WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE?
For the majority of my adult life, I have been involved in education. During those fifty years, there have been a lot of changes - some for the good, and some very hurtful to the whole of education. One of the questions most often asked of educational institutions is, “What does your school believe?”
In most cases, an institution will point to a statement of faith as evidence of their theological position. Normally - in conservative schools, anyway - the original statement of faith cannot be altered. Its purpose was to keep the school on track theologically; in the long run, however, it doesn’t work. Many institutions, despite having strong theological statements, have long ago fallen into theological error. Faith statements have value; but like any creed or humanly generated document, they are flawed. Man has never produced anything perfect, and he never will.
HOW DO WE DISCOVER THE TRUTH?
There are several ways to find the actual doctrinal position of a school. Its real theology is best understood by hearing what is being taught in the classroom. As years pass, it is easy to allow the theology that is taught to drift from the stated standard. Their real theology is what is taught or demonstrated, not what is stated in an old document that is ignored by board, administration, and faculty alike.
Another way to learn the real theology of an institution is to find out where faculty and students are allowed to attend church. Problems in this area usually surface before the teaching of error in the classroom. If staff and students attend churches that clearly declare on their web sites that they hold or tolerate error, you have discovered all you need to know.
We are what we teach. We are what we tolerate. We are what we practice, and we are what we embrace. It could be argued that to say one thing and practice another is dishonest. It certainly is disingenuous, and I personally could not trust an institution that practiced such deceit. Why not just say it, tell people what you are practicing even if it is contrary to the original accepted standard?
A precedent for this kind of practice has been demonstrated by the liberals’ way of operating. A clear example of this is our federal government. Our constitution, as stated by our founders, has been ignored and rewritten by practice even while leaving the original in place. The result is a lack of trust in those who practice “smoke and mirrors” tactics to change its original meaning and intent.
AN INTERESTING COROLLARY
An additional observation relating to this problem is that where there is a demonstrated shift in theology, there is always a shift in the moral standard. The shift always follows the move away from the original position by practice. On the other hand, a careful study of those who have made the move to the left shows that there were telltale changes in moral standards prior to the abandonment of foundational doctrinal positions.
This is much harder to deal with. If we try to warn people of a coming doctrinal turn by pointing out their moral shortcuts, they fall into philosophical fits. The level of their discomfort rising from moral challenge will likely cause them to turn to name-calling and personal attacks. Derogatory use of the word “legalism” is the magic wand of the soul caught in the act.
Some time ago, this journal asked a question: “How do you know when the emerging church is emerging in your church?” I am not the only one who has been castigated for pointing out the warts of fundamentalism; but, frankly, I don’t care. If we are not willing to admit our own shortfalls, we are in deep trouble. What is going on in our fundamental churches is, without a doubt, a precursor of today’s theological downgrade, which is moving ahead at full speed. There is something more sinister than we want to admit behind the “worship wars.”
A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING
Liberalism is a destructive wolf, and it is hiding in the midst of fundamentalism. Many of our friends practice a liberal hermeneutic, a liberal philosophy, and a liberal apologetic; and no one is supposed to say anything. Last month’s Shepherd’s Staff drew the strongest response we have ever had.* Thankfully, most of the comments were supportive; but I am thankful, also, for those who were willing to challenge my position. I grow through such discussions...as long as they are civil.
The discussion that resulted from the previous issue, however, confirmed my deepest concerns. Our crowd has too great a toleration for theological error, and those who are willing to point out this problem should expect ridicule. At the same time, I think that we need to be willing to explain our long-held views to those who want to broaden their level of fellowship and their ministry to include those who harm the standard of a theology that is biblical.
Some years ago, a leading evangelical who would claim to be a fundamentalist wrote, “I don’t think the timing of the rapture is something we should separate over.” That sentiment is now spreading, and one wonders what else in the Bible they want us to tear out and throw away. Even though they may have no such hope, I am still thankful every day for the any-moment “blessed hope” of the church!
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
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by
Clay Nuttall, D.Min
“This present discussion clearly demonstrates the false claim that sharing ministry platform does not identify us with the error that other people hold. It also shows how far afield the discussion of separation has gone.”A recent example was the Advancing the Church conference at Calvary Baptist Seminary, Lansdale, PA. Drs. Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Tim Jordan and Sam Harbin shared the platform with Amillennialist and SBC pastor Dr. Mark Dever. Dever also embraces the RAP/Hip Hop medium for personal listening and use in ministry. See, The RAP on Mark Dever: What is the “Militant” Separatist To Do?
Additional examples include Northland International University (NIU). At NIU non-separatist SBC theologians and/or evangelicals, many of whom are advocates of the works based gospel commonly known as Lordship Salvation, are endorsed by NIU’s administration and presented to the student body in chapel and the classrooms. See, Is NIU “UnChnaged?”
Dr. Ernest Pickering: “The Separatist Cause is Not Advanced by Featuring Non-Separatists”
“Some leaders operate on the principle that they will use speakers who are well-known even though they may be shaky in their convictions in some areas-because they have special abilities that are helpful and thus can be a blessing to their congregations. The wisdom, however, of following this course of action is very doubtful.”Dr. Rick Arrowood, Answering Questions About the Changes We are Seeing in Fundamentalism
“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.”Photo by Darrell Goemaat/Baptist Bulletin. Used by permission.