon, on the other hand, with his vast library and encyclopedic knowledge of theology did not approve of dividing doctrines into essentials and non-essentials. He talked about this on many different occasions and showed a severe dislike for this practice. Alexander Young wrote against this doctrinal division in 1852, James Carlile in 1823, and J. S. Thompson in 1890. In 1887 Thomas Armitage in The History of the Baptists wrote (p. 680): “But their folly is more apparent still when we find them drawing a distinction between essential and non-essential Christian doctrines.” In 1878 The True Covenanter did an article against the division of doctrine as such.
The Bible is historical and I believe that ranking doctrines did start in Bible times. We read about it in Scripture. It began with the unconverted religious leaders of Jesus’ day—the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the scribes. It was normal for them to reduce the commands of God to a number they could keep on their own. They wanted to involve Jesus in this practice when they asked Him in Matthew 22:36, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Like Jesus would do many times, He played along with this little game when He answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Of course Jesus wasn’t saying that ranking God’s commands was acceptable. He knew that all of the other commandments could be wrapped up into this one. He also recognized that this was one that the religious leaders were violating.
The religious leaders in Israel didn’t have a supernatural religion. In their sinful flesh, they were powerless to keep the many commands that God had given. This weighed upon them a heavy burden. Since they couldn’t keep them all, they chose to minimize them to a manageable number. They even started reducing the number to just the one really important one. That’s what we see happening today with ranking doctrines as well. We choose what we think is important and then we fellowship based on that smaller number of divine instructions based on our own convenience. Then we call it unity.
Why a New Popularity?
Ranking doctrines occurs for two reasons: a perversion of the nature of the church and a misunderstanding of the doctrine of unity. The latter is related to the former. Since men think that the church is all believers, they assume they must unify with all believers based on what the Bible teaches about unity. They have found that there is no way that they can get along with everyone else if every teaching of Scripture is the basis of fellowship. There is too much doctrinal disagreement, so they choose to get along based upon what they call the “essentials.” If someone violates one of the essentials, then they have a reason for separation. Until then, they’ve got to maintain a unity that is based upon a few doctrines or just one.
This practice has been around for years in Roman Catholicism. Men may not have believed Roman Catholic doctrine, but the belief in Catholicism itself trumped all other doctrines. Remaining in the Catholic “Church” was necessary for eternal life. Excommunication from the denomination meant condemnation. Roman Catholicism was held together by a few basic teachings that all Catholics agreed upon in order to stay together and to remain in the church.
I believe the new popularity of ranking doctrines comes mainly as a response to the mainstream culture. We live in a new era of tolerance. Not getting along is not acceptable and those most at fault are the ones with the higher and more plenteous standards. The church has mirrored that trend. It doesn’t look good squabbling over doctrinal differences. The new unifying doctrine is unity itself.
Another factor is the world’s view of success. To be successful you need to be in a large group. It brings credibility and safety. When you are outside of the group, you lose the comfort of social status. God said that it wasn’t good that man was alone. God created us with the desire for relationships. Like anything good that He created, the ruination of the curse twists it into something perverse. You won’t be considered a success unless you have a lot of friends. The new facebook craze is testimony to the seduction of popularity. The only criteria for friendship is the click on one internet link. You’re now friends…because you want to be. Doctrine and practice doesn’t have to mess that up at all. It’s nice to feel wanted.
Monetary factors exist. You can’t sell books without a more universal acceptance. You won’t have the pool of speaking invitations unless those opportunities are kept open. You might not get a job at a parachurch organization that is more broad than what you are. Being narrow is the deal-breaker. If you have your own conference, you won’t have people coming if you are so narrow that few will feel comfortable. The threat of shunning exists. The way to alleviate that is to have very little worthy of ejection from the group. If they come, they’ll help pay for your conference.
If you are dispensational and premillennial like I am, then you believe a one world church is in the future. How is that going to happen? Religious people will forego their doctrines and scruples to get together based on one common belief. I would expect a trend toward that as we get closer to the end. It’s Satanic influence headed toward what we see prophecied in Revelation. Before the all out unity in the tribulation period, the world will be rid of all those that have been causing division—the people that believe and practice the Bible.
But Does Ranking Doctrines Please God?
When you rank doctrines, you are going to let a few teachings go like so many loose tomatoes in the back of a pick-up truck. The God of the Bible doesn’t approve of any disobedience of Him. In essence, God is left out of this discussion. It centers on man. Ironically, ranking doctrines doesn’t love God. God is loved by keeping His commandments, words, and sayings (John 14:15, 21, 23). We have doctrinal and practical light and then doctrinal and practical darkness with no shades of grey in between. If everything that He says is true, then all of it is important. All of it needs to be followed. We don’t have liberty to sin (Romans 6:1). Faith keeps God’s Word and faith pleases Him.
There are many places in the Bible that address the subject of truth. Of course, all the Bible itself is true in one way or another. It either speaks the truth or gives the true account of something that is untrue. Christ also spoke the truth and about the truth often. He said, Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.
One of the most well known times that Christ spoke the truth about the Truth is in John 14:6 where he said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me. In this text, several attributes of the truth are seen.
1. The truth can be known.
2. The truth is external.
3. The truth is unchanging.
4. The truth is eternal.
5. The truth is absolute.
Whenever anyone claims that something IS true, he is assuming that EVERYTHING else is not true. If someone believes Christ, then he believes the truth. If he denies Christ, then he denies the truth. Even if he only does not admit Christ is the truth, then he does not admit to the truth. The point I’m making is that there is only ONE truth, and everything is either true or it’s not. There is no space between truth and error.
Now, when people categorize the truth, they make us think that there are degrees of truth. This is dangerous. It gives us the feeling that there are some things that God does not care about. And that is not true. God is true, even if every man is a liar. Admittedly, the impact of my errors may differ according to what I am in error about, but the fact of the error still stands. If I am in error, I am believing a lie.
As the month progresses, you will read our three perspectives on the truth. We may differ, and if so, then one or even all of us are wrong, but we must remember and respect a person who is honestly seeking the truth and seeking to align his life and practice with it.