December 14, 2017

The Promise of the Messiah


For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this,” (Isaiah 9:6-7).



But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” (Micah 5:2).


December 8, 2017

Archival Series: What is Lordship Salvation and Why Does it Matter?

There is an on-going debate over a certain segment of fundamentalists preaching and practicing a new paradigm shift for separation commonly known as “gospel-driven separation” or “gospel centric fellowship.” Today, the primary mantra has been “It’s all about the Gospel,” from which doctrinal aberrations and ecumenical compromise is tolerated or excused for the sake of fellowship around the gospel.  But, what sort of gospel message is the rallying point for this kind of compromised fellowship and cooperative ministry?

There is today a very subtle shift that, on the surface, is very persuasive…. Rather than base separatism on the Bible, the whole counsel of God, we should use as our test the Gospel. There is a plea that says the only doctrines for which we should contend are those doctrines that impinge directly upon the Gospel…. That [Gospel-Centric separatism] broadens our fellowship incredibly to include organizations and individuals who are patently disobedient to the plain teaching of Scripture and yet are somehow tolerated, vindicated and even honored in some of our circles.”1
In recent articles we have been considering why there should be no fellowship or cooperative efforts with the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. The reasons include aberrant theology such as non-cessationism, amillenialism, ecumenical compromise, embracing the world’s music in the form of RAP, Hip Hop and CCM for ministry. All of these are grounds for withdrawing from and having no fellowship with believers who teach and do these things. All of this, however, is being tolerated, allowed for, excused or ignored by certain men who minister in fundamental circles, men who are forging cooperative ministries with the evangelicals and influencing the next generation to follow them.  There is, however, one overarching concern that trumps all of these issues with the evangelicals combined. That is Lordship Salvation!
Defined briefly: Lordship Salvation is a position on the gospel in which “saving faith” is considered reliance upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. Lordship views “saving faith” as incomplete without an accompanying resolve to “forsake sin” and to “start obeying.” Lordship’s “sine qua non” (indispensable condition) that must be met to fully define “saving faith,” for salvation, is a commitment to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Christ in submissive obedience. (In Defense of the Gospel: Revised & Expanded Edition, p. 48.)
It is virtually impossible not to know that the evangelicals, almost to a man, believe, preach and defend Lordship Salvation (LS). When the T4G and Gospel Coalition conferences convene they gather around the LS interpretation of the Gospel. Certain men in fundamental circles, however, are drawn together in “gospel-centric” fellowship with evangelicals. They are gathering around a common acceptance of and bond in Calvinistic soteriology, primarily in the form of Lordship Salvation.    

Following are samples of Lordship’s corruption of the Gospel for justification.
Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation, not . . . a second step of faith following salvation.” (Dr. John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? pp. 219.) 
That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior.” (MacArthur, Ibid, p. 150.) 
If you want to receive this gift [salvation] it will cost you the total commitment of all that you are to the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Ps. Steven Lawson, The Cost of Discipleship: It Will Cost You Everything.) 
Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” (MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 78.) 
This is what Jesus meant when He spoke of taking up one’s own cross to follow Him. And that is why he demanded that we count the cost carefully. He was calling for an exchange of all that we are for all that He is. He was demanding implicit obedience--unconditional surrender to His lordship.” (MacArthur, Hard to Believe, p. 6.)
Based on clear, unambiguous statements from advocates of LS thousands in Fundamentalism reject LS as a corrupt and false interpretation of the gospel.  Dr. Kevin Bauder published a serious misrepresentation of a known fact when he wrote that Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “believe, preach and defend the [same] gospel.”2  Kevin Bauder has never edited or retracted that statement.
When the Lordship advocate speaks of “following Christ,” he is speaking of the gospel. When John MacArthur refers to “The Cost of Following Christ,” he really means “The Cost to Receive Christ.” MacArthur believes there is a “Real Cost of Salvation,” or more accurately a “Real Cost for Salvation.” He believes that the gospel demands a commitment of one’s life, and a promise of surrender to the lordship of Christ in an up-front “exchange” for the reception of salvation. (In Defense of the Gospel: Revised & Expanded Edition, p. 82.)


Dr. Ernest Pickering recognized that LS, as MacArthur defined it, was a departure from the biblical plan of salvation. Following are two excerpts from Dr. Pickering’s review of the first edition (1988) of John MacArthur’s  The Gospel According to Jesus.

MacArthur laments, ‘Contemporary Christendom too often accepts a shallow repentance that bears no fruit’ (p. 96).  This theme recurs over and over again in the book.  The recommended cure for this malady is to require more of the seeking sinner than the Bible requires. Instead of ‘merely’ believing on the finished work of Christ the inquiring soul must also be willing to have Christ as Lord over every area of his life.  It seems evident upon an examination of this thesis that those who espouse it are adding something to the gospel that is not in the Scriptures.  Charles Ryrie was certainly on target when he wrote, ‘The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel…’” (Balancing the Christian Life, p. 70.)

One of the chief objections to the notion of ‘lordship salvation’ is that it adds to the gospel of grace. It requires something of the sinner which the Scriptures do not require. The message of salvation by grace proclaims to sinner that they may receive eternal life by faith alone whereas the message of ‘lordship salvation’ tells sinners they must be willing to give up whatever is in their life that is displeasing to God.”

Several months after an April 2010 personal meeting with Dr. MacArthur NIU president Dr. Matt Olson announced that with MacArthur they “agree on the most substantive issues of life and ministry.”3 Then Olson hosted MacArthur’s executive pastor Rick Holland in the NIU chapel pulpit to address impressionable young people.4 NIU would not have had Rick Holland in its pulpit, or validated John MacArthur’s doctrine and ministry if the administration had any serious reservations over Lordship Salvation. With Olson’s statement on MacArthur and putting Holland in the chapel pulpit NIU stamped its approval on and endorsed a false gospel, namely “Lordship Salvation.”

Do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “believe, preach and defend the [same] gospel?”  Men in fundamental circles who are converging with the evangelical advocates of Lordship Salvation are either tolerating an egregious error or have themselves embraced Lordship Salvation and are rallying around it in gospel-centric fellowship with like-minded evangelicals. Have Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Matt Olson, Tim Jordan, et. al., been willing to state in unvarnished terms whether or not they believe LS as John MacArthur, John Piper, Steve Lawson, et. al., “believe, preach and defend” it is the one true Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Lordship Salvation is not the gospel!  LS clouds, confuses and complicates the Gospel. LS corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).  Above all other considerations (aberrant theology, ecumenism and worldliness) we cannot fellowship, promote or cooperate with evangelicals who “believe, preach and defend” Lordship Salvation.


LM (First Published Oct. 28, 2012)

Related Reading:.
For a clear, concise example of the egregious error that is Lordship Salvation please read, Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page.  This article is a reproduction of an appendix entry by the same name that appears on pp. 284-286 of In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.  In it I examine a statement by John MacArthur that appears in all three editions of The Gospel According to Jesus.  You will find that there is no more clear example of Lordship Salvation’s corruption of the simplicity that is Christ (2 Cor. 11:3).

As an addendum please see, Lordship Salvation Requirements by Pastor George Zeller

What is the Fault Line for Fracture in Fundamentalism?
How can there be unity within a fellowship when two polar opposite interpretations of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ are accepted as legitimate?”

Footnotes:
1) Pastor Marc Monte, Preserving the Separatist Impulse

2) Do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “Believe, Preach and Defend the [Same] Gospel?”
“There is no universal ‘mutuality in the gospel’ among evangelicals and fundamentalists. ‘Evangelicals and fundamentalists are [NOT] united in their allegiance to the gospel,’ because there is a vast difference between what evangelicals and non-Calvinists in Fundamentalism believe to be the one true Gospel. It is irrefutable, and Kevin Bauder is well aware, that many men in Fundamentalism reject Calvinistic soteriology in the form of LS as a false, works based Gospel. It is, furthermore, indisputable that virtually every man in “conservative” evangelicalism is a passionate advocate for Lordship Salvation, which Dr. Bauder is also well aware of.”

3) Dr. Matt Olson, Open Letter To Friends in Ministry, November 23, 2010.

4) Northland Int’l University Presents Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to It’s Student Body

November 24, 2017

I. F. B. BACKWARDS: An Explanation by Rick Flanders

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have received, and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly: and by good words and fair speeches deceive the simple.”
(Romans 16:17-18)

Dr. Rick Flanders
Have you heard critical references by Christian people to the “I. F. B.”?  In recent years these initials have been used in a negative way to refer to the “Independent Fundamental Baptists.”  Some especially angry folks even call this religious movement “the I. F. B. cult.”  Of course something must be wrong with condemning these people as if they are a single entity when, by definition, each of their churches is “independent.”  Church-goers and would-be church-goers have been misled about the people and the churches classified in this way, and a reasonable explanation of who they are, what they represent,  is in order, and, for some, even overdue.  I am a member of one of these “I. F. B.” churches, and hope I can clear things up so that folks can make more reasonable decisions about us.  The best way to explain the “I. F. B.” churches is for me to look at the letters backwards, and explain them from my own experience.
 
BAPTIST
You might say that my introduction to Christianity began in the church where my parents were members when I was born.  I was christened into the denomination and taken to Sunday school and church year after year.  But that early experience with what I was told was the religion of Christ was a false experience since our denomination had long since departed from the faith of their founders.  I thought I was a Christian because I had been baptized as a baby and joined our church as an adolescent, but nobody becomes a real Christian that way.

Then I finally heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ presented to me in an understandable way, and was drawn by God to receive Jesus Christ personally as my Savior and Lord.  According to the Bible, and my own transformation, I was “born again” and entered into a new life and a real knowledge of the living God.  Then, as I studied my Bible, I began to grow.

A friend soon introduced me to a Baptist church, and I started attending it because I was certainly not going back to the theologically “liberal” church that had kept me in darkness for so long.  I had heard the Gospel through a radio ministry, and now was ready to start attending a Bible-teaching church.  So I thought I might try the Baptists.

I was also reading the Bible every day, and came to see in the book of Matthew that baptism was not the same as I had seen it in church growing up.  They baptized converts in the New Testament after and because they had repented and believed.  Babies haven’t repented and believed in Jesus Christ, and babies were not baptized in the New Testament accounts.  Also it was evident that those baptized in the Bible were not sprinkled with a little water.  They were taken down to the river to be baptized, and went into the water and came up.  It looked to me as if they had been dipped.  So I asked the Baptist preacher to answer some questions for me about baptism, and he came to my house and showed me clearly that those to be baptized are those who had turned to Christ, and that baptism was by immersion in water, representing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  By being baptized a new believer was identifying himself with Christ, and confessing Him as Lord and Savior.  So I wanted to do it, and arrangements were made for me to be baptized the Bible way at the Baptist church.  I was the first person I ever saw baptized by dipping!  In this way I became a Baptist, and part of a Baptist church.

Historically, Baptists are Christians who seek to follow the Bible in every way.  The Baptist movement is based on this principle.  Really, every true believer in Jesus should be a Baptist, and every church of Jesus should operate according to what is regarded as the Baptist distinctives, because they are the Biblical practices.  I have no problem with being a Baptist.  The label “Baptist” is defined historically as referring to Christians who follow the practices of the churches in the New Testament.

Look at Matthew 3:1-17, Acts 2:41-47, and Acts 8:35-40, and Romans 6:3-4.

FUNDAMENTAL
The church that nurtured me as a new Christian, the people who baptized me and taught me my first lessons about living the new life, was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.  I knew nothing about this organization, which was and is the largest non-Catholic denomination in the United States, and had no real opinions for or against it.  But after just a few years of serving in my church, I was disturbed about what was going on in our denomination’s affairs.  First of all, our church and my pastor had no problem with the pastor or the church from which I came.  My old church and denomination were “liberals” theologically, and did not insist that a Christian must believe in the deity of Jesus, His virgin birth, the necessity of the new birth, or even His resurrection as a literal bodily event.  They did not believe that the Bible is always accurate, nor in the miracles of the Bible, and yet my Baptist church regarded them as Christians and their church as preaching the Gospel.  Of course, I knew different.

The radio ministry that had led me to Christ identified itself as not only Christian but also as “Fundamentalist.” As a result I had plenty of Fundamentalist influence throughout my Christian experience, even though I did not really understand it at first.  The Fundamentalist movement began in the early twentieth century as a grass-roots reaction against the infiltration and influence of liberal theology and liberal ministers in the great evangelical (Gospel-preaching) denominations of America. Liberals and liberalism preached a “social gospel” and sought to redeem society rather than individuals, and allowed that some of the cherished doctrines of our Faith might not be true.  The name Fundamentalist conveys the fact that Fundamentalists insist that Christianity be defined by certain cardinal (and fundamental or essential) doctrines.  It doesn’t allow that a viewpoint represents true Christianity just because it reflects the “spirit of Jesus” or holds to the ethical teachings of Christ.  Christianity is based on the Gospel of Christ, the Fundamentalists say, and that Gospel does and always has taught certain great truths, which are fundamental to it: that the scripture is the written Word of God, infallible and without error; that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son; that He died as an atonement for our sins; that He arose bodily from the dead; and that sinners are saved only by faith in Him.  There are many more truths in the Bible, but without believing the fundamentals of the Gospel, one is not truly a Christian.  Fundamentalism is the right way to look at Christianity, and forms the basis of the right way to deal with heretics in the church: expel them or separate from churches that won’t.  A series of experiences showed me that the Southern Baptist churches were not distinguishing the truth of the Gospel from false doctrine and false teachers.  I was not only a Baptist but also a Fundamentalist.  Gospel truth is not only to be believed and preached; it is to be cherished as the foundation of Christianity.  I must insist that only those who stood for the fundamentals are Christians.

Look at Romans 16:17-20, First Corinthians 15:1-4, Second Corinthians 11:1-15, Titus 3:9-11, and Jude 3.

INDEPENDENT
It didn’t take long for me to investigate and find that unbelieving liberals were employed by many of our Southern Baptist Convention agencies, and that my tithes and offerings were being used to support them.  So now the issue of affiliation with my beloved local church came to the fore.  I spoke with my pastor respectfully about these problems, and when he offered no solution, I began to look for a Fundamentalist church in our town that did not affiliate, support, or acknowledge as sound ministries, churches, and preachers who did not acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God.  Soon the Lord led me to such a congregation, and I joined it.  This church in North Carolina was the first of a series over the of Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches to which I have happily belonged.

Look at Second Corinthians 6:14-18, Ephesians 4:11-16, and Ephesians 5:8-11.

The letters “I. F. B.,” to anyone who knows what he is talking about, do not refer to a denomination, cult, or association.  They stand for important New Testament principles that should be followed by every child of God, and by every Biblical church.
 
Media coverage of certain scandals at particular fundamentalist churches spread the practice of broad-brushing conservative churches in general with the smell of corruption by the use of the term “I. F. B.”  Critics of fundamentalism picked up this practice and have slandered good people and some of the best churches by using the label with such invalid implications.  The fact of church scandals cannot be denied, in Baptist (both affiliated and independent) churches, as in Catholic institutions and other church organizations.  But it isn’t fair to say that the thousands of Independent Fundament Baptist churches across the nation are all, mostly, or largely corrupt.  Nor can the other charges against the “I. F. B.” that are widely disseminated on the internet or the grapevine be validated.  Some wrongdoing in some of the I. F. B. churches does not say that all of them are guilty.  Saying so is using the old “guilt by association” method of slander.
 
It is also charged by some that the I. F. B. churches have an authoritarian leadership style, for example, but this cannot truthfully be said either, across the board.  When the most authoritarian fundamental churches of the past taught others to adopt their policies, they were strongly rebuked and opposed by many other I. F. B. preachers and publications.  It is said that I. F. B. churches enforce unreasonable and unscriptural standards of life on their members.  Although this charge may be supported against some churches, the truth is that independent churches everywhere teach and support every imaginable level, high or low, of Christian living, both to their credit and to their shame, and it is impossible correctly to generalize about this.  Although some have and do rise up to influence and give leadership to preachers and churches in the absence of ecclesiastical hierarchy (this is natural), it cannot be proven or effectively argued that there is an “I. F. B. cult.”  Some unaffiliated churches and preachers over the years have been influenced by prominent preachers, churches, and institutions to which they have had no binding connection.  We are independent because that we believe Jesus to be Head of each local congregation, and because we refuse to be part of major denominations that have betrayed the Faith.  We are fundamental because we stand for the doctrines that make up the Faith.  We are Baptists because we try to follow Biblical practices as well as Bible doctrines.  We are not I. F. B. because we joined any cult or network.  The Lord and the Bible make us what we are in regard to these important issues.
 
Let every Christian man or woman, and every Christian family, give attention to sound doctrine, and avoid those who depart from it, and let us gather in churches that stand for the truth.  Let us not be influenced by the Enemy to do or say things that are wrong, based on bitterness over problems we faced in the past in a Bible-preaching church.  Let us follow our Lord into a new era of being witnesses to His Person and His Word as His Light in this dark and needy world.
 
 
Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

October 10, 2017

ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN” by Dr. Rick Flanders

“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
Dr. Rick Flanders
(First Corinthians 9:22)
 
Pretty well the theme of most evangelical churches at the present time is “all things to all men.”  Many changes have been made to update the operation, the message, and the feel of these traditionally-conservative ministries so that they can be more “relevant” to the culture as it has turned out to be.  The hope is attracting and winning millennials to Christ.  While the motive is worthy in some ways, the adjusting of standards and practices is mostly misguided, due in significant measure to seriously-flawed interpretations of a Bible verse, First Corinthians 9:22.
 
That verse, it should be noted, is found in the section of the First Epistle to the Corinthians that deals with what’s wrong with eating meat that has been sacrificed to false gods.  To “abstain from pollutions of idols” was a controversial standard sent out from the Jerusalem church some years before to the new Gentile churches after a big council had been held to discuss legalism (read the whole story in the fifteenth chapter of Acts).  These “pollutions” were defined by the church as “meats offered to idols” (note Acts 15:19-29), which it was said that Christians should refrain from eating.  The standards set by the Jerusalem council were beneficial to the Gentile churches that heeded them (as we see in Acts 16:4-5), but they met with resistance from many who considered them too restrictive and offensive to the culture of the Roman world.  Consequently they had to be defended by leaders like the apostles Paul and John.  Paul’s divinely-inspired defense of the standard to abstain from dedicated meat is found in First Corinthians 8, 9, and 10.  John’s defense of the Jerusalem standards (actually the words of Jesus in their favor) is featured prominently in the second chapter of the book of Revelation.
 
The thrust of the teaching in First Corinthians on the subject is that Christians ought not to eat meat that had been sacrificed to the idols worshipped in the pagan temples.  The Gentile believers were no longer worshipping the idols, but they should abstain even from eating the meat sold in the restaurant of the temple or in the meat-markets as having been dedicated to the gods.  This was the standard for Gentile Christians formulated by the Jerusalem church.  This epistle argues for this standard based on three principles.
 
1.       Love (Chapter 8)
Although instructed Christians know that an idol is “nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one,” they need to have a concern for the idolaters and for the new converts who don’t have this fact totally figured out yet.  If somebody who thinks of an idol as a god sees a more knowledgeable believer sitting “at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols,” and might he not be caused to stumble?  Chapter 8 says that there is something that ought to come ahead of our exercising our liberty based on superior knowledge.  That something is “charity” or love.  Out of love, Christians should abstain from doing things that might trip up somebody who sees us doing them, such as eating meat sacrificed to idols.  First Corinthians is plain about that.
 
2.       Evangelism (Chapter 9)
The next chapter is about exercising restraint and practicing self-denial in order to make our efforts at evangelism more effective.  This principle of self-denial for a greater purpose was found also at the end of Chapter 8, where it is applied to our influence on new Christians.  In verse 13 we read, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth.”  Self-denial, don’t forget, is at the heart and the foundation of Christian life and service (Matthew 16:24-25).  The point made in Chapter 9 is that Paul and Barnabas refrained from doing many things they technically had a right to do so that their work of evangelism could be more effective.  They didn’t take wives around with them, although they were not forbidden to marry, and were permitted to travel with a wife.  They did secular work so that they didn’t have to look for others to give offerings to provide for them, although they certainly had a right to live on the tithes and offerings of God’s people, as the priests at the Temple did.  They might be expected to abstain from doing secular work, and would not have been blamed if they had, but they worked anyway, “lest we should hinder the gospel.”  All of these policies were based on the principle of Christian self-denial, and were followed in order to keep the doors for evangelizing pagan people open.  This is also why Paul would not eat the meat sacrificed to the idols.
 
3.       Faithfulness (Chapter 10)
In Chapter 10, Paul writes plainly that eating the meat devoted to an idol provokes God to jealousy.  Idolatry must be avoided and fled by faithful Christians because they must be loyal to their Lord.  Idolatry, we learn, is dangerous, and Christians must not even get close to it! So even eating the meat sacrificed down at the idol’s temple is dangerous.  The Lord’s Supper associates us with the Lord and His sacrifice.  Does not then the sacrifice offered at the pagan temple associate those involved in it with the worship of the idol?  Are not the gods of paganism actually devils? “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and the table of devils.”  To do so would be to be unfaithful to the Lord.  So believers in Jesus Christ must abstain from eating meat from pagan sacrifices, even though nearly everybody else partook of it. 
 
Clearly the point of First Corinthians 9:22 was not that Christians should adopt the practices of the pagan in order to evangelize them effectively.  Such an idea is opposed to the whole point of chapters 8, 9, and 10, and particularly of chapter 9.  It doesn’t teach us to lower the standards of Christian living; it tells us to raise them.  It doesn’t say that we should exercise our rights; it says that there are reasons we might give them up.  Critics of the standard argued that eating meat isn’t worship, the idol isn’t really a god at all, and that food is no big deal.  But Paul was saying that believers ought to abstain from dedicated meat in order to keep open the opportunity to win souls.  If Christians do what everybody else in the Roman culture did and ate meat from the temple, many would say that they are idol-worshippers, too.  So those who spread the gospel must refrain from the practice.  So Paul writes.
 
“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more,” says the apostle in verse 19.  A life of winning men to Christ is not a life of more freedom, but less.  Rights are forfeited for the greater good of preaching the Gospel without hindrance.
 
Who might Paul win through surrendering some of his rights?  In the first place, Jews (verse 20).  Although he was an ethnic Jew, he was not required by the Gospel to keep the Law of Moses.  This was the point about legalism proclaimed by the Jerusalem council.  See in verses 1, 5, 10 and 11 of Acts 15 that legalism in its original form taught that men must become Jews (by circumcision) in order to qualify for salvation in Israel’s Christ, and that every believer in Christ must follow the Jewish Law as an observant Jew after coming to Jesus.  So Paul did not have to keep the specifically Jewish statutes of the Law, but sometimes he did, voluntarily.  Already in Acts 16, we find him circumcising Timothy before taking him as a co-worker in evangelism in order not to offend the Jews he would encounter everywhere he went.  “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law” (verse 20).  But it was a voluntary practice, based on self-denial and not on legalistic bondage.
 
Around Gentiles he did not parade his Jewishness as a barrier between them by observing the distinctively Jewish aspects of the Law of Moses.  See this is verse 21.  Whenever he did follow the Israelite ceremonial law, he did so voluntarily.  Around Gentiles he voluntarily did not keep Jewish observances.  But notice that Paul makes the point that he is definitely “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.”  It was the abolished ceremonial law of Israel that he as a Jew could follow, but as a believer in Christ was not required to follow.  When it was helpful, he would take advantage of his Jewish privileges and observe the statutes (as in Acts 18:18), but usually not around Gentiles.  However his varying observance of these laws did not mean that he was lawless, or unprincipled.  He lived under Christ’s law (see John 13:34, Galatians 6:2 and James 2:8-12).  To teach or imply that Christians must bend their principles in order to conform to the culture is not to follow the spirit or the words of this chapter.  Paul makes sure that we don’t get this wrong impression from the idea of being “all things to all men.”
 
With Christians, sometimes we must defer to “the weak” (verse 22), as we see in Romans 14 and First Corinthians 8.  In other words (read those chapters again) we may bend to the right, to the unnecessary restrictions of weaker brothers in order not to cause them to stumble.  The motivation for adjusting life for others is to remove things in our lives that hinder our witness for Christ or influence on younger Christians.  In all of these cases, we are restraining ourselves and not exercising our rights in order to more good.  The idea in First Corinthians 9:22 is not that we should relax and do what everybody else does so that people won’t be bothered by our standards.  The whole chapter is about self-denial and restraint.  Actually, the word “temperate” in the comparison to athletics given in verses 23 through 27 means restraint or self-control, and describes what our attitude should be.  We restrict ourselves for evangelism, rather than tear down the restrictions.
 
To be “all things to all men” does not mean to ignore teachings of the Bible in order to avoid going against the grain of culture.  It means to put evangelism at such a high priority in our lives that we are ready to adjust our lives, our schedules, our budgets, our preferred ways of doing things, and our habits not mandated or implied by the Word of God, so that we can win more people (“that I might gain the more”) to Jesus Christ (“this I do for the gospel’s sake”).
 
 
Dr. Rick Flanders

September 18, 2017

Archival Series- Kevin Bauder: There He Goes Again, Redefining Fundamentalism

Pastor Marc Monte
In his recent [3/6/15] essay, “Another One Bites the Dust,” Dr. Kevin Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, analyzes the unfortunate trend of the dissolution of Fundamentalist institutions of higher learning.  Dr. Bauder is a brilliant man and prolific writer who has bequeathed a wealth of thought-provoking material to the Lord’s church.  His book, Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order, is a poignant defense of the Baptist position concerning both the polity and the practice of Baptist churches.  This author uses Dr. Bauder’s book and he recommends it widely.

Dr. Bauder’s recent article seeks to address reasons for the demise of many prominent Fundamentalist colleges and seminaries.  Going beyond the standard arguments of cultural shift and constituency alienation (both of which, he postulates, are legitimate issues), Dr. Bauder presents additional, not-often-considered factors pertinent to the death of these institutions.  His analysis deserves thoughtful consideration as Fundamentalist institutions move into the “brave, new world” of the 21st Century. 

In such a thoughtful article, it is unfortunate that Dr. Bauder could not resist his penchant for trashing what he describes as the “King James Only orbit.”  It appears to this avid Bauder reader that the good professor harbors unreasonable angst toward fellow fundamentalists who hold to a view of manuscript evidences different from his own.  His classification, “King James Only orbit,” paints with a broad brush, thereby unfairly dismissing legitimate theological positions within that orbit.

More than most men, Dr. Bauder understands that precise theology is nuanced theology.   For example, Dr. Bauder would not accept the tenants of every form and presentation of Calvinism.  He would be careful to distinguish his brand of Calvinism from others, emphasizing the nuances of his position as opposed to others.  This author contends that the same careful, nuanced approach should apply to the “King James Only orbit.”  There are some within the “orbit” who hold to a false theory of double inspiration.  There are others, however, who simply appeal to the Textus Receptus manuscripts as their authority, rejecting other differing manuscripts as spurious.  Such a view is not heterodox.  It is a legitimate, nuanced theological position.  To hold such a position does not place one outside the fundamentalist theological sphere.  Indeed, the Lord’s church held to the infallibility of those apographs (manuscript copies) for over 1800 years.  Only in the late 1800’s did the text of the New Testament suffer significant destabilization with the publication of newly discovered, variant manuscripts.

Dr. Bauder’s most jarring and politically charged statement appears with his textual position playing loudly in the background:
The King James Only crowd likes to boast that schools like Pensacola Christian College and West Coast Baptist College are thriving, and that may be true. These colleges, however, are not representative of fundamentalist institutions, and their prosperity does not do anything to help normal fundamentalism.” (Emphasis added.)
Herein, Dr. Bauder grievously errs. To say that Pensacola and West Coast are not “representative of fundamentalist institutions” redefines, once again, fundamentalism.  Neither school denies nor do they adulterate any point of the classical fundamentalist credo.  Their doctrinal statements are readily available for anyone’s inspection.  In addition, both schools practice personal and ecclesiastical separation, the hallmark of fundamentalism. The fact that these schools specify allegiance to a specific Greek text in no way diminishes their fundamentalist credentials.  In addition, both schools have a strong fundamentalist heritage.  In the case of Pensacola, it has flourished within the sphere of fundamentalism for decades.  Many fundamentalist churches recommend both Pensacola and Bob Jones as options within the fundamentalist realm.  Dr. Bauder’s needlessly divisive statement lacks both theological and historical support.

The second portion of his statement is even more troubling:  The prosperity of these colleges “does not do anything to help normal fundamentalism.”  Frankly, this author could scarcely believe a man of Dr. Bauder’s intellectual stature would make such an all-encompassing, condemnatory statement.  To claim disagreement with a nuanced theological issue is one thing; but to claim that these schools do “not do anything to help normal fundamentalism” demeans the work and dedication of sincere servants of Christ.  His statement slanders thousands of pastors who recommend Pensacola and West Coast, classifying godly men as somehow as not “normal.” And his statement simply isn’t true.  Thousands of fundamentalist pastors find in these schools a place of believing scholarship for their students.  Both of these schools have sent out thousands of Christian workers into the harvest fields of the world.  Both of these schools proclaim and defend the “faith once delivered to the saints,” (Jude 3).  Both take missions, church planting, and evangelism seriously and both have seen stellar success in these areas.  Both are filling the fundamentalist pulpits of America with men sound in the faith and zealous for the redemption of the lost. 
Succinctly stated, Dr. Bauder’s declaration is both irresponsible and indefensible. 
While Dr. Bauder has presented much good analytical material in his article—material that deserves thoughtful consideration—he has, once again, marred his work with an unnecessary rant against Christian people—fellow fundamentalists—who love and serve the Lord.  He seems bent on making enemies where he could have found friends, and, in so doing, he repeats an error plaguing fundamentalism from its inception—an error which increasingly alienates intelligent young men and women from the fundamentalist movement.


Ps. Marc Monte (Originally published March 9, 2015)
Faith Baptist Church, Avon

For a continuation of this discussion from Pastor Monte, please see:

Previous Articles by Ps. Monte:
Muddying the Clearwaters 
Bauders position differs markedly from the strong stance of R.V. Clearaters. Doc, as he was called, had no trouble calling a spade and spade. Bauder struggles with that…. For reasons known only to himself, Bauder mocks those whose doctrinal concerns include bibliology, the blood atonement and sovereignty/free will.
Kevin Bauder: It Wont Fly With Those of Us Who Know
If Kevin desires to take Dr. Clearwaters venerable institution a different direction from the founder, he should do so without pretending to be the guardian of the legacy. I knew Doc well enough to know that he would not be at all happy with the direction of Central Seminary under Bauders leading.  Its bad enough that his school is headed in a decidedly leftward direction. Please, Dr. Bauder, dont make it any worse by pretending some affinity with one of the greatest separatist Christians of the last century.
 Genuine Integrity Demands a Simple Admission 
What troubles [me], however, is the nagging feeling that Jeff Straub was attempting to convey more than just mere admiration for stands well taken. His not-so-subtle mention that both of these pastors are entrenched in the SBC appears to lend tacit approval to the denominational organization…. Dr. Clearwaters was not one to speak well of the denominational machine.” Genuine integrity demands a simple admission from institutional leadership that they are moving from the separatist principles of their founders.
Related Reading:
A Letter From Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters to Kevin Bauder
Kevin, while reading your articles I have observed an inordinate affection towards pseudo-intellectual teaching, and a disdain for old-fashioned, confrontational Bible preaching.  Make no mistake, old fashioned, confrontational Bible preaching is exactly why I founded Central Seminary.  My burden was to train men with an air-tight understanding of the Scriptures, with the ability to stand in pulpits across the land and preach, thus saith the Lord,” with the desire to start churches and win souls to Christ.  To the contrary, I did not start the school over which you [Bauder] preside, for men to flounder in unbelief, for them to wonder for decades where they stand, or for them to be given to counseling, teaching and academic idolatry.  I often told the men I was training, We use the mind here, but we do not worship it.” Dr. Bauder, all given appearances seem to indicate that you are intentionally trying to lead those who follow your writings…away from the testimony upon which [Central Seminary] was founded and into the compromising orbit of protestant evangelicalism.
Piedmont/TTU: A Predictable Pattern of Mergers With Only One Survivor

What Do NIU, Pillsbury and (NOW) TTU Have in Common?

September 5, 2017

Dr. Clay Nuttall Promoted to Glory

Brethren, While we sorrow not as others which have no hope, we mourn the loss of our brother in arms for the cause of Christ.  Clay Nuttall went home to be with the Lord this afternoon, as reported by his son, Dennis. We have shared some pictures of Clay on Donna's Facebook page, mostly from IBFNA Conferences and ask for your continued prayers for Ruth and the family.

Pastor Chick Dear

Site Publisher's Comment: Dr. Nuttall's voice for the Biblical hermeneutic will be sorely missed in Bible believing circles. You may peruse 64 of Dr. Nuttall's latetst articles, reproduced at IDOTG, Clay Nuttall, The Shepherd's Staff.  For Dr. Nuttall's complete online articles see, The Shepherd's Staff.

August 2, 2017

The Enticement of Cultural Relevance: Serious Thoughts for Preachers and Other Christians

Recently an insightful evangelist I know published a blog based on an informal survey of his friends

Dr. Rick Flanders
regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the independent Baptist churches over the years. Those responding to his survey named several strong points exhibited by the independent Baptists, and also criticized them for a number of serious weaknesses. The evangelist said that the survey responses influenced his own thinking, and led him to make his own evaluation of the people and the churches with which he has spent his life serving Jesus Christ. His conclusion is that the principal strength of the independent Baptists has been their allegiance to the authority of the Bible. He thinks that their primary weakness has been neglecting the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They have done well by emphasizing the Word, and have faltered by de-emphasizing the Spirit. As I indicated, this writer is intelligent and insightful. He goes on to identify four problems that have been produced among Baptist fundamentalists because of their unnecessary and wrongful neglect of the Holy Spirit:

1.      “Emperor-ism”—neglecting of the role of the Spirit in the churches often led them into an exaggerated dependence on human authority. Although this was not true in all of the independent Baptist churches, a number of them have suffered under authoritarian pastors, and my friend sees the source of this problem in the neglect of the Holy Spirit in the churches.

2.      “Traditionalism”—not walking in the Spirit is blamed for leading some independent Baptists into living by traditions without biblical warrant. Although this accusation is used by some to criticize the commendable practice of following and preaching high standards of living, there is some truth in the charge that some believers live strictly and exclusively by the rules handed down to them, and seek to keep them in the strength of their own character and determination. The Holy Spirit is the secret to holy living, and not rule-keeping, although guidelines for life that rise out of Bible teaching and do not contradict Spirit-led living can help. But ignorance of the Spirit’s ministry has left many in many floundering in defeat within the confines of a fleshly legalism. They maintain the standards handed down to them, but fail to experience the reality of the Spirit-filled life.

3.      “Lack of Love”—the fruit of the Spirit, of course, is first “love.” Therefore carnal Christians (who live according to the lusts of their flesh), even if they profess to be committed to Christian living, will lack love. And this lack of real love for people will readily be detected in churches. Unfortunately, many independent Baptist churches have been plagued with a cold, harsh, and uncaring atmosphere, due undoubtedly to their neglect of the Spirit.

4.      “Pride”—Since Christians who strive to live the Christian life and to serve the Lord Jesus without depending on the Holy Spirit sometimes see a measure of outward “success,” their tendency is to take credit for it. This is the reason for the pride in carnal preachers. And independent Baptists have had a number of them. The Lord Jesus warned His followers to beware of pride (as in Matthew 18:1-4), and thus we can expect it to be a problem in every group of Christians. And so it is. But it cannot be denied that neglect of the ministry of the Spirit has left independent Baptists especially open to the sin of pride.

My evangelist friend concludes correctly that while emphasizing the Holy Spirit without emphasizing the Word of God leads to delusion, emphasizing the Word without emphasizing the Spirit produces deadness. Deadness has been a problem for many independent Baptist churches in recent years, and it is because so many of us have neglected the Holy Spirit. It is as if Pentecostalism made us afraid of Him. Of course, such an observation is a generalization with many exceptions, as are all four of my friend’s observations about the effects de-emphasizing the Spirit. Every group of Christians has trouble with all four of these problems, and certainly independent Baptists have experienced them in recent decades. But let us, as we discern that these problems come from our neglect of the Spirit, let us also recognize a fifth significant problem experienced by independent Baptists which has also been created by neglecting the ministry of the Spirit. That fifth problem plaguing us today is the attraction in Baptist churches to making unwise changes based on what is called “cultural relevance.”

Because they learned over the years to depend on the flesh rather than upon the Spirit, pastors who want their churches to grow are particularly susceptible to the enticement of cultural relevance. Anyone who has paid attention to the conversation among pastors in the past ten to fifteen years is aware of the emphasis that has been given to “cultural relevance.” It has been a subject of real importance in many minds ever since students of church growth began to adopt business methods to build churches. “Cultural relevance” is seen as essential to the business of growing churches, especially since Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren began producing his “purpose-driven” books. A church that is serious about growing in our time must make sure that their approach to growth and to church itself is culturally relevant, we are constantly told.

What iscultural relevance?Actually it is a pedagogic term emphasizing the importance of a teacher’s “cultural competence” in his efforts to educate effectively students with different backgrounds. In the context of reaching people for Christ, the term indicates that Christians must make themselves aware of the demands and prejudices of the culture in which the people live they are seeking to evangelize. What the culture dictates will also dictate how the churches must evangelize, is the basis of the theory. Because they are fundamentalists, with a conservative point of view, we would expect independent Baptists to take offense at appeals to cultural relevance, but these appeals are having a remarkable influence on them. Maybe our problem in reaching people, they reason, has been that our lifestyle and church-style have ceased having cultural relevance to those we invite to church. Who we are, how we live, and what we do at church tend to give them a negative impression, the experts on church growth are telling us, and they present an obstacle to those we are commissioned to evangelize. So if we change our ways to be more culturally relevant, we can win more souls and build bigger churches.

This approach is especially appealing because so many independent Baptist churches have been evangelizing and building churches based on fleshly methods and appeals for years. In the hey-day, the thinking implies, we reached a lot of people without much help from the Holy Spirit. Our congregations became very large because of our effective methods, hard work, smart plans, and appealing events. But the times and the culture have changed. This has made our old methods ineffective. What we did in the ‘70s doesn’t work anymore. The Baptists never say it this way, but they do think this way. So when the old flesh-based methods quit working, it is asserted that we need simply to adopt new methods based on the changes in our culture. What appeals to people these days? What turns them off? Why don’t they like our churches anymore? What can we do to make church more appealing to the unchurched? You can’t expect to succeed if you are not willing to change, it is said. And our flesh-dependence has opened our minds to this approach.

However, the preachers and the people who have kept their noses in the Bible are much less often seduced by appeals to cultural relevance. They are instead persuaded by scripture that the way the world is to be reached is through the power of God, and not the energy of the flesh.

“Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”

(Luke 24:47-49)

“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

(Acts 1:8)

Let Christians in the twenty-first century see how insignificant cultural relevance is in God’s plan for evangelizing our cities, our country, and our world. The secret to spreading the gospel effectively in any generation is partnering with God the Holy Spirit. In comparison with the supernatural biblical means, every natural means for evangelism based on human methodology must appear weak and ineffective. Consider four biblical facts about cultural relevance:

1. The first Christians did not consider cultural relevance when they set out to evangelize their world. The book of Acts begins with the command of Jesus that His followers spread the gospel in Jerusalem, to the surrounding area, to the next country, and then finally to the “uttermost part of the earth” (1:8). Then, as we continue reading, we follow them as they do it. What did they do, and how did they do it? They prayed and were filled with the Spirit (1:12-2:4). Then they simply worked at telling people in the city that Jesus had risen from the dead. He ascended to the right hand of the Father, sent the Holy Spirit, and is both Lord and Christ (2:5-47). They were bold and aggressive as they preached the gospel to everyone, but really they just preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. There wasn’t really any method to their work; they just worked at it, depending on the Lord for power, boldness, and wisdom. We have no hint that the leaders of the Jerusalem church held strategy meetings before Pentecost to determine the most appealing approach to telling the news that the One they had crucified at Passover arose from the dead and is the Savior of the world! It would be hard to take the sting out of this message, and they never tried to do it. Peter rose and made his announcement and then told the multitudes who listened in rapt attention that they must repent. Was the cultural relevance of the message or the delivering of it even considered? Apparently not. Was the preaching of the gospel effective? Apparently so. The first-century world was turned upside down through the simple obedience of Christians to the Great Commission.

One influential writer in the evangelical world of our day, who has expressed concern about this focus on cultural relevance, is Karl Vaters. He is the pastor of an Assemblies-of-God church in California who is gaining a hearing by opposing the emphasis on cultural relevance in building churches. In the magazine Christianity Today, he said, “Forget being culturally relevant; the church needs to be contextually real!” The church of Jesus Christ needs to be true to its Lord and to its mission if it is to have an effect on the world. Conformity to the world does not go with winning the world to Christ. “Chasing cultural relevance makes our churches look the same in ways we should be different…from the world,” he said. “I don’t care if the church is culturally relevant…cultural relevance is not the answer…I want the church to be better than relevant. I want us to lead…Trying to be culturally relevant is turning the church into followers instead of leaders.” On this issue, Mr. Vaters is dead right. When we try to fit the culture, we cease trying to persuade sinners. It’s as simple as that.

2. The Holy Spirit does not seem concerned about cultural relevance in His work to convert the lost. Of His work through Christians, Jesus said (read His words in John 16:7-14), “He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Reproof doesn’t take into account cultural relevance, and the reproof of the Spirit is absolutely essential to the conversion of a sinner. They were “pricked in their hearts” on the day of Pentecost before three thousand Jews were converted to Christ (Acts 2:37). You cannot be saved until you know you are lost, justly condemned before the law of God. The Holy Spirit is not approaching sinners based on the principles of public relations or cultural relevance. He is reproving them based on the Word of God we are sharing with them. He shows them that they are in trouble, and that their only hope is in Jesus Christ. His work through us as witnesses brings people from death unto life. And cultural relevance has absolutely nothing to do with it.

3. Concern about cultural relevance seems to contradict the passion for holiness. Ephesians 5 is one of many chapters in the New Testament that calls on Christians to live holy lives (See also John 8, First Thessalonians 4, and First Peter 1). It tells us not to live like unbelievers (verses 1-7). It tells us not to endorse what they do (read verses 8-11). It even says that as children of light, we should not talk about the way wicked people live (verse 12). We are to be separate from the world. The Hebrew and Greek words for “holy” imply separation. Those who have an obligation to separate from the sins of the world around them cannot afford to be draw into an attraction to cultural relevance. Can we? Shall those who have left the world behind to follow Jesus keep looking back in the interest of maintaining some kind of cultural relevance?

4. Culture is based on religion. Acts 17 says that in one generation the first Christians “turned the world upside down.” It is a fact of history that the spread of Christianity changed the Roman Empire into “Christian civilization,” which is the foundation of Western culture today. Culture is not morally or religiously neutral. It is based on certain beliefs and standards. The paganism of the Greek and Roman worlds gave the Roman Empire its culture, and the people their way of life. The gospel of Christ changed all that. Great numbers of the people “turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God” (First Thessalonians 1:5-10) in just a few decades, and the culture changed. So it has been with every great awakening. Thus conforming to the culture as a strategy for evangelism is in reality a form of betrayal. When the churches fail to recognize the false ideas and moral perversions behind the culture in which we live, they adopt ways of doing things that betray the truth they claim to represent and fail to win the people to the true God. When we preach the gospel without apology we are actually laying the groundwork for a new culture as a by-product of our mission. To adopt pagan culture as a way of winning pagans is counter-productive and a form of denying Jesus. Of course, some misinterpret and misapply the words of Paul in First Corinthians 9 about becoming as a Jew in order to win Jews and becoming as weak in order to win the weak and becoming all things to all men, to justify conforming to the culture for the cause of evangelism. But if you study the whole chapter, you will find that just the opposite is taught. Chapters 8, 9, and 10 argue that Christians ought to refrain from eating meat sacrificed to false gods in the temples of the idols for several good reasons, although to eat something dedicated in a ritual to an imaginary deity cannot be proven to be inherently sinful. The idea is that through the self-denial of the Christian life, a believer will be stricter in his life on himself than technically he might be required to be. He will do this out of love for others (Chapter 8), for the cause of evangelism (Chapter 9), and out of loyalty to the true God. Study it. Paul was not justifying dropping his standards in order to please the pagans, but rather he was advocating the raising of our standards so as to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy in order to give credibility to our evangelism. Read it.

Making reasonable changes in the way we do things to improve our effectiveness can make sense, but becoming enamored with cultural relevance is dangerous. Let independent Baptists keep their noses in the Bible, their eyes upon Jesus, and their dependence on His Holy Spirit, as we move forward to reach our world with the truth about the love of God and the salvation that is in His Son!

 
Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

July 12, 2017

The One Biblical Hermeneutic by Clay Nuttall, D.Min.

The following is a pre-publication “sneak peek” at the book, The Normal Hermeneutic: The One Biblical system.  The authors are Hani Hana, an Egyptian national, and Clay Nuttall, who prepares the Shepherd’s Staff.  Have fun.
 
PREFACE
 
We have discussed the need for a book on hermeneutics, a book that is foundational and that would be consistent with the normal use of language.   After observing students who finish degrees in theology and still hold to theological error, we sought to find out why.  The answer became very clear: their interpretation wasn’t the problem, varied as it might be.  The problem was that they had no authoritative system of interpretation.
 
After searching through the plethora of humanly generated systems, it was evident that a lot of systems will produce many conflicting interpretations. Did God intend for us to have such theological confusion?  Is the text of holy scripture so weak that it could not sustain the one interpretation that God had placed in a text?  Was there a single system that would, with major passages, always provide the same interpretation that everyone could arrive at?  The problem wasn’t that God has not given us the answer, but that man was always tempted to add to and subtract from the text.
 
The answer to the problem has been clearly established.  It was in the correct use of all language in the plain, clear statements of the text. Following this path, this book -The Normal Hermeneutic - only deals with that one system of language that all literature follows.  The Bible is literature, and it is the one book of interest for us in this discussion; but it is a book like no other.  God is the author of this text.  The Holy Spirit produced it, using human writers.  Every word and thought, hence the whole, is inspired, reliable, sufficient, and authoritative.  There is no higher authority.  Anything scripture speaks to is the final word on the subject.  Only one biblical hermeneutical system rises from the Bible text.  It is the normal, clear, plain, consistent, literal use of language.  The faithful, consistent use of the normal hermeneutic is a scientific process, and it is mathematical.  When this system is utilized, it will produce the same answer every time for everyone, unless it is corrupted by human insertion.
 
Every doctrinal error has its roots in an erroneous system of interpretation or some corruption of the one biblical system.  To practice the normal hermeneutic, one must pay attention to the rules that guard all literature. The focus in this work will be on the correct use of grammar, context, and the historical setting of the text.  These are rules that are used not only for this specific genre, but for all literature.  They are identified in this discussion, as is the proper use of application once the normal hermeneutic has produced that one interpretation of a text.
 
The nature of this material is foundational.  Philosophical discussions are identified only for the purpose of reference, and they have no real authority.  We are interested in the clear, plain statement of scripture.  This is the real authority.  Once a reader leaves the plain, clear text, the temptation to rewrite it is always present.
 
One has to ask why it is that various learned scholars go to the same text and come away with a dozen different interpretations.  It is particularly troubling because many of these commentators claim to use the same system of interpretation.  That simply isn’t possible.  Intellectuals argue that there is no such thing as exactitude in the matter of interpretation of the Bible text.  The Biblicist demands that the inspiration of scripture by careful oversight of the Holy Spirit is a verbal, plenary product.  The Bible is inerrant.  Everything placed in Holy Writ is pure and correct.  God cannot be accused of error in the writing of the text.  It is fair to ask if God gave us the tools and ability to get out of the text that very same truth that God placed there.  This, however, is the point of The Normal Hermeneutic.  God did make it possible for us to draw from the Bible the very truths He inserted therein.  It would be a scandalous thing for God to leave the Bible student without the ability to know exactly what God said and also to know that He meant what He said.
 
 
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
 
A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or Shepherd's Staff.