Archive for May, 2010

Radically Christ-centered

“There is nothing in the Gospels more significant than the way in which Jesus deliberately places Himself at the very centre of His message. He does not say with other teachers, ‘The truth is everything, I am nothing’; He declares ‘I am the truth.’ He does not claim, with the founders of certain ethnic religions, to suggest answers to the world’s enigmas; He claims to be the answer — ‘Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.’ He does not offer the guidance of a code or a philosophy to keep men right through the uncertainties of an unknown future; He says, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’”

- James S. Stewart, A Faith to Proclaim (Vancouver, BC; Regent College Publishing, 2002), 122.

HT: Of First Importance

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More Odds and Ends

Well, I’ve been teaching summer school for the past two weeks, so I haven’t taken much time to write here. Class finished today, so maybe after Memorial Day things will pick up. I still have grades to finish and a bunch of stuff piled up, so don’t read that as a promise. Until then, a few more odds and ends from around the web.

Who knew there were two Wheatons? This is the kind of mistake that could give public speakers nightmares. Pretty good apology, though.

Mark Steyn makes some sense when he writes that we’re too broke to be this stupid.

Peggy Noonan writes an interesting column on the damage being done to the President’s ability to lead by the apparent incompetence that has been shown by the administration in relation to the oil spill in the Gulf. Here is a quote that I thought worthy of consideration for all leaders,

When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble. When you try to dodge ownership of a problem, when you try to hide from responsibility, life will give you ownership and responsibility the hard way.

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Without Addition or Substraction

Let’s do some recapping, then come back to the subject of the last two posts.

I have argued that there is no coherent and distinctive Fundamentalist movement at this stage of the game while acknowledging that there are still Fundamentalists (i.e., people who hold to the fundamentals of the Faith and are committed to the practice of separation over their denial). It is mystifying to me that some people just can’t or won’t grasp that I am making that distinction. I am not asking anyone to agree with me, but it is intellectually dishonest to take what I have written about the “movement” as a rejection of the principles which animated Fundamentalism when it was a coherent and distinctive movement. Some people’s prejudices seem to make them very thickheaded.

I have argued that believers must separate from those who deny essential doctrines of the faith. I have argued that we must withdraw or withhold fellowship from those who disobey what the Bible teaches about this. I have argued that taking the step beyond these two necessary steps is a matter of judgment for which we need to leave room for differences of response.

The last two posts attempted to make my point regarding that next step by illustrating from the IBFI conference. Jack Schaap presides over a ministry that has been marked by gospel and moral infidelity. Until there has been a clear and unequivocal rejection of the false doctrine that has been taught there and public repentance over the moral debauchery that was covered up, gospel loving churches should not partner with FBC or its pastor(s). Because I believe that firmly, I will not partner with those who do so. They are not obeying the clear command to mark and turn away.

Not everybody, though, agrees with me about these matters and that’s where the separation discussion always gets complicated. Some, like a certain man from the toxic state of Illinois, think the answer is to ignore the problems on our side of the fence while relentlessly saying the same thing about conservative evangelicals again and again, pausing from that only in order to promote his book or take shots at Kevin Bauder and/or me. (Don’t get me wrong, in a sense I’m thankful for his dogged persistence in that it does something similar to what the PCC videos did several years ago—it draws a line in the sand and helps people see what the options are. He is a perfect example of the “if you don’t agree with me then you’re a pseudo-fundamentalist or not even a fundamentalist at all” school. No link—I don’t want to help sell his book.)

At the other end of the spectrum are those who are wrongly concluding that problems with fundamentalism necessarily invalidate the principles. Anybody who has been watching the ecclesiastical world of the last year has to recognize that separation problems are not the exclusive property of fundamentalists. Whatever is left of fundamentalism as a movement could implode and it would not change for one minute the obligations which the text of Scripture places on believers regarding separatism.

Strangely, both ends seem obsessed with fundamentalism–either its blind defense or constant prosecution of its foibles. The point I have been trying to make is simply that the presence of an historic label (whether self-applied or stuck on by someone else) is an insufficient means of deciding the fellowship question. Creating categories in order to simplify decision-making is understandable at times, but it also can represent stunted discernment. When the categorizing system has broken down, clinging to it anyway is more like prejudice than discernment.

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Everybody Has Reasons

I’d like to pick up on something I wrote yesterday:

Let’s set aside the alphabet and talk real life. I doubt that many men in fundamentalist circles will stop having any of the good men who have spoken for or along side of Jack Schaap in to speak for them. They will ignore this or explain it away. They will say that these men have good reasons for what they are doing. They will minimize the theological and ministerial aberrations in Hammond. I disagree with them vehemently about this, but at the end of the day, they are making a judgment call based on what they believe to be true about the text of Scripture and the people involved.

I want to be clear that these words are not really intended to be an indictment of anybody. They are simply an explanation of the way things work. Let me demonstrate my keen mastery of the obvious: In matters of judgment, people almost always have reasons for why they do or don’t do something. I don’t have fellowship with someone for reasons and they do for reasons. Everybody has reasons.

To say, then, that someone has reasons constitutes no justification for an action at all. Are the reasons good or bad, that’s the real question. But that question isn’t as simply answered as it is sometimes alleged. In matters of judgment, there are usually a lot of interlocking variables that are factored into any particular decision. That’s why there is so much biblical emphasis on discernment (e.g., Eph 5:10; Phil 1:9-11; Heb 5:11-14).

Here’s another statement of the obvious: Our friend’s reasons tend make more sense or be more tolerable to us than other people’s reasons. Some of that may be rooted in willful blindness, but most of it is probably rooted in trust that has been developed over time. That’s not bad. It does, though, result in some odd responses at times. And it does often result in an uneven playing field.

For instance, when well-known fundamentalists make a questionable decision, it is sometimes explained with reasons like: (1) personal friendships with the hosts; (2) assurances that the hosts do not agree with the stranger views of the other speakers; (3) explanations that while those guys do hold some strange views, they really love souls (or have some other commendable trait); (4) in spite of their errant views, we think we can help that circle move toward a more biblical position; and/or (5) lack of knowledge regarding who all was involved in the event.

Yet, when some “non-fundamentalist” speaks alongside a person with questionable theology or ministry practices, he might offer the exact same kind of explanations and be soundly rebuked for (in corresponding order): (1) putting friendship ahead of the truth; (2) failing to realize the confusion that platform fellowship creates; (3) exalting man above God; (4) embracing an end justifies the means mindset; and/or (5) being careless about his ministry and with the Truth.

To accept the explanations of the one while condemning the other is very questionable. Most of us can understand rejecting them both or accepting them both, but not an approach where special interests seem to be in control. The fact that two standards are applied suggests, at least to me, that the controlling factor is not biblical principle, but what label a man already has affixed to him. If he has the right label, his reasons are acceptable. If not, fat chance of that happening.

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Does the line keep moving?

Catching up on another loose end, I’d like to come back to the problem created by your friends’ poor choices regarding separation. I am thinking specifically of the Independent Baptist Friends International conference from back in April. My aim is not to stir up trouble for anybody, but to use this as an opportunity to think about the practice of separation.

I need to start by stating upfront a foundational assumption that I am making. You may not agree with it, but I am putting it on the table for clarity’s sake. I think it is an accurate and appropriate assumption, but you’ll have to be the judge of that. Here it is: given the long track record of doctrinal and moral messes at First Baptist of Hammond, there is no justification for ministerial cooperation with that church, its ministries, or its pastor. Like I said, you may not agree with me, but that is how I see it (and I am not alone on this one).

Given that assumption, then the presence of good men along side of Jack Schaap at the IBFI conference in April and the presence of good men on the platform of the Pastors School hosted by First Baptist of Hammond is problematic for me. These men are doing something that I believe is Scripturally wrong and this affects my ability to have ministerial fellowship with them.

Now, it should come as no surprise that not everyone agrees with me on this. My guess is that plenty of people in the FBF are prepared to overlook it. It is clear that speaking for the Pastors School in Hammond doesn’t get one excluded from Bible Conferences or have churches refuse to host your music seminars. And that reality raises the point that needs to be discussed and illustrates something that I’ve been saying for at least a couple of years now—what ripple ramifications should this have for my fellowship?

Once I have decided that someone is violating biblical principles and that I must withdraw or withhold ministerial fellowship from him, does the failure of others to go along with my decision necessarily mean that I must withdraw or withhold ministerial fellowship from them too? And does the same question come up at a new level after each decision? I believe I must separate from Pastor A because of his disobedience to biblical truth, but Pastor B isn’t ready or willing to do that yet. Must I separate from Pastor B too? If you say yes, then what do I do about Pastor C who won’t separate from Pastor B (even though he might separate from Pastor A)?

Let’s set aside the alphabet and talk real life. I doubt that many men in fundamentalist circles will stop having any of the good men who have spoken for or along side of Jack Schaap in to speak for them. They will ignore this or explain it away. They will say that these men have good reasons for what they are doing. They will minimize the theological and ministerial aberrations in Hammond. I disagree with them vehemently about this, but at the end of the day, they are making a judgment call based on what they believe to be true about the text of Scripture and the people involved.

Decisions like this always involve both of those elements—the text and its application to specific people and circumstances. I have good friends who are thoroughly committed separatists who will still have these men speak in conferences or in their churches or will serve with them on boards. It doesn’t make sense to me, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t need to make sense to me since they don’t answer to me. They answer to the Lord and their own congregations. I need to leave room for them to differ with me on this call or else I run the risk of making my conscience the standard for everybody else. I may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier,  but even I’ve got enough sense to know that’s not a good move.

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Odds & Ends

David Cloud has problems with the IBFI church directory too. BTW, our church is still listed so the leaven still remains.

How low has our culture fallen that Raquel Welch is telling young ladies to stop being so sleazy?

On a related note, this article on the 60th anniversary of the birth control pill provides some food for thought. Not endorsing it entirely, but I do have a sense, as a pastor, that this is an issue too often not given the kind of careful thought it deserves.

For those of you are Stars Wars fans (or those who have never seen the original trilogy, whether out of indifference or indignation), here is a two minute retelling of it Lego-style (HT: HA).

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Mother’s Day

In a day that worships vanity and mocks maternity,

Gladly we confess God’s plan for the home is right.

Humanity’s vain attempt to defy God’s authority

Has hurt our families and is to society a blight.

 

God’s order for the home—father, mother, and child—

Though mocked as old-fashioned, stands the test of time.

To ignore God’s plan has caused society to run wild,

Families are in ruins, morality on a downward climb.

 

Like his lie in the garden long ago,

The devil continues to question what God has willed.

“Submission and motherhood, it can’t be so,

God doesn’t want your life to be fulfilled.”

 

Like Eve, many daughters have believed the lie,

And followed a pattern not found in God’s Word.

They chase after career, for leadership they vie,

And to question such thinking is seldom heard.

 

The devil must laugh at this oft-repeated sight,

As generation after generation heeds his lie

And of the forbidden fruit foolishly they bite.

First, he destroyed the parents, now the family must die.

 

Much better it would be to believe God is right,

And follow His plan laid down from the start.

The devil spreads darkness and death, claiming it is light.

God provides peace and joy when His Word rules the heart.

 

Whether ancient or modern, women must come to know

The lies of the tempter that have filled this day

Are not the words of a friend, but of a deadly foe.

God’s truth brings life; you must follow His way.

 

The woman is God’s gift to complete humanity

Without her, man would be alone and incomplete.

To ignore her true worth is to embrace vanity,

To reject her true work is to follow deceit.

 

On this day we gladly honor motherhood

And the moms with which we have been blessed.

Against the tide of this world, you always stood

And showed us by example, that God knows best.

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Odds and Ends

I am glad that I haven’t encountered this at a funeral yet. Or this either.

I am sure that I am biased, but my guess is that hockey is about the only professional sport where this isn’t surprising to me.

And on a more serious note, I wonder how long it will be before this happens in the USA?

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