January 16, 2012

Birds of a Feather

The future of every church, agency, and educational institution rests on its theological standard. It’s not about a historical statement of faith or whatever creed an organization claims to adhere to. As the years pass, those creeds become a fa├žade, little more than a piece of advertising, while an organization’s real standard is about what they practice, teach, and represent. Maintaining a historical standard can be very difficult, and sooner or later all human organizations tend to leave behind either a portion of or most of such standards. One would expect that at that at the point of departure there would be an open admission of that change, but that usually is not the practice.

When a move away from an original position, it can be identified by several things. The most obvious has to do with whom they “fly” with, because birds of a feather do stick together. I am not talking here about general associations or being in the same room, so to speak. This discussion is about giving a place of participation and respect to those who have moved further down the road toward error and, ultimately, liberalism.

Turning the platform, classroom, or leadership over to someone who holds error is the same as approving the error, because you cannot avoid the identification. All one has to do is to follow the practice of accommodation, and you will know where a group is going theologically and, in the end, morally.

LOWERING THE THEOLOGICAL AND MORAL BAR

The problem of serious association is coupled with a second indication of a move to the left. This problem is a failure to clearly identify doctrinal and moral issues, as well as a defense of theological accommodation. A few illustrations will suffice. The trend toward looking lightly on the cults has become popular. The idea that Mormonism or Seventh Day Adventism is not a cult is by no means new, but now there is a move afoot to view them as legitimate church groups. Where someone comes down on this gives us a clear identification of where they are headed theologically; after all, the scholars have made this decision for us.

Eschatology seems to be the slippery slope for many. It is a simple matter for the sleight-of-hand agent to gain respectability and move from one error to another. This misdirection moves slowly, hoping not to be noticed. Joining hands under the table like this is one way for a group to hide their move to the left.

In moral issues such as abortion, sodomy, and the use of alcohol, the race to accommodation varies. Biblicists are often castigated for referring to abortion as murder, even though God’s Word is very clear on the subject. This softening of language is very telling. Even the word “sodomy” is forbidden amongst those who want the identification of sin to be made respectable. Alcohol use is a perfect example of how hard people will work to ignore scripture in order to make sin acceptable.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING

There is no such thing as a single stand-alone error; one error simply leads to another. When one gives credence to one error, all you have to do is look for the others. In front of me is an advertisement containing several names. At least four of the persons listed here are known for at least one theological error, while others are known for their accommodation of those who hold error. How could this happen to a self-proclaimed fundamentalist group?

The answer is in the third thing that identifies theological drift. The people involved in the above simply say that the error is not an error, or that it is only a small error and not all that serious. Even small moral and theological errors, however, are very dangerous. Once the small error is accommodated, it is not long until another more serious one finds a comfortable home. James puts the progression this way:

…but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. - James 1:14, 15
DENYING AND DEFENDING ERROR

Why would a professing fundamentalist deny or defend error? The answer can be found in the common hermeneutic that they use. The Reformed hermeneutic is flexible; it allows the interpreter freedom to adjust theology as he travels the road that leads left. This is the illustration I have used here before. The hermeneutic that allows you to leave the any-moment catching away of the church, called the rapture, is the same hermeneutic that allows you to choose any eschatological error all the way to denying that there is such a thing as a Millennial Kingdom.

The three things that identify the accommodation of error are a warning to all of us. We would do well to use care in the depth of our relationships, small and great, with those who have chosen respectable error.* We would do well to clearly identify erroneous theological and moral issues that lead to a chain of compromise. We would be wise not to follow those who have today’s plethora of popular theological errors. Accommodating error is unwise, and denying it is serious; but defending it is sinful at best. Let the bad examples of others be a good lesson to those of us who are committed to the authority and sufficiency of scripture.


SHEPHERD’S STAFF
February, 2012

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

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*Related Reading:
Dr. Rolland McCune on, Kevin Bauder’s “Kinder-Gentler Motif...Will Not Carry the Day.”

Excusing the Brother For the Sake of His Sister: Is This the New “Fresh Application” of Biblical Separation Principles?

Kevin Bauder and Dave Doran to Join Mark Dever at Lansdale: Is This a Fundamentalism Worth Saving?

1994 & 1995 Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Resolutions: Southern Baptist Convention
He [Dr. Mark Dever] 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 detailing the current posture (as of time of writing Jan. 2011) of SBC pastor Mark Dever

1 comment:

  1. Lou,

    Thank you for another very good and timely article.
    A few years ago we had to separate from a "Bible Church" over just these issues of creeping error.
    LS teaching had become the norm, Covenant teachers became featured conference speakers (one of whom dis-believed the eternal Son-ship of Christ, holding that His Son-ship began at His Bethlehem birth and that spiritual birth/life preceded faith)and that christian/church achievement forms the only acceptable basis for assurance of heaven (human perseverance). Also, in the name of discipline,a very tight control was imposed on everyone carrying out any ministry within the church, and used to "weed out" those whose positions did not conform to, or who questioned the accepted
    line.
    All this went on as the church at the same time promotes itself as doctrinally fundamental, conservative and Bible teaching/believing fellowship. This description might fit a good number of the people within it, but they were (as we were) often left confused and demoralized as a result.
    I believe that the book of Jude applies to our time and situation, both as the command to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints", and as the mandate to know (and rest in by personal faith) exactly what "THE FAITH" once for all delivered actually is. It is also an indispensable Divine expose of those "certain men " who have, in such numbers, crept in gradually and secretly.
    I might humbly suggest to all that the distinction and relationship between personal faith and The Faith is a matter worthy of careful study and exposition as having a large bearing on this whole issue. Your thoughts?

    Thank you again, Bro.Lou.

    In The Faith, TimVP

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