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I Am Not a Cultural Fundamentalist

October 25, 2010 5 comments

You’ve probably noticed regular new labels and terms popping up.  One of these, I’ve seen, is “cultural conservative.”  I don’t know when that terminology was first used, but I know it differentiates certain conservatives from the “fiscal conservatives.”  Whether you would have the “cultural conservative” label or the “fiscal conservative” one probably depends on why you vote for who you do.  The latter would vote with his so-called “pocketbook.”  Fiscal concerns may bring people together that do not see eye-to-eye on the culture.  The two terms, culture and fiscal, divide conservatism.

What Is Cultural Fundamentalism

I believe that this division in conservatism between cultural and fiscal has now become the basis for a new division that I have read only in the last few years, that is, the cultural fundamentalists and the theological or doctrinal fundamentalists.  With just a little looking, I have found that “cultural fundamentalism” has been around for awhile as a technical terminology for something entirely different than how Christian fundamentalists have used it.  “Cultural fundamentalism” has referred to a usually violent antipathy to a change of culture.  That label is often hung on the jihad of Islamic countries who desire one Islamic culture.  So “cultural fundamentalism” has been around for awhile, but only recently has it been used, mainly as a pejorative, to color a certain brand of Christian fundamentalism.

In 1999 a professor at the University of Wisconsin, William P. Tishler, referred to “cultural fundamentalism” existing in the U. S. in the 1920s.  He described it like this:

The 1920s was a time when many adherents of “Cultural Fundamentalism” attempted to ensure that all Americans followed the right patterns of thought:  quest for certainty and predictability in social relationships; an order in human affairs that was at once familiar, comfortable, and unthreatening; and nostalgia for the idealized, non-industrial society of their parents.

Tishler’s syllabus reads like sheer propaganda, assigning motives to people without evidence.  David G. Bromley in his 1984 book, New Christian Politics, calls the “new religious right” (NRR) “cultural fundamentalism.”  He, like Tishler, would say that “cultural fundamentalism” supports things like right to life and male headship.

The first “cultural fundamentalism” struck me as an identifiable label was when I read what Tim Jordan said at the latest GARBC national conference.  He warned:

If we produce ‘biblical’ reasons for cultural fundamentalism, they [the young Fundamentalists] know you are lying. And why do they know you are lying? It’s because you are!

So you see his usage of “cultural fundamentalism,” differentiating himself from that.  I started looking for other usages and I read this from Bob Bixby on his blog in January 2008:

These first-generation Calvinists embrace Calvinism in order to embrace what they really want: contemporary worship, a swig of beer, or the sheer pride of life that gratifies the egos of those who, embittered because of everything they could not have in cultural fundamentalism on the basis of dumb argumentation, now have an indisputably better biblical argument for anything they want.

I don’t know exactly who Ben Wright is talking about at 9 Marks in Mar-April 2008 when he says cultural fundamentalists are atheological fundamentalists.  He writes:

In addition, the theological Fundamentalism of Bauder and Doran represents a matured strain of Fundamentalism that intends to expose and disassociate from the atheological (sometimes called cultural) Fundamentalism that has dominated many segments of separatist Fundamentalism in recent decades.

Here’s how someone named Charlie defined “cultural fundamentalism” at SharperIron:

I have heard the term “cultural Fundamentalism” applied to those described as hyper-Fundamentalists. I like this term at least somewhat better, because it communicates that the real areas of controversy are not “doctrinal” in the sense of disputes about systematic categories (which some cultural Fundamentalists wouldn’t even be able to explicate), but rather cultural in the sense of affecting the look, feel, and function of church life. For example, you can sing vapid songs, but not CCM songs. You can murder the meaning of a Bible passage, but you have to have the correct initials on the binding. You can preach all sorts of bizarre allegory, but you need to be in coat and tie when you do it.

Kevin Bauder dealt with this way back in 2005 in his essay “A Fundamentalism Worth Saving,” especially in these two paragraphs:

This, I think, highlights the limited usefulness of a distinction between “historic” and “cultural” fundamentalism. Biblical obedience is never acultural for the simple reason that human beings are never acultural. We must always obey God at a particular time, in a particular place, situated in a particular culture. We do not really care whether George Carlin’s words were obscenities in 1560, nor whether their cognates are obscene in German or Norwegian. We care about what they mean in English at the beginning of the 21st Century.

In short, the only way to be a historic, biblical fundamentalist is to be a cultural fundamentalist. The only alternatives are, first, to say that cultures are beyond the Bible’s ability to critique and correct, or second, to argue that fundamentalism is concerned only with doctrine and not with obedience. I doubt that any of us really wants to take either of those steps.

It’s interesting to consider that Ben Wright says that Bauder is not a cultural fundamentalist, and wants to distinguish him from one, when Bauder himself says that a historic fundamentalist must be a cultural fundamentalist.  I think I’ll go with what Bauder says about himself rather than what Wright says about Bauder to help his article along.  It would do Ben well to also check out a certain paper produced by Mark Snoeberger, who teaches at Detroit, Doran’s seminary, and his words about cultural fundamentalism:

It is often suggested that there are two kinds of fundamentalism—doctrinal fundamentalism and cultural fundamentalism. The former is to be embraced as a defense of the orthodox core; the latter to be eschewed as a counter-cultural set of archaic, arcane, and even pharisaical traditions some of which are downright silly. There is some validity to this distinction. At the same time, since theology always informs our view of culture, it is impossible to completely divorce the two.

We have already noted above that in the specific issue of evangelism, fundamentalists have typically eschewed both the ―Christ of culture‖ approach (practiced broadly by liberalism and new evangelicalism) and also the holistic ―Christ transforming culture‖ approach (practiced in Kuyperian Reformed circles). I would suggest that this understanding has extended beyond evangelism to a whole plethora of cultural issues.

Snoeberger says you can’t divorce the theological fundamentalism from the cultural.

Why are doctrinal and cultural fundamentalism being divided?  I believe there are those who want to hang on to the doctrine of separation.  They think it’s in the Bible.  But they only want to separate over certain theological issues.  They want to allow much more room to maneuver on the so-called cultural issues.  Therefore, if there exists doctrinal fundamentalism, they can still be a fundamentalist without associating with the fundamentalists who disassociate over violations of the right cultural practices.

Why I’m Not a Cultural Fundamentalist

I really do identify with these people who don’t mind being and being called “cultural fundamentalists.”  But I’m not one.  Most would make me a poster boy for cultural fundamentalism.  I refuse it.  I reject it.  Don’t lay that label on me.  However, I also don’t like that this division is occurring in fundamentalism.   I see what it is, and it’s not good for fundamentalism in my opinion, really for the same reasons Bauder states in his “Fundamentalism Worth Saving” article.

But again, I’m not a cultural fundamentalist because, first, I’m not a fundamentalist.  Fundamentalism is a movement that gets along and gets together based upon agreement on a short list of doctrines.  I don’t see that as scriptural unity or biblical separation.  To obey the Bible, I can’t be a fundamentalist.

I add to the above first reason that I’m not a cultural fundamentalist because I don’t separate based upon culture.   I don’t unify based on culture.  I refuse that designation by others.   I will not allow that to stick.   The name “cultural fundamentalist” is just being used to discredit a biblical belief and practice.  It is sliding that scriptural doctrine and practice to something that is just cultural, really only opinion.  That isn’t the case.  I don’t believe and practice opinions.  I am sanctified by the truth.  My church will be sanctified by God’s Word to every good work.

Male headship isn’t cultural.  It is biblical.  Heterosexuality isn’t cultural.  It’s scriptural.  Gender designed distinctions in appearance isn’t cultural.  They are biblical.  Modesty isn’t cultural.  It’s in God’s Word.   Complementarianism isn’t cultural.  It’s in the Bible.   Spiritual, sacred worship isn’t cultural.  It is scriptural.  Dress that is distinct from the world isn’t cultural.  It’s biblical.  Patriarchy isn’t cultural.  It is Scripture.  I’m to preach the whole counsel of God’s Word.  I’m to teach the saints whatever God has said in His Word.  I’m not going to have those teachings diminished for the convenience of those who prefer to fit into an unbiblical way of life.  Take the world, but give me Jesus.

The Bible is lived in the real world.  The Bible reacts to culture.  The Bible guides how we will live.  The Bible tells us what is the right music, the right art, the right marriage, the right fashion, and the right family.

The Dishonesty of the Fundamentalist Idea

August 23, 2010 13 comments

Everything is about God.  God is the narrative, the thinking, the lifestyle, and the meaning.  And God is One.  He doesn’t deny Himself.  God is consistent.  The gospel is about God.  It solves man’s sin problem, but it is about God receiving the glory He deserves.   It is about God being God.   We don’t say where He is God and where He is not.  Man does not submit to God and then deny God in music, in art, in science, in education, in literature, in government, or in philosophy.  Since God is One, if you deny God in art, for instance, you’ve denied Him.  You don’t get to segment God into parts and choose where He is God.  He is either God or not.  He is a God of non-contradiction.  There are not two truths.  God created everything and everything with His purpose.  Everything, therefore, has His meaning.   The meaning must fit God or it is wrong, it isn’t the truth, and it is part of the lie.

Enter fundamentalism.  God gets to be God of the fundamentals.  Everything else is up for grabs.  Fundamentalists would say “no,” but actually “yes.”  It’s just “no” on paper.  In reality, “yes.”  In lifestyle, “yes.”  In particular works they allow the denying of Him.  That is as much a lie as if we denied all of God.  God is all or nothing.  He is not God when He is just God of the fundamentals.    Fundamentals are about us.   About what we think we need to get along with each other.   We shrink God’s domain to allow for more people.  It’s chariot counting even though God “burneth the chariot in the fire” (Psalm 46:9).  The fundamentals are not and never have been God’s will for getting along.  They couldn’t be.  It would be to say that God created everything, but He’s only made that clear in part of what He created.  But that’s not what God said.  Since God created everything, He reveals Himself in everything, and the meaning relates to God.  We interpret everything according to God.

Now fundamentalists say some of God’s world is non-essential.  Some of my Father’s world is not as important.  Several “truths” are permissible in certain continents of His creation.  And yet everything fits into God and God is as important as important is.  We cannot remove God from a segment of His reign.  He reigns in music.  He reigns in fashion.  He reigns in leisure.    When we remove God from any part of His reign, we dethrone Him.  We don’t actually dethrone Him.  That can’t happen.  But He isn’t God to us anymore when we shrink his reign to the domain of fundamentals.

Some have shrunk fundamentalism even further.  They’ve reduced God’s world to the gospel.  They say that the limitation of the boundaries to the gospel pleases God.   One man uses foul language, but he has the gospel.   He is included.  Another man sprinkles infants.  But he has the gospel.   They say they are elevating God’s world to the gospel.  They diminish God and they use the gospel to do so.  This is travesty.  No one should be celebrating.  Everybody should mourn.  God does not limit Himself to the gospel.  Sure, the gospel touches everything in God’s world, but His world isn’t the gospel.   The gospel is the hub or the axle upon which man’s view of God’s world can succeed.  The gospel enables rebellious men to see God in His world.  And rebellion is the problem.  The gospel succeeds everywhere, not just in the gospel and not just in the fundamentals.  It enthrones God over all of His creation.  The whole story is His.  All practice is His.  All thinking is His.  All relationship is His.

When God is excluded from much of His actual reign, a form of religion exists, but the power of God is denied.   Of course, we cannot limit the power of God.  God’s power does what it does whether we recognize it or not.  So when we do not receive God’s power over all of His world, we deny all of His power.   He isn’t glorified when His power is denied even when we say it’s about the gospel or the fundamentals.  So it’s not even the gospel but a denial of the power of God.  The lie limits God to man’s domain, to his preferred boundaries, holding off or suppressing the truth.

Let God be God and every man a liar.

How Much of Preaching Should Be Interpretation and How Much Application? pt 2

Since the Bible is practical, when you preach what it means, you get application.  However, it’s obvious that a lot of what the Bible says requires making application to every day life.  We could even call this “wisdom,” that is, the proper application of Scripture.  Not all of the Bible tells you exactly how to apply it.  A lot of it assumes that you are going to have to apply it.  This is where the guidance of the Holy Spirit comes in, in addition to the text of Scripture.

For example, in 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul commanded Timothy, “Flee youthful lusts.”  Preaching should include ‘what it is to flee’ or ‘how to flee.’  That is partly where application comes into the right kind of preaching.  After Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2), he also said to “reprove, rebuke, exhort.”  The goal would be to have actual fleeing youthful lusts to take place.  When that’s the goal, you want to give the audience some ways that fleeing should occur.  You could go to parallel passages to expand upon what it is to flee, but explaining that is a means by which someone would apply God’s Word.  It might take very little time to describe what “flee youthful lusts” means and a lot of time to explain how to do it.  In those cases, the application would last longer than the interpretation.

The inclusion of more of this kind of application with interpretation is a major way that fundamentalist or separatist preaching differentiates itself from evangelical preaching.  It is possible, even probable, that the popularity of many evangelical preachers comes because they do not apply the Bible with proper authority.  And then they may do very little reproving and rebuking that Paul told Timothy was required in preaching.

For instance, Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:9 concerning the proper dress “that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.”  What is adorning with shamefacedness?  A preacher should show that the term “modest” relates to extravagance.  “Shamefacedness” is what corresponds to our modern term “modesty.”  Is there a scriptural standard for modesty?  Are certain lines drawn in the Bible?  This is where a separatist or fundamentalist has historically given specifics to the audience, while the evangelical often has not.  And you’ll see far more immodesty in evangelical churches.  That kind of evangelical preaching, however, is creeping into fundamentalist churches and so now their practice looks more and more the same as evangelicals.

So what does the evangelical say in response to a criticism for the lack of application?  He would say that the preacher should allow the Holy Spirit to “guide them in the application of that truth to their individual lives and circumstances.”  This is exactly what John MacArthur has said is the role he strives to take in preaching as it relates to application of a passage.  He has said that “it is the work of the Holy Spirit to make the most personal, individual applications of the truth of Scripture in the heart of the hearer, and He does that infallibly, in a way [that] a preacher cannot.”

But what passage of Scripture itself says that the preacher should allow the Holy Spirit to make the application to the hearer?  Shouldn’t the preacher be making the application to the hearer?  Isn’t that part of the responsibility of the preacher?  I think so.  Again, I think it is part of the role of reproving, rebuking, and exhorting.  The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians to imitate Him (1 Cor 11:1), and I think especially in the application of the principles of Christian liberty.  As the man of God, you have wisdom from God that He wants you to use in your preaching.

In a sense, the ‘fallibility of the preacher,’ as a reason for not applying Scripture, is just an excuse.  It is a cop-out.  The passages left unapplied are often the ones most difficult to keep because their application is the most offensive to the world.   This is  one major reason, I believe, for the larger size of many evangelical churches.  Their pastors offend fewer people with their preaching, because they don’t make pointed applications.  What they say is “waiting on the Holy Spirit” is actually just fear of man.

When MacArthur says he doesn’t apply because of his fallibility, this sounds humble.  Uncertainty is quite in fashion today.  The emergents can’t even interpret because of fallibility.  They think they’re even more humble.  I say that all this is “voluntary humility” (Col 2:18).  We can interpret and apply.  God wants us to do that.  This doubt about application is akin to the doubt about truth found in the world.  Truth is relative.  Application is relative.  None of this is good.

The preacher leaves the people ignorant of the application and then uses the Holy Spirit as his excuse for doing so.  If the people don’t make the application, ‘I guess the Holy Spirit must not have wanted them to do that.’  I believe this is what Paul had in mind with Titus when he called on him to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15).   Sure the younger women were to love their husbands (Titus 2:5), but what does that look like as it is fleshed out in the life of a younger woman?  Preachers should exhort and rebuke in the particular shortcomings of love in the life of those women.  The “aged men” were to be “temperate” (Titus 2:5), so certainly application is called for.

Preachers can be prey to fallibility in interpretation just as well as application, so if fallibility is the “reason” for not applying, then perhaps nobody should preach.  After all, they might make a mistake in preaching due to their fallibility.   This is why the preacher is not the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).  “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor 14:32) and the congregation, though not to despise prophesying (1 Thess 5:20), is to “prove all things” (1 Thess 5:21).  The church is the pillar and ground of the truth.  The protection against fallibility is the Holy Spirit and the church, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve heard many evangelicals say that they “don’t want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit.”  I contend that they are getting in the way of the Holy Spirit by not making the application for the hearer.  The Holy Spirit works in the heart of the preacher, but he quenches the Spirit by not applying the verse as the Holy Spirit would have him.   The Holy Spirit wants the preacher to make application.  When he doesn’t obey the Holy Spirit, why would He think that those to whom He is preaching will obey the Holy Spirit?  Can individuals take the application a little further?  Yes.  Should they?  Yes.  But that doesn’t alleviate the responsibility of the preacher to apply.

When the preacher doesn’t apply, and leaves that to the hearer, and then the hearer doesn’t apply, the preacher doesn’t have to be responsible for that.  After all, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job, right?  And so he doesn’t have to confront anyone about not applying the Bible either.   And how can he?  He’s fallible, isn’t he?  This type of thinking is very normal in evangelicalism.  Evangelicalism mocks and criticizes fundamentalist preaching because of their overemphasis on application.  In several cases, they might be right.  However, the evangelicals are wrong in their lack of application.

In the end, God wants us to do what He says.  Without application of Scripture, we won’t do what He says.  If you have fundamentalist churches that do what God says, even though they are not quite as instructed in what Scripture means, they still are doing more of what God says if they are doing more of what God says.  And then when someone in a fundamentalist church is confronted for not doing what God says, so starts doing what God says, while a person in the evangelical church continues not doing what God says because everyone is waiting for the Holy Spirit to do the job of making an application, the fundamentalist person is doing what God says and the evangelical is not.  The evangelical might say that telling someone to do what God says is actually replacing the Holy Spirit.  That whole “replacing the Holy Spirit” doctrine is not in Scripture anywhere, either interpreted or applied.   Whoever tells someone to do what God says is doing something that someone ought to do.  It results in more people doing what God wants them to do, and we do want that.  Don’t we?

The Destructive Charge of “Legalism” Pinned on Rightful Application of Scripture

From the very beginning, men have taken liberty both with what God has said and with His grace.   In Genesis 3 Satan made a way for Eve to justify eating the forbidden fruit.  God’s grace is great.  It is wonderful.  It is mankind’s only basis for salvation.  And yet what?  Men who even call themselves Christians turn “the grace of God into lasciviousness”  (Jude 1:3).  They use their liberty as “an occasion to the flesh” (Galatians 5:13).

Knowing the potential abuse of the grace of God, Paul immediately after so beautifully describing salvation by grace alone in Romans 1-5, starts Romans 6 by asking, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”  And his answer in v. 2 is the strongest in the Greek language, translated in the KJV, “God forbid.”  Then asking, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”  God’s grace isn’t license to sin.  So Romans 6:1-2 provides evidence that grace will be perverted in this way, used as a reason for behavior that dishonors God.  It signals a need for awareness of potential corruption or cheapening of grace.

1 Peter 2:16 says:

As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

Here is another place that confronts the use of liberty as license.  The context is obedience to government, but the principle is axiomatic.  Those to whom Peter is speaking are free.  They’ve been redeemed.   He doesn’t want them, however, to use that freedom as a covering for evil.   The cloak is a veil or a mask, and the mask is covering wickedness.  In other words, Christian freedom is never to be used to cover license.   Just because we have liberty in Christ doesn’t mean that we get to just do what we want.  Someone truly righteous will conform to God’s Word because it says your freedom should be used as a bondslave of God.

Criticism of Adherence to God’s Word

One indication of licentiousness is criticism of a more strict adherence to God’s Word.  You see this type of behavior described in 2 Peter 2 and it will often take on the nature of ridicule (2 Pet 3:3).  A common, modern criticism coming from the more licentious is one of “legalism.”  They label anyone a “legalist” who has stronger standards of holiness and righteousness than what they have.  This strategy may have been around longer, but what marked the official beginning in my memory is the publication of the book “The Grace Awakening,” by Charles Swindoll.  As Christianity has looked and behaved more and more like the world, new defenses are crafted to justify that kind of living.  What drew my attention toward writing this post was a recent essay by Phil Johnson, the executive director of Grace to You.  I want to diagnose his piece as a basis for assessing a type of defense of license.

Johnson chooses to paint separatists with this carpet roll sized brush:

[W]e have attracted more than our fair share of very vocal legalists who are convinced that the person with the weakest conscience (or the Bible college with the strictest rules) should get to define holiness for everyone—rather than letting Scripture define it for us. They believe it is their prerogative to dictate to everyone else what’s acceptable and what’s not, rather than following the principles of Romans 14 with regard to matters that aren’t altogether clear. Those people surface at every opportunity, and they seem to love making a fuss. Sometimes it’s fairly humorous (as in the “Chiquita” kerfuffle a few years ago).

I can assure that what Johnson writes here isn’t true.   With a meanness in the spirit of a fundamentalism that Johnson decries, he slanders well-meaning and godly-seeming folks.  I was involved in the “Chiquita kerfuffle” that Johnson mentions in this paragraph.  He used a picture on his blog of a girl, who was wearing biker shorts.  He has used a few other pictures with women with full thigh.  What was “fairly humorous” to Johnson was his own ridiculing of the men who protested very lightly.  It only got a little rougher for Johnson after he mocked those who said anything.  I wrote this comment:

I’m wondering what I’m supposed to do when I get to the woman in the hotpants standing on the pyromaniacs logo. She seems to be pyro of a different kind.

And Johnson answered immediately with this:

For all the fundamentalist lurkers whose minds are in the gutter, the girl in the picture is wearing shorts, not a miniskirt or hotpants. The dog is the one in the miniskirt.

This is the kind of “legalism” that Johnson had to face, which he describes in this latest post.  To that, he jumps to the idea that we, the legalists, have our minds in the gutter.

Here is how Johnson confronts this “legalism”:

But another kind of legalism is the legalism of the Pharisees. It’s the tendency to reduce every believer’s duty to a list of rules. This is the kind of legalism that often seems to surface in our comment-threads. At its root is a belief that holiness is achieved by legal means—by following a list of “standards.” This type of legalism doesn’t necessarily destroy the doctrine of justification like the legalism of the Judaizers. But it does destroy the doctrine of sanctification, and it is certainly appropriate to call it what it is: legalism—i.e., a sinful misapplication of law; an attempt to make law do work that only grace can do. Like the Judaizers’ brand of legalism, it brings people under a yoke of bondage Scripture has not placed on them.

I’ve read some of these comment threads to which Johnson refers, including the one, of course, that he makes his prime example.  Really he tells a blatant lie.  Perhaps he thinks he has liberty to tell such a lie.  I think it is possible for a kind of legalism to destroy the right view of sanctification, but Johnson doesn’t know at all that the ones he is criticizing hold to such a view of sanctification as he represents.  That doesn’t seem to matter to him.

Look at the last sentence Johnson writes—“it brings people under a yoke of bondage Scripture has not placed on them.”  What?  Scripture doesn’t place anyone under a yoke of bondage.  Scripture can’t do that to anyone.  Scriptural standards, even Scriptural lists of rules, don’t place anyone under bondage.  They could, but God’s law is good.  It is good if it is used lawfully.  That should be the concern, whether it is used lawfully or not.  And immodest dress is bad.  Telling someone about that doesn’t put someone under some kind of legalistic bondage.  God’s grace tends toward modesty.  Informing a conscience with a scriptural standard of modesty will help someone’s conscience.  That’s all good too and all helpful toward biblical sanctification.

Left Wing Legalism:  Making God’s Word of None Effect

Johnson assumes that separatists, whom he calls “fundamentalists,” recognize only a kind of legalism that applies to salvation, the type of Galatians 1:6-9, adding to the gospel, what he calls the legalism of the Judaizers.  He says, however, that these same separatists miss another kind of legalism, that of the Pharisees.  He uses Galatians 5:1 as a text to expose this type of legalism, that he asserts that these separatists, “fundamentalists,” are guilty of, for which “fundamentalists” are “notorious,” and what has essentially destroyed fundamentalism.  Be sure that this is a simplistic, very selective criticism of the troubles of fundamentalism.

Galatians 5:1 does not give any hint at a kind of legalism that adds to the commandments of God.  Johnson twists the verse for his own licentious purposes.  The “yoke of bondage” with which the  Judaizers of Galatia would entangle men was the actual law (5:3-4), and circumcision specifically (5:2, 6, 11).  Circumcision wasn’t a problem.  Keeping the law wasn’t wrong for believers.   It was making righteousness, whether justification or sanctification, based on human merit.  All righteousness comes by grace through faith, even after salvation.  However, it is still righteousness that comes by grace through faith.  Nothing is said about adding anything to the law in Galatians 5.  Johnson reads that into the text in order to criticize people with higher standards of holiness than he has.

It is true that Pharisees were guilty of adding to the law.  Johnson mentions that.  And it is possible for fundamentalists and evangelicals both to add to God’s Word.  Mark 7 is a good passage in this, because Jesus there reveals two types of Pharisaical behavior.  The first is the type to which Johnson refers, the adding kind, which is in vv. 7-8.  However, he doesn’t talk about another kind of Pharisaicalness, taking away from what God said, which is in vv. 9-13.  Jesus sums it up in v. 13: “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”  Making the word of God of none effect is the Pharisee behavior of the evangelicals.

You can call reducing the law to a group of rules that you can keep on your own its own brand of Pharisaism, a left-wing kind of legalism.   We are sanctified through the truth and God’s Word is truth.  Jesus was sanctified by everything the Father told Him to do.  In the same way, we are sanctified.  If we reduce scripture to something less than scripture, like Johnson chooses to do, that will destroy sanctification.

The Grace of God

Salvation is by grace through faith alone.  No amount of works will bring justification to anyone.  In the sanctification of believers, it is God who works in them both to will and do of His good pleasure.  God works all things together for good.  God conforms to the image of His Son.  But God is working.  The grace of God will look like God.  The grace of God teaches us to deny worldly lust, not expose ourselves to it and relish in it.

What upset Johnson enough for him to write what he did was the reaction to a certain blog post by one of his partners.  That essay was discussing Lost, a television series that his teammate professed to have watched start to finish.  A few criticized a publication that might encourage others to watch such a television show.  That’s what bothered Johnson enough to write a “legalism” column.  Does the grace of God teach us to watch Lost?  That’s a question.  And I think it’s worth thinking about.  I understand that the Bible doesn’t say, “Thou shalt not watch Lost,” but there might be enough Scripture to guide us as to what kind of watching would honor God.  A criticism of Lost is what Johnson thinks is the greatest kind of destruction of sanctification in human existence (according to his essay).

We don’t stop watching television to be saved.  We don’t wear modest clothing to be saved.  We don’t abstain from alcohol to be saved.  We don’t communicate in a pure and righteous manner to be saved.  But if we’re saved, we will want to live according to God’s Word, to conform to His will.

More to come on this subject.

Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: Indifferentism

April 19, 2010 15 comments

This last week two huge evangelical and fundamentalist events concurred:  Independent Baptist Friends International in Knoxville, TN (April 11-16, 2010) and Together for the Gospel in Louisville, KY (April 13-15, 2010).  Obviously, these two groups didn’t get their calendars together to make sure that they wouldn’t be competing for attendance.  It’s probably a very small group who had to decide which one to attend.  But it was possible.  And actually, when you consider the speakers at these two conferences, you aren’t too many steps away from almost the entire spectrum of evangelicalism, including fundamentalism, being represented, except for a very small number.

I think we could probably agree that the Dan to Beersheba at the IBFI conference is best represented by the one side of John Vaughn, former president of Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International,  and Mike Schrock, a staff evangelist for Bob Jones University, stretching to another side with Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond.  It’s harder to find the outer boundaries of Together for the Gospel, because there’s the Charismatic, C. J. Mahaney, the Southern Baptists, Mark Dever and Albert Mohler, and then the Presbyterian, Ligon Duncan.  Also there’s John Piper, who is having Rick Warren come to speak at his Desiring God Conference later this year.  Some of the conference speakers of IBFI also fellowship with Southern Baptists.

Several fundamentalists, who would associate with the FBFI, would also attend Together for the Gospel.  They have.  They do.  So you move from Bob Jones to Jack Schaap and you can make it all the way through the Southern Baptist Convention to John MacArthur to Rick Warren in the connectivity.  Nothing is that far removed.  And just for a little sidebar:  they all say they represent the historic Charles Spurgeon, all of them.  If you take it one step further, you get Rick Warren with Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral.  I think that the theme for IBFI, Truth-Friendship-World Evangelism, would work for Together for the Gospel too.  Both of these conferences are saying, let’s put down differences to get together.

What does all this mean?  What is it that the leadership of these conferences are saying to those following, including the people in the churches?  And is there anything wrong with it?  What brings these people together?  Should anything that any of these believe and practice result in some kind of separation between them?

As I start to consider this, the typical reaction to any kind of analysis or questioning is that it is “critical” and “divisive.”  In that way, the ironic critics of the analysis would say that it is also “unchristian.”  They might even say it is “heretical.”  Oh, and “unloving.”  Or something like this:  “You’re just trying to impose your opinions on others.”  And “that’s what gives fundamentalists a bad name.”  Or, “you’re why everyone is turned off with fundamentalism.”   And just in case, a little psychobabble, “You’re just jealous!”  Wait a minute, one more:  “While you are writing your blog, people out there are dying and going to hell.”  OK, now we can move on.

Getting together like these two groups means deciding that certain differences in belief and practice don’t matter enough.  They must be overlooked, ignored, or deemed non-essential, too minor.  When it comes to the T4G guys, paedobaptism and continuationism are two obvious of  the supposed tertiary differences—together despite them.  For the IBFI conference, the gospel itself is at stake with a denial of some that repentance is necessary for salvation.   A few of the primary participants are the poster boys of the 1-2-3 pray-with-me method of evangelism.   Within both groups the range of acceptable music for worship among the participants ranges from contemporary to southern gospel to very conservative.   John Piper’s affirmation of Rick Warren makes a concession to his methodology.   IBFI wouldn’t use all the techniques and strategies of Warren, but the basic philosophy between many of these IBFI and Warren are the same.  Both conferences are purposefully minimizing certain doctrines and practices for the purpose of cooperation and fellowship.   An emphasis of both is that they aren’t going to be judging based on too strict a standard, making concessions in several areas for the sake of unity or friendship.

Several of the conflicting beliefs within these conferences are mutually exclusive from one another.  Both could not be at the same time pleasing to God.    Two irreconcilable doctrines could not both be congenial to the nature of God.  To say so or to act as such is to suggest that God has no particular favor for either truth or error.

I understand that these men would not say that they are indifferent to the contrasting doctrine and practice, just that they are willing to overlook it for the sake of the alliance.  The alliance itself becomes sovereign.  The idea is also that the value of the gospel in T4G and friendship and world evangelism in IBFI surpasses the value of the differences in belief enough to merit indifference toward those conflicting doctrines and practices.

Unity and fellowship, in contrast with what scripture says, have become more about toleration.  Evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t wish to be reduced to an insignificant number to the world, which will happen if one elevates all of Scripture to a basis of fellowship.  The key then is to reduce doctrine to a manageable level, that will allow the conflicting factions to get along.  The new heretic is the dogmatic, someone who thinks he’s certain on too many teachings.   He endangers the harmony and cohesiveness and ruins the togetherness.  Or in other words, he violates the most sacred tenet to the whole, getting along.

Whether evangelicalism or fundamentalism likes it or not, or whether they agree or not, they have surrendered to the uncertainty and ambiguity of the meaning of Scripture.   They concede the perspecuity of God’s Word.  At the root of this is a fundamental awareness of permissible doubt.  We cannot assume that all truth can be known.  They are saying that God hasn’t been plain and that we cannot sort things out.  As much as they say they love the truth, the truth is the casualty of indifference.

Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: The Embrace of Neutrality

April 14, 2010 6 comments

Nobody is really neutral.  Paul writes in Romans 1:18:  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”  The word “hold” means “suppress.”  Whoever does not receive the truth suppresses the truth.  Everyone starts from a position of knowing the truth.   Paul elaborates a little further in v. 25 by saying that these truth suppressors “change the truth into a lie.”

You might be thinking, “well, they suppress the truth about God, but they don’t suppress all the truth.”  Wrong.  When you suppress the truth about God, you have also suppressed all the truth.  Why?  Without God there is no absolute truth, no objective truth.  Without God, everything is random and haphazard.  Someone may say that he believes the truth about something, but he cannot qualify it as truth without some standard of truthfulness, a standard that does not exist without God.

Now you might be thinking, “well, someone can say that an object is the color red without God.”  Wrong again.  There would have to be the idea of color, and someone can’t know there is color and that a color is red unless an idea can exist and that someone could think.  Without God, everything is essentially molecules indiscriminately meeting and bouncing off of one another.  Why is that color?  And how could it be red?  Without God, everything is subjective.  What’s happening on earth is of no more consequence than what is occurring on Neptune.  Chemical processes and colliding matter can’t think or make value judgments.  They’re just accidents moving toward ultimate entropy.

So for all truth, we start with God.  And everybody knows that even if they do suppress it.   Since God began everything, He defines everything, and He determines reality.   We know God and we know because of God.  We don’t really know without Him, so what we know, including what is true, beautiful, and good, is based on Who He is.  And there is no neutrality.  We all begin with God.  It’s just that one admits it and the other suppresses it.

Evangelicalism and fundamentalism, however, have embraced neutrality.  This is a trick of Satan, a shell game that he plays with men, so that they will begin to look at life on his terms.  He would like men to think, in contradiction to God’s Word, that everyone starts out on even ground or with a blank slate in the development of his beliefs and the determination of what is true or false.   With neutrality, revelation is personal so theological knowledge is ambiguous, requiring a response to evidence.

WHERE WE SEE AN EMBRACE OF NEUTRALITY IN EVANGELICALISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM

This embrace of neutrality is seen in the evangelical and fundamentalist explanation of beauty.   Beauty has been reduced to a mere mechanical response to sensory input.   This neutrality denies intrinsic or inherent beauty or any absolute standard of beauty outside of man’s personal choice.  While once Christianity accepted an objective standard of beauty that started with God, evangelicalism has fallen prey to the world view espousing man as the arbiter of beauty.  This is manifested today in the evangelical embrace and fundamentalist acceptance of anything-goes in music.  Objective beauty, sacred and unprofaned, has been sacrificed on an altar of modern and post-modern culture.

I expect evangelicals to deny this, which, of course, they’ll especially have the right to do in their contemporary realities, dogmatic in their tolerance.  Modernism broke down traditional institutions through secularization and urbanization, giving numerous opportunities of pleasure and self-fulfillment.   Men then looked at life on their terms.  Instead of concentrating on what God expects, churches focused on what people thought or felt they were missing.  As modernity stripped life of meaning, which begins and ends with God, men have turned to self to explain.  The individual became the ultimate adjudicator of what is beautiful.  Evangelicals have accepted this.

In many ways conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists have objected to doctrinal relativism.  They have held the line to a certain degree at certain fundamental truths.  They seem to be proud of this.  However, they have embraced neutrality in relationship to aesthetic values—what is beautiful—and all absolute truth to maintain their credibility in a post modern world.  This embrace of neutrality is seen in the rampant subjectivity in music for worship both personal and corporate, in the casual and coarse, often immodest, apparel, the vast slippage in the realm of entertainment values, and in the wide-ranging acceptance of doctrinal ambiguity, which includes a shunning of the doctrine and practice of separation.  God has been marginalized by having far less importance in man’s actual life.

When you watch evangelicals and fundamentalists talk about doctrine, you hear the damage that their own embrace of neutrality has caused.  They pander post-modernity with their theological reductionism, relegating truth to essentials and non-essentials.  This plays right into the attack on meaning and the self-autonomy of interpretation.  Men are on a quest for knowledge, whose progress is slowed by the oppressiveness of unequivocal and authoritative conviction.  Certainty violates personal viewpoint and self as source of meaning.  This has reduced the church to a shop for religious consumers.   The message must be contextualized to the shopper for accomplishment of mission.

With a conformity to post-modern culture, unity has become the highest value of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  You hear this narrative in today’s political speech, the era of post-partisanship.   Political operatives vie for the admiration of the independent voters, a mass of humanity in the ambiguous middle, who are proud for not having made up their minds.  Uncertainty is elevated to a sacramental place in American culture with few exceptions, such as food and celebrity.   Evangelicals and fundamentalists won’t hold your differing belief and practice against you.  You can join in by agreeing to disagree and all getting along based on the supreme injunction of unity in the body; well, with the exception of a few essentials that even in those it’s probably just going to be a matter of interpretation.   The embrace of neutrality is witnessed in the compliance to this view of unity.

THE RESULTS OF THE EMBRACE OF NEUTRALITY IN EVANGELICALISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM

Evangelicals and fundamentalists proclaim the supremacy of the gospel.  I don’t mind an emphasis on the gospel.  But the point of the gospel, the worship of God, is often lost with this embrace of neutrality.  God is seeking for true worshipers (John 4:23-24).  The profane, desecrated music that evangelicals especially, but also fundamentalists, offer as worship results from their aesthetic neutrality.  They have forsaken an objective beauty and worship is the casualty.  God doesn’t accept the ugliness they have decided is acceptable to Him because they have forsaken an absolute standard of beauty.

Evangelicals and fundamentalists have devalued aesthetics, resulting in heteropathy.  And as they relate to God, they can’t separate doctrine and practice from affections.  Without the proper affections, our relationship to the Lord can’t be right, even if we happen to be doctrinally and practically orthodox.  The imitation affections, actually passions, desires mistaken for love, are more blasphemous to God than if He had received nothing, no affection, no passion, no nothing.

The product that is devised and delivered by churches today and called worship blasphemes God by its deviation from beauty.  It is often profaned by its fleshly stimulation, its banality, or its kitsch.  Like animals churches have become driven by their desires, needs, and appetites, and have treated God and worship itself as an instrument to fulfill those things.  God is to be the end in itself of worship, the worship to be governed by devotion to Him and not those things that are the means to us.   In his book, Beauty, Roger Scruton has called this profanation that he has seen the “Disneyfication of faith.”  He has also written, and I agree (pp. 176, 182):

Desecration is a kind of defence against the sacred, an attempt to destroy its claims.  In the presence of sacred things our lives are judged and in order to escape the judgment we destroy the thing that seems to accuse. . . . One cure for the pain of desecration is the move towards total profanation:  in other words, to wipe out all vestiges of sanctity for the once worshipped object, to make it merely a thing of the world, and not just a thing in the world, something that is nothing over and above the substitutes that can at any time replace it.

What people really love is themselves and the world.  They know that’s not right.  Their true love they profess is about God is really still about them.

Almost all evangelicals and fundamentalists would say they love the truth.  But truth can’t survive their embrace of neutrality.  Some truth, sure, but truth as a whole won’t make it with the accession to modern and post modern culture.  It does start with certainty about the Words of God.  Evangelicals and fundamentalists can’t know that because they have elevated reason above faith in line with modernism.  And then meaning of Scripture comes crashing down close behind, because how can we know what words mean if we aren’t sure what they are.

The next victim of the embrace of neutrality is discernment.   With the forsaking of objective beauty, what is goodness and true must also necessarily fall by the wayside as well.  The certainty here all comes from the same source.  When you change the basis of your conclusion to make way for your own opinion, you lose the ability to decide with any authority.  Various factions of evangelicalism and fundamentalism stand at various stages of deterioration, but none will survive their embrace of neutrality.

In the end, perhaps what is lost more than anything is obedience to God.  God is not pleased.  His truth is not respected.  His ways are not kept.  And the churches are not so concerned.

CONCLUSION

If your whole life has been lived in a bunker, it will be hard to see the world with any other perspective than the bunker in which you live.  That’s what will make this essay hard to accept for evangelicals and fundamentalists.  Most will likely never understand because they will refuse to separate themselves from the bunker.   If they hear this in a post-modern way, influenced by the world and the Satan’s work to that extent, they will hear this about how Bill Clinton listened to Ken Starr during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  I’ll be the villain like him for attempting to impose my oppressive and narrow moral narrative on their unity and their freedom.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be thought to be kooky right wing fringe who attempts to dictate my personal preferences to others.

The barbarians are not standing at the gate any longer.  In many ways, we’ve become the barbarians.  We have allowed the Philistines to have their way.  Churches have lost their will to contend.  We’re at a very serious time for the truth, for Scripture, for obedience to God, for true worship, for what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful.  Please do not dismiss this.  Do not take it lightly.  Don’t marginalize it.  Don’t be fooled.  I ask that you consider whether it’s me or it’s you.

Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: Man’s Approval and the Fear of Independence

Many years ago, someone taught me an acrostic that listed the historic marks of a New Testament church.  The first was “B,” Bible sole authority for faith and practice.  A Bible believer, the converted person, will alter his course to the direction of the teaching of Scripture.  This is also contained within the mark of “P,” priesthood of the believer, or if you may, “S,” soul liberty.  We are first responsible to God and are free to move at the promptings of the text of God’s Word.

God’s men have a responsibility before God.  They’re bought with a price.  They’re not their own.  They must give an account to God.  The big conference to which they are attuned is the one at the bema seat with the Lord Jesus Christ.   The Greek term for “preacher” in the New Testament is kerux.  The kerux was a herald.  He gave only the message of the king without regard for  popular opinion.   He was the representative of God and all that mattered was that he say exactly what the king wanted.  This concept is found in other New Testament terms, like “ambassador.”  An ambassador represents the country from which he comes and gives only the message from where he possesses his citizenship.   The believer is from heaven, hence a message conformed to God.  As 2 Timothy 2:4 teaches: “we please him who has chosen us to be a soldier.”  We’ve got one Commander-in-Chief in this war to which we’ve been recruited.

Preachers should have a kind of independent attitude of the Old Testament prophet.  We’re not working for anyone else but God.  He’s the One Who signs our paycheck, so to speak.  This relationship with the Lord gives the man of God the freedom to say what needs to be said.   We’re looking for our approval from Him.    Even pastors in one sense, although under the authority of the church like the rest of the congregation, still have an office that carries with it a separate authority that is all about saying the thing that needs to be said to that assembly of people.   The office of the pastor is a unique organizational role that both submits to and yet rules the church. The pastor’s ruling status allows him to maintain an independence from the people of the church for the purposes of telling the truth and pointing out error.   You get the essence of this job in the great passage on preaching in 2 Timothy 4.  “Preach the Word.”  “Reprove, rebuke, exhort.”  They are going to have “itching ears” and won’t “endure sound doctrine,” but be “long suffering” and finish your course whether it is popular or not.

THE PROBLEM

What I see as one of the biggest problems in evangelicalism and fundamentalism manifests itself in where men look for approval and in their fear of independence.  Both of them are related.   Built into man’s nature by God Himself, I believe, is an appetite for approval.  That hunger is intended to be directed toward the right bestower of approval, God Himself.  However, it requires living by faith to accept an only legitimate source of endorsement.   Instead of waiting for divine confirmation, men seek to gather tangible support on earth to satisfy the craving.

The replacement system of approval on earth has become very complicated.   The world itself will offer notoriety or popularity in many different forms.  Sometimes it comes in the small time stuff at a school or in a community.  If that’s not enough, there is national celebrity and even worldwide fame.   Some look for what Andy Warhol called the “fifteen minutes of fame.”  You can get that today on youtube if you find a way to get people’s attention.  It is often enough for one boy or girl to fit into his little group of friends and get acceptance from them.  That might require talking in a certain cadence or dressing with a certain style, but you will likely have to adapt your behavior to the preferences of the group.  In the context my son lives in at West Point, the people around him aren’t necessarily going to reward with a higher ranking those who manifest biblical behavior.  The young men pick up the cues for what types of actions will bring commendation from peers and from command.  Some of the types of actions that might impress the company won’t impress the Lord Jesus Christ.  You do have to decide what your life is about.

It is almost impossible for a Christian both to live worthy of God and find approval from the world.  But the temptation is great for believers to prove themselves to the unsaved crowd.   The sense is that you can’t really find out how good you are unless you can compare your relative skill to what’s happening in the world.  How do you stack up next to them?  Will they think you’re good?  And you’ll probably not ever show up in the history books unless you accomplish something the world can find impressive in whatever niche you might be—music, sports, politics, business, and more.

THE PROBLEM AS IT APPLIES TO EVANGELICALISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM

For pastors, scripture has isolated the Lord as the one to please.  Yet, you won’t likely feel that approval of the Lord.  You have to accept it by faith.  But sometimes that isn’t easy.  So what has developed to replace the confirmation of the Lord has been a very complex system of endorsement and sanction that would rival any organization on earth.  It has become its own giant entity with tentacles reaching all over the place—fellowships, boards, conferences, conventions, schools, colleges, publishers, and seminaries.  I believe that this is what has, more than anything else, propped up evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

We have the church.  That’s Christ’s institution.  And it is sufficient.  But that doesn’t satisfy the hunger that many have for approval.   Fundamentalism has developed its own orbs of sanction.  Evangelicalism has its too.  Both of them are similar in their organizational systems.  They both revolve around associations and conferences, boards and meetings.  Now you’ve got the internet as a tool to spread even more notoriety.  How many hits does your blog get?  What kind of online presence do you have?

Fundamentalism is the ugly step brother as a platform for approval.  And young men especially know how dorky they look being a fundamentalist.  At one time fundamentalism was bigger.  It could contend with evangelicals in that way.  But the fundamentalists always did have boundaries that evangelicals never had that would keep the world from being impressed.  Both sides have their cast of characters, but now evangelicalism has the biggest religious celebrities, wherever they might fall on the theological spectrum.  They are better at drawing a crowd and using the mediums that will gain the most attention.   Fundamentalists find this alluring.

To present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, that is, to worship God, we must not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:1-2).  Being conformed to the world is not just the outward forms of the world, but also the same types of ambitions and appeals of the world or as 1 John 2:16 says, “the lust of the flesh” and “the pride of life.”  Because of the structures set up in evangelicalism and fundamentalism, you don’t have to go outside of those affiliations to gratify your desire for earthly approval.   Evangelicalism and fundamentalism can offer its own mini-versions of what the world offers all over the place.  In so doing, it influences behavior just like the world too.   Men will be stifled on the things they ought to be saying and constrained to go along with wrong methods and activities by the inducements of the group.  Men hunger for approval and they will alter their behavior to fit evangelical or fundamentalist scruples or lack thereof.

So now the lines that were drawn between fundamentalism and evangelicalism have become blurred.  The two are getting together more than ever.  Many times they say they’re getting together for the gospel, overlooking other biblical differences in order to fill an immense auditorium or convention center.  The size is a heady thing.  Makes you feel at least somewhat big time.  Maybe we all do have it going after all.  And you can feel the approval.  It seems like it might even be filling that appetite.

I think that evangelicals and fundamentalists should consider whether they’re together for the gospel or even together for the fundamentals or for loyalty to an evangelical or fundamentalist institution, or whether they really are together for approval.   I see fundamentalists today that are cozy with men they would have never been twenty years ago and for biblical reasons.  If these parachurch groups were in scripture, I would think that there might be something legitimate there, something God-designed.  But no.  I do believe that this is almost entirely about the feeling of legitimacy that men want to experience.

WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN

When we look for approval from God, what His  Word says takes the preeminence.  If the church is good enough, the only scriptural institution, we retain an independence to say the truth to anyone.  We aren’t attempting to cobble together a coalition.  We don’t need one.  What we need, what we crave, is to please Jesus Christ.  He is our all in all.  He designed that to be accomplished on a local level.  That’s why he left the little flocks as the pattern for His mission.

We have to remember that Scripture does say we aren’t going to be liked.  We won’t be approved of on earth.  “Take up your cross” does not speak of goodwill.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:13, “We are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”  Not being popular doesn’t bother the galley slave who’s only responsible for keeping is oar going.  We’ve got to be OK with faithfulness in this world.  Don’t be surprised if the persecution you get comes from evangelicalism and fundamentalism.   They don’t like feeling disapproval from you.  Your separation from them won’t be tolerated, especially when the disapprobation comes with quoted scripture.  You are “complete in” Christ (Col 2:10), not in an evangelical or fundamentalist association.  So you can handle it in Him.

I see so much acceptance of false worship and doctrine, the multiplication and the spread of it, and I believe that it all relates to this hunger for approval that men have in evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  I play basketball still on a regular basis.  There is a phrase that basketball people will understand:  “Let the game come to you.”  True fellowship isn’t anything that we have to force.  That fellowship has just come to me.  Men of like faith and practice will gravitate toward one another as long as they don’t try to force it.  I’ve got great fellowship outside of fundamentalism and evangelicalism in churches of like faith and practice.  They don’t even show up on the radar of fundamentalism or evangelicalism.  They are unaffiliated.  I’ve never been more greatly refreshed than being around men who weren’t interested in anything bigger than the church.  If it was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for them.

Men who are just fine with just the church don’t minimize the basis for gathering to only the gospel.  They fellowship based on the truth.  They’re more interested in the truth than they are in getting along.  In the end, Christ is honored because His Word is exalted.   If I do get together with these men, and they do exist, I’ve found that discussions about the Bible are occurring all over the place and without limits.  We’re not getting together with a diminishing of the truth.  We know our approval is in Christ.  I don’t care that it is a small group.  It doesn’t surprise me that it is.  I’m not intimidated by the fact that we don’t fit into either evangelicalism or fundamentalism.  I don’t feel any pressure from my friends, from these men, to say anything but whatever God would have me.

I suggest to you to get out of fundamentalism and evangelicalism.  Don’t worry about it.  It isn’t scriptural unity.  That’s found in the church.  You endeavor or strive for unity in the church.  The church has been given the tools to have unity.  If you have any unity outside of the church, let it come in the context of the truth that your church believes.  And then satiate in the approval you have from God.  Be truly independent like God designed.  You’ll love it

Approval is found in that “B” that distinguishes New Testament churches.  God wants belief in and obedience to His Word.  Priesthood is not just a privilege, it is also a responsibility.  When I’m interested most is my fellowship with Him, then I get the kind of fellowship too that is right in the world.  I’ve never had the liberty to do what I wanted, but to be and do what the Lord wants.  I want my life and my worship to be acceptable to Him.  Let us restore a right thinking of approval and a true spirit of independence in the man of God.

Salute Apelles approved in Christ.  Romans 16:10a

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