Friday, July 31, 2020

Repentance: What it is Not: Bible Study 5A, "How Do I Receive the Gospel?"

In past weeks I have posted parts #1-3 of the foundational Bible study series designed to explain the gospel carefully to the unconverted.  Part #4, on the Person and work of Christ, is not yet ready to go live, but part 5A and B are live (and, Lord willing, 5C will be live shortly).

Much of the material on repentance in study #5 comes from Joseph Alleine's Alarm to the Unconverted, a Puritan evangelistic work that received very widespread distribution and which has been reprinted over 350 times.  It is not faultless (it tends towards preparationism), but it is far better than the shallow "1-2-3 pray after me" evangelism that almost leaves repentance out entirely and just about never carefully contrasts true faith and repentance from their non-saving counterfeits.

Someone who goes through study #5 honestly should be illuminated by the Spirit through the Word as to his spiritual condition and will understand what the response to the gospel--repentant faith--involves.  Those who are wondering if they have ever truly repented and believed should also be helped and should be able to rejoice with a "yes" answer or see their danger as they answer "no."  Cultural "Christians" should also see the difference between mental assent to gospel truths and genuinely coming to the Lord, Jesus Christ.

I would encourage you to consider training people in your church to use these Bible studies in their gospel preaching, and to share the videos on YouTube or at FaithSaves with others.  Please watch the embedded video below or watch the video on YouTube, and please feel free to share your comments here and there and to "like" the video if you believe it is valuable.


Bible Study #5A: What Repentance is Not in
"How do I Receive the Gospel?" Bible Study #5:




Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Sustainability

Through all my thirty-three years of living in California, I often heard the word "sustainability."  It means "to exist constantly."  Only God has existed constantly (Psalm 90:2).  God alone sustains the whole universe, all matter and space, and then the earth.  Speaking of Jesus, John writes (John 1:3):
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Speaking of Jesus, the author of Hebrews writes (1:2-3):
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;  Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power.
The Apostle Paul also speaks of Jesus, saying (Colossians 1:16-17):
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 
To put all these scriptural quotes together, everything was made by the Lord Jesus, He upholds all of them by the word of His power, they were created by Him and for Him, and by Him all things consist.

Man does not sustain Himself.  He does not have the power even to sustain his own body or even further basic singular functions within the body, let alone his body.  He doesn't sustain his circulatory system or nervous system.  Scientists themselves know that atoms that make up man's body are held together by, to them, some mysterious strong nuclear force.

The main promoters of sustainability do not mention God.  Most of them see man as responsible for sustainability.  Jesus said (John 14:6), "I am the way, the truth, and the life," and (John 11:25), "I am the resurrection and the life."  The Psalms point to God's power and care for sustainability.  Psalm 104 presents a beautiful picture of God's sustaining.

God created the world (Psalm 104:1-5), covered the world (vv. 6-10), and then continues the world (vv. 11-35).  The sustaining of the planet by God starts with water (vv. 11-14), then plant life, the growing and thriving of plants (vv. 15-18), the changing of the seasons and night and day (vv. 19-20), the feeding of the animals (vv. 21-28).  God's sustaining also includes the death and the birth of all living things (vv. 29-30).  Even though God does all this, the spokes-people of sustainability, even professing Christians, won't dare mention God.  Romans 1 calls this "unthankful."  It is part of the suppression of knowledge about God that characterizes a reprobate mind.  Reprobates leave God out of the sustainability conversation.  Many of them would be bored to or turned off from reading this, but they would gladly take in the instructions of a pagan.

The purveyors of sustainability limit their conversation just to what man does.  Even if man works for God in sustaining the earth, what we categorize under stewardship of the planet, God has already formulated that plan in the Bible.  In God's law, He scattered towns throughout the entire land of Israel, and He detailed the amount of pasture land each town was to have (Numbers 32:2-5).  From the very beginning of His creation, God involved man in the tending of His creation.  He wants that.  It's called subduing and having dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-29).  The Bible speaks in a sufficient manner for man to succeed at this responsibility of man.  Man can't do it though, except through a new nature that comes only through justification by faith in Jesus Christ.  No other avenue exists.

The original world God created was destroyed by God Himself because of sin.  That is the reason for the present world in which we live.  This goes unmentioned by the sustainability people, including those who call themselves Christians.  They don't honor God and in so doing, they hate God.  They do not give Him glory, when He created them for His pleasure, not their own.  They do this at their own peril.  They will not be sustained, except in a place separate from God that is eternal death.

Science right now even shows that there are hundreds of aspects of our lives in the physical world that have nothing to do with us.  We have no control over them related to sustainability.  We know from scripture and from general revelation in creation that God is responsible for this, what Thomas Jefferson called the laws of nature and nature's God.

No sustainability will occur without God.  Those who will not point people to God involve themselves in a futile pursuit.  They need to subject themselves to Him and then teach sustainability with Him at the forefront rather than cowering away from Him and hiding their light under a basket.  The sustainability crowd though wants man at the forefront.  That way they can also live according to their own lust.  Sin is at the root of the future destruction of the world and it is why this planet is a disposable one.  God is not going to sustain it, we know, and no one will escape from God either to a colony on the moon (Jeff Bezos) or Mars (Elon Musk).

All life comes from God and He sustains life.  He does more in one second than all men combined in the entire history of mankind do and have done in their efforts to sustain this world.  And then they give Him no credit for this lovingkindness and grace.  This is heinous pride, man-exalting pride!  Instead, they continue using the resources, the ones God creates and sustains, even if in a slightly more sustainable fashion and then trumpeting their own accomplishments on social media.  Shame on them.  Repent ye sinners.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Is The Orthodox Church a False Church Within the True Church?

In the mid 1960s, Walter Martin became the first "Bible Answer Man," exposing cults and false religions from all over the world.  In 1989, when Martin died, Hank Hanegraff became the new "Bible Answer Man," sort of like the line of the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride.  Someone else can become "The Bible Answer Man."  It's passed down.  You might not in fact be "The Bible Answer Man."  It's just a title.  You're actually Joe Slobotnick from Walla Walla, otherwise known as The Bible Answer Man.

You can look for "Bible Answer Man" in scripture and, of course, you won't find one.  It could be a nice gig though to establish the Christian Research Institute and appoint yourself the. Bible. Answer. Man.  It's the wrong answer, however, to several biblical questions related to how God wants His work done.

Then in April 2017, Hank Hanegraff left evangelicalism for the Eastern Orthodox.  In May 2017 in a sermon at Grace Community Church, referring to Hanegraff not by name, John MacArthur denounced the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of salvation as a false gospel.  Shortly thereafter, Hanegraff made a podcast in defense of himself and in refutation of MacArthur.

I wrote "doctrine of salvation" in the previous paragraph, because Eastern Orthodoxy isn't the gospel, except what we can call a "false gospel" or "another gospel" (Galatians 1:6, 9).  MacArthur is right on to expose this as a false gospel.  He rightly quotes The Confession of Dositheus, 1672:
We believe a man to be not simply justified through faith alone, but through faith which works through love, that is to say, through faith and works.
That is Eastern Orthodoxy, a false gospel.  I watched Hanegraff try to defend himself by quoting from James in a modern version like we've never seen, heard, or read James before.  He really emphasizes Abraham being justified by works without mention that "justified" doesn't always mean the same thing, that he was justified before men by his works.  Hanegraff has turned from the faith.

I'm writing this rejoicing over a statement I read from MacArthur and the elders of his church with so, so many good things worth reading.  This all came to my attention because of a notification from youtube on my phone that "thought" I would be interested in hearing about it.  However, in his same statement about Eastern Orthodoxy, MacArthur said:
Even within the professing church, any deviation from the true gospel of grace is a damning lie to be cursed. We understand why the world rejects this. It is, however, a very sad day when people inside the church, even the evangelical church, begin to reject this. . . . .  There are about 300 million people worldwide who are in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The sister church in the West is the Roman Catholic Church that has the exact same doctrine, and there are 1.3 billion people in the Roman Catholic Church worldwide. So 1.6 billion people call themselves Christians and believe in a salvation that is a combination of grace and works. That is false Christianity within true Christianity. That is false Christianity teaching a false gospel. It is not to be joined, it is to be cursed. And as I have said, getting the gospel right is the most important reality in the world, because the true gospel is the only way of salvation.  We’re not surprised that the true gospel is under assault. We’re not even surprised that it’s under assault inside the church.
Is false Christianity within true Christianity?  Is a false church within a true church?  Everything he said about the gospel was true, but is it true that the Eastern Orthodox are just a false church within the true church and false Christianity within true Christianity?

First, the Eastern Orthodox never was Christianity.  It arose out of Roman Catholicism, which was already a perversion of true Christianity.  Roman Catholicism never was Christianity.  It preached a false gospel from the very start.  True Christianity always remained separate from Roman Catholicism.  In other words, the gospel was never lost.  Justification wasn't invented in the Reformation.  True believers continued to preach it in their churches, the church, separate from the Catholic Church.

Second, the Eastern Orthodox are not a church.  MacArthur and the other elders wrote this in the statement to which I referred above:
The church by definition is an assembly. That is the literal meaning of the Greek word for “church”—ekklesia—the assembly of the called-out ones. A non-assembling assembly is a contradiction in terms.
"A non-assembly is a contradiction in terms."  The Eastern Orthodox never assemble.  The Roman Catholics never assemble.  The only church is local, just like they are saying, because only what's local could assemble.

The way it worked was that the true church, which preached a true gospel, remained separate from Roman Catholicism and, of course, what it spawned, the Eastern Orthodox.  These branched off the true churches.  They created a monstrosity that damns people to Hell.  If Hanegraff was of a true assembly, he would have no doubt continued (1 John 2:19).  He was never saved in the first place.  He's not a part of a false church within a true church or a false Christianity within a true Christianity.  He was a tare among the wheat.

Where is MacArthur coming from?  When I hear his statements, they are totally foreign to me.  He believes the true church is universal.  In other words, a church that never assembles, a non-assembling assembly, is the true church, which as even he says, is a contradiction in terms.  To him, the separation of the tares from the wheat is a separation of a false church from within a true church.  In fact, almost every church is a mixed multitude.  The tares are just unbelievers temporarily with true believers.

When I say "every church" I mean the only church, a local one.  Each church to a varied degree is a mixed multitude.  Like Jude wrote, they creep in unawares.  This is clear through the New Testament, which is written to only churches, only to assemblies, ones at Ephesus, Corinth, and in Galatia, among others.  Individual churches apostatize to where they aren't Christian and they aren't a church, like the one at Laodecia in Revelation 3.  The candlestick is removed.

Churches apostatize.  These are not a false church within a true one.  They aren't even churches anymore.  Until they apostatize, tares abide within, making them a mixed multitude.  True churches continued.  This is the perpetuity of the church promised by Jesus in Matthew 16:18.  We shouldn't even call The Orthodox Church, The Orthodox Church.  It isn't a church.

Friday, July 24, 2020

What Does God Want From Me? God's Law, His Perfect Standard: Bible Study 3

On the last few Fridays I have posted Bible study #1: "What is the Bible?" (part 1B) and study #2, "Who is God?"  The video for part 3, "What does God want from me?" is embedded below.  The studies can be accessed on the Bible studies page on my website here or on YouTube (link to part 3) as well as through the embedded video. I would encourage you to "like" the video on YouTube as well as commenting on it both there and here if you believe it contains good content.

Studies #1 and #2 are often viewed as interesting and informative by the lost. Study #3 is where things start to hit home and "get personal," as it were. The Bible study defines sin, goes through the Ten Commandments and other commands God has given men, explains the sin nature and the imputation of Adam's sin, explains what God promises for perfect obedience--the kind only Christ has ever rendered--and any disobedience--the state into which all the rest of mankind falls--and then explains why the attempts people make to get out of the threatenings of God's law fail.  The study is designed to be used by the Holy Spirit to produce conviction of sin in the unconverted, and prepare them to hear the glorious gospel, the saving work of the crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ--in study #4.


Study #3: God's Law





-TDR

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Is Kneeling at the Flag and During the National Anthem Disrespectful to the Flag?

What's the point of kneeling at the flag and during the national anthem if it isn't disrespect? Of course it is disrespect. The people doing it say that they are misunderstood. A lot is written about this, so it's not hard to hear the point of kneeling.

The kneelers are protesting systemic police brutality against black people in the United States. The flag represents the United States. At a time to show respect, they choose to show disrespect to make a point.

Many, who don't kneel, but support the kneeling, agree. Probably not intended as a point of irony, Angels manager Joe Maddon, speaking of one of his players who kneeled, said, "I'm very proud that he stood up for his beliefs. It's not easy to do that. A young man like that." As an aside, I would content it's getting a lot easier to kneel. In general, the media, the Democrat party, and the woke crowd all support it and even worse. What belief was he "standing," albeit kneeling, for? Standing when the flag passes is respect. Kneeling is disrespect. People stand for the national anthem out of respect. Someone kneels out of disrespect. Kneelers want to disrespect the flag to make a point.

I could kneel because of abortion.  Someone could kneel because of useless wars.  Someone else could kneel because of the women's vote.  A woman might keep kneeling until there is a woman president.  Are police being brutal?  Not as a whole, not enough to disrespect the flag over.  It's also a strange way to protest police brutality.  Everyone is already against police brutality.  Police are against it.  Why disrespect the flag over it?

Gabe Kapler, manager of the A's, became the first manager or head coach to kneel during the anthem. I'm guessing he checked with management before he did it to be sure he wouldn't be fired, or he just already knew in Oakland, that would be a net gain for him.

Respect for the flag has associated itself with respect for the military. Why? Is this just something arbitrary? No, there are red stripes on the flag that talk about people dying. Those are almost exclusively military and even police officers. People have died, shed their blood, so that others could live with freedom, including black people. I'm guessing that Kaplan felt a bit awkward after all these years of standing, suddenly kneeling, and thinking about the privileges he has had in living in this country.

In general, I have associated patriotism with standing for the flag, putting my hand over my heart, taking my hat off, looking stedfastly at the flag, and then singing with the national anthem. I think of the veterans who have died. Sometimes my eyes water.

I would agree that the more kneeling there is, the less respect there will be for the flag and for the country. The country itself won't be worth it anymore to its citizens, not worth fighting for, not worth bleeding for or dying for. The more the kneelers kneel, the less respect I feel for a country that rewards and praises kneelers. It's working that way with me. I'm looking around for a country I respect more than the United States. I'll keep living here, but maybe I'll get to the point where I would rank some other country ahead of the United States for different reasons than a Hollywood actor or actress who threatens to leave everytime a Republican wins the presidency.

There is a threat to a country when its people don't respect it anymore. It won't be as good or nice a place as it once was to live. As well, children won't grow up with the concept of respect. Their idea of something good is showing disrespect. That is a growing sentiment, it seems, young people who won't show respect anymore except for themselves.  They don't respect their parents or almost anything or anyone but themselves.

 If a person knows what it means to disrespect, then it means that he knows what it means to respect.  Young people for instance know when they are being disrespected.  They are masters at that.  It's a reason why they want boundaries set up against interaction with those who don't respect most of how they act.

The overall concept of respect is being lost in the country, which starts with God. People don't respect God. They love themselves. They even think people should love each other. They don't care about God though, and that's obvious. Anything bigger than themselves, they don't tend to respect. When respect for God is lost, then it won't take long that almost nothing or no one is respectable any more.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Another Quixotic Whiff for Mark Ward on the Bible and Its Preservation

With full disclaimer, from my childhood I recall Gilligan and the fearless crew on the uncharted desert isle.  Mr. Howell, the Professor, and Skipper are dressed as women in an attempt to fool some visiting natives looking for a "white goddess" to throw into their volcano.  Not expecting any of those three to pull it off, the Skipper orders first mate, Gilligan, to "dress up like a girl."  The words since stuck in my brain Gilligan repeated again and again, "You can't make me!  You can't make me!  You can't make me!"  Everyone knows how that ended.

Mark Ward has spent years working an argument with his "King James-Only brothers" for them to chuck the translation based upon readability, intelligibility, or understanding.  He wrote a whole book on it.  Ward made "a vow regarding the KJV."  He wrote:
I will not and cannot discuss textual criticism with my brothers and sisters in Christ who insist on the exclusive use of the King James Version. I will discuss only vernacular translation. 
"You can't make him!  You can't make him!  You can't make him!"  After years tilting at the vernacular windmill (tilting may be a false friend of Cervantes), Ward broke that vow in a recent published journal article, where he instead dusted off the very, very oft employed "Which TR?" argument instead (I have answered it here, here, here, here, here, and many more times).  Because I've already argued this, I'm not going to argue with Ward's article.  I'm saying, read what I already wrote.

I confess after these now several years, that Ward still fails to understand or at least not represent accurately the biblical and historical doctrine we teach.  I've written it directly to Ward and he still chooses to strawman it.  As a type of irony, the same journal makes this statement in an earlier article entitled "Role of Biblical Creationism in Presuppositional Apologetics":
Beyond the theological incompatibilities already discussed, the evolutionary model simply contravenes the clear and straightforward meaning of a number of other biblical passages that emphasize God’s direct and immediate role in creation as well as truth-affirmations about the context, timing, and goal of creation.
Modern textual criticism parallels "the evolutionary model."  The problem I and many others, including the "confessional bibliologists" (whom Ward inaccurately puts in a different category than me), would be represented by writing the same sentence above with a few changed words.
Beyond the theological incompatibilities already discussed, the modern textual criticism model simply contravenes the clear and straightforward meaning of a number of other biblical passages that emphasize God’s direct and immediate role in preservation as well as truth-affirmations about the context, timing, and goal of the preservation of scripture.
If someone believes what scripture says, then he has to believe what scripture says.  Not believing what scripture says isn't believing what scripture says.  Modern textual criticism does not buttress its position on the teaching of scripture, which is also confessional or historical.  Ward does not arrive at what scripture says, because scripture isn't the basis of his position.  In another bit of irony, Ward has attempted to tether himself to scripture when he makes his one vernacular argument from scripture, 1 Corinthians 14, that edification requires intelligibility.

I've followed Ward long enough to know that he didn't start with his intelligibility argument from 1 Corinthians 14 (read what I've written herehere, and here).  I contend, he noticed that our side takes its position from scripture, like a young earth creationist does, so he came late with the biblical argument as a corollary.  I'm open to be proven wrong on that.  As time passed, Ward referred to that argument more and more, seeing it as perhaps the one that could gain the most traction with people who started with the Bible.  If scripture is so important to which to refer for positions, I invite him to start doing that on the whole issue.

Presuppositionalism starts with the Bible.  Evolutionists presuppose too.  They aren't neutral, they just have different presuppositions.  However, we don't call evolutionists, which would be old earth creationists, presuppositionalists.  Ward doesn't follow biblical presuppositions.  He doesn't deal with anything related to this aspect of bibliology like a presuppositionalist.  By the way, just to head this off at the pass, someone could use the lame argument (I've read it) that Greg Brahnsen wasn't a confessional bibliologist and supported modern textual criticism, so the perfect preservation position must not be presuppositional.  That is an anecdotal apologetic that doesn't support a presuppositional one.  It's a loser.

To start any discussion on the Bible, someone should ask, "Does this represent what the Bible teaches on the subject?"  Starting with science led to numerous wrong positions on origins, that now must be unraveled with DNA and seeing a cell in detail under a microscope.  God wants us to believe what He says.  Ward and others like him do not take a faithful or believing view, because they don't establish what scripture teaches first and then believe it.  All "models" should start with scripture, because God's Word is truth, or what is accurate to call true science.

How do we know that God created the earth in six literal, twenty-four days?  Scripture says so.  Yes, but evidence shows something different.  Scientists list much evidence.  They've done that to the effect of many Christians rejecting what the Bible says or then going about to change what the Bible says to fit the "evidence."  How do we know God preserved His Word perfectly, every Word?  Words not just a general Word that allows for word changes?  Scripture says so.  That's also what Christians have believed.  Textual critics list much evidence.  They've done that to the effect of many Christians rejecting what the Bible says or then going about to change what the Bible says to fit the "evidence."

Jeff Riddle and the ones known as "confessional bibliologists" (why wouldn't I be referred to as one? See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and many other places) seem to merit Ward's attention by not settling on Scrivener as an answer to a written text.  Perhaps it seems to him like he could get some mileage from them, because if they believe there are some variances between TR editions like he illustrates in his article, then they will be willing to accept even more variances and everyone can then be a big happy family in a modern version world.

If the confessional bibliologists take Hill's position, then they take the same one I've been advocating.  There isn't a thin piece of copy paper between all of us in doctrinal position.  I've said for years though, that asking for the exact settled text is more of a trap being laid, to be used for the reverse engineer argument.  What I've written is that the words are preserved and available.  The translators of the TR translated from something and that is easy to see in the commentaries written in the 17th and 18th centuries.  This respects what the Bible says about itself, what God says about His own Word, honors and worships Him.  Even Kurt Aland reports ("The Text of the Church?" in Trinity Journal, Fall, 1987, p.131):
[I]t is undisputed that from the 16th to the 18th century orthodoxy's doctrine of verbal inspiration assumed this Textus Receptus. It was the only Greek text they knew, and they regarded it as the 'original text.'
He also wrote in The Text of the New Testament (p. 11):
We can appreciate better the struggle for freedom from the dominance of the Textus Receptus when we remember that in this period it was regarded even to the last detail the inspired and infallible word of God himself.
His wife Barbara writes in her book, The Text of the New Testament (pp. 6-7):
[T]he Textus Receptus remained the basic text and its authority was regarded as canonical. . . . Every theologian of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (and not just the exegetical scholars) worked from an edition of the Greek text of the New Testament which was regarded as the "revealed text." This idea of verbal inspiration (i. e., of the literal and inerrant inspiration of the text) which the orthodoxy of both Protestant traditions maintained so vigorously, was applied to the Textus Receptus.
Quoting the Alands is a debate technique.  The most scholarly of the enemies agree too.  Both sides should just agree on that.  The Alands, however, are just reporting though among many, many others what Richard Capel wrote:
[W]e have the Copies in both languages [Hebrew and Greek], which Copies vary not from Primitive writings in any matter which may stumble any. This concernes onely the learned, and they know that by consent of all parties, the most learned on all sides among Christians do shake hands in this, that God by his providence hath preserved them uncorrupt. . . . As God committed the Hebrew text of the Old Testament to the Jewes, and did and doth move their hearts to keep it untainted to this day: So I dare lay it on the same God, that he in his providence is so with the Church of the Gentiles, that they have and do preserve the Greek Text uncorrupt, and clear: As for some scrapes by Transcribers, that comes to no more, than to censure a book to be corrupt, because of some scrapes in the printing, and ‘tis certain, that what mistake is in one print, is corrected in another.
Mark Ward and others like him are taking the new position, the reactionary one, that arose out of mid-19th century modernism and rationalism.  His position, and the biblical and the true Christian one, the faithful one, do not and cannot meet.

**********************
Watch this and others like it.  This is a real apologist in a biblical sense.
I have found the identical experience with Muslims to whom I have evangelized.  He's obviously directing this toward men like James White.  What a respectful, true servant of God here.  It's easy to see if you match him up against James White.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Who is God? Bible study #2

Following Bible study #1 on the character of Scripture as inspired and preserved, Bible study #2, on the most important Being, covers the nature of God, discussing His incommunicable attributes such as omnipotence, self-existence, His character as a Spirit, and so on, as well as communicable attributes such as justice, love, holiness, etc. The meaning of the names Jehovah, Eloheim, and Adonai is explained, and God's Triune character set forth. 

An important truth too often left out in fundamental Baptist circles are the nature of the relations that eternally distinguish the Trinitarian Persons, as explained, for example, in the 1689 London Baptist Confession:

 In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.


Bible study #2 does explain this important aspect of God' Triune character.

You can get physical copies of these Bible studies here and watch them as well, can also watch study #2 on YouTube, or can watch the embedded video below.




-TDR

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Myth of the Recovering Fundamentalist

I've been a fundamentalist.  I'm not one.  Do I consider myself to have "recovered"?  I left fundamentalism.  I separated from it.  I didn't escape it.  I didn't recover from it.  I stopped being a fundamentalist.  I didn't go through a process of recovery.  I saw it was wrong to be one, so I stopped being one.  I did some separation from fundamentalist organizations and institutions, but that's not all that I've separated from in my life.  Sanctification itself is a process of separation.  Be ye holy means be ye separate.

If someone really understands fundamentalism, what it is, he knows there are good things about fundamentalism itself, including ideological and institutional preservation or conservation.  The idea of fundamentalism, which some fundamentalists like to use to describe their continued support of fundamentalism, has good parts to it, worthy of respect.  Those parts should be and can be kept.  They are biblical.   In other words, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

On the other hand, the concept of recovering from fundamentalism smacks of going back to something of normalcy in the realm of psychology.  "Recovery" is a common terminology now for "getting better" from mental illness.  Very often today it is used for the process of discontinuing an addiction to drugs or alcohol.  These are considered diseases and recovery includes treatment for the addiction so as to prevent a relapse.  People who use recovery to speak of fundamentalism or anything religious are treating it parallel to types of apparent mental illness or psychological disorders.

Fundamentalism itself isn't a disorder or a mental illness or an addiction.  The use of "recovery" isn't true.  Someone does recover from some illness or physical injury.  He might even recover from the pain of a difficult time in his life.  There may be a death in a family, a runaway child, loss of a job, repossession of a house, a splintered marriage, or a lingering illness.  Using recovery as a description of departing from fundamentalism is a pejorative to deride what someone came from.  It isn't helpful anymore than it would be to mock Mormons after someone left Mormonism.

John Ellis professes to have been a fundamentalist and then to have become a drug addict.  He testifies that later he was converted to Jesus Christ, and on July 8, he wrote a post advocating the Recovering Fundamentalist podcast.  Ellis starts with this paragraph:
For those who didn’t grow up in it, the world of fundamentalism is beyond weird; it’s utterly foreign. How do you make sense of rules that often include things like prohibitions on women wearing pants and the condemnation of music with syncopation and watching movies in the movie theater? For those of us who grew up in fundamentalism, those rules, and their many, many companion rules, are well-known. However, most people lack a touch point for our fundyland experiences. This has resulted in ex-fundies using the internet, specifically social media, to connect and share our mutual experiences. These online relationships take many forms, from the nostalgic all the way to embittered wholesale denunciations. For many ex-fundies, though, our reminiscences take the form of an honest appraisal of the good and bad found within fundamentalism. Count me among that latter group.
Recovering Fundamentalist features three evangelical pastor friends, who, having left what they call IFB (independent fundamental Baptists) or fundamentalism, talk about their experience.   I would contend that they left a mutation of fundamentalism, a virulent, pragmatic form of revivalism or Charismaticism, a strain that especially affected the American South, even as sampled in their video, that is neither independent, fundamental, or even Baptist.  This contrasts almost 180 degrees from the beginning of fundamentalism, tied to The Fundamentals.  The perverse variety of revivalism that arose in the American South bares much resemblance to the new religion of the recovering fundamentalists.  They kept the philosophical underpinnings, while dropping the symbolism.  The apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Fundamentalism itself isn't the boogie-man of the recovering fundamentalists.  Southern revivalism had deep theological problems.  At the root of them was a form of mysticism, continuationism, and ongoing divine revelation.  God spoke directly to the leaders as manifested in numerical growth spurred by counterfeit manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  Also aiding the growth was pragmatic methodology the results of which were used as evidence of God's work.  The standards set themselves up against cultural decay and the anti-intellectualism against the Northern, liberal elites provided a natural enemy, like Mormonism does with its persecution syndrome.  None of what I'm describing, again, is independent, fundamental, or Baptist.

The three "recovering fundamentalists" do not get an audience based on dense exposition of scripture, but based on the shared bitterness and malice of the misfits of Southern revivalism.  The Holy Spirit doesn't manifest Himself this way either.  Their niche group isn't holy or spiritual.  "Recovery" isn't moving to something biblical, but shared experiences, another generation complaining about their teeth set on edge because their parents ate sour grapes (Ez 18, Jer 31).  Their authority is eerily similar to Southern revivalism:  audience size and anecdotes, like what would come in the illustrations of the revivalist preacher.  It's like a Goth girl laughing at everyone else because they're all just following the crowd.

The movement from which the three former "fundamentalists" recovered isn't independent, because the Southern revivalists were tightly banded together around Charismatic figures and large organizations, based upon cleverness and oratorial abilities.  Part of their mystique was holding up the Bible and then preaching things that weren't in it.  They were spouting their own opinions and gave people the impression that their thoughts were received from a direct pipeline to God.  There was vice-grip like control about the emphases of Southern revivalism, everyone taking from the same script or talking points, and if anyone left that script, he would or could be excluded from the group, and miss out as a headliner for a main conference roster or prominent mention in the newspaper or magazine.

As I have already written, the movement wasn't fundamental either.  Fundamentalism was preserving the old and Southern revivalism is untethered from historical Christianity.  It is akin to all the various heresies that have risen since the first century, actually emulating some of the ones that have come on the scene.  At the root, it isn't even Christianity.  It doesn't represent the Jesus of the Bible, but for some of the same reasons that a perverse evangelicalism emerging from Southern revivalism doesn't represent Him either.

The movement isn't Baptist, because Baptists believe in biblical repentance and have the Bible as their authority -- for doctrine, for practice, and for worship.  Practice includes methodology.  Baptists regulate their practice by scripture, not by  non-scripture.

The Southern revivalists had standards, ones actually closer to the Bible than the recovering fundamentalists.  They are not examining their standards based upon the Bible and the practice of biblical Christianity through history, but based upon a reflex rejection of the old standards.  They deem their new standards superior because they are different than Southern revivalism.  Mussolini may have got the trains to run on time, and throwing out fascism doesn't mean slower trains.

Recovering fundamentalists emphasize standards as much as who they criticize.  They are left-wing legalists, who require wokeness, more egalitarian marriages, and worldliness.  The pragmatism is a left-wing pragmatism still using fleshly means to gather the crowd.  It is a new symbolism that is equally untethered from scripture.

Post-reformation church leaders said, semper reformada, always reforming.  I'm not attempting to validate reformers, just to say that mid-twentieth century fundamentalists saw a need of semper reformada, perhaps semper fundamentalista  The fundamentals of early twentieth century could not meet the downward trajectory of biblical sanctification.  True fundamentalists and non-fundamentalist true churches reacted with repulsion to cultural degradation that they saw entering the church.  Their militancy on cultural issues mirrored the early fundamentalist movement.  This should not be confused with Southern revivalism even though the latter took the same tact, much like Jehovah's Witnesses go door-to-door.  The liberalism that started with doctrine moved to unravel holy living, and true Christians rose up against corrupted goodness and distorted beauty.

Hollywood isn't a friend of biblical Christianity.  The movie theater that Ellis talks about is a danger.  It is a pollution of idolatry that the church in Acts 15 prohibited. The explosion of homosexuality and transgenderism didn't start in a vacuum.  The symbols of God-designed roles were abandoned to conform to the world system.  Professing Christians who join them do wrong but also ignore the ramifications.  Ellis chooses to engage important issues with sound bytes in favor with lasciviousness.  Satan and the world system do not attack only the transcendentals of truth and goodness, but also beauty, and the avenue of an attack on absolute beauty does more to distort a right imagination of God than a distorted doctrinal statement.  

Southern revivalists popularized a false gospel accompanied by unbiblical methods.  That isn't the interest of the recovering fundamentalists, because both the former and the latter depend on pragmatism.  New "converts" of Southern revivalism might never indicate conversion.  Neither will the evangelicalism of the recovering fundamentalists.  This is an identical perversion of the grace of God.  Southern revivalists mark sanctification by keeping the rules, but left winged legalists, like the Pharisees, reduce the law to the rules they can keep.  

Ellis and his recovering fundamentalists do damage to the belief, practice, and preservation of the truth, goodness, and beauty.  They don't even recover from their earlier error.  They just change the label.  Do not be fooled by them.  Do not join them.  Their god is their belly, their glory is their shame, and they mind earthly things.