Wednesday, August 31, 2011

About "Leaving Fundamentalism"

The August 19, 2011 Sword of the Lord featured a top-of-the-fold article by Rick Flanders, When a Brother Says He's Leaving Fundamentalism. I left fundamentalism. I'm not saying that he was answering my ongoing series here at WIT (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), but it relates directly to it nonetheless. Primarily Flanders is speaking to the left-leaning or departing mainly young people who have announced that they are leaving fundamentalism for evangelicalism. I would agree that is going from bad to worse on their part. But still it's easy to see he's hitting someone like myself too. Fine. If I deserve to be hit, I should be hit, but my belief is that Flanders here is the danger to real Christianity and genuine obedience to the Bible. Whether he was speaking to my series a little or not, following is my analysis of his article.

Flanders introduces everything by arguing that someone is a fool who says he is leaving fundamentalism, so he and others must answer these fools based upon Proverbs 26:4. The essence of his argument is in the last paragraph of the intro:

There is folly in leaving fundamentalism, and we ought to examine it in the light of the wisdom of God.

So Flanders will need to prove, using the "wisdom of God," which we should assume is Scripture, that leaving fundamentalism is indeed folly. My hopes aren't high in light of the circuitous route he took to slide his targets into a fool category. It's possible some who leave fundamentalism are fools, literally unbelievers, but because they've left fundamentalism? Here we go.

So What?

Before he can begin proving his point, Flanders first asserts, "let us recognize the veiled pride in such an announcement and respond by saying, 'So what?'" If that assertion is true, then there would have been no need to write the article, except perhaps to expose the obvious pride he assumes in anyone who would announce such an act. It must be pride. How does Flanders know? He doesn't say, but it seems that it must be obvious, albeit veiled. Veiled but obvious. And it must be pride. Pride to leave and say you're leaving. Humble to stay. Or humble to leave and at least not say you're leaving. And why? Because according to Flanders, leaving fundamentalism is a "defection from the truth" and it reenacts the "story of Demas." Is leaving fundamentalism a defection from the truth parallel with the actions of Demas? If you were a Demas, defecting from the truth, that is quite a bigger problem than the announcement of the defection itself. Ejection from Christianity should be the main source of concern, not the announcement that one has done so.

Flanders ends his apparent indifference ("so what?") with a contradictory expression of deep concern:

Defections only hurt the defectors, and those who pay attention to them. If a believer for conscience sake must leave an organization, withdraw approval from a ministry or a minister, stop cooperating with somebody, or take some stand, let him simply do it, and not say things to cast reflection on Fundamentalism, a legitimate spiritual movement, “lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:39). One man’s “leaving Fundamentalism” will do no harm to Fundamentalism itself.

Contradiction #1. Flanders seems himself to be paying attention and then drawing more attention to defectors, and so based on his own standard also harming his audience. Contradiction #2. If someone really did leave his fundamentalist circle of association "for conscience sake," wouldn't he want to tell other people what was wrong with it? He is operating according to his conscience after all. Contradiction #3. If his leaving really doesn't do any harm to fundamentalism, then Flanders really had no reason to write the article. In the midst of all that, he insinuates that leaving this "legitimate spiritual movement" is to "fight against God." Alright.

Doing What?

In the final sentence of Flander's first paragraph of this section, he says that "fundamentalism itself is not a human movement, but rather a divine truth." In the immediately preceding paragraph, he had said that fundamentalism was "a legitimate spiritual movement." We've got to make up our mind here. Is it a movement or isn't it? Or is it only "a divine truth"? Of course fundamentalism is a movement, even as Flanders himself goes on to explain. It started "a hundred years ago" as "a grass-roots uprising in the evangelical American denominations." I believe he's correct with that assessment---fundamentalism was an interdenominational movement that began in the early 20th century.

You could be a Presbyterian and a fundamentalist. You could be amillennial and be a fundamentalist. You could sprinkle infants and be a fundamentalist. You could deny the perfect preservation of Scripture and be a fundamentalist. You could be in fundamentalism and be either a Calvinist or an Arminian. You were still a fundamentalist whether the true church was visible or invisible. Fundamentalism required no church membership. You could be seven-day twenty-four hour creationist or gap or day age theorist and still be in fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a movement that binds the people of various denominations together despite these "non-fundamental" differences. Fundamentalism by nature encourages a doctrinal minimalism. The wide variety that once distinguished fundamentalism has expanded even further. Now you're still in fundamentalism whether you believe repentance is necessary for salvation or not, whether you do mixed swimming or not, or whether your women fulfill a biblical role or not.

Flanders writes beginning the fifth paragraph of this section that "it (fundamentalism) is the scriptural approach to dealing with heretics who have 'crept in unawares,' according to Jude 3 and 4." So fundamentalism is the scriptural approach to heretics? And they have crept into what? Maybe much of fundamentalism would agree with Flanders on this. He follows that "we are to reject them from the Christian family and refuse them Christian recognition." That, my friend, is not what Titus 3:10-11 say at all. A church rejects a heretic after the third admonition. Fundamentalism is not "the Christian family." Only a church has the authority to reject a heretic, not the fundamentalist movement.

Fundamentalism, according to Flanders, "is the dividing of light from darkness." I would assert and can easily prove that it is just the opposite. Fundamentalism unifies light with darkness. Through its parachurch organizations---mission boards, colleges, fellowships, and camps---it ignores doctrines, including the gospel, to cobble together a coalition.

Flanders is right in pointing out that the mainstream media has misunderstood and misdiagnosed fundamentalism in the same way as right wing Islam. He is wrong in saying that "leaving fundamentalism" is "actually disassociating themselves from one grouping of fundamentalists." You can leave fundamentalism and leave all of it, leave all its groups and organizations. You can limit your fellowship to only non-fundamentalist churches because you wish to obey the biblical doctrine of separation, not the unscriptural fundamentalist version of it.

Too Bad!

His begins his next section, "Too Bad!," with this first paragraph:

Whatever the people are doing who are “leaving Fundamentalism,” it is bad. “Leaving Fundamentalism” inevitably means backing off from policies and principles that have characterized those who stood most faithfully for the Bible in our lifetime.

When I left fundamentalism, I did so because it is impossible to stay in fundamentalism and still be faithful to the Bible. Fundamentalism has never been faithful to the Bible.

More contradictions come. Earlier Flanders said that fundamentalism rose up in evangelical American denominations, and now he writes that "the mainline denominations have not stood for the Bible or the Christian faith." OK. And then "broad evangelicalism has not really stood for the truth, although they work to spread it." Evangelicalism doesn't stand for the truth, but they do spread it. Uh-huh.

Flanders writes that "fundamentalism is contending for the faith, and good men have paid a great price to follow it." Then he lists the names of these that paid such a great price for the faith. What price did they pay? They paid the price of becoming a famous fundamentalist by means of compromising in areas of denominational differences. When they operated free-lance outside of the bounds of churches, they got more famous and actually more wealthy in the movement. But they had liberals hate them? Wouldn't that have happened if they were fundamentalists or not?And "the faith" is what? It is all the truth of Scripture. Has fundamentalism really been a movement that contends for all the truth of the Bible? No way. With the supposed exception of "the fundamentals" (not "the faith"), fundamentalism has spread false doctrine more quickly than if it never existed by its false unity, toleration, and compromise. R. A. Torrey circumvented church authority and propagated an erroneous view of spirituality. Bob Jones, Sr. started a university that encouraged students to skip church on Sunday mornings. BJU was too big to allow students church attendance on the Lord's Day. Fundamentalism in the case of Bob Jones was bigger than the church. Fundamentalism tied Christians into false teachings such as these. Instead of marking and avoiding, they ignored and united with disobedience. And then the doctrine of separation then became about kowtowing to whatever BJ and like non-authoritative institutions said.

For what does someone leave fundamentalism? He could leave it for the true church alone. Isn't the church good enough and big enough for the Bible believer? Fundamentalism isn't in the Bible. Scripture is sufficient. Fundamentalism is just another ox-cart. And ox-carts are poor replacements for what God actually said to do.

In the fourth paragraph of this section, Flanders writes: "In some cases, he is rejecting separatism in some form of its application." I contend that you can't remain in fundamentalism and practice biblical separation. This is seen in Flanders' very appearance in the Sword of the Lord. He disobeys scriptural separation by joining with that crowd of preachers for this common endeavor. I say to Flanders, "come out from among them and be ye separate."

Flanders continues by attacking the men who won't separate over issues of personal separation. By its very nature, fundamentalism doesn't separate over those issues. They are not fundamentals. By remaining a fundamentalist, Flanders will only encourage more of the same. He exposes that inconsistency when he says, "They did not make an issue over English translations, but what version of the Bible did most of them use almost all the time"---"most of them" and "almost all the time." What translation you use does not distinguish you as a fundamentalist. John R. Rice himself wasn't King James only, the founder and longtime editor of the Sword of the Lord.

As Flanders comes to a close, he writes that "fundamentalists should not be rejected just because fundamentalists need revival." But if fundamentalists need revival, what does God instruct us to do with them? If they won't be "revived," aren't they heretics who should be rejected? He ends by saying that "fundamentalism has a wonderful future, because it is based on the truth of the Bible." It is inter-denominational. It says separate only over the fundamentals. Today it doesn't even separate over a different gospel. It harbors no-repentance and 1-2-3 pray-with-me without separation.

Rick Flanders should have joined me in both leaving and encouraging others to leave fundamentalism. He hasn't at all proven that leaving fundamentalism is folly. Fundamentalism itself is a sinking ship that I encourage all churches and Christians to depart. It has never been the right idea or a scriptural movement. For Flanders to convince us that those who have left are fools, like so much of fundamentalism, he relies on worn platitudes, contradictions, and traditions. Zero exposition of Scripture. If Bible-loving people really want to yield to the truths they believe, as Flanders encourages, then they should join me and leave fundamentalism.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Selective Reformation pt. 4

Catholic ecclesiology says that the church is Catholic. You can pick your jaw off the floor now. But the church isn't Catholic. Catholicism invented Catholicism. Here's the Catholic definition from a Catholic catechism:

To believe that the Church is "holy" and "catholic," and that she is "one" and "apostolic" (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the Apostles' Creed we profess "one Holy Church" (Credo . . . Ecclesiam), and not to believe in the Church, so as not to confuse God with his works and to attribute clearly to God's goodness all the gifts he has bestowed on his Church.

The catechism continues:

In Christian usage, the word "church" designates the liturgical assembly, but also the local community or the whole universal community of believers.

The Catholic teaching about "church" doesn't seem that much different than many evangelical and fundamentalist definitions. The Catholic catechism uses the following references to buttress its "universal community" part of the definition---1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6---which read in that order:

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.

Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

All three are singular, articular usages of "church" in the context of Paul's pre-conversion persecution. None of them reveal the church as a "universal community." The use of these texts as proof, however, manifests the faulty hermeneutic employed to reach the Roman Catholic understanding of the nature of the church. The trajectory of Roman Catholic ecclesiology did not begin with the words of Scripture, but with ideas powerful men thought might work to their advantage. For instance, men thought that it might be easier for individual churches to survive persecution in the Roman Empire if they started banding together into one institution. This happened also to agree with popular Platonic philosophy. These combined as a means to divert from a scriptural ecclesiology.

The Bible is what it says. The meaning of the Bible isn't ambiguous, but the meaning of certain words aren't as clear in certain contexts as they are in others. Overall, it's easy to understand what "church" is. As in the usage of many other words, the less plain instances should be understood in light of the plain. An overwhelming number of the usages of ekklesia ("church") are plain. The few less plain usages of "church" wouldn't even be ambiguous at all if the faulty ecclesiology itself did not exist to influence their interpretation.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul mentions "rightly dividing the word of truth." When a man made tents, he cut each piece according to the whole. The size and shape of the whole must be considered for the dimension of the individual parts. All of this encompassed "rightly dividing." The meaning of an individual word fits within all of its usages. An alternative to this practice, which is in error, is the strategy of concluding a teaching from all of the usages combined. Thomas and Alexander Campbell, founders of the Church of Christ, made this error with certain baptism texts (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16) in order to "find" baptismal regeneration in the New Testament. Instead of comparing those few passages with all of the teaching of the New Testament on baptism, fitting the individual pieces into the whole, they combined them with the other passages to come cumulatively to their doctrine.

Men have followed this same above approach to the church. To start, for instance consider just the usages of "church" (ekklesia) by only the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus used the term ekklesia 22 times (3 times in Matthew and 19 in Revelation). All 19 times in Revelation are plain and unambiguous usages. In each instance, they are speaking of an institution that is local. The two in Matthew 18:17 are also very plainly local. In those 21 instances, "church" is plainly local only. Only one usage of the Lord Jesus Himself, Matthew 16:18, might be considered to be unclear, and mainly because of previous distortion of this doctrine. Matthew 16:18 is the only one that might be in question, so it should be understood in light of the 21 other usages of ekklesia by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was local only in His ecclesiology.

Matthew 16:18 reads:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Lord Jesus Christ uses a singular noun ("church") with a singular, personal possessive pronoun ("my"). The singular noun can either be a particular place, person, or thing, or a generic place, person, or thing. This singular noun does not plainly refer to any particular church. It could be the Jerusalem church, but it seems that the simpler answer is that Jesus incorporates the generic singular usage. In all language, a singular is either particular or generic. There is no other usage of the singular. For instance, there is no platonic or spiritual or allegorical usage of the singular noun in any language. It is either a particular church to which Jesus refers in Matthew 16:18, or it is a generic church. In both cases, it is still the same thing, a church, an assembly. The generic usage of the singular noun does not turn the noun into something other than what it is. A church is an assembly. Ironically, the previous sentence uses the term "church" in a generic fashion. It is still an assembly even if used in a generic way.

When Jesus says "my," He differentiates His assembly, always a local one, from other governing institutions, including from the nation state Israel and the Greek city state, which was called an ekklesia. If Jesus' assembly is a local one, which is all an assembly could be, then it can't too or simultaneously be a universal one. That's not how He is using ekklesia in Matthew 16:18, but rather in a generic fashion.

Do you think that Matthew 16:18 should be interpreted according to the other 21 usages of Jesus? Or do you think that the other 21 usages should be interpreted in light of Matthew 16:18? Should we not understand the less plain in light of the plain? And should we not confine ourselves to the only two usages of the singular noun or make up an entirely new usage, not found in any language in the history of mankind, in order to read a universal church into the text?

More to Come.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Selective Reformation pt. 3

If the Reformation altered the trajectory of the doctrine of salvation, later work further got eschatology up to biblical speed with premillennialism, but ecclesiology still needs a massive upheaval in evangelicalism and most of fundamentalism. The ecclesiological mess also affects all the other doctrines, because the church is how God intended preservation of truth, so the wrong container allows for corruption of the truth. Something not a biblical church will not and has not protected the truth, has actually contributed to the spoiling of all doctrines. If we don't get the church right, everything else is bound to deteriorate.

The Bible is plain on the nature of the church. A church is an assembly. Assemblies are local only. The church in the Bible is local only. This can be proven in two simple ways, in either order of the following. First, there is not a single Bible verse or even phrase that defines the church as universal. Second, all the verses that would define the church, define it as local. If the Bible is really our final authority, on these bases, the church must be local only and not universal. I suggest again the deserted island approach. Treat the Bible like you have never read it and it's all you have on a deserted island. In reading it, could you find a "universal church" in there? The answer is no. You won't find it, even by implication.

If we don't find it in the Bible, then it must have come from some other source, which it did. The universal concept entered into man's consciousness in alignment with Roman Catholic thinking. Catholic itself means universal. And, of course, part of Satan's conspiracy against God is a one world religious monstrosity to which everyone is forced to belong (sound familiar?). That is the only one world religious organization in the Bible, Satan's one world thing, which finds its inception at the tower of Babel. The local only ecclesiology clashes with this one world mentality where the world has been and to where it is heading. Local only preserves and protects against one world. God told Cain not to get everyone together but the culture did anyway against the instruction of God and built cities that resulted in a flood. After the flood, people didn't pick up on their previous error and we've got universal redux, so that God confuses the languages to spread everything out again.

Today universal ecclesiology is the ideological source of many if not most of the problems in the world. Even in evangelicalism and fundamentalism, men have gladly dumbed down doctrine in subservience to a universal church idea. Men tolerate false belief in order to get along. Getting along is necessary to support a universal church.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not writing this because of the problems that the universal ecclesiology (contradiction in terms) has caused, causes, and will cause. I'm writing it because there is no universal church (contradiction in terms) in the Bible.

I'm going to write this in at least two parts, and part one is this introduction so far, and then point number one in my little outline, there is not a single Bible verse or even phrase that defines the church as universal. There are at least 118 usages of the Greek word ekklesia, translated "church," in the Bible. One would think that if there were a universal church (contradiction in terms) and it were such a major point, as it is presented by evangelicalism and fundamentalism and listed in many church doctrinal statements, then you would find it defined as such in at least one place in the Bible, just one solitary verse. Out of these 118 usages, below are listed the verses in which the "church" is defined as universal:

There's your list. That ought to give pause to Bible scholars, teachers, and students. If it is a biblical teaching, a doctrine to be embraced and received, that it would be found in the actual Bible. A doctrine book about the Bible is not a Bible. Tradition is not the Bible. Catholic dogma is not the Bible. A confession of faith is not the Bible. A universal church, which is a contradiction in terms, because something universal doesn't assemble, isn't found in the Bible. The Bible is sufficient. It has all the teaching we need in it. What's in it is our doctrine. What's not in it is not our doctrine. So universal church doctrine is false doctrine. It is unbiblical doctrine. It shouldn't be believed.

This is point one. We will head to point two next. This hasn't been hard so far, has it? And yet, something does tell me that we are going to have this very uncomplicated issue to be very complicated in a hurry, when we make words in the Bible turn into silly putty. There is a conspiracy against the nature of the church, because altering it affects all doctrine and it is the final stage of Satan's plan to where we know we are heading. The Catholic church really is an invisible church---you can't see it anywhere in the Bible. But it is very resilient and pugnacious and desperate in its desire to stay around. Satan wants it around, because it is the way he plans to fool the most people and take the most people down with him in the end.

Wedding Story

The sailor in this story grew up in our church until he left for the Navy.

Another version of same story.

Part Three of this Story.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Michele Bachmann and Submission to Husband

Even the slightest in touch with national politics know about the flap of Michele Bachmann's submission to her husband issue. To start, here's what the Bible says about it in Ephesians 5:22.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Anyone who has an even rudimentary understanding of the Bible knows this section of Ephesians 5. It's easy to understand. The concern about Bachmann's "submission" goes back to her first campaign for the House in Minnesota. She appeared at a church in October of 2006 and discussed the importance of God's calling at critical moments in her life. In the midst of that, she said:

My husband said, "Now you need to go and get a postdoctorate degree in tax law.". . . Tax law? I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord said, "Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husband." And so we moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I went to William and Mary Law School there. . . . Never had a tax course in my background, never had a desire for it, but by faith, I was going to be faithful to what I felt God was calling me to do through my husband.

OK. I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of her explanation, some of the details that seem loony to me about her "calling," but overall she's right that the Lord (through Paul) said to wives to be submissive to their husbands. Look at the above verse. That's what it says. And maybe that's not such a big deal for a woman running for congress. People aren't so concerned about her touching base with her husband on some of the bills she votes on. It's one vote of many and she's getting input from him on those.

However, what if she becomes president? If her husband tells her to veto a bill that made it through the House and the Senate, does she submit to him, based on the obvious understanding of "submit" even in the context of how she described it in her speech? That presents a problem. People wouldn't be voting for her husband as a president, but for her.

This case reminds me some of the issue of Roman Catholicism for John F. Kennedy. We hadn't elected a Roman Catholic president before him and one of the issues was a Roman Catholic's subservience to the Pope. Would we by proxy be voting for the Pope for president by voting for a Roman Catholic? That might sound like a joke to some people, but our country has moved a different direction than the longtime history of the state church and Roman Catholicism. Kennedy said that he wouldn't allow the Pope to make his decisions for him. Some people might applaud that, but I wonder what kind of Roman Catholic that would make him. If he didn't take his Roman Catholicism seriously, then would he take the Constitution of the United States seriously?

People don't take Catholics that seriously any more, and it seems obvious that they are not taking Mormonism too seriously either, as seen in the case of Mitt Romney. What kind of authority would LDS hierarchy wield over him? It's a question that perhaps some are not willing to ask because they are too afraid of making someone's religious beliefs seem too important or betraying some kind of dreaded intolerance.

I don't think the media is being fair with Bachmann in comparison to how they deflected President Obama's relationship to the Reverend Wright and his group there in Chicago. However, I believe it was a legitimate question to ask Bachmann in light of her own words on the subject. As president, would she be submitting to her husband in her decision making?

The liberal media just doesn't like Bachmann. They don't like her view of the world, so they are glad to use this against her. I know all that. I still like the window it opens on Bachmann and then the subject of submission to husbands at large. The most notorious exchange in this drama occurred in a debate in Iowa on August 11, 2011 with Republican presidential candidates. A moderator, Byron York, asked her whether, as president, she would be submissive to her husband.

Some complain that they would never ask that question of a Democrat woman. Or they would never ask a man that question. Or that it is an attack on a religious belief. No. Someone might ask that question because Bachmann herself earlier said that was how she operated.

After she was asked that question in that debate, she was asked it several more times, even as a liberal interviewer feels he's got to do that to show his journalistic independence. Beginning then, she began giving an answer that I do not believe. I don't believe her reply. She said that when she says "submit," she means respect. Her and her husband have respect for each other, and that's what she meant when she said "submit." I don't think she meant "respect" when she said "submit." I think she meant "submit" when she said "submit." Someone else told her the same thing in one of the Sunday news shows. But she persevered with that talking point---she meant "respect." Who's going to challenge "respect" that a husband and wife have for each other?

So what's worse? Was it the question she was asked? Or was it her answer that perverts the meaning of Ephesians 5:22 and changes what the Lord said? Is it better that women or churches or the world do not know what "submit" means or that Michelle Bachmann can get past this moment in her presidential campaign by abusing a verse in the Bible?

Women should submit to their husbands. Michele Bachmann should submit to hers. Submissive wives probably won't get to be president. Our country probably won't elect a woman who says she should submit to her husband. So we're left with women who won't submit to their husbands and what will that do for women in the country? Will they be better off with that view, just as long as they still get to be president?

Bachmann had "submit" right in 2006 and that didn't keep her from losing a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. But now she's changed its meaning to help her win the presidency. She obviously doesn't think that "submit" will fly in a presidential election. And that doesn't work for me at all. Ironically, now I do lose respect for her. Tell the truth and deal with it. Now she satisfies the egalitarians, knowing that to the complementarians, it won't matter. They'll give her a break because they know how the game works. I don't think we should give her a break on it.

The world mocks the Bible. It mocks God's design for the family. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God's Words will not pass away. The Bible will stand. God's design will stand. Submission does not demean women. Perversion of God's Word is not a better way. Whatever mess we're in is because we haven't paid attention to Him. And if we allow someone who says she is a Christian to get away with it, it's not going to make it better. It's going to get worse.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Revival, believer’s baptism, and personal conversion vs. baptismal regeneration and traditional Reformed theology

Revival, believer’s baptism, and the need for personal conversion, and justification by faith alone apart from sacraments are very closely connected, as are baptismal regeneration, traditional Reformed theology, and opposition to revival. Rich Lusk, a high-church Presbyterian who accepts Calvin’s doctrine of baptismal regeneration and consequently rejects the Biblical and Baptist necessity of personal conversion, as well as the value of revival, powerfully describes what he believes is the unfortunate connection between revival, experimental religion, and the decline of infant baptism in his well documented essay, “Paedobaptism and Baptismal Efficacy: Historic Trends and Current Controversies” (Pgs. 71-125, Chapter 3 of The Federal Vision, ed. Steve Wilkins & Duane Garner. Monroe, LA: Athanasisus Press, 2004). Lusk writes:

America became progressively “baptist” on a massive scale in the early-to-mid nineteenth century. . . . [T]he loss of paedobaptism [was closely connected with] experiential Revivalism[.] . . . [T]he experientialism of Puritanism (which was only exacerbated by revivalism) eventually overthrew the Calvinistic principle of the church membership of children. . . . As baptism degenerated into a “mere ceremony” . . . New England Congregationalism continually lost members to newly formed Baptist churches. . . . Charles Hodge . . . [u]sing statistics provided by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church . . . pointed out that from 1812 onward, the number of children being brought for baptism was radically declining in relation to the overall number of communicants. In 1811, there had been 20 paedobaptisms per 100 communicants; by 1856, the ration was just over 5 per hundred. . . . Hodge reported a similar downgrade was occurring in other ostensibly Reformed denominations. The Dutch Reformed ration was only slightly better than the Presbyterian in 1856, at around 7 paedobaptisms per hundred communicants. Things were even worse in other bodies. The New School Presbyterians were leaving six out of seven children unbaptized. Paedobaptism was so rare among the Congregationalists by the mid-1850s that Hodge could truthfully claim, “in the Congregational churches in New England, infant baptism is, beyond doubt, dying out.” Only the high church Episcopalians [who believed in baptismal regeneration and rejected revival] seemed unaffected by the trend. . . . [T]he 50 year period of decline Hodge traced out coincides, more or less, with the institutionalization of Revivalism in American Christianity. . . . The revivals of the Second Great Awakening totally restructured American religious life in radical fashion. . . . The doctrines of God’s sovereignty and predestination [as Calvin understood them] . . . were jettisoned[.] . . . Paedobaptism also fell into disfavor since it . . . imposed a religious identity on an unwilling subject. Personal choice was exalted. . . . [T]he revivals focused on the immediacy of religious experience, to the exclusion of traditional means of grace [that is, sacramental grace]. . . . [I]t is easy to see that paedobaptism would fit very awkwardly into such a religious matrix. . . . Instead of “growing up Christian” under continual covenant nurture, children were expected to undergo their own “conversion experience” at the appropriate age. . . . A conscious conversion experience from enmity to friendship with God was looked upon as the only way of entrance into the kingdom. . . . Infants, it was thought, needed new birth, as well as adults. They could not be saved without it. But the only channel of the new birth which was recognized was a conscious experience of conviction and conversion. Anything else, according to Gilbert Tennent, was a fiction of the brain, a delusion of the devil. In fact, he ridiculed the idea that one could be a Christian without knowing the time when he was otherwise. . . . Obviously, revivalism was no friend of covenant children. . . . The experiential rigor of Puritanism and revivalism . . . seemed like a safeguard against merely “nominal” membership in the churches . . . As adult-like credentials for conversion and full membership were pressed more and more, infant baptism became an increasingly tenuous practice, until it finally gave out altogether. . . . [T]he rise of the Baptist movement, with its individualistic approach to the faith and its voluntaristic ecclesiology . . . [made] [i]nfant baptism . . . preposterous on such presuppositions. . . . [I]nfant baptism [declined as] baptistic principles of church membership [became] the essence of true religion. . . . [T]hese views eroded the traditional Catholic and Reformation view that God acts to accomplish God’s purposes through sacraments. The desacralizing tendencies played down God’s role in the sacraments . . . [Such] influence[s] . . . reshaped the way some conservative Presbyterians read their . . . Reformed confessions . . . [c]ertainl[y] the sacraments could not be viewed as powerful, saving actions of God. . . . The [alleged] mystery of God’s activity through these physical instruments could not be allowed to saint. Any view of sacramental efficacy came to be regarded as “magic.” The sacraments were viewed [instead] as visual teaching aids. . . . In short, then, . . . the sacraments are basically treated as human acts of piety[.] . . . Their value is completely subjective—they help us remember divine truth, profess our faith, stir up emotions, and so forth . . . they cannot be regarded as genuine means of saving grace, for God’s grace is not actually found in the lowly natural elements of water, bread, and wine. In such a context, the sacraments obviously cannot belong to infants in any true sense since infants cannot perform the requisite acts or experience the proper emotions. . . . Given the push and pull of Revivalism . . . perhaps the wonder is not so much that paedobaptism declined in America . . . but that it survived at all. . . . [Lack of interest in sacramental theology . . . became a distinctive feature of American religiosity. . . . Some Southern Presbyterians had severely degraded the meaning of baptism, so that baptized infants were not regarded as genuine church members, much less recipients of salvific blessings in union with Christ. Presbyterian giant James Henry Thornwell regarded baptized covenant children as enemies of the cross of Christ and under church censure until they made a mature and experience-based profession of faith. . . . For Thornwell, “covenant” children stood condemned until they passed revivalism’s test of an experiential conversion and . . . [made] an articulated, cognitive profession of faith. . . . A credobaptist victory was virtually inevitable unless strong views of baptismal grace were recovered. . . . [T]he real issue underlying the loss of infant baptism was the loss of baptismal efficacy . . . infant baptism presupposes an objective force in the sacrament itself . . . [that] children . . . were made Christians at the font. . . . Apart from an efficacious view of baptism, the question “Why baptize infants?” became progressively more difficult to answer coherently. The credobaptists won the day[.]

In a passage by Thornwell quoted by Lusk, as representative of Presbyterian baptismal theology affected by revival, Thornwell wrote:

[I]n heart and spirit th[ose] [who have received infant baptism] are of the world. In this aspect, how is [the church] to treat them? Precisely as she treats all other impenitent and unbelieving men—she is to exercise the power of the keys, and shut them out from the communion of the saints. She is to debar them from all the privileges of the inner sanctuary. She is to exclude them from their inheritance until they show themselves meet to possess it. By her standing exclusion of them from the Lord’s table, and of their children from the ordinance of Baptism, she utters a solemn protest against their continued impenitence, and acquits herself of all participation in their sins. It is a standing censure. Their spiritual condition is one that is common with the world. She deals with them, therefore, in this respect, as the Lord has directed her to deal with the world. . . . Is not their whole life a continued sin? Are not their very righteousnesses abominable before God? Repentance to them is not the abandonment of this or that vice; it is the renunciation of the carnal heart, which is enmity against God: and, until they are renewed in spirit and temper of their minds, they can do nothing which the Church is at liberty to approve as done by them. . . . As of the world they are included in the universal sentence of exclusion, which bars the communion of saints against the impenitent and profane. They are sharers in its condemnation. They are put, as impenitent, upon the same footing with all others that are impenitent. As rejectors of Christ, they are kept aloof from the table of the Lord, and debarred from all the rights and privileges of the saints. Their impenitence determines the attitude of the Church towards them; for God has told her precisely what that attitude should be to all who obey not the Gospel. What more can be required? Are they not dealt with, in every respect, according to their quality? . . . Is it not equally clear that their condition, as slaves, determines their treatment in all other respects, until they are prepared to pass the test which changes their status? Is not this precisely the state of things with the Church and baptized unbelievers? Are they not the slaves of sin and of the Devil, existing in a free Commonwealth for the purpose of being educated to the liberty of the saints? . . . But until they come to Him, [Scripture] distinctly teaches that they are to be dealt with as the Church deals with the enemies of God. (pgs. 341-348, The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, James H. Thornwell, vol. 4: Ecclesiastical. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986)

Thornwell’s views are set in contrast by Lusk with the view of baptismal salvation found in traditional Reformed theology, as presented, for example, by “John Williamson Nevin . . . [who sought] . . . along with . . . Philip Schaff . . . [in] the Mercersburg movement . . . to maintain the traditional ecclesial and sacramental theology of classic Calvinism” (pgs. 85-86, The Federal Vision). Nevin wrote:

If the sacraments are regarded as in themselves outward rites only, that can have no value or force except as the grace they represent is made to be present by the subjective exercises of the worshipper, it is hard to see on what ground infants, who are still without knowledge or faith, should be admitted to any privilege of the sort [quoted from pgs. 237-238, Romanticism in American Theology, Nichols] . . . [T]he Baptists . . . refuse to baptize infants, on the ground that they have no power to repent and believe in Christ, so as to be the subjects of that inward spiritual conversion of which baptism is the profession and sign, and without which it can have no meaning. What conclusion, indeed, can well be more logical, if we are to believe that there is no objective power, no supernatural grace, in the sacrament itself[?] . . . It belongs on the old order of thinking on the subject, as we have it in . . . Chrysostom and the Christian fathers generally, which made baptism to be the sacrament of a real regeneration by the power of the Holy Ghost into the family of God. Why then should it [paedobaptism] be given up, along with this [baptismal regeneration], as an obsolete superstition? It is becoming but too plain, that the Paedobaptist part of the so-called Evangelical Christianity of the present day is not able to hold its ground steadily, at this pint, against the Baptist wing of the same interest. The Baptistic sentiment grows and spreads in every direction. [Pgs. 214-215, “The Old Doctrine of Baptism,” John Nevin, Mercersburg Review, April 1860.] . . . On this subject of baptismal grace, then, we will enter into no compromise with the anti-liturgical theology we have now in hand. . . . It is impossible . . . to establish the necessity of infant baptism, except upon the ground that baptism imparts a special grace. . . . [Revivalistic Presbyterianism is therefore] hostile to infant baptism . . . in reality, whatever it may be in profession . . . and unfriendly, therefore, to the whole idea . . . it has been based upon in the Reformed church from the beginning. . . . To what a pass things have already come in this respect throughout our country, by reason of the baptistic spirit which is among us . . . [t]hose who have eyes to see, can see for themselves. [Pgs. 399-400, “Vindication of the Revised Liturgy: Historical and Theological,” John Williamson Nevin, in Catholic and Reformed: Selected Historical Writings of John Williamson Nevin, ed. Charles Yrigoyen, Jr. & George H. Bricker. Pittsburgh, PA: Pickwick Press, n. d.]

The true gospel of justification by faith alone, the practice of believer’s baptism as an ordinance, not a sacrament, and revival are intimately connected, as are baptismal regeneration, traditional Reformed theology, and infant baptism. Let the friends of Christ’s gospel and of historic Baptist churches take note.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Obvious Bibliological Contradiction: Canon -- Theological, Text -- "Scientific"

In modern bibliology in both evangelicalism and fundamentalism, we got our canon through Divine means, but the text of Scripture through scientific or rational means. Is there a doctrinal basis for this distinction? None at all. The distinction is a purely pragmatic one. It's a bigger leap for evangelicals and fundamentalists to believe in the perfect preservation of the text of Scripture than it is for them to believe in the perfect canonization of sixty-six books. Well, at least post-Enlightenment and after the crystallization of a new textual criticism "doctrine" by Benjamin Warfield. Essentially it's this: God couldn't have lost a whole book. Just wouldn't have happened. He could lose, however, in this scheme of things, some of His words. Words are small enough to have escaped God's notice, but books are just too large to have done that. In the invented and convoluted explanation, all the right words would have taken a miracle and that couldn't be how God did words. On the other hand, it could make sense that God used naturalistic means for us to arrive at 66 books.

Now you'll be expecting a Scriptural explanation for this, right? Maybe you need to tamp down your expectations. Just a friendly warning.

I was reminded of this issue as a I read one of the articles in Themelios, An International Journal for Students of Theological and Religious Studies (Volume 36, Issue 2, July 2011), "Intrinsic Canonicity and the Inadequacy of the Community Approach to Canon-Determination" by John C. Peckham, assistant professor of religion at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. I know that's all a mouthful. A professing fundamentalist is the administrator of Themelios and a new professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary wrote one of the reviews. I do appreciate their distributing this freely for our perusal.

No fundamentalist and almost no evangelicals question a sixty-six book canon, despite the absence of mention of "canonicity" in the Bible, and the agreed-upon aspects of the method of canonicity. You ask, "Agreed-upon aspects of the method of canonicity? Why is that a problem?" I'll be getting to that. But you really will not find fundamentalists questioning the basis for canonicity. That's an easy call for them. After all, many very legitimate scholars also agree, and they've even written books about it! You don't have Bart Ehrman on your sixty-six book side, but you will have lots of other very impressive resumes that can give you warm theological feelings.

It is interesting to read the faith placed in the arguments for canonicity, the acceptance. It really does show that the ability to believe and accept is there among evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Now to the article. As the title of his article suggests, Peckham presents two possibilities for the method of canonicity, one which he calls the "community approach" and the other, the one he says is true, "intrinsic canonicity." He believes that intrinsic canonicity covers all the bases, while also incorporating the important aspects of the community approach. Peckham writes (pp. 213, 214):

[I]f one has decided to believe in a God who reveals himself to human beings through inscripturation, it does not seem at all unreasonable also to believe that this same God provided means for the community to recognize that revelation as “canon.”

God provided a means for the community to recognize revelation as canon. Interesting. Themelios, D. A. Carson and Andy Naselli, published this in their scholarly journal. That clashes big-time with the standard "forego theological presuppositions and allow the evidence to bring you to the truth" position of modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Peckham is arguing for a theistic basis for recognition of the Bible. God will provide a community the means necessary for recognizing the Bible. I'll wait patiently for the human outcry. He continues:

Once one has decided to allow for the possibility of a divinely determined canon (rather than ruling it out a priori) then one can seek to recognize a canon of divinely appointed writings. . . . The intrinsic canon-approach thus presents a plausible, internally coherent approach to the issue of biblical canonicity responsive to the all-too-common supposition that the Bible is merely a human construct. In doing so, the intrinsic-canon approach impinges upon the larger question regarding the foundational authority of Scripture. If the Bible consists merely of books selected based upon human whims and power structures, why should one accept it as trustworthy and authoritative today? Why adopt such texts instead of any others that might be popular or personally palatable? Indeed, why accept any writings as authoritative at all?

He's saying that God chose out the books. It was divine. What does that sound like to you? Is that a second act of inspiration? Many would say, "Of course not!" Really? It is a second act of God after the actual inspiration in which God is doing something through human beings in the way of recognition of the books of Scripture. They are being told in some way what the books are. They are being moved toward the right books. So God inspired them and then He directed His people to them. Let me be honest here. I don't think it is inspiration either, but I also think we need to be consistent when we are directing that "double inspiration" label with great ease. It does apply to some people, but if we are to be consistent with how some people use it, we would need to apply it to this view of canonicity too. And we shouldn't.

Peckham sees the need of keeping Scripture in a theological context. It wasn't men over Scripture, but God over Scripture. And so he continues to end the same paragraph:

When it comes to such a decision of faith, the canon’s significance is rooted in its claim to divine revelation, inspiration, and commission. The divine origin of Scripture makes it the authoritative and trustworthy foundation for theology and practice, to be received not merely as “the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13).

The canon is a decision of faith and yet still authoritative, relating to its reception by the church as authoritative and the Word of God. A major approach to canonicity has been a scientific one that relies on human means of determination. Peckham writes (p. 212):

Specifically, humans cannot prove with certainty that divine revelation exists. Secondarily, even if they could, they could not prove with certainty the scope of the canon. With regard to both limitations, a decision of faith is required, which seems appropriate considering canonical exhortations to faith.

Is this a fideistic approach he is calling for? After all, Scripture doesn't promise the finding of 66 books, does it? But he says in essence that we have biblical basis for believing in the canon. We have a belief in divine determination that ensures authoritative recognition of the books. Peckham writes (213):

[T]he community has been integral to preserving and passing down (traditio) the canon to all future generations. From an intrinsic-canon perspective, God uses the willing community throughout the ages to preserve and disseminate his canonical revelation.

What does this sound like to you? The means is the church. God uses the community. That is part of the Divine directive and a guide for recognition.

On p. 214, footnote 50, Peckham writes:

Some might consider this a matter of circularity, appealing to the canon for support of canonicity. However, any proposed authority must be in coherence with its own doctrines as well as its own phenomena.

This has been a criticism of the belief in perfect preservation, circular reasoning. The same criticism can be applied, because it is identical, to the belief in canonicity of 66 books. And Peckham provides the answer.

Peckham's view of canonicity is a conservative view. Perhaps it is the accepted view of the Themelios staff. But let's be consistent here. This is the historic position on the preservation of Scripture being presented here. And what makes this even more interesting is that the Bible doesn't actually provide a doctrine of the preservation of books. Peckham himself, when you read the exegetical work in his footnotes, does not have verses that refer to books, but to words. The principles that he argues and defends relate to words. What would keep someone who believes that God directs in the recognition of books from believing that God works in this way toward the recognition of words? That's what the verses are actually talking about. If you believe them for books, when they don't even mention books, then you have to believe them for words just to be consistent. If not, then this is not really faith. It is a pose of faith, acting as though it is faith, but still really relying on ourselves.

This belief as relating to the preservation of words, the canonicity of words, is exactly what the pre-Enlightenment, confessing churches believed as found in their writings and doctrinal statements. It wasn't until after the Enlightenment that man elevated his own means of determining what was Scripture without theological presuppositions. Peckham is arguing against that as it relates to canonicity. He understands that the Bible becomes a human book then, without authority. That's right. He's right. But we've got to go all the way and receive by faith the perfect canonicity of Words, the recognition of the confessing community as directed by God.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Before I Continue My Selective Reformation Series

I'm preparing to write part three of Selective Reformation, hoping for saints to correct their understanding now of the nature of the church. However, I have written on this online, so I want to link those for you and then a few articles written by others.

My Articles Online on Ekklesia

Horrible Yet Terrible Ecclesiological Explanation (plus articles on 1 Cor 12:13, etc.)

Other's Articles on Ekklesia

Ecclesia: The Church by B. H. Carroll (part one, part two, appendix)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sermons Are Being Uploaded Again at Church Website

We're uploading sermons again for free here at the Bethel website. You can listen or download. They are usually me (Kent Brandenburg) or Pastor David Sutton.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Theistic or Divine Correction to the Man-Centered Trajectory of Modern Bibliology

Man has a rebellion problem. He wants charge of everything or anything in defiance of Divine rule. God is a Spirit. And since men can't see Him, they very often act as though He either doesn't exist or He is relatively uninvolved in what He created. We know from what He inspired, the Bible, that neither of these are true.

The dominance of Christianity of various degrees of orthodoxy shaped the imaginations and therefore the perspectives of men after and even before the printing press and then previous to the Enlightenment. Men saw through their imaginations the unseen hand of God. God was working. God was doing His will. God was operative in causation of events and outcomes, even if there was little to no human reasoning. God was the explanation for what and why things happened. Both bad and good related to God.

That pre-Enlightenment culture related everything to God and saw the world through a Divine prism that was reflected in its art, its music, its architecture, its government, and more. Those people saw kings as having authority from God and yet receiving a Divinely formed consent from their subjects according to God ordained inalienable rights. A major fire was a work of God. A loss in battle was a lesson from God. A child was a gift from God.

Some today call those of this era of such transcendent sentiment to be superstitious. They defined themselves according to their view of God. They explained occurrences relative to God. This way of thinking is even seen in the writings of that time's theologians and preachers. There was more God-centeredness in their theology than there is today. They could believe that God was doing what He said He would do even when they didn't have the "facts" to back it up. The proclivity of that day was assuming the teaching was true without other "objective" criteria to back it up.

We live in different times post-Enlightenment. Man became the measure in men's perspective. Now we allow the "evidence" to lead us to the truth and we're not honest unless we believe the "facts." A seven twenty-four hour day creation, yes, but then enters science, and then no. God preserved every jot and tittle, inerrancy in the apographa, then enters textual criticism. That now couldn't mean what God said. Now it's only superstition, a lack of objectivity. Unless I can feast my eyes on a hand-written manuscript, unless I can put my own fingers in those wounds in His side, I won't believe. My new doctrine must agree with what I can see.

The change in perspective, outlook, and point of view overall in culture influenced bibliology. The Westminster divines had doctrinal certainty about the preservation of Scripture and therefore textual certainty. Today's "textual scholars" act as though they were the first ones to discover differences in hand-written manuscripts. They are the first to be truly "honest with textual evidence," not allowing any theological presuppositions to cloud their understanding of the text of Scripture. This is the new, post-Enlightenment, "objective," modernistic interpretation of the "facts."

The Westminster divines and those like them came to hand copies shaped by a transcendent view of everything. God said He would preserve to the jot and tittle, so He must have done so. And that's the position they took. That's the view that believers took. It wasn't until after the Enlightenment that another view even came along.

Instead of being guided by the doctrine of preservation, theologians are led by what they call the facts. William Combs, professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote the following with regards to Matthew 5:17-18:

I wonder how it could be anything else but hyperbole? Taken literally, it would seem to demand perfect preservation, which, of course, the evidence flatly refutes.

Matthew 5:17-18 can't mean what it says it means. It must be hyperbole. Why? The evidence refutes it. "It would seem to demand perfect preservation." Yes. I wag my head. This demonstrates a post-Enlightenment, modernistic imagination with relations to bibliology. He can't envision God doing what He said He would do. And when he says "evidence," he doesn't mean the verses of Scripture, but the "science" of textual criticism.

How would transcendent thought correct his imagination? Matthew 5:17-18 does mean what it says it means. It isn't hyperbole. There is no grammatical reason to think so. The text will fulfill its theological presuppositions, because God does not deny Himself.

Just recently on his Dividing Line internet program, James White displayed this same lack of faith in God during questioning from a caller to his show, Will Kinney**. Here's a transcription of the beginning of their conversation (one which started at 17:30 and ended at 29:55 in the embedded youtube video below):

Will Kinney**: First question though, you never answer this: do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God?

James White: Of course I do.

Will Kinney: What are you referring to when you say that?

James White: Uh, what God gave us when He inspired the Bible.

Will Kinney: So in other words, the originals only.

James White: Uuuum.....that's what's inspired, yes, God's writings, yes. Uh-huh.

Will Kinney: But do you, sah, you used a present tense verb, the Bible is, you said you believe, the Bible is...

James White: Yes, I believe God has preserved His word for us, yes.

Will Kinney: Do we have the originals, sir?

James White: No, we do not, of course not.

Will Kinney: So then what are you referring to when you say the Bible is the inerrant Word of God?

James White: Well, for a man who says he has read my book four or five times, it's shocking to me that you wouldn't know what I mean.

Will Kinney: You....(interrupted by White)

James White: I explained it! I explained....

Will Kinney: You're talking around the issue, you're not answering the question.

James White: Mr. Kinney, Mr. Kinney....Um, everyone on the audience right now, has, knows that I have refuted your allegations and that you have acted in a....

Will Kinney: That's in your own mind, sir.

James White: acted in a very boorish manner, so that if you'd like to have a conversation, we can do that.

Will Kinney: You won't answer the question.
I can understand the discomfort James White has with the question, unwilling to answer, because that answer, guided by human reasoning, would clash with a biblical and historical presentation of the perfect preservation of Scripture. It's a simple question with a simple answer if shaped by a pre-Enlightenment belief in Divine providence. But White cannot any longer allow biblical presuppositions to lead him to a conclusion. He is a man of his times.

Pre-Enlightenment theologians would have an answer: the text received by the churches. A perfect text, because God inspired and then preserved a perfect text. God the Spirit would point to a text. It would be the one. They would not stagger in unbelief because their God works unseen to fulfill what He promised.

**I don't know whether Will Kinney takes an English preservationist position or not. I haven't read his materials. And he never says in this dialogue with James White. That is not the biblical or historic doctrine of preservation, which is original language preservation, the doctrine held by believers before the Enlightenment, if it is in fact the position Kinney holds. However, one can see his dialogue here is guided by a theological presupposition.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Between Two Worlds: How Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Keep Scripture from the World in Which We Live

British evangelical John Stott died in the last week. Several years ago, he wrote a book on preaching, Between Two Worlds. The "between two worlds" metaphor says that preaching bridges the gap between two worlds, the world of the biblical text, an ancient world, and the world of the contemporary hearer. In an older interview (1987) Albert Mohler did with Stott, a bit of interaction related to evangelicals' relationship to the second half of the above.

Mohler: Is it your opinion that most evangelicals are better exegetes of the text than they are of life?

Stott: Oh, I am sure of it. I am myself and always have been a better student of scripture than of the present reality. We love the Bible, read it and study it, and all of our preaching comes out of the Bible. Very often it does not land on the other side of that chasm, it is never earthed in reality.

I recognize that fundamentalists have often failed on preaching the text itself, coming short on what Scripture means. But today evangelicals and now fundamentalists both stop from bridging the gap from the meaning of the text to the application in this world. Why?

People in general have an interest in knowing what the Bible means, keeping their experience with the Bible to something mainly intellectual. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians a lot, the issue of knowledge. People do want to know what God said, at least to be the knowers, the ones who know it. When we begin to delve into the actual doing of what it says is where the problem most often lies. People are happy to replace doing with only hearing and particularly what the text means. They have convinced themselves that reaching that end in the exercise has accomplished the goal. They have indoctrinated themselves with the notion that understanding the text has reached the culmination of God's will.

The Bible itself says that knowing what the text means isn't enough. But modern preachers know that contemporary culture doesn't want the application. They want some of it, the parts that they think make their lives better---especially their relationships and their finances---but they are not even close to as interested in what God wants. In order to maintain significance and size, the modern preacher, really often the Stott and Mohler type of preacher, will leave out the hard application, which happens to abandon major parts of the Bible. And these applications are being lost to Christianity as a whole, including in fundamentalism, the seeming last vestige of the hard application of Scripture.

What applications am I talking about, of which evangelicalism and much fundamentalism remains in relative silence?

The first one is simple. Go and preach the gospel to every person. This is also seen in the example of Jesus, because this is what He did in His three year ministry. He preached to everyone everywhere He went. Evangelicals and many fundamentalists don't do this. Their churches don't even expect it. They excuse themselves from it. How can anyone preach the gospels and the epistles and miss this?

New methods have been introduced by evangelicals and fundamentalists to replace this simple task. I say simple because it is simple to understand. Doing it isn't easy, because people don't like it. The most obvious method is the "invitation philosophy." The church creates an event that unsaved people will find palatable, and the people invite people to it. Often every Sunday is made into one of these events. If the people do some "inviting," they are excused from their obligation to evangelize. So churches are full of disobedient people, and that isn't mentioned in application, because these churches don't want to lose people.

The people didn't like it in Jesus' day either. Jesus' said it wouldn't be easy. Today it has become acceptable not to evangelize everyone. You can be a good Christian and not be involved in that.

I'm happy for any kind of true evangelism that occurs, including open air evangelism or street preaching. But even open air evangelism is not getting the gospel to everyone, just to those who happen to be there when the activity is taking place. It still doesn't get the Scriptural responsibility fulfilled.

Part of church growth methodology is not going all the way with the application in evangelism. If the people know that the church "requires" evangelism, that is, expects obedience to the Bible, they'll find a church that will not "require" it. And as a result, our nation and the world is not being evangelized. We're evangelizing up in Sacramento right now, in addition to the Bay Area, and according to the people we are visiting, no one has ever come to them to preach the gospel. I ask this a lot, and that is the answer I get in every instance. I've lived in an urban area with many evangelical churches for about 25 years. I have never had anyone ever start to evangelize me or visit my home to evangelize me. There are unevangelized communities all over America with evangelical and fundamentalist churches, even mega-churches, in them. When I drive by a large neighborhood on my way someplace, I am to the place where I assume no one has preached there.

How could anyone who is a faithful preacher of Scripture miss this? If you are preaching verse-by-verse, through whole books, or even through the whole New Testament, how could you miss what Jesus and the apostles did, and what He commanded? I guarantee you that these men are not missing it. They just don't make this application, because it would be too unpopular and it would shrink their churches.

Large evangelical and now fundamentalist churches keep their significance and their popularity by means of methods that do not require their people to obey the Bible. Disobedience has become the norm. It's not just application to evangelism, but the doctrine and practice of separation, that neither Mohler or Stott practiced, and many more. The chasm between the two worlds, the world of the ancient text, and the contemporary hearer, has not been bridged.

It is ironic for sure. Stott can write a book on bridging the gap between world of text and world of hearer without actually bridging the gap. He didn't even bridge the gap between the world of his own book and the world of its hearers. Much of the impact that he could have especially came because he could remain in coalitions of disobedient, professing Christians. Evangelicals and many fundamentalists have become better experts at making disobedience to Scripture more acceptable.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Selective Reformation pt. 2

Afterwards a story is told. The story is history. It might be historical that someone believed something, but that doesn't mean that something is true. It might just mean that somebody believed it. That's all. And that has some significance. Some. But usually too much to too many people. What is written as history often has too much influence. And because it has that influence, it gets used far more than it's worth.

The Bible must always arrive to transcend or even debunk history. History cannot impress so much that Scripture takes a secondary role. We should consider history. The Lord said so. He said in Isaiah 41:22, "Show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them." Historical writings or happenings are worth considering, especially to view "the latter end of them." How did they turn out?

The Old Testament historical books are a good example of a righteous consideration of history. God said bad things would happen to covenant breakers. A covenant was broken and bad things happened. The Lord He is God. The Lord He is God. The former things were the Deuteronomic promises. The latter end of them were blessings and cursings. God still operates in seeming silent times. Count on that.

If any written history penned before the Noahic flood would have survived, we might not get the impression that Noah was that important a figure. He was either mocked or ignored. The latter end, post torrential downpour, says he was important. We want to evaluate the former things there in light of their latter end. The elephant in the room was with Noah.

The latter end of Roman Catholicism helps us understand its faulty trajectory. But we have something even better than history. We have God's Word, which surpasses historical significance. Everything can be judged under its scrutiny, including the development of Roman Catholic traditions.

Protestant criticism of Catholicism has merit. It is worth consideration. But the Reformation too has a latter end ripe for analysis. The Protestant state church could print its story, but that doesn't make it inspired, especially since it follows the same trajectory as Catholicism.

Reformation history shouldn't cloud biblical truth. I can hear the Reformation defenders already. "Ad fontes." True. Go to the Bible as the source of authority. But what is ironic is that the Protestants have their history in a major way because of their own state churches. They published unfettered, printing their doctrines without the physical threat with which they intimidated others. So now we're left with what they wrote as the mainstream of professing Christianity.

Protestants will say sole Scriptura. Yes. But then they refer back to what Reformers said about Scripture. What the Reformers said has a lot of influence, becomes authoritative in its role of historical theology. But how much of the Reformation theology was driven by Catholic writers? We should suspect Protestant doctrine. Not being Catholic doesn't make it right.

Just because Protestant Reformers may have gotten justification by faith right doesn't assume they corrected everything wrong with Roman Catholicism. We shouldn't take that for granted either. We have seen alterations to Protestant eschatology. We should consider "the latter end" of Protestant ecclesiology too. Does its trajectory follow Catholicism or the Bible?

History offers a faulty circular reasoning. The "Bible teaches" a certain ecclesiology because the "Reformers said" and the "Reformers said" because of what the "Bible teaches." Amillennialism dominated history, but a movement of premillennialism broke its grip in professing Christianity. The trajectory of Catholic eschatology was altered. How about a movement of biblical ecclesiology to displace Catholic and then Protestant history? If a Catholic, allegorical hermeneutic could affect eschatology, couldn't it have affected ecclesiology too? Could we not at least consider this as a possibility?

I understand someone growing up hearing only one point of view, the Catholic or Protestant position. People grow up Buddhists in Thailand, Mormons in Utah, Catholics in the Venezuela, animists in Africa, Unitarians in Vermont, Reformed in Holland, Free Presbyterian in Ireland, and Fundamentalist in Greenville. Could you open your mind to the possibility that allegorization or spiritualizing has affected your ecclesiology? Through the trajectory of Catholicism and Protestantism, Platonism has immersed or even sprinkled your thoughts? Let's take the deserted island approach. A Bible was dropped on you and you are clean slate for what it says about the church. Let's begin.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Preaching Repentance

Some have asked about how to preach repentance. Here's what I do.

My outline in preaching is "four things you need to know." The fourth point is, "We must believe in Jesus." In that point I say something like the following.

"Just because Jesus died for everyone doesn't mean that everyone goes to heaven. There is one response that we must make to what Jesus did for us on the cross and that is, we must believe in Jesus."

"A lot of people say they believe in Jesus, so I want to talk to you about what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. People may say they believe in Jesus, but that does not mean that they do. First of all though, the Bible does teach that the response we must have to what Jesus did on the cross is, we must believe in Jesus Christ."

I read or quote John 3:16, 18, and 36. I'll often ask, "So if we believe in Jesus Christ, according to these verses, we have what?" Answer: "eternal life" or "everlasting life." "Right."

"But the question is, what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? Part of what it means to believe in Jesus Christ is over in Luke 13:3, 5." Read or quote one of those verses. "There Jesus says that if we don't repent, we will perish. Remember in John 3:16 it says that if we believe we won't perish? Well, here it says that if we don't repent, we will perish. Repentance and faith, repentance and believing are two sides of the same coin. If we don't repent, we will perish, that is, go to hell. If we believe, we won't perish, that is, go to hell."

"Let's say that this pole (or pillar or wall or step) represents the end of my life, so, because I'm a sinner, it represents hell for me, since I deserve hell for my sin. The path from me to the pole is my life. I keep moving through my life without stopping until I go to hell, until I run into this pole. Just think about the pole now. If I can't stop, and I don't want to run into the pole, what is it that will have to happen, if I'm not going to run into the pole?

Often here the person doesn't know the answer. He sometimes might even say, "Repent," which shows he knows what I'm talking about. But usually he will not have an answer. So I give the answer.

"He will need to turn. If he can't stop and he doesn't want to run into the pole, that is, he doesn't want to go to hell, he must turn. And that's what it means 'to repent,' 'to turn.' If we don't want to go to hell, we must turn."

"The life I'm living is a life of sin, and it is not heading toward God, but away from Him. I must turn toward God, that is, repent toward God from my way. I must turn from my way to His way. My way is leading me to hell. That is what it means to repent."

"The problem often is that people want to keep going their own way. They like their way. They like their sin. But sin is not pleasing to God, and it is sending us to hell. If you remember from the second thing that we need to know, God is holy God and He hates sin. But we can't keep going our way, the direction of our sin, and be saved. We'll go to hell."

"We can see this same idea in Matthew 16:25, 'For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.' If we will save our life, we must lose our life. The word 'life' is the Greek word psuche, which means 'soul.' The next verse says, 'For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?' So we by faith offer our soul to God and He gives us eternal life. This is repentance. When we turn from our way to His way, we are losing our life for His life, our temporal life for eternal life. Psalm 23 says that God restores our soul. How does He restore our soul? Our soul is stained by sin and He restores it when we offer it to Him by faith through the cleansing of His shed blood."

"Men often don't want to give up their life. They want to hang on to it. Why? They don't trust God. Believing in Jesus Christ is losing your life to Him, trusting Him for eternal life. That is repenting and believing in Him."

"I want to look at one more passage. Romans 10:9,10, 13." Read those verses. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus. Let's say that I had enough money to buy a billboard on highway 80 and on the billboard I put in big, bold, capital letters, JESUS IS LORD. And everybody stuck in commute traffic read my billboard. Would they all go to heaven?" Answer: "No." "You're right. Confessing Jesus is Lord is more than just saying words. It means that He is Lord and we are not. He is King and we are not. We get off the throne and He gets on the throne."

"Jesus is Lord. If we believe in Him, we also believe that He is Savior, He is God, and He is Lord. Since He is Lord, we don't go our way anymore, but His way. We leave our way for His way." (I have already presented Jesus as God and as Savior in my third point, 'Jesus died for us.')

"Verse 13 says, 'For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' Let's say that we're both hanging on a rope from a cliff. Let's say El Capitan over in Yosemite. If we fall, we're going to die for sure. No chance of survival. And we are without strength. That's what Romans 5 says that we are, without strength and ungodly. There's no way we can get up on our own. There is no way we can save ourselves. But there is somebody on top of the cliff that can save us. What would we do?" Answer: "Scream? Yell?" "That's right. We would scream for help. Why? We know we're helpless. And we believe He can save us, because we know who He is. If we, recognizing Who He is, call upon Him to save us, He will."

"So why won't people call on Him to save them? Because they don't trust in Him. They don't believe in Him. And they think they can make it up on their own. They are too proud. But if you do call upon Him, He will save you."

This is how I explain repentance. People understand Who Jesus is. They understand repentance. They understand what it is to believe in Jesus. They know how to receive Him. When I get this far with someone, which is often, he understands salvation. At that moment, he will either receive or reject Jesus Christ.