March 3, 2015

What Do NIU, Pillsbury and (NOW) Tennessee Temple Have In Common?

Just announced by Dr. Charles Petitt, President, Piedmont International University,

“Thank you for your prayers and support over the years, and we now need those more than ever as we move into an exciting new phase in the history of Piedmont. A few minutes ago the Trustees of Tennessee Temple University voted unanimously on a plan to merge with Piedmont International University on April 30, 2015….  Unlike most mergers that result in winners and losers with one entity surviving and the other going away, this will be more like a marriage in which two become one.” (See: PIU/TTU Merger)

Dr. Pettit says, Unlike most mergers,” one survives and one goes away. To that we read,
“[Tennessee Temple] Students have the option to move to Piedmont with assured admittance and continue their education at a discounted price, but the merger effectively means that come May 1, Tennessee Temple University will no longer exist.” (Kevin Hardy, Alex Green: The End of Tennessee Temple in Chattanooga, TimesFreePress, March 3, 2015)
From the Archives: What Do NIU, Pillsbury and TTU Have In Common?” (First published 10/2/12.)
In 2010 we were informed of the closure of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College (PBBC). I reported and shared some reaction to that sad event.1
The suddenness and clearly new direction that Alan Potter steered the school toward was for many Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) men an indication that PBBC had just set foot on a path away from its Fundamentalist heritage for Evangelical tendencies. PBBC tried to recover its heritage and perception as solidly Fundamentalist, but the damage was done.”
A few weeks ago it was announced that the Highland Park Baptist Church would be relocating and that it would have a name change. We referenced that in Community is Being Elevated Above Theology.2 On Sept. 17 the Times Free Press ran a companion story on Tennessee Temple University (TTU).3
At Temple’s peak in the 1970s, more than 5,000 young men and women intent on winning souls crowded the 55-acre campus…. Today, there are only 300 students on campus, and fewer of them are drawn by the school’s conservative heritage.
It has been a slow decline, but enrollment has declined to the point of what may be its ultimate demise. At the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron4 a thread was opened to discuss the report on TTU’s decline. I do not know Jonathan Charles, but I do appreciate two comments he posted there. As you read these comments see if you can recognize any parallels to what is going on at Northland International University (NIU) right now.
“I graduated from Tennessee Temple-twice. When I was there the KJV was used, the dress code still fairly conservative (girls could wear pants off campus) and music was still conservative. This mirrored most of the Temple constituency. After Roberson there came two successive pastors who did not understand who the men and women were who made up the nearly 10,000 alumni who had graduated from the school. Change was implemented very recklessly and thoughtlessly. The vibe I got from the leadership was ‘We’re going to make X change and people are going to have to live with it.’ The alumni decided to live without Tennessee Temple. The switch to the Southern Baptist Convention was necessary because Temple was a school without a constituency. It is sad to drive through the campus. Last time I was there it seemed like a ghost town, grass growing over side walks, buildings dirty and in need of repair, etc.” 
“At the same time that Temple was being sucked into the whirlpool, schools like [Pensacola Christian] Crown and West Coast have thrived. I don’t buy the argument that Temple’s demise was inevitable. The post-Roberson leadership didn’t appreciate Temple’s heritage. To me it is just a matter of preference if you use the KJV, prefer a particular style of music and want students to dress in this way or that way, both of which would be modest. But you can’t come in and turn a hard right or left and expect to have your alumni with you. When the Jennings/Bouler leadership got the school away from its IBF roots, the school found itself in a wasteland with no constituency. Maybe its association with the SBC can save it, but it is probably too late.”
NIU’s president Matt Olson and its Board should take note, for Jonathan Charles has put a window on what is going to become of NIU through TTU’s similar historical precedent for it.
But you can’t come in and turn a hard right or left and expect to have your alumni with you.”
NIU president Matt Olson has the pressures of declining enrollment, loss of alumni support and the prospect that NIU could fold as a direct result of the changes he brought in. His legacy will be one of either: taking the school successfully into a new evangelical orbit or having brought the school down to the point of closure. As all of this unfolds Les Ollila stands by silently and in seeming approval for either outcome.

I have been researching to ascertain enrollment figures from NIU. Sources told me that the current enrollment is at approximately 320 students, which is significantly lower than enrollment up until 2010. Figures for the years 2002-2010 were in the mid to high 600’s with a time period of their being between 700-750, maybe a bit higher. The administration, of course, doesn’t like to talk much about enrollment these days.  We also understand that part of the men’s dorm has been sealed off to keep costs down and the Patz endowment is being eaten through.

These enrollment figures are estimates, of course and not hard data. One reason for some ambiguity is that actual enrollment numbers were rarely made clear. In fact, through accreditation approval with TRAACS, several times in faculty/staff meetings included cautions against offering to the accreditation team our enrollment numbers, as it was “a complicated equation” that was used to determine that.

Folks in the Midwest might remember the Bill Knapp’s chain of restaurants. Bill Knapp’s (founded in 1948) had a very loyal following of primarily senior citizens. In 1998 the management decided to remake the Bill Knapp’s image. The restaurants were given a modernistic face-lift. The most significant part of the remake was changing the menu to attract the younger generation of families. The menu change was radical, favorites were discontinued and recipes were changed. The chain faltered almost immediately. The base customers did not like the changes and made their displeasure known by not coming in. Once company leadership realized what was happening a marketing campaign was initiated to announce Bill Knapp’s was returning the menu to its original form, but it was too late. The former Bill Knapp’s customers had moved on, never to return. Three months after filing for bankruptcy in April 2002 the chain folded.

Just a few days ago I was driving through SW Michigan. At Exit #28 on I-94 I saw the shell of what was once a vibrant, thriving Bill Knapp’s restaurant. My family stopped there every time we traveled through on the way to visit my wife’s parents in mid-Michigan. Several times we would rendezvous there with her parents for lunch. My favorite was Bill Knapp’s bean soup and club sandwich. The picture at right is the very Bill Knapp’s we used to stop at. There is nothing left there, but a boarded up empty building in obvious disrepair. Instead of cars in the parking area you find weeds.

For NIU the lesson from Bill Knapp’s, TTU and Pillsbury is the same, “You can’t come in and turn a hard right or left and expect to have your alumni with you.”

Does Matt Olson believe he can succeed where others have failed? Matt Olson’s hard left turn put NIU on a trajectory to suffer the consequences, which began with losing most of the alumni. Significant numbers of alumni have already seen enough of Matt Olson’s leftward turn to decide they’re not going with him. The university has already realized a significant decline in enrollment.
Tennessee Temple and its leadership pursued a path of ‘relevance.’ accommodated carnality, and today even secular media can’t help but notice that there is a parallel between the institution’s decline and its accommodation of the world at the sacrifice of Biblical, Christian distinctives. Let those pastors, churches and institutions who abandon their fundamental heritage, have disdain for those who have gone before, and pursue a path towards ‘Conservative Evangelicalism’ be forewarned…their end is tragically predictable.5
The empty classrooms and barren grounds of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College and the image of a shuttered Bill Knapp’s restaurant illustrate what NIU may very well look like in the not-too-distant future. Whether in secular business or a Christian college you cannot alienate your core constituency and expect them to remain loyal. Without the support of alumni NIU has no reason to expect surviving Matt Olson’s changes, but instead find itself a wasteland with no constituency.

We asked, “What Do NIU, Pillsbury and TTU Have In Common?” Answer: Each took a hard left, lost their alumni and began a trajectory toward an ultimate demise.


LM

For Related Reading see,

NIU Joins Southern Seminary: The Culmination of a Modern Day Tragedy

The Closure of Calvary Baptist Seminary: Predictable & Repeatable

Calvary Baptist Seminary: "They Are Accountable for Failure and Won't Own Up to It."

Footnotes:
1) Discussion Over the Closing of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College

2) Dr. Douglas McLachlan: Community is Being Elevated Above Theology

3) Temple Carries On Despite Steady Decline in Enrollment

4) SI May Fit the Descriptionof Being Pseudo- Fundamentalist

5) Excerpt from e-mail received from a “Biblical Fundamentalist Baptist Pastor.”

Addendum:
In April 2011 Brother David Cloud published, The “Old” Highland Park Baptist Church: Death in the Pot.
This is a dramatic change from the philosophy and attitude that prevailed in this same place just 20 years earlier. The ‘new’ Temple crowd criticizes the ‘old’ Temple crowd, but of course they ‘haven’t changed.’ And of course, they don’t believe it is right to criticize, unless you are criticizing some old extreme fundamentalist, then it is no holds barred, let ‘er rip.”
To one critic of Dave Cloud’s article who said it, “is less about TTU than it is about CCM,” Alex Guggenheim wrote,
Indeed Cloud refers to changing music standards, but this reference only comprises about 1/10th of the entire article. Cloud does a commendable job covering many of the weaknesses of Temple and Highland Park which can be said of a sizable portion of the independent fundamentalist Baptist movement during this era while acknowledging the evangelistic strength. But even in acknowledging the evangelistic strength he points out the problem or the weakness of quick prayerism.”

February 16, 2015

Let’s Talk About The Holy Spirit!

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”
(John 7:37-39)
 
Dr. Rick Flanders
It is a wonderful fact that Jesus Christ has blessed those He has saved with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, Who has come to meet all of our needs and to work through us to meet the needs of the world!  What a wonderful truth, and what an amazing blessing!  He is figuratively described as a well of living water springing up to satisfy our inner thirst forever, and gushing out with rivers to satisfy the thirst of others!  Let us not lose our grip on this wonderful metaphor and the truth it pictures.

According to the writer (the apostle John), the book of John was written to convince the reader that “Jesus is the Christ” (see chapter 20, verse 31) so that he “might have life through His name.”  Jesus came to give us Life, His Life!  This is why the book introduces us to Jesus and His claims, and then presents proofs to back up those claims.  The purpose of it all is that those who read this remarkable book “might have life” in Him.  The life that is offered is the life of Jesus Himself (see this in John 1:4; 6:32-35; 10:10; 11:25; 14:6)! It is described as “everlasting life” (3:14-16; 4:13-14; 5:24, 39-40; 6:27, 47) and those who receive it are able to live “more abundantly” (10:10).  The adjectives “everlasting” and “eternal” which often describe this “life” in the book of John refer more to the quality of the life He came to give us than to the quantity of it (its length).  Those who receive His life can live “more abundantly,” and enjoy an existence on earth more fulfilling, successful, peaceful, and joyful than any other way of life!  We find the theme of the abundant life first in chapter 4, where a spiritually thirsty woman is told that Jesus will give her “living water” if she would just ask for it (verse 10).  Jesus explains this metaphor with these powerful words.

“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
(John 4:14)

The symbol of living water becoming a well inside the one who drinks it is expanded in chapter 7, where we read of “rivers of living water” flowing out from the believers inner self (verses 37 and 38).  The living water not only satisfies the needs of the believer, but also meets the needs of those around him.  Then it is explained that this stunning metaphor speaks of “the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (verse 39).  The Holy Spirit is given in the gift of eternal life, and the ministry of the Spirit is essential and basic to the abundant life that Jesus gives.  Of course, the Spirit (Who is God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity) came to abide in believers on the great day of Pentecost as the New Testament Age began.  His presence and power in our lives is the chief distinction between the life of Old Testament believers and the daily life of New Testament believers who have learned to live abundantly.  What a wonderful thing it is to have the Spirit of God actually living inside us!  How many blessings surrendered Christians enjoy because of Him (look over the words of Jesus about Spirit-filled living in John 14:15-21, 25-27; 15:26-27; and 16:7-14)!

But sadly, for decades now, teaching and preaching about the Holy Spirit has diminished in most fundamentalist pulpits.  In some pulpits it has almost died out.  After a hundred years of neglecting Him, whole segments of Bible-believing Christendom are now saying foolish things about the ministry of the Spirit, warning us not to speak much about Him, or to give Him much attention.  We can be thankful that more and more preachers are remembering the many reasons for us to renew our interest in the Person and work of the Spirit, and to correct the problems that have been created through our neglect of Him.  It will be a healthy part of the work of revival in our midst to start talking about the Holy Spirit.  Here are some of the reasons why.

1. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS IN SOME SENSE THE KEY TO VITALITY AMONG CHRISTIANS.
Remember that the Spirit was given to bring us life.  Many, many churches these days can be characterized as virtually lifeless in spite of the fact that the members have eternal life, and God Himself lives within them!  This seems to be especially true of churches that cling to the honorable label of “fundamentalist,” even though the early fundamentalist churches were far from dead.  The eighth chapter of Romans is a section of scripture that can point us to the reason why our churches are dying.  The Holy Spirit is given great prominence in this important chapter, as even a quick scan of the verses will demonstrate.  He is mentioned nineteen times in Romans 8, which is part of the segment of the book about deliverance from the power of sin.  In this chapter, He is called “the Spirit of life.”

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
(Verse 2)

In the experience of Christians the influence of the Spirit of life is what gives us life and overcomes the influences of death.  And He is in conflict with the impulses of our “flesh,” which means the moral depravity inherent in human nature because of the fall of man.  This conflict was highlighted back in chapter 7, where we learn that our “carnal (fleshly)” selves are “sold under sin” (verses 14-20).  Our “members” (the parts of our bodies) are dominated by “the law of sin” so that the physical body of a believer can be called “the body of this death” (verses 21-24).  Yet Jesus Christ has delivered the believer from his sinful self by the salvation He bought for us on the cross and by the Holy Spirit He gave us when we believed (Romans 7:25-8:4).  So now, according to Romans 8:12-16, we are no longer “debtors…to the flesh, to live after the flesh,” but are called upon “through the Spirit” to “mortify the deeds of the body.”

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
(Verse 6)

It is the Spirit that quickens the revived believer, and gives him the “spark” we have all seen in those who catch fire for God.  When we neglect the Holy Spirit in our life and work, we are left with the flesh.  And fleshly living is death.  Only by the Spirit of life do we experience the life of Jesus in our daily walk and in our church.  The retreat from solid teaching about the Spirit that came in reaction to false teaching about the Spirit (Pentecostalism) has enveloped the lives and ministries of many good people in the death of carnality.  We must come back to conscious dependence upon the Holy Spirit for His power and enabling if we are to survive!  We will enliven our dying churches if we get back to walking and working in the Spirit of life!

2. THE LORD JESUS GAVE THE SPIRIT A CENTRAL ROLE IN CHRISTIAN LIVING.
The night before He died, the Lord taught His disciples the principles of New Testament living.  The talk He gave them, beginning with the washing of their feet in the upper room and followed by a prayer they heard Him pray, is recorded for all of us is John, chapters 13 through 17.  Many have called it “The Upper Room Discourse” because it began in the famous “upper room.”  In this talk, He told them He was going away, but exhorted them not to be troubled over it.  When He would leave them, He would be going to the Father to begin the work of interceding for us, which would open the door to phenomenal privileges in prayer (14:12-14).  He would also be sending them His Replacement, “another Comforter” (14:15-17), who would live in them and would never leave them.  This is the Person of the Holy Spirit.  Because of the mystery of the Triune God, when the Spirit lives in a man, the Father and Son also live in Him, and many phenomenal benefits result (14:18-27).  The ministry of the Holy Spirit in and to and through the Christian is presented as key to the victorious, liberated life that Jesus had promised them and us (John 8:12, 31-32, 34-36; 10:10).  As a matter of fact, in the five chapters that give us the Upper Room Discourse, three of them are devoted to teaching about the Holy Spirit (John 14, 15, and 16).

Some have misinterpreted one of the statements Jesus made about the Spirit in this section to mean that the Spirit does not talk about Himself but only about the other Persons of the Godhead.  That misunderstood and misapplied statement is in John 16:12-14.

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
The phrase “he shall not speak of himself” has been misapplied to mean that He doesn’t talk about Himself.  Of course, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit, Who is the true Author of all scripture (Second Peter 1:20-21), says a whole lot about Himself, from Genesis 1:2 to Revelation 22:17, including the statements in John 16!  The mistake in interpreting this verse is in taking “of himself” as meaning “about himself.”  The actual meaning of the word, both in the Greek and in the English of John 16:13, is “from” instead of “about.”  Can you see this in the passage?  The Holy Spirit would be speaking, not from Himself alone, but from the entire Trinity of God.

The teaching here is that the Holy Spirit was going to give us in the New Testament scriptures truth that would proceed from the Father and the Son through the Him.  That is the meaning of the verse.  It does not say that the Spirit is reluctant to speak about Himself, nor does it imply that we should be reluctant to talk about Him.  It means that He doesn’t speak from Himself.

We have learned, especially in John 13 through 17, that the Lord Jesus taught us to live the Christian life with the help (“Comforter” means “Helper”) of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore it is important that we talk about Him.  Ignoring the Comforter in our sermons and lessons has wrecked many lives and ministries.  We must make up for lost time and go back to the emphasis on Spirit-filled living that our forefathers had.  Baptist pastor A. J. Gordon of the late 19th century spoke and wrote much about the ministry of the Spirit, and we must start reading him again.  Fundamentalist giant W.B. Riley believed and preached the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit.  The books that great Baptist F.B. Meyer left us are full of uplifting references to the Spirit.  Fundamentalist leader R. A. Torrey wrote many good books that will get us back to the right relationship with the heavenly Dove, and we ought to dust them off and read them again.  We must start talking and learning about the Holy Spirit as godly generations before us did!

3. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO TREAT THE SPIRIT AS LESS THAN GOD.
The Holy Spirit is God, you know.  It has been the false teachers that have relegated Him to some lower identification.  When normally orthodox teachers seem to reduce Him to a force or a power or an influence behind the scenes, they do not do the Spirit justice nor treat Him as deity in the way that the scriptures do.  He is the Creator Who was active in the creation of heaven and earth as were the Father and the Son (Genesis 1:1-2).  He is the other Comforter, like Jesus the Son, who came in a sense to replace the personal presence of Jesus with believers when Christ went back to the Father, and when He is in us, so is the Father and the Son (John 14:18-23).  The apostles dealt with Him as God in the spreading of the Gospel and the function of the first churches (read Acts 2:14-18; 4:29-31; 5:1-11; 8:29-35; and 13:1-4).  He appears in the visions of the apostle John with the Father and the Son (Revelation 1:4-6; 4:2-11) and is worshipped with Them.  He is honored in the baptismal formula equally with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:18-19).  He leads the children of God and is to be followed by them as Lord (Romans 8:14-16 and Second Corinthians 3:17).  He intercedes for them before the Father as does the Son of God (Romans 8:26-27).  He gave us the very Words of God (Second Peter 1:20-21), which are His Words.  He is a divine Person, with the heart and will and mind of Deity (Romans 8:27, Romans 15:30, First Corinthians 12:11).  As God, He possesses all the divine attributes (Psalm 139:7-10, First Corinthians 2:9-10, Hebrews 9:14).  Therefore we ought to give Him all the reverence and obedience and trust that we owe to God.  To do less is nearly blasphemous and heretical.

4. THE NEW TESTAMENT VIEWS THE SPIRIT AS WORKING IN HARMONY WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON.
The Persons of the Trinity are not in competition; They are in perfect cooperation, and are never jealous for attention in conflict with the Others.

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”  [Serving the Son in the Spirit is acceptable to the Father]
(Romans 14:17-18)

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”

[The gifts of ministry are the works of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus, and God the Father]
(First Corinthians 12:4-6)

“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…”

[We are to pray to the Father, Who is the God of the Son, for the enlightenment of the Spirit]
(Ephesians 1:15-17)

There are many passages in the New Testament scriptures like these that present the works of God among us as cooperative actions of Father, Son, and Spirit equally.  Look up passages such as Second Corinthians 13:14, Galatians 4:4-6, Ephesians 2:13-22, and Titus 3:4-7 for examples.  In the rituals of the Temple in the Old Testament, which typify the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the use of oil (which stands for the Holy Spirit) plays an essential role (read Exodus 29, 30, and 40, to get an idea), indicating again the importance of the Spirit to the work of the Trinity.  It is vital to understanding God the Father and God the Son for Christians to learn about the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit glorifies the Son, we find in John 16:14, and He is sent both by the Father and by the Son as our Comforter, according to John 14:26 and 15:26.  We cannot divorce the Person and work of the Spirit from the Persons and works of the Father and the Son.  To neglect or minimize the Holy Spirit will be to neglect and devalue the other two Persons of God.

5. REVIVALS ALL INVOLVE THE RESTORING OF THE SPIRIT TO HIS PROPER PLACE IN CHRISTIAN LIFE AND WORK.
All New Testament revivals have come about through the work of the Holy Spirit.  One such revival is described by the Bible in these terms:

“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
(Acts 4:31)

Normal New Testament Christianity is Spirit-filled Christianity, and every great revival has involved new interest and faith in the Holy Spirit.  It’s the way in works.   We pray to the Father in the name of the Son with the help of the Spirit.  We honor the Father by abiding in Christ and being filled with the Spirit.  This is the norm, and the goal to which revival takes us.  Therefore we must speak and teach and learn about the Holy Spirit if we want revival.


It is indeed high time for renewed focus on the ministry of the Spirit because so many have neglected Him so long.  Because of the spread of false teachings about the Spirit, it is important that the truth be told about Him again.  The essential role He has in our lives and in our work must be emphasized, and the thoughtless and scriptural arguments against doing so cast aside.  He is not less than Almighty God, and He is not to be slighted or diminished in our thoughts.  Let the people of God again turn wholeheartedly to their Comforter for the help and power we need to turn the multitudes to our Savior.


Dr. Rick Flanders

January 26, 2015

Dr. Clay Nuttall, Abusing the Bride

Often, when people are pressing a particular opinion or personal belief, they tend to spend their energy on simply making statements.  In doing this, they fail to ask enough questions of the text.  I have just finished reading a number of theological articles that make their argument by limiting their conclusions to texts that support their presuppositions.  Some of these subjects are intertwined, so we will enter this discussion by asking, “What think ye of the Bride of Christ?”

Believe it or not, there are those who maintain that there is no such thing.  The Old Testament writers recorded that they saw Israel as the wife of God.  Hosea is a good illustration of this.  Paul clearly identifies the Body of Christ as the Bride of Christ.  These two identifications are eternal.  One has to wonder why the clear, plain statements of scripture are not sufficient.  The answer, of course, is that if you have two different interpretations, you can be sure that one - or both - is not using the same system of interpretation.  The one biblical hermeneutic is mathematical in that when it is used faithfully, you will always end up with the same answer.  I have also noticed that variant conclusions nearly always flow from similar historical theological systems.  This can be accurately illustrated by the way people deal with the issue of the Bride of Christ.

TO THE BRIDE ALONE

God gave us the earthly illustration of marriage, the bride, and the bridegroom so we can understand this heavenly truth.  It is like the discussion in Hebrews 9 where the earthly tabernacle is a picture of the heavenly one.  It is why God shared His name “Father” with men on earth so we can be a picture of the Heavenly Father and communicate the depth of meaning involved.

Every bride has things ascribed to her that no one else can claim.  Failure to recognize this is tragic, and we are not to violate the sanctity of the bride.  There is a theological theory called “Replacement,” which simply says that Israel is replaced by the church.  It is interesting to note that those who hold this philosophical idea are all tainted by the same hermeneutical aberration.  The plain, consistent statements of scripture make it clear that God’s plan for Israel is definitely different from His plan for the church.  While they hold some things in common, it is still a fact that similarities are not equals.

The real threat is not in the theological movements that feel the need to invent such error, but rather comes from those who are “on the fence” on these issues.  Instead of a total rejection of the distinction between Israel and the church, these folks pick at the distinctions of the church one by one.  While there are transition periods, the major turning point is Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, so He did not come in presence at Pentecost; He came in special ministry - or special presence, if you prefer.

There were things that happened at Pentecost that had never taken place before that time, and they are distinctive to the Bride.  On this day, the first believer was baptized into the body of Christ; the first believer became continually indwelt by the Holy Spirit; the first believer was sealed by the Spirit and was perhaps the first believer ever born of the Spirit.  To assign any of these distinctive things to anyone other than the church is to chip away at the whole and ultimately move toward total “Replacement.”  The special ministry of the Holy Spirit to the bride does nothing to harm God’s plan for Old Testament saints, and it assures a special place for the Bride of Christ.  Let me note that all these little threats also depend upon a hermeneutical system that has been invented by major theological movements.

There is only one biblical hermeneutic, and that hermeneutic produces a theology that is biblical.  There is no such thing as a “dispensational hermeneutic.”  No one has a right to invent his own hermeneutic and then use it to invent variations in his own belief system.

WITHOUT SPOT OR BLEMISH

The Bride is not a puzzle; it is a unit.  Everyone related to the Bridegroom is saved the same way.  While our fellowship on earth with Christ may vary because of what we choose, the Bride is one.  At the catching away of the church, the Bride is complete.  At the judgment seat of Christ, different rewards are awarded to different believers.  There are no “penalties” handed out, no second-class believers, nor flaws in the Bride.  If there is any negative at all, it might be that some may not receive a reward.  Once the BEMA is past, there are no purgatories or blemished believers; the Bride of Christ is whole and pure.  This is the work of God and not of man.  Christ loves the Bride through all of it, and the actions of life are left behind at the judgment.  Christ presents to Himself “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

The plain, clear, consistent statements of the text leave us with no doubt; the Bride is whole.  It is pure, down to the last believer, because this is about God, not man.  Christ does not cast away His wife or any member.  He does not divorce some believers.  If He did, it would be His failure…and that is impossible.  So, how do people ascribe impurity to the Bride of Christ?  First, they are obligated to do this because they have adopted a flawed theological hermeneutic from a flawed theological construct and flawed theological movement.  Secondly, they have failed to obey a hermeneutical maxim; and so they go to texts that have nothing to do with the church and in doing so, they borrow someone else’s grief.

I do not condemn these failed theologians, but the truth is that to abuse the Bride of Christ is no light matter.


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 ShepherdStaff 

January 21, 2015

American Sniper: A Fighting Marine’s Response to the Critics

Last weekend the movie American Sniper, the story of US Navy SEAL Christopher Scott Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) opened in theatres across the nation. In recent days negative comments have been directed toward the movie coming from certain Hollywood elites. Some have responsed to the critics.  I think my son, Peter, (USMC Cpl. Infantry, 2010-2014) pictured below, has said very well what many veterans and/or American patriots might believe is an appropriate response to critics of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and by extension criticism of all US military personnel past, present and yet to come to our nation’s defense. From Peter's FaceBook he wrote,


Upper Gershak Valley, Afghanistan 2011
I have yet to see American Sniper, and probably won’t see it, but if anyone has a problem with Chris Kyle, if you think he was some kind of sociopath or racist, I have an offer for you. Send me your address and I’ll FedEx you my size 10.5 Belleville boots that saw two deployments to Afghanistan. Go ahead and put them on, lace them up, and take a stroll for a mile or so. Maybe you’ll see things a little differently.

In other words, or if that metaphor went over your head, you have no right to judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his boots, especially when you’ve never left the comfort and safety of the blanket of protection that other, better men than you have provided. You don’t know why men volunteer to go to war; you don’t know all that they did, or how the things they did make them feel. You haven’t seen the savagery and barbarism that they’ve witnessed. And before you rant about the atrocities done to Iraqis and Afghans at the hands of Americans (unfortunately, such has happened), perhaps you should do a little research into what the Taliban and Al Qaeda have done to their own people. They are not “freedom fighters;” freedom fighters don’t hide behind their women, and send children out as suicide bombers. Their cause and their actions are as ignoble as you purport the American cause to be. In my short time as a United States Marine, the only civilian casualties I witnessed had been killed or wounded by the Taliban, not coalition forces.


Combat action: Taliban ambush (26/6/11)
Simply put, if you’ve never been to war, your opinion on war and its fighters counts for precisely nothing. You can have your opinion, sure. It’s a free country. But know that it is an ill-informed, ignorant opinion because you have no experience in the matter. Chris Kyle was not perfect, and he surely had his faults. But he was a genuine American hero, and I will defend him no matter what because when our nation was at war, he stepped forward to serve. And if it wasn’t for the millions of men and women who, like Chris Kyle, volunteered to fight, millions of others would have been conscripted and forced to fight anyway. For that, you owe him nothing less than your respect. Now carry on.


Peter was decorated for heroism in combat during his first deployment to Afghanistan (2011).  Presently he is a full-time student at Purdue University.  His younger brother, Jonathan, is in the US Navy, petty officer 2nd class, MM(N)3, aboard the nuclear submarine USS Topeka (SSN-754).