Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

I have received a number of emails from pastors around the country expressing concerns about the Integrated Family Movement. Although I find that many things they say are true, I also greatly disagree with the way they force a philosophy of the family upon local churches claiming that any form of age divided or gender divided Bible study classes, even a nursery or Cry Room in a local church, is intent up dividing the family. The following article by Pastor Rench presents a biblical answer to the accusations of the Integrated Family Movement.

Mrs. Doris Aikens Sunday School Class 1957

Is Sunday School Biblical?
W.M. Rench
Calvary Baptist Church
Temecula, California

“Is Sunday school biblical?”  Usually such a question means: “Is it right, or should it be practiced?  Should we participate in it?  Is it the will of God?  Should it be supported, promoted and encouraged as an essential part of the ministry of a church?”

There has arisen in recent days a concerted effort by some groups in our country to cast aspersions on the ministry of the Sunday school.  This movement was, in part at least, inspired by some very real and legitimate concerns about what passes for “youth ministry” across the “evangelical” world. Much of what is called youth ministry is about as far from a biblical definition of ministry as one can get.  Young people do not need more entertainment with a pinch of religion thrown in for accent, they need to be challenged to step up, take up the cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

The biblical format for a Sunday school ministry is one that seeks to reinforce and encourage whatever biblical training is taking place in the homes of the children and young people.  We parents are charged with the responsibility of teaching the Bible to our children, but a careful study of the Word of God will reveal that God raises up teachers in the church. He calls and equips them to teach others.  He uses them to be a blessing and help to children, young people and adults alike. 

Certain groups, some with good intentions and some with wrong motives, have attempted to denigrate Sunday schools using carefully chosen wording to provoke negative connotations for graded Sunday school classes.  Their charges are that the church seeks to divide the family and to drive a wedge between parents and children.  They will frequently repeat terms like age segregated and family division.  They make the charge that graded classes, secular or Sunday school, are a recent creation of secular humanists.  Further, they charge that classes tend to promote the institutionalization of children and the goal of humanists that they become wards of the State.  They insist that there is no support for the idea of such classes or schools in the Bible or in the record of history.  Just saying it loudly, angrily and often does not make it so.  They happen to be wrong on all the aforementioned counts.

New Testament characters make mention of schooling back through Old Testament history.   In Acts 7:22, Stephen refers to Moses’ schooling, saying he was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”  Even in the time of our Lord’s sojourn on earth there were such schools and they did minister to age related groups.  In fact, the religious component in these schools was more prevalent than the other educational disciplines.

Historian H.H. Meyer, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, said;

“Synagogues with attached schools for the young were to be found in every important Jewish community.  Public elementary schools, other than those connected with the synagogues were of slower growth and do not seem to have been common until sometime after Joshua Ben Gamala, (high priest from 63-65 A.D.), ordered teachers to be appointed in every province and city to instruct children having attained the age of 6-7 years.  In the synagogue schools the hazzan, or attendant, not infrequently served as schoolmaster.”

We find this well known office, schoolmaster, recognized in Scripture in the book of Galatians, where it is used as an analogy for the work that the Law of God does to guide men to Christ.  Webster’s Dictionary defines the word as follows; 1.“The man who presides over and teaches a school; a teacher, instructor, or preceptor of a school.  2. He or that which disciplines, instructs and leads.

Fred H. Wright in his book, Manners and Customs in Bible Times, wrote, “The archaeological expedition conducted by Sir Charles L. Woolley at Ur of the Chaldees, from 1922 to 1934 has proven there were schools in the city of Abraham’s youth.”  Wright goes on to mention biblical and historical references to the school of the prophets formed by Samuel.  He also writes of the synagogue schools that were prevalent at the time of Jesus’ childhood.  He writes, “When Jesus grew up as a boy in the village of Nazareth he no doubt attended the synagogue school.  The Jewish child was sent to school in the fifth or sixth year of life.”  And then he points out, “Until the children were 10 years of age, the Bible was the one textbook.  From 10 to 15 the traditional law was the main subject dealt with, and the study of theology as taught in the Talmud was taken up with those over 15 years of age.”  Wright later makes reference to the Rabbinical Schools common in Paul’s day.  He states, “As a young man of thirteen years of age, Saul of Tarsus came to Jerusalem to begin his training under the great leader, Gamaliel.” 

Paul even makes reference to this influential teacher he had in the days of his youth:  Acts 22:3  I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.  I trust that it is becoming evident to the reader that the charge that there is no precedent for age related schools in the Bible or in the historical record is unfounded.

“Wright goes on in his account, quoting from Camden Cobern in The New Archeological Discoveries and Their Bearing on the New Testament, “It is now known that there were 20 grammar schools in the great city of Rome when the Apostle Paul first visited the city.  Girls as well as boys were allowed to go to school, but there is evidence that more boys than girls availed themselves of the privilege.” 

Wright explains that Paul’s reference to a “schoolmaster” in Galatians came from a commonly known position in these schools.  Among the schoolmaster’s responsibilities according to references in several ancient papyri, was the task of getting those children under his care to and from school.  Archeological discoveries in Ephesus indicate that the school of Tyrannus Paul mentions using as a meeting place for the church established there, was an elementary school.
The eminent historian Alfred Edersheim in The Life and Times Of Jesus The Messiah, gives us a portrait of the education of children in the Hebrew culture at the time of Christ:

“The regular instruction commenced in the fifth or sixth year (according to strength), when every child was sent to school.  There can be no reasonable doubt that such schools existed throughout the land.  We find references to them in almost every period; indeed the existence of higher schools and Academies would not have been possible without such primary instruction.”  He wrote, “It was deemed unlawful to live in a place where there was no school.”

He went on to say, “For a long time it was not uncommon to teach in the open air; but this must have been chiefly in connection with theological discussions, and the instruction of youths.  But the children were gathered in the synagogues, or in School-houses, where at first they either stood, teacher and pupils alike, or else sat  on the ground in a semicircle, facing the teacher, as it were, literally to carry into practice the prophetic saying, ‘Thine eyes shall see thy teachers.’”

He added, “Thus encircled by his pupils,…the teacher should impart to them the precious knowledge of the Law, with constant adaptation to their capacity, with unwearied patience, intense earnestness, strictness tempered by kindness, but, above all, with the highest object of their training ever in view.  To keep children from all contact with vise; to train them to gentleness, even when bitterest wrong had been received; to show sin in its repulsiveness, rather than to terrify by its consequences;  to train to strict truthfulness;  to avoid all that might lead to disagreeable or indelicate thoughts; and do this without showing partiality, without either undo severity, or laxity of discipline, with judicious increase of study and work, with careful attention to thoroughness in acquiring knowledge—all this and more constituted the ideal set before the teacher, and made his office of such high esteem in Israel.”

Concerning the particulars of class structure in the Biblical era Edersheim writes;

“Up to ten years of age, the Bible exclusively would be the textbook…The Talmud was taught in the Academies, to which access could not be gained till after the age of fifteen.  Care was taken not to send a child too early to school, nor to overwork him when there.  For this purpose the school hours were fixed, and attendance shortened during the summer months.  Teaching in school would of course be greatly aided by the services of the Synagogue, and the deeper influences of home life.”  He adds, “Besides, a school for Bible study was attached to every academy, in which copies of the Holy Scriptures would be kept.”  He said, “Certain sections were copied for the instruction of children.  Among them, the history of the creation to that of the flood; Lev. 1-9; and Numbers 1-10:35, are specifically mentioned.  It was in such circumstances and under such influences, that the early years of Jesus passed.”

John Stambaugh and David Balch point out the following in their book, The New Testament in Its Social Environment, “The synagogue was a place of prayer, where the congregation gathered on the Sabbath and on holy days.  It was also a school, where the Torah was studied; some of the excavated synagogues included separate rooms for instruction.” (It sounds a lot like Sunday school doesn’t it?)

Ample evidence for the Biblical basis of a Sunday School ministry is provided in the above citations.  In addition, any diligent researcher can produce a ponderous volume of such evidence for the following facts; that schools have long existed; that Sunday schools, or Sabbath schools in various forms have long existed; that these schools gave attention to distinctions in ages of pupils; and that having classes with children in them was not viewed as an attempt to divide families.

Some 20 different terms in the Scripture show a distinction in age and  indicate differing levels of maturity, development and understanding.  Searching the Scripture you will find at least the following age related terms: a suckling, an infant, a babe, a weaned child, a little child, a child, boys and girls, a little lad, a lad, a stripling, a youth, a young man, a man, a man of full age, an old man, an aged man, a very aged man, a man well stricken in years and finally, a man as good as dead.  The contention by some that the Bible does not use age based distinctions is clearly groundless.  Age graded Sunday school classes simply recognize these distinctions in an organized fashion. 

Parents who teach their children the Scriptures do well.  Parents who teach their children the scriptures and give them the opportunity to grow up in Sunday school classes do better.  Parents who provide a biblical example for their children to follow are wise.  Parents who provide that example and allow their children to experience the example of godly Sunday school teachers demonstrate the greater wisdom.  Adults who faithfully attend the church preaching services do well.  Adults who also are found faithful to their attendance in an Adult Sunday school class do better.

When the Psalmist declared he had more understanding than all his teachers, (Psalm 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.), he stated two truths that have been missed by those administering the recent blows to the Sunday school ministry.

1. The Psalmist had many teachers. 
2.  That fact provided him the great opportunity of receiving the combined wisdom of all his teachers. 

The production of an airliner is the combined understanding of many minds rather than the wisdom of one mind.  The best equipped for life and ministry are those whose training is the result of many godly influences from the lives of preachers and teachers. 

Cliff Schimmels, in his book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Sunday School, wrote of going to speak at a small country church on an icy blustery winter’s day.  He was surprised to find it crowded full even on such a bad weather day.  He reflected on his own upbringing in Sunday school as he watched the children going to their classes.  After the services he sat visiting with an elderly man.  He told Mr. Schimmels fondly of his seventy plus years in that very Sunday school and of his blessed memories of many Sunday school teachers.  Then Mr. Schimmels wrote, “I asked him why, after seventy years of being in this Sunday school, he had chosen to risk life and limb to come out on a treacherous morning like this.  Surely he had heard all the lessons by now and wasn’t expecting anything new.  ‘Paul told me to come,’” he told me.”  Schimmels tried to recall someone named Paul who would have spoken so highly of him as a guest speaker that this man would come out in such inclement weather.  Schimmels asked, “Paul who?”   With that the old man took out his well worn Bible and began to read, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”  2 Timothy 3:14-15.  He closed his Bible and said, “I learned those verses in Sunday school before I learned to read.”  We do right as parents when we allow the influence and instruction of godly Sunday school teachers to come alongside our own training of our children as we raise them up to love, honor and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crossing Guards for the Doctrine of Separation

       We have all kinds of new guidelines being established for the practice of separation.  Things are certainly looking a lot different in practice than they did just a decade ago.  Biblical “fellowship” is now being defined by degrees and on levels often without any criteria of biblical exegesis.  Theology has moved into the helter-skelter world of rationalism and the fluid constructionism of the Post-modern view of truth as a commodity that is constantly evolving to be relevant to the culture in which it seeks to co-exist.  We would expect this praxis within Liberalism.  We might even expect it within Emergent Evangelicalism with its constant quest for cultural relevancy.  We have seen this happen within Evangelicalism as they spend more time asking questions than they do providing answers.  However, we would expect Fundamentalists to be above such nonsense. 
          The guidelines and boundaries for biblical separation are not complex issues.  We establish these guidelines and boundaries for biblical separation by answering one simple question according to the exegesis of Ephesians 4:1-7.  What action, attitude, or false doctrine on my part will cause me to lose the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God and break “the unity of the Spirit”? 

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 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. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-7).

          The emphasis of this text is basic.  The tri-unity of God between the three Persons of the Godhead is perfect.  In the tri-unity of the Godhead, there is unity in essence, doctrine, purpose, and practice.  The only time in eternity that the tri-unity of the Godhead was ever broken was during the three hours of darkness (Luke 23:44-47) when Jesus, the eternal Son of God incarnate, bore the wrath of God for the “sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2).  That was the true agony of the Cross and all Persons of the Godhead suffered during those three hours due to that broken fellowship. 
          Is there a practicum for separation in Ephesians 4:1-7?  I think the answer to that question is obvious since a central purpose of the text is about “unity of the Spirit.”  The only distinction not defined in the text is the breadth of this “unity of the Spirit.”  Herein lays the difficulty in the practicum of separation.  Is the text referring to “unity of the Spirit” within the context of all the ambiguity of Christianity?  Is the text referring to the “unity of the Spirit” within the context of individuals within individual local churches?  Or, is the text referring merely to individual “unity of the Spirit”?  Again, I think the obvious answer is individual “unity of the Spirit.”  If the priority of my life is to pursue perfect unity with the Godhead it must be within their own perfect unity in essence, doctrine, purpose, and practice.  Therefore, my goal as a Christian is to pursue the communicable attributes of God, the mind of God through doctrinal purity, heart of God in loving people in the depth of self-sacrifice defined by Christ at Calvary, and a walk that is completely separate from any degree of worldliness and separate unto perfect righteousness.  That must be my personal answer to the question regarding what is involved in seeking “the unity of the Spirit.” 
Secondly, I must take into consideration any other partnerships I will join myself to in that pursuit of the “unity of the Spirit.”  My primary partnership in ministry is with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-5).  Therefore, my primary responsibility in the practicum of separation is to insure that I do nothing or align myself with anyone that might cause me to break my “unity of the Spirit” with Jesus.  The practicum of this is found in answering the question of Amos 3:3 - “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  It is a rhetorical question with an obvious answer. – no!  If I join myself to another who teaches “other doctrine” (I Timothy 1:3; heterodidaskaleo - het-er-od-id-as-kal-eh'-o), will that cause me to break fellowship with God and lose the “unity of the Spirit”?  The answer is again obvious-yes!  Decisions regarding these other partnerships must include other individuals and other associations.  When there are a large number involved in this association, such as a local church or group of local churches, there must be consensus.  If the primary consideration is to insure that my fellowship with God is never broken, my obvious consideration of any consensus is that it is narrowly defined, not broadly defined.  In other words, I am not going to align myself with individuals, a local church, group of local churches, or associations of pastors who hold to any theological positions that I believe are unbiblical.  I am not going to risk breaking my fellowship with God over some frivolous fellowship with someone I think is leading people astray.  I am going to make sure I sound a certain trumpet.  Equally, I am going to make sure I do not sound an uncertain trumpet (I Corinthians 14:8).  God and His Word becomes my Crossing Guard when it comes to making these kinds of fellowship decisions.  I refuse to cross until I have God’s permission through a Scriptural mandate. 
          If a spiritual leader understands that anything he does outside of the “unity of the Spirit,” or the filling of the Spirit, is nothing more than a work of the flesh, why would he be willing to compromise that spiritual dynamic for anything.  This is certainly true of sharing a platform at a Bible Conference with someone who obviously is practicing things you consider to be sin.  We might justify such an action if the Conference was in the form of a debate and the individual participants are presented as coming to represent certain defined arguments.  In such a format, there is point and counter-point.  I have found these formats to be counterproductive.  In other words, the sides have already been formed and each side simply Amens the person postulating their position.  Also, simply because one person does better in the debate does not mean that the position he postulates is correct or his arguments valid according to Scripture. 
However, in the justification for platform fellowship with those holding to false doctrine or involved in sinful practices, there certainly appears to be a manifestation of misunderstanding of what is necessary to maintain fellowship with God.  The point is simple.  Can I in anyway enter into fellowship with someone out of fellowship with God because of false doctrine, or sinful practices, and not become out of fellowship with God myself?  Answering this question becomes the crossing guard to my practice of separation.  If I care about my fellowship with God, I will be very careful how I answer that question.  I certainly would lean towards taking a more stringent position rather than a more lenient position.  This is certainly not an area for arguing for liberty when we have so much Scripture defining doctrinal parameters. 
Inventing such terms as Platform Fellowship and Table Fellowship do not help in this discussion when these practices are not really fellowship at all.  I can be the friend of a heretic and have a cup of coffee or meal with him to discuss truth without entering into any kind of ministry partnership with him.  I must be careful that my public appearances with him are not construed as any kind of endorsement of his views.  Therefore, I would favor meeting with such a person in the privacy of my home rather than in public places.  I want to be careful that I never give another Christian a wrong impression.  I must especially be careful about public appearances in preaching/teaching/speaking engagements.  I have made some bad decisions about such things in the past and constantly regret them. 
          Christians do not understand the grief that our broken fellowship with God causes Him.  If we did, perhaps we would give much greater consideration to the flippant way we make ministry decisions and join hands with infidels to God’s truths.  Secondly, in an area in which God constantly rebukes me, we would be more careful to insure we act instead of react when it comes to all decisions in life.  I find myself often taking personal offense against things I think are offensive to God.  I know He is perfectly capable of dealing with those situations Himself.  Instead, I see the potential corruption of people, and the love that God has given me for those people, reacting protectively rather than through loving warnings.  Then, I become a corruptor in a different way than the infidels.  In such reactionary behavior, I too can grieve God. 

40 How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! 41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:40-41).

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

          It certainly is difficult to maintain a balance in practice between Ephesians 4:30 and the following two verses.  This is the struggle in dealing with theological diversities.  Trying to maintain a sweet and godly spirit when discussing Bible truths with people with which you completely disagree is very difficult.  Sometimes you want to just grab them and shake them into submission.  Of course, such actions would just drive the dissenting parties farther apart.  More importantly, such actions would grieve the Holy Spirit and cause Him to break fellowship with you.  In other words, such actions would cause the one practicing them to lose the filling of the Spirit.  In such cases, a believer’s carnality corrupts the potential for God to work supernaturally through that situation. 
          Then there are those that give priority to what Ephesians 4:31-32 says without giving the priority of the text to verse thirty.  Although both aspects must be balanced, there is a higher priority established in verse thirty.  This priority removes every excuse for compromising God’s truths or for giving a precedent for maintaining fellowship with an infidel (unbeliever or unfaithful believer) above our fellowship with God.  Herein there must be the most careful examination of our associations with those holding to false doctrines.  We must carefully consider a number of things in both our association and identification with someone we believe holds to false doctrines. 

1. How will my association or identification with someone holding to false doctrine be construed by those who look to me for leadership?
2. Will my association or identification with someone holding to false doctrine give an immature believer a false impression regarding the quest for doctrinal purity? 
3. Will my association or identification with someone holding to false doctrine give an immature believer incentive to accept the writings or statements of the person I associate with even though I completely disagree with that associate?
4. How might my association or identification with someone holding to false doctrine harm an immature believer?
5. What would I have to do to insure that my leadership influence, on whatever extent my influence might exist, might not harm another man’s ministry or lead another person astray by my association with someone holding to false doctrines or involved in worldly practices? 

          I believe those in pastoral leadership, and those holding influential positions in Christianity, ought to be answering questions rather than raising more questions.  God has appointed me His Crossing Guard only for the local church over which He has appointed me Bishop.  However, I am going to be very careful with whom I associate lest they begin to give God’s sheep permission to walk where God has forbidden. 

3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (I John 2:3-6).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Has God Changed the “Old Paths” for a new "radical center"?

From the beginning of time, Satan and his forces of evil have sought to obfuscate the narrow way that defines perfect holiness.  With each new generation, there are new offerings in the nuances of obfuscation, even though these nuances are often in tiny increments of deviation from the pathway of righteousness.  They are often subtle deviations and they are offered as the true pathway.  These subtle deviations from the true pathway of righteousness usually carry a more anthropocentric emphasis.  They exalt love for our fellowman above our love for the truths of doctrinal purity.  It is one of Satan’s age-old tools of obfuscation.  When someone refuses to be acceptable to various degrees of deviation from the pathway of righteousness or from doctrinal purity, he is immediately accused of being unloving. 
Apparently, there are now certain acceptable deviations from the pathway of righteousness and doctrinal purity.  These new degrees of acceptable deviations are not based upon an accusation regarding the fallibility of Scripture, but the fallibility of theological dogmatism.  Apparently, we can never be certain about anything any longer.  Oh yes, there are certainly theological absolutes, but they fall into a very narrow category we will call the fundamentals.  Apparently, now the only real fundamental worth separating over is the Gospel.  Of course, this Gospel Only view must be very broadly defined to include Lordship Salvation, Easy Believism, Only Believism, Monergism, and even the Pentecostal Full Gospel.  These New Centrists are no longer going to separate over unimportant doctrines such as false Ecclesiology, false Eschatology, false Cessationism, or even over what defines acceptable spiritual music in the worship of God. 
When a person has somehow justified his actions, he will hear no other point of view even if it comes from his peers.  When he is corrected or criticized by his peers for an obvious  deviation from his previous practices, he justifies his new practice by condemning his old practice along with everyone that still walks in that old way.  The historic pattern is that the new generation rising to power must always be willing to kill the giants of the previous generation in order to establish a new monarchy of leadership.  Every new generation is willing to accept the new leadership especially if they come offering a governance of lower expectations.  That new leadership will always find a way to justify those lower expectations and do so without shame.  There really is “nothing new under the sun.” 

15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. 16 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. 17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken” (Jeremiah 6:15-17).

As each new generation accepts these new pathways of acceptability, there will also be those still trumpeting the “old paths.”  Once the new generation has accepted these new pathways of acceptability, they also MUST reject those trumpeting the “old paths.”  Those still trumpeting the “old paths” must be labeled as extremists and hypers.  Granted, there are always extremists and hypers in every generation.  Therefore, it is easy for those promising to refine the pathway of righteousness simply to push everyone to the right of them into various categories of extremism.  After all, they can justify this because they are the new right.  This is just more justification.  They “will not hearken.” 
Apparently, there is no allowable degree of tension in the spiritual dynamic of theological discussion.  Apparently, all forms of experimentation in theological dialogue must be allowed if we want our voice heard by those that disagree with us.  Apparently, there are those who think they will be able to convince those who have deviated from the path of righteousness, even though all of their arguments have already historically been cast aside.  Those proclaiming to possess a more noble degree of true biblical love argue that obviously those arguments were cast aside because they were offered in an unloving way and with a too dogmatic voice.  The outcome of this philosophy is that the discussion with heretics (those dividing the pathway of righteousness) never comes to an end.  God’s command regarding this is simple – “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3:10).
Those that claim to possess this higher and nobler degree of true biblical love do not see themselves as deviating from the narrow pathway of righteousness.  They simply believe that the narrow pathway of righteousness is narrower than God intended.  They see themselves redefining the pathway of righteousness.  For them, the pathway of righteousness is really much broader than hitherto allowed.  For them, there is room for broad acceptance of numerous theological views because man is fallible in his interpretation of Scripture.  In fact, they tell us, those who hold to the old narrow pathway of righteousness are actually in the ditch somewhere.  They tell us that they in fact are pursuing a radical center of a new broader way. 
It is amazing how Inclusivism always comes wrapped in such wonderfully intellectual and rational packages.  Amiability is the new word for theological toleration.  Amiability is the new word for biblical love.  I come from Old School Fundamentalism.  We believe in theological absolutes and we believe those theological absolutes are black and white issues.  We believe if you study the Word of God diligently that you can actually find dogmatic answers to every important question about God, life, and the biblical practice thereof.  Old School Fundamentalists were taught about social engineering through the processes of the Hegelian Dialectic and Centrism.  Therefore, we talked in the language of right and wrong, not right and left.  Centrism is the language of culturally acceptable norms.  Right and wrong is the language of the God of the Word.  There is no acceptable deviation in the language of right and wrong when it comes to the pathway of righteousness.  There is just turning aside or straight on.  Today, we need more men who are willing to obey God's command to Moses in Deuteronomy 5:31 - “But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.” 

29 O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! 30 Go say to them, Get you into your tents again. 31 But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it. 32 Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess” (Deuteronomy 5:29-33).

          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.  

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nine Characteristics of Hypo-Fundamentalism

          The prefix hypo is derived from a Greek word meaning under, defective, or inadequate.

1. Hypo-fundamentalism abdicates biblical dogmatism and promotes an ever-growing Inclusivism in theological issues.  Although Hypo-fundamentalism may not accept false doctrines as true, they are tolerant and accepting of those holding various degrees of false doctrine.  Therefore, they seek to redefine biblical Separatism.  This was the sin of Peter and Barnabas at Galatia (Acts 15:1-6 and Galatians 2:11-12).

2. Hypo-fundamentalism has a corrupted view of Ecclesiology.  Failing to make distinctions regarding dispensational transitions, they adopt the Kingdom Age view of the Church and adapt that view into the Church Age.  This corrupts such texts as Ephesians 4:1-16 from a local view of the Church (Ecclesiology) to a universal or mystical view of Ecclesiology within all of the ambiguity of what defines modern day Christianity.  Hypo-fundamentalism increasingly accepts varying degrees of Reformed Theology often beginning with Calvin’s Soteriology and the willingness to accept, or tolerate, Reformed views of Eschatology and Ecclesiology.

3. Hypo-fundamentalism rejects the preservation of God’s inspired words and accepts and adopts Eclectic Textual Criticism as their model of Eclectic Reconstructionism of the Bible.  Although they claim to believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures in the autographs, they do not believe they have the preservation of those inspired words in any apograph or group of apographs.  Although they usually reject Dynamic Inspiration of the Originals, in their view of preservation, they then practically can only accept Dynamic Preservation because they can never be confident their reconstructed texts have the exact preserved words from the originals. 

4. Hypo-fundamentalism rejects militant opposition against doctrinal heretics and promotes an ongoing dialogue with them as opposed to separation from them - apposition rather than opposition.  In apposition there are varying degrees of allowed “fellowship” (ambiguously defined) so as to gender ongoing discussion rather than following the biblical mandate: “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3:10).

5. Hypo-fundamentalism accepts ever-increasing degrees of Soteriological Inclusivism and Soteriological Reductionism.  These varying degrees extend into Lordship Salvation, Monergism, Predestinationism or Predeterminism, Easy Believism, Only Believism, even into the Crossless Gospel extremes.  Although there is ongoing discussion regarding these variations, they continue in varying degrees of cooperative ministry within the dialogue. 

6. Hypo-fundamentalism seeks cultural relevancy above personal sanctity.  This exists on numerous levels.  However, on whatever level it exists it is sacrificing God’s supernatural and enabling grace for the world’s “friendship” (acceptance).  This is another level of apposition – the belief that ministry to a culture is done as part of that culture rather than separation from that culture by establishing a local church counter-culture within the culture.  Hypo-fundamentalists seek to obfuscate the line of demarcation that separates the believer in his being “in the world” (John 17:11), rather than “of the world” (John 15:18-19 and 17:14). 

7. Hypo-fundamentalism seeks to avoid being viewed as religious fanatics at almost any sacrifice to true Biblicism.  This is manifested in the extreme by introducing contemporary Christian Rock Music into worship services and the toleration of practices such as Contemplative Prayer, tongues speaking, social drinking, pre-marital sex, and general worldliness in dress and entertainment.  Many hypo-fundamental churches no longer require abstinence from the use of alcohol and refuse to make social drinking a test of fellowship.  Sin is spoken of in generalities rather than specifics.  Their common word expressing distaste for these tests of fellowship is the word Legalism as defined contrary to biblical norms 

8. Hypo-fundamentalism adopts the Right and Left terminology of Centrism while always viewing themselves as being the Center.  Their word for this is balanced - meaning only their defined allowances of deviations from their center.  All to the right of them are dogmatic hypers, and therefore rejected as unmovable.  Everyone to left of them are potential friends.  True Biblicists see no right or left when referring to biblical Truth.  True Biblicists see only right and wrong. 

9. Hypo-fundamentalism favors varying degrees of multiplicity of elder rule that leans more towards Presbyterian Polity in Board administrated churches rather than Congregation Polity administrated under the leadership of a godly Pastor/Elder/Bishop.  In many cases, this is theological reaction against the apparent abuses of ungodly Pastors/Elders/Bishops, who “lord over” God’s people.  Abuses give no mandate to abandon established biblical precedents.  Rather, true Congregational Polity should biblically correct these abuses through confrontation and reproof.  Hypo-fundamentalists think they have a better way than God’s way.  

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Convergent Evangelicalism

New wave Neutralism

          I can barely stomach preachers who are willing to compromise God’s truth for purposes of self-promotion or pragmatic church growth philosophies.  Once a man begins to move in that direction, it appears that he will be able to justify just about anything he does.  Perhaps there is an even more detestable character than this within the circles of compromise.  This even more detestable character is the person who professes privately to be faithful to the Old Paths, but who takes a neutral position publicly.  That type of character is nauseating. 
          Perhaps no one better defined New Evangelicalism than Dr. William. A. Ashbrook, the pastor of Calvary Bible Church in Columbus, Ohio.  He wrote two books on the subject entitled New Evangelicalism-The New Neutralism and New Neutralism II.  Ashbrook[1] wrote:

Lest there be any doubt as to the direction of its sympathies one only needs to evaluate the barbs which it levels at the fundamentalists. ‘Fundamentalism,’ say its traducers, ‘has degenerated into a cat and dog fight.’ Fundamentalism is held up ‘as an ignorant, contentious approach to the Christian Faith as outdated as high button shoes.’ It could well discard ‘a lot of unnecessary traditional baggage in the forms of customs, practices and lingo beloved through the generations but now obstacles to preaching the gospel to the unsaved.’ . . .
Neutralism is a position difficult to maintain in any age, but in a day like ours when the battle is pitched between Christ and anti-Christ it is an impossible position. In the sphere of things moral and spiritual a man must be either right or wrong. The showdown will come in realms of black or white, not in the fog of immaterial grey. There is no middle ground on which the neutralist can complacently stand for long and pronounce his anathemas or his benedictions as the case may be upon both of the conflicting sides. He is bound to wind up in one camp or other and in a day when God is judging compromise in no uncertain terms, he is very likely to wind up in the wrong camp.
There can be no middle ground for Bible-believing Christians. One of the Scottish evangelists of a former day used to say, ‘Joshua had trouble with the Amorites and the Hittites outside Israel, but he had far more trouble with the Betweenites inside Israel.’”

          If New Evangelicalism is New Neutralism, that Convergent Evangelicalism is nothing more than a new wave of the same old thing.  Convergent Evangelicalism can certainly be characterized as another wave of Neutralism since its headline position is a radical departure from the Old Path practices of separation.  Therefore, Convergent Evangelicalism is just a new wave of New Evangelicalism characterized by different degrees of Neutralism regarding issues of separation or levels of separation. 
Convergent Evangelicals argue they are refining rather than redefining the lines of demarcation for separation.  They are in fact reducing the historical theological boundaries for those they include in their cooperation in Kingdom building.  In my opinion, they are more concerned about their own kingdoms, than they are about Christ’s Kingdom.  This new wave of Neutralism follows upon New Evangelism’s past Soteriological Reductionism.  This new wave of Neutralism now focuses upon broadening the view of Ecclesiology to a Big View Christianity beyond the local church view where separation issues are reduced to extreme inclusivity regarding the Gospel at the exclusion of those separating over errors in Eschatology, Pneumatology, Bibliology, and Ecclesiology.  The new wave of Neutralism labels those separating over errors in Eschatology, Pneumatology, Bibliology, and Ecclesiology as extremists and radicals
          Scripturally, Neutralism is an anathema to Christ.  Neutralism in any form, or in any degree, is the “lukewarm” Laodicean church of Revelation 3:14-22.  In the last one-hundred years, we have seen wave upon wave of Neutralism wash away the shoreline of theological orthodoxy.  Central to the ongoing theological erosion problem is the fact that the vast majority of fundamentalists censor themselves and never speak out against the erosion.  Yet, they do not see their own Neutralism of silence as part of the problem.  The fact is that their Neutralism is the main reason why the new waves of Neutralism advance so deeply into the shorelines of theological orthodoxy.  Sadly, they defend their own Neutralism of silence beyond the point where the theological shoreline has become so critically eroded that they find the foundations of their local churches completely undermined.  They are allowing the local churches, of which they have been appointed guardians, to be captured by their own compromise of silence. 

[1] Askbrook, William A., The New Evangelicalism-The New Neutralism, Central Bible Quarterly, CENQ 02-2 (Summer 1959)

Anonymous comments will not be allowed.
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unholy Alliances


8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. 9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. 11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. 12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves. (Luke 23:8-12)?

          In the historical scene of Luke chapter twenty-three, we see an unholy alliance formed from three groups that hitherto were sworn enemies. 

1. There was the Idumean King of Israel in long standing reign of the corrupt, cutthroat, debauch Herodian Dynasty in Israel.  Their reign marked the final pages in the downfall of Israel culminating in the Roman overthrow in 70 A.D. 
2. There was the tyrant Pilate, the Roman procurator in the province of Judea, who came into power by political appointment in 26 A.D.  His only true loyalty was to his own political career, which selfish motives led him to have the righteous Jesus crucified merely to avoid political problems for himself.
3. There were the “chief priests and scribes” of Israel, who were corrupt in protecting their own powerful positions inherent in the Mosaic Covenant to them by the nature of God’s ordained Levitical priesthood.  Christ righteously and repeatedly condemned their corruption and hypocrisy, for which they unjustly condemned Him, thereby publicly manifesting their corruption and hypocrisy. 

          All of these men had something in common – self-promotion.  The circumstances of life promoted them to positions of power that were greater than their character.  The extreme degree to which they were willing to go in their pursuit of fame, power, and position is manifested by their willingness to sacrifice the innocent Christ to advance their own personal ambitions. 
I believe there is a common denominator in Convergent Evangelicalism and Emergent Evangelism.  Both are willing to sacrifice true Christianity to expand their levels of influence in order get the ears of a larger audience of people.  They have in fact stated this in their discussion regarding cultural relevancy.  The only difference between Convergent Evangelicalism and Emergent Evangelicalism is the difference in their degrees of compromise. 
This would certainly appear to be the outcome of a faulty Ecclesiology in seeing Christianity and the Church as synonymous entities.  When the Church is viewed as some mystical organism, rather than a local organization, then all Scripture instruction to the “church” becomes practically vapid.  Ecclesiological orthodoxy is forced into a distortionist’s act, warping and distorting itself to fit into a form to which it was never designed.  The point I seek to make is that this distortion actually postulates an Ecclesiological heterodoxy and sacrifices true Christianity for something that is undefined.  The Christianity (dare we call it that) of both Convergent and Emergent Evangelism is evolving and fluid – constantly changing.  We do not know where it is going because we do not know where it is.  However, the one word that describes both Convergent and Emergent Evangelicalism is the word DEPARTURE.
An old Arabian proverb says, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  The proverb sounds good and certainly becomes the practice in the lives of many people.  However, we should question the moral validity of the pragmatism of such a statement and its correctness according to the Word of God.  Can true Christians unite with the enemies of God simply because we might be combating similar foes?  Can true Christians unite with other professing Christians who deny cardinal doctrines of “the faith” simply because we seek to resist a common enemy in the influences of evil upon a mutual society? 
          In these last days, before the rapture of the Church Age believers, we see the forces of evil advancing their agenda of death, corruption, and Antichristism on almost every front of what is right and holy before God.  We see the right to murder forces uniting in the realms of abortion (the murder of unwanted babies) and euthanasia (the murder of the elderly, terminally ill, and mentally ill or retarded).  We see the gay/lesbian forces uniting to force society to accept their alternative lifestyles while even requiring that they be accepted without any condemnation of those lifestyles as sinful.  Public nudity and public profanity must also be accepted under the guise of free expression and freedom of speech.  Gay marriage must be accepted by society and we must not even put a hint of moral anathema upon it.  We must give religious liberty to everyone and everything, and are required to exclude from that liberty any discussion or condemnation of heresy.  Religious liberty must be given without question or challenge to the credibility of varying and opposing religious beliefs, and Pluralism must become the norm under the threat of adjudication for hate speech.  Proselytizing must become a social anathema in this new culture of moral relativism and self-actualization.  The declaration of independence from biblical values in this new culture is the paradoxical statement - “There are absolutely no absolutes!”
          Although the above scenario at the ending of the Church Age is undoubtedly wicked and antichrist, uniquely it is not a great deal different than the era in which Christ lived and into which Christianity was first introduced by the Apostles of Jesus Christ.  Sadly, the world’s moral scene has returned to this morbidity because the Church of Jesus Christ has been corrupted and believers have forgotten that they were saved to serve the Lord Jesus, win souls, and make disciples to His glory.  Today, the lukewarm church is confronted with a situation they have allowed to come to fruition because of their own apathy and, just like Israel, God will use the very situation we have created by that apathy to chastise us (Luke 23:31).  We have cut our own rod by abusing the mercy and grace of God requiring Him then to come forth with a rod of iron.
          The test of Christian fellowship must not be separated from the test of Christian character.  Christian character is simply measured by what we are willing to compromise in order to protect ourselves or advance ourselves in public opinion.  Probably most of the men in Convergent and Emergent Evangelicalism are “born again” men who have trusted in Jesus Christ.  Many of them are very inclusive as to what a person must believe to be saved and about what a person cannot believe.  Many of them are Soteriological Reductionists and many are Lordship Salvationists.  Most of them are willing to fellowship with other men and local churches/denominations holding to a wide diversity of Soteriological positions.  This is the outcome of their Big View Christianity.  Their Big View Christianity then extends itself into Inclusivism in the arena of fellowship in the areas of Ecclesiology, Christology, Pneumatology, and Eschatology.  This Inclusivism is necessary because without it their Big View Christianity very rapidly reduces itself into a local church view Christianity.
          Big View Christianity naturally propagates theological syncretism.  This combining, merging, melding, converging, amalgamating view of Christianity ultimately evolves into some kind of aberration none of the original participants might have, or could have imagined.  Since it begins by loosening its theological moorings, is it any wonder that it has set itself adrift to be carried about hither and thither by the ever-changing sea of cultural evolution with which it seeks relevancy?  Throughout the Church Age Dispensation, the local church is the “pillar and ground of the truth.”  The role of our High Priest Jesus Christ throughout the Church Age is to keep His local churches pure of doctrinal error, worldly compromise, and involved in His original missional command.  When any man, whether it be pastor, evangelist, Bible College President, or Seminary professor seeks to propagate theological syncretism amongst Jesus’ local churches, that man declares himself an opponent to our High Priest’s purpose and an enemy of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.