Monday, March 31, 2014

A Major Part of What's Wrong with Fundamentalism (and Evangelicalism)

I want to allow this post to stand, but my heart felt apologies to the man whose name I thought was Paul J., because I was told that the quote below was his.  I was wrong not to have made sure.  He may not even know his name was up for 2-3 hours.  I've removed his name and inserted the rightful owner of the comment, whom I actually don't know, but the message stands.


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What is valuable?  To start, eternal value far outweighs temporal value.  Paul wrote that bodily exercise profited little, but godliness was great gain.  Jesus said seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things, temporal things, would be added.  What is of eternal value?  This is simple, but stay with me.  Only God, the Bible, and the souls of men are eternal.  Of those three, we've got the Bible to judge whether something is eternal.

With that being said, for awhile the Bible hasn't been of chief value to fundamentalists.  What is more important, and you reading know it, is whether something is bigger or not.  Second to that is what kind of degrees or credentials someone has.  As you read those two and you start thinking about who in the Bible was similar to that, you might think the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin or apostate Israel.  You would be right.  Whenever something is great in the Bible, it is someone keeping the commandments of God.  When it is bad, it is someone doing what he wants, no matter how successful it might seem.

For instance, among the Old Testament kings, you had those who were great at building up the defenses in the further regions, but did little to sustain the worship of Israel.  They aren't said to be any good.  You've got the ones who did that which was right in the sight of the Lord and they're great.   Disobeying God brought kings down.  Obeying Him resulted in blessing.

A friend of mine, Bobby Mitchell, pastor of Mid-Coast Baptist Church in Brunswick, Maine, has started writing at apurechurch.com.   Some of his articles have been linked at moderately leaning fundamentalist blog forum SharperIron (SI).  SI linked to an article he wrote on why independent Baptist churches might be losing their children.   It was a good article.   An SI member, Paul J., wrote the following, entitled "Why Are You Giving Him a Voice?":

I've seen several posts from this individual over the past few weeks and am wondering why SI feels what he has to say is important? Out of the hundreds of blogs why is this one that gets represented?  It doesn't seem like he has and credentials to merit that.  Small church in the backwoods of Maine, no educational credentials listed for jr or sr. 

There is the extent of evaluation of the article.   Why is anything that anyone says important?  According to Paul J., it is obvious -- why?

  1. Feelings
  2. Meritorious credentials
  3. Big Church
  4. Urban
  5. Educational credentials
If you are a fundamentalist (and probably an evangelical), then you feel something is important because it comes from the pen, the word processor, or the mouth of someone with meritorious credentials, which happens to be someone with educational credentials, who pastors a big church in an urban area.  Correct me if I misunderstood what Paul J. said.

Question:  Is that why God knows that anything is important?  First, in 1 Corinthians 3, Paul says that the one who sows and waters is nothing, in essence irrelevant.  Paul J., of course, is saying that Bobby Mitchell is irrelevant.  We can surmise that Paul J. would say that Mitchell would be relevant, important, worth listening to, if he had advanced degrees and a big church in an urban area.  Where is that in the Bible?

I've preached through 2 Corinthians almost twice now (I'm into chapter 13 next week).  Paul J's criticism sounds identical to the false teachers at Corinth who Paul defends himself against for many chapters, and especially the last two.  They said Paul wasn't worth listening to because he lacked in credentials.  I'm not going to get into the details, but the false teachers would have accredited the same credentials that Greek philosophers would have touted, bereft of any eternal truth.

Second, what did Paul take as his credentials?  The beginning of 1 Corinthians 4 would be a good basic look at it.  Paul was a galley slave who was faithful with the mysteries of God.  Would that characterize Bobby Mitchell?  Does Paul J. know?  No.  He doesn't care.

Paul J was looking for advanced degrees.  I was a double major at Maranatha.  I majored in pastoral studies and biblical languages.   Maranatha told me I was Mr. Maranatha my senior year.  I was honored as top Greek student, Who's Who, winner of the preaching contest, and the students voted me student body president.  I was president of my Freshman and Sophomore classes, VP of student body my junior year.  I was given high honors, wore the gold cords.  I was appointed student activity director and sat on the administrative cabinet next to Dr. Cedarholm while I was still in graduate school.  I could keep going, but I saw how the sausage was made at college and graduate school and it often wasn't very pretty.  It was a lotta, lotta, lotta politics, jockeying for positions by trying to please people.  You continued on that path at your own peril.

But I was credentialed!!!  I is maybe worth listening to.  I coulda been a contender.

Make a scriptural argument.  Crickets.  Tell people the size of your church and your credentials.  Big time listening.  It's true.  You see it in evangelicalism as well.  My son graduated from West Point.  That should make him a bit of a celebrity as a Christian.  That's where Eisenhower and Grant and Patton and Douglas MacArthur graduated from, people who made history.  And I'm his dad!  Listen to me, folks.  I've got credentials!  I wonder if Paul J. could have made it into West Point.  Harrumph!  Nose looking down.  Oh my.

Here's the thing.  Robert and his son Bobby Mitchell went to very, very difficult Brunswick, Maine, and both were faithful to preach a true gospel.  People were evangelized, discipled, trained.  They continue moving out from there preaching the gospel faithfully in the other communities, like who?  Like Jesus did.   Judea.  Samaria.  All the towns in Galilee.  Caesaria Philippi.  Tyre and Sidon.  Perea.  For the Mitchells it's up in Portland, in Lisbon, Bath, Freeport, and Lewiston.  They've built the most beautiful church building you can imagine.  They have a great church.  They've been faithful.  He preaches the Word of God. He's worth listening to.  Listen to Bobby Mitchell!

Bobby Mitchell has been faithful to the mysteries of God.  He's been a galley slave.  He's been a servant of Christ.

Do you know who has credentials?  Clarence Sexton.  So he preaches at BJU and at the FBFI.  Is he the model for church that we want men to follow?  Really?   Jack Trieber there at Sextons, Jack Schaap.  That level of discernment?  This is what bigness gets you.  The Charismatics have 500 million.  Mark Driscoll could buy his way on to the New York Times best seller list.  How do you get into the office of the president?  Be a Billy Graham, who agreed on universalism and a metaphorical hell.

Paul J. is pushing pragmatism.  When size and degrees become preeminent, you get pragmatism.  You'll also get discouraged preachers.   Then they start looking for a way to succeed.  You can find it.  And finally you'll get to where the local evangelical pastor is, a five week series on the Walking Dead, where you find out if you are a biter or a walker.  His church is biiiig.  It's growing faster than anyone around here, so he has a voice.  He's worth listening to.  Thanks Paul J., because that's what those ideas get you.

Paul J. should be thanking God for Bobby Mitchell, but no.  Looking down his nose at him.  Shame on you Paul J.  Flush your credentials.  Shame on fundamentalism.  Shame on evangelicalism.  Turn from this type of activity.   Turn against it!


9 comments:

Tyler Robbins said...

Bro. Brandenburg:

The comment you refer to was made by "Paul J," who is not "Paul J. Scharf." They are two different people.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tyler,

Thanks for telling me. I maybe was able to avoid a tragic, very bad mistake. I've corrected it, but allowed the message to stand. In other words, none of the error I made is left. It is eradicated, not left on planet earth, and having the link to the article helped in this. People who knew would know then. I don't know if that means anything.

Jon Gleason said...

Why give Paul J a voice? :)

It's funny. Comments on SI (and often the articles) always seemed to spend more time criticising fundamentalists than evangelicals. And surely, fundamentalists can use some criticism, though perhaps not always for the things said there.

But when you asked why they focused on those things rather than the apostasy of much that goes by the name "evangelicalism," they said, "We should start by criticising ourselves."

Fair enough, I guess. But now Pastor Mitchell comes as an independent Baptist, critiquing some of the weaknesses of independent Baptists, and they don't like it being discussed there. Do they think independent Baptists shouldn't self-critique? Isn't that valuable and important? What is the problem here?

Could it be that the critique is coming from (as they perceive it) the right rather than the left? Well, then, don't even give him a voice, seems the message of more than one.

I don't have time to follow all the controversy, to read the comments there or on Pastor Mitchell's blog. But I'm glad Jim's been posting those filings.

It's said when people don't even want to have their thinking challenged. Of course, it's dangerous. You might discover something about the Scripture, you might even have to change the way you think and behave. You might >learn< something, even from someone with less education or credentials who just happened to read his Bible a lot. You never know. You might even drift to the RIGHT a little bit. Horrors!

Bobby Mitchell said...

Well, the Lord has been very gracious to this unlettered shepherd from the "backwoods." I deserve to be in the lowest part of hell. I'm humbled to be thrown in with men like David (who shepherded a "few sheep" in the wilderness), the Lord (who was said to have no "letters), and the apostles (who were called "unlearned").

God saved me in a church that many would say is in the backwoods . It was a wonderful assembly of the Lord's-- His candlestick, His house, His body, His pillar and ground of His truth.

My dad, who does have degrees, and would laugh at anyone caring about that when he is 65 years old, has been preaching for about 40 of those years, and doesn't base anything on where anyone attained or didn't attain "letters," pastored there in that Appalachian-area church for 14 years. Wonderful church. Tremendous people and a tremendous number of them when the size of the town was considered. By the way, the little flocks out there with the little no-name preachers, have been used of God through the last 2,000 years to keep His ministry going in this New Testament era.

I'm not answering Paul J concerning his statements about me, but I do have to say that he is very ignorant about Brunswick, Maine, if he thinks it is the backwoods. Maybe he has never heard of Bowdoin College, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, the Bath Iron Works, the Brunswick Naval Air Station (now Brunswick Executive Airport), etc.

I may be an unlettered, backwoods preacher, but Brunswick is certainly not the backwoods! I'm really like a mule running in the Kentucky Derby in this city. But, I'm happy that God has drawn many people to His Son here and that He lets me (along with the other two pastors here) shepherd them. A lot of them have "letters," but they don't care about mine as long as I'm serving up the Word of God, watching for their souls, and praying for them to the glory of God.

It really is a joy to serve the Lord in Brunswick, and in all the other places He lets me preach for Him. I love the Lord and His churches! I hope Paul can grow in grace and enjoy the good blessings of God in whatever church, urban or suburban, big or small in number, that the Lord has him in.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks for the comments here.

Jon Gleason,

Your comment was right on. You hit bullseye.

I have to admit, I don't know who Paul J is, and I wrote a whole post thinking he was someone else. hahahaaha But then once it was done and I found he wasn't who I thought, I thought the point still stood.

I'm still getting a kind of chuckle out of it, thinking about it.

Anyway, don't give up in Scotland, Jon G

Or B Mitchell

Jon Gleason said...

Kent, today 40,000 Gospel leaflets / church invitations arrived, now sitting in boxes in my hall. Next week, weather / health permitting, they start going through doors, tucked inside the front cover of John/Romans booklets.

I don't have time to give up, even if I wanted to. :)

Kent Brandenburg said...

Scatter them in the highways, hedges, backwoods, lochs, and fjords.

Steve Rogers said...

Bro. B,
It is important to illustrate and reinforce the validity of your point, because it is denied by most fundamentalists, particularly those who are in leadership positions at these colleges and seminaries. They deny that there is an education = qualification for ministry, but the reality is that this sentiment is mainstream, and their own pulpit platforms are the pudding proof if you will. I could tell you several guys that were good boys who towed the line and got their undergrad and graduate degrees and played the politics and thus climbed the ladder and were immediately moved into the regular preaching rotation at their alma mater and all it's contacts. Other men did not follow the politics and ladder climbing of the Bible education movement, (some of them were labeled 1 Year Wonders) but did get what education they felt would help them and then, after working under the II Tim. 2:2 model, went straight to the actual work of the ministry, not just preaching in chapel about the work of the ministry. The latter group of men (uncredentialed) are not the ones who are invited back to preach at chapel. And they don't mind, they would rather shepherd a flock than please a man. The truth of your post is undeniable, although it will be denied to the last dying breath of fundamentalism.

Paul Brownfield said...

Though I rejoice that my Pastor is being spoken ill of due to his stand on the Scriptures, (I rejoice because so was Jesus Christ), at first it grieved me.
Bobby Mitchell is my Pastor and I couldn't ask for a better Pastor. Not only that but he is my friend. It was through his preaching that I was saved, as well as many others. Paul J. might not want to hear what Pastor Bobby has to say but there is a group here in Brunswick that does.
I praise the Lord that He sent me to Mid-Coast Baptist Church in Brunswick Maine. And I praise the Lord for a Pastor that will preach the truth (the real truth, not what false teachers claim is truth) and who will actually "pastor". I love my Pastor!
Thank you Pastor Brandenburg for this article.