21 August 2009

Sometimes fellowship is better than a fight. Sometimes not.


The futility of crying "Peace, Peace," when there is no peace.

(First posted 15 September 2005)

pyromaniacne thing you'll quickly notice if you make even a casual study of historical theology is this: the history of the church is a long chronicle of doctrinal development that runs from one profound controversy to the next.

In one sense it is sad that the history of the church is so marred by doctrinal conflicts, but in another sense that is precisely what the apostles anticipated. Even while the New Testament was still being written, the church was contending with serious heresies and dangerous false teachers who seemed to spring up everywhere. This was so much a universal problem that Paul made it one of the qualifications of every elder that he be strong in doctrine and able to refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9). So the church has always been beset by heretics and false teachings, and church history is full of the evidence of this.

Obviously, then, we who love the truth cannot automatically shy away from every fight over doctrine. Especially in an era like ours when virtually every doctrine is deemed up for grabs, Christians need to be willing and prepared to contend earnestly for the faith.

On the other hand, even in an obsessively "tolerant" age such as ours, the opposite danger looms large as well. There are some people who are always spoiling for a fight over little matters, and no issue is too trivial for them to overlook. It seems they are looking for reasons to take offense, and if you're not careful what you say or how you say it, they'll throw a major hissy. More often than not, it's an insignificant issue, an unintentional slight, or an inadvertently indelicate "tone" that provokes the tantrum. (Ironically, these same folks are sometimes more than willing to tolerate major doctrinal errors in the name of "charity.")

Scripture includes all the following commands: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18). "It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 10-11). "I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations" (Romans 14:1). "Follow peace with all men, and holiness" (Hebrews 12:14).

Clearly, there are two extremes to be avoided. One is the danger of being so narrow and intolerant that you create unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ. The other is the problem of being too broad-minded and sinfully tolerant—so ecumenically minded that you settle for a shallow, false unity with people whom we are commanded to avoid or whose errors we are morally obligated to refute.

It would seem that the only way to be faithful to all the above commands is to have a sound and biblical understanding of how to distinguish between core doctrines and peripheral ones.

But search for serious material that carefully discusses biblical guidelines for making such distinctions wisely, and you'll come up mostly dry. This is an issue I fear most Christians have not considered as soberly and carefully as we should, and it would be my assessment that one of the crying needs of the church in this age of mindless postmodern subjectivity is a clear, careful, and thorough biblical understanding of when it's time to fight and when it's time to fellowship.

Few subjects interest me more than this. It seems a pretty obvious and foundational issue for the church and her leaders to settle. You might think the early fundamentalists ought to have done extensive work on the subject, but as far as I can see, they didn't. They treated several key doctrines as fundamental, based mainly on what happened to be under attack by the modernists, and they declared themselves devoted to "the fundamentals."

But they didn't always keep very clear focus on the distinction between what was fundamental and what was not. As a result, later generations of fundamentalists often fought and fragmented over issues no one could rationally argue were "fundamental." Predictably, the fundamentalist movement slowly collapsed on itself.

There are some valiant efforts currently underway to improve and preserve the best remnants of the fundamentalist movement. I sincerely wish them success. But it seems to me that unless the brightest minds and most careful theologians in that movement are willing to go back to this basic question and carefully think through the biblical and theological rationale for the original distinction between fundamental and secondary truths, certain things that ought to be clear will remain murky, and fundamentalism will be doomed to repeating cycles of failure.

If there's anyone left in the "evangelical movement" who is truly evangelical in the historic sense, the same thing applies to them, by the way.

Phil's signature

88 comments:

stratagem said...

In churches in general, I seem to have run into the Matthew 18 Police a lot more than the Jude 3 Police. So, I believe this article is a very timely read for our age. Thank you, Phil.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Phil: "It would seem that the only way to be faithful to all the above commands is to have a sound and biblical understanding of how to distinguish between core doctrines and peripheral ones."

I agree with this diagnosis.

I've noticed that someone's core doctrine is another person's peripheral doctrine.

I've also noticed that the Enemy attacks lax defense of "peripheral" doctrines in order to penetrate and hollow out the teaching and practice of "core" doctrines, and thereby produce apostasy and heresy.

Craig and Heather said...

Thank you for this post. I would love to read more on this subject...are there more posts like this in the archives?

I often find myself caught between the "Can't we all just get along" and "Every issue MUST cause division in order to prove who is truly on God's side" crowds.

I don't want to be wishy-washy or unnecessarily strict. I want to believe what is true because the concept of accepting error terrifies me.

You're post definitely nailed one of my struggles concerning the nature of "divisive doctrine". I lack biblical knowledge.

I have also noted that knowing my Shepherd's voice makes a difference. I can be fooled easily but God cannot and James wrote that He has promised wisdom to all who will ask (assuming we ask with the intention of heeding the instruction).

Being exposed to a myriad of diverse teachings has certainly done wonders for my relationship with Christ!

Heather

DJP said...

Heather, look in the right-hand column. All archived posts are available. Everything Phil and Frank write is worth reading.

Craig and Heather said...

Thank you Mr. Phillips. Will do.

~Mark said...

What a timely reposting! This has come up quite a bit recently as I speak with Christians of various denominational backgrounds.

Many are so careful to speak of their beliefs it's as if they're awaiting a rebuke of some sort, while other are so quick to voluminously defend their peripheral beliefs it's obvious they've contended with the same rebukes but chosen a different route response.

Conversations don't really flow until we reach the point of understanding that while the essentials are essential for a reason, the peripherals can be lovingly debated and don't have to create a rift in the fellowship

mike said...

Mr. Philips???

Dan's dad showed up?

DJP said...

lol

I'd like that.

mike said...

I live in the inland empire of southern California (conservative, working class people) by Redlands (abherantly prosperous, liberal, sacal influence).
the prominant churches in our area mostly seem to run these extremes.
the first item on the mission statement is either "unity/ tolerance" or "inerrancy/ intolerance", and the internal doctrines are molded to that proposition.
this has made it become almost uncomfortable to interact within the community, as much conversation becomes "can you believe what THEY are doing over at____"

this is a area that needs much, study, prayer, patience , and hard work, due to long term neglect.

thanks for reposting a thoughtful assessment.
even if not from the pulpits, this has become the end pruduct.

Larry said...

1Co 11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
1Co 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

Craig and Heather said...

Mike said:
Mr. Philips???

Dan's dad showed up?
*****************************

So what are you saying? That my long-held belief concerning the propriety of formal address is irrelevant?

It is apparent that your focus is on "relationships" but I can see you are ignoring the need to be respectful!

At least I had the decency to spell his name correctly, so that MUST mean I think more highly of him than you do .....Right?

I suppose we could go hash it out off site and if we cannot come to an agreement, we will have to part ways over this.

Actually. "Dan" is okay with me, I just was taught that when you know someone's last name, you use it until (s)he releases you.

Heather

DJP said...

Oh Heather, I hope you wrote that with a smile, because Mike was just funnin' you.

Good point about spelling my name... though I think spelling is not Mike's main spiritual gift.

As to calling me Dan, I absolutely do release you. Only one blogger calls me "Mr. Phillips," and that's to communicate seething rage.

mike said...

add to that that he may be older than you, and you are absolutely correct.
he is not older than I, but i suppose he has (if only by association to Phil and Frank) earned our respect and some admiration.

mike said...

Inot only can not spell, i type with a limp, therefore as it may qualify as a disability, i wouls ask that my feelings be hypersensitively be protected

donsands said...

Excellent teaching and post.


"Clearly, there are two extremes to be avoided."

And I have been there and done that on both extremes. But God's grace has worked in my heart, and the Cross of Christ is all my righteousness, and so I have no right to look down upon anyone.
And because I love Christ, and the Cross, I'm always ready to contend for the pureness of it's simple truth.

Thanks for the edifying words. Well said.
Have a good and godly weekend and Lord's Day.

stratagem said...

this is a area that needs much, study, prayer, patience , and hard work, due to long term neglect.

Not just the inland empire... I'd include just about all of California in that!

Stuart Wood said...

As I may well have been the one who prompted the occasion of this topic, I will ask you to consider one question. When Paul writes, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Rom. 16:17), does he not mean ALL DOCTRINE, that is, every teaching of the Word of God, or only the "fundamental doctrines"? I personally believe he means ALL DOCTRINE. Luther said that a single Word of the Holy Scriptures is worth more that the whole entire world put together. He also said, "cursed be to the depths of hell that so-called love that compromises even a single teaching of the Word of God". It is the commitment to the entire truth and purity of God's Word that distinguishes a truly orthodox church from a heterodox church. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3).

Chris Cookston said...

I really hope someone would write a solid article or book on the topic of evangelical separation. I have an old book called "Biblical Separation" by Pickering, its an interesting read but it provides the history of said topic rather than the criteria.

So many want to embrace ecumenicalism and take John 17:21 as their proof text.

Coming from a fundamental background my criteria list is rather long for fellowship but it is getting smaller these days.

Chad V. said...

Hoo-Boy!

DJP

Your a Dispensationalist and I'm Covenant. Stuart says that we have to disfellowship from each other. :-( I think I'm going to cry.

Chad V. said...

My pastor and I I'm quite sure will come to at least one passage of scripture where we don't agree on the interpretation, guess I better disfellowship from him too.

Chris Cookston said...

John Whitcomb presented a lecture series entitled "God's Truth Circles" he deals with this topic. Its biblical and very good and very interesting.

You can pick it up from:

http://www.whitcombministries.org

stratagem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stratagem said...

Stu:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Rom. 16:17)

Don't you realize that this is the very same verse that the tolerance police use to enforce the "let's all just get along" approach? Yet here you are using it to suggest that people have to agree on the original meaning of every verse of the Bible to be in fellowship. Interesting!

As far as what Luther said, who cares? He wasn't speaking inerrantly. (He also advocated drowning a retarded boy in the river, as far as that's concerned).

You seem to be coming at everything from an extreme black and white point of view. If you want, I can make you a nifty B&W marble bust of yourself such as the one of me pictured at the right. I'm pretty decent with photoshop... :-0

Frank Turk said...

"everything"?

Well, if DJP said it, I believe it.

Frank Turk said...

I just want to point out that I was serious when I said that Stuart Wood was advocating an error a lot like KJVO, and here he makes it so obvious that to ignore what he just said would be negligent.

OK: If I can finish the pile of stuff on my desk I can go home early, so I'm outta here.

Stuart Wood said...

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). It is the nature of the true child of God to hear and receive the voice of the Shepherd, that is, the Word of God. Jesus also said, "If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31), that is, My true disciples. All true disciples have an ear for the Word of God. John writes, "he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us" (1 John 4:6).

Here is a link that will explain the right Biblical position on this issue much better than I can. I would be very interested if anyone could find anything in it contrary to the Word of God.

http://clclutheran.org/library/ccf.html

DJP said...

...because we've all seen how open you are to correction from the Word of God, where that Word varies from your dogma?

donsands said...

"As far as what Luther said, who cares?"

I do. He was a gifted theologian, and I love studying his commentaries.

"Jesus also said, "If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31), that is, My true disciples. All true disciples have an ear for the Word of God."-Stuart Wood

I agree, and my many non-reformed friends in the Lord would agree as well.

God has much grace for His vast amount of children, who have different eschatology, baptismal mode, how spiritual is the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and is faith a gift to God's elect.

There are many non-reformed brothers in my life, and perhaps it pleases God to allow us to be different on these teachings, for it may help us to stay sharper. And perhaps it brings the Lord glory when we Christians have disagreements, and yet love one another.

Stefan said...

Chad:

I'd have to separate from all of you, since I'm historic premillennialist, and the rest of you are all...wrong.

Chris Cookston said...

Stuart:

I'm curious, how do you explain John 14:8-10 in light of your position.

stratagem said...

"As far as what Luther said, who cares?"

I do. He was a gifted theologian, and I love studying his commentaries
.

Don - I think you should read what I wrote, in context. Stu was using Luther's words in a way that implied they are inspired in the same way Scripture is - and, they aren't. Put another way: you might choose to care what Luther said, but we are all obligated to care about what God's word says. We are not obligated to care what Luther said, even if some of what he said may have been good and true.

Johnny T. Helms said...

I recently linked Dr. Mohler's blog on the prosperity gospel to four blogs where I contribute. I added my own thoughts as well. I could not believe the flack I got from other Christians. The blog where the flack came was myChurch. Sheesh! You would have thought I said I worship Satan or something.

Anywho, this is the state of the church; always has been, always will be ... well, until that Day.

donsands said...

"We are not obligated to care what Luther said, even if some of what he said may have been good and true."

I guess we're not really obligated to care what anybody says, not you, me, Phil, John MacArthur, or whoever I suppose.
But it just don't sound right to say it like that.

Have a blessed weekend.

stratagem said...

I guess we're not really obligated to care what anybody says, not you, me, Phil, John MacArthur, or whoever I suppose.

That's true, we're not. Not in the same way as Scripture.

But it just don't sound right to say it like that.

It doesn't sound right to me to realize that something is objectively true, but then object to it for some reason you can't articulate.

Also, remember I'm not saying that you can't care what those people are saying, I'm saying that as a Christian, you aren't obligated to. An admonition from Luther is in no way equal to an admonition from the Word of God, whether you think that "doesn't sound right," or not.

Stuart Wood said...

Hi Chris,

That is an excellent question. The guiding light is that a true Christian has indeed been born again, born of God, and is a vey real spiritual being with a God-given spiritual ear. He is truly tuned in to the Voice of the Shepherd, that is, the Word of God. Though he starts as a babe in Christ, and has many wrong notions derived from his own reason or from the impositions of false teachers, he "proves all things; holding fast that which is good" (1 Th. 5), that is, that which is true to God's Word. He assumes the total depravity of his own natural mind, and is ever "casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3). He is never absolutely perfect in his understanding, but he is in process, and will not defend his own errors nor stay in the same stall with other errorists once he sees the truth.

In your John 14:8-10 passage, Philip is a true disciple (learner). He had not yet come to understand the profound unity of God the Son with God the Father, but he did not close His mind to the Lord's words nor did he oppose his own notions to the Lord's words. He simply did not understand, and implored the Lord for greater understanding (James 1:5).

I liken my own experience to the journey of a salmon up stream. I started in the salty waters of this world. After becoming a Christian, I entered into the brackish waters of modern evangelicalism, and slowly moved my way progressively from one seemingly pure pool to another more pure pool. I finally discovered the teachings of that dear Dr. Martin Luther and upon much testing found that I had actually arrived at the crystal clear headwaters of this blessed river. I now have the happy privilege of bearing witness to others that Luther's doctrines do indeed agree in all points with "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).

trogdor said...

So while you were swimming upstream towards devotion to Sola Luthera, should the pure Lutherans have completely disowned you as a rank heretic?

donsands said...

"Also, remember I'm not saying that you can't care what those people are saying,"

That's good. I do care what a lot of people say. The best teaching I ever heard on the Unpardonable Sin was by Phil Johnson, just for an example. He exposits, and expounds upon the Scriptures in a very edifying way, and I thank the Lord for His shepherds/pastors/bishops/teachers/rulers/and such, old and new.

Spurgeon would be my favorite old saint, and RC Sproul my favorite new saint, who teaches the Word.

I know I'm not obligated to care, but I do. And I thank God for them.

Stuart Wood said...

Trogdor,

If I had completely disowned you, I wouldn't be taking the time to venture into a predictably hostile environment to share with you the truth. Despite appearances to the contrary, I too have human flesh, and am not a glutton for punishment. But I do this solely out of love for your sake and for the sake of those others who are on this site.

But it is true that orthodox Lutherans will not embrace someone into communion fellowship nor acknowledge one as a true brother in Christ unless there first be complete agreement on all Scriptural doctrines.

DJP said...

E V E R Y B O D Y

Do NOT miss THIS:

...nor acknowledge one as a true brother in Christ unless there first be complete agreement on all Scriptural doctrines

So, in Wood's dogmas which have thoroughly been rebutted in the previous thread:

1. Unless one tells people who will in fact go to Hell that Christ fully atoned for all their sins, one is not preaching the Gospel; AND

2. People who have trusted in Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone — cannot be acknowledged as brothers in Christ

Game, set, match.

mike said...

OK FINE.

well stated Mr. Phillips.

Hayden said...

Stuart,

Keep swimming up the stream, maybe you will end up at the source, the Bible. (Luther would point you that way as well)

Stuart Wood said...

For the record:

1) I believe that one is not preaching the true and saving Gospel if he cannot tell a lost sinner that Christ died for his sins personally.

2) Orthodox Lutherans (myself included) believe that there are many true Christians outside of the true orthodox faith, so long as they hold to the one and only true saving Gospel. However, we will not embrace someone into communion fellowship nor acknowledge someone as a true brother in Christ until there first be complete agreement on all Scriptural doctrines. This is because it is the nature of a true brother in Christ to hear and follow the Voice of the Shepherd, but where there is disagreement we cannot tell yet whether he is a brother in progress or no brother at all.

With his many misrepresentations and subtle twists of the truth, one must wonder whether Mr. Phillips is a Philip indeed.

DJP said...

A reminder:

Stuart tried, and absolutely failed, to find even one example of the apostolic church preaching the way he says a person must preach or he is preaching a false Gospel, making the entire apostolic church heretical (in his eyes).

mike said...

sweet, so if you can't recite the magic phrase, you all become "pending tares" until clarification.

Stuart Wood said...

Let's expose the fraud for what it is - Mr. Phillips, can you declare to me, a poor miserable sinner, that Jesus Christ suffered and died for MY sins personally? Yes, or no.

mike said...

Has anyone seen the movie Scanners?

cuz my ears and eyes are starting to bleed.

Craig and Heather said...

Oh Heather, I hope you wrote that with a smile, because Mike was just funnin' you.
********************************

I was joking.

Although I guess it isn't really funny.

Sometimes I wonder whether God looks at us in a manner similar to the parent who's kids are squabbling in the sandbox.

Like any good father, He WILL discipline those of His children who are out of line.

Even Paul stated that we have less than perfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:12). I'm reasonably certain that none of us is supposed to be thumping the others over their heads with the little glimpse of God that we each have been given.

Christ's body is not made of all hands, or feet or livers or spleens. Every part has a unique function but all are meant to glorify the Head (which isn't Martin Luther or John Calvin or any other respected teacher).

DJP said...

Full discussion and response on this meta.

Stuart Wood said...

We'll read the meta when we have time, but right now we are waiting for your answer to a very basic question - Mr. Phillips, can you declare to me, a poor miserable sinner, that Jesus Christ suffered and died for MY sins personally? Yes, or no.

Hayden said...

Stuart,

Sure, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, 10) If you have repented and believed in the Lord you are saved, what is so hard about that one???

I can tell anyone and everyone that if they repent and believe they will be saved.

Craig and Heather said...

We'll read the meta when we have time, but right now we are waiting for your answer to a very basic question - Mr. Phillips, can you declare to me, a poor miserable sinner, that Jesus Christ suffered and died for MY sins personally? Yes, or no.

*******************************

That is the same question you tossed at me yesterday.

Where in the Bible does it say that the litmus test for determining a false teacher/true Christian is whether he can positively answer that question?

mike said...

Heather, the Bible does not say it, Stuart thinks that Martin Luther said it, and that settles it.

and i knew you were kidding because i am so lovable that hardley anyone gets mad at me, ever, really.

Stuart Wood said...

No conditions - If you this... If you that... , that would be law. Just pure unmerited grace. A third time I ask, Mr. Phillips, can you declare to me, a poor miserable sinner, that Jesus Christ suffered and died for MY sins personally? Yes, or no.

mike said...

a great man once said, a long time ago;

"Sometimes fellowship is better than a fight. Sometimes not."

some wisdom is almost timeless.

Hayden said...

A good man said as well...

Proverbs 26:4-5 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. 5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes.

I wonder how this can be applied to the situation at hand????

stratagem said...

donsands: I also care what many people say. If not, I would not be reading this blog almost every day.

I would only say "Who cares what Luther said?" to someone who is in a Luther cult, such as Stuart seems to be. And that, to make a point: Luther's pronouncements are not on par with Scripture - they must be tested with Scripture. Same goes for MacArthur's words, and Johnson's words, and mine. I am sure MacArthur and Johnson would agree with that view. Peace.

DJP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Johnson said...

Stuart Wood: "As I may well have been the one who prompted the occasion of this topic, I will ask you . . . "

You think too much of yourself, sir. You weren't even a subconscious blip in my brain when I wrote or reposted this.

This post is not about you, and it is not about your pet topic--even though you insist on seeing everything in that light. As I have told you before, I'll post on that subject eventually, and we'll discuss it briefly. But until I that happens, stop trying to commandeer this blog for our own agenda, or you will be summarily and permanently banned.

As it is, consider yourself banned for the remainder of this thread. Post any more in this comment-thread and a moderator will delete your comment. Post any more on the extent of the atonement in THIS thread, and all your comments will be deleted and you will be permanently banned.

Sorry to be so firm, but this isn't the first time you have tried to commandeer the discussion on our blog. I have told you many times before that I think you are pathologically obsessed with trying to goad me into an argument about something I'm not even keen to devote much space to. The more you do it, the less inclined I am to give you what you crave.

Stefan said...

Pastor Wood wrote:

"No conditions - If you this... If you that... , that would be law."

The Apostle Paul wrote:

"...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

DJP said...

I deleted my own comment, in glad deference to Phil's.

Chad V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad V. said...

stratagem

If you take Luther for the point he actually was trying to make his words are perfectly valid. Luther was in no way promoting anything like what Stuart is.

donsands said...

"I would only say"Who cares what Luther said?" to someone who is in a Luther cult, such as Stuart seems to be. And that, to make a point:"

And it's a very good point indeed.

Stuart put's a mere man on the par with Scripture. Very foolish indeed.

Martin would sternly rebuke Stuart methinks.

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!"

"I will bow down toward Your holy temple
And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name."

DJP said...

He would now, certainly.

CR said...

Mike: Has anyone seen the movie Scanners?

cuz my ears and eyes are starting to bleed.


LOL!

joel said...

Phil,
Maybe we can get back on your topic now?
I am wondering why the fundamentalists felt a need to start a movement and layout their fundamentals without first reiterating Reformation slogans, in particular 'Scripture Alone' and 'Faith Alone'.

Do you think that they were deliberately trying to distance themselves from the reformers, or did they just take these truths for granted?

I don't mean to say that any of them would have disagreed with the reformation principals but none of the fundamentalist circles I have been in have come close to emphasizing them.

CR said...

Phil: It would seem that the only way to be faithful to all the above commands is to have a sound and biblical understanding of how to distinguish between core doctrines and peripheral ones.

I think this is what systematic theology attempts to do. It draws on the foundations from Scripture and looks to the development of doctrine over time to produce a complete and versitile view as possible which can be applied both broadly and particularly. Many systematic theological systems have been developed in Christian history and they have dealt with the issues of their time.

The problem is systematic theological works are very hard to write and take a LOT of time. I think Reymond's was the last recent one written. Oh, and yeah, they also take a lot of time read and go through.

one busy mom said...

Phil,

You said:

"But search for serious material that carefully discusses biblical guidelines for making such distinctions wisely, and you'll come up mostly dry"

Great book idea. How about writing it - FAST!

Seriously.

This issue is huge where I live - and has been taken to absurd levels. Pre-trib folks not on speaking terms with the post-trib tribe. 'skirts only' women refusing to associate with 'pant wearing' women. Christians desiring to fight the good fight and defend the faith...but not knowing what to defend.

Here, we major in the minors and are collectively straining out the knat and swallowing the camel. It would be so refreshing to have a clear 'line in the sand'. This much defend, all else -peace.

Stefan said...

Joel:

It is presumptuous of me to reply on Phil's behalf, but the answer to your question might lie in his 2005 Shepherd's Conference, "Dead Right: The Failure of Fundamentalism." Transcript and audio available from this page; it's the 8th item down from the top.

Fast forward to page 10, where he covers the early history of the movement—which began as simply part of the overall conservative reaction to the liberalization that was happening in mainline churches in the early 20th century—and its early doctrinal development. (And don't be misled by the title: he treats the movement's history fairly evenhandedly.)

Stefan said...

...Shepherd's Conference session...

Craig and Heather said...

Heather, the Bible does not say it, Stuart thinks that Martin Luther said it, and that settles it.

I see. Thanks for clearing that up. Sometimes I read stuff like that and start to sweat that I am some sort of false convert because I don't see what is being claimed.



and i knew you were kidding because i am so lovable that hardley anyone gets mad at me, ever, really.

LOL! Good. It can be easy to end up with my keyboard in my mouth when I am unfamiliar with the personalities of other bloggers.

Glad to hear that you are of a mild and gentle disposition--like that baby shampoo that cleans your hair but doesn't make you cry when it gets in your eyes...


Is it okay to share an off-site address to a relevant video clip that I saw this afternoon?

I see you all aren't shy about deleting rule-breaking comments, so I'll leave it here and assume you will do whatever is appropriate.

http://theviolenttakeitbyforce.blogspot.com/2009/08/is-your-theology-idol.html

Heather

comeinfromtherain said...

I am tempted to break them into 3 catagories, those doctrines that the Scripture warns that those who hold to them, have "fallen from grace", or "will not inherit the Kingdom of God".

Those doctrines that mess folks up, like the "word faith" foolishness.

And those relatively minor issues like the pre, mid or post tribulation views.

I think it is in dividing the latter two where the challenge lies

Stefan said...
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Stefan said...

Heather:

Assurance is a very, very precious gift of the Holy Spirit, and when a false teacher causes a believer to worry about his or her assurance, that is a very, very serious thing...which is the only reason I'm up at 1:45 in the morning writing this, when I should have already gone to sleep.

You and Mike are both new commentors here, and speaking for myself, I have enjoyed reading both of your insights very much (not to mention your inadvertently humorous interactions!).

What happened yesterday and today was very upsetting to see, because as someone who is apparently just trying to figure this stuff out (yourself), you got drawn into the attacks of a false teacher, and although he wasn't preying on you specifically (I mean to the exclusion of the rest of us), his tactics evidently had an effect on you.

His tactic seems to be to try to get us to question our assurance of salvation, in order to bring us around to see things from his unbiblical* point of view. One very, very good thing about this blog is that its shepherds (and two of them would probably blush at being called shepherds) are very careful to keep the wolves at bay, and create an iron-sharpening-iron environment for the rest of us. Differing views are welcomed, but not hostile disagreements.

Regardless of the substance of what was being discussed, not being able to immediately see some point of doctrine (true or false) or come up with a quick, A+ answer to a question should not cause you to worry about your spiritual state.

It's true that Internet Calvinism often appears to be overly intellectualized, but it's first and foremost about the Gospel. When it comes down to brass tacks, all that matters is knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour who died on the Cross for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day—and that is wellspring of sweet, precious assurance, as well.

The Lord God will preserve His saints to the end, for if He chose you before the foundation of the world and elected you to salvation in spite your own unworthiness to be saved to eternal life, and gave His own Son Jesus Christ to bear the penalty for your sins unto death on the Cross, and through the Holy Spirit granted you the gift of repentance and faith leading to salvation (and if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, then all this is axiomatically true), then He will preserve you until Jesus Christ returns or calls you home. He has made an everlasting covenant that He will never break.

*By the way, there are some fine believers (one whom I know and love dearly) who hold to an unlimited atonement and particular redemption—often called "four-point Calvinism"—but don't claim the Bible teaches some particular formulation of the Gospel that it doesn't teach anywhere, then claim that anyone who disagrees is a heretic. For myself—and I'm nobody, so don't take my word for it—I'll stick with limited atonement.

Chad V. said...

Some resources along the line of what Phil was talking about in this post might be a couple of books by Martin Lloyd Jones. I'm thinking of "Truth Unchanged, Unchanging" and "The Basis of Christian Unity".

Craig and Heather said...

Stefan:

Thank you for taking the time to speak directly to my concerns.

It does appear that the cyber-world has an inordinately large population of wolves. I've been bitten more than once.

But God has used them to hone and purify my faith in Him alone--and teach me some much needed lessons about myself!

I do get rattled easily, partly because I recently had to admit that most of what I "knew" was hand-me-down information that I had not personally examined and proven according to Scripture. Everything has to be taken off the shelf, dusted and scrutinized before it can be put back.

For now, when I skin my knees, my only choice is to run back to Daddy and ask "Is that guy telling the truth?" Maybe that is the way it is always supposed to work?

Interestingly, when the darkness seems to be nearly suffocating, that is when the Light of God's truth is most obvious and I am most ready to accept it. And it shines through the people God has placed around me.

For the most part, the posting/discussions here have nailed some things I have recently been working through. I don't believe it was an accident that I felt "drawn" to click the "Pyromaniac" button on a blog I don't normally visit.


I am thankful to have been allowed to participate in the discussion.

Heather

Craig and Heather said...

DJP said As to calling me Dan, I absolutely do release you. Only one blogger calls me "Mr. Phillips," and that's to communicate seething rage.

I will hereby cease from addressing you as "Mr Phillips". This blog has stirred up many emotions--but so far, seething rage has not been one of them.

H

Kent Brandenburg said...

I think this is an important question and have attempted to think through scripture on it and to read much in history about it also. First, in the context of "live peaceably" at the end of Romans 12, we are talking about relating with unbelievers beginning in v. 14, those who persecute us and despitefully use us, with whom we are not to seek vengeance but overcome evil with good, something parallel to what we see Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount in Luke 6:27-30. I do believe that love rejoices in the truth, so that we can rejoice in the truth of someone even if we don't take all the same practical positions as he. That is to have a spirit of reconciliation and forbearance. Romans 14:1 is dealing with non-scriptural issues. We are to receive those who take a different position than we in a matter of liberty.

I don't believe that scripture supports a tertiary/primary doctrine type of teaching. I believe we can see that there are foundational doctrines, but I don't see in scripture a doctrine of "ranking doctrines" for purposes of unity and/or separation. I see the opposite. Scripture reveals the technical character of God, a God that is very serious about the details. I don't believe that this means that we cut people off in separation, but it does mean that real unity (not just spiritual oneness) is found in more than just the essentials.

I've explored this subject here in five parts:

http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/search?q=%22Secondary%2C+Tertiary%2C+or+Essential%3F%22

I am 100% on topic and I would enjoy and appreciate it if I might not be confronted on a subject unrelated to the thread.

Craig and Heather said...

@ Kent Brandenburg:

I hope it is okay that I am copying the final quote of your #5 installment.

This:

We can’t love God if we don’t keep His commandments. He that loves God will keep all of His Words, Sayings, and Commands (John 14:15, 21, 24). Who are we to tell God what is important and what isn’t important? God said that He was more important than man, but that was it. Of course, if we don’t receive Him or believe in Him, we will be eternally punished. Those who receive the greatest punishment will be those who had the greatest opportunity to receive Him, but didn’t. For those who do receive Him, they will be judged based on their faithfulness to what He said—everything that He said.

...has often haunted me. On the one hand, I know I don't keep all of God's commands. But it is my desire. On the other hand, I absolutely believe that how well I choose to obey my Lord indicates my level of devotion to Him.

You make a good point in saying that love for God must come first. I am learning that (if I am listening to Him) He makes it quite clear when it is time to join hands and when it is time to walk away.

I believe it was Stuart who pointed out that the Good Shepherd's sheep hear (and heed) His voice :o)

James 4 made it pretty clear that "Christian" fights and quarrels come from self-centeredness. We are willing to beat each other up in order to get our own way rather than to bring honor to God.

I used to wonder what "working out one's salvation with fear and trembling" meant--since we obviously can't work FOR salvation. But I believe the picture is becoming more clear these days.

I'm starting to think that who I am and am not supposed to call "brother" will become rather apparent if I first am familiar with my Father...after all, even natural children tend to bear at least some resemblance to their parents.

Rambling again... and my word verification is "ideut"? Guess I'd better move on.

Heather

Solameanie said...

a brother in progress?!?!?!?

Hmmmm. Now that's an interesting turn of phrase. I've heard of brothers in arms, brothers in law and brothers at odds, but never of brothers in progress.

Erring brethren? Baptism of desire? Rome just called so loudly it split my eardrums.

one busy mom said...
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one busy mom said...

Kent Brandenburg,

I read your post and your blog, and now I am officially 100% confused.

I agree that every command of God is very serious and has to be obeyed. Now, maybe I'm really missing something here - but you seem to be speaking as if every doctrine is only composed of God's commands. So that dividing doctrines into primary and secondary is actually dividing God's word into important and irrelevant. Like the examples you gave in your blog of those who were not careful to follow God's Word exactly and suffered the consequences.

I thought we were using "doctrine" as a much broader term - kind of "the teachings of the church" in general. Sorry, I know this is a pretty sloppy definition - but I don't know how to phrase it better.

For instance, I believe in a pre to mid tribulation rapture. I hold this as a doctrine. However, I have a dear friend who firmly believes we'll be here throughout the tribulation and holds her view as a doctrine. We both base our convictions on Scripture, and frequently debate this. Now, since we hold opposite views one of us is obviously wrong. Both of us, though, believe that these are not "core" doctrines - and so do not hold each other as heretics (just simply as mistaken).

So, if I can ask - how would you explain this? Am I using the term 'doctrine' differently than you are? Are you including things like this in your definition of doctrine? If so, are you saying this (the rapture and it's timing) is of equal importance as say the doctrine of 'salvation by grace alone'and that it should be defended with equal diligence?

I'm really not trying to be difficult....I am trying to figure this out !

9:07 PM, August 22, 2009


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Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello Busy Mom,

Your hypotheticals are actually the kind of material most often used to justify the tertiary-primary doctrine teaching. The answer to your questions would very involved. I'm pretty sure my answer would be different than Phil's, so if I would answer, I would do it either by email or at my blog. I think it is the kind of question people ask on this subject.

one busy mom said...

Ok Kent, fair enough. I didn't mean to open a can of worms here.

I think the reason this bugged me so much is that I agreed with your premises, but couldn't follow them thru to your same conclusions. I also now see there are some Theological terms and processes I don't quite get - so I'll hit my pastor up for an explanation.

Just for the record though - those 'hypotheticals' were really 'actuals'.

Solameanie said...

To qualify my previous remark here a bit more . . . in my view, you're either a brother or you're not a brother (or sister). It's a bit like being a little bit pregnant. You either are, or you're not.

Rome has -- at least publically -- softened their line on Protestants not being part of the "one true church." They can still be saved through a "baptism of desire." I guess that makes Protestants "sort of brothers" or "potential brothers." I think the church of Christ (where I grew up) had similar odd views about who qualified as a "brother."

mikehoskins said...

I think the question was along the lines of how do we determine whether something is central or peripheral.

I think we have to gauge this on a few criteria:
* How much space does Scripture devote to this doctrine in question? (salvation, for example)
* Does Scripture allow for disagreement concerning this doctrine? (food, for example)
* Do other important doctrines hinge on a particular doctrine? (virgin birth of Christ, for example)
* Is this doctrine considered of primary or secondary importance in Scripture? (Paul's "disputable matters")
* Does this doctrine affect a person's eternity? (the Sabbath vs. grace through faith, for example)
* Does this doctrine describe the nature of God? (trinity, for example)
* Does the doctrine involve origins/first things? (creation, fall of man, for example)
* Is it a clear timeless truth or an occasional teaching? (head coverings vs. justification by faith)?

Some of the above, I admit, come from Scripture itself. So the *first* question in my view is whether somebody submits to God's Word and its all-sufficiency.

I feel that the Apostle's Creed, while perhaps incomplete, did a good job of addressing these things, in its day. They were certainly responding to the heresy of the day and had to grapple with primary things. They went back to the Scriptures, themselves, like the Bereans.

DJP said...

Sharp, thoughtful response, Mike. Thanks.