September 15, 2014

What is Congregationalism?

God blesses only what He orders. For a local church that desires peace, tranquility, love, and effectiveness, this is no light matter. For several years I served as moderator for a statewide fellowship, and it seemed as if at any one time there were only a handful of churches that experienced the kind of peace that God planned for them. For much of the time, these churches were on a pendulum between anarchy and tyranny. I outline this issue in my book The Weeping Church, now published by Faithful Life Publishers in North Fort Myers, Florida. The book has been in constant publication for over 35 years and sets the bar for dealing with the crisis in church polity.
The purpose of Shepherd's Staff is to create discussion in key areas. Most of these areas appear to be too sensitive for others to handle. I have dear friends who do us a wonderful service by providing devotional material and subjects for application. My concern is for a theology that is biblical, one that will let the Bible speak for itself. We get that truth by asking questions of the text. The center of this particular effort has to rest on the one biblical hermeneutic. When people ignore this system for the use of language, it is impossible to come up with a right answer. This is the problem with human definitions of congregationalism. Human systems are the result of ignoring the one biblical hermeneutic or misusing the rules that God has provided for us.
What some people have done is to use a partial hermeneutic to invent their definition, which in turn allows them to insert personal or collective ideas into the text. The major problem with these additions to the text includes the insertion of their view of the culture or the current government under which they have lived. It would be one thing to just admit that they added it to the text; it is another and more serious matter to force the text to support a specific cultural view.
Admittedly, the Bible is used in their conclusions, and that is the problem. The Bible is used rather than allowing the Bible to use us in the pursuit of truth. The original languages are used as well, but it ends up being a grammatical pretzel rather than biblical principle. As in many doctrinal inventions, the process is meant to "complicate to confuse."  Our task is to simplify to clarify, which is why God has given us some effective tools to test theological inventions. I would remind you that the Bible was not written for scholars; it was written for the common man and woman.
The Weeping Church details the many errors I have referred to, and you can read it for that information. In this article, I want to focus on some of those simple things God has given us to shine a light on error. You can compare your personal view of polity and congregationalism with those tools. Let me warn you that this is where an individual will discover his/her own system of interpretation. Is your polity system a monarchy, a dictatorship, a republic, a democracy, or a form of socialism? Is it papal, Episcopal, Presbyterian, congregational, or a theocracy? You just might be surprised!
The Body of Christ is the heavenly church, and it includes all those who have been redeemed, from Pentecost to the Rapture. Entry to this heavenly congregation is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (I Cor. 12:13) This heavenly truth is pictured on earth through the local church. The local church is a congregation, a body. God illustrates the heavenly truth through an earthly body. Since baptism is a local church ordinance, entrance to the local church is by water baptism. The earthly body is not perfect, and there may be unsaved people in the local congregation. The desire of Christ is that we emulate the heavenly body as well as we are able. A disjointed body is painful, and this often happens when a particular body does not pay heed to the things that provide good health.
God is good and has given us a way to understand how the local church should function. Good health, joy, peace, and comfort rest in understanding how God intended for the body to function. The body has a local resident head; we all should easily understand how that works, how it makes decisions and implements them. This collection of body members, or congregation, illustrates for us how the local church should function, make decisions, and stay healthy.
So how does your church government stand up to God’s clear illustration of the body? I know we are tempted to insert our own system into this, so be very careful.
Jesus Christ is clearly identified as the Shepherd of the heavenly congregation, the flock. This heavenly truth is best displayed on earth with the local church. It is a flock with a local under-shepherd, a pastor who is appointed by Christ. The function, decision making, good health, and safe setting are simply displayed in this humble illustration. God knew we could understand this. He also knew we wouldn’t like it and would insert anything we could, including our cultural context, so we could have it our way.
There is more - for instance, the church as a family. That one is so simple that it is embarrassing that anyone would even try to corrupt it! So how does your church government compare to the simple illustrations that God has given us? It is by this simplicity that we can discover if the elite has been pulling our leg about congregationalism. We both really know why they don’t like it, and that is because it reveals the human system of hermeneutics that they use.
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,

September 10, 2014

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

This is an article that I reissue every Memorial Day weekend and on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on our nation. Let us once again remember, but never forget, those who serve today, those who served throughout our nation's heritage and the fallen who gave their all that we might be free.

Our leaders and military responded to the 9/11 attacks with tenacity and determination. Over the years since then we have dealt serious blows to the terrorists, nations that offered them safe haven and seriously diminished their capability to attack us here at home. There is much work yet to be done, but I am confident America will prevail and eliminate this threat to our nation and way of life.

For this commemorative moment I would like to focus our attention on another national tragedy, the American Civil War. There were many terrible battles in that war: Antietem, Fredericksburg, Chickamauga and Vicksburg. None was more costly, nor so much at stake than at the Battle of Gettysburg. After three days of battle there were approximately 50,000 American casualties.

One of the most endearing and treasured memories from Gettysburg was not forged on the battlefield itself. No, for we must go forward to November 19, 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln came to honor what had been done there and deliver his immortal
Gettysburg Address.

On June 1, 1865, Senator Charles Sumner commented on what is now considered the most famous speech by President Abraham Lincoln. In his eulogy on the slain president, he called it a “monumental act.” He said Lincoln was mistaken that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Rather, the Bostonian remarked, “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.” (From Abraham Lincoln Online)

With that I offer for your encouragement Lincoln’s
Gettysburg Address.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

August 18, 2014

Archival Series: The FBFI Resolutions on the Southern Baptist Convention

This article first appeared Jan. 31, 2011.  These FBFI resolutions on the SBC were adopted in 1994 & 1995.  The 1994 resolution was co-authored by Dave Doran. The 1995 resolution was co-written by Drs. Dave Doran, Tim Jordan, and Matt Olson. Their authorship leads to one question: Over the years since 1994-95, Who Changed?  See the commentary, and related readings at the conclusion of this archival entry.


While applauding the attempts of conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention to reemphasize the doctrine of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, we do not believe that these men are “fundamental” Southern Baptists. Our reasoning is twofold: first, they still accept the ecumenical evangelism of Billy Graham which makes them New Evangelicals; and second, they do not desire to be known as Fundamentalists. Writing in “The Church God Approves,” James Draper, conservative in the Southern Baptist Convention, condemns Fundamentalists for their divisiveness, bigotry and unfairness; and says that they have a wholly negative approach and show little love and compassion. Those who call for cooperation in pulpit ministries between Fundamentalists and Southern Baptists either misread the nature of the conservative movement in the Convention, or themselves have compromised the cause of Biblical separation.
The FBF applauds those in the Southern Baptist Convention who fought a battle for the inerrancy of Scripture, but disagree with Jerry Falwell and Tim Lee who attempt to convince followers that the SBC conservatives are Fundamentalists. At best, conservative Southern Baptists are New Evangelicals who cooperate with and promote the ecumenical evangelism ministry of Billy Graham. The Southern Baptist Convention dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the two Southern Baptist leaders who signed the 1994 ecumenical Evangelicals and Catholics Together* agreement (the furor created caused them later to ask to have their names removed), and statements made by Convention leaders embracing charismatics indicate dangerous drifts in the SBC.

We believe that statements made by Charles Stanley, twice elected president of the SBC, such as, “If it’s a Southern Baptist seminary, it should be balanced in its approach. If you’re going to have liberals, you need strong conservatives . . . if you’ve got people who don’t believe in the virgin birth, you need people who do,” lead to unscriptural confusion. Adrian Rogers, elected to two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has said, “I don’t want any witch hunt to purge the seminaries.” Statements such as these reveal that even conservative leadership in the SBC will not take the strong stands necessary to rid the Convention of its liberal and neo-orthodox factions. Until this happens, we do not see how independent fundamental Baptists can make common cause with Southern Baptists.
In recent years some strides have been made to rid the “convention of its liberal and neo-orthodox factions,” but not all of them.** Many of the “dangerous drifts” described above, however, remain in the SBC.
What is glaringly left out of this issue is the matter of separation. [Kevin] Bauder claims that the “conservative evangelicals” aren’t New Evangelicals and he conveniently defines New Evangelicalism in a way that proves his point (whereas his predecessors at Central, Richard Clearwaters and Ernest Pickering, understood New Evangelism much more clearly).

While there are many aspects of New Evangelicalism, the defining principle from its inception was a “repudiation of separatism.” That was the way that Harold Ockenga put it. That is Billy and Franklin Graham’s foundational working principle.

And by that definition, every Southern Baptist conservative is a New Evangelical. That is evident by the simple fact that they remain in the SBC, which is an unholy organization that encompasses theological liberalism, Charismaticism, Masonism, ecumenical evangelism, modern textual criticism, Amillennialism, the rock & roll emerging philosophy, female preachers, psychoheresy, Catholic mysticism, and other errors and evils. (David Cloud: Conservative Evangelicals, Jan. 27, 2011.)
On February 22-25 at Calvary Baptist Seminary (Lansdale, PA) Dr. Dave Doran and Dr. Kevin Bauder will be participating in a cooperative pulpit ministry with SBC pastor Dr. Mark Dever. The 1994 FBF resolution above warns of compromising the cause of biblical separatism. Dever maintains close friendships with and participates in cooperative efforts with ecumenical compromisers and charismatics. Does the common cause cooperative ministry of Bauder and Doran with Dever at Lansdale compromise the cause of biblical separatism? How do Brothers Doran and Bauder justify their “cooperation in pulpit ministries” at Lansdale with SBC pastor Mark Dever?

Dr. Rick Arrowood details the current posture of SBC pastor Mark Dever,
Just because a man like Dr. Dever is seen by some as a “conservative Southern Baptist, who fights for truth in the SBC,” does not mean he fits in as a separatist and should be called a fundamentalist. Matter-a-fact, he would not want to wear that name tag. He is a leader among Southern Baptists:

•He serves on the Board of Southern Theological Seminary under the direction of Dr. Al Mohler. (Dr. Mohler signed the ecumenical Manhattan Declaration and watches over the Billy Graham School of Evangelism and Home Missions at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. [Mohler served as chair for the 2001 Billy Graham Crusade in Louisville])

•Dr. Dever also willingly teaches at Gordon-Conwell College in Massachusetts, long known as a leading institution for New-Evangelicalism and compromise.

•To add to the matter, Dr. Dever is quite reformed and a-millennial, which, of course, is a far-cry from the position promoted by the founders of Calvary, Detroit, Central and Northland.

•He has spoken it [sic] the past and is slated to speak in the future with Dr. C.J. Mahaney, one of the founders of the Together For The Gospel [T4G] Conference where he states that his desire is to start churches that are reformed in theology and charismatic in doctrine. T4G has attracted an assortment of our young men, exposing them not only to doctrinal error, but also a steady diet of Sovereign Grace Music.
(Dr. Rick Arrowood: Answering Questions About the Changes We Are Seeing in Fundamentalism)
Does that read like the personal resume of a man who is committed to the theology, application and cause of biblical separatism? It appears troubling inconsistencies among evangelicals such as Mark Dever are no longer a barrier to fellowship and cooperative ministerial efforts for certain men in Fundamental circles who profess allegiance to the cause of biblical separatism as defined in the 1994-95 FBF resolutions on the Southern Baptist Convention.
Who really is changing as we see this new wave of picking and choosing, applying and justifying, defending and mitigating, “mixing and mingling?” If it is right for us to “platform fellowship” with new-evangelicals and those in the SBC, why have we not had them preach in our colleges, seminaries and fellowships over the past sixty years? A Southern Baptist teaching theology in a fundamentalist church, college or seminary has his roots in Southern Baptist soil, and when transplanted temporarily to a fundamental church or school brings that soil with him. If our position has been wrong, then we have missed the placating of well-organized denominationalism with its comforts and retirement benefits. Perhaps we should go to those retired fundamental Baptist missionaries, who have sacrificed term after term on a foreign field, who may be physically and financially struggling in some nursing home, and apologize to them, admitting the Lottie Moon Missions Program would have been a better choice for them. Can you see the shifting of the sand and how it strikes at the foundation of our fundamental Baptist history? (Dr. Rick Arrowood: Answering Questions About the Changes We Are Seeing in Fundamentalism)
For those who may not be aware the 1994 FBF resolution on the SBC was prepared and submitted by the resolutions committee that included Dave Doran. Brother Doran signed on to and therefore endorsed the 1994 resolution on the SBC, which closed as follows,
Those who call for cooperation in pulpit ministries between Fundamentalists and Southern Baptists either misread the nature of the conservative movement in the Convention, or themselves have compromised the cause of Biblical separation.
The 1995 FBF resolution was prepared and submitted by the committee that included Dave Doran, Matt Olson and Tim Jordan. The 1995 resolution closed with,
…we [Doran, Olson, Jordan] do not see how independent fundamental Baptists can make common cause with Southern Baptists.
Yet, Matt Olson will be featuring SBC theologian Dr. Bruce Ware at NIU later this year. In a matter of days Dave Doran and Kevin Bauder will join SBC pastor Mark Dever, invited by Tim Jordan, in a ministerial effort at Calvary Baptist Seminary, Lansdale.

Who’s changing? The men who co-drafted and signed the 1994-95 FBF resolutions on the SBC, or the non-separatist evangelicals in the Southern Baptist Convention? Brother Dever, what do you say?


*In 2009 Southern Baptist leaders including Dr. Al Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration (MD). The MD is the first cousin of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Signing the MD extended Christian recognition to Roman Catholics and apostates. Mohler and other SBC signatories have been admonished by their peers, but have not repented of their deed, which compromised the Gospel. (See- Al Mohler Signs the Manhattan Declaration)

**2001- 01.6 Regarding the Southern Baptist Convention
The FBFI expresses gratitude to God for the changes in the Southern Baptist Convention nationally since 1979. We commend the reaffirmation of inerrancy, now a confessional requirement for its agencies—the seminaries, Mission Boards and its publishing arm. Furthermore, we applaud the repudiation of homosexuality and the confessional commitment to a biblical role for women. However, we exhort our brethren to continue reformation by opposing the ecumenism of Billy Graham and “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” We also urge perseverance at the state and local levels, purging the theological and moral decay. And, where purging is not possible, we urge Southern Baptists to withdraw and rebuild, showing fidelity to the Scripture. Until Southern Baptists fully recognize and repudiate the destruction of Neo-evangelicalism that has weakened their churches and seminaries, the Scriptural response of Fundamental Baptists must continue to be separation.
See the FBFI Resolutions for access to the resolution archives.

Site Publisher Commentary (August 2014):
Who Changed?  The SBC certainly has not changed.  The SBC is today what they’ve been for decades now, which are identified above as, “an unholy organization that encompasses theological liberalism, Charismaticism, Masonism, ecumenical evangelism, modern textual criticism, Amillennialism, the rock & roll emerging philosophy, female preachers, psychoheresy, Catholic mysticism….”
The “changelings” are Dave Doran, Matt Olson, and Tim Jordan.  From their 1995 resolution, “We do not see how independent fundamental Baptists can make common cause with Southern Baptists.” Arguably the lead architect of the changelings movement is Kevin Bauder. What does each of those four men have in common? A direct hand in and/or personal contribution to the ruin and demise of the former Northland Baptist Bible College and Calvary Baptist Seminary, Lansdale respectively.

Related Reading
Dr. Rick Arrowood: The Changes We Are Seeing in Fundamentalism

Kevin Bauder & Dave Doran Join Mark Dever at Calvary, Lansdale: Is This a Fundamentalism Worth Saving?

Note: Calvary Baptist Seminary did not survive Kevin Bauder’s “limited form of fellowship.”

August 11, 2014

Throw Down Your Arms

On the morning of April 19, 1775, British troops marched into Lexington, Massachusetts.  They were met by a small group of patriots on the village green.  The minutemen were armed and ready to protect their homes and families.  While it is true that their guns were used for hunting food and for protection, they also kept weapons handy in case they had to stop tyranny in its tracks.  That is why they could not, and would not obey the command to throw down their arms.

It is not up to me to do your research for you.  I have done a more than adequate amount to be able to tell you that the following is reliable and has a common thread among those who possess spiritual insight. After the British had sent a volley or more of shot into those good men, eight of them lay dead, with others wounded.  Some of them were shot in the back, since their own leader had ordered them to disperse.


Almost all the dead and wounded were members of the church, and their pastor, Jonas Clark, had stood with them in the midst of the brief conflict.  Caleb Harrington was shot dead on the steps of the church.  He was going back into the meeting house to get more powder, since that is where it was stored.  The primary edifice on the green was the church building, so the fight had taken place in front of the church.  Clark had repeatedly warned his flock about the coming danger to their freedom and liberty from the tyranny they faced.  His own diary is a record of what took place in the pulpits and other small communities as well as his own.

In 1864, J. T. Headley wrote of the broad involvement of clergy and believers in the events that lead to the Revolution.  His book was entitled The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution.  The book was first published by Charles Scribner of New York. Headley identified a long list of pastors who personally and publicly opposed the tyranny of the king.  They fully understood the responsibility of the believer to obey constituted authority as God’s rule, but they also understood that life, liberty, and freedom were gifts from God. 

The involvement of the clergy in energizing the coming conflict did not include the loyalists of the Church of England who were, by duty of the church, bound to the king. The Quakers were pacifists and therefore opposed any fighting.  There were others who opposed the coming conflict, but the record indicates that the number of these dissenters was smaller.  The Colonial army was made up of local militias; and since the pastor was often the only professional in town, in many cases he led the men of his parish into battle. Like it or not, these are the general facts behind that great event known as the American Revolution.


I will let you do your own study on the above.  There are hundreds of books on the subject.  There are some who feel that their action had been wrong and that the patriots sinned in what they did.  Often these individuals fail to fully study the wrongful actions of the king which brought this separation.  There are others who have gone to the scriptures to demonstrate that the separatists were wrong.  What I have found, however, is that in almost every case these writers have limited their view to a few proof texts without reflecting on the whole of this teaching.

Any serious student of this issue will want to read Headley’s book.  It is now published as the Forgotten Heroes of Liberty by Solid Ground Christian Books of Birmingham, AL.

The current issue of the World Magazine, published in Ashville, North Carolina, has an article worth your reading.  Rod D. Martin writes “Was the American Revolution sinful”? Not only does he cite the Bible texts where the legitimate authority must be obeyed, but he is careful to look at the scriptures that deal with exceptions.  No thinking person could believe that all laws made by temporal authority are to be obeyed. For instance, you would not obey a law that said your wife must abort a baby if she already had two children.  Martin also deals with the issue of constituted authority and what happens when authority breaks its covenant with the people.

Finally, there is the continuing debate over the doctrine of the “right of revolution” when constituted authority is replaced by tyranny.  I leave you on your own with this one.


My own doctoral dissertation was abridged and printed some years ago.  It has recently been republished by Faithful Life Publishers of North Fort Myers, FL, under the title The Coming Conflict.  This is the heart of the issue.  What does the entire Bible teach about this subject?  While all the records of history may only provide some of the facts, the Bible is crystal clear on the relationship between the church and state.  This is not a political issue; it is a theological issue, so secular views have to take a back seat.

Now our nation stands on the verge of an internal conflict.  Tyranny rules the administration, the courts, and public opinion.  The unlearned on the right tend to be too quick to respond.  The academic community has rewritten the rules.  The left has given credence and support to those who want biblical Christianity removed from the fabric of our country.  Where does that leave you?  I suggest you read, study, pray, and get ready to obey God.

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,

August 4, 2014

A Mean Streak

Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” (Galatians 5:13-15

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But and if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, and devilish. For where envy and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” 
(James 3:13-16

The truth is that all of us have a mean streak. The “works of the flesh” (our flesh) include “hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife” (Galatians 5:19-20). We all have flesh, and our flesh is selfish, and the selfishness of our flesh often comes out in meanness. Unfortunately sometimes our carnal meanness comes out in the debates preachers have with one another on important issues. Even a legitimate debate over a serious issue of right-and-wrong can be muddied by the rancor and carnality of some who speak on the right side! May God preserve us from this tendency, which has done damage to legitimate causes. Really, being mean is not a necessary part of taking a stand!

A Christian can be spiritual and Christ-like when he must reprove a brother or oppose an error (look at Leviticus 19:17-18, Proverbs 25:12, Luke 17:3, Ephesians 5:8-11, First Timothy 5:17-20, Second Timothy 4:2, and Titus 1:10-13). But he can also be mean. We must heed the words of the apostle in Second Timothy 2:24-26 (read them again). When we must reprove the wrong actions of a Christian brother, we must remember to “count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (Second Thessalonians 3:15). Wisdom gives discernment, but it also gives “meekness” (James 3:13), if it is “the wisdom that is from above.” On the other hand, there is an “earthly” kind of “wisdom” that claims discernment but is characterized by “envying and strife” (James 3:14-16) and should be rejected by God’s servants. This un-Christian kind of argument is marred by certain all-too-common flaws:

When we must oppose something wrong, we are still obligated to keep “the royal law”, which is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (James 2:8). It is never right to treat another man in a way that we would not want to be treated. Yet when a serious issue arises that calls on the faithful servant of God to make statements against the error of another man, the rebuking brother can be tempted to find fault with far more of the erring brother’s words and actions than is necessary, reasonable, and loving. Nit-picking is all right when we are examining our own standards and teachings (see Matthew 5:17-20), but it is unfair when we evaluate the words and works of another. Giving people room is always a good idea. Being overly critical always has negative consequences, including undermining our own arguments. Years ago I heard Dr. Fred Schwartz, leader of the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, counsel us always to understate our case. He said that understating our charges and assertions will protect us from overstating them, and that overstating our case even once can ruin our attempts at getting our point across. His advice is good for preachers. When we must warn or rebuke, let us be conservative in our accusations, giving the brethren the benefit of the doubt. Christian love “is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (First Corinthians 13:4-6). Even in controversy, we still must love.

Sometimes we wrong our brother by seeming to accuse him of having opinions he does not have. This is often done by critics who associate their target unreasonably with the views of people that can be connected with him by some elongated chain of linked associations. Years ago, it was sadly not uncommon to hear or read the condemnation of a pastor because he had a speaker in his church who had worked with another man who had endorsed a man that advocated an unscriptural position. Normal, mature people could see that this complicated game of connect-the-dots did not prove that the one being criticized held to the unscriptural views of the one at the other end of the string of dots! We need to watch what we are reading to see if the impression we are getting by means of connecting dots is an accurate representation of somebody’s viewpoint. We also need to get a more scriptural understanding of the principle of “ecclesiastical separation.” The first and main application of this principle is that men who preach sound doctrine must not be yoked together with unbelievers, teachers who deny cardinal truths of the gospel. This kind of separation is taught in many scriptures, including Second Corinthians 6:11-18, Second Timothy 2:14-21, and Titus 3:9-11. We also are taught not to fellowship (partner or endorse) any sinful work, whether committed by believers or unbelievers (Ephesians 5:8-11). And we are also taught to use caution in our cooperation with orthodox people who err in some matter of doctrine or practice (see Romans 14 and again Second Thessalonians 3), not counting them as enemies, admonishing them as brothers, but not endorsing what is wrong about them. The practice of treating the erring brother as an apostate, and cutting off somebody who makes mistakes as if he were an unbeliever, although common among fundamentalists for decades, is not really scriptural. Neither is condemning a preacher by unreasonably connecting the dots.

Jesus said that “whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council” (Matthew 5:22). Sarcastic, demeaning references to people should never come out of the mouth of a Christian. Yet religious periodicals sometimes publish such unsavory, insulting words. There is no reason that religious debate cannot be carried on with dignity, respect, restraint, and intelligence. Sincere followers of the Lord should reject the influence of those who resort to snide remarks and mocking slams in their supposed defense of the truth. John R. Rice many years ago backed away from a leading fundamentalist with whom he had been affiliated because of the caustic, harmful, and untruthful things that were being published in his paper. He said that he didn’t want his daughters (then young and still at home) to be corrupted by this kind of reading material. Godly people should be offended by this kind of stuff, which does not come from spiritual men.

Of course, the Lord Jesus taught us not to judge people (Matthew 7:1-5). First Corinthians 2:15 says that spiritual people must judge things, but this is not the same as judging people. We judge things based on objective standards (in the Bible) of what is right and what is wrong. We can say, “That’s wrong!” because of what the Bible says. But we are not qualified and we are not allowed to judge another person’s heart by claiming to know their motives (see First Corinthians 4:3-5). “His real reason for saying this is…” is a sentiment we find in the writings of some who would influence the Christian world, but such writing undermines the spiritual lives of readers that afflict themselves with it. You don’t know another man’s heart. You have no right to state the motivation of a brother with whom you differ. Discussion can always be civil, taking the high road, and without resorting to the judging of motives.

The Lord Jesus would not go along with John’s suggestion that a certain man be rebuked for “casting out devils” in Jesus’ name because he “followeth not with us” (read Luke 9:49-50). John was not objecting to this man’s doctrine, or to his work, but only to his doing the Lord’s work while not associated with John’s group. In response to this objection the Lord said,
“Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”
We have a tendency to harbor prejudices against preachers and ministries that do not run in our circles. Sometimes the judgment of a writer about an issue is distorted by his prejudice against the advocates of a certain position. It would surprise us how often the harshness of somebody involved in a debate is really created by personal wrongs he thinks his opponent has inflicted on him. This is why when Jesus warned His followers about “offenses” (things that cause people to stumble spiritually) He said, “Take heed to yourselves” (Luke 17:1-4). The way Christians treat each other often has the effect of causing people to stumble. He then instructed them about going ahead and dealing directly with wrongs committed by one brother against another.
“If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” 
This instruction is not hard to understand or to follow: rebuke, repent, forgive. And yet it is because even good people fail to follow these words of Jesus that the Christian cause gets a bad name. Contending for the truth has been harmed and hindered because men with personal grudges or sectarian prejudices set themselves up to represent God’s side in an issue. We must take heed to ourselves before we open our mouths or publish our articles.

The days in which we live are confusing to sincere servants of the Lord Jesus, largely because “the serpent” (who is “subtil” according to Genesis 3:1 and Second Corinthians 11:3) works to remove from issues the black-and-white quality that makes decision-making easy. Good people with clear minds must examine many issues publicly so that we all can be helped. But when advocates of a viewpoint do so based on earthly wisdom that generates envy and strife, their contribution to the discussion fails to be helpful. It is actually harmful. Therefore sincere seekers of the truth must reject their influence, and pray for all of us to act and talk like Christians as we teach what is right.

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

July 29, 2014

Does Matt Olson Repudiate, The Bible as our Only, our Sole Authority for Faith and Practice?

Pastor Brian Ernsberger has just published a penetrating review of an article “Growing Systematically” written by Matt Olson. The pseudo-fundamentalist site Sharper Iron features Olson’s article. I encourage you to read, like a study, Pastor Ernsberger’s “Elvis has Left the Building” at his Parsings of a Preacher blog.

Wow! “There are many ways to grow in our Christian faith”?! The greatest harm here is that he intersperses some truth with this off the wall, unorthodox babble. Matt [Olson], where is the Scriptural support for such a statement, that we can grow our Christian faith with some other source other than the Word of God? Paul in Romans 10:17 is rather explicit, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our faith comes by the hearing of the Word of God, not man’s writing no matter how “Christian” his literature might be. Instead, we see the influence of these “two decades of ministry” in which he has been pouring over men’s writings to the point of leaving his Biblical mooring of the Bible being his only source for faith. He has imbibed and accepted the notion of the reformed thinkers that say we need a theologian to give us the understanding of the Scriptures.
During the years Matt Olson was dismantling the former Northland Baptist Bible College Sharper Iron (SI) posted main page articles and Filings by and/or on behalf Matt Olson, and the radical changes he was making at Northland.  With one exception between 10/2010 and mid-2013 SI’s leadership chose to largely ignore, censor by omission what was going on at Northland International University.  This week SI is promoting, exposing and giving their tacit support of a radical teaching Matt Olson has endorsed from his blog.

We hope and look for the day when Sharper Iron will cease to exist.  The New Testament church will be better served apart from SI’s long history of propping up and/or giving cover to compromising men, their ministries and betrayal of the Word of God.

July 21, 2014

Archival Series: Dr. Rolland McCune, “Militancy Has Always Characterized Fundamentalism

We have been considering the timely comments by Dr. Rolland McCune in an expanding series of articles.  Previously we presented and discussed Kevin Bauder’s “Kinder-Gentler Motif...Won’t Carry the Day” and A Kind and Gentle Yet Aggressively Militant Richard V. Clearwaters
My associations with R. V. Clearwaters, often identified with the ugly side of fundamentalism, would contradict what is too often thought to be the mean and unholy spirit that brought fundamentalism down as a “movement.” My 14 years with ‘Doc’ tell a different tale, which has caused me to respond and correct rumors, innuendos and other barnacle-like rubbish about the man and his ministry and leadership.”

Doc, as a good leader, prudently chose his hills to die on based on several non-negotiable biblical truths and convictions. But in a showdown when these were being challenged, trampled, disobeyed, avoided or neglected, he was militantly aggressive. This earned him a lot of unwanted and unearned opprobrium over the decades, actually to this very day.”
Here now is Dr. Rolland McCune in “A Review Article by Rolland D. McCune, Th.D. of RECLAIMING AUTHENTIC FUNDAMENTALISM” by Douglas R. McLachlan (American Association of Christian Schools, 1992). He wrote:

Militancy has always characterized Fundamentalism. It is not so much a matter of personality as adherence to principle. Militancy has been so fogged over by its detractors that it has become a wholly negative concept, even for many Fundamentalists. Dr. George Houghton, of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, gave an excellent definition of militancy.
What exactly is militancy, anyway? One dictionary says it is to be “engaged in warfare or combat . . . aggressively active (as in a cause).” It springs from one’s values, is expressed as an attitude, and results in certain behavior. One’s values are those things in which one strongly believes. They are what one believes to be fundamentally important and true. From this comes an attitude which is unwilling to tolerate any divergence from these fundamentally important truths and seeks to defend them. It results in behavior which speaks up when these truths are attacked or diluted and which refuses to cooperate with any activity which would minimize their importance. The term is a military one and carries the idea of defending what one believes to be true. [1]
I must confess that I do not hear a clear note of militancy in the book under discussion. Forcefulness in leadership and in defending the faith is simply not there. (The concept of “Militant Meekness” or “a militancy for the meekness of Christ” [p. 140] is a little confusing in terms of historic Fundamentalist militancy.) The idea of “servant leaders” (p.40ff.), while certainly a biblical thought, [2] seems expunged of all notions of aggressiveness. Some of this may be explained by the author’s non-confrontational type of personality. Many of us could identify with this. But again militancy is not a matter of personality. There are many Fundamentalists who are reticent and retiring but who are militant in the fight for truth.

[1] George Houghton. “The Matter of Militancy,” Faith Pulpit (May 1994)

[2] The idea of “servant leadership” as it is propagated in the New Evangelical community was severely criticized by by David F. Wells, a fellow New Evangelical. He says that the term “has the ring of piety about it. But it is false piety, or it plays on an understanding of servanthood that is antithetical to biblical understanding. Contemporary servant leaders are typically individuals without any ideas of their own, people whose convictions shift with the popular opinion to which they assiduously attune themselves, people who bow to the wishes of “the body” from which their direction and standing derive” (No Place For Truth [Eermans, 1993]’ pp. 214-15). His attack was directed at the lack of convictions and biblical/doctrinal truth that has overtaken the New Evangelical movement and that has displaced theology with psychology and the prescriptions of the modern self movement. This is not the case with the author of Reclaiming . . . Fundamentalism, but a word of caution is in order. Without forceful leadership and the aggressive prosecution of a biblical philosophy and agenda, the Fundamentalist will find his vision being challenged by another who is quite militant about his own proposal. Well’s point is well taken: Servant leadership does not necessitate a benign, non-aggressive stance.
Site Publisher Commentary:
I believe that it is fair to say that Kevin Bauder has very little militant principle in him. After all, he has yet to put it on the mat over people like and the doings of Al Mohler, John Piper, Ligon Duncan and Mark Dever. His pattern, that of Dave Doran, and men like them is to tolerate, allow for, excuse and/or ignore the doctrinal aberrations, ecumenical compromises and worldliness of their new friends in the so-called “conservative” evangelicalism. That is not militancy!

It’s also interesting that Kevin Bauder has besmirched and castigated men like John R. Rice and Bob Jones, Jr.1 (when he reacted to Danny Sweatt2), but now points out the virtues of his mentors. Sadly, he’s allowed the hype surrounding the leadership of those that he’s criticized to color his comments while allowing his personal relationships with others to hold them in esteem. When the history of fundamentalism is written, there will be those who will look at the acerbic, acrimonious tones3 of the writings of Kevin Bauder and Dave Doran in particular and decide that they simply would never want to associate with or emulate their brand of compromising Christianity.

(First appeared Nov. 7, 2011. With the on-going slide into New Evangelicalism by Dr. Al Mohler and Kevin Bauders ignoring and/or excusing it, this article is even more applicable today than it was at its first publication.)

1) Kevin Bauder: A Call for His Removal From the Platform of the 2009 FBFI Annual Fellowship
Dr. Bauder’s criticisms of Dr. Jones and Dr. Rice was not speech that edifies. It was not a display of Christ-like love. Bauder’s tone was not the sound of humble integrity. The caricatures of Jones and Rice, while barely skirting personal attacks, certainly did not honor the Lord or those men. It is irrefutable that the speech with which Dr. Bauder described Drs. Jones and Rice is antithetical to what the FBFI leadership called for.
2) The IFB & Calvinism: Flashpoint!

3) And the acerbic, acrimonious arrogant tone of the pseudo-fundamentalists SI administrator Jim Peet who seems incapable of being gracious when criticized even when by a kinder, gentler, well-meaning and esteemed man as Dr. Rolland McCune. See Jim Peet: In the Jaws of a Lion

July 14, 2014

Where Does Error Come From?

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  (II Timothy 4:3,4)

One does not have to struggle to discover that doctrinal error often rises from the unread and unlearned.  It always comes from the hearts of men and women who simply make up doctrine as they go.  The cults serve up an unhealthy diet consisting of the doctrine of devils, and they are persistent in their task of blinding the eyes of men.  It really doesn’t matter what this crowd of false teachers dreams up; it is all the same, and their evil teaching is condemned by God.

Thus, when moderate evangelicals give credence to these cults, making them acceptable evangelicals, we are left wondering why.  It is often the intellectual scholars who laud these strange pronouncements that turn a blind eye to doctrinal error.  This observation, then, leads us to a serious consideration: how is it that these scholars are comfortable with error that often damns men’s souls?


When error, however, is clearly assigned to the intellectual crowd, people who know better are often quick to call others “anti-intellectual.”  This is an old liberal trick, and it doesn’t work with thinking people.  Anyone who knows anything about my fifty-four years in ministry can tell you that for most of my life I’ve been involved in education. Learning is very important, and people who are able should go as far as they can on the education ladder.  We should never stop learning; study should be a way of life.

I am not against intellect or serious study.  It is also wise for a person to pursue a single discipline and to follow it as far as possible.  No one can be an expert in every discipline, but we need to be as broad in our understanding as is possible.  You will no doubt read materials that leave you with the impression that the writer has a full grasp of everything; that is a serious mistake.


Like it or not, much of the theological error being spread abroad does not come from the simple-minded, unread, and unlearned.  You would think that the more knowledge one has, the more likely that person would be to maintain a theology that is biblical.  That, however, is not the case.  It appears that the higher a student climbs on the academic ladder, the greater the danger.  Not all of this is deliberate, but intellectual pride can be a terrible thing.  It seems to provide a license for error on the part of the scholar.

Recently I jotted down a list of ten theological errors that are currently floating around, many of which are being disseminated by some popular theological gurus.  I honestly didn’t fix the list, but every one of them has been sourced or popularized by well-known men who we would recognize as being scholars.  It is clearly evident that scholars can be, and are, wrong occasionally - and sometimes frequently.  That is not to say that everything they teach is wrong, because “diamonds come from dirt.”


I travel a lot and read as much as I can, and my email box is full most mornings.  My soul is grieved at the creation and dissemination of theological error, but that is only the beginning; the real tragedy is in seeing how blind people so often have become.  You can almost tell who and what people read by the error they spout.

We all need to read broadly, and should even include authors who have proven they can popularize erroneous doctrine.  The question is, why are not the readers asking the right questions?  It is imperative that the reader be able tell when his theological leg is being pulled.  Young men are most often caught in the web of intellectualism simply because they think they know more than they actually do.  It is a heady thing to be able to discuss some of the technical positions being spread abroad.  It is a terrible thing not to be able to recognize when a teaching has departed from the authority of scripture.

I confess that, when I was a young student and preacher, pride took the lead in my following error.  At the same time, I will be forever grateful for godly men who sounded the warning that allowed me to focus on the Book of God rather than the books of men. Just because someone is well-known or has churned out many publications does not mean that what he says is correct.  We need to be like the Bereans of old who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  (Acts 17:11)

Read the writings of men.  They offer great questions, but not always the right answers. Read with one eye to the works of men and both eyes solidly on the Word of God.  The elite in theology are not necessarily the authority.  If they are offering you “false teaching,” they may well be false teachers - wolves in shepherds garb, as it were.  Error can come from any source, and scholars and intellectuals are no exception.  Don’t let people make this a personality issue; stay with ideas so you will not be hindered by the cloak of the elite.

Shepherd’s Staff – July, 2014

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, or

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

Site Publishers Commentary
Dr. Nuttall wrote, It is often intellectual scholars who laud these strange pronouncements that turn a blind eye to doctrinal error.” I would offer, as a related example, the recent activities of Dr. Al Mohler. In recent years Mohler has aligned himself with, and thereby given credibility to cult movements such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon Church and to this generations high priest of New Evangelicalism- Rick Warren. In spite of these associations Mohler has willfully forged his followers in an around Bible believing circles continue to heap lavish praise upon him promote his speaking tour, his books, and/or tolerate, allow for, ignore or excuse Mohlers compromises and betrayal of Gods Word. For further reading, see:

Al Mohler: So Much for Sola Scripture
Al Mohler has betrayed the very basic, the primary distinctive that Baptists have clung to for centuries, that the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice.
Kevin Bauder: When Facts Give Way for the Sake of Agenda
What of Kevin Bauders revisionist histories and omission of widely known facts in various articles he has posted? There appears to be an agenda that includes blurring the lines of distinction between fundamentalists and the so-called conservative evangelicals over what constitutes authentic biblical separation. Kevin Bauder has a long-standing, established record of omitting relevant facts about the star personalities and fellowships of “conservative” evangelicalism, and its star personalities.  He has consistently demonstrated a serious problem with acknowledging and addressing the truth about the evangelicals’ doctrinal aberrations, ecumenical compromises, worldliness and cultural relativism. He has avoided appealing to and applying any Scriptural principles to the doctrine and actions of his new friends in evangelicalism, particularly Al Mohler and Mark Dever.