Saturday, October 20, 2018

Word of Truth Conference Line-Up 2018

The Word of Truth Conference  at Bethel Baptist Church in El Sobrante, California is November 7-11, Wednesday to Sunday, this year, 2018.  The theme as it has been the previous three years is the gospel.  This is our last year with that theme.  We will prepare, Lord-willing, to write and publish a book on the gospel, as we did for the first four years on ecclesiastical separation.  I would estimate that this will take one or two years before it's out.  We'll keep you updated.

From the first four years, we published A Pure Church (you can get here or here).  From the second three years, we have not yet published a book on apostasy, but we will likely put together an e-book in years to come, that someone can download and then print if he wants it on paper.  The title of that series of conferences was I-Magination.

As usual, the evening will be preaching that is open to whatever particular text of scripture.  We want exposition of God's Word.  In the mornings are sessions that will be chapters in the book.  On Sunday afternoon is our annual panel discussion on the subject matter of the conference with speakers or pastors from the conference.  Here's the schedule.

WEDNESDAY EVENING
7:00pm -- Chris Teale
7:50pm -- Bobby Mitchell

THURSDAY MORNING
9:30am -- Passages That Teach Salvation and Passages That Are Not Teaching Salvation—
                 John 15:1-8 -- James Bronsveld
10:05am -- Passages That Teach Salvation and Passages That Are Not Teaching Salvation—
                 Philippians 3 -- Bobby Mitchell
11:10am -- Passages That Teach Salvation and Passages That Are Not Teaching Salvation—
                  Luke 18:18-30 -- Kent Brandenburg
11:45am -- The Meaning of Faith (Commitment) -- Thomas Ross

THURSDAY EVENING
7:00pm -- James Bronsveld
7:50pm -- Bobby Mitchell

FRIDAY MORNING
9:30AM -- The Extent of Faith (Intellectual, Volitional, Emotional) -- Thomas Ross
10:45am -- Repentance in the New Testament -- James Bronsveld
11:30am (3rd and 4th Sessions) -- 3rd, Lord -- 4th, What's Not Enough -- Kent Brandenburg

FRIDAY EVENING
7:00pm -- Bobby Mitchell

SATURDAY MORNING
9:30am -- The Effect of Salvation:  Nature -- Kent Brandenburg
10:05am -- The Effect of Salvation:  Sanctification -- David Sutton
11:10am -- The Effect of Salvation:  Endurance -- Chris Teale
11:50am -- Unbiblical Methods of Evangelism -- Bobby Mitchell

SUNDAY MORNING
9:45am -- The Effect of Salvation: Marks or Tests of Salvation -- Thomas Ross
11:00am -- Regular Series through the Book of Acts -- Kent Brandenburg

SUNDAY AFTERNOON
2:30pm -- Panel Discussion

Friday, October 19, 2018

Evan Roberts & the Rise of American and Continental Pentecostalism I, Part 17 of 22


The Welsh holiness revival was central to the spread of Pentecostalism on the European continent, as it was in Britain:
[G]lossolalia gained renewed attention through the phenomena that accompanied the revivals in Wales, Los Angeles, Christiania, Hamburg, Kassel, and other places. . . . [T]he revival in Wales under Evan Roberts produced . . . psychological and physical abnormalities . . . and sparked them also in other countries (California, Norway, Denmark, Hesse, Silesia)[.] . . . [O]pinions . . . strongly diverged.  [Pentecostals] viewed speaking in tongues and similar phenomena as a renewal of the gifts of Pentecost and powerful evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit, but others . . . pronounced everything to be a work of the devil and a deception of the antichrist.[1]
News of the Welsh holiness revival brought “expectation . . . almost to a boiling point . . . [i]n Germany in 1904.”[2]  The groundwork for Pentecostalism had been laid by Keswick continuationist “American Holiness evangelists”[3] such as Robert Pearsall Smith and the central German Higher Life advocate, the Lutheran Theodore Jellinghaus.[4]  Jellinghaus recognized that “the ‘doctrine of the Keswick Conventions’ which he . . . taught for many years [was] the source [of] . . . the rise of the Pentecostal movement.”[5]  Soon after 1904 “[e]very [German] Evangelical journal published enthusiastic reports of the beginnings of the Pentecostal Movement in Wales and India,”[6] and, through such testimonials, charismatic phenomena began to arise all through Germany in hearts prepared for Pentecostalism by Keswick theology.  “Objections based on the Bible and systematic theology were insolently rejected,” for Pentecostals argued:  “We do not need to investigate whether it is biblical to speak of a baptism of the Spirit and a new experience of Pentecost, for we can see all around us men and women, and not only individuals, who can testify from their own blessed experience that there is such a thing.”[7]  In line with the Welsh holiness revival’s repudiation of the mind, logic, and systematic theology, Pentecostals taught:  “We need no more theology or theory.  Let the devil have them. . . . Away with such foolish bondage!  Follow your Heart!”[8]  Although Pentecostal founders knew that “many ‘winds of doctrine’ blew at Asusa Street” and there were “intrusion[s] of spiritualists and mediums into their midst,” nonetheless it was clear to the charismatics that the work was a real “revival [and] the beginning of a historic awakening.”[9]  The international impact of the Welsh holiness revival as the source of European Pentecostalism was truly profound.
Not only was the Welsh holiness revival the spark of Pentecostalism in Britain and on the European continent, but it was central to the rise of American Pentecostalism also.  The Asusa Street Mission, where “the Pentecostal movement ignited,”[10] was “regarded by Pentecostal publicists as the place of origin of the world-wide Pentecostal movements.”  Asusa Street was established by W. J. Seymour, who had been seeing visions from his youth and had adopted the Faith Cure theology of the Higher Life for the body, after which he suffered from smallpox and became permanently blind in one eye.[11]  Seymour . . . in common with Evan Roberts’s leadership in the Welsh Revival . . . preached very little, and more or less allowed things to go their own way.”[12]  Seymour’s work found fertile soil in Los Angeles because of the preparatory work of “Joseph Smale and Frank Bartleman . . . preachers who had been influenced by the revival in Wales.”[13]  As the Higher Life continuationist foundation for Pentecostalism was being laid in Los Angeles, the “religious life of the city was dominated by Joseph Smale, whose large First Baptist Church had been transformed into the ‘New Testament Church’ due to the effects of the Welsh revival which were being felt in Los Angeles at the time.”[14]  Smale’s transformation from a Baptist into a continuationist gift-seeker is paradigmatic of the type of influence the Welsh holiness revival under Evan Roberts exerted.  The methodology and practices of Evan Roberts had swept into Los Angeles in 1905, being concentrated in Smale’s First Baptist Church.[15]  “The revival in Smale’s church was sparked by news of the great Welsh revival of 1904-5 led by Evan Roberts.  A trip to Wales by Smale and an exchange of letters between Bartleman and Evan Roberts demonstrate a direct spiritual link between the move of God[16] in Wales and the pentecostal outpouring in Los Angeles in 1906.”[17]  After Smale “returned from Wales,” having “been in touch with the revival [there] and Evan Roberts, [he] was on fire to have the same visitation and blessing come to his own church in Los Angeles. . . . They were waiting on God for an outpouring of the Spirit there.”[18]  Instead of preaching only the Bible, Smale began to “preac[h] . . . on the revival in Wales.”[19]  Meetings in his church were carried on in a manner identical to that of those with Evan Roberts.[20]  Soon “Pastor Smale [was] prophesying of wonderful things to come.  He prophesie[d] the speedy return of the apostolic ‘gifts’ to the church,” as others, prepared by the testimonials to the Higher Life and marvels worked in Wales, had “been expecting just such a display of . . . power for some time,” thinking that “it might break out any hour.”[21]  After fifteen weeks of daily meetings, Smale and those he had led away from Baptist convictions separated themselves from those who wanted the old paths and organized the “New Testament Church” to continue to spread the innovations and strange fire from Wales.[22]  As tongues began to break out at the Asusa Street Mission,[23] “Brother Smale had to come to ‘Asusa,’” for many of his church members were there, speaking in gibberish.  Smale “invited them back home, promised them liberty in the Spirit,” and tongues were “wrought mightily at the New Testament Church also.”[24]  “Brother Smale was God’s Moses, to lead the people as far as to the Jordan” in preparing them to speak in tongues by introducing the practices of Evan Roberts—then “Brother Seymour led them over” into the tongues experience.[25]  Tongues were present “at Azusa Street [and] at the New Testament Church, where Joseph Smale is pastor; some of his people were among the first to speak with ‘tongues.’”[26]  Not long afterwards “Brother Elmer Fisher” led the “baptized saints”—those who had spoken in tongues—“from the New Testament Church” to found “the ‘Upper Room’ mission,” which “became for a time the strongest mission in town” to spread the Pentecostal experience.[27]








[1]              Pg. 503, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, Bavinck & pg. 159, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Bavinck.
[2]              Pg. 221, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger.
[3]              Pg. 221, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger.
[4]              See chapters 6-7 of Perfectionism, Vol. 1, B. B. Warfield, for an analysis of the rise and progress of the German Higher Life movement and a study of the embrace and promulgation of Higher Life theology by Jellinghaus through the influence of Robert P. Smith at the Oxford Convention (cf. pg. 225, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874).  Warfield also records that Jellinghaus and large numbers of German evangelicals later repudiated the Higher Life and the Pentecostal doctrine that logically develops from it.
[5]              Pg. 225, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger.  The affirmation of Jellinghaus was true for not Germany only, but Pentecostalism in general (cf. pg. 45, The Pentecostal Movement, Donald Gee).
[6]              Pg. 222, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger.  The Welsh holiness revival was key to the spread of Pentecostalism to India.  “Wales was . . . the cradle . . . India . . . the Nazareth . . . Los Angeles . . . [the] world-wide restoration of the power of God” in the Pentecostal movement, for “[m]en who had been both in the Wales and India revivals declared this [charismatic one] to be the deepest work of all” (pgs. 90, 107, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan).
[7]              Pg. 222, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger.
[8]              Pg. 92, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.  The teaching at Azusa Street, that “[w]hat the people need is a living Christ, not dogmatic, doctrinal contention” (pg. 101, Ibid) is fine, ecumenical, non-dogmatic Keswick theology.
[9]              Pgs. xx-xxi, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[10]            Pg. 43, A Theology of the Holy Spirit:  The Pentecostal Experience and the New Testament Witness, Frederick Dale Bruner.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1970.
[11]            Pg. 595, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[12]            Pg. 12, The Pentecostal Movement, Donald Gee. In a manner also reminiscent of Evan Roberts’s actions in the pulpit, in Seymour’s meetings “[h]e usually kept his head inside the top . . . [of] two empty shoe boxes . . . during the meeting, in prayer” (pg. 58, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan).  Indeed, “[w]hile Brother Seymour kept his head inside the old empty box in ‘Azusa’ all was well” (pg. 89, Ibid).
[13]            Pg. 22, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger.  Hollenweger affirms that Smale and Bartleman were Baptists, but they were only so in the sense that Jezebel (Revelation 2:20) or Diotrephes (3 John 9) or Judas (Acts 1:25) were Baptists before they publicly apostatized.  The meeting and co-working of Seymour and Bartleman is described on       pgs. 41ff., Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[14]            Pg. xi, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.  See pgs. 13-42 for a detailed description of how the separation from Baptist doctrine and the adoption of Pentecostalism took place.  While the statement above is a reasonable summary of events, a more detailed description would note that Smale and much of his congregation actually left the First Baptist Church to establish the New Testament Church.  Thence followed a church split, with some wishing to continue to practice Baptist doctrine instead of adopting wholesale the practices of Evan Roberts.
[15]            Pg. xv, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[16]            That is, one who accepts Pentecostalism would consider both the work of Evan Roberts and the work of Pentecostalism a move of God in revival blessing.  One who rejects Pentecostalism would also need to reject the work of Evan Roberts in Wales.
[17]            Pg. xvi, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[18]            Pg. 13, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.  Scripture never teaches believers in the church age to seek another outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit was poured out in the book of Acts, and He is now present.  The Lord will not pour Him out again until the Tribulation period after the Rapture of the saints.
[19]            Pg. 27, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[20]            See a description on pgs. 20-21 of Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.  A simple change of names from “Smale” to “Roberts” would be the only thing necessary to change the description from a meeting in Los Angeles to one in Wales.
[21]            Pg. 16, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[22]            Pgs. 26-27, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[23]            The tongues-speech present Azusa’s precursors, such as at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street, etc. are described by Anderson on pgs. 64ff. of Vision of the Disinherited:  The Making of American Pentecostalism.
[24]            Pg. 54, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[25]            Pg. 62, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[26]            Pg. 86, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan.
[27]            Pgs. 84-85, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan; pg. 70, Vision of the Disinherited:  The Making of American Pentecostalism, Robert Anderson. Smale’s New Testament Church experienced a split over Pentecostalism, even as Smale’s First Baptist Church did over Evan Roberts’s Welsh revivalism.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Delusion of the Fundamental of the Faith: Relating It To Rocky Top at Bob Jones University

Back in the day, I sat in Baptist Polity class (we had that where I went to college), and I remember then Dr. Weeks (what we called our instructor) bringing up the fundamental pie.  He drew a circle with five pie slices on it and for each piece, because my pie was too small to start, I drew a line with an arrow to the inside of each slice and wrote out each of the "fundamentals" in each one.  It's something I never questioned at the time, because that was typical, accepting without question. After that I proceeded to memorize the pie, including drawing the pie.  Later it occurred to me, "Why is it a pie?"  Why not just a list with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 fundamentals?  That would be the list of fundamentals, instead of a pie.

I have revisited the pie in my mind, and maybe it's a pie because each piece is part of a whole.  There are five, get that, five, fundamentals.  Not four.  Not six.  Not ten or twelve.  Five.  Making up pie for a nice tidy pie chart.  The 9 Marks guys have to be shaking their head at the number five.  Nine is it.  I'm now saying, Nope.  I don't even know why it is five.  It does remind me of the argument the Pharisees had about what the was the greatest of the laws.  Their discussion.  Pharisees.  Jesus could reduce the whole law down into two parts, because you could put all the laws into to two categories, two legitimate ones as spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself.

Today we return to the Pharisaaical attitude of numbering the fundamentals for, I believe and believe I can prove, many of the same reasons as the Pharisees.  You reduce everything down to a few number because you're not prepared to have more than that.  You can hold together, maybe, a coalition with the number five, even if it does deny literal twenty-four creation or baptism by immersion for believers only.  Is God pleased with five?  Does God want five?  Does God even want us making up lists of fundamentals?  I'm saying, no.  Take seriously everything that He said.  Listing fundamentals is a basis for not doing that.

When men start making up a list of fundamentals, you should think that a major premise of such a list is making room for not doing something that didn't make the list.  God didn't make the list.  He exterminated Ananias and Sapphira for something not on the list and killed Nadab and Abihu for something not on the list.  That's more like how God thinks.  He killed numbers of people for the numbering of people.

What got my attention on this -- again -- is another "fundamentalist" bringing fundamentals up as a bogus argument.  I've got three words now I can use every time that someone says something isn't a fundamental as an argument for pandering or capitulation or obfuscation or just plain disobedience, sometimes out of cowardice:  same. sex. marriage. In a nicer way, maybe it's just deceit or ignorance.  Delusion is defined as the misleading of the mind.  The Greek word translated "delusion" in the New Testament (plane, basis for the word "planet") is most often translated "error," and the portrayal of the Greek word is something wandering off the beaten path.

The recent president of Bob Jones University, Steve Pettit, played Rocky Top with a professing Christian musical groupSharperIron linked to this occurrence and a long discussion ensued (at 62 comments at this writing [there will be more]).  Many questions could be asked about Pettit's activity with the knowledge that he represents this fundamentalist institution in the most obvious way with its long, long time stand and standards on music, both for worship and personal listening, the latter as a matter of Christian living.  People should ask and in public, since it is public.

I know that this should not be considered a good quality of me, but I am very able at ridicule.  By testimony of others, I have been often judged to be quick-witted.  Well crafted mocking comments come to my mind.  I think they are best left unsaid and tamped down.  A high percentage of the commentary at SharperIron toward any criticism of Pettit was ridicule by some that think they're good at it and that it must be a good way to deal with criticism, their mockery.  That isn't a fundamental either in the fundamentalist pie, that is, whether it is right or wrong to mock critics.

A lot of mockery or ridicule occurs at SharperIron with almost no moderation.  It's typical everywhere, not just there.  Much of it continues there because it isn't moderated for whatever reason.  I see it as either a fear of a mob, the desire to be one of the cool guys, or the tendency to capitulate to the left.  The targets are deemed, it seems, worth the ridicule and in this case they are advocates of traditional or conservative music.  I think it would be better for them if they could be put in their place by defenders.  Answering them in kind wouldn't be allowed, so they continue on with their unfettered scoffing. The scoffers are actually low hanging fruit themselves with their unmoderated attempts to diminish critics with this method.  If that's the way things are there, more power to them.  I don't think it is the right or even best way to deal with criticism.  It is the best a mocker can do, very much like the apostates in 2 Peter 2-3.

I want to get back to the idea of "fundamentals," but first playing Rocky Top or even the place of blue grass among Christians.  The song Rocky Top expresses the virtues of wild fornication and desperate drunkenness, enjoyed and without judgment.  Someone might say, "It's just fun; let it go."  Meats for the belly and belly for meats.  If you watched, you saw singers and instrumentalists participating with great support and gusto.  They loved it (1 John 2:15-17).  It's one thing to be attracted to it because it titillates the flesh, but another thing to push and promote it. If this is a Christian liberty, as some people judge it to be, which I don't believe it is, even then it violates many of the limitations Paul requires of liberty in 1 Corinthians 6-10.

The big argument about judging such activity, which scripture says to judge and you should judge if you take the biblical and historical view of sola scriptura, is that it isn't worth judging and that it isn't a fundamental worth separating over.  They are really both the same argument.  Something isn't worth judging because it isn't a fundamental.

Scripture says everything is worth judging and God kills people for violating things not on the list of fundamentals.  It's a replay of the practice of the Pharisees, ranking truth as a basis for what will be tolerated and what won't.  It's not how God operates.  It isn't following Christ.  He doesn't do it.  It's also an attack on the perspecuity of scripture and the biblical understanding of unity (1 Cor 1:10).  Unity isn't disregarding biblical teaching to maintain a coalition.  I know they would say they aren't doing that, but the denial rings hollow -- they are in fact doing that.

Someone in the comment section of SharperIron, G. N. Barkman, a pastor who is a regular contributor there, writes in two separate comments (here and here):
Fundamentalism, historically speaking, is about defending the fundamentals of the Christian faith against those who attack and erode them.  In the "old" days, the attackers were called Modernists and Liberals.  Now, they are just as likely to be called Evangelicals.  Along the way, cultural issues began to take their place as part of the definition of Fundamentalism.  That, in my opinion, is when things began to go off course.  Cultural issues are, for the most part, too subjective to defend or decry Biblically.  I have my opinions and preferences, and you have yours.  I will not break fellowship with you over yours, and expect you to do the same with me.  Liking or not liking a particular style of music is not a fundamental of the faith.  Let's keep God's Word central, and allow Christian liberty where clear Bible doctrine is not the issue. 
But back to the original premise.  Do you consider music styles a fundamental of the Christian faith?  How many other fundamentals do you include?  I believe that when everything becomes a fundamental, nothing is a fundamental.  The word "fundamental" indicates something of greatest importance.  If everything is equally important, nothing is of greater significance.
Barkman barks up the wrong tree.  Protecting fundamentals is a delusion, not intended to protect truth itself.  There are no "fundamentals."  Where is this list?  I get the original idea, meant to gain a widespread defense of Christianity against liberalism, to attempt to salvage something.  I don't agree with it.  I just get it.  But it's taken on a shape of its own, mutating into deformity.  Fundamentalism is nothing scriptural to defend.  Defend scripture.  Defend truth.  Defend Jesus.  Defend the church.  Fundamentalism at the most was a means to an end, an unscriptural means that led to a less than scriptural end.  No one should be satisfied with it.

You can read the comments and there's no scriptural basis.  He leaves himself some deniability with "for the most part," which I'm assuming is to deny things like same sex marriage and smoking crack pipes.  Those are not fundamentals though and so the list expands and then you see truth as subjective, just conventional thinking.  It's true because you cobble enough support for it to be true.  Every Christian was against rock music at one time.  Every Christian was against shorts on women. Now it's no longer conventional, so it's only a preference.  We've already arrived at effeminate male behavior, rampant in churches today.  God expects different from us.

The "fundamental" is now a tool for capitulation and pandering.  Rocky Top panders.  People who support it are pandering.  They want approval.  It's the days of Noah, marrying and giving in marriage.  Just move along, nothing to look at.  Five things are worth looking at.

Read the first chapter of Ephesians.  The purpose of salvation, the reason we were chosen, what we read in the first three and half verses are "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (v. 4b).  Being holy and without blame in love aren't fundamentals.  The adoption as children to Jesus and the redemption through Christ's blood abound toward "all wisdom and prudence" (vv. 5-8).  In other words, true doctrine, what might be "fundamentals," you know, what you're really supposed to be parking on, are there to produce the right application of the knowledge of His will (v. 9), which is "wisdom" and then thinking straight, which is "prudence."

Holy living, living without blame, loving behavior, the right application of knowledge, and thinking straight are tied to "the fundamentals."  They are the purpose.  If you have "bad music" and "wrong dress" and all these cultural issues, that's part of not knowing and doing the will of God, which necessarily proceeds from right doctrine.  The first three chapters of Ephesians, the doctrine, are about the last three chapters of Ephesians, the practice.

Paul ends 1 Corinthians in v. 22, saying this:  "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."  It seems loving Jesus is a fundamental.  Yet, it isn't on the list or in the pie.  Can you love Him by singing to Him like He's your boyfriend or girlfriend?  Barkman would say that's not a fundamental and its a cultural issue, so it's impossible to judge.  You have to know what love is to love.  If love is actually lust, so someone isn't loving the Lord Jesus Christ, then that's Anathema Maranatha.  A curse is on that person.  Churches are full of a lack of affection for Jesus Christ.  They have passion produced by ecstatic experiences, choreographed by rhythm and syncopation, other atmospherics and instrumentation and suggestion.  It isn't reverence and sobriety required by God from those who worship Him and love Him.

Dismissing the cultural issues as preferences is not prudent or wise.  Christians are here to say "no" to Rocky Top.  The world isn't going to do it.

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Critique: Worship Wars by Robert Bakss, pt. 3

Intro   Part One   Part Two

Bakss begins his second chapter, "Predicament with Worship Music:  Who Really Wins the War?", decrying theological and spiritual battles fought through the history of Christianity.  The point implied is the very existence of these battles was bad.  Fighting over things in Christianity is bad, and the worship wars is just another latest sad chapter.  Then Bakss provided what he said was a quote from an American newspaper in 1723 criticizing Isaac Watts music:
There are several reasons for opposing it: It’s too new. It’s too worldly, even blasphemous. The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style and because there are so many new songs you can’t learn them all. It puts too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than on godly lyrics. This new music creates disturbances, making people act disorderly. The preceding generation got along without out.
Bakss took the paragraph from a blog, which I couldn't find, so I googled it and found the same quote ten other times online, all used by CCM advocates in the same way Bakss did  and in several instances the surrounding wording verbatim (note: plagiarism).  Furthermore, does anyone really think it was (1) in an American newspaper in 1723 or (2) even written in 1723?  No one wrote that way, the way the "quote" is written, in 1723.  Someone's got to think his readers are morons to accept that quote as historic evidence.  I am sure it is a quote of a quote of a quote of a quote or maybe even more, but the original writer wasn't quoting from a 1723 newspaper.

Isaac Watts, of course, was English and is buried in England.  He never came to America.  He is buried in England at the Bun Hill Non-conformist Cemetery in London.  No one was making the kind of commentary in 1723 about anything, let alone Isaac Watts's hymns.  The first British American newspaper itself started in 1704, the Boston News-Letter.  No one should take this kind of argument seriously. You've read material from 1723 and it does not read like anything anyone wrote in that supposed quote.  The premise itself then is a lie.  I've read the same argument elsewhere and it is a superficial, fallacious invention.  Someone who makes it doesn't really care about aesthetics and the meaning of style.

Watts's music wasn't new music, rejected then accepted, followed by one generation after another of new music, rejected than accepted, so that the music used in churches was already rejected.  Bakss's CCM is not just the latest iteration of Isaac Watts.  Worship wars have existed generation after generation, but the wars themselves are not the problem.  Bakss strategy is to make warring over worship style a problem.

Since music itself is amoral according to Bakss, any judgment of musical style he would contend is "strife," a work of the flesh in Galatians 5:20.  The music itself isn't fleshly in his assessment. It's the war that is fleshly, because it is "strife."  The Greek word translated "strife" is selfish ambition, essentially striving for some greater position for one's self.  The warring in worship war attempts in a godly manner to eradicate from the church worldly, fleshly music that doesn't worship God.  It is concerned with the honor and glory of God, not given through fleshly, worldly, profane worship style, which can be judged as such.

Bakss further argues that the warring itself is about "us" and "our personal preferences."  About this, he quotes Chuck Swindoll as an authority, Swindoll contending as one might expect him, that what's important is the essence of worship, an internalized adoration, and not the expression of worship, the outward forms, which might vary.  He doesn't provide a basis either for the neutrality of outward forms or the equality of the various cultures that use different forms.  Bakss writes:
If you were to ask the Lord what kind of worship fires Him up, God would always come back with the same answer He gave to the woman at the well in Samaria.
God isn't "fired up" by our music.  He isn't waiting in His holy place to be affected by our passions, hoping that His worshipers might fire Him up.  God is impassible.  He is not subject to like passions as we are.

Jesus' teaching to the Samaritan woman, Bakss says, was not a perversion of place or pattern of worship, but the Person.   With no proof, he asserts that worship in spirit is the subjective side of worship and the worship in truth is the objective side.  You won't get that out of the passage.  From that he then concludes that "God is not so much interested in the style of worship as He is the worshipper."  The latter doesn't proceed from the former, but He elaborates:
There is sometimes such an emphasis on Bible knowledge (truth) that we are in danger of ignoring, or even opposing personal spiritual experience.
Scripture isn't sufficient for worship, Bakss is saying that Jesus wants the contribution of personal spiritual experience.  Paul said "the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17).  Jesus said His Words were spirit and life (John 6:63).  Spirit isn't subjective and Word objective.  Spirit conforms to a Divine standard as much as Truth does.  Musical style should be judged by the Word of God too and not by some subjective or personal experience.

Then Bakss connotes spirit with "emotions" so that spiritual music was emotional music.  If someone was spiritual, he wasn't hiding his emotions.  On this point, emotions don't proceed from something spiritual.  They are tied more closely with the physical, which is why you cry when you are tired or when you hit your thumb with a hammer.  How we feel about God does matter.  The right feelings proceed from the right feelings, not vice versa. This was a major assertion of Jonathan Edwards in his Religious Affections.  There is a right feeling about God that comes from the right thinking about God, true thinking, not from passions that start with the body.

Bakss parallels music without necessary emotion as "formalism."  Formalism can come in a great many "forms."  Jesus pointed out two different extremes of false worship forms in John 4, the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim and the Jews in Jerusalem.  Both choreographed their adherents to something neither true or spiritual.  Neither were scriptural or sincere.  Bakss is essentially calling for Samaritan form and the rejection of the Judaistic form.

Fleshly, worldly music gives people a feeling that they interpret as the Holy Spirit.  It is manipulated.  A form is chosen that feels good, based on personal taste, and with the addition of ecstatic experience, which is very deceitful in corruption of true spirituality.  This is ecstasy and mysticism.  This is manipulating experience that Bakss calls the subjective side.

A few sentences from the end of the chapter Bakss writes:
Led by the Spirit, we have the right, even the responsibility, to express our praise to God in the manner that best reflects our individual personalities and cultures.
Bakss is calling for a subjective "leading of the Spirit" common in Charismaticism and revivalism, against the meaning of "led by the Spirit" in the New Testament.  The leading of the Holy Spirit is the same for every believer.  He leads through the Word of God.  This is something Bakss would call formalism, because it is just scripture, bereft of personal, subjective experiences, which people covet like a sign or a wonder.

Worship and praise should reflect what God says in His Word that He wants, not in our individual personalities or cultures.  Just the opposite, our reasonable worship should not conform to the world or our own desires.  We should look to scripture to find what God wants from us.  He does say and we can know from scripture.

Overall, chapter 2 for Bakss goes all different directions in an incongruous way.  What he wants his adherents to think is that music can't be judged, that judging it or warring against certain music is bad.  Give God about whatever you want, because all of it is just personal preference.  These premises are not true, but they are also the recipe for rampant false spirituality and worship in the church.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Roman Catholic "Church": Now Controlled by Modernists and Sodomites?

Homosexuals and theological liberals very possibly now control the Roman Catholic "Church," something that has serious implications worldwide for the spread of Christ's true gospel.  (Learn about the true gospel, and compare it to the teachings of Roman Catholicism, by clicking here.)

The Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965 opened the way for theological liberalism to infest Roman Catholicism.  The leading Catholic Bible commentaries today reject the inerrancy of Scripture, and the authors of such works retain their employment in Catholic institutions. While Rome's addition of the Apocrypha to the Bible makes opposition to inerrancy almost a necessity, since the Apocrypha contains grievous and obvious factual errors, unlike the 66 canonical Books of Scripture, many Christians are unaware of the fact that the leadership of Roman Catholicism does not defend the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture.  Nor does modern Roman Catholicism follow the Council of Trent and condemn every non-Catholic to hell--on the contrary, in this post-Vatican II world practically everyone is going to heaven (while Trent, somehow, is still an infallible Roman Catholic council).

In the United States, most Roman Catholics do not care about what the Roman Catholic Church teaches, but one should not assume that Catholics who do care will actually hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, or think that their religion is right while everyone else is lost.  Such positions, while  they are traditional Catholicism, are no longer the positions of the Roman Catholic religion.  The one-world religion the Apostle John described as centered in Rome is not the hard-nosed Roman Catholicism of Trent that professed belief in an inerrant Bible and even exalted Latin over Greek and Hebrew.  It is the ecumenical, non-judgmental Roman Catholicism that does not take a strong stand for just about anything.  That is the way Catholicism is going, and that view is filtering down to the people in the pew.

Furthermore, since Roman Catholic clergy are allegedly "celibate," for decades sodomites who promise (wink and nod here) to be celibate have been allowed to become Catholic clergy.  This has resulted in a huge number of Catholic clergy who are sodomites.  The Roman Catholic "child abuse" scandal is mainly homosexual priests committing abominations with teenage boys--but it is called "child abuse" so that the pro-sodomy media does not need to point out the homosexual reality.  Catholic sources estimate that the percentage of truly celibate priests is under 50%, and many of these non-celibate priests, bishops, archbishops, and so-on up the line are sodomites.

There is good evidence that the election of Pope Francis constituted a tipping point--the pro-sodomy faction in the Roman Catholic "church" now has a Pope that is on their side.  Since the Pope appoints the cardinals who choose the next Pope, and Pope Francis has been busy appointing away, the very top of the Roman Catholic religion, the very top that controls everything else, now is likely in the control, not only of theological liberalism, but of the  "gay lobby" that Pope Benedict XVI was unable or unwilling to purge from the Vatican, and which now is in control following the election of Pope Francis.

The control of Roman Catholicism, not only by theological liberals, but also by sodomites and the aiders and abetters of sodomy, will radically change the nature of Roman Catholicism in coming years, if Christ does not return first.  Rome is a giant and unwieldy institution, and change takes time to trickle down, but it eventually does.

Even now, and all the more as time goes on, the Christian should NOT assume that the Roman Catholics to whom he speaks are confused about the gospel, but at least believe the Bible is the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead, Biblical moral prohibitions on things like sodomy are binding (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1), etc.  Some of them do, but many of them do not, and that percentage is highly likely to continue to increase. If a Christian gets to evangelize a Roman Catholic priest, he should, in addition to dealing with Rome's false gospel, deal with the immorality that a high percentage of priests are involved in.  Furthermore, he should prepare for Rome to move ever-further into a non-judgmental, all-religions-are-true direction, and recognize that Rome's rejection of the Bible's teaching that bishops should marry (1 Timothy 3), Rome's rejection of the Bible's teaching that forbidding to marry is a doctrine of devils (1 Timothy 4:1-3), and Rome's permitting sodomites to enter a priesthood and a religious hierarchy is abominable--as, indeed, religious hierarchy and Rome's priesthood are on their own, even without regard to the abomination of sodomy.  However, this last abomination has now so corrupted Roman Catholicism that the pro-sodomy "lavender mafia" now is in control of Rome's hierarchy--not according to a few wild-eyed conspiracy theorists, but according to sober historians and many Roman Catholic scholars and historians themselves (see, e. g., the links in this post).

If you are reading this and you are a Roman Catholic, please read "Bible Truths for Catholic Friends" here, so you may come to know and serve God and be certain to live with Him forever (1 John 5:13).

If you are reading this and you are involved in homosexuality, please read "Truth for Gay Friends" here.  The Lord Jesus Christ loved you and died for your sins on the cross, and He will save you if you will repent.

The widespread practice of sodomy in Roman Catholicism lends yet one more justification for the Apostle John's inspired description of Catholicism as "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth" (Revelation 17:5).

-TDR

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Perversion of Justice

The Bible establishes the meaning of justice through the usage of the word, related words, and then an explanation of a justice system laid out by God for Israel.  The American system of justice is based upon what the Old Testament teaches.  It's been called a Judeo-Christian ethic, ethic being a representation of what's right.  Others have argued for the same meaning from a position of natural law, asserting justice from Newton's law:  for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  They argued that they could justify an identical position of justice from nature, separate from the Bible, yet compatible.

A right understanding of justice buttresses the gospel.  God is just.  He defines justice.  God gives the laws for His creation.  The just, the right, is found in God's laws, and He requires their adherence, because of His nature.  He expects justice of His created beings.  He alone is righteous.  His laws are right and God is lawgiver and judge.  His nature also demands justice for the breaking of His laws.

God's justice requires punishment for sin.  The penalty of sin is death.  Jesus paid that penalty.  He died for us.  Everyone deserves the penalty, because all have sinned.

Justice is represented by scales in scripture and people have understood the scales of justice, which is a balance beam sitting on an apex.  Very often doctor's scales still operate on this principle.  In the idea of justice is equality.  The penalty matches the crime:  life for a life, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.  The punishment on one side of the scale equals the violation on the other side of the scale.  People can be cheated in commerce in an unjust trade by tricking the scale.

You have heard the description of putting a thumb on the scale.  This is to make things not equal and, therefore, not just.  In scripture, this brings in the idea of weights and balances.  "A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight" (Proverbs 11:1).  Justice requires just compensation.  Someone gets what he worked for and receives what he paid for.

Within the definition of justice in the Bible is impartiality.  Partiality means unequal treatment, which is injustice.  Impartiality is a principle of justice, because partiality is an origin or source of wrong judgment.  Scripture presents varied motivations for partiality, but the biggest is economic.  Race is another.  Very often race and economics are related and a mixture of evil partiality.  The motivations are sources of bias or prejudice, leading to injustice.  Rich people might have the resources to bribe the judge, affecting his partiality. The blindfold was the component of lady justice to portray impartiality and hence the motto, justice is blind.

A WRONG VIEW OF JUSTICE

What I'm writing here is the truth about justice, but just like different views about everything have arisen in a sin-cursed world, so have wrong ones about justice.  If someone wanted to attack or break down the plan and will of God, toward the top of his list he might corrupt the right thinking about justice.  God opposes this through the Bible and history and calls for repentance of perversion of justice.

The biggest corruption of biblical justice foisted upon humanity by ungodly men, which brings with it multiple varied destructive results, focuses on equal consequences and reparation, the assertion that everyone deserves the same outcome.  This says in essence, don't judge.  In this false thinking, which veers from scripture, differing outcomes assume injustice done, resolved by redistribution as a form of reparation.  The poor are presumed victims of a crime perpetrated by a class of people.  Someone gets a job, a school enrollment, or pay based upon a class to which he or she belongs.

When the aim of justice are victims and the solution restoration, who pays?  Who is guilty of the mistreatment?  Justice isn't done here, because a whole class of people is judged as guilty in direct violation of scriptural impartiality.  The Bible refutes this premise.

The blind man wasn't blind because of his parents (John 9:3).  The children's teeth are not set on edge because their parents ate sour grapes (Jeremiah 31:29).  The curse of one generation of people are not carried on to their children (Exodus 20:5-6), even as seen in the children of the Israelites who left Egypt entered the land, when their parents did not.  God argued in the last verse of Jonah (4:11) that the children of the Ninevites were not guilty of their crimes and they deserved sparing.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:20-24).  Soul, singular.  Justice is individual, not by class.  Individuals will stand before God alone and each judged for his own sins, not those of a country, class, or clan.

As examples, all whites are guilty for slavery.  All men are guilty for sexual assault.  All white men are guilty of about everything that is wrong.

When justice is based upon equal outcomes for everyone, then what is right is also what is judged to have the best consequences for everyone.  This justifies taking something from someone to give it to someone else.  Poverty proceeds from the advantage of one group or class over another.  That class is punished as a group by taking from it and giving it to another.

EQUALITY

Scripture teaches equality.  Everyone is made in the image of God.  The founding fathers of the United States believed in it.  However, when they said that "all men are created equal," they didn't think that everyone was equal physically, intellectually, or in other abilities.  They advocated scriptural equality, that is, men were equal in intrinsic value.  Men were all worth the same.

The view of equality I'm describing is a necessity for justice.  If an individual doesn't work, he still has equal inherent value with those who do work.  However, he deserves a different outcome or consequences for not working than those who do not work.  He's not a victim. It would be unjust to take from those who have worked and give to the one who hasn't worked to create an equal outcome.

Justice doesn't guarantee equal outcomes.  It doesn't even guarantee equal opportunity.  Justice does guarantee certain rights, ones ordained by God.  Someone can grow up in a just society and have less opportunity than someone who does in another just society.  Again, America's founding fathers proposed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  They didn't include property, but one could assume that property rights were found in liberty and pursuit of happiness, which could be expressed in free enterprise, the right to keep what you earn.  If everyone is treated of equal value, that is sufficient equality of opportunity.

Justice requires the same rules for everyone, a principle enshrined in English justice since the Magna Carta.  It also expects impartial and equal enactment of justice, justice done in a just manner.  It requires witness or corroboration of an accusation of a violation of the law.  Someone cannot be convicted and punished without proof.

The terminology "kangaroo court" traces to the idea of jumping to a conclusion without proper evidence, making a large leap like a kangaroo.  Convicting someone without sufficient evidence and without the presumption of innocence (impartiality) is unjust.  This practice very often proceeds from the perversion of equal outcomes.

A woman is right because she's a woman.  A man is guilty because he's a man.  A person of a particular race is innocent because he's of that particular race.  Instead of individuals being judged for individual wrong, entire classes are judged, which is by nature partiality.  This is not justice.  It is a perversion of justice.  It only gets worse from there.

THE EFFECT ON THE GOSPEL

Justice doesn't deal with outcome.  It deals with the act.  Someone pays for something he's done wrong and justice is done.  Whether he changes or not, he deserves a penalty for his sin.  When people are punished for doing wrong, it helps them understand the justice of God.  They see they aren't right with God, that He will judge them for their sins, and that they need a Savior.  Consequences in the next life, the eternal, are much greater than those in the present.

When I preach the gospel, I always talk about justice.  Until someone sees he is guilty of crimes against God and deserving of punishment, he won't see his need of a Savior.  The gospel is good news.  The good news is that he can be saved from the penalty of sin.  Someone has paid the penalty for his sin and he can be saved.

Each person is responsible for his own sins.  He won't be punished for those of his parents or for the hypothetical sins of a class to which he belongs.  His own understanding of his own salvation depends on his having a right, true, and accurate comprehension of justice.  The perversion of justice muddles the knowledge necessary for someone to be saved.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Church Decrease Movement (CDM): Faithful Numerical Church Decrease

Numerical growth of a church isn't hard. Most of the people I've met who see swift numerical growth aren't either smart or knowledgeable. They haven't discovered some secret.  They shouldn't be rewarded, as they very often are.  Churches with big numbers are the most emulated in the United States. Their tactics are also the most likely to be sent to foreign countries.  The most notable standard for success is still size.

Before I left graduate school, the dean of academic affairs at the college from which I graduated told me to go out there to California and outgrow, essentially beat, Jack Trieber.  I remember the moment, and I smiled and didn't answer.  I had an early conflict within between perceived success and what I knew scripture taught.  It was in my nature to compete and win something, to be bigger than everyone else, to do something better than everyone else.  What was winning though?  Do we win in this lifetime or the next?  What did scripture say?

When I got started in California, there were dueling intentions for me, perhaps three different ones that clashed with each other.  One, I wanted to see people saved.  I wanted them really to be saved, although it may have been in actuality to see lots of professions of faith. Two, I desired to see quick growth.  It was my goal to become self-supporting by the first year and quit my job.  My wife and I didn't come to California with even half support, perhaps less than 25% of even what was required to live in the most expensive housing market and the hardest place in the country.  The support we received helped us, but it wasn't close to what we needed.  I never went on deputation.  I preached at a few churches and a few supported us, but it was never my intention to get support first.  I was coming to California and didn't need it.  Third, I wanted to preach the Bible, expositional preaching, and the latter was more important than the other two.  It was also the enemy of the other two as time progressed.

My wife and I arrived in California in August 1987, me 25 and her 23, and our first service was October 18 that year.  We came without a stick of furniture and almost no money.  I remember early on, in the first few months, having about three hundred dollars in the bank and being conned out of it by a "preacher" whose "car broke down" on his way to a funeral.  I was not a big city boy.  I didn't think we grew quickly.  I was expecting something faster.  However, we grew fast enough that I could quit my job by January.   My wife still worked at a bank.  We were self-supporting after a year and a half.

After about three years, we were averaging about 175 a week with a big day of 330.  How did we do it?  Promotion.  Big days.  Give-aways.  Exciting jr. church.  We had a Spanish group of about 70.  In the summer, we had what we called a neighborhood kids crusade and over 500 different children came in for the week.  We put on what I labeled the mother of all puppet shows with every day a cliff hanger.  It's easy for people, workers, to be motivated by numbers.  They see it as an indication that God is working and they are succeeding.  They'll keep doing this "work," because it is easy.  You offer people something tangible and temporal and they come.

One favorite story was buying a 25 passenger shuttle bus from gypsies.  I literally went to a home with a large palm of a hand on a sign out front, made the payment in cash, after which I was invited to a pig roast.  I walked out back with the gypsies and they had a very large pig, head and all, in their backyard turning on a large home made spit.  This was right in town in the city and I'm sure it was illegal to have a large fire in your backyard even to roast a pig.  I did not have my palm read.

Again, I'm saying it wasn't hard to do what I was doing except for one thing.  I knew it was wrong.  I didn't know it at first, but I felt guilty most of the time in everything that we did, attempting to motivate people with what we were using.  I was following the examples I had been given.  I wasn't even pedal to the metal on these strategies.  I could have done far more than I was doing.  I knew others were.  What held me back was the guilt.  I tried to tamp it down, justifying it by the fact that many others were doing it and doing more.  It was bringing "results."  Several people encouraged me to do more and were happy with what we were doing.

As all the above was happening, I was also preaching through books.  In Sunday School, I taught through scripture.  On Sunday morning I preached through John and then Acts.  I didn't see these as the methods of Jesus.  They clashed with what Jesus did.  This was not good for the people in the church.

The key for a "Spanish ministry" was having everything in Spanish (of course), allowing it to be separate from the English, and providing a lot of social opportunities, meals especially.  Many of the Spanish couples were not members.  They couldn't join.  They weren't married.  They were living together because getting married would bring in the government.  Some of them wanted to be baptized and join anyway without being married, but I wouldn't allow for that.  I took a "stand" there.  There was no intention of almost any of them to integrate with the English.  Except for one or two of them, they had zero motivation to evangelize the people of the United States, except for people in the country like they were.  Their children were growing up in homes that did not speak English, but they were learning it in the public school, causing a kind of division between the parents and the children -- two different cultures.

We had about 15-20 deaf.  The key for the deaf was constant pandering, keeping them busy with activities, and food again.  They didn't want to come if you didn't have something for them, so you just always had something for them.

A lot of what I led with church growth conflicted with biblical methods, the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, and biblical evangelism.  Even if I believed in a true gospel, the way I did things wasn't lined up with the gospel of the New Testament, which is the only gospel.  In many instances, I would preach passages that did not line up with what we were doing to get bigger.  We were, however, seeing a lot of professions of faith, and many would have said God was working through these means.

I had a mix of biblical and unbiblical practices.  I was convinced of discipleship, believed the Great Commission was making disciples.  I wrote a thirty week discipleship.  We started attempting to take every new "convert" through the thirty weeks.  I taught a 25 week parenting course that was ongoing.  I wanted true conversion and was constantly tweaking personal evangelism to fit a scriptural model.  My preaching became more and more dense exegesis of the Bible.

I never decided to get smaller.  I would, however, conform our belief and practice to what I was preaching from scripture.  I allowed exposition of the Bible to change our church.  Every change decreased our numbers.  The goal was to honor God with faithfulness to His Word.  Success was to conform everything to God's Word.  Our church changed and got smaller and smaller.  In fact, the actual church didn't get smaller by what we did.  Our church never was very big when we tried to get big.  We had a lot of people, but the church wasn't big.  Our church, the actual church, is bigger now.  Our expectations changed.

We do more evangelism now than we did before.  Our goal is to preach the gospel, thorough and accurate.  We want to do it a lot and everywhere, and we do.  So now we have around 70-80 people when everyone is in town and healthy.  We don't count.  We know who the people are.  If we count, that's where it is.  I understand that I'm not a success.  I would be if we kept on the former path.  Not really a success, but considered to be one.

Understand this:  we do more ministry now than we ever have.  A true gospel is preached more.  More actual discipleship occurs.  More biblical worship takes place.  We are a greater success, even though the trajectory we took has led me not to be a success.

When I look at the churches that do what we did a long time ago and even worse today, I understand that they get credit for doing these things.  People want to know their secret.  They look to them for ideas for how to make their church bigger.  I'm disgusted by what I see.  I understand the damage their techniques cause.  I said it wasn't hard to do what they do.  It isn't, but at the same time it is impossible.  How do they look at themselves in the mirror, knowing what they are doing?  I don't get it.  The lack of discernment is astounding.  How can they be saved?  I don't think they are.  We at least do not regard them as saved people.

In every sector of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, even among unaffiliated churches, the size of the church is the most accepted and practiced criteria for success.  The leaders of the largest churches get the most mention among others and have the most influence.  It is easy to see.  Men have a difficult time criticizing them for what they do, because they don't want to get out of favor with them.  Those churches also very often have the biggest or most buildings and the most money.  Even among the conservative evangelicals, size is what is rewarded.  You have to be a kind of success that even the world would say is successful.  They do not, I repeat, do not promote men with small churches.  A man with a small church is not a success.

Young men know that success is getting big and this is true everywhere.  Something is wrong with you or you are doing something wrong if your church is small.  Men know this.  It then affects the way that men practice, and, therefore, believe.  You are better if you are big.  You are less significant and somewhat a failure if you are small.  Again, men know this.  This affects everything.  It needs to stop.  The idea needs to be torched.  The truth is the truth.  The truth itself is success.  Conforming to it is success.  We have less conforming to the truth and sadly, because conforming to the truth isn't rewarded by the leaders in America of every segment of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

Even among the people that would say size is not the right evaluation of success for church, they still promote size.  They contradict themselves.  They say that size shows superior giftedness.  I've seen it again and again.  And then the proof is in what occurs then.  The men of the bigger churches are considered better.  I can tell you that when my church was bigger, there was more widespread acknowledgement of my success.  It couldn't immunize me for my guilt.  It couldn't convince me that what I was doing, had been doing, was biblical.  I also have known that the more popular you are, because of size, brings a kind of credibility when you say something.  You can say the truth and it is ignored.  You can say an untruth and it gets attention, if you have widespread influence especially because of your compromise.

People pay attention to those who have a big following, even if what they are saying is crazy.  Even the more conservative evangelicals give credence to the one who has seen bigger success, very often through compromise.  There are numerous examples of this.  If kooks criticize them, they deal with it, because the kook has a following.  If the small pastor criticizes them, they ignore it, even if it is the truth.  The truth doesn't matter.  Size matters.

We need a movement of church decrease.  Like Paul, men need to count what they are doing and what they have done as dung.  Believe God.  Obey God.  Depend on Him.  Look to God for relevance.  Or accept that you are not relevant, but that biblical success is actually success.

Do I think a movement of church decrease will occur?  Churches will decrease, mainly because of apostasy, something like we see has already occurred in the United Kingdom.  Much of the apostasy has already started in the United States as manifested by acceptance of same-sex marriage and then the embrace of "social justice."  Among revivalists, there is an increasing "emergent" flavor or worse.  Effeminate men are rampant and not confronted.  When they are confronted, those confronting are rebuked by millennial mobs, pandering parents, and clueless women.

What we need is strength.  We need solid scriptural teaching.  We need courage.  We need men.  I don't think we'll get it.  Maybe you can prove me wrong.