Monday, July 11, 2011

The Artifically Manufactured "Major-Minor" Controversy pt. 3

At one time, Christians and churches believe and practice particular, accepted, orthodox, and historical ways. These want to change, but also want tolerance from other Christians and churches for changing. God hasn't changed, but the world's changes instigate ones for churches too. Those particular doctrines or practices where they have changed, therefore, then must be less important, secondary, or tertiary. And they can't affect fellowship or separation because they aren't "major."

Which doctrines and practices are minor? There isn't such a list in the Bible. The Bible doesn't deal with doctrine and practice that way---just the opposite. The tertiary doctrines and practices have been artificially manufactured by evangelicals and fundamentalists to cobble together coalitions for greater signficance. The casualties are the truth, obedience, and God. The new enemies are those who insist on preserving and protecting all the doctrine of God's Word.

Post-enlightenment culture of the world has changed radically---its art, literature, language, music, and fashion. And we're not talking here about printers, projectors, planes, and polyester. Churches and Christians, which are responsible for holding the line on biblical, godly belief and behavior, for maintaining a lifestyle distinct from the world, have slid along several steps behind as if dragged by an invisible tether. This slide contradicts the immutability of the nature of God and His Truth. Room has been carved out for the contradiction with the invention of the tertiary doctrine or practice. Now the secondary belief and behavior position has become cardinal dogma of a new evangelical canon, its adherents scrambling and sifting through history to find a whiff of its presence, willing to jettison any long proven exegesis that might get in their path.

Among many others, biblical appearance or dress, dress standards if you will, is one of the beliefs or practices bounced off the boat, bobbing in its wake without a life preserver. It had to go. It offended way too many important, new passengers of the Christian coalition.

You can still have dress standards for yourself and your family. More power to you. Go for it. But don't expect others to be with you. And even if you do, don't make it an issue of fellowship or separation. Dress standards, my friend, have become secondary and tertiary, and now are only a distraction from what's really important.

If you bring up dress standards in evangelicalism and in a lot of fundamentalism, you're one of the following---a moralist, a legalist, judgmental, anti-intellectual, unloving, the weaker brother, a Pharisee---or you're just ignored. Take your pick. Also very common now is the charge that those who hold to these now tertiary practices undermine the gospel with dress standards. Today a professing Christian looking for a church thinks of himself as even on some higher theological ground if he rejects a church with dress standards. He justifies himself with aforementioned labels affixed through the persistent propaganda campaign of evangelical and fundamentalist leaders now for a half a century.

Dress standards divide up into four types: extravagance, worldliness, modesty, and gender distinction. Of course, modernistic Christianity will focus on the first of these with the new emphasis on casual dress. You won't be required to dress-down for church, but you're probably at least more authentic if you do. What was once normal Sunday best is now extravagant and unChristlike. The other three types of dress standards have been tossed overboard. You'll hear just a little, very little, about modesty and that's it.

In the materials on what make doctrines or practices tertiary, they are usually shifted to the secondary column by their distant proximity to the gospel and their supposed relative ambiguity. For instance, the Bible doesn't prohibit shorts on women. You won't find that verse anywhere. Now that means the teaching must be unclear. And women won't go to hell for wearing shorts. The people who really care for women's souls don't want a dress standard to get in the way of their getting saved. These are how a dress standard has become tertiary. And if it's tertiary, you would be wrong to make a big deal about it, really don't want to make anyone feel guilty about violating 'one of your standards,' and especially wouldn't want to separate over it.

Even if someone does believe there are tertiary doctrines and practices, have dress standards always been treated like they are today? Are the people with the dress standards really the oddballs of Christian or church history? Or are those who have opted out of the standards by reason of the new tertiary doctrine category the ones who clash with orthodox doctrine and history?

The trashing of Christian culture by Christians themselves helps explain the horrible shape of the United States today. Professing Christians helped excuse the dump that American culture has become, one from which it has become exponentially more difficult to be saved. God designed men and He gave them dress standards. Christians have joined the world in the rejection of those standards. By doing so, they think the world will like them better and the world also might have a better opportunity to be saved. The former is probably true, but the latter isn't. The former, however, is also a very sad state of affair. Christianity is so like the world in its dress that it's hard to tell the difference. And this isn't God's will.

Christian preachers once preached against mixed swimming. Not any more. Churches organize mixed swimming activities for their young people. Churches once distinguished between men and women in the design of clothing. Not any more. Now a popular Christian woman author proudly sports a butch haircut on the cover or flyleaf. Blue jeans are even acceptable church attire for ladies.

The orthodox and historic position of Christianity forbade pants on women. It's only been for decades that Christians haven't done so. That's the position that every Christian took for centuries, as far back as before the printing press. That standard was challenged by the most godless pagans in our society until it became mainstream. It originated with people with an anti-god agenda. Churches at first bucked and resisted, and now they operate just like the world in this behavior. They defend it. The change never came through biblical exegesis or spiritual renewal, but through theological erosion and compromise. Now evangelicalism and fundamentalism pressure with mockery and ridicule the few churches remaining with this dress standard to capitulate and join in. Why mockery and ridicule? Because that's the best stuff they've got. They either don't want to feel guilty for selling out or they don't want to have even the faintest of association with these curious cousins.

Oh, but it's tertiary. Women dressing like men is tertiary. The rise of homosexuality. The break down of the male and female role. The destruction of the family. The downfall of a nation. Worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. Tertiary.

Change in dress standards is a case study on the corruption of biblical doctrine and practice. A culture corrodes first in the areas that most clash with society. The pattern of corruption makes way for further doctrinal and practical erosion. God is no longer in charge. His way is no longer respected. The so-called major doctrines are not far behind because the toleration of error has already started. Total apostasy.


Charles E. Whisnant said...

Like I said to our church, if the women shall wear a dress or skirt than the men should were a white shirt and tie. And both should wear a hat.

As a pastor who is the shepherd of the sheep, one has the responsibility to lead the sheep into holiness of living.

I know your point has been, is there a lower level of teaching of truth in the Bible. I realize what we saw in churches thirty years ago is not what we see in many churches today.

Since I teach verse by verse from a book each a.m. and p.m. I am concerned with the text at hand. It is my hope that the Word would bring people to holiness and the HOLY Spirit would bring them to right dress, right talking, right behaviour.

The pastor does not have the right to tell people what to dress when they come to church, nor what movie to watch. But he does have a responsibility to teach what the Word says.

PSFerguson said...

Hi Kent,

It would be helpful if you would unpack what you think the word "doctrine" means in Romans 16:17. Now that means exegetically - not simply how you interpret it at Bethel Baptist. I realise I have raised this previously but you have not yet answered my question.

If we can establish that point, then you need to establish who gets to decide the exact doctrine of a local church. In BB does the pastor establish the doctrine of angelology from Genesis 6 and everyone have to follow? Can anyone differ but not make it and issue and therefore stay in fellowship? Could they do that on any doctrine?

Joshua said...


Kent has already written an article that directly deals with what you are saying.

I'm not sure if you've already read it, but it may help you to clearly delineate where you are on the same page and where you diverge. Part 1 of the above like would help there also.

Charles E. Whisnant said...


Very good article. on Preaching and Application. When teaching 1 Timothy 2:9, I have no problem making the interpretation of the text. And giving a current application to the text about dress, for both men and women and children, and teenagers is not a problem.

But I really to believe the Holy Spirit will made the application if we as preachers make the right interpretation.

What is the current "scriptural standard for modesty" as to in Paul day as well as in our day is the key to application? What my Dad said in 1944 about modesty and what I would say in 2011 would be somewhat different. Both I would believe would be scriptural.

As to John MacArthur's approach, I have never been so much under conviction about holiness, and accountability, and responsibility to minister as I have under the teaching of MacArthur.

I agree that "fallibility fo the preacher" is not a good reason for not applying Scripture.

But don't you believe if the people believe its God speaking in the Word rather than the opinion of the preacher would be better?


Joshua said...


I am glad you liked the article, and that you do give application when you preach. I completely agree that the Holy Spirit will make application as the preacher makes right interpretation. I also agree that what a preacher says in 1944 will be somewhat different to a 2011 preacher.

So while I mostly agreed with what you said, it's more in the way that you phrased it that I agree - I still feel there is a large gulf between here in viewpoint.

There is no contradiction between expecting the Holy Spirit to make the changes in people's lives, and a preacher making a clear application of the Bible's teaching of modesty. Remarkable retreats have been made in this area by preachers, John MacArthur one, as society has steadily grown more and more immodest.

It's not opinion to clearly preach the Bible. I believe Kent is clearly preaching it under the leading of the Holy Spirit. You would probably believe he's just preaching opinions.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Charles,

Paul wrote, "Quench not the Holy Spirit." We quench the Spirit in those areas we are not willing to apply because they clash with the world. I think you understand this.




I think I did answer your question. We get what the Bible teaches from what it says, what it means. Understanding its meaning leads to doctrine. Doctrine comes out of meaning. The Bible has one meaning. However we unify and separate over what the Bible teaches. Doctrine is its teaching. Romans 16:17 says we mark and avoid them which cause division and offences contrary to doctrine which ye have learned. We're saying that refers to all doctrine. We are responsible to God for all doctrine.

You seem to be saying that our church must have unanimity in every use of the genitive to be consistent, and if we don't, then we are obviously ranking doctrines. If someone thinks it is an objective genitive and the other sees it is a possessive genitive, we have now ranked doctrine, and, therefore, Scripture teaches the ranking of doctrines. And if we are ranking doctrines, then everyone must be ranking them.

I would deal with your defense of ranking doctrines for the purposes of unity and separation---for you to show me where the Bible teaches that. I'm saying it doesn't teach that. You are saying it does. I have many, many, many articles proving how it teaches what I am saying. I haven't read yours.

PSFerguson said...

Hi Kent

Lets take your words at face value. You say doctrine equates to teaching and I agree. Exegetically that is what the Greek word means. However, you do not explain do you separate within your church and between BB and other churches on the basis of every teaching based upon every interpretation. I asked you this and you equivocated which I take to mean that your friend’s local church may have a difference from you in some doctrinal interpretations such as Genesis 6. As neither you nor they make a big deal about it, then you treat it as a matter you can agree to respectfully differ. You also stated that you will even tolerate people at BB as members who disagree with you on some doctrinal interpretations. Surely, you can see that you also have a system of ranking doctrines at BB – i.e. baptism by immersion non-negotiable but Genesis 6 “sons of God” is open for personal conviction.

Now, whether the Bible teaches unanimity of every doctrine for fellowship is another question. But lets be clear, you do not practice this consistently at BB so you have adopted a more truncated form of the fundamentalist paradigm vis a vis your circles of fellowship.

You challenge me to establish a biblical case that fellowship can be maintained on the basis of non-unanimity of doctrine. Firstly, I don’t have to do so as the Bible makes no case for your position. You are the one that positively asserts it so you must prove it. Secondly, the Bible does rank doctrines by emphasising that certain doctrinal statements are conditional upon salvation. Others like baptism/head covering clearly are not regarded in the same light (1 Cor. 1:17; 11:16). Thirdly, the Bible makes it clear there are things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). Finally, the Bible teaches that there are things that can only be grasped as milk but as a person matures they will be able to deal with the deeper meat of the word.

So put all this together, then we should be able to parse doctrinal differences and work it out which ones are the ones that are fundamental for salvation and fundamental for the efficacy and defence of the gospel. The latter category is not monolithic but is dependant on the context e.g. a Baptist can never ordain a Presbyterian but they should be able to have an open air together to preach against a sodomite parade in California. Other factors should be considered. There are things that true believers have never agreed on for centuries e.g. immersion baptism which is suggestive that they are not so clear as to cut all fellowship links over. Also, providence has stamped His seal of blessing and honour on those who differ on many of these interpretations which is further suggestive that these differences should not mean an absolute barrier to fellowship.

Charles E. Whisnant said...

I agree there is no teaching in the Word that is not important. I try to the best of my learning and understanding to be clear about every text I teach. I try to the best of my ability to clearly give a clear application of the text as well.

Whereas many teach, or give a sermon with mostly application (topical I guess) Whereas I spend much of the sermon with the explanation of the text and with application.

I like that Joshua "Kent preaches in the Holy Spirit as if it is his opinion.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I believe I was clear and I'd be glad to hear otherwise from someone else, if I'm not. I'm differentiating from what the words mean and what they teach. We don't know what they teach without knowing what they mean, but the latter is different than the former. Teaching is what we believe from what they mean. Two people may believe differently about the meaning of Genesis 6 and have the same teaching on angels and on marriage. I don't know of one doctrinal difference that I have with someone who takes a different position on the meaning of Genesis 6. On the other hand, someone may believe that there is a different meaning in Genesis 1 related to a 24 hour day and come to a different teaching on Genesis 1. So let's start with that. Do you get what I'm saying? Do you get the difference?

PSFerguson said...

No Kent - I do not get your distinction in this context. If I have a different meaning from you on Genesis 6 this will lead to a different teaching/doctrine on Angelology i.e. can fallen angels reproduce with humans or can they only possess a human body.

This is a wearisome discussion as you will not answer the question consistently. Do you separate within BB and between BB and other churches on every single point of biblical doctrine/teaching - yes or no?

My educated guess is that the answer is "no" judging from the differences of views you have with your friends on Jackhammer. So whether you will admit it or not, you do rank doctrines and parse them for meanings. There are some doctrines/teachings you will let slide as "agree to disagree" on the basis of inter-church fellowship.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I suggest you depend on the grace of God, because Jesus' yoke is always easy and never wearisome.

Now that you clarified for me your thoughts on Genesis 6, which you had never done up to this point, I don't agree, and neither would our church, that there is any kind of dividing doctrine in Genesis 6. Whether an evil angel could inhabit a body and then reproduce giants, or just inhabit a body, is not distinguishing doctrine. The doctrine would be, don't be possessed by or influenced by a fallen angel. We all agree with that.

I pointed out to you Romans 16:17-18, which explains separation on doctrine (and that's what we're talking about). Mark and avoid those who teach another doctrine. No. Mark and avoid those who cause division. And our church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, must determine what will cause division. If you truly have read all that I've written on this, then you have read this distinction that we see in matters of separation.

And as this relates to the Jackhammer guys, we have differences, yes, but our church does not separate unless the doctrine will cause division. Our church determines that. But that isn't all. We also will not immediately cut people off. We give people time and we pay attention to whether they are heading in the right direction.

As this relates to the elephant in the room, the divorce and remarriage issue, between one Jackhammer and myself, our church does have one teaching on that, but we separate over what causes division, which we draw the line at God hating divorce and the church hating divorce, not embracing divorce.

You are saying that is the ranking of doctrines into essential and non-essential and major-minor. I'm not saying divorce and remarriage is a non-essential. I'm not even saying that the doctrine of angels is a non-essential.

You, P.S., are left with a system of ranking, completely random, on what is important and not important, infant sprinkling becoming no different than believer's immersion, pre-mid-post trib, amill, premill, non-essential. Scripture doesn't present it that way. You haven't answered that either. You argue, like I would, that there are different consequences for certain beliefs, but this is not saying that the other belief is a non-essential. This categorization has been created by the desire for fake unity in fundamentalism and evangelicalism. As a result, doctrines are devalued.

Joshua said...

Hi Kent,

I posted this earlier, but it didn't show up.

Its a 6 minute video of Piper, Carson and Keller discussing the fruit of this doctrine, without identifying the original.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Very good. They don't get it. They are definitely concerned about something. They think it is hermeneutic courses alone. I'm sure it is to some degree in evangelicalism. I believe it is men walking after their own lusts, like 2 Peter 3 mentions, and they are shaping their certainty around what will either work best for them, be the easiest, allow them to fit in, to be the most popular (as I've said coalitions and significance). They have fit their approach though to their desires rather than their desires to Scripture. I noticed they dealt with culture, because this is where they aren't making applications, but I think these guys are probably talking about complementarianism and homosexuality, something further down the road than what it is with fundamentalists even.

Thanks for the clip.