Tuesday, January 07, 2020

How Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Today Diminish the Word of God at Their and Everyone Else's Peril, pt. 1

As the children of Israel prepare to enter the land, Moses declares the requirements from God for them.  Sometimes speakers will say, if there is anything you should remember, it's this.  Before Moses gets into all the details, which are many, he talks about their relationship to those details as an explanation of their necessary approach to what God told them.  If there is a God, which there is, and one, it would seem that what all-powerful, all-knowing holy God would want and should receive the attention of people.  In Deuteronomy 4, Moses prepares God's people for the statement of what God wants from them.  Read these first ten verses of that chapter, a normal theme through the book of Deuteronomy, which stands as a handbook for an interpretation of the rest of the Old Testament as well.
1 Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. 2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. 3 Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you. 4 But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day. 5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. 6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? 8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? 9 Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons; 10 Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
The tendency in reading posts with large, even smaller, portions of scripture is to skip over them with your eyes.  Read those carefully.  Then I draw your attention to verse two, specifically, "neither shall ye diminish ought from it."  If anyone would know about diminishing what God had said, it was Moses, who would not enter the land because of his disobedience in striking the rock.  God wants all of what He said kept or obeyed.  Moses diminished this one thing -- one -- and he didn't go into the land because of it.

In the above portion of Deuteronomy, a book which reads like a treaty between God and His people, their making an agreement based on His terms, which is laid out in words, a less than subtle warning is given of future bad consequences for not hearkening to and obeying God's words, communicated by the terms "statutes," "judgments," "commandments," and "words."  Verse 3 reminds, "Your eyes have seen what the LORD did . . . . the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you."  And then on the other hand, they lived because they cleaved to the LORD (verse 4).  To put it together, someone could truly say, if I diminish I could be destroyed.  It's serious.

You can't say that you are supportive of scripture if you are going to support the parts of it only that will allow your life to proceed without the hassle of decreasing size and overwhelming unpopularity -- in other words, one that trusts -- and fears -- the Lord.  That diminishes the Word of God.  There must be greater fear of and love of God than there is desire for the earthly success associated with numbers.

The Diminishing of and by the Fundamental or Primary Doctrine Designation

The idea of fundamental and primary doctrines is an evangelical or fundamentalist chimera.  They've made it up to serve a need and now refer to it like it exists.  They also use essential and non-essential doctrines.  As I've written many times here, the list of essentials is shrinking.   What was once essential is now non-essential, when nothing that God says is treated as non-essential, just the opposite.

The Holy Spirit illuminates all doctrine of scripture, not "fundamental, primary" ones.  This is just diminishing the Word of God in the areas where conflict exists.  Certain teachings of the Bible especially clash with the world, causing a more difficult life.  Professing believers want a Christianity that affords eternal life and all the niceties and acceptability of the world.  It is a Christianity that diminishes the most unpopular teachings.  Even in the Johnson tweet of the Don Green quote, the more conservative evangelicals, who have capitulated already on teachings of scripture they consider secondary, fear further capitulation that is simply taking their same trajectory, except further along than where they have gone.

God doesn't accept the mere acceptance of some percentage of what He said.  It's 100% with Him.  Sure, sanctification is a struggle, but believers are sanctified by everything He said, not just the primary things He said.  That is not how the Holy Spirit works, and it is a doctrine that misrepresents the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  It is indefensible.  If there is a message someone should get from the gospel of John is that the Lord Jesus did everything the Father wanted Him to do.  When we pray the model prayer, that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven -- everyone in heaven does everything God said, not categorize His sayings into primary and tertiary and allow the latter to go by the wayside.

I understand the concern of Don Green and Phil Johnson about young evangelicals ejecting from their so-called primary doctrines.  The degree of pragmatism and reductionism and sheer lust among millennial evangelicals is head wagging.  I appreciate that there are degrees of apostasy.  I see it in Revelation 2 and 3 with those churches, but the Lord Jesus didn't come to any of those churches and say, "I warn thee of thy depreciation of the primary doctrines, and I will come quickly to deal only with these, leaving the secondary doctrines and practices ignored."

By shoving apparent secondary doctrines and practices into a secondary or tertiary category or box, evangelicals diminish the Word of God.  They also send these young men of whom they state concern along the same trajectory that they take, except taking it further than what they have.  Everyone can opt out of something God said just by shifting it into a different category.  And then they can say, the Holy Spirit brought to my attention that this was secondary, which is why I'm not teaching it, practicing it, or defending it.

The doctrines and practices evangelicals and fundamentalists call secondary results in the diminishing of what they call primary.  Their secondary doctrines and practices sometimes have a greater impact.  I'm saying, as one example, that music style impacts life, both doctrine and practice in someone's life, more than his doctrine of the Trinity in instances, not to justify the distortion of the latter.  Irreverent music shapes the wrong thinking about God, and forms a new god in their imagination not in line with the God of the Bible.  And they are giving God something He doesn't want in the way of worship.  It makes provision for the flesh and sends someone away from God in love for the world.  They feel justified in their perversion because this is only a primary doctrine or practice to them.  It warps love of and for God, and then others, so that the two great commandments are not obeyed.

What I'm writing in this post thus far is right.  That should be what matters.  Is it the truth?  Men can ignore or shirk me, but the downward path will continue.  They will help grease the skid that empties further away from God and even in the lake of fire, all to protect this primary/secondary chimera.


Andrew Tollefson said...

I agree with this. What's your view on the term "judeo-christian" today and the coalition of viewpoints it represents? Is it just a catch-all for people who generally want to make compromises on certain doctrines? Do they regard them as of "secondary" importance? Because as you've said, if you regard something as "secondary" then you've elevated something past God's word.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Andrew,

I don't think people who use the "Judeo-Christian ethic" usually use that to diminish scripture. I think they are using it more in the sense that Western Civilization functions according to that ethic, like having Moses on the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC. Unbelievers and believers use it. I haven't heard of a church using that, evangelical or fundamentalist, to describe their belief and practice. I haven't heard it used to bifurcate teaching into primary and secondary. Interesting thought though.


Lance Ketchum said...

We are constantly seeing and hearing young preachers today who use a deductive hermenuetic, which almost always reduces, weakens, and diminishes doctrines. When their deductions are confronted with an inductive hermenuetic, they almost always respond in angered shock. An inductive hermenuetic understands that the denominator in the fraction of most doctrines is large, not small. This requires an in depth study of the whole counsel of God to gather an equal numerator before we have a whole.

Andrew Tollefson said...

"I don't think people who use the "Judeo-Christian ethic" usually use that to diminish scripture."

Tacitly though, this term bundles some certain particular "Judeo-Christian values" as essentials, legitimizing said ideas under the use of this umbrella term. Therefore, similar to how you explained with such types of "essential values", using it creates a shadow category of mere-secondary importance that only exists beyond this. Surely you can see this, you just explained how trying to essentialize some teachings does this.

Whenever our doctrines of Christ would be raised, they might at times be dismissed as not fitting into the broadest scope of "our [supposed] values," and therefore, supposedly, not applicable to all. They would be "up to your preference," while leaving room for the rest. People can just opt out of it. After all, the values, they would say, have always been "Judeo-Christian," and this would become the "essential" doctrine, which is defined apart from scripture! How can you not see how this would lead to syncreticism? It would, and there are people and churches that use this term in describing themselves quite quite regularly indeed.

They would say that we should show tolerance toward their wrong doctrine, because it only clashes with that "non-essential" stuff. And these false witnesses would hold forth the shining illusion that there are supposed "essential things" that we can and should still agree on. And not shake the boat.

"I think they are using it more in the sense that Western Civilization functions according to that ethic,"


"like having Moses on the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC."

I'm not trying to split hairs with you here, this point really needs to be emphasized. Are Biblical, right ethics, beliefs, or practices really being upheld right now? Or is a physical monument, as you mention as an example, the sole endangered vestige of something that has in practice now become thoroughly talmudic? And who is to say that talmudic values (practiced by "Judaism") are not part of "Judeo-Christianity"? You realize that the talmud permits abortion, euthanasia, divorce, adultery and so forth?

I can't see how one should approch disproving that THIS isn't still within the (extrascriptural) realm of "Judeo-Christian," if one can find it in the talmud.

"I haven't heard of a church using that, evangelical or fundamentalist,"

Yeah, not by your definition of evangelical or fundamentalist. But does that negate the problem one bit? No. And I've seen you using that term (in a positive light) on here as well. Have you excluded yourself?

If they use the term as something well-regarded, they've just given their seal of approval to it; it doesn't matter whether they explicitly admit in words (which some do) that it describes their belief and practice. They've approved of it, and the effect is the same. Some are just not as forthright in admitting it actually describes their own belief and practice upfront.

So what gives? It would seem that in using this term ("Judeo-"), you are giving ground to the same talmudical ideas that have befallen us as having some gray area of legitimacy.

Andrew Tollefson said...

Thanks for the article anyway, even if you don't actually want to get into it!