Monday, October 12, 2015

The Gospel and Separation: What's Worth Separating Over?

The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 1:8-9:

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

If someone preaches another gospel, let him be accursed.  This expresses the maximum in separation. If someone knows there is something worth separating over, he knows that the gospel is worth separating over.

Evangelicals don't talk about separation, but they will say the gospel is the basis of unity, intimating that it is also the basis for separation, since you can't have one without the other.  If you aren't uniting, then you are separating.  Many fundamentalists say the gospel and those doctrines upon which the gospel depends are a basis of separation.

Included in the subject of the gospel is whether repentance is necessary and, if so, what it means.  At what point does error about repentance result in a different gospel?  In light of what Paul wrote, this should be a concern.  With what evangelicals and fundamentalists say about the gospel, one would think they would be more concerned about it as well.  I'm surprised at the indifference, so what is this all about?

Last week on Wednesday, I wrote something about an article on repentance by John Mincy at the FBF website.  From what I understand, about half of the FBF board members would agree with Mincy and the other half not.  Am I to assume that the members who disagree see Mincy's position as not sufficient enough error to harm the gospel?  Even if I think there are more reasons to separate than the gospel, I wonder why what Mincy teaches isn't enough of a perversion of the gospel to separate over it.  If the gospel is, as Kevin Bauder likes to say and write, "the boundary of Christian fellowship," then how does this difference on repentance relate to that boundary? Men should at least know why the difference on repentance doesn't qualify as a separating issue, even though it is about the gospel.  I haven't heard why not -- ever.  It begs the question, "How much corruption of the gospel merits separation like the Apostle Paul talked about?"

Many times the focus on gospel perversion relates to the issue Paul confronted, that is, adding works to grace.  Maybe fundamentalists would separate over botching up the Trinity or the deity of Christ, because that is another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4), who doesn't save.  Readers here know that I believe that Jack Hyles taught a false gospel.  From a doctrinal standpoint, what I am reading from Mincy is very similar, if not the same, to what Hyles taught.  At what point does repentance dip below a tolerable level?

If you asked John Mincy if he believed repentance was necessary for salvation, he would say, "yes," I'm sure.  He would call it "justification-repentance."  If you ask a Mormon if he believes in Jesus, he would say, "yes," I'm sure too.  Saying that repentance is what the Bible says it is, does John Mincy believe in repentance?   He says he believes repentance is necessary for salvation, but is his teaching biblical repentance?  I wrote that it wasn't, but does his version so change the gospel that it is now "another gospel" or a false gospel?  The FBF board members at least treat his position as a non-separating issue.  They remain in fellowship with him to this day.

If Mincy wrote an article in which he turned to a King James Only position or he had embraced the belief that women wearing pants are an abomination, what many of them would call non-essentials, I'm very sure he would have received extreme censure far and wide from fundamentalists.  He advocates for a perversion of repentance and he receives indifference.  Are the board members of the FBF indifferentists?  Are those who fellowship with or in the FBF indifferentists?  If what Mincy says is acceptable, it's no wonder there has been essentially silence through the decades on Jack Hyles and Curtis Hutson.  Thousands are sucked into the vortex of their false teaching without warning.  Their corruptions are an acceptable iteration of the gospel for the FBF.

In the last year or two, James White sat down for an interview with Steven Anderson on the version issue.  Anderson maintains a repentance blacklist site to espouse his corrupted gospel.  He started that site long before his conversation with White.  White treated him like he was a fellow Christian.  Most important to White was Anderson's position on Bible versions.  For all the talk about the gospel either as the center or at the boundary of fellowship by evangelicals, conservative evangelicals also often behave like the version issue or cultural issues are more important than the gospel.

I contend that advocacy of modern versions overrules gospel among fundamentalists.  Your view of repentance is less important than what version of the Bible you use.  This belies the gospel boundary contention.  In many cases now, fundamentalists want to be sure they have liberty to listen to their music, dress like they want, and keep their choice of entertainment more than they're concerned about the relationship of the doctrine of repentance to the gospel.  It doesn't engender that much interest. The discussion about gospel boundaries is mainly about maintaining gospel minimization for the purpose of a larger possible tent.  Restrictions in fellowship stop at the gospel, they say, but they really are less restrictive.  Neither does your gospel need to include repentance.

20 comments:

KJB1611 said...

Sadly, much truth is here. Thanks for the post.

d4v34x said...

I come to the same conclusion as you. There are things holding this movement together.

Don said...

With many unaffiliated Baptists, church doctrine trumps everything. Many see no problem having fellowship with Calvinists as long as they're right on the church. What nonsense! I hear it over and over again, "He's a Calvinist, but he's strong on the church." It's as though one's position on the church abnegates their position on the central doctrine of Christianity - salvation. Galatians is pretty clear that we should separate from those who preach a false gospel, and that definitely includes Calvinism.

Great article!

Brother Clough
Missionary to Scotland

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Don,

I don't want to diminish the doctrine of the church in this discussion over the gospel, and I'm not a Calvinist, but how does Calvinism distort the gospel itself. In other words, how does Calvinism turn the gospel into a false gospel, where the Calvinist is not saved? Galatianism was about opposite of Calvinism.

d4v34x said...

I've heard (fellow) Calvinists remark that a disbelief in limited/definite atonement was a sufficient deficiency in one's gospel as to render it false. I don't believe that myself, but I could imagine the reverse judgment being made by a non-calvinist.

Don said...

Calvinism distorts the way in which the gospel is received just as a repentance-less gospel distorts it. It's not only the framework of the gospel (i.e. that Christ died, was buried and rose again), but also the way that the gospel is received is important. I think that's the very point you were making in your article, and that's the point I'm making. The Calvinist teaches that God chooses who is saved and who is lost, and that we really don't have much choice in the matter. This is false. This is corrupting the gospel. This is another gospel.

I believe that God has a vital role to play in the salvation of sinners, including convicting the lost of their sin and drawing them to salvation. However, at this point, the sinner must choose to either accept or reject Christ, as we all know. To deny this aspect of the gospel, is another way of corrupting it.

By the way, I believe the doctrine of the local church is of vital importance. But I don't believe it's more important than the doctrine of salvation.

Don

Pastor Mike Harding said...

Kent,

Read the article in Proclaim and Defend. Your analysis was fair and theologically accurate. The author is reflecting a two-tier system of soteriology which separates justification from sanctification. Thus, different definitions of faith and repentance are posited in order to make salvation simple and easy instead of miraculous. The FBFI doctrinal statement clearly delineates repentance and faith as requirements for salvation. I think the kind of tortured exegesis to justify that both faith and repentance are essentially intellectual requirements void of emotion and volition is a mechanism to skirt the clear requirements of Scripture and said doctrinal statement. I am surprised that this article appeared in this format. The format per se does not speak for the FBFI; yet, the publishing of said article without comment does harm. Repentance is a whole-souled turning of one's mind, will, and emotions from one's sinful rebellion against God coupled with an unreserved trust in the Person and Cross-work of our Lord Jesus Christ. These graces that meet the requirements for justification (i.e., "repentant faith") continue in the believer's life toward progressive sanctification. The easy-believism advocates don't like these definitions and find creative ways around them.

Kent Brandenburg said...

D4,

I hear that too from Calvinists and you hear echoes of it from James White when he talks about the issue, that if you aren't a Calvinist, you don't believe in salvation by grace, because of synergism. Ultimately, they are all synergists too. I believe faith was/is a gift. So man doesn't cooperate at all? If you believe he was a saved, non-cooperative, God just made him do it -- that's dangerous, and that's where I could agree with someone about Calvinism, the kind of doctrine Harold Camping taught, hyper-calvinism. Some of their testimonies, you don't get a conversion experience from them, when they believed. They say, it doesn't matter when you believe, or even if you know that you did. I've read that quite a bit too, and talked to people out there like that.

I'll go the other direction in answer to Don's comment.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Don,

My experience with unaffiliateds has been that, if there is any issue, it's not on the side of Calvinism. I know there are the landmark-sovereign grace guys who would also say they are unaffiliated. I get that. You read A. W. Pink, and he seemed to have a similar take on ecclesiological passages as us, but also teach Calvinism.

If you take all the basics of the gospel---Who Jesus is? What is belief? Repentance? I haven't seen Calvinism, a non-hyper edition, to effect that. Like I told D4 above, I think hyper-Calvinists are dangerous and have reached a false gospel with their lack of emphasis on faith. There are some well-known Calvinist preachers, that when you hear their personal testimony, you don't get any one point where they received Jesus. I heard this testimony from a Calvinist, and it's not unusual: "I was in bed and I woke up, and I looked down at my pillow (which had a heart on the pillow cover), and I knew that Jesus loved me, and I knew then that I was saved." In other words, he had no experience of faith in Christ, but he still knew he was saved. Harold Camping talked the same way, and I talked to disciples of his out here in his hey-day. They would say they were waiting to be saved, because they didn't think they could do anything about it. Yes, that is a perversion, but that is also, that I know of, not Calvinism, but what most call hyper-Calvinism. Spurgeon was a Calvinist. Do you think he taught a false gospel? Or another gospel? I don't think so.

I'm open to correction.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Mike,

Thanks for commenting. I think it is good you did. I appreciate your statement and I agree with it. It is right on. I have one caveat. John Mincy is not just FBF, but on the (a) board of the FBF. I've been told by someone else on the board, that about half of them agree with him. This was someone sympathetic to him. I can be happy about an FBF statement that disagrees with what he wrote, but the statement isn't stopping the actual belief. Your distancing or exposing does good, but I would wonder if you represent the actual practice of fellowship on the ground that is actually occurring, or just an ideal, something platonic.

Thanks for commenting. On some very important doctrinal subjects, you and I are exactly the same. I would hope you could join me with John Owen and Francis Turretin and every other pre-enlightenment theologian in our faith in the preservation of scripture to the same degree that God is sovereign of your soul, the sovereign of His Word. :-D

James Bronsveld said...

Mike Harding wrote,
"Thus, different definitions of faith and repentance are posited in order to make salvation simple and easy instead of miraculous."

Excellent.

Don said...

Hi Kent,

I think you're right in making the distinction between the Calvinist and the hyper-Calvinist. I don't agree with either position, but there were some Calvinists (such as Spurgeon) who still made a point of presenting the gospel to sinners, and God undoubtedly used them in seeing people saved. That's a fair point, and I don't deny it.

Don

d4v34x said...

Just to be clear on the FBFI "statement" on repentence--the FBFI doctrinal statements lists but does not define repentence as one of the means of appropriating salvation. So both Harding and Mincy would fall within the express doctrinal standard. Here is the pertinent portion of the text:

We believe that salvation is completely dependent on the grace of God, is a free gift of God that man cannot earn or merit in any way, and is appropriated by repentance and faith in the person and cross work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

That's the only reference to repentence I could find in the doctrinal statement.

d4v34x said...

I think John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, John Owen, Adoniram Judson, William Carey, Andrew Fuller, John Gill, Jonathan Edwards, AW Pink, Charles Spurgeon (not to mention DA Carson, John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, David Platt, and Paul Washer) make a point of presenting the Gospel to sinners.

Kent Brandenburg said...

D4,

I was slightly confused. And I haven't looked like you. You're saying that it doesn't say anything about appropriation through repentance, and yet the quote you gave looks like it does. I'm not saying it's clear there what they mean, but they include the word, which doesn't surprise me. With an explanation and that minimal statement, Harding and Mincy both in the tent.

d4v34x said...

Pastor Harding used the word "delineates". I think the better word is "lists". The FBFI lists repentence along with faith as the means people appropriate salvation. But the FBFI doesn't define repentance. Mincy and Harding can both affirm the quoted statement above, but they likely don't share the same definition of the word, at least in that context.

Whereas I'm guessing only one of them could affirm this excerpt from an historic Baptist confession:

This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency, praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavour, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.

So the serious problem you raise stands.

Kent Brandenburg said...

D4,

OK, Gotcha. That's what I thought, but I was missing the "delineates" versus "lists," which is a good catch. No one is really saying. When I look at the interview now over at Proclaim and Defend, it seems the defense is he's not representing the FBF when he writes. I get that, the disclaimer at the bottom, which isn't my point, so it reads like a political deflection, something you hear in a campaign. My point is that it is a "fellowship," they are saying it is "fellowship," so the two are in fellowship with a different gospel. No one is saying yet that it is a different gospel except Thomas Ross and I and probably you. Tyler is saying, no, same gospel. Not different enough to be different. If this is the boundary of Christian fellowship, then please explain, I say.

I'm not saying no one has ever written on this. I believe some have, and I've read it. One book, that is out of print, and not available in ebook form, I'm going to order, that I think gives an explanation in one chapter, maybe. I read it somewhere else, but don't own it.

Jim Camp said...

I realize this discussion is not about Calvinism, so apologies for continuing the side direction.

So Kent, is the guy with the heart shaped pillow saved?
Personally, I consider Calvinism to be a false gospel. D4 listed out all the "witnessing" Calvinist, but isn't that more of an argument that those men were "inconsistent Calvinist". There don't appear to be any hyperCalvinist, only consistent ones.
HyperCalvinist are "the Calvinist who are more Calvinistic than I am" seems a good description.
I dealt with a group of devout Dutch Reformed years ago. I had no reason to believe any of them were saved (either by their life or their testimonies).
One answered my efforts to witness to him with the statement "I have complete faith in my election of God".
Just my 2 cents

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Jim,

I don't think the pillow guy is saved. No. That was my point. I do think that hyper-calvinism is a separating issue, just like free grace-ism or cheap grace-is is a separating issue.

I don't think that Calvinism per se is why your Dutch Reformed people weren't saved, but I can't say why they weren't. I've talked to a lot of unsaved Protestants and I do think they rely on their baptism, often.

James Bronsveld said...

Not looking to hijack this further, but having grown up a devout segment of the Dutch Reformed, I never did hear anyone claiming to have faith in their election, although I don't doubt there were those who did. I do know that among the older generations, there were still those who whole-heartedly believed in the need for genuine conversion. They were not widespread, but they were there. And when I've gone back to them, since my own conversion, and probed about where they stand on their baptism, they would say that sprinkling a "covenant child" is an indication of obedience rather than an effectual washing away of sin, and that those who do not do it, are demonstrating wilful disobedience, which brings into question the true condition of the person refusing to submit their child to the font. Obviously, that stance requires them to come into conflict with the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession.
As far as where their faith is, I don't think their misplaced trust is often that much different from people who "know I'm saved, because in 19xx I knelt and prayed to ask Jesus into my heart."