16 May 2006


by Frank Turk

ather than force Phil to spend time and money to find me, I'll post this here and let the dogs sniff it in their own back yard. The first place I want to start is the dictionary.
Bib-li-cal also Bib-li-cal adj.
1. Of, relating to, or contained in the Bible.
2. Being in keeping with the nature of the Bible, especially:
a. Suggestive of the personages or times depicted in the Bible.
b. Suggestive of the prose or narrative style of the King James Bible.
3. Very great in extent; enormous: a natural disaster of near biblical proportions.
The word compares in scope and meaning to words like "constitutional" or "confessional": is means the object being described agrees with some other source document. Does it mean it is identical? No: it means it does not violate that source document.

In that, I have in the past had a discussion with a fellow who said this to me:
If I say that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the immaculate conception [sic] (or any other RCC distinctive), wouldn't you argue that such a belief is "unbiblical?"
The answer is, "Yes, I would. I have in fact, as you know." The issue is whether the doctrine resembles what the Bible says or not -- and whether the matter is taken with the kind of weight the Bible places on such a thing.

Before I go on, this has some pretty significant implications on the link-trolling British blogger's discussion of the T4G affirmations and denials. In my view, when we spend time discussing things in an apologetical context, or in a "bunch of guys who are Christians chewing the fat" context, like Dr. Mohler's choice of words to describe the authority of Scripture rather than why we should desire God when he has spilled the righteous blood of Christ for us, that's like spending a $100 bill on sawdust. Pheh.

Let me give you a Protestant example of this biblical/unbiblical thing first, then we can turn to the matter of the Immaculate Conception (as one example, which this Roman Catholic person presented to me), and then sum up. There is a small KJVO Baptist sect (I would call them a cult, if that matters to you) that doesn't just demand baptism by immersion, but by "straightway" immersion, which is to say straight down and straight up -- because Mt 3:16 saith in KJV, "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water".

You and I might laugh at these folks (I laughed when I met a fellow who told me this is what he believed), but they think that everyone else is going to hell because they have faulty baptisms. Now let me ask you: wouldn't you agree that's it's fine for them to perform the baptismal right "straightway", but that to demand that this is the only way baptism can rightly be performed is unbiblical? That is to say, the demand goes beyond the bounds of what the Bible teaches us and demands something that the Bible does not demand.

"Cent, how can you say such a thing?" you might say, astounded. "You are yourself a Baptist and would deny the infant baptisms of all Lutherans and Presbyterians -- not to mention Catholics! You're completely inconsistent and self-incriminating here!"

Well, if I thought all Lutherans and Presbyterians were going to hell based on the kind of baptism they are taking or giving, you might be right. The problem is that I don't think that at all: what I think is that baptism is for the believer, and it is an outward sign of an inward reality -- a symbol of identification with Christ done in obedience. So those who baptize infants might, in my view, put the cart before the horse, but they're not going to hell for it. They are allowed their mistake in that belief. The difference between me and the straightway advocate is that I allow for the fact that the method of baptism is secondary, and that there is no violation of the Gospel if one is sprinkled or dipped or comes up straight-way.

In that, let's consider the immaculate conception. You know something? Up until 1854 when Pius IX declared that anyone who disagreed with this was "condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church", I'd say that he is welcome to believe it as long as it doesn't lead one to lift Mary above the status of faithful human being. The 4 Bible texts Pius used to make his declaration are thin at best, but that's his faith: I leave it to him to work it out. However, when he makes the demand that those who reject this idea are "condemned, shipwrecked and separated", what he is saying is that the belief that Mary had no original sin is of equal importance and equal weight to the belief that Christ was both God and man, or that Christ rose from the grave.

What forces this belief into "unbiblical" rather than extra-biblical is the demand that it is an integral part of the faith. Just like the straight-ways who think that anyone dipped sideways, or who goes down forward and comes up, have fallen into Satan's snare of lies, the demand that everyone accept the immaculate conception as a core belief on-par with the Resurrection over-reaches the bounds of what the Bible teaches about saving faith.

One last pass at this for clarity's sake. The Bible certainly does not teach which operating system to use on your computer, or whether Linux, Mac or Windows is Christ's choice for computing output. However, I prefer Mac OS, and most people prefer Windows. Now which choice is "biblical"? None of them are. However, that does not mean that any of the are unbiblical -- unless someone demands that Mac OS is God's OS and all other PC users are heretics based on a very thin interpretation of Deu 32:10, Ps 17:8 and Prov 7:2.

At the place where we make demands that Scripture does not make, and burden people with rules that Scripture does not endorse, we have become unbiblical. Let's keep that in mind as we say we are people who are preaching and teaching the Gospel.


Finrod said...

Good stuff!

If I understand you correctly, you're saying that I'm entitled to my beliefs - and need to defend them biblically - but I do not have the right to condemn others for their beliefs (as the straight-ways do and Pi IX did - but now the latter knows better, eh?) unless there is indisputable proof from Scripture (i.e., there is explicit teaching on the matter). We might disagree on what constitutes "indisputable" but we need to be less judgmental concerning the non-essentials - except that we'll disagree about what is an essential and what is not (see "straight-ways" and "Pi IX").

I would hope that your post would knock some sense into those of us who love to argue, but I suspect it will have the effect of spitting into a volcano. Sadly, the people who already conduct themselves in the manner you describe will appreciate what you have said, and the ones who don't live their lives that way will either blow it off or argue about it.

Nevertheless, your job is to deliver the message in truth and love. What we do with it is between us and God.

Thanks again for the exhortation.

Nutria Boy said...

First of all Frank, this defintion - 3. Very great in extent; enormous: a natural disaster of near biblical proportions.- is just wrong. Very, very wrong. We in post-Katrina land are in shock at your lack of sensitivity which of course is unbiblical.

Secondly, I agree 100% with your comments. Last night my wife and I went to dinner with some folks who were in town and who have expressed an interest in our church. In a short amount of time it became obvious that they held to convictions that were not only hyper-conservative but also unbiblical for they advocated many things that were their preference or chosen application of a principle and made it "God has said" an example being that sending your child to public school is a sin.

I truly pray that someday these folks find the grace life more appealing than stamping every use of principle into law.

donsands said...

Good point.
I had a discussion with a 7th Day Adventist, and he concluded from the Bible that the Lord would be back very shortly, and that the great apostasy was all the false Christians who worship the Lord on Sunday. These are all going to be judged. Those who keep the Sabbath, and worship on Saturday, are the genuine people of God.

Now that was a heated discussion.

Thanks for the good thoughts.

BugBlaster said...

Good job Frank.

DJP said...

Good thoughts, characteristically well-expressed.

Gordon Cloud said...

Frank, I have not been reading your stuff for very long, but I do believe this is the best I have seen you write.

Great job.

Rusty said...

Very nice post.

However, Windows users must be headed to hell. God is not into monopolies, he likes an operating system that is more synergistic, like UNIX. Open source. We must have free will to change, deny, or allow what is present in our OS. MAC users are in the same boat as those sinning Windows users! (LOL)

Sorry, that was really bad!

Mike Y said...


Great article. When I first started attending my IFBx church, from a Southern Baptist one, they questioned all aspects of my baptism. It wasn't enough that I was immersed. In the end, they accepted me, but I spent the next eight years under a near probation.

You're probably a lot kinder than I would have been. Quite frankly, no pun intended, I don't have the patience to have such discussions with folks who are adamant about the authority of scripture and yet unwilling to be rebuked by them. I'd rather find a good old fashioned heathen or athiest to spend my energy on.

As to operating systems, I figure that narrow is still the way. Therefore I would suggest the OS for Christians is Linux. And due to its open source nature, it's much like Paul-- capable of being all things to all people.

Again, great job!


John H said...

unless someone demands that Mac OS is God's OS and all other PC users are heretics

If you think that's only a hypothetical possibility, you clearly haven't come across some of the more, ah, committed Apple supporters out there...

Mike Y said...

john h,

I actually do love Macs and OS X too. I'm posting this using my relatively new Macbook Pro. But I also run Linux, etc. on it too.

I'm familiar with fanatics. I used to work with Linux fanatics who were against us making any money selling software. Not me, though. I'm a good old fashioned capitalist who believes in using the right tool for the right job.


Jim Crigler said...

Frank ---

Well done.

Mike ---

If you're really interested in "freedom for the user", you'll switch from Linux to BSD. No weird licensing that tries to prevent people from making money (including Apple, BTW). Longer, more stable heritage. Etc.