October 5, 2012

Blog Partners for the Gospel Speaking to the Issues

The last few months of activity from Northland International University (NIU) have produced a great deal of reaction, concern and controversy.  Later I am introducing two blog partners who speak to these issues.

Current NIU president Dr. Matt Olson has praised a church and its pastor, which is a Charismatic sign gifts ministry with ties to CJ Maheney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries.  More recently we viewed a video that showed NIU students, under faculty supervision, performing a blasphemous interpretation of Jesus Loves Me.  In the coming days we will discuss NIU excursions to conferences such as T4G and John Pipers Desiring God. These are tragic days, and quite possibly the beginning of the end, for a once fine institution. You can review several examples of the changes at NIU by reading these articles:

Is NIU Unchanged?

Is NIU Opposed to the Modern Charismatic Movement?

Dr. Olson dismisses legitimate concerns with these and additional issues under the umbrella mantra, “It’s all about the Gospel.”  He, furthermore, has not and will not answer any of the legitimate questions in regard to what he has done to change NIU and why he is acting in ways that contravene current NIU Articles of Faith and its student/faculty Handbooks.  He will not answer questions about the theological and practical changes he has initiated at NIU. See, Dr. Olson, Would You Kindly Tell Us...?

While we have dedicated a great deal of attention to what is becoming of NIU we must not forget that there are others like Matt Olson and NIU who have a history trying to influence the current and next generation toward compromise of Scripture for the sake of fellowship.  Some of these men and schools claim to be faithful to biblical separation, but have said and done things that are clearly antithetical to authentic “militant” biblical separatism. These men include, but are not limited to Drs. Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran and Tim Jordan. Their primary Internet conduit and willing partner for reaching the next generation with the message of compromise has been Sharper Ironpseudo-fundamentalist site. 

The mantra of new wave New Evangelicals in Baptist circles is “It’s all about the Gospel.”  It is the theme that connects the mindset and shift toward non-separatist evangelicalism of Bauder, Doran, Olson and Jordan.  From there they have yet to find a doctrinal aberration, ecumenical compromise or worldliness in ministry of so-called “conservative” evangelicals that would hinder fellowship with them.  And make no mistake about it, the magnetic attraction, the interpretation of the gospel that its all about, the gospel-glue that binds these divergent groups is Calvinistic soteriology in the form of Lordship Salvation.1

Dr. Bob Jones, III defined the new wave of compromise exactly right when he said,
There is the saving gospel, which introduces us to the faith of the gospel. And if we embrace the philosophy that it’s just about the gospel we can put our arms around about every wrong, unbecoming Christian behavior in all the world. We can put our stamp of approval on counterfeit Christianity. If they’re preaching the gospel… no matter what else is going on in those ministries, no matter what endorsements and involvements they have with liberal unbelieving religion, no matter what ecumenical reach they may have, no matter what distortions they may have, no matter what tolerance for the intolerable…we can embrace all of that and say that’s fine, that’s good they’re preaching the gospel. This verse [Phil. 1:27] makes it very clear that there is a lot more than that….
One of the starkest examples of the new tolerance was in regard to Dr. Al Mohler signing the Manhattan Declaration (MD).2  Mohler’s signing the MD (Nov. 2009) gave Christian recognition to the deadly enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Phil. 3:18)  Al Mohler has never apologized for or repented of having signed the MD along with Roman Catholic priests and apostates. Dave Doran dismissed the incident as merely, a wrong decision based on bad judgment.  Kevin Bauder suggested it was nothing more than a, single episode...an occasional inconsistency.3  

Objective observation reveals an agenda exists to tolerate, allow for, excuse or ignore theological error and ecumenical compromise for the sake of fellowship and cooperative ministry with non-separatist, compromised men in evangelical circles. 

Today, I want to recommend two blogs for your consideration.  They are: Parsings of a Preacher, Pastor Brian Ernsberger and Faith, Theology & Ministry, Evangelist Gordon Phillips. Both of these have been part of my Recommended Sites feature and very helpful addressing both from their own blogs and at IDOTG the concerns many of you share with the spread of the new wave New Evangelicalism making inroads into and around fundamental Baptist circles. Brothers Phillips and Ernsberger have addressed and even interacted with certain men and institutions that once were considered and unashamedly identified themselves as part of the separatist fundamentalist movement. 

Both of the blogs I refer to have published articles that speak to the issues. I want to draw your attention to them for a thoughtful read.  Please refer to Gordon Phillip’s Incompatible Gospels: The Misfit of Lordship Salvation and Gospel-Centric Fellowship
If it were all about the importance of the Gospel then variations of the Biblical Gospel would matter.  No man could truly believe in the utmost importance of the Gospel but then walk in the shadows when it comes to matters of a Crossless or Lordship Gospel.  His voice would be clear and distinct defining with great clarity where he stood.  The truth is that the Gospel does matter, and it matters much.  But its place of importance rather than diminishing other Scriptural teachings elevates them all in importance.  Because the Gospel matters, everything else matters.  Because Christ is my Savior, everything He taught should be important to me.
Brian Ernsberger published, Does Dr. Matt Olson Really Get “What Matters Most?”
This idea of the primacy of the Gospel over the other major tenets of the faith has opened up the flood gate of ecumenical evangelism, particularly since the days of Billy Graham’s compromise in the 50’s. One wonders if this push of primacy is not tied to Covenant Theology’s faulty understanding of God’s primary purpose on earth being redemptive rather than doxological. But then, Matt Olson has relegated Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism to the second tier of importance.
Yours faithfully,

Lou Martuneac

*Gordon Phillips After being an evangelist since 1991, Brother Phillips began and is the pastor of Golden Hills Baptist Church of Lead, South Dakota.  Gordon also helped see churches started in North Dakota and British Columbia.  He is also the founder and executive director of Berachah Baptist Camp & Conference Ministries. Happily  married with 5 children.
*Brian Ernsberger is pastor of the Lincoln Park Baptist Church, Wenatchee, WA.


  1. Lou,

    Thanks for your continued documentation and Biblical warnings on this blog. I know it is an investment of time to your busy schedule. I will look forward to adding these blogs to my reading. I've especially appreciated Pastor Ernsbereger's input here.

    1. Pastor Rogers:

      I appreciate the kind words and encouragement it brings me. I trust you will be edified and encouraged reading Brian's and Gordon's blogs.


  2. Lou, I'm not a reader of your blog, but stumbled across this recent post moments ago. While I, frankly, lack the time and energy to address the many faulty points I (a committed biblical separatist) find with your post, I nevertheless was compelled to point out one factual error you might correct as you find the time.

    You stated that Al Mohler has never acknowledged his indiscretion in signing the Manhattan Declaration. Please take the time to read Al Mohler's chapters in Counterpoint Series' "Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism." See Mohler’s quotation below:

    “I did sign the Manhattan Declaration, a statement of common concern on the issues of the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the defense of religious liberty. I had been present in meetings leading up to the document’s release, and I was thrilled with its masterful defense of those three endangered affirmations. I was moved by its affirmation that we will not bend the knee to any earthly power that calls us to deny the faith...Nevertheless, in light of subsequent statements, I came to believe that the Manhattan Declaration had also crossed the line into an unwarranted and unbiblical recognition of the Roman Catholic Church. We should not be embarrassed to state that we stand together when indeed we do—and on these crucial issues of concern it is especially important that we stand together with courage. But no sense of cultural crisis should blind us to the priority of the gospel” (R. Albert Jr. Mohler, "Chapter Two: Confessional Evangelicalism" In , in Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, Zondervan Counterpoints Collection [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011], 85).

    1. Chad:

      While I appreciate that you shared your concern about Al Mohler and the Manhattan Declaration (MD) there will be NO correction or revision made to this article for none is necessary. Allow me to explain in brief.

      Long ago I read the excerpt you cited here from Four Views…. In the section Mohler wrote he does NOT apologize for or repent of having signed the MD. He does not seek or ask forgiveness for having done this. He does not call on the many younger men who look to him for guidance and followed his lead by adding their signatures to the MD to repent for having signed the MD. And finally, the last time I checked the MD Mohler’s name is still noted as among the original signatories. If Al Mohler was serious about apologizing and repenting he would have asked and insisted that his name be removed from the MD. If he had and they declined to remove his name then he should say so.

      At best, Mohler acknowledged making a mistake and that is all. No different than Dave Doran and Kevin Bauder dismissing the incident as a mere mistake. What he did was a grievous sin! He knowingly disobeyed God’s Word that mandates separation from unbelievers and apostates. Mohler knows the Scriptures and like many of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals would have Mohler disregarded and ran rough shod over biblical separation to sign the MD.

      Maybe I will have more on this later, but I direct everyone’s attention to,

      Al Mohler Signs the Manhattan Declaration: Was This a Fist Time Foray Toward Ecumenism?

      Thanks again for sharing your concern,


    2. Lou, thanks for addressing my comments. I know it is peripheral to your overall point, with which I largely disagree. But we do find common ground around Mohler's indiscretion over signing the document. I don't think I would as sternly rebuke Mohler's actions as you, since (according to him) he originally did not see the "we Christians" statements to be clearly making as much a theological statement as a political one. It seems some of his peers helped him to recognize the potential harm in an association like this. I would say that humbling pointing out this error in a major scholarly publication (as he clearly did) communicates the error of his ways. I'm thankful for the statement and content with his select wording. It may not have been the precise words you would have chosen, but he still clearly owned up to the misdirection and accepted fault.

      All things considered, thanks again for addressing my comments. I don't think I could disagree with you more about NIU's current gospel-focussed direction; however, I'm thankful that through Christian love we can respectfully exchange dialogue. I'm excited about what's taking place at Northland. You're not. But praise God we have much more to focus our thoughts and minds on (Colossians 3:1-4) as we seek to live out our days for His glory alone! God bless.

    3. Chad:

      Thanks for your response. Just one closing points drawn from what you just noted on Mohler

      he originally did not see the ‘we Christians’ statements…

      But, as an original signatory he knew he was signing alongside Roman Catholic priests and apostates. He said, “I had been present in meetings leading up to the document’s release…” Mohler should never have gotten involved with the MD no more than when he took the chairmanship of the Louisville Billy Graham Crusade. Both decisions and his participation were wrong on their face. If he had been a novice in ministry one might excuse this, but not one of his maturity, academic and theological pedigree.

      If you follow the link I added to my initial reply you would find the full report on Al Mohler working in cooperation with Billy Graham.

      Incidentally, with Chuck Colson involved in the MD Mohler had to know that the MD would have been the first cousin of Evangelicals & Catholics Together.

      Fwiw, I contacted Dr. Mohler just days after the MD was released to express my concerns. He did reply.

      Finally, I stand by my view that Al Mohler has not apologized or repented. He would do well to advise the many young evangelicals that look to him for leadership and like him signed the MD, to disavow the MD and request their names be removed from it.

      Thanks again,


  3. Lou,

    A series of questions for you:
    What is your definition of repentance?
    What would scriptural definition of "apology" be?

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle
    Proverbs 10:19

    1. Christian:

      Thanks for asking. Let me begin with “apologize.” I want to limit this to the meaning I had in mind in my comment to Chad above. All I would have ben looking for from Al Mohler is a statement like, “It was wrong to and I should not have signed the Manhattan Declaration. I [Al Mohler] apologize for having done so.”

      I don’t think I can improve on how I define repentance than I have in my book, In Defense of thee Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.

      So, please allow for a few brief excerpts from a chapter of 20+ pages.

      The Hebrew word translated “repent” in the Old Testament is nacham, which means “to draw a deep breath,” an expression of deep feeling of either relief or sorrow (Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 87). The meaning “to repent” or “to regret” in the Old Testament is nearly always used of God rather than man, but not exclusively (Job 42:6; Jeremiah 8:6; 31:19). (IDOTG, p. 130)

      In the New Testament (metanoia, repentance) expresses the root meaning of the word “repentance,” which is a change of mind. The etymology of the word also brings out this idea. Regarding the prefix (meta), which is generally translated “after.” (IDOTG, p. 131.)

      Repentance is a change of mind where one recognizes he is a hopeless, Hell-bound sinner before a just and holy God. When he agrees with the convincing and convicting work of the Holy Spirit that he is a sinner (John 16:7-9) and transfers his dependence to the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation—he has biblically repented. Biblical repentance is a change of mind that should produce the fruit of a change in direction from self and sin toward God. The fruit that should follow is distinct from repentance itself. In Acts 26:20, Paul summarizes his ministry to King Agrippa by indicating he calls people to a change of mind where they turn to God, and once they’ve turned to God, been saved, they should do the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) that are fitting of that change of mind and dependence on the Lord. This is distinct from Judaism which was teaching people should do works to get saved, but Paul also emphasized people should “have…fruit unto holiness” (Rom. 6:22) once they have been saved. (IDOTG, pp. 145-146.)

      Fwiw, at first I was not going to post Chad’s comment because the Al Mohler issue is a minor side bar. I did, however, decide it was a question that needed the answer I gave it. I am going to close it off with this.


  4. You may choose to post or not to post this due to your last sentence above.

    FWIW: there are a bunch of things that are legitimate criticisms of N-land, and Mohler. Mohler's statement quoted above says, "I came to believe that the Manhattan Declaration had also crossed the line into an unwarranted and unbiblical recognition of the Roman Catholic Church." This sounds like he changed his mind about this signing it and not due to being unwise, but it was an unbiblical statement. You may say it was not enough for you, but it is indication of repentance.

    Now for an apology: I think we are hard pressed to find our idea of an apology regularly practiced in Biblical characters or required by Biblical command. Although I believe it is wise and prudent for reconciliation, we must be careful in our demands.

    In summary, I see many problems with the above mentioned ministries and men (I also see some good as well.) But I believe you are missing the obedience of repentance in Mohler's statement and requiring something which you have not demonstrated that God requires in your expectation of an apology.

    What you do not see is a clear confession--"I was wrong to sign it." He changed his mind about the document, but he did not clearly communicate that his action in signing was sin or wrong. This is a legitimate (IMO) accusation. (BTW an apology and a confession are not the same biblical animals.)

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

    1. Christian:

      I’m happy to include and I appreciate your perspective. Overnight I did have one other thought.

      At the time Al Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration (MD) he published a lengthy article at his blog under the title, Why I Signed the MD (11/23/09). The article, in which he goes to great lengths to justify signing the MD, is over 2,100 words and was made highly visible to reach a very wide audience.

      Now, we are considering what some allege to be Mohler’s apology and repenting of signing the MD. We read a short paragraph of only 155 words, and is essentially buried deep inside in a somewhat obscure book. Furthermore, the first half of that paragraph he described how much he appreciated the MD itself. Does anyone see an imbalance here?

      I am reminded of literally how liberal papers like the New York Times or Washington Post bury corrections of page one stories when and if the editor does issue a correction.


      PS: Does anyone remember the title of the book Jim Bakker wrote once he was released from prison? The title is “I Was Wrong” (1997). Mohler comes nowhere close to that kind of frank admission. Why not?

  5. Christian, I appreciate what you have written in concern for others to keep a balanced, Christlike approach to all things. I would add that in the case of Al Mohler and the MD, if he clearly did come to the conclusion that he was wrong in being involved in its initial meetings and in signing it, why has he not, as Lou has pointed to, sought to have his name removed? Making a really rather vague conciliatory statement in a book which had nothing to do with the MD, is a very poor attempt at making amends. It's not like the MD is some obscure paper out there that no one has read or is concerned about. It has it's own website with continuing efforts at getting it's message out. To date there have been 532,870 signers. Mohler's name is still there in the list for all to see. How many of those signers have read or even know about Mohler's part in the book in which he seeks clarification?
    I would think that we all agree that a statement made in public (like being a part of and signing the MD) would require a similarly made public correction/retraction if the speaker concluded he was wrong in this initial statement. Al Mohler has not done that. I don't believe it wrong to expect such actions from people.