Thursday, July 28, 2011

Does Shelton Smith and the Sword of the Lord Teach a True Gospel? part three

Calling something a false gospel is very serious. I take it seriously. Is there a faith that does not save? We know there is. We can see that in James 2. And what is the faith there that does not save? It is the faith that demons have (James 2:19). Their faith is intellectual, that is, mere assent to facts. Demons know who God is, know who Jesus is, and tremble. They tremble like we see demons tremble when Jesus came on the scene in the Gospels and He walked on earth. They cried out in fear. Why? Because they knew who Jesus was. So a change of mind isn't a faith or repentance that saves. It isn't a faith produced by the Word of God.

How do we judge whether a presentation is a false gospel? Is a false gospel one that only adds works to grace? That was obviously the major error of the Galatians. However, Paul also warned against turning grace into an occasion of the flesh (Galatians 5:13). A cheap grace, a less than powerful grace, is also not saving grace. Grace will affect the will toward obedience.

I'm not sure what is a more dangerous false gospel, the one that adds to grace or the one that is merely intellectual. Some could argue that the Galatian false gospel will result in no one being saved, but that you could present the Shelton Smith false gospel and some will be saved. If someone were to believe what Shelton Smith preaches, he won't be converted. He might respond to the Scripture Smith presents and still be saved, but he won't be saved by an acceptance of only what Smith preaches.

2 Peter deals with a Shelton Smith type of false gospel. The lascivious, those walking after their own lusts, have their trouble with having a Lord. They deny the Lord who bought them (2 Peter 2:1). They would receive a salvation that does not include Lordship. And the term "Lord" in 2 Peter 2:1 is a uniquely authoritative term. It is despotes. It is the strongest word for "Lord." These unsaved turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. They want salvation without a Lord. Having that Ultimate Boss clashes with their lust. And this is a denial of the Word of God, which presents Jesus as the King, the Messiah, God, Creator, and the One having dominion, that is, the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13-14.

For someone to be saved, he believes in Jesus, he receives Jesus Christ. The Jesus He receives is Lord, is Savior, and is God. You aren't receiving one or two attributes of Jesus and still receiving Him. You receive Him. If He isn't Lord, then He isn't Jesus. This selective reception of Jesus isn't receiving Him. Leaving out Lordship is turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. That too is a false gospel. It is a grace and a faith that does not save.

When someone confesses Jesus is Lord, he isn't lord anymore, but Jesus is Lord. This isn't mere words. When he confesses Jesus is Lord, he's relinquished control of his life. He loses His temporal life for eternal life.

Many professions of faith will be gotten by means of this Shelton Smith type of gospel. People are willing to get salvation for intellectual assent. They are very fine with that. So what happens? They present this less than saving gospel and get a decision. They call the decision salvation. Getting more professions validates the work and message of these false preachers. They think they're more spiritual and more obedient because they get more decisions. For the leaders, it is easier to get workers, because it reduces preaching to a human effort. You can have an unsaved person present the false gospel. It doesn't take faith to present it, and yet it is given credit as being faithful. It really is a bait and switch. Someone is offered something said to be salvation, but it's actually a placebo. The whole system glorifies man.

We can't react to this Shelton Smith presentation harshly enough. We shouldn't say it is a false gospel if it isn't, but as he presents it, it doesn't save. It is a false gospel. I don't want anyone to stay chummy with it. I don't want anyone relating to the Sword of the Lord as if it is acceptable. I want to see clear division and separation from the Sword of the Lord. If the Sword of the Lord would want to separate from me, that won't be a problem, because I'm already separated from it. Our church will separate from any other church that stays in fellowship with this false doctrine. Unless you are going to make it clear that you will separate from this error, you shouldn't even advertise in the Sword of the Lord. I understand trying to help them divide from the error. But don't act like you have anything to do with it. Don't behave as if it is the least bit acceptable.


There will be a part four. I will show how to present biblical repentance in a gospel preaching opportunity. It's something I've been doing for years. I do it several times a week. It is radically different than what Shelton Smith would do.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Selective Reformation

Roman Catholicism botched up Christianity, massively changed it by mixing it with spiritualized, allegorical interpretation and Platonic philosophy. The Reformation addressed this in a major fashion especially in the one area of soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. However, the Reformation didn't get to the root of the problem with Catholicism, that is, the faulty hermeneutic itself, that did more than change the gospel. It also perverted ecclesiology and eschatology among other doctrines. Protestantism hijacked the Catholic allegorizing and spiritualizing even in its own approach to the Bible.

We have people today who title themselves Reformed. We should call them selectively reformed, because they didn't reform the root problem of Catholicism. They held on to gigantic chunks of allegorization of Scripture. Some Reformed today have partially corrected this error. They use a literal hermeneutic in more than their soteriology by also applying it to eschatology, so they are premillennialists. Still, however, they have not rectified the ecclesiology.

Reformed may say that they haven't changed in eschatology or ecclesiology because that wouldn't be historical. Historic Christianity, according to them, believes in justification by faith in contradiction to Roman Catholicism. And yet, how historical is a view of salvation that travels only as far back as 1500 years after Christianity began? Justification by faith isn't historic if it is only 500 years old, and Catholics would have a good argument for their authority, if that were true. And yet, you will hear the Reformed regularly call their doctrine of salvation, the Reformed doctrine of justification, as if it originated 500 years ago.

To be fair, the Reformed say that their belief in justification comes from the Bible, which is the source of all doctrine. And yet, in a sense, they are also then saying that there was some type of total apostasy of the doctrine of salvation, and they, the Reformed, brought everybody back to the true doctrine of justification by faith. If not, justification by faith couldn't be a Reformed doctrine. It was still always around somewhere. If so, where was it around? Were there always believers of justification by faith since the time of the completion of the New Testament?

Some type of total apostasy does not match up with a biblical doctrine of apostasy, but does fit with a common presentation for most cults. Most cults contend for a total apostasy of true doctrine until the cult came along to make the necessary alteration back to the original true doctrine that was lost all those years. Mormons (Latter Day Saints) say that. Jehovah's Witnesses make that point. The Church of Christ also pushes this point of view.

Catholics will argue that they are the original church, that the Reformed don't have any authority. Some evangelicals have recently bought into that position. Probably many have that I haven't heard about, but a well-known "return" to Catholicism from evangelicalism was the head of the Evangelical Theological Society himself, Francis Beckwith. His bio reads:

The 57th President of the Evangelical Theological Society (November 2006-May 2007) , Professor Beckwith served from 2005 through 2008 as a member of the American Philosophical Association's Committee on Philosophy and Law. In January 2008 he was selected as the 2007 Person of the Year by Inside the Vatican Magazine.

The Vatican made him Person of the Year because he left evangelicalism. When you read Beckwith's testimony, the historical aspect was foundational and vitally important to his decision. Would the gates of hell prevail against the true church? They couldn't, so in Beckwith's surmisal, the true church must be Roman Catholicism, as flawed as it might be. Reformed ecclesiology was not enough to keep Beckwith Protestant. I think he really was just trying to be consistent.

Was ecclesiology and eschatology affected by Roman Catholicism? A John MacArthur would say that definitely eschatology was influenced by Roman Catholicism. He among others, who are both Reformed and premillennial in their eschatology, would say that an allegorical hermeneutic of Origen and then later Augustine twisted a literal, biblical eschatology. He and they would say that this is where amillennialism came from, from the Roman Catholic spiritualizing of the eschatological passages. In that sense, are MacArthur and others saying that there was a total apostasy of eschatological truth until after the Reformation? Perhaps. This is one of the major attacks of covenant or Reformed theologians on dispensationalism and premillennialism, that is, that it has no history behind it.

I want to draw attention to ecclesiology. The Reformation selectively reformed soteriology. Later dispensationalists selectively reformed eschatology. I'm saying, come on everybody, let's at least keep it going. Let's reform our ecclesiology too. Let's not take a reformed soteriology (I mean justification by faith), a reformed eschatology (I mean premillennialism), and then take a Roman Catholic ecclesiology (I mean universal church). And if reforming isn't your cup of tea, just go with what the Bible teaches.

Even better would be to reject a Roman Catholic view of history, which says that there was in a sense a total apostasy and the Reformation brought Christianity back to sole Scriptura. I say, Wrong! Scripture teaches no total apostasy. Taking a presuppositional approach, we start with evidence, the Bible, and then we view history based upon the truth. Were there always believers with a non-allegorical, non-spiritualized soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology? Yes. We presuppose that based upon Scripture, and then we look to history. We're not promised that everything in history will be preserved, but we can see that there were always assemblies separate from Roman Catholicism. Today they're called Baptists.

So justification by faith is not Reformed historically. Premillennialism is not Dispensational historically. Both continued after the completion of the New Testament even up to the Reformation. And then we come to ecclesiology. We have always had New Testament Christians with a literal, a grammatical-historical soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. I believe we should presuppose that based upon the biblical teaching of no-total-apostasy (Mt 16:18; 1 Tim 4:1).

We can see what an allegorical interpretation has done to the doctrine of salvation. We can see what an allegorical interpretation has done to the doctrine of last things. Are we willing to be consistent here, and see what an allegorical interpretation has done to the doctrine of the church? Let's not be selectively reformed. Let's go all the way. Let's not be biblical in our soteriology, biblical in our eschatology, and then Roman Catholic in our ecclesiology. Let's not. "Let us go on to perfection" in our doctrine, finishing it off with a scriptural ecclesiology.

We really are just casting a blind eye if we are not willing to reexamine our ecclesiology, to see how that Catholicism may have affected it. I believe Catholicism has affected it, but I'm saying "may have" for your sake. You may think that you are keeping your universal church ecclesiology in part because it is historical. But, my friend, isn't Roman Catholic soteriology and eschatology also historical? Isn't that why Francis Beckwith "returned" to Catholicism, back to the mother church? He had his historical reasons. So if you can agree that Catholic soteriology and eschatology are actually not historical---they are not---could you not go one step further and consider whether you are still believing Catholic ecclesiology that the Reformers did not reform? Is it possible that your sole Scriptura hasn't touched your ecclesiology?

To abandon Catholic ecclesiology, we've got to look at the origination of an invisible church. What is an ecclesiology that depends solely on the Bible? What is an understanding of the church that comes from studying its 118 separate usages in the New Testament? How would the people have understood ekklesia who were hearing it in that day? Do we really pull this concept of a universal, invisible church from the text? Does the meaning of the word ekklesia not clash with the ideas of universal and invisible? Isn't the whole point of an ekklesia both in its original usage in secular literature and then in the Bible, local and visible, an absolute contradiction to the universal, invisible church idea?

Catholicism made a wreck of soteriology and eschatology. Can't we take a moment to consider what it did to ecclesiology? Is it possible that the state church philosophies of Calvin and Luther, taken from Catholicism, guided their own ecclesiology and then continue to influence ecclesiology today? State church was what Calvin and Luther knew. It also worked well in their minds to combat Catholicism.

If we are going to reject the state church idea, shouldn't we consider going all the way and rejecting the universal church concept as well? No verse in the Bible teaches infant sprinkling. No verse in the Bible teaches a universal church. There is no universal, invisible Platonic usage of the singular noun in any language, including koine Greek. Is it possible we have been reading that into Scripture? Is it possible that we have been affected in our ecclesiology by selective Reformation, just like men were long affected in their eschatology? Please consider it. Think about it. I'd love to talk to you about it.

Excellent Article on the Major Minor Issue

Lance Ketchum sent me an article he wrote on the major-minor issue. What he wrote is something that I haven't pointed out, but I absolutely agree with him. This is worldly leaven that has entered the lump of the church. He advocates that churches are being influenced by worldly philosophy in this way. Read this article! If anyone wants to discuss it here, they are welcome to.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Does Shelton Smith and the Sword of the Lord Teach a True Gospel? part two

One of the unfortunate casualties of the multiple belief and multi-Bible doctrines is now multiple gospels. A wide latitude is given to what the gospel is. Someone can be far enough off on the gospel to preach a false one, but still be be considered to have preached a true gospel. Some may question this evaluation, especially since Shelton Smith, editor of the Sword of the Lord (SOTL), is King James only, so he believes in only one Bible. Multiple positions has now become the norm along with the idea in society that there is more than one truth, except for perhaps the "one truth" of tolerance. The multi-truth idea is influencing fundamentalists in a major way.

I imagine certain fundamentalists would agree with my analysis so far about Shelton Smith. They can't say they do, because that might show support for someone who is King James only, even if they profess "gospel centeredness" with other doctrines peripheral to the gospel. Actually, in many cases their opposition to one Bible has slid very close to their warm center of gospel emphasis. If you could zoom in on their gospel bullseye, you might see on-screen their opposition to the King James and dress standards hugging the gospel. How could these two issues have become as serious as the gospel itself? Does that perhaps even diminish or devalue their own elevation of the gospel? But I digress.

It's hard for a Shelton Smith to take fundamentalists critics of his gospel too seriously when, first, they don't take evangelism very seriously, and, second, he receives fellowship with some with whom they also fellowship. Many fundamentalists would rather talk about the gospel with their friends, or write an online treatise defending their view of the gospel, than actually preach it. Smith understands that he and his friends at least actually do preach a lot their version of the gospel. Why take critics of his gospel seriously when they rarely preach theirs? And then sometimes it's even hard to distinguish the methodological differences between the SOTL churches and the fundamentalists who would critique them. But I dupli-digress.

Full Surrender and Sinless Perfection

Part one of this now series began considering part two of Shelton Smith's article on repentance in the SOTL. After writing about "Lordship," Smith writes the sub-head: "Repentance Does Not Mean a Fully Surrendered Life or Sinless Perfection!" Under that heading, he writes nothing about it. Nothing. He writes six sentences, but none of them have a thing to do with the heading. You are welcome to tell me how I'm wrong on this. However, again, I have never heard someone equate repentance with sinless perfection. That is another straw man. I would await anyone who could show me one example of someone who has even written that. However, fully surrendered does fit a biblical presentation.

To have life, we must lose our life. In other words, we can't hang on to our life, if we are to have God's eternal life. At salvation, God restores our soul, converts our soul. He does that because He has our soul. We offer by faith our soul, our life to God. He converts it, restores it. He won't do that if we keep our soul for ourselves. That is the rebellion that runs contrary to repentance. This is the eternal trade that occurs the moment of justification. God takes our life and we get His. We become partakers of the Divine nature. In the Smith gospel, we offer God our mere lipservice or acknowledge certain salvation facts and for that we receive eternal salvation. We get the pearl of great price and God gets an IOU. This perverts the true gospel.

Salvation Passages Do Not Mention Repentance

The next major "proof" for Smith is found in his next sub-head: "Numerous 'Salvation' Passages Do Not Mention Repentance!" And he could have also written: "Numerous Salvation Passages Do Not Mention Faith!" What does that prove? Nothing. It is not just faulty exegesis. It is preposterous.

He prints off a column of verses, which include John 1:11, 12, 3:14-18, Romans 10:9,10,13, and Ephesians 2:8-10, and then asks, "Where is the repentance in all this?" He should consider Romans 10:9,10,13, and rethink His Lordship position.

He concludes:

Follow any one or all of the Bible passages noted above, and you will see that there is a call in each of them for the unsaved sinner to "change his mind" and come to Christ! Though the word repent is not there, the concept certainly is!

So what am I, as a soul winner, trying to get you to do? I want you to see the great eternal God for who He is and at the same time to see yourself, a sinner, lost, helpless, and hopeless. I want you to stop thinking everything is okay. I want you to understand the Gospel (the death, burial and resurrection of Christ) and know that the Holy God has paid the sin debt you owe.

At the moment you acknowledge those facts, repentance occurs, and you almost simultaneously place your trust in Christ to save you.

You'll find none of his observations in the quoted verses. There is nothing in any of them about changing your mind. He's merely reading all of that into those passages. A large percentage of the unsaved people who I talk to know they are sinners, know Who God is, and even recognize the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The last sentence is perhaps most tell-tale. Smith sees repentance as acknowledgement of facts, and when someone does, he's trusted in Christ---all nothing but intellectual. Intellectual assent to facts falls short of faith or repentance.

Repentance of One Sin, Unbelief

Smith asserts that repentance is for his one sin, the sin of unbelief or rejecting Christ. He ends that section by writing:

Once you get your mind-set right toward God, you will have a different attitude toward your "sins" (here comes sanctification again).

According to Smith, believing and repenting is getting "your mind-set right toward God," which will result in a different attitude toward your plural sins, but that isn't until after you're already saved.

When Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount, He preached individual sins that were an issue regarding the sinner's salvation---murder and adultery among others. Not until Zacchaeus confessed, "Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold" (Luke 19:8), did Jesus proclaim, "This day is salvation come to this house" (Luke 19:9). It is true that salvation doesn't come from a sinner confessing individually every one of his sins---I've never heard anyone define repentance as even meaning that---but certain sins especially will be the idols that keep him from turning to follow Jesus Christ. "Unbelief" is nowhere said in Scripture to be the one sin for which a sinner needs to repent. Nowhere.

How to Explain What Happens

How do we explain what happens with these folks who hear the SOTL edition of the gospel that excludes biblical repentance? Some of them are saved. They repent even though it hasn't been preached that way. I believe this happens just like it might in a Billy Graham meeting when he soft peddles his salvation message.

Many of the professions, perhaps even most, are false. These types of churches, however, become masters at getting their new people involved. They do seminars on how to get their new believers into the baptistry, often using similar ploys to succeed as they have invented for their evangelism. The people involved feel good about what they are doing, even though they have fallen short of a scriptural knowledge of salvation. The church programs are many times built on keeping them busy with the activities they have designed to occupy their membership. Sermon after sermon is motivational and pragmatic to produce a morality that would closely match a Christian life.

The music, the activities, and all the programs captivate an audience, giving them experiences that could easily counterfeit real conversion. The schedule is crafted to have enough of these to hold everyone, leading them along from one to another to another. The preaching fits the program like the score of a movie. It moves people and even keeps them entertained. The church has a social aspect that feels good like a family many never had. The results produced seem like God is working. He must be. How else could one explain? The feeling they get from the emotional music and preaching they mistake for the Holy Spirit. Many of these aspects have their parallel in false religions. It often is nothing more than another religion. It takes almost zero faith to be a part.

What makes it more insidious in many of these churches is what happens if you question what's going on. You would be considered to be disloyal and unspiritual. You are attacking the man of God like the young boys did with Elisha (and you know how that turned out). And you're also not to "touch God's anointed," a reference to David's experience with Saul. In other words, switch off your discernment, because discerning would be akin to blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The people who question are considered traitors. Strategies such as these hold people in lockstep, sometimes out of fear and intimidation.

It is possible that someone always questioning is factious. He could be a rebel. That often happens in churches even as accounted in Scripture. But it should be easy for a true church to show from the Bible why they do what they do.

By the way, most of evangelicalism is no better than these professing fundamentalist churches that take this SOTL gospel position. Most Southern Baptist churches are just the same, except more outwardly worldly. The big difference is that the evangelical churches keep their people entertained with more corrupt forms of entertainment than these SOTL churches. Don't be fooled into thinking that a right reaction or response to the SOTL strategy is to swing over to evangelicalism. You're just co-opting another form of silly, one likely even more banal than what is seen in a certain segment of fundamentalism.

More to Come.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Does Shelton Smith and the Sword of the Lord Teach a True Gospel?

Does a wrong doctrine of repentance constitute a false gospel?

The Sword of the Lord sends me its paper free and unsolicited and I like seeing what it's saying. When I saw that the editor, Shelton Smith, was writing a series on repentance, I was very interested. Part one did not tell me anything. He said it was a controversial issue, so I waited for part two, and in it he said plenty. I'm going to talk about that in this post and perhaps a few others. I don't think it is too hard to understand what the Bible says about repentance. You wouldn't know that from reading Shelton Smith. He seems purposefully to be making it more difficult.

I'm not associated with the Sword of the Lord or its churches. However, I'm far closer to it than I'm even comfortable with. I'm going to be very clear here what I'm talking about. I recognize that it's directory of colleges and churches are advertisements, but these are organizations that want to make an association with the Sword and its type of churches. From here in California, you've got Jack Trieber and Golden State Baptist College and Paul Chappell and West Coast Baptist College. You have Pensacola Christian College and then Ambassador Baptist College with Ron Comfort. I also see Master's Baptist College from Fargo Baptist Church in Fargo, ND. At the Sword National Conference you have R. B. Ouellette, who preaches every year at Fairhaven. David Sorenson advertises his Bible commentary in the Sword. Bill Rice III of Bill Rice Ranch is a regular columnist in Smith's paper. These are what I'm talking about. And it's also good to know that these Sword guys are sort of the saner, more theological thoughtful versions of the Jack Schaap type of church. There may be as many of the latter are there are of the former.

As anyone reading here knows, I don't believe in the major/minor or ranking doctrine practice as it relates to separation and unity. However, I have been clear that certain doctrines are more serious in their consequences. People who believe a false gospel go to Hell. That is more serious than believing that divorce is permissible in certain situations. The Bible also emphasizes the seriousness of a false gospel in Galatians 1:6-9, when it says there:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

What is to be our response to those who preach a false gospel? "Let him be accursed." That is very serious. So if Shelton Smith is presenting, preaching, and then encouraging others to preach a false gospel, we need to say to him, "Let him be accursed." And then those who fellowship with him are not taking the gospel seriously. They can't be serious about people's eternal destiny. They are disobedient to Galatians 1:6-9. I don't want anything to do with anyone who fellowships with someone who preaches a false gospel. So here we go. Does Shelton Smith teach or preach a false gospel? You may think you already know where I'm heading with this. Fine. But go ahead and find out.

As I talk about this, understand that I'm not going to present a full orb presentation of repentance. I'm giving analysis to what Shelton Smith wrote. At this time in my life, I've preached through all of the New Testament, except for part of Luke, in really slow detail. I've got a handle on what the New Testament says, what Jesus says, and what the apostles say about repentance. I also preached a few years ago a long series on salvation or gospel passages in the Bible, which took me about a year of Sunday mornings.


Smith's article, "The Bible Definition of Repentance, Part II," begins on p. 3 in the June 10, 2011 edition of the Sword of the Lord. He starts with material on the Lordship of Christ:

When we come to [Jesus] to be saved, there is a certain acknowledgement of His lordship. After all, we would not look to Him for salvation if He were not Lord.

If you have the least amount of theological awareness, you can see that Smith is distancing himself from what Lordship means. He continues.

But as Lord, He does not force Himself on us. He doesn't force us to be saved, and after we are saved, He doesn't force us to serve Him.

What?!?! That's a total straw man. I haven't read anyone that even says that. But it does tell us where he is heading.

A convert (genuinely saved) may continue, however, to exhibit carnal traits. Even a casual read of 1 Corinthians makes a very clear case on this.

Salvation is instantaneous, but sanctification is progressive,(that means it takes awhile). Therefore, a person who is truly converted is fully and everlastingly saved. The evidence of that conversion may come quickly, or it may come more slowly. Although the convert is a "new creature" (II Cor. 5:17), that does not mean that the old nature is eradicated. Carnality can still be present (1 Cor. 3:3).

The "new creature" is not a fully mature adult the moment he or she is born again, but rather a 'newborn babe' (1 Pet 2:2).

This teaching would fit well with what Smith wrote in his Editor's Notes on the same page, where he reports:

Dr. Bob Dudley (evangelist with Agora Evangelism) and Pastor Jerry Ross (Jasonville, Indiana) were right there along with several dozen soul winners. We are overjoyed to report they led 489 people from 19 nations to Christ on Saturday and Monday. We did not have as many soul winners there this year, so we did not have as many trusting Christ as last year.

The Smith view of salvation and sanctification must correspond to or dovetail with his testimony about these numbers of people being "led to Christ." They fit. Many of these surely will be of these who evidence conversion slowly---glacier slow.

My reading of Smith is that he knows what he is doing in his presentation. For sure the Corinthians exhibited "carnal traits," but that does not mean that they were categorically carnal. Paul writes in Romans 8:6-8:

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

The Corinthians were acting like unsaved people, carnal people, natural people, but they were not themselves carnal. "They that are in the flesh," carnal people, cannot please God. Being a "new creature" does mean that there is immediate evidence of conversion. Everything changes. Smith says it doesn't always. Not with everyone. He says that sanctification is progressive. That's true, but it's not all there is to sanctification. Sanctification is progressive, but it is also positional, and it is also immediate. Change does begin immediately. If it doesn't, that person wasn't and isn't saved. What Smith is doing is assigning an explanation for all the false professions that come from his and others' fraudulent evangelistic methodology.

Then Smith writes:

The "new creature" is not a fully mature adult the moment he or she is born again, but rather a 'newborn babe' (1 Pet. 2:2).

Smith rips "newborn babe" from its context. The passage is saying just the opposite, the absolute opposite, of what Smith reports. Peter is commanding the saints to whom he writes to desire the sincere milk of the word as newborn babes. He is not saying they are newborn babes. Characteristic of saved people is that they will desire the Bible like a baby desires milk. How do babies desire milk? A lot.

"Baby" is not a term for "new believer" in Scripture. "Baby" is often a term of derision for those who are not growing as they should. For instance, with the Corinthians, instead of eating meat, they were drinking milk like babies. That doesn't mean that the Corinthians were new believers. It just means that they were acting like babies. At the end of Hebrews 5 "babe" is used to describe unsaved Jews who had not yet left their insufficient knowledge of Jesus to move on to salvation.

Smith continues:

Salvation is "by grace...through faith" (Eph. 2:8) and "not of works" (vs. 9). Anytime you mix works with the receiving of salvation, you are in error.

The Smith train is off the rails here. Sure, salvation is not of works. But repentance isn't a work. God grants repentance unto life (Acts 11:18). And no one confesses that "Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 12:3). Those aren't works. When Peter confessed that Jesus was "the Christ, the son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16), Jesus said that "flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). Peter's confession was not a work. God revealed it unto him. Smith and others like him shift true repentance and confession of Jesus as Lord into a work category and a progressive sanctification category, making room for all of their soulwinning statistics. Those statistics are more important to him than a true gospel or a right handling of the Word of God.

In fitting with the previous paragraph, Smith writes next:

Once salvation is in place, then and only then does sanctification begin. Whatever works we see in a person's life should be tied to sanctification. So let's keep the proper scriptural order---salvation first, then sanctification.

Smith has slid repentance and Lordship into the later sanctification process, and so doing changing the doctrine of repentance and of salvation. Repentance is not a work. Confession of Jesus as Lord is not a work. Losing your life (Matthew 16:25) is not a work.


Repentance is the first step. Remember (Acts 20:21), it is "toward God." If you "change your mind" about God, you will have no trouble seeing yourself a sinner, lost and in need of a Saviour.

We understand repentance by how it is taught or used in the New Testament, not by some etymological game playing. If repentance really is "toward God," it is not just a "change of mind," but a change in direction. Which is where Lordship comes in. We are not going our way anymore, but His way, and that takes place immediately. Recognizing Jesus as Lord is to recognize Him as King, which means allegiance to Him.

It's ironic that Smith and others, who would be English preservationists, those who would rarely to never rely on the original language of the New Testament, Greek, for their point of view, would claim to go to the Greek for this view. He doesn't say he is doing this, because that clashes with all the English inspirationists and preservationists in the crowd, so he just says "change of mind" with no explanation. He is referring, however, to the Greek word for repentance, metanoeo. He is taking meta as "change" and noeo as "mind." Understanding the Greek word does not come from simply breaking down the compound word. It can be helpful, but the meaning of the word is more than just its etymology. Smith and others strain at assigning a meaning to repentance that allows their evangelistic methodology.

The major issue in salvation, according to Romans 1, is not knowledge, but will. And saving knowledge is inexorably connected to the will. Unbelievers "hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18), that is, they suppress the truth out of their rebellion. It is a will problem. They are rebels against God. Get this---a person cannot remain in rebellion against God and be saved. As well, a person cannot keep going His own way, having His own will, and be saved. Repentance involves more than the mind. The repentance that Smith presents is an intellectual only repentance, like the devils have in James 1:19. That does not save. It is a dead faith that cannot save.

A few sentences later, Smith says:

Some folks teach that unless you "make Jesus Lord of your life," then you are not saved! That is simply untrue! It is false teaching.

It is also something I've never heard anyone teach. It is a total strawman. He puts quotation marks around the statement, but he doesn't quote anyone because no one said it. No one has written it. It isn't a position in existence. He argues the strawman to make room for his own "no Lordship" and "no repentance" position. Anyone who does teach Lordship teaches that you receive Jesus as Lord. You don't make Him Lord. And anyone who does teach Lordship teaches that if you are receiving Jesus as Lord, you are getting off the throne and letting Jesus on it. That is biblical repentance. That is believing in Jesus Christ.

Smith ends that first section with the following:'

The Christians in Corinth were as carnal as carnal can be, but they were genuinely saved (1 Cor 3:16; 12:27). Once again, you must not garble things up by mixing faith and works or by confusing salvation and sanctification.

The Corinthians were not as carnal as carnal can be. They were new creatures (2 Cor 5:17). They were "washed...sanctified...and justified" (1 Cor 6:11). Preachers and theologians make way too much out of the problems of the Corinthian church. The members were "spiritual," but Paul could not write unto them "as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal" (1 Cor 3:1). The "as" is an important word here. They were spiritual. You see that at the end of chapter 2. But because of how they were acting, he had to write them "as" they were carnal. Saved people can behave like or as unsaved people, but they don't have the same nature as unbelievers. They have been washed and sanctified and justified.

More to Come

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Artifically Manufactured "Major-Minor" Controversy pt. 3

At one time, Christians and churches believe and practice particular, accepted, orthodox, and historical ways. These want to change, but also want tolerance from other Christians and churches for changing. God hasn't changed, but the world's changes instigate ones for churches too. Those particular doctrines or practices where they have changed, therefore, then must be less important, secondary, or tertiary. And they can't affect fellowship or separation because they aren't "major."

Which doctrines and practices are minor? There isn't such a list in the Bible. The Bible doesn't deal with doctrine and practice that way---just the opposite. The tertiary doctrines and practices have been artificially manufactured by evangelicals and fundamentalists to cobble together coalitions for greater signficance. The casualties are the truth, obedience, and God. The new enemies are those who insist on preserving and protecting all the doctrine of God's Word.

Post-enlightenment culture of the world has changed radically---its art, literature, language, music, and fashion. And we're not talking here about printers, projectors, planes, and polyester. Churches and Christians, which are responsible for holding the line on biblical, godly belief and behavior, for maintaining a lifestyle distinct from the world, have slid along several steps behind as if dragged by an invisible tether. This slide contradicts the immutability of the nature of God and His Truth. Room has been carved out for the contradiction with the invention of the tertiary doctrine or practice. Now the secondary belief and behavior position has become cardinal dogma of a new evangelical canon, its adherents scrambling and sifting through history to find a whiff of its presence, willing to jettison any long proven exegesis that might get in their path.

Among many others, biblical appearance or dress, dress standards if you will, is one of the beliefs or practices bounced off the boat, bobbing in its wake without a life preserver. It had to go. It offended way too many important, new passengers of the Christian coalition.

You can still have dress standards for yourself and your family. More power to you. Go for it. But don't expect others to be with you. And even if you do, don't make it an issue of fellowship or separation. Dress standards, my friend, have become secondary and tertiary, and now are only a distraction from what's really important.

If you bring up dress standards in evangelicalism and in a lot of fundamentalism, you're one of the following---a moralist, a legalist, judgmental, anti-intellectual, unloving, the weaker brother, a Pharisee---or you're just ignored. Take your pick. Also very common now is the charge that those who hold to these now tertiary practices undermine the gospel with dress standards. Today a professing Christian looking for a church thinks of himself as even on some higher theological ground if he rejects a church with dress standards. He justifies himself with aforementioned labels affixed through the persistent propaganda campaign of evangelical and fundamentalist leaders now for a half a century.

Dress standards divide up into four types: extravagance, worldliness, modesty, and gender distinction. Of course, modernistic Christianity will focus on the first of these with the new emphasis on casual dress. You won't be required to dress-down for church, but you're probably at least more authentic if you do. What was once normal Sunday best is now extravagant and unChristlike. The other three types of dress standards have been tossed overboard. You'll hear just a little, very little, about modesty and that's it.

In the materials on what make doctrines or practices tertiary, they are usually shifted to the secondary column by their distant proximity to the gospel and their supposed relative ambiguity. For instance, the Bible doesn't prohibit shorts on women. You won't find that verse anywhere. Now that means the teaching must be unclear. And women won't go to hell for wearing shorts. The people who really care for women's souls don't want a dress standard to get in the way of their getting saved. These are how a dress standard has become tertiary. And if it's tertiary, you would be wrong to make a big deal about it, really don't want to make anyone feel guilty about violating 'one of your standards,' and especially wouldn't want to separate over it.

Even if someone does believe there are tertiary doctrines and practices, have dress standards always been treated like they are today? Are the people with the dress standards really the oddballs of Christian or church history? Or are those who have opted out of the standards by reason of the new tertiary doctrine category the ones who clash with orthodox doctrine and history?

The trashing of Christian culture by Christians themselves helps explain the horrible shape of the United States today. Professing Christians helped excuse the dump that American culture has become, one from which it has become exponentially more difficult to be saved. God designed men and He gave them dress standards. Christians have joined the world in the rejection of those standards. By doing so, they think the world will like them better and the world also might have a better opportunity to be saved. The former is probably true, but the latter isn't. The former, however, is also a very sad state of affair. Christianity is so like the world in its dress that it's hard to tell the difference. And this isn't God's will.

Christian preachers once preached against mixed swimming. Not any more. Churches organize mixed swimming activities for their young people. Churches once distinguished between men and women in the design of clothing. Not any more. Now a popular Christian woman author proudly sports a butch haircut on the cover or flyleaf. Blue jeans are even acceptable church attire for ladies.

The orthodox and historic position of Christianity forbade pants on women. It's only been for decades that Christians haven't done so. That's the position that every Christian took for centuries, as far back as before the printing press. That standard was challenged by the most godless pagans in our society until it became mainstream. It originated with people with an anti-god agenda. Churches at first bucked and resisted, and now they operate just like the world in this behavior. They defend it. The change never came through biblical exegesis or spiritual renewal, but through theological erosion and compromise. Now evangelicalism and fundamentalism pressure with mockery and ridicule the few churches remaining with this dress standard to capitulate and join in. Why mockery and ridicule? Because that's the best stuff they've got. They either don't want to feel guilty for selling out or they don't want to have even the faintest of association with these curious cousins.

Oh, but it's tertiary. Women dressing like men is tertiary. The rise of homosexuality. The break down of the male and female role. The destruction of the family. The downfall of a nation. Worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. Tertiary.

Change in dress standards is a case study on the corruption of biblical doctrine and practice. A culture corrodes first in the areas that most clash with society. The pattern of corruption makes way for further doctrinal and practical erosion. God is no longer in charge. His way is no longer respected. The so-called major doctrines are not far behind because the toleration of error has already started. Total apostasy.

Friday, July 01, 2011

A Majorly Minor Break

I'm leaving to Grand Forks, North Dakota tomorrow for the family camp with Pastor Mike Custer and Bible Baptist Church there. It's a terrific camp. I'll be preaching on Sunday morning and then Mon-Fri evenings if you are in the area. There is no wifi or internet provider in the location, so I won't be posting likely until at least the following Saturday. However, I wanted to give you a bit of a one stop shop here for my writings on the secondary/tertiary, major-minor doctrine issue. I mentioned that maybe Phil Johnson reads WIT. I read this twitter feed at the exact time of this discussion with no explanation for why the tweet. You will find Phil's little treatment of this issue, for which you will find answers among the following posts.

Ranking Doctrines You would find this one very helpful, because there are links to quite a few discussions on this.

Separation and Ranking Doctrines This post answers a lot of what we have been reading in the comment section about separation, including the how of separation.

The "Essential Doctrine" Is Just Being Assumed with No Proof

The Point and Presumptiousness of Ranking Doctrines

What did Charles Spurgeon and H. A. Ironside Say About the Tertiary or Primary Doctrine View?

Secondary, Tertiary, or Essential? Here is where I first started writing about this. I could see that this was foundational to and buttressed the fake unity and disobedience to separation in evangelicalism and fundamentalism and really across professing Christianity, despite the fact that very little has been done to defend it Scripturally.

Secondary, Tertiary, or Essential? part two

Secondary, Tertiary, or Essential? part three

Secondary, Tertiary, or Essential? part four

Secondary, Tertieary, or Essential? part five

A Conclusion about Ranking Doctrines I dovetailed this with something else that was occuring in fundamentalism at the time.

I'm going to be finishing this present series, to show why we should be concerned about what are called minor issues. And I haven't forgotten the two other series here, When I Left Fundamentalism and Transcendence Versus Immanence. I'll be writing more on those two among others.

Have a great week!