Monday, March 14, 2011

When I Left Fundamentalism part four

When someone speaks of fundamentalism today, he really doesn't speak of some kind of monolithic, single, coherent group. However, I often wonder why it matters if fundamentalism is "fragmented." Are we to expect unity among fundamentalists? And if fundamentalism is fragmented, what is causing it? Doctrinal differences? Politics? There shouldn't be disunity where there shouldn't be disunity, but what value is there in keeping "unity" that revolves around politics? And is it unity if there are doctrinal differences? Is that a cohesiveness worth preserving? Some are concerned about the future of the fundamentalist movement? Why should it matter if the movement continues? Could we all be better off if the movement sunk into oblivion?

One common criticism from certain fundamentalists and evangelicals has been the tyrannical nature of fundamentalist leadership. Is meanness a quality unique in Christianity to fundamentalism? Not at all. Evangelicals are just as "mean," in my opinion. Their sarcasm and mockery of fundamentalism is just as harsh as anything you'll see coming from fundamentalists. I give you a recent example that is really just what I've noticed as par for the course. It comes in a recent discussion online about "Christ in the Old Testament." Mark Snoeberger is a professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and wrote some of his observations for a future Old Testament class he's teaching at the seminary. I think he made some rightful criticism of reading too much Christology into the Old Testament. Christ isn't more greatly honored by seeing Him where He isn't. Snoeberger said some things in a less artful or sensitive way than some thought necessary, but later he apologized publically for that.

After Snoeberger's apology, Phil Johnson, a well-known evangelical, linked to an article written by a fellow evangelical, Nathan Pitchford, who called Snoeberger a false teacher and a Marcionite. Others in the comment section wondered if Snoeberger must not believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Johnson himself writes this:

Snoeberger's inelegant use of the expression "Gospel Carnival" reflects his contempt for what he calls "the Gospel Togetherness Movement." He says it is not meant to denigrate the gospel per se. However, I think his view does denigrate the gospel, deliberately downplaying what both Christ himself and the Apostle Paul said should be central.

Snoeberger had already apologized for his expression "Gospel Carnival." Phil Johnson ironically does not give Snoeberger "due process." I say "ironically" because Johnson himself has written that lack of due process is what will kill fundamentalism, as it stands, if it hasn't already. What I've noticed is that Johnson likes due process for himself and his friends, but he's very glad not to give it those he criticizes. This is just an example of how evangelicals aren't really different as a whole from fundamentalists in what they think makes them different than fundamentalists. We get no mention of Snoeberger's apology or of how Snoeberger had clarified some of the statements he had made. If someone were treating John MacArthur like Johnson treated Snoeberger, Johnson would see that as fundamentalist styled treatment.

You haven't escaped meanness if you leave fundamentalism for evangelicalism. I've never seen any Christians as mean as evangelicals. The comments I get at this blog from evangelicals are the most vile and rude that I get, on par at least with Peter Ruckman, if not worse.

But I digress. I haven't yet talked about the most pivotal event toward my leaving fundamentalism. I can't tell the whole story in one post, but I'll get started here.

Our church had become woven into fundamentalism. We attended fundamentalist meetings, camps, and colleges. Our school joined the American Association of Christian Schools and the California edition of it. We began attending the teacher's conventions for the AACS. We supported missionaries from fundamentalist mission boards. Was this the best thing for our church? I found it wasn't. Affiliating with all these organizations was doing more to hurt our church. They siphoned off a lot of money from our annual budget without helping our church.

The preachers that came in to the various "service organizations" of fundamentalism couldn't represent the best preaching. Rarely to never did you hear good exposition. Perhaps this has improved in fundamentalism, but still not at that time. We heard the same people all the time, the big guys from Bob Jones University or from the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship.

We paid dues to be a part of the Golden State Association of Christian Schools. We paid for the teacher's convention and for the transportation and hotel costs. I was excited to see what kind of help we could get there for our teachers. I sat in on a session on 'teaching Bible' offered by the president of the AACS. In the session, he said that Bible class needed to be easy. Why? Kids like easy classes, so if you make Bible easy, then your kids will like Bible class. Ingenious, huh? So he taught us how they had made Bible class an easy class, so their kids would like the Bible. If you made Bible class too hard, your kids wouldn't like it, and they would be turned off to the Bible. How does that sound to you? Hopefully very bad.

It was in the lobby of that convention that I stood with some of the big names in fundamentalism and heard them talk about how men came to fisticuffs with one another. One of the biggest names in fundamentalism had the other big name by his shirt, and the other with his hands around the throat. The one telling the story told how that he had to break the fight up before it got really ugly. This was a different picture than what I had in mind for these types of men when I was in school or growing up.

Things got worse.

A Church Discipline Situation

We had a Filipino man in our church who wanted to go back to the Philippines as a missionary. The man wasn't even qualified to be a deacon in a church, let alone our sending him as an evangelist to a foreign country. Nevertheless, he asked me and another man in our church to send a letter of recommendation to Baptist World Mission. The letter I sent did not recommend him. He didn't have a job. His wife worked, brought home the paycheck, and the man home-schooled his children. He never got to church on time. The whole family was almost always fifteen minutes late. I didn't even know that the other man in our church had sent a letter, which said the same things that I said in mine. I got a letter back from the executive director of the mission board and he thanked me for the letter. He said he would recommend the man to get into a mentoring or internship type of situation with me. The executive direction of BWM was very happy that we did not recommend such a man.

The Filipino man agreed to do an internship with me. I wanted to help him all I could. I started with getting to church on time. I laid out an entire schedule for him for Saturday night and Sunday morning that would enable him to arrive early and be a help. Upon seeing the schedule, he decided that he did not want this mentoring and so he would not pursue being a missionary any more.

Shortly thereafter, I was preaching a series on Wednesday night through 2 Thessalonians and got to chapter 3. I was convicted about this man not working, being supported by his wife. When I was preaching 3:6-15, I knew that it was speaking directly to him and then to me. I was allowing him to disobey God without correction or discipline. In other words, I wasn't loving the man by allowing him to get away with this, and in so doing, harming our church. I talked to him one-on-one and told him that I would help him obey the passage. Even though I would rather not, we would hire him to work in the school, and he could put his kids in the school for free. That would give him a job and take away the excuse of his children's education. He refused. He said "no."

Myself and another man in our church went to him again and said that he needed to look for a job or to accept our job offer or we would bring it before the church. He told me it was too late, because he was going to leave the church. He did. He left and took his family to a church in San Francisco, one pastored by a big-named fundamentalist, a man who was a leader in the FBF and on the board of BWM. When he got to that church, he told the pastor there that he wanted to go to the Philippines as a missionary. That church recommended him to Baptist World Mission. The executive director of Baptist World Mission, who had thanked me only a year before, accepted the recommendation.

Our church was supporting five Baptist World Mission missionaries. We had removed this leaven from our lump and BWM had accepted the leaven from our lump---knowingly, with full knowledge. Even at this point, I was shocked at the kind of thing that happened in fundamentalism. The executive director of BWM had written two books on separation and the holiness of God. I had read them both. With that in mind, I knew that when I called him, he would certainly do what was right. I knew he would. So I called.

More to Come.


Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

Uh oh, I sense a cliffhanger...

Anonymous said...

You have not yet posted the next section to this saga, but the BWM response can be predicted without the gift of prophecy...

...since the second church recommended the man, BWM will simply respect the autonomy and authority of that local church.

The real issue is the unscriptural membership reception at the second church, no?

Victor Mowery said...

Cliffhanger indeed. I am waiting for the rest.

I am trying very hard not assume I know the other church and the mission board director, since you did not name them. But there are very few options that fit all the clues given. Anyway, if it is your intent to indeed keep it private, you might edit your post to say "a mission board" and "a church in a nearby city." Otherwise everybody familiar with fundamentalism clearly assumes you are talking about E.P. and H.S. Those initials may be enough for you not to publish this comment, but the clues you list would also be enough for anybody to figure out even without the initials I name. Just an observation you might consider if your intent is indeed to not "name names" at this point.

It shouldn't matter who exactly you're talking about though, because the behavior is typical, both within fundamentalism as well as in evangelicalism.

One, a church accepted a member without checking on the situation at the prior church. A HUGE no-no, but we see it happen all the time here. I have always made it a point to call the prior pastor and get the full story. I have even counselled people to go back to the former church if they left for faulty reasons. Good people that would have been a nice addition to the church I have "turned away" in order to minister to them better in seeing them correct their mistakes. But how many times has another pastor called me when people leave and go elsewhere? Guess. That's right, Zero. Typical, but I had hoped for more from the church I assume you are talking about. (Hope my assumption is wrong, though).

Two, the issue with the board director...what can be said? You did not say what year this was.... Could the man have been suffering from his well-known disability at the time of this incident? I am hoping to give him the benefit of the doubt, but nothing surprises me anymore. (Again, assuming I know who you are talking about but hoping I'm wrong).

Your very first paragraph was right on. I was hoping to see you go more in that direction with this post but you seemed to switch gears. Is there more along those lines?

Once again, thank you for sharing.

Don Johnson said...

For those that are speculating about 'typical fundamentalist behaviour', just remember that there is more than one side to a story.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...


The rest of the story is coming, Lord-willing. Thanks.


I have all of this very well documented in a large notebook. I have paperwork for everything. I would be glad to take it to a jury if necessary. Everything I'm saying is the unvarnished truth. I could be much more harsh.

It's interesting. If this happened to you, I think I would be concerned and defensive for you. I believe I have even proven that. I definitely wouldn't assume that you weren't telling the truth.

Don Johnson said...

Kent, I'm not saying you aren't telling the truth, but you are telling the truth from your perspective. However, you can't know all the factors that went into the decisions that were made from the mission board's side of things. You just aren't privy to that sort of information.

I also think that the way you are telling the story is a little unfortunate in that it leads to speculation as in the case of Victor, above. And,as you know, his speculation is incorrect, so it needlessly impugns others who were not involved at all.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that you, as a pastor, must make a judgment call based on your observations of the man who wished to be a missionary. But I also believe that your judgment call should relate only to his qualifications to be a missionary. I believe that you overstepped the boundries by telling him that he had to get a job, or work for the church, or else you would bring him up before the church. The arrangement of this man and his wife as to work and schooling the children should be their own business. Just my opinion...

Kent Brandenburg said...


Have you read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15? Because that's not opinion.

We didn't have to offer him a job. We did that so that we would give him the absolute best opportunity to obey 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, because we loved him.

Victor Mowery said...

Hi Don, I hope you read this comment. Thank you for the reminders you posted here, but I feel the need to clarify a couple of things if Kent will allow it. Since my prior comment was mentioned by you, it seemed good and necessary that I should clarify about what you called my speculation. In other words, I want to spare you (and maybe others) from speculating about what exactly I am or am not speculating on!

There are two issues that you have addressed as my speculation. First, the unnamed people whom Kent mentions; second "typical fundamentalist behavior" (which was actually in your first comment).

First of all, Yes, I was speculating about the people / church referred to, as I indicated, and I also indicated that I hoped I was wrong about who exactly was involved. In other words, I have not in my mind convicted the person and church whose initials I gave, nor have I impugned them or changed my opinion of them yet. I don't yet know that those are the ones in question, and in fact, should I learn it was even exactly whom I thought it might be, it will probably still be one of those things on which I have to give the benefit of the doubt. I do not know their motivation or other factors or facts, as you said, and those are things I _always_ refuse to speculate on.

I also suggested a way that Brother Kent could help keep others from letting their minds wander and wonder about who was involved, since it is irrelevant. In my opinion (though it is not my blog), as I said, who it is does not matter because the behavior is typical. He is telling the story for the lesson to be learned, not for the purpose of pointing fingers at others, and I understand that fact even if it does raise my curiosity. Like a parable of the Lord - "There was a certain man..." - we do not need to know his name in order to learn the lesson. The behavior is typical for the type. Therefore, the lesson is there and plain to see for those who can stop worrying about the filling in the blanks and just learn the lesson from the information given. But the lesson is important simply because the behavior and attitudes are so prevalent - so typical.

That brings me to your first comment. I was in no way speculating about "typical fundamentalist behavior" as you seemed to indicate. Yes, I know there are two sides to every story, but I also know whereof I speak regarding typical fundamentalists. I am a fundamentalist and still unashamed to call myself that (by the definition that word was given two or three generations ago; not by virtue of belonging to any movement). I grew up in fundamentalism, more or less from the womb, and I now pastor a fundamentally separated church. A lot of stuff happened in between, but without going into any more details, let's just say that I am all too familiar with what is typical fundamentalist behavior and what is not. That is not speculation, that is a lifetime of experience and of gleaning the lessons of others. I give this just so you too know whereof I speak.

Even if Kent were completely lying, dozens could tell the same exact story truthfully because it is indeed typical fundamentalist behavior.

In any case...Speculating about typical fundamentalist behavior? No. Been there, done that, seen it, smelled it, the t-shirt is in the dryer right now. I remain a fundamentalist, though having never been a very typical one. I pray for the day when what is actually biblical can become what is typical. I know we would all agree with that.

In Christ,
Victor Mowery

Victor Mowery said...

Just to beat that horse a little more...

It is typical for a fundamental church to unquestionably accept as members those who may be under discipline in another church or may have left sin behind them there. To completely accept everything they were told about the former church without verifying, and then even pass that gossip on to others as fact. Absolutely typical. How would the new pastor even know if that were the case, seeing he doesn't ever bother to just pick up the phone? I have never ONCE gotten a call from the new church where people land after leaving. As I said, it is not only typical fundamentalist behavior but also typical evangelical behavior too. For some reason, I just expect better of those who call themselves Bible-believing fundamentalists. I expect them to try to do the biblical thing, but that might mean risking losing out on a new member. Yes, typical, not speculation.

It is typical fundamentalist behavior for a mission board to...(well, we haven't yet learned what the mission board finally did). But here is the one thing I see as typical of mission boards, whether fundamental or evangelical: they seem more interested in what will keep the board going than in what truly honors the Lord. That same statement could be said of many (if not most) fundamental or evangelical local churches as well, though.

Meanwhile, I await the rest of this story. Kent, from post number one in this series I have not known what you mean by "leaving" fundamentalism because it is not something you join to begin with (is it?). I made a commitment to Jesus Christ first and then to a local church. I never had anybody knock on my door and ask me to join fundamentalism. I simply saw that the whole Bible was the word of God and that God's holiness requires separation from all ungodliness, therefore I walk with those others who also see that. We are usually called "fundamentalists." But as your first paragraph here said, there is no cohesive group that comprises fundamentalism, so how can you leave something that does not consist or exist in concrete terms? It is not like leaving a church roster. You can leave a certain camp - say the "Hyles camp" - not by tearing up your membership card, but by turning your back on and repudiating the unbiblical nature of what they stand for. But if you turn your back on the fundamentals of the faith and/or repudiate separation, you have become an apostate, liberal or new evangelical. I know from reading this blog that is not you, so I am still curious what (in your mind or your story) constitutes "leaving fundamentalism." Maybe you mean simply leaving all the "camps" as many others have done? I am assuming you will get around to what you mean.

Gary Webb said...

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:" Hosea 4:6.
Anonymous doesn't know that the Bible commands the church to discipline those men who do not work to support their families or even that such men are called "worse than infidels" in I Timothy 5:8.
Don doesn't know that when a church acts in obedience to the Bible that God says that their decision is "bound in Heaven", (Matthew 18:18).
BWM & Don don't know that BWM has no Scriptural authority to oversee or evaluate or send out missionaries. That is the responsibility of the local church (Acts 13:1-3).
This sounds harsh towards Don. It is not intended to be. There are many things I did not know (and probably still don't know) about how Christians and churches should operate. However, we should be growing and submitting to the teaching of Scripture rather than still holding to and defending old, unbiblical customs and our friends who hold to them.

Don Johnson said...

A few more points...

First, regarding speculation, Kent has given us a board name and a few other key facts. The result is that readers speculate about who else was involved. In this case, Victor's speculation pointed to a church that was not involved. Do you think it is really helpful for readers to go on a guessing game of every independent Baptist church in the Bay Area and wonder if it was them?

Second, Kent's point would have as easily been served by naming no names. At this point, it is ancient history and naming the name seems more like taking a shot than serving the purpose of Kent's point. I don't know the details, but I know some of the people involved. While they are just as perfect as I am (i.e., imperfect), they are godly people seeking to serve the Lord. Perhaps there is more to this particular story that Kent isn't aware of himself. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. And a blog is hardly the place to settle any ongoing differences that might exist on this point.

Finally, Gary, you are certainly entitled to your opinions.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Anonymous said...

My understanding of the 2 Thes. reference is that we are not to be idle and are not to be busybodies. Homeschooling parents are certainly not idle. Was this man being a busybody? Was he interfering in other's business? If so, it didn't come out in the blog. But it certainly looks as if Pastor B. is being a busybody in this man's household. Once again, I maintain that the finances of this home is the business of the man and his wife.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You are pretty bold in your anonymity, but I still publish what you've said, because I think it is worth dealing with in public. Why not let us know who you are---maybe you'd be less accusatory if people knew who you were. You are calling me a busybody, when I am the overseer of a church, appointed by God (Acts 20:28; Heb 13:17).

You are very selective in your understanding of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, choosing to just ignore much of what it says. Is that your attitude about God? And you are saying that the scriptural position is that the woman is the breadwinner and the man the homemaker? The passage isn't talking about just being a busy body. It says that when a man won't work, he shouldn't eat, and then when he is violating that instruction, he is to be disciplined. You can parallel that with 1 Tim 5:8, that Bro Webb, mentioned, a man who provides not for his own is worse than an infidel. This is not so much that someone is not obeying scripture either, but that when given the opportunity, he still won't change. We lovingly gave him an opportunity to change that arrangement to line up with scripture and he refused. With your sentimentalism, you would allow him to be disobedient and then call it love---calling good evil and evil good.

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

Anonymous - "Busybody." You keep using that word, but I think it does not mean what you think it means.

Larry said...


It seems you have failed to carefully read and apply 2 Thess 3:6-15. As you say, the passage is not a matter of opinion. So we can read it and see what it says and follow it.

By reading it, we can see that the passage does not speak to gender roles in the home. It speaks to being not willing to work (v 10), being undisciplined, not working, and being a busybody (v. 11). Nothing in your story indicates that this man was guilty of any of those things. So nothing in this passage supports church discipline of this man based on the facts as you reveal them. (Unless there are other facts you did not reveal.)

Your complaint seems to be that the man stayed home teaching the children and caring for the children while his wife worked. As you can see from 2 Thess 3, that is not addressed in this passage. That is a Titus 2 issue where women are told to be workers at home. Your position about the man working and the woman being at home may be a right position (though there are certainly some biblical passages that have to be correlated). But that is not the issue in 2 Thess 3. You can tell that by noticing that Paul says nothing about that there.

Furthermore, 2 Thess 3 is not gender specific. A woman who was undisciplined, not working, and a busybody would be subject to discipline. Under your application, a woman who stayed home to teach and care for the children would be guilty of violating this passage, and that is simply wrong. The issue is about an undisciplined life.

Furthermore your solution of offering the man a job could well be argued to be asking the man to disobey his biblical obligation to care for his children. You were asking him to put his children under someone else's authority and teaching in order to satisfy your own conscience. The church does not get to dictate how a man raises his children in teh discipline and instruction of the Lord. I think he would be right to reject that kind of counsel just as you were wrong to insist on it, and threaten discipline over it. When you do that, you have undermined legitimate church authority.

You may well have been right not to recommend the man for mission work, and BWM may well have been wrong to accept him. But the basis you gave with respect to his home is an incorrect basis.

Churches are under no obligation to accept the judgment of another church when it is based on a wrong understanding and application of Scripture. We actually undermine the authority of Scripture when we use it as you did in this specific instance.

Anonymous said...

The Amplified Bible comments on the disorderly in v. 11 that they are passing their lives in idleness, neglectful of duty, being busy with other people's affairs instead of their own and doing no work.

A person's life is rarely so simple that it can be contained in a few sentences. Pastor B. gave only a few sentences about the man in question, and I daresay there is much more to his story. (to be fair, I understand that it is difficult in a blog or essay to capture the entirety of a human life). It could be that the man was deliberately lazy and used home schooling as an excuse to not work. But that was not my first and general impression, based on what was written. If indeed he was neglectful of his duty, idle, and busy in other people's affairs, then yes, you must charge and exhort such persons (v12 from Amplified Bible). But I again maintain that not enough information was supplied to warrant such action.

Consider this example (names changed): Miriam and Phil marry and agree that when children come along that Miriam will be a stay at home mom. Miriam is a nurse and working during the first years of their marriage. Phil is a chemical engineer and also working. Although they are making good money, they choose to live frugally and below their means. When children do bless their home, Miriam quits her job to raise the children. Fast forward a few years. Phil loses his job due to a massive downsizing. Now it's not a question of living frugally or below their means. It's a question of no income at all. They can get by for a few months with the good-by package and their savings while Phil job hunts. But there are no jobs available. To complicate matters, Miriam's mother has moved in with them. She is frail and ill. Phil gets a job offer in distant state, which would mean moving the family. But Miriam's mother is too ill to make the move with them. They can leave her in a nursing home, but this is not a good answer for them. They decide that for a temporary time, Miriam would go back to nursing, while Phil stayed home, homeschooled the children, kept an eye on mom-in-law, and continued his job hunt. This was a mutual decision, and Miriam went back to work with Phil's blessing. I can find no fault with this couple's decision. Phil is not neglectful of his family and he is not idle. He is not busy in other people's affairs. Two become one in marriage, and these two were acting in one accord. I respectfully believe that any pastor who told Phil that he must put his children into school and take a low wage job is meddling.

This true story may indeed be very different from the man Pastor B describes. But I do not believe that Pastor B has a right to dictate this family's decisions on child rearing and finances.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Welcome Larry,

I appreciate your comment. It seems that the part of the story that is getting the most attention is whether this man deserved church discipline or not. From what you write, I surmise that you believe in church discipline if rightfully applied. In my experience, I never saw a Matthew 18 kind of church discipline applied in fundamentalism. That doesn't mean that it didn't happen, but it does mean that it may not have been occurring much.

Of course, here you make conclusions yourself without knowing all the facts. And perhaps I needed to present all the facts in order to support church discipline in this situation. Our whole church agreed on the discipline, because they too knew the man. If you visited the house, it was of the condition that could be almost criminal in its messiness, as if the house was like taking a trip to the dump. That's in addition to the man not seeking a job. So he was even idle as a housewife. And when we confronted him, I haven't reported everything he said, because he also became a busybody in his idleness. By the way, the mission board or the other church didn't ask us about any of that.

This was not an issue of homeschooling either. The kids did not continue homeschooled after they left us. Neither was it a case of not getting a good education from our school. A few commenters want to make this about home-schooling. We had no problem with homeschooling and almost always have had homeschoolers in our church. So you can rest easy with that particular accusation. It also was not a matter of an educational choice in this situation. Wow.

Lastly, 2 Thess 3. Consider v. 8, "any man's bread", v. 12, "their own bread," v. 13, "brethren," (adelphoi, masculine noun), v. 14, "that man," (masculine far demonstrative pronoun) v. 15, "brother." Paul, a man, used himself as an example with his work, laboring night and day (v. 8). The passage is "bread winning." That isn't the role of the woman, wouldn't have been, wasn't anywhere else in Scripture, so the other passages (1 Tim 5, Titus 2) do come into play here. Nowhere does Scripture associate the woman with bread-winning, which is what this passage is teaching.

The church to where this man went made no mention of what we disciplined him for. We haven't even got to that part of the story.

Question for you Larry (is this Larry of "Stuff Out Loud"?---don't want to get the wrong Larry)---do you believe that the woman winning the bread of a home as a lifestyle is biblical obedience, if the husband is healthy and able to work? And, is bread winning, which 2 Thess 3 teaches, a woman's role in Scripture?

You make a strong statement at the end that our church undermined the Word of God in applying 2 Thessalonians 3 to this man as we did. You make it without knowing all the facts. You see, I believe just the opposite. I see you as undermining 2 Thessalonians 3 in your attempt to justify what this man was doing. You also answer a matter before you hear it, because you don't even know the details of the case.

The point of this was not an exegesis and application of 2 Thessalonians 3, and to argue whether our church interpreted it and applied it correctly. If it were the point of it, I would tell that part of the story, but no one involved mentioned a wrong interpretation and application of 2 Thessalonians 3, neither the mission board or the church that accepted the disciplined member. As you read this, Larry, do you know what happened? I don't mean with further research, but as you wrote your comment? Do you know the facts of the case?

I hope to hear back from you, Larry, very soon.

Kent Brandenburg said...


This will be the last of your comments that I post anonymously, if at all, but I don't want you thinking that you're not getting your opportunity. Read the last comment I posted. That gives more of the detail. And your hypothetical doesn't work at all. Does that mean you recant of what you've said? I'll await that and post it if you send the recantation.

It sounds as though almost no abuse of 2 Thess 3 could be an abuse to you and others. I also resent the accusation that I dictated to this man his financial situation. That doesn't represent it at all. The man wasn't working. Just because he was at home with the kids doesn't mean he was doing well with homeschooling. But he wasn't breadwinning, neither was he homemaking---performing neither role. That should close this case for you. When a church performs church discipline, it isn't the pastor dictating to a man what to do. It is a church disciplining someone for sin he is committing without repentance. We gave the man an opportunity for repentance. He didn't have to take our gracious offer. I believed we should do our best to make it as easy as possible for him out of graciousness. You call it dictating, and we call it a gracious offer. Do you think that obedience to God is a form of dictating to us? Or do you see it as a privilege offered by God? I wonder about your view of the world, anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your publishing my comments, even though we are not in full agreement. Thank you!

Kent Brandenburg said...

"Thank you" isn't the correct response here, Anonymous. If we knew your name, you would feel the obligation to do something scriptural, but being anonymous, it takes on the nature of a potshot. You know more detail now, so your tune should change, but it hasn't, which indicates that this is less about the details of the case as your own willfulness. This isn't a "agree to disagree" situation. If we followed what you write, we'd be disobeying scripture.

Anonymous said...


First, you have the correct Larry.

Second, thanks for the response.

Third, I do believe in church discipline rightly applied. We have done it all the way to the sad end, including the step that many leave out of Matt 18, that of hearing from the church prior to excommunication.

Fourth, if you reread my post, I noted several times that I was commenting only on what you said in this post, not what other facts may be unstated. So I acknowledged that I was ignorant of the total story and tried to frame my comments only in light of what you said and what 2 Thess 3 says. I did not want to make it about homeschooling, or even make it about this man or this case in particular. That, to me, is not what it is about. It is about what 2 Thess 3 says. You say at the end that I tried to justify what this man was doing. I did not. I did not even comment on what this man was doing that much because I don’t know. You didn’t tell us enough, and I am not enough of a fundamentalist to comments about stuff I don't know about. I commented on what you said and did because I think that 2 thess 3 does not support you. Had you cited Titus 2, I think you have a casen based on your original comments about the man staying home and the woman working. But you didn’t. So don’t mistake my comments for justifying this man. I did no such thing.

Fifth, with respect to breadwinning in 2 Thess 3, the issue there is not about man vs. woman. The particular case appears to be a male, but the principle is not gender specific. It is about anyone. A woman is no more permitted to be lazy and eat other people’s bread than a man is. As you know, “brethren,” when used in a church context is most often a term for believers, not a term for men. So the passage is about "brethren," the believers, not only the men. I believe that a church would have basis to discipline a lazy, busybody female out of the church on the basis of 2 Thess 3. You are setting up a situation where you could not.

Sixth, you say nowhere does the Scripture associate the woman with breadwinning. Which is true, if you omit Proverbs 31 and Acts 16:14. I am willing to be a little less dogmatic on that because Proverbs 31 is pretty effusive in its praise of a industrious woman who provides for her family, and Acts 16 never condemns Lydia for her industry. I am not sure I am wise enough to say the Bible is wrong there.

Seventh, in general I do not believe that the woman being the main “breadwinner” is the biblical path. I believe, generally speaking, that a woman should be home and the man earning the bread. That seems the pattern from Genesis 3. My mother made the choice when we were growing up that she would be home when the kids were home. When we got to school age, she did work part-time during school hours (which helped to provide our private school education which otherwise would have been impossible). My wife and I have made the same choice. I do think that some families have unique situations, do to employment possibilities, etc. So without knowing specifics, I will say only generally that I think a woman is primarily a homekeeper and child raiser, not a breadwinner, and I think that is how God designed it to be.

Eighth, my point about undermining the Word of God in your use of 2 Thess 3 has nothing to do with the man or the situation. It has to do with the use of Scripture to justify something when Scripture used does not speak to that issue. My point is that when we use Scripture for something it was not intended for, we have undermined its authority. The point is that 2 Thess 3 is not intended to address gender roles in the home. It addresses laziness and busybodies (which is why it uses those words, and not “breadwinner,” “worker at home,” etc.).

Last, by way of repetition, I did not “answer a matter before hearing it.” I heard what you said and limited my comments only to what you said. I did not address anything else.

Would discipline any woman who worked outside the home?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I think there are several places in Scripture for confronting the sin of idleness, of laziness, and of being a busybody, but in this context, we've got men not winning the bread. It's backed up by 1 Tim 5:8, a sin worse than an infidel. We used all those verses with the man, but the situation occurred when I was doing a series through 2 Thessalonians 3, which applied to this man. You are saying that 2 Thess 3 doesn't apply to this man as I communicated it. I don't see how I undermined scripture in the context of this post. We have a man who would not work. He would stay home with his children (who were early teenagers), but he wouldn't work, even when given an easy opportunity to work. I don't think that it is speaking about "if any woman will not work, she should not eat." Obviously in our case, we had a woman who would work. She was out working. He wasn't. He wasn't earning the bread, which is mentioned several times in the passage. The passage reads like bread-winning---laboring so as not to be chargeable. That is earning a living, someone taking care of you, because you are not working. This is a man in scripture all the way through, exclusively. The Bible doesn't instruct the woman to provide for her own, so that doesn't even fit into this passage.

I don't believe I said anything about the woman working in my post. She worked, but I made no point about that. I was saying something about the man not working. And you say that him not working is not a violation of 2 Thess 3, as this is all that my post is about.

Proverbs 31 is about a hard-working virtuous woman, but it is NOT about her being the breadwinner of her home. I didn't say a woman couldn't work or even make money. I said bread-winning, which is supporting your family, providing for you family. The woman doesn't have that responsibility anywhere in scripture. Your two passages don't say anything about that. Lydia was a seller of purple---how does that say anything about her being a bread-winner. Based on your standard, you are undermining God's Word by using that verse to make that point. (See the danger in making that point as you did?)

Where did I use 2 Thess 3 in my post to buttress gender roles? The man wasn't working. Where did I say anything about gender roles? You'll be able to show that, if that's your point.

I think we would discipline out a woman who rebelled against her role without repentance. It's not ever happened. We haven't had that.

Larry said...

Thanks, Kent. I am going to enumerate simply for ease.

1. There is no doubt that there are numerous places in the Bible that confront idleness. However, your original post did not bring up idleness. It was based on gender roles, as you can see from the first paragraph under “Church Discipline” where you commented that she worked and brought home the paycheck/he did not work and homeschooled the kids. You made the same point later as well. You then used 2 Thess 3 to bring church discipline for this reversal of gender roles (him not working while she was). Again, remember that your original post did not say anything about idleness. This is why I addressed 2 Thess 3 and said it doesn’t apply to the situation as you spoke of it. (And remember, I said there might be more than you haven’t said that would actually make your case.)

2. You did not, in your post, say that the man was lazy or idle. You said “He didn’t have a job … home-schooled his children.” That does not state that he was lazy or idle. Many people do not have jobs outside of working at home and homeschooling kids, and they are not lazy or idle. Therefore, your original post did not connect the issue of 2 Thess 3 (idle/lazy) with this man. Remember that I was only commenting on what you said in your original post, not what you later said. Since your original post did not state that the man was lazy or idle, I pointed out that 2 Thess 3 does not apply to him as you stated his situation. Therefore, using only the statements of your original post, I concluded that you misused Scripture.

3. You say that you don’t think 2 Thess 3 is speaking of a woman who won’t work. I think that is utterly bizarre. If you have a woman who is not working, but rather being a busybody about the church, and asking others to take care of her basic needs, then 2 Thess 3 absolutely applies. The bread issue refers to depending on someone else for the basic needs that work is supposed to provide for, like food, housing, etc. It is not referring to the gender role of breadwinning.

4. You say that you didn’t say anything about the woman working your post, but you did. The very first paragraph under “Church Discipline” reads, “His wife worked, brought home the paycheck.” You later spoke of this man “being supported by his wife.” So you did say something about the woman working.

5. If the man was working at home, taking care of the house, educating the kids, he was working. You probably know that’s a lot of work to do that. Now in your later post you said he wasn’t actually doing it. That’s different, but remember, that’s not what you said.

6. Proverbs 31 may not be about the woman being the main breadwinner. But the text doesn’t say that. And the text doesn’t say that Lydia wasn’t the main breadwinner. So you are arguing from something Scripture does not say. Both passages indicate that the woman was known for her work. However, I am not undermining Scripture by using it “to make that point” about being the main breadwinner because (1) I didn’t make that point and (2) I didn’t use Scripture to make a point I never made. If you read what I said, I said that the woman is not to be the main breadwinner. However, these two particular ladies did “win bread.”

7. You used 2 thess 3 to buttress gender roles when you used it to condemn this man for staying home (prior to your statement that he was idle) while his wife worked. But 2 Thess 3 doesn’t address the issue of who works and who stays home. It addresses the issue of someone who doesn’t have legitimate income for living. Remember, your original post did not specify the idleness and laziness, and my comments were based on your original post.


Kent Brandenburg said...


Every lengthy conversation I've ever had with you has gone about like this one, and with no one else has it gone this way. I've read the same kind of conversation you having with others, so I don't think it's me. It's a strange conversation.

The woman working was just part of the story. It had nothing to do with gender roles, except that the guy wasn't working. He wasn't breadwinning, but making his wife breadwin. It's obvious in 2 Thess 3 that earning a living is part of it because of the "bread" and the "chargeable" aspects to 2 Thess 3. Paul was an example to other men of what they should be doing, and if they weren't doing that, they were to be disciplined. He was also idle and lazy, but I didn't bring that into the story, it's true, because the post wasn't about 2 Thess 3, but about the other stuff that I'm getting to.

You've taken off on 2 Thess 3 after anonymous took off after the homeschooling, financial situation, and gender roles. Neither the church nor the mission board mentioned our understanding of 2 Thess 3 as being a problem, so that makes that a moot point.

I may not have included enough information in my post for you, and I mean you, to understand how the man was disobeying 2 Thess 3, but I included enough, I think, for most people to get it.

You are saying that it is bizarre to say that 2 Thess is talking about men, but I asked you about the breadwinner, and you gave me two examples of women being the breadwinner, which didn't make that point. But there is a basis from 2 Thess 3 to say that men should work for a living and earn the bread. It doesn't say anything about a woman doing that, so I'm not going to speculate, especially in light of men being the breadwinners. I said that there were verses on idleness and laziness alone that were not related to the not working so not earning a living in 2 Thess 3.

You are saying that based on my story, this guy could have been a hard-working home-maker, home-schooling dad, with his wife breadwinning, who was not subject to church discipline. You are saying that 2 Thess 3 doesn't apply to that kind of guy. I think you are reading into the story too much, but even so, as a man who is unwilling to win the bread, according to my story---that is in the story---I'm saying he would still violate 2 Thess 3. And I made that point. He did not want to win the bread. He wanted his wife to do that. He was chargeable. He was not working to win the bread.

You are wrong on Prov 31 and Lydia. The text doesn't say they weren't breadwinners nor that they were breadwinners, but the Bible does say the man is the breadwinner. So the silence would say that they were not the breadwinners. You are the one making a point from silence. I'm making my point from the rest of scripture. Silence would not contradict where the Bible speaks elsewhere.

You should sit back and take my post for what it is, instead of going off on something that anonymous decided to deal with. We can discuss 2 Thess 3, but this post was definitely not an exegesis of that. It isn't about that at all. It is my story about leaving fundamentalism---this being another reason why, which I haven't even really said; I've just set up the story.

Larry said...

Thanks Kent,

1. I confess that this is a bit surreal. You invite me to respond and then apparently are upset that I did. I am not sure what you mean when you say every lengthy conversation has gone this way. We haven’t had many (the last one I recall was one where you unfairly represented something I said somewhere else and you eventually “gave in” to use your words) and this one hasn’t been that long. I don’t even read your blog that often, so this isn’t common. But I have some of your exchanges with others are far worse than this. I do tend to think a bit more than many in the blogosphere, and I like interaction, and some people don’t like that, which is fine. But I didn’t think you were of that opinion.

Bottom line is that you asked me to respond “very soon.” I assume that meant you were inviting an exchange on the matter, so I took you at your word. If I misunderstood, then my apologies.

2. I have not read anything anonymous has said so don’t blame me for him, nor him for me.

3. You say that this is not about gender roles “except that the guy wasn’t working. He wasn’t breadwinning, but making his wife breadwin.” What you say is exactly what I understand gender roles to mean: The man should work and “win the bread” for the family. So you say it “had nothing to do with gender roles” and then go on to talk about the gender roles of breadwinning.

4. You say you included enough info in the OP to show that mean was disobedient to 2 Thess 3. Where is there anything in your OP about laziness and idleness? I have gone back several times and looked and I have not seen it. I think if you read your post carefully for what it actually says apart from your fuller knowledge, you will see that you didn’t show how he was lazy and idle, which is the point of 2 Thess 3. A person who keeps the house and educates the kids properly is not being lazy and idle. It was only later that you revealed he was lazy and idle.

5. If the guy didn’t want to work to win the bread, he was sinning. He should have been disciplined. The issue is what 2 Thess 3 is about. I haven’t seen you make a case that it is about a man staying home and educating the kids while the wife works. (Just to be clear, I don’t think he should stay home and his wife work.)

6. How am I wrong on Lydia and Prov 31? You agree with me. I specifically said they were not the main breadwinners and should not be, according to the pattern of Scripture. I said they were examples of women who worked and earned bread for their families. You already agreed that women could work and earn money.

7. You say that I am saying it is bizarre to say that 2 Thess 3 is talking about men. Yet that’s not what I said. I think 2 Thess 3 is talking about men. I think it’s bizarre that you think it’s not also talking about women who are lazy and idle. Here, you simply didn’t read closely enough to see what I said. I think we could use 2 Thess 3 to discipline a woman who was lazy and idle. You apparently don’t.

Here’s the bottom line for me and then I will let you go unless you direct some specific question to me:

1. I agree that the man was wrong and should have been disciplined.
2. I believe that a man is to be the main breadwinner for his family.
3. I believe that 2 Thess 3 does not address the specific case of a man who stays home to care for the house and educate the children (a full time job) while the wife works. It addresses laziness and idleness. If a man is caring for the house and educating the children, he may be wrong, but he is not being lazy and idle. The reference to bread is the result of his laziness. The problem in 2 Thess 3 is not that the man is staying home while his wife works. It is that he is lazy and idle, and depending on other church members to provide for him.

Our disagreement is only on that last issue: the proper use of 2 Thess 3. I believe it applies to people (whether male or female) who are lazy and idle and depending on others to take care of their daily needs like food.

Thanks for the exchange.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I should have left my first paragraph out. I admit, when you used the word "bizarre," you got under my skin. I thought "bizarre" was over the top. I made it personal when I wrote the first paragraph, and should not have. I do appreciate that you feel like you can comment here.

I think you got off track on the gender roles thing, because I wasn't intending to make a point of gender roles, just that he wasn't winning bread---his wife was.

My comment to idleness and laziness was in the comment section and it was in response to the issue of whether 2 Thess 3 referred to women or not. I think it is a church discipline passage and says we should discipline those walking disorderly, but the stuff about work was about men, and I think that other places establish separately that idleness and laziness are a problem for anyone, including women---that's it. That answers several of your points if you are understanding what I mean.

Lydia and Prov 31 don't prove women are breadwinners. That's where I see you as wrong. They are working, earning, but it doesn't prove women are also responsible to earn the bread.

The issue, as I read it, between what I believe about 2 Thess 3 and what you wrote, is that you think that 2 Thess 3 doesn't apply to this man as long as he was a hard working home maker and home educator. I believe that it does apply to a man. We both agree that scripture as a whole repudiates the man because he doesn't fulfill his role. We didn't offer the man just 2 Thess 3, but that was the passage that I was preaching, that convicted me about the man. That was the story. I think there is good argument to say that 2 Thess 3 requires a man to earn bread, earn a living, through his work. I have no doubt that it is work for a woman to home make and home school, but that is work exclusively for a woman, not a man. It doesn't make it lesser for a woman, but it does for a man. That may be a role issue, but we didn't discipline the man for not fulfilling his role, but for not winning bread as he should.

Thanks for the conversation and I apologize for writing that first paragraph about our conversations. You are welcome here to talk.