Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Destructive Fellowship in Fundamentalism

The New Testament does teach fellowship between churches.   In Acts 15, the Jerusalem and Antioch churches tried to get along.  It was worth it to try.  They got together for the sake of the truth.  I can see the Asian churches collecting money for the Jerusalem church in 1 and 2 Corinthians.  In 3 John, John says that when someone comes traveling through, out of fellowship for the truth a church should take care of him.  The Philippian church sent a gift to Paul.  I see that and believe that.  However, I don't see in many instances today the New Testament emphasis of fellowship, but rather the building of coalitions.  I also witnessed this early in my pastoring.

The truth was so important to Paul that he confronted Peter to his face in a very severe way.  I don't see these first century churches putting up with garbage.  Paul parted ways with John Mark for a time. Every New Testament epistle teaches separation, mirroring the very first Psalm among all the other Old Testament books.  Names are named, associations are discontinued.

When we pray, thy will be done, it's as it is done in heaven, which is also how Jesus performed God's will on earth.  Whatever is built, God builds.  It doesn't come through careful assessment of the smallest common denominator.

We could talk about music, dress, methods, buildings, Bible versions, tithing, Promise Keepers, who has the biggest congregation, or whatever the subject du jour.  Sure.  Fundamentalism started over fundamentals -- its term.  If that is so, and someone is a fundamentalist, one would think that the gospel would figure prominently in consideration in the fellowship.  What does someone believe, what does someone teach on the gospel?

When someone asks me for a recommendation somewhere, it is the first place I look.  What does that church believe about the gospel?  What they profess, write, post, and teach on the gospel says a lot about their thinking about all the other biblical teachings they might hold.  It says a lot about what they think of Jesus.  If someone is wrong about Jesus or at least not contextual with Jesus, giving Him a scriptural representation, should that not trouble a Christian, someone who names the name of Jesus?

It seems in many cases today, the lack of curiosity about belief and practice is rewarded.  What's best is to learn not to ask too many questions.  When you ask questions, you find things out, and you really don't want to find things out.  If you find something out, you might have to talk about it, and someone will be uncomfortable, let alone separate over some thing.  No, the thing is to keep the coalition, and call that fellowship.  "We had a great fellowship" means that we had a good time of not mentioning too many truths that would reveal something awkward and throw an ill will over the gathering.

When I was in fundamentalism, I began to notice what and why things were overlooked.  It almost never made any sense, and then it didn't help to ask about whatever it was.  You wouldn't be surprised how often it related to money.  Bigger coalitions are needed for money.  Bigger churches are needed for money.  Bigger churches are needed for bigger coalitions.  The participants think they need all this for success.  Doctrinal and practical precision suffer for it all to work.  It's easy to see.  What bothers the most is the corruption of the gospel and most because of the dishonor to God.

The above isn't just fundamentalism.  It's worse in evangelicalism.  Evangelicalism doesn't separate. Evangelicals today write mean tweets -- their version of separation.  They produce a podcast and mock someone they don't like without mentioning his name.  Everyone knows, wink, wink, but the name very often isn't mentioned.  If the name is mentioned, the participants explain how it really is too bad.  It doesn't stop the fellowship from continuing.

I wish I was wrong about everything I've written so far.  I'd be happy to hear how I'm not, if I'm not. None of what I have written reflects on the unsurpassed beauty and wonder of actual Christianity, of God's Word itself, and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  All of that remains intact, pristine and majestic.  It is the truth.  The participants of fundamentalism and evangelicalism hopefully know this.

If you consider fellowship with another church, then look at the doctrinal statement and observe the practice of a church, and especially look at what a church says the gospel is and then what it says evangelism is or practices as evangelism -- at least.  If you walk past that, ignore that, or diminish that for what you call fellowship, it's destructive fellowship.  The Apostle Paul wouldn't do it.

Our church practices closed communion.  We're local church only in our ecclesiology.  We use the King James Version.  We believe in the autonomy of the church, the Baptist distinctives, and that true churches have always existed separate from a state church.  If another church believes all those things, just like us, and they don't preach a true gospel, the former doesn't excuse the latter. I start with the latter.  The former buttresses the latter.  The gospel precedes all of those in priority.

Somebody might be "King James," but if you rarely hear the actual teaching of the King James from the King James, using the King James doesn't condone or excuse false teaching.  No one should sit and listen to something the King James doesn't say and allow for it, as long as the King James is being used.  If someone takes a wrong view of spirituality and sanctification from the King James, it's not fine now.  When false teaching or bad preaching is excused or allowed just because it came from the King James Version, it's no wonder someone could receive the wrong impression about that translation.  If someone teaches what the King James Version actually says from the English Standard Version, and someone massacres what the King James Version actually says from the King James Version, the preaching from the English Standard was superior.  The King James is not the supreme test of fellowship for a church.  If it is, that is destructive fellowship.

Even as I write about destructive fellowship in fundamentalism, the only fellowship not destructive, really the only fellowship at all, is in and about the truth.  That fellowship occurs in a church and then between churches.  The truth is the basis for this ecclesiastical fellowship and is also the basis for ecclesiastical separation.  Churches either fellowship or separate based upon the truth.  When they forsake truth for fellowship, that is destructive fellowship.  The fellowship that continues into eternity proceeds from, exists in, and revolves around the truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Bro Brandenburg,
after reading the last three paragraphs of this article, I wanted to ask you: would you go to a Hyles church or a T4G church if you had no other choices?
Vic Crowne