Monday, September 28, 2009

Allegations: Schismatic, a Bad Name, and Arrogance

Pastor Mike Harding, who commented much more nicely on the first post of the Bibliology and Separation series, wrote this at SharperIron on September 23, 2009:

I was reading Kent Brandenburg's blog about this matter. One of the comments he allowed to be posted compared myself, Doran, and Pratt as using the tactics of the "New Atheists". Another on his blog said that though they are not Ruckmanites, they preferred Ruckmanism over against the CT as the lesser of two evils. Those kind of comments give Fundamentalism a very bad name. That is the kind of Fundamentalism that Kevin Bauder has been crticial of and rightly so. By the way, the same commentor also condemned MacArthur as a heretic on the Blood. Though I disagree with JM on numerous points, it is not fair to call JM a heretic on the blood. However, so often KJVO types participate in this kind of slander. In my opinion men like that are simply schismatic and I would not have ecclesiastical fellowship with them. Their ignorance is only surpassed by their arrogance.

I'd actually like to have things be civil between Mike Harding and myself. We see a lot of things exactly the same in doctrine and practice, but he doesn't seem to want as much peace as we can possibly have. In this case he didn't link to the post with this statement, so no one would get to see the context of the comments to which he was referring. Very ironic is that this paragraph that he wrote at SharperIron actually illustrates what P.S. Ferguson was talking about when he said that they use the tactics of the "New Atheists." If you saw the "New Atheist" comment in the context, it wouldn't look so bad. Without the context, it looks like that P. S. may have been calling these men atheists, but here's the entire quote from P. S.:

Like many of the polemicists on the New Atheist movement, Harding, Doran, Pratt, all assume that caricatures and insinuations trump arguments. It puts me in mind of Cicero's old dictum, "When you have no case, abuse the plaintiff.”

P. S. was referring to a bunch of abusive statements made by these men (Harding, Pratt, etc.) concerning King James Version advocates. I still love them, and I was pointing out their bad behavior. Harding chooses to pluck the two words, "New Atheism," out of the context to make it look worse than what it was. I would wonder if Harding is ignorant of the New Atheist movement and the kind of debate these men have used in the glut of new books they've written. P. S. was only paralleling the polemical similarities, not the doctrinal ones.

The second comment that Harding made was that someone "said that though they are not Ruckmanites, they preferred Ruckmanism over against the CT as the lesser of two evils." Everyone should know that no one used the words that Harding said they did. No one defended Ruckman. No one. At best he was referring to a comment made by Gary Webb:

I have been strongly "anti-Ruckmanism" because of the double-inspiration issue [as well as Ruckman's personal life, ungodly spirit, & crazy doctrines]. However, I have to admit that, concerning the Bible in English, the Ruckmanite position is FAR BETTER than the Critical Text position. The CT position not only undermines the King James but EVERY Bible, including whatever "version du jour" the CT crowd is promoting.

That doesn't sound like support for Ruckman. Later Joshua added:

[N]o one is supporting Ruckman here. I pointed out earlier that no one touches him or his followers with a ten foot pole. . . . If Gary is advocating supporting Ruckman just because he's better than Ehrman Ill eat my King James Bible.

Later Webb clarified:

If you are sounding a warning to the effect that I (and perhaps others) would consider Ruckmanism or those that hold it as potential brethren with which to have fellowship, I would find that fairly ridiculous.

It really does seem like Harding is the one that wants to stir things up with his representation of what is said. All that was said was that Ruckman gets far more attacked than someone like Bart Ehrman by fundamentalists and yet Bart Ehrman leaves men with far more doubt in the end about the Word of God. Perhaps Harding can't apprehend that kind of nuance.

Next Mike made this statement:

By the way, the same commentor also condemned MacArthur as a heretic on the Blood. Though I disagree with JM on numerous points, it is not fair to call JM a heretic on the blood. However, so often KJVO types participate in this kind of slander.

If you scroll down the comments on both articles I wrote on Bibliology and Separation, not one person, not a single one, said that MacArthur was a "heretic" on the blood. None. No one. Scroll down the comments yourself. So Harding tells the whole SharpIron world that I allowed a comment that said that MacArthur was a "heretic on the blood," and yet no one made that statement. The only person who said anything about MacArthur and heresy was Harding himself. He wrote:

Mac was not and is not heretical on the blood period. Bob Jones Jr. was mistaken on that issue. BJU does not consider Mac heretical on the blood today.

Somehow Harding was thinking of his own comment and that BJU, his alma mater, were the ones that said MacArthur was heretical. P. S. Ferguson said something about MacArthur and the blood issue, but all he said was this:

Despite MacArthur’s deeply disturbing views on the blood of Christ, total lack of biblical separation by preaching with Ecumenists and Charismatics in his ministry, promotion of rank CCM music at his conventions, BJU Board Member, Mike Harding, imperiously dismisses those who oppose MacArthur for their “the total lack of appreciation or honest commendation for men such as John MacArthur by some in our circles.”

P. S. Ferguson said MacArthur's view on the blood was "deeply disturbing." That's it. And then Harding broad brushes "KJVO types" as saying "this type of slander." A slander is a lie. Mike Harding, no one called MacArthur a "heretic." You are obviously ignorant of what I believe about heresy, because I've never called MacArthur a heretic. You are the only one who brought it up. I too think that MacArthur's view on the blood is deeply disturbing and I have been very careful in explaining why over at Jackhammer (here and here). I asked Harding whether he believed MacArthur's views were unscriptural. He said nothing, but then he jumps to calling us "slanderers" based on something that wasn't even said. Isn't that slander itself? I'll let you judge that rather that stooping to the Harding smear of all KJVO people. I really do want to get along with Mike Harding as much as possible, and the way to do that is to interact based on civil discourse.

Of course, Harding ends with a flurry of language, attacking us as schismatics and arrogant and ignorant. I would fly to anywhere in the country and debate Harding on the issue of the text. He should mop up an arrogant ignoramus. I already said I would do that with James White. I would even host him here in California for a debate if he wanted to get some sun in the winter months. We could video record it and have it available for posterity.

In the meantime, I would call on Mike Harding to reconsider what he has said. I think he has some explaining to do. I expect a retraction over at SharperIron. I know that's what I would do if I were him. And if there is anything that I say that is slanderous, I will be glad to admit it. Until then, I don't think the "they're idiots!" kind of argumentation is effective or should be given any kind of credit.


I sent a copy of this via email to Mike Harding at the same time I published it so that he could clear up any misrepresentations. He does think that he was mistreated here entirely in the comment section and mainly from P. S. Ferguson. He's not happy with me that I allowed the comment. He says that he wasn't going after those that take our view of the KJV, TR, and preservation, but the Ruckman/Riplinger crowd only. And I can appreciate that, but I was making only a very narrow point, that is, that the CT/eclectic side of the issue also uses name-calling as a technique. That was further validated in the SharperIron comment. I'm not even saying that he or Doran are wrong for using that type of language if they believe what they believe. I was just saying that it isn't an either/or on the style of criticism offered. The CT/eclectic side, especially James White, constantly talk about the KJV side as being the ones guilty of not being nice. That is not an argument either way on this issue, but it is being used that way. I think it is debunked by what we read in the quotes coming from the CT/eclectic side.

I don't believe I started this. All I did was point some things out that someone else said. P. S. referred to more things that people had said. Actually there has been a lot more said by the eclectic/CT side that is untrue and not very nice. I don't think that pointing out what we see happening is bad; I think it's good.

I reread P. S. Ferguson's comment and it was very strong. I wouldn't have said it how he said it, especially one or two specific sentences, but the essence of it I agreed with. I see what P. S. is writing to be very much akin to what Peter Masters wrote recently in criticism of the "conservative evangelicals." He, like me, sees, if any criticism at all, a very soft, civil criticism of MacArthur and his kind, accompanied with hefty portions of praise, but a very strong negativity toward KJV supporters by the non-revivalist fundamentalists. Harding may be targeting the English inspirationists and preservationists, but it reads absolutely broad brush, because delineations between the positions are not made.

Has this been personal? Yes. From both sides. We've been combative. People are going to have to sort out what they believe the truth is. I've got more to say on this issue as I move on in the Bibliology and Separation series.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bibliology and Separation part two

A fundamentalist recently carved out some very narrow doctrinal ground over which he would separate. He said he'd divide over the belief that God re-inspired an English translation of scripture. He would break fellowship with those who hold to that doctrinal error. Besides that one specific point, he didn't mention anyone else from whom he would separate. The double inspiration doctrine adds to the Bible even though leaving its adherents with complete certainty concerning God's Word. Others hold to aberrant bibliological doctrines that leave them reeling with uncertainty. We don't hear a peep about separation from those deviations from the same fundamentalists. The numerous mentions go to the errors that result in most assurance in God's Word, as if those are the ones that create the greatest dangers. These also happen to be the fallacies most ridiculed by scholarly evangelicals so impressive to fundamentalists.

How is it that we determine what are the bibliological doctrines that are worthy of separation? Shouldn't all departures from scriptural doctrine merit separation? If not, then separation becomes about just us and our personal taste or what it is that is the most theologically correct to separate over.

We started this series by talking about how it is that we come to our positions on issues. Then we delved into inspiration and what violations of that doctrine exist as worthy of separation.


Do we separate over someone who believes in 65 or 67 books? How many wrong books or missing books must there be for us to separate over that error?

We've seen a recent glut of books in the popular bookstores attacking canonicity. A couple of these are Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament by Bart D. Ehrman and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels. These are foremost textual critics of our day and they believe that we've left out some other genuine books of the Bible, perhaps because of some early Christian conspiracy. They believe that they've followed the trail of textual evidence to the truth as textual criticism sees it, not allowing theological presuppositions to get in the way.

Where does the Bible tell us that there should be sixty-six books? How do we know there are sixty six? What would tell us why there are sixty-six?

Scripture doesn't tell us there are or will be sixty six books. It doesn't tell us what their names will be. We have sixty-six. We know their names. Sixty-six have been accepted by many. Orthodox churches use sixty-six in their teaching and preaching. Christians all over carry around and possess copies of the Bible with sixty-six books in them. But how did we come to this group? This is canonization.

We can see that Christians recognized and acknowledged scripture when they saw it. We know they had some kind of basis for doing so. Paul understood that Isaiah penned God-inspired writ as seen in Acts 28:25:

And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,

Then Paul writes this in 1 Timothy 5:18:

For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

This text applies the word "scripture" (graphe) to an Old Testament quote (Deut 25.4) and to an New Testament one (Luke 10.7), without any distinction. Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:15-16:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

This accords canonical status to a collection of Paul's letters. Believers knew what were the Words of God and received them, even as Paul writes in 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.

This is what the Lord Jesus prayed in 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.

Believers did not receive non-canonical books as God's Word, like Paul's third letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:1).

How did believers know which were God's Words? We understand this from 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.

The Spirit will guide into all truth. The Holy Spirit guides to His Words. Believers receive them. These thoughts are exactly what Christians have said they have believed in history. This statement is made in the London Baptist Confession (1689):

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; 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.

What did believers makes copies of? They made copies of the canonical books. They copied scripture, not non-scripture. We see this in Colossians 4:16:

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

For Colossians to be read somewhere else (in Laodeicea), churches needed to make a copy of the epistle to the Colossians. Churches made these copies. Churches knew what the truth was. The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Churches confirmed what the books and the words of Scripture were, even as God's assembly (ekklesia) is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

The scriptural and historic doctrine of canonicity is a canonization of Words, not Books---certainly Books but only because Words were a greater to the lesser Books. I emphasize the word "doctrine," because we are allowing our scriptural presuppositions to guide us to the truth. We believe there are sixty six books because that's what we see is the fulfillment of what God said He would do.

Some would mockingly call this "fideism" because we don't have a text that says that there will be sixty-six books. God doesn't say, "I shall give thee sixty-six books." We trust that God would do what He said He would do. We look to see what He did and we accept it.

We should protect and propagate the doctrine of canonicity. Like we defend the doctrine of inspiration, we do the same with canonicity. What would an attack on canonicity look like? Do you think we should leave canonization to unbelieving textual critics? Would canonization be a pastor on a Sunday morning telling his people that the particular Words in the Bibles they hold before them are not the Words of God because they aren't ranked high enough by the textual critics? Does a pastor have the authority to tell His church what the Words of God are? I'm talking about something like these types of quotes that we see regularly from John MacArthur (and plenty of fundamentalists):

Already he's not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Now what was his message? Notice one little footnote. It says he preached Christ. The best manuscripts have Jesus there.

The promise of faith is superior to the law because of its confirmation and its Christ-centeredness. Thirdly, its chronology. This just takes the argument a step further. Verse 17 is chronology. Interesting. "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ," wow. That's fantastic. The two words 'in Christ' are not in the best manuscripts, so we would read it this way.

The best manuscripts translate this passage "for you are," not "it is," and that way it is personalized.

Should a man criticize the text of scripture to his church like this? Is this a pattern or a practice we see in Scripture? Wouldn't the Words canonized by the Holy Spirit be the ones that churches have agreed are God's Words? If someone would change those Words based on so-called "scientific" tests applied by textual critics, has he meddled with canonicity?


More to Come.

Those making comments in the comment section on this---consider arguing from scripture, since we're dealing with doctrine here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bibliology and Separation

Two posts were written during the last week about separation over faulty bibliology. The first to my attention was an essay written by David Doran, president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary at his blog. The link to Doran's article was tweeted by Phil Johnson at his twitter site. Then I read a comment (another more recent one) by Mike Harding, a pastor in Michigan, that at one point related to bibliology over at SharperIron. Then Jon Pratt, a professor at Central Seminary, chimed in at the Central Theological Blog.

A common criticism of the eclectic and critical text guys is the bad treatment of the KJV crowd. I think they're mainly referring to the English inspirationists (Ruckman). I've often said that the eclectic/critical crowd is nearly as bad. Consider these statements made in their articles and consider whether they contribute edification on this issue.

Mike Harding: "the unending KJV only non-sense"

Jon Pratt: "The fallacies of sound logic, revisionist historicism, and bold-faced scare tactics employed by King James Only supporters are not characteristics of scholarly fundamentalism (and no, this is not an oxymoron) and are, instead, an indelible stain on the garments of modern-day fundamentalism."

Dave Doran: "wide variety of theological and ministerial goofballs," "the lunacy in defense of the KJVO position."

KJVO people hold no corner on name-calling and insults, so let's let that one rest. Please. You can't complain about one side doing it and then do it yourself. If you're going to do it, then you have to leave it alone.

I can't put my finger on what fundamentalists really believe about separation. I had one tell me that it is impossible to be consistent in matters of separation. Doran laid out the DBTS terms of separation, however, in very clear fashion. This is one doctrine that he will separate over.

(1) our church and ministry will not have fellowship with any who claim for an English translation what can only be properly claimed for the autographs; and (2) we will not have fellowship with those who refuse to break fellowship from those who hold such false doctrine.

Doran lowers the gauntlet on this issue. I too believe we should separate over false bibliology and that's what I want to talk about.

Scripture should provide our basis for separation. We are separating over a doctrine or practice that the Bible teaches. So we look to the Bible to find out what the it says about itself. That sounds simple---just study the Bible. And it is. But not as simple as some make of it. To come to the right position on an issue, I have taught five criteria to our church.

1. Conversion --- The Holy Spirit illuminates those whom He indwells (1 Corinthians 2:13-14).
2. Study the Bible --- This is more than looking up verses in Strong's Concordance or checking out a commentary or systematic theology. This means understanding the Words in their context, their syntax, the usage of those Words elsewhere, comparing scripture with scripture, etc. (2 Timothy 2:15).
3. Historic Confirmation --- Since no doctrine is new, we look to see whether people believed it in history. If we can't find historic confirmation, we better have a lot of scriptural support to overturn what we do see in history. History doesn't have authority, but we would expect a perpetuity for the truth---no total apostasy (2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 Timothy 4:1).
4. Church Agreement --- The New Testament church should agree with the position. The Holy Spirit authenticates truth through those He indwells (1 Corinthians 3:16; John 16:13).
5. Courage --- If the Bible tells us something different than what we believe and practice, we must be willing to change (Hebrews 11).

Having my above stated criteria in mind, what are some of the main points that we see about Scripture in Scripture?


Pas graphe theopneustos kai ophelimos. 2 Timothy 3:16. Every writing is God breathed and is profitable. Graphe is an anarthrous (no definite article, "the") noun and the general rule is that an anarthrous adjective (theopneustos) related to an anarthrous noun (pas graphe) is normally predicate. Even though the graphe is anarthrous, the pas makes the noun graphe as definite as the article, so the adjective, theopneustos must be predicate. A copula is lacking, so it is supplied in the English. The natural place the copula goes is between the subject (pas graphe) and the first word that follows it (theopneustos). It is normal for the copula to be left out when it is obvious to the audience where it should be. It is obvious here.

We know that God breathed every writing in the past, but the assumption here is that what He breathed out continues to be that which He has breathed out, because it "is" breathed out by Him. The adjective theopneustos makes an assertion about the subject pas graphe. Writings that were breathed out continue to be breathed out. Like a child that is born continues to be born, the Words that God breathed continued to be His Words, continue to be breathed out by Him after He first breathed them.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 teach the sufficiency of Scripture. But what is sufficient? It is pas graphe that is sufficient. The assumption again is that we will have all of the Words. If being throughly furnished unto every good work is dependent upon pas graphe (every writing), then we would assume that we would have every writing. This is a logical conclusion that we get from these two verses when we are attempting to get our doctrine from the actual verses of scripture. We'll come back to this later, because it doesn't fit so much under the doctrine of inspiration.

The writings that God breathed out were Hebrew and Greek. Those were what He inspired. To say that English words are breathed out would be to say that God breathed out new Words after the completion of the canon (in contradiction to Revelation 22:18-19). That is false bibliology. Scripture doesn't say that.

So what about an English translation of those Hebrew and Greek writings? Is it inspired? That is where we have to come up with some new bibliological words to describe inspiration as it relates to a translation. I have no problem using the terminology "derivative inspiration." An accurate translation that properly represents the Hebrew and Greek writings is derived from those writings. With that in mind, we can call an English translation inspired.

God's Words, which He breathed out, are different with Him having breathed them. The Words have the breath of God in them. How do we know this? By what Scripture says about them. At least two verses come to my mind:

John 6:63, 68, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. . . . [T]hou hast the words of eternal life."

Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Psalm 19:7-10 also validate that the Words that God breathed out are significantly extraordinary.

How do men go astray on inspiration? They believe in natural inspiration or conceptual inspiration. They deny inspiration. They don't believe every writing was inspired. In certain cases men have taken a new position of "double inspiration," that is, that God had inspired the Hebrew and Greek writings, but He has done it again in an English translation, the King James Version. All of these go astray from a scriptural position. If we are going to protect the doctrine of inspiration and honor what God has said, we must separate over it. I think that is what Dave Doran is saying that he believes, that we separate over this scriptural doctrine.


More to Come!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Honoring Joshua Bernard, Marine Corporal, and Bringing Awareness to Rules of Engagement

We've seen mainly controversy over the publishing of a photo of Marine Corporal Joshua Bernard and his recent death in Afghanistan. To start though, I would like to honor his commitment to duty and service to our nation. According to the testimony of his father in this video, his fellow Marines called him "holy man" because of his Godly witness for Jesus Christ. His dad said that he was first and foremost a Christian. That's what his father wanted to emphasize. However, he ended and wanted to be very clear that this incident should bring to our attention the ROE, rules of engagement, of our soldiers in war.

Our soldiers are sent to these places, put in harms way, and are often sacrificed for American politics. If we are going to send them, then we should allow them to protect themselves. We see the same thing on American streets with our police officers. Rules of engagement recently resulted in the death of three police officers, gunned down in the streets of Oakland, CA. The Taliban and other foreign belligerents use non-combatants for cover. They do this purposefully, knowing our rules of engagement to gain an advantage caused by political concerns. Joshua Bernard was from Maine and the newspaper in Portland, Maine did an interview with his dad, John Bernard, and we have this reported from that session:

John Bernard said he blames his son's death on recently revised rules of engagement that essentially state troops can fire at an area if they are receiving fire and are in imminent danger, but if it's possible for them to move away from the area, they are to do so.

Several weeks before his son's death, John Bernard raised concerns about the rules in a letter sent to lawmakers. He wrote, "Our troops are nothing more than sitting ducks."

"They're being fired upon and being told they can't fire back in fear of hitting civilians, which means Marines can die and ultimately can't protect civilians because they can't fire at the bad guys," John Bernard said. "It's not that they want to go out and kill women and children, but they can't fight like this."

The Wall Street Journal, just today, wrote about this problem especially as it applies to the War in Afghanistan. Here is a recent example of the politics with German chancellor Angela Merkel coming under fire for a helicopter air strike that killed Afghan civilians. Here's a Chicago Tribune article about a week ago that explains President Obama's role in making the rules of engagement more strict for American soldiers, threatening American lives. This paragraph in a September 2, 2009 Washington Post article explains how the new rules of engagement has not only failed to protect American troops but also other Afghans.

U.S. rules of engagement restricting the use of air power and aggressive action against civilians have also opened new space for the insurgents, officials said. Western development projects, such as new roads, schools and police stations, have provided fresh targets for Taliban roadside bombs and suicide attacks. The inability of rising numbers of American troops to protect Afghan citizens has increased resentment of the Western presence and the corrupt Afghan government that cooperates with it, the officials said.

This August 14, 2009 article in the Toronto Star talks about the new rules of engagement, designed to prioritize Afghan civilians, harming the protection of American soldiers.

What do you think of this? I'm writing a letter to my congressman and Senators about rules of engagement in honor of Joshua Bernard.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Does Accommodation to Culture Help Evangelism?

My last post, an evaluation of Stephen Davis' article on church planters at SharperIron, triggered my thinking on a major theme in his piece, that is, the place of culture in the evangelism of the lost. Here's the way Davis' pictured it:

You might be surprised at how many people think that new churches should dance to the same tune as churches which have existed for decades with their well-established traditions. The traditions are not necessarily wrong but may be unnecessary barriers in planting an urban church among those unacquainted with those traditions.

Davis earlier listed the traditions that he describes as "barriers":

Suits and ties are still de rigueur, morning and evening Sunday services with Wednesday night prayer meeting is the established pattern, the doctrinal statements exhibit great precision, and music is traditional.

Davis sees these as impediments to evangelism in the inner city. As I look at his list, I don't see any significant cultural issue with the time churches choose to gather on Sunday and midweek or especially a doctrinal statement. It seems that the music and dress are the two major contentions Davis thinks endanger evangelistic success. Both of these occur at a church meeting, the assembling of saints for worship. I'm stumped as to how they impede evangelism. I understand how that they might turn off someone who wants to dress casual and prefers faster or more heavily syncopated rhythms or sensually styled composition to their music, but I can't see how that a suit and a tie and traditional music hold someone back from getting saved.

These thoughts expressed by Davis in his essay expose a faulty soteriology. They are a common way of thinking in modern evangelicalism or perhaps fundamentalism, if Davis would claim to be fundamentalist. SharperIron proposes to be fundamentalist. Nowhere does scripture show accommodation to the world's way of living to help the gospel itself or someone's comprehension of the gospel.

Certain behaviors can impede the gospel, but they are unscriptural ones. Anything that fits within the perimeters of the Bible can't hinder the gospel. What Davis is communicating is that conservative dress and music hinder evangelism. Is that true? What is it about suits and ties and sober, prudent, and discreet music that keep people from being saved? Of course, there is nothing about them that would stymie someone's salvation.

An unsaved person thinks a certain way. He loves himself and pleasure. He likes his own way. Therefore, he would like for his god to be all about himself, his pleasure, and his own way. He fears death. He'd like to have some peace about his thereafter, but he doesn't want to give up the pleasure or his way to see that accomplished. Casual dress and modernistic music styles in his urban church plant send a signal to him that he can take care of that fear thing, while at the same time keeping his pleasure and own way. He likes that his religion can revolve around himself and his needs or wants. The casual dress and pop music fit right into his preconceptions. The Stephen Davis' urban church plant feeds those preconceptions. This is the Davis' idea of helping along the evangelism of the urban lost person.

Meeting the lusts of the lost does not aid evangelism. It wasn't the strategy that Jesus used. When an unsaved person came to Jesus to inquire of salvation, Jesus didn't feed his preconceptions. He challenged them. The unconverted need to know that salvation isn't going to be about them, but about God. God is seeking for true worshipers, not taking applications for an eternal timeshare. When the rich young ruler came to the Lord asking how he might obtain eternal life, Jesus didn't make it about something that he could get (Matthew 19:16-26). When a certain scribe told Jesus that he wanted to follow Him, Jesus told him that the "Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20).

Davis offers an evangelistic methodology that will make sense to a lost person. What we see with Jesus doesn't seem effective as a church growth strategy. He didn't care about the demographic. He went everywhere with the same message of repentance and faith. Paul eschewed man-made techniques for evangelism. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5:

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

There is one Christianity, one worship, one Jesus, one gospel, and one faith and we are to preach it. Just because the world doesn't get it, doesn't mean that we tweak it to fit the world's preconceptions. We don't depend on the wisdom of men. We preach the gospel. Later in v. 10 Paul says that He reveals His saving truth by His Spirit. The techniques that Davis propagates are the wisdom of men.

The Jews required a sign, the Greeks wisdom, and the inner city person requires something else, according to Davis. All of these things stand in the wisdom of men. But God hasn't chosen to save people through man's wisdom. Instead, God has chosen the things which people despise to bring men to salvation, "that no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Corinthians 1:29).

I would agree that we don't unnecessarily offend and especially someone's conscience. Paul's idea of becoming all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22) was a sacrifice on his part. For instance, he wouldn't eat certain food that he himself might like so as not to be a bad testimony to a Jew or a Gentile. All of this sacrifice by Paul, not self-gratification, was intended to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Titus 2:10). The grace of God that brings salvation teaches to deny "worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12). Accommodation to worldly lust tends toward the unsaved not being saved. We should trust God's Word on this.

Accommodation to culture, that is, worldly lust, doesn't help evangelism. It does not harmonize with the gospel. It sends the wrong message to an urban community. It sends a new church down the wrong path. Instead, simplify the methodology. Dress in a representative way of the message of the gospel and then go out and preach it to everyone. Don't worry about whether they like your shirt and tie or the kind of music that you believe honors God. Be concerned as to whether you are preaching the gospel boldly, completely, and accurately. Depend on God. Pray. Live for the Lord. Don't give up. Keep evangelizing for His glory. Teach new converts all things that Jesus commanded. Preach the Word. Confront sinning Christians in meekness to restore them to God-honoring living. Support the weak. Strengthen the feebleminded. Warn the unruly. Be patient with all men.

Forget the aspects of location, launch team, and demographics. Know Scripture well. Obey it.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Church Planting Foolishness

My wife happened to be sitting next to me when I was reading this article on church planting over at SharperIron. Yes, I look at their main post to see what they're talking about and I get sucked in. The moral of the story might be to stop looking there any more. I know that. My wife, I think, was giving me more than a big hint when she said, "Looking at that stuff would make me so mad that I wouldn't want to see it." Hmmmm. Very valid.

The article, entitled Planting Urban Churches, was written by Stephen Davis, someone who has taken a liking to influencing the young and restless fundamentalists and fundamentalist frauds at SharperIron. He is at a theologically correct location, Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, and he has the credibility to make the connection---culturally, the deco black shirt and goatee beard, and educationally, the D. Min. in "Missiology" from the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Davis doesn't have to build a blog audience, just plunk in the driver's seat of the bus that is SharperIron and take everyone for a spin.

Davis' article makes me feel sick to my stomach, renewing my wife's suggestion to let these things go. But I want to tell you what's so wrong about it, make it a teaching moment. Forget the title of his article. He's not about churches. He's about some kind of group or club or institution, but not a church. You'll note the lack of scripture in his article. When you hear "Missiology" from Trinity you might not want to think the Bible.

A group across the street from us has exploded in numbers with their rock concert platform, uber-casual apparel, and carnal entertainment. Their leader comes from Trinity. People gather to hear a month long series on U2 lyrics or an "outreach" centered on the Hollywood film, Evan Almighty. The Trinity graduate will admit that most of the people who come are unconverted. There's your Missiology. Something's definitely Missing; it's God's Word. It's fun though.

When I read Davis and watch the other Trinity grad, I think they could be twins. They both have the "I'm authentic" get-up required by the zeitgeist. They talk the same about the church. If the world is the NFL, they're both wearing the replica jersey, at the same time insisting that they're not in the game.

What Davis Describes

Nothing called church planting, urban or rural, should look like what Davis describes. He shouldn't be listened to as an expert. It's up to you, but you've been warned. I'm convinced that there shouldn't be able to be an entire doctorate that could be gotten in something called Missiology. I recommend to anyone---just study the Bible---imitate what you read there.

And what is it you read there? You start by going out evangelizing. And guess what? The gospel is the same for rural, urban, kids, adults, elderly, grunge, biker dudes, and university professors. Remember that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)? Remember that it is spiritual weaponry that pulls down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)? Remember that the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)?

But that's not why the urban church doesn't grow, according to Davis. We've got to assume from what he writes that "meaningful relationships" are required with people "outside the church" in order to evangelize them. And why don't we have those relationships? He says because of "personal separation issues" and "traditional taboos." This is Trinity speak you're hearing. You get it from your Missiology D. Min. It means "you gotta be likem to winnem." For armchair theologians, it is Pelagian influence. And it is definitely you winnin' 'em with your missiological technique. In the end, you get the glory too (see 1 Corinthians 1-2 on this)!

What you really have to do is to get to everybody with the gospel. That's what Jesus said (Mark 16:15). When you do that, the lost will hate it. They walk in darkness and hate the light. Because love is supernatural, you can keep loving your enemies and Jesus says that they'll like that---being loved. It's not going to depend on what beans you choose for your cappuccino. Davis is saying that they'll like the light if you offer it to them in a fancy container, maybe with a label in graffiti font. The young church planter, Davis says, has a dilemma. If he is to succeed he's going to have to make a choice to burn some bridges with the mother church. The pews, the traditional hymns, and the reverent appearance all spell church planting disaster for the Davis system.

What's ironic is that these things of which Davis speaks are just window dressing. They don't matter. But they are really everything to the church planter. He's doing the planting. You can see that plainly when Davis writes:

When people ask me how to plant a church, what steps need to be taken, I try to explain that church planting is more of an art than a science.

An art? What? The kind of brush strokes you make is what will will have the greatest impact, he says. This is the difference between success and failure in the urban community. He's reading right from the Rick Warren playbook on this. Ignore him. Listen to him at your own peril.

This seems to be the paradigm that Davis learned in his Missiology work at Trinity:

Church planting involves numerous details such as strategy, demographic studies, fund raising, location, and gathering a leadership and launch team.

Wow. That's foolishness. The world won't think it is, but it is foolishness. Run away from his thoughts as quickly as you can.

Love the Lord Jesus. Go and evangelize. Learn your Bible. Preach it. Love people. Worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth. That is the simplicity of all of it. How big will you get? I don't know, but what does it matter? God will be glorified. It's not going to make one bit of difference whether you have pews or padded seats. If the key is the big screen and powerpoint, then you are doing something very wrong. Know this. If you think the difference maker is the microphone head attachment, then you've got deep problems in your scriptural understanding.

Scripture doesn't present church planting. It presents evangelism that might end in a church being organized if people are saved. You don't need any of the things that Davis says you need. My first recommendation would be: don't take Missiology like Davis did. Know your Bible. Know the gospel. Preach it. It's powerful.

In his last paragraph, Davis crescendos:

Neither should church planters be expected to adhere to extra-biblical, albeit longstanding traditions (sic) which would be impositions on a new church and deform its identity. There should be mutual respect and humility between church planters and their sending churches.

This is a bunch of socio-economic psychobabble with all of the catchphrases included. Deform its identity? Come on!

New converts don't need to be dressed up in a suit and tie, but the pastor wearing these will have zero impact on the newly saved. He has become a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:1-4). He won't go out from you, because now He is of you (1 John 2:19). Be glad that you have a different culture than the world---your music is different and your dress is different. Don't be ashamed of that, any of it.

The Reaction

So what's the reaction of the SharperIronites? I'm thankful to say that the new owner wasn't so convinced, even though he did publish the trash. Another comment reads of the typical new postmodern flavor.

Great article. The dynamic here between the more "traditionalist" approach and the less "traditionalist" is not just seen in new churches that are "inter-city." Great work.....looking forward to seeing more on this. I like the idea that both sides must be careful. Both sides must show charity. Both sides must be what they believe God wants them to be.

Of course, this assumes that the old way was only tradition. It always was tradition. Does anyone see the disrespect here? The way churches operated were just tradition. The new way, the outside-the-box modernistic methods, what's that? So they show charity and both agree that both sides are right? There is a mammoth chasm between them culturally, but those differences are meaningless---that would be the point. Really? Is that true? Of course not.

One of the young fundamentalists writes this:

More "close to home" is a friend of mine who wanted to rent out a theater for showings of "The Passion of the Christ" in his very secular culture--and found himself afoul of the "theaters are evil" conviction of his constituency.

"The Passion of the Christ" as an evangelistic tool, harmonizing with Stephen Davis. Renting out the theater. All of this about reaching a very secular culture. We've got secular, very secular, soft serve, and chocolate fudge. Where do we get this type of thinking? Missiology. Did Jesus do anything like this? Paul? Not all all. It's not just foolish. It's faithless. It's a way that can't just trust what God said to do. The scriptural way isn't sufficient.

There should be outrage over this faithless foolishness.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A True Statement on Dealing with a Disagreement on an Issue

Dave Doran, pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church and president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, recently made this statement over at his blog.

As an example, if someone wants to preach a message on women never wearing pants, then the burden on me would be to evaluate the arguments that are made and, if I disagree, show where I believe the preacher is incorrect.

I applaud that statement and am always hopeful for this to be the case on issues. Often it is not. Sometimes Dr. Doran and I might disagree on certain doctrines and practice, so I wanted to make notice of a hearty agreement with this point he made.

As a bit of a side note, I've never preached a message on women never wearing pants. I have preached sermons on Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. I like to have the discussion surround the text itself. It is often a dodge when the direction turns first to the application in the culture, instead of the text from which the practice comes. With any issue, we start with the study of Scripture. We also look for historical interpretation. And then we look at the application of the text and the history of its application among believers. This is what I would hope from Dr. Doran as well on an issue such as he uses as an illustration in his blog post.