Theological Thoughts

Fundamentalism and Separation

I have added Mark Dever’s 9marks podcast to my iTunes list. Pastor Dever and I would agree very little with ecclesiastical issues (sacramental matters included). Still, I find his interviews helpful. One interview that caught my attention was his interview with Fundamentalist pastor Mark Minnick.

Pastor Minnick is a pastor in Greenville, SC and professor at Bob Jones University. As a Reformed minister, I listened attentively to the discussion. I grew up in a fundamentalist home. I lived four years in Greenville while my father attended Bob Jones (even wrote a book defending the principles of fundamentalism) and I, was the model fundamentalist in my college days ( I attended Clearwater Christian College; in many ways a daughter of Bob Jones University). Mark Minnick lives in a unique fundamentalist culture. Greenville is replete with fundamentalist churches of all sorts; in fact, even the Free Presbyterians find their home there. In light of his many years in this culture, he seems to be completely unaware of how evangelicals view fundamentalists. He was shocked to hear Dever’s stereo-type of Fundamentalists as “men wearing suits.” Yes, wearing suits is part and parcel of that culture, as Minnick affirms. The conversation would have been much more profitable if Minnick did not sound so ignorant of the way fundamentalists are viewed by outsiders. Though he asserts that fundamentalists are deeply aware of evangelical issues, he showed little familiarity with them. As a former fundamentalist, I sincerely doubt that to be the case.

But the central point of the discussion was over the fundamentalist doctrine of separation. For the Fundamentalist, it is common to hear the idea of second degree separation. First degree separation is the obvious biblical separation from unbelievers.  Second degree separation is a doctrine that affirms that Christians ought also to separate from fellow believers.  According to Minnick, it is legitimate to separate from believers if they are associated with false teachers, that is, those who do not hold to the fundamentals. Unfortunately Dever never asked for a list of these fundamentals. At one point Dever mentioned his friendship with Ligon Duncan, a paedobaptist. He asked Minnick if that was ground for separation. Minnick said no. I waas pleased to hear that, but I wished Dever asked the following question: “What about those who do not hold to Premillenialism? ” One of the fundamentals is a belief in a premillenial view of eschatology.

As the interview continues one gets the sense that Minnick is trying to prove that his version of fundamentalism is not as radical as the schismatic fundamentalists he condemns (KJV only, etc.). Throughout the interview he attempts to build a Biblical case for his form of separatism from Galatians and an OT example. Those passages prove that associations are significant, but the passages do not prove that his form of disassociation is Biblical.  The Bible indeed emphasizes that we are to diassociate from unbelievers (do not be unequally yoked), but it is not in any way concerned about disassociating with fellow believers who share the same Nicene faith. Minnick observes that there is a Biblical imperative of unity, but this is unity in truth. Agreed. But truth is apostolic truth, not some ethereal, non-objective  truth. Minnick mentions that the fundamentals are the truth, but his interviewer Mark Dever agrees to these fundamentals, yet the interview ends with Minnick denying the opportunity to minister at Dever’s Souther Baptist Church.  Dever presses him in the end for what kinds of things would be necessary for his church (Capitol Hill Baptist) to give up in order to have him (Mark Minnick) speak there. Minnick never gives an answer, except to say that the Southern Baptist Convention needs to give more attention to this matter of separation.

Minnick is clearly different from his forefathers (Jack Hyles, John R. Rice, etc.). In fact, he seems bright, slightly calvinistic (if there is such a thing) and articulate. Yet in the end, he ends up as divisive as his forefathers and the fundamentalist movementof which he is a part of suffers for it.

What about the Grammatical Historical Method?

I affirm and use the grammatical historical method in all my study of Scriptures, but I do not think it is the only method to use in our study or sermon preparation. If the Bible is one history with many sub-histories, then the grammatical historical method focuses too much on the subs and little on the one history. It draws our attention to the locus without seeing the larger picture.  It focuses on the tree while missing the forest. Typology, on the other hand, working with GHM, gives validity to the Biblical language and the Biblical worldview.

Santino’s, KJV Only and Freezing Weather

My first “day off” from work started with the coldest weather I have experienced in probably five years. Here in the great Milton, Florida the temperature read 34 degrees compared to the 59 degrees of Orlando. I had to defrost our van for quite some time in order to make driving visible. After years complaining about the absurd and intolerable weather Disney Land brought, now I have to adorn my body with a thick sweater in order to enjoy my morning walk.

But the cold weather brought a warm and friendly time at Santino’s. I had lunch with two sharp students from New Saint Andrews. I learned quite a bit about the Holy Land of Moscow, ID. They are home enjoying their vacation, and since all good things must end, they wanted to savor a bite of a steak grinder while I enjoyed the meat-lovers grinder (think grilled sandwich enriched with happy calories).

To top off my already pleasant morning, I heard a knock. Who could this be? How can I forget so quickly that I am in KJV land. Yes, door-knocking evangelism; that lost art. Immediately I found myself confronted by that famous question: What would I say if Jesus asked why should I let you into my heaven? I quickly glanced at the pamphlet he gave me, which read: “we believe in the KJV 1611,” then answered “because I have been united to Christ.”  I am not sure he expected such an answer, but he seemed satisfied. I simply couldn’t let him go that easily. I had to keep him long enough to satisfy all my curiosities. I asked him questions about Peter Ruckman, Pensacola Christian, fundamentalism, etc. Of course, in between every question I asked, he interjected with a question about my salvation. Did I mention that he stood there and quoted about 20 verses in the KJV? Oh, the memories. I am not sure if I was his guinea pig or if he was mine, though in the end we were both satisfied: he was certain I was a Christian and now I am better informed about the oddities of this new land.

Trinitarian Living…

My friend Steven Wedgeworth has been delving into C.S. Lewis. His discussion led me to think about what I call the de-Trinitariazation of evangelical dialogue. Most of the discussions on incarnational and relational ministry is as Steven writes “a way to remake things in our image.” This thinking generally subtracts Trinitarian living and adds a form of relationality devoid of the Trinitarian covenant. Again Wedgeworth:

The primary relationship of all relationships is indeed that inner-Triune life, what the old Christians called being, however, we know nothing of that relationship until we are properly related ourselves to God.

Reading Through Judges

It has been some time since I last read through the book of Judges. I was struck once again by the cyclical nature of Israel’s bold sin of idolatry. What permeates so visibly the nature of the Older Covenant is the ease in which Israel forgets her God’s deliverance. But God’s faithfulness to His own word is greater than Israel’s sins.

Jacob and Christ

Jacob humbled himself and served Laban so that he could have his bride. Christ humbled himself and served his Father unto death, so that He would receive His bride, the Church.

Restoring the definition of religion

Evangelicals, and even some Protestants associate religion with some dangerous Vatican attempt to sneak meritorious works into the gospel. This misunderstanding also stems from the overwhelming abuse done in the name of religion. But this is not a reason to undermine the biblical definition.

“Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship,” some insist. In fact, many gospel presentations are framed around this very premise. But this is not how the Bible speaks of religion. James speaks that a Christian ought to exercise “pure religion.”  Berkhof defines religion as a conscious and voluntary relationship to God, which expresses itself in grateful worship and loving service.” Hence, Christianity is both a religion and a relationship.

Exegetical Notebook

One of the great papers we have to write in Greek Exegesis is an Exegetical Notebook. This notebook follows a litany of comprehensive questions regarding a particular pericope in Galatians. I have chosen Galatians 4:6-7: And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

In particular verse 7 offers several variant readings. Nevertheless, the NASB translates it correctly by using “through God” as opposed to the other reading possibilities. Perhaps I will discuss this in the future.

Dealing with Death

I attended the mass for my neighbor yesterday. As the priest read the words from Jesus’ account before the grave of his friend Lazarus, I was reminded that when the Almighty Lord of Glory saw his friends’ grave, He Wept (Luke 11:35). He wept as a human. They were true tears, tears of grief and sadness as sin conquered one more. But yet, the Christ who wept is the Christ who raises in glory and exaltation the dead at the last day (I Corinthians 15:50-58). All those who are His will come and death will be no more.

The Unbeliever and Self-Deception

self-deception and poverty of the soul

The unbeliever attempts to live in a world governed by none; a world where he is not held accountable or where his lifestyle does not need to submit to any standard. His oaths are breakable for he has no one higher by which to make an oath. He vows unto himself and expects no retribution.  But all things come under the authority of the Word made flesh. The unbeliever’s constant inability to do what is pleasing to God stems from his selfish desire to serve himself and hence he worships the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.The life of unbelief is a life of self-deception. They bring wrath upon themselves when they see themselves as unaccountable. They blaspheme God’s Name with unspoken words and transgress His laws with spoken acts. In this manner the unbeliever condemns himself knowingly for they suppress the revelation that gives life. Creation itself bears witness of God’s demands and His law clearly revealed brings guilt upon mankind.