November 19, 2012

Pastor Tod Brainard’s Forward with Change!

New associations and alignments are happening almost on a weekly basis among those who used to be in the camp of Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is now fragmented and basically dead.  Those who were once identified with the movement have chosen to align themselves with those they “feel at home with” irregardless of what the Scriptures teach about fellowship with those who are disobedient.

The Trimmers of “Modern Christianity”

“Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? Therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways” (Jeremiah 2:33).  A trimmer is one who will give up precious things in order to have favor with those they want to be with. Compromise is usually a one way street.  A compromiser doesn't mind parting with certain things because he believes the favor he gains from those with whom he is compromising are of greater value.  The Bible says that a “trimmer” through his trimming teaches the wicked ones how to trim.   Imagine, believers teaching unbelievers how to give up what is precious for that which is not. Here is an example from the Old Testament.

King Jehoshaphat was a trimmer. He was one of the good kings of Judah.  There was a temporary awakening under his reign and great victories were won over Judah's enemies. Except for his one striking area of sin, he would be hailed as a leading believer of his day. But God had a real problem with Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat refused to recognize the wickedness of Ahab and withdraw fellowship from him. Instead, King Jehoshaphat “trimmed his way to seek love (favor).”  The Prophet Jehu paid King Jehoshaphat a visit according to II Chronicles 19:2, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD?”  A short time later Jehoshaphat trimmed some more by joining himself “with Ahaziah, king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish” (II Chronicles 20:35-36).  Making ships is not a doctrinal issue. But it is sin when it involves disobedience. This effort at compromise did not succeed, as the ships were broken and unable to go to Tarshish. King Jehoshaphat's amiable compromise (trimming) failed to produce the hoped for unity and benefits that were sought after.

Dr. Matthew Olson and Trimming!

There is a great lesson from history here in II Chronicles 20 but there are few today who will heed its warnings. I am watching with great sorrow of heart the decline of the once Fundamentalist Bible college now known as Northland International University. Its current president, Matthew R. Olson, has been trimming his way to seek favor with groups outside the Fundamentalist remnant for some time now.  He has trimmed his connections to what was known as Fundamentalism and now is seeking alliances with those outside the separatist mindset (Sovereign Grace Movement; [T4G] Rick Holland, etc.). 

Recently, he blogged of his positive visit to Grace Bible Church of Philadelphia, PA. Grace Bible is a Charismatic church affiliated with the S. G. M. which aligns itself with New Evangelical associations and is non-cessationalist (sic) in its view of sign gifts.1   Olson has to-date made no mention in his blog of the conflict between the doctrinal statement of Northland International University of which he is president (which states that it stands against the Charismatic movement) and his statements regarding his fellowship with the Charismatic Grace Bible Church of Philadelphia.  Most honorable men would confess their new found beliefs and their rejection of the old ones. Yet, Olson is somehow seeking to publicly marry the two belief systems in his own mind in order to keep both and justify his new position.

When Christians rationalize change, it always seems to be toward a spiritually-diminished position. Our founding editor, Dr. Dayton Hobbs, always said that, and I have found it to be true.  The trend seems to be always downward, never up.   This is so because the compromiser is the one who is giving up the most. He cannot help himself. The compromiser stumbles over himself to trim his way to seek favor. In addition, the compromiser develops a pattern of living that constantly puts him in a spiral of spiritual decline and eventual ruin. His entire journey downward, however, is declared to be “new-found freedom” in Christ. How incredible!

I want to give you some observations about what leads men to compromise as King Jehoshaphat did.

There is a nagging, persistent desire on the part of the compromiser to have a wider acceptance among peer-groups. Separatist practices stand in the way of that happening. The compromiser believes that his circle of influence and friends is too narrow if Biblical separation is practiced. As did King Jehoshaphat, he moves to be more open and accepting of men of differing viewpoints and labels those viewpoints as non-essentials. Jehoshaphat saw himself as a positive influence in the life of Ahab. His first move was to “join affinity” (II Chronicles 18:1) with Ahab. He liked Ahab on a personal level and was willing to cooperate with him in spite of his wicked and corrupt ways. He later allied himself with Ahaziah perhaps with the same mentality. Yet God sent His prophet Jehu to expose and rebuke that corrupt thinking.


There is a tendency to make the Gospel alone the central rallying point for fellowship these days among peers, rather than the Gospel and Holiness unto God together.  “Be ye holy, for I am holy” seems to be more of a “non-essential” rather than a command of Scripture for the compromiser.  The “Gospel” on the other hand and “reaching the lost” has a  “community-oriented feel” in the mind of the compromiser and, therefore, becomes the rallying point for fellowship apart from the practice of Biblical Separation. Here is the problem, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no-where presented in the New Testament as being in tension with the doctrine of Biblical Separation. Bible Doctrines do not conflict, they mesh. Yet, the compromiser creates a false tension and sides with the Gospel against Biblical Separation.

Notice the meshing of the two doctrines in Titus 2:11-15, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”  There is no question here that the Gospel and Biblical Separation (Purity) go together. 

Again the two doctrines are meshed beautifully in II Thessalonians 3:1-7, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord teaching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.”  Now notice what Paul says as his first command to the Thessalonians after he says that he has confidence that they will do the things which he commands, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you....” 

You cannot dismiss the Word of God on this issue. The Gospel and the Biblical Doctrine of Separation are not in conflict, they mesh and blend harmoniously together.
Only compromisers find tension and reject Biblical separation because it goes against their nature and their agenda.
 Another observation, the compromiser has a hard time admitting his compromise. The compromiser seeks to justify his trimming to seek favor of those from whom he should be withdrawing. To date, Dr. Olson has not admitted publicly that he has changed his mind about his view of Charismatics. As a matter of fact, he wrote recently, the following on his blog: “I can visit a church on Sunday morning, fellowship with believers, love what I am seeing, encourage fellow believers in what they are doing – and still choose not to join that particular local assembly.”2 By this he suggests that the theology and practice of a local Charismatic church is no longer a point of debate or departure from the faith. The Northland International University handbook states that they do not cooperate with Charismatics (2011-2013 Handbook available online). Yet clearly there is a conflict. How is this possible? Again, Jehoshaphat comes to mind. When the Prophet Jehu came to see him, he said, according to II Chronicles 19:2, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD?”  Jehoshaphat, according to God, (this was not just Jehu's opinion about the situation) was helping the ungodly and loving them that hated God. Yet Jehoshaphat thought in his own mind that he was doing a good thing. There was a conflict!  Who was right and who was wrong?  The compromiser always justifies his position as being good and helpful and tries to back it up with “biblical language” (“unconditional love”, “its all about the Gospel”, “we’re reaching out in love”, “unity and cooperation for the cause of Christ”, among many other catch words and phrases).

World Magazine (August 25, 2012 edition) recently published an article by Marvin Olasky entitled, Soaping the Slippery Slope, in which he culls from two recently released books on the topic of the decline of once-Christian colleges (Beloit College, Dartmouth, Syracuse University, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, etc.) into bastions of unbelief. The two books, The Soul of the American University, by George Marsden and The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from their Christian Churches, by James Burtchaell, chronicle the demise of once Christian colleges when they moved from theologically conservative stances to liberal stances.  Olasky distills the two books into three central messages: (1) Follow the money, (2) Watch the college president, (3) See what the college does with Darwin.  Olasky does an admirable job illustrating from the knowledge he gleaned from the two books how once Christian colleges took deliberate, though seemingly small steps of change because of financial pressures, cultural pressures, compromising college presidents and the acceptance of evolutionary thought. Marvin Olasky’s article is a wake-up call for our Christian college and university presidents who are pushing change. 

I pray that Dr. Olson will step back from his compromise and get back to what Northland used to stand for and train students to live godly, separated lives standing firmly on the foundation of the Holy Bible. He is not alone in his compromise though.  We are witnessing several “Fundamental” colleges trimming their way to seek favor with the Federal government, favor with compromising pastors and churches, and favor with the culture. It has been my experience that admissions of change and wrong-headed thinking are hard to come by once the moves and changes are made, and we will probably witness the demise of several more “Fundamental” colleges and universities into the mire of compromise.  God save us!     Ω

1) Grace Bible Church, Our Teaching for an overview of their teachings including the sign gifts.

2) What Matters Most Series and Lou Martuneac’s In Defense of the Gospel for links to Dr. Olson’s comments on Grace Bible Church of Philadelphia. [See below]

Related Reading:
Don Johnson’s Getting What Matters Most at his an oxgoad, eh blog

Reprinted by permission of the author


  1. This is an excellent addition to the continued coverage on separation. At SI I recently commented on a regional Baptist Association meeting which was proudly boasting of having deliberate non-Baptist and deliberate non-denominationalist Phil Johnson as their featured speaker. Mind you this was not a Bible Conference at a Baptist church where baptistic speakers might understandably deliver a message or two as a minority but it is a specifically " Baptist Association" meeting.

    It was not surprising the inability of those responding to distinguish contexts that warranted degrees of separation. I pointed to the LCMS as a model for those more serious about understanding separation than the Baptist Association referred to and the foolish commenters. Forgive any typos *MD (mobile device)

  2. Alex:

    Thanks for the input. I will be republishing a lengthy article here that was written by Dr. Lance Ketchum on the MN BA having in non-Baptist, non-separatist and hostile toward Fundamentalism Phil Johnson, John MacArthur’s right hand man for years. Here is a sample from Dr. Ketchum’s article,

    When professed fundamentalists such as Dr. Kevin Bauder, Dr. Douglas McLachlan, Dr. Timothy Jordan, and Dr. Dave Doran begin to defend men like Al Mohler, John Piper, Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, and Rick Holland (to name a few), it becomes very apparent that there has been a considerable change in direction regarding the practice of militant separation. This goes one step further when they invite these men to preach for them.

    Btw, Greg Linscott, one of SI’s largest contributors in various ways over the years, is one of the main coordinators of the Phil Johnson appearance. In any event, the pseudo-fundamentalist SI membership has been desensitized to authentic biblical separation to the point of disdain for it and have little discernment left for these things. Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Matt Olson and Tim Jordan can be thanked for their influencing the falling away from the mandates for militancy in biblical separation. These men have become the progenitors of new wave New Evangelicalism plaguing the NT church. Thanks again,