November 26, 2012

Dr. Lance Ketchum: The Subtlety ofGood Words and Fair Speeches

People who are called to serve the Lord as pastors, missionaries, and evangelists understand the insecurity of ministry. They know that people are often fickle. Pastors understand the volatile nature of local church ministries. Many local churches are like powder kegs that could explode at the first spark of a personality clash. The natural tendency for pastor and missionaries living in such volatile conditions is to live by the simple principle – PROCEED WITH CAUTION! Sadly, in many cases, pastors and evangelists simply avoid any thing that is controversial just to protect the little bit of job security that they have. The central thrust of Romans 16:17-20 is a warning about the subtlety of the failure to deal with the issues of false doctrine that regularly arise within local churches. The thrust of the warning is found in verse 18 – “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:17-20).
Phil Johnson
I was notified recently that the Minnesota Baptist Association will host its annual Men’s Fellowship in September of 2013. The featured speaker will be Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, the broadcast ministry of John MacArthur. John MacArthur is a hyper-Calvinist, believes in Lordship salvation, Presbyterian polity, uses CCM and Christian-rock in his church ministries, and is undoubtedly a New Evangelical. MacArthur was flirting with the National Association of Evangelicals back in the early 1980’s when I was a member of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (I.F.C.A.). Phil Johnson is essentially MacArthur’s public relations person. MacArthur and Johnson are certainly not independent Baptists.

Why then would an association of independent Baptist churches promote someone that so blatantly disagrees with them in doctrine and practice? The answer is obvious. They do not disagree with him in his doctrine and practice. They must think his doctrinal positions to be at least viable. They have changed!

Compromise is often expressed in small increments. There is a subtle and dangerous undercurrent in the temptation to compromise. The undercurrent has to do with a pastor’s inherent desire for self-protection and survival in the ministry. It also affects leaders of ministries like Bible colleges and seminaries. When a pastor allows such inherent feelings to dominate his thinking, he will soon be led into varying degrees of incremental compromise. Pragmatic measurements, particularly in using numbers of people in determining ministry success, lead many men astray. No one wants to see the numbers of people diminish under their leadership whether it is in a local church, Bible college, or seminary. Talk to any pastor who has lost large numbers of people and almost always you will find a man who believes he has failed. The fact is, he may have been faithful in preaching the “whole counsel of God” and some people just did not like it. When the solution to a loss of numbers of people is anything other than revival, you will find the willingness to compromise somewhere in the mix.

Perhaps the main reason Paul was so faithful in his many battles for “the faith” was that he saw himself as a “sheep for the slaughter.” He told the Roman believers earlier in his epistle to the Romans that their thinking of themselves as “sheep for the slaughter” ought to be the norm for all true believers.
“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:36).
Maintaining such an attitude in our ministries is certainly difficult. In order to maintain such an attitude, it demands that we do not view our ministry as a job, and that we do not give ourselves self-importance. Although pastors serve people, people are not their employers. God is their boss and it is to Him they will ultimately answer for our leadership. All of this is even more difficult when we consider the threat to the financial security of their families. In most cases, we cannot they men-pleasers (I Thessalonians 2:4) if they are going to be God’s ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:16-21). Although those that truly love the Word of God will be pleased when it is preached without consideration of the fear or favor of men, those who do not love the Word of God will wince and retreat when it is proclaimed.

The church I pastor separated from the Minnesota Baptist Association in 2012 because the M.B.A. began to redefine the way they were going to practice separation. The use of Phil Johnson as their featured speaker is merely a reflection of their new Gospel Centrism (their Gospel is really Reformed Soteriology). During the six years I was the State Missionary of the Minnesota Baptist Association and editor of their North Star magazine, I wrote many articles to keep the association from going the direction it has gone. Apparently, in most part, those articles have gone unheeding. In some cases, they were ridiculed. One such article, entitled The Hegelian Dialectic, is quoted below: 
“The Hegelian Dialectic is basically a process that ultimately results in Centrism. This is accomplished by bringing together diverse positions for dialogue. The process involves bringing together a thesis (extreme right) together with an antithesis (extreme left) for discussion that moves both extremes towards the center (compromise). Two things happen to the majority of those involved in the dialogue. 1. The majority of the participants form a synthesis (a composite position) somewhere between the two extremes (this is the goal of the Hegelian Dialectic). 2. Those not accepting the synthesis become sympathetic towards the various degrees of positions of those involved in the dialogue in that tolerance becomes the banner under which the process functions. This process is repeated with each generation and the center (synthesis) constantly moves towards the extreme left (compromise, tolerance, and liberalism). No one likes to be viewed as an extremist or a radical. That is why all Christians are naturally prone towards moving towards the middle on every issue of conflict. That is the reason why the vast majority of local churches, associations of churches, and conventions/denominations have become New Evangelical and Liberal. When conflicting positions arise, we will find most people settling for one of two solutions: tolerance or compromise. Neither of these two positions is acceptable to God. Neither should they be acceptable to the person that calls himself a Biblicist. Truth is always a constant. God is immutable. All truth originates in God’s immutableness. Therefore truth is immutable. Which of God’s truths is inconsequential to Him? Which of God’s truths does He delineate as a major truth and which is a minor truth?”
Therefore, Centrism is an applicable term to describe the outcomes of what we see in the dialogue between radically different theological positions. Romans 16:18 describes this process by the phrase - “good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” One example of this is how biblical separation is now being redefined during this dialogue. In order to justify the way separation is being redefined, they must redefine the way unity is defined. Therefore, they must take a Big Christianity view of the doctrine of the Church rather than an independent local church view. This is Reformed Ecclesiology. Reformed Theology seems to be a common denominator for defining who is going to be included in the dialogue and who is excluded. In fact, Dr. Kevin Bauder has regularly criticized people for criticizing Reform Theology, especially Reformed Soteriology. Under his paradigm, anyone believing that Reformed Soteriology is unscriptural, and is willing to say that publicly, is outside of his acceptable Fundamentalism.

Dr. Kevin Bauder, past president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, clearly defines “fundamental doctrines” as those “doctrines that are essential to the gospel.” This statement seeks to reduce Fundamentalism to Gospel Centrism. Certainly, Fundamentalism is Gospel centered, but the fundamentals of the Bible extend into other areas of theology as well. Anything less is the abdication of theological dogmatism regarding anything other than the Gospel. In most cases, Evangelicals cannot even agree on what the Gospel is and certainly do not agree on what defines a biblical response to the Gospel.
“To be an evangelical is to be centered upon the gospel. To be a Fundamentalist is, first, to believe that fundamental doctrines are definitive for Christian fellowship, second, to refuse Christian fellowship with all who deny fundamental doctrines (e.g., doctrines that are essential to the gospel), and third, to reject the leadership of Christians who form bonds of cooperation and fellowship with those who deny essential doctrines.”1 
New Evangelicalism essentially developed in order to build bridges between Evangelicalism and Liberalism (Theological Modernism). Gospel Centrism is a group within Fundamentalism (actually Evangelicals), trying to build bridges to the ever drifting New Evangelicals now rapidly becoming the Emergent Church. Dr. Kent Brandenburg defines the issues in this form of compromise very well in a new book he has recently edited and in which has written a number of chapters:
“Disobedience to the Biblical doctrine of separation follows the spirit of this age, which reflects post-enlightenment human reasoning. The world will get to where man is in charge of everything, but to get to that goal, there will be a series of compromises fitting to a Hegelian dialectic. Dialogue and consensus building are the means. The goal is the ‘third way’ that we often read about in politics today. The first and Biblical way is separation. The second and man’s way is getting along. The third way is the compromise of separation in order to get along more. The result of the compromise is called progress, reaching toward the end of world peace. Churches are now caught up in this cycle. Compromise is called love, which is really sentimentality. The watering down of doctrine is labeled humility, which is really pride. Humility submits to God. Pride replaces what God said with man’s ideas, elevating men. Pride is the new humility, however, in the new political and theological correctness. The new humility emphasizes nuance and repudiates dogmatism. Finally, anything anyone believes is accepted so that everyone can get along with everyone else, except God.”2
Dr. Doug McLachlan seems to be a connecting link to what he refers to as a “radical new center.” This “radical new center” is being fleshed out by a form of Gospel Centrism in some kind of New Fundamentalism. Unfortunately, this New Fundamentalism looks much like old New Evangelicalism. He has stated that he believes that the way Northland International University, Central Baptist Seminary, Calvary Baptist Seminary, and Detroit Theological Seminary are now practicing separation is what he intended in the writing of his book Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism. This Authentic Fundamentalism is markedly absent of a central characteristic of old Fundamentalism, which is militancy. Dr. Roland McCune offered his review of Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism:
“Militancy has always characterized Fundamentalism. It is not so much a matter of personality as adherence to principle. Militancy has been so fogged over by its detractors that it has become a wholly negative concept, even for many Fundamentalists. Dr. George Houghton, of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, gave an excellent definition of militancy. 
‘What exactly is militancy, anyway? One dictionary says it is to be “engaged in warfare or combat . . . aggressively active (as in a cause).” It springs from one’s values, is expressed as an attitude, and results in certain behavior. One’s values are those things in which one strongly believes. They are what one believes to be fundamentally important and true. From this comes an attitude which is unwilling to tolerate any divergence from these fundamentally important truths and seeks to defend them. It results in behavior which speaks up when these truths are attacked or diluted and which refuses to cooperate with any activity which would minimize their importance. The term is a military one and carries the idea of defending what one believes to be true.’3 
I must confess that I do not hear a clear note of militancy in the book under discussion. Forcefulness in leadership and in defending the faith is simply not there. (The concept of “Militant Meekness” or “a militancy for the meekness of Christ” [p. 140] is a little confusing in terms of historic Fundamentalist militancy.) The idea of “servant leaders” (p.40ff.), while certainly a biblical thought,4 seems expunged of all notions of aggressiveness. Some of this may be explained by the author’s non-confrontational type of personality. Many of us could identify with this. But again militancy is not a matter of personality. There are many Fundamentalists who are reticent and retiring but who are militant in the fight for truth.”
Terms like “militant meekness” and “radical new center” sound very intellectual, but they are nothing more than “good words and fair speeches” that “deceive the hearts of the simple.” I wrote an article on this October 22nd, 2011 entitled - Has God Changed the “Old Paths” for a new "radical center"? The closing paragraph of the article is quoted below:
“I do not understand how knowledgeable men can so easily be led into the ditch of philosophical compromise. I do not understand how knowledgeable men can justify using the language of Centrism when they must know it is the language of cultural manipulation. I think they must understand their methodology and have adapted certain agreed upon talking points. If they are right (and their argument is that they are right), then everything to the right of them is wrong and everything to the left of them is wrong. Yet, they are willing to label everyone they say is to the right of them as Hyper, while labeling select individuals to the left of them as friends. Then they separate from those to the right of them (which means all those unwilling to accept their new center) and maintain fellowship with those they admittedly understand to be to the left of them. It does not seem too difficult to discern the direction in which they are moving, even though they claim they have not moved. This obviously tells us something about them. Either they never were where they once professed to be, or they have moved. Either of those two possibilities is unacceptable.”5
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. Maheney, 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.
In Romans 16:19, Paul commends the Roman believers for their obedience to “the faith” and then warns them in the next sentence – “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” The word “evil” is from the Greek word kakos (kak-os'). The context would imply the meaning to be about worthless teaching that is harmful or injurious. This context is established because the word “simple” is from the Greek word akeraios (ak-er'-ah-yos), meaning unmixed in the sense of being unmixed with false teaching. Therefore, the word “simple” here means harmless. An alternative reading of last part of Romans 16:19 might be, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and harmless concerning harmful false doctrine.” The “harmful false doctrine” refers to what Paul said earlier when he spoke of “good words and fair speeches” that are intended to “deceive the hearts of the simple.”

The biblical doctrine of separation is nothing to be trifled with. The biblical doctrine of separation should certainly never be reduced the way the Gospel Centrists are attempting to reduce it. To propose that Christians focus on the center while ignoring the parameters is ludicrous and bizarre. Such a proposition is to say the center of biblical truth is more important than the boundaries established by biblical truth.

To emphasize unity at the sacrifice of doctrinal continuity is equally ludicrous and bizarre. This is what the New Evangelicals have done for years and is the practice of those within the varying degrees on Emergent Christianity. We all certainly understand we are not talking about doctrinal unanimity. No two people will ever be perfectly unanimous doctrinally. However, there certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what defines the Church and how it is to be governed. There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what the Gospel is and how people get saved. There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what the Bible teaches about the end times and the Christian’s part in these future events. There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on whether sign gifts have ceased or if they continue throughout the Church Age.6 These are very important issues of orthodoxy that radically impact orthopraxy and orthopathy.

To define the “unity of the Spirit” outside of its parameters of the statement in Ephesians 4:5-6 is equally ludicrous and bizarre – “5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” This simple statement does not reduce unity down to one commonality as does Gospel Centrism.7 This simple statement in fact expands the “unity of the Spirit” exponentially by the phrase “one faith.” There is but one true God and He has given only one inspired Bible. Therefore, there is only one correct interpretation that defines the “one faith.” True “unity of the Spirit” will only be found where there is unanimity within all the parameters of the “one faith.”

Who then gets to decide what defines unanimity? Does a Bible college get to define this? Does a seminary get to define this? No, every individual and every local church must define unanimity for themselves. Then they must decide how they are going practice separation within their own definition and agreement. They must do this so as to insure no believer will be led astray by identifying with someone, or another local church, that teaches false doctrine or practices separation that appears to endorse false doctrine.

Romans 16:17-20 appears almost as a parenthesis within the context of Paul’s salutation to the faithful believers within various local churches at Rome. The text is Paul’s final statement defining a true Opus Dei (the universal call to holiness). Paul pleads with these faithful believers to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17. There are two admonitions in the text. These faithful believers were to “mark” these people that causes “divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine” and they were to “avoid them.” The word “mark” is from the Greek word skopeo (skop-eh'-o), which literally means to take aim at. The intent is to put a mark on them like a point on a target. The word “avoid” is from the Greek word ekklino (ek-klee'-no), which means to deviate. The idea is to walk away from such a person. Obviously the intent of the verb is separation. 

Let me be careful here to say that I do not disagree with everything these men teach. I have been often enriched and edified by their ministries, teaching, and writings. However, this new pathway of Gospel Centrism is a pathway on which we cannot walk together. It is serious enough to require biblical separation from these men. It is serious enough for spiritual men to separate them from their associations. I have talked to a few men in the leadership of the Minnesota Baptist Association of churches regarding these issues. My comments were received with a smirk of derision and ridicule. What they have done is shunned the “mark” that should be put upon these men for their apparent compromises. In doing so, they have accepted a pathway of heteropraxy foreign to every Bible believing fundamentalist for thousands of years. Thousands over the centuries have adorned the true doctrine of biblical separation with their own blood.

Most importantly, these men have rejected the clear statements of the Word of God about separation in exchange for “good words and fair speeches” intent upon the deception of “the hearts of the simple.” This was addressed in an article entitled Conservative Evangelicalism’s Distortion of the Doctrine of Separation. The quote below is from that article:
“We must understand Paul’s instruction to ‘mark them’ and his command to ‘avoid them’ as referring to anything that departs from ‘the faith’ he had just laid out in careful divisions and meticulous detail including the vocational election of national Israel, the details of the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the place of Church Age believers in the unfolding already, not yet beginning of the New Covenant. Paul gives details of Pneumatology in Romans chapters 6 and 12 regarding the supernatural baptism with the Holy Spirit (6:1-18) and the supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of consecrated believers (12:1-8). Paul gives details of the Church Age priesthood of all believers in Romans chapter 11 and warns them of the consequences of unfaithfulness by disobedience to what they were saved to do - Ambassadors of Reconciliation.
Secondly, two practical outcome failures are addressed in the statement ‘cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine.’

            1. ‘Divisions . . . contrary to the doctrine’

            2. ‘Offences . . . contrary to the doctrine’

Those to be marked and avoided are those involved in these two corrupt outcomes. The words ‘the doctrine’ are synonymous with the words ‘the faith’ used elsewhere in Paul’s epistles. In fact Paul uses the phrase ‘the faith’ to refer to the complete inscripturalized doctrines of the Word of God over and over again in his epistles. I believe Paul uses the phrase ‘the faith’ on 20 different occasions and Peter and Jude each use it once. The phrase ‘the faith’ is what Paul refers to in Acts 20:27 as he addressed the ‘elders’ of the local churches of Ephesus, ‘For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.’

The word ‘divisions’ in Romans 16:17 is from the Greek word dichostasia (dee-khos-tas-ee'-ah), which means disunion. Paul is referring to doctrinal dissension resulting in division or sedition. Therefore, the primary meaning of ‘divisions’ is the breaking of what was previously joined together. ‘Divisions’ is doctrinal disunity as contrasted with doctrinal unity.”8

The men I seek to mark by this article are creating “divisions contrary to the doctrine.” This refers to heresy in that heresy is creating a faction or a new group from those led away from a previous group. This is explained in the same article as the quote above.
“Once the division is created and an individual is disjoined from the unity of the ‘one faith,’ this creates a faction or new sect within Christianity. Therefore, this division in doctrine leads to heresy. The word heresy in the New Testament is from the Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is), which basically means to choose a party or sect. The negative aspect of the word heresy refers to the removing of an individual from the main stream of Bible believing Christianity to form another division that wants to represent itself as the main stream or the norm.”9

“The Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is) is often translated by the word sect rather than by the word heresy. There was ‘the sect {hairesis} of the Sadducees’ (Acts 5:17). There was ‘the sect {hairesis} of the Pharisees’ (Acts 15:5). On two occasions, true Christianity was called heresy by the Jews (Acts 24:5 and 14). Paul refers to the divisions within the church at Corinth as heresy (I Cor. 11:17-19). Paul referred to ‘heresies’ as one of the manifestations of the ‘works of the flesh’ in Galatians 5:19-21. Peter referred to the divisive teaching of the ‘false teachers’ as ‘damnable heresies’ in II Peter 2:1 that ultimately denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The point is that even though individuals who come under the pretense of unity, but with some new divisive theological position thereby creating a new faction and sect within Christianity, thereby this is the very essence of what defines the word heresy. Therefore, although Paul’s use of the word ‘divisions’ in Romans 16:17 is not the Greek word hairesis, the outcome of these ‘divisions’ is heresy (new sects).

The second practical outcome failure addressed in the statement of Romans 16:17 is that they ‘cause . . . offences contrary to the doctrine.’ The word ‘offenses’ is translated from the Greek word skandalon (skan'-dal-on), from which we get our English word scandal. It is derived from a word meaning trip stick. The context of use gives us the meaning to refer to the outcome of false doctrine that would cause people to be tripped up or to stumble in their Christian walk. This certainly would apply to the false teaching of Conservative Evangelicalism that cooperation amongst various sects of Christianity should only be determined by some ambiguous definition of the Gospel.”10

The words “good words and fair speeches” in Romans 16:18 do not sound as ominous as these words that come forth in the Greek text. We see how ominous these words are when we look at the outcomes of their intent. David Sutton brings this forth in his comments on this text:

“They deceive the hearts of the simple. These good words (xrestologia) have a pleasing quality. They seem full of virtue and reason. They are not brash or harsh, but gentle, offering better results that the ‘old’ way. This is the same tactic that Satan used with Eve. He questioned God, contradicted God, and gave a reasonable solution for why Eve should do what he wanted. Does it work? It does? The fair speeches (eulogia) come out as polished language, smooth and flowing, filled with good words and blessing. Many times, these people speak their messages with eloquence and style. They use tactics that tickle people’s ears and capture their attention. They flatter, look humble, sound sincere, and talk spiritual. They know the Bible and often do good works. Yet something seems off. What they say does not line up with Scripture, yet they seem so believable. The spiritually mature see problems, but the simple do not. As a result, the simple are deceived in their hearts (their way of thinking).”11

There is always a common pattern in the process of developing leadership among people. The first step is to earn a hearing. The second step is developing a friendship. The third step is winning the heart. The fourth step is creating loyalty. However, once these four steps have been achieved, they can be used for good or evil. Those following these leaders must always be extremely cautious when leadership appears to be taking a new pathway contrary to God’s Word.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Psalm 14:12).
“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Dr. Lance T. Ketchum
Originally appeared: Disciple Maker Ministries

Reprinted by permission

[2] Brandenburg, Kent, editor. Contributing authors: Custer, Michael; Mallinak, Dave; McCandless, Erich; Mitchell, Bobby; Smith, Thomas; Sutton, David; and Webb, Gary. A Pure Church: A Biblical Theology of Ecclesiastical Separation. El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2012, page 296-297.

[3] George Houghton. "The Matter of Militancy," Faith Pulpit (May 1994)

[4] The idea of "servant leadership" as it is propagated in the New Evangelical community was severely criticized by by David F. Wells, a fellow New Evangelical. He says that the term "has the ring of piety about it. But it is false piety, or it plays on an understanding of servanthood that is antithetical to biblical understanding. Contemporaryservant leaders are typically individuals without any ideas of their own, people whose convictions shift with the popular opinion to which they assiduously attune themselves, people who bow to the wishes of "the body" from which their direction and standing derive" (No Place For Truth [Eermans, 1993]' pp. 214-15). His attack was directed at the lack of convictions and biblical/doctrinal truth that has overtaken the New Evangelical movement and that has displaced theology with psychology and the prescriptions of the modern self movement. This is not the case with the author of Reclaiming . . . Fundamentalism, but a word of caution is in order. Without forceful leadership and the aggressive prosecution of a biblical philosophy and agenda, the Fundamentalist will find his vision being challenged by another who is quite militant about his own proposal. Well's point is well taken: Servant leadership does not necessitate a benign, non-aggressive stance.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Brandenburg, Kent, editor. Contributing authors: Custer, Michael; Mallinak, Dave; McCandless, Erich; Mitchell, Bobby; Smith, Thomas; Sutton, David; and Webb, Gary. A Pure Church: A Biblical Theology of Ecclesiastical Separation. El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2012, page 40.

Related Reading:
Platform Sharing & Identification by Dr. Clay Nuttall

Dr. Ernest Pickering: A Mood of 'Broadmindedness'. The NEW New Evangelicalism
Moods are difficult to define sometimes, but they nonetheless can be real and potent forces. Theirs was a mood of toleration, an acceptance of widely varying theological concepts - a mood of “broadmindedness.” We fear such moods since we have seen, within our lifetime, their final outcome - a full-blown movement steeped in compromise. We believe we sense such a mood abroad today among those who, in all sincerity no doubt, think we should broaden our bases and reshape our image.

Editors Commentary:
Because of the importance of this article to the discussion of new wave New Evangelicalism making inroads into once fundamental, separatist Baptist circles, through the efforts of Drs. Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Tim Jordan, Doug McLachlan, Sam Horn and Matt Olson you might consider forwarding a link to this article by Dr. Ketchum to a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

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

November 16, 2012

Dr. Clay Nuttall: Singular Headship

In [a] previous issue, I took up the challenge of some readers to point out areas where the scholars have gotten it wrong. We dealt with the issue of elders in the church. If you missed that one, consider going to our website where it is posted. Careless scholarship has created two groups who snipe at each other from their towers of human reason. The Bible is in the middle of this war, and because it has the answers, that is where we want to focus.
Let me repeat for you that the problem isn’t about plurality of elders, or elder rule. These are clearly taught in scripture, even if we have ignored them. The point of discussion is “Who is qualified to be an elder?” A careful study of the text firmly establishes that the words “elder, bishop, overseer, shepherd, pastor” are all referring to the same person. He is all of these, or he is none of them. He is a shepherd, and the Bible explains what that entails. The simplest form of the local church is not where two or three are gathered together; it is sheep with a shepherd. Yet there are those who, because they have decided that headship is multiple, use an errant hermeneutic, arguing that some sheep who are not shepherds can be elders.

Against my better judgment, I refer you to an article on “The Plurality Principle” on page 83 of The Practical Aspects of Pastoral Theology. The author of that particular chapter is Christopher Cone. The writings of a number of other authors are included in the book, including some who are the finest in their field, but “The Plurality Principle” article is a hermeneutical disaster.

It is a perfect example of what happens when we try to defend a presupposition and force the scripture to comply.

I know this is a strong evaluation, but it demonstrates the ease with which a theological pretzel can be manufactured. If you think that this amounts to attacking a brother rather than exposing an idea, I beg you to read other articles in the Shepherd’s Staff archives.

All of creation teaches clearly that headship is singular. It is God’s plan. An animal with two heads is not normal, and a multiple-headed being is viewed as a monster. When God created the home, He created single headship. Every time He stepped into the molding of society, He created single headship. The patriarchs, judges, and kings whom God chose were singular headship leaders. When God chose Moses, He knew what he was doing and He made no mistake. The people may have erred, but God did not. To argue that God was wrong in His singular choices because the people failed is to argue from error, not truth. Even the Godhead reflects this headship concept. Someone once said that “God so loved the world that He didn’t send a committee or a board; He gave us the God-man.”

Anyone who has some years of leadership under his belt knows that there is no vacuum in leadership. Someone always rises to the top. It is as natural as breathing. It is how God made us. You can see this working out in the record of the New Testament local church. It is evident with James in Acts chapter 15 and with Paul in his epistles, as well as with those who traveled with Paul, planting and bringing order to the local churches. The record of local churches in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation are simple if only we will just let the text speak for itself. Nothing speaks more clearly than an honest understanding of the role of the shepherd. Shepherds come one at a time. If the flock was too large, there would be multiple shepherds, just as in a local church. How could there be any question that there is also singular headship where there are multiple pastors? Any other plan would be a disaster. John chapter 10 and I Peter 5 are only a couple of clear examples of this. There may have been hirelings, apprentices, etc., but just because they did some shepherding did not mean they were shepherds. Remember that all of creation teaches what we see in a local flock - singular headship. Multiple shepherds with the flock, perhaps, but there had to be singular headship. At this point, you may wish to read chapter 7, “The Shepherd and His Sheep,” in my book, The Weeping Church.

Let me encourage you to review the one biblical hermeneutic. It will assist the reader in seeing how ignorance of, or ignoring this God-given plan of interpretation, will always create error. When we come to such a subject as this, we must pay attention to the language, context, and historical setting of the text if we are to come to a biblical conclusion.

I am stunned at the idea that God had one plan - singular headship - from the beginning of time and used it throughout the life of Israel…and suddenly it is no longer true in the church age? In the chapter by Dr. Cone mentioned above, he argues that singular headship in this age supports the replacement theory, which posits that Israel has been replaced by the church. The fact is that many, if not most of those who reject the replacement theory, hold to singular headship. Creating straw men like this is not helpful. Let me point out, though, that Cone doesn’t use the term “headship,” but instead uses “leadership.” These terms are not the same. Not all leaders have headship, but all who have headship have leadership.

Those who have missed the meaning of the plurality texts would normally argue that Christ is the head of the church. That is true if you are talking about the body of Christ - that is, those who have been saved since Pentecost or will be saved up until the time of the rapture. It may sound spiritual to say that Christ is the head of the local church, but it is error not to recognize that Christ, “the Chief Shepherd,” has appointed under-shepherds/pastors to lead and head the local church. This designated headship is stated clearly in I Corinthians 11:3, which says that “the head of Christ is God, the head of man is Christ, and the head of woman is man.” Christ has made the husband/father the head of the home, just as he has designated headship in the church. We have clearly seen that this, and all headship, is singular.

So in the church, where the workload must be shared, Christ would have appointed other shepherds to carry the load; but the Bible teaches that headship is singular. A church with multiple heads is a monster. It might please human reason for us to order our churches like corporations and flawed forms of human government, but does it please God?

I am also astounded by those who claim that the Bible does not provide us with a pattern for polity, or church government.

That fits right in with the thinking of others who would like to be free to rewrite the Bible. It is equal to the nonsense that says the Bible doesn’t speak to music, or alcohol, or adultery. They may want it that way, but God has a plan for anyone who is interested.

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,