Friday, December 28, 2012

Were the Reformers Heretics? Appendix Part 1



Apart from their connection of baptism and salvation, the Reformers adopted many other heresies.  Zwingli held that “noble” heathen who had never heard of Christ would be in heaven, and only maintained the salvation of unbaptized infants by vitiating the Biblical doctrine of original sin (Romans 5:12-19).[i]  Luther either questioned or denied the canonicity of Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation, as well as several Old Testament books, providing a basis for the rise of theological modernism in Germany a century after his death.  In Luther’s preface to James, from his first edition of his German New Testament, he stated that “this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients . . . I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle; and my reasons follow. In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works. . . . This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle. . . . [T]his James does nothing more than drive to the law and to its works. Besides, he throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the disciples of the apostles and thus tossed them off on paper. . . . In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task in spirit, thought, and words. He mangles the Scriptures and thereby opposes Paul and all Scripture . . . Therefore, I will not have him in my Bible to be numbered among the true chief books.”  In a Tabletalk comment in 1542, Luther affirmed, “We should throw the Epistle of James out of this school [Wittenberg], for it doesn’t amount to much. It contains not a syllable about Christ. . . . I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any.  Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did. . . . Besides, there’s no order or method in the epistle. Now he discusses clothing and then he writes about wrath and is constantly shifting from one to the other. He presents a comparison: ‘As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead’ [Jas. 2:26]. O Mary, mother of God! What a terrible comparison that is! James compares faith with the body when he should rather have compared faith with the soul! The ancients recognized this, too, and therefore they didn’t acknowledge this letter as one of the catholic epistles” (Luther’s Works (LW) 54:424).  He also said, “Some day I will use James to fire my stove”[ii] (cf. Jeremiah 36:23-32).

Luther wrote concerning “the epistle of St Jude . . . he also speaks of the apostles like a disciple who comes long after them and cites sayings and incidents that are found nowhere else in the Scriptures. This moved the ancient fathers to exclude this epistle from the main body of the Scriptures . . . it is an epistle that need not be counted among the chief books which are supposed to lay the foundations of faith.”[iii] Concerning the book of Hebrews, Luther wrote that the book “does not lay the foundation of faith . . . Therefore we should not be deterred if wood, straw, or hay are perhaps mixed with [sound teaching in the epistle] . . . to be sure, we cannot put it on the same level with the apostolic epistles.”  In certain places, Hebrews is, “as it stands . . . contrary to all the gospels and to St. Paul’s epistles” (LW 35:394).

In Luther’s Preface to the Revelation of St. John (1522), he wrote, “About this book of the Revelation of John . . . I say what I feel. I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic. . . . For myself, I think it approximates the Fourth Book of Esdras; I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it. Moreover he seems to me to be going much too far when he commends his own book so highly—indeed, more than any of the other sacred books do, though they are much more important—and threatens that if anyone takes away anything from it, God will take away from him, etc.[iv] Again, they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one knows what that is, to say nothing of keeping it. This is just the same as if we did not have the book at all. And there are many far better books available for us to keep. Many of the fathers also rejected this book a long time ago; although St. Jerome, to be sure, refers to it in exalted terms and says that it is above all praise and that there are as many mysteries in it as words. Still, Jerome cannot prove this at all, and his praise at numerous places is too generous. . . . My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book.”

In his Preface to the New Testament (1522), Luther stated, “John's Gospel is . . . far, far to be preferred to the other three and placed high above them.  So, too, the Epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter far surpass the other three Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke.”

Luther’s relegation of portions of the New Testament canon to a secondary status is followed by “conservative” modern Lutheranism to this day.  Lutheran editions of the Bible in the centuries after the Reformation generally contained their Reformer’s prefaces to the Scriptures along with the books, perpetuating his blasphemies among the following generations of Lutherans.[v]

Luther attacked portions of the Old Testament as well.  He said, “Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book]  . . . One doesn’t speak that way under temptation.”[vi]  He affirmed that “The [author of the] book of Solomon's Proverbs [is like] . . . the author of the book of [the Apocryphal book of] Ecclesiasticus.  [He] preaches the law well, but he is no prophet. [Ecclesiasticus] is not the work of Solomon, any more than is the book of Solomon’s Proverbs. They are both collections made by other people.  . . . [Concerning the book of] Esther . . . I wish [it] had not come to us at all, for [it has] too many heathen unnaturalities. . . . Daniel and Isaiah are [the] most excellent prophets.”[vii]  In Luther’s Preface to Ecclesiastes, he wrote, “Now this book was certainly not written or set down by King Solomon with his own hand. Instead scholars put together what others had heard from Solomon’s lips, as they themselves admit at the end of the book . . . In like manner too, the book of the Proverbs of Solomon has been put together by others, with the teaching and sayings of some wise men added at the end. The Song of Solomon too has the appearance of a book compiled by others out of things received from the lips of Solomon. For this reason these books have no particular order either, but one thing is mixed with another. This must be the character of such books, since they did not hear it all from him at one time but at different times” (LW 35:263).  Luther stated concerning “Esther . . . [that] despite [the Jews] inclusion of it in the canon [it] deserves more than all the rest in my judgment to be regarded as noncanonical” (LW 33:11).  Before Luther attacked inspired books of the Old and New Testaments, instead of trembling before them (Isaiah 66:2), he should have considered more carefully that “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:13; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; Proverbs 30:5-6; Deuteronomy 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19).

In 1519, Luther exhorted his congregation to “call upon the holy angels, particularly his own angel, the Mother of God, and all the apostles and saints,” although later on he moved away from prayers to angels, Mary, and other dead people.  Nevertheless, Luther kept a graven image of Mary in his study his entire life.[viii]  Luther also believed his entire life in Mary’s perpetual virginity.  He taught, “Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . [when Scripture speaks of the Lord Jesus’] ‘brothers’ [it] really means ‘cousins.’”[ix]  Calvin similarly affirmed, “Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ,” arguing that “brothers” meant merely cousins or relatives.[x]  Calvin never denied the perpetual virginity of Mary.  Zwingli affirmed, “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.” Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity.[xi]

Luther also taught that Mary was conceived without sin, as Christ was, preaching that “It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin.”[xii]
The Bible teaches that Mary was a very godly woman (Luke 1:48), although John the Baptist was greater than she (Matthew 11:11).  Mary needed to have Christ as her “Saviour” (Luke 1:47) because she was a sinner just like every other descendent of Adam (Romans 3:10, 23; 5:12, 19).  The gospels record her bringing a sin offering for her uncleanness (Luke 2:21-24; Lev 12:1-8).  Jesus was her “firstborn” son (Matthew 1:25; Lu 2:7), after which God blessed her marriage to Joseph with many other children (Matthew 13:55-56; John 7:5 + Psalm 69:8; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatiansl 1:19).  She does not have special access to the Lord Jesus (Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 11:27-28) and praying to her, saying she is the queen of heaven, making her a mediator between God and man, and all other Catholic or Protestant additions to Biblical teaching about her are abominable idolatry (Deuteronomy 12:32; 1 Timothy 2:5; Isaiah 48:11).  “Idolaters . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8).


--TDR




[i] Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, 7:preface:11;  7:1:7:110; 8:2:9; 8:5:45; 8:3:29.

[ii] Weimer, “Tischreden” (5) pg. 5854, cited in “Luther and James:  Did Luther Use the Historical-Critical Method?” by Mark F. Bartling; a paper presented to the Pastor-Teacher Conference, Western Wisconsin District, LaCrosse, WI, April 12, 1983.

[iii] See Luther’s preface to Jude in his first edition of the German New Testament.

[iv] Note that here Luther explicitly rejects the warning of Revelation 22:18-19!  It goes “much too far”!  Is the book of Revelation correct, and Luther in error, when the inspired prophecy warns that for he who add or take away from it (Is not rejecting its inspiration most certainly taking away from it?), “God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book . . . and . . . God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book”?  Or is Luther correct, and the Word of God in error, so that God goes “much too far” here?

[v] “The German Bible available to homes in the Missouri Synod in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Altenburger Bibel (Concordia Publishing House), contained Luther’s introductions to the New Testament books, giving his views about Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.  The laymen therefore were acquainted with the view of [the] Scriptures [of Luther, questioning their inspiration].”  The American Lutheran Synod of 1857 (minutes, pg. 334ff) affirmed, “The Lutheran church must leave it uncertain whether Revelation, or any of the other books of the New Testament which were spoken against by a few in the early church, were written by an Apostle or under Apostolic authority. . . . Consequently, it was an unwise, unchristian, and provocative act on the part of [a Lutheran minister] to conceal the actual status of the doubted New Testament books.  Thereby he gave rise to rumors which cast aspersions on those who maintain the distinction between canonical books of the first and second rank;  whereas in this distinction they were following the earliest church Luther, and the older orthodox theologians” (Quotations from “Luther and James:  Did Luther Use the Historical-Critical Method?” by Mark F. Bartling; a paper presented to the Pastor-Teacher Conference, Western Wisconsin District, LaCrosse, WI, April 12, 1983.).

[vi] Luther on Job from the Table Talk, John Aurifaber’s version; LW 54:79.

[vii] Table-Talk Of Martin Luther Translated By William Hazlitt, Esq. Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society. Utterance XXIV. Available at http://www.ccel.org/l/luther/table_talk/table_talk.htm.

[viii]             cf. Reformation Church History, Lecture 5, W. Robert Godfrey, (Grand Rapids, MI: Institute of Theological Studies);  www.itscourses.org.

[ix] Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39.

[x] Bernard Leeming, “Protestants and Our Lady,” Marian Library Studies, January 1967, pg. 9.

[xi] Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 424.

[xii] “On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527.

Monday, December 24, 2012

2 Corinthians 2:12-17: An Imperative Passage for a Right View of Ministry Success

The Apostle Paul had spent long and valuable time to establish the church at Corinth, left there, and then the church turned off the right path in numerous ways that you can read in 1 and 2 Corinthians.  It was a wreck.  The latest and greatest travesty was a mutiny against Paul by false teachers who would take over and destroy the church.

Paul had sent Titus to find out the church's reaction to a letter that he had sent actually between 1 and 2 Corinthians, what some call the "severe letter," a non-inspired epistle meant to help them again with problems.  He had not heard word of how the people had responded to the correction.  Between his health, the terrible persecution in Ephesus, his concern to hear from Titus, and his desire to preach elsewhere, Paul left Ephesus to Troas.  The plan was to rendezvous with Titus in Troas, so while there, Paul preached the gospel and we can see from 2 Corinthians 2:12 that he was seeing results there, a door was open unto him.  However, because of his discouragement over Corinth, he didn't stay with the new converts in Troas, but ditched them to go meet up with Titus somewhere between Corinth and Troas.  I can visualize Paul standing on the pier of some sea port madly jumping and waving as Titus's ship neared port.

Paul was seeing himself as a loser in the ministry.  He had not given up, but he had taken the step of forsaking an open door to preach and make disciples.  He "had no rest in his spirit" (v. 13).  Why keep preaching if the result is going to be another group that just goes down the tubes again?  How would that be worth it?  But Paul didn't stay down, and he elaborates on what got him out of his condition before he ever even saw Titus.  He did see Titus and we read the results of that reunion in 2 Corinthians 7.  His letters had their desired effect and that did bring Paul great happiness.  However, in this intermediate time, he had to get himself out of this poor state of mind.  He did that by turning his attention upward toward God and thanking God for certain realities, certain truths.

In Philippians 4, Paul writes about how he remains content despite bad conditions.  A major solution was maintaining the right thinking and focus.  Here in 2 Corinthians 2, Paul ticks off the thoughts that carried him out of the duldrums.  They do represent a philosophy of ministry for him.   Paul's thinking and thanking revolve around an event the people in Corinth would have understood:  the Roman Triumph.  When a victorious Roman army returned from battle, the celebrants would let loose a victory fragrance, women would throw down cut flowers at the feet of the returning soldiers, that crushed under their feet would also release a sweet smelling savour.  That smell would follow the victory train everywhere it went for the enjoyment of everyone in its path, and finally would waft into the nostrils of the emporer himself at the end of the procession.  Paul uses this picture to communicate what delivered him from discouragement.

Paul's attitude changes when he thinks of the reality of the triumph God had given him in Christ that he could bring to every place when he preached.  Paul's horizontal circumstances were not his reality.  He wasn't a loser.  He was a winner.   And how was he a winner?  He not only brought the fragrance of Christ's Triumph to all those he met in his work for God, but he was sending it to God Himself (v. 15), who in the metaphor would be the emporer.  That fragrance of Christ's triumph would rise to the nostrils of God with both those who were saved and with those who would perish.

Success in ministry for Paul did not depend on people being saved.  He would also succeed when people were not saved. In the procession were the victorious soldiers and then the captured prisoners.   Both would carry the fragrance of Christ's triumph to the nose of the heavenly Father.  If you know that you have succeeded no matter what the reaction to your gospel preaching, as long as you preached a true gospel, then you are a success no matter what.  And Paul is communicating that here in 2 Corinthians 2.

The prophet in Isaiah 55 said that God's message will always fulfill its intended purpose.  God is glorified by the savor of death or of life.  Both are part of the triumph in Christ.  Those who receive and those who reject are both part of the success.  That means that even if Corinth did collapse and not make it (which it wouldn't), Paul would still triumph.  He would always be a winner.

This passage does not guide the modern church growth movement where the only success is reception.  If the only triumph is life (and not death), then strategies and techniques will be utilized to insure victory.  Instead of being satisfied with Christ's triumph, measures are taken to guarantee numeric success so to alleviate the savor unto death that God also enjoys.

(to be continued)

Friday, December 21, 2012

New resources at "Theological Compositions"



There are a variety of relatively recently posted resources at my “Theological Compositions” website that I thought you might find of interest.  These include:

1.) In the Bibliology section, a work entitled “Texts Where the Deity of Christ is Attacked or Denied in Modern Bible Versions Because of Corruptions in the Greek Critical Text, with a Brief Defense of the Textus Receptus in These Passages,” the significance of which is self-explanatory.  Another new self-explanatory study in the Bibliology section is:  “Daniel 3:25: ‘the Son of God’ or ‘a son of the gods’?”

2.) In the Theology Proper, Christology, and Pneumatology section, I have added about 47 pages of material to the “Objections to the Trinity Answered” work.  Now not just the objections of Arians/the Watchtower Society are detailed and refuted, but a careful study of and refutation of the modalist/Sabellian/“Jesus only” doctrine of the Oneness Pentecostals—who are, by the way, more numerous than the Watchtower Society—has been added.  It is one of the most, if not the most, detailed study refuting “Jesus only” Christology that is available free online.  I have also updated the work of the same name at the evangelistic “What Must I Do to be Saved?” website.

I have also linked to E. W. Hengstenberg’s 4 volume Christology of the Old Testament. Although a Lutheran, for a scholarly and Hebrew-text based OT Christology, his work is very valuable.

3.) In the Soteriology section, the study:  “‘The just shall live by faith’— A Study of Faith’s Connection with Salvation in All Its Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Fullness” has been added.  It is a portion of my (in progress) Ph. D. dissertation on the doctrine of sanctification in historic Baptist perspective.  The study took me a number of months to complete.  I believe it will strengthen your knowledge of God intellectually and refresh your soul also.  I am likely, Lord willing, to post material associated with this study on “What is Truth?” in the relatively near future.

I have also linked to David Cloud’s refutation of John Piper’s “Christian Hedonism,” and posted links to two great devotionals, Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening and the lesser known but still Christologically rich The Poor Man’s Morning and Evening Portions by Robert Hawker.  The book received its name because it was originally published in cheap editions so that the poor could purchase them.  Hawker is great at seeing Christ in the Scriptures, although sometimes he waxes a little allegorical and I don’t agree with his Calvinism.

4.) In the “Politics” section, I have linked to Randy Alcorn’s work Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?  Scripture teaches that children are a reward from God and a blessing (Psalm 127:3), and believers should seek to have as many blessings and rewards from the Lord as possible rather than preventing God from rewarding them by limiting their family size.  Today, many believers would be horrified to receive the blessing Rebekah received, instead of rejoicing in it:  “And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them” (Genesis 24:60).  If believers in the USA had generally maintained a Biblical perspective on family size, instead of adopting the mentality of our contraceptive, anti-child culture, Obama would not be sitting in the gate now—someone far, far more righteous would be.  However, if you are determined that you want God to reward you less and to raise fewer children for His kingdom, please do not do so with the birth control pill, for then you are almost surely not just preventing God’s blessing, but are actually involved in murder, as the Pill does not always prevent conception but with some frequency results in the early death of an already conceived person bearing the image of God.

5.) In the new section entitled “Family,” I have linked to some great material by Pastor Brandenburg defending a courtship/betrothal pattern for obtaining a spouse, rather than the world’s dating pattern, and added an excellent tract by Pastor David Sutton on the Biblical basis for and practice of spanking.

6.) In the “Our Other Websites” section, on the “Literary Compositions” page, a number of well-written plays by my wife Heather, appropriate for performance by Christian schools and in a variety of other settings, have been added.  If you need a play, you can use one of them as written, tweak one of them, etc. instead of having to start all over from scratch.

7.) In the “Material for College and Seminary Courses” section, a goodly number of new resources have been recently added, including a link so that you can learn 1st year Greek online from Dr. D. A. Waite.  If you do know Greek, you might salivate at the fact that you can download free copies of the Liddell-Scott Greek Lexicon, A. T. Robertson’s massive Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, and Alford’s 4 volume Greek Testament Commentary, along with other valuable original-language based commentaries.

-TDR

Monday, December 17, 2012

How To Keep Children Safe

I wish the twenty children and six adults in Connecticut had not been murdered last week and I hope the best for the families of the victims.  Proceeding from such an incident should arise a discussion about how to keep children safe.  But no.  The media and politicians spawn a debate about gun control.  Isn't the issue the safety of our children?  Does more gun control actually make our children safer?  What if gun control in fact made our children less safe?  Could we support that?

The sheriff's department where we live has informed us that there is nothing that it can do to stop our church and school from being robbed and vandalized.  We have been vandalized or robbed 15-20 times in the years I have been pastor here.  Law enforcement here cannot stop crimes from being committed against us and can only prosecute crimes already perpetrated against us.  We were informed that they could not even really prosecute criminals who commit them against us unless we were willing to purchase video surveillance equipment to catch the criminals in the act.   And then we have caught at least three different people in the act through the years --- one parent voluntarily paid for the damage and the other two did nothing even with the coercion of law enforcement.  We sat together with the criminals in a victim reconciliation program, where we talked together about what they did, but we received zero remuneration.  This seems to be about par for the course today.

Like you, this incident has got me thinking about the safety of our school.  What would happen if a killer came on our campus with a rifle or handgun and began firing at our teachers and students?  I can tell you what would happen right now.  We would have a massacre on our hands.  I wouldn't allow him to keep killing people without trying to do something about it, so I would likely be dead.  Our teachers would be left with doing about the same thing that the teachers in Newtown did:  hide, lock, and barricade the children into a bathroom or closet, throw their bodies over children as a human shield, or charge the killer to distract him and hope that he misses.

Let me present to you a different scenario.  It's not happening right now because it is illegal as far as I know.  I'm going to be investigating how far we can go here to protect ourselves.  As I mentioned, law enforcement has told us that they cannot and will not protect us.   Instead of being unarmed, imagine that every one of our teachers carried a concealed handgun.  As soon as a man like this started open firing at our people, three or four of us would be firing back at him.  What would that do?  It could stop him while he had shot only a few, before he shot many.  Knowing we are armed could deter him in the first place.  If we shot at him, it could make him leave or look for cover, where he was no longer on the offensive, but on the defensive until more law enforcement could arrive.  Those all sound like a safer situation for children.

Let me play the devil's advocate.  We ban semi-automatic weapons.  Some of these terms are foreign to many people, if not most.  Many city folks don't know much about guns.  Most hunting rifles are semi-automatic.  Handguns are semi-automatic.  Semi-automatic means you can keep successively firing bullets one at a time.  None of the recent mass murders occurred with automatic weapons, even though you'll hear media persons saying semi-automatic and automatic together like they are the same thing.  An "assault rifle" is usually nothing different than a semi-automatic rifle that looks like a military weapon.  Looks like.

If we ban semi-automatic weapons, we are banning almost all guns.  And then criminals, people who commit horrendous crimes, law-breakers, surprisingly don't mind violating the law.  They are going to murder numerous people, which is worse than owning a gun without a permit.  If you ask them if they have a gun, they will lie, because people who will murder numerous people don't mind lying to people.  If you would kill a person, then you would easily lie.  Does anyone really need to go through this with me?  I guess so.  This is how simple it all is.

So criminals, who don't submit to gun laws, go with murderous intent to kill unarmed people, people who don't have guns because the law says they can't.

This all reminds me of what happens when a drunk driver hits a van full of children.  What do they do?  They make new laws for van safety.  I can't say that I understand the thinking.  It is the kind of thinking, I believe, however, that goes along with a culture that has become deluded and reprobate.  Or we could just call it NOT thinking.  People have a feeling and act on that feeling. The feeling says that criminals  or insane or murderous thugs shouldn't have an "assault rifle," so we should ban semi-automatic weapons.  If the man didn't have the gun, he wouldn't have murdered the people.  It's true.  But it was illegal for him to shoot people, and that law didn't stop him.  Why would a gun law stop him?  It wouldn't.  No one wants him to have the gun.  Like the sheriff said, we can't stop them.  It's only a feeling that will do nothing to protect children, actually leave them more vulnerable.

So what would stop him?  If we both had a gun, he could be stopped from doing the damage.  The data, actual facts, proves this out.  The children would be safer if those watching over them could be or were armed with guns.  If we wanted to keep children safe, if that was the issue, then we would have the adults in charge carrying guns.  In a perfect world, no criminal would murder anyone, but we're talking about the world we live in.

If someone wants to get to the root of the murdering, it isn't the guns.  It is the culture of death we live in.  All abortion and especially late term abortion is murder.  A life is snuffed out with no good reason, the life of the most helpless person in our society.  Murderers murder and keep murdering without receiving the appropriate punishment.  We have a president who, while a state representative in Illinois, fought for murdering babies who survived a botched abortion.  It was hard for me to sympathize with his crocodile tears.  He supports the murder of the most innocent, so please stop the act, I say.

On top of all this is the possible motive of the government to disarm it's people.  People are more pliable when they can't fight.  They'll have to go along with whatever right or freedom is taken away and without recourse.  The government will never say there's a motive to disarm people.  The War for Independence started when the British marched to Concord, Massachusetts to confiscate a storage of weapons.  This was prominent in the minds of the founding fathers when they penned the second amendment.

Let's say that both sides of the gun debate said that they really cared about the safety of the children.  If that was the case, then we wouldn't care about whether our position was enacted, just that we did what was best to protect our children.  More guns, not less would better and more likely keep our children safe.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Were the Reformers Heretics? part 11



Baptists stand for the necessity of conscious, personal and evangelical conversion as a prerequisite to baptism.  The ordinance adds the saint to the membership of a local, visible assembly separated from a universal or catholic church or church-state.  The Baptist restriction of immersion in the Reformation era to already justified believers accorded with the necessity of a Biblical mandate for elements of worship, but was in radical contrast to the baptismal theologies of Catholicism and all wings of the Protestant Reformation.  The Catholic and Protestant movements that put Baptists to death, and the Baptists who declared that their opponents’ acceptance of infant baptism was an abomination, indeed, a chief abomination, were far more in accordance with the reality of the divergence of their soteriological doctrines than are the opinions of the many moderns in this soft, ecumenical age in Christendom who minimalize baptismal differences.  Modern Baptists who affirm that the Reformers were set for the defense of the gospel are greatly in error. Without sacrificing the heart of their Biblical soteriology to affirm that baptismal and sacramental salvation and a rejection of the necessity of personal, conscious faith in Christ for justification are non-issues, Baptists must believe that the soteriology of all of the mainline Reformers is damnable heresy.[i] Furthermore, when Baptists read, or promulgate through their church bookstores and Christian schools, fundamental or evangelical books that glamorize the Reformers as great heroes of the faith, they must warn their flocks that these men are false teachers and their denominations are founded on a false gospel—or refuse to use such literature at all.  Baptist soulwinners should also be well acquainted with the Reformation baptismal heresies, because modern conservative Protestants are likely to hold the same views as their denominational founders, and an overly cursory inquiry into a Protestant prospect’s personal state will likely lead soulwinners to erroneously conclude that their prospects are already regenerate.  One who holds to a traditional Lutheran or Reformed soteriology of baptismal salvation will heartily affirm a belief in justification by faith alone if asked solely this question.  Baptist involvement in interdenominational ministrial or educational activity with those who hold to infant baptism as a “secondary” or “non-separating” issue also demonstrates a wild lack of discernment;  the main body of “brothers in Christ” in the Protestant denominations hold to a sacramental salvation.  Finally, any truly regenerate persons in Protestant denominations, who of necessity reject sacramental salvation as inconsistent with the Biblical terms of the gospel they have received, should leave their false religions at once and be immersed into the membership of a Bible-believing Baptist church.  The gospel that saved their souls is rejected in their confessional documents.  Saints associated with the Romish whore (Revelation 17:1ff.) or her Protestant daughter churches (17:5)[ii] should take heed to the inspired command:  “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).


--TDR



[i] This is established by their doctrine of baptism alone.  The mainline Reformers also held many other heresies.

[ii] See “Can You Identify This Woman And Her Daughters?” Appendix III of Three Witnesses for the Baptists, Curtis A. Pugh (Bloomfield, New Mexico: The Historic Baptist, n. d.);  electronically available at http://users.aol.com/libcfl/witness1.htm.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cult-Like Tendency in Modern Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, part three

I think the word "cult" gets thrown around too easily, but I'm still using it in this series (part one, part two).   I'm not saying "cult," but "cult-like tendency."  Cults don't have history on their side.   They find a new teaching and practice that contradicts historical doctrine and application.  If there is to be a change in what Christians believe and do, it should be accompanied first, if not alone, with serious exegesis of Scripture.   When I say that fundamentalism and evangelicalism have a cult-like tendency, I'm suggesting this feature, the neglect or ignorance orthodox, historical theology.  I'm not saying, however, that fundamentalists and evangelicals don't consider historical doctrine and practice at all.  They do, but they are selective in this, which is also what one witnesses in cults.

Biblical, spiritual matters should be considering first whether it is what God wants, what He said, not what will be popular, "help" with the size of the church or the organization.  The world will clash with the church in a greater, more severe way on certain doctrines and practices, highlighting the difference, the contrast between the church and the world.  A major teaching in the Bible is the suffering of the church.  Jesus said the world would hate His people, like the world hated Him.  1 Peter is a book that teaches the calling to suffer.  A tendency of churches, however, and professing believers, is to try to avoid suffering.  It's natural, but it must be resisted.  A church should just keep walking the right path in doctrine and practice, despite the hostility of the world.  Pragmatic compromises with the world will not help.  They might look like they help in the short term, but they are not honoring to God when they move away from God.  Again, this is all about God, so His honor must stay in the forefront.

Little suffering will occur for a church because they use the King James Version with its underlying received text.  Some will happen, mainly in the nature of being marginalized as kooks or quacks with no proof from the accusers.  There will be those who will not attend a church if a modern version is not used.  It's been programmed in now after years of propaganda.  I know modern version advocates will say the opposite occurs too with people who reject modern versions for the King James, especially in certain areas of the country.  That tide is turning or has turned now.  The point I've made on this is that the church has believed in the perfect preservation of Scripture and that has been forsaken by fundamentalism and evangelicalism, ignoring historical doctrine to do so.  That is a cult-like tendency, to leave the historical doctrine of the preservation of Scripture because of science.  We are seeing the same trend with 6 day literal creationism for views compatible with evolution.  Leaving the orthodox understanding of Genesis based upon worldly thinking is cult-like.  Fundamentalists have not taken this turn on Genesis, but they have moved on the text of Scripture based upon similar "scientific" principles.

A major turn in fundamentalism and evangelicalism away from historical application of Scripture, the practice of God's Word, has been on the so-called cultural issues.  The historical understanding of Deuteronomy 22:5 among Christians has been practiced as men wearing pants and women wearing skirts or dresses.  Historically, true believers have believed that the disobedience of this passage in this way made the violators an abomination to God.  That was the position that Christians took, all of them.   As the culture of the world began to move away from this Christian influence, Christians stood against the world, but over a longer period of time, Christians too have shifted on it, until there is little to no difference between the church and the world in this practice.  In fact, now professing Christians actually attack, mock, and ridicule the historical Christian position and practice on gender distinctiveness in dress as much as or more than the world itself does.

The change in practice on dress did not start with study of the Bible or exegesis.  It started with accommodation to the world and then acceptance of the world's practice.  Christians were no longer obeying Deuteronomy 22:5.  Some interpretational differences came later as fundamentalists and evangelicals attempted to justify their lack of practice.

Understand that accompanying the disobedience of Deuteronomy 22:5 has come the variation in the roles of men and women and the rise of homosexuality.  They are related issues.  First came the God-ordained symbolism of men wearing pants and women wearing skirts and dresses, and then once the symbol was rejected, the roles themselves have moved to the worldly thinking as well.  New arguments arose against male headship and female submission, changing the historical beliefs of Christians.  And this is related to the creation issue, since God created the roles of men and women, and He wanted those differences designed into the external symbolism of dress.  This is clear in Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16.

From my perspective, the arguments against the man wearing pants and the woman wearing skirts and dresses, are weak and ridiculous.  They are not trying to follow what the Bible says, just looking for a way out in order to fit in with the world.  The issue has become political more than exegetical.  You take a position that will allow you to fit in with more people.  There is no history with it.  The people will not refer to positions Christians have taken.  They will not talk about how Christians have interpreted the passages.  They don't want to do that.  They know what it means.  Instead, they  just take pot shots at those who continue believing and practicing the biblical and historical way.  This is a cult-like tendency.  It is illustrated with the rebellion on the dress issue, but it is happening in many of the cultural issues.   The world is turning the church upside down.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Were the Reformers Heretics? part 10


William Tyndale, translator and promulgator (with Coverdale and Rodgers) of the immensely influential Tyndale Bible, held Baptist views on baptism.  He described the ordinance as “the sign of repentance (or, if they will so have it called, penance), washing and new birth.”[i]  As Baptists would, “Tyndale identified baptism primarily with repentance: ‘baptism is a sign of repentance signifying that I must repent of evil, and believe to be saved there from by the blood of Christ.’”[ii]  He denied the necessity of baptism for salvation.  “Tyndale . . . deduced that ‘the infants that die unbaptized of us Christians are in as good case as those that die baptized.’  He could also allow that adults who believed in Christ and lived a Christian life might well be saved even without the sacrament.[iii] . . . Tyndale . . . pointed out that the main function of [baptism] is that of ‘testifying and exhibiting to our senses the promises signified.’[iv] [v] . . . The Holy Spirit does not work in the water, but ‘accompanieth the preaching of faith, and with the word of faith, entereth the heart and purgeth it.’[vi][vii]  He also “described dipping or plunging [not pouring or sprinkling] as the true sign.”[viii]  It is possible, but not certain, that Tyndale was a member of a Baptist church.  J. T. Christian comments:

Davis (History of the Welsh Baptists, 21) claims that William Tyndale (A. D. 1484-1536) was a Baptist. He was born near the line between England and Wales, but lived most of the time in Gloustershire. “Llewellyn Tyndale and Hezekiah Tyndale were members of the Baptist church at Abergaverney, South Wales.” There is much mystery around the life of Tyndale. Bale calls him “the apostle of the English.” “He was learned, a godly, and a good-natured man” (Fuller, Church History of Britain, II. 91). It is certain he shared many views held by the Baptists; but that he was a member of a Baptist church is nowhere proved. He always translated the word ecclesia by the word congregation, and held to a local conception of a church (Tyndale, Works II. 13. London, 1831). There were only two offices in the church, pastor and deacons (1.400). The elders or bishops should be married men (I. 265). Upon the subject of baptism he is very full. He is confident that baptism does not wash away sin. “It is impossible,” says he, “that the waters of the river should wash our hearts” (Ibid, 30). Baptism was a plunging into the water (Ibid, 287). Baptism to avail must include repentance, faith and confession (III. 179). The church must, therefore, consist of believers (Ibid, 25). His book in a wonderful manner states accurately the position of the Baptists.

The involvement of Baptists, or at least those with Baptistic views, in Bible translation is in accord with Scriptural promises of the responsibility of the saints and the church for the propagation of Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20; John 17:8, etc.).  Furthermore, the diligent study of Scripture evident in and required for the production of the historic, Christ-honoring, anti-Papist English Bibles[ix] would tend to move translators toward the Baptist baptismal doctrine[x] taught in the Word of God.

In stark theological contrast to the mainline Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed positions, but in closer continuity with at least some of those involved in the translation of the English Bible, Baptists maintained the Biblical position on the ordinance of baptism and opposed a connection between the ordinance and the receipt of salvation, infant baptism, and other corruptions of the ordinance by the old Catholic and the new protesting Catholic movements.  “Anabaptism . . . insisted that baptism is merely a sign of individual conversion and the new birth.[xi] . . . The Anabaptists . . . envisaged the external rite [of baptism] purely as a sign, and that it was not in any way, except the psychological, a means of spiritual grace.[xii] . . . The contribution made by . . . the Anabaptists was on the whole the negative one of attacking the prevailing notion that the external element could itself accomplish an internal cleansing.[xiii] . . . [T]hey maintained with truth that it is the blood of Christ which cleanses from sin,[xiv] they did not think of baptism as in any way a means of grace, but only as a sign of grace, and more especially as a sign of individual conversion.[xv] . . . The main bulwark of the Anabaptists was that infants cannot have faith, and therefore lack the essential qualification for the [ordinance of baptism].”[xvi]  The Schleitheim Confession of 1527 stated well the Anabaptist position:

 Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ, and to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with Him in death, so that they may be resurrected with him, and to all those who with this significance request it [baptism] of us and demand it for themselves.  This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abominations of the pope.[xvii]

If baptism is given only to those who, having repented, know that their sins “are” taken away already by Christ, the ordinance cannot have saving efficacy, for conversion and justification are prerequisites to being “buried” with Christ in baptism.  Since infant baptism is an abomination, indeed, “the highest and chief” of popish abominations, it must not be in any wise countenanced;  the view of the early Zwingli, that infant baptism is unscriptural but “on account of the possibility of offence I omit preaching this;  it is better not to preach it until the world is ready to take it,”[xviii] is entirely unacceptable.  Protestantism may maintain that the practice of or opposition to infant baptism is a non-separating, secondary issue or a non-issue;  but Baptists, who recognize infant baptism as an abomination, cannot trivialize its practice.

The rejection of infant baptism had as its corollary a rejection of the universal State-church concept of the Catholics and the Reformers;  indeed, many Baptists, following the New Testament definition of ekklesia as solely a local, visible body, entirely rejected the concept of a universal church.  The ancient Donatists and the medieval Anabaptists that succeeded them denied the existence of a universal or catholic church.[xix]  The Reformation Anabaptists affirmed that the body of Christ was the local, visible assembly, entered by believer’s baptism,[xx] not a universal entity composed of the entirety of the elect.

The Baptists also held to what became known as the Regulative Principle,[xxi] namely, that whatever God did not explicitly command in His worship was forbidden.  In this they were joined by the generality of the Reformed, who used the Principle to attack the patently extrabiblical ceremonies of the Papists and the Lutherans and their corollary affirmation that whatever was not explicitly forbidden in worship was permitted.  In England, the Puritans endorsed the Regulative Principle, while the Anglicans opposed it.  The Baptists, however, were the only ones able to consistently implement this Scriptural (Leviticus 10:1-3) teaching, since the rest maintained the practice of the infant baptism the New Testament was, at the very best, entirely silent about.[xxii]  In Zurich, “Zwingli took steps to purge the office [of the state church] of all its non-scriptural elements.  In this matter he was in full agreement with the Anabaptists, who were clamoring that all ceremonies which had no sanction in the New Testament ought ruthlessly to be discarded. . . . Calvin called for the complete destruction of . . . added ceremonies . . . and he did not retain a single one of them in the Genevan liturgies.  His disciples vied with one another in their attempts to heap scorn and ridicule upon the ancient customs.”[xxiii]  The Regulative Principle was an important component of the Baptist doctrine of baptism.


--TDR



[i] Pg. 11, Baptism, Bromiley, citing Tyndale, British Reformers Series, pg. 407.

[ii] Pg. 25, Baptism, Bromiley, citing Tyndale, Parker Society Series, III, pg. 171.

[iii] Pg. 56, Baptism, Bromiley, citing Tyndale, Parker Society Series, I, pg. 350-351.

[iv] Tyndale, Parker Society Series, I, p. 357.

[v] Pg. 179, Baptism, Bromiley.

[vi] Tyndale, Parker Society Series, I, pg, 423-424.

[vii] Pg. 192, Baptism, Bromiley.

[viii] Pg. 140, Baptism, Bromiley.

[ix] It has been estimated that the readings in the Authorized Version are well over 90% the work of Tyndale (Tyndale did not complete the OT/NT).

[x] It is possible that Baptist doctrine influenced other translators of the English Bible;  for example, Coverdale said, “In baptism we have an undoubted true token and evidence of the grace of God” (Pg. 18, Baptism, Bromiley, citing Coverdale, Parker Society Series, II, pg. 86), a declaration consistent with the Baptist position on the ordinance.

[xi] Pg. xiv, Baptism, Bromiley.

[xii] Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica, pg. 188, II, pg. 280, cited on pg. 188, Baptism, Bromiley.

[xiii] Corpus Reformatorum, IV, pg. 215, 627.

[xiv] Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandia, II, pg. 280, IV, pg. 44.

[xv] Pg. 173, Baptism, Bromiley.

[xvi] Pg. 113-114, Baptism, Bromiley.

[xvii] Article 1 of the Schleitheim Confession, pg. 25, Baptist Confessions of Faith, William L. Lumpkin.  Valley Forge, 
PA:  Judson Press, 1969.

[xviii] Pg. 199, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, Verduin.

[xix] Pg. 34-35, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, Verduin.

[xx] Articles 2 + 3 of the Schleitheim Confession, pg. 25, Baptist Confessions of Faith, William L. Lumpkin.

[xxi] A Biblical and historical analysis is found in “Biblical Authority and the Proof of the Regulative Principle of Worship in The Westminster Confession,” John Allen Delivuk, Westminster Theological Journal 58:2 (Fall 96) pgs. 237-256.

[xxii] See “Infant Baptism and the Regulative Principle of Worship,” Fred Malone:  http://www.gracesermons.com/robbeeee/regulative.html.

[xxiii] Corpus Reformatorum, IV, pg. 707, cited from pg. 149, Baptism, Bromiley.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Applying Biblical Texts to Ecclesiastical Separation?

Recently Dave Doran, pastor and seminary president, wrote on his blog about a post by Lance Ketchum on ecclesiastical separation.  Ketchum had named Doran in a negative way in his article, and then Doran riffed on it with a very short essay with a link to an article he had written about a related passage.  Ketchum says that Doran isn't practicing biblical separation and Doran says that Ketchum isn't essentially interpreting and then applying the passage in Romans 16 correctly.  So what's going on here?

I had read the Ketchum post and didn't have any trouble with it.  I read the Doran post and thought it was unusual for him.  I like Doran in so many ways.  It seemed to be something little less than a pot shot, a hatchet job (to mix my metaphors) on Ketchum.  And Doran's name was mentioned by Ketchum.

Ketchum quotes our book on ecclesiastical separation, A Pure Church, in his article, but this has nothing to do with my post right now.  Doran really didn't touch what we were quoted on.  There wasn't enough of a context to the quotes to know what positions we would be taking exactly on the text.

Doran's post was so short, let me just quote the entire thing right here:

FWIW, I was reminded of this previous post when I read this article.

The genuine cause of biblical separatism is not helped by applying biblical texts about false teachers to brothers with whom we disagree. It may work to create controversy and generate heat, but my observation over the past 30 years is that it only works for the short term and then blows up. People who makes claims like this lose their credibility and their following, properly, grows smaller and smaller. Sadly, they interpret that as some kind of proof that they are right, but in reality it is simply a sign that they are unbiblically divisive. Even more sadly, because they wave a Bible verse and drape their false accusation in biblical garb, good people and assemblies are hurt by the confusion it causes.

Succinctness can be good....and bad.  I judge the latter here, because there isn't enough explanation for Doran to avoid failing.  I quoted the whole thing, so I could refer to it in this post.

The post to which Doran links, which you can pick up by clicking on the link I provide in my first line, deals with a misinterpretation or misapplication of Romans 16:17-18, that I have to say, I've never heard in my life, making it seem like nothing more than strawman.  He bashes a position I've never heard taken and doesn't tell us who he heard taking it.  Ketchum doesn't take it, so it doesn't even apply to Ketchum, even though Doran links to it like he does.  So we're bad there right off the bat.  Problem #1.

Then the major point of Doran is that Ketchum's article misapplies Romans 16:17-18 (and I think Doran may be saying, misapplies to me).  He uses the words "brothers with whom we disagree."  That is at least misleading.  Ketchum isn't talking about "disagreements," like non-biblical issues (Rom 14 ones).  Ketchum is talking about false teachers and false teaching.  Problem #2.

I wrote Doran about this, so I know now what he thought was the misapplication.  Ketchum applies Romans 16:17-18 to false teachers who are professing believers and Doran thinks that it should apply only to lost false teachers.  That's it.   Doran treats this like it is some egregious issue of interpretation or application.  I don't see Doran going after this kind of situation normally, but obviously his name and some of his closer friends were mentioned in the article.  He and they were involved with Mark Dever at a conference a few years back, and this got some hubbbub.

Is Doran right?  Does Romans 16:17-18 apply only to unbelieving false teachers?  If there are false teachers teaching something that is against scripture, we don't mark and avoid them, at least according to Romans 16:17-18?  I don't think Doran can prove his point.  He doesn't even try in the article.  Actually I think it applies to any kind of false teacher, and we're not always able to instantly determine whether the one doing the false teaching is saved or not.  Usually saved people, when confronted about false teaching, will repent, so you don't have to mark and avoid them.  The terms aren't a dead give-away to say that these are surely all unsaved people.  Problem #3.

The way Doran reads is that Ketchum was attempting to "create controversy and generate heat."  So this comes across like he is assigning that motive to Ketchum.  I don't think so.  I think Ketchum is concerned about the Bible being followed and obeyed.  He sees fundamentalism changing and he doesn't think in a good way, and he wants to do something about it, so he uses a lot of exegesis to do so.  Doran says bad exegesis with no proof, but Ketchum does in fact refer to scripture in a serious way to make his point, unlike ironically what Doran does.  Doran just blasts Ketchum without providing proof, except for a link that is a bridge to nowhere.  And I think the plain reading has Doran judging Ketchum's motives.  Problem #4.

In the exactly previous post to this one by Doran, he writes about what bothers him about blog debates, and #2 is:  "when a written text is defended or attacked by arguments that assume the ability to read the author’s mind."  So in his next post, he attempts to read Ketchum's mind in a blog debate.  Bravo!  His number one was treating arguments like they are an attack on a person, when they are an attack on a text.  What text did Doran really deal with?  Voila.  Nothing.  All he did was smack down Ketchum.  Problem #5.

Doran says that Ketchum makes a false accusation.  What is the false accusation?  Please, if there is confusion, let's clear that up!  No clearing up available with this essay.  Ironically, more confusion with this post than with what Ketchum offered.  I got what Ketchum was talking about.  Doran serves up ambiguity that then comes across as a smear job.  It is a smear job.  So, it is a false accusation against Ketchum about Ketchum making a false accusation.  If you are going to say someone is making a false accusation, you've got to do better than this, or you yourself are making one.  He says that Ketchum is losing credibility, being unbiblically divisive, and then being a con man by putting biblical garb over his sinful actions.  That's all very serious.  Doran seems to think that the sheer weight of his personality or self-perceived gravitas is enough authority here, all very much like the fundamentalism that I witnessed when I was in it.  Problem #6.

Ketchum is supposed to be concerned that his "following is growing smaller and smaller."  Ouch.  This is big with fundamentalists, their following.  They will lose a following.  I could riff on several posts on that.  That idea makes me sick.  Is Ketchum really concerned about his "following," so he writes an article to make sure he keeps it?  That sounds dastardly.  I would hope not.  I don't think so.  Problem #7.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Separation and Sectarianism, An Article Review

In the interest of understanding biblical separation, I offer some criticism of an article by Rick Flanders at the Revival Focus blog.  I have a narrow focus in my review, dealing only with the separation topic, and not with revival, soteriology, discipleship, nor sanctification.  Just because I don't touch on those doesn't mean that I believe Flanders is correct on those.  With our having just published a book on ecclesiastical separation, A Pure Church, I continue to have an interest in related articles.

Flanders uses Luke 9:49-50 to make a point about separation, a generally good point.  We shouldn't separate from people unnecessarily.  The men not following Jesus and yet casting out demons were not opposing Jesus.  There was no reason to stop them from casting out demons.  Having demons leave people is a good thing.  Flanders goes from there to say that we should not separate from other people just because they are not in our particular group.

Maybe some base their fellowship on whoever is in their group or circle or network.  He describes this as casting "out like-minded Christians just because they don’t know them very well."  So Flanders is confronting a problem.  The only people I have ever seen, who operate like Flanders describes, are fundamentalists.  The typical situation is that you don't send your students to a particular Bible college or university, so you diminish in your favor with that school.   In certain instances, only by attending a particular conference or supporting certain missionaries will you people held in enough esteem to include in cooperation.  These are fundamentalist politics, wielding influence within fundamentalism by playing these types of games.  Flanders is dealing with something he sees and I don't know if this is it.  It's the place where I see what he's talking about.

Flanders defines a fundamentalist as someone who "thinks of himself as standing faithfully for the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel."  That statement is loaded with so many qualifiers that make it unhelpful.  Are you a fundamentalist if you merely think of yourself as standing faithful to certain doctrines?  It would seem that thinking alone wouldn't cut it.  And he narrows it down to the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, not fundamental doctrines of Scripture, only the doctrines that are fundamental to the Gospel.  That really wouldn't make you any different than a conservative evangelical.  He provides no basis for this definition of fundamentalism.  The only fundamentals I had every heard, were the ones in the pamphlets, The Fundamentals, and then called "the fundamentals of the faith."  It didn't dawn on me until I was pastoring for awhile that the reason for having fundamentals was to create a unity that was less than biblical unity.  For instance, you could be unified with people who sprinkled babies as long as they believed the fundamentals.  Every movement that provides for a unity that reduces the basis of fellowship to arbitrarily chosen fundamentals is a movement to reject.   Let God be true and every man a liar.

OK, what motivated me to write this began in about the 8th paragraph, when Flanders wrote:  "The truth we mutually understand and follow can be the basis of some Christian cooperation, although disagreements on other things must limit the extent of it."  This is where he takes an application of Luke 9:49-50 too far, if that is in fact the basis of this statement.  He doesn't supply any support for it.  He is saying that we can cooperate with one another, that is, fellowship based upon truth we mutually understand.  The fellowship, however, is limited by disagreement "on other things."  What other things?  Are these the truths we don't mutually understand and follow?  In other words, fellowship can still occur with a degree of false doctrine and practice.  The Bible not only doesn't teach this, but it teaches against it in all the major separation passages.

Let me use Flanders himself as an example.  I don't oppose him in those doctrines and practices that are right.  I don't go out of my way even to deal with those areas.  However, different doctrine and practice doesn't just bring a different degree of fellowship, but it results in not fellowshiping at all.   I like Flanders a lot.  I would enjoy getting together with him, talking about doctrine, sitting for a cup of coffee.  However, I won't fellowship with him.  Why?  I don't believe the same as him.  I know this to be true from reading what he is written.  I can't ignore those doctrinal differences to cooperate with him. That doesn't mean that I don't appreciate where he is right.  I do.  I rejoice in it.  I would even defend him when he is attacked on the truth.   We are not fellowship with those who have a wrong doctrine and practice.  We're talking about a doctrine the Bible teaches.  Romans 14 is a passage that relates to those doctrines and practices the Bible doesn't either forbid or teach, that is, liberty issues.  We should not relegate doctrines and practices the Bible teaches to matters of liberty.

A primary thought behind fundamentalism, represented by Flanders' article, is that we have varying degrees of fellowship based upon varying degrees of doctrinal disagreement.  The Bible does not teach that at all.  He doesn't prove it either.  Fellowship is cooperation in ministry or worship (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).  The basis for cooperation is the truth (1-3 John).  It's true that we don't break fellowship just because someone hasn't "been in our group."  However, we do break fellowship for more than "fundamentals to the Gospel."  We don't start fellowshiping based upon a percentage of mutually agreed truths, and fellowship to the degree that we agree.  Something the Bible teaches will be left out in that equation, purposefully dismissed solely for getting together.

We fellowship based on everything the Bible teaches, all its doctrines and practices.  We break fellowship for unrepentant violations of biblical teachings and deeds.  Once we know someone does believe and practice according to God's Word, we welcome fellowship.  This is what John talks about in 2-3 John.  It's not based on camps, on networks, or groups.

It might look like churches that believe and practice the same are a group.  It might look like churches that will not fellowship outside of that group are not doing so because they won't welcome anyone who isn't in their group.  I know that this isn't true.  The churches our church fellowships with today we didn't even know about until doctrine and practice became our basis of fellowship.  When those churches found we believed and practiced like them, they gladly welcomed us.  They didn't shun us just because we weren't in their "group."

Doctrines and practices should not be ignored in order to fellowship.  We should not be reducing doctrines to mutually agreed upon ones or to those merely fundamentals of the gospel as a criteria of our fellowship.  There is no fellowship that is worth ignoring doctrine and practice in order to keep it.   If it is called fellowship, and it isn't based upon all of the truth, then it isn't fellowship anyway, just a facade of fellowship, a counterfeit.  God doesn't require any group, but that one He started Himself, the church.  No group outside of the church is worth cooperating with in order to try to gain some kind of "influence."  It's not a necessary influence.  Purity and truth are necessary, not these influences.

Now I'm going to do something a little different.  I'm going to anticipate the biggest disagreements with this post.  People will disagree with me and their basis will be my own practice of what I'm writing about there.  If they can find me inconsistent, then they have liberty to practice differently than what I'm teaching.  They don't even have to find an inconsistency.  Of course, the real basis for disagreement will be ecclesiology.  Flanders likely believes in a universal church, so that we must have unity with all believers in some way---that's how he gets his fundamentals of the gospel idea.  If that's the case, then he will need to find a way to fellowship with all believers, including evangelicals.  Others will just call it divisive and heretical, that is, just call it names.  I can see Flanders complaining that I misrepresented him or wondering why it is that we can't just be an encouragement, because he really only wants to help people.  Others will just ignore it.  If they ignore it, then they are not unifying with me, a believer, and therefore being divisive.  Oops.  But that will be OK, because no one that believes the way they do can practice either biblical unity or separation and be obedient to God anyway.  Ignoring me won't change that.