Monday, June 15, 2009

Majoring on the Minors

A few days ago, I received a nasty comment here from 'anonymous,' and he started it with some sarcasm about my majoring on the minors. Don't look for the comment. I didn't post it. It was error-filled, so I wasn't interested in anyone entertaining its content, especially since he wouldn't own it. But it did motivate me to speak to the concept of "majoring." I've found the criticism, "you major on the minors," to be common. Rather than dealing with the actual exegesis or application, the critic attacks the choice of subject matter. It is akin to a poor review of a book on Gettysburg because the author didn't choose Antietam.

I refuse to accept the 'majoring on minors' charge. The Bible chronicles the technical character of God. He wants minutiae kept. I believe we invented "minors" for fake unity or to excuse some kind of disobedience. A violation is minor to the ones who want to do it. Our concern should be whether God is pleased or not.

Cain thought fruits and vegetables were minor. Nadab and Abihu thought their unique recipe for the altar of incense was minor. Achan thought the Babylonian garment was minor. Uzzah thought touching the ark was minor. David thought the means of carrying the ark was minor. Moses thought that striking the rock was minor. Ananias and Saphhira thought that holding back part of their offering was minor. Israel thought that using Gideon's ephod for worship was minor and that worshiping God in the high places was minor.

What we have with these denials of the "minors" are presumptuous sins. We ought to instead pray with the Psalmist (19:13):

Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

2 Peter 2:10 speaks of presumptuousness:

But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

We can see the presumptuousness comes from a disrespect of authority. The presumptuous takes liberty where he doesn't have it. He assumes too much. He takes matters into his own hands, presuming that it shouldn't matter as much as other issues, because it isn't as important. And yet, if God said it, it's important. He possesses all authority. If He said it, He meant it, and He expects us to obey it. If we love Him, we will keep what He said, and it won't be burdensome to us to do so (1 John 5:3).

The "minor" that my critic disapproved was the obedience of Deuteronomy 22:5. Deuteronomy 22:5 ends by saying that all who violate one of its prohibitions "are abomination unto the LORD thy God." My critic is saying that an abomination to God is a minor issue. How could anyone who loves God think that becoming "an abomination to God" is permissible, only a minor issue? John writes in Revelation 21:8 that "the abominable . . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." You can see how presumptuous they are who say that disobedience to Deuteronomy 22:5 is a minor issue.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pastor Brandenburger,

You know, I was just thinking along this same line the other day, as a tangential thought to why it is that heresies arise when they do.

Why did anomianism arise? Where does this notion that we are "free from the law" in the sense of being able to do whatever floats our boat, regardless of what the Bible has to say about, come from?

In I Corinthians, I think we see the answer. It comes from the selfishness of carnal Christians. In Corinth, the matter of loose moral standards and patting themselves on the back for being tolerant of gross sin is dealt with right in between Paul's criticism of their pridefulness and puffery (Ch. 4) and their "me-first" attitudes towards bearing faults from one another (Ch. 6).

I think we can understand it as a scriptural truism that the desire to sin because grace supposedly frees us to do what we like (and c'mon, have these folks never read Romans Ch. 6?) comes from a carnal, and even unsaved, heart. Paul said, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Romans 8:7) The person who refuses to allow their heart and mind to be changed and brought into conformity with God's Word (including the "minors") is someone who's mind is still at emnity with God - is still making God an enemy.

The attitude of the one who really and truly loves God is,

"But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." (Psalm 1:2)

"I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word." (Psalm 119:16)

"My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly." (Psalm 119:167)

A follower of Christ does exactly that - follows Christ. Christ said,

"....My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John 4:34)

Christ wasn't worried about what He "couldn't" do if He followed God's Word faithfully. He wasn't complaining about "legalism" with respect to honouring and obeying God's Word to the letter. Christ was focused on doing the Father's will, not in pleasing His own, and the follower of Christ ought to have the same attitude, ought to "have the mind of Christ."

I'm sorry, but I do not believe that Jesus Christ would find our opposition to things like "Christian" rock music or pants on women to be "legalistic." Jesus told the Pharisees that they should have not omitted the weightier matters of the law (judgment, mercy, and faith), but notice - He also told them in the process of doing these, not to leave the other (the tithing of herbs as increase, the "minor") undone.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Everything you wrote rings true with me, Titus.

Damien said...

I agree with your main points here. If God says it, it isn't minor. The "majoring on the minors" thing is, many times, a cop-out.

I'd like to understand your position a little better. Obviously they has to be Christians with whom you do fellowship that don't agree with you on everything, right? Though I know you're against essentials and non-essential categories, do you draw the line anywhere? If we disagree but I remain teachable, you are required to work on unity with me, at least that's how I see it. Like, I"m thinking, if I came to you and said, "there's no resurrection", you'd be pretty adamant about breaking fellowship with me (save trying to win my soul, I hope), but if I said, "I think your timing of the Rapture is off", is there a process we must go through before we make a decision to fellowship/not fellowship?

See, I agree that if God says something is an abomination, it is extremely serious. In fact, I agree with you that Deut 22:5 is a serious warning. In short, God does not want men dressing like women and vice versa. So we agree on that. But since my (and many others') view on "that which pertains to a man/woman" isn't the same as yours, how do we resolve this issue? Though I don't think Deut 22:5 is minor, I'd say that our interpretation of what consitutes a male garment might just be. Do you break fellowship with pastors and churches who believe it's ok for a woman to wear pants?

Christian said...

Whatever God chose to tell us is for us and our children (Deuteronomy 29:29). It would seem dangerous to say that God said something unimportant. Somethings are less relevant due to their being little application to our situation (ie some regulations given to Israel do not apply today), but all of it is important.

The actual problem for some in regard to this specific incident is not that Deuteronomy 22:5 is a minor, but that your application of this passage is relegated to a minor, because they do not agree with your interpretation of the passage and/or your interpretation of our culture. Of which both require agreement to arrive at your application. In this regard I believe you have nuanced and speculated about the interpretation of the passage and then nuanced and speculated about how our culture interprets slacks on women. This process makes minor things (not the passage, but your nuancing and speculation) a major. I give you every right to conclude as you have based on your personal nuancing and speculation, but I would ask that you would allow others to nuance and speculate on their own as well.

IOW what the text says is unmistakable, relevant and important (a major), but how that applies may vary (even in your interpretation--as I understand it.) This makes application of passages such as these which demand cultural interpretation both major and minor. They are major in that we must to subject ourselves to honest and serious thought as we study and seek for appropriate applications, but minor in that we allow others the same luxury. In summary we must allow others the the luxury of agreement with God in their interpretations, even if they are in disagreement with us in their applications. This is the essence of how the absolute authority of Scripture, priesthood of the believer, and individual soul liberty work in the Baptist system.

As far as I know, you would do exactly as I have described -- allow me the luxury of seriously thinking these things through on my own and even disagreeing with you. Therefore, I conclude that you may not really be majoring on the minors -- but I disagree with your application in this situation. If am mistaken about this, please forgive me for assuming positively :)

For His Glory,
Christian Markle

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi DT,

Welcome back. I explain how I separate right here:

I think it is pretty clear.

That probably would need to be read before I answered other questions, because it answers a lot. If what I wrote is scriptural, then it is what everyone should do. Regarding separation, I attempt to be in unity with every single person on earth with which I can. I do that based on everything that God said in His Word. I'm only required to be in unity with my church, since communion is in the body of Christ and the body is local only (1 Cor. 12:27).


I see where you are with what you've said, and I have thought about what you've said before. Thanks for your comment. I agree with it in a certain way, but I don't agree with it as it stands in this context.

I've been doing a series in Sunday School in our church on the issues that our church believes and practices that differentiates us from other evangelical churches. I spent the first two weeks talking about how it is that we arrive at our position on issues. We start with interpretation. Interpretation requires a lot to be legitimate: the meaning of words (how they are used), etc. Then we have application. We have agreement in the church. We must see it is historic, that is, no private interpretation.

With that being said, I've gone through that process on Deut 22:5. I didn't take this position until I did a series on Deuteronomy in about year five of our church history. A vast majority of pre-1950 commentaries take my interpretation. Everyone in our culture applied it like I do until about the same time commentaries started changing their meanings. The Hebrew agrees with my position, the meaning of words, the usage, history. I would expect the same kind of work out of someone else if they were serious about not being an abomination.

I don't agree with your cultural application take, I don't think. It is a second premise argument. Much of our application is second premise. I talk about that here:

I believe a great postmodern attack is that we can't be sure about application of scripture. It is an attack on truth itself. I'm not saying you are doing that, but any one of us can be influenced by it.

Scripture is perspicuous. God wants us to know what it means and how it is applied. There will be no total apostasy until the Antichrist is revealed. If a position is going to overturn historic doctrine and practice, it ought to come from scripture and the application of believers. I'd be glad, very glad, for you to show me how your position does that.

Christian said...

Brother Brandenburg,

Thank you for your reply. It remains interesting to me that we are in great agreement in the process (I might tweek a few things (your understanding of the biblical phrase "private interpretation, for instance), but generally we would approach these things with the same presuppositions and process.

Although there are a few issues between us on the interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5, the one issue you keep bringing up and which I would like to ask about is the historical one. Although we both would probably agree that the historical position certainly is not the most important thing, I recognize the value of a long held position. However, I would ask who in history held the position you hold--as you hold it? I have begun looking in my "older" commentaries and, frankly, they do not seem to assert the same nuancing and speculation that I remember you taking. Quite possibly, my limited resources or time have prevented me from reading the same sources you studied. Could you give a list of the historical references that you used in your study?

re: culture
I have no problem with the general concept of second premise arguments as I believe you explain them. But second premise arguments demand a thorough knowledge of the non-biblical revelation they are referencing. One illustration of this might be the practice of smoking -- now that we know that it is quite dangerous for your health we ought to abstain. I would assume that given time we might also list mistaken positions that have been based on mistaken ideas about a particular non-scriptural subjects. As I understand you argument on the cultural side, I believe you are mistaken about the meaning in our culture of modest, (especially) feminine slacks on women during appropriate occasions.

For His glory,
Christian Markle

Kent Brandenburg said...

First, the anonymous one, whom I mentioned in this post, sent another comment anonymously again. In this he said that I chose to post his only error and that I wouldn't answer the rest of it because I didn't have an answer. He said, however, that I was "legalistic" and he called this post "spin." He essentially called me a coward for not answering him. Everyone who reads here knows that I don't back down on questions or comments. I deleted both of them and don't remember more than that. Mr. Anonymous, if you want to own your comments and they fit legitimate discourse, I'll publish them here.


I'd be glad to cut and paste commentaries on this. I have all the quotes easily accessible. I would email you to them. I finished a book on this about three or four years ago. It's just not published yet, although the publisher has it. It's actually on appearance as a whole---about 250-300 pages. When I say history, I'm saying two things:
1) The history of the interpretation, and
2) The history of the application.

Here's someone that takes the same position I do that I think will be helpful. I had finished the book when I came across and I found that we agreed almost exactly. It is Dr. A. Philip Brown. He is a Hebrew scholar.

Christian said...

Brother Brandenburg,

Please email them to me (it might be hard to email me to them :-)). I think you have my email -- if not I will find a way to get it to you in a less private way.

I will try to look over the PDF you linked to.

For His glory,
Christian Markle

Anonymous said...

Hi Pastor Brandenburger,

I find the concept of an anonymous poster calling a blogmaster who uses his own name a "coward" to be....amusing, to say the least.

Anonymous said...


Would a minor be an issue like the

Romans 10:9 post/pre

justification. Would that brother

still be able to preach at your

church. Whether or not someone

believes in election(how you

beleve it. Do pastors Mallinak

and Voegtlin. Believe the same

with you on election?) It would be

nice for you to do post on

the difference between Cavinistic

election and your view. (i had

asked you about it on jackhammr)

Finally for the person(male or

female) who takes the no-pants

position how should he treat women

who wear pants?


PS ; When you changed your

position did your wife have to

stop wearing pants or was she

already a no-pants preffered type

lady? How did your church family

react to your change in ?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Our church determines what are its doctrinal differences. The Rom 10:9-13 understanding is not something we will separate over.

My wife believed this before I preached it. I explained it to her first. She became convinced by the passage. She still is and more than ever. When I preached through Deut, I didn't require our church to change. The ladies changed anyway. They changed before I said I believed our church should do it. They changed based on conviction. New ladies coming in are usually explained in discipleship times. I preach exposition, so I rarely get to the pants-skirt, unless it comes up as an application.