Monday, February 27, 2012

The Pharisees to the Left: Little Faith, Weak Minds, Poor Arguments, But With a Loud Fanfare

OK.  I'm going to postpone what I was going to post until at least Wednesday.  This subject has captured my attention.
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In Mark 7:13, Jesus said:

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

This could be a bumper sticker for what I'll call "the Pharisees of the left."  The Pharisees didn't just add to the Word of God---they also subtracted from God's Word.  They wished to make "the word of God of none effect," the parts they don't like obeying.  They did that by leaving out mercy and judgment and faith for tithing on little herbs (Matthew 23:23).  They did that with "corban" so that they could abstain from supporting their parents (Mark 7:7-12).  They also attempt to reduce God's laws to a smaller number by ranking doctrines (Mark 12:28).   They did all this to make salvation and sanctification easier, more convenient, and more comfortable on their own.  It is something that you saw the Jesuit monks practice in the medieval period, called casuistry.  It is a form of left-wing legalism.  All of what I'm describing is the bread and butter of liberalism, and now evangelicalism and even much of fundamentalism.

Know this about the left I'm describing.  They have very loud fanfare, but don't let that confuse you.  Their loud fanfare is the cover for their little faith, weak minds, and poor arguments.  They are the strawman in the Wizard of Oz.  They have the diploma, which is the major and perhaps only evidence for their brains.  They are good on fanfare, what is really sounding brass.  It makes a loud noise, but is worthless.   What they are doing is giving away the faith and sabotaging biblical Christianity for their own convenience, just like the Pharisees were doing with the Old Testament and Jeroboam did with worship in Jerusalem. Their organizations and institutions and "success" have become far more important than the truth itself.

I want to concentrate on new evangelicalism or evangelicalism and fundamentalism, because that's where the greatest danger is.

The Pharisees were into their props and instruments of self promotion.  This was their loud fanfare.  They would throw the ashes on their face, wear the phylacteries, put on sad faces, and bruise themselves to make an impression that they were serious for God.  It was so much a show.  With today's left, it goes a different direction.   They embrace a populism with an emphasis on creature comfort, so the left show a faux identification with these.  They make an impression in fitting with an Oprah generation.  Instead of the trappings of first century Judaism, they target a different kind of worldliness.

Let me describe.  Come as you are.  Leadership photo with everyone dressed down.  New emphasis on social causes---the soup lines of the Hollywood elite.  In certain cases, the moussed up hair, soul patch, and brand names that imitate poverty.  Today's noble savage.  Gritty urban or graffiti font on the brochure.  Earnest, whispery, throaty tones in the voice, much like today's soul singers, Alicia Keys or even Justin Bieber (though they wouldn't want to admit the latter).  And then everybody is your pal, like Woody in Toy Story, a friend indeed.  All of this is strategic, the modern fanfare parallel to the Pharisees with their first century Jewish crowd.  But that's not all.

For centuries, Christians believed and obeyed the Scripture, especially in practical matters, a particular way. As the culture has changed, new evangelicalism or evangelicalism and now fundamentalism has changed to conform to the zeitgeist.  This is where they use the Pharisaical tactics to make the Word of God of none effect.  To protect their numbers, their payroll, and other infrastructure for the movement, they give up on distinctions in dress between men and women, modesty, reverent worship music, roles of men and women, cessationism, and more.   They use the same type of reasoning that the religious leaders of Jesus' day did with corban in order to dispose of thousands of years of practice.

In order then to protect what they've got going, the evangelicals and fundamentalists use the same type of tactics that the Pharisees did.  They said Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebub.  They've got no proof, but if you keep saying it enough times, a lot of people will believe it.  Their professed evidence that Jesus was with Satan was that Jesus hung out with the obvious friends of Satan, so there you go.  The evangelicals and fundamentalists will call you Amish, say you're irrelevant, have a remnant mentality, you're myopic, you're judgmental, etc., either psychobabble or red herrings.

What's ironic to me with the evangelicals and fundamentalists is their similarities with the Jack Hyles movement, which was all about bells and whistles.  Both major on programs and demographics and incentives and youth culture and business practices.  The former would never want to be associated with the latter, but both use a similar template for church growth.

The evangelicals and the fundamentalists also both have their scribes that are the academic or legal wing of their movement.  For the evangelicals, it is the Evangelical Theological Society and their graduate schools, and for fundamentalists, it is the colleges and seminaries.  Christians since Christ believed in the preservation of Scripture.  This is the historic position.  With that also came certainty and authority.  The faux authority of the evangelicals and fundamentalists is their degrees and papers and self-endorsement and accreditation.   This parallels with the difference between Jesus and the scribes.  Jesus spoke with authority, because His was the Word of God.  The scribes quoted each other.  Why is it true?  Because Rabbi So-and-So says so.  Well, why is he right?  Of course, because Rabbi This-and-That also said he was right.  And plus it has worked!  And who do you have who agrees with you?  You're irrelevant!

Have the above societies of sacredotalism increased faith?  No.  Instead of faith in Scripture, it becomes faith in scholarship.  We were once sure we had all the Words.  Now we're not sure.  We were once sure what Scripture meant.  Now we're not sure.  We were once sure how the Bible applied.  Now we're not sure.  But we're smarter!  We've got the Dan Wallace and James White position to combat the Bart Ehrman position.  Both sides are unsure, but it's a degree of uncertainty.  And because of scholarship, we're told that's how it's got to be.  With that as your foundation, it's simple to see why pragmatism becomes the actual rule for the day.

There is far less holiness.  Children are disobeying their parents.  People are more into material things.   We've got the Bible, but everything is reduced to a syllogism.  This is what evangelicalism and fundamentalism has given us.

Ahhh!  But you've got an argument!  What about the expositors!  There is far more exposition today!  I am thankful for exposition, but exposition has become a medium for allowing worldliness and sin.  Exposition has become the end all.  I expose the Bible.  I preach through books, but you've got to deal with what it says.  The teaching is not a replacement for obedience.  Like the Corinthians, evangelicalism and fundamentalism are puffed up with knowledge.  The Corinthians knew that meat wasn't an idol and that knowledge puffed them up (1 Cor 8:1). They use their "teaching" time to explain away centuries of biblical practices.  The Pharisees taught Scripture.  They used the Bible.  But then they made the Word of God of none effect with what was little more than excuses.  That's what evangelicalism and fundamentalism has gotten us.  The type of exposition that centers on interpretation results in a form of godliness, excused by the ability to parse and conjugate.   The exposition falls short of exposing the lives of the hearers.

The Pharisees of the left require their liberty.  They're better than you because they have a lower standard but you can reach up to their exalted status if you would do the same.  The most godly are less sure and more uncertain.  Uncertainty is humility is authenticity.

Pastors and their churches have no need for evangelicalism or fundamentalism.  You shouldn't be cowered by or influenced by them.  They are one of those ghost cities that majors on infrastructure.  Behind the doors, you won't find much.  Don't be intimidated by their loud fanfare.

25 comments:

Steve Rogers said...

Pastor Brandenburg,
You wrote...
"What about the expositors!  There is far more exposition today!  I am thankful for exposition, but exposition has become a medium for allowing worldliness and sin.  Exposition has become the end all."
This is so true. Exposition has become the that which covers a multitude of sins. In Hylesism it was soulwinning. In evangelicals and some fundamentalists, it is parsing the Greek and exposition which does not expose the sin of the hearer, but in reality exposes and elevates fleshly wisdom of the professor in the pulpit. Everyone goes home happy, feeling smarter because of the Greek lesson that was preceded by the Sting concert. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for God's preservation of the Greek and Hebrew texts. And I'm eternally grateful that my mentoring pastors and my homiletics professor were men that drilled into my head that there was a difference between exposition and expository preaching. God commands us to engage in the latter!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Steve. Agreed!

Anonymous said...

I have a question: What is the difference between "exposition" and "expository preaching"? I have read a couple of articles which make a distinction between the "lecture" and the "sermon." Is that what you mean? Do you mean that all exposition should include exhortation?

Just trying to understand...

Chris Long

Steve Rogers said...

Chris,

In my mind, expository preaching is different from exposition because of the propositional nature of preaching. Preaching proclaims truth taught in the text and then brings the hearer to make an application of that truth to their life. Proper hermeneutics is key, and exposition must precede application, because not all scripture was written TO church age saints, but it was all written FOR us (Rom. 15:4/1 Cor. 10:11/2 Tim. 3:16-17). Exposition simply explains the passage and meaning, in it’s historical, dispensational, and grammatical context. Preaching says, now how does God want that truth to apply to my life, to our church. Preaching is NOT just a running commentary in between verses. Exposition without application is sterile, and application without exposition is shallow. Which is why Hyles was so opposed to expository preaching. I seek to use the CIA method of preparation for preaching – Context then Interpretation then Application! Certainly not claiming to be an expert, God has much work to do to with vessel, but I hope this helps you understand my comment.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rogers,

Thank you for the answer. I suppose I should have looked at your church's website before I asked the question!

Chris

William Dudding said...

"Instead of the trappings of first century Judaism, they target a different kind of worldliness.
Let me describe. Come as you are. Leadership photo with everyone dressed down."

Oh no! Kent nailed me! My photo on my church website is jeans and a flannel shirt.

To be "not worldly", I better make sure I'm preoccupied with how I look so that my preacher brethren will think well of me.

Kent Brandenburg said...

William,

I didn't see your photo on your church website. Everything means something though. There's nothing distinct to being casual today.

Steve Rogers said...

William,

You should be concerned about "how you look." Isn’t God? Aren’t you concerned about a testimony, including the effect and communication your dress gives forth to others!

Does not God tell us the purpose of clothing in scripture in relation to nakedness? Does not our clothing communicate a message? Do you skip over passages in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, and refrain from preaching the Bible truths of modesty, distinction, appropriateness, and worldliness?

Would it be right for a woman in your church to use your logic and reasoning, and sarcastically say to you after a sermon, "Oh no, you got me. I'm wearing a bikini on my facebook page photo...I'd better become preoccupied with my dress standards, so my pastor and church family will approve of me."

Of course, if you're one of the evangelical-types, and not a Biblicist, as long as you are practicing exposition, who cares what you and your flock wear, right. So… she’d never hear that. After all, God only cared and addressed dress and distinction to people in the Bible, right? As long as you give the historical background of those passages (author, date, geography) and you woo your flock with your knowledge of greek syntax, you’re an expositor. Don’t apply that truth propositionally.

Yes, you’d be an expositor. But that is what Brother Brandenburg’s article is addressing, at least in my reading. The misunderstanding that somehow if I practice exposition, that means I can practice and excuse worldliness in my life and ministry. God didn’t inspire and preserve His Word to dictate MY dress, and MY music, and certainly I have no right to implement that kind of application to my preaching ministry. I have fulfilled my calling by exposing the scriptures, but not the hearer of those scriptures.

I think you took offense, because something pricked you. Perhaps, it was the truth.

William Dudding said...

Kent,
What I intend to communicate by dressing down is that there is no clergy/laity distinction. Coming from an IFB background, there's this unhealthy dichotomy between pastors and the rest of the peons in the church. The suits and ties are like Baptist phylacteries.

Steve,
Wearing a Bikini is obviously sinful, wearing jeans is not. Apples and oranges.

William Dudding said...

Steve,
One more thing. What offends me is how some of you guys make application of truth and then raise your application to the level of Bible authority and then separate and call out everyone who does not apply everything the same way you all do. This is one of the many reasons why I left Fundamentalism. Kent may say he has left it, but it has not all left him.

Kent Brandenburg said...

William,

"Come as you are" is cultural today, and very big in the Bay Area, almost starting here. As people choose from the a la carte line of churches, they look for particular indications, one of them being that they will get to go casual. The leadership picture will relay to them the appropriate signal. Cloth is neither righteous or unrighteous, but what we do with it communicates a message, and in our culture the suit and tie sends a message of seriousness and sobriety, in fitting with the nature of God and His worship. Casual goes the opposite.

Regarding fundamentalism still being in me, I'm open to having pointed out all unbiblical doctrine and practice found here. Application of truth should come with biblical authority. I believe God wants us to know how Scripture applies.

Thanks.

William Dudding said...

I understand the "serious" image. But you don't want people to come as they are? They have to meet up to your dress standards before they can be welcomed?
I have a guy in our church who came as raw and rough as can be. A church w/o drums was shocking enough for him. He has never worn a suit in his life. I'm glad that this kind of extrabiblical expectation was not forced upon him because we've been able to deal with him "as he is" and he is slowly becoming conformed to Christ in areas much more substantial than what he wears to church.

Kent Brandenburg said...

William,

We're talking about a whole different subject when we talk about asking an unbeliever to conform to an external dress standard. I don't know of one church ever that did that, so it is arguing against I don't know who or what. I don't think dress is foundational teaching, so it is something that totally down the road and after someone is saved, unless it is sinful and can be used for evangelism. But I would think you knew that, since I can't imagine you've ever seen a church that required unsaved people to conform in dress.

Thanks.

William Dudding said...

Hi Kent,
No, I'm talking about believers who are checking out your church. What do you do with people coming from a seeker sensitive background who are starved sheep looking for food?

We have had several people come from a particular seeker church in the area starving to death for the preaching of the Word, and when they arrive, they look like they came out of a seeker church. They bring all the versions with them, the casual clothes and when they hear preaching from a KJV, sing hymns played on an organ, they have a lot of adjustments to make.

Steve Rogers said...

William,

I've experienced exactly what you are describing with folks coming from a contemporary church background. One man in particular. He's now a member. Like Kent said, no one walked up to him and told him to wear a suit and ditch his Good News For Modern Dudes paraphrase. However, because he was spiritually starved for Biblical expository preaching, with application, the Word changed his dress and his music and his Bible.
As far as your initial laity/clergy justification for the casual dress. It's just not historically accurate. Everyone used to dress in formal attire for worship services, both pastors and church members. It's not like there is this LONG history of church attendees wearing jeans and flannel grunge. Indeed, perhaps it's been the increasing movement away from expository preaching with application to simple exposition, that has left the flock to be carried down the path of worldliness and such a casual approach toward a holy God.
I too hate the Pope mentality in the movement of fundamentalism, But I also understand the local church structure & leadership responsibility of the office of a pastor. Remember, he is a bishop,(overseer) as well as a pastor, and elder. Don't these descriptions designate the office to be distinct from a member. Thus the qualifications in I Timothy. The pastor/teacher is not better than the member, the foot of the cross is level. He is held to a higher standard of accountability though. (James 3:1) Wouldn't it be better to erase the dress distinction by teaching them by example and exhortation with scriptural principles to raise the bar, instead of lowering it to meet them? Just sayin...

Bill Hardecker said...

Interesting Pastor Rogers, we are thankful too, for one family that joined our church who came from a far-out community type fellowship (they don't want to call themselves a church, and I will gladly oblige). They came to our church and got exposed to the KJV and the truth, and they have and are adjusting very well, glory to God!

William Dudding said...

Steve,
Not to argue or over labor the point, but in regards to history, were not the Puritans plain in their dress when it came to church? They did not wear all the fancy stuff that the Church of England clergy wore and were considered non-conformists. To our eyes, any picture of a Puritan would look much more formally dressed than anything we wear today, but back then, it would not have been considered so.

Joshua said...

Pastor Dudding,

The Puritans were formally clad when they met to worship. There was no "fancy dress". I don't think appealing to these chaps will assist your argument in any way shape or form. The puritans disciplined over dress, church attendance and amusements. The notion that they would adapt their dress, worship and scriptures to attract the most worldly Christian to their assemblies would have made them choke.

Just curious: are you of the opinion that had Puritanism survived to the modern day it would be an advocate for casual beachwear on a Sunday?

Everything I have read about the Puritans gives me the exact opposite impression.

Steve Rogers said...

William,

I'm not a puritan, or episcopalian or protestant, and thought we were talking about NT independent Baptist churches. Baptists have been champions of the priesthood of the believer and congregational government,opposing the clergy/laity idea since it rose on the seen in the 300-400s AD. I was talking about American culture and the last 50 years of American Independent Baptist church settings. Your website says that you are a Baptist. Thats what you said you were opposing with the grunge look. In protestant and obviously RC churches, there is obviously "clergy" robes. But to equate a suit and tie with the Roman Catholic type of hierarchial apparel is as you say,...apples and oranges. Suits and ties have been worn by American Christians and churches, both members and pastors for many years. They have only been forsaken for jeans and flip-flops with the contemporary church movement. Suits and ties are common apparel for weddings and the business and educational environments as well. News anchors are always seen in a suit and tie. I've never mistaken Tim Brokaw for an archbishop. The president and congressional politicians wear suit and tie. The suit and tie CANNOT be said to be church hierarchial apparel. It is simply apparel that is worn by someone who wants to communicate a serious attitude. In our case, preaching the Word of God and worshipping Him...can there be a more serious time for believers and churches?
I think this whole excuse to dress like Ryan Seacrest in order to stand against the clergy/laity thing in Independent Baptist churches is fluff. Like Bro. Kent noted, it is a defining characteristic of emerging/contemporary churches to dress this way. In your effort to NOT be like the supposed hierarchy in IFBs, you have adapted the "robes" of the New Evangelical/Emerging hierarchy, Warren, Driscoll, etc.

Kent Brandenburg said...

William,

I actually was thinking exactly the same thing that Joshua wrote, but I thought what Steve wrote was also very good. I would agree with the Puritan's thinking on dress as it relates to worship. It was also normal thinking pre-enlightenment and then reflected by believers in this country until the influence of Finney, the Charismatics, and the Jesus movement. Christian radio and television personalities have helped propagate it.

In my book on dress that has never yet been published, I spend a lot of time on the thinking behind what we wear. We're either representative or relational. The Scripture viewpoint is representative, which is what I discussed recently in my "Applying Holiness" post. We are more concerned with representing God than relating to unsaved people. We can't bridge the gap to unsaved people with what conforms to their thinking. Salvation is of the Lord, something I believe wholeheartedly, but is sadly missing in the thinking of so many evangelicals and fundamentalists today. I'll flesh this out some more in future weeks.

Thanks again.

William Dudding said...

Thanks for all the great discussion. I actually do preach in a suit and tie, but our website had a more casual picture. I have recently changed a few pictures on the website. I think some of your arguments are valid and hold water. Even though it may seem that I was coming at you with an adversarial position, it is those kinds of arguments that I often hear and wanted to get your responses. So, Kent... although I sometimes don't buy all your arguments, you are a positive influence on me! :)

William Dudding said...

Joshua asked: "Just curious: are you of the opinion that had Puritanism survived to the modern day it would be an advocate for casual beachwear on a Sunday?"

No of course not. That's not at all what I am insinuating. When the original post derided "come as you are", I poked at it and after much discussion, I find out that many of you guys don't really have a problem with certain kinds of people "coming as they are" as long as they don't stay that way.

One of the things about questioning fundamentalists is that if you don't immediately agree with them, and you dare to challenge them, they will portray you as the most extreme opposite position to intimidate you and prevent you from ever raising an objection ever again. Now, Kent didn't do that, but some of you other guys got pretty close. So, it makes me wonder if the poor starving sheep who comes to your church from a Willow Creek type of place with his jeans and sandles...is it really your excellent exposition of scripture that changes his mind about what to wear or is the typical fundamentalist intimidation and pressure to conform that changes their mind? Just a thought.

Steve Rogers said...

I think that was kind of a cheap shot at the end, William. You practiced what you just got done saying you despised among "fundamentalists" with a smugness that seems to characterize alot of younger disenchanted former fundamentalists. I know, I've been there myself.
I can't speak for the other pastors here, but I don't make ministry decisions based on the sheep, starving or not, but on what pleases the Chief Shepherd. Too many of these discussions center on the sheep, rather than the Chief Shepherd. Pastors are not responsible to change people, but they are responsible to the Chief Shepherd for their leadership and faithfulness to His instruction to preach the truth that does change people. Biblical exposition with application may or may not produce change, but we can say, change will not come without it. And Bro. Dudding, it's the excellency and power of the Word, not the messenger!(I Cor. 2:1-5) All you have to do is listen to one of my messages to know that! Thankfully, we have the Word!

Thanks Kent. Keep writing!

William Dudding said...

How is that a cheap shot?
You and Josh almost ascribed to to me the position of wearing bikini's in church! That's exactly what I'm talking about. If someone raises a question, you paint them as extremists on the opposite side of your position. So, I can't help but be a little cynical (smug as you put it) to wonder if new people get bullied into your standards or convicted by scripture into them. Fair question.

Joshua said...

Pastor Dudding,

I reread my post and I do feel that it would have benefitted from less superlatives. I'm sorry that I came on so strong there. I was not my intention to bully or pressure, so please accept my apology for this.

As for ascribing the worst position - when I was a child in evanglical churches I frequently went to church in board shorts and a Billabong T-shirt - standard Australian beachwear. That was what I was thinking when I referenced beach culture. I didn't mean you were actively promoting bikini's.

I think we all tend to go a little harder in argumentation online with folks we assume are secure believers. If you met Kent face to face to discuss this you probably wouldn't have insinuated that he wears a suit to impress his preacher friends. We would probably be a little slower to introduce the further flung cases to make the point. I don't think any of us would discuss this in the same way when we meet Mr Smith on Sunday who has just left Springfield Community Chapel and is wondering why he's the only one here in jeans.

Thanks for taking the time to reply, and again I do apologize for coming on aggressively.

Joshua