Evangelicals and Fundamentalists today say that that the right kind of fellowship or unity aligns with the “essential doctrines of Scripture.” On the other hand, at least fundamentalists (since few to no evangelicals talk about separation at all) say that we are to separate only over “essential doctrines of Scripture.” Kevin Bauder, who leads Central Baptist Theological Seminary, writes:
To be a Fundamentalist is, first, to believe that fundamental doctrines are definitive for Christian fellowship, second, to refuse Christian fellowship with all who deny fundamental doctrines (e.g., doctrines that are essential to the gospel), and third, to reject the leadership of Christians who form bonds of cooperation and fellowship with those who deny essential doctrines.
David Doran, who pastors Inter-City Baptist Church in the Detroit area and leads the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, writes:
Believers and churches must separate from those who deny essential doctrines of the faith.
Those are two representative fundamentalists. They write the same thing that evangelicals do. D. A. Carson, professor at Trinity, says:
The Bible itself insists that there is a core of doctrines that are most important. As soon as you start assuming the center and then just focusing on the marginal items, the next generation will be looser on the center.
This “essential doctrine” doctrine is invented for the purpose of fitting in with more people. It isn’t at all some kind of development of doctrine from scriptural exegesis. No way. It’s popular for selling more books, for being bigger, for opening up more speaking engagements, for a fake peace. Guys don’t have to face conflict. They can believe differently and its not a big deal. People can do a lot of things that they want to do and not hear about it. This “essential doctrine” doctrine isn’t from the Bible. It is assumed with no proof. It dumbs down love and unity and truth. A few years ago I wrote this:
But let’s be clear. We know why “core” and all these exciting new theological terms are being used. Men want to be able to water down belief and practice and not be punished for it. The world loves minimizing and reducing, so these same churches will be more popular with the world. And then all the churches that love being popular will also be popular with each other. It’s like a big peace treaty that we could hand out a Christian version of the Nobel Peace prize. We can all smile at each other and get along while we disobey what God said. Then you’ve got a guy that says everything is important, and that’s, you know, an attack on unity. It’s a fake unity like what people have at a family reunion. Real unity is based on what God said.
Not only does the Bible not teach the “essential doctrine” doctrine, but it teaches against it. God killed people for violating certain teachings outside of the “essential doctrines.”
Here are links to articles where I have developed this scripturally and some otherwise:
I’m not saying that ‘what God kills people for’ is the best argument. It just shows how serious God is about things that fundamentalists might say are non-essential. I don’t think we should say something isn’t essential if God kills you for violating it.
When you read D. A. Carson, as in above quote of him, and others that I have read, you see that a new attack on separatists is that they are actually diminishing the gospel or attacking the gospel, so in essence preaching a false gospel, by saying that other doctrines in addition to the gospel are important. This is a subtle, new, and dangerous attack. I am reading the same kind of attack coming from professing fundamentalists.
We should get our doctrine from the Bible. It’s ironic, but evangelicals and now fundamentalists are saying that, if it isn’t stated in scripture, we should allow liberty, but there is no liberty about the “essential doctrine” doctrine, which isn’t in the Bible.
When Jesus sent out missionaries, what did He do? Do we know? We do, because we can read about it in Luke 10. We should also assume that this is the model that the Apostle Paul utilized in His efforts. We will be and we should be sanctified by the truth, not by opinion and pragmatism. I think that much of what we read in Jesus’ sending of the seventy in Luke 10 is ignored today by churches and church leaders. How?
1. Ignorance of the Method in Luke 10
The seventy were sent to say something. They were sent to preach a message (Lk 10:5b, 9). We don’t see “church-planting” per se in the Bible. Jesus did not send the seventy out to start a church. The Apostle Paul did not go to start a church. Churches were started, but neither the seventy nor Paul were sent to start a church. Scripture is sufficient. Silence does not mean permission. We ought not to be sending men to start churches. Jesus didn’t and Paul didn’t.
We send men to preach. We don’t send them alone. We send them in twos. That’s what we see. We may think we have a better idea, but that’s the model that Jesus left us. At least two men go. They go into a town or city and preach.
As the men go to preach, they find out who receives the message and who does not. If a person receives the message, that’s the possible start of a church. If no one receives the message, the two don’t tweak the message or consider a different method. They leave after proclaiming judgment on the town or city. Each home is a microcosm of this. If a home does not receive the message, the men move on to the next home. Look at vv. 1-17 (below) if you don’t think this is the case. I’m open for your alternative ideas, but at least consider the text.
There is no pressure on the preachers to “produce.” They don’t need to see a certain number in a certain number of weeks or months or years. Their one goal is to preach just what God said. From there, they just gauge the response. They are not required to toil in obscurity with no one listening. They are actually not supposed to do that. They should preach—if no one wants it, move on; if someone does, park there. If it succeeds, it will be because of the gospel, not the preacher.
The preachers Jesus sent out, He said He was sending as “lambs among wolves” (Lk 10:3). Jesus didn’t say that people would like the method or the message. It would be worse than a turn-off. Most would hate it.
Demographics don’t relate at all to Luke 10. Everyone was preached to. Nobody was left out.
If the emphasis is on the preaching and not the starting of a church, then the point or the real goal will be met, that is, everyone will be preached to. Many church planters go to a town and immediately start inviting people to church and the people of their community never, ever receive the gospel. They still haven’t preached the gospel to everyone. They don’t even know that is what they were supposed to do. They thought they were supposed to start a church. They go with a pack full of non- or un-scriptural methods and get to building a crowd. That is not the rock upon which Jesus said He would build His church (Mt 16:18).
2. Ignorance of the Money in Luke 10
“Church planters” travel the country raising support to plant their church. I understand that the seventy were a second phase of Jesus’ sending, after the twelve (Lk 9). Later in Luke, Jesus sends them with money (Lk 22:35-36). I’m not opposed to supporting missionaries. What I think we need to know, and this is one of the lessons of Luke 10, is that money is not necessary to be a missionary. Jesus wanted them to see that in Luke 10.
Today we hear there are “needs” in order to see a church “launched.” One professing fundamentalist, quasi-evangelical, who had read all the studies, the missional philosophy, the cultural engagement strategy, said that he needed to raise at least $300,000 to launch his church. People believed him. They supported him. He was a hot commodity because he was up on all the latest techniques necessary for a successful church launch.
The building is another important “need” for the church launch. (“Launch” is important for a launch. Use the word “launch” if you want to launch.) But the building must be something that people are going to want to attend, you know. All of this really is a lie. Jesus said nothing about a building. Paul said nothing about a building. A building is not necessary for a church to start. You don’t need money, and you can see from reading Luke 10 that your first building is the house of the first person who will receive the message.
The building is really about an impression that becomes necessary for “church planting.” You want to have a church and church has a building. And you are not going to get a lot of people to stay if they aren’t comfortable with your building. You won’t look classy or successful enough for those people, which the church planter perceives are a lot of people. Plus, the program the church planter expects to succeed as part of the attraction to his church needs that facility. That requires money. So the desire for money relates to the alternative to the Luke 10 method.
3. Ignorance of the Message in Luke 1o
“The Lord” (v. 1) appointed the 70 and He sent them to go ahead of Himself to towns where He would come after them. Their message was “peace” (v. 5) in the “kingdom of God,” which was “nigh unto” them (v. 9). A kingdom has a King. The offering of a kingdom meant the King was coming. If He was their King, He was their Messiah, as well as their absolute monarch. They would be turning their lives over to Him. If they relinquished their selves to Him, He would bring them the kingdom. They had to receive Him as King. If He was King, He was Lord. If He was Lord, they were His slaves. The message Jesus sent them to preach was no different than the gospel that He preached from the very beginning of His earthly ministry (Lk 4:43).
If people receive the message Jesus expects of His evangelists, that is, the truth, the kind of building they have doesn’t matter. Slaves aren’t offended by some discomfort. Those who have denied themselves to follow the Lord aren’t concerned with those peripheral, superficial interests that captivate many church planters.
Jesus did send the seventy to preach. That’s what he wanted them to do. If a church started, it would come out of the affirmative responses to the message they preached.
For Reference, Luke 10:1-17
1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.
4 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.
5 And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
6 And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.
7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
8 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:
9 And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
10 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,
11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.
15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.
16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
On the approach and strategy of church growth, Rick Warren and Jack Hyles little differ. With all the studies Warren did to figure out his scheme, he came up with something along the same lines as Hyles. Hyles is dead but the Hyles methods and men still operate. I’m not saying that Warren copied Hyles or that they’re twins separated at birth. Both of them understood human nature and marketing and used that knowledge to formulate their plan. The big thing is to give people what they want—target a demographic and customize your pitch to fit the target. Since what allures and attracts men hasn’t changed much, their plans have mirrored each other. Warren has a little different packaging, but besides that, he could be a Hyles clone.
Warren and Hyles both recognized what most people have long known—the world doesn’t like church. The world likes what the world likes, which is earthly things, so Warren and Hyles were faced with a conundrum. They wanted big crowds of unbelievers to be interested in their churches, and yet the world doesn’t like church. The world isn’t interested in spiritual things, and the church is all about spiritual things. Therefore, in order to get their big crowds, Warren and Hyles offered the world the things that it liked in order to get unbelievers to come to church. It really isn’t even that hard. Certain types of businesses have taken advantage of the same kind of knowledge in order to draw crowds to make money, namely places like amusement parks, rock concerts, arcades, and movie theaters.
There are differences between Warren and Hyles. In a lot of ways, Hyles is old school in the same kind of strategy as Warren. A Hyles church would be noticeably different than a Warren church, although there would be some overlap that I have noticed. I want to talk about the overlap first, however. Warren and Hyles would both provide fun activities that the world would like. Both would do a rodeo or carnival to get people to come. Warren and Hyles would both give out popular food or beverages. Both would alter their preaching, albeit in different ways, in order to attract and then keep a crowd. Both would use business marketing techniques that would catch the eye of unsaved people. So they have an overlap in technique.
On a root level, Warren and Hyles were the same. They both believed in building a church through inviting unsaved people to church services. They both believed in trying to get people to come by offering them things they wanted. They both conformed the church to their church growth ideology, straining theology to fit what it took to have a bigger church. Both would say it was about seeing more people saved. Both tried to reproduce their findings, their pragmatism, in others. Both have had many adherents and headed a movement built around their particular philosophy. Both used Scripture to justify what they did. Both attacked those who criticized them. Both used their size and success to silence their critics. Both preyed on the pride and the faux security that comes with bigness.
How do Warren and Hyles differ? Warren and Hyles have cultural differences. Warren says that finding the kind of music the world likes is the most important part of church growth. Hyles used music, what he would call evangelistic music, but he would preach against the kind of music Warren uses. Hyles believed music should be upbeat and fast and exciting, part of a strategy to thrill the unsaved people, but he drew a far more conservative line about what he might use. Hyles required a dress code. He expected modest dress, clothes with designed distinctions between men and women, and he dressed up himself, suit and tie. His workers did the same. Not Warren. Warren emphasizes a lower common denominator for appearance; in essence, dress like the world dresses to make the world feel comfortable being with the church. Warren zeroed even more on what the world liked, the earthly things, even than Hyles. Warren preaches from multi-versions with the people in mind. Hyles preached only from the King James Version, but his preaching was heavily entertainment, very little teaching. They both prioritize the audience, except in different ways. Both conformed the subject matter to fit the listeners, just in different ways.
Hyles would call Warren worldly. Warren would call Hyles legalistic. I would call them both about the same. Manipulative. Secular. Man-centered. Carnal weaponry.
However, Warren is far more acceptable to evangelicals than Hyles ever would be. Many young fundamentalists would never accept Hyles. But they don’t have such a problem with Warren. John Piper, a real favorite among many evangelicals and young fundamentalists, and even older fundamentalists, is having Warren come to his next Desiring God conference. That is not a deal-breaker to the Piper crowd. If Hyles were alive, and he had Hyles, that would end the Piper favoritism. Of course, Piper would never have Hyles, and really for the same reason young fundamentalists don’t like Hyles. Hyles wasn’t worldly enough. Hyles used the King James Version. Hyles said women shouldn’t wear pants. Hyles preached too hard against sin, i.e., he was too moralistic. Hyles would preach against attending the theater, something like Spurgeon was death on. They like that Warren isn’t that way.
The rock music of Warren, the casual dress of Warren, the earthly popularity of Warren, the hi-tech success of Warren, and, yes, the bigness of Warren—those are all the things about Warren that young fundamentalists and evangelicals approve about Warren. It’s why Warren is able to go to Piper’s conference. John MacArthur’s church uses the same type of Warren formula to attract for their Resolved Conference, so they haven’t shucked the Warren brand entirely. It’s a working plan, especially for the youth culture. They don’t go quite as far as Warren, just like Hyles wouldn’t go as far as Warren. Hyles wouldn’t have a hip-thrusting praise team up leading the worship.
Across the street from our church, a Trinity Evangelical grad, that would be well-accepted, I believe, by many young fundamentalists and evangelicals, kicks off his fall program with a parking lot full of jumpers. Especially since he went to Trinity and that’s where D. A. Carson teaches. He’s into the big sermon series, playing off some hit movie or the Beatles hits, if not the lyrics of U-2. Of course, he “gets it.” He “knows” what’s really important and what isn’t.
Young fundamentalists and evangelicals talk about the old hero worship of the fundamentalists, about how that too much revolved around big personalities. That hasn’t changed. That’s the same today. It’s just different personalities. And things really aren’t that much different. There really is quite a bit in common between John Piper, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, and Jack Hyles. Oh, and the young fundamentalists and evangelicals. Earthly things. That’s the common ground. Earthly things help keep their crowds. Different types of earthly things, but earthly things. And since they keep those earthly things, they stay big and that’s their success. Not all their success. But a lot of it. And God doesn’t get the glory in all of that. The men do. Still.
Back in the day, well, of Noah and his family, so way, way back in the day, the truth took a very small minority and yet it was still the truth. We see this again and again in Scripture. We don’t see the truth attract a majority of people. The smaller group always believes what’s right. I think most who are reading this already knew this.
So when we look at history to calculate what people have believed, we don’t expect the right position to be held by a majority of people or even necessarily a majority of professing Christians. We want to see if anyone at all took a particular position. Some will depart from the faith (1 Tim 4:1); not everyone. A total apostasy counters Christ’s promise that the ‘gates of hell would not prevail against His church’ (Mt 16:18). We would expect to find evidence of someone holding the right position. If we can’t find our view anywhere in history, we should be concerned. However, if we find that our belief represents a minority in history, that does not work against that position being the right one. Based on what we see in Scripture, the minority view is more likely also the right view.
God said He would preserve His Word. He didn’t say He would preserve history. So when we study history, we have take several factors into consideration. First, we are often getting someone’s slant on what happened. Many times the victor lives to tell the story and he tells it like he wants it to be remembered. Second, men can lie, because they are liars. God never lies, but men do. Third, we would expect true believers to be persecuted, and if that’s the case, they might not be able either to write their thoughts or have them preserved. Fourth, not much history is available period before the advent of the printing press, so that alone might result in a skewed perspective of what happened before 1440. The dark ages really are dark ages. Considering all of these factors, we do our best to sort through all materials available and make a judgment on the validity of the sources. We can assume that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to the truth.
With the above criteria in mind, how does one approach, for instance, the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF)? That confession represents a lot of professing believers in the 17th century. Should we just assume that all the positions of the Westminster divines were true because the WCF is so accessible and so predominant? Like with any position we’re studying, we start with what the Bible says about it, comparing Scripture with Scripture. After we’re sure the Bible teaches a doctrine, we look to see if other people believed it. If we can’t find it in the WCF, then we look elsewhere. When we look at other sources of historic information, if we find that belief expressed by others, we consider the integrity and veracity of the non-WCF group or person who believed differently than the WCF. There may be a good explanation why they differed, and why the WCF may have had the position wrong.
The Westminster divines were free to write and publish their confession. It was printed and widely disseminated. Other groups in less favor with various governments found it exponentially more difficult than the Westminster group to propagate their doctrine in written form. They lived with much greater opposition and with fewer opportunities, in part because what they did preach and teach was, in fact, the truth. Satan and his system oppose the truth. I recognize that this makes sense as a typical argument for fringe thinkers espousing heterodoxy. That’s why we must weigh the quality of the source and compare its conclusion to the exegesis of Scripture from which we start. That must first stand up to the scrutiny of a literal hermeneutic.
The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches a position of the perfect preservation of Scripture in the language in which it was written, a view that necessarily results in a belief in only one Bible. That’s also the only position found in history before the 19th century. I can’t point to any statement of doctrine that disagrees with that bibliology before the 19th century.
The WCF also says the church is all believers, but not everyone took that traditionally reformed position on the church. Something entirely different is seen in the Schleitheim Confession, which predates the WCF, as well as in the first century writings of Clement of Rome (96AD). The first use of the words “catholic church” don’t appear until 106AD, just once with Cyprian of Antioch, and then later only in The Martyrdom of Polycarp in 155AD and the Muratorian Fragment in 177AD. Universal church postdates local only ecclesiology. The WCF supporters may have outnumbered the proponents of the Schleitheim Confession, but this is a case where the majority is wrong.
Our approach to historical theology is not to believe the position held by the most. We should believe what the Bible teaches and then look to see if we can find that in history. We shouldn’t be surprised if a smaller number believed the truth than didn’t.
No matter what the issue or the doctrine is, you have at least some problem if you cannot establish historic precedent for it. Part of the tactic or strategy for enabling or allowing a new position that has not been taken or believed is to create some type of history of it. For instance, advocates of same sex marriage want people to see it in the fourteenth amendment. After reading that into a mid-nineteenth century law, they proceed to attack their opponents as hateful bigots who don’t care about a constitutionally protected right. So step two of inventing a new history is to attack the old or original or real history, to make it look like it was never the history at all. If you can get as many spokesmen as possible repeating the new history, people will just believe it. And then they’ll think that the old history is the one that was invented. Especially if it is convenient for people to take the new position.
A lot of people can be wrong. A few people can be right. Jesus reveals that point in Matthew 7:13-14. But when it comes to doctrine, not everybody is going to be wrong. Why? Some will depart from the faith, but not everyone (1 Tim 4:1). The gates of Hell will not prevail against the pillar and ground of the truth (Mt 16:18, 1 Tim 3:15). So if a several or multiple Bible belief were in fact authoritative and true, we would see at least some Christians believing it in history. But, alas, we do not. All we read before the 19th century is one Bible. We don’t find a multiple Bible doctrine in history. We have it today, but it started somewhere after the church started and the Bible was complete. In other words, men came up with that belief. It isn’t original. It’s a man-made doctrine. I would be happy to report otherwise if it were true. But I can’t, because it isn’t.
The larger point is that the Bible itself teaches one Bible. That’s how all those Christians came to their position. They just believed God. Just like there was no theistic evolution position until the 19th century. Christians just believed the biblical account in Genesis. You don’t find the multiple Bible position in history before the 19th century because the Bible didn’t teach it, so Christians didn’t believe it.
So nobody believes in multiple Bibles then, right? Well, no.
Sure, but it is only unbelievers or liberals who take the multiple Bible position, correct? Wrong again. Now you’re also a conservative if you believe that. You are still fundamentalist if you believe that.
And if you believe in one Bible? Sorry, but you are a silly, almost brainless, schismatic, thoughtless dufus. You’ve got to be. That’s the way this whole thing will work with no history. People who take the original position can’t be taken seriously for the new position to work. I mean, you can’t say that you believe in the Genesis account of creation, can you? It’s the same kind of thing here. Exactly.
To top all of this off, a whole new history of one Bible has been created out of whole cloth. The standard fake history, akin to same sex marriage being in the 14th amendment, is that the one Bible doctrine came from Benjamin Wilkerson, a Seventh-day Adventist, in a book he wrote in 1930. That’s very important. Wilkerson was in a cult (of course). So the nuts who believe this, as you would expect, started with a cult. And then a Baptist pastor did a little less than plagiarize Wilkerson. That was David Otis Fuller, and he spread this new teaching all over. So there we go. Not true. But part of the overall necessity of eliminating the real history of the original doctrine to make room for the new. I recently read this related comment:
And fundamentalists like to make any traditional view sanctified with the full authority of Scripture behind it. At least that’s the tendency of some. So the [one Bible] position found how to connect itself to Bible preservation in a way to make the view doctrinally based.
This comment wasn’t even questioned. It is now blindly assumed by many. The idea here is that a preferred position was invented in 1930, one convenient to certain Christians, one Bible, and then these went to the Bible to commandeer verses for the cause. That is a lie. In this case, it is definitely a purposeful lie, propaganda-like.
When I’ve had discussions with those considered to be the greatest experts for multiple Bibles, they agree that the historic doctrine is one Bible. They know that’s what Christians believed. When you read the bibliology of Christians, those justified by faith, and creeds and confessions from the same, no one believed in multiple Bibles. All of them believed one Bible. They came to that belief from Scripture itself. Their conviction for one Bible originated from the promises of God’s Word.
All the history I read for multiple Bibles goes back to Benjamin Warfield at Princeton in the late 19th century. That’s where the teaching of multiple Bibles began. So you’ve had one line of doctrine about one Bible, and then diverting from that stream of orthodoxy, forming a new path, is Warfield. Others followed. And since then they have invented a fake history and attacked and degraded the true.
John Adams, in 1770 in his defense of the British soldiers who participated in the Boston Massacre, said:
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
The fact is that Christians have always believed in one Bible. Whatever may be the wish or inclination of the multiple Bible people, they cannot alter that fact.
People don’t like to lose. People are fond of saying that they hate losing. They’re winners. They’re people you’d want on your team. However, I’m calling on everyone to give losing a second look. Scripture says that you’ve got to lose in order to win. In other words, if you can’t lose, you’re not going to win. The Bible magnifies losing.
First, I point you to Philippians 3. Paul saw losing as a necessity for the ultimate and supreme gain. He wrote (3:7-8):
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Winning through losing. Lose you, win Christ. And Paul was saying something that Jesus had already said, using the same verb (zemioo, lemma ten times in NT), in Matthew 16:26,
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
and Luke 9:25.
For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
I think Paul knew he was using the same kind of talk, the exact word too, that Jesus used. You need to lose in order to win. If you lose your soul or life or self, you gain eternal life. You lose everything for the pearl of great price. Only someone who believes in Jesus Christ would do this. It is believing in Jesus Christ to “count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
So you win everything by losing everything. But I believe that a lot of our life is also a microcosm of this. And I point you to relationships. You could see your argument as your territory, as your little kingdom, your little fiefdom that you can’t give up. You must win at all costs. So even if you’re wrong, you keep arguing. You’ve got to win. And when you win, you lose. If you lose, you win. You have to make that choice.
Your wife says she didn’t. You say she did. Your husband says he said this. You say that he said that. When I said that, you gave me a look. I did not. Did too. Did not. Did too! Did not! Did too!!! Did not!!!! So she did, and you say she didn’t, and you dig in, and you win. But not really. You lost. It’s funny. At the time, you thought you were winning, but when you were done, you found out that you had lost. You really are a looozer.
The Bible is full of paradox and irony. This is one of those you must understand and inculcate if you are going to be that winner you think you are.
Everything is about God. God is the narrative, the thinking, the lifestyle, and the meaning. And God is One. He doesn’t deny Himself. God is consistent. The gospel is about God. It solves man’s sin problem, but it is about God receiving the glory He deserves. It is about God being God. We don’t say where He is God and where He is not. Man does not submit to God and then deny God in music, in art, in science, in education, in literature, in government, or in philosophy. Since God is One, if you deny God in art, for instance, you’ve denied Him. You don’t get to segment God into parts and choose where He is God. He is either God or not. He is a God of non-contradiction. There are not two truths. God created everything and everything with His purpose. Everything, therefore, has His meaning. The meaning must fit God or it is wrong, it isn’t the truth, and it is part of the lie.
Enter fundamentalism. God gets to be God of the fundamentals. Everything else is up for grabs. Fundamentalists would say “no,” but actually “yes.” It’s just “no” on paper. In reality, “yes.” In lifestyle, “yes.” In particular works they allow the denying of Him. That is as much a lie as if we denied all of God. God is all or nothing. He is not God when He is just God of the fundamentals. Fundamentals are about us. About what we think we need to get along with each other. We shrink God’s domain to allow for more people. It’s chariot counting even though God “burneth the chariot in the fire” (Psalm 46:9). The fundamentals are not and never have been God’s will for getting along. They couldn’t be. It would be to say that God created everything, but He’s only made that clear in part of what He created. But that’s not what God said. Since God created everything, He reveals Himself in everything, and the meaning relates to God. We interpret everything according to God.
Now fundamentalists say some of God’s world is non-essential. Some of my Father’s world is not as important. Several “truths” are permissible in certain continents of His creation. And yet everything fits into God and God is as important as important is. We cannot remove God from a segment of His reign. He reigns in music. He reigns in fashion. He reigns in leisure. When we remove God from any part of His reign, we dethrone Him. We don’t actually dethrone Him. That can’t happen. But He isn’t God to us anymore when we shrink his reign to the domain of fundamentals.
Some have shrunk fundamentalism even further. They’ve reduced God’s world to the gospel. They say that the limitation of the boundaries to the gospel pleases God. One man uses foul language, but he has the gospel. He is included. Another man sprinkles infants. But he has the gospel. They say they are elevating God’s world to the gospel. They diminish God and they use the gospel to do so. This is travesty. No one should be celebrating. Everybody should mourn. God does not limit Himself to the gospel. Sure, the gospel touches everything in God’s world, but His world isn’t the gospel. The gospel is the hub or the axle upon which man’s view of God’s world can succeed. The gospel enables rebellious men to see God in His world. And rebellion is the problem. The gospel succeeds everywhere, not just in the gospel and not just in the fundamentals. It enthrones God over all of His creation. The whole story is His. All practice is His. All thinking is His. All relationship is His.
When God is excluded from much of His actual reign, a form of religion exists, but the power of God is denied. Of course, we cannot limit the power of God. God’s power does what it does whether we recognize it or not. So when we do not receive God’s power over all of His world, we deny all of His power. He isn’t glorified when His power is denied even when we say it’s about the gospel or the fundamentals. So it’s not even the gospel but a denial of the power of God. The lie limits God to man’s domain, to his preferred boundaries, holding off or suppressing the truth.
Let God be God and every man a liar.