06 March 2006

Earthy Adjectives and Such

by Frank "expletive" Turk

Phil said this last week, off-blog:
By the way, (and here's one of those concessions I promised to my critics) I want to say that I do recognize that there are certain dangers—grave dangers—in being too independent. We all need mutual accountability, and the kind of independency I am advocating accepts and embraces that kind of accountability. I'm not suggesting that we should be free from all accountability, of course. But I would say that my primary accountability should be to my own church and my own conscience as it is subject to the Word of God—and not to the godfather of some parachurch movement in Pensacola, Florida, or Murphreesboro, Tennessee, or Longview, Texas, whose credibility rests in an honorary doctorate from a fundamentalist university.

I am enough of a Baptist to be absolutely convinced of the priesthood of the believer. And one of the ramifications of that doctrine is the truth that my individual conscience matters more before God than my loyalty to any man or movement. There is real virtue in conscientiously exercising careful, thoughtful biblical discernment and accepting personal responsibility for what I do—as opposed to mindlessly allowing the leaders of any movement to dictate the boundaries of my fellowship by standards that (I fear) are too often arbitrary, inconsistent, or even politically motivated.
Fair enough, right? Well, of course, the blogosphere replies with this bit of genteel reasoning:
I generally get what Phil is saying here, but unless I'm not parsing his words carefully enough, or if I'm just letting my bias against TRs get in the way, it seems that he's saying that he values accountability, but he doesn't value accountability. It's well and good to live true to your conscience before God according to the Scripture as you believe the Holy Spirit has helped you understand it, but if you refuse to be continually challenged in those beliefs by men who may have a better [earthy adjective meaning "discernment" omitted] than you, then you run the risk of going off the ranch in one direction or another. I'm not looking to pick a fight with him here, and if I'm missing it, I'll gladly accept correction.
The real laugh from that rejoiner is that it comes from a place in the blogosphere that itself has a real need for someone with a [earthy adjective modifying a synonym for 'discernment' omitted] about twice an hour, but to avoid the smaller controversy of who is actually conducting an exhibition of Christian dialog and who has his head stuck in his [earthy adjective modifying a synonym for 'discernment' omitted], let me disabuse the writer of his concerns over Phil's thinking.

In the first paragraph, above, Phil is saying that the believer's accountability stems from a local entity ordained by Christ to administer teaching and encouragement, not from a global corporation under any name which is seeking to centralize authority far away from the place where the rubber meets the road. The Church may be a universal object of God's affections, but it is not a universal hierarchy which requires a home office to make its corporate decisions.

In the second paragraph, Phil is simply underscoring this categorical statement defining the church as something local and human. He is not saying, "I don't haff ta listen ta no body." He's saying that the conscience of the believer is in a state of being reformed, while an organization frankly has no conscience because it is not human. A movement – fundamentalism, emergent, whatever – is inherently not the local church. The local church is lead by men who are both tested by experience and accountable to one another, while a "movement" cannot sustain such a thing. When we start following something which is not, in the first place, defined by the Bible and, in the second place, naturally seeks the place of the Bible in the life of the church and the believer, we're going to flop.

It's not about whether one has a [earthy adjective modifying a synonym for 'discernment' omitted] or needs an upgrade to one's [earthy adjective modifying a synonym for 'discernment' omitted]. It is about living our lives in harmony with the Gospel, which means living our life in harmony with the church which the Gospel requires – not more, and not less. The Gospel wasn't given to us to form an institution: it was given to save men from their sinful institutions.

Like their blogs, which cause them to say cantankerous things like [earthy adjective modifying a synonym for 'discernment' omitted].


Matthew said...

Wha...?! Who's the guy in Longview to whom this article refers?

I got a lot o' kin down thar 'n I'd like to warn 'em.

Steve said...

Concerning Unity In The Church Universal

The Church is the Bride of our Lord and therefore unity needs to be fought for. Unity will be fought for if we truly learn to love the Bride of our Lord.

A. Doctrinal Formulations Founded by Church Courts are Binding Authority in the Church

To summarize Christ is the head of the Church. Her government is upon His shoulders. He has delegated her to be lead, by a plurality of elders. Officially, elders convene in an ecclesiastical court. Within their official capacity elders do many things but mainly:

• settle disputes,
• adjudicate doctrinal and disciplinary cases
• perform administrative work performing research making decisions where bible clarifications are needed and Church unity is compromised
• test doctrine, document biblical teaching and send to the Church in creedal and confessional or catechetical forms to instruct the people in doctrine and practice

The nature of their work, the authority of their call, the biblical decisions of the Church court of elders, along with their doctrinal formulations (creedal and confessional) which are founded upon the truth in the Bible by necessity have a binding governmental authority in the Church. Therefore no church member, elder nor Church can be independent of the Church and Her Court.

B. No Independency in the Bible

Scripture teaches that there is nothing that is truly independent. As people we are not independent. Being dependent upon God and upon each other is a basic teaching of Holy Writ. We find that even Christ is subject to the Father, Men in Subjection to Christ, wives to husbands, women and men are not independent of each other. In the Church the members are not independent but rely on each other since they have gifts for each others good. Ministers cannot be independent for they must be ordained and help accountable to God and to the other elders to ensure proper Bible instruction and godly living. Also believe it or not governments are not independent but are subject to and serve God.( 1 Cor. 11; 12;14; Rev 1-3; Rom 13; Acts 15;etc.)

All Churches that hold to the essentials of the faith are a part of the body of Christ. There is biblically no such thing as an independent Church. All of the Church is connected. The "household of faith" need each other and are to be unified in the kingdom of God (1 Cor 12; Eph 3, etc.) Now you may say, "But we ladies don't wear pants in our church. We have a distinctive of our own that is a different from your church." Or perhaps, "We believe you can speak in tongues", or "We baptize differently than you." Well, ok, there may be some demonitional disctinctives but even these may call for searching the scriptures, testing and discussing the differences. But if you believe the essentials you are connected to the body of Christ, are in the kingdom and therefore you CANNOT BE independent. We are the Church. We need each others gifts. These distinctives are not to be walls t\which separate nor to justify independency and seek to break connection with the global church.

C. Handling Denominational Distinctives

The distinctives should be studied at the Church court level. But the unity and fellowship of the Church is to be promoted by the elders as they teach the people in the congregations the essentials of the faith, lead them into worship and administer the sacraments. Some of the
denominational distinctive difference discussions may take years to resolve. Some may never be resolved but the connectionalism of the Bride of Christ should not be destroyed. If the differences in the distinctives cannot be resolved there is no biblical directive to separate. The unity of the Church is to guarded by the elders in these matters. Differences that are not essential doctrinal issues are not to be tools of separation and disunity.


When the essentials of the faith are compromised and are not being held to then the Churches should make decrees and proclamations with creedal and confessional statements instructing the Church in the truth and in the need and practice of standing against heresy. This should be done so the members in the church can be on guard and defend the faith.
Here area a couple of examples of what can and should happen. One is an example showing when unity should be guarded and maintained by the elders even when there are some differences. The other example will show when there is a need to be a dividing line of separation between two groups where the faith has been discarded.


Example A:

Church of the Messiah

a. Holds the unity of the faith and solid Bible theology
b. They ordain deaconesses for special work with the women based on Rom. 16.
c. The Church as a strong discipleship, missions, and evangelizism program.

First Church Of His Glory

a. Holds the unity of the faith and solid Bible theology
b. They ordain deacons (men only based on (1 Tim. 3)
c. The Church as a strong discipleship, missions, and evangelizism program.

In Example A for one group to totally exclude or to seperate from the other because of the difference in point "b" when all the essentials of the faith are adhered to would not be proper. Love and unity should be guarded in both groups by the elders and any statement of difference must be communicated in such a manner so as to help the members continue to be "adhesive" in their love care and fellowship.

Example B -

The Church of the Good Shepherd

a. Holds the unity of the faith and solid Bible theology
b. Ordains men as elders to rule. Also ordains both men and women in the deacon roles to serve the physical needs of the church.
c. The Church as a strong discipleship, missions, and evangelizism program.

First Church of the Open Door

a. Teaches that the Bible contains Gods words. There is nothing definite concerning man in sin but that men only have problems not being positive in their thinking and actions. Jesus came to show men how to live even when you may have terrible disasters in your life. After all His love, care and positive approach to life brought him to death and even in this he was full of positive love. This is the essence of what the Bible teaches and we are yo have Jesus as our example. This was His mission in life.
b. The leaders in the church are people with the ability to motivate and lead. They are progressive and open to a diversity of beliefs and lifestyles. They can get things done!
c. The mission and teaching of the church is that God is love and He or She is the God of all people. So the mission is to teach all to live in love and acceptance.

In this example the First Church of the Open Door is apostate and has left the faith. Thge Church of the good Shepherd is not apostate and is in the kingdom of God. She is connected to all Christian Churches around the world and is useful to God and His people for fellowship and the exercising of the gifts of her members for the advancement of the Church and her people.
In all of this discussion it is implied and supported that the Church is universal, cannot be independent, and must be connected to all other Bible believing Churches. All of the Church is to work together for the furtherance of the gospel and kingdom advancement.

If the Church in the United States and around the globe dropped its independent , sectarian spirit (even in their own denomination and groups) and learned to work with each other in searching the scriptures and judging matters according to the Bible there would be a great consistent testimony before the world. I am concerned that as long as there is a failure to conform to the biblical form of Church government there will never be unity amongst the church or faith groups. Those outside looking at the Church will continue to see the weaknesses. And the cause of many of the weaknesses are due in part to ecclesiastical disunity.

I have not said in any way that the Church is to compromise and mix with groups that have left the faith. God forbid! What is being said is that that there is not one good reason those who hold to the fundamentals of the faith cannot come together on common grounds and defend the essentials of the faith. The denominational "great wall" distinctives that are disrupting fellowship and unity must be torn down. This tearing down must begin with serving Christ in ecclesiastical unity through the biblical government of elders.

May the Church unite for the good of all and the unity of the body in doctrine and practice. Lead on oh King eternal!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Christ is the head of the Ekklesia, the Assembly. People hearing that word in that day understood it to mean: "Assembly." The etymology of the word indicates this. "Ek" means "out of" and "klesia" means "called." People were called out of their homes to gather together for a purpose. Christ is the Head of the Assembly. Nothing universal assembles. The unity of Scripture, if we hold ourselves to Scripture, comes through a church, which is only local and visible.

Shouldn't we start with first studying the usage of the word "church" in the NT. Then, when the term is used singularly, what is it? It could only be a particular or a generic, the only two understandings of a singular noun. When Paul says Christ is the Head of the church in Colossians and Ephesians, He is saying that He is the Head of the Institution, the church, not something unversal and invisible, that actually never assembles, and is, therefore, not an ekklesia. If we get that wrong, then we will never understand tangible unity in the NT.

p.s. I've got one request. As a means of argumentation, please no one margenalize the above exegesis by calling it Landmark. First, they show great ignorance of landmarkism, and, second, they do not make a point.

donsands said...

" ...not more, and not less."


JLS said...

I would think it a difficult thing for someone to have understood the original statement. Perhaps the person was seeking for fault.
That being said, I'm more fundamentalist than evangelical. I am Missionary Baptist. I am Christian first, though. I owe my allegiance to Christ. Why should anyone declare themselves dependent upon a movement, personality, or organization when we should be dependent upon Christ. The problem should be seen in that
1)Good people with good intentions are giving loyalty to movements, organizations, and personalities.........loyalty that belongs to Christ. In so doing, they often tolerate moral or doctrinal compromise. It is admirable to be independent in this sense. I learned this from the Fundamentalists...........why have we forgotten this?
2)We lose sight of the fact that the Scriptures plainly place the church directly under Christ who directs us by His Word and the Holy Ghost. We should be independent enough to follow Christ instead of the crowd........it matters not if the crowd is from "Pensacola, Florida, or Murphreesboro, Tennessee, or Longview, Texas." We should be captive to Christ and His Word alone.
We should indeed be independent. We should be willing to submit ourselves to the discipline of the local church of which we are members. Why should any member of a local church (or the church herself, for that matter) submit to powerful personalities and political persuasions of preachers of puerile, adolescent passions????
It is beyond me why anyone should misunderstand.

Jeremy Felden said...


Getting your own blog will cost you exactly as much as posting chapter length comments in someone else's. I say this as a brother in the universal church, which should carry considerable weight with you.

Steve said...

Kent FYI The Church does assemble. If you live in Calcutta and I live in JAmica ans we assemble to hear the word of the King and worship Him then The Church Universal has assembled and worship. Now there is more than this in the universal Church worshipping But in this simplistic example we have assembled.

Also I am glad to know you see the Church at least as an "Institution. Therefore you know all people in the "Institution" assemble to worship. Also In this instition all elect are members - past present and future.

The Church is universal and crosses all history. It meets where people live and in the time they live under ordained men with a desire, identified by the people and ordained by the Church, according to the Call Of God in order to administer the Word and the Sacraments.

Kim said...

Okay, I may come off looking like a total dope (wouldn't be the first time; won't be the last) but how can the earthy adjective mean a word that is a noun? I know Canadians and Americans have different language issues, but I think "discernment" is a noun.

I'm totally confused. I'm feeling like a dumb blonde.

Rebekah said...

Kim, I'm not a blonde, and I don't get it either. Man....

Oh, steve, "deacons" don't have to be men, since servants don't have to be men. They don't teach anyone and they don't hold any authority, and since women held the position in the early church (e.g., Phoebe) and the passage in question can either be translated as "women" or "women deacons," there's no Biblical reason for deacons not to be women.

FX Turk said...


If you'd like, I can go back and edit my post to say, "[earthy adjective modifying a synonym for 'discernment' omitted]". Would that be better?

Friar Rick said...

Centuri0n, I'm still not sure what [earthy adjective meaning "discernment" inserted here] means, but it sounds like a good-ole Southern word, so how bad can it be?

steve, I would be curious to know what ecclesiastical school of thought you are coming from. I thought I read you well enough until I heard you agree with kent about the church not being universal and invisible, but rather institutional in its universal sense.

FX Turk said...


Truth needs to be fought for. Unity is a function of truth.

The Son and the Father are one -- in truth. How do we know this? Because the way in which the Son and the Father are one (in the passage where Jesus says this), Jesus also says that all his disciples ought to also be one.

If we strive for unity first, then truth, we get wicked compromise -- because we have placed "unity" (whatever that means) ahead of "truth".

Kim said...


Now, now, you don't have to get testy.

You're a far superior blogger and writer to me; I trust your stylistic judgment.

don't use this said...

A lot was said in this post about not being beholden to an organization in another location. What then do we make of Acts 15:1-12 in which Paul and Barnabas debate with Pharisees and eventually take the matter to the church at Jerusalem?

I am not some kind of "stealth catholic" but why wouldn't we look at this case as a legitimate model of submission by one group of Christians to a jurisdictional body elsewhere?

FX Turk said...

D.U.T. --

Sure. What is the distinct difference between the church in Jerusalem in Acts 15 and, for example, your home church?

Kaffinator said...

Sorry, DUT=me. I logged into the wrong account.

My home church is part of a baptist association but to my knowledge we do not look to the association for jurisdictional authority. If we have a question regarding doctrine or practice we pretty much go directly to the scriptures and in petition to God and resolve it ourselves. This rather conforms to your post, as we do not attempt to "centralize authority far away from the place where the rubber meets the road".

But it's a far cry from Acts 15. Should that bother me?

stauf46 said...

After reading all these comments I had to go back and read your post again, Frank.

I think the "What the difference" question re. Acts 15 is crucial. Apostolic authority - the Apostle's doctrine of Acts 2 - is the difference. Do we have that now? Yes, in the Bible. We have, as Peter said, the word "made more certain" (2Pet.1).

I'm with you on this one, Frank (and Phil). But then, I'm a Baptist!


Kaffinator said...

Hi Stauf,

Nobody is disputing Sola Scriptura here (at least I am not). But the Bible does not answer every question. And some very important questions regarding practice are simply not addressed.

The result of this is that when a controversy arises upon a topic which the Bible does not specifically or conclusively address, a congregation has the following choices:

* Reach a compromise
* Divide
* Silence the minority
* Do what the pastor or head elder says
* Do nothing and wait for an answer to make itself evident

Each of these think all of these might be appropriate or inappropriate in different contexts. But one option we do NOT have is to "take it to Jerusalem". Because my church does not recognize any super-congregational jurisdictional authority in spiritual matters. But it seems that Paul -- an apostle himself! -- did.

Phil Johnson said...

Actually, Kim, you're a far superior grammarian compared to Frank. But, after all, he's a retailer and a marketing guy, and they are notorious for hating editorial details. So while types like him drive types like us (editors, schoolmarms, and homeschool moms) crazy, I personally try to look the other way when possible.

But I was tripped up by Frank's deleted expletives, too. So I Googled to find the source material that launched his rant. (It WAS a brilliant rant, despite its grammatical deficiencies, don't you think?)

You have to remember that to marketing types, EVERYTHING is an "adjective."

So, wherever he has "[earthy adjective meaning "discernment" omitted]" read it as if he had said: [earthy expression meaning "discernment" omitted], and it will make perfect sense.

For those who are Google-challenged and still have no clue what Frank was saying, the expression in the original was "skubalon-filter," with an earthy noun in place of the Greek skubalon (which, for you non-Greeks out there, is a word translated "dung" in Philippians 3 in the KJV.)

Are we all clear now?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Your understanding of "assemble" defies language. It also defies the body analogy of church in Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12 with an eye, ear, and hands all working together in the same locale, that is, how all bodies function. You can't exegete your position from Scripture, which I might assume is why you didn't reference any.

James, just to be clear, Scripture doesn't reveal a universal church, so I don't use "institutional in its universal sense." The church is found everywhere in New Testament churches. Those not in churches are not in the church. I'd be glad to see it if it was in there.

FX Turk said...

In context, the English slang word for skubalon was acting like an adjective for "filter". However, I admit that the paranthetical was not up to grammatical par.

And now I am going to take some kind of medication because Dever, Mahaney and Duncan all read TeamPyro and have seen what kind of a person I really am. I knew that Dr. Mohler has read my personal blog, so we know what kind of person he really is.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve said...

Steve said...
James Spurgeon said " I thought I read you well enough until I heard you agree with kent about the church not being universal and invisible, but rather institutional in its universal sense."

FYI, I am presbyterian. What I was seeking to let Kent know is that the Church reaches farther that a local, It is universal and invisible in many aspects yet it does function at every locale that meets where Ordained men administer the Word and sacraments. Hope that helps.


Also Centurion .. I think I clearly implied truth being fought for. Loving the Bride is fighting for truth and unity! Christ leads His Church for Unity and Truth / Truth and Unity either way one wants to say it.

Christ is the Head of the Church. Her government is upon His shoulders. He has delegated her to be lead, by a plurality of elders. Officially, elders convene in an ecclesiastical court. Within their official capacity elders do many things but mainly:

• settle disputes,

• adjudicate doctrinal and disciplinary cases

• perform administrative work performing research making decisions where bible clarifications are needed and Church unity is compromised

• test doctrine, document biblical teaching and send to the Church in creedal and confessional or catechetical forms to instruct the people in doctrine and practice so that they live Sola Scriptura.


4given said...

Phil, Once you threw that Greek in there it became totally clear.
-From a dyed blonde homeschooling mother of many that has way too many type-o's on her blog

Kim said...


Well, thanks for your comment. Your confidence in my grammar abilities does indeed encourage a home school mom as she approaches mid-week. I'm home schooling two boys now (daughter having "graduated" to public education) and these boys do indeed challenge.

My brain has been taxed beyond measure, as I have spent the last five days preparing to teach a lesson on I Thessalonians 4:13-18 to a group of 25 12-14 year olds without undue speculation and without saying something that wouldn't display my complete ignorance on end-times issues. Perhaps my lack of understanding of Frank's comment is because my poor old mother brain cells simply couldn't take any more. I taught the lesson tonight, so maybe I'll re-read his post tomorrow and "get it."

Thanks for being very nice to us home school moms. We need it.

Jason said...

Frank, I'm the one who posted the comment with the colorful metaphor for discernment. I was quite serious when I said I was not looking to pick a fight. In that spirit, leaving our our opinions of each other's preferred group blogs aside, I understand Phil's original statement a little better after your explaination. For that, I thank you. As for the rest, we all snipe at each other enough, so I'll just let that go. Peace be with you.

FX Turk said...

Jason --

I wasn't looking to pick a fight, either. Your comments were close enough to civil that I thought I could make some good points both inside and outside of the actual arena Phil was talking about.

And I think I did. Nice of you to stop by.