Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Postscript to the ETS Meeting

On November 16-17, I attended the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in San Francisco, mainly as an observer, then I did a series as a report.  As one general observation, I wrote this:

I wouldn't travel far to go to an ETS meeting, but if it's in your area, it would be worth the visit.

I want to add a disclaimer to that statement.  It would be worth a visit if you are a mature church member with accountability to your church and pastor.  Great harm could come from being enamored with evangelicalism.  It holds a potential very dangerous allure for some because of the intellectualism.  I wouldn't want just anyone to go.  Don't take what I wrote as a recommendation to you.  So, I am backtracking a bit after some thought about it.  Only Thomas Ross, fellow contributor here, questioned me about this, so it isn't a reaction to some big opposition.

What I liked about it, and what others might, was hearing and reading biblical studies from people who are well-equipped with the technical skills and knowledge for exegesis.  They have put some time into certain issues, studied them out, and made presentations.  However, there are also wrong views presented and some horrible doctrine and practice.  I don't believe the ETS represents New Testament Christianity because of its members' several wrong beliefs and bad practices, including a lack of biblical separation.

Thinking through a decision to attend an ETS meeting can be an edifying exercise.  I don't think someone should receive theological or biblical instruction from someone who does not teach the same doctrine as his church.  It is why I don't believe in sending a young person to a Bible college with teaching that differs from his church.  It is one thing to learn math or computer science or English grammar at a secular school, and it is quite another to learn doctrine at a school that contradicts the doctrine and practice of your church.

Paul commanded Timothy to "charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1 Tim 1:3) and in the next verse not even to "give heed" to it.  In 1 Timothy 6:3-5, "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness. . . . from such withdraw thyself."  That scriptural admonition should give someone pause about attending ETS.

Some may wonder about buying books from these men and reading them, in light of this teaching from God's Word.  How would using their books differ from attending the meeting and hearing them in their sessions?  I believe there is a difference with books.  We don't have to take heed to their teaching when we read their books, I don't believe.  Neither do we need to withdraw ourselves with a mere book.

So does attending the sessions of the ETS violate the teaching of 1 Timothy?  "Withdraw thyself," I believe, speaks of "the breaking of fellowship, no longer to be in fellowship."  We are not to fellowship with these and attending, I think, does not mean fellowship (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14).  "Give heed" is present tense.  We are not to keep giving heed as a practice.  I don't think occasional attendance to these meetings constitutes a practice.  I am open to input on this one.

Most readers know here that I don't subscribe to evangelicalism and am a constant and severe critic.  However, that doesn't mean that someone such as myself cannot be influenced by evangelicals.  I believe that one of the major reasons for the rampant and widespread erosion of fundamentalism has come from the influence of evangelicalism upon fundamentalism.  Fundamentalists have allowed far too much evangelical influence.  They have sought it out.  Many fundamentalist institutions promote evangelicals more than they do fundamentalists, especially in their book stores, and without much disclaimer.   Fundamentalist seminaries often elevate the ETS with little criticism.

We need to be careful with evangelicalism.  It can touch in the ways that are most alluring and damaging.  In evangelicalism, we can see significance, career, promotion, and accolade.   For these reasons, I warn my readers about the ETS.  Folks, they might seem intellectual, but they aren't "smart" enough to "get" separation, and that's all over the Bible.  So watch out!


Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,
I appreciate and agree with your disclaimer post. The educating of Fundamentalists at Evangelical schools and the educating of Baptists at Protestant schools has caused tremendous damage and will continue to do so ... unless the person going there knows the differences and can faithfully attend and serve in a NT Baptist church where he is taught NT doctrine. I do believe that books are also a danger. I believe that a great many of the Fundamental Baptists who have become Calvinists have made that move because of their reading material (and not from studying the Bible). Of course, we all read books of men who do not agree with our doctrinal positions. I would assume that Paul did as well, since he referred to the "books" in 2 Timothy 4:13 - which I would understand to be Jewish commentaries and such like. One very important book for Baptists to read which warns of this problem is "The Coming Destruction of the Baptist People" (also named "Sacred Betrayal") by James Beller. I highly recommend it.

Micah said...

Kent, this statement is inaccurate:

“It holds a potential very dangerous allure for some because of the intellectualism. I wouldn't want just anyone to go.”

The allure of the conservative evangelicalism dynamic is not intellectualism. It is the power of the gospel unleashed in the preaching. It is the freedom of living in God’s grace without constant guilt and checking off religious to do lists. It is the appreciation of God’s Word as the living voice of God that pertains to all of life instead of being used as a rigid regulation laden theological encyclopedia.

Other people who maintain differing doctrinal statements than yours can have the power of God on their lives and ministries. Your quotes from 1 Timothy, if placed in context, actually hurt your assumption. Paul was specific about the things that constituted false doctrine, and who to avoid.

None of the lists there would be remotely close to denouncing a person because of their position on “second degree” separation. Why do you hold separation as if it is the gospel itself?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Micah,

Thanks for coming by. I hope you are open minded. I am. I actually consider evangelicalism and fundamentalism, but obedience to God, to Scripture, doesn't allow me to be in either.

I was speaking of the allure of intellectualism especially in the ETS. I don't believe that the "grace" of conservative evangelicalism, about which you speak, is grace as an occasion to the flesh. It turns the grace of God into lasciviousness. We don't have grace to disobey Scripture.

Actually, the 1 Timothy passage is much more applicable than I made plain in this post, not less so. I encourage you to go back and read 1 Tim 6:1-5 and see how that it goes much further than even the gospel.

Personally, I see the "second degree separation" terminology as invented to downgrade biblical obedience to the doctrine of separation. Separation itself is biblical obedience. If someone won't separate, he is disobeying Scripture and is therefore a disobedient brother, worthy of separation.

And consider 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 on separation and the gospel. Especially look at vv. 17-18 of chapter 6. What do those verses say about those who will not separate from false religion, a false gospel, and false worship?

Micah said...

Kent, thanks for responding…

Your statement about“ ‘grace’ of conservative evangelicalism” as “lasciviousness” is too broad to prove or disprove. Naturally, grace is not there to disobey Scripture as Paul passionately argues in Romans.

This statement referencing 1 Tim 6: “ see how that it goes much further than even the gospel.” actually highlights the disconnect we have. It appears that you view the “gospel” as a segment of the Bible’s teachings. Please correct me if I’m not tracking with your statement. But it appears you are saying the “gospel” has didactic limitations, i.e. the gospel is found in 1 Cor. 15:3-5. So then there are other doctrines taught in accordance with the gospel. Before I challenge that, I would ask you confirm the accuracy of that assumption. I may be misunderstanding your baseline thought.

As to 1 Timothy 6….this passage clearly defines a false teacher and then Timothy is told to flee those things. This is where I believe you are mistaken in your explanation of separation. You seem to apply separation (or at least this passage) to believing brothers who have differing interpretations or practices than you or your church. This passage describes clearly those teachers who are not believers, who are not teaching the gospel, who are ungodly, who are trying to become well off financially from preaching, who are producing quarrels and dissension. It’s a further development of the teaching Paul started in chapter 4 that teachers will leave the faith with seared consciences and create their own doctrines.

Same could be said for the 2 Cor. 6 passage. That separation has nothing to do with those in the family of Christ. Separation from false teaching is very black & white, and the call to holiness and distinction from the world (in 2 cor) is very clear. But the random arguments of “I won’t cooperate” with this guy, or “I won’t support that guy” because he’s wrong on this point, or maintains fellowship with a guy who doesn’t agree with me on this, that or the other….those are not the biblical teachings on separation.

I am not advocating that we should wholeheartedly support each Christian leader just b/c he preaches the gospel when we strongly disagree with them on something they are doing in practice, i.e. a rock show for a church service. But I also don’t see the point of public castigation, it’s not worth the energy. I think we both agree that the best way for people to grow is to teach them truth and let them grow, not merely tell them all of the wrong things to avoid.

Jon Gleason said...

Micah, ETS is not conservative evangelicalism. It includes Roman Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, etc.

There are "conservative evangelicals" but I don't think there is any such thing as a CE movement. They overlap too broadly with non-conservative evangelicals, and even with non-evangelicals, as at ETS.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Micah,

I have to admit that I'm not sure what the gospel-centered movement means when they say gospel-centered, because it seems to be multifaceted. If you mean that all sanctification comes out of justification, I can agree with that. But if you mean, don't diminish the gospel with an emphasis on other teachings than the doctrine of salvation, I can't agree with that. I'm planning on writing a post on that in the near future. I understood the latter to be what you were talking about, based upon your very critique of my post. It would seem obvious that's what you meant. If you meant the former position, we would be on the same page and you would have nothing for which to criticize me.

Since Jude and Paul and Peter all three wrote about the problem of 'grace as an occasion of the flesh,' I believe we can judge whether it is occurring or not. If we can't judge it, then none of them could have written about it.

1 Timothy 6:1-5 and 2 Thess 3:6-15 and 1 Cor 5 all three teach that we must break with those with a wrong practice. If it is a "different practice than our church," our church also might believe that it is also different behavior than what the Bible teaches.

2 Cor 6 speaks of breaking with unbelievers. The Southern Baptist Convention cooperates with unbelievers, so everyone in the convention remains indifferent to unbelief. I use that as an example. The ETS doesn't make the gospel a basis for yoking with Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists in common labor. Verse 18 says that those who do not come out from among them and be separate will not be the Lord's sons and daughters. I believe it is eschatological salvation, because of the future tense, that is, people who will be saved will also be separatists.

I think you should consider what God says there, Micah.

As far as public castigation, I think it fits the category of mark and avoid in Romans 16:17-18. It's important that we do that.