Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Answering David Cloud on the Church, pt.1

David Cloud takes a lot of grief from people for no good reason.  Most of what he has to say is good and true and the people attacking him on most occasions take cheap shots.  I think some of his biggest detractors agree with him on 90%, but they don’t like him for three reasons alone, and in the following order: King James Version, music, and non-Calvinism.  The same people who attack him often fellowship with continuationists and give them a pass.  It’s the KJV issue — the third rail of fundamentalist and evangelical politics.  I’ve been attacked many times because I have linked to Cloud and have supported him in different ways on various occasions.  Even when I do disagree with him, I don’t usually answer him in public, because I don’t want him to take any more than he already gets.  If you read Cloud, you are generally, almost exclusively, going to be helped.

I think I’m consistent with how I deal with David Cloud.  I quote and link to people with whom we have less agreement than David Cloud.  Every link comes with a disclaimer.  I supported Cloud in his issue with West Coast by writing here on his behalf.  I’ve known that I disagree with Cloud.  I’ve often thought that if I did sit down with Cloud and had a long talk that on some of our disagreements, he might change.   Would I change?  Sure.  I’d be willing to change to his position too, if it were biblical.

But now I’m going public against something David Cloud just recently published.  He knows that everything he posts online or sends out in his news service is open game.  He has to know that many of his supporters think he’s wrong, but he’s decided to go ahead and put it out there anyway.  He says that he already had it in his encyclopedia since 1993, so it isn’t new.  That’s fine.  But more people read his online material than read his published material — by far.

I’m going to deal with what he wrote in bite sized portions that will encourage someone to keep reading.  A lot reading this will already be sided with David Cloud, because more evangelicals are universal church than are local only.  Some will see this as an intramural skirmish, because they completely ignore a local only position anyway, act like it doesn’t exist.

Despite some of the tone of Cloud’s post, I want to keep it as civil as possible, just dealing with the issue, and not with what I think of Cloud writing it or the level of scholarship that went into the post.  Let’s just see if the Bible says what he says that it says.  However, if he says something that I don’t believe is true, I’ll point it out, as nicely as possible.

So let’s begin.  His article is dated September 17, 2013, and entitled, “Are You a Baptist Brider or Local Church Only?”   Right off the bat, anyone reading should know that he’s not asking either/or.   He is renaming “Baptist brider” with “local church only,” as if they are the same position.  My opinion up to this day is that “Baptist brider” is generally a pejorative meant to disparage local only ecclesiology.   The two titles are not the same.  They are not identical.   What I’m saying is that technically and biblically you can be local church only and not a Baptist brider.  He should know that.  Perhaps he does.  If he does, then he shouldn’t write that “local only” means “Baptist bride," because that would mean he's only taking a shot.

The first part of the article is personal, where Cloud explains how he came to his position.  I’m happy to hear that when Cloud understood that he was on the wrong track with a belief, or that he didn’t understand it, that he would study it on his own.  That’s a good thing.  I’m going to assume that Cloud didn’t take a position that would make him more popular with a particular camp, that this is what he actually does believe based on his approach and study.  I’m also really happy to hear that Cloud thinks that his work should be church work, based upon the Bible.

OK, it’s at this point that Cloud starts making arguments for his position, including some scripture references.  He said he looked at “Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 12:13; and Ephesians 2:13-20" and couldn’t fit those into a local church only position.  I’m going to take Cloud completely at his word, so I’m going to critique what he wrote here.  He shouldn’t try to fit the Bible into a position, but take a position that the Bible teaches.  If he was looking to fit the passages into a particular position, that’s a tell-tale indicator of how to come to a wrong one.   I don’t think Cloud is a novice, and that’s a bit of hyperbole to even bring that up, as if he’s firing that preemptive warning shot across the bow.  Again, let’s assume that Cloud understands hermeneutics.  Proving him wrong isn’t personal.  It isn’t an attempt to degrade him completely because he has it wrong on this one position.  Instead, we can look at this arguments, and see if they match up with the text of scripture.

I’m not going to call what he’s written so far an argument.  He’s saying he can’t fit “local only” into three passages.  He doesn’t tell us why he can’t, just that he can’t with good conscience.  No argument has been made so far, unless being David Cloud is an argument, which we will assume he doesn’t believe.

He makes an argument in the next paragraph.  His argument sounds like the following, and you can read it for yourself to see if I’m representing it properly.  The gates of hell would not prevail against Jesus’ church (Mt 16:18), and since David Cloud has seen the gates of hell prevail against individual churches in his experience, the church in Mt 16:18 must be something other than local.  Cloud has been to the location of the 7 churches of Revelation 2 and 3 and they’re not there, so the gates of hell prevailed against those congregations, leaving with no alternative but to see Mt 16:18 as talking about something other than local.  That’s his argument.  I don’t think I’m  wrong here, but that is not an exegetical argument.  It’s perhaps slightly better than the “I’m David Cloud” argument, but not much.

There is something that David Cloud does not talk about in his article that could clear some things up for him on this.  I don’t want to assume that he doesn’t know this, but if he is going to make that type of argument for Matthew 16:18, then he would need to show that he understands this, and yet he doesn’t show it.  It is basic grammar.  It is looking at the actual words and deriving a teaching from them, allowing the Bible to stand as the authority.

“Church” (ekklesia) in Matthew 16:18 is a singular noun.  That does not mean there is one of them in the entire world.  If I say, “I answered the phone,” I’m not saying there is only one phone in the world, since I wasn’t referencing a particular phone.  The singular noun can only be used two ways: a particular or a generic. Often, the singular noun is used in a generic way in the New Testament.  It is used that way all the time in Greek and in English and in many other languages.  This is very basic.  When Jesus says, “I will build my church,” we don’t assume that He means there will be just one.  He could be talking about the church generically.   I think that He was, but it isn’t easy to conclude whether it was a particular, the Jerusalem church, or His church as an institution, the generic use, by the context.  It could be either and could be both.   We certainly shouldn’t make any conclusions about what “church” means from a passage ambiguous in its context.

What would be good to do is to look at how Jesus uses the word ekklesia in His 20 other usages of it in the Bible, and what you will find is that the other usages are plainly local.  That is good hermeneutics, that is, taking the ambiguous usage and interpreting in the light of every other single usage by Jesus.  There is no reason to believe that Jesus wasn’t using ekklesia in Matthew 16:18 like He was in the other 20 usages, beginning in Matthew 18:15-17.  And if ekklesia was ever supposed to be an entity other than local, where is the passage that explains that usage of the word.  Where?  There is no where, and the reason is because it has only the one meaning.

A generic use of the singular noun doesn’t change the meaning of the word.  An ekklesia is still an assembly, the way that Tyndale translated the word in every usage of it in his translation — “congregation.”

When Jesus said “my church,” He was distinguishing His governing institution from others.  This was His.  His ekklesia was different than the meeting of the Greek city state, the Sanhedrin, the congregation of Israel.  He would be the Head of this one.  However, it was still an assembly.  Assemblies assemble.  If they don’t assemble, they are not an assembly.  If it isn’t a particular assembly, then Jesus is speaking of it in a generic way, which is common in the New Testament.  Cloud doesn’t mention this, perhaps because he doesn’t know.   If he did know, he should at least have talked about it.  If you don’t know the two usages of the singular noun, you can be confused when it comes to interpreting singulars.

There is no mystical or spiritual or platonic usage of the singular noun.  You’ve got two choices:  particular or generic.  If Jesus was using it as a generic, that doesn’t change the meaning of ekklesia.  He is talking still about an assembly, not just a particular one.  He’s talking about it as His institution.  If I say, “I will write with my pen,” “pen” doesn’t suddenly become universal and mystical without warning.  It retains the meaning, even though it isn't talking about or distinguishing a particular pen.  It is "my pen," so that narrows it down, but it doesn't create something that is a different meaning of pen.  It's still a pen.

Cloud doesn’t argue with exegesis.  His argument is experiential.  And it doesn’t prove anything, especially since he doesn’t exegete.  In the end, he eisegetes.   Just because individual churches are gone doesn’t mean that Jesus’ church is gone.  Every single assembly in the world would need to be gone for the gates of hell to prevail.  That has not been the case.  Jesus’ church will exist as long as there is still one of His churches.  It doesn’t even have to be a good one or the best one to be one.  If it is a church, then His church has not been prevailed upon.

More next time.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate the rebuttal. I also enjoy & support Bro. Cloud. He has taken much grief over the years for unpopular positions against glaring errors among the brethren. That being said, I find more & more Baptist who are protestant in their ecclesiology. IMO, this is making the transition to emergent much easier for the hip & cool. When we are all part of a mystical spiritual church, then mere baptism in a physical church is of very little importance. If I remember correctly, Pendleton's "An old landmark reset" was an argument against having pedobaptist preachers in our pulpits. I suspect that the idea of accepting protestant baptism was so alien as to not be worth discussion (only my guess).

Back to lurking
Jim Camp

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this response, Pastor Brandenburg, it is very useful.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Jim and thanks Titus.

I'll be continuing the critique.

KJB1611 said...

I must confess that I also found Bro. Cloud's article very disappointing. Matthew 16:18 is an obvious example of a generic noun, 1 Corinthians 12:13 is considered water baptism by the general body of even universal church commentators before Chafer, and to say that unsaved people are members of local churches, so Ephesians 2 must be something else, ignores the fact that an unregenerate person is not truly baptized and therefore is not truly a member of the church, so to describe the church as an assembly only of the regenerate is exactly the truth.

May many of God's people be strengthened by many great things Brother Cloud writes on many topics from the King James Version to separation to repentance, and avoid the damage of this article, which truly is simply the standard universal church position.

Anonymous said...

I can't see how Bro. Cloud would reconcile the universal church position with the process of church discipline and reconciliation in Matt. 18, unless he wants to accept that the pope has the right to excommunicate someone, as the Catholics believe. I don't mean this comment to be sassy; I genuinely don't see how Matt. 18 can be taken universally *unless* someone goes full bore Romanist with it.

The Preacher said...

To all:

There is nothing in the bible that teaches a "local church" only position that separates the body of Christ into schisms, but rather it teaches individual local assemblies (the church) that are part of the whole (the church).

Mat 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

In this context, the church represents a local body of believers

Acts 8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

In this context, the church (singular) had been assembling in houses (plural).

Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

The church is specified as the one which was at Jerusalem, BUT it says that that church (singular) was scattered abroad throughout... (plural)

Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

They broke bread from house to house (plural) and in this context he added to the church (singular) daily.

Acts 14:27 cf. 15:4

This is the church at Antioch (singular) sending forth Paul and Barnabas to the church at Jerusalem (singular).

Acts 20:17-28

v28- Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

The context is overseers (plural) that are to feed the church of God (singular).

Romans 16:16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
Romans 16:4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

Here the church corporately (Paul is writing from Corinth and includes Corinth and ALL the Gentile churches) salutes the brethren in Rome which includes individual churches of households (v5, v10, v11, v14, v15)


How one can come to a conclusion that the bible teaches ONLY individual local churches are separate assemblies apart from the whole teaches nothing less than a schism in the body of Christ. Each local assembly was not only subject one to another "locally", but it was subject one to another as THE church of God "corporately".

Anonymous said...

George - it's plainly apparent that you don't even understand the passages you try to appeal to to make your argument.

Acts 2:46-47 - the church at this time was meeting in the temple (v. 46). This was their point of assembly. "House to house" is not indicating assembling for worship, but fellowship among church members day by day. You seem to be assuming that the breaking of bread is the referring to the Lord's Supper, when there is no contextual reason to think it is.

Acts 14:27 - Exactly. Two local churches interacting as if they were...two local churches. Nothing here that even suggests any "mystical, invisible universal church."

Acts 20:28 - local churches even today often have plural overseers (assistant pastors, anyone? An assistant pastor is still a pastor/bishop/overseer/elder). I'm not sure I see the significance you're trying to attach to a single local church in Ephesus having a pastoral staff.

Romans 16 - the evidence does not support the argument you're trying to make. Indeed, the very fact that Paul twice specifies the churchES (plural) of Christ refutes your argument. There is absolutely nothing in those two verses that suggests any "corporate" action of some universal church. It means simply what it says it means - the various local churches that Paul was interacting with were greeting another local church. Nothing here demands, or even suggests, a universal church application. This is entirely of your own creation.

Sorry, George, but your arguments are completely and utterly unconvincing.

Anonymous said...

George, if you practice any sort of separation from erring brethren in your universal church, you are a schismatic. The only way to be truly consistent as a universalist is to join hands with all that calls itself Christian and sing kum baya with every wind of doctrine. Protestant fundamentalists oppose themselves in this matter greatly. It reveals their doctrine to be based on an unbiblical premise and their practice to be reactionary. The universal, invisible, mystical concept of "church" cannot be found anywhere in Scripture. This matter of a universal church (and a spirit baptism of regeneration) is the root difference between Protestants and the NT church (Baptists). It has nothing to do with salvation, but it has everything to do with the NT church. Protestants believe that "the church" is comprised of all who are saved. Baptists maintain that salvation is by grace but the church was appointed the executorship of the kingdom of God (Luke 22:29). Saved Christian brethren outside the NT church have always hated and despised the NT church. The fact that so many Protestant brethren call themselves "Baptist" creates great friction with those who despise the prime distinction of true Baptists. They feel that they only way to be rid of this is to castigate and misrepresent the distinction of the NT church - just as their Protestant brethren did for centuries. But the Lord promised the perpetuity of His church - and He did not make "church" and "Salvation" synonymous. We recognize the saving grace upon all who call upon Christ - regardless if they despise the Lord's church.

Pastor Les Potter, Glenrock, Wyoming

Unknown said...

Fellow brothers in Christ, good day to you. George is actually "very correct" but I believe his point can be explained in another way which would be most helpful.By the way, I do attend a bible baptist church, and in time past was a pastor of a baptist church. All of this is my opinion, and I know some will disagree!!
The following articles would be very beneficial for all to read:

Now these articles/pdf's will help hopefully to explain why I believe there are problems with the so-called local church position.
Also, Dr. D.A. Waite has some good articles on this subject, if you are interested, I will post or can send them to you. DA Waite and Jack Moorman are solid bapists who also believe in our king james bible

Kent Brandenburg said...


George doesn't have a biblical view of the Trinity, so you're not in good company with him here. I really can't go through all your articles to see what they say. Maybe Thomas Ross will want to do that, and I would be happy if he did, even though he doesn't have to do that. The Bible teaches a local only position. That the "true church" is "all believers" can't be shown from the Bible. You have to put that position in to get it out. The church is local only in the NT. Only something local only assembles, which is what the Greek word ekklesia means, "assembly."

I might go over to the sites you linked to and deal with just a sample to see how it goes, if you want to interact.

I respect D.A. Waite for a lot of reasons, but I don't see him as a "solid Baptist." Thanks for dropping by though.

Terry Basham, II said...

Why wouldn't you call waite a solid baptist?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Terry,

Thanks for asking. Waite is universal church. Waite hates local only ecclesiology. Waite is an English separatist. "Not a solid Baptist" is a good way to say that. He doesn't believe in the same view of Baptist history as we do, which to me is why I am a Baptist. I might consider being a good Roman Catholic, a very pure Catholic if I didn't believe in Baptist perpetuity.

Anonymous said...

What characteristics constitute a proper Baptist assembly?

Anonymous said...

Hi I am a missionary. As what the Bible describes, the My Church of our Lord and Saviour can only mean a local visible church. This doctrine is very important in the minstry entrusted to us. Teach, Baptize, Teach (Matthew) can only be done through a local church. And cannot be invented as well. It can only be continued. Having given the authority to baptize in - behalf of the church, can only mean that if we baptized, they are added to the church that we belong to, identified with that church. Saved and scripturally baptized are the only members of the church. Universal Invisible Church does not agree with, what they believe is that irregardless of your baptism, if you are saved, you are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body Of Christ - church. Thats the foundation of this false doctrine. Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts as mentioned in the Gospels, the administrator is Jesus Christ, the element is the Holy Spirit, and the one that is baptized is the church, not individual believers. It only happened twice, acts 2, Jews, and acts 10, Gentiles. That is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. The universal invisible church, are the invention of Luther and Calvin, for that they were never baptized. The moment a church changed their doctrine in this, the church dies, it may have some few left, but it can no longer add anybody to the church. And as a pastors and missionaries, we should be careful about this. Otherwise the church that we are building is not Christ's - Matthew 16:18 . Another false church. I made it very brief, but please search carefully the scripture. The true local churches have no schism on this, in fact the more they help each other in sending missionaries. Take a look at the statement of faith of your church. From there you will know if you are a true baptist or a protestant baptist.