Home > Brandenburg, Separation > Jerry Bridges Judges Judgmentalism

Jerry Bridges Judges Judgmentalism

Jerry Bridges published Trusting God in 1991, Transforming Grace in 1993, and The Pursuit of Holiness in 1996.  I read all three over ten years ago.  They were about as strong as you’ll read from evangelicals.  As is typical of those who disobey the biblical doctrine of separation, Bridges falls short in application.  If you trust God, you will separate; if God’s grace has transformed you, you will separate; and if you are pursuing holiness, then you will separate.  The constituency of Jerry Bridges and Navigators, the parachurch organization he served for many years, would enjoy the squishy softness of his books.  People not pursuing holiness would enjoy The Pursuit of Holiness.  They could read the book and still not be sure what unholiness might be.

Bridges exposes himself in a recent book, published in 2007, entitled, Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate.  Bridges always has much solid material in his writing.  However, what some might call grace and love really is weakness.  I can’t tolerate Bridges’ mushiness anymore.  It’s not always what he says, but what he doesn’t.   A respectable sin we shouldn’t tolerate is mistaking love for syrupy sentimentality.  That will stop a pursuit of holiness in its tracks.

I’m especially referring to chapter 17 in Bridges’ book on what he calls the sin of “judgmentalism.”  Many evangelicals love the chapter.  However, try to find judgmentalism in the Bible—that’s a bridge to nowhere, pun intended.  Since judgmentalism isn’t in the Bible, is Bridges guilty of making his own opinion into the commandment of God?

Bridges judges judgmentalism, but how can he do that and not be judgmental?In order to understand sins that we shouldn’t tolerate, well, we’ve got to judge sin.   There’s an assumption that we can judge and we should.  Not judging would be a sin that we shouldn’t tolerate.

Bridges essentially says that judgmentalism is when we don’t show toleration for disputed practices.  What I’ve noticed, however, is that almost everything is disputed now.  At one time we were much more sure about what the truth was and its application.  And so if it is disputed, which is now about everything, then you’ve got to just agree to disagree and learn to get along, and then not doing that, with the view of Bridges, is judgmentalism.  You’ll have to do a lot of getting along.  Getting along has become the most important doctrine.

Bridges says that “the sin of judgmentalism is one of the most subtle of our ‘respectable’ sins because it is often practiced under the guise of being zealous for what is right.”   Hearing that sentence, you just know that evangelicals are going to love it.  Then he gives examples of disputed practices where the sin of judgmentalism is practiced, and comments on each:  dress, music, and alcohol.  If his book can stop evangelicals and now fundamentalists from being judged in those areas, he might have a bestseller on his hands.

Now as you are reading this post at home, and are judging my tone, I ask “What verse tells you that my tone is wrong?”  Aren’t you adding to Scripture if you can’t give me actual text from the Bible that says my take on Bridges’ chapter violates God’s will?  Or is it just a feeling that you have?  How do you know that feeling isn’t the Holy Spirit convicting you?  Are you being judgmental?  I think you know, my reader, that you are busy judging all the time.  And those to the left of me are judging my tone right now.   Tone isn’t even one of Bridges’ “respectable sins.”  I’m judging that non-separatist evangelicals liked the chapter on judgmentalism (my spell check says it’s not a word), not for themselves, but for “fundamentalists” who are judgmental.   For them at best it explains why they should be free in the areas of dress, music, and alcohol.

DRESS

Bridges writes a shallow, ultra-superficial section on dress, that if it were almost any other subject, would be dismissed out of hand, but evangelicals so crave this sort of freedom, they suck it up like a strawberry shake.   He says (pp. 141-142):

I grew up in the mid-twentieth century, when people dressed up to go to church.  Men wore jackets and ties (usually suits and ties) and women wore dresses.  Sometime in the 1970s, men began to show up at church wearing casual pants and open-collar shirts.  Many women began to wear pants. For several years, I was judgmental toward them.  Didn’t they have any reverence for God? Would they dress so casually if they were going to an audience with the president? That sounded pretty convincing to me.

In the next paragraph he observes, “There is nothing in the Bible that tells us what we ought to wear to church. . . . Reverence for God, I finally concluded, is not a matter of dress; it’s a matter of the heart.”  What is lacking in this level of analysis is good judgment.  Why did men start showing up in casual pants and open-collar shirts?  Why did women begin to wear pants?  And who were these people?  Why did the culture start to change?  What was this new emphasis on creature comfort and convenience?  Do these changes have no meaning?  How much, if at all, should the church be conforming to the spirit of the age?

Bridges’ dealing with all of the subjects in his chapter miss an important aspect of obedience to God’s Word, that is, the application of the principles of Scripture.  The Apostle Paul taught the financial support of the pastor in 1 Timothy 5:18 from Deuteronomy 25:4, a verse which teaches the fair treatment of a domestic animal (“Thou shalt not muzzle the ox which treadeth out the corn.”).

Most of Scripture requires application and to make the right application certain truths must exist in the real world.  To abstain from corrupt communication, you’ve got to judge what bad words are with no help in the Bible.  Regarding dress, Paul ordered the believing women of Corinth to wear their head coverings (1 Cor 11:3-16) without any previous verse of Scripture to authorize that specific practice.  If women didn’t wear the head coverings, couldn’t they just warn fellow church members not to participate in the respectable sin of judgmentalism?

MUSIC

Then Bridges moves on to music:

I also grew up in the era of the grand old hymns sung to the accompaniment of piano and organ. It was majestic. To me, it was reverent worship of God. Today, in many churches, the grand old hymns have been replaced by contemporary music, and the piano and organ with guitars and drums. Again, I was judgmental. How could people worship God with those instruments? But the New Testament churches had neither pianos nor organs, yet they managed to worship God in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (see Colossians 3:16). I still have a preference for church music sung as we did when I was younger, but it’s just that—a preference—not a Bible-based conviction. It’s true that a lot of contemporary music is shallow and human-centered. But there is much that is as God-honoring and worshipful as our traditional hymns. So let’s avoid being judgmental.

How did Bridges know if the old hymns were grand or majestic?  Why are churches replacing them with contemporary music?  What’s the difference between the music with piano organ and that with guitars and drums?  How does he know that the New Testament churches didn’t have instruments?  What verse says that they didn’t use instruments?  On what basis does he judge the contemporary music to be God-honoring and worshipful?  He is judging that, so what is the basis?  He says, “let’s avoid being judgmental,” and yet he’s obviously making his own judgment and criticizing.  He’s judging that people have no basis for judgment, so that if they do judge, they are sinning.  He’s calling people’s judgment about the contemporary music “sin.”  I don’t know if I like his tone.  My pursuit of holiness says that I need to judge worship, whether it is acceptable to God, since it is being offered to Him.

Is Jerry Bridges saying that only the words have any meaning in worship, and the music is meaningless?  Is music meaningless?  Can we use grunge music?  What about rap?  Is heavy metal fine?  Is there any line that Jerry Bridges draws?  If so, he’s judging too.  I guess some people would think that such pablum as what Bridges writes is significant enough to conclude everyone who judges some worship music to be wrong to be sinning in doing so.  We’ve got the thing that we should be the most picky about in the world, our worship of God, and Bridges wants to tamp down that pickyness so that people won’t feel so criticized.  God gets disrespected and blasphemed so that men can have fun and feel good—party time at church at God’s expense.

ALCOHOL

Bridges completes his triumvirate with alcohol, the last of three pets close to most evangelical hearts.  He writes:

We have convictions that we elevate to biblical truth on a number of issues. I wrote somewhere that I had finally come to the conclusion that in most instances, the Bible teaches temperance not abstinence. I had to work through that issue also because again I found myself being judgmental when I would see Christians having a glass of wine at a restaurant.

Bridges’ second sentence in that quote I judge to be ridiculous.  I wish he had an editor who was a little more judgmental, but I guess that’s what happens when you throw this kind of judgment under the beer truck.  The Bible can’t teach both temperance and abstinence.  He says that in most instances it teaches temperance.  If it teaches abstinence in a lesser number of instances, those instances would be contradicting temperance.   His judgmentalism, he testifies, caused him to “work through that issue.”   Some people have a hard time working through even simple problems when they are under the influence of one drink of alcohol.  If the Bible teaches abstinence even a few times, shouldn’t we judge drinking a glass of wine as disobedience to Scripture?  Shouldn’t we applaud that judgment?  Now what he’s going to do about it is another thing, but it’s a fine thing to make a judgment.

I understand that there are professing Christians that think that drinking alcohol is acceptable to God.  There are many others that believe that alcohol is prohibited by God in the Bible.  The ones who understand it correctly, that is, that God forbids alcoholic beverages, really should continue to judge people who are drinking it, despite what Jerry Bridges seems to be trying to do with heavy applause from a large evangelical audience, that with this chapter and the present condition of evangelicalism, will be growing even larger.

Conclusion

Here’s what has happened.  Rationalism in the 19th century placed truth under human reasoning.  In the 20th century, every person’s opinion stands as his own authority.  The only permissible dogma is tolerance.  That philosophy now is accepted by many if not most churches.  Bridges’ chapter against judgmentalism represents the influence of that philosophy.  If you follow what Jerry Bridges writes here, you shouldn’t judge if your church were to have a rock concert, serve alcohol at it, and everybody came in their shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops.  They can call it “worship” ta boot.  Evangelicalism already does this and some of the younger fundamentalists are totally kewl with it.

To be effective, Scripture must be applied.  To apply God’s Word, Christians must judge.  They make decisions based on biblical principles.  The most prominent present attack on the Bible in evangelicalism and fundamentalism is against its application.   The attack says, “Don’t judge.”  It means, “You can’t know how the Bible applies.”  God’s Word then loses its authority in many practices of churches and their members.

My recommendation to you is don’t listen to Bridges.  Keep applying the Bible and biblical principles to dress, music, and alcohol.  Keep judging in those areas.

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  1. Kyle
    January 12, 2011 at 6:58 am | #1

    “Love one another?”….none of that in this article! It may be a good idea to think about all the verses that say that (and what love means) before making comments about another brother in the Lord.

    • Joshua
      January 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm | #2

      Hello Kyle,

      The Apostle Paul wrote these words in Philippians 1:9-10

      And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
      That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

      If you do come back and wish to interact, I was wondering what your interpretation of these verses would be. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit had no problem linking abounding love and judgement. I think this is what Pastor Brandenburg means when he says that what he is doing is loving.

  2. Buddy Woolbright
    January 12, 2011 at 8:49 am | #3

    1. Re: Dress. I do not find any where in the Bible where it indicates that God’s people dressed up special for church or spiritual meetings. But then they didn’t have to. They dressed decently all the time. While I was in Iraq during Desert Storm I was on a bus full of soldiers on an Arabian Air Force Base. During our time there all Moslem women were completly coverd when in public. Even to faces and hands. Our bus stopped to wait for a busload of Moslem women to leave their bus. As one of them stepped on the curb someone saw an ankle. The bus erupted with raucous laughter.
    2. Re: Music Colossians 3:16 tells us to teach and admonish one another with “palms, hymns and spiritual songs.” I am hard pressed to find any spirituality in contemporary, 7-11 type music.
    3. Re: Alcohol No other drug has done so much damage to so many people as alcohol. No tee-totaler has ever killed anyone in a druken stupor. If a man drinks a quart of non-fermented fruit of the vine, he may regurgitate but he still has all his senses. A quart of fermented fruit of the vine will make him a danger to everyone with whom he comes in contact. Any use of recreational alcohol is potentially dangerous.
    My judgement may not be perfect but I pray it will always be Biblical.
    bw, 2 Timoteo 1:9

  3. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 8:52 am | #4

    “What I’ve written to this point does not mean that we should never pass judgment on the practices and beliefs of others. When someone’s lifestyle or conduct is clearly out of line with the Scriptures, then we are right to say that the person is sinning.”

    Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, p. 146

  4. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 9:31 am | #5

    I will say I don’t judge Buddy’s anecdote from Moslem culture, his single sentence parsing of a broad musical category, and his assertions about varied juice use to be a demonstration of good judgement.

  5. Anvil
    January 12, 2011 at 10:29 am | #6

    Whether temperance or abstinence is taught by the various scriptures, it’s clear that the Bible *could* teach both without it being “ridiculous.” For example, consider Nazarites, or kings sitting in judgment. Nazarites were also told to be “abstinent” from touching dead bodies, but that clearly was not true in general. God’s admonishment to Peter during his vision also seems to be relevant here.

    @Buddy, “I am hard pressed to find any spirituality in contemporary, 7-11 type music” hardly qualifies as a scriptural argument, or even a very good statement of application. Also, the fact that alcohol is dangerous is irrelevant to whether scripture permits or prohibits it. Swords are dangerous weapons and the Bible at various times permits or decries their use, depending on other factors. Those arguments sound good when we use them, but they are ultimately unhelpful in determining what God thinks about something. His revelation to us, and interpreting it correctly, are all we need.

    Pastor Brandenburg, I think we all agree that applications need to be made from scripture, but without direct revelation, which is what we have regarding Paul’s application of not muzzling the ox, we have to be much more careful in making our application equal to God’s words, lest we go against what is said at the end of Revelation. It’s not that universal applications can’t be made at all, but we can’t simply throw them around either and claim that they are God’s will just because Paul (acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) did so in some cases.

    God certainly wants us to judge righteous judgments, but we are also not to call what he has called good common or unclean. We need to use care in our applications.

  6. January 12, 2011 at 11:02 am | #7

    We get far more upset and discriminatory about our cheeseburgers (I like mine a certain way) than we do dress, music, and alcohol – but dress, music and alcohol are far more important than a sandwich. God has something to say about it, including the sandwich (1 Cor. 10:31). While connecting the dots (applying Scripture) seems to be where the “tension” is, there really isn’t any. You either love God and obey His commandments, or you don’t.

  7. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm | #8

    Commandments=Applications, Bill?

  8. January 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm | #9

    d4, 1 John 5:2,3.

  9. Buddy Woolbright
    January 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm | #10

    According to d4v34x (I wish I knew what the stands for.) I may need to repent of my anecdeotes, single sentence parsing and assertions. But I stand where I stand in the Word of God and for the good of people. Jeremiah 5:25
    bw, 2 Timoteo 1:9

  10. john336kjb
    January 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm | #11

    Could it be Daniel 4:34 ??

    We should be prepared to give a reason and of course our reason should rest in scripture.

    Good article ,nice use of alliteration.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Br. Steve

    Gal. 2.20

  11. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm | #12

    d4v3
    dAvE
    Dave

    For the good of people I understand and agree. And I agree with standing on what the Word says. But I have a problem when someone says there is a command where there isn’t one, as well as equating applications with commands.

  12. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm | #13

    Bill, your proof text does not address my issue.

  13. January 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm | #14

    Kyle,

    You’re judging me. How do you know I don’t love Jerry Bridges? I think I love him more than you do. Love doesn’t equal acceptance. And I did mention love—I said it wasn’t syrupy sentimentality. Obviously Jerry Bridges calls my judgment sinfulness. You don’t seem to have a problem with that. Many would call that a harsher judgment than what I’m making here about him. He falls way short of proving any of his points.

    D4,

    I gave good examples in my piece and Anvil briefly commented on just one of them. I believe they debunk what Bridges writes. Jesus in the Upper Room Discourse in John said, If ye love me, keep my words, sayings, and commandments. It isn’t just commands if we love Him. Obviously we’re supposed to apply the principles for the glory of God. When one of the seven churches in Rev 2 ate meat offered unto idols, Jesus said He would oppose them for that. Wasn’t that a liberty? God did not give us liberty as a base of operations for the flesh.

    Anvil,

    The Bible doesn’t teach both abstinence and temperance—those two positions contradict each other. You can’t have it both ways. You didn’t prove otherwise in your comment. We should make application like the examples we see with Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, etc. And Jesus obviously expected it. Certainly we can show love in our judgment and judgment in our love, but the principles of Scripture should guide us, as they have. Churches dressed a certain way and played music a certain way—they changed. Did they change to fit the culture or because they had some conviction from Scripture? I believe history shows it was the former rather than the latter. The church is to turn the world upside down, not vice versa. The alcohol issue is less an application issue as it is an interpretational one, but for decades, men didn’t believe this was a disputed issue. Why are we sinning to continue not calling it clear and plain? I could say that Bridges is attacking the perspecuity of Scripture as well.

    Everyone else,

    Thanks for your comments.

  14. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm | #15

    It isn’t just commands if we love Him.

    I agree, but we can’t equate commands and applications. They aren’t the same thing. Applications are where we have to allow someone *some* leeway.

    • January 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm | #16

      Words, sayings, and commands. Scripture is authoritative in more than biblical commands.

  15. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm | #17

    No one is arguing that some scripture is not authoritative. Words, sayings, and commands are explicit statemtents, some of which carry implications (implicit outcomes not expressly stated).

    Some application results from discerning the implicit. Those are the convictions we need to hold, as Bridges says, humbly.

    You gave us a great example of this in weeks past. One of the churches you are in fellowship with does not hold the same position on divorce as your church. Similar, not the same. You’ve agreed to let it go as long as you both hold “God hates divorce”.

  16. January 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm | #18

    d4,
    Application is contingent upon His commandments (i.e. His words, The Sacred Sciptures). I don’t think any IFB standard (be it dress, music, or prohibition of alcoholic beverages) is a misapplication of God’s Word.

  17. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm | #19

    I’m sure you don’t or you wouldn’t keep it around.

  18. January 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm | #20

    What about you?

  19. d4v34x
    January 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm | #21

    Oddly, I’m an Independant Fundamentalist Baptist, yet my (and my church’s) standards aren’t the same as yours in dress, Bible version etc.

    Not sure what you’re asking.

  20. January 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm | #22

    D4,

    Is Bridges saying that the judging of drinking alcohol as sin the actual sin?

    Is Bridges saying that the judging of a particular music as ungodly, false worship the actual sin?

    Is Bridges saying that judging certain dress to be inappropriate for corporate worship a sin?

    Do you think the same as Bridges?

    Was Elijah humble when he gave the message to Ahab, was John the Baptist when he gave the message to Herod, was Stephen humble when he preached his last message there in Jerusalem, and was Jesus humble when he gave the message to the religious leaders and cleansed the temple? Was Aaron humble when he gave his message about the golden calves?

    • Joshua
      January 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm | #23

      Pastor Brandenburg,

      The answer to your last paragraph here is already a forgone conclusion. Everyone is convinced that you should be bold, brave, fearless when you are 100% certain that you are 100% right and that what they are doing is 100% against what the Scripture clearly and definitely teaches. Everything else they wish to be exceptionally careful about.

      Unfortunately, as you’ve already pointed out, that list of things you can be that sure about is a dramatically shrinking list. This is constantly catching evangelicals and fundamentalists by surprise. Case in point: John Piper. John Piper is a man of God! John Piper stands for truth! John Piper knows who the real enemies of the Gospel are! John Piper is certain about the stuff we can be certain about and doubts the stuff we should doubt! John Piper is… having Rick Warren to preach??? Observe the rife confusion of his conservative evangelical fans as suddenly he trundles out the uncertainty about what actually makes someone a false teacher and how we can’t judge these things.

      They want that perfect situation where someone flatly contradicts something that is said 2000 times in Scripture and no one has ever disagreed with before. They’re waiting for it to be said by a man with beady eyes, a small Hitler-esque mustache and clear, malicious intentions that all their friends can see also. Until this perfect situation presents itself, they’re going to err on the side of “non-judgementalism”. They are waiting for 20/20 hindsight before they’re going to obey God. It’s utterly faithless.

      • January 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm | #24

        Joshua,

        I would say you hit target bullseye, but we’re not using gun metaphors here at the moment, as we are told they incite violence.

  21. d4v34x
    January 13, 2011 at 5:46 am | #25

    Just to be clear: my “standard” on alcohol is the same as probably everyone’s here (although I get there differently than some of you and hold it for myself and my family only). My standard on music is very very similar to Bro. B’s, at least, not sure about the rest of you guys, but I won’t hold you in contempt. I’ve rehearsed my differences on dress here plenty. No need to belabor that.

    Bridges uses those things as exempli gratia (probably because those are the hotter buttons in his circles) to make the point that we must be careful when judging the motives, level of love for the Lord, and the discernment of people who draw their lines in different places than we do on issues about which the Bible doesn’t specifically draw the line for us. To be contemptuous of them or write them of as liberals or libertines can be sin. I agree with him.

    And your list of people who did not evidence humility with their particular messages are apples and oranges to this.

  22. January 13, 2011 at 8:46 am | #26

    What I’ve read of Bro. Bridges thoughts on judgmentalism are beneficial, IMO, (I checked the book out from the library so I can get more than a synopsis or chapter excerpt)- until he gives specific examples, because the examples are distracting.

    The fact is, we usually don’t know the underlying reasons people act as they do, so while we might see a woman in what we would consider to be immodest dress, we don’t know WHY she is dressed that way. She may be a new Christian and not at that stage in her spiritual growth. Or, she may understand that what she is wearing is immodest, but she doesn’t yet have the financial means to purchase a new wardrobe. She may have a lost husband who insists she dresses as she does so she feels caught between obeying her husband and being more modest.

    I think that is the more important point to be made. Too many times we make decisions about others without having any backstory whatsoever, so we often lack compassion and mercy.

    We could discuss all day what is and isn’t modest. For instance, I teach my daughter to use the 3 finger rule for her shirt collars. You place your index finger at the base of your throat, and if the shirt collar is lower than 3 fingers, it’s out of the question. I think I’d probably lose a hand if I tried to go around judging others by the measures of modesty that our family has decided on for us.

    And I think Bro. Bridges stated somewhere that judgmentalism works both ways. Our family has been accused of being ‘holier-than-thou’ because of our ‘conservative’ beliefs and practices- beliefs we never point out or debate with friends and family. Our mere existence is usually enough of an offense to warrant these petty attacks.

    Judgmentalism is the attitude condemned in 2Cor. 10:12. We aren’t to measure our spirituality to others, or other’s spirituality by our own. The measure is Scripture and those principles clearly defined. How we apply those to what is and isn’t accepted by our culture can differ somewhat without accusing someone else of being in sin. We often lack charity, simple tact, humility and long suffering with others when it comes to these differences, so then we aren’t practicing Gal. 6:1 or Mtt. 7:1-5, and if we haven’t considered ourselves before we approach someone else, we’ve got no business opening our mouths or brandishing our keyboards.

    The purpose of judgmentalism (as opposed to Godly judgment) isn’t to restore or edify- it is for the purposes of inflating one’s own ego and humiliating others. It allows wolves to put on the sheep’s clothing and remain undetected while devouring the flock. Maybe it’s the terminology that results in such a disconnect- but I am heartily in favor of less judgmentalism. James 2:13

  23. January 13, 2011 at 11:27 am | #27

    Susan R,

    Thanks for the comment. You gave a different definition to judgmentalism than Bridges. Bridges’ definition is the judging itself. Yours is a kind of attitude when judging, better-than-thou, Pharisaical. He is, however, saying these issues can’t be judged by the Bible. To argue Bridges, we at least have to get Bridges right, and if he’s difficult to understand, then he isn’t being so helpful. I think he can be understood, however, and what he’s saying is wrong. I believe Bridges hurts the cause of proper discernment, which is, long-termed good judgment. I believe Joshua here hit it right when he used the word faithless. We’ve got a generation of young people who don’t think scripture applies to these areas, due to the influence of men like Bridges. We’ve got less biblical living as a result, and less holiness.

    D4,

    You didn’t answer my questions. I would answer yours.

    And the last long question was in response to your saying Bridges is humble. I think often there is a faux humility, voluntary humility, especially among evangelicals that isn’t humility at all. It comes across as humility to the undiscerning, but humility isn’t doing what I want, but what God wants. You can’t be humbly wrong. Aaron put himself down and lifted the golden calves up, an act of humility, or not. You can’t humbly disobey scripture. When you do that you are putting yourself above scripture. “We just can’t judge, because we just can’t know” says humility, but if you can know, then you aren’t putting confidence in God or His Word to make that judgment, but yourself. That isn’t humility, but pride.

    • January 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm | #28

      Some issues can’t be judged by Scripture in the sense that there is no clear cut principle that addresses it. For instance, in the blurb I read, it seems that Bridges is talking about the difference between wearing formal vs. casual clothing to church. Does the Bible tell us to wear suits and ties/high heels and pantyhose to church? No- our culture dictates that certain forms of attire are for formal events, and historically church has been viewed as such.

      But- if someone is dressed casually for church, I do not have the ability to discern whether or not their dress is a reflection of a casual attitude toward God.

      The danger I see in believing that we can discern other’s Christian character based on their appearance is that this is the most useful tool in the Pharisees’ toolbox. They know how to dress the part and speak the language. And what is truly scary is when these wolves are given positions of authority and influence over the sheep because we’ve set up these outward standards as being primary indicators of Godliness while often ignoring more significant behavior patterns, such as honesty, generosity, patience, and compassion.

      Many growing Christians actually benefit by offering fewer specifics and focusing on the overall principles, allowing the Holy Spirit to do the convicting. Example- I know two young women who got saved a few years ago. One wore very tight clothing and shirts and shoes that revealed her tattoos. The other was very fond of sunbathing at the local public pool. Both were encouraged to read and study Scripture, but nothing was said about their clothing. They saw what the other mature women were wearing, and began to ask some questions. Specifics weren’t given, instead they were shown Scriptures regarding modesty and that our desire should be for people to focus on Christ in us rather than on our beauty. I would ask them questions like “What do you want people to remember about you? Your body, your clothing, or your meek and quiet spirit?”

      Over the course of a year, these young ladies began to subtly change what they wore, and today they are models of chaste behavior and appearance. In one conversation with the sunbather, she was telling me about a shopping trip where she was looking at the bikinis on sale, and suddenly it was as if the Lord spoke to her and said “Where are you going to wear that?” It dawned on her that she could no longer go out in public in a bathing suit. She was so excited about how God showed that to her- I wouldn’t trade listening to her testimony for all the dress codes in the Bible Belt. That was precious, and IMO the way things oughta be.

      Let ‘em toddle, let ‘em fall down, let ‘em get back up and build their spiritual muscles. After all, we aren’t talking about behaviors that are immoral or illegal, but about the kind of fine tuning that is best left up to the Lord. I believe that kind of change I saw in those young women will be lasting because they weren’t outwardly conforming because of peer pressure- they experienced a change of heart.

      However, I can see that any time we are perceived as ‘weakening’ an argument for exercising more purity in our lives, some people pounce on it “See, I can wear anything I want to church and you can’t judge me! Na-na-na-na-na-na!”. This doesn’t negate the principle- what it does is reveal that person’s lack of character or desire to pursue holiness.

      I’ll have to read more of Jerry Bridges’ materials to get a better picture, but the message I perceived in this particular excerpt was that it is OK to have all the standards and convictions you like, but exercise them with humility. I can’t see a down side to that.

  24. John Gardner
    January 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm | #29

    Bishops are not to be given to wine and deacons are to be proved (1 Tim. 3:3, 10). It seems the Holy Spirit wants us judging righteously. Proved (dokimazō) is also found, interestingly in:

    Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may PROVE what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

  25. d4v34x
    January 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm | #30

    I’ll answer the questions, but I think they’re beside the point.

    I read Bridges to say that reflexively judging the drinking that falls between teetotalling and drunkeness as unquestionably sinful is sinfully judgmental. He states that judging someone wearing more casual clothes to church than you believe one ought to wear as irreverant before the Lord is sinful. He expressly states that categorizing all contemporary worship music utilizing drums and guitars as being innappropriate for worship is sinful.

    I essentially agree with him on the first two. I technically agree with him on the third, but I think his words imply more than they explicitly express, and I don’t agree with what I think he’s really getting at. And if pressed, I think he’d have to disagree with his own words. Almost everyone I’ve ever talked to on music has ultimately admitted there is music they believe is abjectly unfit for worship (and for similar reasons I find theirs unfit). They just draw their line in a different place.

    Again, see above for what I practice myself and advise for others based on application of commands, principles, and cultural meanings.

  26. d4v34x
    January 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm | #31

    Now that that’s out of the way, I also didn’t say I thought Bridges was being humble, (although I have no reason to think he isn’t in general). I was repeating his admonition (quoted in the article I suspect you drew this from), as I think it’s appropriate and heads off stuff like “you either love God and follow the IFB standards or you don’t.”

    And I really think he was getting at the kind of judgmentalism Susan was talking about, a type of which can be perpetrated in the scenarios he puts forward.

  27. Buddy Woolbright
    January 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm | #32

    It is my judgement, IMHO, that d4v34z, (I still wish I knew what that stands for) has no firm convictions on any of the subjects mentioned in Bro. B’s article. Rather that he loves to display his erudition and linguistic prowess. Or in simple Texas tongue, he’s just an argue-box. Course down here, we’d pronounce it argeebox. Possibly he has no other forum from which to exhibit this personal characteristic. Remember just IMHO.
    bw, 2 Timoteo 1:9

  28. d4v34x
    January 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm | #33

    Sigh.

    My firm (if concise) convictions, Mr. Woolbright, are that God forbids drunkeness and (and seeking of or finding ultimate satisfaction in things, buzzes, enjoyments, thrills, posessions, or pizza), and warns against the seductivness of alcoholic beverages. This, coupled with the decietfulness of our (especially my) own hearts, means I won’t take a drop. I won’t let my family take a drop. And, because of the drinking culture in our country (people drink for the buzz), I advise by brothers and sisters in Christ to abstain.

    I think one should dress in neat attire, not adopting trends that have signifigant negative cultural baggage attached to them, nor insisting on looking dowdy. I think ladies should dress in a way that Susan aptly and succinctly described, so that no one is drawn to notice their bodies or flashy dress, but rather their character and shining face (that’s a biblical reference, I don’t mean they can’t wear some makeup). I don’t believe that precludes them wearing feminine slacks.

    I think music should be worthy of the God to whom it is sung. I think that means it will be beautiful, reverent, modest, and express ordinate affections. I think those attributes are not characteristic of Rock and some other contemporary styles.

    I have arrived at all these positions after seeking to discern what the scriptures actually said about matters relating directly and tangentially to these areas, and then applying those principles.

    I realize I said some things in comments above (particularly to you, Buddy) that were needlessly argumentative and less than gracious. Please forgive me.

  29. January 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm | #34

    D4,

    The questions were on point, unless you had another point in mind than saying that judging is sinful if it goes beyond a standard of judgment by which Bridges operates. A respectable sin according to Bridges is that we judge people’s dress, music, and drink different than he does. His judgment, one which allows for jean cut-offs and flip flops (since Scripture doesn’t mention jean cut-offs or flip flops) for church, grunge music in worship, and alcohol drinking short of drunkenness, in the judgment of himself, is NOT sinful. Bridges is convinced that Bridges has the correct way of judgment, the non sinful form of judgment.

    You wrote in comment #17: “Some application results from discerning the implicit. Those are the convictions we need to hold, as Bridges says, humbly.” Notice the last word.

    D4, you take different positions than Bridges. Do you believe that people who judge any drinking of alcohol as sin as sinning in their judgment, the sin being one of judgmentalism? This is what Bridges believes.

    Susan,

    I don’t think you are getting Bridges. What you are espousing, I can agree with, which is essentially, help people move from one position to another in a loving, caring way, not accepting however their dress, their music, or their booze. We don’t act like that cigarettes are what send people to hell, yet at the same time helping someone stop smoking. Yet we still judge the smoking to be wrong.

    Anyone,

    What verse says smoking cigarettes or snorting crack cocaine are wrong?

  30. January 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm | #35

    Everyone,

    Bridges is informing everyone that if the Bible doesn’t talk about casual dress for worship, you can’t judge casual dress for worship to be wrong. He says that he doesn’t know that casual dress means anything. Do we all agree that casual dress MEANS NOTHING? Does casual dress at a wedding mean nothing too? If the Bible doesn’t say something means something, does that mean it doesn’t mean anything? If I were to write a four letter word, not found in the Bible, yet people saw it to be sinful, are they judgmental? Let’s be consistent in this.

    Paul describes love, which is required for a Christian, in 1 Cor 13. Love is of God. Not loving is not of God. He says that love does not behave itself unseemly or unbecomingly or inapppropriately. What does that mean? It seems we have to apply that kind of statement to live it. That’s just one example of application.

    Should we as Christians, should churches, be the ones who help bring our culture to the place where our own comfort prevails over respect? Do we want to alleviate as many means as possible that we can show respect? Is being respectful a Christian duty? Does God deserve respect? Is this just a heart matter or can we show it in our appearance and in external ways? Are you fine with respect from your children in just the heart regardless of the outward appearance?

    John Gardner,

    Good point on the word “prove.”

  31. January 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm | #36

    I guess I need to read more of Bridges then. I wasn’t getting all that from the excerpt I read.

  32. David J. Warner
    January 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm | #37

    Comment #35 from Pastor B. is a great point to consider. Relativistic philosophy and postmodernism have done havoc on many Christian minds today. It is absurd joke from Satan, making the holy mind of saints an unholy container of blendered trash. Can an abominable and disobedient mentality be called Christian? This rebel generation will fall.

  33. d4v34x
    January 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm | #38

    1)If I were to write a four letter word, not found in the Bible, yet people saw it to be sinful . . .

    What people? IFBs or just any old folk from the world?

    Also, I answered the question you re-asked me above.

  34. d4v34x
    January 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm | #39

    Bridges is convinced that Bridges has the correct way of judgment, the non sinful form of judgment.

    True or False. Brandenburg is convinced that Brandenburg has the correct way of judgment, the non-sinful form of judgement.

    His point is not about getting us to accept and live under his convictions on the matter. He expressly states that he doesn’t want to change your or my convictions on drinking, CCM, or flip-flops.

    He does want us to admit there are some areas where we ought to allow for differences of application and conviction.

    Of course it is going to be hard for those who are dogmatic in some of these areas to allow for that.

  35. Buddy Woolbright
    January 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm | #40

    Dear d4v34x, Thank you your kind apology. I never took personal offense so it really wasn’t necessary. But I do appreciate it and certainly accept it in the spirit wherewith it was offered. I have had to do the same more times than I want to admit. I further appreciated your statement of personal convictions and may the Lord bless you in them. If calling you an argeebox was belittling, then I too ask your forgiveness.
    BTW, I am still desire to understand your personal designation, d4v34x. Please…… Sincerely in Christ, bw, 2 Timoteo 1:9

  36. January 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm | #41

    Just some thoughts I’ve been thinking while stirring the spaghetti sauce-

    ‘Casual’ is a ambiguous term. Compared to some, I dress casually for church because my clothes tend to be plain, my shoes are flats, my makeup is subtle. It’s entirely possible that I am guilty of channeling Aunt Marilla.

    If ‘casual’ means what I wear to paint the shutters and mow the yard or angels forfend- pajamas, then yes- that’s a problem. But that’s not only based on MY wardrobe, it’s based on my knowledge and views on propriety and modesty and reverence. So if someone has not come to the place where they have the knowledge or the resources to address their wardrobe, I believe do more harm than good to say that jeans and flip-flops are sin because it might be the best they have at the time.

    Four letter words are a funny thing, IMO. Growing up on a farm, it wasn’t considered an obscenity to refer to cow excrement with the S-word or a female dog as a B-word. It was part of the general vocabulary of farming, just like we can Scripturally use the word ‘hell’ in reference to the place, but it’s inappropriate to use as an interjection.

    There are truths that are principle (rather than mandate) driven and left to us to discern and apply within our current culture. It IS important to be consistent, but sometimes what the church does with intractable Consistency is mow people over with Zero Tolerance policies. Real life ministering often requires us take into consideration the details of each unique situation in its context.

    I’m comfortable with the principle that what is in the heart WILL come out in behavior (Prov. 4:23, Mt. 12:34, Lk. 6:45, Jms. 3:12) – it’s unavoidable. But what is on the outside is not necessarily a reflection of what is on the inside- it could be a mask. That’s why I believe a heart-focused approach rather than a behavior-focused approach is more effective.

  37. Joshua
    January 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm | #42

    Buddy,

    It’s a form of leetspeak. The numeral 4 looks kind of like a capital A. The numeral 3 looks like a capital E. So his name is probably Dave, and he’s added ax on the end making it daveax.

    You can read about it here if that isn’t clear: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leet

  38. Buddy Woolbright
    January 13, 2011 at 4:50 pm | #43

    Thx Joshua. I tried to come up with something but failed. I’ll look into the referenced address. Maybe I’ll learn something since I 4in’t 2 swuft.
    bw, 2 Timoteo 1:9

  39. January 13, 2011 at 5:13 pm | #44

    D4,

    True.

    There can be only one right judgment on scriptural matters, because scripture means only one thing.

    However, I don’t agree that when it comes to judging that it is sinful to judge something as sin that one believes is sin. He doesn’t think drinking alcohol is sin, so he doesn’t see his judgment as sinful. Pretty convenient for him. He’s not judgmental and I am, when judgmental itself, ironically, isn’t in the Bible. I think his judgment is wrong. He thinks mine is wrong. That doesn’t mean that judging is wrong. Jesus judged eating meat offered unto idols as sinful.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with judging casual dress. I don’t think there is anything wrong with judging forms of music. He says it is wrong to judge those. It’s the respectable sin of judgmentalism. He puts it in the same category as the color white. White can’t be wrong. It’s just a color. Music is just music and dress is just dress. But no, dress is done by moral creatures as is music, so they can be judged and should be judged.

  40. d4v34x
    January 13, 2011 at 6:37 pm | #45

    Jesus always judges righteously. There is a harmony between the Rev. passage and the Corinthians passage.

    Lets back up. There is a gentleman online whose writing on Christians and alcohol you and I have both read. I understand him to have at least implied that Christians *ought* to drink or they somehow denigrate God’s good gift of wine. I have a problem with the way he treats passages he uses to make that case. I don’t think Bridges is saying it is wrong for you or I to approach him and say, “I think you’re mistaken on those passages, brother; can we go through them together?” I think Bridges is saying we dare not dismiss him as someone simply looking to excuse inappropriate drinking (though he could possibly be that) or as a mere rebel.

    Buddy, sorry. I had tried to explain above, thought you caught that. Anyway, Joshua has it right, more or less.

  41. Joshua
    January 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm | #46

    A request for Pastor Brandenburg:

    John 7:24
    Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

    Matthew 7:1
    Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    Clearly Christ here is talking about two different kinds of judgment. Would you mind constructing a succinct definition of the respective types of judgment here? It would help me personally, and I believe might also help clear up some issues other people are having here. With thanks in advance,

    Joshua

  42. January 14, 2011 at 7:22 am | #47

    “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with judging casual dress. I don’t think there is anything wrong with judging forms of music.”

    How do we appropriately express judgments of this kind, and to whom?

    I agree that everything we do has a moral connotation and impact, because motive and intent unavoidably come into play. So if Bridges is saying that some behaviors or practices have no meaning whatsoever and thus cannot be judged, he’s definitely mistaken on that note.

  43. January 14, 2011 at 9:20 am | #48

    I think my comment is more related to the original post than the direction of the comments. But I think that Bridges’ book has many good seeds in it. It was a very helpful and convicting book as I read it. But his seeds are mostly planted in the wrong soil. He is not bold enough, does not make pointed application, generally; and admits his own guilt too much throughout. That might seem silly to say, but to me, we all know we’re guilty of these things. We picked up the book to get “hammered” on them, not to see self-flagellation.

  44. d4v34x
    January 14, 2011 at 9:36 am | #49

    One persons self-flagellation is another’s removing the beam from his own eye.

    But I haven’t read this particular book.

  45. January 14, 2011 at 9:55 am | #50

    Bro. Voegtlin- I heard a preacher say once that some men can expertly fly the plane round and round the field, but they just never land the thing. One has to eventually get to the point and call one’s audience to make a decision- the primary difference between a sermon and a lecture.

  46. January 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm | #51

    Please note that Ephesians 5:18 specifically states that alcoholic wine itself is sinful, that there is excess/riot in it. I prove that in my file “Exegetical Notes on Ephesians 5:18″ on my website, http://sites.google.com/site/thross7. Alcohol is an open/shut case, not a matter of liberty.

  47. January 17, 2011 at 5:52 am | #52

    Regarding Matthew 7:1 and John 7:24,

    Matthew 7 actually teaches us to judge, but not if we are engaged in the same sin we are condemning. We take the beam out of our eye first before we help somebody get the moat out of theirs. It doesn’t teach us to leave the moat in someone else’s eye. And John 7:24 does tell us to judge righteous judgment, which goes with teaching elsewhere like 1 Thess 5:21-22 and 1 John 4:1. To do right and avoid false doctrine and wrong influences, we have to judge. We will judge.

    Some might say that Bridges is not saying not to judge. But he is in those specific areas. If you judge in those areas—dress, music, alcohol—you are sinning, according to him.

  48. January 26, 2011 at 10:15 am | #53

    Spot on Kent.

    It is a bit like the Neo-Evangelical non-separatists who only separate from the separationists or the MVO crowd who can tolerate any preference except for those who love the KJV!

    As Luther said “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error.” Separatist Biblical Christianity has shown a remarkable ability to outlive its critics. Jerry’s “bridges to sin” is another passing fad tried by Lot over 3000 years ago. It did not work then and won’t work now. Better stop as I feel a judgmental spirit coming on and that will not do……

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