Confidence in the Word, Part 1

This article appeared originally in Voice magazine, July/Aug 2009. It appears here with some format editing.

Communication, in this modern age of communication, can be frustrating on many levels. Consider the common cell phone. Many nimbly leap from phone call to text message to taking a picture of a friend, all with the efficiency of a technological Jedi. Others, mortally fearful of missing a call, trot around with a “Bluetooth” attached to their ear (my regular jest to such people, that “you have a little something in your ear,” has so far failed to elicit a chuckle). Such people have mastered the art of modern communication, at least of this variety.

Then there are the technologically-challenged. Our one-year-old grandson has a better chance of activating the television through use of the remote than many middle-aged adults have. When it comes to the cell phone it gets worse. Everyone seems to have a cell phone these days but legions are totally perplexed as to how to go about retrieving messages. How frustrated they are to see the little screen indicating they have a message but have no concept of how to retrieve that message. Read more about Confidence in the Word, Part 1

Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 2


Fundamentalism and History

Read Part 1

It is a mistake, often made by educated persons who happen to have but little knowledge of historical theology, to suppose that Fundamentalism is a new and strange form of thought. It is nothing of the kind: it is the partial and uneducated survival of a theology which was once universally held by all Christians. How many were there, for instance, in Christian churches in the eighteenth century who doubted the infallible inspiration of all Scripture? A few, perhaps, but very few. No, the Fundamentalist may be wrong. I think that he is. But it is we who have departed from the tradition, not he, and I am sorry for the fate of anyone who tries to argue with a Fundamentalist on the basis of authority. The Bible and the corpus theologicum of the Church is [sic] on the Fundamentalist side.
—Kirsopp Lake

The above words were not written by a Fundamentalist or even a friend of Fundamentalism. The quotation comes from a theological liberal who was writing at the height of the Fundamentalist controversy. As such, it represents rather a startling admission. Not many liberals were willing to concede as much.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the quotation has become a favorite of those who have identified with Fundamentalism. David Beale appeals to it in his attempt to define Fundamentalism. Both Fred Moritz and Mark Sidwell refer to it in their defenses of separatism. Robert Reymond (a systematic theologian who was trained at Bob Jones University) includes it in his discussion of divine revelation. It even shows up in a sermon by Wayne Bley on the website of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.2

Fundamentalists are flattered to think of themselves as neither more nor less than representatives of historic Christian doctrine. They take comfort and courage in believing that they have neither added to nor subtracted from the deposit of faith, but that they simply proclaim and defend exactly the same message as the apostles did. This kind of reassurance feeds a craving for identity and significance. Read more about Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 2

What Your Pastor Wishes You Knew About Him, Part 1

Originallly appeared at Whirled Views, June 2009

In the last week I’ve spent time talking with three pastors who are about ready to throw in the proverbial towel. Each case is different and no two pastors, churches, boards or any other “part” of church leadership is exactly the same, but what is common among them is a sense of deep despair. Sadly, in the last week I’ve also heard of two colleagues in the ministry who ended their ministry with a catastrophic failure—one of them a rising evangelical leader who admitted to an affair. Not in every case, but in some cases, I’ve noticed a correlation to the thought processes between those who burnout in ministry and those who “flame out” due to sin. But whether you burnout, flame out, drop out or rust out—out is still out.

I am now two years beyond my own decision to step away from the senior pastorate, so I hope I can be a bit more objective about a topic like this than I might have been twenty-four short months ago. As for my own situation, I had my own reasons for changing the nature of my ministry and I am not looking back. For the cynical or others, nothing I write in this article should be construed as anything more or less than what it is—an opinion piece from someone who has sat on both sides of the pulpit for the last twenty-five years of ministry and who is still engaged in pastoral ministry—just from a different perspective in recent months.

I don’t pretend to write for every pastor out there, but I spend a lot of time with pastors and former pastors. There are some trends that are impacting pastoral leadership at this time that I think impact churches and their leaders. There are some frailties and vulnerabilities that any man called to be a pastor is naturally going to carry into his responsibilities. Add to that the spiritual warfare that is incumbent upon being a spiritual shepherd (or undershepherd). It is with these realities in mind that I offer some things that I’m guessing your pastor wishes you knew about him. Read more about What Your Pastor Wishes You Knew About Him, Part 1

A Return to Sola Scriptura

Martin Luther, WittenbergMany Christians have never heard the Latin term sola scriptura. It means simply “only Scripture” or “Scripture alone.” It was probably the main war cry of the Reformation. Replacing sola scriptura (in reference to all of Scripture) with the Great Commission has resulted in a movement called Neo-Evangelicalism. Once a mission is put ahead of authority, the mission becomes the authority.

Recent polls have revealed that fewer Americans claim to be Christian. And, although some forms of evangelicalism are growing in America, the cults (Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular) are growing at a fast rate. We hear of evangelicals converting to liturgical religions (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church) or other religions entirely. Why? Because the Scriptures became something less than the supreme authority. Read more about A Return to Sola Scriptura

Our "Intelligent Designer," Parts 11 & 12

(See Parts 9 & 10)

Part 11: Repentance for Athens

Did the Apostle Paul ever appeal to Intelligent Design when he confronted unbelievers? Yes, but only in an introductory way. For example, at the Areopagus (i.e., Mars Hill) in Athens, he declared: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:28-29, KJV).

But for the members of this city court to have agreed with Paul about the obvious fact of natural revelation would have accomplished nothing for their eternal salvation. And Paul knew this! He therefore concluded: God “now commandeth all men every where to repent,” (Acts 17:30) that is, to make a radical change of heart and mind about the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. (See also Christ’s command in Luke 24:47—“repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations;” and Paul’s commission in Acts 26:20—he “shewed … to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance”.) Read more about Our "Intelligent Designer," Parts 11 & 12

Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 1


Things Have Changed

The last sustained history of fundamentalism to be published by a fundamentalist was David Beale's In Pursuit of Purity1. Nearly a generation has passed since Beale finished writing his book. During that time the landscape of fundamentalism has altered significantly.

The period when Beale was writing was a time of intense struggle within fundamentalism. Segments of the movement were denouncing other segments as "neo" this or "pseudo" that. One wing of fundamentalism (led by Jerry Falwell, Ed Dobson, Ed Hindson, and Jack Van Impe) was attempting to forge links with mainstream evangelicalism. From the opposite wing, Bob Jones Jr. was attacking John MacArthur’s views on the blood of Christ and declaring that "MacArthur’s position is heresy."2 The King James Only movement, pioneered by David Otis Fuller and D. A. Waite, was in its infancy, barely a cloud the size of a man’s hand.

Many of the events that define present-day fundamentalism were yet future. Robert Sumner had not yet published his exposé of Jack Hyles's (alleged) affair, and Hyles himself was regarded as a prominent leader within mainstream fundamentalism. Cornerstone College was still Grand Rapids Baptist College, an approved agency of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and the GARBC was still approving agencies. Bob Jones University, smarting from its recent rebuff by the United States Supreme Court, continued to defend its ban on interracial dating and marriage as "based on its understanding of the Bible."3 Perhaps most significantly, the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention was still in its infancy. Conservatives controlled no Southern Baptist institutions yet, and most fundamentalists doubted that they ever would.

In 1986, neither Dave Doran nor Tim Jordan held the pastorates that have come to be associated with their names. Dan Davey and Mark Minnick were associate pastors in Virginia Beach and Greenville, respectively. Matt Olson was just a few years into the planting of Tri-City Baptist Church near Denver. John Hartog III was a college student, and Stephen Jones was still in high school. Read more about Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 1

Walking by the Way, Part 2

(Read Part 1)

Preparing for value transference

There are two major things we must do to prepare ourselves before we being the process of transferring our values to our children. The first is found in Deuteronomy 6:6.

1) The words of the commandments must “be in (our) heart.”

This means that we must have learned and internalized these values ourselves before we can pass them along to our children. Teaching a subject you do not know yourself is very difficult. Many parents who struggle to recall their high school algebra classes when it’s time to help with homework assignments can attest to this truth. H. L. Mencken said, “A man who knows a subject thoroughly, a man so soaked in it that he eats it, sleeps it, and dreams it—this man can always teach it with success.”

Having God’s Word in our heart implies far more than just a casual knowledge of the Bible. It means that we have learned the principles and are acting upon them. Hypocrites make poor parents. None of us are perfect, and it is certain that we will fail at times in working with our children. But maintaining a double standard ensures that what we say will be ignored in the light of what we actually do. Read more about Walking by the Way, Part 2