Thursday, September 08, 2011

Except Ye "Repent," More Sword Aberration

In so many cases in certain branches of fundamentalism, preaching isn't judged by its absolute faithfulness to the text as it is to its style and effects. Someone can preach something that a particular passage does not say, and many people respond positively to it, and it was a good sermon, maybe even a great sermon. People often will say God really worked or you could really feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. And maybe the aisles are full! So the meaning of Scripture was mangled and the Holy Spirit was in it? You see how discernment is ruined by this. People can't discern what is of God and what isn't. They judge preaching to be successful that isn't scriptural. They think that God works in a way that circumvents the Bible. The sermon is often tethered to God's Word by a web-like strand to a few verses.

Maybe it's ignorance or maybe it is a way to protect an aberrant theology or a means of adding numbers, but the preaching strays from what the Bible means for purposes of style and effect and experience. The people don't think they've been preached to unless they feel something that these speakers are able to produce, so it must have been the Holy Spirit and so this preacher must be anointed. It' s not wrong to have a feeling, but the feeling is far from a distinguishing factor of good preaching. When we're done, we should know what God said. That is God's Word---what God said. The meaning of the text is a basic, a fundamental, in that.

And where am I heading with the above? I did a three part series (1 and 2 and 3) on Shelton Smith and his and the Sword of the Lord's take on repentance. The Sword followed up Smith's treatment of repentance with an above the fold, prime location article by Michigan IFB pastor, R. B. Ouellette, entitled Except Ye Repent. As one would hope, it comes out of the beginning of Luke 13 where those three words are found. It is obvious that this discourse from Ouellette is meant to back-up or reinforce what Smith had published in recent, previous weeks in the Sword. Smith wasn't printing something that disagreed with what he himself said. So what we're getting in the Ouellette article is a dealing with Luke 13:1-9 that will find the same thing there as Smith was touting in his previous articles.

I'm not going out of my way to find out what Smith, Ouellette, and the Sword believe on repentance. I'm just a blank slate, and then I read what they write, which exposes who they are and what they think. And so let's look at what Ouellette had to say and then what Luke 13:1-9 really does say.

Ouellette's Article

Ouellette starts by recording the first five verses of Luke 13, and then gives a little intro that says that people mock the use of "repent," even though Jesus used it in Luke 13. And then he deals with the account, first with "the historical perspective," which spends three short paragraphs establishing that Tiberius, Caiaphus, and then Pilate mistreated the Jewish people in many different bad ways. Then Ouellette moves into "the historical particulars" with the headings of "the traitors" and "the tower." The traitors of which he writes were the Galileans of Luke 13:1, who were killed by Pilate because of their insurrection against the Roman government. The tower was one that Pilate built with money he stole from money that was collected to support the Jewish temple.

The second point Oullette called "the assumption," which was the Jews thought that the Galilean traitors and the tower builders both deserved what they got, and that they, the Jews, were not as bad as, were different than, these two groups of people who died untimely deaths. Third, he calls "the announcement," which is Jesus' denial of these Jews' assumption, His attack upon their suppositions and their security, the supposition that they didn't deserve judgment because they weren't so much sinners and the security was false.

Fourth, Oullette gets into "repentance," which is what my expose here is all about. Ouellette writes under the heading of "repentance":

A few years back, there was a great discussion and debate on the matter of repentance. Some tried to make it reformation. Some tried to make it sorrow.

Those three little sentences don't do justice to the discussion and debate. What really happened was that biblical repentance didn't line up with certain fundamentalist methodology and church growth, especially as proposed by Curtis Hutson and those like him, so it was altered to adapt to the new sales-like evangelistic techniques. The salvation statistics would diminish exponentially with repentance a part of the presentation. That's more like it. There was no two sides to the whole thing, one saying repentance was reformation and the other saying it was mere sorrow. That is complete and undocumented fiction. I haven't read anyone that says either that repentance is reformation or just sorrow.

Part of the debate, however, was the Curtis Hutson side saying that the biblical repentance people were actually teaching reformation. That happened. But no one was actually teaching repentance is reformation. What did happen is that repentance was reduced by Hutson and others to sheer intellect. And that is what Ouellette himself does in his article. He continues:

Although I had read some one both sides of the issues, I had never looked up the word itself. My sources tell me that the word repentance is made up of two words which mean "to perceive after" (as opposed to perceiving before).

After a few paragraphs of attempting to explain these two sentences, the whole "perceiving afterward" thing, under this same section of "the alternatives," Ouellette concludes:

The consequences for not "perceiving afterward," and therefore changing their minds, would be that they would perish.

So by "perceiving afterward" Ouellette means "changing their minds." So like Smith and Hutson, Ouellette makes "repentance" into "changing their minds."

Ouellette probably derives his "perceiving afterward" from Friberg's lexicon, because it isn't found at all in Thayer, Louw-Nida, or the massive BDAG. It is a very selective understanding of "repent," because there is a lot more in lexicons, including this from Louw-Nida: "to change one's way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness." BDAG in bold print says, "turning about, conversion" as primary meaning of metanoia, the word translated "repentance." But we are talking about what lexicons say the word means. What is most important is to see ourselves how a word is used instead of cherry picking a part of its lexiconal meaning and making that into all that it means. And if we look at how the verb or the noun form of "repent" is used, we will see it involves more than the mind, but also the will and the emotions.

That is all the basis we receive from Ouellette, however, on the meaning of "repent" in Luke 13:3, 5. Then he moves into his dealing with Luke 13:6-9. This context was the perfect opportunity for him to show that repentance was more than a change of mind, since Jesus certainly was expanding on what He had just said. He starts his explanation of this section by saying that vv. 6-9 were "clearly connected to the words the Lord has just spoken to the Jewish unbelievers." And then he uses the entire rest of his article to make the point he ends with, that "for the child of God, real abundant life comes in being yielded, active and faithful in God's service." Of course that's not what vv. 6-9 are about. So Ouellette explains in the end that Luke 13:1-9, classic verses on repentance, are about the Christian having an abundant, fruitful life.

What Is Luke 13:1-9 Really About?

When Jesus says, "Except ye repent," the "ye" are unbelievers, the unbelieving Jews of the Lord's audience, at least 20,000 of them, in a discourse that started at the beginning of chapter 12. He began warning them in the second part of chapter 12 and ended it with an indictment on their unwillingness to leave their Judaism for the Lord Jesus Christ, to turn from their present path to Him, to confess Him as the Messiah. They continued along their way because of their religion and the pressures of their culture (12:10-12), their covetousness (12:13-34), and their procrastination (12:35-59). They were also deceived by the lack of understanding of their own sinfulness and its dire consequences, so Jesus continues urging them to leave their old way for His way by treating this deceit in 13:1-5. They knew that "repent" meant turning from their old religion, their families, and to Jesus as the Messiah. That's what all the discourse of Jesus up to this point had been about.

When Jesus said they would perish, they would know from His previous teaching that it was the condemnation of the returning Messiah. They were to be His faithful servants, but if they would not recognize that and submit to it by faith, they would be destroyed. They would have no opportunity for salvation once they stood before their final Judge (12:57-59).

Jesus had used a number of parables in this discourse, and He closes with another one in 13:6-9, which Ouellette fully botches its interpretation for no good reason. One would have no understanding of what it was about after reading his article. What is the single fig tree (v. 6) in the story? It is either the single nation Israel or the single individual Israelite. It would apply to both. Spiritual fruit would come by means of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If the tree would not bear fruit, it would be cut down. The judgment is near. If Israel or an individual Israelite would not turn to Christ from His own way, He would be cut down and soon.

Vv. 6-9 is not about how to become an abundant fruit bearer. It is about the near proximity of God's judgment on the unrepentant sinner. Those who would not leave their old religion for their true Messiah would receive eternal judgment from God.

Conclusion

I don't think that Ouellette was writing an article with hopes of defending Shelton Smith and the Sword of the Lord, but it was used that way. And it continues in the line of confusing people about the true or biblical nature of saving faith. As it stands, Ouellette's treatment at best reinforces Smith's false presentation of the gospel. At best, he missed it with one sermon in hopes of accomplishing something with a passage for which it was not intended. That's bad too, but not as bad as an intentional or ignorant twisting of true repentance like Smith himself does.

Ouellette forces a conclusion that the fruit bearing of Luke 13:6-9 was about being a better Christian. This takes a salvation passage and moves it into a sanctification category, which is the norm with Keswick theology, the forcing of salvation passages into sanctification ones. This perverts the meaning of Scripture. Not good. By doing so, the idea emerges that a true Christian can get by with bearing no fruit. I wouldn't think Ouellette believes that, but he is making room for it with his teaching here. Luke 13:6-9 wasn't about bearing better fruit by being a better Christian. No. It is about either bearing it or not bearing it, and the one not bearing it was the one who wouldn't repent. There is no way that it could be talking about a Christian, unless a Christian could be destroyed like this, like the unbelieving Galileans and tower-builders were (who were unbelievers). The actual teaching of Luke 13:6-9 is akin to John the Baptist's command "to bring forth fruits meet unto repentance." The Ouellette teaching, however, attempts to keep alive this notion that repentance is only intellectual. Sad. And bad.

I call on everyone to separate themselves from this false teaching, first done by Shelton Smith and then supported by R. B. Ouellette in the Sword of the Lord.

8 comments:

philipians2511 said...

In so many cases in certain branches of fundamentalism, preaching isn't judged by its absolute faithfulness to the text as it is to its style and effects. Someone can preach something that a particular passage does not say, and many people respond positively to it, and it was a good sermon, maybe even a great sermon.

What an accurate and necessary critique of modern day fundamentalism!

Passages wrested from their appropriate context. Greek and Hebrew words robbed of their meaning. Yet, because the preacher hollared and stood upon the pulpit and the men ran the aisle, then G-d met with us. Nevermind that there was no sound exposition of the scriptures.

This is a great post Brother B..

My hope is that many may see this and many would separate from the error of the SOTL.

Respectfully Submitted,

Br Steve

Gal. 2.20

d4v34x said...

Amen, Bro. B.!

Sad thing is, eventually they'll stop sending you their paper so you can point out their errors.

William Dudding said...

What do you mean by seperate? Denounce them as heretics or no fellowship, going to conferences, preaching on the same platform, and hanging out with anyone that does?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi William,

That is an interesting question, what does the Bible mean by "separate"? I believe we can know what that means or else God would not have told us to separate. My session at this year's Word of Truth Conference will deal with it. Thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello Steve. Thanks.

Thanks D4.

Lance Ketchum said...

When is your Word of Truth Conference this year?

1611 said...

I'm exposed to a bit of teaching from a reformed perspective. I know they attribute this controversy to John M's 'The Gospel according to Jesus'. Would you say that's fair? Just curious.
Greg

Kent Brandenburg said...

Lance,

Nov 9-13. Wed-Sun. Thanks.

1611,

I don't think so. I think it goes back further than that book with fundamentalists to a sales technique kind of gospel presentation.