April 7, 2011

Dr. Clay Nuttall: Shepherd’s Staff


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.


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 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.”


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

*See, Platform Sharing & Identification,
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?”

Related Reading:
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.


  1. Hi Lou,

    This statement really speaks to me:

    "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."

    I learned first hand that having a "Statement of Faith" does not protect an organization from doctrinal drift.

    Of course previous to last year's experience with my own ministry I had come to realize that "statements" are a poor indication of what is practiced in an organization. I just never thought it would happen in MY organization....

    We must preserve good doctrine and do so vigorously!


  2. Appreciate the comments Kevl. Doctrine and Practice are siamese twins, inseparably linked together. If one errs in doctrine their practice will err as well. If one errs in practice then doctrine will err as well, no exceptions. We must maintain fidelity to the Word of God and yes do so vigorously.

  3. Brian,

    Doctrine, and keeping it pure, seemed so much simpler before I started to learn. I wonder at Pastors who are truly workmen, and who truly shepherd their flock. How much work must that be?


  4. I know this is old, but I just came across it.

    I won't talk about the logical fallacy of the "slippery slope" mentality, as I don't want that to be my main point. Instead, let me state an observation about Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalists have the tendency to nit-pick others without looking at the sin in their own lives. That is certainly true of many, but especially fundamentalists. This article is an excellent example of this. An institution "drifts" away from your preferences in the area of music or dress and it becomes time to publicly call them out. Meanwhile, the world is literally going to Hell. May I suggest we take a lesson from Paul and thank God that they're preaching Christ even though we disagree on certain issues.

    1. Marc:

      Thanks for your input. While there is and imo should be some flexibility and latitude on dress and music issues, lines of what would clearly keep us giving God benefit of the doubt are being crossed by leaps and bounds.

      The real and significant area of drifting is doctrinal and that of biblical separation principles in particular. It is clear and irrefutable that men like Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Matt Olson, Tim Jordan, et. al., have been increasingly willing to tolerate, allow for, ignore and excuse egregious doctrinal aberrations, ecumenical compromises and worldliness that permeates the men in and fellowships of the so-called " conservative " evangelicalism.

      They are being called for they are in error, they have changed and they are trying to influence an entire generation to adopt their new principles and practices.

      Kind regards,


  5. I don't understand Marc' comment. What has this discussion has to do with nit-picking others and criticizing fundamentialist? It seems anytime someone takes a stand for truth there is someone who will attack the character of that person and divert the attention from the real issue. Doctrine and separation from sin and worldliness are not "preferences." The article is addressing...."doctrinal drift." Yes, folks are going to hell and what fundamentalist are doing is preaching the Gospel and seeking to win the lost to Christ.

    1. Brother Cooper: I appreciate that you've shared your opinion. Separation is a Bible doctrine, and there is drfit away from those God-given mandates. That is serious. Thank God the gospel is being proclaimed (here and abroad) as we are mandated and have the privilege to do.