Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Would Jesus or Paul Give Evangelicals Their Opportunity to Change?

We don't have to guess at how Jesus or Paul dealt with people teaching error, because we can read it in the Bible.  They had plenty of opportunities and we are left with lots of examples.  Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  "All things" is in fact all things.  And then in the next sentence, he wrote, "Abstain from all appearance of evil."  All forms of evil---those things which would not pass the test, after having proven them---should be abandoned.  He doesn't say, "The essential things" or, "The violations of the fundamentals."

I've read recent discussion (here, here, here, here---I have a question on this discussion that started with an open letter, that is, why does Lance Ketchum get a thorough smack-down and the conservative evangelicals get what sound like verbal massages?  Smack down Lance if he deserves it, but give at least equal treatment if you are a separatist.  He doesn't fellowship with Charismatics. ) about "conversations" with conservative evangelicals about differences, scriptural ones, in doctrine and practice from fundamentalists.  Fundamentalists have been having more of these official and public conversations with evangelicals (here, here, and here).  Another similar conversation recently occurred in a different realm of evangelicalism (here).  I believe there is a parallel with these conversations.  Is "conversation" the scriptural manner for confronting doctrinal and practical differences?  The word "conversation" carries with it a different kind of meaning than confrontation.  Confrontation could be conversation.  However, if someone is disobeying the Bible, confrontation will occur in that conversation.  The nature of the word "conversation" says that confrontation should be avoided.  The word "conversation" itself is loaded as it relates to fundamentalism and evangelicalism, as one characteristic of new evangelicalism famously was "a willingness of evangelical theologians to converse with liberal theologians."  It was a part of their strategy of infiltration (something you'll hear in this discussion).

Jesus didn't just "converse."  Neither did Paul.  Jesus preached and confronted.  If you don't know someone, so you don't know you have anything to confront, then it might start out as a conversation.   Once you hear something unscriptural, then the essence of the conversation will change.  It won't seem as much like a conversation any more.  This doesn't mean shouting.  It doesn't mean personal attack.  It does mean spiritual warfare, the pulling down of strongholds in people's minds, which occurs by using the sword of the Spirit, the spiritual weapon.

We don't see a strategy of Jesus or Paul fellowshiping with those teaching false doctrine, but rather reproving them.  If the one teaching false doctrine or involved in false practice really does want to learn, he will listen to reproof and correction.  The "new evangelicals" said that Billy Graham wasn't compromising in doctrine when he included Roman Catholics and other apostates in his crusades, but was employing a strategy.  They excused it as a strategy.  The "conversation" is a strategy, but is it a biblical strategy?  It isn't.  It is pragmatism.  It is carnal weaponry.  It is a compromise.

James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll joined T. D. Jakes in the Elephant Room in a conversation.  Jakes rejects orthodox Trinitarianism.  Is a public forum the means of confronting violations of scripture?  Should we invite conservative evangelicals to speak in our conference in order to have a conversation?  Shouldn't the doctrinal or practical violation be forsaken or abandoned before we fellowship?  That's the right order, isn't it?  Fellowship is not a means of getting someone to change anywhere in the Bible.   There is an acceptance of the false doctrine when it is welcomed.  It becomes less serious than what it should be.  The message to those watching is that you don't lose out on fellowship with unrepentant disobedience.

I have conversations with evangelicals.  They aren't public.  They aren't in some joint meeting.  They aren't for the purpose of understanding each other better.  There's plenty to read of evangelicals.  We know what they are thinking.  We can learn from them by listening to them.  When we do interact with them, we should be ready to show them from scripture where they are wrong, and how they can get right.  That is the loving thing to do for them.  It obeys the biblical example.  Joining in fellowship with them, sharing in common ministry, says that the differences do not matter.  It ignores the biblical doctrine and practice of separation.

John MacArthur talks about amillennialism.  He talks about Charismaticism.  He talks about how bad those are.  He says they are really, really bad.  He'll write books against them.  And the books he writes are very good.  And then he fellowships with amillennialists and Charismatics.   I guess I'm scolding him.  That's what someone who "converses" might say.    Someone who calls himself a "competent fundamentalist" writes:

If you scold a child for everything, then she will pay no attention when you scold her for the thing that matters. Something like this has happened with the incessant fundamentalist scolding of conservative evangelicals.

I think there is some deniability here with the word "scold" and then "for everything."  What is scolding and what is "for everything"?  Everything a child does wrong should be pointed out.  What are the wrong things a child does that should be let go?  I heard it:  "But I'm not saying that!"  This seems to be pure psychology, much like "conversation."  "It won't work if you scold them for everything!"  Pragmatism.  It's all over the place in fundamentalism.

Paul withstood Peter to the face.  That's how he dealt with a difference with a brother.  He dealt severely with the folks at Corinth.  Are we more strategic or of a better technique than Jesus or Paul?  Do we think we've progressed on their methodology?

The pragmatism of conversation is the following.  Conservative evangelicals are fine with conversation.  When you converse, they feel accepted.  They don't feel any painful shame of separation.  If you confront and separate from conservative evangelicals, they won't like you.  Some conservative evangelicals are very popular.  Those are the ones we talk about, the big guys:  Al Mohler, Mark Dever, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson.  They have a big audience.  They sell books.  If they separated, their audience would shrink.  They would become what they call fundamentalists (because of even fundamentalist separation):  irrelevant.  To remain relevant, to be in the crowd, to fit in, you've got to converse.  You'll be considered smarter, more competent, if you do.

I had a conversation with Albert Mohler at the ETS meeting.  During the question and answer time, I asked him if he could obey 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 and still be a Southern Baptist.  He did not answer the question and no opportunity was given for follow up.  He filibustered me and excused himself.  No one else asked that kind of question.  The fundamentalist in the session had a long, long period of time to do this kind of work, and did not.  He gave Mohler more in the nature of conversation.  Confrontation, yes, kind confrontation was needed.  Conversation is not a biblical method.  It isn't what Jesus or Paul would do.

1 comment:

Hardecker said...

The Bible says in 1 Pet. 3:15 that we should sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man. Where was Mohler's ready answer? Why doesn't Bauder ask the tough questions or respond to tough questions? Why, Pastor B. didn't you just read the questions from a "cue card" somewhere? Why confront? Your questions generate more questions. But I am glad you asked. I would have liked to have seen that look on his face and hear the response...did he do a double take? See! More questions.