Monday, March 30, 2009

The Erroneous Epistemology of Multiple Version Onlyism part two

How do we know what we know? David Hume insisted that all beliefs be based upon evidence and that the reality of evil was proof that God didn't actually exist. Post- enlightenment epistemology demands the search of all our beliefs by reason, so that a belief without support of evidence is irrational. But there is a limit to what human beings can prove. Revelation is by nature undiscoverable. Most of the basic truths in life come by means of Divine revelation. The knowledge of God Himself is revealed to man, so that he is without excuse. Faith is the only basis for knowledge of God. We can't know Him apart from His revelation.

If evidence is required for faith, then we have reason to doubt the reliability of our belief-forming process, and if so, then we have reason to doubt all our beliefs. For any person to have knowledge, his beliefs must have been produced by cognitive faculties properly functioning according to a right design and aim. Sin has altered the faculties and undone their design and aim. This is why faith is superior to external evidence.

Man is limited in the pursuit and context of knowledge. 1 Corinthians 13:2 uses hyperbole to describe man's shortcomings in knowledge. No man understands all mysteries and knowledge. No man understands the universe or even the world in its totality. However, God does.

Believing, Not Seeing

Thomas said to the rest of Jesus' apostles in John 20:25, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." Later in v. 27, Jesus called Thomas "faithless." Why? He just needed evidence, didn't he? Shouldn't have Jesus been more sympathetic to Thomas' epistemology?

And what about Abraham? God told him to leave Ur for a land He would show him sight unseen. What does Paul say that Abraham did in Romans 4:20? "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." The promise of God was good enough for Abraham to pack up all his family and belongings to travel a long, treacherous path to a place he'd never laid eyes upon. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17).

Noah had never seen rain, but he built an ark. Joshua had never seen walls tumble, but he walked around the city of Jericho. Naaman had never seen the God of Elisha, but he stepped into the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times. "The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:22). Signs and wisdom make sense to Jews and Greeks. Preaching doesn't. It isn't credible enough for Jews and Greeks to believe. They need more.

The Demand for Divinely Revealed Presuppositions

Unless truth is presupposed, there is no proof of anything. In order to have knowledge, the world must exist in both unity and plurality. Unity is commonality and plurality is distinctiveness. Nothing can be known of things that are utterly dissimilar from one another. Without the unity of similarity there is no knowledge. At the same time, without the disunity of distinctions, nothing can be known because there is nothing to distinguish one reality from another. If reality cannot be known as a whole, then neither can any part of it be understood. Only the biblical God presents a knowable ultimate unity and distinctiveness.

Without God, all that we know is only all that we think we know. No man knows everything. Unless we know everything, we have no way of knowing whether some fact will undermine what we know. Without comprehensive knowledge, we are looking only as far as possible into a darkness to the boundaries of purported knowledge. The fact that we don't know of what we are ignorant means that we are ignorant of how what we do not know bears on everything that we think we do know. We don't know that "what you don't know can't hurt you." God is immune to all that, because He knows everything. If one knows everything, then He knows how the knowledge of one fact bears on the knowledge of another fact. We can only know what God says we can know.

Despite what we can know, Paul writes that we know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9). What part we know, we don't even know in the sense that we don't know the part that is missing and the relationship of the part we know and the part we don't know. We would have to know the whole in order to know what part is missing. Paul describes this lack of knowledge in 1 Corinthians 13:12:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Someone with superior knowledge is still looking only a little bit further into the darkness than someone else. That won't stop until the point in the future when we see God face to face. Then we will be like God (1 John 3:2) and will know even as we are known.

Things are what they are whether or not anyone knows it to be so. The Mariana Trench was the deepest seafloor depression before anyone had measured it. Only God knows what is. Because of that, only God is trustworthy as a source of knowledge. Knowledge of some things presupposes a measure of all things; and if that measure is not uniquely found in the mind of an absolute God then all of us are fumbling about aimlessly in the dark, searching for a non-existent light switch.

And how can we know that we know unless someone that knows tells us? We may think we know, but God has assured us of knowledge by His communication to us. Our confidence to know is placed in God's character. And He says that man cannot live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of His mouth (Matthew 4:4).

How We Know What God Preserved

How do we know what God's Words are? Are the promises of God themselves a sufficient enough guide to bring us certainty about what His Words are? Christians of the past have thought so. We can only know how God says we can know. And what does God say?

God says that He would preserve every Word to every generation of believers (Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119:160; Isaiah 40:8).

Deuteronomy 12:28, "Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God."

Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."

Luke 21:33, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away."

We would assume then that every generation of believers would have every Word available. Those Words, which are not accessible to every generation, we should not assume are God's Words. God's people will receive His Words.

John 17:8, "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me."

1 Thessalonians 2:13, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."

They receive His Words because of the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."

John 16:13, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."

Romans 8:11, "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

1 John 2:27, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."

We can depend on the Holy Spirit, Who moved upon Holy men (2 Peter 1:20-21) in the process of the inspiration of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17) to know what the Words of God are. And the Holy Spirit leads and teaches men those Words. The London Baptist Confession (1689) states this doctrine this way:

[Yet] notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith itself is substance and evidence (Hebrews 11:1). Our faith should rely in the Word of God for what we know. We have certainty in what God speaks, because He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Because of the trustworthiness or dependability of God's Words, we can depend upon Scripture itself to know the basis for discerning what God's Words are.
  1. They will be verbally, plenarily preserved (2 Timothy 3:16).
  2. They will be perfect (Psalm 12:6; 19:7; 119:140).
  3. They will be available (Matthew 4:4).
  4. They will be preserved in the language in which they were written (Matthew 5:18).
  5. They will be known by the testimony and guidance of the Holy Spirit, therefore, through believers, who are indwelt by the Spirit (John 16:7).
The only text with any claim of perfection by believers and that has been available is the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus of the New Testament.

How Are Scriptural Presuppositions Evidence?

What is truly knowable comes from God. He reveals it. Since it's revealed, it's non-discoverable. What man discovers isn't truth like Scripture is truth. General revelation is general in its audience, not in its content. I've given about seven or eight unenumerated arguments for this understanding of what we can know.

We know that God uses mathematical probability to bring certainty in the way of fulfilled prophecies. He makes predictions and they all come to pass like He said. The one hundred percent fulfillment is evidence. This relates to evidence for verbal, plenary preservation of Scripture in two ways. First, every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. What believers agree are God's Words are not just men's opinions but the Spirit bearing witness, testifying to truth. A four to five hundred year agreement on the textus receptus and Hebrew Masoretic stands as evidence based on Scriptural presuppositions. Do we really think that we can say that all those believers for all those years were wrong? In this one area, Scripture, they were all deceived? And yet, at the end of that period of time, unbelieving textual critics were actually enlightened?

Second, the promises of preservation are like the prophecies that God fulfilled. Are we going to say that God fulfilled all of the prophecies, including the detailed dozens in Daniel and the amazing many in Isaiah, but He didn't fulfill His promises to protect His Word unto perfection? The fulfillment of prophecy says that God keeps His promises. The power of their fulfillment extends to the trust in God's promises of perfect preservation and availability of all His Words.

One hundred textual critics, mostly unbelieving, can't be trusted with a holy book written by a holy God. I like the questions posed by reglerjoe, a commenter on the first installment of this epistemology series, with this regards and as it relates to contemporary evangelical textual critic Daniel Wallace:

So evidence is the leader? And how objective does one's mind need to be in order to accurately examine the evidence? How can we know we are being reliably objective enough? So we can't be sure of God's word, but we can have faith in our own supposed objectivity?

Those questions say it all. We can't trust our objectivity with evidence if we can't trust God's promises. God's promises are revelation. The evidence isn't.

But What About the Critical or Eclectic Text?

I'll talk about this in part three.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Erroneous Epistemology of Multiple Version Onlyism part one

Recently in our discussion about the perfect preservation of Scripture, I've been told that my problem is a faulty epistemology. Here are some quotes from Jason in the comment section:

Frankly, your hermeneutic and your exegesis are scary, but your epistemology is even more scary.

As I've mentioned before, the root of this issue is all about hermeneutics and epistemology.

The only way forward here would be to discuss the hermeneutic and epistemology that backs your book.

I am still waiting for answers to my questions on epistemology. I am very interested in what kind of epistemological paradigm would allow you to treat Scripture like you do.

To involve everyone reading, we should understand what is "epistemology." Epistemology considers how and why we know what we know. Epistemology asks, "Is that a way of knowing?" Someone's epistemology would determine what should be the source of knowledge. It answers, "What is the basis of knowing?"

Jason and others assert that the Bible does not provide a sufficient basis to know the precise Words of God that God inspired in the original manuscripts of Scripture. They contend that biblical presuppositions will not tell us what those Words are. They argue that we need other means of knowing those in the realm of external and scientific evidence.

So the question is what criteria must be met to warrant belief in the perfect preservation and general accessibility of every Word of God to every generation of believer? Can we be assured through faith alone God's promises unto the certainty that we possess every Word of God in the language in which He wrote them? Or are God's assurances insufficient evidence to warrant the certainty that we know what God's Word are? Is faith in the promises or preservation and availability irrational and intellectually irresponsible on the basis of deficient attestation?

I will show that faith in perfect preservation of Scripture is warranted, that we have the evidence we need through the promises God has made to be certain. I will also show that the "scientific evidence" of textual criticism, as traditionally defined, falls far short as a basis for knowledge. The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the church are enough to warrant faith in the present verbal, plenary perfection of Scripture.

The Evidentialist, Rationalist Epistemology

Hume in "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding," the section on miracles, wrote that a "wise man . . . proportions his belief to the evidence." At the heart of the epistemological objection to belief in verbal, plenary preservation of Scripture ironically is another belief: the strength of one's belief ought always to be proportional to the strength of evidence for that belief. This is essentially the argument for "seeing is believing."

The evidentialist conception of proof is false on the grounds that it is self-referentially incoherent. An evidentialist accepts seeing as a basis of evidence without grounds for acceptance. He accepts seeing as a basis without providing evidence for seeing. Seeing is not evidence without evidence for seeing. This is why we must bow to biblical theology as the "queen of the sciences." It was called the queen of the sciences because in the final analysis it is the ultimate reigning truth. Biblical theology, the revelation of God in Scripture, trumps all other sources of information and knowledge. Jesus said, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17).

The objection of the evidentialist to belief in what God promised argues an obligation to try not to believe without evidence. It reveals the bias of the evidentialist---his own sight. This stands self-evident to him as evidence because of his own belief in sight as reliable. To argue for evidence as sufficient, we must assume sight is reliable. We also make other assumptions that are not warranted. We must accept that our faculty for cognition functions properly and that our apparatus for forming and maintaining belief is free of impairment. Jesus referred to this thought in Matthew 6:22-23:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

"The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Psalm 39:5).

We also must consider the environment in which our faculties must operate. A bicycle does fine on a bike path, but it doesn't function under water or in the air. The world in which we live is cursed by sin. This curse not only affects us personally, but it affects everyone and everything around us. In other words, we live in an environment that is conducive to deceiving its subjects. "If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24). "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

There is also the consideration of the proper aim or perspective. We can be a properly functioning apparati without operating within the specified design. We've got to be turned the right direction and in the correct proximity to make the proper conclusion. All of our capacity may be perfoming perfect and yet aimed at something aside from the truth. And this, of course, all predicate on an ability to find the right direction. Or are we lost? Are we gone astray? Are the objects in the mirror their actual size? "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). "They are all gone out of the way" (Romans 3:12).

Sin, instilled in everyone at birth, has altered our cognition and affection. The consquences for its recipients are dullness, stupidity, hardness, imperceptiveness, and blindness. Even when they're blind, they think they see. This prevents the victim not only from loving, but knowing what is worth loving. What we think is evidence could easily be the extrapolation of our own desires to satisfy our own pride.

Daniel Wallace recently wrote concerning textual criticism:

Evangelicals tend to allow their doctrinal convictions to guide their research. It is better to not the left hand know what the right hand is doing: methodologically, investigate with as objective a mind as possible, allowing the evidence to lead where it will.

This kind of thinking, that purposefully nullifies biblical theology, the supernatural, to let the natural go to work, describes what occurs in textual criticism. This is post-enlightenment rationalism upon which evidentialism is based. Wallace thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think when he says he "allows the evidence." He's presumptuous. What he ought to say is, "If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." Textual criticism has always relied in the realm of unbelief. And as Paul wrote in Romans 14:23, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Christianity is the domain of full persuasion, not degrees of uncertainty.

The Fideistic Epistemology

Man's apparatus of belief, his sensus divinitatis, has not been obliterated by sin but rendered inoperable. The combined work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and faith repair the ravages sin has caused. We cannot presume that our cognitive and rational faculties can function properly without the supernatural operation of God upon us. Scripture, reliable as absolute truth, attests to this. We were created in the image of God, built with intellect and affections guided by the divine sense for God and truth, but man disobeyed God, lost this capacity, and then passed down this alteration to following generations. The remedy is through rebirth, regeneration, and justification in Christ.

Because of the indwelling Holy Spirit the believer is no longer a natural man without spiritual discernment. He has now been imparted a kind of supernatural-endowed understanding for the knowledge of the truth. This operates by faith. By faith we understand some of the most basic truths in the universe without which we cannot comprehend. The operation of faith pleases God. This is the position that "believing is seeing." Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29:

Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Whatever God promises, we assume we can know. Since He promises the preservation and availability of every one of His Words, we know that as truth. Since He says the Bible is perfect down to the jots and tittles, we know that. Since He said that He would guide us into all truth, we know that. God said it. We believe it. Since He said it, we assume it will happen and we look for its fulfillment. We explain everything on those terms. They are the truth.

In His Word, we read of the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit Who moved upon holy men to write every Word will guide believers to every Word (John 16:13; Matthew 4:4). The Lord's sheep hear His voice and know Him (John 10:27). They receive His Words (John 17:8; Acts 2:41; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Before evidentialism and rationalism, believers received the Words of the Hebrew Masoretic text and the textus receptus.

Part Two will be coming soon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Primary" and "Secondary," Biblical Separation, and Application of Scripture: Johnson, MacArthur, Driscoll, and Murray pt. 2

Quintessential Christian biographer, Iain Murray, wrote a sketch of John MacArthur that was included in the book, Truth Endures, a 2009 commemoration of MacArthur's forty years of ministry at Grace Community, published by Grace to You. Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You, preached at the 2009 Shepherd's Conference against smutty pulpit language, exposing this ungodly practice with Titus 1 and 2. From these two sources, we get some surprising and contradictory information regarding the essential and non-essential teaching propagated by Johnson and MacArthur, their standard teaching on the doctrine of separation, and the evangelical position on the application of Scripture.

Let me explain. MacArthur and Johnson believe that the doctrine and practice revealed in Scripture should be ranked into categories of essentials and non-essentials, sometimes also referred to as primary and secondary or tertiary doctrines. You'll also hear the "essentials" called "fundamental" or "core" doctrines. In Johnson's message at the conference, he said that the gospel was the essential for Christian fellowship, so that the gospel is also the basis for separation from other professing brethren. MacArthur and Johnson would also say that we don't make standards of practice except from statements in scripture, that is, we can't require any kind of behavior that you can't read right from the text.

In the first part of this series of posts, I showed how in his sermon from Paul's epistle to Titus that Johnson violated his own teachings in these above areas. How?
1. He moved the speech of a believer into the category of an essential (not just the gospel).
2. He made the speech of a believer a separating issue (not just the gospel).
3. He said that Scripture forbid a believer from using certain words in his speech, when the identity of those words is found nowhere in the Bible.

More about the Sermon by Johnson

In his sermon from Titus, Phil Johnson wove the conduct of a believer into the gospel itself. He made speech an essential by tying it into the gospel, what he had said was the essential. Phil is right that behavior comes out of the gospel. The book of James says the same thing. We might say we have faith, that is, we've believed the gospel, but if we don't have works, then it isn't genuine faith. When the children of Israel received the Lord in Deuteronomy 30 (the text that Paul quotes in Romans 10:6-9), they agreed to do everything that God had told them He wanted them to do. Their faith was tied into obedience to all that God had taught them.

What's new about this, as far as what I've read and heard from these conservative evangelicals, is their willingness to separate over a practical and really a cultural issue. There is a cultural application to bad speech. Greek foul language is different than English foul language, which is different than French foul language. We must discern what the corrupt terms are in the culture to make the application of Titus 2. And this is raised to the level of an essential for the first time I've ever heard from an evangelical.

It isn't that I don't agree with Johnson on this. I do. My problem is that he is applying it so selectively to the behavior that in particular offends him. Other conduct that is unscriptural and worldly, they allow to go, even though it is just as Cretan as the bad language. The pictures on this post are from the MacArthur's Master's College website. One promotes the trap set and the other boys having their hands on the girls, despite the scriptural instruction that it is not good for a man to touch a woman. They use this to attract young people to their school. Is this pragmatism?

A couple of times at Johnson's blog, he has posted pictures of women with their thighs showing---one of a woman diver and the other a video of a female sprinter in tiny speedo, panty-like shorts. When criticized, he becomes defensive and even derisive. From all his evangelical friends come the most hateful words you will see in his comment section. They see this kind of picture as a liberty and one about which they do not want judgment at all. On one occasion, he wrote: "For all the fundamentalist lurkers whose minds are in the gutter, the girl in the picture is wearing shorts, not a miniskirt or hotpants." He labels his critics as having an "artificial sanctimony." Mark Driscoll could probably use the same defense that Johnson makes against Johnson's sermon, which targets Driscoll.

In the Biographical Sketch by Murray

How does this tie in with the Iain Murray biography of MacArthur? Murray, vaunting MacArthur, wrote concerning him (p. 48): "The truth is that his parents and mentors had recognized how time that (sic) is wasted and unity lost when brethren major on minor subjects---and expect all to agree with them." Later he gave this further description on this point (p. 56): "[MacArthur] has made it clear that it is the ideas fellow-believers have supported, not their persons, which he is opposing; and where separation over essential truth is necessary, he insists that it has to be without 'abusive, spiteful, or venomous, (sic) behavior toward others.'" So we hear repeatedly "majors" and "minors" and then "essential truth."

I showed in the first post how that music and worship has not been one of those essential truths for Johnson and MacArthur. Now they are saying right speech is essential, which is directed towards men, but they don't see worship to be worthy of that designation, despite it's being directed toward God. God, of course, is more scrupulous than we are. That should matter, but it hasn't to Johnson and MacArthur. They make worship something about which we can agree to disagree. To them, language an essential, worship not an essential.

Murray spent two whole pages in a sixty page biographical sketch criticizing MacArthur over this. He wrote (p. 57):

I want to add a measure of regret that MacArthur does not seem to have given fuller attention to an issue connected with all these controversies. The contemporary decline in public worship bears a relationship to antinomianism, with the charismatic movement, and with the practice of the Church of Rome. . . . A lost consciousness of the majesty of God has turned worship into providing what people desire.

Murray talked about MacArthur's position that music is "only a matter of taste" (p. 57) and has a "subordinate place" to the gospel if it has a good intention (p. 58):

How does this argument differ from the pragmatism which says we may give people what they desire, provided our intention is goo and not actually forbidden in Scripture? Protestant history does not favor that argument. I twas readiness to supply what people liked that brought on the corruption that necessitated the Reformation. In the words of John Owen, 'Dislike of the purity and simplicity of the gospel worship is that which was the rise of, and gave increase or progress unto the whole Romans apostasy.'"

So Murray spends considerable space going after MacArthur for his negligence in this area. Murray says that MacArthur is pragmatic with his music. And he isn't talking about the words, but about the music itself.(1) He is saying what anyone knows about music. Music itself has a message that it communicates in notes and sounds and composition and chords and dynamics a meaning that can fit with the nature of God or is incompatible with God and His attributes. Of course, worship is directed to God. Since God is greater than man, the communication to God must be subjected to even greater scrutiny than the speech to men.

Great harm is done to the respect of God's Word when pastors use smutty language while preaching. I believe greater damage is done to people's understanding of Who God is when worldly, fleshly music is offered up to Him as worship. Why don't MacArthur and Johnson care about that? Why doesn't it bother them what God is hearing? Why does MacArthur not only allow it go on but participate in the production of it? Most of the church growth books talk about the worldly music being a key ingredient to get and keep people in the church. Just like the right speech, the right music must adorn the gospel of God. It is true that in the speech issue, we must discern what is foul language, but it is also true that in the worship issue that we must discern what is profane music. Both types of discernment can and should be done.

(1)Part of the music curriculum at MacArthur's Master's College is the jazz program. Here is the Master's College jazz concert. Is this sensual? Does it make provision for the flesh?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Primary" and "Secondary," Biblical Separation, and Application of Scripture: Johnson, MacArthur, Driscoll, and Murray pt. 1

I do not believe that evangelicals especially, conservative or otherwise, obey biblical commands of separation. The mighty problems in evangelicalism and even fundamentalism come in a major way because they do not separate as Scripture teaches, either ecclesiastically or personally. They fellowship with unscriptural doctrine and practice. The descending slide in this country has been helped along by lack of the practice of separation. Evangelicals and fundamentalists both explain away ecclesiastical separation with their primary-tertiary doctrine teaching. They say that we come together based on the essentials and that we don't separate over non-essentials. When it comes to personal separation, evangelicals categorize many matters into non-scriptural issues by means of a kind of hermeneutic. They relegate what were once worldly and sinful practices into now unclear applications that we can no longer judge, so that we must tolerate those practices. The intolerant are often referred to as legalists. Recently some of the conservative evangelicals seem to be changing their tune.

First I would like to refer to the sermon preached (or as evangelicals like to say, "talk given") by Phil Johnson, member of MacArthur's Grace Community Church and executive director of Grace To You, on March 6 this year (2009) at the Shepherd's Conference. Johnson and MacArthur have both been major contributors to the essential/non-essential teaching and to the tolerance of worldly practices. I have been mocked and ridiculed by Johnson and those on his team blog, Pyromaniacs, for pointing out issues of conduct in violation of scriptural teaching. They are not only unresponsive in these areas, but they ridicule those who choose to communicate violations of biblical holiness. Then they resort to their standard arguments, that these issues of conduct are matters of Christian liberty.

I believe that conservative evangelicals have reached their size and popularity because of their tolerance in matters of personal separation. They have not stood against worldliness in cultural issues. They relegate them to secondary matters or Christian liberty. MacArthur is one that has practiced this way. He has not stood against worldly and fleshly music and dress. He does not make those types of applications of Scripture, or at least in the past. That has helped him to get where he is, because people who join him or affiliate with him can still fit in with the world in these ways. It is not just the issue of music, but that of worship. But that is what brings me to my point.

Iain Murray in his recent biographical sketch (2009) within the volume commemorating MacArthur's fortieth anniversary, Truth Endures, (on pp. 7-69) makes a major point of MacArthur "widening his base." In this section, covering twelve pages (pp. 36-48) Murray commends MacArthur for spurning fundamentalism and their kind of separatism over these types of secondary, cultural issues. Murray (on p. 37) quotes MacArthur from his book, Reckless Faith:

Another wing of fundamentlism moved in the opposite direction. . . . This right wing of the fundamentalist movement was relentlessly fragmented by militant separation . . . . Petty concerns often replaced serious doctrine as the matter for discussion and debate.

It is true that men can go too far with an emphasis on cultural and practical issues when they unnecessarily exclude doctrinal ones, but a balance is easily maintained with expositional preaching through books. However, that should not preclude these important concerns of personal separation. Those issues do directly relate to doctrine, a point that Johnson makes plainly in the before-mentioned Shepherd's Conference sermon (that I will talk more about later).

Murray in the same biographical sketch commends MacArthur, as a part of this swing away from separatism, to reconnect to an "older Christianity of the Reformed tradition" (p. 37). He quotes MacArthur again from his book, The Master's Plan:

There was a day in the history of the church when the great students of Scripture and theology were pastors. Puritan ministers, rather than being just good communicators, were first and foremost students of God's Word. They worked at understanding, interpreting, and applying the Word of God with precision and wisdom.

My observation is that MacArthur has reconnected with the Puritans on many doctrines, but he has ignored what they say about worldliness and cultural issues. They had plenty to say about that too, but he has not been one to share their "precision and wisdom" from the Word of God on those subjects. Just because some fundamentalists parked on topical preaching and pet issues doesn't mean that MacArthur should have forsaken the cultural ones to which he now seems to be returning.

MacArthur has in the last few years been making scriptural applications that I have never heard him make before. I believe that he is reacting to a worldliness that goes beyond that with which he is comfortable. And now Phil Johnson is doing the same. Much of this is in response to what is going on in churches in the name of church growth and marketing and of contextualization. They now are preaching messages that true separatists have been preaching for decades against some of the same problems they are dealing with. And now suddenly, these cultural topics, issues of conduct, are seemingly no longer so secondary and neither are they Christian liberties.

I agree with MacArthur and Johnson, but they are truly Johnny (and Phil) come lately. It also rings of hypocrisy to me. It seems that since the emergent (or emerging) movement and the Purpose-Driven phenomena (among other church growth schemes) have gone beyond even Johnson and MacArthur's tolerance for worldliness, that now the Bible suddenly says something on these matters. We've gotten where we are because these well-known and popular evangelicals have been silent already. Many recent articles and publications from MacArthur are dealing with these topics. And yet MacArthur had already clearly pushed himself away from those of us who have long been preaching against the same problems. Not only that, but Johnson and MacArthur still do the same kind of things and worse as the men that they are pointing out. I'll plainly illustrate this later.

The Johnson Sermon from Titus and Mark Driscoll

Phil Johnson preached an expositional message from Titus for the purpose of dealing with something that is occuring in evangelicalism, that is, pastors and preachers using foul and risque language in the pulpit. Johnson gave several examples of what he was talking about, saying that this kind of practice has become widespread. His poster boy for the message is Mark Driscoll, a maverick Reformed pastor in the Seattle area, who has become known as the "cussing preacher," because of the off-colored humor and corrupt speech that he uses in his sermons. The primary defense of men like Driscoll is that this is a kind of biblically espoused contextualization. It is missional, attempting to connect with and relate to a kind of mainstream sinner to whom he is preaching.

Johnson uses an expositional sermon from Titus to deal with this practice. He mainly parks on Titus 2:1-6. I listened to the message twice and I'm going to use the quotes as they directly came out of Johnson's mouth, rather than the ones that are up as a part of the transcript on the Shepherd's website. I believe we get what Phil is thinking in the exact quotes.

To start, the sermon was very good. He communicated the essence of what Titus 1 and 2 were about as well as I have ever heard it. Phil was right on with almost everything he said. It is true, as Johnson contended, that Titus 2 repudiates the practice of contextualization. The opposite of contextualization may be the very point that Paul is making in those two chapters to Titus. The churches on Crete were not to have leaders that behaved like Cretans. They were to provide a different kind of example, a contrast, to those people that lived on the island. An emphasis is placed upon behavior that was dignified and reverent, not that which would attempt to fit into the world. I wouldn't use the text behind the ESV like Phil did, but I will not be judging based on that criteria for this post. Even if he preached from the textus receptus, the message is the same, the emphasis is identical. I applaud Phil for it.

Phil was tough in the message. I heard excited men, shouting "amen" in the background. On the audio that I had, at 34:15, Phil made this important statement:

Sanctified behavior is the essential companion to authentically sound doctrine. It's essential. It's one thing to acknowledge that the gospel is essential; we need to acknowledge that to a certain degree some of the aspects of sanctification are absolutely essential. To a very large degree, I would say. And Paul's point here is that you may verbally affirm the finest confession of faith ever written, but if your words and your deeds deny it, Paul wouldn't have affirmed you as an authentic Christian at all, much less would he have laid hands on you for ministry.

That, by the way, is not how it reads over at the transcript at Shepherd's, but it is the quote word for word without a few verbalized pauses and stumbles.


Phil is making what he is preaching to be one of the "essentials." If it wasn't before, well, it is now an essential. This is what makes this very different. First, notice how that statement fits in with something that Phil said previously in the message. I take this quote straight from his transcript:

Doctrine is vital, yes. Some doctrines are essential, right? That's the premise of "Together for the Gospel," The Gospel Coalition, the Shepherds' Fellowship, and other similarly-minded groups. We may not agree on everything down to the smallest minutia, and we won't let insignificant disagreements rupture our fellowship. But we must agree on the gospel. That's the only basis for authentic Christian fellowship.

Then Phil says, very similarly:

Doctrine per se is not extraneous or superfluous, despite what our postmodern friends try to tell us. Some truths are vital—especially the rich tapestry of truth at the heart of the gospel. Some truths are so vital that if you deny or try to alter them in any way, you're anathema—accursed.

We even get italics for emphasis. Phil brings in his essential and non-essential teaching here. This isn't a thing that is in the Bible, that is, "we won't let insignificant disagreements rupture our fellowship." We don't see that teaching at all in Scripture. It is made up out of thin air. And what are insignificant disagreements? I'm sure that Mark Driscoll right now, and maybe John Piper, would say that what Phil is preaching is an insignificant disagreement and Phil knows it. He is moving it into the realm of significant, even though it isn't the gospel.

In this sermon, Phil Johnson makes bad speech a test of fellowship and that after he already says, "But we must agree on the gospel. That's the only basis for authentic Christian fellowship." Later he explains his point. He says that bad speech is the gospel. That's right, he does. Suddenly cultural issues and certain conduct or behavior are woven into the gospel by Phil Johnson. Later Phil says these statements:

But get this: there are likewise certain principles of sanctification and personal conduct that are so vital we're required to break fellowship with those who ignore them. . . . Paul's point is that sanctified behavior is the essential companion to authentically sound doctrine. You may verbally affirm the finest confession of faith ever written, but if your words and deeds deny it, Paul would not have affirmed you as an authentic Christian at all. Much less would he lay hands on you for ministry. . . . Notice that Paul encourages Titus to cultivate sound behavior, sound doctrine, and sound words—and to be a model in all those ways (not just the doctrine). Your life, your doctrine, and your speech are all crucial aspects of your pastoral duty. In fact, Paul words these instructions so that those categories are interwoven. Each one is essential to the others. They aren't three totally separate things, but three aspects of the same duty.

In these words, Phil Johnson weaves the speech and conduct into the gospel. Because the gospel is essential and they are woven into the gospel, then they're essential too. That's fine, but where does it say what is essential and not essential? Notice how many times that Phil uses the word essential in the quote that he is making good speech to be an essential. Three. And he says that it is the means by which someone can tell that you are an authentic Christian. Phil has chos
en this particular violation as one at the level of the gospel. As a result, this is a separation issue.

Speech toward People

Let's consider what it is that Phil is criticizing. This is speech that is directed toward people. He says that our bad speech toward people will misrepresent the gospel to the degree that it is a perversion of the gospel. Therefore, it is an essential, so it is something that is worth separating over. Isn't all sinful behavior not adorning the gospel to the degree that it can affect people's understanding of the gospel? We can't just pick and choose what our separating issues are going to be. This has crossed the line for Johnson and MacArthur. They don't want gutter pulpit speech and so it is elevated in its seriousness to an essential issue, despite the fact that the gospel is the issue of Christian fellowship, at least that's what Phil said before.

If you listen to the audio, you can hear that Phil becomes a little unsure of himself at that juncture, when he is raising the speech issue to the level of an essential. He says, "
We need to acknowledge that to a certain degree some of the aspects of sanctification are absolutely essential. To a very large degree, I would say." By the way, not all those words are in the transcript. They took them out. He says "to a certain degree" and "to a very large degree." Well, how can something be "absolutely essential" "to a certain degree" and "to a very large degree," and then he adds, "I would say." You would say? I thought we were depending on Scripture. Phil becomes very unauthoritative at that point. He knows that this contradicts the things he has been saying about essentials. We have been together for the gospel, but now we're also together for holy pulpit speech, well, I would say, um, to a certain degree or a large degree.

Then Phil has to do something that is real important in the making of this point. Phil must define what filthy speech is. He must tell us something that isn't in the Bible. This has been a major sticking point for the evangelicals against separatists---those militants that MacArthur pulled away from because they majored on the minors too much. Titus 2 assumes that we will know what sound speech is and what filthy speech is. I agree with Phil that we can know, but how can we make that determination for others when it is something that is not stated in Scriptu
re. Over at Pulpit Magazine, the MacArthur/Johnson people tell us:

[T]he Bible tells us “not to exceed what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). We cannot add to the Scripture without subtracting from its effectiveness in our lives. If we elevate personal preference and man-made tradition to the level of God’s Word (Mark 7:6-15), we risk entangling people in the bondage of legalism and diverting them from the true issues of sanctification (Romans 14:17).

When we determine what the filthy words are, words that are not said to be filthy in Scripture, are we elevating man-made tradition to the level of God's Word? Not only does Phil tell us that we're wrong if we say these words not found in the Bible, but we're violating an essential
and that is worthy of separation.


Phil goes about defining what cuss words are at the end of his sermon. In essence, he says that these words are so obvious that anyone would know what they were. We are expected to know what foul language is. And saying these words is worth separating over, even according to Phil Johnson. It is speech made to men. Phil says that it is blasphemous when that kind of language is mixed i
nto the preaching of God's holy Word. I don't disagree with him. I just wonder about the inconsistency in the matter of profanity.

What then is speech that has been profaned by worldly, undignified, irreverent music? In other words, what about worship? For Phil and even John MacArthur, whatever kind of music we send to God, whatever the taste we prefer, that's fine. It hasn't always been that way. At one time, it was wrong to use a certain type of music with godly words. But now that's not blasphemous. Is it possible that the same thing has happened to certain words, that we can't consider them to be foul anymore? Phil says that speech made to men, that is blasphemous. This is where they choose their essential behavior based on their own preference, even though it is not specifically mentioned in God's Word.

I agree with Phil Johnson and John MacArthur. I believe that this speech is intolerable. It is worth separating over. The men that use it should step down from the ministry. But what about the worship that has been mixed in with the rock and jazz music that is fleshly, sensual, worldly, and perverse? The same exact argument should be used about not using profane music in worship. Earlier in his sermon, Phil says:

There's nothing whatsoever here about adopting the badges of the youth culture in Crete. Not a word about the importance of fitting in or adapting your ministry to the lowbrow lifestyle of Crete. Titus was the one who was supposed to set the standard for them, not vice versa. . . . He doesn't tell Titus to get creative and learn to adapt his strategy to fit Crete's youth culture. . . Paul clearly recognized Crete's cultural tendency to favor the things of the flesh, but he was not in favor of making that tendency part of the ambience of the churches he was planting on Crete.

This is exactly what you see in the promotional material for their Master's College and for their Resolved Conference (you tell me what this does to worship and the name of God). They have the same kind of lighting and ambience at a secular rock concert. They have the trap set, all of the same types of music that we would hear in the world with its worldly, godless philosophy. You will find the same style of music used at the Shepherd's Conference, only a bigger production of it. Somehow this profanity misses MacArthur and Johnson, and yet this is speech that is sent toward God. They assume that God will enjoy this lack of dignity and reverence. What does that do to the adorning of the gospel? Why not make an application there? On this point, since they do these things, they would selectively say that this is legalism. The truth is that their worldly music that they call worship is exactly what has led to the further profanity that we see from Driscoll and others. Do you see this inconsistency?

I have more questions about evangelicals and not contextualizing. Phil said the word "cool" a couple of times in the presentation, speaking of what to try not to be.

And too many pastors are enthralled with the idea of being cool in the eyes of the world.

Paul wasn't the least bit concerned about adjusting the gospel message to eliminate the offence of the gospel; or adjusting the message to suit the tastes of some subculture; or making himself seem cool and stylish.

One might desire an interesting writing style, but if you read Pyromaniacs, Phil's blog, how many times do these forty-plus old men use the word "dude?" "Dude" may be the most-used word at Pyromaniacs. Should the term "dude" be used so many times if one is attempting to be dignified, a requirement from Titus that Phil emphasized? And why this picture that Phil chooses to represent himself? I understand the picture now and then, but to have this be the one that you want to be you. Is someone trying to be cool?

I've got more to say about MacArthur and Murray in part two.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Indifference of Contemporary Fundamentalism

Kevin Bauder, dean of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, has revived the usage of the term "indifferentism," and then concocted a companion word, "everythingism."(1) He snatched the term from the writings of J. Gresham Machen, early fundamentalist. Bauder writes: "J. Gresham Machen labeled them “'indifferentists.'” In 1923 Machen uses the word "indifferentism" on pp. 50-51 of his book, Christianity and Liberalism, speaking of Martin Luther's attitude toward the doctrine of the Lord's Table:

[T]he calamity was due to the fact that Luther (as we believe) was wrong about the Lord's Supper; and it would have been a far greater calamity if being wrong about the Supper he had represented the whole question as a trifling affair. Luther was wrong about the Supper, but not nearly so wrong as he would have been if, being wrong, he had said to his opponents: "Brethren, this matter is a trifle; and it makes really very little difference what a man thinks about the table of the Lord." Such indifferentism would have been far more deadly than all the divisions between the branches of the Church. . . . Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith.

When Charles Eerdman allied himself with liberals in the 1920s, Machen wrote in the Presbyterian in 1925 (pp. 20-21):

There is division between Dr. Eerdman and myself, a very serious doctrinal difference indeed. It concerns the question not of this doctrine or that, but of the importance that is to be attributed to doctrine as such. Dr. Eerdman's answer to this basal question has been, so far as it can be determined by his public actions, the answer of doctrinal indifferentism---Dr. Eerdman does not indeed reject the doctrine of our church, but he is perfectly willing to make common cause with those who do reject it.

In those first two quotes, Machen uses the word slightly differently. The first usage regards those who don't take certain doctrines seriously. Machen was happy that Luther wasn't indifferent to the Lord's Supper. In the second usage, Machen uses the word to describe those who ignore doctrine in matters of separation. This is how Bauder coops the term. Machen didn't coin the "indifferentism." Benjamin Warfield had already used it when he wrote p. 16 of The Right of Systematic Theology in 1897:

The basis of this impatience is often a mere latitudinarian indifferentism, which finds its expression in neglect of formulated truth, and is never weary of girding at what it represents as the hairsplitting ingenuity of theologians and the unprofitableness of theological discussion. . . . Dead indifference is frequently more difficult to deal with than the most lively assault. This is doubtless true in the present case also. It is not hard to show the folly of theological indifferent- ism : but just because it is indifferent, indifferentism is apt to pay little attention to our exhibition of its folly.

Machen surely knew about Warfield's usage. But Warfield didn't coin it. "Indifferentism" was used the same way in The Scottish Christian Herald in 1841 (p. 344):

The indifferentism which succeeded it (piety) soon went much farther,—it rejected all doctrine as useless, it effaced all Christian articles of belief, and changed the whole of Christianity into a simple morality.

We go even further back to Richard Wright, who wrote in 1805 in his book (you'll love this title), The Anti-Satisfactionist or the Salvation of Sinners by the Free Grace of God being an Attempt to Explode the Protestant, as well as Popish, Notion of Salvation by Human Merit, And to Promote the Primitive Christian Doctrine of the Sufficiency of Divine Mercy for All Who Are Penitent (p. 191):

You say that you make no profession of indifferentism respecting the truth or error of the points on which we differ. Do you mean to charge your opponent with indifferentism ? If so, you are requested to substantiate the charge. He believes that truth is of great importance, being calculated to produce those happy effects which error never can produce; had he thought otherwise he would have avoided this controversy.

Fundamentalism has from its historic early twentieth-century beginnings not been indifferent to what the Bible teaches, no matter what it is. Machen was happy to report that even though he disagreed with Luther on a doctrine, Luther wasn't indifferent to it. He said that Eerdman, though believing the same as himself, however, was indifferent to a doctrine by being "willing to make common cause with those who do reject it."

The Indifference

I'm illustrating the indifference of contemporary fundamentalism according to the latest way that Machen used the term. According to Machen, indifferentists fellowshiped with those who held to false doctrine even though they themselves may have believed true doctrine. Contemporary fundamentalists fellowship with men who might believe true doctrine, but "still make common cause with those who do reject it." I'm going to give you four examples. I could give many more. Before I give the examples, I want to show how fundamentalists relate to the indifferentists, and by Machen's understanding, become indifferentists themselves.

All four of the examples relate to the so-called "conservative evangelicals"---John MacArthur, C. J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, John Piper, D. A. Carson, and Albert Mohler---to name a few. Fundamentalists support these men in many different ways, not the least of which is their support of Together for the Gospel (T4G) and The Shepherd's Conference. A poll was started over at the fundamentalist forum SharperIron to see who would attend T4G and more than twice as many would go as would not go (72% to 28%). Here is a taste of the comments about T4G:

I attended both of them and I plan to go again. . . . The fellowship was good - many fundies at both conferences and the giveaways were nice! I plan to never miss any of them! . . . . I saw some well-known Fundemental (sic) non Calvinist at both conferences.

I would go if I had the opportunity! Our youth pastor attended last year and had positive comments about it.

I plead with all of you to plan to go to TG4 in 2010.

I was there in 08. Would love to go again.

No one said he wouldn't go (except for one because he lives in California). Another thread opened about The Shepherd's Conference, and men wrote:

I'll be there. I know of a few more, but I'll let them speak for themselves. You are in for a treat, brother.

I'm going for the first time ever this year . . . My family surprised me with the money to go for Christmas! I'm so excited about it I can hardly wait!

I'll be there too.

I want to go . . . does that count!

It looks as if from our own leadership and ministry core we will have a dozen men at the three more from outside our ministry.

There were no negative comments, no disclaimers. You don't get even close to the same kind of excitement about anything that is fundamentalist on SharperIron, a self-professing fundamentalist site. There is virtually unconditional support given.

If these fundamentalists are not attending the indifferentist conferences and fellowships, then they are strongly endorsing the indifferentists all over the internet on their blogs. I could give many examples. You'll see the support on the blogroll at SharperIron, the fundamentalist leader on the internet, for indifferentists with rare examples of any defense for fundamentalists. Usually they're are attacking or picking apart fundamentalists for separating, a quality that distinguishes the fundamentalist. There is no disclaimer by SharperIron. One of them is the personal assistant of D. A. Carson and another works under Mark Dever. That makes them sort of celebrities at SharperIron. If you just went down the list, you'll see this with these titles and statements easy to see:

Q and A with D. A. Carson and Mark Dever

Yesterday my family visited CrossWay Community Church in Milwaukee for second time since our church planted it a little over a year ago. If you or people you know live near the high school building where they’re meeting, I’d commend this gospel-centered assembly to you.

I sang this song tonight in chorus with quite a few Amillennialists at my church.

Mark Dever interviews D. A. Carson

Here’s how D. A. Carson introduces Craig L. Blomberg’s Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions

The blogs of choice are those that regularly criticize the separation of fundamentalism or encourage the type of behavior of the indifferentists. You'll see the same kind of treatment of indifferentists all over the place. Scott Aniol is one of the best and conservative voices out there on Christian music. I pre-ordered and received his book Worship Song, which has wonderful teaching on the subject, some of the best you can read anywhere. However, Aniol refers to and mentions with great favor men like Bob Kauflin and Phil Johnson. He linked with the article by Johnson on contextualization, but how does that fit with the Resolved conference for youth put on by the same men. Spurgeon would turn over in his grave if he saw that picture and heard that music. He links to Christianity Today on culture with no instruction or rebuttal. So here is the fundamentalist representing the most conservative stand on worship and yet he behaves very nonchalantly about the dangers of evangelicals indifferent to his scriptural worship position. This is all something very different for fundamentalism with its characteristics of militance and separation.

Mohler and Billy Graham

Billy Graham has promoted universalism. His methodology has supported that belief. There is a huge divergence in the gospel understanding of Billy Graham and Albert Mohler, but that did not stop them from coming together in a “gospel” endeavor in 2001. Mohler was indifferent to Graham's universalism. It didn't make a big enough deal for him to separate from Graham. Mohler is keynoting the Shepherd's Conference this year.

Dever, Mohler, and the Southern Baptist Convention

If you are in the SBC, you are in fellowship with avowed liberals. Even though there is a conservative resurgence in the SBC, it is still the home of many liberals and men of other stripes of scriptural indifference. Dever pastors a church in the convention. He recently explained why in an interview with Mark Minnick, a fundamentalist pastor in Greenville, SC. He said that they must stay in the convention to keep the money and the property that they would lose if they separated. You can look for that reasoning in Scripture. You won't find it.

Piper and Daniel Fuller and Baptist General Conference

Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis, MN, where John Piper pastors, is in the Baptist General Conference. The Baptist General Conference in 2000 voted to allow open theism in their denomination. Open theism is the false doctrine about God that says that God doesn't know the future, because the future is unknowable. It also rejects several of the other scriptural attributes of God. That isn't enough for Piper's church to separate.

He also considers himself to be in close and unashamed fellowship with Daniel Fuller. Fuller wrote this: "[There are] many passages in Scripture in which good works are made the instrumental cause of justification." Fuller also does not believe by any historic, scriptural thinking, the inerrancy of Scripture.

John Piper was a speaker at the 2004 National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, joining hands in that forum with Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Ted Haggard, and Pat Robertson a speaker at the 2004 National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Three Roman Catholic organizations were active at the 2004 NRB conference. The Global Catholic Network ran an ad in the NRB newspaper each day and rented exhibit space.

C. J. Mahaney and Charismaticism

Piper and Bethlehem Baptist claim to be charismatic too, but C. J. Mahaney is a charismatic. Mahaney long-time pastored Covenant Life Church, which is now led by Joshua Harris. The doctrinal statement of Mahaney reads:

All the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the church of the first-century are available today, are vital for the mission of the church, and are to be earnestly desired and practiced.

So tongues, healings, and miracles are to be earnestly desired and practiced according to that statement, or in other words, we must seek after signs. Jesus said in Matthew 16:4, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign."

The same church put on Godspell. Here's part of the explanation of Godspell from Time Magazine, which wouldn't be opposed to it:

This Hassidic hippie show, by John-Michael Tebelak and composer Steven Schwartz, spawned the Top 20 charter "Day by Day" ("Oh Lord, three things I pray: To see Thee more clearly, To love Thee more dearly, To follow Thee more nearly, day by day"). Director David Greene set the 1973 movie on Manhattan's city streets and the climax in a city playground. The other night on "The Daily Show," Rob Corddry accurately described the "Godspell" Christ figure as "a '70s pop rainbow suspendery kind of Jesus." Brown-eyed, frizzy-haired Victor Garber, who 30 years later has a career on Broadway ("Art") and TV ("Alias"), stresses Jesus' gentility in sensitive-clown makeup: teardrop eyeliner and a sweet heart on his forehead. The rest of the young cast follows suit, miming up a storm, sipping imaginary sacramental wine from invisible chalices. Drinks for the Last Supper are served in paper cups. Was Jim Jones watching?

Mahaney is not only part of Together for the Gospel, but John MacArthur recently had him preach at Grace Community Church.

Excusing Indifference

The above-explained indifference is explained as acceptable by those critical of fundamentalism because of the indifference of fundamentalists in the past. Bob Jones University was indifferent to racism and racists. Because BJU has a building named after Bibb Graves, then Southern Baptist Theological Seminary should be able to keep associating with Billy Graham. That's the type of moral equivalence that is argued. Most of fundamentalism overlooked the false gospel of Jack Hyles, so they should also be able to overlook the universalism of Billy Graham. The logic of the argument is that if fundamentalists won't separate consistently, then they can't criticize others who don't separate at all, so we may as well go ahead and none of us separate. Some think the worst example of indifference is the belief in one Bible. This is what a panel of fundamentalist pastors answered first as an example of fundamentalist indifference in a recent meeting of the Minnesota Baptist Association. These all sound like the excuses to keep moving fundamentalism away from separation and toward more indifferentism.


I believe that anyone needs to look at these issues, either as fundamentalist or evangelical. We need to look at them in the light of scripture. We can apply the Bible and the doctrine of separation that it teaches to all of these situations. This really is the kind of work that fundamentalists once did. They should be the ones doing it now, but they are nearly silent. For the love of God, honor of His holiness, and the purity of the Lord's church, we should practice separation based on what the Bible says and not tradition or popular norms.

I understand the criticisms of inconsistency. It is why I can't be a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists don't separate enough, and when they do, they rarely do it in biblical fashion. They're too indifferent. I believe there is more worth separating over than the fundamentals. All of the Lord's truth is important and should be preserved. We shouldn't be indifferent to any of it. Separation is the means that God has given us to do that. However, inonsistency is no legitimate reason not to disobey the Lord in other areas.

I don't see many fundamentalists standing up to stem this slide of indifferentism. They would rather keep in good standing with those who are willing to make common cause with those who do reject certain truths of Scripture. A fundamentalist church in New Hampshire is having a leadership conference in which one of the sessions is why not to go to T4G. That was worthy of a link from a moderator at SharperIron. Only one man defended the pastor who was teaching the session. Everyone else thought it was silly. It seems many fundamentalists don't understand separation anymore. And is ecclesiastical separation being preached by fundamentalists like it once was? It looks like fundamentalism is losing its young people too. They seem to have become. . . . indifferent.

(1) "Everythingism" was a word coined by C. S. Lewis in 1947 in his book, Miracles, to describe the belief of the person who sees everything around him as a miracle. Bauder says "an everythingist is someone who is committed to the 'literal exposition of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible, and the militant exposure of all non-biblical affirmations and attitudes.'” He thinks it's bad to be one of those.