Shedding Some Light on Conservative Evangelicalism

Tags: 

I grew up in Winston Salem, NC, a city of roughly 230,000. Not large, but by North Carolina standards, in the top five. Over the years, I’ve bumped into people from rural towns who have noted, sometimes with genuine deference, “Oh, you’re from the big city.” This makes me chuckle considering Winston would probably fit inside of Donald Trump’s living room. Our worldview is potently molded to our experiences such that it affects our perception of objective data and propositional truth.

If your experience of the Christian faith has been primarily independent, fundamentalist, traditional and conservative, operating in small to medium-sized churches, then your perception of evangelicalism may be similar to a small town resident visiting a large city. Bigger doesn’t mean better, but it is certainly different with diverse and multiple choices. This is not to denigrate traditional conservatives (whom I have affectionately nicknamed Tracons) or small towns. It is to illustrate perceptual distinctions. Why write about this? Let me explain.

Our church staff and elders attended the Gospel Coalition 2011 conference in Chicago this past week. What we experienced was simple, but profound, gracious, yet powerful. The subject matter, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, was well crafted and delivered from many regions of the older testament by gifted pastors and leaders. Some of you may have read the updates. While writing the updates and ruminating on the spectrum of participants and contributors at SharperIron, I considered the many articles and comments deliberating the topics of conservative evangelicals, culture, cooperation, fences, separation, etc. It occurred to me that “small town/large city” perceptions exist that skew an appreciation of the believers some have termed “fundagelicals.”

My comments are not meant to define nor defend TGC. You can read their confessional statements and theological vision here. I hope to bring some clarity to the ongoing tension between those of you within the Tracon ecosystem, and those like myself, who are fundamentally grounded in orthodoxy, but less traditional in orthopraxy.

At TGC the entire conference pointed the attendees to Jesus Christ. Every introduction, song, message and workshop proclaimed explicitly that Jesus is Lord. His glory and sovereignty over this world and individual lives were woven into the tapestry of events. I write this because when I read certain debates on this site, I often see a black & white, cut and dried viewpoint that imparts to evangelicals some nebulous legitimacy within Christendom while maintaining fundamentalism as the theocentric ministry gold standard. As difficult as it might be for Tracons to hear, TGC leaders preach God’s Word unapologetically. The Bible is their defining source of reference for all things pertaining to life and godliness. Why the negative little zinger?

I think that many conservative folk who have chosen a traditional path of ministry, with traditional personal standards and traditional music assume that those who do not share their specific personal convictions and conclusions in these matters don’t share equal footing in God’s kingdom. Allow me to illustrate. Please note that I respect Dr. Bauder, whom I know only through his writings. I also appreciate the dialogue he has initiated on this subject. In his Reflections article after ATC, he made a couple of statements that I think sum up the general mindset within the Tracon ecosystem.

If someone is choosing between fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, then fundamentalism is the right choice. And if one is looking for a movement that offers structures through which to advance ideas, it may be the only choice.

Later, he writes:

Conservative evangelicalism is on the far side of fundamentalism from me.

Bauder concludes he is a conservative Christian, neither CE or Fundie. Nonetheless, his conclusions are illustrative of the significant divergence between Tracon and CE mindsets. One, somehow there exists a choice between two teams. “You can be a Cowboys fan, or you can be a Redskins fan, but you can’t be both.” Two, my personal position is home base. Every other theocentric ministry style must measure itself against my personal conclusions. In this is the perceptual distinction. CE’s do not think in these terms.

Within CE circles, there is broad and open acceptance of differing points of view, different styles, and different approaches to ministry. TGC doesn’t promote one way as the best way. In fact, you will hear recommendations to form heterogeneous ministry partnerships. What is promoted is the power of the gospel over people’s lives. Everything is pointed back to redemption, the power of the gospel and the sovereignty of God.

I’ve seen Tracons hypothesize in regard to CE’s, “I appreciate this, that or the other, but I couldn’t join in ministry with them.” Or “I like him, but I couldn’t share a stage with him.” OK, please don’t take this the wrong way, but they don’t care. CE’s have no concern whether or not you think they have the right framework for advancing ideas. They are devoted to serving the Lord, advancing the gospel, seeing God work in lives. The leaders of the CE movement are biblical, spiritually minded and servant hearted. Those involved in their ministries love the Lord, long to see Him glorified and work tirelessly to that end. They attempt to avoid the theoretical and operate in the real. Here’s the rub. Tracon ministries are decreasing in influence while CE’s are increasing.

I hope you will think about this deeply. You must recognize the movement and flow of young adults into the CE ecosystem. It started a decade ago and has built great momentum. Events like TGC highlight the influx. ATC drew 500. TGC drew 6000+. Size is not success, but it illustrates the direction of flow for kingdom resources, both capital and human. One only need look at the attendance patterns of the last decade at Bible colleges and Tracon churches to recognize the significance of the changes.

Some think this shift highlights the gravitation to worldliness and attractional ministry, and sadly a Christianized pop culture does exist in some churches. Yet many are gravitating to the power of the preaching, the proactivity of the ministries and the principal emphasis on biblical community.

You’ll have to take my word for this anecdotal evidence. I have spoken with countless men and women in the last five years who have left a traditional ministry setting for our CE church. Two things I hear often. One, “I’ve never heard the gospel preached so clearly, so practically and with such high expectations.” Two, “The people here are authentic believers. Jesus is real to them seven days a week.” There is genuine, humble, loving and biblical ministry outside of the walls of traditional fundamentalism.

In conclusion, the reason I started with TGC is that it represents a nexus of CE’s. It should help us to put into perspective what is happening in our generation. I’m not suggesting Tracons should migrate, I am advocating a recognition of God’s hand at work among his multifarious body, the church.

I hope each of us will rejoice in knowing that God is working in diverse ways through countless individuals and innumerable churches to accomplish His will. The uniting factor is the transformative redemption found only in Jesus Christ. Despite this complex hurricane of a discussion, remember what Paul wrote: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (ESV, Col. 3:14).

[node:bio/dmicah body]

my problems with CEs

Ron Bean wrote:
For the sake of summary, simplicity and specificity could someone (perhaps RPittman, who last used this phrase) list some of these many problems of CE's?

Ron, let me first acknowledge that there are many valuable contributions to Christian thought and life by Conservative Evangelicals. I think most of us who have problems with them do appreciate their ministries (to varying degrees).

Here are some of the problems from my perspective:

  1. The growing influence of charismatism - the charismatics have major problems when it comes to inspiration, inerrancy and the canon. They either believe in ongoing revelation (denying a closed canon) or they believe the Bible is in error when it expressly says that Agabus spoke his prophecy by the "Spirit". The influence of charismatism has widely altered the shape of evangelicalism at large. Next year at 9Marks, one of the Sovereign Grace men will be teaching from 1 Cor 12-14. What do you suppose will be the topic of discussion?
  2. The tolerance of worldliness on many levels, including the widespread tolerance of men like Mark Driscoll, and such discussions as you see here on SI where gambling and drinking are openly approved. In moderation, of course.
  3. The continuing relationship between CEs and the Billy Graham organization itself. The most conservative CE of them all, John MacArthur, has spoken in recent years at Graham's training center, the Cove, and has published articles in Graham's Decision magazine. The connections between Southern Seminary and the Graham organization are well known. Mark Dever is chairman of the board at Southern.
  4. The widespread use of worldly music undermining the gospel message that is preached. Almost all the CE ministries that are usually touted here are affected by this.

    You might not find these things problematic. Regardless, these things are huge stumbling blocks for me and preclude ministry cooperation with these men. They are not trivial differences.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Glad to oblige . . . . . .

Ron Bean wrote:
For the sake of summary, simplicity and specificity could someone (perhaps RPittman, who last used this phrase) list some of these many problems of CE's?
Okay, Ron, I can give two examples that quickly come to mind. I have association with some fine CE college-age young folks. They are theological orthodox, concerned about others, serious about serving God, and zealous. The problems are the points of tension between their professed faith in Christ and their behavior. Oh, they're very kind, sweet, polite, understanding, and amiable enough but there's really little difference in many areas between them and their unbelieving counterparts in the world. Although there are many other areas, I will choose only to address two--modesty and language--that are easily observed. Although my comments are NOT applicable to every young person on the CE (I am not stereotyping) I have observed enough to say that these behaviors are pervasive.

As to modesty, the concept is foreign to many. For young women, modesty is shown by how they handle their bodies as well as how they dress. For many CE young women, they seem think nothing of displaying their bodies. Just in case someone is getting the wrong idea, I am not defining modesty as wearing a dress or skirt to the knee. These CE women wear clothing that leaves little to the imagination. This includes sheer tops, low-cut tops, short-shorts, etc. Also, they show little concern in changing outer garments when males are around. How they sit or flout their bodies is often sensuous or seductive. I could be more graphic in my descriptions but I don't want to offend the sensibilities of the readers on SI. Although I am no prude, I have had to avert my eyes to avoid seeing more than I ought.

Also, there is the language element. Sometime ago, I was shocked after hearing a wonderfully prayed prayer by a young woman to hear an explicit discussion of sex and vulgar language coming from her mouth. They talk of God, Christ, love, grace, obedience, etc. and discuss the most foul things a short while later. The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.

My point is simple. I am saying there appears to be a disconnect between belief and behavior in CE circles. IMHO, this may exist because of an over-reaction to what they view as legalism. Their view of tolerance, acceptance, diversity, etc. contributes. They say as long as you believe that behavior is not important. Ultimately it's a personal separation issue, which follows having denied the corporate kind, from worldliness.

corporate worldliness?

RPittman wrote:

Also, there is the language element. Sometime ago, I was shocked after hearing a wonderfully prayed prayer by a young woman to hear an explicit discussion of sex and vulgar language coming from her mouth. They talk of God, Christ, love, grace, obedience, etc. and discuss the most foul things a short while later. The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.

My point is simple. I am saying there appears to be a disconnect between belief and behavior in CE circles. IMHO, this may exist because of an over-reaction to what they view as legalism. Their view of tolerance, acceptance, diversity, etc. contributes. They say as long as you believe that behavior is not important. Ultimately it's a personal separation issue, which follows having denied the corporate kind, from worldliness.

Hi Roland,

F-words i think, agreed by all, is vulgar and often used by the vocabulary challenged. the S-words sound sort of vulgar to me too. i was surprised though when looking at Phil. 3:8, Paul seems to employ it.

the bolded part of your post had me scratching my head a bit also. worldliness, for the most part, is a heart problem for the Christian: it's the "lust of the flesh", "the lust of the eyes", and the "pride of life". so the corporate separation would be: don't go to movies, don't drink, don't wear short shorts?

Give to the wise and they will be wiser. Instruct the righteous and they will increase their learning. Proverbs 9:9

No, not exactly . . . . .

Alex K. wrote:
RPittman wrote:

Also, there is the language element. Sometime ago, I was shocked after hearing a wonderfully prayed prayer by a young woman to hear an explicit discussion of sex and vulgar language coming from her mouth. They talk of God, Christ, love, grace, obedience, etc. and discuss the most foul things a short while later. The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.

My point is simple. I am saying there appears to be a disconnect between belief and behavior in CE circles. IMHO, this may exist because of an over-reaction to what they view as legalism. Their view of tolerance, acceptance, diversity, etc. contributes. They say as long as you believe that behavior is not important. Ultimately it's a personal separation issue, which follows having denied the corporate kind, from worldliness.

Hi Roland,

F-words i think, agreed by all, is vulgar and often used by the vocabulary challenged. the S-words sound sort of vulgar to me too. i was surprised though when looking at Phil. 3:8, Paul seems to employ it.

the bolded part of your post had me scratching my head a bit also. worldliness, for the most part, is a heart problem for the Christian: it's the "lust of the flesh", "the lust of the eyes", and the "pride of life". so the corporate separation would be: don't go to movies, don't drink, don't wear short shorts?

No, there's punctuation that makes "which follows having denied the corporate kind" a sort of parenthetical expression. The sense of the sentence is that one having discarded separation from groups of different practices or beliefs often translates into doing away with personal separation from worldliness as well. Corporate separation simply referred to groups or associations. And whether we will admit it or not, we are very much influenced by our associations.

As for Scripture, it does use some plain-spoken language but I wouldn't call it vulgarity.

Roland, I've never heard any

Roland, I've never heard any CE use that kind of language.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

A Broad Brush

Quote:
The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.

Sweeping generalizations like this aren't helpful to the discussion.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Endemic to CE's?

RPittman wrote:
Although there are many other areas, I will choose only to address two--modesty and language--that are easily observed. Although my comments are NOT applicable to every young person on the CE (I am not stereotyping) I have observed enough to say that these behaviors are pervasive.

As to modesty, the concept is foreign to many. For young women, modesty is shown by how they handle their bodies as well as how they dress. For many CE young women, they seem think nothing of displaying their bodies. Just in case someone is getting the wrong idea, I am not defining modesty as wearing a dress or skirt to the knee. These CE women wear clothing that leaves little to the imagination. This includes sheer tops, low-cut tops, short-shorts, etc. Also, they show little concern in changing outer garments when males are around. How they sit or flout their bodies is often sensuous or seductive. I could be more graphic in my descriptions but I don't want to offend the sensibilities of the readers on SI. Although I am no prude, I have had to avert my eyes to avoid seeing more than I ought.

Also, there is the language element. Sometime ago, I was shocked after hearing a wonderfully prayed prayer by a young woman to hear an explicit discussion of sex and vulgar language coming from her mouth. They talk of God, Christ, love, grace, obedience, etc. and discuss the most foul things a short while later. The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.


RPittman,

The problems that you noted are hardly confined to CE's. If you don't believe me, check the Facebook pages of the kids in Fundy churches or even check the pictures that the kids take of Fundy camps and church activities.

My guess is that the kids / adults that practice what you talk about above claim to be Christian, but really demonstrate little, if any, relationship to Jesus. Otherwise, they'd know better.

"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

Worldliness and CEs

Don Johnson wrote:

Here are some of the problems from my perspective:

  1. The growing influence of charismatism - the charismatics have major problems when it comes to inspiration, inerrancy and the canon. They either believe in ongoing revelation (denying a closed canon) or they believe the Bible is in error when it expressly says that Agabus spoke his prophecy by the "Spirit". The influence of charismatism has widely altered the shape of evangelicalism at large. Next year at 9Marks, one of the Sovereign Grace men will be teaching from 1 Cor 12-14. What do you suppose will be the topic of discussion?
  2. The tolerance of worldliness on many levels, including the widespread tolerance of men like Mark Driscoll, and such discussions as you see here on SI where gambling and drinking are openly approved. In moderation, of course.
  3. The continuing relationship between CEs and the Billy Graham organization itself. The most conservative CE of them all, John MacArthur, has spoken in recent years at Graham's training center, the Cove, and has published articles in Graham's Decision magazine. The connections between Southern Seminary and the Graham organization are well known. Mark Dever is chairman of the board at Southern.
  4. The widespread use of worldly music undermining the gospel message that is preached. Almost all the CE ministries that are usually touted here are affected by this.

    You might not find these things problematic. Regardless, these things are huge stumbling blocks for me and preclude ministry cooperation with these men. They are not trivial differences.


Don, your items 1 and 3 represent doctrine and separation from men who won't separate over doctrine. I don't think many at SI find those to be trivial, even if they wouldn't always be applied exactly the way you do. Your points 2 and 4 are more related to definition and application, and I don't think our generation of fundamentalists really handled this well in most cases other than saying "don't."

Because of the differences in definition of "worldliness" and applications taken from it, different positions are reached, and not only by CEs. I'm personally a little uncomfortable with the current discussion on gambling, for example, but I think it's a discussion that should be had (rather than just ignoring it outright) because it helps (at least in my mind) to hash out what it means biblically to be worldly, and then what actions and applications we should make from that. If you've kept up with that discussion, you might have noticed that it's a CE (Phil Johnson) whose writings are being referenced as taking a very strong position against gambling. This helps demonstrate my point -- because fundamentalists have for years decried worldliness, with good reason, but without really delving into what it means other than "being like the world" (and that hasn't been well-defined), today's generation of CEs and YFs are having to wrestle with this, and they are coming to conclusions that make the old guard uncomfortable. Worse, the old guard is just saying things like "Well, that's the SI crowd," rather than wanting to tackle the issue more than just repeating the old mantra of "don't."

I've never understood, for example, why Christians think the "dress for success" look (representing greed and lust for power) is better than the biker look (rebellion). Why shouldn't Christians be different from both? If we divorce the power look from the sins of those who dress that way, why don't we do the same for leather and chains? This is just one of the issues that was never dealt with in the fundamentalism of my day; it was just assumed, but it's representative of the larger issue -- today's Christians don't really have a good handle on worldliness, and it seems the leadership is loathe to go into this too deeply because they haven't really studied it out all that well themselves and they don't relish the idea of not having all the answers, which might lead those under their leadership to come to different conclusions on some of those areas and practices. So it's either ignored, or worldliness ends up representing whatever the preacher's convictions are against. Then the people assume there is no good scriptural backing for his position on those issues (because one isn't given or if it is, taught well), and start taking positions on those "worldly" activities that you associate with CE, or even leave to go to a CE ministry, where the problems are much more than different applications -- there could be the separation and doctrinal issues you refer to.

As a final example, when I asked about a piece of music and why it was considered wrong (or at least, we couldn't listen to it) at my Christian college, the answer I got was: "You're a junior; you should already know this." If today's western Christians need any special teaching, it would be a serious examination of what it means to be worldly, and not just have that topic brushed off as "You 'claim' to be a Christian; you ought to know better."

Dave Barnhart

hear, hear

Dave, I can't really disagree with anything you say. There is no doubt we have been much too glib and ready to give 'pat' answers when various topics come up. There is no doubt we need more instruction in this area. FWIW, I did a series on godliness-worldliness in our church last summer (I think that's the time frame). If you go to gbcvic.org, click on the Our Sermons link, then filter by series and you can find it. I post pretty detailed notes if you don't want to spend the time listening.

As to my post, I wrote in response to Ron Bean's question. I think we need to do a better job educating our people on all of these topics. But they do remain reasons why I can't enter ministry cooperation with conservative evangelicals regardless of any weakness we may have had in teaching these subjects to our own.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

@Don

Don -

Thought you might be interested in a book edited by CJ Mahaney titled " http://www.amazon.com/Worldliness-Resisting-Seduction-Fallen-World/dp/14... ]Worldliness " that is on the market. I bought a copy two years ago, and it's been a fantastic and helpful work for referencing on this subject; so much so that I've given a second copy out to someone in my church who is working on this. Mahaney and the others do a good job articulating the "why" behind traditional Fundamental cultural mores.

I'd also agree with Dave that I'm not comfortable with the discussion on gambling either, but I do think that if we don't have those kinds of discussions, then people aren't going to be able to explain to others why gambling is wrong, and people will dive into it without realizing that there are good, strong, Scriptural reasons not to do so.

"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

yeah, but...

But I wouldn't want to put any $$$ in Mahaney's pocket. Maybe if I find it used somewhere I'll look at it.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Limited experience?

Greg Long wrote:
Roland, I've never heard any CE use that kind of language.
Perhaps you ought to circulate on some CE college campuses.

Quote: I've never understood,

Quote:
I've never understood, for example, why Christians think the "dress for success" look (representing greed and lust for power) is better than the biker look (rebellion). Why shouldn't Christians be different from both?

I understand your point, but this is a difference in dress that even non-Christians would agree to. There is a reason why most businesses around the world hiring for professional positions or positions that deal with customers or vendors look much more favorably on people that "dress for success" as opposed to the "biker look."

Someone who looks sharp and is well presented is far more likely to make an immediate favorable impression that someone who looks sloppy.

I feel outward appearance and actions are often a reflection of the inward heart and level of spiritual maturity. Certainly outward appearance and behavior is NOT a fail-safe litmus test regarding spirituality, but I will say that we can't say that it doesn't matter either.

In my personal experience both in fundyland and with being around Evangelicals from time to time, it is my observation that in general fundies tend to think that rules and standards for church or personal life are everything. If you follow the rules and obey the standards then you are OK. However, evangelicals seem to think that anything goes as long as you believe in Jesus - so to that point I would agree with RPittman.

Both viewpoints are wrong.

Christian "Liberty"

One other point / question I would like to make is regarding Christian "Liberty."

In my personal experience, the farther left (towards CE-land) you go from the right (fundyland) the more likely a person is to be much more negatively reactive regarding challenges to their "liberty."

Seems to me a kind of test regarding spiritual maturity is when someone's liberties are challenged. Show me someone who puts aside their liberty so it isn't a distraction to others or for the greater good of an organization and I'll show you someone who has a definite level of spiritual maturity.

I went to a fundy college. The students and teachers there that were much more predisposed to Evangelicalism were way, WAY more likely to openly flaunt their personal "liberty" no matter what the institutional handbook or administration said. They were also significantly more likely to very open about their "liberty" no matter the pain or hurt it caused their parents or others. Their liberty or what they thought of as their rights took precidence over their God-given authorities, heritage, church, Pastor, etc.

I have just witnessed a fundy church taking a reasonable stand regarding the issue of drinking. The people opposed to it were incredibly over-the-top rude, obnoxious, and were extremely hurtful to the pastor. These people led about 70 people out of around 200 to leave the church to start their own. Pastor's of CE-type churches in the area called this fundy pastor and told him off saying he was wrong.

Not saying that all fundies are mature and that all CE's aren't, but I think I am making some reasonable observations and assumptions based on years of experience.

Appearance vs. motive

JoeM wrote:

I understand your point, but this is a difference in dress that even non-Christians would agree to.

Emphasis above mine.

That's just my point, though. Of course NON-Christians would see dress-for-success as better, but then they don't see anything wrong with seeking riches, pride, or power, and in fact they would see those as "noble" goals, whereas Christians should see those as no more noble than being anti-establishment. The lust of the eyes and the pride of life are just as wrong as the lust of the flesh. Why should we as Christians resemble power brokers any more than we should bikers? We could be neat and orderly without being either. I think the reality is that many Christians tacitly desire riches and power as well, they are just not as blatant about it as the characters in "Wall Street."

Dave Barnhart

Series notes

Don Johnson wrote:
FWIW, I did a series on godliness-worldliness in our church last summer (I think that's the time frame). If you go to gbcvic.org, click on the Our Sermons link, then filter by series and you can find it. I post pretty detailed notes if you don't want to spend the time listening.

Thanks, Don. I started downloading these, but you may want to check if there is a problem on your site. After the 6/20 installment, the next 3 weeks' PDF files appear to me to be the same as the 6/20 one, even though the filenames are different. The 7/18 one appears to be OK. Haven't checked the others yet.

On my response, I was trying to distinguish between reasons you couldn't cooperate from reasons something is wrong. Doctrine and separation over doctrine are certainly both, but there can be disagreement between godly men on the applications. Simply calling those who hold a different application worldly, without a good agreement on what the definition of that term is, and what it encompasses, puts those differences in a whole different category from direct biblical teaching.

I've noticed that those that "lean left" tend to put pretty much anything beyond direct scriptural command in the Romans 14 bin. However, those that "lean right" tend to put almost nothing in there at all beyond choices in pew styles or color of carpet. The truth is somewhere in the middle, otherwise there would not have been a recognition from Paul that there will be really strong differences between the two sides, and strong teaching from him that these differences should be accepted, even when they make us extremely uncomfortable.

Dave Barnhart

I Agree

Quote:
Why should we as Christians resemble power brokers any more than we should bikers? We could be neat and orderly without being either. I think the reality is that many Christians tacitly desire riches and power as well, they are just not as blatant about it as the characters in "Wall Street."

I agree. Thanks!

thanks and a note re Rm 14

dcbii wrote:
Don Johnson wrote:
FWIW, I did a series on godliness-worldliness in our church last summer (I think that's the time frame). If you go to gbcvic.org, click on the Our Sermons link, then filter by series and you can find it. I post pretty detailed notes if you don't want to spend the time listening.

Thanks, Don. I started downloading these, but you may want to check if there is a problem on your site. After the 6/20 installment, the next 3 weeks' PDF files appear to me to be the same as the 6/20 one, even though the filenames are different. The 7/18 one appears to be OK.

Those would be weeks where we got bogged down in discussion and I didn't finish the material. I have since started to break my outlines apart or otherwise note that the notes are the same for several lessons. These were done in our Bible study session where we try to involve a lot of discussion and thus proceed at a slower pace. I'll have to go back and make it clear what is available for those sessions.

dcbii wrote:
I've noticed that those that "lean left" tend to put pretty much anything beyond direct scriptural command in the Romans 14 bin. However, those that "lean right" tend to put almost nothing in there at all beyond choices in pew styles or color of carpet. The truth is somewhere in the middle, otherwise there would not have been a recognition from Paul that there will be really strong differences between the two sides, and strong teaching from him that these differences should be accepted, even when they make us extremely uncomfortable.

Well, not to get off into another discussion, but I think that is a key difference. Romans 14, as I see it, is clearly about indifferent matters, not matters that have a real moral component. It is not the same as 1 Cor 8-10, although some of the language is similar to 1 Cor 8. Some want to broaden the application of Rm 14 much further than is warranted.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Problems everywhere

Seems like we're a bit off track here on a few points.
Isn't it obvious that professing (and actual) Christians of all flavors have some who are worldly, use foul language, etc.? I saw plenty of sinners in the student body at BJU during my years there (one showed up in the mirror occasionally, even.)

The better set of questions was one that appeared much earlier in the thread: Do all or even most who choose fundamentalism over CE do so because they haven't had enough exposure and don't know what they're missing? What reasons have several thoughtful fundamentalists given for why they choose the doctrine and practice they do? Let's remember that we're not just talking about claiming labels--at least, thoughtful people are not just claiming labels--rather, we're talking about actual differences in belief and practice on some points.

What the differences are can't be settled once for all for everybody for several reasons. For one, we're talking about groups that do not have strictly controlled "memberships." Nobody is rigorously testing applicants for the right to claim the term and nobody is counting heads or performing exit interviews to maintain precise numbers and tallies of "reasons why." In other words, anecdotal evidence of one thing or another is not going to persuade anybody because their experience is different. Exercising one's own personal judgment on what the differences are is unavoidable and differences of opinion should be both expected and accepted.

That said, there are a few differences that are pretty generally agreed, aren't there? Most CEs have a different view of the practice of separation than most fundamentalists. Most CEs also have a different view of the forms, expresions, etc. of worldliness (and relationship to culture) than most fundies. Most CEs are more open to continuationism than most fundies.
Are these really in dispute?

And if they are agreed, then don't we have to admit that some of these differences might actually be a little bit important?

What's wrong with this question . . . . . .

Aaron wrote:
Seems like we're a bit off track here on a few points.
Isn't it obvious that professing (and actual) Christians of all flavors have some who are worldly, use foul language, etc.? I saw plenty of sinners in the student body at BJU during my years there (one showed up in the mirror occasionally, even.)

Yes, Aaron, there's are sinners everywhere, including churches, but you are more likely to find them in taverns than churches. Also, there are many good questions to discuss but what's wrong with this one? Does the CE lack of separation in the ecclesiastical realm with its inclusiveness carry over into lack of personal separation from worldliness?

Furthermore, in all that you've said, you've never contradicted my assertion that CE's are experiencing a disconnect between belief and practice. I think this is a PRETTY IMPORTANT issue. Don't you?

BTW, the "plenty of sinners in the student body at BJU" probably were not doing it openly with the full knowledge of the school. They were living double lives, no doubt, which is hypocrisy. Now, someone has noted that hypocrisy is testimony to the rightness of truth.

Aaron, I wish that you would try to deflect some of the criticisms against Fundamentalists as you do for the CE. If it's open season, then all game should be fair game, not just some species.

Now, I've been to both Fundy schools, CE schools, state schools, etc. and I can assure you that many, many more people are living ungodly lives (profanity/vulgarity, partying, carousing, etc.) more openly at the CE schools than at BJU. The reason that it stands so much at BJU is because our expectations are higher and the behavior is rarer. However, I do think that the incident rate may be increasing in our more conservative and fundamental schools. Can you contradict any of this?

RPittman wrote: BTW, the

RPittman wrote:
BTW, the "plenty of sinners in the student body at BJU" probably were not doing it openly with the full knowledge of the school. They were living double lives, no doubt, which is hypocrisy. Now, someone has noted that hypocrisy is testimony to the rightness of truth.

Aaron, I wish that you would try to deflect some of the criticisms against Fundamentalists as you do for the CE. If it's open season, then all game should be fair game, not just some species.

Now, I've been to both Fundy schools, CE schools, state schools, etc. and I can assure you that many, many more people are living ungodly lives (profanity/vulgarity, partying, carousing, etc.) more openly at the CE schools than at BJU. The reason that it stands so much at BJU is because our expectations are higher and the behavior is rarer. However, I do think that the incident rate may be increasing in our more conservative and fundamental schools. Can you contradict any of this?


Rpittman-

External actions do not indicate the holiness / righteousness of the human heart. The Pharisees had all their acts together...until Jesus ripped off their hypocrisy.

"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

Not necessarily true . . . . .

Jay C. wrote:
RPittman wrote:
BTW, the "plenty of sinners in the student body at BJU" probably were not doing it openly with the full knowledge of the school. They were living double lives, no doubt, which is hypocrisy. Now, someone has noted that hypocrisy is testimony to the rightness of truth.

Aaron, I wish that you would try to deflect some of the criticisms against Fundamentalists as you do for the CE. If it's open season, then all game should be fair game, not just some species.

Now, I've been to both Fundy schools, CE schools, state schools, etc. and I can assure you that many, many more people are living ungodly lives (profanity/vulgarity, partying, carousing, etc.) more openly at the CE schools than at BJU. The reason that it stands so much at BJU is because our expectations are higher and the behavior is rarer. However, I do think that the incident rate may be increasing in our more conservative and fundamental schools. Can you contradict any of this?


Rpittman-

External actions do not indicate the holiness / righteousness of the human heart. The Pharisees had all their acts together...until Jesus ripped off their hypocrisy.

Jay, this is simply not true! You are simply spouting the standard party line without giving thought to what you're saying. Jesus condemned their actions when He condemned them for their hypocrisy. Obviously the Pharisees didn't have "all their acts together . . . ." Furthermore, I don't see what your comment had to do with my points. Would you please connect and explain?

However, Jesus did say, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:16-27)."

RPittman wrote: Jay C.

RPittman wrote:
Jay C. wrote:
RPittman wrote:
BTW, the "plenty of sinners in the student body at BJU" probably were not doing it openly with the full knowledge of the school. They were living double lives, no doubt, which is hypocrisy. Now, someone has noted that hypocrisy is testimony to the rightness of truth.

Aaron, I wish that you would try to deflect some of the criticisms against Fundamentalists as you do for the CE. If it's open season, then all game should be fair game, not just some species.

Now, I've been to both Fundy schools, CE schools, state schools, etc. and I can assure you that many, many more people are living ungodly lives (profanity/vulgarity, partying, carousing, etc.) more openly at the CE schools than at BJU. The reason that it stands so much at BJU is because our expectations are higher and the behavior is rarer. However, I do think that the incident rate may be increasing in our more conservative and fundamental schools. Can you contradict any of this?


Rpittman-

External actions do not indicate the holiness / righteousness of the human heart. The Pharisees had all their acts together...until Jesus ripped off their hypocrisy.

Jay, this is simply not true! You are simply spouting the standard party line without giving thought to what you're saying. Jesus condemned their actions when He condemned them for their hypocrisy. Obviously the Pharisees didn't have "all their acts together . . . ." Furthermore, I don't see what your comment had to do with my points. Would you please connect and explain?

However, Jesus did say, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:16-27)."


You're wrong, Roland. Over and over and over again Jesus said that the Pharisees were by all accounts outwardly "righteous", but inwardly they were sinful. They were whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones. They strained at gnats while swallowing camels. They ceremonially washed their hands but were defiled by what went out of them from within. I'm surprised you would even dispute this. It's seems fairly obvious to me.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Faked Righteousness

RPittman wrote:
...Furthermore, I don't see what your comment had to do with my points. Would you please connect and explain?

Roland, it's very simple. You seem to prefer Fundy schools and churches because of the bad experience that you had with the one CE woman, and point to the fact that immoral behavior like that of the one woman isn't displayed at schools like BJU or elsewhere. You argue that those schools are better than CE schools because of this. My point is simply that there is no law or rule that can possibly restrain the wickedness of our hearts, and that what you see at a school or in an church doesn't mean anything about that that person meditates on, desires, or finds worth emulating in their heart or mind. That is the whole point that I was making in post #71 - I was specifically thinking of Matthew 23:23-28. The Pharisees looked like they had their act together, like they were really close to God, that they were holy and blameless when it came to matters of sin and judgment. Jesus destroyed their charade, pointing out that it was all just a giant act and that their hearts were full of greed, slander, and lies.

This passage is also apropos to the discussion:

Matthew 15:1-20 wrote:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

What Defiles a Person
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

"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

Disputing what?

Greg Long wrote:
RPittman wrote:
Jay C. wrote:
RPittman wrote:
BTW, the "plenty of sinners in the student body at BJU" probably were not doing it openly with the full knowledge of the school. They were living double lives, no doubt, which is hypocrisy. Now, someone has noted that hypocrisy is testimony to the rightness of truth.

Aaron, I wish that you would try to deflect some of the criticisms against Fundamentalists as you do for the CE. If it's open season, then all game should be fair game, not just some species.

Now, I've been to both Fundy schools, CE schools, state schools, etc. and I can assure you that many, many more people are living ungodly lives (profanity/vulgarity, partying, carousing, etc.) more openly at the CE schools than at BJU. The reason that it stands so much at BJU is because our expectations are higher and the behavior is rarer. However, I do think that the incident rate may be increasing in our more conservative and fundamental schools. Can you contradict any of this?


Rpittman-

External actions do not indicate the holiness / righteousness of the human heart. The Pharisees had all their acts together...until Jesus ripped off their hypocrisy.

Jay, this is simply not true! You are simply spouting the standard party line without giving thought to what you're saying. Jesus condemned their actions when He condemned them for their hypocrisy. Obviously the Pharisees didn't have "all their acts together . . . ." Furthermore, I don't see what your comment had to do with my points. Would you please connect and explain?

However, Jesus did say, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:16-27)."


You're wrong, Roland. Over and over and over again Jesus said that the Pharisees were by all accounts outwardly "righteous", but inwardly they were sinful. They were whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones. They strained at gnats while swallowing camels. They ceremonially washed their hands but were defiled by what went out of them from within. I'm surprised you would even dispute this. It's seems fairly obvious to me.
What am I disputing? You said, "The Pharisees had all their acts together...[emphasis added ]" My dispute is that the Pharisees were cheats, frauds, and petty-fogging hypocrites whose ACTIONS differed from their professed piety! Don't you see your own internal contradiction of your own statements. You said, "[They ] were defiled by what went out of them from within." What went out was their wicked behavior.

The point of argument here is simple. Most certainly an ungodly and wicked heart defiles a man but wicked and evil behavior proceeding from that heart defiles him as well. Contrariwise, no man is ever justified by outward behavior but professing godliness and a love for God is not necessarily a testimony of a right relationship with God if accompanied by ungodly behavior. I think we call the later hypocrisy--at least, that's what Jesus called it. Now, it seems to me that there's a parallel between the Pharisees who professed an obedience and love for God meanwhile doing ungodly deeds and the modern CE who just as fervently professes to love God and lives ungodly. BTW, there's no excuse for a professing Fundamentalist who does the same.

Maybe you should begin again, get the thing straight, and tell me what you think. I would be interested to know.

Rally round the flag boys . . . . .

Jay C. wrote:
RPittman wrote:
...Furthermore, I don't see what your comment had to do with my points. Would you please connect and explain?

Roland, it's very simple. You seem to prefer Fundy schools and churches because of the bad experience that you had with the one CE woman, and point to the fact that immoral behavior like that of the one woman isn't displayed at schools like BJU or elsewhere.
Jay, you do try to shade the argument in your favor. Whatever gave you the impression that it was "one woman?" I was summarizing what I observed as a trend among dozens of college age CE's. Apparently contrary to your preconceived notion, I do move regularly among CE's. Furthermore, it has little to do with my preferences. Again, you are psyhologizing and trying to read thoughts behind my words. There are my own tensions with Fundamentalism. I have arrived at my own fundamental, separatist, independent Baptist views while being exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints. I'm no neophyte with respect to understanding other points of view. In fact, I find it amusing that so many who want to enlighten an old troglodyte are so stereotypical of their own small circle. LOL.
Quote:

You argue that those schools are better than CE schools because of this.

Did I say better? Seems that you're adding to my statements.
Quote:

My point is simply that there is no law or rule that can possibly restrain the wickedness of our hearts, and that what you see at a school or in an church doesn't mean anything about that that person meditates on, desires, or finds worth emulating in their heart or mind.
I am not arguing there are no hypocrites at church or in Fundy schools--I've seen my share over the years. Jay, flip the coin. Do you suggest that the one professing love for Christ and openly exhibiting ungodly behavior is better off than the hypocrite who covers his sin? Are you saying that one showing ungodly language or behavior really is righteous of heart and loves God? It seems that Christ said the test of love was obedience. How can people love Christ and willfully disobey Him? Is it not incongruous to you that a boy and girl have their devotions together before going in the bedroom to have sex together? There seems to be an underlying attitude that one can do whatever satisfies self (i.e. the flesh) and still be right with God and love Him. This is the disconnect that's appearing in CE circles. Now, does it have something to do with the idea of repudiating separation? Is there a carryover? So, quit the nitpicking and face up to the tough questions.
Quote:

That is the whole point that I was making in post #71 - I was specifically thinking of Matthew 23:23-28. The Pharisees looked like they had their act together, like they were really close to God, that they were holy and blameless when it came to matters of sin and judgment. Jesus destroyed their charade, pointing out that it was all just a giant act and that their hearts were full of greed, slander, and lies.

So, are you saying they were totally righteous in behavior? If you look closely enough, I think you will find condemnation of their wicked behavior too. The Pharisees believed that performing certain religious acts would make them righteous but they were unrighteous in other behaviors.
Quote:

This passage is also apropos to the discussion:

Matthew 15:1-20 wrote:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

What Defiles a Person
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Well, thank you for supporting my point. These wicked behaviors indicate a wicked heart. The antecedents of "these" in the statement, "These are what defile a person," are the behaviors. This comes right down to my basic question: How can CE's conscience the apparent disconnect between their beliefs and behavior?

Now, Jay, if you want a discussion of substance, quit picking chaff and address the real question. All the arguments, so far, have been oblique approaches:

  1. Fundy schools have individuals who do this too . . . but it's not a a trend . . . you can find hypocrites everywhere . . . . (It's the same old childish argument: "But everyone else is doing it . . . )
  2. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who had it all together . . . no, they didn't . . . anyway, it would not necessarily follow that ungodly behavior endemic among the CE's is justified
  3. It's the heart that matters . . . true . . . but, how do you know the heart? . . . it does seem that Christ said that wicked behavior defiles, does it not?

Deflecting...

Quote:
Aaron, I wish that you would try to deflect some of the criticisms against Fundamentalists as you do for the CE. If it's open season, then all game should be fair game, not just some species.

What I try to do is deflect criticism that is unfair or untrue... I'm not really for "open season" on anybody.

Pages


▴ Top of page

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.