Home > Fundamentalism, Mallinak > The Island of the Voices

The Island of the Voices

November 14, 2008

The meal would have been pleasanter if it had not been so exceedingly messy, and also if the conversation had not consisted entirely of agreements.  The invisible people agreed about everything.  Indeed most of their remarks were the sort it would not be easy to disagree with: “What I always say is, when a chap’s hungry, he likes some victuals,” or “Getting dark now; always does at night,” or even “Ah, you’ve come over the water.  Powerful wet stuff, ain’t it?”

C.S. Lewis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, p. 124

With apologies right off the bat for offending my fundamentalist friends by quoting (gasp!) C.S. Lewis, I could not help myself when I first read this passage.  First of all, the Dufflepuds were one of Lewis’ most hilarious (and brilliant) inventions.  I understand that some of our readers object to C.S. Lewis.  I’ll not disagree with some of your objections.  But the Chronicles of Narnia are a delightful set of books, and if a father will take the time to guide his children through them, spitting out the bones, he will find a wonderful tool for teaching and discussion.  And a remarkable story, to boot.

But the Duffers are my favorite.  Besides Shasta.  Shasta reminded me of myself.  But the Duffers reminded me of my childhood.

You see, I grew up in the part of Fundamentalism that really is an island of voices.  You can read some biographical material about my early years over at my other (hardly active) blog.  I’ll not bore you with details, other than to say that our church was a full-fledged Hyles church, complete with a pulpit custom designed to match the pulpit at First Baptist Church of Hammond.

In fairness, this month is to be on Fundamentalism, and now that I have left the island, I recognize that most of fundamentalism is not Hylesish.  But if I am to write about that with which I am the most familiar, then I will need to start with this sort of fundamentalism.

I do, however, have another purpose for using this as my springboard… although much of fundamentalism has distanced itself from Hyles, his influence on the movement continues to this day.  A very large segment of fundamentalism would still loosely associate themselves with him.  And, his methodology in particular still dominates the fundamentalist landscape.

Brown or Dark Brown?

A few years ago now, Joel Tetreau attempted a taxonomy of Fundamentalism over at Sharper Iron.  At the time, we got a good laugh out of his attempt, and of course, his taxonomy sort of fell apart when placed under the scrutiny of fellow fundamentalists.  I have read enough of Joel to say that I don’t find him hard to like, but that his attempt at a classification system disentegrated because he tried to define and classify fundamentalism along lines of demeanor and attitude.  The “Type A” fundamentalist turned out to be more like a “Type A” personality.  The “Type B” was more phlegmatic, while the “Type C” was downright gregarious.

Since then, others have suggested a taxonomy on the basis of core beliefs or standards of separation.  I don’t know that there is a proper way to distinguish between the various flavors of fundamentalism.  In some cases, it goes back to my boyhood struggle with the difference between my blue-green crayon and my green-blue crayon.  In many cases, we are merely discussing different shades of the same color… almond or burnt almond, brown or dark brown.

The clearest distinctions amongst fundamentalists tend to be between those of the Sword of the Lord variety and the Bob Jones University variety.  We could include in the Sword crowd places like West Coast, Crown, Ambassador, Hyles, and the various start-up colleges that have sprung out of Hyles, such as Champion, Commonwealth, and perhaps Shawnee.  Oh, and the Jack Hyles School of the Bible down in Florida, where Tom Neal Kneels.

Sticking with the “institutional” identity, we could include in the Bob Jones crowd places like Maranatha, Northland, Central Seminary, Calvary, and so forth.  Of course, there are other groups out there that would probably not fit in either one of the above named “camps.”  The World Baptist, Baptist Bible, and Southwide Baptist Fellowships tend to be in their own world on this, occasionally overlapping into the two main camps.  Branches intertwine, but they are all of the same bush.  Obviously, Sharper Iron has flushed out some other fringes to the entire movement.

Is this a way of distinguishing between types of Fundamentalists?  Obviously, it is not an airtight classification system.  But there are good reasons to make distinctions this way amongst Fundamentalists.  Because in the fundamentalist movement, associations are everything.  We measure and are measured by the camp we associate with, by the company we keep.  The fundamentalist movement has historically tended to be wrapped up in a man or men, and as a result, to be somewhat polarized from the other segments of the larger movement.  And, to illustrate, often when people call to learn about our church, they want to know who we associate with.  I, by the way, always tell them Kent Brandenburg — though I can’t for the life of me figure out why it is that they immediately hang up on me.

The Good-Ole’-Boy Network

The Fundamentalist Movement as a whole struggles to shake off the charge of being “man-centered.”  The movement has historically been driven by strong personalities and (in many cases) Type A leaders.  I do not see the leadership issue to be a problem per se.  God did give the work of the ministry over to vessels of clay, and since angels will not do the work, and Christ has ascended to heaven, we men must do it.  I do not wish to be overly critical of the fact that men have driven the movement.  I don’t know how else there could be a movement without the work of men.

Nor do I criticize loyalty as a quality, and in a pragmatic sense, as a necessity for those who would accomplish something in this life.  Loyalty is, in most cases, a virtue.  Other than in the world of Jack, where it has become a millstone, loyalty is honorable.  I can appreciate the kind of loyalty that stems from gratitude.  In fact, I would trace my own institutional loyalties back to my own personal gratitude towards those who were so helpful to me in my spiritual life and training.  If it is true that the purest form of loyalty comes from gratitude, then I am the most loyal person of all.

But the Sword branch of Fundamentalism has taken “man-centeredness” to all new heights of grandeiur.  The Good-ole’ boy network is on display in the pages of the paper, and the annual conference is a regular parade of “Who’s Who” in Sword of the Lord Fundamentalism.

Now, this particular branch of Fundamentalism (which, by the way, I would feel the most affinity with of all of Fundamentalism) does not take self-criticism very well.  We at JackHammer have learned this all too well.  We have dared to offer up some criticisms of men who, by and large, we are in basic agreement with.  Our criticisms have been offered on the basis of what is Scriptural and right.  The responses from the supporters of those we criticized have been, shall we say, less than Scriptural.

One particular case-in-point would be Kent’s questioning of Clarence Sexton.  Kent’s questions were asked on a Biblical level.  We thought that Sexton was King James Only.  His materials say that he is.  We understood him to hold the standards that those in the Sword crowd typically claim to hold.  Kent questioned Sexton’s inclusion on the FBF’s platform, a couple of years ago.  The FBF has as one of their stated resolutions that they separate from those who hold a strong KJVO position.  The FBF publicly repudiates some of the standards that Sexton publicly holds to.  The questions Kent asked were couched on grounds of separation, and Kent asked if anyone had a Scriptural defense for what Sexton was doing.

We at JackHammer learned some interesting things through Kent’s public questioning.  Clarence Sexton’s followers must google his name an awful lot.  In fact, we found that Kent’s post on Sexton, and some of the posts we did on Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap, were the top posts ever in our history, nearly three years of blogging.  The only followers who google their leader’s name more often are those who follow Tom Neal.

And when Sexton’s followers encountered our post, they… you guessed it… didn’t answer.  They emoted.  They pouted publicly.  They chastised us.  How dare we question DOCTOR Sexton.  He is a MAN-O’-GAWD.  He has probably won more souls to Christ in one day than any of us have in our lifetime.  We are judgmental.  We slandered him.  We are critical.  We are negative.  And HE is a PASTOR.  Unlike any of us.  How DO you LIKE that (pastor) BRANDENBURG.

Ironically, not one time did a Clarence Sexton follower offer a Scriptural defense.

To be completely honest, I was surprised by this, because I thought better of the good people from Knoxville.  I have been in the Hyles camp long enough to know what to expect from them.  When we did our month on Hyles, we got the predictable response… lots of spewing, lots of bombast, lots of chest thumping, and about enough content to fill a thimble to the half-full mark.  Their responses and their preaching share so much in common.  But we expected that.  In fact, we predicted it.   And as a service to our readers, we offered regular interpretation of the Hylot comments.

But the Crown folks?  Wouldn’t have expected the same from them.  For some reason, I honestly believed that they would have something substantive to say, that there would be a conversation.  How very wrong I was.

Like So Many Dufflepuds

And this is my point.  The Sword of the Lord crowd holds The Chief Voice in the highest regard, and refuses to hear any question about him.  No challenges, no discussion, no considerations, no probing, no trying the Spirits (I John 4:1).  In fact, I would dare say that the Sword crowd will take that as a great compliment.  We shouldn’t be questioning preachers.  We shouldn’t be challenging assumptions.  We should be saying, “Amen!”

Amongst the Sword crowd, there can be no discussion, only agreement.  Discussion is divisive.  Probing questions destroy unity.  And we love unity more than truth.  As a result, we really are an island of voices.  An island in that we have isolated ourselves from the rest of the theological world in our quest for oneness inside our circle.  We have nothing to learn from those outside of our own little island.  We read only our own authors.  We buy only those books recommended and advertised in the Sword of the Lord.  We trust only those Spurgeon sermons that have been safely sanitized by the Sword.  We discuss only those things that we all can agree with, like the wetness of water.  In short, we are an island to ourselves.

As an island of voices, we cheer, we flatter, we glad-hand, we chatter, we echo, and by and large, we say nothing.  We simply repeat our favorite catch-phrases, cliches, and psycho-chatter until we find ourselves to be the wisest of the wise.  If conceit is God’s gift to little men, we are the kings of conceit.  We are the first generation to get it all right.  Questions ended with us.  No more considering, just get in line.  Hear our voices.  We are smart, because we talk alot.

But the collective chatter of our chorus stands in awe and speaks not at the sound of the Chief Voices.  For the Chief Voices cannot be questioned.  They are unquestionably right.  Attend the annual parade of the Chief Voices, also known as The Sword of the Lord Conference, and hear the noises.

Of course these litle one-footed men couldn’t walk or run as we do.  They got about by jumping, like fleas or frogs.  And what jumps they made! – as if each big foot were a mass of springs.  And with what a bounce they came down; that was what made the thumping noise which had so puzzled Lucy yesterday.  For now they were jumping in all directions and calling out to one another, “Hey lads!  We’re visible again.”

“Visible we are,” said one in a tasselled red cap who was obviously the Chief Monopod.  “And what I say is, when chaps are visible, why they can see one another.”

“Ah, there it is, there it is, Chief,” cried all the others.  “There’s the point.  No one’s got a clearer head than you.  You couldn’t have made it plainer.”

“She caught the old man napping, that little girl did,” said the Chief Monopod.  “We’ve beaten him this time.”

“Just what we were going to say oursleves,” chimed the chorus.  “You’re going stronger than ever to-day, Chief.  Keep it up, keep it up.”

“But do they dare to talk about you like that?”  said Lucy.  “They seemed to be so afraid of you yesterday.  Don’t they know you might be listening.”

“That’s one of the funny things about the Duffers,” said the Magician.  “One minute they talk as if I ran everything and overheard everything and was extremely dangerous.  The next moment they think they can take me in by tricks that a baby would see through – bless them!”

Like the Duffers, the Swordlepuds shout their loud Hosannas at each and every gratuitous statement and cliche, echo one another’s sentiments and as a whole find themselves agreeing with every word.  The Chief Voices can hardly preach without quoting the Other Chief Voices, and the Other Voices fill their minds with all the “right” phrases.

How We Became Invisible

The result of this echo chamber also known as the Sword Crowd is that doctrinal content plays second fiddle to the agreed upon talking points, and shallow sermonizing is considered eloquence.  We’ve roped off the deep end — that’s where the ‘bad’ guys swim — the guys who never do anything.  We’re all havin’ a great time splashing in the kiddie pool, with our inflatable floaty toys and our water shooters.  And every once in a while, someone makes a big splash and gets us all wet.

Ironically, the argument has been made that the problem with Fundamentalism is that it is too divisive.  That may be a problem to the rest of the evangelical world, with whom Fundamentalists have very reserved (if at all) fellowship.  But it is not the case within the circle of the Swordlepuds.  Their unity couldn’t be stronger, and simultaneously weaker.

I certainly would not urge an ungodly sort of questioning and probing and challenging spirits, that treat questions as if they are ultimate.  But there is a healthy kind of discussion that I’m convinced hasn’t taken place in the last thirty years within the circle.  This was evident when Jack Hyles offered up his defense of himself against Robert Sumner.  It was evident again when Bob Gray was arrested for French Kissing 1st grade girls (and by some odd twist of fate, simultaneously, and quite magically, disappeared from the upcoming Sword conference, where he was scheduled to speak).  It is evident every time the preachers get together for a Pastor’s Fellowship.  It is evident every time you read from the current sermon selection.

There is such a thing as healthy discussion that questions, that probes, that seeks the truth.  But that kind of thing can only take place when we value the Word above the Voices.

Categories: Fundamentalism, Mallinak
  1. Josh Savage
    November 17, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Perhaps before we criticize too harshly, we should examine someone’s full body of work. I have tried to make it a practice to not criticize people on the same team as I. What is the motive for an article like this? Are you in the “Sword Crowd?” Baptists, for decades, have been separatists. That is the beauty of being independent. So, separate, and let it go. These articles are divisive; you are insisting that people take a side, and that is the definition of divisive.

  2. Bobby
    November 17, 2008 at 8:57 am


    If you are going to be taken seriously then you should give Scripture for your position. Please give Bro. Mallinak Biblical evidence that he is being divisive in an un-Scriptural way. Whatever verses you offer, please use them honestly as per the context.

  3. Josh Savage
    November 17, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Thanks Bobby,

    I only see one scripture in the above posts, and “contextually” it is the test of whether a teacher is “of God”, or is an “antichrist” As far as the Chronicles of Narnia, I have no rebuttal. 😉 I am interested to know if Pastor Mallinak is making a claim of antichrist, or if he, by mistake, misused the verse. I will, however, play along and give you the requested scriptural defense…

    I Cor 1:10 – 17
    II Cor 12:19 – 20
    I Cor 3:3

    There are enough “false prophets” to go around. Why do we insist upon fighting amongst ourselves?

  4. November 17, 2008 at 10:07 am


    I think just fighting for fightings sake is a problem.

    But we have to consider the whole of Scriptural admonitions as our guides. If we are simply talking immature personality conflicts and “my fave is better than your fave”, as in 1 Cor, all of that is unacceptable. But is we are talking wolves and people arising among us speaking perverse things as per Paul’s warning in Ac 20 then it is a different matter.

    The thing is, it is sometimes hard to tell if we are dealing with wolves or with “latent wolf-like behaviour” that we need to warn against and eradicate.

    It isn’t always easy to make the right call.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. Josh Savage
    November 17, 2008 at 10:19 am


    I agree wholeheartedly. Is that our claim? Are we seriously claiming that Sexton, Sword, et al are these “grevous wolves?” Again, the deciding factor in whether a teacher is of God or not, is whether or not they confess that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” I cannot believe that that is the idea that we are propagating. If it is, I must have not been paying attention lately.


  6. November 17, 2008 at 10:24 am


    My point, in case you missed it, was that within the Sword crowd, there is no discussion… not even like the kind of discussion that you just brought to the table. There are parrots and echoes, but issues are not discussed, even in a healthy way.

    Your criticism of my article, in other words, is something that would not happen within the context of a Sword Conference. This is because the Sword refuses to be self critical at all. Therefore, they say things that they will all agree with, and they “Amen!” themselves for having said it.

    But on the other hand, your criticism of my article is blatantly self-defeating. You said,

    I have tried to make it a practice to not criticize people on the same team as I.

    Does that include me?

  7. November 17, 2008 at 10:39 am

    By the way, the verse that I used requires Biblical discernment. Certainly the main point that John makes is that we are to see whether the Spirit is of God or the Spirit of antichrist. But John is requiring Biblical discernment.

    There are plenty of reasons to separate from a brother in Christ. When we separate from such a brother, are we saying that he is anti-christ (i.e. unsaved)? Not necessarily. But we are saying that his position is contrary to Scripture, and in that sense, he has an anti-Christ position.

    I could go more into what I see as anti-Christ positions within the Sword crowd. But for now, taking my Scripture reference in context, I am calling for Biblical discernent, which would require us to try the Spirits, to probe, to question, to discuss. Something which you, apparently, consider to be divisive by definition…

    These articles are divisive; you are insisting that people take a side, and that is the definition of divisive.

    By the way, if that is the definition of divisive, then it is divisive to take a position on Scriptural grounds.

    But again, this points up the problem of your position. For the sake of unity, there can be no disagreement. And since there can be no disagreement, we cannot bring up anything that anyone within our little circle might disagree with. And since we cannot bring up anything that someone might disagree with, we must only say things that nobody could possibly disagree with. Hence, the milk-toast ethos of the Sword crowd.

    And further, it is interesting to note that you, Josh, have just used the exact same argument against what I am saying here that those outside the Sword Circle use against the Sword. Again, there is no discussion of the issues themselves, only whether or not you are being divisive by taking a stand. If you want to distinguish yourself as a thinker of any sort, or as a principled Separatist of some kind, you will need to judge the arguments, rather than fretting over the possible affect of the argument (like, say, that it might be “divisive”).

    When men debate, they stick to the issue. Let the women worry about whether or not it might hurt the “unity” that we supposedly have. Robots give a wonderful impression of unity. But what is that worth. God made us men.

  8. Josh Savage
    November 17, 2008 at 10:41 am


    First of all, I do not know you at all. I have no idea if we are on the same team or not. However, my intent was not to be critical of you as much as of your ideas. It is not an attack of you as much as a defense of others. While I do not know you, I do know several in both the “Sword Crowd” and the FBF who are anything but false prophets. I believe that a huge reason people align in a “fellowship” is that they agree on many things. Thus it is, I think, a pretty natural and anticipated conclusion that they will continue to agree on those things. Let it also be known that I agree with you on many points in your post. In this crowd, there is definitely plenty of discussion. I just find that it is usually about the shortcomings of others. Pity.


  9. November 17, 2008 at 11:14 am

    A few questions if I may

    So is Fairhaven the BJU Crowd, or the Sword Crowd?

    For Josh

    Matthew 7:15
    Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

  10. November 17, 2008 at 11:15 am

    As wanted to add, very enlightenng, a joy to read, thank you for your blog post

  11. November 17, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I just find that it is usually about the shortcomings of others. Pity.


    Really, now, you should read our stuff more before you make that kind of sweeping statement. “Usually?” Are you referring to the one month (out of the 26 that we have been doing this) that we discussed Jack Hyles? Or to the one post (out of over 300) that Kent did on Sexton? Pu-lease.

    I think you might know me, too, especially if your father is Pastor Rick Savage, whom I consider to be a very good, personal friend.

    By the way, in all the verses you listed as being against what I have written here, you missed two essential points. First, each of those verses are written to a local church, the Church of God at Corinth, urging unity within their local church. Those verses do not apply to our criticism of a particular sect within the Fundamentalist sect. The second point that you missed, is that each of those references contain a (gasp!) rebuke of the church. So, was Paul being divisive there?

    I also know men in the Sword crowd who are (as you say) “anything but false prophets.” In fact, I would shyly point out this statement, taken from my post…

    Now, this particular branch of Fundamentalism (which, by the way, I would feel the most affinity with of all of Fundamentalism) does not take self-criticism very well.

    However, since I am speaking in generalities, and you insist on refuting my generalities by pointing out the exceptions, allow me to point out one glaring “anti-Christ” practice of which the Sword is blatantly guilty…

    The Sword of the Lord is a para-church ministry. Hence, their overall lack of Scriptural accountability leads to their reluctance towards any sort of probing self-examination or self-criticism. They have effectively sheltered themselves from the necessity towards these kinds of things. They are the authority.


  12. Josh Savage
    November 17, 2008 at 11:59 am


    No, I do not believe that Paul was being divisive by telling the church not to be divisive. Of course, that is absurd. Which church in these fellowships should have the authority? What authority is there to have? Does the fellowship weild this authority over the participating churches? If so, which church should take over that responsibility? If we neglected all para-church organizations, what music would we sing? Where would we buy our communion crackers? 🙂


  13. Don Johnson
    November 17, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Just a quick additional comment… I’m running out of time at my internet cafe!

    I don’t think Dave is saying that the Sword crowd is necessarily full of ravening wolves, I certainly am not. I am actually more concerned about my own crowd, which would be the BJU orbit.

    But we do have to be discerning. I don’t think we would be wise to wait until the wolf attacks with fangs bared to finally say, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, … It’s a WOLF, RUN!!!”

    So these things need to be worked out.

    I am actually in favour of working them out publicly. There is a lot of talk going around like this: “Did you talk to him personally first?” That method is called the “old-boys network” where people can slip and slide under the radar and no one voices any queries in public. Every minister of the gospel should be open to spiritually minded public scrutiny and ready to give a reasonable defense of his bona fides, especially if he aspires to national influence in his group at least.

    Of course, there are flaming expose artists out there who see a demon in everyone but themselves. Those folks don’t need an answer. But I don’t think that is what Dave and the Jackhammer boys are doing.

    If they, or I, make statements that are in error about someone, please, bring up the error. Then we can see the spiritual credibility of the questioner if he graciously confesses error and makes things right.

    If there aren’t any errors, though, perhaps the ones being questioned should be answering up.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  14. November 17, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    So, Josh, is Pastor Rick Savage your dad, or not?

  15. Josh Savage
    November 17, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Yes, he is. Have you been friends long? I haven’t lived at home for quite some time. Are you “talk weekly” friends, or “you heard him preach somewhere and said hi” friends? Either way, I’m happy to have made your acquantance. I have to head to rehearsalnow. So, for now, peace,


  16. Phil
    November 17, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Having looked at this website for a while I think I get where comming from.
    About a year ago Shelton Smith did a four part series on against the SBC, but he will share the smae pulpit with Jack Schaap and stay silent About his herisies

  17. Josh Savage
    November 18, 2008 at 8:58 am


    Is it your contention, that it is a feminine trait to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Is this your practice, or were you just being silly?

    “When men debate, they stick to the issue. Let the women worry about whether or not it might hurt the “unity” that we supposedly have. Robots give a wonderful impression of unity. But what is that worth. God made us men.”


  18. November 18, 2008 at 11:04 am


    I actually relate to Dave here.

    First, the unity of the Spirit is in the church. That’s where we find unity in the NT, in His congregation. We have a basis for unity in the congregation—Lord’s Supper, the office of the pastor, church discipline, etc. We endeavor to keep unity in the church. If it is your goal to keep unity outside of the church among all believers, then you would be required unity with all evangelicals. Are you doing that? Are you relating with Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, John Piper, the Southern Baptist Convention, Mark Driscoll, Bob Jones University, Tennessee Temple, David Cloud, Jack Schaap, Joel Osteen, and Billy Graham? That would include all the evangelical Presbyterians and Methodists. How is your fellowship with them?

    Second, I believe that “giving in” to “get along” that is a fake unity is a feminine quality. It is based mainly on feelings and that swings over to the female side. it is why style over substance campaigns work in America today—they win the female vote and there are more women than men.

  19. Josh Savage
    November 18, 2008 at 12:18 pm


    Thanks for the note. I believe we are probably more alike than different. However, I also believe that we are called to unity beyond the four walls of our church. That said, nobody has brought up SBC, Billy Graham, etc. until now. I have never had fellowship, nor do I believe that you should have fellowship with Presbyterians or Methodists. That is not the conversation that we are having. Please don’t label me as ecumenical because I want to experience this unity amongst brethren that aren’t members of my local church. Our discussion was about the FBF, the Sword and Clarence Sexton. All three are very much different than the list you provided in your comment. You also mentioned that “giving in” to “get along” is a fake unity and a feminine quality. First of all, without some clarification, that is an offensive statement on many levels. Are you saying that women are idiots or that I am effeminate? I am not saying, and have not said that you or anyone else should give in to anything. Just try to keep the slander to a minimum. If we are as local church oriented as we suppose ourselves to be, it isn’t any of our concern. Galatians 5 lists wrath, strife and seditions as “works of the flesh”, and love, joy, peace and longsuffering as “fruit of the Spirit.” Are these traits to be practiced only within the local church membership, or in our daily conversation? We should not use the doctrine of local church when it suits us, “First, the unity of the Spirit is in the church. That’s where we find unity in the NT” only to ignore the doctrine when we want. Example, if pastors of local churches decide to have fellowship with other pastors of other local churches, then “what is that to thee?”



  20. November 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Kent, thinking a little about primary/secondary etc…

    There are areas where you and I disagree, but it occurred to me that there is potentially an area where we could be in fellowship in spite of that. And by fellowship, I mean the Bible kind of fellowship, the Philippians kind of fellowship, the kind of fellowship where you and I are directing money in partnership on something. That is this: it is not inconceivable that you and I could support the same missionaries. (I don’t know who your church supports!) The areas where you and I most notably disagree are not areas that I make a test of fellowship. I know for a fact that some of the missionaries I support would agree with you on those points of disagreement. I have no idea if those missionaries are supported by you at all, though in some cases it seems a possibility.

    Perhaps you might find that kind of connection too remote, not a true fellowship? Or???

    Please note: I’m not trying to get you to drop any missionary support! I’m just trying to think through this a bit.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  21. November 18, 2008 at 1:14 pm


    We can have unity with churches other than our own, but it is based on doctrinal and practical alignment with one another. You get that kind of unity by elevating and highlighting doctrine and practice, not ignoring them. Raising doctrinal and practical issues brings the unity. That’s what we do here, so we really are looking for real unity at Jackhammer.

    Regarding women, what I know from Scripture about them is that they are the weaker vessel and I believe that includes several aspects, not just physical strength. Also we know from 1 Timothy 2 that they more vulnerable to deceit. God created women with the need of male oversight. God designed them differently to fulfill the role to mother and nurture. That’s offensive to the egalitarian, postmodern, truth-is-relative crowd. This, of course, does not make women lesser than men. They are made in the image of God and are equal in essence. These are things I wouldn’t think I would need to explain to you, but your “women are idiots” question said you needed it.

    Keep the slander to a minimum? Name one place where slander has occurred here, Josh. I expect an example. Slander would have to be a lie. I’ll be waiting for your example.

    We didn’t bring up SBC, Billy Graham, etc., but the same principles apply, which is what we’re talking about here. Why don’t you fellowship with Methodists and Presbyterians, Josh? If the unity of the Spirit is talking about all believers, then you would be required to have fellowship with them. If not, then what truly is your basis of fellowship? I really do want to know.

    Concerning fruit of the Spirit:

    Love rejoiceth not in iniquity. Love rejoiceth in the truth.

    Real peace is reconciliation based on righteousness, righteous beliefs and practices.

    Concerning the works of the flesh:

    Strife is conflict in order to put one’s self forward. Contending for the faith is not strife.

    Seditions is factiousness. Factiousness relates to creating division based on doctrine and practice that is unscriptural.

    Scriptural fellowship is not pie and coffee. Fellowship relates to doctrine and practice. God requires doctrinal and practical alignment with Him in order to join together or associate with others for a common, religious or spiritual venture.

    You can get a better idea of fellowship by looking at 1 John 1. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. He doesn’t fellowship with darkness at all. Bringing up areas of darkness, which would be doctrinal and practical, is at the root of fellowship.

  22. November 18, 2008 at 1:22 pm


    You are a very incisive thinker. You cut right to something very practical. I really do respect you more than ever.

    Regarding cooperation with missions, we have a definitive missions philosophy. The fellowship aspect of missions we base on the sending church. We don’t support any mission-board missionaries. All of them are church-only sent. So we don’t cooperate with churches we don’t believe and practice like. I send a questionnaire to the sending church. If we don’t agree, we don’t support the missionary. The primary basis for missions support for us is belief and practice. We believe missions is reproduction. We want to reproduce us. We’d also like to fellowship with our missionaries on the field. To do that, we’ll have to believe and practice the same.

    Thanks for bringing this up.

  23. Don Johnson
    November 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Kent,

    Ok, I can see your point there. The sending church would have to be one you are in fellowship with. So in my scenario, there is only one missionary we support who might fit the category. I’ll not get into specifics here, but should we think this through a bit more?

    Sending Church A is in accord with your doctrine and practice. You are able and willing to support a missionary from this church. This missionary, like me, is willing to take money from any and all sources… well, maybe not all, but you know what I mean! So he approaches me. And I like his presentation, his general church planting philosophy, his orthodoxy and those other issues are irrelevant to me. So I support him too.

    Here’s my next question:

    Should Sending Church A allow their missionary to enter into partnership with me? Should you reconsider the likeness of mind you have with Sending Church A?

    I don’t know if this makes things harder or not. I do think it is pretty hard to be in perfect doctrinal unanimity between any two Baptists. I mean, we are all pretty independent, whether we are in a fellowship/convention/conference or not.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  24. November 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    For all who are following this thread, please note Phil’s comment, because it is dead on. This is my point. The Sword guys pick all the topics that everybody already agrees on, and hammers away. They remind me of that famous youth activity where we get an old car from the junk yard and attack it with sledge hammers. It really is a wonderful display, and we don’t have to worry about it because it is going to scrap anyway.

    When was the last time that the Sword of the Lord did a series that anyone inside their circle might disagree with? When was the last time they did a series on a Biblical issue, or even on (hold on, now) Biblical Separation?

  25. Don Johnson
    November 18, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    oops, sorry, Dave, I hijacked your thread a little here, didn’t I?

    I thought I was in Kent’s thread when I jumped in there! I am so easily confused!

    I chalk it up to middle age.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  26. November 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm


    I really can’t believe that you continue to say that you don’t know me. Your dad has been out to my church to preach a couple of times. The last time he was out, he told our church that we were his favorite place to preach besides his own. And didn’t you access Dan Starr’s e-mail through my church’s web page?

    The reason for the scrutiny goes back to an earlier exchange we had on this issue. You dismissed the entire article as “divisive” saying, “I have tried to make it a practice to not criticize people on the same team as I.” I pointed out that, as far as I knew, you and I were on the same team. To which you replied, “First of all, I do not know you at all. I have no idea if we are on the same team or not. ”

    Now that you know, I will repeat my question. Does your practice include me?

    In your last comment, directed to myself, you said,

    Is it your contention, that it is a feminine trait to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Is this your practice, or were you just being silly?

    “When men debate, they stick to the issue. Let the women worry about whether or not it might hurt the “unity” that we supposedly have. Robots give a wonderful impression of unity. But what is that worth. God made us men.”

    My answer is, absolutely not, I was not just being silly. First, you need to take the time to show how those passages that you listed are referring to fellowship between churches. I don’t mind you getting involved in the conversation here — in fact, I extend a warm welcome to you. As your father is a personal friend, you are of course welcomed and wanted in our conversation. But if you are going to debate here, you will need to follow the arguments a little better, and not take offense so easily.

    Kent pointed out that if those passages that you listed as being your proof texts for urging unity between the writers of this blog and the SOTL, then they also apply to all the people that Kent listed. The fact that you don’t believe that those texts apply to all of those in Kent’s example demonstrates that you believe in separation of some kind, and that you don’t believe that we are required to fellowship with every organization who claims to be of Christ.

    If your proof texts require unity from one church to another, then we must include every church and every ministry in our fellowship. And, based on your argument, no criticisms should ever be leveled against another ministry or against a practice of that ministry.

    But you don’t believe that, of course. Because you came on here critical of what I have written. So, you must believe that criticism is a healthy part of Biblical fellowship, and that we are not required to swallow everything that those on our same team say. Right? Because you and I are on the same team, and here you are, arguing with what I have written.

    My objection is with your calling it divisive. You see, when you called it divisive, you weren’t really engaging it. You were dismissing it. That is different. But, in an ironic way, that was the point of my entire post. Those on my team have this nasty habit of refusing to engage anything that might be troubling. They prefer to glad-hand and applaud and echo. But to probe and to question and to debate in a healthy, “trying the spirits” way… that is divisive.

    Was I being silly to say that

    “When men debate, they stick to the issue. Let the women worry about whether or not it might hurt the “unity” that we supposedly have. Robots give a wonderful impression of unity. But what is that worth. God made us men.”

    Not at all. But see, I also wasn’t saying that it is a feminine trait to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You inserted that into what I said.

    Let me give you an analogy that I think you will understand. Say you are a dorm student, and you get into a fist fight with another one of the dorm students. And say that the reason you got into that fist fight was because the other dorm student insulted your sister in a way that dishonored her. Would you say that you are being divisive? Or would you say that you are endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace?

    You see, women (bless them) are of the sort that are likely to stand on the sidelines complaining about how violent it all is, and wringing their hands about the mess you are making. They want peace. Can’t we all just get along.

    But God calls men to fight. That valience for the truth is the way that a man endeavors to maintain unity. A unity that comes through ignoring problems, or sticking to the safe subjects that nobody would possibly disagree with, is not a real unity… as Kent so eloquently pointed out. That is the kind of unity that ignores the very blatant compromises (like the ones that Phil pointed out) that are destroying the movement.

    So, yes, I do see the task of poking a finger in the eye of the Good-ole’ boy network as a masculine duty.

  27. November 18, 2008 at 4:43 pm


    I actually think that your comments here fit with our discussion. They are just a shade off. So, feel free to continue them on this thread if you like.

  28. November 18, 2008 at 8:58 pm


    This is a good discussion and I think it is great to discuss. It is bullseye related to fellowship and unity and fundamentalism. We’ve also discussed in a heavy-duty discussion here during mission month at Jackhammer.

    Some of my fellowship issues I see as very much not knowing whether meat was offered unto idols or not. I eat ignorantly of its relations to idols. I don’t know of any inconsistencies I have on missions’ support. I might, but I don’t know about them. What you are bringing up I see as an issue in the way churches do missions support, which, I believe, needs to be changed. I do think that some of the supporting churches of missionaries should be a problem for those missionaries. They are in cooperation with those churches in an endeavor.

    I think this deals with what you are saying, but I’m not sure.

  29. Don Johnson
    November 19, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Hi Kent,

    Well, I think you are consistent! (I won’t mention what consistency is the hobgoblin of… heh, heh)

    I personally find it hard to believe that the fellows you do cooperate with are 100% in agreement with you in every doctrinal respect. However, maybe if you are following a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, you are ok. But surely you may find out inadvertently? What then?

    I am trying to think of a New Testament example. It is admittedly quite difficult, since the apostles were always in agreement… But the other Christians?

    Perhaps Acts 15 – there were Jewish Christians who thought the Gentile Christians had to function according to the Law in some ways, but after the Council, they only held them to Noahic requirements, not Mosaic. So some Christians would still presumably practice Jewish rites (as Paul did when he got arrested) and other Christians would not. Yet they clearly were in fellowship with one another. Paul raised an offering from Gentile believers to support Jewish believers in Jerusalem. That is true fellowship. Yet there were apparently some practices that each side felt important but did not hold the other side to…

    Or am I off base on that one?

    Well, it is too late to be thinking any more, so I will leave you all with that and see if you can make something of it.

    Essentially, I am arguing that there is room for latitude in some areas, allowing for the frailties of others (or ourselves). Of course, there are areas where no latitude is allowed, as the Jerusalem Council made crystal clear.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  30. November 19, 2008 at 3:13 am


    I think there is room for differences, yes. We’re all different. We even believe differently about things. Scripture does make room for differences, but not about what the Bible teaches. I know for sure there are practice differences, but they are not anything that our church would have a problem with. Just as a for instance, I’ve got friends who are against men wearing shorts. They take a stricter position on male modesty than I do. I think that “gird up your loins like a man” means that long shorts are permissible. Most people know that I differ with Thomas Ross on a few things, because we have argued them here for all to see, but it is true that they are about the application of biblical principles. He says no to make-up on women. I can’t say that he is wrong to take that position. We hashed out the practice of obtaining a life’s partner here and essentially held to the same principles without practicing everything else the same. These have some things in common, that is, Scripture is silent on all of them.

    You said that you heard my sermon on “how to separate” over at my blog. I don’t cut people off who differ from me because I know we’re all growing and need patience with one another. That’s where it’s at. I think your Acts 15 example involves things that were weaker brother issues at that point, also judicial laws that were but shadows. There is liberty in certain areas. We know that from Rom 14 and 1 Cor 6-10.

  31. November 19, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Hi Kent

    Ok, fair enough.

    I am asking these questions to understand your position more fully.

    So you are saying practical differences are ok, but not doctrinal. And you are perhaps saying some things are unknown and you don’t worry about them — if a practice/belief were aberrant (from your point of view, at least) and public, it would be an issue that would preclude fellowship. If not, you’re not out looking to separate unnecessarily.

    Is that last bit accurate?

    I think I will leave it here for now and perhaps we can discuss this more later.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  32. November 19, 2008 at 11:28 am


    My understanding of the tertiary/primary teaching is that certain doctrines/practices that are plainly scriptural are not to the level worth separating over. What I mainly hear is that the gospel and its necessities (ex. deity of Christ) is the one primary. Everything else is tertiary.

    I’m saying that things that we teach and practice differently are not all separating issues and I gave some examples of them. We certainly can take Jephthah’s daughter differently (commonly used example by the tertiary/primary people), a doctrinal issue, and still fellowship. Why? No belief or practice even comes out of that passage. What I teach is that the church, not me, determines what we separate over. We separate over what we know. We separate over the same reasons for which we would discipline someone out of the church. We don’t leave anything out that Scripture says in matters of separation, just like we don’t leave out anything in our church that Scripture says.

  33. Don Johnson
    November 19, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Kent

    Another passage might be the “sons of God” in Gen 6?

    But what about, say, Calvinism vs. Arminianism and the various shades in between? (I would exclude the hypers on each side). If the practice of the individuals was to preach the gospel indiscriminantly, urging salvation by faith alone to everyone who was willing to hear, would that constitute a separating doctrine?

    I am personally not a Calvinist, but I can be in fellowship with men who are Calvinistic in their thinking but are 1) evangelistic and preaching salvation by faith alone and 2) not making divisions over Calvinism – i.e, not being argumentative and causing schism.

    Just curious on how this plays out.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  34. November 20, 2008 at 12:39 am


    We would probably fellowship with the people you described, as you described them. I don’t have any Calvinists that I fellowship with, that I know of, but not because of their Calvinism. I converse with them all over the place, but none that I’m in fellowship with. We’ve had only two Calvinists in our church and neither of them made it. Our terms for them were that they couldn’t cause division over the doctrine and they could stay. They would also know that our church was not Calvinist and that I would preach against it at times.

  35. Josh Savage
    November 20, 2008 at 7:59 am

    “First of all, I do not know you at all. I have no idea if we are on the same team or not. ”

    Let me say it more clearly. I couldn’t pick you out of a police lineup. My father preaches all over the world, and I don’t know very many of the men he speaks with or for. I do know Dan Star from college. Maybe you know me. Can you tell me if we have ever met and I am just forgetting? Maybe my memory is getting old.


  36. November 20, 2008 at 10:00 am

    It’s fine, Josh. We’ll let it go on that. I only insisted on it for the sake of argument, which I think we should try to get back to. The point of saying it was that you are making an argument that you practice with inconsistency.

    I don’t think that you believe that unity requires us to never disagree in a public way. And I would like to present this comment thread as “Exhibit A” of my proofs for saying so. You say that we should never criticize someone on our own team, and yet you are offering up criticisms here.

    It isn’t that we don’t like to be criticized. If you will check, you will find that we regularly try to hash out these issues Biblically. I am pointing out that you aren’t holding your principle very consistently.

  37. November 20, 2008 at 10:12 am

    And, by the way, I don’t believe that your principle is correct either, so I want to persuade you of the necessity of self-criticism. And I do say “self” criticism, because in many ways, I believe myself to be on the same team as the Sword, although there are enough things that I disagree with that keep me from any sort of close fellowship. Nevertheless, until we are willing to question and probe and debate and discuss these things, even including in a critical way, we will continue to be an island of voices.

    So, this is a bold attempt to persuade you of the necessity of “hashing things out” in order to have a Biblical form of unity, rather than the quasi/pseudo-unity that characterizes SOTL fundamentalism in our day. The unity in that paper is truly 5,000 square miles wide, and one inch deep.

  38. November 20, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I was still waiting for the specific example of slander, Josh. Thanks.

  39. November 20, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Hi Kent, and all…

    We have had some Calvinists in our church over the years on the same terms. One didn’t make it, but I think that is because he was a little unstable in other ways. We have some who still are with us. (Part of the advantage of having no good alternatives, I guess!)

    I do cooperate with several fellows who are much more Calvinistic than I. We are willing to support their ministries in different ways, though we do have these differences.

    In thinking about this, I think the philosophy is not so much primary/secondary/tertiary as biblical/systematic. If someone is denying the Scriptures some way, I have a problem with cooperation. If someone is interpreting the Scriptures differently than I am, I may have a problem with cooperation. But the difference is over systematic theology, and depending on how important my systematic position is to me, I may or may not cooperate with the one disagreeing with me.

    To stick with Calvinism as our example, there are some guys who seem to be making disciples of Calvin rather than of Christ. I would have a real problem cooperating with them. But if someone is out there preaching salvation by faith alone, is evangelistic, is pointing men to Christ and also has as his own systematic understanding a generally Calvinistic point of view, I don’t have a problem with that.

    And that is where I see our differences, primarily. You might disagree with that, but that’s the way I see it. Thus I can support ministries that might hold to systems more in agreement with you than with me. We just don’t make a big deal of our systematic difference because in our relationships we see this as not that important.

    Does that all make sense so far?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  40. Anvil
    November 20, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    I think I am having trouble understanding the difference between your view of primary/secondary/tertiary doctrine and what you are claiming that fundamentalists believe. If a person that is Calvinistic can stay in your church (as a member?) as long as he doesn’t cause division and realizes you will preach against it, would you treat that differently than if the person denied, say, the virgin birth, but didn’t cause division and realized you would preach the virgin birth? If so, on what basis? Or is it your expectation that by some deadline, the person will come around to your church’s point of view on the topic or else have to leave? Does not causing division on that topic mean that Calvinism cannot be taught in that family’s home?

    Further, if the person doesn’t hold your belief on Calvinism (or whatever other doctrine that you deem meets the same qualifications), but agrees not to cause division over it, it sounds as if whatever unity you have is more of the “Sword, don’t-ask-don’t-tell” variety that you are decrying, rather than true unity, as in fact, not all of you are united in the same beliefs. It seems to me that practically, this is adding up to the same thing that you criticize fundamentalists for doing, only different by a matter of degree.

  41. November 20, 2008 at 4:50 pm


    That was Don Johnson who made those statements about Calvinistic members. I don’t think that Pastor B. holds that same position.

  42. Anvil
    November 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Pastor Mallinak,

    From Pastor Brandenburg’s post, six posts above my first post in this thread:

    “We’ve had only two Calvinists in our church and neither of them made it. Our terms for them were that they couldn’t cause division over the doctrine and they could stay. They would also know that our church was not Calvinist and that I would preach against it at times.”

    I realize that there are no current Calvinists in his congregation, but it appears that they could have stayed. My questions are based on that post.

  43. November 20, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    First I’d like to say that I am happy for Dave for getting all this traffic at his post about my my post. He’s getting his own traffic per the Josh Savage conversation. I’m not bitter though. I rejoice with them that rejoice.

    Second, Anvil, I don’t believe the tertiary/secondary doctrine position. It isn’t in Scripture. I would rather argue on those terms. As far as how we separate, I have explained this for a long time, and that is, my church decides what we believe and practice. We don’t think of anything as tertiary/secondary. The reason we don’t break fellowship with people who don’t cause division is because of what I see in Romans 16:17, which reads: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Do you see how that it says “cause divisions and offenses contrary”?

    We have saved, baptized church members. If someone believes he is saved by grace through repentant faith alone, and is baptized, he can join our church. He may believe differently on Calvinism, but as long as he doesn’t “cause divisions and offenses contrary,” he can stay a member of our church. We’re not saying that, for instance, that we believe “limited atonement.” We don’t. We also don’t think it is tertiary, which is why we’ll discipline a person out if he causes divisions and offenses over that doctrine. We don’t have fake unity; it’s real unity based upon real beliefs. And we can have unity when someone doesn’t cause divisions and offenses over that doctrine. And we are coming together based upon what our church believes. The Sword kind of fellowship says ignore the beliefs that your church has in order to come together. We choose not to do that.

    On the other hand, I noticed you used “don’t ask; don’t tell.” A homosexual can’t remain a member of our church, even if he doesn’t cause division over that. We’ve got 1 Corinthians 5 for that, Anvil.

    You’re going to have to explain to me how that supports the tertiary/primary doctrine view. I don’t get it.

  44. Anvil
    November 20, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    I see my shorthand “don’t ask don’t tell” didn’t save me any time. It should be obvious, but this was not in any way about homosexuality, and I agree with your position on that issue. Enough said.

    I used that phrase to refer to what you said about “Sword type” fundamentalists getting together and saying loud Amens to what they agree on, but skirting around and avoiding mention of differences. As long as they don’t ask each other about the differences and don’t tell each other either, then they don’t have to think about it.

    If a Calvinist in your church agrees not to cause offense, he still disagrees with the doctrine on that position as taught. Therefore, any unity with your church excludes that doctrine. It’s real unity, but not 100% unity. Allowing that variance is different from how your church would handle beliefs on homosexuality. However, if in fact you have scripture accepted by your church that makes Calvinism the false position, then theoretically it should be handled in the same way you handle homosexuality — i.e. a person can not hold a position contrary to what the church believes the Bible teaches on that issue. Even if you don’t want to call Calvinism a “tertiary” doctrine, your church is still handling it as if differences in that area are less important. So, is it because Calvinism is less clear than the Bible statements on homosexuality, because of differences in interpretation, because Calvinism is a Romans 14-type issue, or is it something else?

    What this comes down to is that your church handles disagreements on some doctrines/practices differently than it does on other doctrines/practices. My question is still “On what basis are you doing this if the Bible itself doesn’t handle differences on some issues differently than differences on others?” In one sense I agree that we are responsible for all the Bible teaches. However, since it is clear in scripture that differences in doctrines/practices are handled in various ways depending on the doctrine/practice, it would seem to indicate that some differences are more important or more serious than others.

  45. November 20, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Kent,

    FWIW, I think I used the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ phrase further up the thread as well. I hesitated a bit, because of it’s obvious connections with homosexuality… but it seemed to apt in describing a position where you might not know everything another church you cooperate with might hold that would be different from you. On thinking about it, I probably shouldn’t use it at all, because of the connotation.

    But back to the point, if you wouldn’t mind checking my last post before this one, and the idea of “systematic” differences vs. “biblical” differences. Essentially, what I was asking is if you could cooperate or join in partnership with someone who disagreed with you systematically but who was otherwise acceptable. We are using Calvinism for an example since I think you and are probably fairly close systematically there.

    Could you work with another church on supporting missions or on some joint publishing endeavour (or whatever) where you differed over Calvinism but were generally on the same page in most other areas? I think that is a different question than allowing someone in your church as long as they didn’t cause division.

    For myself, if my Calvinistic friend isn’t a “hyper” who is constantly preaching Calvin instead of Christ, then I could work with him in a lot of ways. If we were to differ over something the Bible clearly said… well, then, no. Of course we might differ on what we think is clear…

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  46. November 21, 2008 at 12:34 am


    I think I was going to answer your last comment after I answered Anvil and then I blanked on that and took off for many hours. Now I’m back momentarily and then I’ll come back, comment to you and then on Anvil again.

    Part of my problem here is that it is clear in my mind, but I have to communicate it clearly too and then interpret whether what you have written is what is in my mind.

    I don’t have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. I just haven’t done the research about every supporting church for every missionary. We’ve settled it by agreeing with the sending church. I compared it to the meat offered unto idols. I don’t assume that meat was offered to idols. I just eat the meat as Paul instructed. I don’t assume that supporting churches aren’t any good either. I’m not avoiding finding out. Love believeth all things, hopeth all things.

    I think systematic versus biblical might be a good way of looking at those differences, except I do separate over systematic and over biblical both and could give separate examples of each. I like to, as I’m sure you do too, keep it to Scriptural concepts. I don’t think the Bible makes leeway to disobey what someone might consider minor teachings. Actually, I believe that God makes a point several times of showing that seemingly minor points He’s very serious about and He kills people for disobeying them.

    I don’t see Calvinism as a Scriptural doctrine as much as it is historical dogma. Someone may be a Calvinist and looking for a church. I welcome him to join ours with a certain caveat. We love him. Everyone that joins our church joins with a caveat. We believe this. We really do. Join knowing that.

    Thanks for the interaction Don.


    Did you look at Romans 16:17? That didn’t seem to enter into your comment. It doesn’t say anything about a doctrine being tertiary or primary. You say that our church isn’t in unity if we have a Calvinist. It is in unity based on what Scripture says unity is. Our church agrees on matters. That’s how Scripture pictures unity, agreement. Three may see things differently, even believe differently, but they still agree because the whole church is more important than those three. The whole church is more important than me. We are one body and one faith. Everyone who joins, joins based on our doctrine.

    I don’t agree with the way you’ve laid it out. Someone who practices homosexuality can’t be in our church based on the teaching 1 Corinthians 5. There is a list of practices that someone can’t continue and be a part of the church. Someone who practices homosexuality is contradicting what our church believes. If someone has homosexual temptations or was a homosexual before he was converted can still be a part of our church, but if he practices it, he’s out. When it comes to our teaching on Calvinism, someone who is a Calvinist, but doesn’t teach it or practice differently than us based upon it, is in unity with our church. That doesn’t make any doctrine less important than another, i.e. tertiary or secondary. We wouldn’t practice church discipline over it if we didn’t think it was important.

    It sounds like you are saying that you believe that the existence of handling of different situations differently means that some are more important than others. Let’s say that that’s true. I wouldn’t disagree with some things being subject to different punishment than others, and I’ve said that often; however, that isn’t what the tertiary/primary issue is about. That issue says that we only separate over the disobedience of the primary, which has been widdled in many circles to the gospel and even that doesn’t have to be the same gospel (repentance is often left out; so is lordship).

    If you want to persuade me that there are some things in Scripture that God hates as sin and He separates from them, but we don’t have to, you’ll have to show me that in Scripture. I’ll await that evidence. I would also wait for some historic proof of a real tertiary/primary doctrine. I’ve had some quote Calvin and a few others, but in every instance, the quote is about issues that are non-scriptural versus scriptural.

    Thanks Anvil.

  47. November 21, 2008 at 9:51 am


    Sorry, I missed what Kent said in his earlier comment. Must have skimmed over it.


    Since we’re keeping score, I will have to say a big “Thank you” for getting my post so much traffic. You are the man. But we all knew that anyway. And that water sure is powerful wet stuff.

    Guess I should thank Josh too. And say that I am looking forward to his answers.

  48. Josh Savage
    November 21, 2008 at 12:02 pm


    I do believe that things should be hashed out. But, is that what we’re doing? Don’t you think that this conversation should be taken up with the “powers that be?” I have always been told that unless I was part of the problem or part of the solution, that I should just stay out of it. In other words, what I am saying is that I have enough problems of my own to worry about the problems of someone else. If there was anyone in this conversation that could actually make a difference in the movements discussed then it would be worthwhile, without that element though, it just seems like petty gossip. I am not saying that that is what it is; just that it appears that way. I have no reason to think your motives are any less than pure. But, as we all know, perception is reality.


  49. November 21, 2008 at 12:58 pm


    I hope you will rethink your position then. For one thing, does the SOTL operate on that principle? Absolutely not! I would like, once again, to refer you back to Phil’s shrewdly perceptive comment (see above) as an example.

    We need to discuss what it is that we are doing, why it is that we are doing it, and (most importantly, I might add), WHETHER OR NOT IT IS BIBLICAL.

    The SOTL has set itself up in a position of authority, and everyone who wants to be someone must genuflect before the image, must acknowledge the Higher Authority of their power structure and interpretative principles, must grovel at the altar of Success. And you say that we must not discuss such things in public. Only privately, behind closed doors, where the discussion cannot leak out among the general population. How so? Where do you find that in the Bible?

    By the way, I deal with this issue right here, not because I despise the SOTL, or because I despise the men or the churches who have driven the movement, but rather because I care too deeply about them to be silent any longer.

  50. November 21, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Here is a verse that would indicate that there are times when a public rebuke is due… I Timothy 5:20.

    Of course, we could also say that our efforts here are the equivalent of overturning the moneychangers tables… which was, as I recall, not done in private.

  51. Josh Savage
    November 21, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Are you talking about the Shelton Smith Comment? I think you have misread my intent. I don’t think that the general public cannot hear of these things. What I was saying is that this conversation is kinda like me complaining to you about the price of tea in China. You did not set the price, and you cannot change it. In other words that conversation would be as fruitless as this one. If you feel the SOTL should be called out on these issues, why don’t you just do it? I don’t know any of these good ole boys, as you refer to them. But, it would seem that they are the ones you should talk to. Maybe an open letter from a Pastor to the editor, I don’t know. I just think all the name-calling and rhetoric makes you (us) look small. If you are anything like my dad, there are very few like us left, and I think that actions like these make us look bad. I hope you do not think I am trying to scold you. I believe your intentions are just. Just trying to show another point of view.


  52. November 21, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I don’t think that it is the same as complaining about the price of tea in China. Criticisms of (say) the Southern Baptist Convention might be closer to that analogy. I’m not in the convention, have no real vested interest in the convention, and really am relatively unaffected by much of what they do (other than when they hold their convention in SLC, and announce beforehand that they intend to bring “revival” to Utah).

    But, I do associate the most with those of the SOTL. So, a better analogy might be that, although I’m not in the starting lineup, I’m on the team, and I’ve got something to say. An open letter would not do as much as what this blog will do… It has been demonstrated repeatedly that the Editor only prints what is either favorable to his paper, or else what can easily be answered or dismissed. He has the choice of whether or not to put it in his paper in the first place.

    Meanwhile, we’ve been doing this long enough to know that blogging does have an effect. People do read our blog, it does get forwarded around the country. We can point out that we get a lot of traffic from previous posts that we have done on these kinds of issues. We have an opportunity to have an effect, and to make a difference.

    For all of people’s stylish distaste for blogging, and I do understand that it in our circles, it is sexy to be opposed to blogging, we really are able to get our message out through this medium.

    In our opinion, the SOTL has compromised too much, and it is time to call them on it. Some day, we trust, there will be a change there.

  53. Anvil
    November 24, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    Actually, I was attempting to deal with Rom. 16:17, though it was in a fairly oblique fashion. I guess I’m trying to understand the practical outworking of that verse. There are several possibilities I can think of that might fit into “cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned”:

    1. Holding a position contrary to the official church position
    2. Discussing, in an information-sharing way, that position with others who do not share it.
    3. Teaching that position in one’s family rather than teaching the official position
    4. Attempting to persuade others of that position
    5. Acting on that position
    6. Attempting to get others to oppose the official position

    Obviously, from what you have written, you don’t believe #1 falls in that category, but you do believe that #5 does. Number 6 is fairly clear. I believe that #2 and #3 will naturally flow from #1, so I think they will come up eventually, though I don’t know if you would consider them a violation of Rom. 16:17. To take your example, if a person in your church believed that homosexuality was OK, but in fact didn’t have any temptations in that area himself, didn’t act on it, and never attempted to persuade others outside his family against the official church position, would he still be in unity? In any case, this is not a particularly interesting case to me, as this is not something that in most cases would divide fundamentalists — the biblical position on this is clear.

    What is more interesting is how this principle works when determining fellowship between churches, especially applied to fundamentalism as part of this discussion. Your church is in fellowship with several churches at least to some extent. For example, you recently spoke at a conference at Pastor Webb’s church. However, there will be “minor” differences (and I mean beyond differences on Jepththah or “the sons of God”) that will affect practice. For example, though you might agree with another church on complementarianism, you don’t have women voting in your church business meetings, though many other churches do, and I would guess that includes at least some churches with whom you are in fellowship. Or, from a previous discussion on Jackhammr, you have some disagreements with Pastor Mallinak as to the application and extent of parents doing the betrothal for their children. However, you still seem to be in fellowship.

    Now, you do accept difference in level of punishment for different offenses, while not accepting differences in “level” of doctrine. Would that “punishment” include level of separation? I.e. you wouldn’t necessarily separate over betrothal, but you would over the position on the textual issue? It sounds to me as if the difference you have with fundamentalists on this point is more a matter of terms, because the practice is the same — different levels of separation depending on the differences. If all doctrine is treated exactly the same with respect to separation, then it seems you would be forced to have the same separation from people with minor differences that you would with those preaching another gospel.

    It still looks to me as if you are doing exactly the same thing you are accusing fundamentalism of doing — allowing some unity without 100% agreement on every single teaching.

  54. November 24, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Kent can, I’m pretty certain, answer for himself on this question, but I have 2 cents burning a hole in my metaphorical pocket, so I’d like to jump in.

    Actually, I was surprised that when Kent spoke of disagreements, he mentioned Thomas and not me. I’m not bitter or anything. I can handle the public rejection and all, but I’m pretty sure that Kent and I have had some very public debates on several key issues — The Lord’s Supper (closed or close), Divorce and Remarriage, and most recently, courtship vs. betrothal. There are other disagreements that we share, but for the sake of keeping the blog interesting, we are spacing those disagreements out. You’ll have to keep coming back if you want to see what they are.

    Although Kent can probably enumerate the reasons more precisely than I, we have enough disagreement that I think I can give a somewhat authoritative reason for why we are still in good fellowship. I believe (and Kent will correct me if I am wrong on this) that Kent strives to do two things on every issue. The first is to define what the Biblical practice should be (e.g., “closed” communion, no divorce ever, betrothal), and from Scripture clearly define that position to his church. The second thing he strives to do is to clearly define what disobedience to Scripture would look like (e.g. “open” communion, divorce for any reason or no reason, recreational dating that defies parental involvement). I happen to know that Kent and I believe and practice the same on dress standards. We both take a pretty hard stance on it, clearly defined. I happen to know that Kent fellowships with churches who neither believe nor practice as he does on the issue. This is because he has defined from Scripture what he believes the standard should be (modest and gender-distinct), and he has also defined what disobedience to the standard would look like (anything goes, clearly immodest, gender neutral or even rebellious). The same could be said in music, since several of the churches he fellowships with do not practice the same on that issue.

    From my experience, Kent will argue vehemently for what he believes to be the Scriptural stance on practice in these areas. But he will not separate unless the church crosses the line and openly disobeys Scripture. Will some disagree with him about what disobedience to Scripture looks like? Certainly. But I think that his point on separation is that the Local Church does have authority in these issues, to determine what disobedience will look like, and to determine on that basis what the boundaries for fellowship should be.

    I will look forward to what Kent has to say to my comment here, and (if necessary) to learning a little more about his stance on this issue.

  55. November 24, 2008 at 11:31 am


    Thanks for coming over and commenting.

    What I see in Scripture is that God kills people for what many see as lesser teachings. What I see Scripture teach is that everything God says is important. Our church has decided what we break fellowship over. Dave and I agree on the principles of courtship. He applies them somewhat differently, but I believe there is liberty in the application part of it. Scripture does teach liberty and we don’t separate over non-scriptural issues. He and his church don’t violate the principles in his practice. We don’t cut churches off for dating. I didn’t take my position on this until 10-15 years ago. Everybody deserves the opportunity to grow, so we’re patient with all men. It may seem like we’re ignoring doctrine by continuing in fellowship with people who don’t take the same positions as us, but we can’t separate until we have at least attempted to teach the doctrine. I posted at my blog “How to Separate,” a message I preached at our church that would help you see our position. However, we don’t ignore the doctrine in our fellowship.

    We draw the line on the doctrine of preservation on the inerrancy of Scripture. Part of guarding doctrine is separating over it. We separate from those who refuse to believe the historic and scriptural doctrine of preservation. We don’t cut them off and separation does not mean that we won’t converse with them. We don’t fellowship with them. We believe that if we give in on this point then we are conceding errors in Scripture, which affects biblical authority. Again, with this position, I believe many have never heard a presentation on the biblical doctrine of preservation. It is one reason we wrote, Thou Shalt Keep Them.

    I’m doing nothing like what fundamentalism does. I know fundamentalism and I’m no fundamentalist.

  56. November 24, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    I didn’t actually see that Dave was writing at the same time as me, until several hours later when I checked in here. When I clicked ‘submit comment,’ I didn’t see his post was ahead of mine, so it reads like I ignored his comment.

    I think Dave represented us pretty well.

    Our church is settled on our doctrine and practice. We separate over what we define as an unrepentant violation of what we believe and practice. That moves way beyond separating over just essentials or over the gospel only. As an example, we separate over those who would not agree and practice that God hates divorce. We’re more strict on who we support as missionaries than who we would fellowship with.

    Anvil, you seem to really care about this issue. I think that’s great. You seem like you want to be consistent. We don’t become more consistent by looking for inconsistency and then using what we perceive as an inconsistency to make room for our own greater inconsistency. I believe that we are consistent. I don’t know of an area that I have not thought through as it relates to our separation on issues. If you thought you needed to separate from us based on some disobedience to Scripture, I would hope that we would have an opportunity to study it out, talk about it, and then decide first. If we remained in contradiction to your belief and practice, I would understand and even support your separating from us.

  57. November 24, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    BTW, is the Jackhammer blog underneath the authority of a particular church?

  58. November 24, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    If I say “no,” will you separate from us? 🙂

  59. November 24, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I’m under the authority of Bethel Baptist Church and what I do here fits within the purpose of Bethel and Bethel’s expectations of me as its overseer. I proclaim here the belief and practice of our church. I’m in fellowship with these two men.

  60. November 25, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Dear Pastor Voegtlin,


    I just thought it was worth asking, as the blog is all about asking questions.

  61. November 25, 2008 at 12:22 pm


    The writers are, the blog is not.

    I suppose the next question would be (now that you’ve set it up), why do you ask?

  62. Anvil
    November 25, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    I do care about this issue, especially since my beliefs seem to place me within what is known as “fundamental Christianity.” While it may sound as if I’m trying to find inconsistency and extend it, what I’m really trying to do in this instance is see 1. how your practice lines up with scripture (after all, you are making the argument that you are different from fundamentalism and that your practice lines up with scripture) and 2. how your practice actually differs from fundamentalism, so I can understand your complaint and decide if it has merit.

    You do allow some fellowship without 100% agreement. I believe that that is what Dr. Bauder is also arguing for, even if there is disagreement on terms “minor doctrine, vs. different responses to different levels of obedience), and extent (allowing differences on doctrines such as baptism or textual theory). It’s clear you don’t believe that any doctrinal difference results in complete separation, and in practice that seems equivalent to what the fundamentalists tried to do, even if they allowed (and still allow) a wider variation than you do. It’s pretty obvious that even Paul treated various differences in a variety of ways as well (let him be accursed vs. mark and avoid vs. each shall answer to his own master etc.)

    I’m not sure I need to separate from you guys at Jackhammr in the sense of never being able to have a dialog or debate, but in a church sense, I am already separated from you. The churches with which I would be in fellowship would generally not be in your circle. I know for a fact we disagree in the following areas (most of which you have probably already gleaned from my postings here):

    – MT/TR-Only vs. majority-preferred
    – Baptist-only vs. other (like Sam, I also do not come from a baptist background)
    – Immersion only vs. other methods also being allowed
    – No pants on women vs. modesty and gender distinction
    – No women in authority over men ever vs. no women in authority over men in the church and home
    – Closed communion vs. open
    – Local church only vs. local/universal (with local being the focus of all practice/assembly)
    – Music intrinsically wrong vs. music wrong because of worldly association

    I could go on, but that’s not really necessary. What I’m trying to determine is how differences in the above areas should be treated. I’m not sure which would have to do with liberty, which with differences in interpretation, etc., nor how separation should be applied in every case. I certainly do not treat the above as I would treat my differences with those who preach a false gospel, or even as I would treat those evangelicals who distort the gospel through questionable associations or complete ecumenicalism.

    I also don’t seen any practical distinction between “thinking the best of” and not asking about or dealing with differences. Again, at most it seems a difference of degree, not in substance.

    I also can see problems with fundamentalism that need serious attention, but I don’t see the idea that every difference in doctrine/teaching does not need to be separated over as being one of them, hence my questions/interaction on this month’s topic.

    Apologies to Pastor Mallinak for derailing this thread.

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