Saturday, February 26, 2011

When I Left Fundamentalism part three

I discovered that fundamentalism secured and held with its web of schools, colleges and universities, fellowships, camps, and boards, none of which are found in Scripture. Men argue that biblical silence is permission. If you are a fundamentalist, you keep supporting a number of these institutions with money and manpower with the thought that they help you and your people, not that you might just be propping up fundamentalism.

Part of being a fundamentalist really is having your fundamentalist school, camp, board, and/or fellowship. A fundamentalist church sends you to its school, which gives you a fundamentalist degree with its fundamentalist connections to help you get fundamentalist support and/or a fundamentalist ministry. Fundamentalism feeds off of itself even in its accreditation. The churches confirm the institutions, which validate the churches that accept the students. None of this may be very good at all, but the network itself self-authenticates, keeping its own cycle of approval within the world of fundamentalism.

Remaining in the fundamentalist pack or orbit or circles has required a certain level of doctrinal and practical quality control. I understand the benefits of that insofar those standards are biblical. However, you can find yourself on the outside of fundamentalism if you do not adjust to the fundamentalist parameters. It's not so much that anything will really happen to you per se, just that you might find yourself into various levels of exclusion from fundamentalist opportunities, that are not so much a loss of biblical opportunities, as they are a loss of the sense that one is fitting into fundamentalism. No one will stand before God to be judged for what kind of fundamentalist he was or whether he even was one.

Someone in fundamentalism does not carry a fundamentalist card, but he does carry a standing or value that work something like a credit rating in the financial world. Your score is based on certain credentials that are common for continuing as a fundamentalist. Your net fundamentalist worth may not relate to your obedience to Scripture, even as certain disobedience of the Bible may not bother your status in fundamentalism at all; it might even improve it.


It might be hard for some today to believe, but as I got started in California, I had never been taught about discipleship. I knew about soulwinning and programs, but I did not know about making disciples. It's possible that someone may have brought discipleship up, but never encouraged it, even though I had a double major in pastoral studies and biblical languages. The only exegetical point I could defend was "preach the gospel to every creature." I thought that the great commission was something like "go and win people to Christ" and then train people to win other people to Christ. I knew that I needed some kind of soulwinning program. And I say soulwinning, because I thought that evangelism was something evangelists did. The terms soulwinning and evangelism were two different terms with different nuances of meaning, in my mind.

What I did hear about was the "follow-up" program. "Follow-up" was about seeing the new convert get baptized and join the church, start tithing, get into a ministry, and join the soulwinning program. Reaching those kind of goals as quickly as possible was in tune with that era of church growth philosophy. Follow-up was usually a short booklet and you did it in a new converts class. The pastor or a pastor led the follow-up and this was how the church integrated new converts.

I knew something was wrong with the system of fundamentalism as it stood. And as I began preaching in the Gospels of John and then Matthew, I saw that part of it was the lack in discipleship. Some equated discipleship with opposition to soulwinning---while we were busy discipling people, the soulwinning wasn't happening that would keep the lost from going to Hell. Some of fundamentalism was even opposed to it, giving the impression that discipleship was new-evangelical. I thought that might be why I rarely heard the word. If someone were to support it in a sermon, fundamentalists would mark that man as a new-evangelical. In my first few years of pastoring, I became convinced that the great commission of the Lord Jesus Christ was to make disciples.

Matthew 28:19-20 has only one verb in it, an imperative, the word "teach" in v. 19, which means "to make disciples." To obey the great commission of Jesus, one would need to make a disciple. One cannot make disciples of unsaved people, so discipleship always starts with preaching the gospel, but the great commission isn't finished until you have someone who is ready to reproduce himself in another person.

I began looking around to see if anyone else was thinking the same way as I was. I found the Navigators and read a bunch of their materials. I read what evangelicals said about discipleship because I hadn't found anything written by fundamentalists. Even though I was encouraged by much of what they said, I still saw that evangelicals were lacking in certain biblical doctrines and practices. None of the follow up programs in fundamentalism looked capable of making a disciple in a true New Testament sense, so in 1991, I wrote my own material. I became convinced that ministry technically was making disciples, so I was failing as a pastor if I was not perfecting our church members for this (cf. Eph 4:11-12).

In order to make a disciple, I saw in the Bible the necessity of involvement, so we didn't use objective type questions where someone could regurgitate answers, but ones that required thought. As well, what someone did should come out of who he is, that is, right practice should proceed from right doctrine. Jesus set up a gauntlet for professing believers to test their devotion to Him, expecting sacrifice or true worship.

Worship was another term of which I heard very little when I was in college and graduate school. I became convinced, again through expository studying, that God was seeking for true worshipers. The Gospels transformed our entire ministry philosophy with the emphasis on discipleship and worship.

A First Pastoral Conflict with Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism enmeshed itself in our church in several ways. We sent students to Christian college. This was the only pattern I knew and assumed that this should be the norm for high school graduates from our church. We began to send students to Maranatha Baptist Bible College, my alma mater. We recruited teachers from Christian colleges to teach in our school. On those trips, I preached in college chapel. Ensembles from certain colleges came and made presentations. We scheduled evangelists I had heard while in college. We sent our young people to fundamentalist camps---Lucerne and Ironwood. I attended FBF meetings, conferences, and retreats. Our school became a part of the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS). We started supporting missionaries from Baptist World Mission (BWM).

Evangelizing, making disciples, and studying for four different teaching or sermon times every week, among other duties, took up the bulk of my time. I would almost always be preaching at least two book series in the New Testament and one in the Old. I've now preached through every book of the New Testament, except for Luke (I'm in chapter 11 right now), and many in the Old (Genesis, Deuteronomy, Joshua-1 Kings 19, Nehemiah, Job, 120 or so of the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all the Minor Prophets). The study, more than any one thing, exposed fundamentalism to me.

Every book of the Bible I preached through changed both me and our church. At one point I was in 1 Corinthians 14 and got to verses 29-35. I was convicted by God's Spirit through those verses and then other parallel passages (cf. 1 Timothy 2:9-15) about ways that our practice clashed with God's Word. Women needed to remain silent where in the church there was a forum for challenge---preaching times and business meetings. I did a long series of sermons from all the applicable passages for our church to come together on this decision. Only men should speak during preaching or make the business or financial decisions of the church.

One family, where the wife often spoke up in business meetings while her husband remained silent, did not like what it heard. The family didn't say anything to me at that time, but one of the parents did complain to the son, who brought this matter to attention of one of his doctrine classes at school. Word traveled about this from the professor to the administration of the school, and I got a call from the president. He challenged me to "choose my battles" and to be careful not to make decisions that could hinder church growth. I wanted us to line up with and obey Scripture, whatever the consequences. Soon thereafter, I got a several page, single-space, typewritten letter from the dean of academic affairs, opposing the position I was preaching to our church. Among other things, he said that our position was a form of chauvenism, which would in fact "muzzle" our women.

Our church changed to follow the Bible and our ladies have never suffered from that. They are as fulfilled and joyous and involved as any group I've seen. The men of our church were strengthened by what the Bible expected of their leadership. Men had to lead. Today many conservative churches operate just like ours with their church government, except also excluding all of the men except for a small entirely male group of elders who decide everything for the church. What I saw as this related to fundamentalism was another example of the nature and work of fundamentalism enacted upon the superior institution, the church.

More to Come.

Monday, February 21, 2011

When I Left Fundamentalism part two

Still in Seminary

Calvary Lansdale

After my senior year of college and before my first year of graduate school in 1984, I served in a summer intern program at a church in Eastern Pennsylvania. I attended the pastor/preacher boy conference with Calvary Baptist Church in Lansdale, led by Pastor E. Robert Jordan. There was much I respected about Calvary Lansdale, including their emphasis on expository preaching, to which I was already committed. Their style of preaching was a good basic model for how to preach in a church.

However, I never attended Calvary for several reasons. One, the professors and many graduates mocked the King James Version. E. Robert Jordan was a King James advocate, but the school already ridiculed the translation while he was still the pastor of the church. I'm not saying they took a different position. I'm saying that they scoffed the King James. Two, many mocked positions of personal holiness, like stands against mixed swimming, the movie theater, and modest dress. The churches held activities at the swim park. I know because I went to one, thinking that perhaps I was amiss in my thinking about that. What I saw were wet women in less than their underwear and with permissible touching and frolicking, all excused by the proximity to water. Afterwards, we had "devotions." Questioning it was met with derision. FBF national leaders preached there. Greenville and Lansdale had made a truce around the time the latter started a seminary. Three, it was obvious that Lansdale had even then a strong affinity for new-evangelicalism, much praise and little criticism for non-separatists, resulting in the departure of longtime faculty over to new-evangelicalism. I wondered how that fundamentalism could coexist with Calvary in Lansdale, but it did. It still does.

The Blood Issue

Between 1984 and 1987 was when the blood issue rose to the surface between Bob Jones University and John MacArthur. I had heard MacArthur on the radio, and even though I knew he wasn't a separatist and was off in some of his positions, he was someone I respected for preaching the Bible, unlike almost anything else I heard. I really did wonder how MacArthur could be so wrong, and yet have preaching that was so much better than anything else I was hearing.

When Bob Jones attacked MacArthur in their magazine, Faith for the Family, I already knew what MacArthur's position was on the blood of Christ. Fundamentalist leaders said that MacArthur denied the blood. I knew that wasn't true, because I had read through his Hebrews commentary. The type of argumentation used against MacArthur was so superficial and silly that I was mystified. To start, MacArthur did not deny the blood, but even if he did, his error should have been pointed out from scripture. Bob Jones and its surrogates really did argue a strawman at the time. Once they saw that they had misrepresented MacArthur, they should have recanted right away, but they dug in for over a decade in typical fundamentalist fashion. As the winds toward MacArthur began to change among young fundamentalists, Bob Jones came out with a weak apology many years later.

I don't believe like MacArthur on the blood. Blood is more than a metonym for death, like MacArthur espouses. However, fundamentalism's treatment of MacArthur was so typical of how I witnessed fundamentalism to operate.

Early Years Pastoring

As a Bible college and graduate school student, I was immersed in fundamentalism. A fundamentalist college begets fundamentalist graduates of one stripe or another. However, fundamentalism wasn't what I was thinking when my new wife and I left to evangelize the East San Francisco Bay Area, north of Oakland. We would first meet in the multipurpose room of a public elementary school in Hercules, California, so I knocked on the first door next to that building, and then kept knocking.

My church membership moved from Calvary Baptist in Watertown, Wisconsin along with my wife from New Hampshire to Calvary Baptist in San Francisco. The former and the latter were fundamentalist, Baptist churches. We held our first meeting on October 17, 1987. My new world was work, a wife, paying the bills, and evangelizing all without fundamentalism on my radar. Except when I attended pastors meetings, fundamentalist ones.

There were two groups of fundamentalists in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1980s---the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (FBF) guys and the Hyles guys. Those two groups had been represented in my life at Lucerne up at Clear Lake, Maranatha Week, with Hyles and Bell, parts one and two.


I attended FBF meetings with high hopes, not knowing what to expect. I came out with three observations. One, FBF preaching was a lot about old loyalties and Bob Jones University. The men preached sermons against things that almost no one needed, especially if he really was a fundamentalist---against Promise Keepers, against pseudo-fundamentalism, Jack Van Impe, the Moral Majority, etc. The real problems of the FBF were never touched, for instance, church discipline and discipleship and second blessing theology. At an FBF meeting, I never heard anything preached on the gospel and evangelism. Never did I hear anything preached against Jack Hyles. Rarely did I ever hear a good expository sermon.

The fellowship, I guess, was supposed to take place at meal time during a conference. I assumed that bringing up some point from scripture would be the norm. It wasn't. Men were just not free to have those kinds of discussion. The things you really wanted to talk about and needed to talk about couldn't be talked about. Men in leadership would not and could not talk about a controversial subject from the Bible. The areas that you wanted to discuss the most were off limits. Fellowship around the FBF was not about the Bible. It was about who was doing what or preaching with whom or how many so and so was running or how very bad the new-evangelicals were. We didn't know what fellowship, biblical fellowship, was even about. That would have been a good place to start, but that would have exposed many of the errors in the FBF itself. We were coming together mainly based upon fundamentalist tradition, approved primarily by Bob Jones University.


Not only did I attend FBF meetings, but I also went to the National Pastors and Workers Conference at North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, where Jack Trieber was pastor. We had some of those preachers into Maranatha. When I left to go to California, the dean of academic affairs, John Brock, encouraged me to go out to California and outgrow North Valley and Trieber. I just nodded, but I didn't have anything like that in mind. When I went down to Santa Clara, which was about 1 1/2 hours from me, I wasn't comfortable, because I remembered the sermons from Hyles at Maranatha. Rarely did I hear one that I believed was scriptural. Hyles mocked expository preaching---he would say that it was like treating the Bible like a "math book."

You may wonder how I could ever have attended Trieber's conference. Rumors were out there about problems in Hammond and with Dave Hyles, but nothing substantiated from my point of view until a year or two later. I had an open mind and was giving it an opportunity. Maybe I was judgmental, so something was wrong with me. However, one attendance of that school delivered me from ever going again.

When you arrived at North Valley, the place was immaculate. If you've never been to any place like that, I could hardly describe to you how the ministry philosophy pervades even the grounds. Much good could be said about certain high standards, but it is impossible to separate the manipulativeness of the place from the grooming of the property, down to the color of the carpet, the paint, and the lighting. The music, the timing, the dress, everything is choreographed for the maximum effect upon the visitor.

The preaching was horrible. I really only remember two sermons. One was from Clarence Sexton, who I'd never heard before. One word stands out from his speech: screaming. He was also a consummate showman, dressed to the "T." This was the first I had seen of the immense honoring of the preacher. I was called to the front in one of the evenings to be thanked and given a Bible and applauded. It was something very different than what I read in 1 Corinthians, where Paul wrote that the one who sows and the one who waters, both are nothing.

None of the sessions sorted out what Scripture said about ministry. All of them talked about what worked and therefore God was obviously using. Everything was very slick, very well put together. Most of it was a walk by sight and not by faith.

I had read Jack Hyles' Meet the Holy Spirit. I knew it was bad, very bad. But I was accustomed in fundamentalism to overlooking false doctrine. I had gotten the picture that it was all a matter of degree and that you were going to have to put up with some stink. After all, none of us are perfect. It never had even occurred to me that Hyles and most of his followers were preaching a false gospel, from which everyone should separate.

Hyles was coming to the National Pastor's Conference and when he preached, we met at the San Jose Convention Center. It was a sight to behold. Packed out. Full. I drove a van down to the meeting. I really was being convicted about it. My justification was that Hyles would light a fire under our people. They would leave his presentation far more interested in "soulwinning" than they were. That would be a good thing. So I prayed all the way down that Hyles would not preach on the Holy Spirit. Of course, that was no prayer that God would answer, and Hyles did preach an unbiblical sermon on the Holy Spirit, buttressed by story after story in which Jack Hyles was the hero.

I'm serious when I say that every single person in the auditorium went forward that night. Thousands. Except for me, my family, and the church members who sat with me. Even a church member who went separately got swept onto the conveyor belt to the front. I saw that family weeping and kneeling. It was hard to get forward, because there was nowhere to move. People in front of us just dropped right where they were and when they got up, they stared at us sitting there, looking at us with disdain that we could be so unmoved. I resolved in that meeting never to attend one of those events again. I apologized to our people and explained to them what was wrong with the sermon. No damage came out of it.

I would still receive the invitations and the flyers from Jack Trieber, obviously his form letters. After several years, I decided to write him to inform him why I would never be coming. I gave four or five reasons. I told him I wanted to stop receiving his invitations. I got a letter back a few weeks later, thanking me for the letter. That was it. And I kept receiving the materials in the mail. Still do.

It wasn't long afterwards that I walked down the hill of our property to the mailbox and picked up a copy of the Biblical Evangelist. I don't remember how I got on Robert Sumner's mailing list, but I liked looking through those types of papers. I saw one of the arresting headlines on the front page was something like "The Saddest Story You'll Ever Read." I laughed because of what seemed like an obvious tease of the reader. Of course, I wanted to find out what the saddest story was. Very little of the article was on the front page. I leafed through the paper as I walked back up to the church building, and I saw then page after page with Hyles name on it. Hyles. Hyles. Hyles. Wow. So then I went back to the beginning and began reading with amazement for the first time. After that, I got everything I could get on the subject. I read Voyle Glover's book, Fundamental Seduction, Wizard of God by Vic Nischik, the follow up articles by Sumner and then the answers from Hyles, and listened to a three hour sermon on tape, preached by Roger Voegtlin from Fairhaven Baptist Church in Chesterton, IN. Whatever was left of the Hyles' influence on me, it was gone.

The worst effect of Hyles on fundamentalism, I believe, was in his second blessing theology, his creation of first and second class conditions depending on after salvation experiences not taught in the Bible. Hyles said that his success came from the power of God. Despite having this power, he also needed a complex system of promotion, marketing, and gimmicks, but he said that he got his ability in a post-salvation period on his father's grave. For a period time, I coveted that same experience. I wanted size and success like Hyles, and if it was the power that was necessary, I wanted it. I was never convinced from the Bible that I needed it, but by the stories of Hyles. And Hyles was a fundamentalist.

More to Come.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

When I Left Fundamentalism part one

I left fundamentalism over thirteen years ago. This is my story.

Becoming a Fundamentalist

Growing up in Covington, Indiana from 1962 to 1974, I never heard of fundamentalism. The major terms for me were Jesus, Bible, saved, church, and Baptist. I didn't think I was reading the King James; I was just reading 'the Bible.' Everything was about pleasing the Lord. My dad took Old Testament survey at a church institute in Danville, Illinois and heard about "Christian college," and our proceeding move to Watertown, Wisconsin and Maranatha Baptist Bible College made us fundamentalists.

Maranatha proclaimed itself to be fundamental Baptist. "Fundamental" differentiated Maranatha from most Baptists. If someone was fundamental Baptist, he wasn't conservative or American or General or Southern Baptist, among other associations or conventions. And since Maranatha was Baptist, it wasn't Presbyterian or Methodist or Bible either, unless it was Bible with "Baptistic" next to it. Only those who would identify themselves as Baptists would preach there. However, Maranatha was more fundamentalist in its practice than it was Baptist. For instance, if someone fellowshiped with Southern Baptists, Maranatha would separate from him; however, if he fellowshiped with certain Presbyterians, of the Ian Paisley variety, infant sprinklers, that would not hinder fellowship (Bob Jones, Jr and III).

Even though Maranatha itself did not teach revivalism (I never heard it there), it accepted revivalists. Revivalism was neither taught nor was it exposed or challenged. We had many revivalist preachers into the school, who preached something that was different than what we heard taught. At the annual soulwinning and missionary conference, Maranatha brought in John R. Rice and Jack Hyles, Hyles every year I was in Watertown. Jack Hyles also spoke every year at Maranatha week at Lucerne Christian Conference center in Northern California, usually along with Rod Bell. I was there for three of those weeks traveling for the school, and Hyles would visit the first half of the week and Bell the second. The room was packed until Wednesday for Hyles, leaving a handful of people for Bell's sessions. We heard revivalist preaching and thinking proclaimed at Maranatha and we were also taught to listen to it without being critical ("Don't criticize the man of God.").

In the classroom at Maranatha, students were taught something very different than all of fundamentalism, both revivalist and non-revivalist. Students during the time I was there were taught historic Baptist theology. I believe that was what was most distinct about Maranatha. Maranatha printed two sets of books: the two volume hardback A History of Baptists by Thomas Armitage and the thin paperback Evaluating New Testament Versions by Everett Fowler. It was often reported that professor Richard Weeks had the largest private Baptist history library in the world. We could check out volumes from his collection for research and outside reading. Maranatha taught local-only ecclesiology, the perpetuity of the church, the Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism, and a very consistent, strong position on the Baptist distinctives. Anything else was wrong. Everything but a historic Baptist viewpoint was castigated in many of the required classes: Baptist Polity, Baptist History, Revelation, and Acts. In these classes, being a Baptist was far more important than being a fundamentalist. That spirit of the school clashed with the concept of fundamentalism.

Example was what caused Maranatha graduates to be fundamentalists, either of the revivalist (Hyles, Rice, etc.) or non revivalist (Bob Jones, Weniger, etc.) variety. Fundamentalists preached in chapel. Fundamentalist churches sent their children to the college. Fundamentalism was akin to New Testament Christianity then and there.

Initial Doubts about Fundamentalism

In college and graduate school at Maranatha, I first began to doubt fundamentalism. I don't think I would have been able to explain them, but I know the doubts were there. At least three components contributed to my original suspicions about fundamentalism, and not necessarily in the following order.


I heard little exposition of scripture and even less good exposition in fundamentalism. We began to hear more and better by the time I reached graduate school. We were learning sound hermeneutics and accumulating the tools and skills for exegesis in class, but we were not hearing many good examples in chapel from which to model. Arno Q. Weniger Jr. preached series through books, but something was missing in application. I listened to evangelicals on the radio, who, albeit weaker, offered a better model for biblical preaching than what I heard in chapel and class. Some of the content of those evangelicals was off, but how they went about it was more in tune with "preaching the Word."

When Hyles came to Maranatha, he often twisted passages to fit his sermon, which should have been exposed, dissected, and rejected, but wasn't. He gave a horrible example of what preaching ought to be. He became the poster-boy for choosing a short text and then fleeing from it with incredible stories and illustrations. There was a lot wrong with what and how Hyles preached, and yet he was exalted, seen as great.

We had preaching from the old Bob Jones University graduates, thinking of Rod Bell and Ed Nelson, who often allegorized Old Testament texts with their preaching. I remember Rod Bell preaching on Elijah after Mt. Carmel, seeing the cloud the size of a man's fist, and a man's hand has five fingers, the number five represents this or that, so the cloud represents that. Ed Nelson preached on Elisha making the axehead to swim and the axehead represented this and the handle represented this. Often the meaning of Old Testament names would provide the basis for whole sermons. There was no explanation for why these things meant what they did---much like Hyles, these men had some special spiritual insight that could only be had by the chosen few. Lez Heinze came and showed us how that the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 were actually representative of church ages, with us presently inhabiting the Laodicean age, no exegetical basis provided for why these weren't just seven actual churches. Preaching seemed to be a spiritual experience that circumvented plain meaning.

Fundamentalism featured and still does feature the preaching of "evangelists." Evangelists travel the United States or a region of the U.S., at that time staying between Sunday and Friday and then traveling on Saturday, giving rise to the Monday to Friday, five suits and five sermons. They either had "revival meetings" or "evangelistic meetings." If you look for this pattern in Scripture, I think you know that it won't be there. This whole thing is an invention that you can trace back to that late 19th century, maybe further if evangelists came out of the period of the Methodist circuit riders. Bob Jones Sr. himself was an "evangelist." John R. Rice was an "evangelist." Fundamentalism was tied closely into its "evangelists."

Evangelists were the flat out celebrity preachers in my day. Most every one of them had his special schtick for preaching---story telling, screaming or yelling, humor, gigantic chunks of scripture memory, ventriloquism, 'gospel music,' puppets, and more. Many times sermons were scripted like a dramatic presentation to get the most effect out of the gestures, rising and falling of the voice, timing, pauses, and preached dozens and even hundreds of times. Some evangelists were experts as well at the invitation at the end, to squeeze the most possible number of decisions out of the crowd, often an indicator of the success or failure of the night. Maranatha kicked off each semester usually with an evangelist as a type of "spiritual emphasis." The role of the modern evangelist fit with a view of sanctification that was encouraged by the revivalists, looking to a secondary spiritual experience after salvation that would bring the people to a state of "dedication."


I recognize that politics are all over the place, including the world at large, and in evangelicalism, but fundamentalism was and is rife with politics. I saw this firsthand when I was in college and graduate school. Fundamentalist politics made my head spin with loyalties transcending biblical obedience. The successful churches were the big churches and you knew you were a success if you were a common chapel speaker or often invited for fundamentalist meetings and conferences. You knew you arrived if you were a big shot in a fundamentalist institution

The politics were found in fundamentalism and on a fundamentalist campus. Being a big man on campus (BMOC) could send you to a premier church or position, that would in turn make you a big man in fundamentalism. The young star knew how to work the system. He was especially uncritical of the problems and faux pas of fundamentalism and skilled at hob-knobbing with the right people.

At Maranatha I often wondered why we had the people we had come through. Many of them clashed what we were being taught in class, diminishing the importance of the teaching, making it as if those scriptural distinctives really didn't matter. For instance, Maranatha contradicted Bob Jones in many different ways, but those differences were ignored for the greater cause of fundamentalism.

When B. Myron Cedarholm, the founder and president, stepped aside to become chancellor, that was a big moment in the history of the school. Instead of choosing someone like him, with the same beliefs and practices, politics transformed Maranatha forever to something worse than what it was. Dr. Cedarholm chose Arno Q. Weniger Jr. to be the next president of the college. Weniger differed from Cedarholm in all the ways that made Maranatha distinct, the very reasons my family originally came to the school. Factors other than politics were surely involved, like Cedarholm's lack of financial and organizational ability, a strong talent of Weniger. Cedarholm thought Weniger had the know-how to help rescue the school. Weniger had a growing church, employing some of the strategies he learned at Hyles' pastor's school to reach the size it attained. Weniger took over in the middle of my senior year and old loyalties took priority over belief and practice, resulting in massive changes at Maranatha. I didn't have to wait to graduate to watch the school turn into something drastically different.

Certain faculty members never should have retained their positions under Cedarholm, but they did by the force of the sheer loyalty that he held for fundamentalists who had stood with him in past fundamentalist conflicts. Some of them were chopped by Weniger for different reasons. After Cedarholm moved to chancellor and the school began changing, many faculty members metamorphosized into loyal members of the new administration. The changes in belief and practice did not cause them to skip a beat. It was then I found out who they really were. They never were loyal to the biblical beliefs and practices distinct to the school, but to their own positions and agendas.


A lot of people in fundamentalist institutions, I think, assume that the way that they operate is just what can be expected from a Christian organization. They know that if you're going to make an omelet, you're going to have break a few eggs on the way. All of us are sinners and in a struggle toward ultimate sanctification or glorification, but to get there, unscriptural behavior must be unacceptable. The accomplish godly goals, spiritual weaponry must be employed. In so many cases, I saw carnality as the norm for reaching desired aims in a fundamentalist organization.

Fundamentalism is not a scriptural movement. It has some biblical aspects to it, but as a whole it does not conform to a biblical paradigm or template. To follow the Bible within fundamentalism is like trying to store the new wine in old wineskins. There is no way that the Bible can can fit into the wineskin that is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism will always suffer, but ultimately the Bible itself will become the casualty. As a result, so much of the Bible is not obeyed in fundamentalism.

In much of fundamentalism, pragmatism is the norm, with the end justifying the means. It's practical, if it works, within certain fairly broad parameters. It is often doing what it takes to maintain size, keep growing in numbers, and to meet payrolls. I saw this firsthand. I hadn't seen it all. I was still very naive. I thought these preachers had been dropped down from heaven. But I found out otherwise.

My last year of graduate school at Maranatha I worked as the director of student activities for the college. The president was renowned for an explosive temper, which he directed at me several times, shouting and threatening. It wasn't pretty. Perhaps that style of leadership was not endemic to just fundamentalism. However, it was harbored there and cooperated with. I felt a real fear existed among the faculty and staff at that time and the environment was not suited, even if it were a church, to spiritual service. I saw there a destructive loyalty to leadership that would not benefit the school or the president. Maybe he was confronted for his behavior by those closest to him, but it was conduct that continued, a wrong model for what could produce disciples of Jesus Christ.

The fundamentalist organization was not a biblical setting for discipleship. I did not see my faculty mentors involved in evangelism. It probably occurred, but I never witnessed any personal evangelism from the faculty of the institution. We had a personal evangelism class, but it seemed to be entirely a laboratory experience that never left the classroom. I sat through many sermons on evangelism, but I knew of little to none that was actually taking place. Students evangelized. I knew that. But I remember only one occasion of our leaders involved.

More to Come

For you sprouting new psychiatrists out there, I had to think to recall what I wrote here. This isn't stuff that sticks with me. I'm a very forward looking, Philippians 3, kind of guy. My purpose here is to tell the story, however, start to finish.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Is it True That No Two NT MSS Are Exactly the Same?

The idea that no two New Testament manuscripts (MSS) are exactly the same has been widely circulated. The testimony of Wilbur N. Pickering, Ph. D., in his essay, “In Defense of the Objective Authority of the Sacred Text,” ( explodes this myth based on his own personal collations. Dr. Pickering writes:

[Out of 21 MSS of the Thessalonian epistles I have personally collated], eleven of their exemplars (over half) were ‘perfect,’ and another five were off by only one variant. . . . The MSS come from all over the Mediterranean world. . . . [Considering] minuscule 18 . . . at least ten [generations passed between this MS and] the family archetype[,] [very possibly] fifteen or more[.] . . . However many there actually were, please note that every last one of them was perfect! The implications of finding a perfect representative of any archetypal text are rather powerful. All the ‘canons’ of textual criticism become irrelevant to any point subsequent to the creation of that text [Emphasis in original, both here and below in the bold print.]. . . . For MS 18 to be perfect, all the generations in between had to be perfect as well. Now I call this incredibly careful transmission. Nothing that I was taught in Seminary about New Testament textual criticism prepared me for this discovery! . . . MS 18 is not an isolated case . . . [By contrast, a] typical “Alexandrian” MS will have over a dozen variants per page. . . . [but] one of the better f35 MSS [the f35 group is a segment of the Byzantine MSS] will go for pages without a variant. . . . A monk copying an “Alexandrian” MS evidently did not consider that he was handling Scripture, in stark contrast to one copying a f35 MS. . . . In 2 John . . . [I have collated] twenty-four . . . MSS [that] are perfect representatives of the family as they stand . . . in 3 John . . . also twenty-four . . . in Jude . . . seventeen . . . for all three . . . eleven . . . all thirty-seven MSS [from which the statistics of this sentence come] are independent in their generation, as were their exemplars. . . . I see no evidence of collusion, of ‘stuffing the ballot box’—there was no organized effort to standardize the Text. We are looking at a normal transmission, except that it was incredibly careful. . . . [There were] twenty-one perfect exemplars [for all three books, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude]. . . . [In the book of James] . . . the examplars of [MSS] 18, 35, 1864, 1865, 2221 and 2723 are perfect representatives . . . [In] 1 Peter . . . we have four exemplars that [are perfect copies] . . . [in] 2 Peter . . . we have eight exemplars . . . [in] 1 John . . . we have eight exemplars . . . [in] 2 John . . . most of the [collated] cursives are perfect representatives . . . [in] 3 John . . . we have twenty-one perfect exemplars . . . [in] Jude . . . half of the cursives are perfect representatives . . . The exemplar of [MS] 2723 . . . is perfect throughout a section of seven books. (pgs. 1-12)

Thus, there are actually substantial numbers of manuscripts of the NT that are exactly alike. The findings above are the work of only one man, working with a relatively small number of the over 5,000 MSS of the New Testament. Someone who says that no two MSS of the New Testament are exactly alike does not know what he is talking about.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Children of Obedient Parents Turning Out for God--Certainty or Mere Possibility? Part 2

Other texts in Scripture confirm the fact that parents who train up their children rightly can rejoice in a joyful certainty that their children will be saved and serve God. Proverbs 29:17 states: “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” As Proverbs and the rest of the Bible—not to mention experience—makes clear, a wicked and unconverted child does not give rest and delight to godly parents. Proverbs 29:17 teaches, as does Proverbs 22:6, that a child who is properly trained will be saved and serve the Lord. Similarly, Proverbs 23:13-14 declares: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” This passage guarantees that a properly disciplined child will come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and will not go to hell.[1] Other texts in the book of Proverbs make similar promises.[2] In light of these Divine promises, it is not surprising that neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament record a single example of parents who did everything they were supposed to do for their children, yet their children rejected God and refused to walk in holiness.

The fact that the New Testament requires spiritual leaders to have godly children also demonstrates that Proverbs 22:6 and similar texts are promises. The pastor, and every other spiritual leader,[3] must be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5).[4] He must have “faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6),[5] because otherwise he is not “blameless” (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:2).[6] The fact that every minister who has children that grow up to be unregenerate and unfaithful[7] is not qualified for office only makes sense if believers who properly raise their children can be certain that they will live for God—while ungodly children are certainly responsible for their own wickedness, such a tragic result also evidences a moral failure on the part of their unhappy parents, for the requirement that the bishop have faithful children is as much a moral qualification[8] as are being vigilant, sober, and of good behaviour, or not being a striker, greedy, or covetous. The fact that pastors are disqualified if their children go bad, no matter how old those children are,[9] also demonstrates that Proverbs 22:6 is a promise that even into old age children who are trained correctly will not depart from the way of righteousness. The New Testament provides further evidence that Proverbs 22:6 and other Old Testament texts promise that parents who raise their children correctly can be certain that they will have a godly seed.

Proverbs 22:6, other Old Testament passages, and the New Testament, harmoniously teach that parents who raise their children properly can be certain to have a godly family.[10] Christian parents should rejoice at the Divine guarantee that they can have saved and holy children, act in faith on such promises, and plead them before God in prayer. They should reject the false doctrine that it is possible for parents to do all that they ought to do and have their children reject Christ and live for the devil. They should also be soberminded and zealously, passionately determined that they will live lives of faith, love, and holiness before God themselves, since, while their children are certainly moral agents who are personally accountable if they reject Christ, parents with ungodly children do bear the responsibility, in every case, of having failed in their childrearing.


[1] It is outside of the scope of this analysis to deal with those who deny that lwøaVv actually does refer, with some frequency, to torment in hell, arguing instead that in Scripture Sheol refers only to the grave. It will merely be noted how incredibly inane it would be, if “hell” were merely the grave, to warn: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17), since then Psalm 9:17 could with equal accuracy have stated, “The righteous shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that remember God,” since all the godly people of David’s day went to the grave as did the wicked. It is also beyond credulity to believe that when David penned Psalm 86:13 (“For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.”) he was not rejoicing that God’s mercy had saved him from torment in hell fire, but he was looking forward to being buried in a shallow grave rather than a deep one.

[2] For example, Proverbs 29:15 guarantees that the rod and reproof will give wisdom, and thus a properly disciplined and trained child will not be a fool, but a wise man, which requires regeneration and a walk with God. Proverbs 22:15 promises that a properly disciplined child will not have foolishness near to him, and so he will not be an ungodly man, the fool of the book of Proverbs. Note also Proverbs 20:7.

[3] If the office of the deacon requires a godly family (1 Timothy 3:12), how much the more must evangelists, church planters at home and abroad, and other ministers, have a godly family to be qualified for office?

[4] touv i˙di÷ou oi¶kou kalw◊ß proiœsta¿menon, te÷kna e¶conta e˙n uJpotaghØv meta» pa¿shß semno/thtoß (ei˙ de÷ tiß touv i˙di÷ou oi¶kou prosthvnai oujk oi•de, pw◊ß e˙kklhsi÷aß Qeouv e˙pimelh/setai);

[5] te÷kna e¶cwn pista¿, mh\ e˙n kathgori÷aˆ aÓswti÷aß h£ aÓnupo/takta.

[6] Note the specific connection of the requirement of faithful children and blamelessness in Titus 1:6-7; the bishop must have faithful children, “for” (ga¿r) he must be blameless.

[7] The requirement that the minister have te÷kna . . . pista¿, “faithful children,” includes the fact that their children must be believers, not unsaved people, but it is not limited to belief—backslidden and unfaithful regenerate children also disqualify the minister, for such are certainly able to be “accused of riot” and are “unruly” (Titus 1:6) and are not in “subjection with all gravity” and well “rule[d]” (1 Timothy 3:4-5). The other references to pisto/ß in Titus signify “faithful,” not simply “believing” (1:9; 3:8). Note also that in the very large majority of the uses of pisto/ß by Paul in syntactical constructions similar to that in Titus 1:6, the word means “faithful”; out of 22 uses (1 Corinthians 1:9; 4:2, 17; 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Timothy 1:12, 15; 3:1, 11; 4:9; 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:11, 13; Titus 1:6, 9; 3:8; Hebrews 3:5; 10:23; 11:11), only one possibly means simply “believing” (1 Timothy 6:2), and even this instance could reasonably be viewed as “faithful.” Likewise, either 90% or 100% (depending, again, on 1 Timothy 6:2) of the uses of pisto/ß in the accusative case, as it is in Titus 1:6, signify “faithful” (Acts 13:34; 16:15; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:12; 3:11; 6:2; Titus 1:6; Hebrews 3:2; 11:11; 3 John 5). In the very close linguistic parallel to Titus 1:6 in 1 Corinthians 4:17, employing both pisto/ß and te÷knon, “faithful” is the idea conveyed. The broader use of pisto/ß in the New Testament supports the truth established by the immediate context of Titus 1:6 that the children of overseers, elders, or pastors must be not only regenerate but also obedient.

[8] The clauses te÷kna e¶cwn pista¿ (“having faithful children,” Titus 1:6) and touv i˙di÷ou oi¶kou kalw◊ß proiœsta¿menon, te÷kna e¶conta e˙n uJpotaghØv meta» pa¿shß semno/thtoß (“one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity,” 1 Timothy 3:4) are adjectival, describing the elder or bishop in the same way that simple adjectives such as “blameless” (aÓne÷gklhtoß) do.

[9] The qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are not limited to the time that the children are in their parents’ house. The qualification is not limited to “young children,” “infants,” or the like; it simply says that the elder’s “children” must be walking in the way of holiness, without any limitation as to age. As long as the elder is a parent and his children are his children—that is, for the entire course of their lives—so long do the requirements of 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6 last. The word employed for “children” in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, te÷knon, is employed in Scripture for those who are descended from their parents, without regard to age, and without a limitation to children still at home (cf. Matthew 23:37; 27:25; Luke 13:34; 19:44; Romans 9:8; Galatians 4:25). It is used in Acts 13:33 for the apostle Paul and for other “men of Israel” (Acts 13:16) for “men and brethren” (Acts 13:26), and even for one who grows up, becomes rich, rules a wealthy household, grows older, and is already dead (Luke 16:25). Furthermore, it is easy to hide the rebellion of children when they are very young and still at home; it is when they are older and their rebellion becomes obvious that parenting failures become public. It is entirely unreasonable to say that as soon as a pastor’s children become rebellious enough to reject his authority, run away from home, and totally give themselves to the world, the requirement of his office to have a godly seed comes to an end—and certainly it is very difficult to argue that a man with such children is “blameless” in his parenting (Titus 1:6-7).

[10] The exegetical analysis in this composition is sufficient to demonstrate the truth of the proposition that God has promised that properly trained children will be saved and live for God. Speculation about how such certainty is consistent with the freedom of the will, Divine sovereignty, and other such high and lofty topics may be worth pondering, but they do not determine what Proverbs 22:6 or any other passage of Scripture means. Far less does personal experience or the limited, fallible evaluation of the lives and families of other people determine the proper interpretation of Scripture. Whatever the Bible teaches is true, whether frail and finite men can figure out how to fit it into systems of speculative philosophy or not—and whether or not God’s infallible revealed truth matches the extremely limited and easily mistaken personal observations of mortal creatures has no bearing whatsoever upon proper Biblical interpretation.