September 7, 2018

BJU’s Subtle Rejection of Ecclesiastical Separation: Is This Northland All Over Again?

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (DBTS), a ministry of Inter-City Baptist Church, will hosts its annual E3 Pastors Conference this October. The guest speakers include two Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastors Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Rick Holland, host pastor Dr. David Doran and Bob Jones University (BJU) Executive Vice-President Dr. Sam Horn.

LtR: Doran...Dever, Bauder...
It is not particularly newsworthy that Dr. Dave Doran is sharing his platform with (SBC) preachers. For example in 2011 Dave Doran and Kevin Bauder participated with Dr. Mark Dever at the now defunct Calvary Baptist Seminary’s Advancing the Church conference. On the other hand, Dr. Sam Horn, BJU’s Dean of the School of Religion and the Seminary, sharing a platform with SBC preachers is something new.

Dr. Richard Caldwell is a man whose roots run deep in the SBC. There is, however, a connection between Sam Horn and SBC pastor Rick Holland. Sam Horn got his D.Min. (2007) from John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary. In April 2010 Northland International University’s Matt Olson, Sam Horn, Les Ollila and Doug McLachlan traveled to the Grace Community Church (GCC) to meet with John MacArthur, Rick Holland and Phil Johnson. It is my understanding that Sam Horn orchestrated this meeting. After a day of discussions the Northland men came away finding no reason not to have fellowship with them. An invitation was extended to GCC’s then executive pastor, Rick Holland, to speak in Northlands chapel.1  This confirmed a new alliance for NIU with the so-called “conservative” evangelicals.

Who is Rick Holland? You can find a brief up-to-date biography at the DBTS site. Rick Holland was Executive Pastor to Dr. John MacArthur and served as the college pastor at Grace Church. He was the director of the doctor of ministries program and a faculty associate in homiletics at The Master’s Seminary. Rick was also the founder and executive director of the controversial Resolved Conference2. He has degrees from The Master’s Seminary (M.Div.), and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (D.Min.).

For BJU Sam Horns participation in the E3 Pastors Conference is much more than the University hosting the vocal group Cantus (a male ensemble partially comprised of practicing homosexuals) for an artist series, more than hosting new-evangelical Billy Kim and his Korean Childrens Choir, and more than an ambivalent dress-code change. This is BJUs leader of ministerial training sharing a platform, in joint ministry, with SBC pastors.

Dr. Sam Horn
Dr. Sam Horn operates in an official capacity as BJU’s Executive VP for Enrollment and Ministerial Advancement, Dean of the School of Religion and the Seminary. Sam Horn represents and speaks on behalf of Bob Jones University. If Dr. Horn were only the VP for Enrollment his appearance at DBTS might not be quite so problematic. Dr. Horn, however, has oversight of BJU’s Division of Bible and the Seminary. The Seminary and Bible faculty answer to him. Make no mistake, Dr. Horn’s appearance at the E3 Pastors Conference is a departure from BJU’s legacy as a separatist institution, which raises the stakes of compromise to an unprecedented level with serious implications for BJU’s School of Religion and the Seminary.

Dr. Horns appearance is about the future of BJUs Bible graduates, their theology and practice.  Pastors who have ministerial students at BJU now, or contemplating sending your Bible majors in the future, risk seeing them swept into the broader sphere of a so-called “conservative” evangelicalism.

One might reasonably ask in light of the upcoming joint ministerial fellowship of Sam Horn and Rick Holland at DBTS: How long will it be before BJU president Dr. Steve Pettit invites Rick Holland, Mark Dever, John Piper or Al Mohler4 to BJUs chapel pulpit?

BJU has embarked on a departure from ecclesiastical separation. Since the installation of Dr. Steve Pettit as president followed by Dr. Sam Horn as an executive vice president, BJU becomes increasingly unrecognizable to the purpose and philosophy upon which it was founded. Is this Northland all over again?5

Yours faithfully,


Site Publisher Addendum: Is There a Second Definition for “Separation” in Academic Contexts? See the comment thread below for this related discussion.

1) NIU Presents Executive Pastor of GCC to its Student Body

2) The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness by Dr. Peter Masters
Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff [Rick Holland], gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, show business atmosphere created by the organisers.)”
3) A Failure to Stay the Course
     Give particular attention to the addendum attached to this important article.

4) What Does Al Mohler and John Piper Share in Common?  Rick Warren!

5) Northland International University Closes: A Continuation of the Pattern of Demise

August 15, 2018

Extremism vs. Balance in Apparel

Dr. John Van Gelderen
As we approach the warm weather months of summer, modest apparel becomes an issue. Discussions of modesty, like many areas of life, would benefit from the safety of saying “only” or “all” where God has said such while avoiding the inherent danger of asserting “only” or “all” where God has not so spoken.

Isn’t it interesting that extremism comes from both ends of the spectrum—the irreligious and the religious? On the one extreme, you find gross immodesty in cultures, whether atheistic or animistic, that do not acknowledge God. This includes the godless European and American lack of apparel as well as the pagan indecency of primitive tribes. On the other extreme, you find overkill modesty in super-religious cultures with the most extreme example being that part of the Islamic world allowing only a woman’s eyes to be uncovered.

We know the immodest extreme is wrong because God slew animals to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve after they sinned. We do not know what animals God slew. It could have been sheep, but because the intention was covering, I don’t think it was squirrels! For women, the New Testament speaks of dressing with “shamefacedness,” a word which conveys having a sense of shame if you are not properly clothed (1 Tim. 2:9).

Conversely, we know the modesty overkill approach is also wrong. Several times, the Bible positively references a woman being fair or beautiful to look upon. This specific phrase indicates there was more to look upon than just the woman’s eyes.

Amazingly, the Bible does not spell out details of extent regarding apparel, but it does provide absolutes regarding the obvious (something that common sense also confirms). To ignore such would be compromise. It really is. It is dangerous to say anything goes when the Bible speaks of proper covering. This is saying “all” is okay where God doesn’t.

Beyond this, each is left to follow the Holy Spirit within the absolutes, and we must allow others to do the same as long as there is a genuine application of the obvious. Understanding that modesty may be conveyed through more than a single style, a demand that others follow the details of applications we’ve come to is saying “only” where God doesn’t.

Without the Spirit, we tend to at least lean toward the extremes. Some become unwise in the direction of immodesty. This worldliness likely hinders themselves and certainly affects those around them. Others become unwise in the direction of overkill in application, especially when making their position universal—a fit for any and all. This legalism doesn’t help, because it moves into the realm of putting man’s conclusions on the level of God’s Word. The overreach of such a position indicates a flesh-dependent position.

As believers we must apply biblical modesty in a biblically balanced fashion. Some maintain good balance, making appropriate applications within the plateau of God’s absolutes, and some, led by the Spirit to apply matters more strictly than others on that plateau, are very gracious to those who differ from them. However, some have an evident imbalance marked by “my way or the highway” thinking and a condescending to those who legitimately differ on non-absolute applications. Still others condescend toward even these very ones, noting that their supposed strict ways fall short of the strictest of standards. Such extremists espouse the belief, “We’re the only ones right.” But knowing that still others can maintain yet tighter controls and loftier standards, such debates can quickly turn humorous, ridiculous, and tedious. Where does it end? Typically, Baptists tend toward conservativism, but some dress more conservatively than others. The Mennonites, however, outdo most Baptists I know. Still, the Amish outdo the Mennonites while arguing varying degrees of strictness within their own ranks. And yet some Muslims outdo all these, with the strictest of them appearing to look down on the rest from the highest rung.

And thus in moving away from the low apparel standards of a worldly extreme, where do we find ourselves? Debating and defending standards in the power of the flesh may clothe one with extremism of the other kind, and extremism in the name of the real thing discredits the real thing. But remember this is true in both the direction of legalism and of worldliness. Let’s obey the Word and the Spirit and let others who have a heart for God do the same.

Dr. John Van Gelderen
Originally Published: May 9, 2018

Revival Focus

July 31, 2018

Silent No More: Bob Jones University


Today I would like to direct your attention to an article by Pastor Travis D. Smith of the Hillsdale Baptist Church (Tampa, FL). The article title is: Silent No More, which appears at his From the Heart of a Shepherd blog.

Dr. Smith’s article opens with this introduction,

This brief blog post serves as an introductory post to one that will follow titled, “A Failure to Stay the Course: Bob Jones University Student Handbook Changes, Fall 2018”.  I am a 1977 graduate of Bob Jones University and one who has been a loyal alumnus.

Later this paragraph appears,

“There were many irritants in the BJU culture that were not only exasperating, but provoking.  There was a discipline that gave little grace and even less understanding for the excuses and failures of youth.  Outside the campus fence my generation was bold and rebellious; casting aside disciplines and morals that had shaped the ‘Greatest Generation’.  Inside the campus fence little had or would change for another twenty-years.”
Continue to Silent No More: Bob Jones University for the complete article.

The primary article A Failure to Stay the Course has posted 

“For more than 15 years I have observed a pattern of change at Bob Jones University that is all too familiar.  Like a ship slowly, imperceptibly drifting from its course, the University is adrift from the disciplines that shaped the character of generations of Christian students in its past.”
Yours faithfully,

Lou Martuneac

July 20, 2018

Sharper Iron: Does This Sharpen Me?

Dear Guests of IDOTG: I am republishing here an article I first published September 2010 at my secondary blog Sharper Iron: In the Iron Skillet. I think this is a timely reminder of and historical look at what SI had become.

Last week I posted two articles in regard to Sharper Iron (SI). The first was posted at this, the Iron Skillet, blog. The article was composed by Ps. Brian Ernsberger who recently quit SI and explained his departure. Please see, SI's Deplorable Moderator Actions Run Off Another for details. The second article I posted was a response to Aaron Blumer’s article (9/2) A Few Answers to SI Critics. An article in which he complains about long time, wide spread legitimate criticism of SI. You may read SI Sizzles In & Over the Iron Skillet for a complete reaction to Blumer’s complaints. Today, (Sept. 7, 2010) Aaron is hearing from another former, long time member of SI who shares his experience with SI. An experience, which typifies what is commonplace at SI and why so many have quit SI or would never join in the first place. Let’s now consider why one would ask: Does This Sharpen Me?

I’ve recently come to a decision. It wasn’t earth shattering, and quite honestly, the effect of my decision will likely go unnoticed by the very individuals that necessitated it. In May 2005, I joined the self-identified, fundamentalist website, Sharper Iron. Since that time I posted literally hundreds of times on a variety of topics, some serious and others not. My purpose in joining was to reacquaint myself with some of the current issues in fundamentalism as I approached my ordination some twelve years removed from my graduate work. In those early days, I found much to praise at Sharper Iron. I learned a lot. I solidified a number of positions as I observed, and occasionally partook in, the discussions. I entered the fray decidedly separated in my personal life, as well as, ecclesiastically. I am also convinced of the superiority of the traditional family of Greek texts, and I am a non-Calvinist.

While I rarely dealt with threads on Calvinism or the text issue, I derived much personal edification from the interactions of men like Scott and Christian Markle, Jon Gleason, Lou Martuneac, John R. Himes, and others. These men represented a brand of fundamentalism with which I identify. It is a thoughtful, church-centered fundamentalism, but not one that easily tolerates error or compromise. It is also a loving fundamentalism, although you would never know that by listening to its detractors. (I have more than a few anecdotal stories to prove my point here, however). Unfortunately, those men, and effectively this whole segment of fundamentalism, are gone from the threads and pages at Sharper Iron.

 Increasingly, the threads are filled with intimations of serious doctrinal error hurled toward fellow fundamentalists, while the compromise and errors of Conservative Evangelical personalities are glossed over as praise is lavished on their ministries, as in a recent series of articles by Dr. Kevin Bauder.

When a concerned member recently posted a thoughtful response to one of Dr. Bauder’s articles, his response A Letter from Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters to Kevin Bauder  was sharply criticized by SI moderators (Rogier, JayC and Linscott) and ultimately removed by Aaron Blumer. A few days later, an SI Filing/thread was posted by Sharper Iron leadership (Jim Peet, Aaron Blumer) introducing and eagerly promoting a website that was nothing more than a vicious personal attack on Lou Martuneac.

Just last week an SI filing referencing a blog post by Dave Doran provided an illustration of some of the concerns I am articulating in this article. It was one of the clearest examples in a long line of the double standards that exist at Sharper Iron. Doran hurled an ad hominem attack at an unnamed fundamentalist(s) using the phrase “pathetic and disingenuous” to describe those who opposed or were relieved the merger of Faith and Central had not gone through. When one commenter called SI to the carpet over this filing he was firmly rebuked. It appears there is a lot of “respecting of persons” going on over there, and now I suspected and have confirmed yet another conservative fundamentalist has left the SI ranks.
If homogeneity was their goal at SI, they have very nearly accomplished it.
It seems serious concerns brought in from the “right end” of the fundamentalist spectrum are scrutinized far more closely at SI than the attacks thrown back the other way. I find that disheartening at best. My alma mater has been a regular source of ridicule, yet such ridicule is rarely hurled at Conservative Evangelical institutions. It smacks of a bias away from the southern brand of fundamentalists and away, it seems, from me.

I’ve watched over the years as non-Calvinists, traditional text men, and those who hold to a certain standard of personal separation were repeatedly shouted down by SI moderators and other members. Of course, a vigorous debate is desirable in many cases; however, on the internet, such debates often become a numerical dog-pile where reasoned arguments carry less weight than the shear number of responses. The result is that the admittedly minority viewpoints eventually “wore out” and stopped posting.

Today SI is a place where Calvinism is the settled opinion of the overwhelming majority of posters. The traditional text family is seen as inferior and those who hold to it are routinely labeled obscurantist or ignorant. Personal separatism to a degree held by our parents and grandparents is regularly declared legalism and almost anything now appears acceptable under an understanding of Romans 14 that puts the perceived rights of the “strong” over concern for the weak.
I find that SI is not a place that welcomes my viewpoint, nor is it a place that holds the Conservative Evangelical camp to the same standard it hold my “camp.”

Well, I, for one, am tired. The old caricature of the angry, fightin’ fundy, so repudiated by the SI majority is quickly becoming the new face of that very site (moderators and remaining membership), only in reverse. It’s a strange, almost surreal thing to realize that you’ve become the very thing you’ve opposed. Unfortunately, I am almost sure the SI leadership does not even recognize the shift.

I am sure there will be those who believe my assessment is wrong, but I know that I am not alone in this opinion. When a number of different individuals with no connection to one another outside of this website bring the same concerns to light, it should raise the concerns of the site leadership. As for me, I wish them no ill, but I had to ask, “Does this sharpen me?” So, I’ve chosen to leave Sharper Iron for good. As I said, in the beginning, I doubt they even noticed.

(Disclaimer: I have submitted this article anonymously. I am obligated to do so by my current ministry situation.)

Site Publisher’s Addendum:
The author is one of many who have quit SI because of its obvious bias. Many of these raised and tried to resolve genuine concerns with SI’s leadership prior to departing, but without success. Aaron Blumer claims he wants to hear from critics, but when wide spread legitimate concerns with SI were posted in his (9/2) thread by a fundamentalist pastor (Marc Monte) SI moderators immediately set upon him. Blumer responded with, “It’s not like everybody has to like SI. If a few dozen or a few hundred don’t see much value in it (or worse yet, think it’s toxic) that’s OK. They have no obligation to even care about what happens here. But if they do, the contact form is there. I have nothing more to say than that…. And we’ve given folks lots of opportunities to communicate. Until they do, the whole matter is moot. I’m not going to chase ghosts

That reaction typified why the pseudo-fundamentalist SI has hemorrhaged so many members over the last several years. Typifies why SI will never be able to win back those departed. Typifies why SI is not a welcome place for fundamentalist preachers like Marc Monte, Brian Ernsberger and the author of this article. SI is a place whose leadership eagerly welcomes those who wish to heap lavish praise on the star personalities of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals, welcomes those who will tolerate and excuse the aberrant theology and ecumenism of conservative evangelicals, welcomes those who castigate fundamentalism with the broad brush and line up against any who dare to offer legitimate criticism of conservative evangelicalism, defend fundamentalism or question SI’s obvious bias.

July 8, 2018

Separation: Vitally Important, But Not The Main Thing

This week I am bringing you a new article by Dr. John Van Gelderen.  For the past ten years or so certain men who circulate in Fundamental circles, have been steering our younger generation toward and embracing the compromising  so-called conservative evangelicals. I trust this insightful article will be a help to you in your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. John Van Gelderen

Some gardeners put up small fences or screens to protect their gardens from little intruders. For the gardener, the barrier is important, but it’s not the main thing; the garden is.
This simple picture helps to put into perspective the matter of biblical separation, whether speaking of separation from the world or separation from ecclesiastical unbelief. Separation is important, but it’s not the main thing; it protects the main thing. The main thing is your relationship with Jesus. Your walk with God, loving Him with all your heart, soul and might, trusting Him, glorifying Him—this is the main thing. Separation provides barriers to protect your relationship from harmful influences, and this is truly important. But the big deal is not separation; it’s Jesus.
The Scripture does not say that the greatest commandment is separating one from another. Yet, the greatest commandment, which is to love God, will involve separation. Jesus did not say that by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you separate one from another. Yet, love, the greatest sign of discipleship, will not leave the boundaries of light and walk in darkness in order to love. The fruit of the Spirit is not that you separate one from another. Yet, the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, includes temperance, which necessarily includes matters of separation.
The key here is priority. If you make separation the main thing, the real main thing gets trampled in the fray. Speaking broadly, some of us in the last quarter of the twentieth century somehow got the idea that separation was the main thing.

Ecclesiastically, the problem at that time was that the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy involving separation from theological liberals had already been fought. We weren’t in ecclesiastical organizations with unbelievers. We didn’t have any true liberals (unbelievers) to separate from. But because we had begun to think of separation as the main thing, we separated from each other!
On the level of personal separation, this wrong priority led to pride as focus centered on maintaining and promoting one’s version of how separation should play out. Inevitably, this led to condescension toward those who differed. The emphasis on rituals over relationship gave a false sense of spirituality and obscured the truth that genuine spirituality is being in right relationship with the Spirit. The Holy One got lost in the focus on holiness.
By God’s grace some have awakened to the fallacy of this wrong priority. Others, perhaps, have yet to see this, and some may think an article like this seeks to deny separation’s importance. But that misses the point. Less important does not imply unimportant. It’s a matter of priority.
Separating is not what you live to do; it’s what you sometimes must do. (And as you wholeheartedly follow Jesus, you may even become the object of such an exercise and witness others’ separation from you.) In all this, remember, the main thing is our relationship with Jesus. As we maintain our walk with Him, we must apply necessary separation.

Dr. John Van Gelderen
Related Reading: