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: Dealing with Conservative Evangelicalism Part V

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dealing with Conservative Evangelicalism Part V

A New Christian Ignominy[1] 

Beware of anyone promoting Christian love above holiness. Beware also of anyone speaking of toleration without considering the appearance of any endorsement of doctrinal error. Disregard anyone purporting Christian unity apart from doctrinal unity for any such proposition is an oxymoron. 

A distinguishing attribute of God is His transcendency. The transcendency of God means that He is above, other than, and distinct from anything that He has created. In this sense God is really unknowable except through His interactions with His creatures and by His revelation to His creatures. Apart from God nothing exists or can exists. God is self-existent and anything that is other than God exists because of His existence. God is therefore unique, distinct, and separate from all that which He has created; the Cosmos

Another distinguishing attribute of God is His immanence. Immanence signifies that, although God is separate and distinct from His created Cosmos, He has chosen to be active and present within that Cosmos in various ways and in various levels of influence. His actions and presence within the Cosmos in no way defiles Him in that He remains separate from all sin, consequences of sin, and influences of sin while working to combat all consequences and influences of sin. The whole of the Cosmos has been cursed by God. Yet, God is immanently working within the fallen Cosmos to redeem every lost soul of humanity and purify those He redeems. This immanent work of God is what defines the word missional

Transcendency describes God’s separation and distinctiveness from any and every corruption while immanency describes His operations within His created Cosmos in His Missional Purpose to which He calls all believers to fellowship with Him in that Missional Purpose. Therefore, the transcendency of God and the immanency of God are to be emulated by all believers in separation from any worldly corruption of sin or false doctrine and separation to the immanency of God in syncretism with Him in His Missional Purpose. Failure in any area of separation from the corruptions of the fallen Cosmos and in any area of separation to the Missional Purpose of God defiles any individual believer or any local church from God’s immanent supernatural operations through His redeemed. It is to this vocational Missional Purpose all believers are elected (Eph. 4:1) and the unity in purpose to which all believers are called (Eph. 4:2-32) and to which they are being perfected (Eph. 4:11-12). 

13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:13-16). 

Holiness and purity are essentials to the supernatural operations of God through His redeemed human agents as they fellowship with Him in His Missional Purpose within the Cosmos. Holiness and purity must exist on the individual level before they can exist on the corporate level within a local church. Therefore separation from the sinful influences of the Cosmos and to the Missional Purpose of God within the Cosmos on the individual level and the corporate level are both equally essential to the supernatural operations of God through His redeemed human agents. It is the objective of the purity of local churches that our High Priest Jesus Christ ministers toward throughout the Church Age. This is portrayed by Christ in His seven epistles to seven local churches in Revelations chapters 2 and 3. Dr. Ernest Pickering[2] speaks to this issue: 

“. . . Certainly we cannot achieve the purity that God alone possesses, nor can we even achieve perfect purity on a relative human scale; nevertheless, our goal and objective is purity. The seven letters to the Asian churches (Rev. 2-3) indicate God’s concern for church purity. He walks among His churches with eyes as ‘a flame of fire’ (Rev. 1:14). He searches out evil and demands purity. 
Congregations are defiled by false teaching and false teachers. To allow them to continue on the plea (popularly used) that the official confessional statement of the denomination is evangelical in nature is whistling in the dark. Hymenaeus and Alexander ‘made shipwreck’ of the faith, and the apostle ‘delivered [them] to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme’ (1 Tim. 1:19, 20). Why was Paul concerned? Because such men, spreading their false teachings, defile the house of God and injure the occupants thereof. This is the effect of any denominational fellowship. 
Thus the principle goes beyond the local congregation to fellowship between congregations. How can a congregation, continually existing in cooperative, interdependent association with other congregations, many of whom are led by false teachers, hope to be pleasing to God and to maintain a witness of holiness? Our holiness is defiled by unholy associations of the type required in denominational frameworks.” 

What we see in the redefining of Biblical separation in application is a form of interdenominationalism that speaks using such terms as Table Fellowship or Coffee Fellowship, and Platform Fellowship. However, we have Scriptural instruction regarding all three of these variations of fellowship. In this interdenominationalism of the Fundamentalist Movement we see a new informal denomination being formed through mutual alliances of emphasis of commonality and de-emphasis, or ignoring of, areas of disagreement. There is an undercurrent of pragmatism in the arguments for justifying such practices. 

The arguments center on the issue of cultural relevancy, which arguments are very similar to the origins of the Moral Majority back in 1976. Because Christianity was so fractionized by denominationalism it was easily marginalized by cultural Liberalism, which had already been joined by Theological Liberalism in the early 1900’s. The Moral Majority was formed to create a consensus for political resistance against the rapidly advancing Marxist Reconstructionism (Socialism and Liberalism). 

The motive for most of those involved in the Moral Majority was undoubtedly Theonomic in nature, because few of those involved would have been considered Fundamentalists or Dispensationalists. Most of those involved were seeking to usher in a utopian kingdom on earth through political activism thereby creating a Theonomy. The few true Evangelicals within the Moral Majority soon discovered that they had created a them and us division in the populace with them lined up against us. The result was that the very people the Evangelicals sought to win to Christ now saw these Evangelicals as adversaries and the message of the gospel was never allowed beyond the dividing front lines of their political warfare. Thereby Evangelicalism cut its own Missional throat. The view of Evangelical Christianity was greatly marred by this unscriptural alliance and from that point forward in time all Evangelicals and Christian political activists have been viewed adversarially merely as the Religious Right

The Moral Majority was led by Jerry Falwell and the vast majority of the rest of the leadership were constituents of Falwell from within the Baptist Bible Fellowship. Falwell insisted that leadership positions also be given to Catholics and Jews. The Moral Majority was disbanded in 1989. However, Dr. Jerry Falwell had become an Ecumenicist (if he was not already there) and the Baptist Bible Fellowship was in a serious state of decay experiencing a rapid exodus of fellowshipping pastors along with the support of corresponding local churches. 

Out of this dunghill of destruction created by the formation of the Moral Majority and the failure of Evangelical Christians to practice separation arose two new attempts to correct the Missional atrocities and cultural barricades to the Gospel created by the compromises of the Moral Majority. These two new movements have come to be known as the Emergent Church and Conservative Evangelicalism. Although they are radically different in their philosophies of ministry, they are also similar in other very damaging ways. The similarity is in the way they commingle doctrinal differences. The Emergent Church simply relegates all doctrinal difference into obscurity by marginalizing doctrine to the extreme. Conservative Evangelicalism minimalizes certain doctrines that they see as nonessentials in order to formulate a unity in devotion with unity in doctrine only in the areas that they view as essentials

All of this creates an ecclesiastical convolution.[3] There is such lack of clarity in this whole discussion regarding redefining practices in separation interdenominationally that it creates all kinds of confusions and simply raises more questions. It erases the lines of demarcation from Truth and distorts theological distinctions in ways we could never have imagined. Douglas McLachlan makes the following statement regarding this convolution of confusion[4]

“But if the first form of Biblical separation is to be found at a personal level, the second form is to be found at an ecclesiastical level. I define ecclesiastical separation as follows: Radical non-conformity to Babel; resolute conformity to the faith, i.e., the body of truth revealed in Scripture. 
What does ‘Babel’ have to do with the matter of separation on an ecclesiastical level? Babel in Genesis 11 represents the formal institution of ‘the mystery of iniquity,’ the religion of Satan and Antichrist. Thereafter, throughout all the Scripture, Babylon becomes the code word for satanic religion, whatever form it takes. This would include liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, the Eastern religions, which are being popularized in the avalanche of New Age propaganda which has flooded our culture, all forms of the occult, cultists, false prophets, apostasy and unbelief in all of its forms. 
The very word ‘babel’ (Genesis 11:9) comes from a Hebrew verb (balal) which means ‘to pour together or mingle together,’ with the result that confusion is forth-coming. Theologically, ‘babel’ means the distortion and perversion of truth by mixing or mingling it with error. On a linguistic basis in Genesis 11 it meant the end of unadulterated language. On a theological basis in both the ancient and modern world it means the end of unadulterated truth. The real subtlety of ‘babel’ is that it always has a trace of truth in what it says. 
This is why authentic fundamentalists have always felt the necessity to be Biblical separatists. They have never felt the liberty to knowingly pour truth and error together, and the only alternative available to them was to separate the truth from error. That is what we call ‘ecclesiastical separation.’” 

What Dr. McLachlan says here is certainly the way separation has been practiced by Baptists, at least in my life time and 200 plus years of American Baptist history. Anything less creates a convolution of confusion. Never before has this separation been limited to soteriological issues. It may have begun with the Gospel, but it certainly extended into every other division of theology as well. In many cases those creating this convolution of confusion are not even true to their primary unity regarding the Gospel, because there is a wide diversity of positions in even this area of theology including soteriological reductionism on various levels, Lordship salvation, disagreement regarding the necessity of repentance for salvation, Monergism, and etc, etc.. 

The interdenominationalism of Neo-fundamentalism within the Fundamentalist Movement seeks to remove the doctrinal distinctives that create barriers (separations) between denominations or sects. Sectarianism (“heresy”) is condemned in Scripture. Conservative Evangelicals seek to remove the doctrinal distinctives that create barriers (separations) between other professed Evangelicals. We know Sectarianism today by the term Denominationalism. By the very nature of the word “heresy,” it is a departure from “the faith” in such a way as to form a new Sect. Within these various Sects there are often further divisions creating additional Sects within Sects. How many sects of Lutherans do we have today? How many sects of Baptists do we have today? How many sects of Presbyterians do we have today? Interestingly every sect thinks that they are the Biblical norm of orthodoxy that defines New Testament Christianity. In almost every case before the rise of New Evangelicalism, it was those departing from the main body of a denomination due to the main body’s departure from orthodoxy. With Neo-orthodoxy, New Evangelicalism, Neo-fundamentalism, Conservative Evangelicalism, and the Emergent Church, these all were/are departures from the main body of orthodox evangelicalism. Conservative Evangelicalism seeks to restore a unity in evangelical purpose within the interdenominationalism of the Fundamentalist Movement by simply ignoring the numerous and growing number of doctrinal diversities. This cannot happen if we enter the requirements of being unified with the Godhead in His immanency and Missional Purpose through syncretism with His human agents (Eph. 4:1-32). 

Obviously, every one of these sects cannot be the Biblical norm of orthodoxy that defines New Testament Christianity. Obviously some, if not most of these sects, must be abnormal in their theological distinctives in one way or another. If each of these sects were true to their positions, they would abhor interdenominationalism and label it for its compromising nature. They do not do that. So in varying degrees of Ecumenicism they draw back into various degrees of fellowship/cooperation with one another. The hypocrisy is that they continue to maintain their individuality rather than merge their churches together in any locality. How can this so called interdenominational fellowship exist when there is a wide variance in what each deems to be “the faith”? 

This pseudo-fellowship exists because love is emphasized above holiness. This compromise creates a pseudo-love. This pseudo-love is defined practically in varying degrees and levels of application by the word TOLERANCE. This new fellowship application is not Biblical fellowship at all. Even in the comments of those promoting this new fellowship application it is apparent that it is nothing more than tolerance with no real fellowship taking place. If Truth is compromised to create some kind of artificial unity it also creates a pseudo-love. This is like cough syrup without the cough medicine. It is just syrup. There is a sickening sweetness to it that offers no real hope for a cure. There is no practical synergism of “the work of the ministry” created except in appearances. The appearances are damaging because there is no disclaimer attached. It is a “trumpet” giving an “uncertain sound.” (I Cor. 14:8). God is not the “author of confusion” and this application of fellowship is confusing convolution. It exalts love or graciousness above Truth. It promotes unity around devotion to Christ above unity in the teachings (doctrines) of Christ. 

In 1979 Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote: 

“The holiness of God is that attribute which governs the exercise of all other attributes. God cannot do anything that would sully His holy character. It is extremely important to recognize the preeminence of God’s holiness. ‘Holiness occupies the first rank among the attributes of God.[5]’ Bancroft declares, ‘God’s holiness is His most exalted and emphasized attribute, expressing the majesty of His moral nature and character.[6]’ 
Many tend to emphasize the love of God in preference to His holiness. While they may accept the fact of His holiness, they see Him exercising His holiness in love rather than His love in holiness. This is a tendency not only among liberals but among evangelicals as well. They see God as softhearted and accommodating. The relationship between God’s holiness and His love must ever be kept in proper perspective.[7]” (bolding added) 

Dr. Pickering[8] then goes on to quote Augustus H. Strong: 

“That which lays down the norm or standard for love must be the superior of love. When we forget that ‘righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne’ (Ps. 97:2), we lose one of the chief landmarks of Christian doctrine and involve ourselves in a mist of error.[9]” 

In the next paragraph Pickering[10] states: 

“The question bears upon the subject at hand in this fashion. In the controversy between apostates and fundamentalists within a denomination, which should be the guiding principle for action – holiness or love? Should the emphasis be upon maintaining unity within the body (a so-called demonstration of love) or should it be upon either purifying the body from within or establishing a pure testimony by going without (a concern for holiness)? This is a watershed between Inclusivists and separatists. Inclusivists tend to emphasize love (we speak now of emphasis); separatists tend to emphasize purity or holiness. Why? Because separatists believe that a governing attribute of God is His holiness. Well not speaking as a separatist, Strong well states that ‘holy love is love controlled by holiness . . . . Love cannot direct itself; it is under bonds to holiness.’” 

This leads us to the issue of identification with those holding to false doctrine in a conciliatory cooperation when doctrinal unity does not exist except at very basic levels. Usually a number of conciliations have to be made between parties even to achieve a basic level of cooperation such as Platform Fellowship. However, the problem comes when individuals in spiritual leadership positions are looked to as authority figures and, as authority figures, give an endorsement of error by association. This identification then gives permission to those who are not discerning to take the association to full fellowship because Dr. so and so did it. These kinds of identifications and associations are very dangerous to those that the Word of God refers to as the “simple.” These kinds of associations (using this word to distinguish something different than true fellowship) are not wise in that they have a high potential for leading ignorant people astray. 

1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; 2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty {precaution} to the simple {the foolish or easily seduced person}, to the young man knowledge and discretion .5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: 6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings” (Proverbs 1:1-4). 

Perhaps those involved in these duplicities and who call themselves Conservative Evangelicalism and the Emergent Church (for these are different degrees of the same error) have forgotten the horrors of allowing a mixed multitude to cohabitate together. 

37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. 38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle” (Exodus 12:37-38). 

Out of the influence of this mixed multitude came the influence to worship Jehovah in the form of a golden Calf and in the sexually licentious worship practices of the paganism of Egypt. It was this mixed multitude that was the source of most of the murmuring and complaining against God and Moses in the wilderness. It was the influence of this mixed multitude that influenced the children of Israel to make a decision of unbelief at Kadesh-Barnea that failed to enter the factor of God’s presence into the equation of conquering the Promised Land. God would spend the next 38 years purging out the mixed multitude. In the light of all of this, are wrong beliefs that lead to the commingling of orthodoxy with heterodoxy any different than unbelief? 

[1] ig·no·min·y. pl ig·no·min·ies; 1. Great personal dishonor or humiliation; 2. Shameful or disgraceful action, conduct, or character. 
[2] Pickering, Earnest D.; Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, Regular Baptist Press, Schaumburg, Illinois, 4th Printing 1983, pgs. 167-168 
[3] a form or shape that is folded in curved or tortuous windings; something that is very complicated and difficult to understand 
[4] Douglas R. McLachlan; Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism, American Association of Christian Schools, Independence, Missouri, 1993; pgs 125-126 
[5] Quoted from H.C. Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), pg. 129 
[6] Quoted from Emery Bancroft, Elemental Theology, ed. Ronald Mayers (Grand Rapids: Zondervon Publishing House, 1977), p.89 
[7] Ernest Pickering; Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church; Regular Baptist Press, Schaumburg, ILL, 4th Printing 1983, pgs. 165-166 
[8]Ibid., pg. 166 
[9] Quoted from Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (New York: Fleming Revell, 1907), p. 272 
[10] Ernest Pickering; Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church; Regular Baptist Press, Schaumburg, ILL, 4th Printing 1983, pg. 166 

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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