Moving Toward Authenticity: Musings on Fundamentalism, Part 2

tracksDr. Doug MacLachlan presented this paper at Central Seminary’s fall conference on Oct. 17, 2011. Read part 1. Part two begins with the second of three indispensible necessities for authentic fundamentalism.

2. Pursuing the radical center

It was G. K. Chesterton who suggested that the Christian life is like a narrow pathway with deep ditches on both sides. For much of its history, large segments of the body of Christ have too often found themselves off the “narrow pathway” (the radical center) and in one or the other of these ditches. It doesn’t matter which ditch we fall into. In both of them, believers become muddied and defiled. In this condition, the watching world is once again receiving a skewed view of Christ and His body. Far too large a percentage of the evangelical world has descended into the “left ditch.” And doubtless, far too much of the fundamentalist world has descended into the “right ditch.” This tragic descent into the ditches mandates a deep commitment to a strong pursuit of the “radical center,” if we are to recover historic, mainstream fundamentalism.

A word of caution is necessary here. In coming up out of these ditches, there is often a tendency to overreact and miss the radical center by passing right over it, and ending up in the opposite ditch. The Christian faith is replete with examples of this. When we “over-correct” we don’t correct. We simply create a whole new world of hypocrisies, because both the right and left ditches are full of hypocrisies. The only place to find authenticity (genuine Christianity) is in the radical center.

Incidentally, the radical center should not be thought of as a compromising posture that allows for one foot in the church and the other in the world, as though we were straddling the fence. Rather it is the narrow pathway defined by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14. Pursuing the radical center means absolute love to the Triune Godhead, and absolute loyalty to absolute truth. This combination defines precisely what it means to pursue the radical center.

3. Recognizing the interdependence of the hard and soft virtues

Peter Kreeft has argued that our ancestors were better than we are at the hard virtues such as courage and chastity, holiness, righteousness, and justice. We, on the other hand, are better than they were at the soft virtues such as kindness and philanthropy, love, mercy, and grace. But you can no more specialize in virtue than in anatomical organs. The virtues are like organs in the body—interdependent—the one cannot survive without the other. In other words, the hard virtues are like bones in the body; the soft virtues are like tissues in the body. Bones without tissues are a skeleton. Tissues without bones are a jelly-fish. Neither can survive without the other, and apart from their union our full humanity is lost.

In the very same way, authentic Christianity cannot survive without both the hard and the soft virtues. They are absolutely interdependent. Too much of evangelicalism has opted for the soft virtues, exclusive of the hard. Too much of fundamentalism has opted for the hard virtues, exclusive of the soft. Neither of these movements will be capable of authentic Christianity or genuine ministry, until they are deeply committed to the union of both the hard and the soft virtues. The hard virtues strengthen the soft, and the soft virtues temper the hard. We cannot specialize in one or the other and hope to survive, because without both we inevitably forfeit our integrity, ministry, and authenticity.

And this, too, is a reality that has biblical justification. Paul’s final word to the “dysfunctional” body of believers at Corinth is: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with (in) love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14). This call to watch alertly, stand faithfully, and lead courageously (v. 13), is Paul’s mandate to embrace the “hard virtues.” But his warning to beware of the lessons we learn in warfare by loving visibly and tangibly in all that we do (v. 14), is his mandate to embrace the “soft virtues.” Corinth’s dysfunctional behavior and missional failure would continue unless both ends of this equation were to be honored.

For us at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, this is the critical balance that defines an authentic Fundamentalism. We remain deeply committed to historic, mainstream fundamentalism; a fundamentalism that is marked by a combination of grit, grace, and scholarship; a fundamentalism that is theologically sound, exegetically rich, dispositionally gracious, and intellectually astute. But we have no desire to join forces with either left-ditch evangelicalism or right-ditch fundamentalism.

As I close, I would like to make one final observation. It seems to me that on the one hand post-conservative and neo- or generic-evangelicals are bolting to the left. On the other hand, it appears that neo- or hyper-fundamentalists are bolting to the right. There is, however, a group on both sides of this divide that appear to be in pursuit of the radical center. Both groups represent minority movements in their respective theological settings. Confessional or conservative evangelicals aspire to distance themselves from the majority of the evangelical movement that is bolting left. And natal or historic, mainstream fundamentalists aspire to distance themselves from the majority of the fundamentalist movement that is bolting right. This looks very much to me as though both these groups are moving toward the radical center.

Kevin Bauder has made the point that,

Mainstream fundamentalists are coming to the conclusion that they must distance themselves from hyper-fundamentalists, and they are displaying a new openness to conversation and even some cooperation with conservative evangelicals. Younger fundamentalists in particular are sensitive to the inconsistency of limiting fellowship to their left but not to their right. (Four Views On The Spectrum of Evangelicalism, Andrew David Naselli, Collin Hansen, General Editors, Zondervan, 2011, p. 45)

He argues further that, “Many fundamentalists (and I am among them) are growing in their appreciation of the contribution that confessional evangelicals have made… . Yet differences remain between us, the largest of which is our assessment of indifferentism” (Ibid., p.103). Following J. Gresham Machen, Bauder defines “indifferentism” as the offense of those “who personally believed the fundamentals of the gospel but who extended Christian recognition to others who did not.” Though confessional evangelicals are “not indifferentists themselves,” they have exhibited a reluctance to “distance themselves from indifferentism or to warn against it publicly” (Ibid., p.102).

Nevertheless, though confessional evangelicals and historic, mainstream fundamentalists are not a perfect match, and though it is true that real and significant differences remain between them, it is fair to say that both of these groups seem equally committed to finding the radical center, and that both often have much more in common with one another than with those in their own movements who have jettisoned the radical center for one or the other of the ditches. In this regard, Bauder affirms what confessional evangelical, Mark Dever, recently said: “There is nothing wrong with our having fences. But let us keep our fences low and shake hands often.” I concur with Bauder’s response: “That remark nicely summarizes the sense of a growing number of fundamentalists” (Ibid., p. 103).

To begin with then, achieving an authentic fundamentalism will require a deep-seated commitment to the three indispensable necessities, which we have attempted to address in this essay:

  • Expressing holiness and love simultaneously (1 Thess. 3:12-13). It mandates a combination of both critical thought and cruciform.
  • Pursuing the radical center (Matt. 7:13-14). It mandates a combination of absolute love to the Triune God and absolute loyalty to absolute truth.
  • Recognizing the interdependence of the hard and soft virtues (1 Cor. 16:13-14). It mandates an equal passion for and implementation of both sets of virtues.

These define for me the broad, general, and I believe biblical, principles which provide the parameters or boundaries within which we should do our work as we move forward toward an authentic fundamentalism.

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Dan Burrell's picture

"In coming up out of these ditches, there is often a tendency to overreact and miss the radical center by passing right over it, and ending up in the opposite ditch. "

If I had a nickle for everytime I had seen this.....

Great observations!

Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

Jay's picture

Quote:
He argues further that, “Many fundamentalists (and I am among them) are growing in their appreciation of the contribution that confessional evangelicals have made… . Yet differences remain between us, the largest of which is our assessment of indifferentism” (Ibid., p.103). Following J. Gresham Machen, Bauder defines “indifferentism” as the offense of those “who personally believed the fundamentals of the gospel but who extended Christian recognition to others who did not.” Though confessional evangelicals are “not indifferentists themselves,” they have exhibited a reluctance to “distance themselves from indifferentism or to warn against it publicly” (Ibid., p.102).

So then - realizing that there is a difference between "them" and "us" (as much as I hate to needlessly divide the Body) - what's wrong with encouraging CE's that we do have relationships with to adopt a more separatist position? And how does one encourage that without standing on the other side throwing darts all the time, as some Fundies want to do?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

I find these phrases and verbs interesting:

"Moving Toward Authenticity"

AND

"Pursuing the radical center"

Reminds me of Phil 3:13, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before"

AND if I understand this phrase accurately, Paul is saying that he hasn't arrived yet.

There is a profound difference between a prideful fundamentalism that knows it is always right and a humble fundamentalism that realizes that finding that radical center takes regular adjustments.

I may be wrong but it strikes me that there has been a certain tenor among some fundamentalists that they have arrived and woe to the others who haven't as quicky made it to the top (all the right positions) as quickly as they have

Don Johnson's picture

that is smugly satisfied that it is not as proud as the guy in the right ditch.

But really, I am not convinced by the 'left ditch/right ditch' analogy. It is just an illustration. It isn't Scripture, no matter how wise we might consider Machen to be.

I recognize that we need to be careful to examine ourselves and watch for faults as we try to live out the Christian life. But I'm really alarmed by all the "centrist" and "middle" type talk.

Who brought about the defeat for the fundamentalists when the fight was on in the 1920s? It wasn't the fundamentalists, they were clear about where they stood. The loss can be laid squarely at the door of those who claimed orthodoxy but emphasized love and finding the middle road. If they had supported the fundamentalists who raised the alarms, would the Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Convention) be apostate today?

I am all for separation with the right spirit, holding the truth in love, and all that. It is essential. God grant the temperance for a faithful expression of orthodoxy. But as I read the Scriptures, the narrow road isn't in the middle, it is directly opposite the broad road. It isn't the radical center (catchy phrase), it is the only way.

Well, I don't want to get into a big argument with Dr. MacLachlan. I have a lot of respect for him and have been blessed by his preaching ministry in the past. I ran into him in the Snack Shop at BJU one time... he was standing behind me in the line for the cashier. We had a very pleasant conversation. I agree with expressing fundamentalist principles with the right spirit. I just don't think its wise to pursue the center. The word for that is Moderate. The Moderates lost the fight for orthodoxy in the 1920s and 1930s. They almost lost the fight in the SBC, although they still might prevail. "Center-talk" will produce moderates, who will pursue moderating policies, and, I think, ultimately defeat orthodoxy.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Joel Tetreau's picture

I'd like to add one more thought,

Yes.....Bauder is right to commend Dever's comment about keeping the fence low and shaking hands often.

I'd like to add just one more additional (if not self-serving) thought to that - While we do this occasional (if not vigorous) "hand-shaking" with some of the "Type C's" out there - if a few of us (who are less "stiff") actually hug the guy on the other side of the fence - let's not slap each other up side the head for such signs of familial affection!

That's all I'm going to say about that!

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Who brought about the defeat for the fundamentalists when the fight was on in the 1920s? It wasn't the fundamentalists, they were clear about where they stood. The loss can be laid squarely at the door of those who claimed orthodoxy but emphasized love and finding the middle road. If they had supported the fundamentalists who raised the alarms, would the Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Convention) be apostate today?

Don,
This is not the 1920s. WHY is fundamentalism in a mess today? A big part of the mess is a drifted into fleshly "right ditch" extremism. The fruit of this is a lot of fleshly behavior, scandals, and more fractures than we can count. Dr. Machlachlan is not calling us to be unclear where we stand. He is not encouraging us to go "light" on liberal theology and other beliefs that lead to compromise. He, and others, are calling us back to that fundamentalism of the early days which boldly stood against apostasy, passionately advanced the gospel, and recognized the need for grace amongst Bible-believing brethren. I believe it is a mistake to try to make it out that what these men are doing is what men like Ockenga did. It is far from it.

To all out there,
Please do not fall into the trap of believing that men like Bauder, Machlachlan, and others are trying to do what men like Ockenga did. Bauder, Machlachlan, and some of these other men are not against fundamentalism. They do not hold affection for the enemies of the gospel to my knowledge. They are simply trying to bring some level of restoration to this wonderful movement. It is so needed. It is being heavily resisted by some. These men are far from perfect and the task is one where there will be some stumbling and require corrections along the way. However, the effort is a noble one and a needed one.

Don Johnson's picture

Joe, get your decades straight. I wasn't talking about Ockenga.

But, please, on this right ditch business, can you show me in the Scriptures where that is found? Do you think it is possible to pursue purity too far?

The call for moderation is dangerous. The reality is that holiness cannot be pursued without Biblical love. What some people call 'unloving fundamentalism' is holiness expressing Biblical love.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Matt Walker's picture

How difficult is it to get out? Won't you be tempted to think, though you are ditch-bound, that you are actually in the middle of the road? Is it possible to examine yourself adequately so that you can come to the horrific realization that for a time, and possibly for a long time, you have been grinding your gears in a rut that is off-center?

What methods and manners are there that might help you come to this realization? What techniques have been employed in the past that have successfully aided someone who is in the ditch to recognize his error and correct it?

I suppose it is a long reexamination of Christ and His cross...if I've read the article rightly. Something I'll be thinking about....

Matt

JD Miller's picture

I really appreciated this article. Unlike many here, I did not grow up as a fundamentalist. I actually grew up in a conservative evangelical church that was drifting farther left, so I corrected to get back to the right side of the road when I became an fundamental independent Baptist. Along the way I have overcorrected at times. After becoming an independent Baptist, I started to notice that there were people who had swung the pendulum so far to the right (in contrast to correct) that they were no longer Biblical.
I do not believe that MacLachlan is saying that we need to just take the center position of compromise between two extremes, but rather that we need to be Biblically correct in all our positions. Often it seems that the left wants to ignore Scripture, while the right wants to add to it. We need to be correctly down the center of exactly what the Word of God teaches. If the right moves farther right and so does the left or vise versa and we just go between those two positions, we will still be off the road because the road never moved. If the road represents God's position on a matter, I want to be right in the center. That is not compromise, that is a hunger for holiness that takes continuous correction on the steering wheel of life.
BTW, I have no regrets for having become a fundamentalist, but when I left the E Free Church, I became involved in more conservative historic fundamental churches and they have been a huge blessing. I pray that they not be phased out by either the left or the right, but that they continue the little corrections to keep themselves on the straight and narrow road.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
But, please, on this right ditch business, can you show me in the Scriptures where that is found? Do you think it is possible to pursue purity too far?

The call for moderation is dangerous. The reality is that holiness cannot be pursued without Biblical love. What some people call 'unloving fundamentalism' is holiness expressing Biblical love.

Don,

No one is talking about pursuing too much purity. You are changing the discussion. The point is pursuing holiness the right way. Some, and I emphasize some, among fundamentalists are guilty of pursuing purity in the wrong way - hence the references to pride, etc. In the end, they are no more pure than the "liberals" they oppose, they are only smudged with a different kind of dirt.

While I agree that "What some people call 'unloving fundamentalism' is holiness expressing Biblical love", fundamentalists must someday acknowledge that what some people call 'unloving, arrogant fundamentalism' is just that.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Don,
I do believe I have the decades straight. I was not placing Ockenga in the 1920's. In separate statement, I was lamenting that some are likening what Machlachlan and Bauder to what men like Ockenga did. I do not believe this is what they are doing.

The Gospels are full of examples of the Pharisees who were definitely in the right ditch. It resulted in holy-than-thou self-righteousness. It was devastating.

I am all for holiness expressing biblical love. But I do not see that often. Trying to enforce separation from ministries like Northland International University over issues that can call for concern and/or disagreement but do not call for separation is NOT holiness expressing itself in biblical love. Jim Peet recently provided a powerful example in "Anatomy of Lie" of a supposed pursuit of holiness being expressed with mischievousness, not love. Of course things like this will happen here and there but this happens all the time and is acceptable in huge chunks of fundamentalism.

Way too many men are expressing a kind of love that is only designed to help brothers and sisters with whom they disagree over a cliff!

Dan Burrell's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

The call for moderation is dangerous.

And the call for extremism is what? Virtuous?

McLachlan's call to moderation was not about orthodoxy or message, it was towards tone, tactics and extra/non-Biblical preferences.

Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Don wrote:
But, please, on this right ditch business, can you show me in the Scriptures where that is found? Do you think it is possible to pursue purity too far?

In a word, yes.

To clarify, it is possible to pursue our understanding of purity too far. God has only revealed so much and application is a human thing.

But this verse is relevant...
Mk 7:7–8 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men— the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” (nkjv)

Don Johnson's picture

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:
Don,
I do believe I have the decades straight. I was not placing Ockenga in the 1920's. In separate statement, I was lamenting that some are likening what Machlachlan and Bauder to what men like Ockenga did. I do not believe this is what they are doing.

Well, let's leave aside that point. I understand what you are saying, and I regret my comment on that point. I was too late to go back and edit my earlier comment after thinking it over. I thought I would wait till you responded before adding additional input, so... I'll agree that MacLachlan and Bauder aren't calling for Ockenga-like compromise. The only point I'll attempt to maintain here is that they are calling for a moderation of some sort. One's evaluation of its value will differ, depending on one's point of view.

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:
The Gospels are full of examples of the Pharisees who were definitely in the right ditch. It resulted in holy-than-thou self-righteousness. It was devastating.

Well, I think we agree that the Pharisees were wrong. Would you say that they were wrong simply because they were pursuing the right thing in the wrong way, or were they pursuing the wrong thing altogether? It seems to me that they were pursuing the wrong thing ... justification by law-works, rather than justification by dependence on God. How is that the "right ditch"?

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:
I am all for holiness expressing biblical love. But I do not see that often. Trying to enforce separation from ministries like Northland International University over issues that can call for concern and/or disagreement but do not call for separation is NOT holiness expressing itself in biblical love.

I can't speak for others, but for myself I am concerned about the things that are happening at NIU. How is it illegitimate to ask questions about such things? I am not calling for separation, but I'm not sure I could recommend young people attend there until these questions are cleared up and a more "certain sound" is heard coming out of NIU. These issues must be discussed and should be discussed in public, in my opinion. No more "back rooms", openness and transparency are supposedly the watchwords of the day, no?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Don wrote:
But, please, on this right ditch business, can you show me in the Scriptures where that is found? Do you think it is possible to pursue purity too far?

In a word, yes.

To clarify, it is possible to pursue our understanding of purity too far. God has only revealed so much and application is a human thing.

But this verse is relevant...
Mk 7:7–8 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men— the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” (nkjv)

Aaron, how is this the "right ditch"? Weren't they entirely wrong? They turned pure religion into a kind of superstitious idolatry.

The expression of their sin was different from the way sin was expressed by the pagans, but it was 'the same thing' - see Rm 2.3.

The talk of 'right ditch' vs. 'left ditch' makes this very political, as if truth is found in the minds of reasonable men. (Guess who gets to decide what 'reasonable' means?) In fact, following God is spiritual, not political, and God is always right.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
I can't speak for others, but for myself I am concerned about the things that are happening at NIU. How is it illegitimate to ask questions about such things? I am not calling for separation, but I'm not sure I could recommend young people attend there until these questions are cleared up and a more "certain sound" is heard coming out of NIU. These issues must be discussed and should be discussed in public, in my opinion. No more "back rooms", openness and transparency are supposedly the watchwords of the day, no?

Yes, they should. But what objective information do we have to discuss re: NIU in particular? Blogposts where someone asserts boldly that NIU is embracing CCM without proof? Vague assertions that the grad student programs are having in teachers from outside of our circles, without knowing what the actual content that's being taught by said teacher?

Let's face it, Don. It's a whole lot easier to stand up, hold up a book or video, and say in a sermon that 'this is heresy' than it is to actually prove that said item contains heresy. That's the methodology that BJ Jr. used to attack MacArthur. Do you REALLY want to go back to those days? I am sure that you don't.

It all comes down to sources of information. Personally, I want proof - objective, verifiable, public truth - that I can see before I'm ready to start assigning the heresy or backsliding cards to people or places. Assuming things - especially when said claims are based on a lack of evidence to the contrary - usually winds up making fools out of both you and I.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Dan Burrell's picture

[quote=Don JohnsonI'm not sure I could recommend young people attend there until these questions are cleared up and a more "certain sound" is heard coming out of NIU. [/quote]

There's nothing quite like being assumed guilty rather than being presumed innocent -- and towards a "brother" (institution), no less. Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing when one could give their fellow believers the benefit of the doubt rather than put them into the position of having to justify every decision and defend themselves from every accusation -- no matter how insignificant the charge or source?

Sigh.

Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

Jay's picture

Quote:
Aaron, how is this the "right ditch"? Weren't they entirely wrong? They turned pure religion into a kind of superstitious idolatry.

I think Aaron's point about the right ditch is used because enforcing the rules meant more to the Pharisees than making sure that they understood what the rules were meant to do and be (Matthew 15:3-6, Matthew 23:2-9, 13, 23-24). If the Pharisees had taught that all that mattered was that people wanted to do the right thing and excused behavior, would we not refer to them as falling in the 'left' ditch? If so, there should be 'right' ditch - how else would we know of a right side of the ditch?

Here's an alternate question that might be helpful for illustration - are we more interested in defending Fundamentalism or in defending the Gospel? If a person's identity is wrapped up in 'being a Fundamentalist' as opposed to being 'Gospel centered', then I think it's correct to say that they may be off-track.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think we give some words too much baggage. For instance, the idea that moderation=compromise, when moderation is commanded in Phil. 4:5. I think the way it is used there is to indicate propriety, a thoughtfulness and patience in how we deal with others.

But is that embraced along with doctrinal militancy in IFBism (in general)? Have many not fallen for the idea that militancy literally means beating up others verbally (and sometimes physically)? But how is this consistent with James 3:17? But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Some camps of IFBism are as far from peaceable or easily petitioned, gentle, merciful, impartial... as you can get. I've heard and read again and again over the years, that "If you don't know what I am saying is God's truth, you are an idiot", "If you don't agree then there's the door- don't let it hit you in the butt on the way out", "If you don't understand what I'm saying, God's probably through with you"... What they are really saying is "Trust me" without feeling that they need to provide any evidentiary support for their contentions. They simply demand loyalty, and that loyalty is their barometer of other's spirituality. That is idolatry.

Funny how many say "You're following a man, you're following a man" and every man that says that is following a man. Men may be good examples, and have wisdom from study and experience, but none of them are the Holy Spirit or God manifest in the flesh.

I think the right and left ditches are composed of militant IFBism that may be 'right' doctrinally, but their practice is devoid of compassion and mercy and good fruit, and the other extreme is those who have so much compassion it practically oozes out of their pores, but they have no doctrinal backbone. Moderation is having sound doctrine and practice. The middle is not compromise- the middle is balance.

Dan Burrell's picture

"Stridency" is not equal to "Militancy" nor is it a synonym. Points to frequently forgotten.

Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

Shaynus's picture

"Be not righteous over much."

"What does it mean to be overly righteous? Of course God is perfectly righteous; this does not mean He has taken it to an extreme. Clearly Solomon here is not addressing genuine piety, righteousness, or wisdom. He is speaking of what all too often passes for it. So what does this mean? Not to put too fine a point on it, it means...Nice Christian. Priggish Christian. Sanctimonious Christian. Tight-shoes Christian. Pursed lips Christian. Stickler Christian. Insufferable Christian. Prudish Christian. Doctrinally correct Christian. Know-it-all Christian. Ostentatious Christian. Quiet-time-every-day-or-I'll-go-to-Hell Christian. Conceited Christian. Orthodox Christian unChristian Christian." -Douglas Wilson

Joy at the End of the Tether: the Inscrutable Wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

Don Johnson's picture

Jay C. wrote:
Let's face it, Don. It's a whole lot easier to stand up, hold up a book or video, and say in a sermon that 'this is heresy' than it is to actually prove that said item contains heresy. That's the methodology that BJ Jr. used to attack MacArthur. Do you REALLY want to go back to those days? I am sure that you don't.

Personally, I would LOVE to have Dr Bob Jr still around. Not sure he would like to be here.

And, quite frankly, I think you are doing to him what you say he did to others. I don't think his complaint against MacArthur was based on nothing. I don't say he dealt with the whole situation as well as he could have, but I don't think you are being fair to imply that his complaints were based on nothing.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

Dan Burrell wrote:
Don Johnson wrote:
I'm not sure I could recommend young people attend there until these questions are cleared up and a more "certain sound" is heard coming out of NIU.

There's nothing quite like being assumed guilty rather than being presumed innocent -- and towards a "brother" (institution), no less. Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing when one could give their fellow believers the benefit of the doubt rather than put them into the position of having to justify every decision and defend themselves from every accusation -- no matter how insignificant the charge or source?

You know, you don't seem to know why I have reservations about recommending NIU at the present time. You assume that my reasons have to be the same as someone else who is loudly complaining about them. But you don't kniow, do you?

In any case, Matt has been quite public about changes of philosophy they are implementing, people they are associating wiith, etc. These are not matters of interpretation or vague suspicions. I don't agree with some of the things he has said or with some of the things he is doing with the school. It isn't a matter of being assumed guilty, there are clear objective things he is doing that I disagree with.

On the other hand, you seem to want to assume that I am guilty of base motives in having a disagreement or concern with Matt/NIU. It would be nice if you presumed innocence and actually considered those points of disagreement as worth discussing.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

Shaynus wrote:
... -Douglas Wilson

Joy at the End of the Tether: the Inscrutable Wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

... joined the apostolic band just when?

Still waiting for some Scripture to prove the 'right ditch' analogy.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Quote:
"What does it mean to be overly righteous?...Doctrinally correct Christian..." -Douglas Wilson
Since when is being doctrinally correct to be viewed in any sense as something that is overly righteous? But then with Wilson's grotesque Federal Vision error I do understand his wishing to have doctrinal correctness viewed as an undesirable property.

Jay's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Jay C. wrote:
Let's face it, Don. It's a whole lot easier to stand up, hold up a book or video, and say in a sermon that 'this is heresy' than it is to actually prove that said item contains heresy. That's the methodology that BJ Jr. used to attack MacArthur. Do you REALLY want to go back to those days? I am sure that you don't.

Personally, I would LOVE to have Dr Bob Jr still around. Not sure he would like to be here.


Oh, I'm sure he'd rather be in heaven than on SI. Can't say I blame him Smile

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And, quite frankly, I think you are doing to him what you say he did to others. I don't think his complaint against MacArthur was based on nothing. I don't say he dealt with the whole situation as well as he could have, but I don't think you are being fair to imply that his complaints were based on nothing.

You're sidestepping the question, Don. Do you really want to go back to the day when Pastor X (I'm not thinking of anyone in particular here - just a hypothetical pastor) tells you who is and isn't OK to fellowship with? Or do you want to be able to follow the dictates of Scripture and your own conscience, which is what you will use when you stand before God, acc. to Romans 14:10-12?

His comments *were* based on nothing - or at best based on comments ripped out of context and used unfairly - which is why BJIII finally admitted such and assured Phil and Dr. Mac that it never should have happened. But it did, and the reverberations are still ongoing today, even though BJU hasn't actually come out and said so publicly.

Now, as for the Scripture thing - do you agree with my argument re: the Pharisees? Or did you not see the connection there?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

That's a strong claim that I made, so http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/blood.htm here's documentation :

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In the BJU article, Jones quoted MacArthur as saying, "It is not His bleeding that saved me, but His dying." Jones then cited Hebrews 9:22 ("without shedding of blood is no remission") and intoned, "MacArthur's position is heresy."

On June 13, 1986, MacArthur wrote to Bob Jones III, complaining that the magazine had taken snippets of his remarks out of context and deliberately made them seem sinister. MacArthur assured the magazine's editors that he absolutely affirms the necessity of the shed blood of Christ for atonement and explained that the point he was trying to make in the quoted excerpt was merely that the saving efficacy of Christ's blood is not because of some property in the blood itself, but rather because Christ had poured it out in death as a substitute for sinners. Indeed, in the very same source Dr. Jones, Jr. had selectively quoted from, MacArthur had written,

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Peter calls His blood "precious" and I agree . . . but Peter's reference there is to the sacrificial nature of His death. . . . The phrase "Christ died for our sin" (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3) expresses the truth that death was the penalty, not blood. . . I Peter 2:24 is not saying we are saved by his wounds. . . . If we say that it is the blood that saves . . . what are we saying? His actual blood, physically, saves us? Or perhaps we are stuck with the Roman Catholic Church "perpetual offering" view that some hold. This view says that Christ perpetually sacrifices Himself. He took His blood into heaven and keeps offering it. Hebrews 10:12-14 forbids such a view. Clearly it was His death . . . once for all. His shed blood was part of the violence of it, and speaks of it as sacrifice, but we are saved by His substitutionary death for us, not by the chemicals in His blood.

After an exchange of correspondence in which MacArthur thoroughly and carefully explained his original remarks, Jones wrote on October 16, 1986, saying, "I believe the position [MacArthur ] has taken in this matter is a heretical position, and all the correspondence in the world is not going to affect my convictions on that point."

Finally, five years after the original correspondence with Jones, Jr., Bob Jones III wrote MacArthur (July 3, 1991) and assured MacArthur that BJU had tried to let the matter drop. (as opposed to coming clean and admitting it was wrong) He clearly did not regard MacArthur's position as heresy:

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Once you published in your own paper an article stating that the blood was "efficacious and meritorious" we have never said another word about it. The issue was resolved at that point; and it has been our joy to tell people who continue to be concerned that they can be at ease, and refer them to your own published statements as evidence.

The point isn't to rehash endlessly the he-said, he-said. The point is to find out if that's the kind of Fundamentalism that you really want to be a part of, where things can be 'dropped' only after the malicious rumor has spread and metastasized.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Shaynus's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
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"What does it mean to be overly righteous?...Doctrinally correct Christian..." -Douglas Wilson
Since when is being doctrinally correct to be viewed in any sense as something that is overly righteous? But then with Wilson's grotesque Federal Vision error I do understand his wishing to have doctrinal correctness viewed as an undesirable property.

If someone is looking to their doctrinal correctness as their righteousness, then that would be a form of righteous over much. Doug Wilson doesn't have to be correct in all counts in order to have a point in others.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Don wrote:
Aaron, how is this the "right ditch"? Weren't they entirely wrong? They turned pure religion into a kind of superstitious idolatry.

The expression of their sin was different from the way sin was expressed by the pagans, but it was 'the same thing' - see Rm 2.3.


I'm thinking of "right" here as the direction of restriction and left as the direction of accommodation or acceptance. That seems to fit MacLachlan's usage here. (And maybe isn't far from Machen's as well)

I was chewing on this question the other day, before this article came to us... and in reference to something else entirely. But it fits: Is there anything that is impossible to overemphasize?
I decided that I think the answer is no. The next question was, what are the problems that constitute overemphasis? Several came to mind:
1- when emphasis on something leads to the neglect of something else that is similarly--or more--important
2- when emphasis on something leads to a distortion of the thing itself (as when overemphasis on God's love, for example, results in misconstruing what His love even is--so that people understand it mean something like "warm tolerance.")
3- when emphasis on something leads to incorrectly identifying it as the thing foundational to other things
4- when emphasis on something leads to overused terms and, eventually, championing buzzwords rather than substance

There were some others I don't remember now. Hope to get this fully baked one of these days... it's only half baked right now.
But here's the relevance: it is possible to emphasize "correctness," "purity" and the like so much, that they become distortions of themselves or take on an importance to us that leads us to justify the neglect of other things like right affections, brotherly love, patience and humility.
To me that's really where the "right" ditch is. It doesn't consist of being "too right" but of overemphasizing "being right" with the result that we are, ironically, less right.

This is what I think the Pharisees are faulted for doing in Mark 7:7-8. They took the idea of ceremonial cleanness and emphasized it so much that they began to restrict what God had not restricted--and then even to justify blatant wrongdoing in the name of the (mostly invented) letter of the law. They become comfortable with being impressive on the outside while inwardly full of the rot of decaying corpses.

(This is probably something like what Wilson meant by "overly righteous" as well... he is sometimes elliptical)

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