At this LINK you can find the audio for the 2010 Word of Truth Conference at Bethel Baptist Church, El Sobrante, CA. Two of the Jackhammers participated. Enjoy.
The New Testament several times lists the people who will not enter into heaven (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5; Rev 21:8, 27; 22:15) . Since these lists are all different, they are not each intended to be comprehensive, but representative. Whether someone makes it to heaven or not, lives forever in the New Jerusalem, enters through the gates of that eternal city, is a gospel issue. Many evangelicals and fundamentalists today say that they separate over the gospel. God excludes the people on these lists from salvation, so they are gospel related practices. People who practice them are not saved and will not be saved. You’ve got to repent from these sins, resulting in them not being your practice any more. That’s what the lists say.
One of these exclusion passages is Revelation 21:8, which reads:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Later in Revelation 21:27, you read this:
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Those are very serious sounding verses in the Bible. One is not more caring who does not take these types of verses seriously. I want to draw your attention to just one of the ones in the lists, and that is “the abominable.” “The abominable . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” Wow. I sure wouldn’t want to be one of these “abominable” ones. I wonder who they are. I mean, who are they? Who are “the abominable”? And then in the next verse, v. 27, we see that those who work abomination will not enter into the gates of the eternal city. I should look at Scripture to see who these people are, that is, let the Bible define for me who they are. The abominable would be who the Bible says are abominable. This really isn’t a matter of opinion. So a good thing to do would be to look this up in God’s Word. These “abominable” ones, these people who work “abomination,” are found right in these lists, excluding them from eternal life and heaven. The fact that they are included in these lists would say that these are practices that really have God’s attention. He despises them.
Separation forever from God is the ultimate in separation. God will not have an abominable one, one committing abominations, in His presence for all eternity. This looks like God’s kind of separation over the gospel. Someone could not be said to believe the gospel, but also to believe that abominations are permissible, could he?
I could start with the English word “abomination” to find what is uniquely an abomination, or what makes the people an abomination. I could also look at the Greek word translated “abomination” or “abominable” to find out who they are. The New Testament, that’s right, the New Testament, says that those people who are an abomination will have their part in the lake of fire. Now where does the Bible say that a person is an abomination to God? What would a person do that is an abomination to God? We would need to look at the Bible to find out who that person is. OK, so let’s look.
The Greek word for “abomination” is bdelugma. That Greek word, or forms of it, is found 6 times in the New Testament, two of which are in Revelation 21:8 and 27. The Hebrew word is to-ay-baw. That Hebrew word is found 117 times in the Old Testament in 112 verses. “Abomination” is mainly an Old Testament concept, but it is still in play as offensive to God as seen in the two verses in Revelation. We get our idea of what an abomination is from the Old Testament, however.
If you look at every single one of the verses where these words are used, only one verse says a practice that makes a person an abomination. Only one. People do abominations. They commit abominations. But only in one verse does the person himself or herself become an abomination to God. In certain verses, we see that someone can become an abomination to other people, but in only one does a person become an abomination to God. Which is that verse?
So I see this very serious verse that says that the abominable will go to the lake of fire and then I go to find out who the abominable is and I for sure see in the Bible that person in Deuteronomy 22:5. And what makes the person abominable, an abomination to God? Let’s read the verse.
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
“All that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” Who is an abomination to God? Who is abominable? First, the woman who wears the item specifically designated for a man, that distinguishes him as a man. Second, the man who puts on a woman’s garment.
Do you want to be an abomination to God? I wouldn’t think so, especially in light of Revelation 21:8 and 27.
Is someone being an abomination a gospel issue according to Revelation 21:8 and 21:27? I see it as such. God separates himself from the abominable. Should we separate ourselves from the abominable?
What is the male garment? What is the female garment? What item of clothing distinguishes a man from a woman and woman from a man, honoring God’s design? For many centuries, cultures that looked to the Bible in these matters distinguished pants as the male item and the skirt or dress as the female item. As feminism and unisex thinking took hold in a post-enlightenment, rationalistic, evolutionary United States, women began wearing pants in contradiction to the male role and male headship. In certain cases, women began to wear them out of sheer convenience with little thought about the symbolism of God’s designed roles. God’s people would not go along with pagan culture, but like in so many other areas, churches began to compromise with the world. Today in most evangelical and fundamentalist churches, women wearing pants is acceptable. Even further, in most instances, the women who continue to wear only female garments are ridiculed or looked upon as odd. The churches who take the historic Christian position are scorned and marginalized.
But Revelation 21:8 and 21:27 are both still in the Bible. And Deuteronomy 22:5 is still the only verse that says a person becomes an abomination for a particular practice. And women in dresses or skirts and men in pants is the historic way that Christians have followed Deuteronomy 22:5.
Is an abomination a non-essential? Does God say that an abomination is a non-essential? Of course not. Who is anyone to say that an abomination is a non-essential? And yet today evangelicals and fundamentalists would say that an abomination is a non-essential.
Just because a fundamentalist says it is a non-essential doesn’t mean that God is saying that it is a non-essential. You won’t be able to say to God that you would have known, except that a fundamentalist told you that this wasn’t essential and you believed him. You’ll have to base what you believe and do on what God said. If fundamentalists don’t say the same thing, that can’t really matter.
Think about it.
As you are thinking about it, I want to make a preemptive strike. Someone is going to say, “So are you saying that women who wear pants are an abomination and so are going to hell?” That will be the most likely argument to come along to this. It is a jr. high type of argumentation that shouldn’t get any respect. I’m asking you to think about the verses in the Bible. Be serious about them. They are very serious verses.
The other response will most likely be ridicule. Men will scoff at this position. They will not likely offer you an alternative for the practice of Deuteronomy 22:5. They might say that all that really matters is that women look like women and men look like men. That’s not what the verse says, however. It says don’t put on certain items or garments. Don’t have them on. Just because fundamentalists say that there are no such items of clothing today does not make it true.
So again, think about it.
I just finished a series in Revelation and that is what got me thinking about this post. It is normal for me to ask, “Who is abominable? Who would that be?” And if you look it up, you get to Deuteronomy 22:5. But what also crossed my mind is a new attack, I believe, on the Lordship of Christ in which those claiming to elevate the gospel to its rightful place, say that by talking about something like “pants on women,” men like myself are diminishing the gospel, which is, according to them, to be first in importance. By giving the gospel this so-called “back seat,” men like myself, according to these “gospel first” guys, are doing damage to the gospel. This type of idea is being pushed in conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Revelation 21:8, 27, and 22:15 would indicate the opposite. If you love the gospel, you are going to warn about these types of practices in people’s lives. When we left all to follow Christ, we certainly left abomination. So when we confront abomination, and connect that to the gospel, we are doing the right thing related to Christ as Lord. There would be no practicers of abomination, who also follow Him. Abomination isn’t in that path of following Christ. The freedom that Christ gives us through the gospel is not freedom to be abominable, but freedom from abomination.
If someone who brings up an abomination in a gospel conversation is guilty of somehow dismissing the gospel, then the Apostle John was doing that when he mentioned abomination in Revelation 21. Jesus Himself brought up loving your neighbor in a gospel conversation in Luke 10 and covetousness in Matthew 19. What we have with these evangelicals and fundamentalists, I’m afraid, is something of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness that Jude wrote about, and using grace as an occasion to the flesh that the Apostle Paul mentioned in Galatians.
Another point. People want “abomination” to be non-New Testament. Since it’s not New Testament, it doesn’t matter. But it is New Testament. Not being an abomination continues to be an issue in the New Testament. But it obviously points back to practices in the Old Testament. This does great harm to that particular excuse in this.
One more point. Shouldn’t being an abomination give us pause? Shouldn’t we want to make sure we aren’t one? Why mess around with whether we’re being one or not? Especially in light of Revelation 21:8, 27?
Last point. I believe that people just block this one out. They just choose not to think about it. They put their head in the sand in so many ways. They aren’t dealing seriously with the text itself. Until I preached a series through Deuteronomy several years ago, I wasn’t either. Once I came face to face with what it said, I had to make a decision. The decision hasn’t made me more popular. To be honest with the text, I had to take the position I take. When I looked at commentaries from before 1930, they were unanimous in what this text meant. The popularity of alternative positions came later. People hang on to those alternatives. I believe they spread abomination. That doesn’t sound like a good thing to do. But it is what they are doing. They attempt to take comfort in the reality that most professing Christians don’t follow this path any more. If so many other Christians go the way they go, then they must be safe. It couldn’t be true that so many people, who are such good people, could all be doing wrong. You’ll hear the same argumentation used by Charismatics. I heard the same used by a Mormon this last Sunday when I was out evangelizing in Sacramento.
You’ve probably noticed regular new labels and terms popping up. One of these, I’ve seen, is “cultural conservative.” I don’t know when that terminology was first used, but I know it differentiates certain conservatives from the “fiscal conservatives.” Whether you would have the “cultural conservative” label or the “fiscal conservative” one probably depends on why you vote for who you do. The latter would vote with his so-called “pocketbook.” Fiscal concerns may bring people together that do not see eye-to-eye on the culture. The two terms, culture and fiscal, divide conservatism.
What Is Cultural Fundamentalism
I believe that this division in conservatism between cultural and fiscal has now become the basis for a new division that I have read only in the last few years, that is, the cultural fundamentalists and the theological or doctrinal fundamentalists. With just a little looking, I have found that “cultural fundamentalism” has been around for awhile as a technical terminology for something entirely different than how Christian fundamentalists have used it. “Cultural fundamentalism” has referred to a usually violent antipathy to a change of culture. That label is often hung on the jihad of Islamic countries who desire one Islamic culture. So “cultural fundamentalism” has been around for awhile, but only recently has it been used, mainly as a pejorative, to color a certain brand of Christian fundamentalism.
In 1999 a professor at the University of Wisconsin, William P. Tishler, referred to “cultural fundamentalism” existing in the U. S. in the 1920s. He described it like this:
The 1920s was a time when many adherents of “Cultural Fundamentalism” attempted to ensure that all Americans followed the right patterns of thought: quest for certainty and predictability in social relationships; an order in human affairs that was at once familiar, comfortable, and unthreatening; and nostalgia for the idealized, non-industrial society of their parents.
Tishler’s syllabus reads like sheer propaganda, assigning motives to people without evidence. David G. Bromley in his 1984 book, New Christian Politics, calls the “new religious right” (NRR) “cultural fundamentalism.” He, like Tishler, would say that “cultural fundamentalism” supports things like right to life and male headship.
The first “cultural fundamentalism” struck me as an identifiable label was when I read what Tim Jordan said at the latest GARBC national conference. He warned:
If we produce ‘biblical’ reasons for cultural fundamentalism, they [the young Fundamentalists] know you are lying. And why do they know you are lying? It’s because you are!
So you see his usage of “cultural fundamentalism,” differentiating himself from that. I started looking for other usages and I read this from Bob Bixby on his blog in January 2008:
These first-generation Calvinists embrace Calvinism in order to embrace what they really want: contemporary worship, a swig of beer, or the sheer pride of life that gratifies the egos of those who, embittered because of everything they could not have in cultural fundamentalism on the basis of dumb argumentation, now have an indisputably better biblical argument for anything they want.
I don’t know exactly who Ben Wright is talking about at 9 Marks in Mar-April 2008 when he says cultural fundamentalists are atheological fundamentalists. He writes:
In addition, the theological Fundamentalism of Bauder and Doran represents a matured strain of Fundamentalism that intends to expose and disassociate from the atheological (sometimes called cultural) Fundamentalism that has dominated many segments of separatist Fundamentalism in recent decades.
Here’s how someone named Charlie defined “cultural fundamentalism” at SharperIron:
I have heard the term “cultural Fundamentalism” applied to those described as hyper-Fundamentalists. I like this term at least somewhat better, because it communicates that the real areas of controversy are not “doctrinal” in the sense of disputes about systematic categories (which some cultural Fundamentalists wouldn’t even be able to explicate), but rather cultural in the sense of affecting the look, feel, and function of church life. For example, you can sing vapid songs, but not CCM songs. You can murder the meaning of a Bible passage, but you have to have the correct initials on the binding. You can preach all sorts of bizarre allegory, but you need to be in coat and tie when you do it.
Kevin Bauder dealt with this way back in 2005 in his essay “A Fundamentalism Worth Saving,” especially in these two paragraphs:
This, I think, highlights the limited usefulness of a distinction between “historic” and “cultural” fundamentalism. Biblical obedience is never acultural for the simple reason that human beings are never acultural. We must always obey God at a particular time, in a particular place, situated in a particular culture. We do not really care whether George Carlin’s words were obscenities in 1560, nor whether their cognates are obscene in German or Norwegian. We care about what they mean in English at the beginning of the 21st Century.
In short, the only way to be a historic, biblical fundamentalist is to be a cultural fundamentalist. The only alternatives are, first, to say that cultures are beyond the Bible’s ability to critique and correct, or second, to argue that fundamentalism is concerned only with doctrine and not with obedience. I doubt that any of us really wants to take either of those steps.
It’s interesting to consider that Ben Wright says that Bauder is not a cultural fundamentalist, and wants to distinguish him from one, when Bauder himself says that a historic fundamentalist must be a cultural fundamentalist. I think I’ll go with what Bauder says about himself rather than what Wright says about Bauder to help his article along. It would do Ben well to also check out a certain paper produced by Mark Snoeberger, who teaches at Detroit, Doran’s seminary, and his words about cultural fundamentalism:
It is often suggested that there are two kinds of fundamentalism—doctrinal fundamentalism and cultural fundamentalism. The former is to be embraced as a defense of the orthodox core; the latter to be eschewed as a counter-cultural set of archaic, arcane, and even pharisaical traditions some of which are downright silly. There is some validity to this distinction. At the same time, since theology always informs our view of culture, it is impossible to completely divorce the two.
We have already noted above that in the specific issue of evangelism, fundamentalists have typically eschewed both the ―Christ of culture‖ approach (practiced broadly by liberalism and new evangelicalism) and also the holistic ―Christ transforming culture‖ approach (practiced in Kuyperian Reformed circles). I would suggest that this understanding has extended beyond evangelism to a whole plethora of cultural issues.
Snoeberger says you can’t divorce the theological fundamentalism from the cultural.
Why are doctrinal and cultural fundamentalism being divided? I believe there are those who want to hang on to the doctrine of separation. They think it’s in the Bible. But they only want to separate over certain theological issues. They want to allow much more room to maneuver on the so-called cultural issues. Therefore, if there exists doctrinal fundamentalism, they can still be a fundamentalist without associating with the fundamentalists who disassociate over violations of the right cultural practices.
Why I’m Not a Cultural Fundamentalist
I really do identify with these people who don’t mind being and being called “cultural fundamentalists.” But I’m not one. Most would make me a poster boy for cultural fundamentalism. I refuse it. I reject it. Don’t lay that label on me. However, I also don’t like that this division is occurring in fundamentalism. I see what it is, and it’s not good for fundamentalism in my opinion, really for the same reasons Bauder states in his “Fundamentalism Worth Saving” article.
But again, I’m not a cultural fundamentalist because, first, I’m not a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism is a movement that gets along and gets together based upon agreement on a short list of doctrines. I don’t see that as scriptural unity or biblical separation. To obey the Bible, I can’t be a fundamentalist.
I add to the above first reason that I’m not a cultural fundamentalist because I don’t separate based upon culture. I don’t unify based on culture. I refuse that designation by others. I will not allow that to stick. The name “cultural fundamentalist” is just being used to discredit a biblical belief and practice. It is sliding that scriptural doctrine and practice to something that is just cultural, really only opinion. That isn’t the case. I don’t believe and practice opinions. I am sanctified by the truth. My church will be sanctified by God’s Word to every good work.
Male headship isn’t cultural. It is biblical. Heterosexuality isn’t cultural. It’s scriptural. Gender designed distinctions in appearance isn’t cultural. They are biblical. Modesty isn’t cultural. It’s in God’s Word. Complementarianism isn’t cultural. It’s in the Bible. Spiritual, sacred worship isn’t cultural. It is scriptural. Dress that is distinct from the world isn’t cultural. It’s biblical. Patriarchy isn’t cultural. It is Scripture. I’m to preach the whole counsel of God’s Word. I’m to teach the saints whatever God has said in His Word. I’m not going to have those teachings diminished for the convenience of those who prefer to fit into an unbiblical way of life. Take the world, but give me Jesus.
The Bible is lived in the real world. The Bible reacts to culture. The Bible guides how we will live. The Bible tells us what is the right music, the right art, the right marriage, the right fashion, and the right family.
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.
Recent reactions to the Together for the Gospel (T4G) meeting in Louisville expose the fundamental error for evangelicalism and fundamentalism. One of the most popular and well-read bloggers in evangelicalism, Tim Challies, covered T4G, obviously at its invitation, and afterward explained what he thought was so good about the T4G brand of togetherness. I’ll break down his argument later, but Ben Wright, one of the bloggers on the SharperIron blogroll, revealed (probably unintentionally) the thinking of fundamentalists and evangelicals on togetherness, unity, and fellowship. He writes concerning Challies’ argument: “There may be another argument that reaches his conclusion, but I don’t think he gets us all the way there.” You see, the “conclusion” and “getting all the way there,” that is, to this utopian evangelical unity, is what is important to evangelicals and fundamentalists. They come with the arguments later. This, by the way, is pragmatism. You start with a desired conclusion and assume an argument. The conclusion is big enough and important enough to them to pervert scripture to get there.
And pragmatism was David’s ox cart in 2 Samuel 6. He needed the ark to get from point A to point B, that is, to reach his desired conclusion, and that desire led him to the ox cart. It was the best, fastest, and easiest way to get the ark from point A to point B, so the cart was the means that David justified for transportation. It wasn’t the scriptural means to get there. It wasn’t a godly method. It wasn’t how God wanted things done. But it would work. It was utilitarian. All that was proved wrong when Uzzah touched the ark and died. David got out of the ox cart business. You would think that professing believers would end their ox cart fascination for ever after that. But ox carts will be built if the conclusion is what guides the argument. You want to get to point B after all.
Now some might argue that Ben Wright, featured at SharperIron, is just a young man, one of the restless, petulant, and angry reformed, regularly disrespectful and impudent to older separatists whom he doesn’t like, using the faux authority that SI provides him as a reward for his ejection to the big tent of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is true that his blog reads mainly as a bitter evangelical rant against his personal distaste with traditional fundamentalism, but I think his point does speak for evangelicalism and now a sizable segment of fundamentalism (why he gets SI promotion). You have a conclusion, unity, and better, significance or bigness, and so now you just have to start looking for the arguments to get you there.
Challies’ arguments for T4G togetherness do represent the kind of stretch that evangelicals and fundamentalists invent to reach their desired ends. They also generally approve of these types of attempts, as long as whatever the reasoning, faulty or not, directs them to their theologically correct conclusion. “Just keep trying, Tim, you’ll finally get us to our goal.”
The first Challies’ argument is in essence that not all doctrinal error is sin, so you don’t have to correct the error and can still be in unity, even for a difference like infant sprinkling versus believer’s baptism. Now Challies says that some doctrinal error is sin, like preaching that Jesus isn’t God or saying that homosexuality is permissible. Why? No reason in particular. Those doctrinal errors won’t threaten the T4G coalition. However, he says we should not see all doctrinal error as sin because doctrinal error is merely the consequence of sin, just like illness is the consequence of sin. His basis for this in scripture? Nothing. And then I think we get a second argument, which is that conscience is the guide in the doctrines that divide godly men. Since two men who differ in doctrine both are persuaded in their own conscience that they are right, neither should they “abuse” the other’s conscience by dividing over those differences. Challies ends by writing this:
I am encouraged to see Christians uniting across lines that were once considered too wide to cross. Together for the Gospel is an excellent example of Christian leaders being willing and eager to put aside secondary differences for the sake of the gospel. While they disagree on many fine points of doctrine and even many very important points of doctrine, they all hold tightly to what matters most–the gospel message. This is one line that would be too great to cross but one, within which, there is opportunity to practice humility and fraternity. They join together not to condemn, not to argue, but to affirm the common bond of gospel unity. Though never downplaying differences, neither do they seek to bind one another’s conscience. And this, I think, is how God wants us to be as just a foretaste of that greater, more complete, perfect unity to come.
The conscience is a God created warning device within us that is trained by what we know and believe. Challies is arguing that keeping a properly operating conscience is more important than believing right on “secondary differences.” In other words, what informs the conscience is less important to Challies than the conscience itself. For instance, a conscience may be informed by false doctrine that infant sprinkling is correct, but it is better for T4G and evangelicals to preserve the smooth function of the conscience than to tell the conscience what is true. The conscience has been raised in this argument above Scripture and above the Holy Spirit. That kind of thinking is permissible to evangelicals and won’t send you off the T4G reservation, because it is an ox cart that can bring them to their desired destination.
SharperIron linked to Challies’ post without disclaimer, as if this were an important bit of interaction for the contemporary fundamentalist thinker. The concluding paragraph of Challies presents numbers of awful points. He’s happy that men are coming from widely divergent points of view in order to “unite.” He disintegrates a biblical doctrine of unity. In the last line of his essay, he says that the unity that we have now is different than the one we’ll have together in heaven. The unity I seek, the one in Scripture, is the same as the one in heaven and the one Jesus prayed for in John 17.
Challies explodes a scriptural understanding of humility and fraternity. He implies, of course, that people who emphasize doctrine for unity are proud. On the other hand, those who put aside difference to get together are the humble ones. The problem is that they don’t “downplay” differences, they just ignore them. Challies also says that arguing about differences wouldn’t be humble and would “bind one another’s conscience.” What that is, I don’t know. Feeding a conscience with the truth won’t bind a conscience. The reality is that the conscience operating correctly should be warning someone that something is terribly wrong at the T4G conference. All of this combined devastates discernment in the people that need it the most, Christian leaders. We could rename the conference, Together for Devastating Discernment—T4DD.
What I hadn’t heard during that week was that there was one more conference during the same time as T4G and IBFI, that is, Wheaton’s Theology Conference, featuring the British theologian, N. T. Wright. Christianity Today quotes Wright saying, “Nothing justifies schism.” Brett McCracken breaks down the idea in his CT article that these two massive and sold-out conferences should be getting together to fulfill a New Testament understanding of unity. I don’t agree with any of this, but McCracken writes concerning T4G and the Wheaton conference:
Are we on the same page on the core issues? Can we agree on the claims of the creeds? Yes? Then let’s hash out the details of theological minutia (which is definitely important) in a spirited, friendly debate as the people of God exercising the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2).
He concludes his article:
What if both conferences had merged and two seemingly antagonistic groups of Christians put aside their differences for a few minutes to just sing (in both conferences the hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” was sung), side-by-side, in worship of the triune God who gives the same grace through which all who follow Christ have been saved? That would be a unity the rulers of the world would truly be afraid of.
This two evangelical factions seem to know what the conclusion should be. Now if they can just find the ox cart that will get them there. Ask Tim Challies. He’s already got one built.
If you see the evangelical or fundamentalist ox cart on its way somewhere, wait for someone else from whom to thumb a ride. Unity is found in the assembly, the church. Outside of the church, it is found in churches of like faith and practice. Same belief and practice are the basis of the unity, just like we see in the Bible (Eph 4:1-3). And that’s the only unity that pleases God. The ark of the covenant was the presence of God. The presence of God is purity, holiness, and righteousness, both doctrinally and morally. His presence was not meant for our ox carts.
by Pastor Bobby Mitchell, Mid-Coast Baptist Church, Brunswick, Maine
The autonomy and independence of New Testament churches is plainly taught in the Scriptures. We must be very careful about “meddling” in another church’s business. However, when a pastor and church seeks to start a “movement” that involves thousands of other churches then it is only right to comment on that movement if error, or compromise with error, is being promoted. When such an influence is presented to New Testament churches then New Testament pastors are under holy obligation to speak out about it. Some have asked why I am not involved with the newest Baptist group that is titled Independent Baptist Friends International, and why I felt it necessary to state that I was embarrassed that Mid-Coast Baptist Church was listed on their church directory. I am happy to answer and I thank you for asking. I am not able to give much time to a long and diplomatic response, so please be forgiving of the pointedness of this. I harbor malice towards none of those that I am stating disagreement with. I believe that there is much good that could be said about many involved with the IBFI, but the following are my reasons for not participating.
I do not buy into the philosophy that to obey the Great Commission we must work with those that have the name Independent Baptist and yet preach and practice contrary to Scripture. For instance, Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, was a featured preacher at the IBFI conference. Pastor Schaap and FBCH (following former pastor Jack Hyles) have, for years, promoted an un-Biblical form of “soul-winning” in which repentance is ignored and true Scriptural faith is replaced with the repetition of a prayer. FBCH’s un-Biblical soul-winning methodology is widely known and documented. It has resulted in much confusion, many lost professors of faith, and the promotion of a weakened Gospel message. Further, Jack Schaap has a perverted and twisted view of the Lord’s Supper that teaches that partaking of the elements is akin to sexual relations. This is taught in his book titled Marriage: The Divine Intimacy. Another example of the un-Biblical practice of FBCH is their refusal to practice New Testament Church Discipline.
Pastor Sexton emphasizes in his magazine, emails, mailings, You-Tube videos, and preaching that we must be friends to accomplish world evangelism. He wants men like me to be friends with men like Schaap. I am reminded of John 15:14 where the Lord Jesus said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” The Lord Jesus commanded that we preach repentance (Luke 24:47) and that we practice church discipline for the purity of the church and the restoration of the sinning church member (Matthew 18:15-17). Jesus’ friends obey Him. My friends for world evangelism (those that I will “partner” with, to use a phrase quoted by the IBFI) should be those that are obedient to the Lord. The fellowship of the church at Jerusalem in Acts 2 was in the Apostles’ doctrine and practice (Acts 2:42). It was not fellowship around non-Apostolic preaching and practice! I encourage Baptists everywhere to hold to sound faith and practice and work with others that hold to the same. But, I cannot engage in cooperation with those who are disobedient to the Lord.
It was very obvious from watching three of the services as they were broadcast live on the internet, and observing all of the video highlights, that the IBFI has a “movement” mentality driving it. I don’t see a movement mentality in the Word of God. Scripture reveals that God’s plan for this age is the local New Testament church doing all that the local New Testament church is to be doing! The Lord has promised that “the gates of hell” will not “prevail” against the church. There is no such guarantee for man-made movements. At the Friends Conference Pastor Sexton and others spoke regularly of the new “movement,” the “inaugural meeting,” and the need to “join,” “partner,” and “register.”
I did not hear one speaker encourage any attendee or webcast listener to seek the counsel of their pastor and church as to whether or not they should get involved with the IBFI. They were simply encouraged to join, give, and cooperate. My understanding is that this infringes on the authority of the local church.
One young preacher who was featured at the conference said, “To get the truth to the whole world we must cooperate and coordinate together. It makes sense and it is practical.” I do want to partner and cooperate with New Testament churches (regarding missions) that are serious about obeying all of Scripture, but I see no instruction in the Bible to work with disobedient people to evangelize. The New Testament reveals cooperation among the early churches, but not through compromise. I will not invest my time and money in a man-made movement. I plan to keep on devoting myself to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ through His church.
The host pastor, Dr. Clarence Sexton, and other featured speakers made it very clear that any criticism of the meeting or movement was not welcome. Instead of appreciating that “iron sharpeneth iron,” which is something a true friend does (Proverbs 17:17), those who questioned the promotion of some of the preachers at the conference were referred to as “presumptuous” and “immature.” One preacher stated that we should “never criticize any man that’s trying to get people saved. It doesn’t matter who they are.” That is foreign to Scripture. Peter, a preacher and follower of the Lord, was sharply rebuked by the Lord Jesus for his un-Scriptural statements (Matthew 16:22,23). Later, the same Apostle was “withstood” by Paul for his wrong practice regarding the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11). Paul even went so far as to write his criticism down for believers all over the world to see!
“It takes no size to criticize” one preacher declared at the IBFI meeting. Of course, that leaves the door wide open for non-militancy that will always result in compromise. The Bible tells us to “try the spirits” and “prove all things.” I also see Jesus, Paul, John, Jude, and others in the Scriptures criticizing as needed. I don’t want a critical spirit, but, as a man of God, I must criticize what is un-Biblical.
By the way, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and others who are promoting an anemic Christianity would all insist that they are trying to “get people saved.” Should we not criticize their errors, even if we could be glad for the little bit of Gospel preaching they do?
One preacher at the IBFI conference lamented that “we are so divided over personalities.” I agree that we should not divide merely over personalities, but personalities are an aspect of men and men have doctrine and practices that must be proven by Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Scripture states that we should not partner with men who preach and practice in an un-Biblical fashion.
Another preacher warned against “disagreement and division about what God has blessed.” Of course, it was implied that the IBFI has been blessed of God since it is so “exciting” and “so many are registering.” Meanwhile, Acts 17:11 still records that it is noble to search the Scriptures to check and see if what the preacher is saying is so. I do not trust any man or movement that refuses to deal Scripturally with criticism. No man, ministry, or movement is above 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
HE SAID WHAT?
At least three of the messages that I listened to via the live webcast involved misuse of Scripture. One man preached from Acts 15 and compared that meeting of two churches (Jerusalem and Antioch) to independent Baptists around the world needing to work together. He said that he had learned that he’d “better set aside my opinions, what I think we should be doing . . . and let’s do what seems good to the Holy Ghost.” In actuality Acts 15 is about two churches that believed and practiced the same and when a disagreement came up it was dealt with and they went away committed to total agreement as to the doctrine and practice concerning that particular item of business. To compare that to some “need” of independent Baptists agreeing to work together in spite of real disagreements over doctrine and practice is not true to the text. At any rate, obeying all of the Bible commands, including the command to warn and separate from erring brethren, will “seem good to the Holy Ghost” since He has given us His mind on the matter!
Another message involved the divisions in the church at Corinth over Peter, Paul, and Apollos. Once again a comparison was made to modern independent Baptists. Of course, Corinth was a local church, not an international group of Christians or churches. Paul, Peter, and Apollos all believed, preached, and practiced the same. They were not experiencing disunity over different practices and doctrine. It was disingenuous for that preacher to insist that independent Baptists should ignore the un-Biblical preaching and activities of some in the “movement” while attempting to utilize 1 Corinthians 3 for his proof-text.
One other example of a message based on a strange interpretation was the teaching that after his escape from Sodom, Lot regained his burden for souls, resulting in the preservation of Zoar (Genesis 19:20,21). During the same message, the preacher also stated that Lot’s wife “just froze up” because she realized that they had lost everything in Sodom and hadn’t won any souls. I cannot get excited about, or involved in, a movement that glorifies that kind of “preaching.”
The organizing of the IBFI online church directory seems strange, to say the least. During one of the broadcasts of the meeting I listened as it was stated that “thousands” had “registered” their churches and ministries at the IBFI website. On Thursday I looked at the church directory and I noticed that the church I pastor was listed there. None of us here at MCBC had “registered” our church. I also noticed several other churches that were “registered” that had not been “registered” by anyone associated with those churches. The more I read the stranger it became as I looked at listings of churches that no longer exist, the names of pastors who are now in heaven, and the names of pastors who have moved to a different church. Other pastors began to notice the same thing and a disclaimer was added to the directory that seemed designed to appease any concerns about churches being listed without their approval. One pastor from Indiana wrote to me, “I just went through the directory for Indiana, and found numerous instances of wrong information. Evidently, they did not bother to check or confirm with the local churches themselves before listing them. They just added them without consent or approval, leading to numerous inaccuracies that might have been clarified if they had respected the autonomy of the local church, who should have had a say in whether or not they wished to be listed.”
When I spoke with a staff member at Crown College about having our church removed from the directory he apologetically stated that, in fact, they had built the majority of the directory from other existing church directories that were created and owned by other groups.
IT’S A ______________
Sunday night, the IBFI website appeared to be the website of a new fellowship, but it has been changed now to appear to be something much less organized. There was a statement of faith, but it has been removed. There was a link that said “Become a Baptist Friend,” but that has also disappeared. I don’t know if the IBFI is an association, a once a year meeting, a fellowship, etc. There is a logo. There is a name. There is a directory. There is an annual meeting. There are even “commemorative coins” for sale. Is there a leader? Is there a Statement of Faith that those “registering” ascribe to? Is there accountability? I don’t want to be involved in something when it is not clear what that something is.
I believe that our friendships for world evangelism should be based on obedience to the Word of God. Again, Jesus said, “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Brother Sexton wants us to be friends for evangelism in spite of error and disobedience “in the camp.” I rejoice in any truth that is being preached by the IBFI. I rejoice in the burden for world evangelism. I rejoice in the conservative dress and music and many of the positions declared by the preachers. I am troubled by the promotion of some that preach and practice in an un-Biblical manner. I am troubled by any misuse of Scripture and any hint of dishonesty in the service of the Lord. I am standing where I stand and I am not demanding that anyone else must agree with me. I do not want to be associated with the IBFI. I don’t even want the church I pastor to be listed on their directory of Baptist churches. Before God, I hope that my motivation and spirit is right in expressing this disagreement and lack of cooperation. Please consider it and please consider me with charity.
One of my favorite songs to sing is “Blessed Be the Ties that Bind.” I know that when I was in college where a necktie was required in the dress code, the song title was used for a bit of a joke, but the six verses that we sing in our church when we take the Lord’s Table are always great. A story goes with the song, the writer staying at a small church instead of moving on to the bigger one because of, well, the ties that bound him there. We have two different similar tunes in our Trinity Hymnal, Baptist Edition, for that hymn, and we sing the one with the ties in the notation. “Blessed be-ee, the tie-ies that bind, our hea-earts in Chri-istian love.” I smile at the irony.
I do believe that the ties that bind the hearts of our church members, those body parts, in Christian love are a blessing. Certain ties bound John Fawcett, the author of the hymn, to his church. He didn’t move on to another church because of them. The ties that bind hearts in Christian love, actual Christian love, scriptural Christian love, that is, the only true love, not dumbed down sentimentalism, will be a benefit to a church member. But what about the ties that bind someone to a parachurch organization, an alliance, a league, a denomination, a convention, or something called a fellowship, but might be the furthest thing from fellowship?
Some ties are more like chains that really, really bind. They’re not blessed even if someone thought they were. The ties that bind men together into these extra-scriptural alliances are often not scriptural. Just the opposite, the ties are ties for ties’ sake. They don’t accentuate biblical doctrine and practice, but deemphasize it for the sake of the ties. These ties that bind are several, as I see it.
1. The Tie of Insecurity
Men need more confirmation than the Bible and a church can give. They’ve got to feel more importance than a singular church offers. The alliance tells them that they are significant. They belong. They matter. Their creeping doubts might be assuaged. How could someone be wrong when he’s got so many with him on his side? Or at least he feels like he does. When he stands before God, he’ll be able to turn to his alliance and they’ll have his back.
2. The Tie of Pride
Men often crave recognition. I know so and so and so and so knows me. I was there; were you? We all had a great time, didn’t we? Men come together in search for appreciation, something they may not feel where they’re at. They can go to find it.
3. The Tie of Mysticism
Men maintain a mystical church, an invisible body, a loyalty to a platonic unity. The elusive unity of the universal church must be somewhere, so let’s just make it up, invent it out of whole cloth. Is it about Jesus? No. If it were, doctrines would be featured, but biblical teachings must be placed in the refrigerator to make room for the hot oven of unity.
4. The Tie of Tolerance
Men cry out about the age of political correctness. But now we’ve imitated it with a more harmful and insidious theological correctness. It is called love. It is called balance. These are the ways that it deceives. And then if you point out doctrinal or practical error, you’re even said to be wasting people’s time. They could be out soulwinning, but you have taken up their time bothering them with a scriptural issue. It isn’t love. Love rejoices in the truth. It’s a replacement for Christian love that can be practiced in the flesh.
These ties not only bind, but they also blind. They forsake perspecuity and plainness for ambiguity and nuance. They abandon application and meaning for camaraderie and togetherness. We are not blessed with these ties.