May 23, 2012

They’re Holding A Conservative Evangelical Barbeque and You’re Invited!

Never let it be said that CE’s weren’t gracious hosts, when they set their superior minds to sacrificing the very best. The menu, for a few years now, has been their own recipe for Sacred Cow; and they have become experts at gnawing/stripping the meat off the bones, leaving the bare skeletons of doctrines and practices that were once precious to Fundamentalists. Certainly not Sacred Cows in the historic sense, from the Far East, but doctrines and practices that embarrassed them in front of their Evangelical and New Evangelical friends, and whose demise they would gladly celebrate with those friends by writing them off as mere “non-essentials.” Therefore, they gladly invite anyone across the theological spectrum, from Fundamentalists to Evangelicals, to dine with them and share in the sport of destroying the distinctions and landmarks that once clearly staked out the different positions across that portion of the spectrum of theology. Since CE’s see no useful purpose in such distinctions, they want all of us to be content with piles of anonymous bones of bygone distinctives, now being carelessly discarded across the theological landscape to the accompaniment of their whine of contempt and loathing.

The expression, Sacred Cows, has come a long way from the creatures respected as gods in the Far East. In broader theological usage, it has been used to describe the principles, positions, values and practices that over time have come to have a life of their own, now somewhat remote from their origins and authors with the passage of time. They were often thought to be both the cause, as well as the effect, of their own existence but only among those who are ignorant of their history—a point to be noted, since CE’s seem to have little use for modern church history, particularly if it hasn’t yet been revised.

Sacred Cow would have been a welcome pejorative back in the days of the Modernism/Liberalism vs Fundamentalism controversy. If doctrines like the Virgin Birth or the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ were being upheld, they were but a few of the many Sacred Cows of Fundamentalism, according to the Modernists, considered no longer necessary and relegated to the scrap heap of non-essentials by those who introduced the Social Gospel in the 1920's. In fact, the doctrinal struggle of that time could be summarized as the differences between what was defined as either essential or non-essential. The nothing-essential Modernist-Liberals fought for greater latitude with fewer absolutes in doctrine and practice and more subjective and relativist applications of Scripture.

Perhaps some of the most significant events where that could be seen, were in the early controversies within the Northern Baptist Convention. When our Fundamentalist Baptist forefathers of the early 20th century were doing battle inside the Northern Baptist Convention, they fought for clear cut, unequivocal statements of belief that upheld such biblical principles as Jesus’ Virgin Birth, Substitutionary Atonement, Bodily Resurrection, Ascension, etcetera. One of those statements they recommended to the Convention was the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which was read aloud at a Convention business meeting. Its adoption, however, was defeated in favor of a cleverly worded substitute motion:

The Northern Baptist Convention affirms that the New Testament is the all-sufficient ground of our faith and practice, and we need no other statement. (A History of the Bible Baptist Union, Robert Delnay, 1974, p34, emphasis added)
Where we customarily read “the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice...,” the substitute word “ground” conveniently made the Scriptures little more than a beginning point from which they felt free to digress and redefine essential truths as they pleased. The latitude of this statement, quickly approved by the Convention, wittingly undermined any retention of the fundamental doctrines of the “faith which was once delivered to the saints.” Those who perpetrated the substitute motion would later gloat over their success in putting one over on the Fundamentalists in the Northern Baptist Convention.

While many consider all that long ago and far away, there are other Sacred Cows of doctrine and practice that are at risk of becoming an endangered species in schools, churches and agencies now, in the 21st century. Some are doctrines, others applications of biblical principles, such as: secondary separation, platform-sharing ethics, inter-church ethics, Bible versions, evolution vs creation, contemporary forms of worship (some now including dance), acceptance of psychological counseling as church ministry, proper attire for worship, modest dress in general for both men and women, feminism, social drinking, entertainment issues such as dancing and movies, gambling, freemasonry, just to name a few. If we simply ask whether we have been better off without worldly methods in our churches, and similar compromises in our homes and family life, versus the concessions already granted, the answer is resoundingly yes! Perhaps we should reexamine the Apostle Paul’s teaching:
All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12
Doesn’t this teach that even those things some consider debatable, should nevertheless be expendable, either because they fail to contribute to my walk with the Lord or are a stumblingblock to others? We need to be careful, lest we raise up idols in becoming obsessed with and covetous of those “forbidden fruits” that have proven to be the downfall of others in the past. From passages like this, written by the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, no one can accuse him of pushing the envelope of tolerance towards questionable doctrine and practice. How remarkably different from those preoccupied today with skewering the Sacred Cows, one by one.

Perhaps, we should compare the changes today with available history and ask some questions that may accurately predict the outcome of redefining the essentials. First, we must recognize both the source as well as the process begun, whereby they isolate, marginalize and then cut off ( in the words of Saul Alinsky) what were once sincerely held doctrines and applications of biblical principles. Secondly, consider where this has led before and to what end it will most assuredly bring us? During the early 20th century, the Modernist-Liberals completely undermined any reliance upon the absolute authority of Scripture. Once the process began, the whittling away of the applications of biblical principles was only the beginning, not an end unto itself. The momentum and heady success of demolishing the applications was merely a prelude to further destruction of the principles and the doctrines themselves, as they too became the objects of ridicule, isolation, then elimination and ultimately unbelief. First sold as setting aside non-essentials for the sake of fellowship, the fact was the “ravening wolves” would not be content until all biblical authority was first tokenized and then destroyed and replaced with a man-made Social Gospel.

Now, in the 21st century, we witness a new wave of similar efforts to do away with all those Sacred Cows so long irritating to those who have hungered for a broader fellowship, a wider audience and popularity, a bigger, more diverse student body, and so joined forces to suppress anything standing in the way of their success. The question we must ask, however, is even after they have taken out the Sacred Cows of “non-essentials” in doctrinal application, will they be satisfied? Will there be a clear line drawn at the frontier of “enough,” or will they simply continue, as their predecessors did, redefining essentials into non-essentials in preparation for the disposal of distinctive doctrines? History says once the process is begun, the fires will burn until everything of any historic spiritual value and sensibility has been consumed.

Perhaps Conservative Evangelicals should be asking themselves what will be left once all the Sacred Cows have been eliminated? In their rush to deny and/or rewrite history, the rationale for making unwanted practices and doctrines “non-essentials” has a genesis worth considering. First, it is dishonest to impugn the character of pastors and leaders now gone, who taught believers how to live apart from the unbelieving world and in obedience to God’s Word. It has been remarkable to read diatribes against a separated life, written by personalities currently leading the CE movement. In both their style and content, we are taken back to the serpent in the Garden, telling us that we are being deprived of some elite knowledge or experience to which we are otherwise entitled and dare not miss in our humble lives. What some in the past used to call Christian Liberty has proven to be little more than license to be conformed to this world, contrary to Paul’s words in Romans 12:2, by those who yet call themselves Fundamentalist Christians.

If we would honestly evaluate both the direction and destination of such movements in the light of Scripture, we can hardly expect anything more than a powerless form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5) with a Church under the wisdom and headship of men, whose worship hearkens back to the days of the golden calf and whose people possess a bankrupt testimony with no tangible difference from a world that hates God and His Word. It is rank arrogance to presume that anyone can make the outcome any different, when we follow the same steps that have brought the downfall of others in the past.

Dr. Charles L. Dear, Editor, The REVIEW, May 2012.
The Review is a publication of the Independent Baptist Fellowship of North America (IBFNA). Additional articles by Dr. Charles Dear will be appearing at IDOTG on a regular basis. Dr. Dear is among the newest of our regular contributors.

For Site Publisher Commentary see the attached thread.

May 21, 2012

Dr. Clay Nuttall: Plain Talk, Word Games...


 If it is indeed true that words have meaning, then why is it that so often you can’t be sure what someone has just said? I support the use of plain talk, not wanting anyone to doubt what I mean when I preach, teach, or write. If we use words that have clear and strong meaning, people will know for sure what we are saying. They may not like it, but they will know where we stand.

 The problem is that often such clarity is not welcome in our world today. Our culture is always searching for terms that will weaken true understanding. It is frightening to realize that in the near future we may be required to use compromised words, and perhaps may even be punished by law if we are pointed and transparent in our speech. Speaking the truth, in some cases, is already considered to be hate speech. Our forefathers may have seen this coming when they wrote in stone, “The Freedom of Speech”.


 It is one thing for our pagan society to attempt to force on all of us their secular religious views; it is, however, something else altogether when the dumbing-down of words is pressed on us by those who profess faith in Christ. The impression we get is that we are supposed to do everything we can in an effort to be unclear. I have just given you an illustration of this by using “pagan society” and “secular religious.” It takes some concentrating on meaning and content to be able to understand those statements; but then, we are trapped in word games where everything is form, rather than meaning.

 The word “murder” has a very clear definition, but we are forbidden to use it; instead, it has been replaced by “abortion”. The word “sodomy” is strong and clear; but it, too, has been replaced by terms considered to be more respectable. We are not allowed to use clear words like “socialism” and “treason.” Polite people evidently are not comfortable with the truth. You may have noted that “offensive” words have been removed from some hymn lyrics so that the sinner is painted in a more sensitive way. This may be why so many sinners don’t think they’re all that bad and why it is that today we have so many unsaved members in our churches.

 Preaching that deals with sin is now cast in an unfavorable light. We are being told that it is not polite to talk about such things in public and that people need to be encouraged, not confronted. Offending God has become the rule of the day, and it seems we are supposed to only say nice things about even the most heinous of sins. Even the devil deserves measured speech, they say.


 It has been argued that the use of clear terms demonstrates a lack of love toward the sinner. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not exhibit love when we leave people to wonder what we mean. We do not express love when we let a lost man go to hell because his horrible condition was not made clear. Fire is a plain, blunt word. It may disturb people. To fail to cry “fire” when a friend’s home is engulfed in flames in the middle of the night, though, is not love. Plain talk does not offend God, but it does disturb those who see man at the center of all things. There is something wrong with the love of man that does not begin with the love of God. The love of God flows from His foundational attribute of holiness. Truth precedes love, but you can’t have one without the other.


 We have been lectured by those of a liberal mindset that doctrine is not an expression of love; it is divisive. Of course it is; that is God’s point. Doctrine divides truth from error and heaven from hell. The gospel is offensive to the unbeliever who rejects it. It is so offensive that “new gospels” have become part of the “error of the month” club. The apostle Paul made the offence of the gospel plain: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

 Plain talk allows people to know exactly where they stand. Strong words lose their power when they are made nice. Compromise has a down side. If we are so pressed to be measured in our speech that we cloud the facts, why bother speaking at all? An editor of one of my books wrote to me, “You certainly have a sharp pen!” I love and respect that man and took that statement as a compliment.

 It is argued, however, that you will turn people off and they will not listen to you if you use plain language. It is not my task to convince people; that is the role of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to be cute in my conversation in order to be effective; I do have to be clear and plain. It helps if our plain talk is about ideas, not about persons. For instance, we should refer to liberalism as the ideas and not the liberal people themselves. It also helps to remember that the liberal mind focuses on people, not on ideas or on God. For the liberal system, everything is judged on how people will feel and what they may think.


 There is a difference between using words that offend and being offensive, but that has to do with motive. When we preach clearly about hell and judgment, we must not leave the impression that we are glad that people are going there. We can use plain words with love. Hearts that are open to the Spirit of God will sense our sincere grief over their lost state. It is possible to hate sin as God does. It is possible for us to love the lost with the love that God has expressed. There is no conflict in this, which is why we sow the seed and water it with our tears, but it is God who gives the increase.

  Shepherd's Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D.Min 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,

May 17, 2012

The Basis of Fundamentalism: Weightier Matters of the Law

The previous article by Dr. Rick Flanders from May 7 is titled The Basis of Fundamentalism. In the discussion thread Pastor Steve Rogers posted an extended comment followed by a pointed question. I directed that comment/question to Dr. Flanders for his attention. Pastor Rogers asked,

I would ask…what I’ve been asking myself. Can a fundamentalist, as described by and defined by the word itself, and movement of the last century, be a Biblicist, committed to the whole counsel of God? I don’t think so. Your thoughts…!?” (See-Comment #1)
Having been in Africa until last weekend Dr. Flanders was unable until now to draft a comprehensive answer. Before proceeding I encourage you to read the entire comment from Pastor Rogers, which lays ground-work for his question. You may click on the link above or view the full comment in its entirety as an appendix entry in the discussion thread below.

Dear Brother Rogers:

Thank you for your thoughtful questions, as well as your serious concern for biblical Christianity in our day. I am writing you now to clarify my thinking to yours, and to bring up an important scriptural truth that relates to this discussion. Part of our difficulty in discussing these things comes from the fact that we are dealing with semantics. To talk about "fundamentalism" requires that we agree on the definition of it, which, unfortunately, has been lost in the fray for a long time. Since it is not a Bible term, its definition has limited importance, but since we are discussing issues of serious biblical importance, defining the terms is important. There is a scriptural teaching that we can overlook if we are not careful, so let me get right into that.


 The question of whether Bible truths can be in any sense "non-essential" is answered by three statements made by the Lord Jesus and cited in the book of Matthew. 1. In Matthew 4:4 we read that Jesus "answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." This means that everything in the Bible was given on purpose, and that attention to every word is essential to a healthy life. Neglect of any Bible truth is harmful. 2. Jesus also taught in the Sermon on the Mount that there are no unimportant commands or precepts in scripture. We must believe, obey and teach them all.
"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19) 
3. Although everything in the Bible is important, some things are more important than others, for various reasons. The Lord's rebuke of the Pharisees makes that point.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23) 
Nothing in the Bible is to be left undone, but there are lesser things ("the least commandments") and there are "weightier matters of the law." So Jesus plainly taught. Tithing, although not unimportant, does not carry the same weight in importance as judgment, mercy, and faith. One's life will lack many good things if he does not believe, teach, and practice tithing, but one will be lost forever if he does not believe right about judgment, mercy, and faith. This does not mean that the least commandments are not essential to life and godliness. It just means that the truths God has revealed in His Word carry different weights.

This is where the fundamentalists came in. One hundred years ago, men became aware that teachers had crept into every church organization of any size who were denying what essentially is Christianity. Liberal theology was not just a novel way of interpreting scripture or a different take on certain issues, it was defection from the Christian faith!. The fundamentalists exposed the liberals (who had risen to positions of influence in the Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Baptist organizations) by insisting that there are certain doctrines that are fundamental to Christianity. You might still be considered a Christian even if you were wrong about the mode of baptism, the form of church polity, the security of the believer, or the doctrine of election (although all of these are important teachings), but you cannot be called a Christian if you deny the deity of Christ or His bodily resurrection! The fundamental doctrines of the Gospel are the weightiest matters of truth. Denying any of them is bringing in "damnable heresies" (Second Peter 2:1-2).

Anything that is fundamental to a larger thing is essential to what it is. If you don't have all the fundamentals of a thing, you don't really have the thing! The fundamentals of baseball are the things that make the game baseball. If you leave out any one of them (throwing, catching, batting, running, bases, etc.) it may be a game with a ball, but it is not baseball. Hotdogs, the national anthem, uniforms, and the seventh inning stretch are not fundamental to baseball, because you could still play baseball without them. The fundamentalists were saying (in The Fundamentals, at the World's Christian Fundamentals Association conferences, and through the Baptist Bible Union and their other forums) that the liberal theology was not Christianity because it lacked some or all of the fundamentals of Christianity.

Only in this sense were the fundamentalists calling certain doctrines "essential." As you noted, some truths are essential to salvation and some are not. This is all that fundamentalists were and are saying. All kinds of confusion have entered the various fundamentalist movements over the years, and I know what you mean when you observe that some involved in interdenominational activities seem to denigrate Bible truths with lesser weight than the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel (found in First Corinthians 15:1-4). In this they are wrong. Anybody who relegates any question of Bible doctrine to the low level of a "non-issue" or an "unimportant sidetrack" is making a serious and dangerous mistake. But to differentiate between issues that define Christianity and those that divide good men who are nevertheless "in the faith" (remember Romans 14?) is not wrong; it is sensible and scriptural. Perhaps you are hearing good men say or imply (as I am) that you can't really be a Baptist and a fundamentalist at the same time. There are at least three things wrong with this idea.

 1. The term "fundamentalist" was coined by Baptists (in a Baptist publication) referring to Baptists (who were battling for the faith in the Baptist convention). It was never regarded as exclusive of the Baptist point of view.

 2. Many of the fundamentalists over the years were and are committed Baptists. The fundamentalist movements of the twentieth century were led by men like W.B. Riley, Robert Ketchum, J. Frank Norris, and others whose Baptist credentials (judged by faithfulness to Baptist distinctives) cannot be reasonably questioned. Today the vast majority of people who would call themselves fundamentalists are also Baptists (far more in percentage than ever before). Fundamentalists and Baptists in the past have not seen a conflict between being both.

 3. Fundamentalism and the Baptist cause are dealing with two different sets of issues that do not overlap. There is no conflict that would prevent a Baptist from being a fundamentalist. A Baptist would not have to cooperate with a non-Baptist in order to be a fundamentalist. No Baptist ever had to do this. The ones (and not all of them did) who did sit on the same platform with fundamentalist brethren who erred on issues less than the Gospel did so to present a united protest against a problem that crossed denominational lines. Nobody on those platforms was saying that his Baptist convictions were expendable. Never. The fact is that the fundamentalist issues are still very important. A good man ought to be both a Baptist and a fundamentalist. There is a problem with what the Convention Baptists are doing. If they were fundamentalists, they would not give Christian recognition to the liberals that still perch on the branches of the denominational tree.

We don't want to abandon the road of militant separatism that fundamentalism by definition requires. When we misunderstand what fundamentalism is (and it basically is the defining of Christianity by certain cardinal doctrines) and then to give it up, we will open the door to the next generation of Baptists making the same mistake our forefathers made in the conventions.


Rick Flanders

May 11, 2012

Archival Series: John MacArthur, Christ's Eternal Sonship

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Questions occasionally resurface on the eternal sonship of Christ controversy. This teaching was highly controversial and caused a huge rift in the IFCA when John MacArthur took the position that, “Christ did not become the Son of God until He was born at Bethlehem.” In September 1999 Dr. MacArthur seemed to have repudiated incarnational sonship, but has he forsaken it entirely? I am welcoming back JanH who is a frequent commentator and contributor for this compelling discussion and we will turn to it without delay.


This blog typically discusses divergences from the gospel in the form of either Lordship Salvation or the Crossless Gospel. However, as sometimes happens in the course of conversation, a topic which gets little attention came to light in the comment section of Does “Final Salvation” Serve as Cover for Works-Salvation

The topic came to light because of this response Lou Martuneac gave to a question I asked:
Jan, you asked, Why does Piper (JMac) “get away with” these things [saying works are a requirement for final salvation]? Two thoughts: 1) Because of their popularity they go *almost entirely unchallenged by their peer group and followers. There are some Calvinistic men in my IFB circles who are troubled by statements like these [pertaining to the requirements for final salvation], will confide they find these troubling, but will not say so in any public venue....

*An exception being when MacArthur was challenged over and he subsequently retracted and disavowed his earlier teaching on the eternal sonship of Christ. His former teaching on that caused a major rift in the IFCA.
Here Lou noted an exception to the unwritten don’t openly challenge MacArthur rule, which involved the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ. For 25 years Dr. John MacArthur had openly denied that Jesus Christ is eternally the Son of God. Instead, he aggressively promoted the Incarnational Sonship position, which says that Jesus was not always/eternally the Son of God but was the second person of the Trinity who became the Son of God at the incarnation, i.e. His birth in Bethlehem.

Pastor George Zeller (Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, CT) challenged MacArthur on this teaching (as well as several others). In 1999 Pastor Zeller was rewarded for his efforts by Dr. MacArthur’s public disavowal of Incarnational Sonship in the form of a published paper titled “Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ.” In this paper Dr. MacArthur states plainly that he no longer holds to the view that Jesus became the Son of God at His incarnation. He also states plainly that Jesus is eternally the Son of God and says why he now believes this is so. Good news! Or...maybe not as good as we would hope.

Unfortunately, Dr. MacArthur has left some loose ends. We will look at two of them here and compare them with Dr. MacArthur’s Reexamination… declaration.

Loose End #1
It is common knowledge that Dr. MacArthur is the President of The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California and senior pastor of Grace Community Church. Under the section “Statement of faith- GOD,” the doctrinal statement for The Master’s Seminary proclaims this orthodox confession on the Trinity:
We teach that there is but one living and true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:5-7; 1 Corinthians 8:4), an infinite, all knowing Spirit (John 4:24), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14)—each equally deserving worship and obedience.1 (Bold added.)
We applaud and wholly agree with this statement on the Trinity. However, a little further along, in the sixth paragraph under the section “God the Son,” we read this:
We teach that, in the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity laid aside His right to the full prerogatives of coexistence with God, assumed the place of a Son, and took on an existence appropriate to a servant while never divesting Himself of His divine attributes (Philippians 2:5-8).2 (Bold added.)
This statement affirms the doctrine of Incarnational Sonship, which we have been given to understand that Dr. MacArthur had disavowed in 1999. This presents a point of confusion. First we are told that God eternally exists in three Persons- Father, SON, and Holy Spirit. Then we are told that “in the incarnation, the SECOND PERSON OF THE TRINITY...assumed the PLACE of a Son.”

The first statement is just what we would expect from an orthodox teacher. But the second statement is troubling. It says that Sonship is a “place” that “the second person of the Trinity...assumed” in the incarnation. This is just what Dr. MacArthur used to teach before he declared his repentance on this issue. There are two problems here.
  • One, He is going in two directions doctrinally in this statement of faith.
  • Two, in 1999 Dr. MacArthur had made it truly plain that he had abandoned the Incarnational Sonship view, which would say that Jesus assumed the place of a Son at the incarnation, in favor of the Eternal Sonship view that Jesus was not merely and vaguely the “second person of the Trinity,” but the Son of God always/eternally.
So now we must ask, which one does MacArthur intend for us to understand is his actual position? And we may also inquire which position is taught and affirmed in the classroom.

Now it is true and must be noted that Dr. MacArthur said in his reexamination paper that, “I’ve often wished for the opportunity to review and amend all my own published material, but I doubt I’ll ever have the time or the energy to undertake the task.3

And indeed that would be daunting for him since he is a prolific speaker/writer. It is easy to understand how some comments in a series of his radio sermons may go unaltered due to obfuscation. We are, however, looking at a published doctrinal statements. This doctrinal statement is much more visible than a sermon given once or twice. I would think something so salient would have undergone some revision, especially when he says this:
If more precise understanding on an important point of doctrine demands a change in my thinking--even if it means amending or correcting already-published material--I want to be willing to make the necessary changes.
I have made many such revisions over the years, often taking measures to delete erroneous or confusing statements from my own tapes, and sometimes even preaching again through portions of Scripture with a better understanding of the text. Whenever I have changed my opinion on any significant doctrinal issue, I have sought to make my change of opinion, and the reasons for it, as clear as possible.4 (Bold added.)
While it is truly encouraging hear that Dr. MacArthur is a humble man who has the integrity to make changes when necessary and has indeed done so in the past (not everyone would), I wonder how it is, then, that his doctrinal statement could still confess Incarnational Sonship? One or the other statement is erroneous and both statements affirmed in the same document is confusing. Why, then, have measures not been taken to edit or eliminate one statement or the other? Could it be that a publication as visible as the doctrinal statement for The Master’s Seminary had somehow fallen through the cracks and thus escaped the necessary revision? But surely the official doctrinal statement of a seminary where future church leaders are taught doctrine in a careful and systematic manner is more important than a tape or a sermon? Yet it still has this confession of a doctrine which Dr. MacArthur has stated publicly he had abandoned.
To that end, I want to state publicly that I have abandoned the doctrine of “incarnational sonship.” Careful study and reflection have brought me to understand that Scripture does indeed present the relationship between God the Father and Christ the Son as an eternal Father-Son relationship. I no longer regard Christ’s Sonship as a role He assumed in His incarnation.5 (Bold added.)
How could this be? Surely after 25 years of preaching aggressively on Jesus’ Sonship, albeit from the Incarnational Sonship perspective, Dr. MacArthur has not come to the conclusion that this is not an important doctrine after all? No. It is not reasonable to conclude that Dr. MacArthur feels it to be an unimportant doctrine. There must be another reason for its continued presence in his doctrinal statement. But what could that reason be?

Perhaps the answer lies in this response Dr. MacArthur gave in 2006 when asked for an explanation of his view on Christ’s Sonship:
Let me make it real simple. He is eternally God. Jesus Christ is and always will be the eternal God—a member of the Trinity. He is eternally One of Three. And I don’t have any problem with calling Him the eternal Son therefore. But I do understand that there is a uniqueness to His incarnation in that the Scripture says, “This day have I begotten Thee.” And that’s related to His incarnation.6 (Bold added.)
I am afraid this is not real simple, though. In fact, this leads us to-

Loose End #2
If Jesus being eternally One of Three is what qualifies Him to be regarded as the eternal Son, then why could we not regard any of the Trinity members as the Son? They are all eternally One of Three. Jesus is the only member of the Trinity that has experienced incarnation, that is true. But He was not incarnated eternally. He was incarnated in time. So the incarnation would not make Him the eternal Son. But being eternally One of Three does not make Him the Son either. It makes Him One of Three. Indeed Dr. MacArthur recognizes this too, as he notes in his Reexamination:
If Christ’s sonship is all about His deity, someone will wonder why this applies to the Second Member of the Trinity alone, and not to the Third. After all, we don’t refer to the Holy Spirit as God’s Son, do we? Yet isn’t He also of the same essence as the Father? 7
This being the case, why, then, does he frame it the way he does in this answer given 7 years after his public statement that he has abandoned the doctrine of Incarnational Sonship? Instead of answers there are more questions. Instead of simplicity and clarity, confusion and perplexity.

I think Dr. MacArthur made it real simple in 1999 when he stated:
Expressions like “eternal generation,” “only begotten Son,” and others pertaining to the filiation of Christ must all be understood in this sense: Scripture employs them to underscore the absolute oneness of essence between Father and Son. In other words, such expressions aren’t intended to evoke the idea of procreation; they are meant to convey the truth about the essential oneness shared by the Members of the Trinity.

Careful study and reflection have brought me to understand that Scripture does indeed present the relationship between God the Father and Christ the Son as an eternal Father-Son relationship. I no longer regard Christ’s Sonship as a role He assumed in His incarnation.
However, since then we have the not-so-simple explanation that Jesus is the Son because He is eternally One of Three and His Sonship pertains to His incarnation after all. And in 2010 his seminary doctrinal statement still implies that Jesus assumed the place of a Son in the incarnation.

What then do we make of Dr. MacArthur’s Reexamination of the Eternal Sonship of Christ? What do we do with these loose ends? Where does Dr. MacArthur really stand on this issue? Has he indeed changed his view? Or must we reexamine his reexamination?

Jan H

1. The Master’s Seminary Statement of Faith,, (accessed Feb. 3, 2010). Also see the Grace Community Church Doctrinal Statement, p. 3,, (accessed Feb. 3, 2010).
2. The Master’s Seminary Statement of Faith,, (accessed Feb. 3, 2010).
3. John MacArthur,
Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ, Sept. 1999,, accessed Feb. 3, 2010).
4. Ibid
5. Ibid
6. John MacArthur, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary radio interview, Oct. 2006,, (accessed Feb. 3, 2010).
7. John MacArthur,
Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ, Sept. 1999,, accessed Feb. 3, 2010).
8. Ibid

May 7, 2012

The Basis of Fundamentalism

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness,” (Genesis 1:3-4).

One of the most maligned words in the current religious glossary is the term “fundamentalism.”  Mostly the term is misused, even by people who ought to know better.  The dictionary definitions of fundamentalism all acknowledge its original use in reference to what they call “a twentieth century movement in Protestantism” which emphasized “the literal interpretation of the Bible.”  According to the proper use of the term, there is really no such thing as “Islamic fundamentalism.”  Fundamentalism is a distinctively Christian movement and a specifically Christian idea.  Thirty years ago, academics began to connect the label with the conservative wing of any religion.  A PBS series featured reports on Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as the Christian variety.  This way of defining fundamentalism has found its way into the dictionary, although it makes no more sense than would “Islamic Lutheranism” or “Jewish Methodism.”  Fundamentalism was and is a grassroots movement in the Christian churches to oppose the influence of so-called “liberal theology.”

But it is more than that.  Fundamentalism is first an idea, and it is perhaps the most important idea in the world today.  It is based on the fact that there is an absolute and inherent difference between right and wrong, between truth and error, between good and evil, between light and darkness. The philosophy known as Postmodernism, and also a great variety of newer trends that have gained acceptance in some of the churches, actually deny the conflict between right and wrong, and refuse to divide light from darkness.  Fundamentalism is based on the idea that what is true and what is false must be distinguished and divided.

The Scriptures, from beginning to end, continually divide the light from the darkness, as recorded in Genesis 1 in the description of the creative activity of God on the First Day. God spoke light into existence, pronounced it good, and then immediately “divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:3-4).  And so He always does.  Sinful man had to be banished from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24).  Worldly Lot had to go his way while spiritual Abram went another way (Genesis 13:8-18).  The child of the bondwoman (“born after the flesh”) as well as his seed were divided from the child of the freewoman (“born after the Spirit”) and his seed (Ishmael and Isaac, Genesis 21:10 and Galatians 4:21-31).  God’s people were divided from the Egyptians in the plagues that brought their deliverance from bondage (Exodus 8:20-23).  The clean and the unclean are distinguished throughout the ceremonial laws of Israelite religion.  The history of Israel is filled with accounts where God requires His people to separate themselves from evil. King Jehoshaphat failed the Lord by failing to follow this rule (Second Kings 3:1-27 and Second Chronicles 18:1-19:2).  The books of Ezra and Nehemiah both end with the issue of separation needing to be addressed.  The parables of Jesus recorded in Matthew 13 promise that, although good and bad are usually mixed in the present world, the day is coming when God will finally “sever the wicked from among the just” (verses 49-50). New Testament believers are told that “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts” (in Second Corinthians 4:6), and that “ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).  On the basis of this truth, we are commanded to “walk as children of light” and to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:8 and 11).  “What communion hath light with darkness?” the Bible asks, and then it tells Christians to “come out from among them [unbelievers], and be ye separate” (Second Corinthians 6:14-18). In the book of Revelation, God’s people are commanded to “come out” of the wicked city of Babylon before she is judged.  The righteous are forever separated from the wicked at the judgment of the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15).  The whole Bible is a Book about God dividing the light from the darkness.

Fundamentalists say that truth must be distinguished and separated from falsehood.  The original fundamentalists insisted that Christianity is defined in terms of certain essential (fundamental) doctrines.  Christianity is not correctly defined as a spirit, or a way of life, or as affiliation with an organization.  Christianity is at its core the acceptance and application of the Gospel of Christ.  The Gospel teaches several truths that are essential to what it is saying.  According to First Corinthians 15:1-3, the Gospel of Jesus Christ says that

Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…

The truths preached in the Gospel include the authority of the scriptures, the deity of Christ, His vicarious atonement for man’s sins on the cross, His bodily resurrection from the dead, and justification before God by personal faith in Him (the chapter says that men are saved by receiving and believing this message).  Without all of these doctrines, the message preached is not the Gospel, and the religion taught is not Christianity.  See how the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians insists that the Gospel and what it says is the heart of the Christian religion (read it at least through verse 22).  Christianity is based on certain facts, certain truths, certain doctrines, which are fundamental (essential) to it.  Fundamentally, this is what fundamentalism says.

Now “evangelicals” believe in these doctrines, but not all of them are fundamentalists. The fundamentalist not only believes in the fundamentals of the Faith, but he also insists that they are fundamental to the Faith. In other words, he won’t acknowledge any teacher as Christian who does not first affirm all the fundamentals.  Many evangelicals today (the term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word for the Gospel and means to accept the truths of the Gospel) will in one way or another allow that churchmen who deny the fundamentals are Christians.  A theological liberal is one in the church who denies some of the essential truths of the Gospel.  Usually he emphasizes social salvation over individual salvation, and minimizes the importance of the doctrines of orthodoxy.  Some evangelicals will say (for example) that although the liberal denies the historical accuracy of the Bible, he still may be a good Christian.  A fundamentalist can’t do this. He insists that believing in the authority, and therefore absolute infallibility, of the Bible is an essential part of Christianity. 
So a religion that finds mistakes in the scripture is not really Christianity.  A distinction must be made, the fundamentalist says, between what is the Gospel and what is not.

The kind of evangelicalism that claims to believe the Gospel but allows that a Christian can reject some of it is not consistent with the concept that there is an absolute difference between right and wrong.  Whether it is preached and practiced by a conservative in a denomination that welcomes, includes, and even hires theological liberals, or by an independent church that cooperates with liberal pastors in community Holy Week celebrations, this kind of evangelicalism is not really consistent or rational. The evangelicals who treat liberals as wolves in sheep’s clothing are the fundamentalists.  Fundamentalism is a separatist concept because it recognizes and respects the difference between what is Christian and what is not, or what is true and what is not.  Fundamentalists are not just trouble-makers.  They are people who try to be consistent in dividing light from darkness.  They expose liberals and part company with them because they must.

No other concept of Christianity does this.  The New Evangelicalism wants to let the light shine, but does not care to divide it from darkness.  By joining with liberals in religious activity they are saying that their false teaching is in the arena of true Christian thought. The Contemporary Church movement will not divide the light from darkness in the realm of culture and behavior.  Their pragmatic approach to growing churches denies the difference between Christian living and the ways of the world.  Even liberalism arose from the attempt to conform the light of Christianity to the darkness of modern thought. Churches fail in their mission when they blur the line between right and wrong in an attempt to stay relevant.

Often unbelievers can see the problem here.  Churches may attract some by accepting practices that the Bible condemns, or refusing to reject ideas that conflict with Bible principles, but in the long run they offend many who see the gross inconsistency of their ways.  Those outside of Christ often expect the churches to be true to the truth they preach!  We live in a world that says with Pilate’s scorn, “What is truth?”  Only Christian fundamentalism says with courage and consistency, “This is the truth!”  That is why it is the most important idea in the world today. 

Yet it must be conceded that Christian fundamentalists are not in every way true to the concept they espouse.  But to mock the idea that fundamentalism is the answer to the needs of the world because some fundamentalists are grossly inconsistent is to miss the point.  Is Jesus Christ the Divine Savior of the world?  Is the Bible the divinely-inspired, infallible Word of God?  Does the Gospel bring men redemption?  Fundamentalism answers these questions in the affirmative, and has the courage to walk the truth as well as talk it.  It scatters the fog of Postmodernism, and honors the Gospel by acting and talking as if it is true.  Those who proclaim the truth while acting as if denying it is the same as believing it undermine its credibility.  Although the number of those who wear the fundamentalist label has diminished, fundamentalism at its core is more vital to the deliverance of mankind than it ever was.

Dr. Rick Flanders, Evangelist

Revival Ministries

May 2, 2012

Dr. Clay Nuttall, God Defines Marriage

The plague of human reason has firmly placed man as god. Whenever the subject of an event or an issue is raised, reporters from the liberal media ask opinions of entertainers, failed politicians, customers at a bar, intellectuals, and “religious types.” Why not ask the sovereign creator God for a clear statement on the subject? The answer is that the majority no longer cares what God has said. Our leaders have been busy erasing the true God from our culture while they establish man as god. As you know, I like to describe this as replacing Christianity with a new religion, which I have dubbed “Humianity.”

One of the tenets of the religion of man is the freedom to lie about anything. This bad habit, in some cases, comes from a lack of understanding and wisdom. Every thought and opinion of a man comes from his religious perspective. Those who own man as their god see their own convoluted ideas as the final word on any subject. The true believer seeks the word of God for any definition. The authority base for a believer is the scriptures, while human reason is the authority base for all others.

An illustration of this can be found in evolution, or unintelligent design, versus creation, which is known as intelligent design. The world looks for soft words to cover their heinous sins. For instance, murder has become “abortion,” sin has become “sickness,” and sodomy has become “gay.” The sad thing is that professing Christians far too often have joined the “Softening of Sin” club.

In our country there is a movement to redefine marriage. One can only wonder why people support this, but their position depends on who is their God. For the true believer, it’s a simple matter, because God has given us a definition in Genesis - one man for one woman for one lifetime.

In several states, including the one we live in, a marriage amendment has been proposed, simply stating God’s true definition of marriage. Some may not like it, but what people are really doing at the polls is declaring who is their god. For true believers, casting a vote is a grand opportunity to publicly identify with the God of glory and with the authority of scripture. In front of some people’s houses are signs that say “Vote against Amendment One!” Those signs on their lawns constitute an open confession of the god those people have chosen. One might argue that there are also Christians and churches who oppose the amendment; by doing so, however, they also have declared who is really their god. People are not Christians just because they say they are; we are defined by what we believe. The fact that so many have twisted or ignored the clear teaching of scripture only confirms their choice of gods. I am a Christian because of what I believe. I am a Baptist because of what I believe, and I say what I say and do what I do because of what I believe. Our beliefs, however, have to be founded on the central and clear teaching of God’s Word; we do not have the luxury of personal and private interpretation. The Bible is not plastic, and we have no authority to mold it as we please or to rewrite it at every whim.

It is easy for the believer to be lazy and ignore opportunities to speak for God, but our silence in such matters amounts to disobedience. Remember that the great sin of Adam and Eve wasn’t their diet; it was that they disobeyed God. The result of their sin is still with us and is part of what is going on in this debate. That may seem to you a small thing, but what is going to follow will be far worse. If those who worship man get their way, the day will come when I will go to jail for what I have written here! The tide of evil flows very strong, and only a blind person would miss the growing hatred toward biblical Christianity. We need to speak while we have the freedom to do so, because introduction of the flood of laws against us is just around the corner.

Many evangelicals would say that what I have written is not kind or compassionate. They need to read the next issue of Shepherds Staff on the subject of “Plain Talk.” First, let me explain the problem. The liberal mindset is unable to separate ideas or fact from people. Liberals tend to spend their time in the swamp of people talk, where they can shut down truth by talking about Christians being “mean spirited.” They have placed their own inventions about love above the holiness of God. There is nothing loving about teaching people to sin or being silent while those who are chained to their lusts plunge to eternal judgment.

The God of the Bible is perfect in holiness, truth, and love. His perfect holiness has defined marriage. This is the truth, and while we are to love the sinner, we must not love his sin by making him feel comfortable about it. That is exactly what the Corinthians had done in I Corinthians 5. While some smarter-than-God intellectuals don’t think God loves sinners, He does; and so must we. At the same time, God hates sin; the cross is all the proof you need.

I cannot help but wonder if this subject will come up at the Judgment Seat of Christ - something as small as speaking for God and His word on the subject of marriage, as opposed to those who choose to mock God? I think that if you could ask Adam and Eve, they would tell you that disobedience is no small thing! “…let God be true, but every man a liar…” Romans 3:4.

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D.Min 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,